Friday, December 27, 2013

Sage Advice


A while ago, I was didn't know how to handle an employee leave issue and sought the advice of another manager.  I wanted to keep this advice as a reference, because it's absolutely stellar:

I appreciate that this needs to be handled carefully. The implications can last a while and can affect other members of the team.

I would tell the employee that I was having trouble finding the appropriate clause in the collective agreement for the situation (day-care).

If the person gives you a reasonable match, and YOU think you could defend it to the rest of the team and to an auditor, then accept it.

If the person cannot give you a good match, then take the position of "As your supervisor, I'm here to help you get through this problem. :) What are our alternatives?". (Annual leave, flexible work arrangement like telework or irregular hours, etc).

Try not to let yourself get painted into a corner of being the police, or having to approve "inappropriate" use of the collective agreement.

In other words, try to stay out of a win-lose situation. Maybe there is more information available from the employee that would make things easier. (Does the child have a bad cold or something? Hint, hint)

The potential for get into a lose-lose situation is pretty high, and it's only a couple of days. To me it's an opportunity to purchase some good will for when that call comes from the Minister's office at 4 PM on a Friday.

This is a good reminder -- stay out of a win-lose situation.  So much to learn here.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Taking the rewards out of education

Another enlightening talk with Alfie Cohn on CBC Radio's Ontario Today.  This time the discussion was about taking awards (sports trophies, honour roll) out of schools.  I couldn't agree more.  He presented several compelling reasons why these hurt our children's education.  When we offer rewards:
  • we are saying that in order to excel, you have to do so at the detriment of your peers; why can't more than one person learn?
  • we see each other as adversaries: it becomes very difficult to cooperate, learn from each other, develop empathy and form a connection
  • we begin to see the task as a means to an end instead of getting the most out of the experience
  • children try to secure a win by choosing an easier task rather than push themselves to learn more.
  • we create children who become addicted to praise.
  • we don't see the task as 'fun' if we loose
I also really like this point that Alfie Cohn made:  praise and awards are not feedback, they are judgements.  Children need an engaged curriculum in a learning-centered environment.  Instead of passively listening to lectures, and filling out worksheets, they need to be given context and purpose as well as an opportunity to explore and lead.

A lot of people are angered by his viewpoint.  They claim that the world is competitive -- in the workplace and even in nature.  Competition motivates people to achieve.  The speaker's rebuttal was that in fact nature is a lot more cooperative than we think because unfortunately our view of nature is biased -- it's based on what's fed to us through the media.  Animals cooperate so that there is enough for everyone.  However this does not make for good TV.  Alfie Cohn also said that competitiveness is not the same as excellence, which is a very good point because many believe they are synonymous.

I don't feel good about delving out praise and commenting on my children's achievements.  I feel that it takes away from their moment and how they might feel about it.  I want them to be intrinsically motivated as well because I won't always be there to offer up an external prize.  The world does not owe them anything. Yet there a lot of people who are accustomed to praise and expect their partners and bosses to continue what their parents and teachers started.  I defintely don't want my kids to end up being attention-seekers or praise-junkies. It's a terrible feeling, to have your self-worth defined by someone else's opinion of you.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mental Strength

Some good reminders in this self-improvement article on mental toughness -- got me thinking how I fare.  I think that I've come a long way and I'm quite aware of where I need to improve.

1. Don't waste time feeling sorry for yourself: I admittedly do this a little bit, but it's short-lived because I know that it is a waste of time.  Luckily I can easily catch myself doing it and quickly remember that I SO MUCH to be grateful for.

2. Don't give away your power: it's easy to blame a situation or person for my bad mood, but again I can usually work myself out of this by realizing that I am choosing my behaviour.

3. Don't shy away from change: got it -- change 101: if I can see the benefit of the change to me and my family, then I'm usually comfortable with change

4. Don't waste energy on things you can't change: Hmmm.  K, I suck at this.  BUT I realize when I'm doing it and try hard to ACCEPT

5. Don't fear taking calculated risks: k, I'm pretty risk averse as of late .. but I think that's more a product of my age and lifestyle.

6. Don't dwell on the past:  alright, I like to take trips down memory lane to re-live those glory days, especially when my babies were young.  But I time-box it.  The past is in the past.  Inner-peace is in the present, which is where I want to spend most of my energy.  It's a gift!

7. Don't make the same mistakes over and over:  FAIL.  I can't even type more on this.  Emotional situations make me lose my sensibility! Luckily the business student in me sees opportunities for improvement all the time.

8. Don't resent other people's success:  I'm pretty good about seeing other people's success as being something that's separate from my own success.  However, the green-eyed monster does rear it's ugly head from time to time, especially when people younger people leap frog me.  I'm learning to get used to it, because it will only get worse in my career.  I already have a manager who is younger than me.

9. Don't give up after your first failure: I'm not sure that I agree with this one.  Aterall,  "play to your strengths" and "know when to fold 'em" has served me well.  Although, I do believe in learning through trying and staying focused on your goals.  You just have to be realistic.

10. Don't fear alone time:  I don't do this!  In fact I love the time I have alone with my thoughts and ideas.  I have big ideas afterall :-)

11. Don't expect immediate results:  K, I don't do this ... especially with weight loss.  I am inherently impatient.  But I'm wise enough to know that baby steps should be celebrated.  The journey is as important as the reward.

12. Don't worry about pleasing everyone:  this one is tough because intellectually I know that you'll waste your time trying to please everyone in life.  As a mother, it's hard not to want to please everyone, especially when I see that my actions affect more people than just me.  This is very much related to #4 -- I can't change other people's perceptions.  Their disappointment is theirs.

13. Don't feel the world owes you anything:  yep!