Monday, October 22, 2012

Activity versus Accomplishment

                                   Activity versus Accomplishment

During the early part of my career, I had a boss, Bob, who kept a thread-bare unimpressive office but was very effective in getting work done. At the same time he maintained good human relationships, even in a factory with a very strong union. I admired him a lot. One day I asked him the secret of his success.

Here is what he said to me, "Don, never confuse Activity for Accomplishment. Also, Under Promise and Over Deliver." Wow, what a great philosophy! I have tried to think about it frequently over the years and tried to follow the dictum as best as I could.

Take a moment to think about your own job. Various studies have shown that on the average a white-collared worker is effective about 55% of the time. The most effective ones reach about 70%. What it translates to is that there is always a better way of doing something and it is our responsibility to find it. This was also the motto of the inventor, Thomas Alva Edison.

Unfortunately, in many unenlightened companies, face time is rewarded, instead of accomplishments. This is, of course, a carryover from the industrial age mentality of production lines.

Perhaps the legal profession is most guilty of perpetuating the activity concept by resorting to billing by the hour. However, this concept is slowly changing by clients' insistence on fixed-price contracts.

Visibility of an individual may cause an illusion of high accomplishments. Nothing can be further from the truth. Time and again, surveys of high level managers have shown that individuals who are seen in the office a lot, including early mornings, late evenings and weekends are considered highly dependable, reliable, committed and dedicated, regardless of true and meaningful accomplishments! Face time has been confused for effectiveness, a sad state of affairs.

If you want to increase your effectiveness, you may have to learn to limit the number and duration of meetings, reduce unnecessary reading by selecting only the relevant portions, and even write faster for the first complete draft. If this makes sense to you try to take a first humble step. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tyranny of the Urgent!

Perhaps you have heard the saying: If you need something important to be done, give it to the busiest person and they will get it done! There is a lot of truth in it.

Have you ever wished for a thirty-hour day? Surely this extra time would relieve the tremendous pressure under which we live. Our lives leave a trail of unfinished tasks. Unanswered letters, unvisited friends, unwritten articles, and unread books haunt quiet moments when we stop to evaluate. We desperately need relief.

But would a thirty-hour day really solve the problem? Wouldn’t we soon be just as frustrated as we are now with our twenty-four hour allotment? A mother’s work is never finished, and neither is that of any manager, student, teacher, clergy, counselor, or anyone else we know. Nor will the passage of time help us catch up. Children grow in number and age to require more of our time. Greater experience brings more exacting assignments. So we find ourselves working more and enjoying it less.

When we stop to evaluate, we realize that our dilemma goes deeper than shortage of time; it is basically a problem of priorities. Hard work does not hurt us. We all know what it is to go full speed for long hours, totally involved in an important task. The resulting weariness is matched by a sense of achievement and joy. Not hard work, but doubt and misgiving produce anxiety as we review a month or year and become oppressed by the pile of unfinished tasks. We sense demands have driven us onto the reef of frustration. We confess, quite apart from our sins, “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.”

Several years ago an experienced manager said to me, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.” He didn’t realize how hard his maxim hit. It often returns to haunt and rebuke me by raising the critical problem of priorities.

We live in constant tension between the urgent and the important. The problem is that the important task rarely must be done today, or even this week. The urgent task calls for instant action – endless demands pressure every hour and day.

A person’s home is no longer a castle; it is no longer a place away from urgent tasks because the cellphone, home telephone, and the computer breach the walls with imperious demands. The momentary appeal of these tasks seems irresistible and important, and they devour our energy. But in the light of time’s perspective their deceptive prominence fades; with a sense of loss we recall the important tasks pushed aside. We realize we’ve become slaves to the “tyranny of the urgent.”

( Concepts from the books Tyranny of the Urgent and Freedom from Tyranny of the Urgent by Dr. Charles E. Hummel.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Strange Interview Questions Demand Strange Answers

I have been noticing a peculiar trend in the interview process since 9/11/2001. Candidates are being asked weird and wacky questions. These are not parlor games; the ulterior motive is to gain clues to your personality. They are designed to see how you demonstrate courage under fire or grace under pressure. Try to answer these six sample questions:
     1.  If you were reborn, what animal would you like to be?
     2.  What would you like to see in your obituary?
     3.  What is your philosophy of life?
     4.  Which person do you admire most?
     5.  If you just won a $20 million lottery, what would you do with your life?
     6.  Is your Mom or Dad your favorite?
There are no right or wrong answers. Be careful in answering questions related to your beliefs on religion, politics, sex and money.

[ Want to explore this topic further? Then look in Chapter 17 in my book: Career And Life Counseling From The Heart, in which you will find three dozen strange interview questions. Buy the Book. ]

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

How to Prepare for a Job Interview with the Dirty Dozen!

Do you know how to prepare effectively for a job interview?
My advice would be to first keep your self-image, self-respect and self-esteem intact. Be calm and collected during your interviews. Don't appear desperate or needy!
The twelve Dirty Dozen questions which you should be prepared to answer are:
   1.   Tell me about yourself?
   2.   Why are you leaving, or have left, your present company?
   3.   What are your three greatest work-related strengths?
   4.   What are your three greatest work-related weaknesses?
   5.   What are your five and ten-year goals?
   6.   What are your salary expectations?
   7.   How would you evaluate your current boss?
   8.   What would you do immediately after joining us?
   9.   What is your philosophy of management?
   10. Have you ever been fired?
   11. Have you fired people before?
   12. Do you have any questions?

[ Please explore Chapter 16: How to Prepare for Your Job Interviews, in Don Sutaria's book, Career And Life Counseling From The Heart.]