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Rainy Day People: Be An Encourager to Others

A little encouragement can move you from despair to exultation.

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After I received an MBA from the University of Connecticut, I was immediately hired by Burroughs Business Systems, which ultimately became Unisys. I ended up leaving in a little less than one year because I was not enthusiastic about what the company provided, my current role, and my long-term prospects with them.

When I departed Burroughs, in the late spring I had no job prospects but I felt confident that I could find something easily. After all, I got hired right out of graduate school. At that time, I didn’t understand that it’s unwise to leave one salaried position for another unless you already have that other one lined up.

From Desperation to Despair

After six interminable months, and more than 300 resumes mailed, I was in despair. Long before the availability of the Internet it was costly to job seek. For sure, I had gone on a few interviews here and there, but had no real prospects, during all those months. Then, one emerged – a small consulting firm of six people. It was perfect for me.

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Miraculously, the company, in the Vernon CT was one mile from my rented house. I had an interview with the company president, the interview went exceedingly well, and by all indications I felt certain that he would call me back within the week to make a job offer.

When that first week passed, I felt a bit disheartened, but still confident because of how well the interview had gone. Then, somehow, another week passed. Meanwhile, I was running low on funds. With no other prospects emerging, things were getting bleak, and I was nearly out of options.

Shut Out and Shivering

Friday afternoon, as the third week was about to pass, I was lying on my bed staring up at the ceiling. This December day was shivering cold, completely gray, with a constant down pour. My father, who was the vice principal at a junior high school in Hartford, gave me a call after he got out of school at 3:30 as he was eager as well for news about the job.

“No word,” I said, “and it’s been three weeks, so I think this is a lost cause.” He told me, in his characteristic way, that if I haven’t heard “no” the possibility is still open. He said they might have not called me back yet for any number of reasons. Then, ever the encourager, my father suggested that I get dressed and visit the company this afternoon.

I thought this was going way too far, but what else did I have brewing…

Full Speed Ahead

Fortified by my father’s words, I took a shower, put on my best suit, and drove the one mile. It was now 4:30 with the downpour continuing, on this shivering day.

I took the elevator to the third floor where the company was located, opened the door, and saw the receptionist. To my surprise, she remembered me. I asked to see the company president. She said, “Do you have an appointment?”

“No.”

“Is he expecting you?”

“No.”

She said, “Let me page him and see if maybe he has a few minutes.” She was on the phone briefly and then said to me, “Have a seat, he’ll be out in a few minutes.” So, in this tiny reception room, I sat in the only visitor’s chair. Time passed, and I’m wondering if he’s going to regard me as a fruitcake for appearing unannounced on a day like this.

Finally, he appeared. He greeted me and bade me come into his office. We spoke for quite a while and the conversation went as well as it had the first time. He told me he had been on the fence for two reasons: first, he was waiting to land a large contract and second, he had never hired someone as young as me, but my demonstrated tenacity, by returning to the office was admirable.

By now, despite the downpour, you could tell that everyone else in the firm had gone home for the weekend. The place was completely silent, but I left the office aglow: I was hired that afternoon.

Encouragement is Priceless

May 13th is the birthday of my father, now long departed, who resides in my heart for evermore.

The people in our lives do make a difference and can help mitigate our self-doubt. I went from personal, professional, and financial despair, six months in the making, to landing my ideal long-term career position only 90 minutes later, because of my father’s encouragement.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Business

Delegation: An Ongoing Phenomena

Failure to delegate effectively often happens because team leader don’t trust the people with whom they’re working

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For most of your career, you’ve read or heard that one of the key approaches to getting things done is to delegate effectively. This presumes that you have others to whom you can delegate. In my contact with more than 950 organizations over the last two and a half decades, I’ve found increasingly that people have fewer resources, a lower budget, and less staff people. If they want to get something done, often they have to do it themselves!

Assuming you have others to whom you can delegate, the first or second time you personally tackle a particular task yields useful information. You learn more about the nature of the task, how long it takes, and whether or not you enjoy doing it.

By the third time, a task of the same ilk as those you’ve handled before often becomes best handled by someone reporting to you. Such tasks could involve updating a database, completing an interim report, or assembling meeting notes.

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All that You Can

On the path to getting things done, your quest is to identify all those things that you can possibly delegate to others and then prepare those others so that they have a high probability of succeeding. In the course of your workday there may be only a handful of things that you alone need to do because of your experience, insight or specialized knowledge. Everything else that can be delegated should be.

Some people feel they have to take care of everything themselves and to this day haven’t been able to break the habit of “doing it all.” If this someone is in your seat right now, recognize that as a category of one, you can only get so much done.

Many managers and supervisors fail to delegate effectively because either they don’t fully trust the people with whom they’re working, or they’ve always been get-it-all-done-by-myself types.

Take Time before You Assign

Prior to delegating anything to anyone, take the time to actually prepare your staff for delegation. This would involve assessing an employee’s skills, interests, and needs. You could even ask people what new tasks and responsibilities they would like to assume. You might be surprised at the wide variety of responses you receive. There may be people on your staff right now who can help you with tasks you’ve been dying to hand off to someone but didn’t see how or when you could put them into play.

While you want to delegate to staff people who show enthusiasm, initiative and interest, or have otherwise previously demonstrated the ability to handle and balance several tasks at once, sometimes you have to delegate to someone who has not exhibited any of the above. In that case, delegate on a piece-meal basis.

Ensure that the staff person is able to effectively handle the small task or tasks he’s been assigned and does not feel swamped or overloaded. When the staff person demonstrates competence, you can increase the complexity of assignments and even the frequency with which you delegate.

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Business

Multi-tasking: More Harm than Good

In this day and age, where so much competes for our attention, it is easy to stray!

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I belong to a local health club, and while I was there one day, I saw a woman get on the Stairmaster. I watched as she whipped out an mp3 player and started listening to music. Then, to my surprise, she reached into her gym bag, pulled out a book, and placed it on that ledge to read. I almost asked her if she would like a piece of gum!

Today, when so much competes for our attention, it is easy to stray! More often than we care to pretend, in the office and at home, we invite more than we can handle, and then act as though we didn’t. As individuals, throughout society, we are trained to believe that the ability to multi-task is a great attribute. Unfortunately, that’s a big mistake. Here’s why, and how to avoid multi-tasking in the future.

First Things First

What’s the fastest and easiest way to handle six tasks competing for our attention? Identify the most important task, second most important, third most important, and so on, then tackle the first and finish it all the way, move on to the second and complete it, then move all the way down the list.

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Any other way of tackling those items, whether they are tasks for home or work, is simply not as efficient. The catch is, any other way is more psychologically satisfying.  Why?  It’s almost as if juggling projects, switching gears unnecessarily or abruptly, or leaving a job unfinished to start a new project gives you the opportunity to say to other people, “Hey, look at me! Look how involved I am! Look at how busy I am! I’m great at multi-tasking.” A multi-tasker, however, can’t compete with others who tackle their to-do list, one item at a time.

What about doubling up as a procedure for tackling a number of routine items or very simple tasks? You can eat dinner and read a book at the same time. Eating and reading at the same time is relatively harmless.

How about driving and talking on the cell phone at the same time? Driving requires your sharp attention, as does carrying on an intelligent conversation with someone else who is not present; doing both at the same time spreads your attention too thin, with often disastrous results. The same is true for projects you’re working on that require your best thinking.

Tips:
* give yourself 5 to 10 minute intervals to focus on the task at hand
* safe-guard your immediate environment to avoid interruptions
* acknowledge yourself whenever you stick to one task and finish it
* repeat all the above, often, knowing that ‘more often’ is better!

Your Undivided Attention

When you’re working on a new task, brainstorming, engaging in first-time thinking, or doing creative work, it’s vital to offer your complete and undivided attention to that one task before you. To dissipate your attention or otherwise stray means you are not going to do your best work.

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