Month: March 2011

The Power of Indifference

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Preserving our sanity is an important part of being a leader.  Part of any good ‘Sanity Preservation Program involves understanding and properly embracing the ‘Power of Indifference’.  Let me start out by telling you what this is NOT.  The Power of Indifference does NOT mean being indifferent to the quality of our work, our team’s work, or our business partner’s and BT partner’s work.  Nor does it mean indifference to the consequences of our decisions, our partner’s decisions, our actions, the actions of others…hey, I could go on (and often do) but not now.

There is power, liberation and sanity in being able to “let go” and not let things bother you.  It’s only a job – it’s not life.  Just because work is part of your life (the part that provides the funding, anyway), doesn’t mean that work IS your life.  It’s not.  So don’t treat it as such.  You owe it to yourself to keep things in perspective and to preserve, protect and defend your sanity.

For most of us, almost nothing we do at work really matters.  Our work doesn’t end
war, doesn’t cure cancer and doesn’t make a better world for our children.  Some day in fact, all of our work will be thrown away and mocked by people who never even met us and life will go on.  Ultimately, there are only two things that matter at work:

  1. The relationships we build; and
  2. The deals we broker

Both of these help us grow as people and increase the value we can bring to our teams, each other and our partners.  So in the end, work is but the stage upon which we play out the drama of our careers – the value lies in your ability to keep things in perspective and to control events, rather than letting events control you.  When you are on the cusp of frustration, anger, or fury of the Russel Crowe or Mel Gibson variety, ask yourself this
question (and you have to ask it exactly like this):

“What difference does it REALLY make?”

Keep this in mind: Always be passionate about work; NEVER be emotional about work.

© 2011, Mark E. Calabrese

Five Questions to Ask Your New Team

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I originally read this in a WSJ article back in 2005.  The context is initial one-on-ones with your new team.  I’ve used these questions with much success and highly recommend them.  Make sure you ask them in the order below, as the first few questions will build some trust and ultimately should net you some good answers.  Make sure you listen and allow no distractions, but don’t take notes – that will only freak out your new directs.  An off-site meeting, like a lunch on you, is one good venue.  The questions are:

  1. What do you want to keep / stay the same?
  2. What do you want to see changed?
  3. What do you hope I’ll do?
  4. What are you afraid I’ll do?
  5. What questions do you have for me?

As with , any of my other posts, feel free to swipe as you see fit.  Good luck!

Technology-Imposed Hiatus

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Apologies to anyone following my blog, wondering why there haven’t been any recent posts.  My motherboard died on my Sony Vaio.  I took my laptop to Abt (for those of you who don’t live in Chicago, Abt is the electronics toy store for adults – let’s face it, it’s mostly for guys, as we like things that plug in, light up and make noise), as I have an extended service contract with them.  At first they told me they’d put a 2-day rush on the part.  Then a few days later they told me it would be 7-10 days.  THEN they told me it would be a few more days.  THEN they told me they’d give me a loaner….then I found out that they had receive the motherboard and installed it…..but that the keyboard and mousepad were also fried and that those parts were on order.

Mind you, this all transpired over two weeks and one day.  I’m starting my third week with no laptop, but through the generosity of a good friend, I finally have a loaner.  I’ll be calling Abt later today to find out if the parts will REALLY be in on Tuesday and if I’ll get my laptop back on Wednesday.  In the meantime, I’ll be using this very nice temporary laptop, which is far, far better than typing up all my emails on my Blackberry using my thumbs.

HAT TIP: To Art Hopkins and Steven Getto for the spell check on ‘hiatus’!

Keys to Effective One-on-One Meetings

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Here are some suggestions on making one-on-one meetings more effective:

  • Punctuality: Never, ever, ever be late – ever – regardless of who called the meeting.  This is not only courteous, but also indicative of your own reputation and core values.
  • Prepare: Always have an “agenda.”  Show up prepared, knowing what you expect to achieve.  What are your goals?  What do you WANT?  What do you NEED?  If you didn’t call the meeting, what does the OTHER person want/need?  Never just “show up.”  Every meeting, regardless of who called it, is a potential opportunity to further your or someone else’s agenda, so be prepared to ensure maximum return on both parties’ time investment.
  • Clarity: Be clear and up front about what you want to accomplish in the meeting, as well as understanding what the other party also wants to accomplish.  Clarify expectations, stay ‘on message’ and wrap up the meeting by making sure the goals were achieved.
  • Courtesy: If you expect a visitor or a call during the meeting, let the other party know up front.  Nothing says “you’re not that important” than taking a call or visitor during a one-on-one meeting so again – let the other person know if you are expecting a call or visitor that may require you to step away from the meeting.
  • Communicate: Make sure you listen and answer carefully.  You don’t have to always answer right away; if you feel pressured or need more information, let your guest know that you need to get further information but that you will follow up as soon as possible; verify your understanding of expectations or decisions – then deliver.
  • Candor: Be candid and to the point; no tap dancing.  Remember to use tact.  NEVER “handle” your customer or peer.  Go ugly early – if you have bad news, give it up….along with options, risks and recommendations.  Don’t leave the other person guessing as to what you wanted, what you were talking about and what the meeting was even supposed to be about.
  • Document: Verify any and all important decisions, expectation(s) or action items with a follow-up email (“Just to confirm what we discussed…”) or minutes (if it’s not overkill).  An undocumented meeting might as well have never happened.

None of this is really ground-breaking, let’s face it.  This is more a reminder of things we already know.  I hope these help!

© Mark E. Calabrese – 2011