December 6, 2011
Mr. Manners Speaks (or Doesn't)
Okay, listen up, people. And I don't just mean you twenty-something-Generation X-Y types either. I'm talking heavy-duty, born in the '40s and '50s Boomer Bambinos too.
You're at a meal with others. Enjoying good food and good conversation. Your cell phone, smart phone, pad, pod or doodad rings, beeps, chimes, vibrates, intones or otherwise comes to life. What do you do?
A. Answer the phone and chat it up while your friends keep eating and talking.
B. Don't answer the phone and let it ring out.
C. Get up from the table, withdraw to a secure location, and answer the phone.
The correct answer is not ever A. I'm talking (well, actually you are the one talking) mega-rudeness, galactic vulgarity, whacked-out boorish behavior.
Answers B and C are completely acceptable. A? Never!
All right. I'm done now with my very polite rant.
September 28, 2011
Technology tends to consume and absolute technology consumes absolutely.
I was at a conference recently where often, when there was a break, the participants tended not to get up, stretch, get a cup of coffee, chat with those nearby or even go to the bathroom. Instead they sat there. They were not mesmerized by the presentation they had just heard. They were mesmerized by their screens—handheld or laptop—checking email, tweets, Facebook, news feeds and more.Continue reading "Consuming Technology"
March 1, 2011
Is Personality Destiny?
Many writers and editors identify themselves as introverts. Consequently they often become intimidated, in some cases petrified, by the "social" requirements of writing and editing. They think they have limited resources available to them to compete in the often extroverted world of publishing. They absolve themselves from the responsibilities of championing their projects or interacting with readers. They think (or act like) personality is destiny.Continue reading "Is Personality Destiny?"
January 11, 2011
In Praise of Lists
Reasons to Make Lists
February 10, 2010
To Sociologists: Duh!
It's tempting to roll our collective eyes when someone recognizes the obvious. Now we learn that sociologists have got religion. They have made the absolutely amazing discovery that religion is actually important.Continue reading "To Sociologists: Duh!"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:39 AM
February 5, 2010
Meetings Don't Get Work Done
"Meetings don't get work done. Meetings create work."
I've said that so many times I've almost convinced myself that I originated the aphorism. But probably it came from my predecessor, Jim Sire. (Unless he stole it from someone else.)Continue reading "Meetings Don't Get Work Done"
November 23, 2009
Is Professionalism a Dirty Word?
My wife, Phyllis, was assigned the task of giving a talk on professionalism. She asked me, "What would you say?"
Professionalism can have negative connotations--being artificial or phony. I suppose for some that's what it is. But that's not how I think of it.Continue reading "Is Professionalism a Dirty Word?"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:39 AM
November 17, 2009
Thaw Out Your Brain
Coming up with good, new ideas is the hardest thing I do. Some people seem to have a hundred ideas a day. Often they are entrepreneurs driving their people nuts with their lack of focus, and usually most of their ideas are bad. But if one percent are good, that's one good idea a day--a very impressive output!
What about the rest of us? How can we get creative?Continue reading "Thaw Out Your Brain"
Posted by Andy Le Peau at 7:49 AM
October 6, 2009
I've been a runner for over twenty-five years. I ran cross-country in high school but gave it up in my twenties. As thirty approached, I realized my body was not serving me well, so I took up the sport again.
Over the years I worked my way up to three miles, then five and then seven. Eventually I ran a couple of Chicago marathons. But now each year I settle for one modest 10K in western Michigan in which I try to beat my age--setting my goal at one minute for every year.
I'd always heard about the runner's high and the greater energy levels that carry you through the day. I've never experienced either.Continue reading "Getting Exercised"
September 16, 2009
Want an Edge in the Job Market?
In today's job market, everyone wants that little edge that will set them apart from other applicants. And on the job, everyone wants to make themselves as valuable and indispensable as possible. What can you do?Continue reading "Want an Edge in the Job Market?"
July 15, 2009
The Art of Saying No
Planning is deciding what you will do. Yes? No, that's only half right. In planning, whether personal or organizational, some of the most important decisions you can make are what you will say no to, what you decide ahead of time you will not do. It's all too easy to simply respond to requests or ideas from others, to be reactive. The problem is that others then set your agenda, not you.Continue reading "The Art of Saying No"
April 6, 2009
He was livid.
I hadn't been on the phone for thirty seconds before the president of the firm we had been working with was giving me a generous piece of his mind. I had been unresponsive and unprofessional, he said . . . and more. Much more.
I was trying to get a word in, but he didn't let up. He kept going at me for at least another five minutes without adding any new information. This actually worked to my advantage. It gave me time to think.Continue reading "Forced Empathy"
December 8, 2008
In Making Room for Leadership, MaryKate Morse tells this story:
In the early eighties, my family and I returned to the United States after working in the Andes Mountains of Peru and Bolivia for several years. It was the end of the summer, and a recession was in full swing. My husband, Randy, applied everywhere for a job, but he couldn't get one. . . . By December our savings was nearly gone, and we were getting anxious. Randy decided to do something out of character for him--he went out and bought a new, contemporary suit, shelling out a couple hundred dollars in the process. At his next job interview, dressed in his new suit, he was offered the job. We do not think that was coincidental. (p. 103)
Before the age of gender-inclusive language, the saying was, "Clothes make the man." I used to understand this to mean that the impression people have of you is significantly based on what you wear. That is Morse's point, and there is a good measure of truth to that.
But when I was in high school I noticed another dimension to this contemporary proverb. I discovered that when I wore a suit, others didn't just treat me differently. I acted differently. I carried myself more erect (which my mother, who always complained about my slouching, would appreciate). I walked differently--with more purpose. I gestured differently--with more confidence. I talked differently--with a more formal vocabulary. In fact, everything about me seemed to be more formal, as if I'd aged several years just by putting on a coat and tie.
When I mentioned this recently to one friend my age, he thought that sealed the case against casual dress at work. I wasn't so sure. Yes, professional dress can help us conduct ourselves more professionally. Sloppy dress could possibly induce sloppy work. But perhaps casual is not the same as sloppy. Perhaps neat and casual dress can help us be at once careful in our work and more relational with our coworkers.
I don't believe how I dress at work has much effect on me now. Probably being a high school nerd, I had a much greater sense of sophistication in a suit than I do now as an adult nerd in a suit. As with most of my colleagues, my Casual Friday has turned into Casual Monday through Friday, as I rarely don a coat and tie in the office.
In tough economic times, dress tends to become more conservative. So we may see that shift in the near future as we saw in the eighties. In any case, in how we dress we will all still be balancing the value of taking ourselves (and being taken) more seriously, with the value of being approachable and relational.
October 21, 2008
The Frenetic, Jagged Pace
Last week I worked away from the office. I had a project that required large chunks of uninterrupted time. There was no way I was going to find that at work. So I left.
I’ve said before that my job is to be interrupted. And it is. As a manager, one of my primary tasks is to help others get their jobs done. Sometimes they can’t proceed until they have an answer to a question or a piece of information. My job is to grease the wheels of their workload so they can be as productive as possible. But sometimes I’m the one that needs to get something done. So twice in the last six months I’ve taken a week to work alone.
Even though it was work, just the different rhythm was refreshing. (And sometimes getting away is a source of great new ideas.) I find that emails, papers piling on my desk, phone calls, meetings, people at my office door—the frenetic, jagged pace of one hasty thing after another wears me down. Too often I have woken up in the middle of the night and not been able to go back to sleep for an hour or two—even when there are no major problems worrying me.
The feverish demands of work are not likely to diminish. They won’t go away. A fragile economy can only make us feel greater pressure to work harder and longer and faster. But we can control our pace rather than let it control us. Limits and boundaries and discipline are the tricks of that trade.
I have a couple friends who simply don’t do email—one because he won’t and the other because he can’t. (A true troglodyte.) They have the luxury, however, of having assistants through whom all their email come. Not all of us are so fortunate. But I can choose to limit when I do email at two or three times during the day rather than have it open and active every minute of every day.
What about when I'm on the road? The technology exists, of course, for me to be able to check my work email while I'm away from the office--at a conference, for example, or working offsite. But I've deliberately set a boundary by not asking our IT department to set me up with this capability. I don't want to be wired (or, more accurately, wireless) 24/7.
I don’t text. I don’t twitter. Maybe someday I will, but I hope I’ll have limits on them if I do.