ArLyne's Diamonds

A running commentary of ideas

Friday, November 29, 2013

Project Management

Project Management
Here again, I’d like to offer some tips to those new at leadership and management.
·       Define the elements of the project and assign responsibility to those best able to manage and execute those elements
·       Once assigning a task to someone – let them handle it.  They should be accountable to you, but you should not rush in to micro-manage or to give others pieces of the project.
·       Respect the chain of command you have established.
·       Let the project manager create his/her own team (committee) and manage them. 
·       Help clarify team (committee) goals and deadlines – hold people accountable.
·       Always give positive recognition.


Meeting Management

Meeting Management
In the past I’ve written extensively about types of meetings and managing them.  In this brief article, I just want to add a couple of important tips:
·       Set and keep a time schedule
·       As meeting manager (CEO or facilitator) be on time
·       Have an agenda – and publish it – also have paper copies
·       No surprises – everyone involved should know the purpose of the meeting
·       If guests are invited, advise them in advance that they are guests and will be given the opportunity to speak when it is appropriate to the reason they are in attendance.
·       Nurture a climate that encourages people to express their own views – and to offer constructive disagreements and/or criticism
·       Share the responsibility of the meeting with attendees by having them responsible for different aspects of the agenda.
·       Have a living agenda rather than a static one and allow others to input into the agenda before it is published
·       Start and end on time – that shows respect for others

·       Summarize the meeting – have action items at the end,

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Motivation is the fuel that drives you – you have to think positively, know what you are going to do and why – and have the energy to do it.

Motivation isn’t permanent, it needs to be nourished daily – and you can never achieve happiness (which adds significantly to motivation) when you are not helping others.  Helping others makes you feel good – makes you feel better about yourself, which is highly motivating.

If that sounds circular – it is.  Others have said:  It is attitude, not aptitude that determines altitude.  It’s how you see yourself – and how you see yourself in relation to others and to the tasks at hand.
Someone said (I can’t recall where I read it):  “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

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Non Profit Leadership

Non-Profit Leadership
Sadly, many small non-profit associations cannot afford hired help and must rely on volunteers to fill all their needs.  In cases where the new CEO of a non-profit believes that he/she should be the sole-decision maker in all things, volunteers feel demeaned – they are not slaves – they should be decision-making partners in areas in which they are involved.

Recently, I watched the meltdown of a young CEO who could have made her organization a huge local success had she not alienated the people who did the most work and were most supportive to her.  Because they dared to disagree with one of her decisions she actually fired them.

I wonder how this will impact those other volunteers in her organization?  Can she recover from her meltdown?  Can she re-unite with the volunteers she chased away?  Can she resume the friendships she had with these women after insulting them so badly?

Leaders – good leaders – know the importance of valuing others.  They say “we” when there are good results and “I” (as in the buck stops here) when something negative occurs.

Leaders – good leaders – get their personal egos and agenda out of the way in the interest of making others look good, give more (become more productive), and feel motivated and loyal to the team.
Leaders – good leaders – are credible, authentic, reliable, and reasonable.

Coming together is a beginning
Keeping together is progress.
Working together is the goal.
Henry Ford

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Excellence and mediocrity

Don’t Demand Excellence
People who need to be liked, who want to be one of the gang, are often the same people who are afraid to be critical and to demand excellence from others.  Those who do demand it are often called names.  I can recall both Frank Sinatra and Barbra Steisand being vilified because they paid attention to every tiny detail involved with their performances.  Ditto Michael Jackson, I think.
So, I have to share one of my favorite poems:
Aspiring to Excellence is  Pretty Good Idea
by Charles Osgood
There once was a pretty good student,
Who sat in a pretty good class,”
And was taught by a pretty good teacher,
Who always let pretty good pass.
He wasn’t terrific at reading,
He wasn’t a whiz-bang at math.
But for him education was leading
Straight down a pretty good path.
He didn’t find school too exciting,
But he wanted to do pretty well,
And he did have some trouble with writing,
And nobody taught him to spell.
When doing arithmetic problems,
Pretty good was regarded as fine.
Five plus five needn’t always add up to be ten,
A pretty good answer was nine.
The pretty good class that he sat in,
Was part of a pretty good school.
And the student was not an exception,
On the contrary, he was the rule.
The pretty good school that he went to
Was there in a pretty good town.
And nobody there seemed to notice
He could not tell a verb from a noun.
The pretty good student in fact
Was part of a pretty good mob
And the first time he knew what he lacked
Was when he looked for a pretty good job.
It was then, when he sought a position,
He discovered that life could be tough.
And he soon had a sneaky suspicion
Pretty good might not be good enough.
The pretty good town in our story
Was part of a pretty good state,
Which had pretty good aspirations,
And prayed for a pretty good fate.

There once was a pretty good nation,
Pretty proud of the greatness it had,
Which learned must too late,
If you want to be great,
Pretty good is, in fact, pretty bad.

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The Tyranny of Pleasantness

The Tyranny of Pleasantness

In my book, Leading and Managing A Global Workforce there is a chapter about the tyranny of pleasantness – going along to get along.  It’s so dangerous and often leads to agreeing to take action that you know is wrong – just so that you don’t look different.

We emphasize teams and consensus so much that we’ve created an environment in which people are afraid to stick out.  I love a quote from former Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.  She described consensus as the process of “abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies…something in which no one believes and to which no one objects.”

This reminds me of my definition of compromise.  She likes black, he likes white so they get gray – and neither is happy.

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Creative Thinking

Creative Thinking
I know this is one of my favorite topics and recurring newsletter theme.  I’m writing about it today because of something that was in the papers.  I recall reading that people confuse creativity with innovation.  

Innovation is an end result of creative thinking, it could be a product, or the refinement of a process.

But, thinking creatively – thinking differently (or as Steve Jobs used to say: “different”) or to use the jargon “outside the box” takes a personality that is willing to take risks. Because it takes bravery to say or write something that isn’t the conventional and popular point of view on any subject in particular.

Creative thinking draws from a range of sides – professions – experience – etc.  It’s sometimes an amalgam of different puzzle pieces put together in a novel manner.

In addition to being risky because of being outside the norm, people who are creative thinkers have to be willing to be wrong.  To fail.   To try it (whatever it is) another way.  Ultimately it looks so simple, often it is many many times of trial and error before the “right” solution presents itself.

Most solutions occur during “down time” – on the staircase, in the shower, taking a bath or exercising.  Those are times when the brain, not completely asleep, is at rest and thus has time to absorb all the data that’s been stuffed into it about the problem needing to be solved.

New ideas come about because of our needing to solve a personal problem, or observing something happening in the world.  The key – be present – be aware – be conscious of what you are doing, how you are doing it, and what’s going on around you.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Melting Pot v. Political Correctness

The men who bombed Boston were misled.   They were fed some horribly distorted information about America and Americans.   They are not alone.  Many young people are being taught that we are “the evil axis.”  We aren’t countering this disgusting propaganda by teaching our values, our point of view.
Americans used to be proud to be Americans.  I know I still am.   When immigrants came to our shores we greeted them happily, helped them find homes, jobs, education, and most importantly, we taught them what it means to be an American. 
We didn’t defy or defile their religion or country of origin – but we told them about us.  We told them about freedom of speech and opportunity for all.  We taught them about honesty, ethics, and the contractual meaning of a handshake.  We taught them that with independence and freedom of thought came the awesome responsibility of taking care of oneself and reaching out to others who were in greater need.  We shared our commonality and accepted our differences.
We thought of ourselves as a melting pot – where people from everywhere in the world could come, learn, assimilate, and become citizens of the USA.  We were proud of who we were and what we had to offer.
Then, somewhere we became politically correct and decided we were a mosaic, not a melting pot.  No longer was it considered proper to teach our values.  Somehow we feared that by so doing, we were insulting their values. 
In this hodge podge of mis-information is the statement that we are trying to take over the world – that we are trying to “colonize” the rest of the world.  But, that’s not true – we don’t take over other countries – although sometimes we certainly do interfere too much.
So, the men who bombed Boston didn’t have a counter to the propaganda they were hearing.  They didn’t know their information was wrong.  How many thousands of other young men and women who have been given only a negatively slanted view do we have to find before we wise up and tell the story of America’s greatness?
OK – I’m off my soap box for now!

Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress
Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress
Mahatma Gandhi

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Rules, rules and more rules

I don’t mean to get political, but it seems to me we make too many rules, have too many regulations, and too much unnecessary red tape – almost everywhere.  Let me give you some recent examples that have nothing to do with politics per se.
·       I sit on a board of 7 members.  Our leadership insists the secretary take an oral role call at meetings.  She can see us and we can see each other.  When I suggested it was not necessary in so small a group, I was shot down.  We also need to formally vote on unimportant items instead of just having a consensus.
·       One of the organizations I belong to is holding its annual auction fundraiser. There are so many rules all starting with “this is the way we do it because this is the way we have always done it”.   We are a group of about 35 people.  We all know each other.  Yet, there is a rule that items cannot be counted in the tally until they are in the hands of the assigned committee member.  This means that when you say you have something in your hand and will bring it to the next meeting, you are told it will not go into the tally because it’s not physically there yet.  When I asked about trust, I was told that sometime in the distant past, someone said they had something, but didn’t.  So we are all distrusted – a rule is made because of one irresponsible person.
When I streamline systems for my larger clients (big companies – government agencies) I often find that a rule has been made – which often winds up costing more than it is attempting to save – because once someone fraudulently took advantage of their position and stole something, or spent something they shouldn’t have spent.  In other words, make a whole procedure costing lots of money to prevent the loss of some pennies.
Watching “Blue Bloods” on TV Friday night reminded me of all the “zero tolerance” rules in schools.  Do you remember:
·       A kindergarten boy was suspended because he kissed a little girl on the cheek – this was considered sexual harassment (yes, I don’t make these things up!)
·       A young boy was suspended – or expelled (I don’t remember which) because he accidently took his mother’s lunch bag instead of his own and she had an apple and paring knife in her bag.  The fact that the mother immediately recognized the accident and called the school to tell them the details didn’t change their decision.  Off with his head (said the Witch in Alice in Wonderland.)
Have we become so intolerant we can’t handle accidents?  “Oops, it was an accident, sorry – won’t do it again.”  If said genuinely, why isn’t that enough?
Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.
Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err.  It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right.
Mahatma Gandhi
Have we become so fearful of the crooks that we spend thousands of dollars and countless unnecessary time plugging up the imaginary holes?  OK – I am not suggesting we throw caution to the winds.  I am perfectly content with all those cameras – they found the bombers, didn’t they?
I love streamlining systems for my clients – I work with them – not at them – and together we find ways to make things far more effective and efficient without losing any safety or security.  Oftentimes the K.I.S.S. method works best.

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Getting Your Career Mojo Back

So, all this career counseling talk  brings me to my talk at CSIX this month.  My title:  “Mojo for the Job Hunter”
This economy has left a lot of people out of work for way too long.  In addition , here in Silicon Valley there is really a pre-disposition to want younger workers.  Those who have been laid off due to the recession, some of whom had worked in the same company for over a dozen years, are having a horrible time finding new work.
Many have become depressed, apathetic, and scared.  They’ve lost their “mojo.”  They’ve lost their enthusiasm, excitement and optimism – all of which is necessary for job hunting.
My talk was to give them some strategies for getting out of their rut.
I got my mojo back while running for office – which brought me out of my comfort zone and had me meeting bunches of new people.  It was fun.  I needed the jolt.
Now, I’m ready to tackle some new large projects.   Just to remind you – from one of my clients:

Chief George Cameron said, in part:
During the past year Arlyne has worked with nearly all Samtrans’s divisions in various tasks and roles. She has developed strategies and programs which have greatly benefited the District in dealing with issues such as team building, organizational development, process re-engineering, management and leadership training, 360 degree management evaluations and conflict resolution.
ArLyne’s instinctive ability to very quickly understand the crux of issues that management has either overlooked or not acknowledged, has set her apart from the majority of consultants which I have worked with over the last twenty years. Additionally her direct approach to both management and staff has been a refreshing change, which in my opinion has augmented her ability to resolve underlying issues or problems.
CEO, Mike Scanlon said in part:
Beginning in early 2001, we engaged the services of Dr. ArLyne Diamond to help the San Mateo County Transit District effect a cultural change through leadership training and coaching.  Simply stated, her performance was exceptional.  Her coaching produced demonstrable differences in the leadership qualities exhibited by our managers and key staff members and resulted in significantly improved relationships throughout the organization.  
I strongly recommend ArLyne’s services to any organization particularly one that wants to confront its performance objectives head-on.  Her approach is direct and unequivocal.  Most of our staff members found her style refreshing and provocative, but individuals must be willing to face sometimes difficult realities in order to implement her suggestions.  An example is the “360 degree management evaluations” in which performance assessments are generated both up and down the chain of command.  In the process, our supervisors and managers were exposed to some candid appraisals by subordinates.  While initial reactions were sometimes unsettling, there was general agreement that the outcome led to a stronger, more competent team.

ArLyne is an extremely well trained, highly motivated individual who draws upon years of experience and a superb educational background.  Despite her direct approach, she presents her programs in a casual and warm manner and is able to relate well to people of all persuasions.  

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Clients Moving Forward Into New Careers

Changing professions can be both exhilarating and frightening.  For many people, the decision requires new learning.  For those afraid to take the plunge, continuing to study – to take courses – is a way to think you are moving forward, but really stalling out of either fear or lack of knowledge about how to get where you want to be going.
Let me tell you about a few people I’ve worked with recently who are in the process of making change – but seem stuck in the mud. They are each still studying” their options. 
1:       From bureaucrat to politician
A man, previously a government employee,  now running for political office knows he is not a marketing person, a writer, or knowledgeable about running his campaign.  He has already put his hat in the ring and spent the money necessary (not a trivial sum) to be a serious candidate. 
His next step is to prepare his ballot statement and the rest of his marketing materials, including his website.  He vacillates about spending the money (considerably less than he’s already spent) to get his ballot statement finished.   I feel like I’m playing yo-yo to his decision making process.  I’ve contracted to do this for him.  If he doesn’t move fast, he will lose the window of opportunity to get a statement on the ballot.
His vacillation is because he is still slightly afraid of taking the necessary leap.  Too, making the transition requires an expenditure of money.  If he spends it he is truly making the commitment – so he keeps vacillating.

2:       From Mom to Business Owner
I am in a partnership with a friend who was to be responsible for getting our website (for this project) up and running.  She could have hired an expert for about $2,000.00 and it would have been done in a month or two.  Instead, she has been “taking courses” (e.g. studying) to learn – I know not what – and so far has spent over $5,000.00 and almost two years time stalling – and our website still isn’t live.
This is a pattern for this woman, who through the years has studied to become several different professionals.  She gets the degree, the license, and then finds something else to entice her interest. 
3:       From Employee to Having Her Own Professional Practice
I spent some hours with a lovely well educated and experienced woman who didn’t think she was ready yet to launch her business.  Talking with her, I was sure she had all the knowledge and tools necessary.  She also had purchased her business license, had her fictitious business name legalized and published, and had plied her craft many many times under the supervision of others.
It was her lack of confidence in herself that held her back.  She was continuing to “take courses” (e.g. studying) to become more expert.  While it is wonderful to take classes to advance your skills, there is a point at which as one of the CEO’s I worked with said: “To freeze the features”.   Stop being frozen in fear – and move forward.
3:       Targeting the wrong target market
I’ve worked with two different physicians who, for different reasons, no longer practice medicine.  Both of these men continue to go to career advise classes, (studying) trying to learn where they should go next.
I spent only a few hours with each of them and we created a plan.
Dr. A – really wants to focus on alternative medicine, nutrition and health.  He now has made the commitment to go in that direction.
Dr. B – is really good with dealing with heavy emotional problems and internal conflict.  Instead of his prior thinking to break into the high tech community, where he has no credentials, we worked together and planned a marketing program for him to approach hospitals and large medical practices.
In both these cases, the doctors had been stuck in a rut of listening to career counselors who probably were poorly trained and lacking in good interviewing and listening skills.  They were “studying.”

Success is the maximum utilization
of the ability that you have.
Zig Ziglar

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Image – Image – Image

Several of us had a conversation the other day about trying to help two people change their public images.  The other people in the conversation were well-intended friends of the man and woman needing (desperately needing) help.  My friends were trying out all kinds of indirect methods for approaching these people.  They were afraid to deal with the topic directly.

Since part of my consulting practice is to help those seeking professional growth, to look at their image and to make suggestions for improvement (I’ve even been known to go shopping with clients) I said, you need to be direct but use a warm and friendly manner. If you  tell these people that it would enhance their public image if they made slight changes in their grooming and manner of dress, they might be hurt for a second or two, but if they like you they will recognize that you are trying to help them and will be responsive to your help.

“Oh, we don’t want to hurt their feelings” was the surprised reply.  But, having worked with people for over thirty years, I know that if you are trusted and liked, you can be direct and honest.  It might hurt for a second, but is far less painful than being caught in levels of subterfuge. 

The moral of the story:  People are a lot stronger emotionally than we give them credit for – honesty with kindness – usually works well.

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Time Management for Executives

I recently spoke to about 50 executives of Chambers of Commerce about managing their time, their clients, staff and volunteers.  Since the CEO of a Chamber MUST be focused on customer service at all times, it is somewhat difficult to manage interruptions.  Too often their time gets used up by the interruptions and they feel frustrated at the end of the day or week since they didn’t manage to get done what they needed to do.  This is true of course for most people in leadership positions.  My suggestions apply not only to Chamber executives but to all you executives who read this newsletter.
Some small suggestions:

·        Find a few hours during the day (maybe not every day) when you can close your door, leaving a message on it that you are deeply engaged in a project that demands your full attention and cannot be interrupted except for emergencies.  Of course you don’t need to say all that all the time.  Find some symbols and use them – after of course teaching people what they mean.  Some people use colored cards to say:

o   Emergency Only
o   OK if really important
o   I’m available, just knock
o   Open door – come on in

·        Do not answer your phone or e-mail during those times.

·        Put a message on your voice mail stating that you will return phone calls between X & Y times.

·        Delegate – delegate – delegate & delegate
·        Have staff members as supervisors to volunteers
·        Train volunteers and hold them accountable (yes, you can!)
·        Use Covey’s Four Quadrant’s to organize and prioritize
·        Give as much of the trivial stuff away as possible – e.g. delegate

·        Remember, you more you spend in Quadrant II (planning, organizing) the less you need to spend in crisis management.

My theme today seems to be becoming more effective in the workplace.  

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Building a Camel when you wanted a Horse

Building a Camel when you wanted a Horse

We all talk about the value and virtues of team work.  But, what happens when a bunch of people all have to be satisfied  and any decision becomes watered down to please everyone?  There is something so different about getting input from those who have expertise or a stake in the project from everyone having to agree.  Trite expressions like “too many cooks spoil the broth” come to mind when too many people are actually involved in the decision itself.

Getting input from others is so valuable – but the fewer people involved in the actual decision, the better.  This is true about a great many things, including interviewing prospective new employees.

I’ve been involved in the process of being a finalist in contract negotiations watching the difference between organizations where someone in charge makes the actual decision, and organizations where the “team” or “committee” makes the decision.  In the later case, you have to please everyone and so the less outstanding or unique or controversial you are, the better off you are.  In the first case, the person or group hired is most often the best of the companies under consideration.

Compromise always – well, maybe almost always – yields something less than what is truly desirable.  The most obvious example of course is the decision to merge black and white and get unwanted gray.  

I can’t write this without recalling the young professional couple who compromised on the selection of their new car.  She wanted a station wagon (this was years ago) so she could transport a bunch of kids to all their activities.  He wanted a big red convertible as his gift to himself for becoming a successful professional.   They could have easily afforded both.  Instead they made a compromise and bought a four door sedan and neither was happy.

So, if you want a horse – a beautiful sleek thoroughbred – get an expert who knows how to build your horse, don’t have everyone in the building involved in adding their good ideas and watch the lumps start to form.

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Cutting Waste and Saving Money

Many of us in both our public and private lives are looking for ways to save money.  For some, it means cutting out spending on things we want. These people talk about “tightening the belt.”  But I find that people waste money doing work or using things that are unnecessary.   By just working smarter they can save lots of money. I can think of lots of examples in our private lives – but since this is primarily a business/professional newsletter, I want to focus on what happens at work.

In some cases processes are redundant and time and money are wasted.  For example, in accounts receivable are you still taking an adding machine tape when your computer is adding things up for you?   Are you spending too many dollars to protect against the possibility of a one in a thousand problem?   Do you have more than one department working on the same tasks, not knowing what the other is doing?  Are you making it difficult for people to communicate with each other when they need to check in with each other frequently?  Are you providing your staff with bits and pieces of the information they need rather than giving them the whole information?  

Do you have endless unnecessary meetings?  Could some of these be eliminated?  Shortened? Less people needed to attend?

I ask you these questions because these are just some of the few things I learn when working to do process improvement – and make my clients more effective.

Not only my government clients, but some of my corporate clients also make the same mistakes. 

Another common mistake:  They hire someone to do a series of tasks, assuming that person will find the most effective and efficient manner in which to complete these tasks.  All too often the process used is far too cumbersome for the task at hand.

As I listen to the politicians blame each other and predict Armageddon if the government is forced to cut what the Wall St. Journal reported will be only 2.2% of the debt, I keep thinking, they ought to hire me and working with their staff, I could find ways to cut waste and probably save them over 10% of what their current costs are – without losing any service in the process.

I know this because I’ve made lots of positive changes to reduce waste with both corporate and government clients.

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Investigating an Allegation

This is another topic about which I’ve written previously.  If I recall correctly, the last time was when an executive I knew was accused of creating a hostile work environment.  When I reviewed all the documents in the case, including all the interviews by the investigator, it became clear to me that the investigation was poorly conducted with the investigator looking only for those things that supported the allegations and rejecting any information that would support a finding of innocence, or mis-understanding.
When I do the investigation/evaluation, I take the time to do a thorough process and have saved several people’s jobs and helped to avoid several wrongful termination lawsuits by finding more realistic solutions to the problem (let the punishment fit the crime!)
It happened again recently.  Instead of due process, or even listening to the point of view of the person being accused, all people conducting the investigation parroted the information received by the first person (an amateur) who did the investigation.  Facts didn’t matter.  Truth didn’t matter.  A job was lost because of really poor investigation processes.

So, my advice again:  BE NEUTRAL.  Be prepared to listen to the reasoning of the person being accused.  Often the “crime” is merely a mis-understanding that can easily be corrected, or a mis-interpretation of the facts.  Don’t over-react.  Don’t be so sure that the beginning information is the complete story.  Don’t assume the worst.  BE NEUTRAL. Be careful.  Be thorough.  Give the people involved the benefit of the doubt and full due process.

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Meeting Management

Meeting Management
I’ve written about this before, but wanted to remind everyone that we all attend too many meetings and most aren’t worth our while.  So, here are a few tips for making your meetings more interesting and effective.
·       Pick the time of day, the location, and the length of the meeting in advance, taking into consideration what you are trying to accomplish. 
o   Brief morning meetings work best for informational topics and should be in a convenient location.
o   If you want to encourage team-building, trust, and interaction, have your meeting in a much more comfortable location, allowing plenty of time and offering tasty food at the meeting.
o   Consider a conference call, or just an e-mail information piece instead of a live meeting.
·       Agenda setting and keeping
o   When you plan your agenda, get input from others who might have important issues they want the group to address.
o   Pencil in the amount of time you will be giving each topic.  I was recently at a meeting where the CEO spent most of the 2 ½ hours talking about some interesting organizations she had met – which didn’t allow any time for the most important items on the agenda – oh, and the meeting was scheduled for 2 hours.
o   Make sure you prioritize the topics so that the important ones actually are given the time they require.
o   End with action items
·       Minutes timely and accurate
o   There are 2 schools of thought here.  One suggests very terse and tight minutes so that there is no room for lawsuits later.   
o   I believe minutes should be detailed because everyone needs to have information and reminders.  One solution – have terse official minutes and then an informational document that is newsy and unofficial.
o   Make sure minutes are distributed (e-mail is wonderful) within a week of the meeting about which they were recorded.  The reason for this is because people forget very easily.
o   People should be invited to make additions/corrections via e-mail prior to the next meeting.
o   Minutes should be distributed in hard copy (ok, I’m old-fashioned) at the next meeting for final review and approval.
·       Managing the People
o   Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone knew how to behave properly and cooperatively in a meeting…. But, they don’t.  Here are just a few of the problem types that need special handling.
o   The Bully – He or she insists on monopolizing the discussion – all the time.  It takes a strong meeting Chair or facilitator to get this person to give others an opportunity to talk – but that’s what has to be said.
o   The Off-topic person -   I find this person in almost every meeting or retreat I facilitate.  He or she has an important point that is totally irrelevant or inappropriate to the topic under discussion.  My solution – make sure to capture the essential topic that s/he suggests by putting it obviously on a flip chart or white board promising to come back to it later.  Make sure you do.
o   The Rambler – Sometimes the brightest and most creative members of the team go off on tangents or tell the same story over and over again.  This person needs to be gently reminded that s/he is taking too much time and if necessary being put on a timer.
o   The Silent One – Often the quietest one in the room is the most dangerous.  That person will later talk negatively to others “behind your back” and will cause trouble.  The solution is to get them to speak up and share their opinions during the meeting itself.
o   Voting with My Friend – How many times have you found someone votes just as their friend does, not wanting to hurt his/her feelings, rather than voting logically or rationally?   If it’s important to get true opinions, it might be the time for a secret ballot.

o   Yes Man/Ma’am – Whatever the boss wants, watch his/her face for clues and vote to earn “brownie points.”  The only way to handle this kiss-up is to keep a poker face and make sure your solicit everyone’s opinions before offering your own.

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Staying with your Vision/Mission

How do you – or your team members decide whether a project is a good idea or not for you?   All too often my clients (especially my association/non-profit clients) are asked to do something that doesn’t fit their mission but sounds good and certainly would be helpful to others – and so they say YES, when they should be saying “NO, Thank you.”

At a dinner party in my home one evening years ago, Bill was asked by another of my guests to contribute to her charity.  He responded, in his usual courteous manner, “Thank you for asking.  I’m sure it’s a worthwhile cause, but I’ve already selected those organizations I am supporting, and must respectfully decline.”

A careful analysis of your organization’s vision and mission are so essential to deciding where you will be spending resources  If it isn’t B.S. (as so many are) but a comprehensive and clear definition of who you are, why you are and how you are going to achieve your results, it is the guide to all project decisions.

There are so many wonderful projects – creative ideas – and new things to try.  BUT, are they where you should be spending your time.  Working with your teams to help them understand that saying “No, that’s not the right fit for us” is not an insult or being unkind – it is acting in the self-interest of your organization, allowing you to focus on areas that you do best and therefore are of most help to the people you choose to serve.

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Everyone talks about empowering their staff, but I wonder how many managers actually do so.  To empower someone is to provide them with the opportunity to take on responsibilities and to have the authority commensurate with that responsibility.

Let me give you an example or two about what happens when you dis-empower people.

I was consulting to an American telecommunications company when they were purchased by a French company.  Prior to the purchase, managers and directors had responsibility and the authority to make decisions.  They had respect and visibility.  For example, if a manager (or even someone not in management) had a good idea, it was that person who presented the idea to the appropriate audience, including the CEO.  Responsibility and authority were pushed down to the lowest logical level and employees were given opportunity to shine and to grow their skills.  Promotions were based on the assessment of performance.

Well, the French company worked differently.  All decisions were made at the highest level (across the pond) and if you had a good idea, your job was to make your boss look better, and he made his boss look better, and eventually only the senior vice-presidents had public visibility and acclaim.

Another way you dis-empower people is to micro-manage them and step between them and the others with whom they are working.  It happened to me recently.  I am an ex-officio member of a board of directors and had assumed responsibility for finding a commercial realtor and starting the process of looking for new space for the organization.  Having worked with a fine commercial realtor before, I mentioned that I would contact him and set up a preliminary appointment.

A member of the board said he wanted to join me and I said sure.  Instead, he called my realtor, introduced himself as “in charge” and undercut my professional relationship with the man..  In addition, he showed up at the meeting, and took over, even going so far as to mention that he had information not available to me – and that he and I were only 80% in agreement (I have no idea where we were either in agreement or in disagreement.)  In effect, he pushed me aside.

When I called him on it – he did it again.  He wonders why the fun has gone out of the project for me.
Now, when you empower people, they get energized, motivated, and stretch their abilities to prove to you that your confidence in them was justified.

Which would you prefer?

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wishing Won't Make it So

Wishing Won’t Make it so
ArLyne diamond, ph.d.

How often have you heard yourself sigh and say:  “Wish I could increase my business” or “Wish I could improve my bottom line.”   How about:  “Wish my employees were more motivated, personable and customer service oriented.”
Wishing won’t make it so.
Improvement requires change.   They say the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.  So, if you want to change your results, you have to change what you are doing.
BUT, change takes time.  It takes effort, training, looking at things differently, and figuring out what will and will not work.  Change takes management of the change process.
Years ago, one of our big semi-conductor companies had lost market share, products were no longer respected, they had poor morale among employees and even a significant drug problem.  A new CEO was hired and the first thing he did was insist his upper management team go away quarterly for three day retreats.  You can only imagine the screams when he first suggested they take the time to go away.  “BUT”, they screamed “we don’t have the time, we have work to do.”   He replied, “If we don’t take the time to think about what we need to do, nothing will change.”
Recently, a restaurant owner told me that her business was in a slump.  She asked some of her favorite customers what they thought she should change.  They replied they liked things just the way they are.  Based on this very limited research she made no changes.  Yet, it is not her existing customers she needed to research – it is her potential customers and her lost customers.  She knows she needs to make changes to increase her business, but the comfortable excuse that her current customers like the restaurant just the way it is allowed her to “do it this way because this is the way we’ve always done it” and thus not take the time to change.
A Professional therapist I know sits in her office wishing new clients would come to her.  So afraid is she of missing a phone call she won’t take the time to join local organizations such as her Chamber of Commerce and so she doesn’t attend any of the available networking events that would potentially lead to more business.  She just sits and wishes.
When I work with my clients to improve employee morale and customer service, increase business, and reduce unnecessary processes that cut into the bottom line, they learn fairly rapidly that the most important element of effectively growing their business is to take the time to work with me – and with their staff – creating and implementing change.
Wishing won’t make it so – but taking the time to strategically plan, to train, and to institute new processes and techniques certainly will get you what you wish for….. So, stop wishing, take the time to make it happen.

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Safety Tips for Seniors

Safety tips for seniors


Although as a Senior I like to think I am wiser and more aware than when I was younger, the truth of the matter is that I, like you, have slowed down slightly, my vision and hearing aren’t as acute as they once were, and I’m a little more stiff, and prone to losing my balance.  In addition, I seem to have become a target for scam artists and thieves.  I need to protect myself better.
So, if you are like me, you might want some of these tips:
I’ve researched this issue and have incorporated what I’ve read and what others have suggested in addition to my own ideas, drawn from my own experiences.   I’m certain that you, the reader could find additional tips to add to my list.   The tips here:

Safety at Home

From Intruders and fire

Even the safest of neighborhoods is potentially dangerous.  Do take some simple precautions.

·        Maintain smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
·        Have an emergency escape plan and pre-arrange for a family member or friend to help you escape, if needed.  If you live alone and there is no friend nearby, let your local police and fire department know you are older and alone.
·        Consider a burglar alarm for added security.
·        Install deadbolt locks.
·        Have extra locks on all windows so they can’t be forced open.
·        Keep your doors and windows locked even when you are home or when you are just going for “a minute.”
·        Never open your door automatically.  Install and use a peephole.
·        Don’t leave notes on your door when going out.
·        Leave lights on, using a timer varying on/off when you are gone for an extended period of time.
·        Cancel deliveries of newspapers, etc. when going away for more than a day.
·        Let neighbors and police know when you are away for several days or more.
·        Do not put a spare key outside – no matter where you hide it, it will be found.  Instead, give extra keys to one or more of your neighbors that you trust.
·        Purchase and use a medical alert system (about $500 a year) – there are several different vendors.  I know about Medic-Alert and Life-Alert, but there are others as well.
·        Have fire extinguishers and smoke detectors on every floor – easy to reach and know how to use them.
·        If you still smoke, do not smoke in bed, or if you are sleepy.
·        Light up the night.  Have nightlights inside and outside – have some of them be movement sensitive.
·        Check the identification of all workmen and delivery people before opening the door.  If you have not called for that service, excuse yourself for a minute (keeping the door closed and locked) and looking up the number for the provider yourself (not the number they offer you) call and make sure this is a legitimate caller.
·        Never give information out over the phone indicating that you are alone or that you won’t be home at a certain time.

from falling and other accidents

The experts say that loss of balance and falling is the problem seniors face most often – much of the time because they are a little anxious about falling and so look down instead of straight ahead.  Since your head is the heaviest part of your body (yes, even if you are overweight) you are throwing yourself off balance. 
·        Stand straight.
·        Work on improving your balance through exercise classes and physical activity.
·        Create opportunities to be social – to get out and about and be with others doing things that are enjoyable and stimulating.
·        Get enough sleep – we probably need at least 8 hours a night.
·        Tack down or remove small rugs.
·        Make sure there are no loose wires to trip over – tack them down against the baseboard where possible.
·        Be careful of wet floors – if you must walk on them use shoes with treaded rubber soles (Crocs work as well as other kinds.)
o   Place non-skid mats, strips, or carpet on surfaces that may get wet.
·        Install grab bars beside your toilet, in your shower and bathtub.
·        Use a grabber to help you reach things on high shelves.
·        Try to keep things you use often close at hand – this might mean a re-arrangement of your kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
·        Stoves can be dangerous – be careful about what’s near the stove, have on and off positions marked clearly, and avoid wearing long, loose clothing when cooking.
·        Use a solid step stool or ladder when you need to use your hands instead of a grabber. 
o   If on a second or higher step of a ladder, be sure you position yourself to be near something else you can hold onto for added stability – a chair back usually works for me.
o   Be aware of your pets especially when you are trying to get down from the step ladder.
·        When walking down stairs (usually more difficult than walking up) stand straight with your head held high, you can see the steps below you without having to look down.
o   Hold your feet slightly to the side instead of full forward, it makes it safer.
o   Hold on to a banister and go down slowly.
o   Reduce the load – don’t carry packages that will throw you off balance, break them up into smaller and more manageable packages.
o   If wearing a long robe, or skirt, be sure to lift it slightly when walking either up or down stairs so you don’t trip on it.
o   If possible throw things over the banister and down the stairs if you are sure they won’t break from their fall.
·        Light the way – use night lights and other lights on or near stairs, halls and on the way to your bathroom.
·        Have a phone and light where you can reach it from bed.
o   Keep emergency numbers on a card in large print near your bed and other strategic places so you can see it in an emergency.
o   You might also program your phones and keep a list of the numbers representing specific people.
·        Electricity, wires and circuits:  Have a professional check all of these to make sure you aren’t at risk of either tripping over something or being electrocuted because of damaged or incorrect wiring.

From scams and identify thefts

·        Never offer information to strange callers, or e-mail solicitors.  Do not give out your social security card, your birth date, etc. unless you have personally initiated the call or request to a vendor you are sure of.
·        Be particularly careful of anyone offering to give you money.  That’s The Trojan Horse to get you to give them what they need to scam you.
·        One of the latest scams is to have a caller cry hysterically on the phone pretending to be a relative of yours, or with a relative of yours needing money.  It’s probably a scam.
·        If possible, do your banking and bill paying by direct deposit and on line.  This is actually safer than the potential of someone grabbing your mail.
·        Oh, and if you can protect your mailbox, either by having a locked box, or a slot in your garage instead of an external mailbox, do it.

Medications and Supplements

As we age we tend to have more and more medications prescribed and it can be confusing as to when and how and how many to take and with what.
·        Review your medicines frequently with your doctor or pharmacist.
·        Check expiration dates and get rid of old meds.
·        Make sure medicines are clearly labeled.
·        Do not borrow medications from others.
·        Create a reminder system so that you don’t take your medications more frequently – or less frequently than prescribed.
·        Make a list of everything you are taking, including vitamins, and share the list with your primary care physician.
·        If your pharmacist hasn’t given you information about the pills you take – ask for them, know what the potential side effects are – and whether you should or shouldn’t take a particular pill with food.
·        Learn whether anything you are taking makes you tired or dizzy and if so don’t drive while under the effect of these drugs.
·        Consider alcohol a debilitating drug and recognize it can effect your balance and reflexes.

New Relationships

Well, we’ve aged – but we haven’t died!
·        Although dating can be fun at any age, the same safety tips we give teens apply to seniors.  The potential for STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) exists no matter your age.
·        If using a dating service, don’t be gullible, desperate, or in a hurry to meet your potential new mate.  Spend lots of time on e-mail checking them out.  If they seem too hurried and resist your reasonable questions, take it as a warning side and end the conversation.
·        Use the phone once you are more comfortable and get to really know how that other person thinks before agreeing to meet him or her.
·        Finally, meet on neutral grounds in a safe place – not too near your own home or office.  Have lunch or coffee and an escape route.
·        Never, never, never lend money until you are engaged or married to this person.

outside – sidewalk and street

As we age we appear more vulnerable and easier to victimize.  Remember that most bad guys are looking for an easy target.  Don’t let yourself be one.
·        Be aware of your surroundings at all times, whether on the street, in a shopping center, and even in the assumed safety of the mall
·        Walk tall and strongly.  Look healthy and able to take care of yourself.
·        Women: hold your purse tightly close to your side.  Men: Keep your wallet in an inside pocket.
·        Do not have your jewelry showing. 
·        Do not carry large amounts of cash.
·        Take a walking stick – even if you don’t need it it’s a great potential weapon.
·        Do not walk down dark streets or alley ways even if they are shortcuts.
·        If there aren’t a lot of other people around and you are walking alone, stay close to the road and even in the road if necessary, do not stay close to buildings, because that’s where someone might hide and jump out to grab you.
·        At night, where light clothing, carry a flashlight and be doubly-aware.
·        If you see people and feel uncomfortable, respect your instincts and take a detour to avoid them.
·        Do not talk on your cell phone because it is a distraction from you being aware of your surroundings and it is also an invitation for someone to reach out and grab it. 
o   On the other hand, you might want to be in touch with someone on the other end of the phone while you are walking so that they will be aware if anything bad happens to you.  So arrange to call someone and keep the phone on and in your pocket so that they can hear you and your surroundings – but don’t let the phone be obvious.
·        Where ever possible avoid streets if you see uncollected garbage piled about – this suggests a bad neighborhood.
·        If taking public transportation sit as close to the driver or conductor as possible.
·        Have your key ready when approaching your front door.


Let’s face it – this is a vanity point for all of us and potentially a great inconvenience.  But, the truth is we have lost some hearing and seeing ability – especially at night.
·        Get proper driving glasses – if you only need them for driving, keep them in the car and use them.
·        Make sure your windows and headlights are clean.
·        If necessary, get extra mirrors – especially if turning your head isn’t as easy as it once was.
·        Drive on well lit streets, even if it takes you a little out of your way.
·        If driving on the freeway is less comfortable than it once was, consider driving home from your evening event on main streets instead of the freeway.
·        Be aware of stiffness in your neck which can make it harder to look over your shoulder.
·        If you have arthritis in your knee, or other leg pain, it might be more difficult to take your foot quickly from gas to brake.
·        If possible, choose a vehicle with automatic transmission, power steering and power brakes.
·        Drive defensively – with NO distractions.
·        Listen to the concern of those who love you – they may be noticing your limitations and potential to harm yourself or others before you notice it.
·        There are safety courses for seniors.  Check with the DMV.
·        Gather information about public transport possibilities.  There may be busses or light rails convenient for you.
·        In some cases you might be eligible for special pick-up and delivery services.
·        Try, where ever possible to travel with companions rather than alone.
·        Keep your purse and packages where they are less likely to be seen or grabbed
·        Never pick up hitchhikers
·        Keep your gas tank full so you never run out unexpectedly
·        Check the front and back seats of your car when returning to it.
·        If your car breaks down, pull over to a safe area and stay inside your car until help comes.  Do not accept help from strangers, only from police or other emergency vehicles.


·        Carry your purse close to you.
·        Park only in well lit areas – preferably close to where the stores are located
·        Use debit or credit cards and carry little cash
·        Plan to accompany other people when going to and from car to stores.


·        Where possible use direct deposit to avoid having your checks stolen.
·        Seniors may get free or discounted rates at banks – check with yours.
·        Do not get conned into withdrawing money for anyone but yourself.
·        Use a safety deposit box for your valuables.


211 – United Way


Aging and Adult Services
Santa Clara County, CA
Archstone Foundation

CA Dept. on Aging

CA Telephone Access

Council on Aging
San Jose, CA
Eldercare Locator

Fall Prevention Center of Excellence

Farewell to Falls

Heart of the Valley Senior Services
Santa Clara, CA
Home Safety Services

National Center for Injury Prevention
Atlanta, GA
National Council on Aging

National Institute on Aging Information center

National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification
Los Angeles, CA
Rebuilding Together
Wash. D.C.
Senior Services Referrals,pdf(796k)

Silicon Valley Healthy Aging Project
Santa Clara County, CA

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