Monday, 25 November 2013

“A goal is a dream with a deadline” Napoleon Hill

This is a newsletter from one of the recent "Work Smart" lunchtime  sessions. The theme was the routes we can take to achieving our goals. 

"Do you know the way to San Jose?"*

LD handed out tickets with mystery destinations to attendees at the start of the meeting. LD had also asked members to bring along their objectives, and asked them to share what steps they had planned to achieve these goals.  

One member’s objective was a goal that required input from all members in all departments, and Members could see how this goal needed to be clearly defined, so they could know when they had reached it. In this example, each department would feed into the process.  From this, members recognised that objectives serve a twofold purpose – goals drive the business forward, and stretch us so that we can develop our skills. 

When members opened their tickets, they identified a variety of starting points – London, Oxford, Bristol – with a range of travel options:  by train, plane, car, or running as a banana for charity.

LD directed everyone to locate their starting point to find fellow travellers, and to plan what they would need according to their means of transport. 

Some requirements were the same for everyone:
- passport, money and guidebook.

Additional requirements depended on the mode of transport:
- flight times, petrol stations, rest stops, and where to buy your banana costume. 

Those travelling together could meet at the station or lift share. 

All Roads Lead to Rome

When members headed towards their destination they discovered it was the same for everyone: they were all heading to Rome, and that all roads lead to Rome, whether you are starting from London, Bristol or Oxford, and whether you are flying, driving, taking the train. Different routes and transport (different objectives/departments), but we’ll all meet in Rome. 

(not Romania)

In order to stay on track, you need to constantly review your objectives, or you might end up in Romania instead of Rome. Les Brown tells us to “review our goals twice every day in order to be focussed on achieving them”. Once you have agreed the destination and means of travel with your line manager, you need to plan your route.

Your objectives and learning management system then becomes your SatNav, and one-to-ones are traffic alerts, to check you are on track. They also flag up any potential diversions that may be needed. 

“Our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”  Don Williams, Jr.

Out of this discussion, one member related it to teamwork, where the leader is the guide, and you don’t become a team until you are bigger than what you are trying to achieve. She cited an example from "Sports Psychology for Dummies" of a baseball player who was on the bench for 5 years, and then allocated to attack, when he would have preferred to be defence. This was best for the team. Members agreed it was practical to give the map to the one who can read the best, but remember to also teach others to read the map, so they can alternate.

Similar to a jigsaw puzzle, each piece is vital to the bigger picture, and cannot be replaced perfectly, however, it is possible to minimise the risk of losing the puzzle piece. Team continues to function, no matter that is in it, because the team has a purpose. 

Quick tip – Scan or photocopy hastily handwritten notes from meetings. Email them to yourself as a PDF to save to your PC for typing up at a later date if needed. 


Effective. Efficient. Organised. Professional. 

* "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" (1968, music by Burt Bacharach, lyrics by Hal David, sung by Dionne Warwick)

Friday, 10 May 2013

“Every piece of the universe, even the tiniest little snow crystal, matters somehow. I have a place in the pattern, and so do you.” ~ T.A. Barron

All you need is one

We had a few days of sunny weather in the UK over the Bank Holiday last weekend, and although a pleasant change after the long, cold winter, it made me realise that even just one sunny day over that long weekend would have made a difference: 

One flower to herald the spring; one bird flying overhead to lift our spirits.

The power of one:

It's much easier to encourage best practise and bring everyone together, than it is to legislate and police all the different options that any one person might come up with. And the larger the company, the more vital it is that there is a shared vision, because each individual is a separate person with their own thoughts, feelings and perspectives and actions. One shared vision can bring together all of those thoughts, feelings and perspectives so that the actions  of all the individuals help to move the company forward in the same direction.

One small step is also at the heart of the Japanese movement of "Kaizen"*, where the focus is on making one small change at a time, to aspire to continual improvement. To be just that little bit better today than yesterday. To make a difference. 

One new idea, one different thing

One thank you card
one person telling you that you are appreciated and valued
one positive thing
one solution

One new idea is easy to remember
one new idea is easy to try
one small step
one new person

Each of us can make a difference, and the world is a different place for us having been here.

Light one candle and pass it on


Effective. Efficient. Organised. Professional. 
* "One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way", Robert Maurer, Workman Publishing (17 Sep 2004)

Thursday, 25 April 2013

“That which we persist in doing, becomes easier to do” ~ R.W. Emerson*

The focus of this month's meeting was on continually developing the skills and abilities needed to maintain our productivity, so that we can stay sharp, and up-to-date with industry trends. 

One way of doing this could be to attend relevant workshops, and to interact with colleagues from other departments to understand the wider processes and to see the bigger picture of the company within the industry as a whole. 

Work Smart - newsletter, April 2013

For April's meeting, LD had asked members to write a thank you card to a colleague. Some members felt this was unnecessary, as a culture of thanking colleagues already exists in many companies. However, it was noted that cards from managers at Christmas were appreciated and often kept as mementos. One colleague sent a thank you card for being warned about a traffic diversion affecting the commute to work during snowy weather.

“Sharpening the Saw”:
Members spoke about strategies to stay on top of work and industry trends, including learning new skills and mastering the technology. LD referred to the 7th Habit, in Stephen Covey's book, "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People"**, which is “sharpening the saw” -  taking 5 minutes to keep up-to-date and aware of Best Practice, so we can complete our work effectively. Often we get so busy sawing, we forget that our saws can become blunt. We get used to doing things the way we did them when we started in our role, but there are always new developments and trends.

Staying sharp would equate to the 5% of development time as part of our objectives. Members spoke about the benefits of workshops, in particular internal workshops, as an example for learning:
  • Internal workshops facilitate greater understanding of the Big Picture and where we fit into the wider process
  • Improve presentation skills and share knowledge
  • Meet colleagues in other departments, and step away from the routine. Seeing things from a new perspective can spark collaboration between departments.
  • Workshops must be relevant, and well-presented, and need line manager support, as attendance is actually part of our jobs.
  • Ideally material would be centrally available to refer back to afterwards
  • Ask the Learning and Development department to develop courses that are relevant.
Brian Tracy's book "Eat That Frog"*** compares tasks we may approach last because they are hardest or we are not skilled at, as “frogs”. He encourages us to tackle them sooner to increase our abilities and grow. Assigning a reward to such a task can be helpful to focus on achievement. LD handed out small chocolates to each member to assign as a reward to completion of a task of their choosing before the next meeting. 

Blog of the month:

For the next meeting, please share one example of Best Practice in your work. 
              Effective. Efficient. Organised. Professional

            *“That which we persist in doing, becomes easier to do. Not that the task becomes easier, but our ability to do increases” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
              **"Eat That Frog", Brian Tracy, Hodder Paperbacks (13 Sep 2004)
                ***"The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People", Stephen Covey, Simon & Schuster Ltd; 1989

                Tuesday, 9 April 2013

                "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
                ~ Marcel Proust

                Last week I attended a conference in Brussels for a few days. It was a trip of new experiences: new people, new ideas, new opportunities and new connections. It was the first time I’d been to Brussels, and I’d not travelled on the Eurostar before, so that was exciting in itself. It was also an opportunity to spend time with colleagues in a different environment outside of the office, and we were fortunate enough to stay in a good hotel, along with the other delegates.

                When we spend time with our colleagues away from work, we see them through different eyes, eg my colleague James, who stood up and presented to a roomful of around 100 people rather than a group of 10, and then sat on the panel discussion. We can observe them in an alternative environment.

                We can learn much from other people who are successful, the people we admire, even if it’s just something small from each person. When I went on the life coaching taster course recently, they asked us if we thought talking to a roomful of 100 people was a stretch or a panic goal (Bev James, “Do it or Ditch it”*). I now feel that it's a stretch, because I am used to talking to groups of 10 or 20 through the groups I run at work, and going to a public speaking group in Oxford. So for me the next step up from that will be to present to a larger group next time. 

                Not only do we see our colleagues through different eyes, we see ourselves through different eyes, and the eyes of new people we meet. In such cases we may meet people from different backgrounds, whether they are from the same industry or other parts of the industry. We come together to share ideas, because we are all working to a common goal. 

                We need to recognise where we think the same as people, and where our opinions differ, but the goal is not to think alike, “the goal is to think together” (with apologies to Robert C. Dodd**)

                When we travel, we also have to remember that we take ourselves with us wherever we go. One morning, my colleague made a comment about how we treat our hotel rooms, saying in her opinion you can tell a lot about someone from the way they behave away from home. She’s right, I went to the gym before breakfast, ate as healthy as I could throughout the conference, choosing herbal teas and water, and even fruit for breakfast, a habit I may take home with me, and incorporate into my lifestyle. I felt healthier over the two days, as a result.

                There is much we can learn from any experience away from work, whether that is a meeting or a conference abroad. We see ourselves in a new light, perhaps, when we get out and about - it's really as if few are lifting our heads up for a moment, to look around us, to be aware of where we are and where we are going.

                So the next time you have a meeting, or you are sent somewhere, ask yourself, what can I learn from this?


                Effective. Efficient. Organised. Professional. 

                * "Do It or Ditch It", Bev James, Virgin Books, July 2011. 

                **Original quote, “The goal in marriage is not to think alike, but to think together.” Robert C. Dodds.

                Friday, 8 March 2013

                "Live, love, learn, leave a legacy" ~ Stephen Covey

                The focus of this month's meeting was on the ways we could create a legacy in our work so that colleagues would remember us in a positive light when we move on to new ventures. 

                One way of doing this was to find reasons to be grateful at work, both for the work itself and the people we work with every day. This month members have been tasked to write one thank you card or email to a colleague, ahead of April's meeting. 

                Work Smart - newsletter, March 2013

                In our second meeting on Tuesday, Members contributed examples of positive aspects of work, ranging from working with lovely people, teams encouraging creative thinking and new starter drinks.

                Members recommended the numbers of colleagues who had returned to work after leaving to work elsewhere, prompting them to reflect how best to leave a legacy whereby colleagues remembered them positively. LD compared leaving a legacy to writing with permanent marker pen on archive boxes, marking them with our individual handwriting, and leaving lasting proof that we had been here. Referring to colleagues returning, members raised the intention of maintaining our records and files as we would wish to find them if it was our first day in a new job.

                Members also recognised that it could be taken for granted how much knowledge someone had accumulated until they had left the company, if it was not shared, causing “Business amnesia”. Similarly, Business amnesia could apply to any situation where information was not recorded, or there was no written record of important information, which could not then be accurately remembered six months later. Written records were more reliable than oral history. 

                Members also discussed the best ways for booking meeting rooms and facilities for meetings:

                • Reserve meeting rooms by email where possible. Email requests make it possible to monitor and track requests centrally between the relevant parties.
                • Include meeting room requirements when reserving: date, venue, time, duration of meeting, number of people.
                • If IT equipment or catering will be required, include this in the request.
                • Cancel meeting rooms that are no longer needed, so that they become available for colleagues. This applies to meetings that finish early, as well as recurring meetings.
                • External visitors - Specify whether they are external clients, or interview candidates, so they can be put in touch with the relevant contact.
                • If taxis are required, include this in the request. 
                Blog of the month:

                LD handed out blank thank you cards to members during the meeting. Each member was asked to write one thank you card to a colleague before April's meeting. Members could choose to send e-cards instead if preferred.

                For the next meeting, please tell us one way that you stay on top of your work or industry trends.

                       Effective. Efficient. Organised. Professional

                Wednesday, 6 March 2013

                "If you light a lamp for someone it will brighten your own path." ~The Buddha

                The inaugural lunchtime meeting of Work Smart took place on Monday, February 4th 2013. 20 members attended. I wrote up a brief newsletter of the points we covered in the meeting as a record for those who could not attend. 

                Because much of the advice is applicable to anyone who works, I have edited the newsletter for public consumption and this follows below. 

                This blog will alternate between my own insights and the monthly newsletter.

                Work Smart - newsletter, February 2013
                                                                                                                            20 members attended the inaugural meeting on February 4th. A number of books including Stephen Covey's "First Things First" were made available to attendees. Lynn Degele gave examples of how we can work smarter when we work together and when we are working at our best, so that we could be effective with people, and efficient with systems.

                Referring to “First Things First” LD spoke about scheduling our priorities, whether that was for lunchtime, home life, or to manage our workloads more effectively:

                • Putting the rocks, pebbles, sand and water in to ensure the important tasks are completed. More information on this can be found here
                • Lunchtimes – members said it was more productive to take the time off, and step away from your desk.  Even if it does not feel that way initially, you feel more refreshed later in the day.
                • Switching off the email alert notification, to focus on work
                • Setting up rules to sort and direct emails automatically into folders from your inbox
                • Opening your email inbox at 10am, so that you begin reading your emails at 10 in the morning. This can carve out the time for you to plan your day. 
                • Start internal meetings after 10am, to allow for traffic and travel
                • Building in time to get on top of inbox after annual leave/out of office
                • Ensuring we give others the tools to get the job done, using effective communication, providing them with the hammer and nails, and telling them which wall to hang the picture on. 

                Blog of the month:

                Please bring one example of a positive aspect of work with you to the next meeting.

                      Effective. Efficient. Organised. Professional

                Thursday, 28 February 2013

                Improving our working life

                This is a new blog, that started as a result of another blog I write, about what knitting and my hobbies have taught me. I started a new lunchtime group at work recently, and decided I wanted to share what I have learned about the world of work.

                It's ideal, because I divide my life up into personal and professional, and so it makes sense to do the same with my blog too.

                The new Work Smart lunchtime group started as a 5 minute slot in the Publishing Editor meetings in 2012. The group is intended to bring together new starters and old hands, from both Books and Journals, to share ways of working smarter to free up their time to focus on what is important.

                Then at the start of 2013, our Managing Director invited us to meet him in his office. And I took up the opportunity to get to know him better, even though his office is two doors down and I sit at the desk next to his PA. 

                When a colleague told me she can't come to the knitting group I run because she doesn't have the time, I made a joke and said I should become a life coach, and she looked me in the eye, and said "you should start a lunchtime group for that." 

                So I did! I took it to our Sports and Social Committee, who voted it in and then designed a poster and started telling people about it. 

                The first meeting went well with a mix of colleagues, old and new, from our books and journal sections, and all departments. 

                And just this last weekend I went on a life coaching taster course, and found it so inspiring, I decided to apply for the Personal Development Diploma. Facilitating a workshop at work may have planted the seed of this idea last year. I had read the book before I heard about the workshop. 

                I put in my application on Sunday afternoon, before I left the course. Wednesday morning I had my phone interview before work, and sent them examples of my blog and the Work Smart newsletter. Thursday afternoon I had confirmation that I have been accepted onto the course.

                And as I had mentioned the group to everyone I met, and have sent out a newsletter, a blog seemed the best way to bring this all together. 

                So I hope you will find a community of like-minded people, people who want to make the most of their working life, in the same way they do their home life. 

                Because you don't need to leave your heart at home, or your head at work, every day!