BANNED 2: “Because I didn’t have the time”

I felt better that I got that off my chest yesterday, so here’s another bug bear. “I’m sorry, I didn’t have the time“. No excuse. Ever! You mean you did not prioritise and make time. You thought something else was more important, which may be true, so at least be honest and say that. That’s fine, but don’t bleat “no time”.

I’ve found there is actually ample time to get loads of things done – it comes down to not faffing about on things that are not important, and getting the important stuff done (concentrating on it, no distractions and motivating yourself to get it done well). Prioritising things, keeping it fun, having some time off and getting enough exercise and good food into you so you stay alive and bright.

Not had enough time.” Gimme strength. Along with “never done it like that before“… A pox on both your houses!

Shift the bull

After my last post about being (literally) hit by a bull, it was perhaps fitting that I would attend a breakfast on Friday morning, with author, comedian and corporate speaker Andrew Horabin talking about his latest book ‘Bullshift‘. He had placed a copy on every seat, and he went through, in a lively interactive manner, some of its key points. Let’s cut out the BS in the workplace, he argued. Stop making your workplaces poisonous, stop adding to the negative, defensive, gossipy political environment.

We spend more time at work than we do with our kids, than we do with our friends, so let’s make it enjoyable!” Amen to that. When I ran my own business, I always put the accent on ‘happy productivity’ and it’s how I try to run the departments I head up too. Not just everyone having fun only (because then nothing gets done), but one where we respect each other, get on with our own work while thinking how to help others, and enjoying the day. Not everything at work can be fun, but if we genuinely try to do our best and help each other, my goodness what a pleasant productive environment that can be. I remember a contract worker coming in a few years ago and remarking what a lovely atmosphere it was at work. That was great to hear. I was strict about ‘making our numbers’, but also religious about celebrating things together, quarterly staff dinners with partners and such. I remember in the very early years, the pub on a Thursday or Friday evening was a must for staff. It was tough times, but we were all happy to hang out together after a hard day’s work building the company. Great team work was developed in those sessions. Some of those staff still work with me today.

So, cut the bull. No excuses, be honest. No sarcasm, no gossiping, no waffling. And let’s have great workplaces. You’ll get more done, have better results and enjoy it all the more.


Bullshift‘, by Andrew Horabin

The Right Fit

It’s difficult being interviewed, but oh so much harder doing the interviewing. I’ve done a bit of both (but more interviewing than being interviewed), and the interview is an odd environment when you come to think about it.

Somehow, over a 20-30 minute conversation back and forth with the interviewee you are ascertaining whether this person would be the right fit for the vacant job. You have to imagine them working in the team, reporting to you, how they would work alongside their colleagues, how they would add to the team. Putting someone new into a team is both an opportunity and a challenge. Get it wrong, and the team can crumble (the A-graders will leave). Get it right, and it can pull everyone up by their bootlaces, giving perhaps much impetus with fresh new ideas and approaches.

Interviewers need that sixth sense I suppose. They also need to weed out any potential hidden mines – the person may seem reasonable on the surface, but they may have all manners of quirks and behaviours that may not come out in the interview. I am not one that submits to the ‘stress interview’. Challenging questions maybe, but you should start with some relaxing open questions so the interviewee is put at ease and pulls down any barriers. After all, you want to see the real them, not some weird cardboard version. Get them to be them, and you may then discover who they really are.

Overall, don’t forget that the interviewee is also interviewing you as an organisation. Not everyone can get the job, so you want those that don’t going away with positive feelings about the process and your organisation. Interviewing is an art as much as it is a science, but as long as you are well prepared, know what you are looking for, and what makes good staff, then you should be OK. The more you do it, the better you get at it, but no one is perfect.

The driveway moment

I was listening to a podcast the other day, and on it a business coach said “you are the star of your own movie”. He went on to say that although this may be true, everyone you come into contact with is also the star of their own movie, and of course everyone has wildly different plot lines.

And there’s the rub.

We become so wrapped up in our own lives, that we need to ‘perception switch’ to think about it from the other person’s point of view. You ring someone for an appointment, to make a sale, how was their day today I wonder? Their teenage daughter was rude to them? They’ve just had bad news about a strange pain they’ve been feeling? A death in the family maybe?

Even the simpler things, like coming home from work and walking in the front door need careful tact and diplomacy. At least I have our cute little puppy dog that bounds up the hall and is deliriously excited to greet me every night, the kids are busy on their computer games/Wii/Cartoon Network as not to notice anymore, and my other half is usually hard at work finishing dinner. (Sounds like a typical nuclear family eh?)

And this is where the driveway moment comes in.

Remember, everyone is the star of their own movie – my wife is, my kids are in, even the dog. So take a moment, breathe in, and enter your home like you would if you were arriving late to the theatre. You’d creep in quietly, assess the situation, ask what’s been going on, and then join in. Don’t bluster in with your movie. Realise others have theirs too.

Photo: scene from ‘Wait til your father gets home’ (1970s cartoon)

On yer bike

I live about 7 or 8 kilometres from work, and it’s a fairly pleasant bike ride in. Nothing too hilly, nothing too dangerous, a few roads to cross (7 in fact) and most of the ride is on bike paths or quiet side streets. I find it to be safe, and clean and easy, and (on my brand new steed with front shocks) it only takes me 20 minutes.

So once a week I ride to work. This gives me some much needed exercise (often the only real exercise my heart, legs and lungs get every week) and allows another staff member to take my car spot for the day. Car spots are highly sought after at our place of work. If I don’t need my car at all for more than one day a week (it’s possible) I’d bike in more than once. But at least once a week, that gets the heart bumping and the blood flowing. And then there’s the nice shower at the start of the day, and this time of year, jumping in the pool at home at the end of the day. I have a iPhone arm strap thing so I can play my latest podcasts as I ride, so I am entertained as well.

I highly recommend biking to work. Win win! In fact, I will stop this blogging malarky right now, as excuse me, but I really need to get on me bike.

Photo Credit:

Busier Times ahead

The roads were a bit busier today.

After a quiet first week back, in which many in these parts would have taken that first week off, you could tell there were more people going to work today. Still pretty quiet compared to high season, but definitely more happening. More people back ‘at mill’ too, with all the management back at it and more of a buzz about the place. More meetings, more semblance of normality, whatever that means.

I like January. After the break of Christmas and New Year, I return to work refreshed and pumped for what the New Year has to offer. January is still quiet, so I can get more work done, more planning for the coming year (set some goals for 2012), and also have a look at how we are doing half way through the financial year. Are we on track to meet our targets? How did the first half go? Anything need tweaking?

With half our clients seemingly on holidays still, you get less interruptions at work. More time to get some real reports done, do some thinking on some improvements, get some designs done, talk to colleagues about what we can do this year.

2012 is going to be very interesting. And busy. I feel pumped and primed and ready. Let’s get to it!

Cartoon Credit: Dictionary definition of ‘busy’: 

First day back blues

Well, I have survived my first day back at work for 2012.

Quiet on the roads, Beast of Burden blaring loudly in the car, I made it in at the usual time. The normal start of the year ritual of asking everyone how their Christmases and New Years went as per usual, with everyone slightly tentative and repeating the same thing they said to you about an hour earlier. About a third of the staff were not around, having had the sense to take leave this week. It’s the first week of Jan, everyone seems to be on holiday, the sun is out, and there’s a Test match on the TV. Even my boss kept me updated on the score.

Most staff (understandably) were going through the motions and not really here in spirit. I find it does take a day to get into the swing of it, after having had a nice 10 days off relaxing at home. I also think I’ve put on 2kgs. Better bike in on Friday, looks like better weather (as in, cooler). Biking in 40C is not that fun.

A member of the team was off today, and so I did her work. She had 161 emails backed up, lots of junk, but it only took an hour to get through them, as they were mainly easy things – fix this here, can you change that there?

My mind goes back to the first day of school when I was a kid. Having been packed off to boarding school aged 10 (and a very young 10 I was too) I hated the first day. A huge pit formed in my stomach days out as I ticked off the days and hours left of the school holidays. I seem to remember loving school once I got back into the swing of it. Almost 40 years on, things have hardly changed.

Photo Credit: Cork Independent