Commitment

It’s not hard to have fun at a good wedding. By “good” I mean food, dancing, friends and family. A little champagne doesn’t hurt. But, of course, the really good part is the hopeful and happy commitment of two people to each other. They share some vows about being faithful, squeezing the toothpaste from the bottom of the tube and being very, very patient.

Commitments aren’t limited to wedding vows, though. We make commitments all the time. And while we’re on the subject of “good,” a good commitment is a promise made to another with no expectation of return. As long as our promise is dependent on the actions of others it is not a commitment but a deal, a contract I devise and keep hidden in my mind. I’ll pick up my socks if you don’t bug me about watching football this afternoon. I’ll turn in this paperwork late because everyone else in the office is late.  And then there’s conditional commitment, which depends on the answer to that famous question, “What’s in it for me?”

“I’ll try,” is not a commitment. Neither is “I’ll do the best I can.” Those are often code for refusal. It may not be a final refusal, but at the moment there is no commitment. Interest, perhaps, but interest becomes action only when it’s convenient. The problem is that the marriage, the task force, or the big project can’t move forward with “maybe.” There is no momentum with “maybe.”

So here are some questions to ask yourself next time you inventory your commitments:

  • What is the cost to others if I keep, or fail to keep, my commitments?
  • What is the ”no,” or refusal that I’m postponing?
  • What is the commitment that I’ve changed my mind about?
  •  What kind of evaluation of my commitment is meaningful to me?

Commitment takes some staying power, if you continue the course of seeing your promise through. I suspect if you ask someone who has been married for fifty years if it’s worth it, the answer will be yes.

The Promise, Proceeds, and Pictures

In our Brownie meeting, we discussed what we’re going to do with the proceeds from our cookies. After reflecting on the Girl Scout Promise, we came up with several ideas for donating  cookies and some of our money, including giving to St. Jude’s Hospital and a local homeless shelter.

We drew a mural to give us more ideas. The activity seemed to help girls combine the concepts of the Girl Scout Program with helping people in the community through cookies.

Everyone liked the idea of giving to St. Jude’s, thinking that the children there would like cookies and also would benefit from a donation.

We had so much fun, we didn’t notice that our time had run out.

Share with us: What are you going to do with donated cookies? Will you give part of the proceeds from your cookie sales to a community organization?

Delegate! – Part II

I imagine you’ve been waiting all week for “Delegate! Part II.” It’s hard to argue with the principle of delegation, but effectively practicing it is a bit of an art. We learn by doing it—even though getting started is sometimes difficult.

It takes longer at first.
You might feel out of control.
You might feel threatened by someone else’s good work.
They may not do it as well as you do in the beginning.
You might be seen by others as “not doing anything.”
You might need to let go of a task you enjoy.
People might view you as passing on jobs that you dislike.
Perhaps the task will not be completed and you feel (are) responsible.

Maybe, like me, you are apt to say, “I like things to be done my way, but by somebody else!” Well, unless you are assembling widgets by a standardized, detailed factory process, the person who does the task you delegate probably won’t do it exactly like you. But that’s really the beauty of working together as a project team or department. Everyone brings something to the table to drive the movement forward.

Even so, you are entrusting another person with a task for which you remain ultimately responsible. That might mean leaving what you do well (the task) and moving into the realm of managing other people. Now, some of the art of delegating means that you must ensure that the other person has sufficient autonomy to undertake the task in their own way, and yet be able to influence the person and the process.

Here is the process:

  • Decide which tasks should be delegated, and clearly define the deliverable, the deadlines and the process of working together.
  • Choose the best person for the task and make sure they understand the parameters. You can’t hold someone responsible for vague or undefined tasks.
  • Develop a process for monitoring or coaching the person to whom you have delegated.
  • Review the experience and decide what changes should be made, on both sides, next time around.

And finally, remember to recognize the effort that was put into a task, and reward it in an appropriate way.

 

Delegate!

Delegation takes time–to organize, prioritize and monitor the tasks that you give over to other people, but it’s a good investment. The truth is, the cost of avoiding it is much higher! If you are doing the work that other people can do, need to do, or even want to do, then, it’s time to schedule an appointment for an organizational consultation with yourself. Here are some questions to get you started:

Is my desk overflowing with uncompleted tasks?

Am I doing something that I don’t do very well, but don’t need to learn?

Do I set aside enough time for work on long-term projects?

Is my staff developing skills and knowledge that enable them to perform at an excellent level?

Now start making some lists.

What tasks am I doing that aren’t really necessary?

What am I doing that could be done by someone else?

What tasks am I doing that can only be done by me?

 

You and I both know there are many good reasons to delegate, but here are three to inspire you, in case you need it:

Delegation increases your available work time. Operational responsibilities, routine tasks and daily emergencies can crowd out the more important items on your to-do list. To create more time for yourself, you might need to hand off work that can be completed by other people in the office. And the more you delegate, the more experienced your staff becomes at working under your direction, and that eventually makes the transition of tasks a simple process.

Delegation can reduce stress. The pressure to perform under changing work conditions and looming deadlines takes a toll over time, particularly on your personal well-being. Clearing your desk and calendar eases the pressure, and that allows creativity and energy to flow back into your work, and ultimately, into your department or work team.

Delegation motivates others. A sense of achievement is central to any employee’s job satisfaction. Working in a structured environment, in which everyone is aware of their responsibilities and has the necessary skills and resources to carry out those tasks, is a process that builds confidence and competence.

The most effective delegators are self-disciplined enough to focus on the work that is truly theirs to do, and are able to equip, develop, and monitor others in the work that is distributed among the team members or within the department. We’ll talk more about that next week.

A Few Kind Words

Com-pli-ment [kom-pluh-ment]

Noun- an expression of praise, commendation, or admiration: A sincere compliment boosts one’s morale.

Verb (used with an object)- to pay a compliment to: She complimented a colleague on his recent presentation.

When was the last time you were complimented? If it was authentic (not given by a teenager followed by a request for cash) I suspect you felt encouraged. And how about the last time you complimented someone else? That feels pretty good, too. It seems to me that most of the time, however, we are noticing what could be better, and making comments about work that is lacking.

It’s not just you and I that need to consider when, where and how to give out compliments–everyone is reminded on World Compliment Day, which is March 1st.

Go to the World Compliment Day website  http://www.worldcomplimentday.info/ where you can email or print an official award certificate to the person you want to compliment, or download a free poster. “A sincere and personal compliment costs nothing, but the impact on the recipient is huge,” says Hans Poortvliet, the driving force behind the annual event. “Nothing stimulates more, gives more energy, makes people happier and, as far as business is concerned, increases productivity and commitment faster than sincere appreciation. So, why not use it a little bit more?”

Why not use it a bit more?  Why not start this Friday? Pay attention to the people around you and speak up when you notice an attitude or action that you admire or appreciate. Be specific. Be genuine.  Watch this one minute video if you need ideas:

How to Pay a Compliment

Everyone could use a few kind words, why not let them come from you?

Meeting Anna Maria Chávez at Girl Scout HQ

Troop 40072 has a two-week window to sell cookies. I thought we’d have more time! But, as Girl Scouts, we were prepared to start selling, having role-played our sales pitch in our last session. My two girls came to visit me at work and sold slightly over 70 boxes to GSUSA staff!

Ten of those boxes went to Anna Maria Chávez, who made the visit by meeting with us. She took the time to make both girls feel welcome and important as she does with most Girl Scouts who visit the national office.

I can’t think of any better leadership experience than meeting such a dynamic, successful, and warm-hearted leader of the Girl Scout Movement. Very special, indeed!

We also visited the Girl Scout store to pick up some cookie selling badges for our troop and went to the Girl Scout Museum. All in all, it was an awesome girl-led visit. If there’s some way you can manage to get to yourself and your Girl Scouts to New York City, I think it’s well worth a visit. Staff LOVES to see the girls and meeting Anna Maria Chávez is a wonderful experience.

Cookies

My favorite Sesame Street character has always been Cookie Monster. Well, I did like Grover, especially when he was Super Grover, but I don’t think he is around anymore. Cookie Monster might have retired, for all I know, since my two children are grown and off to college.

My son, who is six feet tall and looks like a linebacker, loves to cook. It’s a good thing, since the boy loves to eat. For his 20th birthday he asked for a gas grill, and this year he texted me that he needed a new skillet and a kettle. How cute! But, then he sent another text that said, “And I lost my ipod, so I could use a Nano, and some new ($100 Nike) basketball shoes.” Then a few minutes later the final text, which simply said “wine glasses.” He is turning 21, after all.

I love to cook with my son; through all the years it was the only time I was sure he was actually listening to me. Are you with me, mothers? One year he started a subscription to the Food Network Magazine and last year for Christmas he bought me a subscription too…wait, I think I ended up paying for that. At any rate, once a month we talk on the phone about the latest issue. I don’t know how much either one of us try the new recipes, but we both love the conversation.

In the January/February issue of the Food Network Magazine there is a great photo of stacks of Thin Mints, Trefoils and Samoas/Caramel deLites (page 147- did you see it?). There is a cookie patch and directions to download the Cookie Finder app if you don’t have girls standing in front of your local grocery store. I love seeing Girl Scouts in the media, even if it’s just cookies (since we all know Girl Scouts is about SO much more than cookies). Where have you seen a cookie advertisement that made you smile? What was the best angle you’ve seen over the years? If you were in charge of the world, how would you let everyone know that this is the time to stock up?

Junior Journeys, Daisy Petals, and Troop Management

Junior Journeys After a short introduction to each journey, the girl-led process took over and my Juniors started a spirited conversation of their own. After some looking through the Journey books, sharing pictures and impressions, they agreed unanimously: They chose the aMuse Journey. We spent the rest of the activity part of the session acting out different roles.

Daisy Petals

The session went very well with the Juniors. I also had my Daisies at the same time. They are working on their petals and were less enthused about the petal story. I think they are becoming bored with the format of the petal stories. However, I don’t want to vary their activities too much because I’ve noticed transitioning from one thing to the next is more challenging for the Daisies.

Despite the fact I’ve divided our troop into two smaller groups and I have three Daisies and three Juniors, giving each girl enough attention is still challenging. While I work with one age group, often the other group gets off topic. Help!: Have you found it hard to balance troop management with keeping the girls engaged in fun activities? How have you managed?

Who Do You Need to Talk To?

Anyone who works with people knows there are important conversations to be had on a regular basis to maintain a healthy organization. Employees, colleagues, stakeholders, people of influence within or outside the organization–any kind of relationship eventually encounters a significant, but potentially difficult, conversation. No wonder the popularity of books like Crucial Conversations, Difficult Conversations, and Fierce Conversations. Those are just the short titles.

Even though we all know these conversations are necessary, it is so easy to procrastinate. And there are good justifications for postponing…too little time, too much to do, anxiety about the outcome and/or fear that the conversation won’t easily wrap up. In fact, we can reinforce our protective excuses until they become a wall that simply keeps the important conversation from ever happening.

Now is as good a time as any to take steps toward a difficult conversation. Three steps, to be exact:

1. Make a list of the important conversations that you need to have and set a firm deadline for having them. You don’t have to be the COO to feel a responsibility to keep communication flowing in the office. I suspect you can name three people as a place to start. Write it in your planner.

2. Plan your part of the conversation. Rather than hoping you will know what to say and how to say it in the moment, it’s a helpful practice to prepare. Write out key phrases and questions on index cards and take them along.

3. Keep the goal in mind. The purpose of a significant conversation isn’t to persuade another to agree with you, or to push your opinion throughout the project team or office. The goal is to communicate as simply as possible what needs to be said and done for the sake of a healthy organization. It isn’t personal, although good conversations contribute to strong working relationships.

So, who do you need to talk to?

Life in the Fast Lane

Here I am at the airport, again. It’s gray, dreary and cold outside, but I’m sitting by the window looking at planes and solving the world’s problems. This little turbo prop caught my eye. A “turbo prop” is an airplane powered by propellers rather than jet engines; you don’t see many of these anymore. This was an Air Canada Express with a huge, gorgeous maple leaf on the tail.

That reminds me of a trip to Montreal years ago, when I bought these delicious maple sugar cookies in the shape of maple leaves to bring home to my family and friends. I was so pleased with my souvenir purchase until I noticed that same cookie in our local Harris Teeter grocery store. And it was less expensive.

Anyway, I watched that little turbo prop warm up; first one engine and then the other turning those propeller blades. Soon they were spinning so fast that I couldn’t see the individual blades anymore. I leaned forward and tried to find the propeller blades but all I could see was a soft, grayish blur–like an optical illusion. I knew those blades were there working hard but I couldn’t see them.

I’m thinking of a friend of mine who moves through life so fast that I can hardly see her. She is uber-productive but our interaction feels like a momentary blur before she is airborne again. The truth is, I have days like that, when there is hardly breathing room from sun up to sun down.  Sometimes we use the expression “they just don’t see me,” meaning they don’t know me or understand me. Wonder if that’s because we are only a blur to them?

I also wonder if I sometimes become a blur to myself. I’m not taking time to think about what is important, because I know I’m over the edge and it seems so difficult to get back to reasonable living. It’s the same way in which we ignore a needy email or unpleasant task.

Talk to me about slowing down. How do you balance productivity and peace?