CBC 52 Secrets

Each week I'll use the concepts of the lesson to provide examples of employee behavior or attitude; one good, one needing improvement. The needing improvement example will be associated with "Tak" and the good example will be associated with "Tik". This will be a regular feature of our weekly blog. I invite you also to add some examples of behaviors or attitudes that might exemplify Tik and Tak that week. If you would prefer, you may submit these anonymously.

January 12 (Week 16) - Focus on Results, Not Activities

"Am I busy working hard?" or "Am I busy producing results?" Wow, these are really good questions. Have you ever felt that you worked hard all week but, in the end, had nothing to show for it? Frankly, I do not believe that is what the author meant in this week's lesson because, unfortunately, we do have the kind of jobs where we tend to repeat tasks over and over and yet we don't have a "product" to show for our effort.

I think that what the author meant is this...Are you bogged down with minutia and processes to the point where you never have anything productive to show for it? Are you so wrapped up in busy work that you are not available to be productive? Today, in higher education and in business, we are being asked to be more accountable as we define, quantify and qualify - not our inputs (busy work and processes) but our outputs (outcomes and results).

At a recent assessment workshop, we heard from one community college that their student service departments regularly send data reports showing what they are doing on behalf of the college. For example, they report how many students are seen in their advising center per day during open registration, the percent of students who are off probation/suspension each quarter, their largest attended workshops, etc. In this way they not only focus on outcomes and results, but they inform the rest of the campus of their efforts. What do you think of this idea? If we were to initiate a similar program here, we'd need your assistance in capturing this data.

And, of course, we should celebrate our successes, yes? Speaking of celebrations, we'll be scheduling our winter quarter Celebration and In-Service for Friday afternoon, January 30th. Be on the lookout for more information but, one thing for sure, we'll be celebrating all of you who are participating in the "52 Secrets" project so make sure you are up-to-date with your supervisors on your journaling.

As we begin a new year, I wish all of you the best of experiences in 2009, good health, joy, and fulfillment. It is an honor to work with you all.

One day, during one of their typical morning visits with each other, Tak and Don started complaining about how much work they always seem to have. After their commiseration, Tak asked Don, “Can you believe how much Tik can get done in one day and still have time to take on more projects? Why, I’m barely able to get one thing accomplished in a day.” Don nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I sure wish I had some extra time to work on some new projects. I’m tired of doing the same stuff over and over. Maybe Tik knows a trick.” They promised to observe Tik over the next week and then to compare notes.

The following week during a coffee break, Tak and Don reported to each other what they had observed about Tik which was different from the way they worked.

  • Tik’s desk was neat and tidy. Pretty much everything Tik needed to use on a regular basis was in a binder or a special folder that was easily accessible.
  • Tik used a “To Do” list to help him organize his work day. He’d mark a star next to the items that had priority and he’d check off items as they were completed. Before he went home at the end of the day, he’d review the list. That served three purposes - it provided items for the following day’s “To Do” list; it required Tik to plan how he was going to deal with these leftover items; and it reminded Tik of what he had accomplished that day.
  • Tik’s interactions on the phone and in person were pleasant, professional but brief. He did not engage in much chit-chat. When he made a phone call, he planned out exactly what information he needed and he got right to it. He took good notes, too, that he could use as a reference in the future. When he was the one called or someone had come to him, he answered questions clearly but succinctly. And he always asked the person, “Have I answered your question or is there other information you need?”

After they compared observations, Don finally said, “You know, Tak, what I found most interesting is that Tik has a pretty good sense of the work of our department and, when he is finished with important and urgent things, he offers his help to others. Tak chimed in, “As a matter of fact, Tik came to my desk two days ago to ask if I needed help getting the mailing out. I was really grateful for that.” Coffee break over, Don and Tak went to their desks and started organizing their work areas.

Additional Reading Material: Time Management,

Nov 3 Week 6: Love Your Job - Or Leave It.

Did any of you think that this week’s lesson was a bit harsh? “If you don’t like your job, don’t waste your own (and everyone else’s) time.” Is that really what we should be saying?

Actually, the answer is probably yes. I agree with Bonnie Cox that people who don’t like their jobs, tear down the companies they work for, become less concerned with their own performance, and exude negativity. Customers sense it and so do co-workers. When that happens, it would be much healthier for the individual to acknowledge that s/he dislikes his/her job and begins to plan an alternative. Scary, isn’t it? That’s why people stay in jobs they do not like. Even if they dread coming to work every day, at least it is a known commodity. And, they are at least getting a steady paycheck. And, lastly, there are no guarantees that a change will be better. (As we learned from our 1st lesson, sometimes the problem is with the employee’s attitude, not with the company s/he might be working for.) Nevertheless, a change in job functions and in environment can be a very good thing.

I really and truly can’t imagine what it would be like to come to work every day and disliking what I do or whom I work with. I could do if for a short period of time while I honed my skills and made some inquiries about other jobs, but to dislike my job for years on end? Life is just too short for that. So, as Bonnie Cox suggests, change your attitude or change your job and bring some joy back into your life.

TAK LIKES JACK. Tak doesn't like his boss. He is always chews his booses slippers whenever he leaves the house because he is resentful that his boss doesn't give hmi the attention he feels he deserves. Tak likes the neighbor Jack. Jack is always jogging. Tak is always thinking to himself... why doesn't my boss jog. I wish my boss jogged like Jack. Then I would be one happy dog.

TIC KNEW HOW TO PICK. Tik was unhappy because he was a country dog and his boss lived in the city. Tic got on the internet and found a dog swapping program that gave him a chance to move to the country. Tic found happiness in his new country home.

Oct 27th Week 5: Think Like a Business Owner

Walk a day in my shoes… Have you ever wanted someone to understand just an inkling of what you do every day? Have you thought that if they just did your job for a few days, they’d have a greater appreciation for what you do?

This particular lesson asked us to think like a business owner. While it may be difficult to think of CBC as a business, it is. We struggle through the same ups and downs as other businesses. Our funding from the state is totally driven by our FTEs so it is highly affected by how well we recruit students and retain them. I can assure you that upper level administration is keenly aware of our numbers and understands very well that how we present ourselves to prospective and current students, parents, high school staff, and employers has a major effect on our FTEs. Each of us shares in the responsibility of presenting a positive image of CBC.

I also challenge you to walk a mile in your supervisor’s and other Student Services administrators’ shoes. We, too, are faced with difficulties in our work and with not only the normal stresses of work but with the extra responsibilities and expectations of our positions. Recognize that tough decisions sometimes must be made and that we work hard to balance your interests and the needs of the College. And just as I’ve asked each of you to let your fellow staff members know that you appreciate the work they do, don’t forget to say thank you to your supervisors and other administrators for their efforts. It will be greatly appreciated.
Take a moment to evaluate situations through managements eyes.

After considerable thought and analysis, the office supervisor decided to change a particular office procedure that had been around for a number of years. In the supervisor’s view, the procedure was cumbersome and required students to jump through too many hoops. The procedure had become a barrier to students rather than a help. When the supervisor asked the department staff to consider how they might address the change, Tak could hardly contain herself. “Why is it that we always cut students slack but not our own staff?” Explanation from the supervisor about the reasons for the change did not appease Tak and, when the change went into effect the next quarter, Tak begrudgingly followed orders.

Tik also was a little concerned when the supervisor announced the change. She remembered that something like this had been tried before and wasn’t particularly successful. But, she reasoned that it was a number of years ago and now the department had different personnel, served a different demographic, and had more support from administration. Nonetheless, she was apprehensive about the change. She made an appointment with the supervisor to better understand what the factors were that led to the supervisor’s decision. In the process, she learned more about the workings of the college and she took an active role in not only implementing the change but in gathering data to assess its impact.

Oct 20th Week 4: Guard Your Own Self-Image

“I love you, and I accept you just the way you are.” Did you say that to yourself, out loud, at least once this past week? And I specifically said, out loud, because when we articulate an affirmation, it has much more impact when we hear it. So, SAY IT LOUD AND SAY IT PROUD!

If you did not say the sentence to yourself at least once last week, you let slip a perfect opportunity to congratulate yourself on the wonderful person you are. Even with our faults – and let’s face it, we all have them – we are each unique and worthwhile individuals. Do you recall that commercial when Sybil Shepherd says, “Loreal…because I’m worth it!” Now that’s a person with healthy self-esteem!

Self-defeating behavior often starts with defeating self-talk. When you don’t believe in yourself, it is hard for others to believe in you. Self-doubt and negativity drains those around you. I used to be a lifeguard and the hardest rescue I ever made was when the person I was trying to bring into shore kept fighting me because he was scared. Well, it’s hard to help someone stay afloat in the workplace when that person’s lack of self-worth drags themselves and everyone around them down. However, we can help to bolster someone’s ego. What might you do to help someone begin to think more positively about him/herself?

TAK LIKES TO SELF ATTACK. Tak is always focusing on his errors and things he needs to fix. Look at my hair... My nails are to long... Hey everybody I forgot to fetch the paper again; I'm so forgetful. I'M A BAD DOG! His comments about himself are continuous reminders to the other dogs. The comments always seem to focus on Tak's poor qualities. All the dogs know--Tak is a BAD DOG.

TIC IS SLICK. Tik stays focused on his abilities. He always rewards himself for small accomplishments. This builds his self esteam. When Tik makes a mistake, he doesn't focus on it. He'll recognize it-resolve it, if possible, and move on to the next task. Tic can always find something at the end of the day that he has done well. "Put another one in the basket for old Tik" he always says to himself.

Oct 13th Week 3: Know Your Strengths, Understand Your Weaknesses

Last week we explored how other people respond to us and how to use this information to improve our interactions with others. Continuing with the theme of self-exploration, this week's lesson asks us to consider both our strengths and weaknesses, pointing out that we all have both. Yea, that's good news. The harder part of the week's work, though, was to consider utilizing others to compliment our weaknesses.

Often we like to hang out with people just like us because it tends to be very comfortable. In the workplace, we don't usually get to choose whom we work with, however. So, it is very probable that we have co-workers who may be strong in areas that we are weak and vice versa. That's a good thing because it helps to fill in the weak gaps which is, overall, best for CBC. And, you know what? Over time, we sometimes become stronger in our weak areas because we have co-workers who model ways to improve.

TAK CUTS NO ONE ANY SLACK. Tak's and Tik's department is hosting a student services event. As Tak generally dislikes the social activities associated with division events, he has very little experience in planning ways to encourage comraderie. During the department's planning meetings, he does not participate in the discussions. Unfortunately, if he follows his usual pattern of behavior, he'll have lots to say after the event - mostly in the form of what he believes we should have done.

WHAT MAKES TAK TIC. Tik loves to plan fun activities to get people to relate positively to each other. Sometimes, however, he knows he goes a little overboard and staff who are not as outgoing find the activities a bit uncomfortable. Tik asks Tak to work with him on the event ice breaker so that he gets a different perspective. Although Tak initially refuses, Tik tells him that he would really appreciate having his input in the planning stage rather than after the event and that this would help them plan something everyone might enjoy.

Oct 6th Week 2: Learn Everything You Can About Your "Blindside."

The purpose of identifying and analyzing our individual areas needing improvement isn’t to induce misery or frustration. Rather, such self-reflection can be a very eye-opening experience. When we are honest with ourselves about how others react to us and how we are perceived, it opens the door for a great deal of self-improvement. And who among us could not stand to improve, especially when it may make our work environment and our relationships with co-workers and students so much more fulfilling?

Don’t shy away from weaknesses. Instead:

  1. look at things objectively
  2. recognize and admit weaknesses
  3. make conscious decisions about what to do about them

TAK HAS NO AREAS NEEDING IMPROVEMENT. Whenever Tak is asked to improve his work skills, he gets defensive. In his own mind Tak is a "superstar" and, when there are negative interactions with his co-workers or complaints from students, it is because of their poor attitude or their failings. Poor Tak.

TIK WORKS ON IT. Whenever Tik is asked to improve his work skills, he listens carefully to the feedback. He analyzes the comments, problem, or weakness and then develops a strategy to improve in that area. Yea, Tik!

Additional Reading Material: Article 1, Article 2

Sept 29th Week 1: Realize That Your Attitude Is Everything!

First, let's make things clear. A bad attitude is not the same as a bad day. Nor is it the same as an inadvertent or unintentional comment that "goes sour."

A bad attitude involves persistent negative or critical vibes that come out in tone (e.g., sarcasm, demeaning talk) or mannerisms (e.g., rolling one's eyes, inattentiveness). The attitude or manifested behavior dampens workplace morale and brings people down.

We all have times when life is hard and when times are bad. Situational negativity may not only be understandable but should result in co-worker empathy and supportiveness. On the other hand, even without provocation or reason, some people just ooze negatively and seem to walk under a persistent black cloud, where if anything can go wrong, it does. Think about that.

THE TAK ATTACK. Tak can find fault with anything and everything. Even if a new process has never been tried before, you can anticipate that Tak will point out all the possible drawbacks. Most of Tak's co-workers would prefer to avoid him.

DON'T BURST MY BUBBLE TIK. Tik has no choice but to work directly with Tak. He greets Tak each morning with a resounding, "Good morning! Let's see what great work we can do today!" or a similar positive acknowledgement accompanied by a sincere smile. His positive attitude is spreading and other co-workers are now less sensitive to Tak's negativity.

Additional Reading Material: Article 1, Article 2, Article 3, Article 4