<![CDATA[ - Corporate Litterbox]]>Wed, 25 Apr 2018 11:06:37 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Managing Expectations]]>Mon, 23 Apr 2018 16:27:27 GMThttp://saltandshelter.com/corporate-litterbox/managing-expectations​Managing the expectations of team members and project outcomes.
Kevin is a big cat.  His is also not a trickster - he likes playing with toys and he is super with his string, but he has no desire to learn the game "fetch".  As a robust cat, he uses a large portion of the bed at night.  He also doesn't really like having his picture taken and is a big brother to Patrick on his own time.  Therefore, with this knowledge of his strengths and weaknesses, we can manage our expectations of him and he of us.

​Truly understanding your teammate allows you to manage project output expectations.  There are individuals who set unrealistic expectations on their staff.  This level of pressure put on project teams is a result of misinformation by leadership - not knowing their teams strengths and weaknesses.  Weakness can be strengthened and strengths shared.  Empowering team members, giving them a voice in a meeting, giving them ownership of a small piece of the project, or acknowledging their strengths out-loud to a group, can make hidden strengths surface or weaknesses stronger.

​There are several ways to discover more about your team members;

  • Frank conversations with individuals about what they can really deliver
  • Reflection on  what their past performance results have indicated - weak or strong
  • Determining if they are over-achievers by choice or by environment.  If it is pressure      they put on themselves to succeed then it is different than constantly trying to live-up to imaginary external pressures.
  • ​Mini internal test-runs to see who wants the challenges and who can succeed at them

​There are many instances where I experienced management accepting project deadlines without consulting a team's true talents, goals, and drawbacks.  Giving unrealistic promises to the client, without proper research  or information can have different outcomes.

​One outcome of being a "yes" person is that time or talent constraints can produce innovation.  Finding better, faster, more efficient ways to achieve a good outcome.  However, the success rate of this is very low.  The success rate of unrealistic project goals producing an accurate, on-time budget,  is also very low.  You will pay at some point in the project - why not just be honest with the client so everyone is set-up for success?

​Managing client expectations comes from the top during the first conversations during contract negotiations.  If the parameters of the project delivery, or understanding of project scope are not adequate at this time, or at the time of the contract signing, the project will have to work extra hard using-up valuable time and resources to be successful.

​There are overall ways to assist in managing a client:

  • Honesty and clarity with the client about what the project outcome and expectations are
  • ​ Don't chase every opportunity - it may sound counter-intuitive, but it is better to chase projects  that align with your company values and beliefs.
  • ​ Keep in constant contact with the client so you can learn more about their communication styles - some clients don't explain their true expectations at first as they may not know what they really want.
  • ​Always offer the client options and solutions to problems - don't just present the problem.  Even for project planning - if you know your teams weaknesses - explain them to your client and then show them how you are going to resolve it

​We are almost able to get Kevin to pick-up a toy with his teeth.   Then he just sits there.  After researching cat breeds, Patrick may be the one who learns to play "fetch".  We will keep our expectations low, setting the bar a minimum, so that we can be pleasantly surprised if he exceeds our expectations and brings the toy back to us to throw.  In the meantime, we will still give him his treats and scratch his ears - he is doing what we expect of him.  Being a cat and not a dog.

<![CDATA[Kevin's Fur Flares]]>Wed, 28 Mar 2018 19:44:29 GMThttp://saltandshelter.com/corporate-litterbox/kevins-fur-flares​How Tension in the Office Can Fuel Conflict
As work gets busy, we all know that the space-time continuum begins to shrink, and deadlines loom without appropriate time to complete.  Also, this is when bad management leaches into overall project objectives.  The tension in the office begins to rise.

​Even Kevin can understand when there is tension in the household.  The snappy comments, stomping of kids feet, awkward silence, and the absence of humour unless given sardonically.  Kevin paces with no specific resting place, agitated, and sometimes will look surprised or confused when we actually stop and pay attention to him.  Other times, he will go hide under the table for protection from the strain.

​We don't realize the anxiety we ooze when we are upset with a situation, or if management is aware they may be the creators of such unhappy wounds.  I know I am faulty of leaching my frustration, however, when I go to The Calm and be rational, I can control  my anxiety from affecting others around me thus NOT creating a Tension Vortex.  

​The Calm is a hard place to find when your emotions are exploding all over due to an unbalanced situation.  We can spend a lifetime trying to find The Calm.  There is a moment where something so diabolical has happened that you are frozen and speechless by absurdity, or you are so angry that a bull is only the appetizer for your rage.  The Calm is clarity which can occur in that moment.  This clarity allows all emotions to sit back quietly while rationale and reason can find clever responses, new possibilities to failure, or a serene understanding.  The Calm allows you to deal with conflict to get better outcomes.  The Calm knows it can deal with the greater emotions when you are in your "alone" space and can cry and rage however you wish.

​Being pro-active to avoid tension and conflict is always most beneficial, however, taking time to breathe (I know, heard it a thousand times), going for a walk, or waiting to allow other team members and management to react to a situation, can help reduce the impact of conflict.   Finding a room and closing the door is also a good way to address conflict - not in the open in front of co-workers that creates more tension.

​There are things you can do daily to help reduce overall office anxiety - which often leads to conflict:

​*  Planning your time and others time realistically on a project will reduce overall panic stress

​*  Do not project your own fear of failure on others - office anxiety comes from above

​*  Do not micro-manage - it's your own lack of leadership skills if you have to micro-manage

​*  Do not constantly overwhelm your team with work and deadlines

​*  Be mindful of your subtle body language - everyone is reading emotional clues at all times

​Kevin returns to his lazy easy-going nature when he hears laughter and gentle placement of objects on the counter.  Everyone returns to their normal stations in the home - Kevin sits on his center-of-the-room chair and falls asleep.  Is such harmony too much to ask in the office?
<![CDATA[The Return of Kevin...Introducing Patrick]]>Wed, 21 Mar 2018 20:00:39 GMThttp://saltandshelter.com/corporate-litterbox/the-return-of-kevinintroducing-patrickKevin and Patrick Attack Even More in the Litterbox...
During last fall and winter, there was much discussion regarding Kevin's growth and what direction he wanted his litterbox to face.

​The decision was made to have a new team member, full-time to help Kevin in his day-to-day tasks, grooming, sleeping, typing with no opposable thumbs (this is very trying), and general household morale.  

​What kind of team member - their requirements and role(s) - was discussed at length.  A senior cat could cause conflict and threat, but be very easy to maintain.  A female cat could help temper Kevin's macho tendencies.  (although we shouldn't discuss gender and inequality, but I think we can make an exception with cats)  A small kitten could help with Kevin's confidence and allow for mentorship.

​So we went and recruited a kitten (junior) - Patrick.

​The future posts by Kevin and Patrick will include such topics:

  • This is Patrick 
  • Playing with Company and Project Money - How to keep positive money habits
  • The Cute Factor - How does this affect company image and performance and is it a thing-of-the-past?
  • Working from Home While Sick - How to handle sick days
  • What to do When the Work Keeps Piling Up
  • Outgrowing Your Office Space
  • Being Obnoxious or Bothersome to Coworkers - When is this cute and when is it annoying
  • Mastering Cool - How to be cool and confident about your work
  • Conflict - How to deal with unpleasant emotional situations at work

Please stay tuned as now we have not one, but two litterboxes of corporate guidance to share!

​Paws to the Ground..

<![CDATA[Can Kevin be Replaced?]]>Mon, 21 Aug 2017 21:23:22 GMThttp://saltandshelter.com/corporate-litterbox/can-kevin-be-replacedCan our position or person be easily replaced in the office?
​Look at this face.  Would it be possible to replace Kevin with his excellent reflexes, sympathetic ear, and consistent routine?  Perhaps if the neighbours house is more fun he may pack his litterbox and leave.  We may get a new cat, or upgrade to a kitten.  Or we may throw caution out-the-door and get a dog.   Kevin's unique personality and big paws would be missed but we would carry-on.  (Note:  Kevin is a little more than a co-worker relationship but the analogy still has value.)

​As with the office, when we leave, we can be replaced.  Our position my change or someone new may come and continue our role, but the company will not go under because we left.  Yes, when a hardworking and qualified individual does leave it can take time and money to get projects back-on-track, but the work will still get done somehow.  The work may not get done as well as your performance on the project, or it may not be as efficient, however, a company will continue to operate.  

​Good leadership values teams that work hard and team members that produce good product.  These leaders try to make individuals feel like they are bonafide contributors to projects and the firm so that they don't need to look elsewhere for employment.  If you are disgruntled with your position and feeling undervalued - you are not alone.  There is a lack of leadership in many companies which is difficult to change.  Unfortunately, if you leave, it will not cause the company to collapse.  It is best to converse with leadership about feeling undervalued and if they can't help you, or do not offer support for you to feel valued, then leave for your own self-recognition and not because you want to screw the company.

​There are instances where a very valued individual does leave and the leadership at the top is not strong enough to keep the ship sailing.  The downfall of the company can be slow and messy as new team members will not join the company or the company can't continually retain good quality staff.

​The employee and employer relationship should be equal - you are helping the company by offering your talents and in exchange the employer is paying you for your skills.  Both need to be treated fairly and ethically.

​Do your job well for your own integrity, then the worry about being replaced is unnecessary!
<![CDATA[Turf Wars]]>Thu, 10 Aug 2017 15:34:57 GMThttp://saltandshelter.com/corporate-litterbox/turf-wars
​When team members appear to threaten your position on the project.
Oddly, Kevin has been come quite protective of his house and yard.  He doesn't share well with the neighbouring cats or dogs who pass-by and definitely not the rogue rabbit, (Harriett the Hare to be precise) who enjoys the occasional sleep by the shrubs in the front of the house.

​Perhaps the fear or anxiety of new team members or another individual being added to the firm is primal for us.  It may have taken Og and Zoga time to adjust to new members of the tribe.  If the new member will contribute to the clan effectively, if the new member can hunt, cook, or draw on the cave, OR if the new member will be better at everything and make Og or Zoga look like lame game.

​Being threatened by others we don't know or experiencing fear that our jobs are becoming redundant is a very  normal human feeling.  How we let the feelings take over our thoughts and job performance is what turns these feelings into abnormal behaviour that can cause chaos in our work and home life.

​If you are working at your best capacity, and you are regularly performing positively on your team, an added individual could be there to assist as there is more work to do than you realize or as you are a steady worker, your talents may be needed elsewhere and someone needs to take-over your duties on the current project.   If you are constantly confrontational and underwhelming, then you could certainly be tested by upper management to see if you are worth the aggravation - if you out-perform everyone.

​Fear starts our defence engines.  Senses become on high-alert and our focus turns to everything about the new member - what are they saying?  how are they saying it?  what did that mean? how do they dress?  when did they arrive at work?  are they staying overtime enough?  The best defence against this fear is ignorance.  Your performance and your work should be what you are concerned about.  How do YOU behave to others around you?  How do YOU contribute to your team?  How can YOU be more effective?  How can YOU be the best at what you do?

​Worrying about the office politics can use valuable emotional energy.  Sometimes decisions and actions are being made with knowledge that you should not be concerned about.  There could be potential projects coming that require more staff, or there could be someone in another department leaving and they want to see if this new member can work on a team.  A good leader will share enough information to ease the concerns of the team or firm so that fear doesn't run rampant and affect production.  Understanding that you are ALWAYS replaceable should be your motivation to do your best at work on a regular basis.  (​Can Kevin be Replaced?  will be the next blog...)

​After Kevin saw Harriett laying in the front yard, he proceeded to sit in her spot after she left to "leave his scent". 
I haven't seen her back for sometime.  Maybe by proving he was doing his job as a cat she found another yard.

<![CDATA[Kevin the Loner]]>Mon, 31 Jul 2017 21:18:08 GMThttp://saltandshelter.com/corporate-litterbox/kevin-the-loner​How to be a single soul on a project team.
For a cat, Kevin ​can be social.  He doesn't need ​our human companionship, but he would get wet in the rain outside if he didn't have a house and he wouldn't have his food dish filled everyday.  When he is warm and fed,  is his behaviour being a loner or independent?  Early humans needed to belong to the tribe so they wouldn't be outcast and eaten by the saber tooth.  There was protection and food in being a part of the tribe.  Fast forward a few hundred thousand years and we no longer need the tribe for protection and food.  There are some individuals who do not want or need a tribe but have skills that can contribute to the greater good.

​Our acceptance of individuals who do not require constant human contact has increased, however, there is still a social stigma for those who don't have coffee breaks with everyone else or do not attend office functions.  It could mean that they have other things pressing in their schedule and have to use their time very wisely, not that they don't want to visit and chat with others (that is me), or it could mean that they really do not care for the companionship of others. 

​Pushing an individual to always join can make them seem even more of an outcast.  Accepting that they are individual and like their time alone can make them feel like they are understood.  This doesn't mean leaving them off company emails or group invites; it means not singling them out for their lack of attendance at functions in front of others.

​If you are someone who doesn't require socializing, then you still need to at least say "hi" to your team everyday and on occasion ask how they are doing - if only to keep the project team happy for those who are social.

​Individuals who are typically team oriented and like to be social who become withdrawn and quiet require conversation with other team members.  This could mean something is seriously wrong and intervention is needed.  This is the same for someone who is typically independent and become the life of the party.  There can be a personal issue causing the dramatic behavioural change.  It should be natural for us to watch and note these changes in others, but I am writing about this as it is incredible how many managers do not observe any behavioural changes in team members.

Individuals who are quiet are not necessarily unsocial.  Many quiet folk are incredibly social.  Another behaviour to be aware of - if someone is quiet, but attends team functions and builds relationships with team members, they are social.

​Individuals who are the life-of-the-office can be very insecure and lonely.  This too is a behaviour to be accepted
  - within reason.

​Kevin becomes incredibly attentive when we return from a short weekend get-away.  Then, he returns to his independent or loner behaviour.  Does it work for our household?  Yes, yes it does.  Is he happy?  Yes, yes he is.

​NOTE:  The discussion between extrovert, introvert, ENTP, INFJ, etc.. character analysis was deliberately not a part of this blog.  I will leave that to those the full-day workshops and HR teams - I am only giving the quick highlights of working with people for those who don't have time as they are busy socializing.  ;)

<![CDATA[Kevin Sheds Some Fur]]>Thu, 20 Jul 2017 21:16:09 GMThttp://saltandshelter.com/corporate-litterbox/kevin-sheds-some-fur​Office contractions - decreasing team sizes and team members.
Every spring Kevin sheds some fur to keep cool in the heat and give him the aerodynamics he needs when playing  "chasing squirrels".  However, shedding team members to decrease team sizes or losing team members from the company can be anything but a positive experience.

​Almost all shedding is profit driven as business is profit driven.  Without profit, there is no business or it is a business generated by existing monies.  If there is no work, there is no profit.  The complexity is introduced when those higher-ups begin the conversations about keeping good people to attract more work.  In theory, this should work, but how long can a companies reserves afford to pay a good team member?   How long can a company generate internal work without acquiring new contracts and new clients?  This is not a personal slight against an individual who has been a model employee.  It is economics.  Profit also determines how many members are required on a team to complete a project.  It would be wonderful if all projects had adequate team members and were able to produce excellent, quick, quality work.  As I was told when I first started working, you can have 2 of the 3: fast, cheap, good - not all three.  

Technology has helped tremendously with innovation and productivity, however, as these elements increase, so does complexity.  As projects become more complex, the work increases.  Budgets do not often include the complexity factor.  Some technology is changing so fast, that the complexity factor isn't even known yet and budgets do not align with additional costs of thinking and creating or using additional software, thus creating small stressed-out project teams.

​Losing team members to another project can be stressful not only as you pick-up a little bit extra work sometimes, but also the emotional element.  If you have relied on the team member or have created a good friendship, management should be aware of this connection and allow you the time to adjust by either giving you a lighter workload for a day or so or even treating your old team to a mini farewell lunch.  Proper introductions and endings can help teams feel ready-to-start or ready-to-move-on.

​Losing a team member from the firm can be very hard on the whole office, not just a team.  There may be several reasons for a company to make the decision to let individuals move on.  These reasons usually involve profit which create fear in the remaining workers that there isn't enough work and their exit will be next.  This fear is real and can be extremely distracting for those trying to work toward deadlines.  Again, something management should be sympathetic toward.  

​As fall approaches, Kevin will grow new fur back to be ready for our cold winters.  Like Kevin, we all must grow new skin to deal with new roles and adventures.

<![CDATA[Kevin Looks at his Backyard]]>Thu, 13 Jul 2017 15:54:10 GMThttp://saltandshelter.com/corporate-litterbox/kevin-looks-at-his-backyard​Learning to be objective about our work performance.
Kevin doesn't see that giving himself a bath in front of everyone in the house as disturbing or even offensive.  To him, he needs to be clean, so he will clean.  We can't explain to him that our non-cat friendly friends think it is weird or gross he does this cleaning openly in public.  However, as the bipedal species, we can take the observational comments from our visitors, and take our own opinion of the situation and make a choice.  To change or improve our behaviour or do nothing and possibly face criticism or isolation.  This is why we can struggle on teams and with upper management.  We can be subjective and truly feel that we are doing nothing wrong and can't figure-out why we are not promoted, congratulated, or rewarded for our performance. 

​There are leaders who are not good.  There are many in almost every firm or company who do not deserve to have the role they do.  However, there are some qualities that they have which allow them to lead others.  Mostly, these qualities have more to do with the ability to profit and deliver than people or inter-personal skills.  From a companies objective view, profit and delivery equals a happy client or a client that will return even if they don't like the people.  This does not mean everyone on the team agrees that they are a good leader or good person.  What management should try to achieve is both.  Good profit, deliverables, AND happy teams.   Modern leadership workshops and training are trying to do this, but it takes time. 

​When you aren't moving in the direction that you feel you should with work, you need to take the time stand outside your self and really observe what is happening around you.  Do you truly take initiative?  Do you ask clear questions about what you want to be doing in your role?  Do you ask, literally, to lead projects or meetings?  Often, we think we are doing these things but we are not.   What comments are you getting in your performance review?  Can you put aside your own assumptions and hear what is being said without anger and frustration?   It is very hard to look at yourself as an outsider, but it can be extremely beneficial for your self awareness and your career.    Once you begin to look at your performance like the reviewer, the anger and frustration go away and you start to look at ways to improve and even surpass the person who gave you the review!

​These comments are not written from a place of being completely objective about myself.  It is a constant struggle to be honest with yourself(myself) and not always pretty.  Yet, it has brought me success and good fortune at times.   As for Kevin, we just tell our non-cat friends that we are "currently working with his present issues". 
<![CDATA[Deadlines]]>Tue, 30 May 2017 17:26:08 GMThttp://saltandshelter.com/corporate-litterbox/deadlinesThe anxiety of project deliverable dates.
Kevin has graciously allowed me to champion this post as deadlines are not his expertise.  He only knows the deadline for when he has to use the litterbox.  For me, everyday for the past few years have hosted a deadline in some fashion.  Some of the deadlines heavy and serious, others were little items that could jeopardize the project later on.  The need for the team and myself to produce quickly and efficiently is staggering when I take the time to reflect on my work history.

​The adrenaline spikes, anxiety, snacking on treats to fuel the buzz of being "in-the-zone" of concentration and neuron connecting extravaganza, can be so fierce that you don't even have time to use the litterbox.

​I am no expert in managing the pressure of a deadline unfortunately because I function better under pressure of time constraints.  Responding to this pressure does not mean that I am always happy or performing with the attention to details to my satisfaction.  If you are a high-performer under pressure, the upper management will notice and then you always have work and then more work which can cause work fatigue and burnout.  If you are not a high-performer, but your quality is great, then there is a place for that too, but it should be on projects with larger budgets and fussy clients.  However, if you are none of the above, then you are a seat-warmer then I hope that you are the office clown so there is a need to keep you around.

​What I do know about the deadline and anxiety relationship is that the deadlines start from the very top or the leadership team.  When these individuals do not understand or listen to issues about the project(s), there is always a less-than-acceptable deadline.  Listening to staff and being aware of what can go wrong, team's workloads, and team vacation calendars, can keep deadlines in the realm of realistic.  There are clients that pay their bills that you want to have or to keep, who will push and demand the unachievable.  In this yes-person client kiss-@ss case, all project players must understand and agree that the requirements for the project exceeds normal.  It can be hard to get this agreement of terms in a document signed by the client, but a constant reminder with examples by the project manager can help reinforce what is being expected for a deliverable.

​Days upon days of deadlines can leave the team tired and resentful if the rest of the office does not have the same timelines to work towards.  Asking team members if they are okay with the constant pressure or allowing for enough time-off to regain energy can help keep high-performers from becoming low-performers.  If the high-performers see the rest of the office operate at a different level and they are being rewarded the same, they will loose motivation.

​Deadlines are here to stay as long as the global economics maintain its intensity.  The best we can do is to take the time to properly understand what the project constraints are and what issues will slow us down.  If we can improve on the most time consuming tasks, then all the better.

​My heartrate is almost at normal as I am almost finished my own deadline.  However, I just realized why it is called a deadline...cause they can kill you if you don't manage them.
<![CDATA[Project Schedule & Budget]]>Mon, 08 May 2017 15:53:27 GMThttp://saltandshelter.com/corporate-litterbox/project-schedule-budget​Schedules and budgets are only part of the project management process.
Kevin is enjoying "alone time" while I take my vacation somewhere warmer than our office.  For lack of a furry companion in my desert paradise, I have looked to the locals to assist in my writing.  The locals: Dinosaurs.  Well, not real ones anymore.  Their distant cousins offered a helping reptilian paw.  Project Management is as old as the raptors who needed to organize the hunt for their prey somehow.  Then much later, Zog and Oga had to organize the saber tooth hunt and find shelter.  There would have been specific resources to be used and a timeline.  Sticks, moss, pelts for shelter to be secured before the snow came.  This is leadership, however, due to the complexity of current projects, smaller units of management are now required.

​Creating a workplan to meet a schedule with the correct number of resources to stay on an internal budget, to mention nothing of a construction or implementation budget, are only bogus numbers if the project variables are constantly changing.  Part of Project Management is anticipating what can and will happen and allowing for issues in the budget and timeline.  Most projects are unique and require relevant skill sets and experience to achieve an accurate schedule and budget.  If you don't have the skill set or experience then ask someone who does.  This does not make you look like an idiot, rather it makes you appear aware of your shortcomings enough to find a solution.

​The big project drivers, obviously, people.  Happy, talented people.  People who like to learn and contribute to the project.  People who like to feel that they are just as respected and valued as anyone else.  People who have lives, problems, mouths to feed.  People who need to stay engaged.  Books, seminars, and websites are devoted to managing people.  For those who are not genuinely interested in others or care about them, how to engage and motivate may never be taught to them.  There are basics that anyone can learn and it sounds something like this:

​"Hi, how are you today?"
"Good?  Good."


​"Hi, how are you today?"
"Not good?  Anything you want to discuss?"
​"Worried about a deadline?  Let's see what we can do.."
​"Family member is sick?  Then finish-up and leave early.  Your attention will be focused elsewhere anyways."

​These are examples of asking a simple question, listening, and performing an action.  This could be five minutes of your day to check on your team.  They can either help you make your schedule or blow your budget.

​There is no switch in the brain easily accessible that can be turned-on to get people to understand people.  Often, individuals with excellent skills get tossed into leadership that they don't want and vise versa.  A simple question implying interest can show an attempt to connect and understand people.  Eventually, it will become apparent what issues are going to arise with teams.  One of the big project success issues is how to get the right people in the right roles.

​The dinosaurs had extra insight into survival and organization or they would not have  effectively roamed the Earth for millions of years.  Maybe we will find the key to global organization too...that doesn't involve eating each other...