Are You A Lifelong Learner?

Last night, for the first time in a long time, I conducted a continuing education class in business writing. Eight participants showed up to learn how to improve their business writing skills. As I went around the room to discover why they were in the class, I was pleased to learn how many of them are lifelong learners. Only a couple of people were there because their boss or supervisor suggested that they be there. I like it when people come to class because they want to be there not because they have to be there.

The term “lifelong learner” has been around for a long time and more and more I see people in all types of jobs expanding their education. That bodes well for the workforce. In a previous blog I talked about the concept of having a workforce that’s made up of innovators in North America. We can’t be the innovators if we aren’t continually learning and expanding our minds. How about you, what was the last program or course you took? Why did you take it? How did it help you? I look forward to your comments.

Garth Roberts

What Happens When All the “Doers” Are Offshore?

This morning a colleague predicted in ten years all the real work is going to be done off-shore. Only innovation will be left in North America. How does that strike you? The rationale is engineers, accountants, draftsmen, etc., in countries such as India and China are now trained to the same level as those in North America. Companies will soon be sending work off-shore because it can be done to the same level of competency for a portion of the price.

My colleague suggests that we only have innovation and invention, right brain stuff, as our back-up for growth in business. If this is the case, how many workers in North America are going to be left without jobs? The business model we’ve worked with for generations is going to be challenged. Left brain thinking will still be necessary but right brain thinking will dominate.

It’s an interesting theory. In my work I already see more and more people looking to work for leaders who care about their people. Right brain thinkers, if you will, are the ones who are attracting loyal employees. Left brain thinkers, who can be very, “it’s my way and do it now” employers, aren’t a lot of fun to work with or for. As a leader, how do you envision the future? How practical do you think it will be to have all your firms engineering, or other task related work, done off-shore?

Garth Roberts –

Do you have “trigger” words?

What one word should you drop from your conversation? In that question I have included a word I’d love to see dropped from many people’s vocabulary and that is the word “should”. Every time someone tells me I should do something I feel like saying, and you should mind your own business. So what words are triggers for you? Leaders need to understand which words trigger emotional reactions within themselves and within the people they work with. If you have a negative reaction to word, it immediately put you into a negative spin. Whether you want to admit it or not you judge the person who uses the word and your judgment tends not to be favorable.

For me judgment is another word I have a small problem with. I don’t like being judged and I try as hard as possible not to judge others. I’d love to say I’m successful but at least I’m aware when I am judging so I temper the judgment and open my mind to other possibilities.

Take five minutes, a pen and paper, and write down your trigger words. Next time you’re communicating with others remember these trigger words and become conscious of how they impact your reception to what’s being said and your action after the conversation. We become better conversationalist as we better understand our own emotional responses.

Garth Roberts, CSP


Is face-to-face conversation dying?

Recently I received notice a contract I’ve had for several years would not be renewed. I received the notice via e-mail. Quite frankly it ticked me off, not that the contract wasn’t renewed but how I was notified. I worked closely with these people and although it was an annual contract and not guaranteed to be renewed, I felt I should have received a phone call. Maybe I’m just not up to speed on 2010 business communication.

Harvard Business Review just published statistic that says 78% of companies are using more electronic means to communicate with their staff. Although the report suggests that 73% feel staff meetings are still important, only 58% still feel face to face is necessary when talking about money.

Every study I’ve ever seen says that face-to-face communication is the most effective method. Why are we moving away from talking with people? When I conduct seminars on communication one of the biggest complaints is the number of e-mails that hit each computer every day, and the fact that the guy in the next cubicle sends an e-mail rather than standing up and talking to his colleague. If the majority of people don’t like constant electronic communication, why do we do it?

Here’s a challenge, cut your e-mail output by 25% and replace it with face-to-face or phone to phone communication. At the end of the week, analyze your results. I think you’ll find your communication is far more successful.

Garth Roberts

Optimism in 2010

The Harvard Business Review reports “Employers are juggling selective hiring and incentives with selective staff cuts as they position themselves for business improvement.” The HBR quotes a Mercer survey of 350 mid-sized and large U.S. companies. These companies expect to increase base pay by 2.7%. While lower than the actual 3.2% in 2009, it’s a good sign of optimism.

 As leaders it’s critical to understand benefits to employees shouldn’t be on the chopping block first. So it would be interesting to learn how else these companies are going to reward their employees. Pay is essential but chat with long-term employees in any company and you’ll find that it’s not just the pay cheque that keeps them at the job. Think about your own career and write down some of the realities that kept you working for a given company. Was it the people, the tasks, the atmosphere or the satisfaction? It might be an interesting list that will give you, and others, great insight into the whole concept of rewards and recognition.

Rewards and recognition are critical. Be inventive in your planning in 2010 and become aware of what makes others tick. Your payback can be immense.

Garth Roberts

Common Sense just isn’t so common

“Common Sense is not Common Practice” is a nifty, little book by Rhonda Scharf. I’m working my way through it to produce a book report for a client. It’s not hard work. Rhonda has captured a wealth of information in 169 pages. The material is drawn from the author’s work in corporate Canada and the USA. My initial response is, while it probably won’t make the best seller list of “business books”, it’s a book leaders should read. It’s about business on the day-to-day level in the office.

Office Etiquette isn’t often a section in the mainstream business books. Neither is Office Harmony or Playing nice the sandbox. They should be. From my perspective too many managers look to the “high level” of office workings and ignore the day-to-day activities. It’s the day-to-day messes that make the business falter and ignoring these messes eventually impact the bottom line in a big way.

Check out Common Sense is Not Common Practice by checking out Rhonda at