We Are Really Not Very Smart

According to The Texas Transportation Institute the average commuter in large centers spends an additional 36 hours per year in traffic because of congestion. The time wasted in traffic used to be limited to those in large cities. According to the Institute this is now moved to medium-sized cities. What’s wrong with this picture?

Obviously we, collectively, haven’t learned from our history. That’s probably not surprising to most of us as we’re still fighting wars, large and small, even though history tells us wars don’t generally accomplish a great deal.

In North America we have the mentality there’s lots of space and we should use it to build cities, roads, subdivisions, and, should time and money allow, the occasional man made park or lake. Why haven’t we learned to build the transportation arteries and systems first so the millions of dollars wasted in idling cars and squandered time cease to grow? Who knows we might even plan so we use what Mother Nature gave us for parks and recreational areas, rather than building our own.

I recognize we can’t change the time many people have to spend in their daily commutes. Here are three quick suggestions to help those commutes be more beneficial to you.

  1. Listen to books on CD or any other material you can find at the local library or purchase from your favorite record store.
  2. Use the time to dictate information you can use at work, at home, or in your community. Small recording devices with good microphones are readily available and can be used hands-free.
  3. Invest in dictation software for your computer as most of these programs will transcribe your recorded messages so you have a soft copy on your computer to edit and print.

I write most of my blog posts using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. It’s reasonably priced and each version is more user-friendly and accurate than the last.

If my three options don’t fit with your lifestyle, just recognizing you have the commute, it takes time, and you need to relax, will make the journey less stressful on your body.

Garth Roberts             www.GarthRoberts.com

Do You Have Great Vision?

My eyes are a bit blurry this morning as I just came from the eye specialist. Drops were put into my eyes so the specialist got the best view possible to confirm my eye health. I’m happy to say my eyes are healthy.

How about you? Are you taking care of your health so you’re healthy to run your business? If your life is out of balance with inactivity, poor health, stress, and worry, you can’t be as productive as you need to be. Here are three strategies I use to maintain balance in my life.

  1. Balance Work and Play I can look back over my life and recognize the times when I’ve been most effective were the times when the balance was the greatest. As an entrepreneur, it’s been challenging for the last 10 years to keep the proper balance. When I find them off balance, I pick up my Day Timer and schedule time away from work to reduce my stress and increase my fun activity.
  2. Take Time to Plan – Weekly, monthly, quarterly, or at least annually, it’s your choice as to how often you take time out to plan. The bottom line, take time. I run into many people in business who are so busy, busy, busy, they don’t take time to stop and plan. I’ve heard estimates of 1/3 to 2/3 of everything that’s done in most companies on a daily basis is actually redo because it wasn’t done correctly the first time. As one supervisor once said to me, “Garth, you don’t understand our business. We’re too busy to plan, but we’ve got lots of time to do it to over tomorrow.” I’m happy to say he had a smile on his face when he made this statement as he recognized how silly it really was.
  3. Take Action – All the planning in the world doesn’t do any good if you don’t take action. I see far too many people in my seminars and in my coaching who stop at the planning stage and don’t take action. I use the DISC behavioral assessment extensively in my work and I know that one of the major behavioral styles has a problem with paralysis by analysis. I’m very familiar with this problem as it’s part of my behavioral style. I put action plans in place to ensure I plan and do.

What strategies do you employ to make sure you have vision, followed by a plan, and action?

Garth Roberts             www. Garth Roberts.com

Out of Work – Start Your Own Company!

According to the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the percentage of unemployed workers starting companies rose to 8.6% in 2009. The report, quoted in the Harvard Review, is a four-year high and the biggest increases are among people 55 and older.

 Why the increase?

 Are older workers not being considered for jobs so they have to start their own? Are they just fed up working for someone else? As an older worker who’s had his own company for years, I know what it’s like to compete for jobs. There is a “younger is better” attitude in some areas of the work force. My response is quite simple, your lose. As the saying goes, don’t just a book by its cover. Judge it by what’s inside the book and value what it has to offer.

 I also know that there’s an allure to running your own business. In the last couple of decades more and more people seem to want to control their own destiny. It seems running your own business is a way to do that. Unless you’ve got a huge bankroll, here are some probable outcomes of working for yourself:

 You’ll work longer hours

  1. You work with tighter budgets
  2. You’ll have to be more versatile by doing more jobs
  3. You’ll have less vacation time
  4. Your stress level will increase

 On the flip side:

  1.  You’ll appreciate your achievements more
  2. You’ll have control of those tight budgets
  3. You’ll get to pick and choose the jobs you like to do as your business grows
  4. You’ll take your vacation and breaks at times that suit you
  5. Your stress level will go down, eventually

 If you’re starting your new business, welcome to the entrepreneur world.

Garth Roberts     www.garthroberts.com

Art in Business

We learn when we coach. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to facilitate, instruct, and coach hundreds of individuals. If I go in with the right attitude, I come out with new learning. In a session for trucking company in Winnipeg, Manitoba, I learned a new definition of ART. We were talking about dealing with diversity in the workplace and participant, Richard Webb, provided me with the following acronym.

A stands for Acknowledge the cultural influences and differences.

R means Respect the Individual.

T reminds you to Tune into Similarities.

 Do you practice art in your leadership? All of us work with people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and expectations. We must respect the individual, and we must tune into the similarities and the diversities. Take a look around your office and recognize that inside the people you’re seeing are different wants, expectations, and desires. As the leader, do you know these wants and what are you doing to help meet these expectations?

Garth Roberts        www.garthroberts.com

Do You Have A Super Bowl Mentality to Communication?

If you watched the Super Bowl yesterday, you saw superb communication in action. You also saw communication breakdowns. Not all of us recognized each one or understand how many communication breakdowns happened. They happened in an instance when the ball went one way and the receiver another. They happen continuously, and these players have rehearsed their communication, repeatedly!

So why don’t you rehearse most of your communication? Too many of us go to an office or a meeting with a vague idea of what we want to say, but definitely not a plan. Plans work, as both Baltimore and New Orleans can tell you. Both Baltimore and New Orleans can also tell you which communication didn’t work yesterday. Do you have the vaguest idea when your communication fails?

But I’m not a sports team, you say! No, you’re a business or personal team and you rely on superb communication to complete tasks or to get others to complete tasks. Next time you want to have excellent communication, which should be all the time. Pause for a few seconds and ask the following questions:

  1. Why am I communicating?
  2. Who is receiving my communication?
  3. What does heor she need to know?
  4. What’s the best way to communicate – letter, memo, e-mail or in-person?
  5. What do I need or want to have happen when I finish communicating?
  6. How will I know my communication has been successful?

Incidentally, if you can’t answer number five with clarity, stop before you start. If you don’t know what you want to have happen when you finish talking, you shouldn’t waste your time and definitely not the listener’s time.

Have a great Super Bowl day of communication!

Garth Roberts                   www.garthroberts.com

Lessons from a Bully

Recently I had an emotional conversation, well, emotional for the other person. It could have been emotional for me; however, I chose not to play. A decision was made by a committee that didn’t fit with my colleague’s viewpoint. As the committee chair I became the point of attack, and it bordered on an attack. You may have had similar experiences at home or at work. Here’s how I handled the situation.

  1. Keep calm – don’t let emotions take over logic. Emotions only sidetrack you and escalate the situation.
  2. Listen – eventually the talker will wind down and finish venting. Like a balloon, all the air disappears. If you do say anything, ask questions for clarification.
  3. Logically respond – logic and facts trump emotion. Again, as you respond, ask questions and paraphrase what you heard. Make sure you have all the information, from the speaker’s point of view, before you begin offering solutions or confirm adherence to the previous decision.
  4. Acknowledge agreement isn’t necessary – acceptance of the situation or decision is desirable. If the talker won’t change or accept reality, too bad. As the old adage says, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

In my case the talker didn’t like the decision but accepted the reality of it and moved forward. I don’t expect the conversation will have lasting impact to our relationship. Had I reacted to the emotion and bullying, permanent damage would have been done. However, I do expect the same decision to be questioned in the future, but that’s another bridge to cross another day.

Garth Roberts                   www.garthroberts.com