Some Weeks are Better Than Others – Part 2

This week started out with Jake at the vet’s for yet another blood test. Our very dedicated vet is trying to find something that will ease the arthritic pain Jake’s experiencing in his back and hind legs without sending his liver function tests through the roof. I was able to tell her after the first week that it appears that Jake is getting some relief but there is that Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads – what was the impact of the medication on his liver? So this week, we finally got some good news. The new anti-inflammatory medication has had no impact upon Jake’s liver function so he can continue to take it and experience some relief from the arthritic pain in his body. What hasn’t improved is the “funk” that he’s been in off and on since he lost his pack mates, similar to the same thing he showed when his pack mate, Jessie, died from lymphoma. Now I know that there are some folks out there that will think and even perhaps post comments about how I’m humanizing Jake by attributing human emotions to him when he’s just a dog. But no one can explain away how dogs seems to sense when their humans need them the most, why a pup will sleep under the coffin at the funeral home when their owner dies, or when a pup sits on the step with her boy on Father’s Day, and places her paw on her boy’s knee as he cries his heart out over the absence of the father who passed away before the boy’s birth. That dog stayed with her boy until he was ready to face the world again and even attempted to lick the tears from his cheek. So while Jake isn’t human, he’s the latest in a very long and blessed line of extraordinary pups who have blessed my life with unconditional love, attention, and companionship. I know the day is coming sooner than I’d like for Jake to rejoin his pack mates and I’ve promised him that I’ll honor that wish. So for the remainder of this week and hopefully, for many weeks to come, I’ll get to pause in my work and spend several great moments scratching behind Jake’s ears, walking with him, and sitting with him as we watch the bunnies return to their safe haven under our deck. Chalk this week up to being one of the better ones. Enjoy your week, folks. Jake and I certainly plan on doing just that.

Life Lessons = Karma?

 
Many times we hear of someone receiving a life lesson and folks nod knowingly and murmur something about karma. From what I’ve gathered, karma is another way of talking about how things all seem to balance out, one way or the other.
In trying to understand why I get an occasional figurative smack to the back of my head – one as recently as Monday evening, I took a look at some things I learned when I first entered the military, affectionately known as the three truths in life. Trust me, the subtle filter is in place!
“Time will tell.” This is usually stated when someone questions whether a decision is the right one or not. Time will let us know whether we’ve made the right decision or whether we need to make an adjustment. A modified dose of karma?
“Some things in life will always smell, no matter what we do.” That science experiment in the office fridge, the dirty diaper filled just moments after the old diaper has been removed, the ‘green air’ emitted by our dog just as guests arrive for a formal dinner… You get the picture. Not sure any of these qualify as karma but it is one of life’s truths that some things really do stink. Feel free to make your own decision on this.
“Water will seek its own level.” I think that no matter what I do, things are going to even out at some point in time. And for me, this is where the concept of karma comes in. Water has a way of moving mountains and making its own way – just look at the Grand Canyon, for example. No matter what we do, water makes its way around and through the structures we might place in its path, often to our detriment. Karma? Probably.
So what has this got to do with problem solving? Sometimes, problems come about because we ignore the three truths in life and try to impose our own will, often to our detriment. Sometimes, we simply have to accept things for what they are and work as best we can with them. Taking that approach can be far less stressful than having to clean up the impact of karma and the life lesson we just had dumped into our lap.
Oh, and my most recent life lesson? Trying to rush the rehab on my left wrist. I thought I was finally ready to lift something that weighed about ten pounds. I was but my wrist wasn’t. I’m repainting the kitchen in a few weeks. Karma!

A New Approach?

Have you ever had the experience of opening the fridge to the smell of some science experiment going really south on us and the smell is enough to knock an elephant off its feet at a distance of half a mile? Obviously, we can’t leave that until the weekend when we’d planned to clean the fridge, so we attend to it right there and then. But as we do so, we find still other problems living in our fridge. Now we do a thorough cleaning and a couple of hours later, our fridge is sparkling clean and a healthy place to once again store our perishables.
What if we treated issues within our organizations the same way we approached finding the source of the smell and fixing things so our fridge was again safe for food storage? Do we work to identify potential issues before they erupt? Or do we wait until the issue goes from a molehill to a mountain? Once an issue is identified, we must address it effectively so that it is completely resolved. We don’t simply address the symptom (yes, let’s throw out that bag of salad we were saving for lunch next week, only “next” week was actually last week and now it’s changing into a liquid version of itself. And oh, good grief! The bag is leaking all over the place!)
Getting to the source of the problem quickly and developing effective resolutions can prevent issues from developing that can consume all our time and energy – time and energy better spent on insuring quality productivity and customer service. Focusing on identifying the issue correctly also helps prevent us from addressing only the symptoms. Throwing away the outdated bag of salad addresses the symptom but doesn’t address the problem (we need to pay attention to what’s there and for how long.) Now off to organize the freezer…..

Glad to Oblige

I don’t usually write about personal issues but I’m going to make an exception.
This summer I began to experience some serious issues with my left thumb and wrist. For the vast majority of folks on this planet, that would be no big deal. Except – I’m left handed. I’ve learned to do quite a few things with my right hand but when push comes to shove, it’s my left hand – my dominant hand – that I go to. Only now I can’t, at least for a minimum of another 3 – 6 months. I’m being forced to be right handed and I don’t like it! I’m not good at it. It frustrates the heck out of me, and nothing I say or do is going to change things. Surgery is scheduled and the recovery is probably going to raise my frustration level even higher. But I have to be scrupulous in following the instructions of my surgeon and my physical therapist. If I mess this up, I’m going to be in a world of hurt like I’ve never been before.
Probably the vast majority of you all reading this are not facing this specific situation. But you are facing situations that are, in their own right, just as serious and just as troublesome. No amount of fussing, worry, or snapping of our fingers is going to change things. So what’s it going to take?
I think we need to appreciate that we’re experiencing a difficulty. We also need to appreciate that we really can master the situation with some help. Asking for help is very hard for me and the words literally get stuck in my throat. Maybe some of you feel the same way. We’d rather bull ahead and try to do for ourselves just like before, only to find ourselves in more of a pickle than we really can handle right now. I’m learning to recognize that friends and neighbors are a part of my life and they’re there for a reason, just as I’m in their lives for a reason. Relying upon others for help on occasion doesn’t diminish my independence or self sufficiency. It simply means I’m a part of a great circle of treasured friends and neighbors who would very appreciate my letting them help me on occasion. This time, I’m glad to oblige.

Problem Solving – The “Whack A Mole”© Method

Ever watch young kids try the arcade game where they hammer the moles into oblivion? As the game progresses, they hammer the moles harder and harder. The older kids quickly realize that no matter how hard they hit the moles, another one is going to pop up. They generally walk away, refusing to play anymore. Ahem, leaders and supervisors – a lesson to take to heart?

Simply addressing the symptoms of an issue within your organization is not going to result in any meaningful solution to your problems. And if you keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome, you’ve just succeeded in demonstrating Einstein’s definition of insanity.

A key component to problem solving is the correct and accurate identification of the cause of the problem. But I think that’s the issue. Identification of the underlying issue seems so simple at first. When the identification doesn’t come easily, the tendency is to revert to looking at the symptoms because they’re more obvious and easier to address. Address the symptom, hammer another mole and problem solved. NO! Symptom addressed.

Here’s a practical suggestion: Put the hammer down. Sit down, take a deep breath, and get a plan together. Put together a quality work team to begin the problem solving stage. Talk with AND LISTEN to the people involved in the problem situation and those who have experience handling such issues. After collecting information, work together to develop quality responses. Communicate with the people involved in the situation, as well as the entire organization. Decide on your best solution and implement it. Use the evaluation phase to assess how well the solution is working. If it’s working, great! If not, make the necessary changes to either fix the implemented solution or toss it out and implement one of the other solutions developed previously. It’s hard work but worth the effort. And if you want to pick up the hammer and whack something, take your kids to the arcade and see how many moles you can whack.

National Crime Victims Rights Week: 8 – 14 April 2018

Sunday, 8 April, marked the beginning of a week long recognition of the importance of letting crime victims know of their rights within our criminal justice system. Many organizations, especially NOVA and other victim advocacy agencies, are doing special events to inform the public of the many services available to assist crime victims. Here in the Phoenix area, a local church, the Church of the Advent in Sun City West, is hosting an information session with members of the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. Attendees will hear about different types of scams which specifically target the elderly. The focus of this session on Saturday, 14 April (10 a.m. to noon) is to let potential targets know what they can do to minimize their chances of being victimized. Unfortunately, the reality of today’s world is that many elderly residents will be subjected to criminal behavior. The presentation will also include information on what to do in the event a person becomes a victim of criminal conduct.
Our criminal justice system is well served by a dedicated and passionate group of individuals who serve as victim advocates throughout our country and our military. Almost on a daily basis they see individuals at their lowest moments, many of whom have suffered severe physical and emotional trauma. Victim advocates often bear the brunt of the anger, the outrage, and sometimes a complete emotional breakdown as they figuratively walk with the victim through the process of prosecution, trial and conviction, sentencing, and hopefully, the start of the healing process. They do an extraordinary job for every victim they meet, oftentimes completely in the background. They’re so successful at working in the background that many members of our communities have little to no knowledge of what victim advocates do. Suffice to say that victim advocates are a special group of individuals, much deserving of our support and respect. I, for one, am extremely thankful that we have such a dedicated group of professionals who selflessly and tirelessly work to make crime victims whole again.

Implementing Change in Difficult Times

 

Please take a moment to read about the workshop now offered by PSC:

ABSTRACT of WORKSHOP

The hard reality of today is that individuals and organizations of all types are expected to provide better and more detailed services with fewer human and fiscal resources.  When fiscal resources become constrained, agencies naturally move to identify areas for cost savings, and professionals are confronted with the possibility of losing their jobs.  For example, organizations nationwide have been forced to re-design their programs and reduce staff while simultaneously adopting Evidence Based Practices (EBP), or a “doing what works” initiative aimed to maintain or increase the bottom line.  The remaining staff are given extra duties and may experience increased stress, decreased motivation, and reduced performance.  Despite being an almost every day occurrence in personal and professional lives, change also evokes anxiety and stress reactions in those impacted directly or indirectly.  Change, when proposed and implemented, can bring about new workplace conflict or exacerbate conflict already occurring.  All of this can contribute to decreased job performance, health issues among the staff, lower job satisfaction, and higher employee turnover, among other things.

What is the purpose of the proposed workshop for leaders and managers?  It provides an environment which explores ways to implement change while reducing conflict and stress that may enable the organization to implement change while maintaining employee wellness and motivation, thus positively impacting the organization’s bottom line.

In the workshop the participants will be asked to see how change is an everyday occurrence in both their personal and professional lives.  In addition, a goal of this training is to help reduce the stress associated with change and to reduce the potential for workplace conflict by assisting participants in correctly identifying the source of the conflict and developing realistic approaches to resolving it.  In essence, leaders and managers will see how conflict mediation can be used to help reduce stress and anxiety within the workplace.  In the discussions the participants will seek a greater understanding of what conflict mediation approaches might best suit their personal leadership or management style.

Participants will engage in discussions concerning the importance of effective communication.  Characteristics of effective communicators will be shared and participants will be encouraged to practice the techniques to enhance their conflict mediation skills while also developing realistic implementation programs for change.

Principles of effective change management will be presented, along with discussions on how to incorporate those skills into personal leadership styles.  Effective implementation of change comes about because leaders are willing to manage the changes, not be managed by them.

The workshop discussion will be guided by the principles of both critical and creative thinking.  These skills will be called upon as we engage in our discussions and activities for this workshop.

The objectives of this workshop are:

  • Describe the stress reaction and its impact upon our personal and professional lives.
  • Determine effective approaches to dealing with workplace conflict.
  • Apply appropriate conflict mediation skills to help resolve conflict.
  • Examine the characteristics of effective communicators.
  • Develop an understanding of some core principles of change management.

Interested:  Contact us to schedule a presentation of this workshop for your organization.

 

CHANGE – Friend or foe?

I’ve been looking at any number of organizations which are currently undergoing change. Despite all the research, change is still seen as something very negative and implementing change remains a difficult mountain to climb. Why is that?

Let’s be honest. Change causes anxiety. Will I get to keep my job? Am I still a valued member of the organization?

There are any number of organizations which implement change smoothly, with little to no disruption to the productivity and job satisfaction. What do they do that works?

Probably the key thing is communication. When a change is being considered, leaders within the organization need to let the staff know what’s going on. Leaving it to the rumor mill is a surefire way to creating dissatisfaction. Ask the staff for their thoughts on how best to implement the change. Use the experience within the staff to quickly identify potential problem areas and have the staff work with management to develop realistic solutions to those problems should they develop.

Another key is making sure that the staff is provided with opportunities for training in the new way of doing things.  This can help insure that the staff gets the training they need  which prepares them for the new way of doing things, but it also sends an important message – they are considered valued assets to the organization. When downsizing has to occur, the organization can take a very positive step by insuring that resources and retraining are available to help people expand their skill sets and find employment in other areas. Simply letting folks go with the attitude of “don’t let the door hit you as you leave” paints the organization in a very negative light, one which is not easily countered. Word of mouth will insure that quality recruits will take a second look at an organization that doesn’t value its staff.

Change might not be our friend but we need to make sure we’re not turning it into an unbeatable foe, either.

Leaving Our Comfort Zones (it’s all for the good!)

I had the privilege of attending the recent annual symposium of the National Organization of Victim Assistance (“NOVA”) in San Diego this week.  I was in the company of well over 1500 victim advocates who exemplify the meaning of being passionate about their calling to help others.  I was honored to do a presentation at one of the breakout sessions where I got to talk with many of the attendees on a more personal basis.  My participation in the symposium energized my commitment to seeing our grass roots endeavor through to a successful conclusion.

The conversations I had with many of those at the symposium confirmed one thing for me.  All of us, and I am definitely including myself in this, will need to leave our comfort zone of working in the background.  The agenda that has come together will demand our best effort even when we face challenges and potential setbacks.  Those events will simply be opportunities for us to excel.

Please join with me in this project.  I am confident that our efforts will be successful in getting the national registry of child abusers fully operational. We will also be successful in changing the way in which child abusers are sentenced – focusing on the harm that was done to the child victim(s), rather than what is expedient.  The time is now and the hard work begins today.

Impatiently Awaiting the Arrival of Spring

I don’t know about you but I’m ready for spring to come and stay for several weeks. My move to Arizona several years ago was deliberate – I don’t do cold and wet weather any more. But this spring has been weird. When folks back east tell me they’re having warmer temperatures than I’m experiencing, that’s just wrong on all levels.
I’m going to guess that by now you all are thinking I’ve lost my focus. What does the weather have to do with leadership? Don’t worry. I’m about to connect the dots.
Think about your own mood and approach to the work day when you wake up to find that once again it’s overcast and it’s been a few days since you’ve seen blue skies and felt the warmth of the sun. Think about your reaction when you have to go to the office in the snow/rain – again. How many of us acknowledge that our staff’s work performance can be and likely is affected by each individual’s response to the gloom, cold, and wet of late winter/early spring?
Is your management team aware of how weather can impact job performance all while knowing that in about a month or so things are going to get better? Or do you and your management team take a “suck it up, it’s all about the bottom line” approach? Actually, it’s only somewhat about the bottom line. More accurately, it’s about your people. Take good care of them and they’ll take care of the bottom line for you.
Just a little something for us all to think about. Now, I’m off to watch another harbinger that better weather is coming – baseball’s Cactus League spring training is in full swing!