Why It Pays To Be Persistent

Here’s a quick lesson on why it pays to be persistent when asking for something.

Annual Conference

Last week, I attended a project management conference here in the Detroit area.  It’s held every year, and thousands of people attend as it gives required credits that are needed to maintain professional certification. My day is  filled with various speakers and presentations that discuss knowledge and trends in the profession.  It’s not the most exciting thing in the world.  Sometimes if you pick a poor speaker, can be an outright drag, but for once per year, it’s not a bad day.

I go just about every year as it satisfies about 40% of our yearly requirements in one day.

I got my project management certification while at my current job, so I’ve only attended the conference while working for my current employer.  One thing that has always been a constant is that, while we were given the OK to attend the conference on company time, they would not pay for the conference.

It’s not that much money, about $150-200 over the years, but it was still enough of a sum that it hurt a bit when writing the check.

The Same Answer

Every year, I would ask if the company would consider paying, and every year I would be told the same answer.

mb-201311mistakeN0.

Every year, until this year. I asked a few months ago and this time, the answer was ‘Yes’.

Awesome!

Now, I know that I was not the only one to ask, so while I’d like to take credit for it, I know that it is not my credit alone to take.  Still, I know that it was through the persistence of me and my colleagues that it ended up happening.

How To Be Persistent And Get What You Want

  1. Ask Politely. I would always make sure to ask my manager if they’d consider paying, and would always approach it in a way that was polite.
  2. State Your Case . I noticed that other IT groups, which were technology based, often had people attending training.  I pointed out that although we were more process oriented, our training was still beneficial to the organization
  3. State The Benefits. I’ve already pointed out the benefits to attending the conference: I get knowledge, continued certification, and a day off of work!  That’s great, but when presenting the benefits to my manager, I would talk about how this would help the organization.
  4. Understand Politics. Year after year, we’d be told ‘no’ and I never blamed my manager.   I understood that the decision came from higher above.
  5. Know When To Escalate (And When Not To). Since the decision as being made by people higher up than my boss, it’s tempting to go right to them.  In some cases, this might actually make sense, namely if you feel it’s your boss that’s torpedoing the process.  I knew that our boss was in 100% support.    In other words, she had it.  I didn’t want to go over her head.  She might think I didn’t trust her.  I also didn’t want to seem pushy.
  6. Allow Time. The conference was last week, but I had the initial conversation with my boss back in January.     If I’d waited until two weeks ago to ask, it likely would have been an automatic ‘no’.  But it wasn’t!
  7. Don’t Give Up – I’ve been asking for years.   I could have easily assumed that I knew the answer since it’d been the same every year before.  Things change, so keep asking.

Making It Work

The bottom line is to be persistent but to make sure not to be annoying or pushy.  It might take time and you might not ever get what you want, but it never hurts to ask.  After all, the worst that they can say is ‘no’, right?

Readers, have you ever had a ‘no’ become a ‘yes’?  Tell me about it and if you have any other tips to get what you want, in the comments below.  Thanks for reading!

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How To Get Fired From A Management Position In 4 Easy Steps

As I’ve gotten more and more years of work under my belt, you learn a lot of things.  These relate to how to do your own job, but also in watching other people do their jobs.  Everybody has their own style or way of doing things, and the repercussions of this can be far and wide.  This holds even more true for those hired into management positions.

Here’s a story of one management hire that started off well but only went downhill, finishing up as an absolute calamity.

A Tough Situation To Begin With

The manager, we’ll call him Manny for the purposes of this story, was hired a little over a year ago to manage a group that was facing quite a few challenges.  The group was growing quite a bit as the focus within IT was getting more and more substantial.  The group did not have a great working relationship with many of the other groups, which was often a source of frustration.  See, with IT, when you’re working on big things, which often happen here, groups have to work together  in order to have a successful outcome. This group was very hard to engage.  Their members often didn’t show up to meetings or would make changes out of sequence or make promises that they would do something and simply not do it at the scheduled time.

They really needed a good manager.  They needed a leader.  And Manny was brought in to be that guy.

He came in and went to team meetings with all of the other groups, including our group of project managers.  I was never really sold on him from the very beginning, as his background just didn’t seem to have the heavy lifting required in both the technical space and also the management area.  He seemed to come more in the area where things were designed, but here he was trying to lead a group more focused on the actual implementation.  Success in one area, at least within IT, does not often translate.

Still, he promised big changes and improvements, and people gave him the benefit of the doubt, as they figured it couldn’t get any worse, right?

Wrong.

4 Mistakes This Manager Made That Got Him Fired

So, where did it all go wrong.  Well, as you can tell by the title of the post, Manny ended up losing his job, but let’s back up and see what he did to get him there.

He added steps and then refused to explain them.

Dring the first meeting with the other groups, he said he would make changes.  And he did.  Pretty soon after we started getting memos about steps that needed to be added to the process for planning and implementing changes involving his group.  All it did was add steps, and people were increasingly frustrated.  Yet, when asked about why the changes were being added or what the benefits were, he would include nothing of the sort in the documentation and would sidestep any direct questions.  Basically, he’d just note, “Well, that’s how we’re doing things now.”

He did not remove frustration, he just shifted it.

Remember how I said that before Manny came on mb-2014-12jobappboard, the team members would often skip meetings?  He promised to put a stop to that.  And fair to his word, he did.  However, some of the steps that he added were that he needed to review all changes.  So, what started happening is that the team members would show up to meetings, engage in the planning process, work together on a plan, and have it signed and ready to go.

This was all great except that Manny would then (and only then) look at it and stall the process.  He wouldn’t go to meetings himself, but would essentially undo the work that his team members did.  In the end, the frustration was still the same, it just changed focus.

He went against overall process flows.

Even though there are many groups within the organization that all follow different processes, there are many standard processes that are expected or even dictated.  For example, if a change is being done and something comes up that was for some reason unexpected, there is a process to evaluate the impact, and decide whether or not to move forward.  Despite the planning, this happens. Most times, the teams huddle and work through it and are able to continue with the change.

Occasionally, things can’t progress and it gets called off, but that’s usually pretty rare.  However, when Manny came in, any time that anything occurred during a change that deviated from the planning elements, he would automatically call the whole thing off.  Right then and there.  It didn’t matter how major or minor the activity was.  It didn’t matter how many other teams had resources that had people participating (often after-hours).  The change would simply be called off and planning had to start over.

He abused his team.

The final straw was when it became known that he was becoming abusive to his team.  He would call them into his office and review work to be done.  He would then threaten the team member with getting fired, often swearing at them in the process.  The team members started comparing notes and documenting this.  They were demoralized and started questioning their abilities.

In the end, especially after the group presented their documentation to senior leadership, it became clear that he was an awful fit.  He took a bad situation and made it worse, instead of making it better.  Manny inherited a team that had weaknesses, and made it worse.  He attacked not only weaknesses, but also what they were good at!  In the end, Manny’s leadership style actually set the team back, something that few would have thought was even possible.

Bad Manager: The Wrong Person For The Job.

Clearly, Manny was overmatched.  Aa time went on, some of the things he started doing happened when he saw that things were getting worse.  There are no excuses for his actions.  That said, I know there are certain times when things start going wrong, and you’re so close to the situation that you can’t see a way out, and you just start lashing out at anything and anybody.  I think it was a slow burn for Manny.  It goes to show that hiring managers and leaders is something that has to be done very carefully.  There are other people’s jobs on the line, and he put them at risk with his poor management style.

Hopefully, the damage can be unwound and someone new can be brought in that can be a true leader with true vision and understanding.  The team definitely deserves that.

Readers, have you ever seen a manager somehow manage to do everything wrong?  Do you think that it’s hiring a bad person, or maybe just a bad fit for the job?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

7 Work Habits That My Co-Workers Might Consider Peculiar

I really like where I work, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve been working here for over nine years now. I’ve definitely settled in.  There are a number of work habits that I’ve developed that work for me.  However, I wonder how many of these my co-workers might consider peculiar.

It also crossed my mind that if they do, I really don’t care 🙂

I make my own coffee in my own coffee maker.

There are several commercial grade machines around the office, as well as some Keurig brewers, but I don’t use any of these.  I actually brought my own coffee machine, one that I had sitting in the basement at home, and brew my own coffee every day.  Why all the trouble if there are machines everywhere?  Well, it’s because the machines that they have here don’t work too mb-2015-11-coffeewell for the routine I’ve established.  See, I don’t use Keurig cups as I find them wasteful and too expensive for everyday use, but the ‘free’ coffee that they provide is coffee in only the most technical sense.  Long story short, it’s awful.  I bring in my own coffee, keep it in the freezer, and brew my own pot every day.

So, why not use one of their machines?  Well, that’s because the commercial machines brew a full pot at a time, and I make a half pot per day, so a regular old brewer lets me make exactly what I want. The kitchenette area has a huge counter area, so I know there’s room for my machine, and I’ve made it clear that people are welcome to use it so long as they keep it clean and bring their own coffee to use.

I keep an early schedule.

My job is pretty flexible in that I don’t have to be here for a certain time.  We have to be around during core hours (I think between 9am-3pm) but we’re allowed to be flexible outside of that, so long as we’re getting our work done and working around the needs of our projects.  I always get in slightly before 7am and leave slightly before 4pm, so I’m one of the first to arrive.  I’m sure people think I ‘leave early’ but hopefully they soon realize that they never actually see me walk in…because I’m there before them!

I sort of have my own parking spot.  Plus I change it based on the season.

The people that get here early joke that we have assigned ourselves our own spots, as we get the pick of the parking lot, and generally park in the same spot.  I actually change my spot based on the seasons.  After Memorial Day, I park under a tree that provides afternoon shade so that when I come out to leave work, my car isn’t roasting inside.  Once October hits, I move to the other side of the aisle, where my car doesn’t get small leaves dropped on it, and I actually welcome the sunny days that we occasionally get during the winter months.

I take laps.

Our building was gutted and renovated in 2012.  They designed it so that the perimeter of the building is mostly free of any offices or rooms.  This allows light throughout the building, and also creates a ‘racetrack’ that makes taking a lap or two easy.  I have a FitBit and always try to hit my 10,000 steps, and taking ‘the long way’ to the bathroom or printer, or just taking a lap or two so that I can clear my head, all helps me reach that goal.

I bring my lunch.

Maybe this isn’t so strange, but based on the number of people that I see leaving every day for lunch, I’m sure that some consider it strange.  I may go out once in a while, but it’s a rare event.  If I do leave during lunch time, it’s more likely that I’m out running errands than it is that I’m actually getting food.

I refill my water.

I love to drink water, but for me it has to be cold.  I have a water cup at my desk, and I also have a container that I keep in the fridge.  I pour the cold water from the fridge container to my cup, then refill the fridge container with water. That goes in the fridge to get cold and the cycle starts over again.

I print out my to-do list.

I wrote earlier about how I keep my to-do list going every day.  The system works for me, but I’m sure anybody that glances at it probably thinks it’s a little strange.  After all, it isn’t your traditional to-do list.  I tend to break my tasks down into smaller sub-tasks.  Crossing things off on a regular basis keeps me more motivated to continue.  As such, I tend to abbreviate some of the items so that they make sense to me.  The net result is that someone else would see my list as gibberish.  It’s sort of my own personal shorthand, if you will.

All of these things are habits that work for me.  Still, I can see when added together, some might see me as a little bit odd.  As I mentioned above, I really don’t care because they work for me.  Plus, they keep me more productive.  Isn’t that the point?     I know I’m one of the go-to people that my manager can always count on and I get good reviews.  For these reasons,  I’m going to keep doing what I do!

Readers, what habits do you have at work that might be outside of the norm?  Are they habits that you know make you happier or more effective?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Tweaking My To Do List To Improve Productivity

One of the first things that I do at work each morning is type up a to do list.  I used to write it out by hand, but now I have an Excel file that I modify each day.  It’s actually pretty nifty.

Organizing By Recurrence

I have two columns of tasks.

The left column consists of tasks that I do every day.  Things like cleaning my inbox at the beginning and end of every day, organizing my desk, and other such tasks are in this column.  You might wonder why I list tasks that I do every day, and the answer is simple: To make sure that I do them…..every day!

The column on the right is for things that I have to do that aren’t necessarily daily tasks.  These are more related to the projects that I’m working on.  I have to update project schedules, send out status reports, input service request tickets, schedule meetings, etc.  I also put an item for each meeting that I have that day.

After I’m done, I print it off and that becomes my list for the day.  As I often have things come up, just like in any job, I leave some blank areas where I can write items in.

Not Everything Gets Done Every Day

One thing about my task list is that not every item gets done right away.  This might seem counterproductive and might go against the way some think a task list should be done, but this way works for me.

So, then, you might be wondering what kind of items don’t get done and why they’re listed?  I’ll explain.

When I know that I have a task that needs to be done, I will add it to my task list, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be done that day.  There are, of course, those types of items, and those get done as needed, but there might be some that don’t necessarily need to get done.

For example, if I have to plan out a project, I might have two weeks to do all of the preliminary work, consisting of things like building the schedule, getting estimates on labor, listing out any items that need to be ordered, submitting the plan for management review, and so on.  These all need to get done, but generally the tasks get spaced out over a period of a couple of weeks, yet I will put them all on my to-do list, so that I’ve got the whole list of action items that I need to complete.

Noticing A Productivity Gap

This system generally works pretty good for me, but I was starting to notice a troubling trend.  Certain items tended to stay on the list longer than I would like.

I started noticing that some tasks stayed on the list for days, or even weeks.  Especially administrative type tasks, where nobody was really checking on whether or not I did them by a certain date.

Yet, it started to bug me to see them appear day after day, and to see the list pile up.

Introducing Bold Font To My To-Do List

I decided to try something that I’d once tried but had failed: Applying bold font to certain tasks.

  • The failed attempt – Several months prior, I had thought that it might be a good idea to identify the tasks that I really did want to get done that day by highlighting them in bold.  This seemed like a great idea, but it really didn’t work out so well.  See, I basically highlighted the entire left hand column, plus whatever tasks I wanted mb-2015-10-notebookto get done that day in the right hand column.  By the time it was all said and done, I probably had 75% of the tasks listed in bold.  That instantly made it where the bold didn’t stand out, and I started ignoring it completely in a matter of days.
  • Revising my approach – I knew that the idea of highlighting tasks would work, so I tried it again.  This time, I made it so that the items in bold were limited in number, and that they were applied only to items that I could potentially put off but that would be a good idea to get done.  That meant that I would not bold items that I did every day, nor would I bold items that had a deadline of that day.  I limited myself to highlighting just a few items per day, so that the bold actually stood out on my list.

The Early Results Are Promising

Right away, I started seeing a difference in my productivity!  I noticed that by limiting the number of bold items, they really did take center stage on my list.  This would force me to concentrate on them throughout my day.  Some early observations:

  • I’m not getting 100% of the bold items complete every day, but I’m around 80-90%.  If I look at how many I would have done had they not been given extra attention, I’d realistically say it’d be around 40%.  So, I’m drastically increasing the productivity on items that I could potentially put off, but have no reason to.
  • I keep a tally of how many task items I complete every day.  I’m finding that the number of items I complete on an average day has gone up by a few.  This means that I’m increasing my overall productivity for my entire job.

This is pretty cool stuff.  I know that everybody has different tools and methods that they use to increase productivity.  I know that using an Excel spreadsheet and using bold fonts may not be the trick for everyone.  But if you want to try, here are my tips.

  • Have a system to track your to-do items
  • Review your system periodically
  • Change and tweak as necessary

That’s it!

Readers, how do you stay productive and how have you evolved your systems to match your work style?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.