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Archive for the tag “consent”

“Think outside the box” and yet we go to work and school in one

“Think outside the box” and yet we go to work and school in one 

The term “thinking outside the box” stands for doing and thinking in unconventional ways. Step out of bounds and away from the beaten path. Away from routine and what is expected of you. Words like normally, usually, typically, or similar ones like it should not be used – “try something new and radical”.

And yet our routine looks so much different. Our schools and workplaces are placed in rectangular shoe boxes, with little to no natural lighting and even less high quality air. Slapped together to maximize the builder’s and architect’s profitability. Enabled by having harnessed energy to a point where we believe we control nature by being able to climate control our working and schooling habitats.

Rule of thumb here is a simple one: Nice 90 degree corners are good and so is routine and standardization. Where does that leave creativity and quality of life though? Over 70% of working folks would love nothing more than a new job or career because their working conditions and overall career management are below par.

At school this is even worse. Some school settings are outright industrial in where they are located and how the buildings are constructed. They seem to be designed to merely serve the purpose of providing future workers for companies that will then provide a very similar working environment as the newbies were used to from school: the box type building.

What is the antidote? Well, even though it may sound clichéd, but it sounds like our business and school leaderships need to be the first ones who need to think outside the box. Creating a lively and inspiring work and school environment does not take much as long as everyone involved starts from establishing a suitable vision and mission around this goal. Then the tough work starts. Thinking concepts like this through will take time. With great preparation the final product will take a lot less hard work.

One such building (watch the background story here and here is the green building explained) is the one at Aerzen USA. The intense grass roots efforts of a few folks turned into a movement that keeps catching on.

Now think about our children and how they deserve a similar inspiring environment. If we want them to be able to think and act outside the box, let’s help getting them out of the truly boxy type schools of today. Here are two examples (Avon Grove and Kimberton) how some schools have already begun making changes for the better.

Ultimately the choice is always yours and this is neither my time nor place convincing you of anything. But think about if you and your contributions are only a mere SAT score, or some other number. If so, a shoebox building will do. If not, then please help for us all to start acting outside the box – and yes this pun is intended.


The Saints who walk among us

The Saints who walk among us  PattiA

When we think of Saints with a capital “S”, we immediately think of very pious people who may even have done miracles. How about all other people who may be amongst us doing unbelievable selfless things?

One of them left us in May this year. My friend Patti was such an incredible selfless person. It is really hard for me to actually believe that she is gone. The very day I first met her in 2005 she made such a positive impression. It was our first day at evening college and I was getting to the university late. I had had an accident where someone unfamiliar with driving a stick shift car “bumped” into the back of my car. Patti was always so prepared for everything. She had headache medicine ready to go for me when I finally made it to our class..

In class she watched out for me. That was a great help especially since English is not my first language. Whenever I had mustered my signature screensaver look (e.g. clueless) she knew exactly how to help me. Sure, I would look out for her as well whenever I could. Being on the same working team together with her was always fun and you would know that the project would get done and it would get done 100%. Even my wife called her my college wife because we were that close working on assignments.

Another thing that always impressed me was how she used to volunteer cooking at a local shelter. Looking at her no one would have guessed that this was something that she would do. How many people do you know take time out of their busy schedules to actively do this for disadvantaged people?

While she was always concerned about doing a great job at work (she did nothing below a 100%), she was always very worried about family. Her husband Ben was always a great concern of hers. His health had its ups and downs and she was always there with good deeds and prayers. Her son probably was her biggest worry. I fondly remember how often we would talk in the parking lot after class about him and his future as well as his relationship with her. She was proud of him and loved him unconditionally no matter what happened. She had a really great relationship with her daughter. That made it really tough watching her being worried about not being there for her daughter’s wedding. Her cancer was moving fast. In the end she did not live long enough to be part of the wedding.

Closer to the end I had an opportunity driving her to a chemo treatment in Philly. Watching her do work on her laptop just to make sure work would go on was incredible. Even more heartbreaking was how she made sure that the nurses assigned to administering the treatments were ok and did not need anything. Was it not normally supposed to be the other way around?

Another thing I will truly miss is her uncanny ability getting all of our college cohort friends together at our usual water hole called McKensy’s. Whenever she would invite people they showed up and we had a grand old time. Boy, am I missing my old friend and her wit, laughter, and most of all her big heart.

She may not deserve the capital “S” in saint, but she ranks way up there. She and her family will be in my prayers tonight and I am forever grateful for having had the privilege of knowing her.

How many people do you have whom you look up to for inspiration? If they are among the living please make your gratitude known to them while you have the chance.


Nothing has been communicated until it has been understood

What I mean by that are the times when you have a conversation with someone and you wanted him/ her to do something just to find out a little later that it has not been done in the time frame or scope you wanted.  And all of this happened even though you may have had a lively and great conversation.  What could have been wrong?  You were so clear you think to yourself.  Trust me, I know the feeling all too well. 

This type of conversation is called communication for action.  Once you realize the key elements of it, you can guide the conversation no matter if you are at the receiving end of a request or if you request something yourself.  The basis of it lies in the request being made by the “customer”.  The request needs to contain the conditions of satisfaction and is considered the most crucial step:   

  1. What would you like to be done? 
  2. How would you like this to be done? 
  3. When would you like this to be completed? 
  4. How much of a priority does this task have?
  5. Is there a preference as to who should do this? 
  6. How much feedback is required during and after the task is done?
  7. Are responsibility and authority clear to the one who will perform the task? 

Once the above conditions have been discussed and a commitment has been reached between “customer” and “performer” both people can go their way until the task has been carried out.  Then the performer needs to provide the customer with the information as to if and how the task was completed.  The circle cannot, or at least should not, be closed until the customer declares complete satisfaction. 

I admit the first couple of times it felt kind of awkward when I asked my internal or external customers for the conditions of satisfaction.  Once I realized how much time and nerves I spared myself and others because the tasks got done on time and to the extend intended, I was fully on board of this quick mental check list.  You may just be surprised how often you will find out about tasks that do not have the urgency you thought they had.  Imagine the how many other urgent matters that you can go after instead.  Remember that you can use this system as the performer just as well as the customer.  Most folks posing requests have the benefit that they have dealt with the situation at hand for a while.  That is why the request may be clearer to them than to you.  With clarity and a clear commitment there will be a lot fewer headaches in your future. 


Which is more important: Consensus or consent?

Folks who are frequently sit sequestered in team meeting and working groups just about anywhere by most often attempt reaching consensus.  A lot of time is wasted reaching for the all but impossible unless you have a team of one or a team of dogmatic clones.  Consensus is a close relative to compromise. I give a little and you give a little and voila we have reached a compromise and thus can reach consensus on an issue.  But now either party no longer gets what they really wanted and perhaps worse, the issue is so watered down that the initial intent is totally missed and the whole team loses. 

Why spend the time and energy convincing the others that everyone needs to approve and also like the final result? 

  1. It is much better to make your point and see if it can get the majority supporting it.  That is best done by the meeting facilitator who lists all the solutions to the issues at hand. 
  2. This is followed by putting this list up on e.g. a whiteboard and letting everybody vote for their top three solutions.  This way you will shrink down and perhaps consolidate your long list. 
  3. Now instead of focusing on getting everybody to give a little to take a little, drive home the point being able to consent to an idea / concept. 
  4. Consent is different as it only requires for everyone to be committed to moving ahead with whatever the team finally decides to do. 

The fine but important line between consent and consensus is worth hours and oodles of frayed nerves none of which any leader-manager ought to jeopardize in regular business meetings.  Get involved and make sure your designated meeting facilitator is on board with the concept. 


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