THANK GOODNESS IT’S MONDAY
BEWARE THE IDES
– AND AWARE OF THESE IDEAS –
It feels as if it happens each time I make a journey of significant distance or duration; like now.
Once again I’m on a 10-day swing out of NJ and to the Pacific Northwest. And my head is full of collected bits and pieces I’ve gleaned from my less-familiar whereabouts and as my usual habits are disrupted.
TGIM TAKEAWAY: Sometimes it pays to break up the routine. The benefit may be insights that can change your life or business, or maybe just your appreciation of the world.
Or not. But at least it will stimulate the brain cells. And that certainly can’t be bad.
Here’s a sampling: First a half dozen broader IDEAS that have come to light on this trip and may be useful to you, then a thought or two about The Ides of March – complete with TGIM Takeaways/ Challenges/ Opportunities.
● Beat the clock. Here’s a different way to schedule meetings that yields multiple benefits: Instead of setting meeting times that begin on the hour or half hour, precisely determine the time you’ll require, and then subtract it from the on-the-hour/half-hour you’ll finish up.
TGIM IDEA IN ACTION: Set the meeting to begin at the odd time and be ready to wrap up at the appointed hour. Case in point: For a 20-minute meeting, explain you need only that much time and suggest gathering at 9:40. As the clock clicks toward 10, everyone will work to stay on target.
Sales angle: If you’re scheduling calls, prospects find this approach hard to resist since it sets an appointment for a memorable time and reassures them that no seller will overstay their welcome.
● Vegetarian printing. There’s still a lot of paperwork in the digital world. If you want to join the greening of ink-on-paper printing, great! One pollution solution put forward by the environmentally concerned is the use of soy-based inks. But don’t let language confuse you.
TGIM ACTION IDEA: Consider all your options. The core problem is that petroleum solvents in traditional printing ink pollute. Any reduction of petroleum will reduce the amount of pollutant. And soy is only one viable substitute. Linseed and other vegetable oils are also very common and equally effective. So don’t limit your options by specifying “soy” when you really want “environmentally friendly.”
● Department of bright ideas. Remember the textbook classic about what came to be called The Hawthorne Effect?
Capsule refresher: In the late 1920’s lighting at a Western Electric facility was manipulated to gauge the effect on productivity. And no matter what changes were made – brighter or dimmer – productivity improved. Reason: Workers felt more important when they now they were being studied and so worked more diligently no matter what the lighting situation.
Of course, lighting does matter too. But –
Brighter isn’t necessarily better. The best lighting is linked to the type of task being performed. Out here folks working at computer screens function most comfortably in rooms with dimmer lighting overhead while public spaces and lunch rooms are brightened up for a stimulating change of pace.
TGIM ACTION IDEA: Consider such adjustments, keeping The Hawthorne Effect in mind as you evaluate.
● Is “How are you?” an OK question? Many firms seem poised to add new employees this year. But some people on the hiring side need a little refresher in candidate interviewing skills to avoid charges of illegal discrimination.
TGIM ACTION IDEA: It’s particularly important to keep in mind questions you MAY NOT ask. Taboo topics include: Religious beliefs or religious holidays observed; marital status or plans or past relationships; parental status; nationality or family’s ancestry; how a second language was learned; inquires about disabilities; arrest record; political preferences.
Acid test: The questions you do ask should be directly related to job performance. So, for example, if the job requires it, asking if the candidate will be able to work OT is OK.
● Here’s a hot stock tip. I sometimes get wind of some proprietary tech development out here in the land of digital innovation. So, just between you and me my friend, let me share some real insider insight:
There’s no such thing as a hot stock tip. It’s either illegal insider information … or simply someone else’s opinion … or worst of all, a ploy to tout a deal of doubtful worth.
Think of it this way: Why should successful, tech-wise and option-rewarded savvy individuals with ironclad non-disclosures and non-competes risk their reputations and livelihoods giving away information that’s most valuable to them?
TGIM ACTION IDEA: Trade on the basis of our own judgment and solidly researched information, not someone else’s hearsay.
● Focus on results, not reasons. When something goes wrong, some managers instinctively ask questions such as these: “Who’s responsible for this?” “What were you thinking?” “How did this happen?” “Why did you do that?”
Debugging for “reasons” can be counterproductive. Trying to find the person or persons responsible for a problem invariably puts employees, who naturally want avoid blame and its consequences, on the defensive.
TGIM ACTION IDEA: Seek solutions first rather than hurry to assign blame. Get answers you can use. Ask results-oriented questions. When problems arise, act immediately to provide support and encouragement, asking questions that focus on what is already working and how improvements can be made to eliminate future mishaps and achieve better results.
And finally –
Beware “The Ides of March?”
Today’s the day: March 15. Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar made it famous – the soothsayer cautioning the great Roman emperor against what turned out to be the day his opponents planned and did assassinate him. And the play’s historically accurate in that regard.
But do you know what the “Ides” are? Turns out there are “Ides” each of month. The Romans organized their calendar around three days of each month, each of which served as a reference point for counting (in Roman numerals – think about it) the other days. The “named” days were:
- Kalends (1st day of the month)
- Nones (the 7th day in March, May, July, and October; the 5th in the other months)
- Ides (the 15th day in March, May, July, and October; the 13th in the other months)
The remaining, unnamed days of the month were identified by counting backwards from the Kalends, Nones, or Ides. And the backwards counting included the named day. No wonder the Roman Empire eventually declined.
One more factoid: If you lived in ancient Rome (c. 220 – 153 BCE) you have been aware that March’s Ides marked the beginning of the consular year, since the two annually elected Roman consuls took office on the Ides. By Julius Caesar’s time the consuls took over on the Kalends of January which we now call New Year’s Day.
So “Beware?” Well, as authors of the Best Year Ever! Program, Eric and I are fond of pointing out –
A New Year can begin any time. And it pays to Be Aware of the opportunities to rethink and begin anew those behaviors you’d like to “resolve” to change or improve. So today’s a particularly significant and good a day to do so.
Happy New Year! Friends … Romans …Countrymen. If these TGIM Tidbits awaken you to new or enlightening experience, if even one helps you see what might otherwise go unnoticed in your day, cool. If just one suggests that a change in your routine would stimulate a different point of view with the potential to lead to breakthrough thinking, excellent.
As the Shakespearean version goes, after Caesar hears the prophecy he responds:
Caesar: The Ides of March are come.
Soothsayer: Ay, Caesar; but not gone.
How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted o’er,
In states unborn, and accents yet unknown!
Alexander Publishing & Marketing
8 Depot Square
Englewood, NJ 07631
P.S. In Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224, Shakespeare has Brutus make this TGIM Takeaway-worthy observation:
There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.
P.P.S. In the quote above Brutus is discussing with Cassius the final phase of their civil war with the forces of Octavian and Marcus Antonius. On a Life Lesson scale his point can be understood as that the power and opportunity to act is a force that ebbs and flows in time. Waiting around only allows your power to pass its peak and begin to fade; if the opportunity is “omitted” (missed), you’ll find yourself stranded in miserable shallows. If you’re ready to “go with the flow” consider the secrets and strategies in the Best Year Ever! Program. For more details, click HERE.
GEOFF STECK leads Alexander Publishing & Marketing, a company he formed in 1986. The core AP&M mission: To create and publish leadership, sales mastery, self-improvement and workplace skill-building resources and tools. The focus: Areas such as business communication, staff support, customer care and frontline management. Geoff also puts his corporate and entrepreneurial experience, independent perspective, and skills as a catalyst to work for other firms (ranging from multinational corporations to more modest operations), not-for-profits, and individuals who have conceived or developed programs or initiatives but are frustrated in getting them implemented.