Archive | March 2014

Hiding in Open Spaces

In everyone’s life there is a time when we are the stranger in the room, the oddball, the fifth wheel — we just do not fit quite right. For me that is generally the norm. I live in a different country than my home country with limited intention of ever moving back. I am an engineer working in Finance. I am a Finance person working among engineers. And generally, I am more creative and hands-on than what many people are comfortable with. It is what it is and usually this is all fine.

However, there are days when things are not quite fine.

There are days when all I want to be is just like everyone else. When I want an engineering job among engineers. So, my language is their language.

There are days when I hate speaking with an accent. When I do not want to be asked “Where are you from?”

Sometimes I just need to hide.

At work I hide by deep diving into an analysis and writing a paper. Or writing a blog like I am today. Yes, during work hours.
Trust me I will have to compensate for that later. I always do. Isn’t the beauty of today’s world that it does not matter how we slice and dice our work for as long as our deliverables get done? I can work from home or from the office, my employer allows me to do so for as long as my performance does not suffer.

At home I hide by going for a run. This year I will hopefully be finishing my 6th marathon. Maybe I will even beat my best time (3:57), may be not.

I may also hide at home by painting. I have a passion for painting. It is a good way to express feelings silently without annoying the people around me. Instead of yelling at people when frustrated I paint loud pictures with large brush strokes. Well, sometimes I do both yelling and painting — that usually means I need to get out of the house.

I generally work too much — usually around 60h a week. But I can honestly say I love working. I love presenting, and I love making a difference wherever I am. As a continuous improvement manager there is plenty of opportunity to do so. Change management is tough, but very rewarding.

The secret to working a lot is to take a lot of breaks. To allow yourself to hide and to find the best hiding spots. Whether you need loud hiding spots or quiet hiding spots is a question of personal preferences. I prefer hiding spots where I am alone with my thoughts. The most difficult work problems get solved on runs.

And sometimes a hiding spot can just be found in a glass of wine in front of the TV at night.

Sometimes temporary laziness is the best thing I can do for myself.

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We Successfully Met

I attract work. In general I am a hands-on person that approaches things with the question “What can we do?” instead of approaching topics with the more pessimistic statement “This does not work.”. I firmly believe that success is the result of hard work and that luck and opportunities is something you create for yourself.

I like being busy. Not mindlessly busy. But busy enough, so I know how I am spending my time and by the end of it have something accomplished. Unlike most people I do not necessarily mind meetings, presentations, and discussions. There are so many people who are afraid of meetings, see them as a waste of time, and would rather sit at their desk to get the work done instead of talking about it.

Yes, true.

Meetings can appear worthless and mindless.

Yes, often the same stuff is discussed over and over.

Often people sit in meetings without really being needed or if needed do not contribute. Or are working on something else instead of listening to what is being said.

I am not boring you now with the usual: You need to have an agenda, write meeting minutes, and moderate the meeting appropriately in order to be successful, you need to have a to do list and follow up on these actions regularly, bla bla bla. This has all been said too much. And in reality meetings today have not significantly improved. Therefore, the root cause is generally different.

All the pressure of having a successful meeting is put on the administrator. If you ever have been a meeting administrator you know how much effort it takes. Despite all the efforts often meetings are just not as successful as they need to be. Yes, of course there are meetings that can be avoided when you simply just pick up the phone and call someone. There is not always the need for a meeting. But often meetings are needed to get aligned and to share thoughts and progress. But who should take the burden of ensuring a successful meeting? 

What I am saying now puts the success pressure not on the administration of a meeting, but more the participation. If you as an invitee do not plan on participating actively, do not have time to be hands-on and knee-deep in the dirt, and do not understand how you can contribute, just excuse yourself and do not show up. Excuse yourself means picking up the phone or writing a short note: “I cannot particpate, because my work load does not allow so.” There is no need to be one of the spectators and to be another warm body in the room or another mute person on the audio. There are too many spectators in the audience anyways. 

There is hardly any meeting I am attending that I am not getting my name on a to do list. While that keeps me busy and determines how I spend my day, this is not the reason why I like seeing my name on lists.  Keeping myself activiely involved and participating in the discussion, helps me in driving the right actions and priorities. Being actively involved is also a branding strategy. I want to be known as a good business partner, who is not shy and really drives progress.

Of course promises need to be followed by actions. Therefore, you need to understand your own schedule and work capacity well. Do not commit to actions if you do not have the time or bandwidth to support in a timely fashion. Be honest. Tell the audience if you think an action is worthwhile, but it is not prioritized by management and thus will not be completed. Let them know “what it takes” to get something done.

Meetings are not an annoyance and a waste of time, if you use your time wisely and utilze these meetings to actually communicate something. The more you drive the less likely it is that actions and decisions will negatively impact you without prior warning. 

Thinking that meetings are evil and prevent you from getting work done is false. In this global economy we no longer can afford to think in chimneys and do work hidden at our desks without sharing our findings regularly. Often in a global team you cannot get by without meetings; you simply schedule meetings to remember and commit to a time where you meet in order not to forget.  

Successful meetings are hard work for everyone.
Commit to the meetings you are attending and be a key player to drive discussions and then actions.

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