December 10, 2005

Course Reflections

Where do I start? Kudos to Aimee for being very well prepared in presenting information to the class! She did a great job of encouraging discussion of the topics amongst our classmates. I found the discussions very interesting as people shared their work and team experiences with the class. There was also the fresh perspective from those who have not really been out in the working world yet, a perspective I don’t hear too often, and one I may have had many moons ago. Time and experience have definitely changed that perspective! Sharing information in class was something I definitely enjoyed, even though I did more listening than speaking.

“Fish? was a great way to send off the class, in that it inspired people to have more fun at work and to take pride in what they do. Work is a given for almost all of us, and I think the tools recommended in “Fish? can go a long way in creating a better work environment. These principles are ones that I may have learned in the past, but it was a good reminder to me that positive changes can yield positive results, and “ruts? are only as temporary as you make them (most of the time).

?The Tipping Point? was a great perspective on group dynamics and was encouraging in showing how individuals can make a big difference in life! I enjoyed reading this, as well as the Goleman and Fujishin books, and I think that the reading materials were all excellent in providing insight into teamwork, group interaction, self-analysis and leadership. There was a good balance of reading materials, written assignments, class activities and presentations. Many of my other classes have relied too heavily on one or the other, and the work becomes tedious. Way to mix it up, Aimee!

I am taking from this course some very useful information on team, group and leadership concepts. Although some of it I already knew through experience, it was good reinforcement for me. I learned some new things as well, and I think covering the aspects of prominent leaders in our WebQuest presentations was inspirational. I consider myself a leader at times, when I choose to play the role. This class has re-emphasized for me the important fact that there is always room for improvement, and that input is necessary from all members of a team in order for the team to be successful. Hopefully the self-analyses will help people to get to know themselves better, and help them recognize their strengths and weaknesses. This has worked for me over the years, and I definitely advocate this practice. There is always room for improvement, and you should always shoot for the stars. After all, we all have things that we can leave behind when we depart from this life. In the meantime, enjoy the journey, learn, share, and love the life!

Posted by at at 12:15 PM

December 6, 2005

In A Rut

Currently I am trying to juggle a full time job, an on-call job and 3 classes at the University of Minnesota. This juggling act has put me in a rut in the last few months as I try to prioritize my responsibilities, and try to give my best all the time. There is not enough of me to go around, and I feel like I am not giving either 100% at school or 100% at work, not to mention not having much time to keep up with my personal life.

Yes, here we have it again..another ride on life's roller coaster. As life is a series of peaks and valleys, we all seem to eventually end up in a valley, in a rut. So, how do we head for the peaks and leave the valleys behind? Historically, change has worked for me, whether it be moving to a new home, moving out of state or changing jobs. Drastic changes such as these are not always necessary to get out of a rut. But CHANGE is key.

Employing the concepts from "Fish", "Choose your attitude" is a great way to start. I need to focus on work when I am there, and leave my schoolwork for school and home time. Knowing that I am close to attaining my degree, it is difficult some days to focus on my current job that I will leaving behind in a year or so after I graduate from the U of M. However, my employer is helping pay my tuition, and this is a major part of the rut that I am in right now. How can I remain loyal to both my job and myself (as I pursue my education)?

Perhaps, I need to get more involved at work when I am there and "Be Present". This is something I have to do at school in group discussions as well. By doing so, I can feel that I am putting forth my best effort in the given situation. "Make Their Day" is a philosophy that is very rewarding when practiced, and if I combine this principle from "Fish", along with "Be Present", I can feel more involved and will truly feel like I am part of a sharing situation.

Our office could definitely use some of the "Play" principle mentioned in "Fish". We pretty much have an uptight corporate atmosphere most of the time, and I think adapting a more playful environment could actually increase productivity and go a long way toward boosting morale! I mentioned the book, "Fish" to my boss, and she wants to read it. Hopefully, between she and I (and the rest of our staff), we can come up with creative ideas to "lighten up" the office. I think it will only yield positive results, and maybe I will get out of my rut once I feel like I have truly contributed to making our office a happier place . After all, we spend many hours a week there, so it might as well be enjoyable!

Posted by at at 8:52 PM

November 30, 2005

Our Children Are "Tipping" Over

The subject I have chosen to discuss as something that has already "tipped" is the diagnosis of ADHD in children and the subsequent prescribing of drugs to "control" this. This is a controversial subject and I feel very strongly that like so many other "illnesses" or "disorders", this one is overly diagnosed and as a result, many children are floating through their childhoods like zombies.

ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) are diagnoses often handed out by physicians to children who are overactive or have limited attention span problems. Although I agree that some children may have real physiological and/or psychological issues that cause them to be overly active or not clearly focused, I think they are a small percentage of the children who are on medication today for ADHD.

So, how does this relate to Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point"? Well, I think the situation began "tipping" in the late 1990's and has gotten out of control. ADHD gots its official name as a disorder by the NIH in 1980, although hyperactivity in children had been studied since the beginning of the 1900's. Beginning in the late 1990's, the FDA began to approve several drugs to administer to children for this "disorder". Previously, Ritalin had been the main drug used to treat hyperactivity, but from 1996 to 2002, such drugs as Adderal, Concerta, Metadate, Focalin and Strattera emerged.

Advertising was a major "stickiness factor" in helping tip the use of ADHD medication. Magazine and television ads showed how medication could make your hyperactive child docile and more manageable. Parents could now go on with their daily lives and not have to worry about their children being overly active. The children would now be focused on the parents and listen more intently so the parents would only have to tell a child what to do once. This drives me nuts!

I have seen two children very dear to my heart change into mellowed out shells of what they once were. There is a propensity in our society to think that a pill is the cure-all for anything that isn't "quite right" with us. One of the two children I am referring to is my niece, and it is now so much easier for my sister to watch her child grow from afar as she does all she needs to do with her busy life. In case you haven't noticed, I am vehemently against administering medications to children on a long term basis unless they have a life threatening illness. I do not believe my niece or my friend's daughter (who have now been taking medication daily for the last several years) need this medication. They used to be very active, intelligent children, full of energy. They needed attention and were full of life and full of affection. Now they are more subdued, tranquil and obedient. How nice for their mothers. What are they going to be like when they get older? Also, why weren't they allowed to just be children?

The following is an excerpt from a blog on the ADHD Help Center website ( The situation has definitely tipped:

"Prescriptions for stimulant medications to treat ADHD and Attention Deficit Disorder skyrocketed over the past decade, as have reports of Ritalin abuse. New medications continue to appear to meet the demand. Never in history have there been so many “ADHD? people. Never in history have so many people taken stimulant medications for ADHD and Attention Deficit Disorder.

Yet despite the long history of ADHD and millions of children currently taking ADHD medications, there is still a lack of adequate data on the long-term effects that ADHD treatments have on children. I wonder what the doctors and parents of tomorrow will say about the indiscriminate drugging of our children."

I have been around many children of all ages, although I have none myself. Children need to run, play, exercise, breathe fresh air, and experience life. Parents should be there to help guide them and not domesticate them into trained animals. OK, I may be exaggerating slightly, but this problem tipped in the 1990's and still exists today. It all stems from overactive parents who lead busy lives and selfishly do not put their children first. Many of them are probably on precription drugs that are prescribed for "conditions" they believe they have. How did we survive so many centuries without all of these medications? How will our children ever learn what it feels like to not be medicated if they are doomed to be diagnosed with ADHD and forced to take medication every day of their childhood? Our country is full of hypochondriacs and now it has moved down the line to our children.

I say "stop the madness" and get a healthier family environment movement to tip. Let's change the "The Law of The Few" connectors to include role model parents and children of free expression, rather than the doctors and pharmaceutical companies who are currently helping tip the ADHD epidemic.

Once this epidemic tipped in the 1990's, "The Power of Context" prevailed and parents everywhere began jumping on the bandwagon. As Gladwell states, "human beings are a lot more sensitive to their environment than they think." I'm not sure how we are going to reverse this trend, but I hope it happens soon. Otherwise, our future generations may become medicated robots and become dehumanized! Hopefully this situation will tip in the opposite direction and there will be hope for both today's children and the children of tomorrow!

Posted by at at 7:03 PM

November 27, 2005

Tipping Point Reflections

Several points jump out at me after reading "The Tipping Point". I think Gladwell uses great examples to illustrate his points. The Kitty Genovese story in the first chapter is one I first heard many years ago (in junior high school). It was first relayed to me in a Civics class and the intent of telling the story was to make myself and my classmates more aware of what was going on around us, and to make us want to become more responsible citizens. It was interesting to hear the story again from a different perspective. Gladwell clearly shows the power of context in that people generally expect others to take charge if there are many others who can, while they usually don't think twice about responding if they are the only one who can respond. It was interesting that humans tend to divert responsibility from themselves when someone else can take it on their shoulders. This illustrates the "The Law of the Few" well as only about 20% of the people are responsible for 80% of what happens (according to Gladwell).

As far as the "Stickiness Factor", he used a great example in Sesame Street. We discussed this in class and also mentioned such products of television as "Grammar Rock" and "History Rock". When these shows have a universal appeal to children, knowledge is shared and the information sticks. Advertising slogans and logos are also effective examples of the stickiness factor. Immediately coming to mind are the slogans, "Where's the beef?" and "Just Do It", from Wendy's and Nike, respectively.

One part of the book that got me thinking was the Rule of 150 in Chapter 5. As this applies in my corporate job, it is a definite example of "too many chefs spoiling the broth". With the hierarchal structure of our mother company and our corporate owner, we far exceed the Rule of 150, and as a result, communication and efficiency at times are pretty poor. Within our smaller sales department, this is not the case, as we have much fewer than 150 people. Unfortunately, corporate policies roll down to us, and are often implemented with little to no communication with those whom the policies most directly affect (i.e. our sales department). So much for strength in numbers..I think Gladwell hit it on the head by advocating Dunbar's thoughts on the brain/neocortex ratio and the Rule of 150.

Posted by at at 4:57 PM

November 10, 2005

Teaching the Class & Group Process

Our "Teach the Class" group consisted of members, who, for the most part, know each other well. This familiarity was both an asset and a liability in preparing for our class presentation. We were able to communicate with ease in discussions because of our familiarity, and felt comfortable as a group when we presented to the class. However, we got sidetracked and off course at times when we met in our Breeze sessions and in our group get-together prior to the presentation. This was a new experience for me, as most presentations I have been involved in have been solo presentations or group presentations with people I don't know very well. The dynamics for this presentation were very different than what I have become used to, but I think that our group worked well together, cohesively forming a successful team.

During this group process, I learned that I am definitely a solid outline type of person when it comes to presenting. This has been drilled into my head in presentation courses, and I have seen the positive effects of this type of preparation in both school, and at my office, where I have done several presentations to groups. A strong outline is required to keep everyone on the same page, and to help the individual or group stay on course. Each group member may have their own style, so, as long as each one is on the same page and pulls their weight, the project is likely to be a success. In our "Teach the Class" presentation, I feel that this was definitely the case. There was a trust between group members that each would do their part effectively, and that was something new to me. Doing presentations with people whose work habits you are unfamiliar with creates a situation where trust takes time to develop. Having been in situations where fellow students didn't carry their weight in a team effort, I have learned that clearly stated communication and accountability need to happen amongst all group members.

As far as strengths, I feel like I have the ability to shift the group's focus and flow of discussion back to the points at hand when necessary (when the group gets sidetracked). With a group I am very familiar with, this becomes a little more difficult. However, reminding others what is at stake has proved to be a good tool for me to use in previous group presentations. One weakness (or possible stength) is to just go ahead and do my part, and then present it to the group when communications stall. It seems that having something tangible to critique moves the process forward from an ideological state to a state of actuality, and the project becomes "real". This helps encourage others that "doing" is actually just as important as "planning" the project.

The group process definitely entails having faith and trust in your group members. Priscilla was the only group member that I had to develop new trust with (since I did not know her well), and the trust didn't take long to happen. Her introduction delivery in our presentation cemented my trust in her, as I thought she pulled it off flawlessly. Thanks, Priscilla!

One lack of attention to detail that occured in our presentation was our lack of preparing for possible technical difficulties. Dave did a great job of being the project coordinator, and Dan was great as a team lead. Both of these guys kept the communication lines open and flowing amongst our team members. However, we did have some technological glitches, and this may have been prevented had we gotten together and formally practiced the presentation prior to the actual presentation. This type of preparation helped make previous group efforts that I have been involved with more successful. Unfortunately, time and schedule conflicts prevented our group from being able to do a "trial run" and foresee any technological glitches that might occur. We discussed "ethos" a lot in our presentation, and this faux pas, unfortunately, did not help us establish ethos during our presentation.

Overall, I thought this to be a great experience. I enjoy everything I learn when dealing with people, and this experience was no different. I hope to reinforce positives from the experience and improve upon the shortcomings. After all, striving for improvement is something we all have to do as members of the human race!

Posted by at at 8:36 PM

October 22, 2005

A Cool Breeze

I felt that our meeting in Breeze on Thursday was great. Although we did not use a lot of the functions it has to offer, I can see that it offers far many more tools than your average chatroom. Being able for five of us to communicate at once from five different locations was both a convenient and efficient way to discuss our project. We got our project off to a great start as we were able to "brainstorm" ideas about preparing visual data.

We plan on using Breeze to meet again in the future and will hopefully use some of the other features it has to offer. We did use the polling feature on a few issues and that proved to be an efficient tool. Our ideas were outlined nicely in the Notes section. Perhaps in our future meetings, we can use some of the audio and visual features of Breeze by using webcams and microphones.

One thing about Breeze that is consistent with chatrooms is that people type at different speeds and you have to have a quick roaming eye to keep up with the flow of comments and enter your own. This is especially true if the other participants are fast typists. One thing this does allow you to do is to make a comment as soon as you think about it, rather than having to wait for the proper time to interject in a face-to-face meeting, so as not to interrupt. I think in this way virtual meetings such as Breeze allow more for the process of free flowing thoughts and ideas. It also allows people who have a difficult time speaking up in a group to have a "stronger" voice. Of course, one of the downfalls is not seeing body language or hearing tone inflection, but with the use of webcams and microphones, these problems can be alleviated.

All in all, I enjoyed using Breeze and hope to learn more about these types of technologies. This was pretty much my first experience with such a tool, having only participated in standard chatrooms and in ITV classes previously. As technology grows and the world gets "smaller", it will be necessary for me to become more familiar with these technologies and the tools they offer. I look forward to using Breeze again in the future.

Posted by at at 8:57 AM

October 21, 2005

Goleman at Work

This is just a short story that I would like to share to relate Goleman's emotional intelligence to a situation that occured at my job in the last few days. As previously mentioned, I work in Sales and this summer one of our vendors held a contest to encourage sales of their ice machines. They offered a tiered program where the prizes increased as you sold larger machines. The contest ended August 31 and prize checks were to be mailed out October 1. A 1099 tax form was going to be done for each salesperson, which means that the prize earnings were to be reported to the IRS and that each individual would be responsible to claim their earnings on their 2005 tax forms. These rules were outlined in the contest brochure, along with some other more ambiguous rules. Our sales trainer and department head were not involved in clarifying the ambiguity in the rules; that baton was passed on to yours truly.

So, I "took the bull by the horns", spoke to the vendor and clarified the ambiguous rules listed in the contest brochure for our entire department. When the contest ended, our corporate payroll office decided to get involved and a debate was created as to how we would receive our contest rewards. The debate was whether to follow the guidelines outlined in the brochure and have each of us receive our checks and a 1099 form, or whether to put the earnings on our regular payroll check. To make a long story short, this caused delays and new checks have to be issued now. This resulted with an e-mail from our department head saying that the checks would now be sent to us by the middle of November. This news was not received well by anyone in our department, and definitely not by me. My reward was to be $720.00 and everyone in our department (approximately 15 people) was expecting at least $400.00. This amounts to several thousand dollars which is now not going to be paid out until 5-6 weeks after the initial promised date. Here's where Goleman comes in.

We got our e-mail Wednesday afternoon, and there was a previously scheduled department meeting scheduled Thursday morning. I planned on bringing up the topic in the meeting and pointing out that no one got involved with the contest on the management or corporate level until it was time for us to get paid, and the end result was that they ended up delaying our payouts. Since I took the time to clarify the rules and make sure that we turned in everything on time per the rules, I was very angry at this. I was ready to "let my manager have it" at the morning meeting. Everyone in our department shared my feelings. I have a great relationship with the head of our department as she was formerly my immediate supervisor and we have mutual respect for each other. She has "dropped the ball" in handling situations previously and most people in our department feel like she doesn't go to bat for us enough. I usually ignore the comments and try to take her position in management into consideration, and have not really rocked the boat. But, this time, I shared the feelings of other department members and felt slighted and not-supported after we earned our company a great deal of money by selling many many ice machines! But then the 24 hour rule and a cooler head prevailed.

I did not sleep well Wednesday evening as I prepared my speech for Thursday. After much thought, I felt too much respect for our department head Diane, and I went into work early to discuss this issue with her one-on-one in her office prior to the meeting. She was unaware of the department's reactions, and I presented our point of view. She explained to me that our corporate people and our trainer got her involved at the last minute, and that no one had really taken the contest by the reins previously. This was exactly one of my points, and after hearing where members of our Sales department stood on our "abandonment" issue, she was empathetic toward us. She had not been planning to discuss the contest at the meeting, but I encouraged her to do so to help department morale. I made Diane understand how important this was to all of us. She said she would look into expediting payments of the checks, and I told her that what we needed to hear was that there would be no more roadblocks in us receiving our checks by mid-November, and she assured me she would find the direct contact to ensure everything was in order to accomplish this. Diane prioritized the issue by discussing it first in our meeting, and in the ensuing one, and what she said was well received as her sincerity was evident.

Mission accomplished! And with the help of Goleman, I used emotional intelligence skills to cool off and take a more professional approach. With me empathizing with everyone's situation, I was able to effectively communicate with Diane and she followed suit with effective empathy toward us. Communication, empathy, respect, motivation, self-control, self-assurance, adaptability and initiative were just some of Goleman's emotional intelligence skills that came into play in this touchy situation. Everyone seems confident that this situation will be resolved on time and we will get paid our due rewards. Let's hope it plays out this way, and there is a happy ending to this story!

Posted by at at 4:29 PM

October 18, 2005

Final Thoughts-Goleman/EI

My overall feeling about Goleman's framework for emotional intelligence is that all of his suggestions are great in theory and when practiced. The guidelines are pretty straightforward, but not always easy to achieve in a team situation. I think that he balances the scales in the working world by suggesting that those who may lack some technical knowledge can still excel by improving upon their emotional intelligence skills. That is not to say that gaining the technical knowledge is not important, but rather that the knowledge can take you a lot further if you have emotional intelligence skills to boot.

People skills are incredibly important in the working world, and how you view yourself affects how you view and treat others. Application of Goleman's personal and social competence skills are key to succeeding in the business world. His guidelines for training emotional competence skills are also a good roadmap for supervisors to encourage emotional intelligence at a job. Excellent communication skills are mentioned throughout his book, and are also vital to success in the working world.

Taking pride in what you do amounts to step 1 for me; most of the other skills follow through time and experience. My advice to those just starting out in the working world is to care about yourself and your job, put your best effort forward and keep an open mind about learning new things and adapting to changes. A mutual respect will form between you and your coworkers, and your communication skills will improve. It sounds simple, but it works. Goleman would likely agree with me.

Posted by at at 7:08 PM

October 13, 2005

Fujishin's Dysfunctional Roles

I think that there are 2 of Fujishin's dysfunctional roles that I may worry about in team situations. They are contradictory roles, but in different circumstances, I think that they may rear their ugly heads. The first is the pleaser, and this might happen with me in my first meeting or two with a group. I tend to listen to others and try and get a feel for them before I begin actively participating. If I am asked directly, I will probably state my honest opinion if I have formed one yet. Otherwise, I would tend to listen to the group and quietly take in their comments. However, if I am vehemently opposed to their views, I would likely speak up. The key to me avoiding this is to try and speak up early and not fall into the trap of feeling uncomfortable about stating an opposing view. It is easier for me to say what I feel if I don't have the pre-supposition that everyone else is on a different page.

After the initial "feeling out" process, a big change might occur as I gain confidence or see a need to take over leadership of the group. This may lead to me playing the role of the controller. I have learned in life that we have to seize opportunities at times, grab the reins and guide the ship. This leadership could help guide the team, but if I get little feedback, then I may start "controlling" the situation. The solution to this would be to promote and encourage feedback from the team, which I would certainly have an open ear to. We could then make decisions as a team, and not have one person controlling the group. I tend to try and prevent this from happening when I see others getting into the "control" mode by offering comments and suggestions of my own, while encouraging others to speak up, too. Once again, this changes the dynamics of the group into a "team" again with all players on a level field.

Posted by at at 8:40 AM

October 5, 2005

Personal Mission Statement

My personal mission statement is as follows: To continue to live an honest, adventurous life where my experiences allow me to learn from, and share, with others; in doing so, I hope to realize personal goals and dreams as I give back to life all the gifts I will surely receive along the way.

My mission statement was fairly easy to develop as it comes from a lifetime of process. I consider myself a student of life, as well as a teacher. Many of these experiences that have formed my mission statement have not come without struggle or pain. But that too is part of life, and we have to accept that we will go through tough times occasionally. Overcoming these adversities and learning from these experiences make us stronger and help us to understand the way life works. Don't get me wrong; I, like everyone else, do not have all the answers to life. I still question why certain things have happened to me at certain times in my life, but upon reflection, I generally find some type of reasoning behind them or decide that maybe clarity will come later. I also am aware that life is unpredictable and unexplainable, and those facts have to be accepted as well when trying to get a perspective on life. We are all God's creatures and come in contact with many others during the course of our lives. If we can share something with a fraction of these people, we will also have things shared with us. This is a simplistic concept that is not always simple in its applications, but for me, it definitely works.

As far as my role in a team I think that honesty, integrity and good communication skills are great qualities to have. The ability to share and learn from others are also good attributes of a "team" player. I have been involved in many teams over my working career (well over 20 some years), and these qualities have taken time to develop to where they are today. Much of this development has come from my learning from others, and we must always keep an open mind to fresh perspectives.

My immediate career plan is to become a technical writer, and eventually pen a novel (or 2 or 3 or 4!). These goals & dreams I hope to realize as I mentioned in my mission statement. I think the team qualities I mentioned in the previous paragraph are very important in technical writing as the projects I will be working on will involve the input of many different people. Excellent communication skills, listening skills and flexibility will be key to the success of these projects. Since I want to learn from every new experience I encounter in life, I hope that this attitude will help keep each new project fresh and allow me to adapt to the given situation. As far as writing my novel(s), my adventurous side will play a role and my dream of getting published will also fulfill my mission statement. I will be able to share with others much of what has been shared with me on this journey we call life.

Posted by at at 7:33 PM