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 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 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 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 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 7:33 PM