Friday, November 14, 2014

JOB APATHY- A CRISIS OF NOTHINGNESS

What excites you at work? Anything…? Maybe nothing. The relationship that we have with our job is a lot more like a marriage than we might ordinarily consider. Assuming that you don’t completely hate your job for a legitimate reason, under which circumstance I would recommend you beginning a serious professional job search immediately, you should operate in your job like a healthy couple that you admire operates in their marriage. I’m challenging you to use this approach and I promise you’ll see the importance of battling the Weak Human Spirit of Nothingness!

What is a Crisis of Nothingness? It is the state of having a dullness or indifference for something that you once held in high regard.  With respect to marriages, nothingness creeps in over time when our focus becomes blurred with illusions of the truth and our motivations are selfishly skewed. Nothingness is not about resentment or anger, but is more toxic to a committed relationship because of its idleness and extinction for concern. Resentment and anger involve us using our emotional mind. Even when we think we could never forgive our spouse for a transgression against us, the fact that we become emotional about it means that we care on some level about that person.  The absence of emotions is a hallmark trait in all crises of nothingness.

So have you and your job lost that loving feeling?  Can you think back to the last time you felt passionate about your job? Is the only motivation you have when you punch the timeclock knowing that in eight hours you get to go home? Dullness, like in a marriage, can ruin the relationship that you have with your job.  I’m not saying that it will never happen, but I am saying that you need to know when the feelings you once had about your job and career have retreated. 

Now, think back to that married couple that you admire. The next time you see them ask the question, “What did you do to energize your marriage during those times when it became unemotional”? The answers may vary tremendously, but the point of the question is not to determine if the dullness crept in, but that the great relationships recognize it and fight back. Whether your career has stalled or you just need a little extra encouragement, understanding how to thrive in place is a great way to avoid an apathetic approach to you job.

Thriving in place in a humbling approach in a fast paced world of climbing corporate ladders.  To the world our worth is calculated in status and great accomplishments. But how reasonable is it for us to have an attitude of “all or nothing”?  160 Million American tax payers go to work each day and are led by 10,000 CEOs. That means that 159,990,000 of us have fallen short of the “World’s Expectations”! Crushing dreams isn’t my intent, but seeing people become defeated and disconnected in their current positions is a reality that needs to be addressed. The workforce is in a crisis of nothingness because of unrealistic expectations that anyone who isn’t the “top dog” is a lesser employee.  Perceived or actual, the result is a workforce that becomes apathetic and dull for the job that it once loved. The best married couples always bring out the best in each other, especially in the disappointing seasons in our lives.  Those couples always find a way remember the reason they are together and redefine prosperity and put disappointment into perspective for what really matters.

Marriages are all different and mature in different ways at different speeds. Our professional maturity in our jobs is dependent on having an attitude of remembering our love for our career decision, reminding ourselves to fight the apathy, and transform ourselves into employees that can thrive in place.  The crisis of nothingness is not new, but is infecting more and more people in the workplace.  It’s time for somebody to take a stand and fall back in love with their job.

Why Wait,

Clint Hamner

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Workplace Envy


 

Back in my younger days we loved to play board games; Pictionary, Balderdash, Cranium, and even Monopoly.  But one game stood out as my favorite. It was a quiz game called Trivial Pursuit.  The objective of the game was to complete the board by answering genre specific questions that were color coded to locations on the game board. The categories ranged from science to sports and even tested your knowledge of history and literature. Being a particularly arrogant intellectual, I loved this game and usually finished my board before most of the others.  The group of friends that I played this game with the most included a sibling group of two brothers and a sister.  We usually played the game at their house where the game was kept.  One night the game was very competitive and an extremely hard question came up in the Literature category. “What is the middle name of Thoreau’s grandmother’s childhood best friend’s neighbor’s aunt?” Of course, I know now that the answer is Nottingham! But I was a bit surprised when my friend’s sister spit out the correct answer all those years ago to win the board!

 

“Screw you Jessica! There is no way you should know that. Now everybody knows you read the cards when you’re taking a crap”, her brother accused!  The situation was tense.  The long assumed speculation had become truth---She had been cheating all those years, or had she?

 

Staying late, taking extra responsibilities, making small talk with your superiors, and following policies may seem like cheating to some co-workers. Self-promotion is probably the most hated co-worker trait that we could have if people were honest. It may even seem like the equivalent of Jessica reading the trivial pursuit cards on the can.

 

It took quite a few years for me to see the dedication and effort it must have taken on Jessica’s part to grab that stack of game cards and sit focused, gaining information while losing lunch.  When I decided in retrospect that the tactic was genius, I began to see those self-promoting behaviors as advantages that I wasn’t capitalizing on.  The best part about promoting yourself is that it costs very little and has the potential of huge returns.  The worst part is that the secret isn’t entirely out and that some co-workers mask their envy with back-biting.  The worst thing that can happen is when jealous behaviors take place without any reason. 

 

If your find yourself on the wrong side of this equation, the great equalizer to workplace envy is easily attainable by everyone.  Be a good employee, do extra without being asked, and act nicely to everyone and a lot of those feelings of resentment will disappear when you realize the opportunities and experiences that will come your way as a result.  The adage of “your hard work will be rewarded with more hard work” is 100% true.  But to those that hard work seems like a burden, they will never know the feeling of victory as a result of extra work and dedication. The truth is, you may feel like you’ve just ridden to the beach in the back of a garbage truck, but, remember, you’re at the beach! 

 

Don’t let the idea of others thinking of you as a suck-up or cheat change your dedication and effort towards self-promotion.  Tell the skeptics the secret, and be sure to tell them it’s free.  It may even be hard at first. I’m sure Jessica didn’t feel 100% sure about her bathroom study sessions, but you should have seen her face when it paid off!

 

High Fiber Success Story,

 

Clint Hamner

 

 

Project Management 2.0


Universal Project Management

 

Project Management has become an overcomplicated concept in recent years.  The reality is that the idea behind managing a project of any size or complexity is dependent on one or more key individuals doing what they can to complete the project.  Unfortunately, project management professionals in all industries are spending their days focusing 100% of their precious time worrying about the activity of the day.  Sure, the project can’t be completed without accomplishing each task, but managing with the end in mind has lost its practicality. Additionally, the drama and theatrics of making progress, along with “glory-hogging”, has led to extreme difficulties in being successful.  Remembering the goal, making each decision with the end in mind, and taking your pride out of the process will almost guarantee success for any project and bring any naysaying shareholders into conformity with your principles.  I have five tips for projects managers that will keep you focused on the end result and help you fight the urge to be lost in the problem of the day.

 


 

Misery Loves Company, But Companies Hate Misery

Why do we love being so miserably lost in mounds of paper work and correspondence? Because it seems normal and there is always someone who is in worse shape, right! The team approach to project management is just like little league baseball, you are only as strong as your weakest link.  When we are caught comparing ourselves to the ones around us who are just as miserable and behind in their work.  Project Management is about peer leadership. This type of leadership implies that a culture of purpose should exist in all tasks and positions. In the absence of leadership, misery sneaks in and creates a culture of its own. The destruction left in misery’s wake may take a too long to recognize leaving the project objectives unrecoverable.  Successful projects depend on Team leadership and an aggression against conforming into misery.

 

 

The 2-Minute Rule

Nobody is immune from losing control of the day. A simple way to help you own cause is to take care of any seemingly small or inconsequential item immediately.  If you have time to use the restroom you have time to return a quick phone call or order materials.  Where we really lose control of our days is when a “crisis” occurs and by time we resolve it the day is shot and those 25 two minute items either force us to stay late and drive us into misery, or begin the next day behind and allow the vicious cycle to continue, knowing tomorrow’s crisis will perpetually control us. The payoff isn’t in the urgency and importance of completing the Two-Minute Items, it’s in the assurance of knowing that our focus can stay on effectively managing our projects by keeping control of our day.

 

 


 

 Safe Vertical Communication

Force tough conversations to take place early to show that conflict should not choke off the flow of communication. Too often, as soon as the first show of dissatisfaction or criticism takes place between team members the project immediately begins to suffer. Again, team leadership in project management should be put in place because of the environment and culture that it creates.  One of the key components of team leadership is safe communication.  When you know that no matter what you have to say that it will be received and considered, the creativity and progression of the project will be enhanced. Each person matters, and the sooner that the concept of safe vertical communication is established great things will happen.

 

 


 


 

 Scope, Schedule, Budget, and Relationships

Rigid metrics like scope, schedule, and budget ultimately gauge the success of all projects to those peering in from the outside.  For those of us that are responsible for completing projects, the measuring stick that we should use is how excited the client and other team members would be to work with you in the future.  Building and maintaining relationships with everyone one involved creates a heightened concern for the role that task interdependence plays in all Project Management. The initial and continued investment in others through a relationships is a budget item that you cannot afford not to allocate. The schedule will never be met without the tough conversations that often get delayed because of personal preference about certain team members.  Eventually, all projects will fall victim to a deliverables issue, and without powerful positive relationships, deception will take the place of timely transparency. When people matter, the team is strengthened and the focus will stay on a project being on scope, on schedule, and on budget.

 

 


 

Oh You Know Why, Don’t You…?

Nothing is more frustrating than doing a task without knowing why you are doing it and what purpose it serves. Try to avoid assuming that each team member knows exactly what they are contributing to the overall project.  Imagine being slapped in the face by a stranger for no reason while they stare at you with disappointment. Sometimes the most obvious tasks can seem ambiguous without an environment that promotes the end result as a daily part of the project. Meetings are generally terrible things, but by having a strong kick-off meeting, quick progress updates weekly, and “job-box” site meetings at the production level the “why” of every task can suddenly have meaning—while building your team and accomplishing the goal.

Monday, July 21, 2014

INTERVIEW WITH A HIRING MANAGER


Obviously, there are lots of memories. It doesn’t seem right to have a favorite one though.  Sure, some of them stood out more than others, but the time spent with all of them taught me about the good and bad in this world and that no matter what I thought I couldn’t have them all.  The few that got away humbled me. The few that failed hurt me. The countless others that never got a chance left me thinking. Nonetheless, my job was to hear their stories and make a decision. If someone kept my full attention for an entire hour it didn’t necessarily mean they would be chosen—“time in chair” was not a contributing factor.  I was often repulsed by the smells of my company.  Rarely for foul odors, just for aromatic stimulation that distracted my brain from working as efficiently as it could.  Perfumes, colognes, aftershaves, lotions, shampoos, and even fabric softener derailed my thinking.  It’s as if I needed to offer them the advice prior to our first face to face meeting about how to smell or how not click their pens or answer their phones. Other inconsistencies that made it impossibly difficult to take people seriously were tardiness, a lack of confidence, poor communication, disingenuousness, and did I mention the perfume. Catching people in a lie was disappointing.  Explaining my expectations and seeing the fleeting enthusiasm leave their skin pale and clammy was a letdown as well. You are not selling me, I’m buying you!  I can recall one stretch of time when it was particularly tough.  For 40 straight days I watched set after set of desirous lips spew self-centered propaganda at me as I trained myself to actually care.  If they weren’t what I wanted I ended it quick and painlessly.  I sent them on their unsuspecting way—“Don’t call us, we’ll call you”.  Life is tough enough with those you love.  Spending your precious finite time with someone who doesn’t at least seem to care is a bit deflating, don’t you think?  That’s why I forced myself to smile and nod. And as a courteous final test I gave them a chance to quiz the quizzer.  I yearned to be exposed and tested in those final vulnerable moments. Overwhelmingly, the masses infrequently took the opportunity to reciprocate.  They were willing to change their life for me and they didn’t have one single question. Impossible! It’s the equivalent of getting married without knowing your bride’s middle name or her favorite color! For God’s sake why didn’t more of them just ask a question.  No one is exempt from extreme boredom, not even me.  Once I asked someone which of the NSYNC members they wished they could be.  Timberlake is the apparent leader, Joey Fatone was clearly the workhorse, Lance Bass represents growing diversity, and the other 2 dudes are, well, who gives a shit. Creatively I pushed the envelope of what the law allowed me to do. The law says nothing about overstating simple phases, asking leading questions, or sitting in silence knowing that its uncomfortableness will be broken with invaluable information that I will use to my advantage. My life existed to research, sit, listen, interpret, discern.  Don’t be nervous I told them, it’s just an interview. Without me, no one would ever have been chosen.

Remember, no matter how tough it gets, Every One Counts!

Happy Interviewing,

Clint Hamner

Post Script- This was Satire!

 

 

 

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Invention of Sexting: Building Trust Through Risk


I pity the adolescent generation of today.  Their lives are too “plugged in” and excessively automated.  They were raised on cushy playgrounds with heavy supervision. They have never known a world without an internet. They have never known a life without a Facebook or Twitter account. They have never known what it is like to get last place.  They have never known a life without the fear of being screenshot. Consequently, their ability to take risks is diminished because everything is assumed to be automatic.  This diminished ability to take risks is troubling to me primarily because of the lessons we learn about trust when we take risks. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but we always learn a little bit about how far we can go and, at the end of the day, who has our back.

AOL Instant Messenger was the social media heavy hitter of my generation.  If you had a dial up connection and 1.5MB of available hardrive you could set up your account in minutes and connect to general groups of people or engage in person to person chatting by sending a message to their unique screen name.

For the sake of protecting the innocent I will refer to my friend in this story as Barney. 

Barney came through the screen door of my trailer with a look of confusion and opportunity.  These were the days before cell phones so an unexpected guest was always welcome and never viewed as rude or imposing. 

“You have a digital camera, don’t you?”, Barney questioned.

Earlier that month I had opened an account with the Internet Service Provider Earthlink.  The conditions of the contract stipulated that I would receive a 3Megapixel 16MB Digital Camera.

“I need you to take a picture of me.”, Barney muttered.

I agreed and told him that the camera was in the middle bedroom and that I would go get it. Barney followed me into room and said, “let’s take the picture in here”, as he began to take his shirt off!

What the heck was this guy doing, trying out for REALWORLD Auburn!  As uncomfortable as I was, it apparently wasn’t that bad because I spent the next five minutes clicking photo after photo until the memory was full on the promotional Earthlink camera.

“Why do you need shirtless pictures of yourself?”, I inquired.

“There is this girl in Georgia that I’ve been chatting with on AOL Instant Messenger and she told me that if I sent her a topless picture that she would send one back.”

Unbeknownst to us, Barney had just invented SEXTING!

We plugged in the camera and reviewed the photos until he decided on the one that would seal the deal. It was a nice shot of Barney. He was quarter-turned to the lens, shoulders back, face and lips tense, the eyes of a mustached van driving pervert, and  unkempt chest hair like a mangy dog-- how could this not work!

This was in the days before “To Catch a Predator”, but I’m sure Barney’s Georgia Peach was really a Cheetos eating fat dude passing the days being whoever he wanted to be online.

“I sent those pics to that girl last night”, Barney proudly told me over the phone the next day. “I haven’t gotten her’s yet, but I’m not giving up!”

He never enjoyed the sight of the mysterious stranger’s bare chest, but he took the chance, invented sexting along the way, and has some really nice shots of his 20 year old self to remember the time he took a risk, trusted a screename, and learned just how far he would go to see a naked girl.

Barney can teach us lesson.  Even the most calculated risks still require a certain amount of trust. So, are the differences between these calculated risks and impulse risks so vast that the trust component is significant?  Maybe, but I propose that through risk taking we develop a better sense of trust in people so that no matter whether the chance is calculated or impulsive we engage them transparently and open handed.

Most trust is compromised when the parties begin to develop a sense of uneasiness for any reason.  Perceived vulnerability is, in my opinion, crucial to the development of any relationship. And through the power of synergy the vulnerability is often reciprocated.  Trusting partnerships have no more or less risk associated with them; the risk is simply more easily accepted.

However, just like Barney, we may get disappointed.  In these circumstances we have to remain positive and quickly identify the lesson to be learned.  Becoming callous, jaded, and bitter will only lead to resentment in all relationships, even the ones that currently have high levels of trust.

Society tells us to be conservative concerning risk, but risk is a building block of trust in any relationship. Trust is critical to any organizational growth.  Everyone is affected and the weakest link will break the chain.  Restore broken trust, don’t resent it.  Be vulnerable and take risks, calculated or otherwise. The outcomes will really surprise you.

Thanks Barney,

Clint Hamner

 

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Excitement of the Moment and the Taste of Regret


 

On October 13th, 2001 the Auburn Tiger Football Team upset the visiting #1 Florida Gators in Jordan Hare Stadium under the lights in front of a raucous crowd.  The game has been ranked as the #1 most exciting game in Auburn football history; and I was there to witness it as a college sophomore sitting in the student section. 

As if the game wasn’t wild enough, the post-game celebration took on a life of its own as the field was stormed by the Auburn faithful and the chaotic frenzy ensued until the south end zone goal posts fell as a spoil of victory into its captor’s arms.  For a fan base that had grown accustomed to being on the losing end of such a tough fought game, the on the field celebration must have been liberating; like a newly potty trained child who can finally triumphantly enjoy their clean dry life. 

The goal post uprights came down slowly, still connected by the crossbar.  The giant yellow letter “U” then began to creep across the mass of people, arms raised high.  Like a crowd surfer at a rock concert the goal posts made their way to the student section seating area and passed by me a few feet away.  One fellow student of mine yelled out across the crowd, “Let’s take it to Toomer’s”.  “Toomer’s”, was in reference to Toomer’s Corner, a sacred piece of campus about 500 yards away where all things Auburn are celebrated.  Luckily, the vomitory was too narrow for the posts to pass and alas the celebration could relocate to outside of the stadium walls, sans the goalposts.

While it was the most exciting thirty minutes that I have ever experienced at a sporting event, it was the most regretful for some students that night. Whether fueled by spirits, adrenaline, or emotion, a few students, like the one pictured above, were pepper sprayed, arrested,  and aggressively subdued by law enforcement. I even observed one student punch a State Trooper!  The moment can change everything.  Eminem raps about losing yourself to the moment; my only caution is don’t lose so much of yourself that you end up punching a Cop!  Excitement should help us remember how good things were, not how regretful we feel about our resulting actions. 

The emotions and excitement of the workplace are a lot like elated sports fans.  Our actions have to be the results of good decisions.  For some people, excitement never ends up in regret because they are cool under fire and maintain great restraint even when faced with emotional or valued based conflict.  For others, the heat of the moment drives a wedge and creates irreparable hurt; this is the taste of regret. It is extremely hard to fully recover from an outburst of regretful excitability of a situation. Peers and followers will question your consistency and will always wonder when the next outburst will be.   

So how can we combat our weak human spirit of excitability?  Should we stop being passionate about our goals? Should we force ourselves into not caring enough to get upset?  NO! We have to practice using controlled productive language that identifies the issue and quickly brings resolution. We also have to continuously state our expectations of each of our employees.  Most of the time when we become negatively excitable, it is too late to reverse the damage of the moment. At this point stating your displeasure like a mad man is counterproductive to the problem.  Maintaining an attitude of resolution and learning from your experience to continuously state your expectation is the optimum approach. 

Too much time is lost and regret born from moments of excitability and displeasure.  Leaders have an obligation to achieving their organization’s mission through influence and respect.  Popping off at your peers and subordinates is just another sign of weakness and reason for distrust.  Everyone wants the best from their employees, but that starts by giving them our best.

Stay Calm and Don’t Punch a Cop,

Clint Hamner

 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Dilemma of Sorts


Harming someone with the intention of bringing their life to an end is murderous, right?

If you asked 100 random people on the street that question, I bet that most all of them would answer yes.  To most people murder is murder. However, the reality of that question can be very complicated and our emotions can cause us to be critical of the context in which the “murderous act” took place.

Consider this example.

Last week I overheard a retired judge telling a story of a murder case that he resided over in a small town in rural Alabama.  The accused was being charged with the murder of her husband. As the judge polled the jury to ensure that there were no conflicts of interest present, he asked if anyone was related to the defendant.  A shy young lady raised her hand and sheepishly responded to the judge, “Yes, she is my mother and my sister”.  The entire courtroom gasped. If he would have known that such an answer would have been given, he may have not asked the question because it ultimately, in his opinion, was the one statement that swayed the jury into a “not guilty” verdict.  Under any other circumstance she was just another murderous wife, but because of the implication of incest the jury was acutely more responsive to the testimony of abuse and harassment that led to the defendant killing her husband.

I’m sure some of the jurors felt conflicted, because murder is murder.  But we can’t be so ridged on matters of circumstances and relationships. Compassion sometimes trumps Justice, and vice versa.

That individualistic criticism of circumstances is what fuels most of our ethical dilemmas. The truth is muddled, and emotions sway our logic.  Simply stated, sometimes our head loses out to our heart. Nonetheless, we always have a choice and must be prepared to make it. Both decisions may be right on some level, but we have to trust our own moral compass to find the “most right” answer.

Leaders are remembered for the decisions that they make.  Too often we only remember the bad decisions and refuse to put our judgment through the lens of an ethical dilemma.  Issues of the heart are not so easily understood. 

My wife is a beautiful woman.  However, there is always one question that she will ask me before we leave the house, “Do I look fat in this”? Now, if she were a plump lady with a complex about her body image I would be forced between making a decision.  Do I tell her the Truth or do I show her Loyalty?  This dilemma, if not handled correctly, could put us back in the courtroom watching another murder trial!  So how do you answer a question like this? YOU LIE LIKE HELL! You choose Loyalty and live with the consequences. That is how you make the “most right” decisions! Does it make you any less of a liar? Of course not, but it is a perfect example of how frequent and potentially damaging ethical dilemmas are to those involved. Judging a leader on an ethical decision means more than snap decisions of disagreements, it means understanding their heart.

Since ethics are simply principles of right conduct, the definition of the word “right” can help us in our understanding dilemmas.  Good leaders, more often than not, do the “right” thing.  Each leader has several options to consider when faced with a perceived ethical dilemma.  Will your decision serve the greatest number, cement your stance on how everyone should always act, or transparently portray expected reciprocity. Each proposed resolution should play a part in bringing peace between the head and heart.

We manage and lead in a world so full of corruption and deceit that passing judgment on someone’s “best decision” when faced with a dilemma is not where we should focus our criticism. Circumstances of situations don’t change the truth, but the best decision making practices of good leaders, doing the right thing, can shape the outcomes of our dilemmas.  Some decisions may affect many people and others will confirm your resolve of good behavior.

You have a choice. Trust your gut and do the right thing.

Clint Hamner