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Archive for June, 2009

Recently my washing machine was acting up.  I’m not an appliance repair person, so here’s my best explanation of what was happening.  Basically, the drum spins really fast at 2 different cycles during the washing period; once during the ‘washing’ cycle, and once during the ‘rinse’ cycle.  During those cycles it sounds like the drum isn’t being held in place and my washing machine was preparing to fly off into space.  I only bought it 2 years ago, so I wasn’t prepared to buy a new washing machine.  After a few trips to mom’s house to get my clothes washed, I realized I had to make a few phone calls.

First Attempt:  For the Ladies

First I tried asking a few friends if they had any references that I might be able to use, because I would trust my friend over some ad in the yellow pages.  A female friend of mine recommended a company whose name was something along the lines of “Hubby Helper”.  The website seemed pretty nice and friendly, it had some guy opening jars, killing bugs, etc.  I couldn’t call this company and still consider myself a man.  I’m sure he does great with the ladies, but I just didn’t feel right calling them to fix my washing machine.  Sorry Hubby Helper.

Second Attempt: Misleading Website #1

A male friend of mine who just had some electrical work done on his house referred me to a “Mr. Handyman”.  That name had a nice ring to it.  He researched the company before using them, and he said they did a good job on his condo.  Their website states that “No Project is too small!”.  I can’t lose right?  I call the local number and ask them if they fix washing machines.  The person on the phone asks me what the problem is, and I spend the next 30-45 seconds trying to describe the problem.  After I’m done he goes, “Yeah, we don’t really fix those types of appliances, we do more carpentry/electrical type stuff.”  Really?? Why did you ask me what my problem was with the washing machine if you don’t fix washing machines?!! I asked him if he could refer me to anyone, thinking maybe they have partners in other trades so they could refer each other, he didn’t.  Back to the drawing board.

Third Attempt:  Misleading Website #2

I start googling the yellow page type websites.  I find one that specifically states on their website that they do washer repair.  They have different numbers for all the areas they do business in CT and my town is listed.  I can’t lose!  I ask the lady who picks up the phone if they fix washers.  She asks me where in CT I live.  I tell her my town to which she replies, “Yeah, sorry, we don’t service that area anymore.”  At this point, I am getting a little frustrated, and I say “But right on your website my town is listed, and I dialed the number specifically for my town.”  She replies, “Yeah I know but we don’t service that town anymore.”  Really??  Why do you have my town still listed on your website with a phone number?  Why are you still answering that phone number if you don’t service that area?!?! Fix the website and take my town off your list, save yourself some money by getting rid of the phone number for my area that you no longer service.  Heck, you might even be able to get rid of a few employees since you have one less town to service, you should stop answering calls from that town!

Fourth Attempt:  Please Hold

So I call the next place on the list.  I get an automated response saying something to the effect of, “Please hold.  We want to give you quality service and attention.  Right now we’re doing that with other customers that are before you, but once we get to you in the queue, you will receive the same quality and service.”  Well that little pitch impressed me, it sounds like they focus on quality, I’ll stick around and see if they can help me.  But, after 20 minutes of sticking around and hearing that message repeated 10 more times, I lose my patience and hang up.

Fifth Time’s a Charm

Finally, after calling another place, I found someone who could repair my washing machine.  I scheduled for a Monday morning, he came, and we were done in about 45 minutes.  Apparently ‘they don’t make ’em like they used to’ and as cheaper parts are used they are more prone to breaking down.  That’s unfortunate.

Recap

My main frustrations were with the first couple of phone calls I made.  Mr. Handyman should list the types of projects that are too big for them.  The second place I called should fix their website and take down the number for my town.

But all is well now.  My clothes are nice and clean and the washing machine no longer thinks it’s a space shuttle.

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Work and Responsibility

A good debate came up today when I was talking to a couple of friends.  I came up with four scenarios and asked them which one they thought was best:

1.  A little work and a little responsibility.
2.  A lot of work and little responsibility.
3.  A lot work and a lot of responsibility.
4.  A little work and a lot of responsibility.

A couple of them were quick to answer with choice #3, a lot of work and a lot of responsibility.  Their reasoning, in a nutshell, was that the position forces managers to work hard.  I have to disagree.

My answer was #4, a little work and a lot of responsibility.  I think this is the ideal situation for someone.  If a manager has a good team underneath him, there are many reasons he shouldn’t be working too hard.

First off, if his team is good, they are probably self starters and can begin tasks on their own with little guidance.  Second, if the team is good, the manager can trust delegating tasks to them to get the job done on time, and done right.  Third, if the team is that good, they are quick to learn new responsibilities.

The reason involves a lot of responsibility is because the manager is accountable for the work of the team.  If the team fails to do something right, the manager has to answer for it.  If the team isn’t putting in a good effort, not only does it reflect poorly on the manager, but it creates more work for the manager because now he has to do it himself.

A Story

One thing I will say is that although scenario 4 is my personal goal, I also believe that all four scenarios could be viewed as the evolution of a good worker.  They get their first job right out of college.  Unfortunately, it’s in the mail room sorting letters as a Mail Clerk.  I would classify this as a little work and a little responsibility.  But they sort mail really well, and someone recognizes it and promotes them to Cube Monkey.

Now they’re answering calls and putting cover letters on their TPS reports.  He has a lot of work, but a little responsibility.  But since they never forget to put cover letters on their TPS reports, someone recognizes it and promotes them to the Manager of the Cube Monkeys.

Some of the cube monkeys need direction and don’t always put their cover letters on their TPS reports.  The manager is learning in this stage, but at the same time he’s working really hard.  He works long hours to make sure those TPS  reports look good before he sends them out.  He has a lot of work and a lot of responsibility.  But over time the vice president of the company notices his hard work, and promotes him to Director of Strategy.

At this point, our hard worker is where he wants to be.  He manages a team of good workers underneath him.  They need little guidance from him to get their job done, but they always do their job well.  Now he’s got a little bit of work, and a lot of responsibility.

Final Thoughts

Don’t assume that ‘little work’ means that they are out playing golf while their team slaves away.  Rather, the manager can now work smarter instead of harder.  He can mentor his team and help them grow.  He can work on ways to improve processes throughout the company.  He can work with other departments to try and create a synergistic work environment.

One final point, is I hope no one gets stuck in any of the first three scenarios as they progress in their career.  Obviously the first 2 scenarios won’t be much of a progression, if anything, it’s procrastination.  They aren’t growing.  If they get stuck in the third scenario, they become a workaholic.  They feel good about themselves because they have a lot of responsibility, but at the cost of not enjoying anything outside of work.

In summary, I look at each of the scenarios as the evolution of a good worker throughout his career.  But ideally, I hope over time, he can get to a point where he works effectively; leading a good team so eventually his team members can repeat the cycle and the good worker can retire with the conscience that he did a job well done.

What are your thoughts?

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Conclusion and Final Thoughts

This is the conclusion of the in-depth review of the book:  48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.  To read the previous chapter, follow this link: Chapter 11:  Sunks, Rags, and Candy Bars

A good story I enjoyed from the conclusion described how eagles teach their babies to fly.  An eagle’s nest is created with thornbush strands.  On top of the strands are leaves and feathers to create a nice cushion and mask the fact that there are thorns underneath.  As the baby eagles grow up the parents start to remove some of the leaves and feathers.  The parents leave morsels of food just past the nest, forcing the eagles to move closer and closer to the edge.  Eventually the baby eagles will have to leave the nest and learn to fly.

The author concludes the book by reminding us we should always keep learning.  Technology is moving too fast, and things we’ve learned not too long ago may already be obsolete.  Moreover, we can always learn new skills and abilities to do any job better.

Following the conclusion is a great collection of sample resumes, introduction, cover, and follow up letters, additional reading suggestions, and helpful web links.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed reading this book.  There really wasn’t a chapter that I thought should be skipped.  The beginning of the book is all about discovering yourself.  The middle of the book describes the process.  The end of the book motivates the reader.  I thought the religious undertone seemed awkward at first, but it mixed well with the book.  Even if someone is not religious, the meat of the book revolves around the steps anybody should take.

I would highly recommend the book to anyone looking to jump-start their career.  Even if one is content with their current job, this book may be the advice someone was looking for to make the jump from good to great.

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48 Days to the Work you Love by Dan Miller:  Book Review

This is a continuation of the in-depth review of the book:  48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.  To read the Previous Chapter, follow this link: Chapter 10:  Do You Have What It Takes?

Chapter 11: Skunks, Rags, and Candy Bars

This chapter is a motivational one.  It also revolves around accepting and adapting to change.  I was a fan of many of the quotes throughout.

 “You can’t use up creativity.  The more you use, the more you have.  Sadly, too often creativity is smothered rather than nurtured.  There has to be a climate in which new ways of thinking, perceiving, questioning are encouraged.”  – Maya Angelou

I really liked this quote.  Too often people are reluctant to listen to new ideas.  They bat them away too quickly and then innovation tends to stagnate.  I also liked the part that mentions the more creativity a person utilizes, the more creative they become.  

Furthering my point about people too often being reluctant to looking at new ideas, the next quote:

“He who rejects change is the architect of decay.  The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.” -Harold Wilson

Those two quotes may be my favorite of the entire book.  The author then explains how many innovative things in the past have changed the dynamic of the not to distant past workforce.  Bank tellers replaced by ATMs, phone operators replaced by voice-recognition technology, grocery store clerks replaced by self-checkout registers.   In addition, manufacturing and physical labor jobs have been sent offshore.  Amidst all this, we shouldn’t think all the jobs are disappearing…it’s just that the types of jobs are evolving.  At one point in American history, 79% of jobs were agricultural in nature.  Today, it’s only 3 percent.  The other 76% were able to transform and adapt into new roles.  At the same time, we have to love what we do in these new roles, or any job for that matter.  “Happiness is loving what you do and knowing it is making a difference.  If your life is not a joy, maybe it’s time to look at some new options.”  One big point of mine is I want my work to make an impact on something or someone.  I don’t want it to be mindless.  I want to leave a mark when I leave.  

Later in the chapter the author mentions how we need to stop and look around more often.  Stopping and spending time to think and analyze situations will allow us to think of ideas we may not have originally thought of if we rushed things.  Which leads to another quote:

“Learn to pause, or nothing worthwhile will catch up to you.” -Doug King

The (Abundance of) Information Age 

One problem I always run into with myself is I want to try to learn everything about everything.  I have to sit back and realize I don’t have the capacity to do so.  Instead, I need to try and focus on specific things.  It reminds me of the quote, “Man knows so much, that no man knows much.”  I wish it were possible to learn everything I possibly can, but again, I know it’s not possible.  

Today’s technology makes it that much harder.  Information is so accessible it is impossible to take it all in from all angles.  We’ve got new sites, emails, Facebook, Twitter, iPhone applications, blogs, podcasts…and that’s just in the digital age.  That’s not including television, newspapers, or radio.  The author mentions that it is estimated that a week-day edition of today’s New York Times contains more information than the average person in the 17th-century England was likely to come across in their entire lifetime.  In 1971 the average American was targeted by at least 560 advertising messages.  Today it’s more than 3,000.  Talk about information overload.  

Overall, I really liked this chapter.  I am a big proponent of accepting change, and think the more people are willing to evaluate new ideas, the better off we are.

Continue to Conclusion and Final Thoughts

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