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 Effective Engineering e-Newsletter – 12/6/2007

This is your monthly e-Newsletter from
Effective Engineering Consulting Services (www.effectiveeng.com).  If you would like to receive Effective Engineering e-newsletters as they are published, please send an email to e-newsletter@effectiveeng.com, and we will add you to our distribution list.  Comments and suggestions are welcome and encouraged!


You Reap What You Sow!

  By Tom Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [tdennis@effectiveeng.com]

In commenting on my last e-Newsletter on being careful what you wish for (see eN-071101 – Be Careful What You Wish For!), my son Jeff passed on a story about a manager whose poor actions have made life miserable for his employees, who have, in turn, made life miserable for him.  Since this is not exactly about being careful what you wish for, as nobody would wish for this, I got back to my son thanking him for spurring the thought for somewhat different topic, that you reap what you sow, that you can’t escape the consequences of your actions, positive or negative.

Jeff works once a week at the Phoenix airport after his normal work day, and has contact with employees at a call center there.  He has gotten to know the folks there and likes them a lot.  They do a great job answering the phones, handling customer complaints, and generally doing what they’re supposed to.  They have a manager who treats them horribly.  He rules from his Ivory Tower, and does not command any respect, due to his poor work habits and the way he mismanages and talks down to the call center employees.  For example, they had a radio that would play smooth jazz softly, bringing soothing background music to a stressful job.  For some reason the manager demanded they get rid of it, which seemed petty and tyrannical.  He apparently carries out many other petty and tyrannical actions all the time.  His employees, in response, make his work day as hard on him as possible by trying to push every possible button that they know aggravates him.  For example, whenever the manager makes a mistake, they will make it a point to describe how the person that held the position before him would do such things right the first time.  The manager made it obvious that the comparison frustrated him, so the call center folks continue to needle him to add to his frustration.  Unfortunately, this cycle just continues to aggravate an already difficult work environment, making life miserable for everyone. 

As a manager, it is important that you recognize that your attitude and actions, both positive and negative, have consequences.  In fact, your attitude and actions have a magnifying effect on all around you and can make a huge difference in the work lives of everyone you interact with. 

When you act negatively toward your employees, you pass on your negative energy to them.  Disrespect, distrust, talking down to your employees, giving “attitude” to your employees, and other negative behavior builds resentment and anger among your employees towards you (and often rubs off on others as well).   Even if your outward demeanor is positive, but your actions are negative, your disrespect of your employees shows through.  Negative attitude or actions sow the seeds of bitter fruit, and that is what they will reap.

When you act positively toward your employees, you pass on your positive energy to them.  Respect, trust, talking openly and easily with your employees with a positive attitude, and other positive behavior builds trust, cooperation, synergy, and enjoyment among your employees as a powerful team.  Positive attitude and actions sow the seeds of a bountiful harvest, and that is what they will reap. 

When you can weed out the negative attitude and actions, you will reap the benefits.  My wife has a sign she keeps in her garden that says, “Weed ‘em and Reap!”  This is as true with people as it is with gardens.  The old (ancient?) Bing Crosby song sums it up:

   You've got to accentuate the positive
   Eliminate the negative
   And latch on to the affirmative
   Don't mess with Mister In-Between

So what are some practical ways you can build a positive approach in your business life?

► Look forward and not backwards.  You can’t change the past, but you can change the future.  You should, however, learn from the past (both positive and negative lessons).

► Make a plan of what’s needed to improve a situation and take actions toward achieving that plan. [See also eN-031023 – Development Methodology: Failing To Plan Means You Are Planning To Fail!]

► Be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  Stop wining.  Avoid toxic situations and “pity parties”.  Make sure your employees are fully engaged in working toward the end goal. [See also eN030508 – Are You Part of the Solution, or Part of the Problem?]

► Be straightforward with your people so they know where you’re coming from and aren’t getting surprised.  Let them learn that they can depend on you to do what you say you’ll do [See also eN-050804 – Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say, and Do What You Say You’ll Do!]

► Recognize the challenges of “managing” people, especially engineers.  They are a bit of a different breed with their own challenges and approaches.  A good manager can bring out the best in everyone.  A bad manager can poison the well. [See also eN-031106 – Herding Cats: The Art of “Managing” Engineers, eN-070308 – Knowledge Is Power!, and eN-040205 – Mis-Managers: How Bad Managers Can Poison The Well]

► Praise people for good work in public.  Punish people for poor work in private.  Public berating, either individually or in groups, is counterproductive.  Concentrate on using positive or neutral terms; use negative terms (commands, complaints, criticisms, warnings, etc.) sparingly. [See also eN070906 – Show True Professionalism!, and eN-060504 – Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves!]

► Search for what’s right, not what’s wrong.  Find joy in small things or victories.

► Emphasize what can and will be done, rather than what can’t or won’t be done.  Stress what something is, rather than what it isn’t.

► Emphasize good news rather than bad news, but don’t paint a false picture or be Pollyanna-ish.

Your attitude and actions can be a large part of your team’s success or failure.  Be upbeat and think positively and you can build synergy in your team and truly succeed.  Be downbeat and think negatively and you will doom your opportunities for success.  Attitude may not be everything, but it is a big thing.  Remember,
you reap what you sow!

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