Ten Conversations That
by Tom Terez
I'll bet there's plenty of conversation in your workplace -- about today's
tasks, about that rush order, about that sudden snag, about the project that
should have been done yesterday. But do you and your colleagues ever step
off the task treadmill and talk about the workplace itself? If you work full
time until retirement age, you're going to log at least 90,000 hours on the
job. Doesn't it make sense to spend a few of those hours teaming up with co-workers
to figure out how to make the workplace better?
Sure it does, but that only sparks more questions: What exactly should
you talk about? How do you keep the conversation from turning into a gripe
session? Is there a way to make meaningful discoveries instead of talking
on and on about the obvious?
That's what this Top 10 list is all about. It gives you thought-provoking
questions guaranteed to open up worthwhile conversation about your workplace.
Share the list with colleagues, select the one or two questions that seem
most relevant, then set aside some time to talk. There are no right or wrong
answers, and you don't need a full day for this. Just an hour or so of dialogue,
with ears and minds wide open, will deepen everyone's understanding and point
the way to practical improvement.
- Mind-engaging work
When was the last time you got so caught up in interesting work that you
lost track of time? What were you doing? What was it -- about the work itself,
how you were going about it, its connection to a greater good -- that made
this such a wonderfully consuming activity?
- Seeing the fruits of your labor
When you want to see the results of your work, what do you look at?
How do you know that your effort is having a positive impact? If you could
wave a wand and instantly create a more meaningful system for tracking results,
what would it look like?
- Positive problems
John W. Gardner observed, "We are continually faced with a series of great
opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems." What is your
biggest insoluble problem? What makes it so tough to tackle, and what is
the great opportunity that lies within? How would you go about pursuing this
opportunity if you divided the challenge into manageable steps?
- Meetings, meetings, and more meetings
How many hours do you spend each week in meetings? How many of these hours
are well spent, and how many are wasted? If you could redirect that unproductive
time to worthwhile activity, what would you do?
- The voice of the customer
When your customers talk about your organization behind your back, what do
you think they say? Who has the highest praise, who is most critical, and
why? Now think about your own immediate customers: When they talk about you
personally (and you know they do!), what do they likely say?
- The community-individuality balance
What gets greater emphasis in your workplace: teamwork and togetherness,
or individuality and diversity? If it's teamwork and togetherness, does the
pursuit of unity prompt people to downplay their differences? If individuality
and diversity are the main focus, does the workplace ever feel like a loose
collection of conflicting styles and agendas? What can be done to maintain
a good balance between unity and uniqueness?
- From passive complaints to positive action
What is your biggest complaint about the workplace? Now, rephrase it in the
form of a positive goal. Here's an example: "I'm tired of busywork. I spend
half my day crunching numbers that no one looks at." Here's the corresponding
positive goal: "I'd like to spend my time on work that relates to our mission
and affects our customers. If my number-crunching has real value, I'd like
to know exactly how." After defining the goal, think action: What can you
and others do to make it happen?
- Giving and getting respect
Johann von Goethe said, "The way you see people is the way you treat them,
and the way you treat them is what they become." What did Goethe mean, and
how does this play itself out in your workplace? What could be done right
now to make respect one of the workplace's greatest strengths?
- Can we talk?
Is there an elephant in your workplace -- a big problem or concern that
no one ever talks about? Something that's well-known to all and in desperate
need of dialogue? If so, why is the elephant so unacknowledged? What are
the risks of talking about it? What are the potential benefits?
- Empowering yourself
"If I had just a bit more authority at work, I would _____." Fill in the
blank with several actions you'd like to take right now to be more effective
in your job. Then explore why you can't. What's holding you back? What is
the one action you can get started on right now?
Tom Terez is a speaker, workshop leader, and author of "22 Keys to Creating
a Meaningful Workplace." His Web site, http://BetterWorkplaceNow.com,
is filled with tools for building a great work environment. Write to Tom@BetterWorkplaceNow.com
or call 614-571-9529.
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