MindYourBusyNess: July 2009

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THE DIVIDING LINE

 

Do you use your official phone or internet connection for your personal use too often?

Do you believe it is an accepted practice and you can always take it for granted?

While taking these small privileges from our employer we don’t realize that we fall prey of these addictions which make us less productive at our work place. Try calculating the accumulated time spent on such personal activities in a month or year and realize the damage to your employer due to this.
The loss of work should be calculated on two accounts-
Firstly, by the value of that facility for the period of use.
Secondly, the loss to your employer for not doing your work during that period .

Organizations do have their stated or unstated policies regarding such usage. It is also the responsibility of employees to stay in the frame work of those policies.

There may be situations where it may not be practical to use your personal phone or internet connection at your work place. Your personal usage during work time may be too small to think for a separate connection/device or you may not be able to afford it.

The core question in this issue is ‘how much is too much?’

There can not be a universal answer to this question. The dividing line has to be drawn depending upon each individual situation.

Who will do that?
Your boss?
Your department?

The best judge is not an outsider, but you yourself.
Its O.K. so far the use is rare not routine.
The problem comes when this is done repeatedly which ultimately turns to become a habit. Once the habit is fully developed, we do it even without acknowledging ourselves. That is a dangerous situation. We stop regulating ourselves and usage can grow very fast. By the time we are reminded by someone else, it is too late to change the habit pattern.

The logic to solve this problem is very simple. Just keep the personal use to bare minimum, preferably only during emergencies.

WHY NOT AUDIT YOUR WORK?


 

‘Audit’ is a word which sounds familiar to most of working professionals. You may not be aware of the process (unless you are directly involved in it), but you may feel its importance.

You need not wait for formal audit to be conducted in your organization. The basic concepts are simple and can be effectively employed by anyone for his area of work. You can conduct audit of your own work as an individual or work of your department / work unit if you are the in-charge.

Given below are the simple steps to conduct this exercise -

1. Choose auditor –The best auditor for your work is none other than you. If you are not comfortable with the idea, you can request one of your friends, relatives or co workers to act as auditor.
2. Time for audit- Choose a time when you are free from your routine duties and worries. It is better to opt for a holiday.
3. Choose audit period- select a period of activities for which you will perform audit. It may be one week, one month, one year or more as per your convenience.
4. Documents for audit –List all the documents which are prepared or controlled by you. Also list the documents where your duties are defined or instructions are given to you for your job. Take out and display in order all these documents of audit period.
5. Audit- If audit is being done by someone who is not conversant with the work or documents make him understand first. Now the auditor has to check all entries in the documents with a critical eye to see -
The conformity with the instructions/rules available
• Mathematical mistakes
• Incomplete or not properly linked entries

6. Audit report
- Prepare the findings of auditor category wise. The discrepancies should be highlighted. An analysis of probable cause of discrepancies should be done and remedial actions should be suggested so that these mistakes can be avoided in future.
7. Using the audit report- Audit is not a mere fault finding exercise. It is a periodic check to assess the working and plug the loopholes if available in the system to keep it healthy. The finding of audit should be honored and appropriate steps should be taken.

Does that sound too theoretical?
Well, this technique is used at many places and known as internal audit or pre audit check.

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ARE YOU LISTENING?


 

Communication with others is an important part of our jobs. It may be with co workers, subordinates, boss, clients or customers. Most of our energy and time is used in this process at our work places. Effective communication is an art which is to be learnt and refined constantly.

Given below are some tips which may help you in this learning -

1. Two way communication –

You may

• Be the best authority on the subject
• Prepare the best speech or presentation
• Shout and blow your lungs
• Disclose the entire collection of abuses learnt in your life

All may go waste till the other party will allow to keep the material in his/her head which you are trying (or dying) to give.

So it is in your interest and part of your job to ensure that the other party is in best receiving state/mood. If not, than it is better to postpone the communication and focus on making the other person receptive rather than pushing around your points.

2. Confirmation Don’t safely assume that other party has understood you fully, since you spoke clearly. It is better to have a sample check in the end. Make it a habit to ask question(s) in the last part of any communication so that the other party is forced to state the facts as he/she understood which may be different than what you intended to say. Do it for critical issues at least.

3. Body language In direct face to face communications, it is not only the words that matters. Your tone and body language are read and accordingly importance is assigned to your statements. So be careful. Your body may leak out secrets for intelligent people to conclude meaning of your words. Use your body .Give out matching postures and gestures to your statements and control your tone. The best strategy in this regard is that you speak with full conviction and the appropriate body signals will be generated automatically. However it is not that simple as it looks. Many times we say things in which we don’t believe ourselves.

4. Your image – Unless the other party considers you reliable and trustworthy, they will not reveal their inner feelings and secrets to you. Image building is a complex and time consuming process. Try to project your image of a person who is open to discuss new ideas. You can even announce this in the beginning of the conversation. It will result in better communication.


5. To the point –
Many times we are not able to say our point directly. We prepare background and try to gauge the acceptance level of other party for the actual point. But in the meantime the other party deviates from /issue and sometime we are drifted from the main issue. In most of the situations it is better to communicate directly.

How to handle Business Meetings

 

Are meetings a part of your work?
Do you handle these with ease?

Business meetings may be of various type and flavor. It may last for few seconds or entire day. It may be with a client or employee you regularly meet at your workplace or with a group of strangers at a distant location. It may be in a big hall or at a restaurant or on your office desk. It may be as casual as chatting with a friend or it may be as formal as attending president’s speech.

Sometimes the difference between business and personal meeting blurs. Remember a social gathering where personal contacts turned prospects or client? Or a client on meeting turned out to be an old friend?

What ever be the case, the following insight will help the process of meeting to be conducted conveniently-


Preparation

Barring unexpected and unplanned meetings where it is not possible to prepare, it is worth investing sometime in preparation. It pays dividends. Prepare yourself for all types of possible situations and questions. Make some mental calculations or prepare notes if required. In fact you should have your ready- reckoner type stuff available all the time to deal with unexpected encounters.
Agenda is an important aspect of meeting whether it is declared explicitly or not. Stop for a second and think about the real agenda of the meeting. Who controls it? What is your scope?
Preparation also means to tune up your dress, appearance and mood to the occasion.
If there are some instructions for the type of meeting you are going to attend, update your memory by throwing a glance at least.

Dos
1. Find out (do not hesitate to ask) the name and title of the person(s) you are going to meet. Ask them how they will like to be addressed.
2. Start with welcome note and always end with thank giving notes even if the meeting results means zero to you.
3. Keep your mobile at vibrator and take other party’s permission to attend a call if it is important for you to attend.
4. Ask for drink/meals if the meeting is long and timings warrant it.
5. Be polite.
6. Do take notes of the transactions of the meeting (points for action and decision taken) and get it confirmed formally in writing from other party at the next available opportunity.
7. Allow two way communications to take place.
8. Follow up the meeting by an email or phone call. It’s a good habit and doesn’t take much time.


Don’t

1. Don’t take business matters as personal.
2. Don’t be rude or abusive.
3. Don’t conduct or let someone conduct the meeting one sided.

Calculations


The other day I had gone to station to catch a train with one of my friends. As usual, I landed up on the station about half an hour before the scheduled departure time of the train. For doing so I had to literally push my friend. (I made him to leave the bed early, finish the breakfast and dress up quickly)
My friend asked me, ‘What is the point in hurrying up so much?’ I always reach station just in time. It is not a place to spend time.
I replied, ‘One needs to keep a cushion (of time) for any problem which may come up on the way to station.’
My friend asked, ‘How many times you faced problem in your lifetime while going to station?’
I tried to remember and said, ‘may be 4 to 5 times.’
He asked further, ‘And how many times you must have gone to station in your life?
I made some rough calculations (assuming 50 trips every year for last 30 years) and told, ‘about 1500 times.’
On that my friend said, ‘you have wasted 750 hours (=31.25 days which is more than one month) by unnecessarily coming half an hour early each time for station, for the problems which you faced just 4/5 times. Is it worth it?
I couldn’t answer immediately but afterwards I gave it a serious thought.
Is it pure mathematics? I found much more in it.
Firstly taking cushion is a good practice (habit). In most of the engineering problems and planning calculations cushion is kept.
But the main question is, ‘how much cushion is enough’?
To my mind it depends on the consequences of the event. (In present context, the consequences of missing the train)
And since each event is different, the amount of cushion to be taken will vary. (You would take more cushions while catching a train for appearing in an exam rather than going for casual meeting with someone.)
But relating the usage of cushion mathematically (like my friend ) with its utility will not be fair .All this statistics is only available after the event(s) have passed and you have no knowledge in the beginning (while you kept the cushion) that the problem will come this time or not. Moreover if the consequences or the stakes are high, it will be worth investing some of the time (or any other resource) as cushion.
Does that mean my friend is wrong? No, I don’t thick so.
It is because in his perception the consequences of the event (missing the train) are so trivial that he works on almost zero cushion calculations. (I know that he is very rich and can take a flight or taxi even if he misses the train. But this is not the case with me as I may not be able to afford the expanses of flight or taxi.)
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