What time spells

A child asks Dad to play Scrabble or play catch and but he’s too busy. An employee stops by a manager’s desk for a quick chat and she carries on with what she was doing while listening with half an ear.

How aware are you of the messages you send people? Do they ever say ‘You’re an interruption’ or ‘I don’t care’, even when you don’t mean them to?

Everyone’s time is precious and that means everyone needs to choose how they spend it. And those choices are important.

Children spell ‘love’ differently that adults – they spell it: t-i-m-e. And to employees, ‘time’ can spell ‘I c-a-r-e’.

So this week, pause and give some thought to whether you’re spending enough of your time on what, and who, are most important to you. What you were doing can often wait when giving the gift of time spells ‘love’ to a child, or ‘I care’ to a friend or employee.



The smartest kids in my school were the ones who didn’t have a TV set in their house. When they were at home, they read, they had conversations, they played board games. But they weren’t bored. Today’s scenario for the smartest kids in school has probably changed. It wouldn’t surprise me if today, the smartest kids are those who have their screen time limited to so many hours a day or week.

Garbage In – Garbage Out. That’s what they say about computers and in a way, the same is true of people.

A friend of mine allows his children to record their special children’s programs and watch them at weekends as rewards – after they’ve done their homework and their chores. But there is no TV during the week and screen time is strictly limited. His kids are smart, mature and nice.

And what about grown-ups? People who watch whatever is least bad on TV, read whatever happens to be in the paper, listen to whatever gossip happens to be going at the coffee machine, are in danger of letting a lot of garbage in!

But think about it. What we store in our minds is our power base. We need to respect our power base by being conscious of what we allow into it.

When you take charge of what comes in, you also take charge of what goes out. Instead of letting yourself be filled up with random input, you can take control of what you know and what you think about. You can let garbage in (and you know what will come out as a result) or you can let neat and interesting stuff in, stuff that makes you a neat and interesting person. It’s your choice.

Listen and learn


A lot of people are so busy (quite correctly) mastering their high-tech skills that their people skills have taken a back seat. When you’re wrapped up in codes, alerts and dynamic dumps, it’s easy to forget how to, or not bother to, strike up a conversation and keep it rolling. In fact, I recall reading recently abut a millennial who gave up, cold turkey, their smartphone for a fortnight (gasp, shock, horror) and discovered the joys or talking to another person at the bus stop or waiting beside them in the sandwich queue. So that proves my hypothesis.

In the spirit of keeping alive the art of face-to-face tête-à-tête then, I offer my Four S Tips breaking the conversational ice.

  1. Smile. A smile breaks the ice and invites a smile in return. It’s a great way to connect with someone and a great way to look friendlier and even more attractive than you already are (that’s actually scientifically proven). And everyone knows that a pleasant, friendly-looking person is always more attractive than a grouchy-looking person. It’s hard to not return a smile, even from a stranger (unless it’s a creepy-looking stranger). Plus, a smile relaxes your attitude and your vocal chords, so your voice won’t squeak when you do the next S, which is:
  2. Say hi and make a comment the other person can pick up on. For instance, at a conference you can say something about what you do or where you’re from in a way that invites an interested follow-up comment or question. I have a friend who mows paddocks with his tractor for a living; he says ‘Hi, I’m Con. You grow it, I’ll mow it.’ Corny, but it gets a conversation rolling!
  3. Shake hands. Unless it’s culturally inappropriate, a hand shake eliminates awkwardness and makes a connection with the other person. Don’t wait for the other person to stick their hand out – stick your own hand out with confidence to get the conversation off to a good start. (When the other person is Japanese, you might want to give a sight bow instead.)
  4. Solicit information. That means: Ask questions. What better way is there to draw out the other person’s ideas, experiences and opinions? Then ask some more questions to find out more about those ideas, experiences and opinions. Then think about sharing some of your own.

When you use these Four S Tips, you can avoid talking to impress (that means: boring). Instead, you can listen and learn with another real live human being and let the computer cool off in the cupboard for a while.

Quick ways to energise

Everyone needs a quick hit of energy once in a while, so I thought we’d take a look at some quick and easy—and better still, scientifically proven—ways to find some energy quickly. There’s always caffeine or sugar, of course, but they aren’t all that good for you. So I’ve grouped ways to get a quick hit of energy that are good for you into 3 categories: the mouth, the body, and miscellaneous.

First: the mouth. We all know that we’re 80% water and we should drink about 2 litres a day. When you feel you need a quick pick-up, drink a glass of water. If you want, you can put a few ice cubes in for an extra burst of alert and if the thought of plain water is too much for you, dribble in a bit of apple cider vinegar or grape juice without preservatives.

Or you can do what the monks do just before they meditate: sip some green tea. A cup has 20 – 30 mg of caffeine, which is enough to pep you up but not cause jitters (a cup of coffee has 5 times as much caffeine). Green tea also contains a stimulant called thoephyllin that increases blood circulation and dilates bronchial passages, which improves the flow of oxygen, and it has 40 mg of the amino acid L-theanine, which helps you concentrate and keeps you calm.

Chewing is good, too, because it stimulates brain and muscle activity, which wakes you up, and a healthy snack, like an apple or a handful of raisins or walnuts feeds the brain at the same time. Or you can chew sugarless gum, maybe peppermint or spearmint since those aromas stimulate the brain to make you more alert. Speaking of mint, you could also suck or chew a strongly scented mint (but make it sugar-free or too many will give you an energy spike followed by a quick crash).

Now onto the body. This sounds crazy but wiggling your toes activates nerves that stimulate your brain. So wiggle your toes before you get up in the morning—it helps you wake up and become alert more quickly. Wiggle your toes after you’ve been sitting for a long time, too. Wiggle your toes right now!

Maybe at the same time, give your ears a good rub all over for about a minute—not so rough you hurt yourself, but vigorously; your ears will feel hot, which is a sign your blood is circulating and you’ll feel more alert almost immediately.

If you want to stay seated, spend a few minutes doing neck stretches and some ankle rotations. But if you can, stand up and move. Step outside for a breath of fresh air or go to the kitchen or bathroom and wet your face and the back of your neck with cold tap water and rinse your mouth or gargle with cold water for a few seconds.

Or you can do some simple exercises—even isometric exercises get your body moving and your blood flowing. Or you can, stand up and stretch: your back, your chest, your hamstrings and your waist. This stimulates your circulation, too, and voila: instant energy.

You’ll get even more energy by taking some deep breaths when you’re doing any of these energisers. Another way to breath in energy is to breathe in deeply and then exhale in a series of short, rapid bursts, drawing your stomach muscles in to force out each burst. You only need to do that three times, but take a few normal breaths between each so you don’t get dizzy.

And three quick miscellaneous ways to quickly energise: Phone home and have a nice conversation, not a grumpy one; have a good laugh, or play some up-beat music you like. Three more ways to find instant energy.

Three views of workplace relations

What is your attitude to workplace relations? What is it based on? Whatever it is and whatever it’s based on, it colours how you think about the workplace and even how you approach your own job.

There are three ways to think about workplace relations and most of your attitudes towards the workplace and your work stem from one of them. The three ways are called the unitarist, the radical and the pluralist views.

The unitarist view says employers and employees share the same basic goals – working together to create wealth, or value. This means that the workplace is essentially a harmonious place and any conflict that occasionally pops up will be short-lived and easily dealt with because employers and employees pretty much want the same thing.

The radical view is pretty much the opposite. It sees conflict between employers and employees as inevitable because they have, will always have, different needs and goals. That’s the way the system is set up: employers always want to contain costs, including wages costs, while employees always want higher wages.

The pluralist view also sees conflict as natural because management and workers have different needs and goals. But the good news is that these differences can be managed and contained by rules and regulations and we can all get along pretty well together when we put in a bit of effort and good will.

The particular view that rings most true for you directs your whole approach to the workplace and to your own job, whether you’re an employer or an employee. So which is it for you? Does it match the reality of your current workplace? Is it in accord with its culture and values? Is it helping you be the best manager you can be?

How to encourage accountability

Who were the people in your life that made a positive difference to the person you are today? When you think about the positive influences in your life, chances are many of them held high expectations that may even have seemed tough at the time: the parent who made sure you practiced the piano even when you didn’t want to; the boss who gave you one challenging assignment after another and expected nothing less than your best.

I believe that one of the kindest things we can do for people is to set high standards, expect the best and hold them accountable for meeting them. Here’s how to hold someone accountable.

First, discuss the outcome you’re after. Outcomes are better than a series of tasks because with a series of tasks, people can do the bare minimum, but that doesn’t wash with outcomes. Be clear about how you’ll measure success, too. When the outcome is big or distant, agree milestones and how often you want a progress report.

Make behavioural expectations clear, too. Whether it’s turning up to meetings on time and fully prepared or providing short and incisive, not rambling, reports, do yourself, the team member and your whole team a favour by setting high standards and making them clear. (If you haven’t, it isn’t too late – explain precisely what you expect from now on.)

When people aren’t coming up to scratch, find out why.

  • Do they have the resources (time, information, etc.) they need? When they don’t, provide them.
  • Do they have the skills and experience they need? When they don’t, teach them and coach them.
  • Have you asked a creative, broad brush type of person to do something better suited to a detailed, analytical dotter-of-i’s and crosser-of-t’s? Assign work to the right person.
  • Do they understand that meeting your expectations is important? Explain the big picture (how what you’re asking fits into the organisation’s vision or business plan). Let people know you’re serious by acknowledging their progress and showing appreciation when they meet your standards. When you don’t do do that, they think you don’t really care about them being met. Or when you let people get away with letting you down sometimes, they think you’re being unfair when you do enforce them. (And they would have a point.)

Making people accountable makes a positive difference to them, your team and your own career (because when someone in your team lets you down, you look bad, too.)

Increasing people’s commitment

When people feel committed to achieving results, they work whole-heartedly and do their best. Low or no commitment yields the bare minimum that comes from half-hearted effort.

Here are the important To Dos to increase people’s commitment:

  1. Paint the ‘big picture’ so they can share your vision.
  2. Help them see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and involve them in helping you work out how to get there. (These first two To Dos are known as ‘engaging people’ in the jargon.)
  3. Match the work needed to reach the goal suits their skill set and personal inclinations.
  4. Next, ‘energise’ them. How does achieving the goal help others? (I posted about this 2 weeks ago.)
  5. Provide the resources – the time, effort, information, etc. – they need to achieve the goal; without this, they’ll feel like they’re beating their head against a brink wall – a sure way to sap the energy you’ve summoned.
  6. Show your appreciation for their contributions. Make it clear you prize what they’re doing because it’s helping to bring that light at the end of the tunnel ever-closer.

So there we have it, a simple enough formula that you can put to work tomorrow to bring out the best in your team:

Engage – Match – Energise – Provide – Prize