Archive for July, 2008

Multi-Cultural Workplaces: 7 ways to make them work

July 30, 2008
Multicultural workplaces

Multicultural workplaces

Nowadays, people work in global offices with colleagues from different worldviews, religions and attitudes. It is important to be aware of cultural differences and how they affect team dynamics, communication and management style. Multi-cultural workplaces also offer a wealth of new experience and self-growth opportunities. Here are 7 ways to improve multicultural relationships in your workplace.    

  • 1. Make it ok to ask questions. Some people may feel that they cannot ask a person where s/he is from for fear of being offensive or being seen as racist in some way. This can prevent communication, team effort and even friendship from happening. Encourage people to talk about where they are from, and their culture. Most misunderstanding comes from lack of communication. If you can ask questions of one another, then the growth in relationship will enable more effective working together.

 

  • 2. Learn about each other’s countries and cultures. Many people want to travel to exotic places and experience a different culture. But nowadays, there might be someone from one of those countries in the office. Put a map on the wall and stick pins in it linked to photos of your team members so you can see where people are from. Encourage people to add to the display with information and other pictures and use it as a group talking point.
  • 3. Be respectful and open-minded. Cultural differences can sometimes be confusing or misinterpreted. Be respectful of the way other people work and interact. Try to learn from them instead of considering your way to be the best and criticising. Apologise if you feel you might have offended someone, and ask them how you can behave more appropriately in the future. Speak out again discrimination in the workplace and encourage understanding.
  • 4. Celebrate holidays of other cultures. Festivals and celebration are a great way to learn about other cultures. Have a lunchtime meeting where you share some traditional food and discuss what the festival means. People are the same underneath and festivals often reflect what is important to all cultures – family, faith, children, honouring the past and looking to the future.
  • 5. Create cultural awareness factsheets. If your company employs people from other countries, give them some material on what it is like to work in your company and country. If you send employees overseas to meetings or conferences, they should also know how to work in those cultures. For example, what is the customary greeting within each culture? These worksheets will help provide context for interactions and enable easier work relationships.
  • 6. Treat people as individuals. Culture does not define a person, and cultural stereotypes can also be responsible for more misunderstanding. Don’t jump to conclusions just because someone is from a certain place. Get to know people as individuals regardless of their culture.
  • 7. Identify gaps in your own knowledge. We are all a work-in-progress, and we can always learn more. Identify what you don’t know about your co-workers and their culture. What can you learn about your own culture that affects the way you work? How can you improve the situation so your team can work more effectively together?

“Understand the differences; act on the commonalities” – Andrew Masondo, African National Congress
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Thankyou Randy…honour your childhood dreams

July 26, 2008
Randy Pausch and wife Jai

Randy Pausch and wife Jai

Randy Pausch died yesterday at 47 of pancreatic cancer. But he died having spent his last months living a huge life. Through his “Last Lecture” which went on to become a book, he touched millions of lives. He wanted to leave a message for his children, but he also inspired the rest of us.

How can his message make a difference in your working life?

  • Your work is an integral part of your life. Randy loved teaching and used his lecture at work to change people’s lives. He saw the potential in people, and believed they could achieve far more than they themselves believed. You can achieve far more than you think. You just need to find what you really want to do and then aim for it.
  • What were your childhood dreams? Are they forgotten? Did you lose your passion for life along the road of working slog? Well, it’s time to resurrect those dreams. You are still alive, and every day you can get one step closer to achieving what you want in life.
  • Randy believed in making memories and having experiences with his children and his wife. He didn’t sweat the small stuff but spent his last months ensuring that he was remembered for having fun. One of the things I do several times a year is print out my photos and stick them on coloured card in a folder. If there are not enough photos of the year so far, I know I am not having enough experiences. Are you making memories? Are you having enough fun? This is one of his quotes “Never underestimate the importance of having fun. I’m dying and I’m having fun. And I’m going to keep having fun every day because there’s no other way to play it.”
  • If you knew you had only a few months to live, what would you do? It is an intellectual exercise for us, but Randy lived these thoughts and chose to change the world with his speech. Do you want to get to the end of your life with regrets on what you didn’t do with your life? The time is now. The place is now. Get on with it. Write down your list of what you would love to do, and start ticking things off it.
  • Decide how you will achieve it, stop making excuses and do it. You can start with the small goals, maybe you want to learn to dance, or make pottery – enroll in a class. Maybe you want to travel the world – go and get some travel books from the library, some national geographic magazines from the charity shop and inspire yourself! Maybe you hate your job – well, make a plan and get out of it. The only thing limiting you, is you.

Thank you Randy. You helped us all to focus on what is truly important in life.

 Related Posts:
The Last Lecture on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo
My video review of “The Last Lecture” – the book http://joannapenn.com/2008/07/14/the-last-lecture-for-much-needed-inspiration/
Article announcing he had died http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2008-07-25-pausch-obit_N.htm
Article about the effect he had on others http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/randy-pausch-the-dying-man-who-taught-america-how-to-live-800182.html
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Why I enjoy my job now…

July 23, 2008
I love my job

I love my job

People ask me why I enjoy my job now, when in the past I have been miserable.
The following are some of the main reasons – as you read them, consider if these are important to you too, and do you have the chance to achieve them in your job?  

  • Freedom of time and control. I work for myself and get paid by the day. So I can choose to go to work and get paid, or to stay at home and not get paid. I have freedom of time and control when I need it.
  • Great people. I work with a great team. My Manager trusts me to do the job and doesn’t micromanage. She lets me have time off when I need it and appreciates that I have a life outside of work. She appreciates my alternative career as an author. My colleagues are good fun, we trust each other and our personalities work well.
  • Being valued and appreciated. Even though I am a contractor, I am valued for my role in the team. I contribute and am recognised for that. I am asked for my opinion, and it is taken into account.

 

  • Challenge and variety at work. I work on projects that often overlap so there is always something else to do and new deadlines to aim for. I get to work on different parts of the design and have variety in the tasks I work on. There is a certain amount of stress, but there are always people who can help if the workload is too much. There is a good work/life balance focus in the organisation and we are encouraged to exercise as well as leave at a reasonable time.
  • A higher purpose and longer term focus. I have a purpose that is above and beyond my current job. I am focussing on developing my career as an author, writing and learning in my spare time. My work is not the most important thing in my life.

 

  • Financially rewarded. I am paid at the market rate for what I do, which is a good wage and I am able to invest and save as well as pay the bills.
  • Time for self-development. I have time every day to study and read. Although in the past, my commute has been a pain, I now appreciate it as I spend nearly 2 hours a day reading and developing myself in areas outside of work.

What do you enjoy about your job?

How did I get to this point?

It was an active decision to find a way to enjoy my job after years of job misery.
I wrote down what I wanted and aimed for that. If you have read about the Law of Attraction and synchronicity, you will know that what you focus on, you are more likely to get.  As I wrote the book “How to Enjoy Your Job”, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy and my work changed into something I enjoyed. The book contains my findings along the way and the processes that can also help you enjoy your working life.
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Career Change: 7 steps to a new you!

July 22, 2008

Career Change

Career Change

It is now accepted that people will have several career changes in their working lifetime. As individuals develop and grow, their aspirations and goals change, and they need new challenges. This may be a new career, or a change in direction for a small business, but the process of change is essentially the same.

 

 

 

 

  • 1. Find out what you really want to do. What are your priorities for the change? Do you want more time with family, different working conditions or more money? Do you want to change the direction of your business, or change your role in it? What do you love doing and how could you incorporate that into a new direction? Spend time asking yourself these questions and identify a clear goal.
  • 2. Plan. Sketch out the steps you need to get to your goal so you can visualise the path. It could be a few lines to show your commitment or a multi-page business plan, but you need something concrete that lays out what you will do and when. This will help to keep you focussed in a general direction, although you may change your mind about the specifics along the way. Career change can often take longer than you expect and you may also need to work out a budget.
  • 3. Research. Before you make any bold moves, find out about your chosen path. Talk to people who have already taken the steps you have. Find a mentor, or pay for professional advice if necessary. Research job or business opportunities in this area and make sure you understand the practicalities of what it will be like in the future state.
  • 4. Retrain and develop new skills. You may need to do some training or development to get to your new career. This can be an exciting and challenging time as you learn new skills and formulate the details of your plan. This step often takes time and money, but will give you the boost you need to make the change.
  • 5. Try it out. Find an opportunity to try out your new career in a low risk way. This may be as voluntary work, or working from home on your business while still in the day job. It may be changing your role in your own business for a short period of time, while people adjust to the new way. Testing the water in this way will give you the confidence to continue, and also to make any changes to your plan at this stage. Remember you always have the choice to change your mind!
  • 6. Commitment and persistence. These underpin the whole process, as often significant career change can take some time and it is easy to just stick with what you have. Remember why it is important to you to achieve the change. How will you feel if you don’t make it this time?
  • 7. Break Out! Make the change, even if the timing is not perfect. Celebrate how far you have come!

 

 

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Embrace fuel prices: Work from home

July 19, 2008

The media is filled with the rocketing oil prices at the moment. The jokes are starting to circulate on the net.
http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/currentevents/a/gasprices.htm

 People are starting to cut their car journeys. Airlines are going bust or adding more fuel surcharges to the bill. My flight just got cancelled for tomorrow because Qantas are laying off staff and economising. This seems all bad. But look on the bright side!

1. Volunteer to do a research project into how your organisation can reduce its carbon footprint and be more energy efficient. Work out how much fuel all employees would save if they worked from home one day per week. This does only work if you are in an office environment, but most jobs have admin tasks that can be left to one day per week. Use this to your advantage. Working from home is actually more productive, plus you get to see your family and get some exercise in as well.

2. Use Skype, webcams and e-meeting rooms for your interstate or international work. Save on the flight cost (financial and to the planet). This also saves your social and family life. Or at least tell your company that cutting down half of the commutes would be more economical. Many people say that travel is one of the most stressful things they do – physically and for their emotional life, so cutting it down would help everyone.

3. The lifestyle we are finally being forced to live is better for us now, and the future generations. We have been talking for so long about climate change, but now the economics are forcing behavioural change on us. We have less money in our pockets – but by changing our behaviour, we are benefiting the planet.

4. The above may make you think all greeny and leftie – but capitalism lives on in the carbon neutral future. With all the global economic crisis being touted, now is a great time to get in on the big sale of stocks/shares. Get educated in the green investment arena. Who will benefit from carbon credits, from the oil decline, from the move by governments to greener energy? In times of turbulence, money changes hands. Make sure some of it heads in your direction.
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The Last Lecture: for much needed inspiration

July 14, 2008

This is a video review of “The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. The book was written after the Last Lecture itself which can also be seen on YouTube.
If you are having a bad day, and you need some inspiration – this book is just what you need.

Some of the best bits for me were:

  • There are 2 types of families – those who need a dictionary to get through dinner, and those who don’t
  • If you have a question, find the answer
  • On self esteem – give them something they can’t do, they work hard until they find they can do it – Repeat.
  • Brick walls are there for a reason. They give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Once you get over them, it can be helpful to tell others how you did it.
  • Time must be explicitly managed, like money.
  • You can always change your plan, but only if you have one.
  • Give yourself permission to dream. Fuel your kids dreams.
  • Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.
  • Failure is not just acceptable, it’s often essential.
  • The First Penguin award: given to those who are first in the water with their ideas. There might be predators, but they take the risk and get out there.
  • All you have to do is ask.
  • Take your kids on crazy experiences – it’s about time with you, doing things and building memories.
  • Put your own oxygen mask on before helping others – sort out your own problems first.

You can visit Randy’s homepage here http://download.srv.cs.cmu.edu/~pausch/
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Work Life Balance: “What Matters” by Daniel Petre

July 12, 2008
Success and Work-Life Balance

What Matters: Success and Work-Life Balance

If your work life balance is non-existent, or you work for a company that expects your soul in exchange for your pay – then you need to read this book. Your life doesn’t have to be this way – and this book can help you look at what really matters in your life, and make the change.

Daniel Petre understands the corporate 27 hour day having worked at Microsoft and other large companies. But he chose to focus on his family and his life outside of work, facing criticism from other executives who seemed to resent his choices. This book challenges the practices of office face-time, number of hours worked as the yardstick for reward, office centred social life as well as work, and the only way is up.

Here are some of the insights I gained from reading this book:

  • It is important to figure out what is most important to you, work out how to do your job in the most efficient and productive way and then allocate time to other activities in your life – “be ruthless with your diary” and make sure you have time for the people and activities that mean the most to you
  • Remember that you don’t always have to move upwards in a company. You can choose to move sideways e.g. retrain or downwards e.g. work part-time or take less responsibility. People may criticise you for this, but you don’t need acceptance from your work colleagues. You need to make sure your life is focussed on the right things.
  • Concentrating only on work is a short term view – your employees and colleagues will not be there when you are sick, or need a friend, or when you retire. Those nights out on the corporate expense account are great sometimes, but not every week while your family eats without you and your kids go to bed without seeing you all week.
  • Studies have actually found that changing the way employees are treated boosts productivity more than changing their pay. Motivating people by treating them well is also cheaper – so everyone wins!
  • Sustainable leaders must understand themselves, develop and reward competence, cherish diversity, advocate equity, have the ability to communicate at all levels, have a deep understanding of the organisation, vision and strategy. They must be a human being first, then a corporate executive. They must have perspective – where life has many aspects and work is just a part of it.
  • A life of sustained success has all facets – health, family, wealth, work, social legacy, balance – “people obsessed with work end up lonely, sad, bitter souls”
  • When we were children balance was encouraged – we did lots of different things. Then suddenly we spend the bulk of our waking hours on one thing and nothing else is supposed to matter. We are sucked into this culture and we all want to fit in – but we mustn’t forget what is really important
  • Companies focus on asset maintenance for their machinery – but what about employees as assets? There should be a focus on maintaining people – and we are all responsible for making sure we ourselves are sustainable.
  • Get a reality check now and then. Remember how lucky you are even on the worst day at work. Perspective brings home what is important – your family, your health, your home.

This is a great book that will help you take stock of your personal situation now and reflect on where you are going with your career. You get what you focus on, and if work is everything, then the rest will fall away. Is this what you want?
There are exercises in the book that will help you identify what is important, where you spend your time and challenge your perspective. There are also cautionary tales of people who have had stellar corporate careers but are left with little happiness on retirement.

So, if you are struggling with work/life balance – I highly recommend this book!

If you would like to buy the book, it is available here http://www.janecurrypublishing.com.au/html/what_matters.htm
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Picasso: Lessons for a working life

July 11, 2008

Picasso in thoughtI went to the Picasso exhibition at Brisbane Modern Art Gallery last week. It was an exhibition of lesser known drawings, prints and some of his own personal collection of paintings as well as photos of him in his various studios.
http://www.qag.qld.gov.au/exhibitions/current/picasso_and_his_collection

It was a welcome cultural fix but I also learnt some lessons that can influence our working lives.

  • You don’t have to be perfect. Not everything Picasso did was a masterpiece. There were sketches and doodles displayed that he could have dashed off in no time at all when he was clearly just playing. We should be more like this. Don’t expect everything you do to be a masterpiece first time. Don’t expect to walk into your perfect job tomorrow. But play…try things out…ask your friends…relax…and in time one of the things you do will be a masterpiece.
  • Be authentic. Many of the pieces Picasso collected were from friends or by friends, people he admired, phases he went through. Each tells of something he saw in them that wasn’t necessarily obvious. Some of the pieces are rough and basic, some of great artistic importance. He just collected what he liked. The sketches were of real people, with bulbous noses, or real stomachs. Naked people with no airbrushing. Sex without the porn. All of these images are authentic and untouched by media worship. Stop trying to be what others want you to be. Stop trying to like what you think others want you to like. Just be authentic. Get to know yourself and investigate the original you. What makes you light up with enthusiasm?
  • Don’t put yourself in a box. You can be many people. Don’t constrain what talents you have. Did you know that Picasso also wrote poetry? He was not just a visual artist. He expressed himself in many ways. You don’t have to define yourself by your job alone.
  • Let inspiration guide you. One of Picasso’s most famous paintings is Guernica, a copy of which is displayed in the United Nations headquarters. He was inspired to paint it after the Nazi bombing of this little Spanish town and it has continued to inspire people with it’s anti-war message. We need to allow ourselves to be moved, and when we are inspired, to act. Don’t let the day in-day out working life kill inspiration and passion. You can still be someone who is moved and who acts powerfully. You are still someone important.

It is necessary to get out of your normal head space sometimes, in order to see beyond your current situation. The lessons we need to learn can sometimes come from surprising places.
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iTunes U: Get your self-development here!

July 7, 2008

This is a momentous event in the world of self-development!

iTunes has launched iTunesU – a portal for education, featuring online lectures in audio and video format. You can download these for FREE making learning accessible and easy whenever you can spare some time.
http://www.apple.com/education/itunesu_mobilelearning/itunesu.html

I am a huge fan of self-development and devote an entire chapter on it in my book “How to Enjoy Your Job” . I recommend using your commute to develop your brain, and your spare time to expand your opportunities by learning new things. Here is a brilliant (and free) way to do it!

Here are some of the available lectures for FREE at iTunesU that sounded pretty cool to me. You may think these are wierd and not for you – but check out the selection on line as there is something for everyone.

  • The psychology of blink: Understanding how our mind works unconsciously: Allen Edwards Psychology lectures
  • Money 101: Buzzwords: Clear the confusion with simple, direct discussions of key economic jargon
  • Ben Franklin and the world of the enlightenment
  • A holiday in France: Language lectures
  • Ask a Biologist: cool lectures such as Nanobiology
  • Einstein and the Mind of God
  • Really achieving your childhood dreams – Randy Pausch (Carnegie Mellon)
  • Oprah Winfrey’s 2008 Commencement Address at Stanford University
  • The Persistance of memory: Salvador Dali

To find these and so many more – go to iTunes store, and choose the iTunesU link.

Happy learning! and Post here if you find some cool lectures you want to share!
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The Pope: 7 key points On Human Work – for World Youth Day 2008

July 6, 2008

World Youth Day (WYD) will be held in Sydney, Australia on Sunday July 20 2008. Pope Benedict XVI will be visiting Australia for the first time and more people are expected than for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Although WYD is a Catholic event, the Pope is an important figure on the world stage, and regardless of your religion, the Pope still has global influence.
So what does the Pope think about work?

Pope John Paul II wrote “Laborem Exercens” as a letter to the Catholic Church about human work, considering it to be an essential part of life. Here are 7 key points from the letter that can help you reflect on your job.

  • 1. Through work, people can participate in the same creative action as God. Look around at architecture, art, industry, agriculture, business, cities, books, inventions, technology – even down to the chair you sit on and the clothes you wear. The manufactured world is an expression of human work and much of it is marvellous. People should imitate God in creation: work, and then rest.
  • 2. More attention should be paid to the worker than to the work they do, as people are centrally important. Workers are not just resources and business is not just an economic decision. “Work has no meaning by itself; it is the human being that counts”. Individuals need to work at jobs they can express themselves in, and be able to demonstrate their abilities. People need to be praised and rewarded for their work.
  • 3. Work is sometimes a heavy burden. “With the hard work of your hands, you will get your bread till you go back to the earth from which you were taken” (Genesis 3:19). Sometimes it is a physical burden and exhausts us; sometimes it is a mental or emotional struggle. But work also enables us to become more human, to learn lessons about ourselves, life and other people.
  • 4. Work is essential to family life, as it provides income and education. Working within the community for the good of the family and others also gives people a purpose for their life. Work can promote self-esteem and a feeling of accomplishment which are essential for happiness.
  • 5. Work should be rewarded appropriately. Financial reward in exchange for work is what keeps society functioning. Other social benefits should also be given to the worker including health care, holidays and rest time, and safe working conditions.
  • 6. Work unites people and builds communities. Unions and associations should be encouraged in order to pursue a common good and prevent injustice in the workplace. Work should be available to all people equally. Disabled people should be supported in their right to work. Immigrants should be given the same chance as others since they bring skills from other countries to their new home.
  • 7. “We inherit the work of generations before us and we share in the building of the future”. Work makes us part of the stream of humanity that continues in the world. We need to be aware of where we have come from, and what type of world we are creating for our children. We need to consider the effect our work has on society and the environment. Is our work building a better future?

“Work remains a good thing, not only because it is useful and enjoyable, but also because it expresses and increases the worker’s dignity. Through work we not only transform the world, we are transformed ourselves, becoming more a human being”.
On Human Work #9

Original Text: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_14091981_laborem-exercens_en.html

Modern Translation: http://www.osjspm.org/majordoc_laborem_exercens_translation.aspx
World Youth Day: http://www.wyd2008.org
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