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Monday, March 29, 2010

Jack of Hearts

Spring has arrived. Temperatures are rising and flowers are blooming. This season always represents a fresh beginning. The chirping of the birds is music to some people's ears. Do you ever wonder what songs they are singing? This week the Jack of Hearts will serve as a virtual jukebox to provide a soundtrack to help us plant ideas and tend them until they produce a harvest.

The theme from the Andy Griffith Show comes to mind. Although there are no lyrics, most people are familiar with the whistled melody. When you hear the tune, what thoughts go through your head? You may not want to literally go fishing like Andy and Opie, but the whistling may be a trigger for some other activity. It may cause you to think of a train speeding down the track and sounding the alarm as it approaches a crossing. Inevitably, you are delayed at the railroad crossing when you are in a hurry or running late. Stop, take a deep breath, and use the time to think of an alternative route. Don't let frustration and impatience keep you from pursuing your goals.

Another classic song that you probably recognize as soon as you hear it is R-E-S-P-E-C-T by Aretha Franklin. Most people know and sing along with the part where she spells out the word. There is no doubt at that point regarding her expectations. Are your requests sometimes misunderstood? Do people impede your progress instead of facilitating next steps for you? Examine how and what you are communicating. Be clear, concise, and capable of presenting your message in multiple formats. Sometimes you may need to be repetitive to convey what you are trying to say.
Beyonce had a hit song a few years ago called Irreplaceable. One of the most memorable parts of the song was the hook, "To the left, To the left". This phrase was the opening line and was featured prominently toward the end. It provided direction concerning where someone should go or look to find answers. All of us should have a hook. That is what people will remember about you. Use it to provide instruction or guidance about how you most effectively interact with others. This will help you build and sustain productive relationships that are beneficial to all parties. If you don't have a hook, develop one. It should be easy to understand and remember. It doesn't have to be verbal. Maybe your signature is your smile. Whatever it is, make sure it is an accurate representation of you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Jack of Spades

The NCAA basketball tournament has started. This is the time of year commonly referred to as March Madness. For those of you who are not basketball fans, the term "madness" refers to the buzzer beaters, upsets, and overall unpredictability of the games. It is exciting to watch and pull for the underdogs, or Cinderella teams.
The student athletes play at such a high level to win and advance to the next round. The commentators usually provide interesting human interest background stories on some of the players to highlight how these young people balance school, basketball, and life.

This week we will use the Jack of Spades to illustrate how all of us juggle multiple roles and responsibilities in our everyday lives. What are some of the functions that you fulfill regularly? Are you a spouse, parent, child, sibling, employee, employer, friend, mentor, teacher, or student? How do you keep all of the balls in the air at once without letting anything hit the ground? A better question might be what do you do when one position seems to consume all of your time and the other areas do not receive adequate attention.

Deal the Jack of Spades to someone to let them know it is okay to take the time to catch their breath and periodically ease their pace. Let's use J.U.G.G.L.E.R as an acronym for a process to help balance competing priorities.

J = Judge the impact and connectivity of all of the balls you have in the air. Determine how all of the pieces fit together and support each other. This will help you develop a rhythm and routine to maintain balance in your life.

U = Understand the principle of delegation. You do not have to do everything. Build a support system and use it. While it may be true that no one will do things the way you would do them, give others a chance to help you. They will get better at any task if provided the opportunity to do it repeatedly.

G = Give yourself permission to consider your needs, aspirations, and limitations. If you constantly take care of everyone else and never replenish your supply closet, then your ability to multitask is compromised. Make an effort to maintain your mental, spiritual, and physical health.

G = Get an accurate picture of your daily, weekly, and monthly inputs and outputs. Correct information is key to proper planning and execution of your integrated deliverables.

L = Learn the difference between important, essential, and urgent. Important things matter and need to be done. They are often predecessors to other activities. However, sometimes there is flexibility that will allow these items to be completed at a later date. Essential tasks must be done in order to maintain the order that serves as the foundation of your master plan. They usually have a direct impact on the front page and the bottome line. Urgent items are driven by timing and failure to address them can disrupt the entire flow. It is important and essential to remember that everything is not urgent.

E = Educate yourself to find the best strategies to meet your obligations. As you continually grow and develop, there will be opportunities to explore new and improved approaches to constant challenges.

R = Remember to regularly do the j-u-g-g-l-e steps mentioned above in order to reassess your approach, renegotiate your service terms, and rotate your assignments as needed.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Queen of Diamonds

Do you watch the game show Jeopardy? The format is interesting because contestants are provided the answers and they have to come up with the correct question. Unfortunately, that is usually not the case in the real world. Most of us have plenty of questions and are continually trying the find the answers. The Queen of Diamonds can serve as the moderator of periodic question and answer sessions to provide direction when needed. Four of the most common questions that we consider on a regular basis are: Who (Clarity), What (Color), When (Carat), and Where (Cut).

Who do you want to be when you interact with others? Labels are often used to describe us based on the characteristics we display. Do you bring peace and harmony to the table or are you often in the midst of conflict? Are you perceived as a team player? Do people want to work with you? When people speak about you, do they use words like reliable, generous, honest, trustworthy, nice, and fun. If so, then you add value to your relationships and make a positive impression on those who come in contact with you. Allow your light to shine and showcase your best qualities. Minimize the inclusion of attributes that can contribute to a negative view of you. Using our diamond theme, seek to be known as someone with flawless clarity.

What is your plan to achieve your goals? Is it high level or detailed? Initially, you might have an agenda that resembles a light yellow diamond. It looks nice, but there are still some areas that are not clear. As you refine it, the color goes from light yellow to very light yellow. Now it is more polished, but still needs work to provide an accurate description of what you are trying to do. You may need to invest more time and money in order to reach certain milestones. As the plan is modified to reflect progress, the color becomes faint yellow. The end result is within view and you become more comfortable sharing your vision with others. Maintain your focus and keep working. Make the necessary adjustments to turn your plan into a near colorless diamond. It is ready for implementation now. Sometimes a phased approach works better. The first phase will reveal where enhancements might be possible or endorsements might be beneficial. The final phase will yield your perfect colorless plan.

When will you accomplish your objectives? What is your timeline? Are some tasks set for today? Those are your 1 carat goals. They may not weigh much individually, but when combined represent a larger impact. Maybe others cannot be accomplished in one day and might need a week. You can consider them to be 2 carat goals. What is the plan for the month? The weight will be more significant so you can refer to it as the 4 carat plan. How will you measure progress at the end of the year? It may help to look at the year in terms of quarters (3 month blocks).

Where do you need to go? What map are you using to get there? Establish landmarks that will help you navigate from beginning to end. Be prepared for detours. Should your route be compared to an emerald cut diamond? Are the paths straight with right turns that clearly indicate your position directionally like a compass (North, South, East, or West). Maybe a pear cut diamond is a better description of how you will move toward your destination. There are curves and narrow lanes that will require you to pay close attention. It is important to learn from the people and challenges that you encounter along the way. Sometimes your route will be more circular like a round diamond. This is where the landmarks and detours are important. If you feel like you are going in circles because you keep passing the same thing repeatedly, change your course. Do not get discouraged. Find another way to reach your destination.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Queen of Clubs

You must be a natural born U. S. citizen, at least 35 years old, and a minimum 14 year resident within the country to be President of the United States.

This position requires a Bachelors degree, 5 or more years of experience, and willingness to travel 25% of the time.

To be considered, a student must have at least a 4.8 G.P.A, SAT score of 2000, extracurricular activities, and 300 hours of community service.

What do the descriptions above have in common? They are examples of qualifications. Whether you want to be President, get your dream job, or win a prestigious college scholarship, you have to meet certain requirements. Most of us attempt to satisfy external qualifications to achieve our goals. Let's take a different approach this week. Establish qualifications that highlight the value of your accomplishments and relationships. Deal the Queen of Clubs to let someone know they have exceeded expectations. For example, your qualifications for a friend may be a sense of humor, bargain shopper, and good cook. Who do you know that fits that description? Don't assume that people realize their value to you. Let them know why they were promoted to an executive position in your life.

We are approaching the end of the first quarter of the year and a lot of people have already abandoned their New Year's resolutions. Instead of resolutions, focus on the qualifications that contribute to your purpose, progress, and positive pursuits. It is okay to deal the card to yourself as a reminder to stay focused and motivated. Don't disqualify yourself from the field because there is no one to monitor your pace and keep you on track. You are the best advocate for you.

What are your qualification questions for you and those who matter to you? Write them down and consider the responses. Are all qualifications equally important or are some more significant than others? If someone is an early riser with a sunny disposition, deal the Queen of Clubs and tell them they qualify to be the Morning Monarch. Since cheerfulness can be contagious, spread it with a smile. Maybe someone else recommends the best books, movies, or restaurants. They would definitely qualify to reign over the referral region.

Have fun with the Queen of Clubs and the qualifications you highlight. Remember to reflect what you require of others. If you meet the qualifications, it will inspire those you interact with to strive toward them.