Monthly Archives: January 2015

Beware of the Groundhogs in the Workplace!

DSC_9410 (800x536)

I was stunned to learn recently that Monday, February 2 is Groundhog Day. When I thought of all the animal species, including of course yours truly, that have served humans faithfully for thousands of years, I was at a loss to understand why this destructive rodent is honored with its own day of such notoriety[1]. This didn’t pass the sniff test to me so I decided to do a little digging around for more information. We dogs are data-driven.

What I learned is that February 2 is about half way through the winter. Ancient folklore is that the lazy hibernating groundhog wakes up and leaves his hole on this day. If the weather is sunny and he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter. If it is cloudy and he does not see his shadow, there will be an early Spring. For more than 100 years, thousands of humans have been flocking rabidly to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania every February 2 to get this weather “forecast” from the local groundhog, Phil. Yet the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), reports that based on an analysis of objective data, Phil has no skill at predicting the weather. So it seems to me the fame of the groundhog is based on the long-standing and unchallenged belief that it has some special power to forecast the weather. This has created its “aura” among its followers, and there is little scrutiny of its actual performance based on objective criteria.

Does this sound a little familiar to you? Do you have groundhogs at your workplace? A groundhog might be someone who enjoys the perception that he has superior insights or skills, without any facts or science to back him up. Yet he is followed and rewarded because people are afraid to challenge him. He is like the emperor in the story that young human pups read – he has no clothes but no one questions his proclamation that he is wearing beautiful robes. A groundhog might not be a person. It might be a program, a policy or a process, something that has always been done without anyone questioning whether it is still the right thing to do.

Ask yourself if you are a groundhog on occasion. When you find yourself doing or saying something based solely on long-standing habit, burrow deeply into the facts. Ask yourself if there is a good reason to keep doing it, other than “That’s how it has always been done.”

To my furry rodent friend, I extend my paw in peace. Happy Groundhog Day! Enjoy your day in the sun, or in the shade as the case may be. Come Spring, however, stay out of my garden!

Your best friend,

Harley

[1] Please note that National Dog Day is August 26

Readers, please tell me: What do you LOVE about your work?

DSC_9646 (536x800)
For my Valentine’s Day blog, I want to hear from my readers: What do you LOVE about your work?

My readers have vastly different ways to spend their day. Many of you work for large companies, and others are self-employed. Some of you no longer work for a salary but you may use your time to contribute in other ways. What do you LOVE about what are doing?

Please leave a comment at this blog. You can also comment on my Facebook page, Harley’s Boxer Briefings. You can also send me an email at harleys.boxer.briefings@gmail.com.

Your best friend,

Harley

Take a Walk!

Even in inclement weather, my walk is the highlight of my day.

Even in inclement weather, my walk is the highlight of my day.


For many of us dogs, there are no sweeter words in the human language than “Do you want to go for a walk?” (Except possibly, “would you like a thick slab of tenderloin?” But I digress.) You may wonder why we dogs are so crazy about our walks. First is the obvious: it’s exercise. A walk makes us feel good and gives our powerful muscles a much needed workout. Remember that we are the descendants of migratory wolves who were always on the move looking for food. But there is so much more to a walk than the physical benefits. It is mentally stimulating. For a dog, a walk is our window on the world and our communication network. As we walk, we sniff out what is going in our territory and track new developments. I can walk by the same tree every day for a year, yet I detect something new every time. Is there a new dog in the neighborhood? Did Max have his morning walk before me? Is Fifi trying a new dog food? We also leave information for our canine colleagues to help keep them informed of the latest scoop. For the working dog, the walk is an essential management activity.

Many of you humans start the new year with resolutions to improve your personal and professional life and I strongly recommend that you make a habit of taking a walk at your workplace. Every day. Get out of your chair. Push away from the computer screen. Leave your desk and office. Walk around. Sniff out a new corner of the building. Talk to someone you do not know. Ask questions. Instead of sending an email response to someone in your building, take a walk to talk to her directly. You will get more out of a face-to-face conversation. You can sense her body language and facial expressions and you can respond to questions on the spot. If you are a manager, taking a walk to talk to the members of your team will foster better communication and make you a hands-on[1] leader.  This is better than an open door – it’s no door.

Managing by walking around has been part of the canine culture for thousands of years. As I was working on this blog, I was astounded to learn that many successful human businesses such as Hewlett Packard and Apple, as well as many prestigious schools such as the Harvard Business School and the Wharton School, have studied or promoted our approach to management, calling it Managing by Walking Around[2]  or Managing by Wandering Around. In fact, there have been best seller books published on this topic. For us dogs, this is as obvious as the nose on your snout. It’s just common scents[3]. Get up. Stretch your legs. Sniff around. Take a walk!

Your best friend,

Harley

[1] I prefer the term “paws-on”.
[2] I would have preferred if they called it “Managing by Walking a Hound” but I digress again.
[3] Sorry about the dog pun.

A reader asks about managing in changing environments

DSC_9410 (800x536)

One of my readers asked the following question on my Facebook page: “Harley, this is a time of transition for many people. Do you have any advice for managing in changing environments?”

What an excellent question and one that I will try to sink my teeth into to start the new year. This is an issue on which there has been much study and writing. I strongly encourage all of you readers to weigh in on this important question.

You ask about managing, and I assume you mean managing other people. But before I get to managing others, I would like to focus on the personal response to transition and change. Two years ago I experienced a change in my life which, at the time, was of cataclysmic proportions to me. I will get into more detail in a future blog but suffice it to say I thought all was lost. Yet this turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.

The change terrified me, which brings me to my first piece of advice. Accept the fact that change will bring fear and anxiety. This is normal. Some will pooh-pooh any expression of concern regarding change and say you are a dinosaur. But let’s face it, evolutionary change was not kind to that species. So fear of change is a natural instinct. Accept it, live with it and move on. Don’t let fear paralyze you.

Second, trust yourself. Even if you feel like you are being knocked off your game, don’t start second guessing yourself. But if you don’t like a new idea that is coming with the transition, be honest with yourself too. Do you not like it because it is not a good idea, or because it is not what your are used to?

With respect to managing change with others, communication must be your number one priority. Open, honest communication is critical, even if it’s not what people want to hear. People have to trust what you tell them. And they have to trust that your open door is really an open door, not just a cliché. They have to trust that they can be candid with you without getting their heads bitten off. If you are a manager, make every effort to understand the rationale for the changes that are being implemented and keep your people informed.

If all else fails and you are in a state of chaos, stick to the fundamentals: Focus on giving the customer or client high quality products or services in a timely fashion. No matter what changes will be implemented, these essential fundamentals will always be the cornerstone of a successful organization.

These are some thought starters. Please leave a comment with feedback.