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Entries in improvement (15)


The Silence Says It All

I turned on the radio to my favorite news station and the sounds of Lady Gaga came to my ears. I checked the station information and saw that it was correct. I then went to my computer and thought I could listen online. Had to be a glitch-things worked perfectly yesterday.

When I clicked on the site, a letter appeared on my screen which gave the grim news-the station had been discontinued due to lack of advertising sales and a slow economy. Too bad. As I continued to read the letter, however, I got a little steamed. The letter began to tout all the accomplishments of the station over the past several years. As I finished reading I wanted to scream, "But you're now off the air!"

In Juggling Elephants we have a quote that your circus is only as good as your NEXT performance. Reflecting on the past is good as it gives us a sense of accomplishment, but our goal should always be to determine how to best use our time and energy to improve our performance for the future. To figure out how to sustain our success in the areas most important to us. Failure to do so causes the elephants to grow larger and eventually squash us-or in the case of my radio station-go silent.


Don't Tell Me!

At a training program a few weeks ago I was sharing a story about a friend who had suffered a heart attack and what he had learned in cardiac rehab that I know is beneficial to the rest of the group in reducing stress. Before I could get past the part about the heart attack, one of the meeting participants said, "Don't tell me he died!" The gentleman was visibly shaken. After the program I talked with the man and he apologized for the outburst. He simply said it "hit" too close to home.

It's easy to try and avoid facing the results of poor choices for our lineup. We reason that we are the one person who will beat all the odds and not have a similar outcome. Just like the circus, however, we can't continue to have poor quality acts and expect to get a standing ovation from anyone, especially ourselves.

The next time you are faced with the realization that a poor act could have negative consequences for your circus, don't ignore it. Learn from it, and change your lineup.


Getting Help with Your Circus

Confidant, Mentor, Sounding Board, Counselor, Tutor, Guide, Teacher, a Listening Ear, Guru or Advisor. Who do you turn to when you need advice, direction or to just relieve some steam? In a lot of situations, it may be a spouse, parent or significant other. You may turn to a professional counselor, therapist or life coach. On the other hand, you may be going it alone.

Consider formally creating a relationship with someone of your choosing to help you with your "circus." Even better, create a situation with someone where you can work together in supporting each other. Meet on a regular basis (monthly, weekly, daily?) to discuss those things that are important to you and that you might need help with. When you meet, consider these ideas:

  • At the beginning of your time together, allow for some sharing of frustrations and concerns. At the same time, don't spend too much time venting or complaining.

  • Focus on goals. Use the time to "return and report" about progress toward goals. We attended a session where a speaker shared that he has a daily call with his coach to report on his eating habits, exercise, progress on writing a book and a whole list of other items. Knowing that he will have to report on his progress to his coach provides him the healthy pressure that he needs to get things done
  • You have two ears and one mouth. Consider listening more than speaking. Sometimes people just need to share their feelings and be heard. Also, don't dominate the conversation. Be sure you are allowing for equal time.
  • Instead of burdening your spouse/significant other with work-related problems, consider finding a colleague that you can download with and share advice.
  • Keep a list. Create a place in your smart phone, planner or on a plain piece of paper that you carry with you where you can make a list of things that you would like to discuss and get feedback/advice on. This will make for more meaningful meetings.
  • Create boundaries. There may be some topics and subjects that you don't want to discuss or hear. Set these boundaries upfront so that awkward situations are avoided. You may want to be very focused with those things that you discuss
  • Set a timer. A timer will make sure that each person has an equal amount of time and forces you to keep to your allotted amount of time for the whole session together. Remember, the goals is to meet regularly. If you have marathon meetings, you might be hesitant to schedule a regular session

Continuous improvement is an important part of "creating the performance of a lifetime." Getting assistance, advice and feedback can be a great way to see things differently and assist you in your efforts to accomplish the things that are most important to you.


Use Your Brain

Would you rather your brain "rust out" or "wear out"? The truth is that you are more apt to rust out your brain from lack of use than you are to wear it out from too much use (if there is such a thing).

Consider some ideas:

  • Read! Read! Read!

  • Work on challenging puzzles

  • Sign up for a course and/or attend a conference that is related to your profession

  • Sign up for a course and/or attend a conference that is not related to your profession

  • Watch a documentary

  • Meditate. Think deep thoughts in a quiet atmosphere

  • Pick a topic and write a paper or book on it. Research and learn everything that you can on the topic. Become an expert

  • Play brain games that sharpen your mind and make you think. (AARP has a wide selection of free games and quizzes for the brain see: or do a web search on "Brain Games")

Unlike your knee, hip, shoulder, or elbow that could eventually wear out and need replacement the brain grows stronger and more proficient when it is active. What are you going to do to grow your brain? Make a plan and schedule each day to increase your knowledge and thinking ability.


Quick Ways To Improve Your Performance

Too often we think that improving our performance at work requires time-consuming certification programs, advanced degrees and months of hard work. While they are important elements in a plan, don't over look those small opportunities to improve. Here's a few quick ways to build a better circus performance:
  • Connect with a potential mentor. A simple phone call or e mail could reap big dividends over time.
  • Ask for a new responsibility. Okay, we know you are already overworked, but what's the value of tackling a short-term task that improves your skills and enhances your resume?
  • Visit your professional association's website. They have current articles related to your profession and downloadable pdfs with good information about industry trends, etc.
  • Volunteer. Start with a short-term event for a local charity or non-profit. You will rub shoulders with people who will appreciate your commitment to service-and could be of help in building your network and support team.
  • Focus on building individual relationships. Everyone is so busy and when you single someone out for support and encouragement, it shows your genuine concern for their well-being, and is a breath of fresh air in an impersonal work environment.
  • Update your resume. It's a good chance to see how you have grown (or not) while in your present position.

While many of these tips won't replace the more involved forms of job performance improvement, they are effective "acts" to begin getting more standing ovations at work.