Brain Teaser With a Hidden Lesson

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parking lot

What is the number of the parking space containing the car?

I was on Google+ last night when I came across a brain teaser.  It took me about 20 seconds to figure it out.  On average, I’m finding others taking about 2 minutes. Others just gave up, getting angry with me for asking the question.

I have a theory for how long it will take you to figure it out.  The more empathetic you are, the less time it will take you. Counter to that, if you are more apathetic toward others, it will take you longer.

The question:

What is the number of the parking space containing the car?

So, how long did it take you?


Categories: Agile, Project Management Tags: Tags:

Social Norms at Work

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Social Norms

I recently gave a talk in Michigan on the topic of servant-leadership.  Unfortunately, servant-leadership is something that is painfully absent in so many organizations.  Just a few years ago, it (servant-leadership) was not something I had even heard of.  Going back and reviewing the PMBOK made me realize two glaring omissions.  There is a lack of content on stakeholder or team engagement and there is a lack of content on leadership.  Fortunately, in the last few years, I have enjoyed books by authors like Clay Shirky, Seth Godin, Dan Pink, and Dan Ariely.  I’ve also met and interacted with some amazing people in the Agile community.  I now interact differently with my peers, as a result of these experiences.  I now apply my social norms at work.  What are social norms?  They are patterns of behavior in a particular group, community, or culture, accepted as normal and to which an individual is accepted to conform.

We all go to work and we all get paid to do it.  Too many times, we take things for granted.  We don’t question the things we do or the things that happen to us.  I’m pretty sure this is based on conditioning over a long period of time.  Perhaps we need to start treating those we work with more like those we socialize with.  Next time you interact with a fellow employee, ask yourself if your behavior is socially acceptable.

Social Norms

Within an organization, where we are working with other people, things can get twisted.  Some exhibit bad behavior and believe it’s somehow forgivable because we’re all getting paid.  Well, I don’t think that’s acceptable.  It’s very interesting to see the same people behave differently, when not in the office environment.  Why is it some people forget basic manners or common courtesy, when in an office environment?

Case in point, I hold the door open for people, regardless if I know them or not.  I see this as socially expected behavior.  Socially, I expect a thank you.  To say I expect it is a slight embellishment.  Outside of the office, I still expect a thank you.  Unfortunately, at the office, I’ve started to accept not getting any reciprocation.  There are a few people in my building that I don’t personally know but I still hold the door for them.  They won’t make eye contact with me and they won’t say thank you.  When the situation is reversed, these same people do not hold the door for anyone.  But, I refuse to accept their behavior.

We all need to strive to understand and empathize with others. People need to be accepted and recognized for their special and unique qualities.  Assume the good intentions of your coworkers and don’t reject them as people, even while refusing to accept their behavior or performance.

Drawing:  Pictofigo

HT: Business Dictionary

Good Customer Service

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This post is relatively short and sweet.  Today I got my first Verizon Wireless bill.  It had an initiation fee of $35.00 on it.  Seriously?  I realize we all need to make a buck but this was ridiculous.  When setting up my account, I didn’t even talk to anyone.  I did everything online.

I called Verizon Wireless, since they don’t have a Twitter account. (that’s right, I asked them)  I realize the agent on the other side had to have a script she had to follow.  I couldn’t be too demanding.  I was quick and too the point.

Hi, I’m a new Verizon Wireless customer.  I got my first bill and there is a $35 charge for initiating the phone.  I don’t recall reading anything about this fee and I think it’s excessive.  What can you do to make me feel better about this situation?

The agent paused for a few seconds.  She apologized and said I should have seen something mentioning the charge on the last screen before I purchased my plan.  Regardless, she appreciated the fact that I am a new Verizon Wireless customer and offered me one month free voice service. ($39.99)

That’s all it took.  I’m a happy customer and I wanted to tell others.  Just remember, when providing good customer service, a little empathy goes a long way.

Like these images?  Find them at Pictofigo

Categories: Misc Tags: Tags: , ,

Lacking Empathy

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empathy

empathyAs a project manager, I personally believe empathy is one of the most important virtues.  I think it’s one of those attributes that makes us most human.  You can’t expect to take care of your team, or even customers, if you are unable to be empathetic.  Regardless if you can help someone, ask anyway.  Regardless if you can understand what they are thinking or feeling, try anyway.

I recently participated as a juror in a criminal trial.  Though I knew it would be a personal inconvenience, I did it because I thought it was the right thing to do.  It was my obligation as a citizen, to do my part in ensuring justice was served.  Some would argue if it truly was, but I digress.  So, what’s the point of this blog post?

About a month ago, I informed the necessary (corporate) parties who pay me that I had been selected to be part of a jury pool.  Upon sending them the necessary information, I was told I would be paid for a full 8 hour day, minus $20. (The amount Frederick County pays a juror for one day of service).  Considering the cost to short my paycheck was probably more than $20, I wasn’t going to argue.  If that’s what they wanted to do, it was a wash for me, with the exception of the work I had to delay for my customer.

Upon submitting my hours on the second day, I received a (billing) submission error.  Because it was an ambiguous error message, I send an email to accounting.  I said, upon completing my second day of jury duty and billing my time, I received the error.  Within a few minutes, I received a very short email response. It informed me I would only be paid for 1 day of jury duty, that “it’s in the handbook” and I would have to bill my time to my Paid Time Off (PTO).  I was surprised I didn’t get a “I’m sorry if there was a misunderstanding…” or “I regret to bring this to your attention…” email.  Seconds later I got another email.  It was one line.  “You can also take Leave Without Pay”.

Let’s take a moment to reflect.

Both of these emails came from the Human Resources department, not from my direct chain of command.  I did get a telephone call from my Director within a few minutes.  He apologized if I had misunderstood the corporate policy to only pay employees for one day of jury duty but added he would work with me if I had already made plans that would result in a PTO deficit.  I want to commend him on having empathy.  He showed true leadership in picking up the telephone and calling me.  He showed true leadership in listening to me vent for several minutes.  It didn’t change anything but he certainly scored a few points in my book.

We’re all human beings.  We all like to be treated like human beings.
When in doubt, pick up the phone or go talk to someone directly.
Most importantly, don’t ever send a one line email that basically says “RTFM”

Like the image?  Find it at Pictofigo