Old Dogs – New Tricks

“Example isn’t another way to teach, it is the only way to teach.” – Chares Dickinson

It’s September already. Fall is on the way. Here in Texas high temps have fallen into the mid 90s! Football season has started, and school is back in session. Fall is a season of distinct sounds, or a lack thereof. Quiet in the neighborhood where kids had been playing all summer, gunshots from hunters in the distance, high school football teams and bands practicing.

The end of summer and the beginning of a new school year brings with it a flood of memories and emotions. At times we long for simpler days and wish we were young and back in school. Some of us are old and have gone back to school! What we have learned in the world of the workplace is that whether or not school is in session we are always learning.

With school starting it is hard to miss the fact that technology is evolving. The tools that kids need for school these days are substantially different that the Number 2 pencils and Big Chief Pads we started with (or the chisels and stone tablets for some among us). Today we have phones that have more computing power than was in the Lunar Module. Computers come in all shapes and sizes. And where we passed notes, now kids send text messages in a language most adults cannot comprehend.

Technology in the workplace changes even more rapidly it seems, with new gadgets, programs, and upgrades every week. So not only are we always learning about the business, our products, and our customers. We are also learning to adapt and use new technology to do our jobs.

When it comes to learning we all know the saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Those of us who have worked for any length of time in the real world know that this statement is false. It may take a little more time and effort, but old dogs can indeed be taught new tricks. Just think about the way business was done when we started in our job and look at how things have changed. Most of us manage to at least keep up.

Along with technology we see the job markets, economy, and even our customer base changing. How do we learn to adapt in changing times? How do we learn new tricks amidst difficulty and stress? To teach old dogs new tricks we have to use the right TOOLS. What are these TOOLS?

T stands for Tone – whether teaching or being taught it is important to have a positive tone. This really is a key to learning because we know that effective communication is more than saying the right words in the right order. Tone of voice indicates attitude and emotion, and a positive outlook goes a long way to helping people hear what we are saying.

OO stands for Over and Over – a positive outlook is followed closely in importance by repetition. In order to catch on quickly and learn new things we need to do it over and over. Notice, it is important not just to hear what to do, but to actually do it. Doing something is the fastest way to learn. Hands-on experience has been proven to re-wire how our brain works when it comes to learning new tasks. Old dogs tend to shy away from new tricks, or assign them to younger pups. Instead we need to take on new tasks with enthusiasm.

L stands for Listen – often it is difficult for older dogs to listen to those who are younger. At times this is based on a lack of respect. It may also be the difference in experience. While experience does help us in our outlook and expectations, we need to give those younger than us an opportunity to teach us what they know. Face it, they have grown up on new technology. We may have finally figured out how to set the clock on the VCR, but that is just to make it stop blinking, we have not used it since we started using DVDs. Kids entering the workforce today are several generations ahead technologically. They do lack experience, and wisdom, but that gives us an opportunity to teach each other.

S stands for Success – we need to celebrate success, no matter how small! As we set a positive tone in the workplace, do things over and over for consistency, listen and learn from others, we also need to take note of our successes. Even when it is a small achievement, it is still an achievement. Often times we put such an emphasis on getting it right and learning new things quickly that we disregard the small victories and are not satisfied until we have a major breakthrough. We need to remember that a large breakthrough is nothing more than a series of small successes added together.

With the right tools, proper motivation, positive reinforcement, on the job experience, and respect for others, we as old dogs can be taught many amazing new tricks of the trade. In fact, if we don’t we will not find success. Success in business requires the ability to learn. To learn is to grow. We need to be growing, or getting out of the way.

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Dealing with Drought: What to Do When Business Dries Up

(As with most of the articles appearing here, this was originally written for a company newsletter.)

Never miss a good chance to shut up. – Will Rogers

For some reason we are uncomfortable with silence. If we are in a room full of people and no one is talking you can feel the tension rise. When other people are around we don’t like quiet. In fact, even when we are on the phone, if the person on the other end stops talking we will either blame the slow computer we are working with, shuffle papers noisily, or make that irritating stuttering sound to fill the void and let that other person know that we are still on the line.

Who knows how many times a day we resort to small talk to prevent the looming silence? And the number one topic to discuss when engaging in the conversational art of small talk is the weather. We talk about the weather more each day than perhaps any other subject outside of work related discussions.

In these parts they have a saying, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it will change.” Now we know that’s a lie. It hasn’t changed for months. It is hot and dry, on the verge of being hotter and drier than it has ever been before. Small talk now has become serious! We are reminiscing about the Great Seven Year Drought of the 1950s, having to go further back in time to find times that were worse than they are now. Before long we will be remembering the Dust Bowl (and no, that isn’t a football game).

I heard one story recently about a little boy who was born in West Texas in the early 1950s. A little while after his fifth birthday he was outside playing one day. He suddenly came running into the house screaming as if he was being chased by a swarm of bees. What was it that frightened him so badly? It had started to rain on him and he had not seen rain ever before in his life. As the big wet drops began to hit him he had no idea what was after him, he just knew they were everywhere!

This month we will break records, we will be hot, we will pray for rain, storms, even hurricanes if that means some relief from the drought. The weather, once small talk, now dominates our thoughts and fuels our worries.

So what do we do when things start to dry up at work? When we have a different kind of drought? When our customers are going out of business, letting people go, or underbidding jobs just to have work? What can we do to help?

The first thought that we have in hard times is a natural instinct to push harder, work harder, and try to find new business, new customers, new ways to do business. The good news is that can mean we become more efficient, reform policies, and get creative about how we do what we do.

The bad news is that when times get lean we tend to start to panic. What we see as driving to earn more business can come across as us being pushy, demanding, and a downright busybody. What we see as making calls to customers to check on things can be perceived as pestering. What is even worse, when we stress, we stop using the good business principles we all know and we begin to over react and think that the war will be won and relief will be found if we just sell it cheaper, lower our prices, and, in the words of the George Strait song, “Just give it away.”

If we fall to the level of believing that success in business is all about having the lowest price then we should quit and go work for Wal-Mart. Giving things away does not earn business, it just tells our customers that we had too much mark up. It also tells them that they can expect these new lower prices all the time, even when times get better – and they always will get better, that is the cycle of business.

When we experience a drought, we can talk all we want about the weather, but sometimes we need a little silence. Our customers do not need to hear us talking all the time. They need to know that even in tough times we are here for them, will work with them to find solutions to their problems, and that they can count on us to be fair and do what is right. And no matter what anybody says, it isn’t ever about lowering prices; it is about building up relationships.

Yes, it is hot and dry. Yes, times are tough. Yes, we should all be praying for rain. And in the midst of the small talk, we need to remember that we are not here to take orders, we are not even here to sell things; we are here to make ourselves an invaluable resource for our customers. That means we whether the weather with them, and that’s not just small talk. When the drought ends, if we have been there with them and for them the whole time, they will stick with us. We will understand it better by and by when we finally see those showers of blessing.

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We Must All Hang Together

We must all hang together, or assuredly, we shall all hang separately. – Benjamin Franklin (at the signing on the Declaration of Independence)

Two hundred and thirty-five years ago, on July 4, 1776, the Congress of the thirteen United States of America unanimously declared their independence from Great Britain. After enumerating their grievances and listing the reasons for making such a declaration, the fifty-six signers proclaimed, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

They risked everything for this great experiment in self government, trusting that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” They viewed government as being accountable to the people, not the people being accountable to the government. True liberty was seen in men being free from burdensome rules and regulations by an oppressive ruler. They stated that government derives it power “from the consent of the governed.”

They were cautious and even hesitant to make such a bold change in their government, but believed that there was no other course of action to take in light of the abuses coming from the King and Parliament. Britain was fighting a war with France and needed more money to continue the war. The people were already taxed at burdensome levels, so the governors decided to levy new taxes on the colonies. The Stamp Act among other measures was an attempt to charge taxes to the colonists all the while refusing them the right to be represented in Parliament. So they did not have a say in how they were treated or what was done with the money paid in taxes. This was indeed “taxation without representation.”

The colonists fought these new taxes, including the infamous Boston Tea Party. As they petitioned for the right to be heard on these matters, King George finally reached a point where he believed that the colonies were of no use any longer, and even had become too much trouble to govern. He issued The Prohibitory Act of 1775. In this declaration from the throne, he removed his authority, protection, and rule from the colonies. He declared that they were enemies of Great Britain and even invited mercenaries to help him undermine and destroy the “rebellious states.”

Imagine, a King offering to pay mercenaries to invade and disrupt settlements filled with his subjects. This Prohibitory Act was rightly seen as a declaration of war on the colonies. The King had made Britain an Enemy of “these thirteen united States.” Parliament disagreed with this move by the King and they began to argue with him about how to handle the situation, to the point that they instructed British troops to attack key ports and trade routes in order to try and re-take what the King had given away. As the King and Parliament debated and argued and fought among themselves, our Founding Fathers knew that something had to be done to assure the safety and survival of the settlers in the new world.

After several meetings of Congress the decision was made that in order to protect themselves from mercenaries and the British troops already in the country, they needed to establish a new government. They had been kicked out of Britain, rejected as a territory and holding by the Crown, and now were under threat of invasion. The answer that appeared to be the best was to declare to the world what had happened and to establish a new government, securing independence and liberty for the people.

In 1776, in order to do this, these fifty-six men were willing to give their all, to sacrifice everything for the sake of freedom. The revolution had begun and the world has been a better place ever since.

On this anniversary of the birth of our young nation, let us not forget all that we have been able to accomplish, for the good not only of our own country, but for the world. Historians tell us that each great society in the history of the world has left in its wake contributions to civilization. The Greeks gave us philosophy, architecture, and sculpture. The Romans gave us aqueducts, roads, bridges, public law, and military colonization. Italy during the Renaissance gave us the fine arts. England gave us representative government and public justice. But what of America?

The marks of a great civilization are seen in these things that contribute to changing things the world over. Historians list five such contributions from the United States. They include 1) diplomacy and peace keeping around the world, 2) religious freedom, 3) seeing all men as truly equal, 4) ethnic acceptance, that is, we are a melting pot consisting of all types of people from around the world and live, for the most part, in harmony, and 5) industry, that is our ability to work and produce the most affluent society in the history of the world.

America is great because her people are great. The form of government established by our Founding Fathers was designed specifically to allow men to have the freedom and liberty to pursue success, wealth, happiness, and whatever else they desire. The result has been that we as a nation have done more and reached further than any society that came before us. In 235 short years, we have changed the world.

Let us not forget the determination of our Founders, or their sacrifices made to make this great experiment in self governing a reality. For all the doom and gloom of the present time, in the midst of recession, depression, and frustration, and in light of the fact that we are far from perfect – we must remember this: we are the United States of America, and if we hang together we can make things better for ourselves and the rest of the world.

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I Want to Get Away

A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking. – Earl Wilson

Fond Remembrances of a Busy Signal

Customer Service is King. There is nothing in business that can beat exceeding our customer’s expectations. Being the first, best, most thorough and dependable resource for our clients makes us indispensable. That is, when we do our job correctly, our customers cannot do business without us.

Putting this kind of customer care into practice means that people will recognize our efforts and attitude and they will appreciate it when we put them and their needs first. Everyone likes to feel like a priority and part of what is required for offering excellent customer service is making every customer feel important. The truth is, there are no unimportant customers, because without customers we have no reason to be in business!

If there is a downside to going the extra mile it would be that in today’s fast paced world it has become difficult to take time off and to get away for a while. It has been said by researchers who study stress in the workplace that vacations used to be a luxury but today they are becoming a physical and emotional necessity. This is not really anything new. Even from the earliest days of the existence of mankind it has been understood that we need a day off, at least one in every seven. A day of rest.

Trouble is, with the way we live today our weekend, our day(s) of rest, are not really restful. We work long and hard during the week and look forward to the weekend only to have more to do that we could not take care of during the week. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? Well, it is! We are wearing ourselves out working hard and even playing hard and we are busy all the time. And we rarely ever actually take time off to rest. We are always going or doing or working or planning, but not really resting.

Taking a vacation, even if it is just for a day to get away, takes planning and prioritizing. We want our customers to be taken care of in our absence. We know that while we are away there are things we could be doing if we were at the office. Of course, thanks to technology, no one knows when we are in or out of the office. Mobile phones mean that we can be reached anywhere at any time so long as there is a cellular signal. If they can hear us say, “Can you hear me now?” then we can do business!

However, for all the time saving devices, for all the convenience gadgets, for all that technology has done to make us ever reachable – we are finding it more and more difficult to get away, to rest, to take a vacation. We fail to understand at times that being indispensible does not mean that we cannot get away from time to time. In fact, if we do not rest, we will not be able to consistently offer the best customer service.

Used to, when a person was on the phone, if someone else tried to call they got a busy signal. It meant simply that someone was already engaged in conversation and was busy. All we could do was to call back later. Now thanks to call waiting, caller ID, voice mail, email, and texting we can be interrupted no matter how busy we are. A day off is not really a day off unless we turn the phone off or leave it at home – something which is almost unthinkable for most of us. Why would we want to be unreachable?

Because sometimes we just need to get away. We need to rest, relax, and recuperate. We need a change of pace. Our mind and body needs rest. If we run all the time without taking a day to rest we see stress levels rise, emotions fray, tempers flare, and the more busy we become the more difficult it is to slow down and relax. We need a busy signal. We need our rest.

As a historical example, during the days of the French Revolution it was decided that the old traditions and norms needed to be overthrown along with the ruling class. One such modification was a rejection of the seven day week. While religious tradition had dictated for thousands of years a seven day week, six work days followed by one day of rest, the Sabbath laws were stricken from the books and the work week was lengthened. For twelve years from 1793 to 1805 the French Republic operated on this new decimal system. Each month consisted of three weeks of ten days each. Workers were given one day off in every ten.

Lengthening the work week was supposed to increase output and productivity. However, while this system of time keeping was abandoned for a variety of reasons, one major component of reverting back to the old seven day work week was that working nine days with one day off led to less productivity, more stress, exhaustion, and it was reported that even horses and other work animals were falling dead in the streets from exhaustion. People were not far behind. Seems there is some design (and benefit) behind the seven day work week after all.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And while we sometimes come across those who would rather play all day than work, we do not need more play time. We need to take a break. We need to get away. Rest – it does the body good.

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Dealing with Mr. Know It All

People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do. – Isaac Asimov

Do you live or work with someone who knows it all? If you do, you know that they know it all because they tell you every chance they get. They are the most well informed idiots on the planet. The truth is that they do know a lot. But they usually know a little bit about a lot of stuff. So while they have a vast field of available information to drone on about the depth of what they actually know is really very shallow.

The difficulty in dealing with a know-it-all is that no matter what you are discussing they believe with all their heart that they know more than you do. Contradicting them leaves them no choice but to correct you, and then to educate you by telling you more than you ever wanted to know about the topic under discussion.

The real problem is that with all the information we have available to us today with the internet, several hundred thousand channels of hi-def television, digital recording devices, and smart phones anyone can become an instant expert on any subject. But we have been deceived. We believe that to know something is the same thing as understanding it. We think because we have collected a set of facts in our head and can regurgitate those facts to others that this means we know what we are talking about. We have forgotten that knowledge by itself is actually not good for very much at all other than to puff our heads up.

There is an old proverb that tells us that “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.” Knowledge, on its own, is just information. A machine can be programmed to find and relay information. But when we take knowledge and add it to wisdom and understanding, then we really will know what we are talking about. This is not simply because the facts line up and are true, but because wisdom and understanding give us the experience to say what matters, when it matters.

The word wisdom refers to our perspective. To be wise is to see things the right way. To have the advantage of time, age, experience, and even failure to draw from as we look at a situation or circumstance. Age is no guarantee of wisdom though. There are plenty of old fools out there (no names please) and also quite a few young people who are “wise beyond their years.”

The word understanding refers to discernment. To understand something is to comprehend it. Face it, just because we know something does not mean we comprehend it. Comprehension involves critical thinking skills, and the only thing Mr. Know-it-All thinks critically about are those whom he condescendingly looks down upon as being intellectually inferior to himself.

Another proverb exclaims to us, “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” So how do we get wisdom and understanding? Ask questions. To gain a proper perspective we need to question our present perspective. To gain understanding we need to work hard at comprehending. And frankly we need to learn to keep our mouth shut until we have a right perspective and comprehend the topic at hand, except to ask questions of the wise and understanding who are around us.

We need to use people as a resource instead of a sounding board. Too often we would rather tell someone all that we know than to listen and learn from them what we need to know. And lest we be deceived, we are not fooling anyone. When we spill our guts with pride and fail to listen we usually have taken the roll of Mr. Know-it-All and owned it.

We need to listen more than speak (you know what they say about why God gave us two ears and one mouth). And we need to ask lots of questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question, although plenty of stupid people ask questions! But in asking we should be seeking to know the truth, to learn, to comprehend, to gain a better perspective.

So how do we deal with Mr. Know-it-All? We must grin and bear it. We have to put up with him because he is there every day. We all know his face and the sound of his voice. When you started reading this article you were immediately able to call a face to mind, the face of your Mr. Know-it-All. So why must we grin and bear it?

Grin because deep inside we can actually laugh at the person who proves their ignorance by saying so much. And bear it, because as soon as we try to correct them we will open a flood gate and will likely have a difficult time escaping the deluge that threatens our own sanity.

Next time you run into Mr. Know-it-All, stop and remember that the only difference between you and him is wisdom and understanding. And a wise and understanding person knows that you do not have to tell someone everything you know all the time!

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Remember the Alamo!

Texas is the finest portion of the globe that has blessed my vision. – Sam Houston

Beginning at the Battle of Gonzales in October 1835 and ending swiftly in the 18 minute Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, the Texas Revolution birthed a new nation and saw one-third of the land mass of America change ownership. In between these two engagements we learn from history about the Battle of Coleto Creek, the massacre at Goliad, and the thirteen days of glory (Feb 23-Mar 6, 1836) wherein the defenders of the Alamo in San Antonio de Bexar bought time for General Sam Houston and his army to escape to the east during the Runaway Scrape.

All in all, Texian and Tejano forces were defeated, massacred, and chased from one end of the state to the other. But in the end, one of the swiftest and most decisive battles in history proved the resolve of the men who proclaimed as they charged the field, “Remember Goliad! Remember the Alamo!”

What drove these men in the fight? What motivated those who knew that in battle they would most surely die? When the odds were so stacked against them, what kept them going?

The political climate in Mexico was one of upheaval. General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna had helped overthrow the sitting government and had in time been declared the sole ruler, a military dictator. The 1824 Constitution of Mexico which had guaranteed freedoms and rights to the citizens of Mexico and the settlers in Texas was rescinded and the army was used to force subjects into submission to the new government.

With their loss of rights, land, and privileges, the settlers appealed for a return to freedom and lost. They took up arms to defend themselves and win their freedom. The flag that flew over the Alamo was a Mexican flag with the year 1824 written in the middle, signifying defiance for the current regime and a desire to return to the rule of law under the previous Constitution.

As Col. Travis and Col. Bowie led the forces at the Alamo, joined by volunteers from Tennessee commanded by former Congressman David Crockett, this band of 180 or so men were determined to hold the fort and delay the advancing Mexican army. Travis appealed to the newly formed government of Texas asking for reinforcements but none ever came.

As Travis fought off a much larger force for 13 days the Constitutional Congress of the Republic of Texas met at Washington-on-the-Brazos and drafted the Texas Declaration of Independence. Signed on March 2, 1836 (Texas Independence Day), this document saw the birth of a new nation.

The battle at San Antonio ended on the morning of March 6 when Santa Anna’s troops finally breached the walls and put every remaining Alamo defender to the sword. No prisoners were taken. Women, children, and a few slaves were allowed to leave. Otherwise there were no survivors.

Later that month, Col. Fannin’s troops were overwhelmed and surrendered. On Palm Sunday, March 27, 1836, some 350 Texian prisoners were ordered to march to a new location. While on the road, marching single file, they were executed in Goliad.

The remaining Texian and Tejano forces were not demoralized, but instead were motivated by these atrocities. It steeled their courage and drove them to success at the final battle of the revolution. There was not only a desire for liberty and freedom – there was also a desire to ensure that these men at the Alamo and Goliad had not died in vain.

The Texians lost right up until the end. Houston’s strategy to hold out, to deliberately pick the field of battle for the final engagement, and to lead the Mexican army further and further away from its supply lines meant that in that final battle only 9 out of 900 Texian soldiers were killed while over 600 Mexican troops were killed and another 700, including Gen. Santa Anna, were captured.

The Republic of Texas existed as a sovereign nation from March 2, 1836 until its annexation as the 28th state by the United States on December 29, 1845. In order to pay off debt from the war Texas ceded to the United States land that stretches from Oklahoma and New Mexico, up through Kansas and Colorado into Wyoming.

From this brief history review we can learn valuable lessons for today. A small group of people committed to a task can overcome overwhelming odds and succeed in meeting their goals. This determination must be joined with endurance. To achieve our goals at work or at home we must be willing to work through the hardships that will arise, keeping in mind where we want to be, not where we are at the moment. We must learn to be diligent and deliberate in our actions, planning for success, and working with ambition and adaptability to stay the course.

The lessons of war teach us that in life we need to know the difference between strategy and tactics. Strategy refers to the overall goal, the big picture, the end game. Tactics are the means to implement the strategy, to make it happen one step at a time. That is why losing one or two battles does not settle the outcome of a war. Likewise, failure should only drive us to try again, to never give up, to press on, and to keep in mind the overall goals we have set. As we remember the Alamo this month, remember that out of defeat can come the motivation for history making victory.

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Ground Hog Day – Again

The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine. – Mike Murdock

Today is February 2, 2011. It’s Ground Hog Day. According to superstition and tradition if a large rodent climbs out of his den and sees his shadow he will be frightened and run back into the den to hide – then we have six more weeks of winter. However, “Puxatony Phil”, one of the more famous official weather predicting ground hogs, did not see his shadow today. So spring is right around the corner. We can only hope!

Today is the coldest day on record in decades. And it will be colder tomorrow. The State of Texas is experiencing rolling blackouts. The power grid cannot keep up with demand for keeping things warm. Temperatures are in the teens and the wind chill is at or below zero.

Since it is Ground Hog Day we must mention the famous (or infamous) movie starring Bill Murray in which he gets caught in a time loop and lives Ground Hog Day over and over and over. Some people love the movie and watch it every year, others can’t stand it, and some have never even seen it! I’ll spare you quotes from the movie, but there are some lessons to be learned from the sci-fi concept of living the same day over and over.

Many of us do just that, only the date on the calendar does change. Our lives seem to fall into a routine. Day in and day out people get asked, “How are you?”, and they reply, “Same stuff, different day.” At times the days of the week blur together. At other times the time seems to drag.

It is always better to be busy; at least then the time seems to pass more quickly than if we have nothing to do. Then again, boredom is usually just a lack of creativity, motivation, or incentive. But whether times are busy or slow, and whether we will readily admit it or not, we tend to seek out routine. Routines are easy. Change is difficult, requires thought and deliberation, and means that we have to step out of our comfort zone.

The truth is that routines are not bad in and of themselves. When we face daily routines we have an opportunity to make sure that we are being as efficient and effective as possible. What we forget sometimes is that just because something is routine doesn’t mean that we cannot explore the possibilities of change, or improvement. We should always be looking for ways to do things better. That means we should never allow the current “policy” to work as a barrier to progress.

Policies form a valuable framework when built on past experience, but to see policy as a road block that prevents exploration, experimentation, and expansion misses the whole point behind a policy! Policies police the way we do things to ensure efficiency – at least they should anyway. And policy makers should always be ready to change as new and better ideas are shared from those who know the routines best.

The real danger to watch out for with routines though is that we tend to allow our routine to devolve into a rut. What’s the difference between a routine and a rut? A rut has been described as a grave with the ends kicked out. A rut goes nowhere. To be stuck in a rut means that there is no progress, no hope, no improvement, just resignation, surrender, and then despair.

How we deal with routine says a lot about our character. Pushing on, striving to improve, to do better, to become more efficient – this kind of response means that while we know that our days may be routine our outlook isn’t.

If we find ourselves getting bored we may need to vary things a bit. The first thing we need to change though is our attitude. If we see routine as a negative then we will miss the lessons we need to learn and the hidden challenges that remain below the surface, indiscernible to the uninterested.

A day to day routine should mean that we meet each day as a challenge. It is an opportunity to think about why we do what we do and to ask questions about how we can do it better. Workers need to feel free to think through the policies we rely on and offer suggestions for improvements. And management needs to be open to those suggestions, understanding that those workers who are on the frontlines facing these routines on a daily basis are our best resource for making improvements, increasing productivity, and expanding business.

So, while it is Ground Hog Day, again, let’s not dread daily routine. Instead, let’s decide to learn from the past, look to the future, and leave the possibilities open for change. Then, shadow or not, winter or spring, hot or cold, each day is a new opportunity with the potential to be better than the day before.

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