Make the Most of Your Workday begins with six common scenarios. Can you relate to any of the following challenges?
Make the Most of Your Workday contains powerful strategies and tools from several key areas and combines them into a concise practical guide, from strengthening your mindset and self-awareness to identifying needs and goals, from prioritizing your time and energy to communicating effectively and managing the unexpected.
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About the Author
Mary A. Camuto is the founder of MC Consulting, a firm specializing in leadership and organization development, training events, and live webinars. Her clients have included thousands of individuals, teams, and leaders from diverse organizations, levels, and generations. Camuto connects in a lively way with her clients' workday frustrations, experiences, and emotions, often tapping her own firsthand experiences working as part of organizations and teams that are understaffed, undergoing drastic changes, or trying to do more with less. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
Read an Excerpt
* Tough, very busy job, lots of distractions.
* Expect constant change, chaos, and confusion.
* Work with short-tempered, stressed, and overwhelmed people.
* Bring high levels of energy, perserverance, strength, and resilience every day.
* Be organized, flexible, focused, and capable of multitasking.
* Maintain your enthusiasm, interest, patience, and dedication.
Today's workdays have plenty of chaos — and not the fun kind. Our different organizations have different varieties of challenge and messiness: From having 24/7 workflow when not really necessary to a lack of basic planning, coordination, and communication. Most people come to work to earn an income with the desire to be productive, engaged, and satisfied, and to go home feeling good about the day. However, that is easier said than done.
I want to tell you about the day before Thanksgiving last year. I met three strangers in Charlottesville, Virginia, where I went to visit family. I met three happylooking, engaged, working people.
At a small kitchen china housewares specialty shop, it was a cashier's first day, as she explained; she was a retired nurse starting on a new adventure. At a beauty supply chain, a young woman told me this was her first retail job and that she hoped she would be ready for Black Friday; she was upbeat. And at a large grocery store chain, the cashier volunteered this was her first day on the job after staying home as a mom and how happy she was in spite of long lines.
Wow. Here were three people happy to have their workday. Thanksgiving cooking, tourists, and holiday shoppers: These are not easy jobs. Yet, they were engaged, productive, and more than satisfied; they were glad to be working. Being optimistic, I got the feeling they would sustain it or at least try to. It was easy to talk with them, and they looked energized when I became chatty too and wished them well.
It struck me that these three people looked like they were in the honeymoon phase of their work relationship. This thought led me to compare the work relationship to personal relationships with family and friends: We hope for a honeymoon phase that will help to sustain us when the reality sets in and we really get to know each other. Some days will be better than others, change and compromise are required, and maybe this relationship is not meant to last forever!
These three people will face threats to their engagement soon enough. I am basing my concern on some current workplace research that does not look hopeful and wondering about those of us who started out loving our jobs and those of us who are in jobs that we never wanted in the first place. Simon Sinek touches on this in his book Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.
Studies show that 80 percent of Americans do not have their dream job. If we knew how to build organizations that inspire, we could live in a world in which that statistic was the reverse — a world in which over 80 percent of people loved their jobs. People who love going to work are more productive and creative. They go home happier and have happier families. They treat their colleagues, clients, and customers better.
Are you part of the 20 percent who have their dream job?
I included some generic job descriptions and requirements in each chapter since a lot is required to have good workdays and to stay engaged. An article entitled "Employees Are Responsible for Their Engagement Too" says, "Engaged employees begin the day with a sense of purpose and finish it with a sense of achievement." Would you call yourself an engaged employee with a positive start and finish to each day?
Also, aren't our leaders, managers, and supervisors supposed to be there to help engage us? The article also points out that "though managers have the biggest impact on their team members' engagement, many managers are unwilling, unable or unprepared to motivate and engage their employees." Are you one of the fortunate people with an effective leader and manager who creates a work culture that is engaging, satisfying, interesting, and oriented toward problem-solving?
The statistics that I just listed really worry me because in the Introduction I encouraged you to get your hopes up about workday opportunity. People spend a good chunk of time working, whether it is commuting to a workplace, traveling as part of our work, or working virtually from home. Each workday presents us with choices for how to spend our time, energy, ideas, and efforts, and brings us opportunities, difficulties, frustrations, inherited or self-created chaos, connections, or disconnections. Some of the choices we make will determine whether we leave work feeling good, bad, indifferent, or discontent enough to start looking for a new job. Once each workday is done, that chunk of time cannot be redone or recaptured as a "do over."
The next day will present more of the above and even more surprises and changes, and our mindset and resources will be tested again. That is the way it works. Additionally, if you are a leader who is reading this, you know that negativity can be spread just as easily as the positive spirit and results of teams making the most of their workdays.
Waiting for someone else to help us make the most of each workday is a passive approach that puts people in a dependent position. Those who work for and with a skilled leader and manager are very lucky, but a talented leader will not take the place of your own outlook, talents, and resilience. Besides, for many organizations, their own data indicates a serious need for effective leaders/managers and positive, accountable, and caring work cultures. I have worked for and with leaders who are effective, inspirational, unskilled, clueless, absent, and control freaks. I am sad to say that the effective and inspirational leaders stand out to me because I can count them on one hand.
Of course, there are many things at work that people cannot directly control. This book offers strategies and tools to help individuals make the most of their workday with the things that are in their Circle of Influence. Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, describes the Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence.
The problems we face fall in one of three areas: direct control (problems involving our own behavior); indirect control (problems involving other people's behavior); or no control (problems we can do nothing about, such as our past or situational realities). The proactive approach puts the first step in the solution of all three kinds of problems within our present Circle of Influence.
According to Covey, we have choices: "Whether a problem is direct, indirect, or no control, we have in our hands the first step to the solution. Changing our habits, changing our methods of influence, and changing the way we see our no control problems are all within our Circle of Influence." We can get our hopes up because we have some key options:
[check] Survive the workday, wishing and hoping it gets better.
[check] Act to make some changes to improve the current workday.
[check] Move toward long-term goals and greater fulfillment, maybe that dream job.
Please note that even dream jobs have tough workdays as some of you who may be in your dream job already know.
The following is the first of several application tools throughout the book. This first one will help you develop your own "Before" profile.
Application Tool: Your Current Workday
Rate yourself on the following areas using a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the highest and 1 being the lowest).
[check] How do you rate your own engagement at work?
[check] How do you rate your work satisfaction?
[check] How do you rate your productivity?
[check] How much unproductive chaos do you face at work every day?
Keep your current workday assessment in mind as you review several major categories of workday challenges. All of these situations can have a negative impact:
[check] Too much negative drama.
[check] Lack of focus and planning.
[check] Ignoring the need to replenish physical and mental energy.
[check] Lack of effective leadership.
[check] Overload of time, energy, and technology.
[check] Strained relationships or lack of positive relationships.
[check] The unexpected as the new normal.
[check] Keeping ourselves calm.
These situations are all interconnected with one leading to the others, as you will read in the four workday scenarios that follow. They are intended to capture typical challenges that many people face and are created from fictional composites from workplace experiences, employee engagement comments, and from participants in the author's workshops and training classes. The scenarios are intended to help you reflect on your own workday experiences and to start you thinking about something better. Do any of these examples remind you of your own workdays?
You will notice that the scenario challenges fall into one or more of these categories:
[check] Organization level: culture, change, strategy, structure, systems, and leadership.
[check] Department, group, and team level: interpersonal, collaboration, planning, and process.
[check] Individual level: self-management, interpersonal skills, and problem-solving skills.
The workday can be an active battleground with unproductive chaos and changes resulting in stress, confusion, and useless conflict. Let's start by talking about workplace drama. Drama is a natural part of working with other people in the midst of everyday work, changes, and emergencies. Sometimes drama is even fun or a welcome relief from boredom or stress. The main person in Scenario 1 allowed herself to remain in the drama longer than was good for her and her work. Even in literature, the story typically has an arc, a building up to a climax and then a webbing away and resolution. A natural resolution does not always come quickly or even at all, as you will read in Scenario 1. Sometimes, we have to create our own resolution.
Scenario 1: Drama, Change, and the Unexpected!
Nicole comes to work at a support department within a large organization ready to start the day. She is working steadily on a large-scale project with major deadlines looming. Her team finally has a leader they really like and have confidence in after a series of micromanagers and managers that were more involved in turf wars with peers than anything else. A text comes in from a coworker before she gets to the office telling her about the sudden and immediate promotion of her boss to another division. The manager is already gone, and the team is left in limbo and advised just to keep on with their current work. Before she sets down her things at her desk, another colleague pops his head in with "Have you heard?" Now, Nicole is not new to the workplace and has seen people come and go, but this one is like a sudden punch. She knows that the priorities for the day have not changed, but her focus is in danger. She has been to courses and knows she needs to make the most of her "best time," which is the morning. But this unexpected wave catches her and she goes with it.
Her own shock mixes with her pop-in colleagues' shock and then explodes into questions and conjecture. By the time her next-door office neighbor comes in, Nicole's emotions are kicking in, and shock turns to worry about what this all means for her and the project due in four weeks. The emotions of people vary from tears, anger, and of course, the ever powerful and understandable anxiety about what is going to happen next. Reactions vary from amateur detectives who use their networks to find out what happened to amateur therapists who act as sounding boards for others, and lastly, to amateur talk show hosts analyzing and expounding on their theories about the events. Then the rumors start to circulate about Lucy, the most tenured team member, making it known that she will apply for the manager job. Lucy's organization skills are valued, but her tendency to micromanage is a red flag. At least two department members make it known they may also apply for the manager job, and that leads to more emotions, including jealousy and fear.
On the organizational level, information is not readily available, but rumor has it that "they" want someone from the outside; on the individual level, there is the need to react, process, and vent about the loss of their manager before moving forward. Each day for two weeks, Nicole comes into her workday knowing that she has to get back on track, but there are more and more people coming in to talk, vent, and wonder. She too wants any information available, even the rumors and latest conjecture. Nicole is not interested in the manager job, but now feels pressure to protect herself and maybe go for it too.
She is not an unassertive person, but she is caught up on this wave and goes with the flow — or the undertow; she gets headaches that are not typical for her even on tough days. Nicole does most of her own venting to family and friends.
What about the project, you ask? Nicole did dash off an abrupt email to team members reminding them of their deadlines on her project. Nicole ignores her own milestones and goes home dissatisfied, depleted of her energy, and uneasy. She does miss her "real" work and the comfort and security that she had with her former manager.
Another major category for chaos at work is the lack of planning and collaboration, which leads to something similar to planting our feet in fresh cement. Silos often create overload, drama, and negative outcomes that spill over to a group of people, the ripple effect in action.
Scenario 2: Please Do Not Call Us a Team!
Take eight people in two different locations and expect teamwork and collaboration — I don't think so. Two members of this team, Jim and Carla, are opposites in communication and work styles, generation, needs, and experience, but need to work together without role clarity or authority. Their situation was bound to blow up for them and others around them. Jim has learned good workday survival skills from working with two different managers every six months: "Stay in your lane," give the loudest internal customers what they want and expect, and keep a tight boundary around your time and attention. Jim is extraverted, energetic, friendly, and well liked on the team. To be fair, the other team members pretty much operate the same way: If they feel like it and the task interests them, they will help each other. Being in separate work locations helps to support this solo mentality. Jim and Carla work from the same location so they cannot escape seeing each other.
Carla needs Jim's help on the large project she is leading, which was not staffed correctly in its initial project launch. Carla is frustrated and annoyed and feels like she is the only one asking for help with her project. Her style is intense and communication becomes aggressive when she thinks her project is in jeopardy and she feels threatened. She feels like she is tiptoeing around and meets various and understandable reactions to her requests for help:
[check] "Your project is not my number-one priority."
[check] "If you had spent more time organizing and had milestones, you wouldn't need help."
[check] "You were selected as the project lead, not me."
[check] "I might be able to help you next month."
Jim would actually like to help Carla but is hesitant to commit to taking on specific tasks; after all, these are not his priority. Besides, he has his own challenging internal customers. Jim doesn't feel good about not helping Carla and is actually interested in learning aspects of Carla's project that differ from his own; nevertheless, he continues to ignore her edgy requests for as long as he can. He knows that an explosive conflict with Carla is coming and would like to avoid that confrontation and explosion. He has seen Carla get aggressive with other people at meetings, and everyone ends up being uncomfortable. He nervously thinks it is better for him to stay in his lane.
They both go to the rest of the team and complain about each other. Sympathy abounds for Jim, who is seen as the innocent victim, while Carla is seen as the aggressor to Jim. Jim steps up his campaign and goes to their manager who advises him to work out things themselves since he is too busy to get involved with this nonsense.
The team members thought that finally having a manager would make things different and that the confusion, animosity, and errors would be reduced or eliminated. In the meantime, Carla grows more annoyed, overwhelmed, and disheartened; Jim and the other team members avoid her as much as possible.
Some of their work-related clashes were verbal and in public, especially when Carla found out that Jim went to the manager. She does the same and lists her complaints against him and demands action. A lot of time and energy is being spent on this; other team members and department people are listening, giving advice, and taking sides. Sadly, it is now personal between these two team members and spreading to others. Carla and Jim don't speak to each other anymore.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Make the Most of Your Workday"
Copyright © 2018 Mary Camuto.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction Get Your Hopes Up! 11
Chapter 1 Today's Workday 19
Chapter 2 Manage Yourself-It's All about You 39
Chapter 3 Focus on Priorities-Yours, Mine, and Ours 63
Chapter 4 Value Time and Energy 89
Chapter 5 Communicate Effectively 117
Chapter 6 Confront, Challenge, and Conquer Chaos 143
Chapter 7 Choosing Change 167
About the Author 192
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
As someone who has had to leave a toxic workplace and look for another job, this book hits a lot of nails on their heads. I heavily identify with the "Donna" archetype presented in the book, but Camuto is thorough in diagnosing problems in the workplace, the individual, and in the workplace culture that can affect a person's mood and productivity. Her suggestions are a variety, rather than a "cure all" mindset that somehow magically works on a universal scale, and are fine-tuned to each 'archetype's' unique situation. There are small changes, such as instead of groaning about a commute, getting time to read or listen to music, and there are big ones, like the "$20 scenario" in which people are shown to hesitate as they think about spending their money, but not their time on ineffectual or unnecessary tasks. As someone who gets anxious, I found this book supportive and accommodating when too many self-help books belittle or assume people with mental illnesses don't exist or can't function. 5 stars from me!