Bertha, Bertha Knight Landes, Big Dig, Boston, business, business communication, Construction, goals, mayor, motion, objectives, overheating, physics, projects, replacement, seal, Seattle, tuneling specialist, tunnel
There is an amazing machine digging a two-mile tunnel as part of Seattle’s expanding infrastructure. It’s an ambitious project, reminiscent of Boston’s Big Dig. The lady doing the work goes by the name Bertha*. She’s a lot of woman – with a height of nearly 60 feet and her weight registering north of three tons. She’s also one heck of a tunneling specialist. First employed in 2013, she bore through 1,100 feet of ground—more than 10% of the total length of the tunnel—in the first six months on the job. With only a few initial hiccups, there was great joy and anticipation for the completion of the project.
However, about fifteen months ago, Bertha overheated and came to a standstill. For a long time, no one could figure out what was wrong. Finally, the crew discovered a broken seal in need of replacement. With considerable effort and time, the construction team brought Bertha back to the surface for repairs. Poor girl. All she wants to do is dig dirt.
I can empathize with Bertha. I’ve had days (albeit not a year) when I am mired in a project, unsure how to reach completion. This week I counseled a few writing students who felt the same about their research papers – as if they were floating adrift in the academic sea while their work remained inert on a sandbar.
Being stuck in a middle of a project does not have to have dire consequences or cause grave consternation. Just like with Bertha’s, there is a reason for the stall. Assess the situation and find out what is causing you to overheat. Maybe your project requires retracing a few steps to ensure the work is meeting the targeted goals and objectives. Perhaps you need to reassess and reestablish the risks. Or maybe it’s worthwhile to brainstorm with an associate.
Once you’ve found the cause, look at the situation as a lesson in psychics: an object in motion is easier to keep moving than one that is stopped. When you do restart your project, give it that extra push needed to get your momentum moving again.
There is high anticipation for Bertha to get back on track, and for all of us as well.
*Bertha is named after Seattle’s only female mayor, Bertha Knight Landes, who served from 1926-1928.
Height: 57.5 feet
Weight: 7,000 tons
Length: 326 feet
Occupation: Tunneling specialist
Likes: Dirt, small boulders, perfectly formed concrete rings
Role models: Bertha Knight Landes, Marc Isambard Brunel, whoever invented the shovel
This week a friend sent over a company memo containing two mistakes in the first paragraph alone, and there was one more that followed. Oops! We were embarrassed not only for the company but also for the communications team that composed and proofed the memo from the CEO and COO before it was distributed to more than 10,000 employees. I suspect there may be a “needs improvement” marking on someone’s upcoming annual performance review.
No ifs, ands or buts in proofing: when the CEO, you or anyone else from your company signs her/his name to a company document, it should be error-free. I’ll admit, I’m guilty of posting a blog or two that may contain a typo, and I thank those who alerted me before they sat on the site too long. However, when it comes to overseeing corporate communications in my work, I never proof as hard or as thorough as I do for those documents.
You may not have a communications team on hand to write and review your work, so try these simple steps for high-level proofing:
- Use the spellcheck on your computer. This isn’t the end-all, be-all, but the program should catch at least the most basic of errors. And if you’re not sure why it flagged an item, click on the grammar button and find out.
- Read the document aloud. One of the biggest errors writers encounter is skipping words. When you’ve written and reread a document tens of times, your mind begins to fill in the blanks. However, when you read something aloud, you’re more likely to identify those missing or incorrect words. From the memo I received this week: “In addition, certain of our subsidiaries are struggling to meet demand during the economic recovery.” The sentence probably should read, “In addition, a certain number of our subsidiaries are struggling to meet demand…”
- Have at least two other people review the document. This was mandatory in a PR department in which I worked, and I’ve held fast to that standard ever since.
avoider, business communication, coffee shops, coffee station, communication, contributor, corner taverns, cubicles, gossip, gossip monger, high school, human resources, little leagues, musings, office, rumor, rumor mill, secrets, technical, trolling, water cooler
While it should have been left behind in high school, gossip is everywhere: community organizations, little league fields, trendy coffee shops and corner taverns. And the workplace is far from exempt.
Gossip used to be restricted to the water cooler or coffee station but, with explosion of electronic devices and social media, gossip is everywhere. Oftentimes it will darken or poison the workplace, especially as it takes on a disruptive behavior in the office.
I prefer to stay out of the gossip monger’s (GM) way. Most offices have at least one. Usually it doesn’t take long to identify the GM. He or she trolls the hallways and cubicle farms for a willing ear or new tidbits to accumulate. Somehow, the GM knows much more than most. My favorite gossiper used to slide into a cubicle, look around covertly and then whisper what she wanted to appear as the direst and most salacious of secrets.
My approach is to try to stay on the GM’s good side without indulging in the gossip trade except to spread good news. I continue to be cordial and helpful on the job, but will keep other non-essentials to a minimum.
At one company, my boss was the GM. That made for an interesting work day. He loved hearing information as much as he loved talking it. When I wasn’t a willing participant and had no gossip to offer, he said to me in a very disappointed tone, “You’re like a black hole. I can’t get anything from you.”
I said it was because I had nothing to share. That wasn’t necessarily true because there’s always something to say if you choose. However, I didn’t want to gossip. I did not trust him or his peeps. If the situation arose, he’d have no problem throwing me under the bus. I had seen him do it to others. I could not see a way I would gain – either professionally or personally – by indulging him with gossip.
I discovered the best way to avoid incidents was to steer clear of his gossip proclivity. Sure, it meant I was excluded from his inside jokes and conversations with other staffers, but at the end of the day I did not have to worry about being pulled into a sticky situation or having egg on my face. It seems some of those issues plaguing us as young people that we hope will go away when we ‘grow up,’ never do.
So, are you a gossip monger, gossip contributor or gossip avoider?
ability to lead, business communication, CAO, commitment, communication, confidence, creativity, effective, Forbes, hostess, intuition, leader, leaders, management style, managers, positive attitude, qualities, sense of humor, Top 10
You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…the facts of the whole spectrum of managers.
Throughout my career, I’ve had my fair share of managers. From the restaurant/bakery/deli manager where I was a hostess, to the CAO of a fortune 500 company where I was VP of marketing communications. Styles, personalities and abilities are all different – most effective, some not. Not all people are born to manage, and not all managers are leaders or mentors.
I had one manager who was great at dating most of his staff and some in other departments, too. It seemed upper management turned a blind eye to the situation, even though it was common knowledge throughout the company. He didn’t overlap relationships and the women he dated didn’t seem to think anything wrong of it and never complained. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of looking around a staff meeting and realizing you’re only one of two women at the table not intimately involved with the manager. That was one of the most dysfunctional and bizarre management styles I ever experienced. While I loved the products and industry, at the earliest chance I moved on to another company where I was hired by one of the best managers/leaders I ever experienced.
When I think about the managers who influenced me in my leadership development, I tend to think of those who were not good leaders first. It is true that you can learn a lot from the poor examples. Often times when I’m faced with a challenge I might think, “What would Mr. Poor Manager do in this situation?” Then I cross his option off my list. I turn my reflection to the styles of the effective and smart leaders I know. I’ll combine that with my training, background and experience to guide me to make smart decisions for my staff, my department and for the company.
Forbes has a list of the Top 10 qualities that make not only a good leader, but a great one. One is never too young or too old to become a great leader. I do think in business you can teach old dogs new tricks if the dog is willing. With the right attitude, an observant eye and a desire to learn, any young professional can prevail early on, and any seasoned professional can turn things around.
Forbes Top 10 Qualities that Make a Great Leader
- Ability to delegate
- Sense of humor
- Positive attitude
- Ability to inspire