Wednesday, April 17, 2013

23rd annual conference for the office professional

Back in February I applied for a scholarship to cover the registration ($100) of an office professional conference being put on at the  University in which I work.  In March I got an email notifying me that I was one of eight recipients of the registration scholarship (woo hoo), so today I attended that conference.  Here's a summary of the notes I jotted down throughout the day:

Keynote: Communicating with Clarity

Lori Gibson

Maybe I'll just reproduce most of my outline I wrote during the talk, without adding clarifying sentences.  Hah, so much for communicating with clarity.  I think you'll be able to connect the dots:
  • Reflection/journal: How do you hope to be when you are being your best self? 
  • Good relationship/trust helps to have the more difficult conversations
    • Earns the right to have a positive influence
  • Create a personal mission statement
    • Lori's is: to create positive energy
  • Belief/impact cycle
    Belief Cycle
    • What are the results you're currently getting?
    • We only have control over ourselves
    • Behavior change is difficult because of the rest of the cycle
    • Reframing our thoughts: What do we choose to focus on?
    • It starts with me: intentionally changing your outlook
  • The path to action
    • See + Hear -->  Tell a story -->  Feel --> Act
    • The path (above) is from the book: Crucial conversations
      • Lori recommends reading this book
  • Procrastination on your end does not create urgency on mine
  • Master my stories
    • Eg: Your boss give you a 90 minute task (must be done in 90 minutes for a meeting), your boss checks in 3 times during those 90 minutes.  Stories you may tell yourself:
      • Your boss doesn't trust you, that's why he/she called so many times
      • Your boss is out to ruin your day; you're a victim
      • Your boss feels bad that he or she put you on a time crunch, so he/she is checking in to be helpful
    • We tell ourselves stories, so we must learn to master them and tell ourselves good, positive, realistic stories
  • Reminders
    • Re-frame
    • Choose your attitude
    • Focus on facts
    • Fill your glass
    • People will remember how you made them feel
So, it wasn't a new lesson for me, but nice to be reminded.  To summarize, you have control over your thoughts.  Many people lose sight of the facts and create stories with their minds, stories about others that aren't necessarily true.  Chances are that others don't do things to intentionally bother you / make you suffer -- people don't think as much about you as you do.
Keeping that in mind, you can't change other people, only yourself.  So change your thoughts, master your stories, and that will change your actions and make it easier to get along with others.

1. Mindfulness-based stress reduction

Carmen Alonso

I think this was my favorite session of all -- I don't meditate or take time to be mindful (do I see a new resolution for May?), so having over an hour to do so in the middle of the week was great.  Carmen's voice was perfect for the "explorations" she led as we closed our eyes and relaxed.  She teaches a 6 or an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course at one of the local hospitals, and I would sign up for the next session if it fit in my schedule, despite the cost.  My scribbles:
  • Mindfulness involves three parts: awareness, present moment, and being non-judgmental
  • Find the breath
  • Be aware of your feet
  • Five minutes a day (of mindfulness-based stress reduction/meditation) is much more beneficial than an hour once a week.  If you can't do five minutes, do just two minutes a day -- every day.

2. The UW-Madison budget

Tim Norris

Since I work closely with my department's budget - a small piece of the puzzle, I was interested to hear about the entire University's budget - the big picture.  I'm certain the speaker was extremely knowledgeable, but the tiny font (and large amount of text) on the powerpoint slides really took from the presentation.  I thought it could have used more organization as well (i.e. during this session I'm going to tell you about a, b, and c.  Let's start with a... etc)  I learned a bit about block grants, but again I think I would have learned more had the information been presented in a more organized fashion.  My session was a very small group, but unfortunately we were a quiet, small group, so we didn't take full advantage of Tim's time and knowledge.

If you want to learn about the budget, and see some of the charts/graphs that were probably on the presentation I saw, check out this site.

3. Non-boarding or onboarding: What are you doing for new employees?

Christine Ray

My department (and College, for that matter) doesn't have a standard onboarding process for new employees.  Since we just hired a new faculty member, and plan to hire a few more (and some staff to replace myself and Izzy) in the coming months, we should really develop an onboarding program asap.  Onboarding should begin as early as after the interviews, and it is not synonymous with orientation.  I found this session very useful, and it motivated me to volunteer to create an onboarding process for my department at work.  Ooo, new work project!

4. Personality traits that drive success (and failure)

John Nelson

John co-authored the book What Color is your Parachute? for Retirement with Richard N. Bolles.  That book tackles the question of what will you do when you don't have to work anymore and can do anything you want.  I was a bit turned off right away, since the question he researches and writes about isn't an appropriate question (from my point of view).  My life philosophy is that you should do what you want now.  Life is too short to spend forty years working at a job you don't love, counting down the days towards retirement.  But anyway, leaving that fact aside, I liked what John had to say about personality types and traits.

There are many models in existence that like to push humans into a box based on their personalities (eg. Type A/B, Introvert/Extrovert, Left-brained/right-brained, DICS, Myers-Briggs, etc.).  Newsflash: People don't fit into boxes!  Personalities are complex and situational.

John has created a new way to describe peoples' personalities, based on the concept of normal distribution (bell curve).
Bell Curve
He uses the fact that most people fall in the middle/average of distributions, and applies that to personalities.  Hence, most people's personality traits are situational, and each person has one or two traits where situation doesn't matter.  It's these traits, where we fall on one of the "extremes" (not in the middle), that make us unique.  John's personality chart has five traits: Openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.  (Note: Height is a trait, tall/short are expressions of the trait).  He has adjectives that describe expressions of the trait on both ends.  For example for openness:

[Practical]     Always  |    Usually   |    Situational   |   Usually   |   Always    [Original]

The default is in the middle, situational.  Only some people will fall on one of the "usually"s, and even fewer on an "always".  Email John for a copy of his personality traits chart.
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