How Well Organized Are You?

How do you rate as a self-manager— poor, satisfactory or outstanding?

How do you rate as a self-manager— poor, satisfactory or outstanding? Once we get a little ahead in the world, there is always the temptation to consider ourselves above criticism. Don’t you believe it! The bigger you get, as a mat-ter of fact, the larger a target you present. So, in the interest of assessing yourself as others see you, try this little quiz.

  1. Was everything under control when you last took a vacation—or did you come back to face confused subordinates, dissatisfied superiors, a crisis or two?
  2. Are you guilty of flagrant time-wasting in the guise of too many unproductive meetings . . . not enough delegating . . . getting to work late . . . knocking off early?
  3. Do you have the habit of getting things done promptly and out of the way? Or do you tend to let them pile up until their sheer number is discouraging?
  4. Do you often stay on the job after regular hours in order to catch up on your work?
  5. Have you developed routine ways to handle routine matters, like correspondence, requests for information, and so on, or does every little thing throw you off base?
  6. Are you intimately familiar with the internal structure of your organization so that you can get specialized information fast?
  7. When things are going exceptionally well, do you take advantage of the psychological boost by tackling other tough chores—or do you bask in your accomplishment and ease off for the rest of the day?
  8. Are the meetings you attend always necessary . . . always productive . . . always the kind you couldn’t afford to miss?
  9. Do you take maximum advantage of travel time (for instance, to attend to reading chores that get shunted aside on the job . . . to plan your next day’s activities . . to just plain think)?
  10. At day’s end, do you usually wonder where the time has gone, or do your days seem to drag on endlessly? (If they never seem to end, you are probably wasting time.)

Now, in view of your answers, are you well organized?


All About Questions
They teach. They clarify. They arouse interest. They encourage others to think and to communicate. They uncover motives. They overcome antagonism. They do all these things and more. Yet they aren’t always used with as much forcefulness, imagination, or depth as they should be.

They’re questions, the things that compel us and others to think, assess, explain. If you are able to be an effective communicator, they are vital tools that you should use as diligently as possible.

However, there are useful questions and not so useful questions—some do the job, others don’t. Here is a list of do’s and don’ts you might bear in mind before you ask a question.


DO use questions like these:

Open-ended questions that invite the free expression of what the other person thinks and feels. Never make the other person feel boxed in. Example: “What do you think of the situation?”

Leading questions that give direction to a reply, but which by themselves are not restrictive in any way. Example: “How did you come up with that solution to the problem?”

Intellectual questions that appeal to reason and that involve the emotions as little as possible. Example: “What would you say is the first step toward a solution to the problem?

Calculated questions that have been thought out in advance as part of a logical sequence. Example: “What would you suggest in this case?”

Ego-building questions that let the respondent know that his answer will be valued. Example: “Your own experience with this sort of problem can help me. What do you suggest?”

DON’T use questions like these:

Close-ended questions that imply a certain preordained response. Example: “If you were convinced that this action is morally wrong, you wouldn’t be for it, would you?”

Loaded questions that put the other person on the spot no matter how he or she replies. Example: “Why do you think your solution to the problem is the only right one?”

Impulse questions that just pop into your mind. Example: “Incidentally, what do you think of the way Jones handled that?”

Trick questions that seem to ask a frank opinion, but actually put the respondent on the spot. Example: “What should we do? Fire Joe or just transfer him?”

How to Dictate Better Letters
Sometimes e-mail just won’t do; you have to dictate a letter to someone. Since a formal letter can be filed by the recipient and referred to in the future, make sure yours does you proud. Poorly dictated letters can be costly in time, money and good will. Some suggestions for improving your letters immediately:

  • Dictate as though you were talking to the reader.
  • Forget the stock phrases and clichés.
  • Try for simplicity in words and phrasing, but don’t go to the extreme of writing letters in the style of telegrams.
  • Give extra care to your opening sentence. Use your subject as an introduction.
  • Be straightforward and don’t repeat yourself except for emphasis.
  • Be careful with your closing sentence. Its echo lasts longer than you think.
  • Review copies of your letters a few days later and ask yourself how you could have made them better.

When To Put Your Foot Down
Putting your foot down in a crumbling situation is perhaps one of the toughest decisions you’ll face as a manager. Here are a few counter-pressures and rationalizations that often discourage managers from taking action:

  • False optimism: “Things may improve tomorrow.”
  • Fear of consequences: “Putting my foot down could make things worse.
  • Dislike of butting in: “Even though it’s hurting me, why should I get more involved than I have to?”

Still, there are times when a manager facing a souring situation may have to say, “Something has to be done. If no one else is willing to act, then I’ll have to handle it.”

But where do you go from there? Not charging into the arena right off the bat, certainly. Instead, this is the moment for cool thinking.

What are the facts? For example, you find that one of your people has gotten into a bitter conflict with the head of another department. You’re inclined to back your subordinate 100%. But before you can move constructively, you must be clear in your own mind as to what the facts are, who has been doing what and why. Could be that you will change your mind and try to end the conflict in a way that offers more hope of mutual acceptance.

What are the emotions? In the same situation, the effectiveness of any action you take will depend on how correctly you have assessed the conflict as both sides see it. You must look for the clue that tells how emotions got so high in the first place.

This assessment can be crucial. Clearly, a conflict resulting from someone acting out of malice differs from one that comes about through someone’s offhand remark or careless mistake. And here one’s own motives should get a going over: “Why am I so sure I can solve the problem?”

Are you willing to be a dead hero? In many instances, the “foot down” move is a high-risk strategy. Ask yourself, “What if I fail?” Putting your foot down can mean putting it on someone’s neck—or appearing to. If the opponents come out fighting, there is always the risk that you will be the one to lose—even if it’s only a matter of face.

You may decide to go ahead. And by weighing all the things that could hap-pen, including the worst possible consequences, you won’t be thrown off balance by a totally unexpected development. At the same time, line up the possible benefits—a better working environment, better morale and increased productivity, to name a few.

Have you marshaled all your resources? If you are stepping into a tricky situation, you want to be as prepared as possible. Talk to all those involved, but don’t stop there. Gather as much relevant information and as many different points of view as possible. Ask yourself if you have omitted talking to anyone who can be helpful in providing additional data or in assessing what you have gathered.

Do you have a plan? Exactly how are you going to put your foot down? You stack the cards in your favor by minimizing the possibility of unpleasant surprise. This means that after you have mapped out the most effective course of action possible, you develop a Plan B, maybe even a C and a D, as alternatives.

When do you move? Of all the planning factors, pinpointing the precise moment of action may be the most crucial. Making the choice between prematurity and belatedness is often a matter of intuition. But if you are aware of the timing problem and weigh the situation with that point in mind, you have a much better chance of striking when the iron is hottest.

You may decide that tact is your best weapon—or that bluntness is called for. Either way, when to act is all-important. Certain situations cannot be allowed to continue, or they may result in irreparable damage. If you recognize such a problem and do something about it, you will inevitably earn the respect and loyalty of your people, for they will recognize your action as a commitment to the larger goals of the group.

How To Control Those Platform Jitters
Most people are nervous on a speaker’s platform, but that’s usually a good sign. It means their energy is flowing, they’re primed to give a good account of themselves. Conversely, those who are calm may actually turn in poor performances. So remember, platform jitters are the rule rather than the exception.

Still, too much nervousness can throw anyone off center. Here are some of the ways in which successful speakers control stage fright.

They overlearn. This means they learn their speeches so well that, if necessary, they could deliver them backwards. The idea is to know your speech so thoroughly that you can deliver it without faltering. Rehearse your speech until you are sick and tired of it. Then you can be sure it’s yours.

They always understand it. Nothing is more obvious to an audience than a speaker who is simply reciting a speech. Unless you truly understand the contents, you cannot deliver it convincingly. Good speakers converse with, rather than recite to, their audiences.

They practice before a mirror. This allows them to see themselves as their audiences see them. They can study their expressions, posture, and gestures. Once you see what they’ll be seeing, you can make corrections and increase your self-confidence.

They hear themselves as others hear them. They record their talks and play them back with critical ears cocked. Once they know how they sound, they can heave a sigh of relief if it pleases them, or they can do something about it if it doesn’t. Either way, this is one method of dispelling nervousness.

They lose themselves in their subject. There is no substitute for enthusiasm. We’ve all been astonished from time to time by the shy person who delivers an effective speech. The secret: he or she gets excited about the subject. Such speakers smother their nervousness with enthusiasm. So get yourself immersed in the subject and let yourself go.

They accept every opportunity to speak. Practice does make perfect—or at least better. No one is a born speaker. Usually, speakers start modestly, before small groups. Then, as their confidence grows, they take on bigger assignments. And success feeds on success. So if you are determined to be an effective speaker, seek out opportunities to speak. It’s as simple as that.