Posts by NWCS Admin

Why You Should Make Your Boss Look Good

The typical employee is probably more focused on doing whatever’s necessary to stay employed. Not showing up late, getting all your work done, bringing new ideas to the table and not making any major errors. Basically, not giving your boss a reason to fire you.

As good as those strategies are, they don’t take into account the one person whose opinion really counts: the boss.

Being a good employee is an important part of avoiding layoffs, not just in a recession, but all the time. Plenty of other workers and job seekers can replace you if you’re just doing the bare minimum. Not everyone can be your substitute if the boss has come to rely on you to be a part of his or her success.

Of course, you’re probably thinking: Shouldn’t I be more concerned with making myself look good?

You and the boss are the same … kind of

You’re not the boss, but you are a reflection of your boss, and it behooves you both to project a positive image.

“If you don’t look good, your boss doesn’t look good,” That idea extends beyond having your shirt tucked in and your pants ironed. Make sure anything that represents the team — whether it’s an e-mail or a voice mail coming from you — also reflects you and the boss in a professional, polished way.

Sometimes you know how to project the right image. Walking into a meeting with the high-level bosses and giving everyone a high five probably isn’t the way to score points with anyone. But on other matters, find out what the boss wants. Better to ask now and make a good impression later than to mess up and earn an unfavorable reputation.

“You’re the sidekick”, so delivering good work is really the best thing you can do for [him or her], and therefore, for you. What does it take to deliver good work? Or excellent work? Ask the boss! Try, ‘What can I do to improve this?’ or ‘Is there anything I can do to take some work off your plate?’ for starters.

Making the boss work for you

Improving the boss’s image isn’t just about making his or her life easier and earning pats on the back. The whole process involves better communication between both of you. At the beginning of this process, it might occur through direct questions, but eventually it can become an understanding if you build the relationship. Become invaluable to the boss so that you’re the default go-to person.

“Anticipate needs,” The difference between good employees and great employees is that the latter don’t just comply with requests well, they anticipate needs of their bosses and deliver above and beyond what the boss expects.

To get to that point, you need to be direct, and that means being prepared to ask the right questions.

“When you do something, check in with the boss to ensure that you really helped him or her out — don’t assume you did.”

You and the boss are not the same

At the end of the day, however, your boss is the boss and you are the employee. That doesn’t just mean you take orders; it means you’re an individual worker being judged on your own merits. All of the above tips can help your career, but don’t lose perspective, either. Keep focus on your own path before taking on additional responsibilities.

It may be counterintuitive, but if you really want to help your own career and boost your boss’s reputation, the best thing you can do is to boost your own reputation first. Your boss is ultimately judged not by [his or her] individual performance, but how well [his or her] people perform. Being the most effective employee you can be is therefore the best way to help make your boss look good.

Benefits Review and Pizza Party

Save the date:

June 17th, 2014; 5:30pm – Pizza dinner in Redmond

– Review our Dental/Medical, LTD, Life insurance plans and required re-up documents.

– Please RSVP tasha@nwcontract.com, so we can plan for enough food/drinks for everyone.

Round Table Pizza: 15025 NE 24th St Redmond, WA 98052

Taking Time Off

Taking Time Off

 If you wish to take time off summer for vacations, family events, elective facial enhancement surgery or for whatever reason, you should be sure to PLAN well in advance. Many product cycles begin to surge in the summer, especially for products that will be released near Christmas. Summer may well be a time of rapid changes requiring the attention of all team members.

TALK to your MS supervisor as soon as you begin to have knowledge of a forthcoming need to be away or if you have a desire to take some time so that the time you take is convenient for both you and the team. You and the supervisor can make plans to cross-train, get work done early or take an alternative route if there is sufficient advance warning.

Managers do not like having to scramble to cover for you without a good bit of advance notice. Keep your good standing and your autonomy by being courteous and flexible in your plans.

Civility

Civility in the Workplace
Barbara Richman

The workplace is a reflection of society at large. Today, we see a gamut of behaviors that demonstrate a lack of respect and civility, both inside and outside the workplace. Studies and polls indicate that Americans view incivility as a serious problem that is getting worse. One study found that 60% of employees believe that co-workers’ annoying behaviors negatively impact the workplace and, as a result, 40% reported that they are looking for new employment. These and other findings illustrate that disrespectful and uncivil behaviors drain productivity and negatively influence both an organization’s bottom line and the overall economy.

If each of us develops an awareness of respectful behaviors and necessary skills, it is anticipated that can serve asrole models and that these behaviors will spread in the workplace and beyond.  The following are ten tips will hopefully, assist you in accomplishing this objective:

1. Before acting, consider the impact of your words and actions on others.

2. Create an inclusive work environment.  Only by recognizing and respecting individual differences and qualities can your organization fully realize its potential.

3. Self-monitor the respect that you display in all areas of your communications, including verbal, body language, and listening.

4. Understand your triggers or “hot buttons.”  Knowing what makes you angry and frustrated enables you to manage your reactions and respond in a more appropriate manner.

5. Take responsibility for your actions and practice self-restraint and anger management skills in responding to potential conflicts.

6. Adopt a positive and solution-driven approach in resolving conflicts.

7. Rely on facts rather than assumptions.  Gather relevant facts, especially before acting on  assumptions that can damage relationships.

8. Include others in your focus by considering their needs and avoiding the perception that you view yourself as the “center of the universe.”

9. View today’s difficult situations from a broader (big picture) and more realistic perspective by considering what they mean in the overall scheme of things.

10. “Each one influence one” by becoming a bridge builder and role model for civility and respect. Act in a manner whereby you respect yourself, demonstrate respect for others, and take advantage of every opportunity to be proactive in promoting civility and respect in your workplace.

Thanks

Thursday this week is May 1st, the day called May Day around the world. It is both a day for celebrating spring, as in dances around the maypole and a day for celebrating workers and their accomplishments.

I have not brought a pole and ribbons so that we can have a maypole dance, so, instead we will look upon the day as a day for recognizing the people that work with us. Thank you for choosing to work through our company. We know that you have a choice in which company you have as an employer and we are glad that you have chosen to give us the opportunity to earn your loyalty.

Each week this space is filled with, hopefully, articles designed to help make you a more successful part of our team and of the teams that you work within at the client location. We always welcome your feedback and participation. We choose to believe that everyone that works with us has the essential blend of honesty, integrity, industriousness, and honor that makes for a great person and therefore a great employee.

 Thank You

 

For being part of our company and for letting us rest a good part of our reputation on your skills and your hard work.

Ten Phrases You Should Refrain From

“It’s not fair.”

She got a raise, you didn’t. He was recognized, you weren’t. “Some people have food to eat while others starve. Injustices happen on the job and in the world every day. Whether it’s a troubling issue at work or a serious problem for the planet, the point in avoiding this phrase is to be proactive about the issues versus complaining, or worse, passively whining.” Instead, document the facts, build a case, and present an intelligent argument to the person or group who can help you.

“That’s not my problem,” “That’s not my job,” or “I don’t get paid enough for this.”

If you asked someone for help, and the person replied with one of the above phrases, how would you feel? “As importantly, what would it say about him or her?” Regardless of how inconvenient or inappropriate a request may be, it is likely important to the other person or they would not have asked. Therefore, as a contributing member of the team, a top priority is to care about the success of others (or at least act as though you do).  An unconcerned, detached and self-serving attitude quickly limits career advancement. This doesn’t mean you have to say yes; it does mean you need to be articulate and thoughtful when saying no. For example, if your boss issues an unreasonable request, rather than saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I don’t get paid enough for this,’ instead say, ‘I’ll be glad to help. Given my current tasks of A, B, and C, which one of these shall I place on hold while I work on this new assignment?’ This clearly communicates teamwork and helpfulness, while reminding your boss of your current work load and the need to set realistic expectations.

“No problem.”

When someone thanks you, the courteous and polite reply is, “You’re welcome.” “The meaning implies that it was a pleasure for you to help the person, and that you receive their appreciation. Though the casual laid-back phrase, ‘no problem’ may intend to communicate this, it falls short. It actually negates the person’s appreciation and implies the situation could have been a problem under other circumstances. In business and social situations, if you want to be perceived as well-mannered and considerate, respond to thank you’s with, “You’re welcome.”

“He’s a jerk,” or “She’s lazy,” or “My job stinks,” or “I hate this company.”

Nothing tanks a career faster than name-calling. Not only does it reveal juvenile school-yard immaturity, it’s language that is liable and fire-able. Avoid making unkind, judgmental statements that will inevitably reflect poorly on you. If you have a genuine complaint about someone or something, communicate the issue with tact, consideration and neutrality.

But we’ve always done it that way.”

The most effective leaders value innovation, creative thinking and problem solving skills in their employees. In one fell swoop, this phrase reveals you are the opposite: stuck in the past, inflexible, and closed-minded. “Instead say, ‘Wow, that’s an interesting idea. How would that work?’ Or, ‘That’s a different approach. Let’s discuss the pros and cons.’”

That’s impossible” or “There’s nothing I can do.

Really? Are you sure you’ve considered every single possible solution and the list is now exhausted? When you make the mistake of saying these negative phrases, your words convey a pessimistic, passive, even hopeless outlook. This approach is seldom valued in the workplace. Employers notice, recognize and promote a can-do attitude. Despite the glum circumstances, communicate through your words what you can contribute to the situation. Instead, try something like, “I’ll be glad to check on it again,” “Let’s discuss what’s possible under these circumstances,” or, “What I can do is this.”

“You guys.”

Reserve the phrase “you guys” for friendly casual conversations and avoid using it in business. “Referring to a group of people as ‘you guys’ is not only inaccurate if women are present, it is slang and lowers your level of professionalism. With fellow professionals such as your boss, co-workers and clients, substitute “you guys” with terms such as “your organization” or “your team” or simply “you.”

“I may be wrong, but…” or “This may be a silly idea, but…”

These phrases are known as discounting. They diminish the impact of what follows and reduce your credibility. Remember that your spoken words reveal to the world how much value you place on yourself and your message. For this reason, eliminate any prefacing phrase that demeans the importance of who you are or lessens the significance of what you contribute. Don’t say, “This may be a silly idea, but I was thinking that maybe we might conduct the quarterly meeting online instead, okay? Instead, assert your recommendation: “To reduce travel costs and increase time efficiency, I recommend we conduct the quarterly meeting online.”

“Don’t you think?” or “Okay?”

These phrases are commonly known as hedging—seeking validation through the use of overly cautious or non-committal words, she says. “If you truly are seeking approval or looking for validation, these phrases may well apply. However, if your goal is to communicate a confident commanding message and persuade people to see it your way, instead of hedging make your statement or recommendation with certainty. Imagine an investment banker saying, “This is a good way to invest your money, don’t you think? I’ll proceed, if that’s okay with you. Instead, you’d probably want to hear something like: “This strategy is a wise investment that provides long-term benefits. With your approval, I’ll wire the money by 5pm today.”

“I don’t have time for this right now,” or “I’m too busy.”

Even if these statements are true, no one wants to feel less important than something or someone else. To foster positive relations and convey empathy, say instead: “I’d be happy to discuss this with you after my morning meetings. May I stop by your office around 1pm?” These are common phrases that might be difficult to eliminate completely from your everyday conversations—but the trick is to gain awareness of the language you’re using. As is often the case with bad habits, we are unconscious of the fact we’re saying career-limiting words and phrases.

Our Business is Customer Satisfaction

Every week, as you leave the meeting, you hear us say, “Keep your boss happy.”  The simple reason why we say that and why we want you to hear it is…  the success we enjoy as a  company is born of providing our customers with the level of assistance and service that leaves them satisfied. That is why you were hired. That is why you continue to be employed… because you can and do keep the customer satisfied.

Below are a few quotes that I find to be useful in remembering what our focus should be as we go about our daily work lives. Hopefully, they help you in your efforts to be of service and keep your bosses happy. “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” ~Charles Darwin

All of you work in an environment where change is a constant and it is important that we be able to be responsive to the change that comes. Adaptability allows you to keep the customer happy regardless of what happens. “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.” ~Henry Ford

Your employment agreement says that you will be paid for all hour approved by the client. The client will approve hours that have brought them satisfaction with the work produced. Keep the customer happy and your continued pay check is assured.

“If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” ~Jeff Bezos, CEO Amazon.com.

Best Career Advice Ever

(K.Hedges, forbes.com)

 The reality is that a whole lot of career stuff is situational. What works for one person, or in one company, doesn’t do so well elsewhere. That said, there are a few, consistent pieces of advice that hold up anywhere, for any level of professional. Follow these, and you’ll fast-track your own career.

1. If you see a fire, run into it.

In chaos, there is opportunity. Most major career accelerations happen when someone steps into a mess and makes a difference. In the technology sector, people will remark that one year in a start-up is like five years in an established company. There’s ample opportunity to stretch your wings, wear many hats, and create a name for yourself when there’s not a set plan to follow. You can find the same opportunity in any organization, if you seek it.

2. Follow up.

If, as Woody Allen made famous, 80% of life is showing up — then 90% of career success is following up. Our organizations are rife with lack of accountability, whether by intention or incompetence. Be the person who meets deadlines, holds others accountable, and heck, even remembers to say thanks when it’s due. Following through on your commitments is trust-building, and the opposite erodes it quickly and indelibly.

3. Tell the truth.

Truthfulness seems a bit obvious to be on this list. However, companies are rife with damaging lies of omission. In an effort to look good, and not cause waves, we don’t express our truthful opinion. Being brave enough to respectfully state the truth in a politically astute way sets you apart. Most CEOs I know want to hear dissenting opinion; they crave more information not “yes” people. As Joann Lublin discussed in the Wall Street Journal, expressing a difference of opinion actually helps your career.

4. Treat everyone as an equal.

Respect has a place at work, but not deference. Being relaxed and confident in front of authority elevates your own brand. People see you the way you see yourself.

5. Pull yourself up with one hand, and reach back to others with the opposite one.

It is extremely common feedback that a leader manages up well, but not down. This works for a while, but turns out you have to be seen favorably by all levels to succeed. A recent global study showed that an inability to build and maintain a team is the top reason organizations fail.

6. Make valuable offers to others. 

Every day in our organizations, we see areas that could be helped, or processes that should be fixed. We let them slip by because of time, political boundaries, or not wanting to speak up. When you see something that you can affect — don’t wait to be asked — make a proactive offer to help. (Or, if appropriate, just do it.) Even if you aren’t taken up on the offer, the fact that you cared enough to make it speaks volumes about your character and your initiative.

7. Show gratitude.

No one succeeds on their own. Even if things don’t entirely go your way, there are still reasons to be grateful for the opportunities you’ve been given. We too often forget to say thanks for the opportunities and rewards we’ve been given — both large and small. Yes, you earned them. But you can still say thanks.

Getting What You Want in Life

Benjamin Franklin was a man of action. Over his lifetime, his curiosity and passion fueled a diverse range of interests. He was a writer (often using a pseudonym), publisher, diplomat, inventor and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

His inventions included the lightning rod, bifocals and the Franklin stove. Franklin was responsible for establishing the first public library, organizing fire fighters in Philadelphia, was one of the early supporters of mutual insurance and crossed the Atlantic eight times. Self-development was a constant endeavor throughout his incredible life.

Benjamin Franklin was clearly a man who knew how to get things done.

Here are 14 action-inducing lessons from him:

Less Talk, More Action

“Well done is better than well said.” Talk is cheap. Talking about a project won’t get it completed. We all know people who constantly talk about the things they are going to do but rarely ever take that first step. Eventually people begin to question their credibility. Taking action and seeing the task through to completion is the only way to get the job done.

Don’t Procrastinate

“Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.” This is probably one of the first quotes I remember hearing as a teenager. With an impressive list of achievements to his credit, Benjamin Franklin was not a man hung up on procrastination. He was a man with clear measurable goals who worked hard to turn his vision into reality. What are you putting off till tomorrow that could make a difference in your life today?

Be Prepared

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” You need a plan to accomplish your goals. Charging in without giving any thought to the end result and how to achieve it, is a sure way to fall flat on your face. Think like a boy scout. Have a realistic plan of attack and a systematic approach for getting where you need to be.

Don’t Fight Change

“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” While many of us don’t like change, others thrive on it. Either way change is inevitable. The stronger we fight against it, the more time and energy it consumes. Give up the fight. Focus on proactively making positive changes, instead of having change merely thrust upon you. Wherever possible, try to view change as a positive instead of a negative.

Get Moving

“All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.” There’s a reason we use the expression, movers and shakers. Movers are the ones who take action, the people who get things done, while the immovable are sitting around scratching their heads wondering how others could possibly be so successful. Which group do you want to belong to?

Avoid Busywork

“Never confuse motion with action.” We are always running around doing things. We rush from one meeting or event to the next, sometimes without achieving a great deal. At the end of the day, how much of our busywork are we proud of? How much of that running around improves anyone’s life (including ours) for the better? Make your motion mean something.   Give

Yourself Permission to Make Mistakes

“Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out.” If we fear making mistakes, we become scared to try new things. Fear leaves us nestled in our comfort zone. Staying in your comfort zone rarely leads to greatness. Taking risks and giving yourself permission to make mistakes, will ultimately lead you to whatever your version of success may be.

Act Quickly on Opportunities

“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” Opportunities are everywhere. The trick is being quick enough and smart enough to seize them when they arise. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that something won’t work or can’t be done, allow yourself the freedom to ask what if?

Continue to Grow

“Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every New Year find you a better man.” We all have vices of some description. The key is to keep them under control or preferably eradicate them entirely. Be kind to those around you, whether they are neighbors, family, co-workers or friends. Never accept that you have finished growing as a person.

Keep Going

“Diligence is the mother of good luck.” Have you ever looked at a successful entrepreneur or business person and thought how lucky they are? Most of the time, luck has nothing to do with it. Hard work and sacrifice on the other hand have everything to do with it. Successful people deal with failure. They tackle their demons head on. They pick themselves up and keep going.

Know Yourself

“There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.” Understanding ourselves is not easy. Sometimes we just don’t want to see ourselves for who we really are. It’s much easier to hold onto a romanticized version of ourselves or to simply view ourselves through other people’s eyes. Start by being brutally honest with yourself. Follow through with understanding, compassion and acceptance.

Don’t Self-Sabotage

“Who had deceived thee so often as thyself?” We spend so much time worrying about other people hurting us, yet fail to comprehend the damage we inflict on ourselves. If you are using negative self-talk, lying to yourself or indulging in addictive behavior you are self-sabotaging. Life can dish up enough challenges without us adding to the mix. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself like you would a best friend.

Don’t Give Up

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” Achieving our goals can be downright exhausting. There will be days when you want to give up. There will be times when your energy levels flatline and you wonder why you bother getting out of bed. Yet you push forward, day after day because you believe in yourself and you have the determination and strength to back up that belief.

Wise Up

“Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.” Benjamin was definitely onto something with this one. Who hasn’t had the thought – I wish I could know then, what I know now? Unfortunately there is no time machine; there is no going back. The key is to wise up as early as you can to start forging a life of purpose, achievement and happiness

 

Validation vs. Verification

(‘Serendipity’, November 29, 2010)

The terms Verification and Validation are commonly used in software engineering to mean two different types of analysis. The usual definitions are:

Validation: Are we building the right system?
Verification: Are we building the system right?

In other words, validation is concerned with checking that the system will meet the customer’s actual needs, while verification is concerned with whether the system is well-engineered, error-free, and so on. Verification will help to determine whether the software is of high quality, but it will not ensure that the system is useful.

The distinction between the two terms is largely to do with the role of specifications. Validation is the process of checking whether the specification captures the customer’s needs, while verification is the process of checking that the software meets the specification.

Verification includes all the activities associated with the producing high quality software: testing, inspection, design analysis, specification analysis, and so on. It is a relatively objective process, in that if the various products and documents are expressed precisely enough, no subjective judgements should be needed in order to verify software.

In contrast, validation is an extremely subjective process. It involves making subjective assessments of how well the (proposed) system addresses a real-world need. Validation includes activities such as requirements modelling, prototyping and user evaluation.

In a traditional phased software lifecycle, verification is often taken to mean checking that the products of each phase satisfy the requirements of the previous phase. Validation is relegated to just the beginning and ending of the project: requirements analysis and acceptance testing. This view is common in many software engineering textbooks, and is misguided. It assumes that the customer’s requirements can be captured completely at the start of a project, and that those requirements will not change while the software is being developed. In practice, the requirements change throughout a project, partly in reaction to the project itself: the development of new software makes new things possible. Therefore both validation and verification are needed throughout the lifecycle.

Finally, V&V is now regarded as a coherent discipline: ”Software V&V is a systems engineering discipline which evaluates the software in a systems context, relative to all system elements of hardware, users, and other software”. (from Software Verification and Validation: Its Role in Computer Assurance and Its Relationship with Software Project Management Standards, by Dolores R. Wallace and Roger U. Fujii, NIST Special Publication 500-165)

 

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