Finding the search tab in Outlook 2010

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I recently stumbled across the advanced search features in Outlook 2010. To be fair I haven’t been using Outlook for too many months. My corporate email was Lotus Notes for the past 15 years and I use gmail at home. Here is my default view of the Outlook 2010 inbox with the search box that I’ve been using marked:

Outlook 1

What I didn’t notice is that when I would click in the search box then the advanced search tab appears (it’s invisible on the default view). My eye focus was so drawn to the search filter and results that I went months without noticing all the advanced search features.

Outlook 2

The feature I had been looking for was how to search all folders. Finally I can search once instead of looking through individual folders! Looking at it now on the screen it’s so obvious that the tool bar and features are there. It goes to show the power of focused attention. I guess this was suppose to be intuitive. So I failed the test. :-O

College dorm living gets connected

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My freshman year of college was in 1989. I remember my dorm room well. Cinder block walls with two beds, two desks, and two windows. The showers, toilets, and sinks were in the center of the hall shared by all rooms.

We had a TV in the room that had access to local channels thanks to an antennae. We had a computer with access to the online campus system via a 9600 or 14400 baud modem.  I  remember going online to register for classes. My other computing accesses was governed by a usage quota and the currency was fondly called “bananas”. The more time online and the more time spent compiling programmings the more bananas I used. There were a few times where I had to request more bananas!

And now.

Fast forward to 2014 and now I’m helping my daughter look at prospective colleges. The dorm life at some of her prospective schools has gone digital. Look at some of the amenities we found at one school in the dorm:

  • Wireless throughout the entire building
  • Premium cable TVpackage
  • Brita water station (ok, so not digital. But really cool)
  • Individual electronic temperature control in each suite
  • Laundry room with text alerts from washers and dryers
  • Shower and toilet shared by suite, not an entire hall (again not digital, but a little more homely)

Its good business.

We didn’t find this at all of the schools she looked at. But a couple of the schools had recently renovated the dorms with all the comforts of a modern home. It’s a nice touch and makes a big impression on a college bound student that is comparing schools.

I think it’s good business for the education industry. Colleges compete with each other and amenities are a factor in prospective student decisions just as the education is. Look at how athletic departments constantly upgrade their facilities to impress student athletes in attempt to draw the best to their school.

Who knows what the modern dorm rooms will look like when my grand children go to college.  They’ll probably be equipped with network connected appliances, illuminated projection devices, biosecurity devices for entry.

Cross Departmental Teamwork 101

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Information Technology departments are often criticized for their lack of collaboration with other business departments. Is IT needed since technology equipment and software is a commodity? Everyone has access to buy equipment and software in the open market to help run their business electronically. But what you can’t buy in the open market is teamwork and collaboration. That comes from within the organization with people not with bits and bytes.

Mike Stiles, from Oracle, blogged about 5 Secrets to Marketing and IT Collaboration. The list includes “understanding the perspective of your peers” which is not something you can buy. Robert Thomas, of The Harvard Business review, calls collaboration an intangible asset.

For some workers collaboration comes natural. For others, it’s like pulling teeth! In my career I’ve learned three simple things about working together with others. I consider it a list of basics although it contains concepts that were not always apparent to me.

1. It’s not what you say, but how you say it that makes all the difference.

My goal is to talk in terms of ‘we’ and ‘us’ instead of “you’ and “I’ when working with others. Create a team feel from the onset of a conversation. Stay consistent.

About 16 years ago, during my first week of a new job, I sent an email to my new team members with some requests for information. I was working on a task from my new manager so it seemed harmless. But the email was not received well with others because it was filled with statements like “I need”, “I’ve been asked”, and “I will”.  That’s not team friendly! Thankfully, a team member worked with me offline to explain how the message was received. Lesson learned.

2. When reporting a problem, communicate with the person directly before sending an email and copying multiple people.

An easy way to put co-workers on the defensive and irritate them is by copying their manager and several other people on a communication to complain about something that needs attention. I’ve seen this approach repeated hundreds of times in my career. I’ve been an observer, a reader, and an initiator.

About a year ago I errored by replying-all to an email that did this very thing with me. Someone was complaining about services not given to them from the team and copied several executives. By me replying to all and acting a little defensive I only exacerbated the problem.  The good news is that I knew I had made a mistake as soon as I sent it. I called the recipient directly and apologized. It made a huge difference in reaching a solution.

In the book of Matthew (18:15) we find it written this way “”If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”

3.  Do you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution?

It’s easy to complain about something you see. But it takes a different level of commitment to offer solution ideas and to help solve the problem. A collaborative approach builds unity and teamwork, so offer to participate. Mike Stiles from Oracle recommends in his blog post, “Be the role model”. Be the one who reaches out to start communication. Be the one who offers to be part of the solution.

Here’s a good example: “We noticed that X is happening, can you help us to find out why” rather than “X is happening and your process to fix problems needs to change.”

Getting value from the annual review

It’s time to write annual reviews.
It’s that time of year again when workers everywhere write reviews of their work performance during the previous year. Most people I know don’t like the process. The reasons vary, but include the following:

  • The results of the review process don’t yield anything tangible such as raises or promotions. Early in my career the annual review rating was used in a calculation for merit increases. With my previous two companies this was no longer true as wage increases were frozen.
  • The review scale is misunderstood. Workers tend to equate the rating scale with school grades. Employers use the middle rating as “meets expectations” and “fulfilling the requirements of the job”. Workers see the mid rating as a C grade. I’ve explained this to workers numerous times but there is a negative psychological effect for many people when they receive a 3 rating on a scale of 1-5.
  • The review rating is subjective in many ways. I remember one review where my manager told me that I was a “cowboy” because I liked to push the organization into places where it was not operating (negative rating). My next manager told me that this same characteristic was a good thing because the organization needed change and I was thinking outside the box.
  • The review process requires thinking and writing. That’s hard work! It requires taking time to think about what was accomplished the previous year. It also requires writing and some workers are not accustomed to sitting and writing.

Think about it differently.
What if we used the annual review as a time to document our accomplishments for both the review form and our resume? Many professionals today keep their resume online in places like LinkedIn. Over the last several years, I ‘ve used the data that I gathered for my self-review to also update my professional profile on LinkedIn. As I see it, if I am going to keep an online professional profile that is publicly visible then it needs to stay current. Otherwise, what message does that send about me?

So what does that process look like? As I write the self-review I make a bullet list of accomplishments and then work those into the summary of my current job area on LinkedIn. I like to prefix each entry with the calendar year of the accomplishment. This technique accomplishes three things:

  1. Shows recency for anyone reading my profile.
  2. Creates a timeline on the profile which shows the progression of work responsibility and job assignments in my career.
  3. Documents my most significant accomplishments when they are at top-of-mind. If I’m updating a resume ten years after a job assignment I’m likely to miss key accomplishments.

Making Lemonade.
lemonadeI’ll be honest, unlike many people, I like the annual review process. What I enjoy is that it helps to create a conversation between manager and employee. As a manager, I also hold weekly one-on-one meetings with each employee. So the content of the review should not be a surprise. But the weekly one-on-ones are often filled with discussions about progress on tactical tasks more than a review of performance.

I don’t enjoy the ratings system. I think the ratings scale is a distraction to the conversation and content of the review. To me, the review scale represents the lemons in equation. The conversation with the employee is the lemonade.

As I think about it, lemonade is a great idea. I think I’ll serve myself a glass as I sit down to write reviews.