Thursday, January 21, 2010

You Can Say What You Want...

...but overall people seem like they're very honest around here. I know I was joking earlier about how I like going to the Real Office so I can read the notes about how people are stealing food from the fridge. But I must tell you that even though there are occasional bouts of food going missing, the two-thirds of a six pack of Diet Dr. Pepper I left there in October was still there. So either nobody in the office likes Diet Dr. Pepper, or they're really good people.

I'm leaning toward thinking they're really good people.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Do You Live Here?

Well, in one of these terrible traffic places? One of the best ways to avoid nasty traffic situations is (surprise surprise) telecommuting. So many good things about it. You can use telecommuting to start your work day early, and then hit the road to the Real Office at ten in the morning so as to avoid the hellishness. Or leave at two in the afternoon, score your kids at school and get them settled in on homework, then flex your time from home from four til seven to get things done that you would have in the afternoon time you missed.

Or anticipate that traffic will be painful if there is weather, a ball game, the Olympics, or some other drive-disrupting deterrent, and stay home on those days with work that you can do from anywhere. For goodness sake, get out of your cars, though, people. More drivers isn't going to make that better, so get off the road!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Heading to the Real Office

Stella is heading to the Real Office in beautiful Rochester, NY for the upcoming week, so posting will be even more paltry than usual. Things I like about the Real Office:

- Sitting down with colleagues and getting to see them make stink-face over what I'm proposing instead of having someone have to tell me, "So and so is making a bit of a stink face right now," during a conference call.

- Eating at Swan's Deli.

- Reading all the refrigerator, kitchen cleanliness, and bathroom related missives on the bulletin boards. Usually I have to satisfy myself with stuff like this.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tips for Booking Your On-Site Time

In the world where Stella works (non-profit fundraising and advancement), making visits is the bread and butter of the work. Major gift officers are assigned a territory and start mining the people in those areas to find folks to visit and engage in the work of the non-profit. Ideally, you see a mix of people whom you're meeting for the first time, along with more established prospects whom you're trying to move along toward making a greater commitment to your cause. But unfortunately, what sometimes happens with gift officers is they go back and see the same people over and over again because they have developed a rapport with them, and they're fun to visit with. But if they aren't moving along toward a gift you have to focus on new faces, too.

For the telecommuter the same risk exists. When you are on-site, it can be tempting to go back to the old standbys -- people who always have an hour to meet with you, people who are good to have a happy hour with, people who know where the good lunch spots are. You want to fill up your on-site time with face-to-face meetings, and familiar faces make it easy.

But it's important to keep your schedule mixed up. Some tips:

  • You should have a balance of people with whom you have on-going projects and relationships, and also make a big point of figuring out who the new faces, emerging trouble spots, and up-and-comers are and seek those people out. Aim for a 60% on-going business/40% new faces mix.
  • Consider taking less focused meetings into overtime: put together small happy hour groups, for example, or use lunches to have those conversations that fall more into the "Remember me? I work here like you! We have a lot in common. Don't forget!" range rather than the "Let's hammer out these requirements and figure out our action plan"-type meetings.
  • Be ready to rock: when you're an infrequent visitor to the Real Office, each visit is a bit like a job interview because you never know when you're going to meet someone important for the first time. Yes, of course, you already have the job, but if you flip the Bozo switch with someone recently hired into a leadership position, you may not get another chance to make a better impression for another quarter. So always be prepared to put your best foot forward.
  • Have a little flexibility: don't book yourself completely before you show up. You'll discover when you're face to face with people that there are things you didn't know before you got there. Have a some room in your schedule toward the middle and end of your time to schedule follow-ups with new folks that you've identified as new faces, emerging trouble spots, or up-and-comers.
Needless to say, Stella's schedule for her next on-site doesn't completely follow all these rules. A couple of existing projects are dominating my time, and I have a feeling that a few other emergent issues will pop up that will eat into the open space that is still there on Thursday and Friday. I do have a couple of new faces in my schedule, and I'm also making a presentation to the whole staff that will max out my personal visibility in a quick ten minute show and tell, so that's promising. We'll see how it all works out.

Friday, January 8, 2010

This Is Not Something I Advocate

Stella does advocate getting dressed every day. I even advocate wearing power shoes when you have a difficult conversation to have virtually, because they make you feel, well, powerful. So it should not be a surprise to regular StellaCommute readers that I unequivocally reject this. Don't be fooled just because it's belted (and belts are a great way to keep track of your girth so you don't have my aforementioned Real Office Costume Crisis (TM) ).

Friends: just because it has a belt does not mean that you should wear it anywhere where people who aren't required to accept you "as-is" by marital law and custom and/or who related to you by blood might see you. And this includes your home office, because you never know when your videophone is going to go off and you'll need to be presentable.

No business-casual snuggies or slankets. For the love of god.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Do What You Have To

Stella is an advocate for doing what needs to be done. While I love telecommuting with all my heart and think that nearly any job can be done effectively from any location, many companies don't share this view. If you're in a position where you need a job and the only way they'll work with you is in the Real Office, you should by all means take that job, especially if everything else about it is the right fit for you (except that part where they expect you to wear shoes every day).

Trust me (and Alexandra Levit of the WSJ), you'll adjust.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

This Is a Particular Problem for Shut-Ins

Maybe you have this problem at work, too. But for Stella, staying on top of the wardrobe is really important because though I'm largely a slipper-sporting dress code-scofflaw, I do have to go to the Real Office on a regular basis. Recently I had the unpleasant experience of getting to the Real Office and discovering that my anchor suit for the trip was ... wait for it ... way too big all of a sudden.

Yes I know, you're all trying to lose ten pounds as your New Year's resolution and I should just keep my gym-going mouth shut.*

But seriously, it was a bit of an issue. I plan to wear the pants with a few things, and suddenly I'm tying a rope around my waist like a hobo and trying not to look completely lost in my clothes. And that's why I recommend that shut-ins make a practice of regularly trying on their Real Office costumes so that you don't get in a situation where you pack your standard repertoire of sensible suits only to discover that they are too big or too small.

* For the record, I think that as long as they make a size larger than what you are wearing, you should eat another Snickers bar. I also am pathologically cheap and I don't like shopping, so I work hard to stay able to wear my existing clothes. It's complicated.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Like Stella Said

One of the most frustrating things about being a key decision maker or trying to get a meeting with key decision makers is that they're often booked from now until the next fiscal year. Getting time with people is almost impossible.

Now note how Google does it: office hours. Marissa Mayer of Google has time every day where people can line up outside her door and come in on an ad hoc basis. I have long held that this kind of "free to meet" time is essential to a smooth operation. Much like a pediatrician has time every day to see emergently sick children, having time available daily (or even weekly) that isn't already booked that can be used for issues that are arising is a good idea.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

It's a new year, and Stella is glad to still be here and still wearing slippers. So rock on with your bad selves!