Categories
Business Technology

After one year, email application Spike delivers what it promises but still has room for improvement

Almost one year ago, as I began to ramp up my job hunting efforts, I knew that I was going to need a system efficient enough to help me organize the job-related postings, confirmations, and conversations that I’d be engaging in until I found a new full-time position. This seemed like a job which was too large for google mail, so I set up a separate account on Outlook. I created an email address on my hosting account which I planned to use only for my job search.

As I was setting all of this up, I came across an intriguing new web email app being promoted by my host provider called Spike. This new application’s biggest selling point was that it would organize email exchanges into conversation threads, and offered an interface which was most similar to that of Slack.

I love Slack, so this email application really intrigued me. .During the eleven months that I’ve been using it, I have found that it can be a mixed bag of benefits and drawbacks. True to its main selling point, I enjoyed viewing my exchanges in the form of discussion threads. This made the process of communication very fluid. I’ve also enjoyed the ability to “snooze” incoming emails until later, a feature I’ll use on confirmations for job applications when I want to follow up with a position after the weekend, or as a reminder to follow up after a week or two.

Spike is also available as a mobile app, and I’ve had it on my phone for almost as long as I’ve been job hunting. The user experience on my phone is just as smooth as it is in the browser. In both versions, you can view everything that’s in your inbox, or filter for just email that has been received via a specific email account. This has been handy as I have set up multiple email addresses to help manage my job hunting efforts.

One major drawback is that on several occasions I nearly missed an opportunity to interview for a job because an email message never showed up in my inbox, or was somehow buried. I suspect that because the emails are displayed in the form of threads, that the new message was simply added to the bottom, and there wasn’t a clear way to see that a new message had arrived. The threads are also determined by email addresses, so if a sender uses a new address, their message could be stored separately from an existing thread. This might happen if an initial message was sent from a web-based system, but then follow up messages were sent for an email account.

For this reason, it seemed to me that the biggest thing that has been missing from the Spike user experience is the ability to switch to a more traditional inbox layout. This would help to ensure that new messages aren’t missed. There are several other systems, such as bulletin boards, which allow you to switch the view on the messages you are viewing. Sometimes, you might want to see messages chronologically instead of in a thread.

I also found that Spike had a difficult time processing attachments. Whenever someone sent me a file, the application didn’t seem to be able to handle it. I would need to forward the message to my gmail account before I could view or download the attachments.

I was so spooked by these shortcomings, that I have gradually transitioned back to gmail, and use spike mainly as a way to quickly glance over my new email messages. So, I think that the concept of displaying email in conversation threads similar to the discussions in Slack is a great one, and eventually Spike could even give Slack a run for its money. But, it still has a ways to go before it is reliable enough to cover all of my email and team communication needs.

If I heard that someone was looking for a more intuitive email application, I would recommend Spike, but not if they are already comfortable with the service they had, and not in place of other mainstream team communication platforms.

Categories
Business Career

Certain Set of Skills

After I learned that I was being laid off last September 2019, I tried to relate my situation to the scenario that Liam Neilson’s character found himself in “Taken.” Sure, his daughter had been kidnapped during a vacation in Europe, but luckily his character had “a certain set of skills” and a lot of dedication. I, too, had been through job losses before so I thought I would be able to draw from those experiences and find employment again quickly. I hoped I could find a new job quickly enough to make my job loss feel almost temporary, as though it was only a speed bump in my life.

I had until the end of October to wrap up my role. I spent the remainder of my time doing new work, and summarizing the information that others would need to have once I was gone. I was also signing up for multiple job boards, updating my resume, and increasing my presence on LinkedIn. Everything I thought I should be doing as I kickstarted my job hunt.

From my very first day of my job search, there have always been new job opportunities out there. In fact, they are so plentiful that it is easy for someone to overestimate their chances of getting a new position. Around Christmas, I was already noticing that I was sending out a ton of job applications and queries, but receiving a proportionately small amount of responses, even if you included the “I’m sorry, we’ve decided to pass on your as a candidate” type emails. I relaxed a bit during the holiday season because I knew that companies just weren’t going to be as focused on hiring around then. By then, I had had a few phone interviews and at least one near-miss, but it was already beginning to feel discouraging. As I had hoped, things seemed to heat up again in January and the responses–both good and bad–started to roll in. By February, I had a couple of job interviews for positions that I sincerely thought I was a good candidate for. Things seemed to be looking up.

Then, of course, our state closed down in March, and the rules for job hunting changed. Fortunately, unemployment benefits were increased and extended for those who needed them. But, by April I found myself competing with a much bigger pool of job seekers.

Now that it is August and almost a year since I was laid off, I feel as though I am Katniss from “The Hunger Games.” I’ve always felt as though this was a fight for survival–both professionally and personally–but I’ve never felt as anxious about my situation as I do right now. I know that there are others who are searching for a job, so maybe my situation isn’t so unique, especially right now. But, there isn’t much that I can do to help until I’ve gotten a job.

And, I am sure that I’ve made a lot of mistakes that have kept me in this situation. Maybe my cover letters weren’t snappy enough, or the format of my resume was wrong. I hate job hunting mostly because I feel as though everything I do as a job candidate, from the resume to the interview, is under close scrutiny. I know the point is to demonstrate that I can be a valuable contributor, but I can do a lot more than pump out a resume or answer questions about myself. I am a strong believer that actions speak louder than words, and in some cases I am just better at doing something than talking about it.

This is why I am hoping to devote a little more time towards my blog at http://www.jonmorgan.net, where I can cover aspects of my career that can’t really be addressed in a resume. I’ll also be continuing a couple of my other side projects, so I’m not just devoting all of my time towards the hunt for jobs.

Categories
Business Career

Satisfaction Guaranteed

As I have talked to people and researched the best strategy for marketing myself during my job search, I’ve reached the conclusion that I should try to sell myself in the same way that labels sell the products that sit on retail store shelves. For example, the information on the front of a box of laundry detergent might claim that it “rids clothes of more stains.” Taking this analogy further, if the benefits I offered companies had to be condensed down and made eye-catching on store shelves, what would the labeling on my box be?

In many ways, this isn’t that far from reality. When I send in my cover letter and resume, I am in fact competing with thousands of other professionals who might also be just as qualified for the job I’m applying for. When I fill out an application and attach my resume, my hope is that it promotes me in the same way that packaging attracts customers in the stores.

I’ve filled so many different roles in my twenty-two years as a professional that it is hard to boil down what I can do into a couple of simple lines. Many of my jobs evolved over time, and in other cases I evolved to fit the responsibilities that I was given.

About twenty years ago, the finance director for the organization I worked for at the time asked me what I did. I don’t remember exactly how I replied, but I remember being flabbergasted and a little insulted that she was asking me that. First of all, my title seemed self explanatory: I was the Website Coordinator, and worked for the Communications department. I managed the organization’s website and other electronic marketing. In retrospect, however, it was 1999 and the Internet wasn’t as critical to businesses back then as it would be now. And, my role was a relatively new one. We were also gathered inside one of the conference rooms, and were in the process of filling out postcards which would be sent to members asking them to renew their membership.

My response was most likely unsatisfactory, because a few months later my role was outsourced and I was downsized by the organization. I’ve often thought about this brief encounter with regret, wondering how much this had to do with the decision to make this change, and if there could have been anything else I could have said to change things. But, if it’s conceivable that the wrong words can cost me an existing job, then they become so much more important when trying to obtain one.

If I had to pick out one role I’ve filled consistently throughout my professional career, it would be “facilitator.” That’s because I’ve always found myself in a position where my key contribution was to ensure that things kept moving smoothly, or that projects were completed on time and efficiently.

When I worked for my first job at HomeTown Online, I fulfilled my main duties which consisted of answering user support phone calls and building websites for clients. But, I also took on the responsibility of meeting with clients and helping them to plan out their websites. I also worked on marketing material which promoted our company’s services. I also volunteered my expertise to the news staff who worked in the front of the building and sat in on their meetings, with the goal of providing them with insight on how to present news stories on the web.

At the Michigan State Medical Society, I applied my skills I learned at HomeTown Online towards my communication with co-workers and managers from different departments. My work may have been steeped in a lot of web development terminology, but at the core I needed to listen and understand departments’ needs and produce finished products on the website which met them. I also participated in a number of committee-run projects which related back to my work for the organization.

The work at Special Olympics Michigan was somewhat similar to what I did at MSMS, however as the Website Developer AND Public Relations Assistant, I gained some experience serving as facilitator in the real world. I planned banquets, invited keynote speakers, and coordinated with celebrity guests during the state games.

Dow Chemical is where I picked up additional skills as a user support specialist, but when I connected video conference and audio calls I was basically a virtual facilitator. We would routinely connect a call early and check in with meeting leaders in case they had any questions about the room’s equipment. Later, I served as a real world facilitator setting up rooms for any meetings that were scheduled to take place there, and overseeing the equipment.

The definition of facilitator fits with my role at EduGuide, too, but I think that it came about as a part of my evolution. When I started there, I had gone through several job losses, and one major move north. My experiences had taught me to be far more careful. I focused most of all on better understanding my managers and seeking out ways to contribute. It was my chance for redemption for the mistakes I had made in the past, but I think it was also a sign that I had opened my mind to new perspectives.

My biggest moment of clarity came about after most of the organization’s middle management had left. For a while, I was always working underneath a manager. During those times, I helped them by keeping track of details and following up on tasks that they didn’t want or have time to worry about. For example, early on I took on the task of managing our development backlog, communicating change requests to the development team, and answering developers’ questions. Later on, our project manager introduced the idea that I should begin running quality assurance testing, so I did that too.

But, as my managers left the organization, my responsibilities grew to fill the void they left and I realized that I would no longer have a middle manager to bring my concerns to–I had to go all of the way to the top. So, from that point forward I was helping to coordinate the web operations for the entire organization.

I continued to operate with a service mentality. I identified opportunities or risks, and asked a lot of questions about our projects. I also followed the virtue of “managing from below.” I felt a strong sense of ownership over my responsibilities related to quality assurance, user support, project coordination, and user documentation. There were several occasions when my proactiveness saved the organization time or money.

I currently serve as the public relations chairman for the Shepherd Maple Syrup Festival. Although this role involves maintaining a website and social media assets, I often find myself serving in the role of facilitator. During the last three years that I’ve held this position with the committee I have been guiding the organization towards a stronger public relations strategy. I’ve also worked with student volunteers during the last couple of years, putting me into a more managerial role as I’ve directed their work.

If I had to boil all of this down to the type of promotional labeling you find on a package, I would say that I am the type of employee who will help to improve your company, either through a positive growth-centered attitude, or my contribution to the company’s mission. Whether you are the World’s Greatest Manager, or someone who is looking to improve as a manager, I can help you with that. I am conscientious, experienced, and knowledgeable in the ways of technology and business. I am open to new ideas, and eager to learn.

My resume tells a broader story about my skills, but I do believe that if you are looking for someone who can understand project requirements, manage resources, and deliver results in a timely manner, I’m the right person for the job. And, I’d be happy to get connected.

Categories
Business

I hate Recaptchas

This was going to be a rant against reCaptchas, but quickly escalated into a lot of different things, as I noticed failures on several levels.

As a company, it is always important to think about how your user support is structured and check for any scenarios which might lead it to give your customers a poor experience. And, this means examining the pieces and asking yourself what it might be like for your users if everything fails.

I have been working on a plan to create a channel on Zello which members of my community would be able to use to stay in touch during the pandemic and stay-at-home period. I chose Zello because it works a lot like a CB radio, where you can at least listen in if you sign in from a mobile device or computer. This seemed to be the quickest way for people to say hello, especially when compared to a phone or audio call.

As I remembered, I needed to log into my account in order to grab the code which allows me to embed a widget for the channel on a website. This is what I wanted to use when I display the information on my news website. The Mid Michigan Journal. But, this is where my troubles began.

I’ve been signed on from my phone, but its been awhile since I logged in from my computer. When I tried logging in with the password I saved, nothing happened. The page blinked, so it seemed to take my credentials, but I wasn’t being shown my user profile either. It was as if the website was rejecting my information, but there were no error messages to confirm this. I went through a password reset anyways, aware that this was going to mean I’d need to update the apps on my mobile devices. The email arrived, I clicked the link, changed my password, and then attempted to login.

Still nothing. I thought that perhaps something had happened when I entered in the new password, so I tried again. Request reset, enter email address, click link in email, reset password, copied password to be sure this time, submitted, then attempted login.

Nothing.

So, now the reCaptchas start to appear, and I have to say that I really hate these things. Put simply, I don’t want to find the hydrants, the streetlights, or the cars. Especially when the pictures themselves are unclear. Do buses count as cars? I never know, I just make my best guess, and either my answers are accepted or a new puzzle appears.

I understand why reCaptchas are used with forms, and normally I’m fine with them if they are just one quick step in an overall frictionless process. But, I happen to be very aware that the reason the reCaptcha was triggered was because I was repeatedly entering in my login information, like a bot. But, I was only trying to login and then getting no on-screen help from the page. It’s as if I’m being punished for the bad design of Zello’s website.

I thought that maybe I could circumvent this whole problem by accessing their listing of public channels without being logged in. But, when I try to view that page, I am bounced back to their homepage. Is logging in required? It’s not clear.

They have a little tech support widget that I can open up, and maybe use to chat with someone about my issues. I expand the widget, and begin responding to its automated questions. Name? Jon. Email? Here you go. Then it asks if my question relates to a personal or business account. Personal account. Next, I’m shown some categories for my question. Yes, I am having trouble accessing my account.

At this point, the bot directs me to a page in the company’s knowledgebase, and then terminates the thread.

The article the link points to is a description of the steps one should go through if they need to reset their password, something I already knew about and had tried.

I thought maybe there was a way to choose a “misc” category in the chatbot and reach a human being. I ran through the sequence of questions, then clicked “other.” The chatbot told me it did not know the answer, and pointed me to the knowledgebase again.

So, now, my small problem has escalated to a barrier which is keeping me from completing my goal, and forcing me to question my entire plan. My gut is telling me that Zello is either unable to support me, or doesn’t want to support me unless I have a business account. And, there is nothing wrong with treating paying customers with more respect, but when a company provides support for their product, it should at least be helpful.

I’m not sure what the deal is with Zello, but this is an example of an experience you do not want to give your online customers. And, they will only stick with your site for so long before giving up.

When I assess user experience flows, I try to think about a user attempting to complete a process on a website under the worst possible conditions. In the room with a screaming child, or while using their cell phone on a noisy subway car. I loosely refer to this as looking at an interface with “beer goggles.” People will not always be thinking clearly when they attempt to use a website, and they most likely will not be thinking clearly if something on a website goes wrong or doesn’t make any sense. This only means that the user support needs to be sharp enough to get them on track, but if that fails then you risk losing them altogether.

As for me, I might be heading back to the drawing board, because in the back of my mind I can’t help but wonder how else Zello might let me down. And, ultimately it is about competency and trust.

Categories
Business

What Goes Up

Has anybody ever noticed how telemarketing companies now offer an option to ask to be put onto their do not call list, but they seemed to have put very little thought into how this portion of our interaction with their system should work? When given the choice of “1” to speak to an operator, or “2” to be put on their do not call list, if I press “2,” the call is abruptly ended from their side. No, confirmation, or anything.

Was my response received? Are they going stop to calling? I guess I’m meant to keep wondering.

Today, I received yet another call regarding an automotive warranty during which they say that they are reaching out “one more time.” I’ve been getting this type of call for months, and the spiel is always the same. When they offered me the choice, I pressed “1” to be taken to an operator because, for once, I wanted to make someone who worked there understand what it feels like to answer a phone call that was a total waste of their time. When they asked me a question, I simply said, “Take me off your list.” They abruptly hung up.

I don’t like to make things difficult for telemarketers, because i realize they are simply doing their job. And, I get that they don’t want to let go of the chance to sell customers something. It might be a bitter pill to swallow, but they’re required to offer the chance to opt out of their phone calls.

As far as their systems go, if they are truly trying to honor the responsibility of allowing customers to avoid their calls, they are missing an important step in the process. I would really like to see a confirmation message after I press “2,” which might say, “You have been added to our do-not-call list.” Telemarketing systems typically employ robocalls and phone trees to manage outgoing calls, so this shouldn’t be too hard. Yes, if you confirm then you need to make good on your promise, and maybe that’s the reason why they leave things so ambiguous. If someone talks to an operator, then they should be willing to take down a name and a phone number (if needed), and make good on the request to not receive the phone calls again.

The sad fact is that telemarketers are not the only ones who are guilty of designing poorly thought out user flows for their onboarding. So much focus is put on what the company wants, such as the sale or growth in membership, that it can be easy to overlook what the user might want, such as different pricing, or a way to opt-out of messaging.

When I look at the user flow for a system, I think about those touch points a little like one might think about physics. My favorite is the quote “What goes up must come down.” This quote reminds me to look for the functions which allow users to start to do something, and then stop. For example, there should be a way for a user to quit a post without saving, in case they changed their mind.

Applying this towards telemarketing calls, they are already at a disadvantage because the calls are unsolicited, but this only makes it even important to make the interaction as smooth as possible. Maybe it is unpleasant for a potential customer to opt-out, but in the marketing industry they might remember you more favorably if you tried harder to respect their wishes. This is a safe bet, considering that it is true for almost all user flows.

Categories
Business

Ways to smooth out the job search process on the web

As I have been reflecting on my job search process so far, I’ve come to realize that it is actually way harder than it needs to be. When it comes to the searching and interviewing process, it seems that the cards are stacked mostly against the job seeker. I’ve waited weeks for responses to my applications, and there is no way for me to know that my resume is even showing up for most hiring managers.

Job sites, which are marketed as tools which are useful for finding jobs, can be confusing and misleading. There are a few excellent ones like Indeed and LinkedIn, but a few others I’ve signed up for send out messages that are designed mostly to draw you into their site. The messages tell you what you want to see, trick you into clicking a link, then take you to a page that advertises for jobs which have nothing to do with what you’re looking for. An email I’ve gotten for jobs that matched my key phrase of “Content Strategist” has brought me to a page advertising for open nursing positions. For a few weeks, I was clicking on job listings for positions which were listed as being in St. Louis, Michigan, but they were really for a company in Minnesota. I still don’t know if this was a mistake, or a deception on the job site’s part. I like to think of this tactic as simply click bait.

One final problem I’ve encountered was a site which would display some really enticing job openings, but reveal the name of the company which posted them only to paying members of their site. I know that they need to make money, but I am not in the position to fork out the money right now to join a site. Especially when the same job openings tend to appear in multiple places.

I feel like these flawed services unfairly take advantage of the job seeker’s state of mind. We are desperate for the next lead, any lead, which brings us closer to our next job. So, its important that the tips we get from job services are relevant and timely, or else it’s just a waste of time. And, there are a lot of job openings to sort through.

And, I know that the experts say that we can rely on the web job listings by themselves. I have also been networking and learning about jobs through word of mouth. But, I can’t ignore the job boards as a resource.

LinkedIn might be the best source for jobs given its job listings, and the information that helpful members share about openings at different companies. The best resource I’ve come across this week were two spreadsheets which listed companies that are hiring. This was pure gold, and very easy to digest. I feel as though it is pretty sad that it takes a good samaritan with some time and access to a spreadsheet to produce job information that is more useful than what an entire job listing platform publishes.

I’d like to see a system created which goes a little farther than LinkedIn. You can do everything that LinkedIn does now, plus the entire review process for candidates is made more transparent. You would be able to see when your application is rejected or accepted, placed in a first stage, or put on hold. Maybe when you’re passed up, this system would make it easier for hiring managers to include a note, so you have an idea of why they decided to go with someone else.

The one good thing that’s come out of the complexity of these different job board systems is that I’ve been inspired to find the ones that are most reliable, and stick with them. Also, I’ve stepped up my networking on LinkedIn, and continue to reach out to all of my connections. But, as a user experience professional, I can’t help wonder why we couldn’t have a better system for connecting job seekers with job opportunities.

Categories
Business

My Work from Home Setup

When my son, Josh, returned home this summer from his treatment at the Mary Free Bed hospital, my wife and I swapped rooms with him so that he could have the downstairs bedroom. Now, he and his little brother sleep in the downstairs bedroom, where it is more accessible for Josh.

My office space had also always been in our bedroom, so this new arrangement meant that my office would now be upstairs. Instead of lugging my wooden desk upstairs, I went with a combination of folding tables and laptop stands. After a lot of experimenting over the years, I’ve found that I prefer to have my computers and monitors spread out in front of me in a half-circle configuration. This originated with my office at my previous job, where I was able to obtain a plain conference room table. I had always had at least two computers to work from, and usually positioned the monitors towards the center. Our conference-style tables allow me to recreate this.

I began thinking a lot more about how my work area was arranged years ago when I had the opportunity to work inside an office space in nearby Mount Pleasant. I was doing some photography work for some friends, and as compensation they offered me an office in a suite they maintained. It was basically just a small, empty room with no furniture. I quickly realized that any desk solutions that I came up with would need to be highly portable, flexible, and comfortable. I purchased a couple of laptop stands from Walmart and was able to combine them with a coffee table we had at home. This was the first time that I really was free to arrange my computer however I wanted, without having to work around the structure of a desk or cubicle space.

At work, my office had originally contained a wrap-around desk solution which comfortably seated two employees. One of my managers who shared the room with me had decided they didn’t like how things were configured, so everything was rearranged. When we were done, the deskspace felt more like working on top of a kitchen counter. A few other managers came and went, but eventually I would have the room to myself for a few years. I adapted what I learned in Mount Pleasant by adding the conference table which sat perpendicular to the original desk that wrapped around the room. Other than allowing me space to arrange my computers they way that I liked, I was able to always face the doorway. I also felt that it was more productive for conversations or meetings.

Last year when I was staying in Grand Rapids with my son, I was challenged again to create a workspace which was portable, compact, efficient and comfortable. Initially, I packed a laptop stand with me so that I would be able to work from inside Josh’s hospital room. But, later on I was able to work from my room at the nearby Hope Lodge. Once I had the private space, I would bring at least one additional monitor and two or three laptop stands when I traveled to Grand Rapids. I would arrange the stands so that they created a space which was similar to the table in my office at work. One monitor, and one laptop arranged side-by-side. Then, I would lower the stand that remained and set my keyboard/mouse onto it.

I brought a HDMI cable with me, so that I could connect my second laptop to the television in the room. This was a bit cumbersome, but worked well.

My son returned home in July, but began his chemotherapy treatments in June. This meant that for six months there would be a week when I would need to be nearby in case he needed assistance. At the beginning of a chemotherapy week, I would pack up my computers and move my workspace downstairs to the living room. Each time the configuration was slightly different, but I always tried to have a clear view of all of my monitors, as well as space for my keyboard and mouse. Having all of my equipment with me helped me to maintain a consistency for my work, even as I switched rooms.

For all of these arrangements, I have always used a KVM switch. They’re really designed to switch two computers between one mouse/keyboard/monitor, but since the introduction of the extended desktop feature in Windows, I’ve always just used the mouse and keyboard connections. Once I began using two computers at work, I tied them together with my KVM switch from home, and then bought a second one so I could have the same setup at home. This became even more relevant when I began to work from home more and more. Now, both KVM switches are at home. I’m able to use two sets of keyboards and mice for four computers.

Some people might ask why I need to use this many computers. To be honest, I mostly use my main two computers for my work. When I was working for EduGuide, I would switch between computers if the first was being too slow, or if I was testing the website from two different accounts. For example, if I needed to test EduGuide’s commenting features, I would log into the site as a student on one computer, and then log into the site as a teacher on the other computer. It was just a lot faster to post and respond to a comment from the two different computers. I also used multiple browsers, etc., but spreading the work across multiple computers also allowed me to passively test using different operating systems. I’ll leave a browser running on one of my slower computers if I want to monitor a page, such as my gmail inbox or Slack. It helps me to stay focussed.

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Over the years, my workspace has evolved to match my changing skills and responsibilities. I’ve also realized that I needed more flexibility than what a conventional desk offers. Folding tables also make it a lot easier to clean–you just move everything out, vacuum, and then set everything up again. No heavy desks to lug around. I’m sure that as my kids grow older and move out, my desk might end up in a different space and go through new changes..

Categories
Business Leadership

Follow the Leader

I’ve been thinking lately about how important it is for leaders to set an example for the people that they lead, whether they are volunteers or employees. In my experience, actions do speak louder than words. I wanted to share some examples.

The committee for the Hartford Bubble Festival meets monthly to vote on community improvement projects, and plan for the annual Bubble Festival that takes place in June. The committee president covers for the treasurer when they are out of town. So, the reporting on the committee financial status varies depending on who is handling the books.

The treasurer will distribute a detailed one page summary of the committee’s financial transaction, add any additional clarification verbally, and then respond to questions. When the president takes the reins, he shares a bank statement and then gives a quick recap for the month’s transactions.

I wondered why the reporting is handled differently by the two people. I think that the assumption is that the treasurer provides a more detail reporting because it’s a part of their job as treasurer, and maybe they have a deeper understanding of what is going on, or access to resources the president doesn’t have. But, if that were the case, couldn’t the president be shown what the process was for the reporting? Or, maybe he had but chose to ignore it?

Then, if you look at this from the perspective of the treasurer, they might ask themselves why they go to all of the trouble of producing a report if everybody on the committee seems satisfied by a quick recap during the winter months.

Every situation is different, so perhaps the treasurer isn’t bothered by the president’s lackadaisical approach. But, at the very least this is a lost opportunity to demonstrate to the other members of the committee that thoroughness and consistency are important for the group. When others give a progress report, they will see the treasurer’s work as the gold standard and not the exception. If the treasurer happens to resign, they would do so with the understanding that the president believes in their work strongly enough to encourage their replacement to follow the same procedures.

Sometimes, leaders give mixed messages, a form of “Do as I say, and not as I do.” It is common for a department manager or CEO of an organization to take some liberties on how they do things, perhaps because they have so much more on their plate, or they are from a different school of thought. A friend of mine worked at an organization where everybody was expected to store their final documents on a shared drive. Almost everybody did, with the exception of the CEO. When the organization implemented a CRM, for the longest while the CEO didn’t log their activities like the rest of the staff was expected to. The shared calendar was also often incomplete because the CEO did not post their meetings and other events there. All of these procedures were discussed, documented, implemented, and reviewed, but the CEO insisted on doing things their own way.

In both of these cases, these leaders sabotaged their own organizations by not following procedures, and missing opportunities to recognize their staff members’ work. Because, behind every report, form, or procedure is an individual or group of individuals who took the time to establish a best practice for the organization, and by not following it a leader risks delegitimizing their requirements.

Furthermore, a leader who doesn’t follow the procedures of their own organization is setting a precedent for others to follow. They might ask, “If the president didn’t write a report when they were covering for the treasurer, then while I’m covering for them why should I?” Or “How can I get in trouble for not posting my meetings on the staff calendar? The CEO never does it.” Imagine what it sounds like to new employees to learn the procedures at a company, but then being told, “Well, our manager doesn’t do this.”

When people in leadership decide whether to follow or ignore a procedure or best practice for their organization, they should consider the impact that their action will have on others. There will be circumstances when a person must do things differently, but this should be the exception. And, to help promote accountability a leader should encourage their staff to follow procedures and also explain why they sometimes do things differently. Maybe ask if their actions had inconvenienced anybody, and then find ways to help them work around those issues.

What might help for leaders of an organization is to remember that even their volunteers or employees in the lower ranks are leaders in their own areas, but instead of directing from above they lead from below by implementing procedures and suggesting best practices. A strong leader might listen to their staff, and set the standard for how closely the team should follow the processes that have been established, as well as a model for accountability.