Samples from the Collection

This Library makes available to members a way of exchanging the hundreds of personal trade secrets we use to make ourselves, our teams and our organizations more effective.

The main reading room of the US Library of Congress
Main Reading Room, US Library of Congress. Photo credit: C. Goldsmith, J. Katz, and S. Zaki. Baker, Reid, photographer. 1991.

Here are some samples from the Library of Personal Trade Secrets. It contains contributions from members that describe tips, tricks and techniques they use to help them deal with the everyday situations of working life. Everyone has a collection of items like this, but few of us are aware of our own Personal Trade Secrets, and we're reluctant to exchange them.

These samples will give you just a glimpse of what's in store for you if you decide to become a member of the Library. If you do, all you have to do to join is contribute some of your own Personal Trade Secrets.

Here are the titles of the latest contributions to the Library:

And here are some actual samples:

Business Travel

Leave space in your luggage
If you're attending a conference, you'll probably pick up a fair amount of literature and materials. Make sure you have enough space in your luggage for whatever you plan to pick up, or consider shipping some of it back.
Prepare your Internet access
Know how you'll be getting onto the Internet. You'll have to check email, at least, so make sure you know how to do that from your hotel. Many hotels have high-speed Internet access from every room, but some don't, and you might have to dial up. If you do, what's the local access number?
Make a checklist
Make (and use!) a checklist of items you plan to take with you, and tasks to carry out before departure and upon arrival. Modern life is so complicated that most people can't remember everything without a checklist.

Conflict

Avoid the Fundamental Attribution Error
As humans, we repeatedly make the Fundamental Attribution Error — we attribute behavior to character or disposition rather than to situation or context. Consciously try to understand others in terms of the situations they face, rather than their track records, origins, alliances, professions or affiliations.
Identify performance issues
Bullying behavior is a performance issue that might call for discipline. Tolerating bullying behavior by a subordinate is a performance issue for the supervisor, and it, too, might call for discipline. Tolerating the toleration of bullying behavior on the part of a sub-subordinate is also a performance issue that might call for discipline. And so on.
Personality clash is a bogus concept
The "personality clash" model of destructive conflict represents some conflicts as arising solely from incompatibilities between two people. Rarely is this the case — the causes of destructive conflict are usually systemic, involving several people, if not everyone, and sometimes people who aren't even present.

Meetings

Have too many conference rooms
If you have too few conference rooms, people feel compelled to book them far in advance, which creates a false need for regular meetings, which in turn increases the demand for conference rooms. If you ever notice that all the conference rooms are booked, create more.
Manage the burden of meetings
Measure the average percentage of time that people in your organization spend in meetings. Use cleverness, creativity and brainpower to try to drive it lower.
Limit presentations to 15 minutes
Since no meeting should go more than 90 minutes, presentations that run longer than 15 minutes significantly cut into the time available for discussion. If you want people to hear a longer presentation, schedule a presentation, not a meeting.

Organizational Change

Labeling people makes trouble
Labeling people as "resisters" or "supporters" or "passives" or any of the other terms associated with the change tends to dehumanize people. Labeling is a divisive tactic that reduces your effectiveness as a change manager.
Be honest about whether or not the change effort is elective
Management's need to project an image of stability and control can sometimes manifest itself as a desire to position all Change efforts as elective, even when they're forced upon the organization by competitive or threatening factors external to the organization. Because positioning Change efforts as elective when they are not fools no one, you can avoid stimulating resistance and cynicism by being honest about whether the change effort is elective or not.
Speak plainly
New buzzwords, acronyms, abbreviations, jargon and other "in-talk" introduce barriers between the change manager and the larger population. Find plain-language names for new concepts.

Workplace Politics

Don't run three-legged races
By assigning a task to two or more impossibly incompatible people, the political operator creates a three-legged race. Exploiting a past history of conflict, leadership ambiguity, organizational tensions, or contention for the same promotion, the operator ensures project sabotage, or damage to one or both careers.
Circulate the truth
Instead of trying to control a rumor, figure out how to get the truth to circulate just as fast as the rumor. Rely on respected third parties to circulate independently verifiable factual information that directly contradicts as much of the rumor as possible.
Make your self-esteem your first priority
When rumors spread about you, you'll do much better when you can maintain your self-esteem. Hang on with all your might to the belief that you're a fine person. When you believe in yourself, anything else you do is more likely to succeed.

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