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Be Confident In Your Own Quality

If you've been at your job for many years, you probably have a routine that works well for you. It's unlikely that you often question just what you do or how you do it. On the other hand, if you're new at your job, you undoubtedly focus on learning the ropes. You ask questions about whom to see for information and materials, time schedules, and other mechanics of performing well in your new position.

In either case, think about how you would answer this question: “Do you believe in what you do?” Even if you don't know the answer the people with whom you interact each day probably do. Consider these examples:

1. When you provide superior service to either internal or external customers, you demonstrate that you believe in what you do on the job.

2. When you deliver messages to coworkers promptly and accurately, you show that you believe in what you do.

3. When you're available to help out and come through in emergencies, you demonstrate to management and your colleagues that you believe in what you do.

4. When you talk enthusiastically and positively about your job with friends and family, you show a belief in what you do.

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How can you strengthen or maintain a powerful belief in yourself and the importance of your day-to-day responsibilities at work? There are several ways that will fit easily into your routine, no matter how long it's been in place or how comfortable you feel with it.

1. Service counts. The next time you face a difficult customer remind yourself that you perform a valuable service for your company. For the duration of the time with the customer (whether on the phone or face-to-face), you are the company. All of your coworkers are depending on you.

2. Satisfy the customer. A current or potential sale may be riding on it. Instead of thinking about how to “get rid of” the person as quickly as possible, summon up all the skills you have to bring about a satisfactory conclusion.

3. Stress quality. When you've got work backed u and waiting for attention, resist the initial impulse to hurry through each task. Each needs your undivided time and attention. If you cannot solve a particular problem yourself, seek help. Don't just pass it on to someone else.

4. Watch what you say. When speaking with people outside the company, you never know who is (or could be) a potential customer. Even if you're frustrated over a work-related matter, temper your remarks.

5. Support colleagues. Do your part to promote team spirit and to achieve common goals. Give ideas a fair hearing before dismissing them. Accentuate the positive aspects of work, rather than joining in when others complain.

6. Enjoy your successes. Sure, humility is an asset - but that doesn’t mean you cannot luxuriate in some personal satisfaction when you've scored a professional victory. You earned some self-congratulations, so enjoy them. You'll confirm the belief that what you do is important, worthwhile, and gratifying. It’s a belief that can make all the difference.

The ideas that follow can show you more ways to take control of your position and your career by believing in your own quality.

Write A Quality Definition You Can Believe In

Your organization wants to select a specific definition of quality for everyone to adhere to. With so many experts in the quality field, whose interrelation should you adopt?

Instead of relying on the experts, why not develop a definition that works for you? You and your coworkers can create a definition tailored to your organizational needs. That will result in quality that you can believe in.

Start by polling team members informally on what quality means to them. Ask them not to worry about finding the right words, but to speak from their hearts. Then, create a questionnaire based on what you've learned from talking to coworkers, and pool the results.

You can still learn a lot by reading what the experts have to say about quality. But, your definition will mean much more - and get more support - if you and your teammates have a hand in creating it.

Getting Into A Quality State Of Mind

Quality isn't solely a product of specific actions; it's also a product of state of mind. Therefore, reengineering your attitude is the key to improving work practices and results. That “quality mentality” is rooted in the knowledge that ,everything can be improved. Consider some of the following rules of quality thinking to put you in the right frame of mind:

1. There's no such thing as perfection. A product or service can always be improved. Even when one feature has been optimized, others can be enhanced. And when every feature of your product or service is sound, you might still be able to add new features. Think of it as a challenge to your imagination.

2. What's adequate today may not be tomorrow. Change never ceases. Last year's terrific innovation may be obsolete this year So, even if you think you've reached the top in your field or product line, someone will come around tomorrow to redefine what “the top” is.

3. Change isn't always good. Looking for opportunities to make improvements is not the same as looking to change things. Rash changes - even when they seem to be good ideas - sometimes fall flat. Think in terms of the reason for a change.

4. Satisfaction is trouble. There's truth to the familiar saying: “That which ceases to grow begins to die.” You'll need to sustain your hunger for improvement just to keep up with the demands of a world that has grown accustomed to constant improvements.

5. Seek out other people's opinions. You can't think of everything alone. Other people - even those who aren't experts - may have special ideas or insights of their own. So ask for coworkers' advice, and be prepared to act on it.

6. What seems logical and what works are two different things. Experience proves that, for every theory that works, 99 others don't. Good ideas deserve to be tested. By the same token, they must be tested before they should be accepted.

7. Consider the possibility that each new idea might create new problems. Keep in mind, therefore, that each attempt to improve one item might affect other elements. So watch out for potential repercussions from each new quality improvement you make. Also, check your finished product against a comprehensive list of quality objectives.

8. Quality is as quality does. Don't be presumptuous about quality. Changes for the better are not based on anyone's opinion, but on the evidence of absolute improvement and the favorable opinions of the buyers. So keep your eyes open.

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Quality Is Your Response-Ability

“Responsibility is a unique concept,” the late Admiral Hyman Rickover has been quoted as saying. “It can only reside and inhere in a single individual. You may share it with others, but your portion is not diminished. You may delegate it, but it is still with you. You may disclaim it, but you cannot divest yourself of it.”

Anyone working for a quality-conscious organization also needs “response-ability.” That's the skill that allows you to meet a job challenge in a responsible manner

The term was coined by G. Michael Durst, Ph.D., president of Training Systems, Inc., in Evanston, Illinois. In family life, Durst maintains, there's no such thing as a “50-50 marriage.” Each partner is 100 percent responsible for making the union work. Similarly, if a teacher's class is bored, it's because the teacher has failed to respond to the students' needs.

The truth is simple. Whether we like it or not, we are responsible for everything in our experience. Liking or not liking a situation are only evaluations. Upon reflection, people typically report that what they thought to be negative was the perfect experience for them. For example, if you say, “They did it to me,” you're acting as though you had no choice. Your response-ability level is zero. But, if you admit that you did something to yourself, that's an expression of total choice. You have a response-ability rating of 100 percent.

In a quality team situation, each member of the team is 100 percent responsible for the team's success. And, when you have that total commitment, you can ignite a spark in every team member.

Try to measure your own response-ability level. After each event that occurs at work today, answer these questions:

  • Did this event or a similar one ever take place before? Is there a pattern?
  • What does the pattern have to do with your attitudes and behavior?
  • Are you actually setting up the situation?
  • If the event was negative, what can you do to avoid repeat occurrences?
  • Whose responsibility is it to react in a positive manner learn from the experience, and change negative patterns?

Notice that it all comes back to you. In fact response-ability begins and ends with you. Once you become aware of what makes life more satisfying and productive, that very wisdom will create a more quality-conscious style. The more successful you are as a person, the more successful you will become as a quality team player. Your work style directly reflects YOU.

Five Leadership Skills

When a quest for quality is involved, there only are leaders and no followers. And the leaders are you and everyone in your department, performing in ways that inspire others to excel. If you and your teammates can master certain skills, you will be on your way toward achieving the quality you seek. Here are the following five basic leadership skills:

1. Communicating. Through actions and words, you and your coworkers can help build a better product or perform a superior service. You can start by talking matters out clearly. Don’t think in “I” and “me” terms. Instead, make your points through “we” and “us” references. Get some of your ideas across through body language: smile, extend your arms to indicate an open stance. It's important to listen well, too. When someone has an idea, give him or her your undivided attention. Nothing alienates people faster than meeting a preoccupied gaze.

2. Motivating. The search for quality entails a common vision. You'll find that true motivation comes from challenges that are shared by everyone on the team. If you're part of a quality team, rotate the challenging projects and the routine ones so that nobody is always stuck with housekeeping chores. It's also essential to anticipate problems that could damage group morale. By thinking and planning ahead, you'll meet your current quality goals much more quickly.

3. Team building. Even if you and your associates haven't been organized into a formal quality work group, instill in yourself as well as in others a strong sense of teamwork. Each team member has a special talent. Working together you can capitalize on each other's individual expertise. Acknowledge that every contribution has equal value. Also, think of ways to save your employer money or improve a product or service, and ensure that management learns where the idea came from.

4. Information gathering. Put your own resources to work through frequent fact-finding missions. Learn what you can by speaking with people in other departments and outside organizations. Share what you've learned with your coworkers at periodic meetings. Draw on their knowledge. If an idea shows the way to the successful conclusion of a quality project, give credit where it's due. Develop a sensitivity to others' ideas and learn how to apply them in your department. Meet with people from other groups and ask questions.

5. Gate keeping. This calls for the combined skills of a salesperson and a diplomat. As gatekeepers, you and your associates must control the flow of ideas and information within and outside your department. If important quality-related decisions are initiated elsewhere, accept them and build on them. Similarly, if a workable idea comes from within your group, pass it on to your supervisor.

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Success As A Leader? First Be A Good Follower

So many training programs focus on the concept of effective leadership - and so much has been written about today's outstanding leaders - that most of us have a relatively clear notion of what the characteristics of dynamic leaders are. For example, we know that a leader is someone who creates a vision, inspires others to commit to that vision, and develops strategies to move people toward it.

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Many think of the typical leader as something of a hero, off by him- or herself, boldly blazing trails, making it possible for others to continue forward. What we often fail to notice is that most leaders are only as effective as the people who follow them and support their initiatives.

But what do we actually know about the leader's followers? Traditionally, the word “follower” has had a largely negative connotation. We tend to think of sheep, blindly and passively led, while offering nothing constructive in the process. But, that’s nothing short of a gross misconception.

In fact, it may be that learning to be a follower is at the very heart of leadership. For example, even some politicians have to follow the wishes of his or her constituency.

Since it's been said that the best leaders are also the best followers, it can be helpful to recognize what it takes to be an effective follower.

Leadership skills can be learned. Adept followers eventually grow into fine leaders. If you strive to be a leader in your career, you have the opportunity to learn what it takes to inspire a loyal following somewhere down the pike.

Performance Boosters That Get Noticed

Want management to sit up and take notice of your performance? Here are six guiding principles in mind:

1. Fix it before it leaks. When problems arise, look for solutions and take them to the boss. Keep quiet about complaints.

2. Remember that nobody's perfect. Not even you. Admit mistakes, shortcomings, and imperfections, rather than trying to deny them or cover them up. Employees who “never make mistakes” suggest that they are playing it so safe that they lack creativity and confidence.

3. Avoid the entitlement trap. Raises and promotions are earned by work performance beyond expectations. They are not automatically guaranteed.

4. Sell yourself. Find opportunities to outline skills and accomplishments. Express a willingness to take on more responsibility. Bosses are usually so busy that they may not notice every individual s strengths until someone else brings them to their attention.

5. Give yourself a chance. Trust yourself to grow into new assignments, even though you might worry at first how the extra load will ever get done. Don't wait for the “perfect moment” to seize an opportunity. That time may never come.

6. Make the right friends. Cultivate friendships with upbeat peers. And don't forget to strike up alliances with those on higher levels. Avoid complainers, naysayers, and nitpickers.

Time For A Workout

Athletes improve their technique by increasing their level of endurance, strength, or speed. Similarly, you can develop your career by stretching yourself, taking risks, and trying new things. Only then can you hope to improve and grow personally and professionally.

No Need For Heroics!

If one person has to go above and beyond the call of duty to make quality work, then your quality system isn't working up to par. That's the assumption leaders of the Israeli army work under when they investigate acts of heroism.

Whenever an Israeli soldier earns a medal for valor the heroic efforts signal that something is askew. Leaders attempt to find out how they can prevent the need for bravery and personal risk in the future.

The lesson: If you're having to perform heroics to get the job done, look at the system to see how to improve its efficiency.

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Are You Tough Enough To Win The Quality Battle?

Like every other goal in life, the quest to attain high-quality performance doesn't come easily. It requires a fighting effort against odds that often look long. Many of us dream of a fantasy world without problems. In reality, all of us will meet obstacles and have setbacks or misfortunes. No matter how well we plan and prepare for the future, problems will sometimes wear us down, drain vitality and enthusiasm, and make our goals seem out of reach. Discouragement is like quicksand. We must pull ourselves out quickly or sink even deeper.

Many people with good backgrounds and fine talents fail for just one reason. When they're hit the hardest, they don't have the ability to fight back. As you push toward your company and personal quality goals, Here are six tactics you can employ to keep in top “fighting” form:

1. Keep busy. Whether you're at work or home, resist the temptation to do nothing but sit around. By being active, you'll stimulate energy and restore vitality. A person creates upbeat feelings by energetic activities. Walk as if you had something urgent to do.

2. Think positively. Read biographies of people who overcame adversity and watch movies that have courage as a theme. Associate with people who are well disciplined. Avoid anyone who will pamper or hamper you and don't listen to negative talk.

3. Remember past successes. When you feel discouraged, get a notebook and write down every past hardship you conquered. Go as far back as your childhood and recall how you felt when you overcame each obstacle.

4. Be grateful. A despondent attitude can't coexist with a grateful attitude. Eventually, one will destroy the other. Talk about everything likable that you see, hear or read. And, spend at least 10 minutes before you go to sleep thinking of everything you have to be grateful for.

5. Correct your mistakes. We're all responsible for many of our problems. When troubles occur take a careful look at all the factors that contribute to them. Evaluate your weaknesses and strengths. Most important, don't feel ashamed. None of us can become wise unless failure teaches us how to move ahead.

6. Maintain your integrity. Adversity is a test of integrity. Learn to feel that you deserve the best. Do what's right and you'll feel right about yourself. Self-discipline requires that we push ourselves beyond what's comfortable. By trying hard enough, we can become tough enough to win.

What's Your E.Q.? (Ethical Quotient)

Believing in your own quality requires that you have confidence in the day-to-day decisions you make in your job. Some of the toughest decisions you make involve a choice between right and wrong. How do you fare when ethical issues arise? Take this quiz and find out.

1. A supplier you do business with shows up one day with a gift for you: a four-head VCR with on-screen programming. What do you do?

a. Accept the gift and keep it at the office for everyone to use.

b. Say, “Throw in a tape of Forrest Gump and we're in business!”

c. Say, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

2. Your boss asks you to record a phone conversation without the other person's knowledge. What do you do?

a. Say, “OK, but if we're caught, you have to take the responsibility.”

b. Repeat the request. “Do I understand correctly that you're asking me to tape a phone conversation without the other person's knowledge?”

c. Go along. After all, she's your boss.

3. You hear a coworker tell an all-out lie to a customer. What should you do?

a. Ignore it; you'll be accused of eavesdropping.

b. Tell the coworker; “That's a good one. I'll have to use that one on my callers!”

c. Tell a supervisor what you heard.

ANSWERS

Judge your responses against what the experts say:

1. (C) Accepting notepads or a calendar from a printer who wants your business is one thing. But a VCR? No way. Do not accept the gift. And if a supplier offers a gift that is out of line with professional standards, you should report it immediately to your supervisor so there is no doubt about your integrity,

2. (b) Repeating the request back (with a look of mild shock on your face) lets your boss know you know it's unethical. And it gives him or her a chance to back out. If he or she doesn't back out, you should refuse.

3. (C) Don't say anything to the coworker. But if you're sure that what you heard was an all-out lie, talk to your supervisor - in confidence. Tell what you heard. After yourself, you have a duty to protect your company.

Surviving Workplace Changes

Here are some lessons for surviving workplace changes and remaining a proud, knowledgeable, and contributing employee:

1. Take small steps. Having worked for many different plants and experienced many job changes, the best way to acclimate to change is to approach it one small step at a time. You can start out small and increase your chance at succeeding at a task, or you can bite off more than you can chew and increase your risk of failure.

2. Keep on learning. Take advantage of all training opportunities. It doesn't matter how long you've been doing the same job; you can always learn something new.

3. Be a team player. You can either be a team member or you can be a team player The difference lies in your level of participation.

4. Include your supervisor. A common misconception among production workers is that the supervisor is their enemy - someone who watches over them and documents their mistakes. Be fair with your supervisor and he will be fair with you. Make it easy for your supervisor to support you; keep him informed. If you don t keep him informed, you can't blame him for not supporting your efforts - he can't support what he doesn't know or doesn't understand.

Downsizing Is Tough On Survivors, Too

Few organizations today are safe from downsizing, whether it's due to reengineering, a merger, or a takeover by new management. Living through downsizing can be almost as rough on the survivors as it is on the victims. Even if you’ve managed to survive with your job intact, downsizing can be tough to take. Although more and more organizations are providing support for downsizing survivors, the onus is still basically on your own ability to cope. Here's how:

1. Maintain your standards. If you're feeling angry that coworkers and friends have been laid off, it may be tempting to give less than your all. But underneath it all, you know you're capable of more and will probably feel worse if you are not working up to your usual standards. What's more, reduced performance may even jeopardize your own job security. What's done is done, and you're not doing your company, yourself, or anyone else any good by caving in to the forces of mediocrity.

2. Keep your attitude under control. Everyone has to take hard knocks in life. What separates survivors from quitters is what they choose to do with the circumstances. No one expects you to think that everything is just wonderful. But, it serves no useful purpose to let your attitude deteriorate into anger, pessimism, hostility, and bitterness. Even if you don't always have control over the events around you, you should be in charge of how you react to those events.

3. Find ways to vent your frustrations. It's normal to feel a sense of loss, as well as worry and anger after your workplace is disrupted. Acknowledge that you're going through a tough time. You accomplish nothing if you bottle feelings up - only to explode at a colleague over nothing. If you need to talk, find someone you can trust outside the organization. Get things off your chest so you can work without harboring resentment.

4. Tend to your physical and emotional health. When under stress, it's important to take care of yourself in all respects. Make sure you eat well, get enough sleep and exercise, and devote time to leisure. This is not the time to miss work due to stress-induced illness.

5. Take rumors in stride. Some people enjoy playing the “let's trade horror stories” game to see who knows the scariest piece of news. These discussions only serve to escalate fears that the worst is yet to come. In your central job position, you may become the sounding board for frustrated coworkers. They may even come to you hoping to hear some confidential information. Keep focused on the known facts and give scant attention to everything else.

6. Initiate an employee-suggestion program. If you don't already have one, talk to the boss. To get started, investigate established programs in other companies to see how they operate. In the long run, a suggestion program gives employees a voice and reduces the feeling of powerlessness people typically feel during a downsizing.

It's easy to succumb to the discouragement that follows a company downsizing. Despite the uncertainty and discomfort, eventually things will settle down into a new pattern of normality. In the meantime, your survival depends not so much on what actually happens to you, but on your reactions to it.

Stress Addicts Create Crises, Then Rush To The Rescue

Between work and home, most of us experience more stress than we know what to do with. We would welcome a little more calmness in our lives. But, some people thrive on a high-pressure, thrill-a-minute style of work that can bring most of us to nervous exhaustion.

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They're the ones who welcome crises, trying to beat the clock by saving a project from disaster at the last possible moment. Their credo: “I work best under pressure.” Some thrive on drama or the adrenaline surge created by urgency. Others like the notion of being a hero coming to the rescue. Yet others fear failure, so they put off tasks until they have no choice but to do them - and any mistakes can be blamed on the lack of time left to actually complete projects.

Often, however; these individuals can function only under these extreme conditions. They might even manufacture urgency (through procrastination, for example), compelling coworkers to work under the same stressful circumstances.

Not only is this practice unfair to your coworkers, it's usually counterproductive as well - these stress “addicts” may leave nothing but mistakes, resentment, and pandemonium in their wake.

Those who hope to move ahead in their careers must be able to adopt a work style that uses time most effectively for everyone involved. Are you a stress addict? If you tend to welcome stressful work conditions that drive others crazy, perhaps you should consider a change to bring your addiction under control. Here are some suggestions to consider:

1. Identify the problem. Take a close look at how you typically work. Is the stress in your job due to external influences or created, to some extent, by you? Can this stress be avoided or reduced? Do you even want to change? There's little hope of change if you don't see the problem.

2. Ask coworkers for feedback. If you're still unsure, ask colleagues how your behavior affects them. Your coworkers may actually reinforce your stress habit. They might typically pick up the pieces, make excuses or rationalize your behavior; or suffer silently. Create an environment that encourages candid responses.

3. Discuss specific incidents. Look for patterns in your behavior What could be done differently? Ask for constructive suggestions on how you could have operated differently. You might have to strike a deal with coworkers that you will avoid emergency requests; plan ahead on long-term tasks; or curb any procrastinating.

4. Keep your eyes and ears open. Look for the danger signals that you're lapsing into the crisis habit. Look at individual stress situations to determine the cause. Control what you can.

Encourage your colleagues to bring to your attention any warning signals as well.

Granted, stress is a part of almost every job. Most of us can manage it effectively - at least most of the time. But, creating a breakneck environment can prevent you from working at your best and being an effective team player It can reduce coworker cooperation and thwart any plans for a move into a supervisory or management position. Those with less stress in their lives are happier as well as emotionally and physically healthier

Taking A Break Is OK

In spite of their tremendous drive to excel and to achieve, successful people value nurturing relationships and leisure time. They understand that they are not simply machines that can put on high levels of energy and perform without refueling. They accept their need for nurturance and support. Successful people look forward to taking a break.

Want Quality Work Relationships? Think Small

Close ties with coworkers can improve work quality. Closeness among workers develops most easily in small workplaces. Formal rules and layers of bureaucracy in large work settings may hinder the looseness that employees need to coordinate their own solutions.

To foster close, productive relationships, employees need the following: to treat people and be treated fairly; to communicate openly; to meet in groups; to work in open areas without physical obstructions; and to receive awards that aren’t based on competition.

More Tips

1. Time shift tip. If your work shift changes time, requiring that you work at night and sleep during the day, it's important that you still get eight hours of sleep. To help, trick your body into thinking it’s night by sleeping in a room with no windows or buying room-darkening shades to give the illusion of night. Then dream away.

2. Blame no one but yourself. The word blame contains the word lame. Blaming others, regardless of who is at fault, does nothing to solve problems. When possible, take the initiative to solve problems on your own.

3. Bench yourself. A good place to begin benchmarking is with yourself. Analyze what you do successfully in your own company, and then look for ways you can adapt your own best practices to other areas of your company.

4. Build trust. If you work closely with your colleagues, it's vital that you treat them in terms of skill, honesty, and reliability - and that they trust you. Mutual trust is a critical element in good communication, cooperation, and coordinated service.

5. Keep track of going off-track. Conclude your meetings foster by designating one person to track interruptions. You may be surprised by how often you go off-track.

6. Generate interest in your ideas. When you want to pass ideas on to your team leader or supervisor, try this: “I've got some ideas you'll find interesting. Is this a good time to talk?” A “yes” response guarantees his or her full attention.

7. Pick out the positive. Don't get sucked into office gripe sessions. Instead, take an entire day and promise yourself to say only positive things. Once you start looking at the bright side in every situation, you'll wonder what you were doing in the dark. Make optimism a habit.

Be Confident In Your Own Quality

Quality is like an upside-down pyramid. At the top are the concepts and processes that management undertakes to implement a quality program. At the bottom is you - the individual who holds up the rest of the pyramid with your personal commitment to making quality succeed.

What You Can Do

1. Show that you believe in your own quality by taking personal responsibility for everything you do.

2. Be aware that the service you provide to internal and external customers… the enthusiasm you show for your work . . . the commitment you show to everything you do - these all convey that you know the vital role you carry out in making quality succeed.

3. Control stress so you feel more in control of your life.

4. Maintain your integrity so you'll be assured of the respect of your teammates.

5. Challenge complacency, both personally and in your work.

Remember that you have to sustain a hunger for improvement just to keep up with the demands of a world that has grown accustomed to constant improvements and change.

Society | Self-Help | Work


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