Thursday, December 31, 2009

Why Wise Leaders Don't Know Too Much

Could it be that knowledge is overrated?

Don't get me wrong — knowledge is a good thing. But there is a point at which it may be bad. Even the sturdiest shelf crumbles under the weight of too many books.

We can only comprehend so much. Our minds have limits in our ability to digest information, just as shelves are only meant to hold so many books. Too much knowledge undermines the greatest insights, the deepest conjectures.

Take an example from graduate school. To earn my Masters degree, I had to write a lengthy thesis (hundreds of pages) to demonstrate a command of knowledge in a broad field. When it came time for my Doctorate, however, I was asked to take my thesis and condense it into a synthesis of that knowledge. Most people think that the process should be reversed — that writing 20 pages is easier than writing 200. But the lesson is less about writing than it is about learning that information and knowledge are something to dissect and discard. And that is the difference between knowing and understanding; between knowledge and wisdom.

Wisdom can be shattered by too much information. Great scholars, for instance, tend to be great in very narrow disciplines. These scholars give ground on colloquial information so that they can digest more within their field. In many ways, we are all idiot savants: our expertise in certain areas necessitates weakness elsewhere.

Yet we still spend our days analyzing information and falling into traps. Decisions are destroyed by over-analysis. The brain is not intelligent because of the sheer volume of data it can ingest, but for the way it can quickly discern patterns — and then guess the rest. The more information you pile on, the less likely you are to make educated guesses. But educated guesses spring from wisdom: all of your past experiences, knowledge and knowhow, coupled with the most recent information and analysis. In other words, wisdom comes from your gut.

Pile on too much information and you fall victim to one of two phenomena: On the one hand, you might make a decision focused only on what has been analyzed because the abundance of information suppresses even the most relevant past experiences. This "knowledge trap" disregards our decision-making skills (often intentionally), opting instead for the logical decision-making of a computer or calculator. You see this often on Wall Street where quant jocks confidently grind data into machines, only to face an unlikely (but not unexpected) event — or what Nassim Taleb calls a "Black Swan" event. For those on Wall Street, this is often an unfortunate demonstration of the power of wisdom over knowledge. Just look what happened in the hedge fund industry in general or credit default swaps in specific as painful examples.

Or worse, faced with an abundance of information you fall victim to analysis paralysis — unable to make any decisions in the face of so much data. To be frozen by information is perhaps the single biggest risk of knowledge. Ancient Greek philosophers used to warn their children about this ailment and Peter Drucker did a good job of combating it in the business world. But is anyone really listening?

People often become victims of the "knowledge trap" or "analysis paralysis," thinking they need to weigh every bit of information against all possible outcomes. Those people rarely make it very far. Those who avoid these traps — who realize they'll never have all the answers no matter how much knowledge they gather — are often the ones who succeed.

Jeffrey M. Stibel is an entrepreneur, a brain scientist, and the author of Wired for Thought: How the Brain Is Shaping the Future of the Internet. He studied business and brain science at MIT Sloan and Brown University, where he was a brain and behavior fellow. Stibel has authored numerous academic and business articles on a variety of subjects and is the named inventor on the US patent for search engine interfaces. He was formerly President of Web.com and currently serves on academic Boards for Tufts and Brown University, as well as the Board of Directors for a number of public and private companies.

Thanks to HBR

16 More Things to Think About in 2010

Trend-spotting is a popular year-end sport that we play gamely along with many others. Much of the following comes from our own research and will hopefully be familiar, but because 2009 was such an awful mess, we weren't too proud to cast a wider net this year in search of wisdom and foresight.

1. Jobsite Optimization
Increasingly important. For candidates, corporate job sites have become the hub of the Internet search process. Regardless of origin, everyone goes there eventually. Good sites inform, engage, brand, assess, filter, presell, and are huge recruiting assets. Poor ones do none of the above and are huge recruiting liabilities.  If you have any discretionary funds, spend them here and get this right.

2. Employment Branding
Madison Avenue thinking will increasingly change staffing practice. When was the last time you ran your job postings through an advertising agency? In effect, that's what world- class recruiting organizations are increasingly doing, using the sophisticated client targeting, product messaging, endorsements, public relations and competitive positioning long familiar to Madison Avenue product marketers but new to most staffing professionals. Effective branding will also require thoroughly integrating staffing and employment functions so that candidates' expectations mesh well with their experience as employees.

3. Talent Pools
CRM-style recruiting will grow but from a small base. The traditional recruiting funnel – developing 100 leads to hire just 1 person – is enormously wasteful. CRM-based staffing improves the process by developing pre-screened "pools" of talent to fill openings more quickly, with higher "match" rates and with improved long-term retention. Those pools can be developed either by third-party employee providers or by companies themselves.

4. Outsourcing
Staffing efficiently and effectively will continue to become more complex and challenging. Consequently, fewer and fewer companies will be able to achieve and sustain best practice. This will increase opportunities for sophisticated third-party vendors like recruitment process outsourcers who have superior focus and economies of scale, world-class expertise and technology, and a business rationale anchored in staffing excellence.

5. Business Alignment
Pressure will increase. Tough economic conditions have raised the performance bar for staffing and the impending recovery will not lower it. Unfortunately, despite a decade of opportunity, few departments (<10%) have developed the complete set of operational metrics required to justify performance and demonstrate business relevance. Failure to prove that performance and relevance in 2010 will continue to limit executive regard for the staffing function and invite outsourcing.

6. Social Media Recruiting
Will grow in relevance but right now more smoke than fire. Our thickest 2009 research file by far as companies and vendors experiment and report results. Few conclusions yet because it continues to evolve rapidly. We do know two things: 1) that it offers job seekers the personal Internet visibility that job boards have long provided to employers; and 2) that it is a major source of intelligence on employer brands. If you don't choose to play in this arena yet, at least develop a skunk works project to keep track of developments and monitor what your competitors are doing.

7. Leadership
Demand will increase. The continuing evolution of 20th century HR into 21st century Talent Management represents a worldwide professional opportunity on a par with any of those in manufacturing, marketing and finance over the past 100 years. The profession is changing and research confirms  that the pace has quickened. Best practice will be a moving target for years to come as organizations reorganize, retask and reinvigorate their HR functions. The demand for leaders who can guide these changes will exceed supply for quite a while.

8. Technology
A long time coming and almost here. The technology involved in locating, processing, assessing, and developing talent is emerging from adolescence and continues to evolve very quickly. In the next year or two multiple vendors will offer credible, affordable, end-to-end, talent management functionality or something close to it. When they do, the major issues will no longer be technical; they will be related to people, process and politics i.e. breaking a half century of outdated attitudes and habits.

9. Worker Mobility
Whether on-shore or off-shore, the movement of work to where the most desirable workers are, and the movement of workers to where the most desirable work is, will continue. As they have been for the past quarter century, the drivers will continue to be communication technology, intense global competition and rapidly changing markets, plus workers' growing realization that their personal economic security rests in their hands, not their employers' or the government's. Continuing a long trend, average job tenure will continue to drop.

10. Contract Labor

Will increase. Businesses' need for workforce flexibility will continue to drive alternatives to full-time, W-2 employment. Part-time, job-sharing, fixed-term, project-based, leased and other contractual arrangements will gain ground.

11. Structure
Combination structures will increase. Continuing a long-term trend at mid-size and large companies, best in class staffing operations will continue to combine the strengths of centralization (technology, record-keeping, employment branding, talent management) with those of decentralization (selection, assessment, hiring and firing, training & development). For reasons of scale, small companies will retain the centralized staffing model.

12. Sourcing
A still overlooked best practice that increasingly defines top recruiting organizations from also-rans, internal referrals will continue to be underutilized. Internal referrals are well documented as the most consistently effective (quality, performance, retention) and efficient (cost, time) source of new hires.

13. Workplace Diversity
Increasingly a competitive advantage but not as commonly practiced. Narrowly defined, diversity about quotas and regulations. Broadly defined, it's about optimum workforce dialogue, i.e. pulling the greatest variety of original viewpoints and ideas out of your workforce and translating the best ones into action. If you want business results from diversity, define it as communication, coordination and knowledge transfer. If you want staffing results, think of it as looking for talent in the under-recruited populations that others are overlooking.

14. Talent Management
Best in class companies have already merged traditional back office HR functions with front office workforce planning and corporate strategy. Talent management is the new umbrella under which all aspects of workforce planning – hiring, compensation, development, leadership and succession planning – are organized and executed. In these companies, the managers in charge of this function are equal partners with finance, sales, production, operations, legal and other C-suite executives.

15. Quality of Hire
Will replace cost and time as the top recruiting metric. Best in class companies have realized that the downstream productivity costs of mediocre hires far exceed the direct costs of hiring. Our research already foreshadows this change in priorities.

16. Hiring
The strongest and most forward-looking companies have used the past year to their advantage, luring the best active candidates from the labor pool and the best passive candidates from weaker competitors. One powerful effect of emerging social media will continue to be the prolonging of employment brand damage to companies that have handled their workforce adjustments poorly over the past several years.
 
So there you have it, just the few small things we suggest you keep in mind as we lurch into 2010. Please note none of them are dependent on the speed with which the United States exits the recession. They are long-term trends, driven by macro influences like globalization, demographics, and competition. We'll be following them all.

Thanks to David Earle / Staffing.org

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Don't Be the Person Who Forces Us to Create Yet Another Policy

From new hires confused by our 'wear anything' dress code, to managers planning a team outing, our employees are familiar with my anti-policy viewpoint. They all seem to get it and I actually hear them reinforcing the mantra "Don't be the person who forces us to create a policy" to others in the company who are about to do something that might be considered…well, stupid (aka. policy worthy).

The reason for my anti-policy stance? I think too many HR professionals avoid creative solutions and wash their hands of a problem by writing another policy. This policy then gets added to the already too long and rarely read employee handbook where it sits dormant until an employee gets sent to the principals HR office to be scolded.

A few weeks ago, I read an article in BusinessWeek that literally had me shouting profanities at the consultant whose advice to companies was to combat a problem with a policy. The reason I was so fired up was because, in typical policy form, the actual problem wasn't even being solved.

Titled, "Gossip In the Workplace" the author defines gossip NOT as malicious talk about the personal lives of co-workers but as "talk between co-workers, managers, and executives about work-related matters to someone who can't do anything about it". She goes on to call employees who gossip "chickens" and "cowards" and attacks their integrity.

Her solution? Create a "gossip ban"; a "zero tolerance" policy of sorts which requires senior leadership to gather all employees together, stand in front of them and in a stern voice declare, "No more gossip." In a final attempt to sugar coat the policy (and to completely insult the employees) the author suggests we "encourage employees to think of it as a game, with the prize being open communication and a positive work environment".

Unless your employees are in kindergarten, my guess is that this solution isn't going to solve the problem. Here's why:

She defined "gossip" as being between co-workers and "about work-related matters":

If employees are gossiping about work related matters, it doesn't mean they're "cowards" or "chickens". It means they're confused, unsure of something, or scared about how changes are going to impact them. Employees turn to each other (aka gossip) when HR and Senior Leadership haven't done a good job of clearly communicating with employees and/or haven't given them a safe forum to express their concerns.

Rather than suggesting a policy, this consultant should have coached the company on finding new ways to open communication and create feedback loops. They should fire her, hire me, and do some of the following:

  • Coach managers on how to solicit feedback from employees.
  • Require managers, as part of their performance reviews, to ask employees about their biggest roadblocks. This doesn't mean asking while passing each other on the way to the bathroom. It means scheduling coffee with them, getting out of the office, and really asking them how things are going and what their concerns are.
  • Hold managers accountable for removing those roadblocks and escalating issues to Senior Leadership.
  • Find creative ways to use the biggest gossipers in the office to your advantage.
  • Stop spending so much time behind your expensive desk and spend more time out there communicating with the employees.
  • Consider that not all gossip is bad. New research shows that some gossip might actually be good for your employees and your company

If your gossip problem leans more towards being malicious, hurtful, and aimed at attacking the personal lives of your employees, then you'll have to take more immediate measures to stop it. For those of us who just barely made it out of high school alive, we know how this type of gossip can hurt morale, productivity, and engagement, so your best bet is to act quickly to eliminate it. Even in this situation, consider ways that you can focus on "building a culture of respect by having zero tolerance for those who disrespect." 

While workplace gossip is bad, creating a deadbeat policy is even worse. What are some of the ways you've been able to work around creating even more policies in your organization?

Thanks to Fistful of Talent / Editor's Note - Marisa Keegan is a Culture Maven (for real, that's her title...) for Rackspace where she works to create fanatical experiences for their employees, like bringing in life size Sudoku boards, hosting Wii Champion of the Universe competitions and introducing pie-your-manager days. When she's not involved in planning the next take-your-aggression-out-on-your-manager-day for Rackspace employees, she's dreaming up ways to make culture-focused roles standard in every organization, including yours. Culture rules, my friends...

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Strangest Secret

George Bernard Shaw said, "People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can't find them, they make them."
 
Well, it's pretty apparent, isn't it? And every person who discovered this believed (for a while) that he was the first one to work it out. We become what we think about.
 
Conversely, the person who has no goal, who doesn't know where he's going, and whose thoughts must therefore be thoughts of confusion, anxiety and worry - his life becomes one of frustration, fear, anxiety and worry. And if he thinks about nothing... he becomes nothing.
 
How does it work? Why do we become what we think about? Well, I'll tell you how it works, as far as we know. To do this, I want to tell you about a situation that parallels the human mind.
 
Suppose a farmer has some land, and it's good, fertile land. The land gives the farmer a choice; he may plant in that land whatever he chooses. The land doesn't care. It's up to the farmer to make the decision.
 
We're comparing the human mind with the land because the mind, like the land, doesn't care what you plant in it. It will return what you plant, but it doesn't care what you plant.
 
Now, let's say that the farmer has two seeds in his hand- one is a seed of corn, the other is nightshade, a deadly poison. He digs two little holes in the earth and he plants both seeds-one corn, the other nightshade. He covers up the holes, waters and takes care of the land...and what will happen? Invariably, the land will return what was planted.
 
As it's written in the Bible, "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."
 
Remember the land doesn't care. It will return poison in just as wonderful abundance as it will corn. So up come the two plants - one corn, one poison.
 
The human mind is far more fertile, far more incredible and mysterious than the land, but it works the same way. It doesn't care what we plant...success...or failure. A concrete, worthwhile goal...or confusion, misunderstanding, fear, anxiety and so on. But what we plant must return to us.
 
You see, the human mind is the last great unexplored continent on earth. It contains riches beyond our wildest dreams. It will return anything we want to plant.
 
An Excerpt from The Strangest Secret By Earl Nightingale / Thanks to Simple Truth

How to Evaluate Organizational Performance In Economic Hard Times

We've all made the decision to improve our appearance at some point in our lives.  Maybe we've decided we were going to lose weight by dieting and exercise.  Or maybe we've decided to gain strength by lifting weights.  The first thing we did was stepped on that scale and said "Wow, I need to lose a few pounds".  Or we ran to the gym and measured our strength and endurance at various exercises.

What we were actually doing was creating a baseline.  We were creating a snapshot of our current selves.  Let's just pretend that we didn't baseline our current self, we didn't have our measurements, and based personal goals based on Miss America, or Mr. Universe's appearance.  We wouldn't capitalize on the available data (our current selves) and set realistic goals.  Shortly, we'd become frustrated, lose motivation, and eventually fail.

Likewise, businesses often don't capitalize on available data to get them through difficult times.  With a new year beginning and growing concerns of our economic future, now is a good time to evaluate our current environments and identify our organizational strengths, weaknesses and areas for improvements and cost savings.  This article discusses the value of baselining organizational performance, different baselining approaches your organization can, and overcoming variables that add complexity to your performance baselines.

Baselining involves using historical performance data to calculate averages and standard deviations.  The average establishes the baseline and the standard deviation is a percentage change in the baseline deemed acceptable.  When performance exceeds the standard deviation, some specified action is usually required.

If your organization has clear, specific goals and objectives, the data to be used in the baseline is easier to determine.   And of course, if goals and objectives are vague or unclear, it can be difficult to identify important baseline data.  But given these tough financial times, it is probably most beneficial to focus on financial performance and key processes.

A performance baseline is performance information gathered to evaluate your current state and measure variations to gauge successes and failures within the organization.  Baselines may also be used to establish goals and standards, to set SLA metrics and performance thresholds, and to make important decisions.   But perhaps the most important, but overlooked reason we do performance baselines is to refocus our organizations on what's important.  You may have done a baseline a couple of years ago, but chances are you are still measuring the same things you measured back then.  Performance a new baseline forces us to re-evaluate what's important to organization as it endures the constant changes brought on by this dynamic economy.

Types of Performance Baselines

There are three types of baselines:  rolling baselines, recurring time-based baselines, and specific date baselines.   Rolling baselines compare current performance metrics with a period of time preceeding the current period.  An example would be comparing last month's performance to the average performance of the previous 12 months.  Recurring time-based baselines compare current performance metrics with performance baselines calculated for the same length of periods.  Daily or weekly baselines are good examples of recurring time-based baselines.  Specific date baselines compare current performance metrics with the metrics from a specific date.  For example, gathering baseline sales metrics for the day after Christmas.

Complexitites of Baselining Performance

Historical baselines often answer the question "how many?" such as "how many tickets were created over a given period of time?"  The historical baseline data are the averages of such counts over that specified period.  Baselines can be relative to any arbitrary point in time. 

While this seems simple, it gets more complex when you take into effect some of the following variables:  processes that take several days to complete, business hours calculations (e.g. M-F, 9-5, excluding holidays or specific dates), calculations involving multiple time zones, and calculation involving phased implementations.

When processes extend for multiple days, counting and time calculations become considerably more difficult, especially when a reporting tool is not utilized.  Processes executed on business days and during business hours are also more difficult.  In this case the proper divisor at the Day level is the number of business days in the last 365 calendar days, taking into account weekends and holidays.  The divisor at the Hours level is the number of business hours in the last 24 hour period.  Calculations with Multiple Time Zones can span across multiple cities around the world, reflecting different holidays and work norms.  The baseline divisor thus becomes a function not only of Time but also of Location, thus further complicating the process.  Projects utilizing phased implementations where new locations or divisions go "live" as the enterprise expands (such as in a phased Enterprise Resource Planning implementation).  In this case, the baseline calculation must take into account how long a particular location has been live in order to obtain an accurate baseline.

Understanding Variables and Standard Deviations

Variance and Standard Deviation are measures of how spread out a distribution is. In other words, they are measures of variability.  The spread is the degree to which scores on the variable differ from each other. If every score on the variable were about equal, the variable would have very little spread. Standard Deviation is the square root of the variance. It is the most commonly used measure of spread.  An important attribute of the standard deviation as a measure of spread is that if the mean and standard deviation of a normal distribution are known, it is possible to compute the percentile rank associated with any given score.   In a normal distribution, about 68% of the scores are within one standard deviation of the mean and about 95% of the scores are within two standard deviations of the mean.

Identifying the Right Data to Baseline

There's a basic rule to identifying the right data to baseline:  1) measure what your customers say is important, 2) measure areas where there are problems you'd like to solve, and 3) measure the business objectives you are aiming to achieve.  If your organization has clear, specific goals and objectives, the data to be used in the baseline is easier to determine.   However, if goals and objectives are vague or unclear, it is difficult to identify important baseline data.  Measurements should be aligned to your organization's objectives and should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely).

By Victor Holman    

Sunday, December 20, 2009

7 Things You Should Have Said at the Job Interview

One common complaint among job seekers is that they go on interview after interview and never receive a job offer. If you fit into this category, consider the possibility that you might be unknowingly sabotaging yourself by offering a weak interview performance.

Below are typical interview scenarios, common job-seeker mistakes and the best way to manage each situation.

Scenario No. 1: The interviewer came out swinging, asking tough but appropriate questions regarding a professional hiccup: your employment gap and job-hopping image. The question either left you stuttering with an incoherent message or sounding defensive because you were confrontational.
What You Should Have Said: When the interviewer read your résumé, she knew about your job- search challenge and invited you in for an interview. As such, your hiccup wasn't a deal breaker, but a negative response could be one. Explain your situation without getting emotional or hotheaded by saying, "In the past I made the mistake of accepting a position based on salary alone. That mindset led to hopping from one job to another, because I was never completely satisfied. Now, I'm looking to work for a company where I'm compensated well and the company values complement mine."

Scenario No. 2: The interviewer asked, "Why should I hire you?" You listed strengths that align with the open position. Although there's nothing technically wrong with your response, you could have taken your answer a step further.
What You Should Have Said: "That's a fair question. Instead of providing a canned response, I'd like to participate in an audition interview so you can see my work ethic firsthand." An audition interview is when you perform the tasks of the position as though you were hired. This way, the hiring manager can see your performance before extending an official job offer.

Scenario No. 3: "Why are you looking to leave your existing position?" is another typical question, one that you were expecting but weren't quite sure how to address. Your motive is grounded in bad feelings, and you blurt out, "My boss is out to get me. I'm tired of being looked over for promotions."
What You Should Have Said: Honesty is always the best policy when answering interview questions. There is a difference, however, between shooting yourself in the foot and providing a straightforward response. If you're leaving a position because of office politics, the interviewer doesn't need to know the specifics. As a result, a neutral response such as, "I've advanced as far as I can with ABC Co. So I'm looking for a position where I can manage a larger territory and bring in lucrative accounts," works well because it's truthful without  oversharing.

Scenario No. 4:  Since the average person searches for a new job about every two years, the interviewer wanted to know how long you planned to stay with the company if hired. Not sure how to respond, you said, "Until retirement." At first blush, the response sounds like a good one, because you're making a commitment to the hiring organization. But the response comes off as brown-nosing and not entirely believable in today's environment.
What You Should Have Said: Show your ambition alongside your dedication by saying, "I plan on staying on board as long as I'm contributing to the department and growing professionally."

Scenario No. 5: You committed an interview misstep by arriving late. Nervous, you rambled with a long excuse, bringing prolonged attention to your blunder.
What You Should Have Said: Apologize and move on quickly. Extend your hands and say, "My apologies for my late arrival. I'm enthusiastic about the position and am looking forward to discussing how my accomplishments support the open requirements."

Scenario No. 6: Toward the end of the interview, you were given an opportunity to raise questions. You asked typical questions, such as, "How soon do you expect to make a decision?" but stopped short of asking for the job outright.
What You Should Have Said: "Based on today's conversation, do you have any reservations about extending me a job offer? If the interviewer provides a reason for hesitation, resell your qualifications. If the interviewer says "no," respond with, "I'm interested in the position. Can I have the job?" You'll be surprised that many will hire you contingent on a referral check.

Scenario No. 7: At one point during the interview you were asked about your salary requirements. Based on advice you read over and over again, you throw back the question by asking, "What's the budget for the position?" Unfortunately, you did this one too many times, and the interviewer became irritated.
What You Should Have Said: It's acceptable to avoid answering the salary question one or two times, but answer the question when asked a third time. You can provide a range by saying, "Based on the responsibilities of the job and my proven success in driving profits, I'm looking for compensation within the $60,000 to $75,000 range."

With the right responses, you can turn those awkward interview situations around and land the job you want.

Linda Matias, JCTC, CIC, NCRW, is the author of the new book "201 Knockout Answers to Tough Interview Questions: The Ultimate Guide to Handling the New Competency-Based Interview Style" (Amacom 2009).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

8 Reasons Women Stay in Painful Relationships

Why Women Stay with Controlling Men

Why would a woman stay in a relationship with a guy who puts her down, hems her in, and perhaps even physically abuses her? Why would a woman hold down two jobs to keep the rent paid and food on the table while her boyfriend sits around smoking weed all day? Why oh why would a woman allow herself to be emotionally blackmailed by her boyfriend's threats that he will kill himself or her or both if she even talks about leaving a relationship that is going nowhere?

There's no easy answer. Often it's a complicated mix of a number of answers. If you wonder why on earth you stay with the guy who keeps hurting you in spite of promises to do better, in spite of protestations that he loves you, in spite of your obvious distress about how things are going, see if you recognize yourself in any of these common reasons.

But please be careful not to jump to conclusions based on a list. It's not at all uncommon for relationships to have some challenging times. Reasons for staying become problems when they become excuses or ways we fool ourselves into believing that things aren't that bad when in fact they are. If you keep getting hurt; if you know in your heart that the relationship is diminishing you but you still keep going back for more, it may be time for you to get into therapy or to find the resources in your community that help women extricate themselves from a controlling or abusive relationship.

8 Bad Reasons Women Stay in Painful Relationships

  1. Because Being Someone's Everything Is Intoxicating Stuff – At Least At First. When you met, he only had eyes for you. He called to say good morning. He called to say "I love you" at lunch. He wanted to be the last voice you heard before you went to sleep. When you left work or your last class for the day, there he was - waiting for you. If another guy even looked at you, he put his arm protectively around you. If a guy friend called you up, he pouted. He wanted all your attention. In exchange, he gave you attention as no one ever had before. He wined you and dined you (or at least took you out for pizza and a cold drinks several times a week) and made you feel like a princess. Sounds like any romantic beginning, doesn't it?

    If your guy is so insecure that he needs control, his attention gradually became claustrophobic. Over time, his demands for all your attention all the time hemmed you in. You found yourself frantically explaining your every move that didn't involve him. Staying a bit late for work, a girls' night out, even a visit to your mother on a Saturday morning became grounds for a fight. What started out as wonderful attention became not so wonderful control.

  2. Because These Guys Can be Absolutely Charming. You didn't fall in love with your boyfriend for no good reason. He can be charming. He can be romantic. He can say the things that every woman would like to hear. Sometimes he lets you see a sweet vulnerability that melts your heart. He seems to feel genuinely terrible after the two of you have had a big fight. He brings apologies and flowers. He promises he'll be less jealous. He says you really are his everything. Lovemaking at times like these is delicious. He says all the right things to make you want to give him another chance. Things are wonderful for awhile. But then it starts all over again. You come home a little late and his eyes look stormy. You make a phone call and he has to know just who you're talking to. Pretty soon, you're feeling hemmed in again and you know that there's going to be another blow-out…

  3. Because You Don't Feel You Deserve Any Better. Maybe you grew up in a family where you were told that you were no good, ugly, clumsy, or incompetent. Maybe your father or mother even told you "No one will ever love you." Perhaps you were an ugly duckling in high school who never had a date or you were never accepted by the people you wished were your friends. Maybe you've had a series of disastrous relationships or no relationships at all. Your self-esteem is in the cellar. Even though a part of you knows that your family should have treated you better; even though you understand that high school is harsh for a lot of people, there's an even bigger part of you that feels that maybe all the people who rejected you were right - you really are a loser. You've become convinced you should be grateful for any smidgen of caring your boyfriend provides - even if it is painful.

  4. Because You Don't Know Any Better. All the women you grew up with were in abusive, difficult relationships. All your girlfriends complain about men who don't do their share and who stopped being "Mr. Wonderful" long ago. Lacking role models for positive, loving relationships, you think good relationships only happen in the movies. Although you can agree in theory that women deserve to be treated with consideration and respect by the men who love them, you've never seen such a relationship up close and personal.

  5. Because He Scares You Or Manipulates You. There are men who aren't a bit subtle about their need for control. Try to leave and they threaten to hurt you or your kids or other people you care about. He may have even grabbed you too hard or hit you or locked you in a room or waved a gun around. When he goes into a rage, there's no telling what he might do. So you do everything you can to prevent it – including staying.

    The manipulators are equally effective in trapping their women. They say they will commit suicide if you leave – and it will be all your fault. They are masters at making you feel guilty even when you don't have a clue what you are guilty for. Fights inevitably shift to all the things you've done wrong – or at least wronger than him. You end up staying to make amends and make it right or because you can't bear the idea of living with the guilt if he hurts himself.

  6. Because You Truly Believe You Can Change Him. Because the relationship started out so wonderfully and because he can be so terrific after a fight, you hold onto the idea that you can bring out the best in him. All you have to do is find the right words and behave in the right way, and you'll have the man of your dreams. Love conquers all, right? Wrong. No one can make another person be anything. He has to want it. He has to be willing to work on it. He has to want to change because it will make him a better person, not because he made an insincere promise in order to make up after a fight. Even though you know all this, you convince yourself that you're an exception. You're going to find a way.

  7. Because You Are More Afraid Of Being Alone Again than Of Being In A Painful Relationship. You've been alone and it's lonely. You want someone to talk to in the evening, to cuddle up to at night, to at least once in awhile take the kids. Even picking up his laundry, cooking meals he doesn't appreciate, and fighting with him is more appealing than coming home to an empty house. If he does help pay the bills and do a few chores (and especially if he pays most of the bills and can be counted on to do some of the heavy work), it's even harder to think about going it alone. Supporting a family and doing everything to maintain a household as a single person is really, really hard. Maintaining the fiction that you have a partner feels better than dealing with the reality of going it alone.

  8. Because You Love Him. The most common answer I get when I ask women why they stay in bad relationships is "because I love him." Love isn't always rational, it's true. There's no accounting for chemistry. But the fact is that love, especially one-sided love, isn't enough to sustain a relationship. It's like one hand clapping.

If you are always on the giving end in the relationship; if you've accepted indifference, abuse, or manipulation because you don't believe you deserve or can get better, it's time to take charge of your life and to make some changes. If your guy will agree, try out couples therapy. Couples can and do change with commitment to the process and love for each other. If your boyfriend won't join you in the project, get some therapy for yourself. Build up your self-esteem, develop the skills you need to be successful in the world, and increase your confidence in yourself. A stronger you will be able to hold out for the loving relationship that you deserve.

By Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D. / December 8, 2009 / Thanks to PsychCentral

Monday, December 14, 2009

Can You Step Back From A Hurtful Family Relationship?

You know the person I'm talking about - that person in your family that seems to really have your number.  It doesn't take much for them to get you riled up, set off your whole day, touch on vulnerable emotions.  What is it about them that keeps you stuck with them?  It could be your sister, your mom, your uncle, your son, or whoever.  Are you able to see the forest for the trees and step away from them, or do you feel emotionally torn and entangled with them?
 
This can feel pretty tough sometimes.  You might feel like you are being torn in two directions.  You may hear one thing from this hurtful family member and something completely different from your spouse or friends.  You know you and others you love aren't being treated well, but somehow you just can't move away from them.
 
First, let's look this example and see if we can spot the problem.  Your mom really has a way with words, sharp biting words.  She always seems to have a timely piece of criticism ready for you.  Since you aren't going to be a doctor like your brother, you are frequently compared with him (not favorably).  Once in a while, she just doesn't say anything much at all and seems mildly pleasant.  No ruckus, no strong emotion, just neutral.
 
You start to wonder if maybe something has come over her and she's finally coming around.  Maybe this is the start of something better, more peace, less tension.  You even get a little upset wondering, "Well why can't she just be like this?"  And that's the part that keeps you sucked in, thinking she can someday rehabilitate her attitude and behaviors toward you after all this time.
 
Guess what.  Probably not.  In fact you might be the problem here because your expectations are off track.  Yes, if you can see clear evidence that your family member is treating you or other people in your family poorly (spouse or kids), the logical move is to back away and protect your family.  It's false hope that keeps us inappropriately connected.  You want what you can't have - a mom who's proud of you, a grandma who doesn't pit people against each other, a sister you can trust.  When you can accept the face value of your painful situation instead of the fantasy, it gets easier to live with.
 
Now that doesn't mean you can't call once in a while, be around for two hours at Christmas, or have supper once a month.  It does mean you may need to set some strong boundaries when they start to treat you badly.  That might mean getting up and leaving their house, hanging up the phone, cherry picking what gatherings you attend, limit contact with young children, etc.  And truthfully, it means setting your expectations pretty low.  Casual activity that doesn't get emotional is ideal, unless they are so destructive you should cut them off completely.
 
Think of it this way.  If a female bear was around a grouchy adult male who was bullying her and her cubs, do you really think she'd try to get snuggle up next to him each time he came around?  No!  She'd either hightail it out of the area or put up a fight if absolutely necessary.  She wouldn't stay around and take it, hoping he'd get into a better mood one of these times.
 
Next time you face that hurtful person in your family, think about what the protective mother bear would do.
 
By Erika Krull, MS, LMHP / October 28, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Einstein's Formula For Success

Albert Einstein had a formula for success. Can you believe that? One of the greatest minds of all time developed a math formula for success! I suggest you read this carefully—this may be the most important math equation that you will ever see.

Einstein said, "If A equals success, then the formula is: A=X+Y+Z.
X is work.
Y is play.
Z is keep your mouth shut."

Einstein no doubt had an excellent sense of humor. Let's look at the 3 variables in this equation. They are:
1. Work
2. Play
3. Keeping your mouth shut!

1. Work: Albert Einstein had a tremendous work ethic and because of that gave more to society and modern science than any person in recent times

2. Play: Einstein, however, did not work 24 hours a day and made time for fun and relaxation. His idea of fun may have been different than yours, but that doesn't mean it still wasn't play.
 
3. Keeping Your Mouth Shut: Finally, my favorite part of his success formula is to keep your mouth shut. I genuinely believe that the person who talks the least says the most. A friend of mine complains that the woman he is dating talks too much. I don't know how to break the news to him: The problem is not that she talks too much, but simply that he is irritated that he isn't able to talk. Now, let me just say this is not a generic man and woman statement. I am speaking about a specific person I know. His desire is to constantly talk, and because he likes to talk so much, he will talk in circles. If you let him talk long enough he will repeat the same thing three times and then contradict himself. His desire is not to hear but to be heard.

Albert Einstein, on the other hand, had nothing to prove. He felt no need to be the "Chatty Cathy" he could have been with his knowledge. It wasn't important to him to talk to everyone he met and talk over their heads to demonstrate his IQ. Instead, he learned the value of quietness and solitude.

Shift your mindset from being a talker to a listener. It has been said that you can make more friends in five minutes by becoming interested in others than you can make in five years of trying to get others interested in you! How do you become interested in others? You ask questions and then keep your mouth shut!

Dale Carnegie wrote a best-selling book titled How to Win Friends and Influence People. One of the key premises of this book was that everyone's favorite subject is actually themselves and that the sweetest sound to their ears is the sound of their own name. Einstein knew this and realized he could influence others by choosing his spots to speak and validating others by extending them the courtesy of listening.
 
By Ron White / (Excerpted from the 6-CD How to Develop the Mind of Einstein Audio Program)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hire Everybody

Let's say your company has about 1,500 employees and annual revenue of about $1.4 billion, and you want to develop the next product innovation that will boost revenue and increase customer retention. What if I told you that you could hire tens of thousands of people from all over the world (some of whom already work for companies like AT&T and Yahoo!) to devote time to the project for three years, and you would get a three-year marketing campaign to go with it. What might that cost? Well, for Netflix, it cost exactly $1 million.

Last month, Netflix awarded its one-million-dollar Netflix Prize to the first team who could improve the company's movie recommendation service by 10% or more. It may sound like a lot of money, but when you add up the work hours that some of the most talented developers, engineers, and mathematicians from more than 100 countries put into the project, and the marketing buzz that accompanied it, it appears to have been well worth it. So much so that Netflix has already announced round two of the initiative, aimed at improving movie recommendations based on demographic data.

This type of crowd-sourcing contest is not new, but the fact that the goal was an algorithm that would belong solely to Netflix and benefit the company in terms of revenue and customer loyalty makes the Netflix Prize kind of unusual. There was no "for the greater good" motive here. Netflix simply realized that it had maxed out its own brainpower to create its current recommendation system and needed help to make it better. To illustrate the type of brainpower that exists outside of a company's walls, the first team to beat Netflix's own system, which was five years in the making, did it in about three weeks.

The other key is the prize. There are plenty of crowd-sourcing options out there where people solve problems just for the satisfaction of finding answers. But the million-dollar prize attracted some of the most talented people, while keeping participants focused on the task and what others were doing. In many cases, teams realized they weren't getting any further on their own, so they joined forces with other groups. The winning team was actually a combination of two smaller teams.

There are companies out there whose business is facilitating this kind of crowd-sourcing. InnoCentive is sort of a marketplace for challenges, and NineSigma specializes in finding the right crowds for specific tasks. The Institute for Corporate Productivity is here to crowd-source your HR challenges. Is there a problem you're dealing with that could use some outside brainpower to solve? Post a question on our Website and call on the combined wisdom of our network of member companies and internal analysts. And while we might not have $1 million to give away or the capability to launch a spacecraft, it's quite likely someone else has already dealt with issues similar to yours and has some good solutions that could end up saving your day.

Thanks to David Wentworth Is An Associate At the Institute for Corporate Productivity. / AMA

Friday, December 4, 2009

Email Etiquettes - An Important Aspect of Professional Communication

Email etiquette and manners have been around for years, but they are far more important in this age than ever before. Implementing proper email etiquette into daily cyber communication should be a custom for everyone. A person, who displays proper etiquette while writing an email message, not only feels good about himself he also makes those around him feel important and respected. Email etiquette are important in a social environment, as well as in a business setting. Displaying proper email etiquette will get you noticed and, obviously, being noticed is great in many aspects.

Netiquettes

'Netiquettes' is the name given to the email etiquettes by the cyber gurus, which means the etiquettes of communication via Internet. Although netiquettes concerns all the various customs and conventions we follow when writing and sending messages through Internet, but in this article we will particularly discuss the emailing etiquettes of both the current employees and the job seekers.

People normally adopt email etiquettes by observing what others do, and gradually incorporate their actions into our own communications. We expect that after reading this article you would be able to develop your own style of writing an effective email.

Basic Manners Of Communication

"Please" and "Thank You" are two simple words, yet they carry a great deal of meaning and are very powerful. These words are the basic etiquettes of communication and are potentially influential on the sender's image. People may not notice these words when they are mentioned, but if you forget to use them, you will look disrespectful and ungrateful.

Be Brief and Concise

When writing an email for either a potential employer or a current boss, try to be to-the-point. Get to the subject of conversation as quickly and briefly as possible. However, in doing so, please do not leave out necessary details.

Accurate Spelling and Grammar

Accurate spellings and correct grammar are one of the most essential elements of email etiquettes. Do not try to guess the spellings of a word. Use the spell-checker; however, do not rely entirely on it. Good grammar is equally important. Usage of incorrect spellings or grammar in the email leaves an idea of an incompetent or careless correspondent.

Subject Line

Write the subject line in such a way that it summarizes the body of the e-mail. While writing the subject line, ask yourself, 'will the recipient know what this e-mail is all about'. A well-written subject line makes it easier for the receiver to understand the essence of the message.

Do Not Use Abbreviations

Usage of abbreviations in emails, sent from either a professional or a job seeker makes your message look awkward and unprofessional. People use 'U' instead of 'you', 'plz' instead of 'please', and 'thanx' instead of 'thank you'. It is fine to use abbreviations for personal emails or chat, but business email should have a formal format. Of course, frequently used abbreviations such as Mr. and Mrs., FYI, FYC, inc., and etc., are fine, but usage of slang language is not appropriate.

A Decent Email Address

Take a look at your email address. Is it appropriate enough to be sent to a prospective employer? Email addresses like prettygirl@isp.com are awkward and ridiculous for professional usage. Try to get a more formal address; perhaps your first initial and last name would be good. If do not want to change it for some reason, consider making a separate one for professional use only.

In case, you are working at a place and have a company registered email account, you are advised not to use it for job hunting purposes; use a personal account only.

Forgetting Attachments

If the reason for sending an email is to send a file, remember to include it. Professionals and job hunters, both sometimes forget to attach files, which results in absolute embarrassment. One strategy of avoiding such a blunder is to attach the file before writing the email.

Tone Of Communication

No matter who you are sending the email to, the pitch or tone of your professional communication should be moderate and respectable. Avoid writing your message using all upper case letters. It looks like you are shouting out your message. Also, do not use all lower case letters as it will make your email sound like you are mumbling.

Email writers often use 'emoticons' to convey a certain tone. If you write to someone frequently and you have a less formal relationship then emoticons are okay. However, if, you are writing to a prospective employer, it is better to stick to words only.

Confidentiality Of The Email

One should realize that emails are never confidential. It is laughably easy for others to read the contents of your email without your knowledge or permission. So, it is advised to avoid writing anything obnoxious or absurd in the emails.

Also, if you are working in a company and are using their official account, it becomes more likely that every email that you send and receive is scanned for certain words that are held 'unacceptable'. Emails with such content are isolated and are kept in a record. People can be restricted or even fired if continue to send or receive these kinds of emails frequently.

Replying To An Email

Writing a reply to an email is also very important and requires much concentration. Do not 'Reply to All', unless it is necessary. Perhaps only selected people need to see your email. Also, when replying to an e-mail, use the 'Reply' option in order to keep the message in the 'thread', and make it easier for the recipient to follow-up with the previous conversation.

An email may be your introduction to someone you have never met before. Job seekers should keep in mind what a prospective employer might think on receiving a poorly written message, because your correspondence says a lot about you and your personality. Under no circumstances should you use offensive language. Make sure that you paint your picture as  a respectful, friendly and approachable person in the receiver's mind. Take your time putting together a proper and well-written message and read it over several times before you send the email. Sometimes, just rearranging your paragraphs helps a lot. Once you hit 'Send' you would not have another chance to correct what you have written in the email message.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tips for Overcoming Degree Requirements in Job Ads

Marlene Sharp gained loads of business development experience working in the animation industry. "However, my degrees -- a master's and a bachelor's -- are in the arts," explains the Los Angeles resident. "Job postings advertise for a person with my marketing, business and legal affairs experience, but the possession of an MBA seems to be the deal-breaker. I've been rejected for at least one job outright because I lack an MBA."

Sharp isn't alone. In today's buyer's market, employers have reason to be picky when it comes to credentials and degrees.

"Companies that do this are usually trying to use the ad as a strong qualifier to cut down the massive number of resumes they receive," explains Bethel, Connecticut-based job coach Judi Perkins. "The company hopes the list of requirements will deter the bulk of the unrealistic submittals."
But if you've truly got everything it takes to do the job except the certification or degree, it's still worth applying. Here's how to increase your chances of landing an interview.

The Job Posting-Resume Match Game

"
Match as many requirements from the job spec as possible," says Barbara Safani, author of Happy About My Resume: 50 Tips For Building a Better Document to Secure a Brighter Future and owner of the Career Solvers in New York. "If they request that you know a certain software application that you don't have experience in, compare it to something similar that you do know or showcase a success where you had no knowledge of another application but learned it quickly. If you do not have a particular degree, show how you have been successful in your role despite this."

From that, develop talking points to use in
your cover letter and interviews. "These provide examples of how you have on-the-job experience in the various skill areas sought for the position," says Jenny Schade, president of JRS Consulting in Wilmette, Illinois. 

Do You Have a Mole in Your Professional Network?

As with any job search, it pays to have someone on the inside, or with inside information. "Seek out
your network and identify anyone that you may have a direct or indirect connection with who can help you secure an audience with the hiring manager or at minimum the company's corporate recruiter," suggests David Kimmelman, general manager of careers and jobs for CourseAdvisor/Avenue100 Media Solutions, a leading analytics-based performance marketing company in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Being recommended by someone the interviewer trusts can go a long way to establishing your credibility and get you in a door that might otherwise be closed.

While you've got them, review your bona fides with your connections and ask them for suggestions on
how to market yourself. "It's often useful to have someone else read the resume and the job description to see if the two match," says Daisy Swan, owner of Daisy Swan & Associates, a career coaching and consulting firm in Los Angeles. "Is the reader able to get it? If not, changes need to be made to more clearly get the skills and experience on the resume in an easy to digest way."

This done, you can start making contact.

Extreme Career Makeover?

It's also important to showcase your ability to learn new things. "If at any point in your professional life you have
reinvented yourself career-wise and/or made significant changes in the industries you have worked for, make a point to demonstrate it," Kimmelman says.

This helps prospective employers see that you can evolve and expand your skills and knowledge. This shows that even if you don't have the credentials they're looking for, you can quickly pick up what you need. Having references who can speak to your adaptability is also a great idea, again for the third-party credibility.

Project Confidence

Finally, don't underestimate the importance of
your attitude throughout the entire job search process. "Don't feel defensive or fearful that you aren't up to par -- it shows in your behavior, your choice of words and your tone of voice," Perkins says.

"If you have most of the requirements and success stories from your previous jobs, then you have something to contribute," she concludes. "Focus confidently on what you've got rather than worry about what you're missing."
 

A Succession Planning Exercise

Review your senior leadership positions. You might take the top 2% or 10%; whatever is a logical method to review your organization's top tier talent. It might be that you review all director and above positions, or VP and above. You may wish to review only positions in a certain pay grade and above.
 
As you review these positions, find out if there is a person or persons in the organization who could take that individual's position should it become vacant. Document who could fill the void, and/or make note if there is no one who could fill the position, should it become vacant. You might also make note of any imminent retirements in any key positions over the next few years as well. Once complete, you will have a clear understanding of which positions you need to plan recruiting for and when that recruiting might be coming online. Make this a subset of your strategic workforce plan.
 
After you complete this top talent succession planning exercise, compute the following ratio:
 
Numerator: the number of top-tier positions with at least one fully qualified person who is ready to take the place of the incumbent.
 
Denominator: the total number of top-tier positions assessed.
 
This is what Jac Fitz-enz refers to as the "human capital readiness level." According to Fitz-enz, "this is the percentage of key positions with at least one fully qualified (competent) person ready to take over now. Applying the readiness criterion to key positions yields a picture of what he calls the organization's "general human capital health."
 
As you make plans for succession over time, your ratio will go down. Track and measure this and share with your executives. This is a highly strategic exercise and of great value to your organization. Planning our workforce for the future, especially our key leadership positions, are the most important outcomes recruiting leaders can deliver to our organizations.
 
Thanks to by John Elliott / ere.net

Motivating Without Bonuses

Keeping Your Team Happy Without Cash

The practice of paying bonuses is not dead. In the financial sector, many banks have continued to pay bonuses - they use the somewhat circular argument that they need bonuses to retain good people because their competitors are paying bonuses. But in some companies and industries, bonuses are not an option.

So, if you're a manager in this situation, what are your options for motivating people without cash bonuses?

In this article, we'll look at some creative strategies for motivating and rewarding members of your team in a down economy.


Tip:
Some jobs attract large bonuses. Others don't. Significant bonuses are usually awarded when an individual's exceptional actions or initiative have a direct impact on the organization's revenue, which is why top salespeople will typically receive large bonuses.

By contrast, even senior managers in machine organizations may receive little in the way of bonuses - the success of the organization comes from people doing their everyday jobs smoothly and efficiently, and is not necessarily attributable to the exceptional initiative or performance of any one individual.

Non-Cash Financial Incentives

One of the most common non-bonus ways to reward and retain star employees is with stock or stock options. So, what's the difference between them?
  • Shares/Stocks - Many companies offer workers a set number of shares as a reward for good performance, or as a sign-on bonus. Workers can do whatever they want with these stocks: sell them, or hold onto them and hope that the value will increase.
  • Stock Options - Stock or share options give workers the right to buy stock in the future at a predetermined price. For instance, a company may promise to sell its people shares at a price of $45 one year from now. If they work hard and the share price is $75 after a year, then those workers can buy the stocks at the lower price - and then immediately sell them for a big profit.
Now, there are advantages and disadvantages to offering shares and options.

One of the biggest advantages has to do with worker motivation. The Employee Ownership Foundation recently conducted its 18th annual Economic Performance Survey. They found that 88.2% of the companies surveyed stated that their employee ownership programs helped the company. And, in a study they conducted with Rutgers University, they found that employee ownership programs increased sales, on average, by 2.3% per year. These programs also helped to increase staff retention compared with companies that did not have such programs. When workers feel they have a stake in the company's future, they're usually willing to work harder and stay in their jobs. This can be a big benefit for organizations.

Also, stocks and stock options are a great way to save money, especially during an economic downturn. Offering shares to workers allows companies to reward their teams without the financial cost of bonuses. This type of reward also helps align personal goals with company goals. After all, people get a bigger reward if the company does better, so it only makes sense that they work harder.

One big disadvantage, though, is that stocks and stock options aren't as attractive in a down economy, simply because people are so unsure of what the market is going to do. After all, what do workers do if the company offering a $45 stock option does poorly later in the year, so that when the team is able buy the shares, they're only worth $25? In that case, no one wins.

Another disadvantage is that existing shareholders - the owners of the company - often profoundly dislike stock grants and stock options. After all, if managers create new shareholders, they're diluting existing shareholdings - i.e. reducing the share of any profit that the existing shareholders will get.

Existing shareholders will only be happy for managers to award stock options if they, the existing shareholders, are likely to receive more as a result than they'd lose were it not done. There are only certain types of business and certain business situations in which this is likely to occur.


Tip:
If you'd like a more in-depth look at performance management, and how to align team goals with corporate goals, see our members' articles on Performance Management and KPIs and Understanding Strategic Compensation.

Non-Financial Bonuses

If you're in a company that used to pay bonuses but doesn't do so now, there are many other motivational rewards you can offer.

Start by finding out what your team members really value as individuals, because this might not be what you think. By taking the time to determine what's really important to your people, you can offer rewards that really mean something to them.

Here are a few non-financial bonuses that companies can offer their people in this down economy:
  • Flexible Scheduling - Many people, especially those with families, would really appreciate a shorter or more flexible workweek. So, consider offering people within your team the option of working four 10-hour days, or of cutting back on their hours entirely. This might be a welcome reward. Also, letting them leave early on certain days is another possibility.
  • Additional Vacation Time - Many companies offer their people increased vacation time, as well as extended time off (sabbaticals), instead of bonus checks/cheques. People can use this time to spend with family, take a long trip, or even go back to school.
  • Telecommuting Options - If your company doesn't need everyone in the office every day, why not allow trusted team members to work at home? Working from home is often more comfortable, and it can save workers money on gas and lunches out.
  • Additional Training - Some people might really value improving their education or work skills. Offering them classes or extra training might be appreciated.
  • A Relaxed Environment - Some companies are starting to let their team members go without shoes. (No, we're not kidding!) Letting workers walk around in their stocking feet (keeping their shoes at their desks in case clients come in) is not only relaxing, but it also helps them feel more "at home" with one another. You might think about relaxing the dress code as well.
  • Volunteer Time - Many companies offer their team members one or more paid days off each month to volunteer at an organization that really means something to them. This is a great way to raise morale, and help your local community at the same time.
For more ideas on how to motivate your team creatively, read our articles Rewarding Your Team and Managing During a Downturn (members only).

It's important to make your team aware of the financial value of these benefits. For instance, if you offer your team an additional week of vacation, how much is this worth to each of them? Let them know the numbers so they can appreciate how much these benefits are "worth."


When Your Team Wants Cash, But Can't Have It

Inevitably, some team members will be really upset that they can't have a "traditional" financial bonus, particularly if they're depending on it financially. And while you must acknowledge their feelings, it's important to be honest with them.

Make sure workers understand the company's financial situation. The more your team knows about what's going on, the more likely they'll be to make allowances. So, communicate openly.

Work with your staff. If you really want to retain someone, then examine how you can give that person more money without a bonus. For example, could you provide a company phone or car, saving the person money?

If you have to, be totally - and brutally - honest. If people know that their bonuses will cost themselves (or one of their colleagues) their jobs, they might realize that the bonus is not that important after all.

Tip:
Be aware that you risk losing genuine star performers to your competitors if you stop paying bonuses. You either need to accept this, or you may need to fund an exceptional bonus, recognizing all of the anger and dissatisfaction that this may cause to other people. This can be a painful dilemma for managers!

Key Points

When the economy is struggling, it's even more important to retain your best workers. Make sure they're happy - there are plenty of ways to keep them motivated without a bonus check/cheque.

Stocks or stock options are always a great idea if your company can offer them, but this alternative might be less appealing when the market is down. Other rewards - like flexible scheduling or additional vacation time - might motivate your team more, and they won't cost your company much, particularly if business is slow
.
 
Thanks to James Manktelow / Mind Tools

Top Ten Reasons Why Policies and Procedures Don't Work

We always start our Well-Defined Processes Class by asking the participants "what's wrong with your policies and procedures where you work?" and we always get the same answers.  Students come to the class from different industries, companies, and geographies and yet we still get the same answers every time.

People tell us how hard it is to keep their procedures up-to-date.  Information gets stale fast and it is difficult keeping procedures current and relevant without becoming outdated.  One reason for this is that the procedures are too long in the first place.  If you have a 35-page procedure then, yes, it is difficult to keep all 35 pages up-to-date.  Especially, if the procedure is unclear, overly complicated or just too difficult to understand in the first place.

Another reason procedures are not current is because they are not followed.  If your people were using the procedures then they would get updated with the latest information.  An unused procedure is one that is not updated either.  Revisions are an indicator of usage and revisions help to create effective procedures.

Why don't people follow procedures?

Perhaps your people can't find your procedures.  Maybe they don't even know you have a procedure.  And when they go to look for one, if they can't find it on the server where it is supposed to be they figure you don't have one.  That means your configuration management is suspect.  An uncontrolled procedure implies your system is out of control.

I have also seen procedures that were too simple or generic.  If your procedures are not offering helpful information then your employees will not have a reason to use them.  Poorly written procedures are just as bad as a procedure that are too generic.  If your procedures are incorrect or wrong, of course people will not use them.

Sometimes procedures are just poorly designed without a good format to navigate your way around.  An inconsistent format that changes with every department can confuse the readers.  It helps to think about who procedures are written for when designing your procedures.  Procedures are training aids.  So, frequent users don't really need the procedure at all.  Occasional users need a reminder of what needs to get done and novice users need a lot of description.  Perhaps more than you can or will want to put into a procedure.  In this case novices should use the work instruction.

So what are the Top Ten Reasons Why Policies and Procedures Don't Work?

  1. Procedures are out of date.
  2. Procedures are too long and wordy.
  3. Procedures are unclear, complicated or difficult to understand.
  4. Procedures are not used or followed.
  5. Procedures are hard to find or locate.
  6. Procedures are uncontrolled or out of control.
  7. Procedures are too generic, general or simplistic.
  8. Procedures are incorrect, wrong or poorly written.
  9. Procedures are poorly designed or hard to navigate.
  10. Procedures are inconsistent using different formats.

How to make your procedures work for you

I couldn't leave you with just the problem.  To understand how to make your procedures work you need to fix each of the problems.

  1. Develop a system that keeps your procedures current using intranets, social media constructs (blogs, wikis, SharePoint), software, or new knowledge management systems.
  2. Keep your procedures short and succinct so it is easier to update them.
  3. Use pictures, graphics, and examples to illuminate what you expect.
  4. Incorporate your procedures into the job at the point of use.
  5. Develop a system with easy access (see 1 above), make them searchable online, or make them part of the job (see 4 above).
  6. Revision control is required for ISO and must be part of the job (see 1 & 4 above).
  7. Eliminate generic procedures entirely and save paper.
  8. Keep procedures updated and useful and they won't be wrong (see 1 & 4 above).
  9. Create a common format as part of your document control.
  10. Discipline the organization to follow your procedures.  If they are part of the job then they are more likely to be followed (see 4 above).

Now you know the secrets to writing effective policies and procedures and ensuring that they are used.

Thanks to Bizmanualz

Friday, November 20, 2009

Managing the Five Styles of Communication

Your employees need to be able to interact with end users, staff from other departments and members of the executive team not only to solve technical issues but also make a case for investments or projects your group deems critical. However, everyone has a different communication style, which affects their relationships with others and the ability to collaborate.

As a manager, understanding individual approaches to communication can help you maximize staff performance. Here are five common types of communicators and tips for helping them communicate more effectively:

The Over-Communicator - This person shares too much information. For instance, when asked to summarize progress on a project, he or she gives you a whole host of irrelevant details, such as the amount of time it took to install every application on a desktop.

You can help minimize this problem by setting clear guidelines: "Due to time constraints at this meeting, discussion of your requests for the 2010 budget should be limited to three minutes" or "Please keep status reports to between 300 and 400 words."

The Under-Communicator - You're often left confused after communicating with this individual because you are given little information. The key to helping this person become an effective speaker or writer is to set specific objectives. For instance, rather than saying, "Tell me about your discussion with XYZ vendor," try: "After talking to XYZ vendor, e-mail me details about the product, pricing and ease of implementation, as well as your opinion about whether it's a good option for our needs."

Sometimes people give succinct responses to questions because they think you're too busy to want additional information, so explain when you value the finer details.

The Poor Communicator - Not everyone is equally comfortable communicating both verbally and in written form. An IT professional might get extremely nervous when training a large group on a new application but provide a brilliant written document explaining the software instead.

In these situations, try to tap into individual strengths as much as possible while also doing your part to help the person improve the area in which he or she is weak. Small investments in training often can make all the difference in allowing a Poor Communicator to boost his or her skills.

The Aggressive Communicator - You want employees who are passionate about their work, but Aggressive Communicators often take it too far; refusing to listen to other perspectives. Managers need to stay on top of this type of behavior and set limits, especially during brainstorming sessions where all ideas should be encouraged. If the person has a valid suggestion, recommend the individual submit to you a formal proposal in writing. This gives the employee an outlet for sharing ideas while enabling discussions at meetings to move forward.

The Passive Communicator - This staff member is the quiet type, who tends to agree with what is said, doesn't voice his or her opinion, and rarely commits to a strategy or idea. While it may be nice to have someone in your group who doesn't make waves, you also want an active participant in the team's success.

To encourage greater involvement within the group, remind the person of how critical it is to speak up and also make an effort to ask for the person's feedback. Recognize, too, that the person could be nervous offering candid comments in front of others and may become more vocal if allowed to share his or her opinions one-on-one or in writing.

Remember that your employees' communication skills and style reflect on you and your department. If people can't get the information they need from your staff, they are likely to see your group as unhelpful or ineffective. Do your part as a leader by being clear about expectations, working to bring out the best in your staff, and supporting training and mentoring as improvement strategies. At the same time, recognize that much will come down to the individual's desire to succeed, so consider including communication abilities within performance review criteria.

Thanks to Dave Willmer Is Executive Director Of Robert Half Technology / CIOupdate

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Burnt Toast

It is hard to refute that relationships are like glass mirrors that need to be handled with care. A thoughtless word or a careless action can harm a relationship beyond repair.

This reminds me of an incident that happened when I was a little girl. As usual my mom returned from work very tired. Even I was able to understand how hard the day should have been for her. She prepared dinner for us.
 
After some time my dad joined us for dinner. My mom placed a plate of fruits and very badly burnt toast in front of him. I noticed it and felt bad. I thought my dad would not like it. But he surprised me by reaching for his toast with a smile; he looked at me and kindly asked me how my day was at school. He went on silently smearing butter and jelly on the toast and ate it with relish! I wondered how he could savor it.
 
I heard my mom apologizing to my dad for burning the toast. His reply was simply, "I love you darling. I liked it."
 
When I went to kiss him good night, I asked him if he really liked his toast burnt. He embraced me and said, "Dear, How tired your mom should have been to let the toast become burnt? A little burnt toast is not going to hurt me. You know, imperfect things do have their places in life. Am I the best man in the world? Am I in any way better housekeeper or cook than your mom? Perfection is always a target and we should keep on moving towards it. We are always in the midst of imperfection and trying to improve. We should not hate imperfect things and imperfect people, though we should passionately try to become perfect."
 
That night I lay awake for a long time, pondering over what my dad had said and the truth in his words.
 
I learnt that sincere and ceaseless attempt to become faultless did not necessarily imply anger and hatred towards imperfection; it is the most important principle to develop and foster healthy and lasting relationships in life. My dad is no more but his words of wisdom guide me for ever. He always said and meant – "Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you".
 
All of us should learn to take the good and bad, the ugly and beautiful, the friendly and inimical factors of our relationships with equanimity; thank God for His Grace, and pray to Him to bless us; to help us progress with love towards perfection. He alone can give us a relationship that is not so fragile as to get broken by a burnt toast. For any relationship, let it be that of parent and child, husband and wife, teacher and student, boss and employer and so on, if we make the foundation of 'understanding' strong, we can definitely move towards perfection and no imperfection can impede us.
 
Thanks to Sarda Mohan / K S Venkataraman Is the Associate Editor, Dynamic Youth Online Magazine.