Saturday, March 28, 2009

5 Ways to Keep a Job During a Recession: Tips for Improving Job Performance

In the turbulent, toss-about world of work in America, all kinds of people are worried about getting fired. Who among us hasn't seen a helpful, smart, hard-working person get laid off? Being let go is not for last place performers anymore. Everyone is at risk.

Can you avoid the pink slip? You can sure try. While no one may guarantee you a gig these days, here are five ways to keep your job during a recession and improve your job performance.

1. Talk Directly to Your Manager About How to Improve Job Performance

Lay it all out on the table and sincerely ask for advice from your boss about your situation. You're not asking them to butter you up or paint a rosy picture. You're asking for the truth.

Ron Mitchell, career coach and founder and CEO of New York City-based Gotta Mentor, advises on some good questions to ask your boss regarding job performance, "You should take control of this process. In this meeting you should ask two questions. First, what can I improve upon? Second, what additional things can I do to help you do your job better?"

Is asking your boss about job performance considered kissing boss booty? Maybe a bit, but your manager is likely under a lot of stress, too, so finding ways to help them and make them look better means your less likely to be sent packing.

2. Learn Other People's Jobs

It sounds calculating, but it's true. One of the best ways to keep your job during a recession is to increase your value to your employer. If you can do the work of two, you have a better chance of out-staying your peers. As with any worthwhile fitness program, you must cross-train for greater strength and resiliency. Sean Ebner, regional vice president of the IT outplacement firm, Technisource, emphasizes why this productivity makes a difference, saying, "Make it so that two people would have to replace your work effort, not just half of a person."

And, once you pick up some new job skills or strengthen old ones, let people know. Executive coach Peggy Klaus says, "Connect the dots for people and show them how your strengths can be utilized in other departments, capacities, or fields."

3. Be Profitable

If you're not clear how your work either makes the company money or cuts costs - or both - you'd be wise to figure that out soon. If you need help, talk to trusted friends, co-workers and even your boss. Letting your boss know that you're trying to improve your job performance and contribution to the bottom line can't hurt. Plus, it reminds them of how essential you are.

Klaus says, "Be certain that the results you are focusing on and producing are the ones your boss and company value most. Translation: efficiency, cost-cutting and revenue."

4. Toot Your Own Horn - Loudly!

No one appreciates arrogance, but staying quiet about your job performance and contributions isn't wise right now. Whatever you do to move the company forward - stay late to complete a project, have a great call with a client, train someone else in a new skill or improve your output - make sure that your boss knows about it. Your resourcefulness and willingness to work hard are attributes most managers want to keep in-house.
John M McKee, founder and CEO of, says "Successful professionals don't wait to get noticed while they toil away on a project."

5. Rise Up and Take Command

Amidst the devastation that layoffs leave behind, you have a unique opportunity to collect the remaining pieces and move quickly into management. As Allison Hemming, founder of The Hired Guns talent agency says, "Be the phoenix. This could be your opportunity to rise to the top." She recommends that when departments are combined, "Take advantage of a re-shuffled deck. Management will be looking for new leaders to prevail."

Plus, that way, when the company is back on its feet, you'll be a time-tested veteran who helped lead everyone through the worst of times. Your job could be more secure and well-paid than ever.

Are Some Layoffs Simply Inevitable?

All advice aside, don't be too hard on yourself. Many experts agree that you can only do so much to protect yourself from a layoff. Sometimes, even your best won't be enough.

Ron Mitchell reminds you to chin up and stand proud should that moment come, "One thing this current job environment has taught us is that no one is immune to layoffs. Companies have for the past few rounds of layoffs been cutting bone not fat. They are laying off people that have been doing a good job."

By Bridget Quigg


How to Fight Road Rage

Often Played for Laughs, Road Rage Is a Real Phenomenon With Serious Consequences For Driver Safety and Society

Consider the following recent sobering reports:

  • A motorist shot and killed the driver of another car "because he was driving too slowly."
  • A large crowd was blocking the parking lot exit of a nightclub. A driver who was growing impatient with waiting for an opening drove his car straight into the crowd, seriously injuring seven people.
  • When Jack Nicholson got cut off, the actor waited until both he and the other driver were stopped at a red light, then got out of his car, and hit the windshield and roof of the other car with his golf club. He returned to his car and drove away.

Of course, you wouldn't do such things. Or would you?

You might, because road rage is remarkably common. In one survey of more than 500 drivers, 90 percent reported that during the past year they either were a victim of road rage or had witnessed it. These statistics actually may be underestimates. For one thing, many respondents may not want to admit to road rage because it is socially undesirable. Also, more people report being the target rather than the initiator of road rage, supporting the idea that initiators may not be fessing up.

Psychologist Elisabeth Wells-Parker of Mississippi State University and her associates have suggested that the term "road rage" implies specific incidents of anger and aggression directed intentionally at another driver, vehicle or object. When the behavior erupts, the presence of firearms can worsen the situation. As physician Matthew Miller of the Harvard School of Public Health and his colleagues have pointed out, 11 percent of a randomly selected sample of 790 drivers reported that they always or sometimes carried a gun (usually loaded) in their vehicle.

Who Are These People?

Anybody can be susceptible. Road ragers are men and women, young and old, rich and poor, mentally disturbed and healthy, people with and without generalized anger problems, and members of various ethnicities. Some become angry almost every time they drive, whereas others do so infrequently. Although aggressive retaliation, such as assault or murder, characterizes the extreme end of these behaviors, most crabby drivers engage in milder displays, such as verbal insults, obscene gestures, honking their horn, cutting off other drivers and chasing other cars.

Still, research does point to some similarities among those who are susceptible to belligerent acts when behind the wheel. People with aggressive tendencies across a variety of situations, including home and work, have an increased likelihood of road rage. Younger drivers are more prone than older drivers are. Men have historically displayed a greater predilection, although women recently have been catching up. Many road ragers are otherwise model citizens who are successful in work and in relationships and well respected in their communities.

Why do some people get angry and even violent in response to the irritating behavior of other drivers, whereas others do not? Psychologist Jerry Deffenbacher of Colorado State University has proposed that some people have a trait for, or predisposition toward, this type of behavior that is triggered by the poor driving of other motorists. Many of his studies have found that those who display lower levels of the trait are far less likely to respond with road rage, even when exposed to the same triggers.

Other researchers have tried to uncover the nature of this trait, and their studies have found that those prone to road rage may show one or more of a variety of characteristics: general aggression (not limited to driving), high levels of stress, antisocial tendencies, or low impulse control and frustration tolerance. Researchers have also demonstrated that road ragers are sensitive to supposed attacks on their self-esteem. For example, in the clinical practice of one of us (Arkowitz), people with road rage problems perceived the irksome behaviors of other drivers as a sign of disrespect and a personal insult rather than attributing those behaviors to the other drivers' carelessness or recklessness. Arkowitz found it useful to help clients learn that "it is not about you." Certain psychological problems have also been found to relate to the road rage trait, including antisocial and borderline personality disorders as well as alcohol and substance abuse.

It is apparent that road ragers represent a very mixed bag of people. They may have only one of the attributes described above or several characteristics, or they may have other features we have yet to discover. Regardless of the initiating factors, however, road ragers seem to respond to various types of therapies.

Prevention and Treatment

Although prevention is the best option, studies have shown that treatment can be effective as well. Deffenbacher conducted two experiments in which subjects received either training in re­laxation only or training in relaxation along with other therapies intend­ed to change subjects' dysfunctional thoughts about driving. In general, subjects did better with either of the two treatments than with no treatment. These studies were well designed, but we need to be cautious about generalizing the results to the wider population because all subjects were college students and thus do not represent the full range of road ragers.

Recently psychologist Tara E. Galovski of the University of Missouri–St. Louis and her colleagues evaluated a group treatment for road rage aimed at adults who were either self-referred or court-referred. Treatment consisted of four weekly two-hour sessions that included education about road rage and anger, recognition of being an angry driver, relaxation techniques, coping skills and training in different ways to think about anger-eliciting driving situations. Those who received treatment did far better than those who did not and curbed their aggressive behavior by more than 60 percent on average.

In addition to combating the problem with treatments for individuals, policy leaders could make changes that might reduce road rage in society at large. Sociologist Mark Asbridge of Dalhousie University in Halifax and his associates have made interesting recommendations. One of these is new or increased penalties for road rage. Laws already cover extreme forms, such as assault and dangerously aggressive driving. Asbridge and his co-workers suggest the possible value of broader adoption of an Australian national law that stipulates that drivers must not drive so as to "menace" other persons by threat of personal injury or property damage. Other ideas include mass-media education about road rage and how to avoid it, societal changes such as reducing traffic congestion and promoting public transportation, court programs for convicted road ragers, and redesign of cars to prevent excessive headlight flashing and horn blowing; some cars have already been designed to prevent tailgating.

We conclude with a brief anecdote. Arkowitz used to drive to work on a road that prominently displayed a billboard advertising a funeral home. It showed a picture of the funeral home, along with five simple, but powerful, words: "Drive carefully, we can wait." We hope that greater awareness of road rage and its treatments will help keep them waiting for a long time to come.

Note: This article was originally printed with the title, "Road Warriors". / By Hal Arkowitz and Scott O. Lilienfeld / Courtesy Of Scientific American Mind


Low-Cost Ways to Motivate Employees

Aside from cutting expenses, delaying payment of bills, ramping up collections and altering their business models, employers can try low-cost ways to motivate their employees to increase revenue and profitability, according to Suzanne Bates, author of Motivate Like a CEO: Communicate Your Strategic Vision and Inspire People to Act!

"Money is only one of many factors that motivate employees. When people enjoy their jobs, like their co-workers, and believe their pay is basically fair, they don't focus so much on their compensation," says Bates, president and CEO of Bates Communications.

Among the low-cost and no-cost ways to keep people motivated in challenging times, according to "Motivate Like a CEO," are:

• Send Out E-mails Thanking Employees Each Week. "Take a few minutes each Friday to e-mail your team, highlighting something each person has achieved that week. If you have a small company, you can actually mention everybody. This is an empowering exercise, not only because you make other people feel good, but it also forces you to look at what's going right," says Bates.

• Have a "Connection Day" Where You Connect With Customers. "Set aside one day per quarter to get in touch with your clients and prospects, and find out how they are doing. Ask them questions about their projects, thank them for the opportunity to work with them. When appropriate, offer in some small way to provide assistance or advice at no charge. Write handwritten notes, and send e-mails with attachments to articles they may want to read," says Bates.

• Use Down Time to Send Employees to Seminars Where They Can Learn Something New. "There are many low-cost or no-cost professional development opportunities. Many area business meetings are low-cost and provide high value, as do some marketing events for companies. By giving employees an afternoon off each month, they'll get a break while improving their skills and knowledge," Bates says.

• Hold Morning "Standup Meetings." "Each morning, before heading into offices or cubicles, stand in a circle and share what's happening in a 15-minute session. Even when facing challenges or disappointments, people are there to boost each other and offer help. It's an empowering way to start the day," says Bates.

• Bring People Together To Share Business Success Stories. "Storytelling is very important in boosting employee morale," notes Bates. "The pre-meeting assignment is to come in with a story about a successful project or customer interaction, and explore what you learned, and how it can be applied to your present situation. Write down these stories and use them again in the company newsletter, employee presentations and weekly e-mails."

• Use the Company Newsletter To Highlight Successes. "Make the newsletter something people enjoy reading. Ask employees to contribute stories. Be creative in looking for fun ways to reward and recognize good work," says Bates.

• Create Small Employee Awards and Hand Them Out Often. "Buy a few trophies and give them out monthly. These are always best when they encourage employees to do the things that are going to make a difference in your business," Bates says.

• Walk Around Often, and Tell People They're Doing a Great Job. "In times like these, we tend to hunker down in our offices and stare at balance sheets. Our energy is low and our anxiety is high," adds Bates. "Make it a point to stop people in the halls, go into their offices, and thank them or congratulate them every day. Tell them how much their work means to you, and how vital they are to the future of the company."
Thanks to "Sales & Marketing Management Magazine".


Friday, March 27, 2009

15 Personal Skills You Need On the Job

Employers are looking for workers who have that special something: the skills, tendencies and attributes that help to keep productivity—and

What are they? Businesses are looking for employees with strong "personal" skills, according to ACT research. Keep these in mind, because employers certainly are.

Carefulness: Do you have a tendency to think and plan carefully before acting? This helps with reducing the chance for costly errors, as well as keeping a steady workflow going.

Cooperation: Willingness to engage in interpersonal work situations is very important in the workplace.

Creativity: You've heard of "thinking outside the box"? Employers want innovative people who bring a fresh perspective.

Discipline: This includes the ability to keep on task and complete projects without becoming distracted or bored.

Drive: Businesses want employees who have high aspiration levels and work hard to achieve goals.

Good Attitude: This has been shown to predict counterproductive work behaviors, job performance and theft.

Goodwill: This is a tendency to believe others are well-intentioned.

Influence: Groups need strong leaders to guide the way. Influence includes a tendency to positively impact social situations by speaking your mind and becoming a group leader.

Optimism: A positive attitude goes a long way toward productivity.

Order: "Where did I put that?" A tendency to be well organized helps employees to work without major distractions or "roadblocks."

Safe Work Behaviors: Employers want people who avoid work-related accidents and unnecessary risk-taking in a work environment.

Savvy: This isn't just about job knowledge, but knowledge of coworkers and the working environment. It includes a tendency to read other people's motives from observed behavior and use this information to guide one's thinking and action.

Sociability: How much you enjoy interacting with coworkers affects how well you work with them.

Stability: This means a tendency to maintain composure and rationality in stressful work situations.

Vigor: This is a tendency to keep a rapid tempo and keep busy.
Article Provided Courtesy Of ACT, An Independent, Nonprofit Organization.


Stress Management - Rest & Relax

A lecturer was giving a lecture to his student on stress management.
He raised a glass of water and asked the audience, "How heavy do you think this glass of water is?" The students' answers ranged from 20g to 500gm.
It does not matter on the absolute weight. It depends on how long you hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it is OK. If I hold it for an hour, I will have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you will have to call an ambulance.
It is the exact same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, we will not be able to carry on, the burden becoming increasingly heavier.
What you have to do is to put the glass down, rest for a while before holding it up again. We have to put down the burden periodically, so that we can be refreshed and are ! able
to carry on.
So before you return home from work tonight, put the burden of work down. Don't carry it
back home. You can pick it up tomorrow. Whatever burdens you are having now on your shoulders, let it down for a moment if you can. Pick it up again later when you have rested.
Rest and relax. Life is short, enjoy it!! Cheers!!!!!
By Pravs J

13 Most Annoying People to Work With

Most of us have had colleagues over the years who turned annoying into an art form. Well, now it's a classifiable art form. Career experts Christine Lambden and Casey Connor, authors of the new book, "Everyday Practices of Extraordinary Consultants," have compiled a list of "The 13 Most Annoying People to Work With." How many of these does your company still have on its payroll?

• Pontification Person. This person goes on and on, telling you what he or she is going to say, saying it, and then telling you what he or she said.

• Um Person.To avoid losing control of the conversation, this co-worker fills every pause with "Um," not realizing he or she might be able to think better when not talking.

• Too Much Detail Person. The authors could elaborate on this one, but then, of course, that would be contributing to the problem.

• 50,000-Foot-Only Person. He or she is eloquent when you talk about the big picture, but refuses to allow anyone to get into the details, which we all know is where the real work gets done. "Unless you're the CEO of a multinational corporation," say Lambden and Connor, "you have to be willing to work at any altitude."

• Hypnotized-by-E-mail Person. Wireless technology can be a lifesaver, but there's something defeating about presenting to the tops of people's heads because everyone at the conference table is hunched over his or her laptop.

• Buzzword Person. "This employee is annoying in meetings, team rooms, and in cubicles," say Lambden and Connor. "In fact, this person is just plain annoying all the time."

• Foul Language Person. Much like Buzzword Person, this co-worker is too lazy to think of the right words to express what he or she is thinking, if, indeed, he or she is thinking at all. This person isn't trying to impress you with his or her knowledge. "They aren't trying to impress you at all," Lambden and Connor note. "They don't care what you think of them." Refreshing on some level, but probably not a person you'd want on your team.

• Reiteration Person. The only contribution this person makes is to restate what already was said. So, basically, he or she actually has no contribution to make.

• Too Busy to Be Prompt Person. He or she always is late to work and every meeting, clearly lacking time management skills. Nobody can be working on something important all the time, after all.

• Can't Control the Meeting Person and arch-nemesis Wants to Take Over the Meeting Person. There has to be some balance between the out-of-control ditherer and the maniacal meetings dictator, doesn't there?

• Secondary Conversation People. Your best material often isn't riveting, but staffers at least could pretend to care. But Lambert and Connor point out these workers "only are annoying if their conversation is less interesting than the meeting."

• Disagrees With Everything Person. "This co-worker honestly believes he is just being practical, or serving as the voice of reason, or playing devil's advocate," the authors point out. "This may be true sometimes, and even helpful occasionally, but when it becomes a habit, everyone else just tunes them out."

• Obscure Metaphor Person. This employee is as annoying as "the fool in a troupe of Morris dancers," say Lambden and Connor. "See? Wasn't that annoying?"
By Margery Weinstein


Top 5 Mistakes Leaders Make In Tough Times

Things getting a little desperate these days? Be careful that you don't do something you'll regret, says guest columnist Eileen McDargh, a professional speaker and business consultant on change management, life balance, and leadership development. Here are her top five management mistakes (plus a bonus).
Mistake #1: Become Reactive & Reactionary.

There is truth in the old saying, "Respond in haste. Regret in sorrow." When leaders fail to gather information and critically assess the long-term impact of decisions, severe errors are made. Consider the Big Three auto executives who knee-jerked their way on private planes to ask for a handout without ever having a plan. Now that's a bonehead mistake.
Before acting, stop and breathe. Think long-term strategy. Be cautious. Be proactive. Test your decisions by saying, "If this... then this..."
Mistake #2: Huddle With Only the Corporate Folks.

First, answers are often found at the floor level, not at the ceiling. Involve everyone in the search for efficiencies and innovations. Engage everyone in a common vision and mission. How refreshing to have the Obama team now posting discussions on the Internet and seeking input from a variety of people with differing viewpoints. Building transparency goes a long way toward building trust and making us all feel we are part of the solution.
Mistake #3: Cut. Cut. Cut.

No company has ever downsized its way to greatness. Underserved customers and too much work to be done by too few people are examples of the costs of wholesale terminations. These are cuts that could have been done with a scalpel instead of a hacksaw.
Canceling a meeting? This is the time to gather and candidly talk. Substitute Jell-O for Jamoca fudge and two-buck chuck for filet mignon but bring people together.
As for layoffs—if your organization or department can handle this—bring everybody together and lay out the facts. One very smart leader found that employees were willing to reduce work schedules, work half-time, and job share rather than have members of their team terminated.
Mistake #4: Go After New Clients & Customers.

Unless your current customers have vanished because of poor quality or service, they can be your best source of new revenue. Ask how you can turn them into champions of what you provide. Make them feel special and valuable. I've noticed that my bank is now making every effort to thank me for my business, to call me by name, to answer any request with a "no problem" attitude. Sure, they should have been doing that all along, but better late than never.
Mistake #5: Do More With Less.

In my consulting practice, I have often found that much of the "more" is work that provides no value at the end of the day. Scrutinize every process; get rid of the sacred cows and the egos. Translate every action into a dollar value.
In one organization, we found senior executives tripping over each other to put their two cents into every new PowerPoint® presentation. It was a waste of executive talent, made each project longer than necessary, disempowered the employees creating the presentations, and actually used up some $15,000 worth of senior management time!
Bonus Mistake: Buy into Pessimism.
It's a huge mistake we all make when we let the news of the day drive us to hiding under the covers, chopping up the furniture for kindling, and searching for recipes made with bread and water. What we have is an opportunity to really consider what is most important, to spend time at work that is meaningful, and to nurture relationships that matter. We have an opportunity to reclaim our reputation, our integrity, and our future.
Not to do this would be our biggest mistake.
Eileen McDargh's Newest Book, "Gifts from the Mountain", received the "2008 Ben Franklin Book Award".
By Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The New Science of Hair Growth

Brandishing a syringe the size of a caulking gun, hair-transplant surgeon James Harris, M.D., injects local anesthetic into the scalp of a male patient, a married financial analyst in his early forties who has asked not to be identified. We'll call him Scott. For five hours, I've been watching Dr. Harris perform a hair transplant called surgically advanced follicular extraction, or SAFE. A follicular unit is a miniature, self-contained hair factory embedded in the skin. Each square centimeter of human scalp contains 80 to 120 follicular units, and each of those has one to four hairs.

Though Scott is sitting upright, his scalp is a gruesome battlefield. Rivulets of blood seep from thousands of BB-size puncture wounds. A trash can is brimming with blood-soaked gauze. But Scott feels nothing. He's watching CNBC's financial roundup on a wall-mounted TV while thumbing through e-mails on his BlackBerry, oblivious to the mayhem topside.

Dr. Harris is using a motorized tool he designed himself, in a procedure that, for all its bloodshed, represents the current state-of-the-art in baldness treatment. The instrument has a blunt hollow tube that lets Dr. Harris make incisions less than a millimeter wide, in rapid-fire succession, around clusters of hairs without damaging the underlying follicles. It's painstaking work. I watched earlier as Dr. Harris donned mantislike headgear (dual loupes with six-fold magnification) and extracted follicular units from a band of hair between Scott's ears, a region of scalp hair docs call the "horseshoe fringe." In virtually all men, this fringe is impervious to balding, a vestigial result of genes that dictate how skin forms during fetal development.

By the time he's through, Dr. Harris will have made 1,045 incisions along the front and top of Scott's head, enough to accommodate the same number of follicular units removed from his fringe. An assistant counts the extracted follicular units under a microscope, tabulating the number of individual units and the number of hairs protruding from each one. Single-hair units are reserved for the front to create a feathered widow's peak. "I want to avoid a wall of hair jutting from the forehead," explains Dr. Harris, citing a common blunder of botched transplants. "SAFE is a lot less traumatic than other transplant procedures, such as a surgery in which a strip of scalp is extracted, because it's minimally invasive." Even so, the procedure looks medieval, and it's hard to believe this gory mélange will have a happy ending.

Hair transplants have improved dramatically in the past 10 years, although in the hands of unskilled surgeons, mishaps can occur that leave patients with gruesome doll heads. But transplants remain hamstrung for a more fundamental reason: You can shuffle only so many hairs from fringe to forelock. This is Scott's fourth surgery, and at this point he's simply running out of hair. It's a dwindling game of musical chairs that confounds surgeons and frustrates patients. The average age for undergoing a hair transplant is 40, but hair is doomed long before that. To be precise, its fate is decided in utero, during the tenth week of pregnancy, when the human fetus is the size of a peanut shell. That's when the fingers and toes take shape and the brain starts to evolve. It's also when the hair follicles form—roughly 5 million over the entire body. This number is fixed: After exiting the womb, the human body can't produce a single additional follicle.

That's why a revolutionary technique known as hair cloning, or hair multiplication, holds so much promise. It changes the game because it gives transplant surgeons an endless supply of follicular units to restore the vanishing manes of their patients. Researchers in a handful of labs around the world have been testing the technique on mice with impressive results. Several start-ups have formed, and these companies are racing to complete successful human clinical trials. It could have a profound effect on the landscape: Male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, affects 40 million men in America. Although it doesn't have any known physical downsides, the specter of premature aging and the perception of waning virility and diminished sexual attractiveness can be mentally debilitating and lead to personal, social, and work-related problems, according to Nigel Hunt, Ph.D., an associate professor of applied psychology at the University of Nottingham, in England. In 66 percent of men, hair follicles start to shrink around age 35 (in some men, it starts at age 21), causing hair to thin. By age 50, hair follicles are dying and 85 percent of men have significantly thinning hair. For these men, the cure for balding can't come soon enough.

The Dawn Of Hair Cloning

The eureka moment for Colin Jahoda, M.D., Ph.D., and Amanda Reynolds, Ph.D.—a husband-and-wife team of biologists at the University of Durham, in England—involved an experiment that also served as a nerdy version of a "Colin Forever" tattoo. Dr. Jahoda removed a hair follicle from his head, put it under a microscope, and snipped off a cluster of dermal papilla cells, which are located in a bulb at the root of the shaft. He then nicked his wife's forearm with a scalpel and transplanted the cells. A few days later, a thick tuft of dark hair (complete with Dr. Jahoda's male DNA) emerged. The experiment demonstrated, for the first time, the possibility of growing hair from transplanted dermal papilla cells. It seemed the two had found a new treatment for hair loss. Yet they soon discovered that, once removed from the body, dermal papilla cells quickly lose their ability to make hair if they are not transplanted immediately.

Angela Christiano, Ph.D., a professor of dermatology and genetics and development at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, collaborates closely with Dr. Jahoda on hair-related research. "Not long after you remove them, the cells don't even know they're dermal papillae anymore," says Christiano, who is sitting in her office behind a desk piled two feet high with books and papers. "It's like taking an Etch-a-Sketch and shaking it," she says. "You erase their identity."

The Jahoda-Reynolds experiment worked because a clump of hair follicle cells were promptly relocated, which preserved their inductivity, a measure of their capacity to remain uniquely hair cells before devolving into something more generic. While I'm in her office, Christiano calls England and puts Dr. Jahoda on speakerphone. "These cells seem to have an in-built regulatory system," he explains. "We don't know how it works. Getting the cells to remain inductive is still the basic challenge."

Christiano became interested in hair follicle research in 1996, when a common hair disorder called alopecia areata caused patches of her own hair to fall out abruptly (steroid injections have revived it to a formidable whorl of ebony locks). Two years later, she made headlines after announcing she'd pinpointed several specific genes that are responsible for other genetic forms of hair loss—a scientific first. She is now focused almost exclusively on finding new genes for hair loss, as well as using dermal papilla cells to develop new ways of treating it. Scientists are still unclear about precisely what occurs, but they do know that whenever you pluck or shave a hair, molecular compounds in the follicle begin a complex dialogue with surrounding cells. These include dermal papillae, epithelial cells (those lining the wall of the hair shaft), and stem cells in a little-understood region referred to as "the bulge."

The dermal papillae are encoded with genetic instructions that respond to cues sent from surrounding cells and tissues in the follicle. Once signaled, the dermal papillae begin hatching hair fibers. What Christiano and Dr. Jahoda are trying to figure out is how to trick the cells into growing hair by themselves, without guidance from the rest of the follicle. Doing this would allow scientists to culture, or clone, thousands of dermal papilla cells in the lab that would retain their knack for producing hair. "With current transplant surgery, if you take a thousand follicles from the back of the head and move them to the front, you still only have a thousand," says Christiano. "With the cloning approach, you could start with a small biopsy of cells and then grow enough of them to repopulate your entire scalp with hair."

A researcher named Claire Higgins informs us she has just received a fresh dime-size chunk of live scalp donated by a male hair-transplant patient. We join her in a lab, where she is hunched over a steel table, staring into a microscope. With forceps and a long needle, she scrapes dermal papillae from each follicle. I look through the eyepiece. She tells me I'm viewing roughly 3,000 dermal papillae packed into a ball of cells just a fraction of a millimeter wide. They resemble golden tobiko, the flying-fish roe dolloped onto sushi rolls. These cells will end up in an incubator, where they'll be cultured for at least four weeks and then transplanted into mice to see if they'll produce hair.

Several factors determine whether this happens. One is the growth medium, the soupy broth fed to the cells to help them thrive. Another is how quickly the cells multiply: As Dr. Jahoda and Reynolds showed, the less time cells spend outside the body, the better they retain their inductivity. A third factor is how the cells are transplanted. Do you inject them? Or position them surgically under the skin? "We're trying to get into the heads of the dermal papillae and understand why they lose their inductivity," says Christiano. "Then we'll do the reverse: Take old cells that have been in culture for many months and bring them back into the fold, coaxing them to grow hair."

I ask Christiano how she and Dr. Jahoda intend to accomplish this. She smiles, clearly not wanting to tip her hand, and replies, "We have a few ideas. I will say that if we figure it out, a lot of hair-loss sufferers will be very, very happy." Their research could also inform next-generation baldness cures, genetic fixes that reprogram the cells, much like a software patch, and override the genes responsible for androgenetic alopecia.

Training Hair Cells to Grow

Nude mice are the foot soldiers for the war on balding. These dainty pink-hued rodents have been bred or genetically altered to remain hairless throughout their lives. They can be ordered by the mischief-load from medical suppliers and endure poking and prodding and other unspeakable horrors for the sake of balding men everywhere. In Philadelphia, Ken Washenik, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president of scientific and medical development for Aderans Research Institute and a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University's Langone Medical Center, shows me slides of nude mice on his laptop. They have undergone a new type of hair-cloning procedure that Dr. Washenik has been developing for Aderans. The company, which has its headquarters in Tokyo, is the world's largest manufacturer of wigs. It also owns Bosley, which operates 88 hair-transplant clinics in North America.

When I arrive at Aderans, Dr. Washenik hastily ushers me past several labs, perhaps wary I might glimpse some sort of trade secret, and into an empty conference room. What he does reveal is that his approach to hair cloning (he calls it follicular neogenesis) doesn't rely solely on dermal papillae. "We are using a two-cell construct, growing not just dermal papillae but also another type of cell from the follicle," he explains. As the thinking goes, disparate cell types already communicate with one another in the follicle to regenerate hair. Dr. Washenik believes that if he can recreate that environment in the lab, cultured cells won't get dementia and forget how to make hair. "The different cells in the follicle are smarter than we are," says Dr. Washenik. "They already know they are supposed to be hairy. In eight days, we grew a ball of hair that never existed before on the back of a mouse."

Dr. Washenik clicks an image file on his computer: The photo shows what looks like Piglet—but with a sable Mohawk. But there is a caveat: "These were hair cells from a mouse that were injected into a mouse. When researchers injected human cells into a mouse, they didn't get the same results." This disappointed Dr. Washenik and other researchers, because unlike other organs, follicles are supposed to be immune privileged: When transplanted across or between species, they're expected to grow normally, without being rejected or provoking infection. He hopes to have better luck in clinical trials, when he will transplant human cells into humans. Aderans is in the second phase of a human trial, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The company is pouring serious cash (Dr. Washenik won't say how much) into its hair-cloning effort. Dr. Washenik is also intrigued by other researchers who are pursuing another pathway. They're cultivating in-vitro microscopic hairs, or "proto-hairs," as Dr. Washenik dubs them. "These are early follicular structures that you can place in the scalp with the same technology that's used for a hair transplant," he says. "The big hurdle so far is getting the cells to multiply to make enough hair. Once we culture them, they sometimes die or de-differentiate."

But Dr. Washenik remains confident. "The sooner we figure this out, the better," he says. "So many people are waiting for this technology. I know that with every medical advance, the first one to market becomes the leader, and everyone else plays catch-up." Like many of the scientists I meet, his passion for a cure is personal. "I started going bald at 25," he says, tussling his hair to flaunt his 2,200-graft transplant. "While I was working on my Ph.D., I was mixing up homemade minoxidil [the active ingredient in Rogaine] in my lab."

A few blocks away is a start-up called Follica. One of its cofounders, George Cotsarelis, M.D., is a cutaneous biologist and associate professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1990, Dr. Cotsarelis was investigating the biological mechanisms of skin regeneration. "I was studying stem cells and found a population of them in the hair follicle, in a strange area called 'the bulge,'" he tells me when I stop by his office at U. Penn's School of Medicine. "We didn't know the function of the area, and we almost blew it off." From then on, Dr. Cotsarelis started paying more attention to hair follicles. After a series of more recent experiments on mice, he made two important discoveries. First, he found that bulge cells aid in the formation of new hair follicles, suggesting that these cells influence hair growth during embryonic development, when we were bobbing around in the womb. He also learned that, throughout our lives, these same stem cells awaken to mend minor cuts and burns, as well as deeper wounds in the skin. What baffled Dr. Cotsarelis is why, if a healing wound is populated with bulge stem cells, new follicles don't form. The answer would at least explain why hair doesn't grow from scars.

Dr. Cotsarelis conducted further studies designed to reveal what kinds of molecular compounds (e.g., hormones and proteins) are present during hair-follicle development in mice embryos and are also present in adult mice. A major one, which he wrote about in a 2007 Nature article, was something called Wnt (pronounced wint), a network of proteins first identified in fruit flies. Curious, Dr. Cotsarelis applied Wnt to small lesions purposely cut into nude mice (such gracious, noble critters). To his shock, follicles formed and sprouted hair. So if a person is bald, the obvious strategy would seem to be to douse his scalp with Wnt and wait for hair to grow. "The problem is that Wnt is involved in a lot of other things, one of which is skin cancer," says Dr. Cotsarelis. "It's very tricky business."

The idea behind Follica is to develop a procedure in which a surgeon would lightly wound the scalp—something akin to microdermabrasion, an antiaging treatment—to disrupt the skin and then apply a compound that would influence hair development in the area. This would trick the cells into reverting to an embryonic state, one in which they are genetically pre-programmed to make hair rather than simply repair skin, as they're predisposed to do after we're born. "Just when cells are deciding, 'Do I make a hair follicle? Or do I make an epidermis?' we can influence them with a protein to go down a hair-follicle pathway."

Testing the Science On Humans

My hair started thinning when I was 32. I'm now 40, and my shedding has eased up. Dr. Harris informs me I have plenty left for a follicular unit transplant. But after watching Scott's procedure, I'm a little freaked out. Yet, all the specialists I speak with urge anyone dealing with hair loss to act fast, because once the hairs are gone, they're gone for good.

"Absolutely no one concerned about hair loss should wait," says Dr. Washenik. He started taking Propecia when he was in his thirties (he's now 50), and he uses Rogaine religiously. He is a big advocate of drug therapies, and readily champions surgical options such as follicular unit grafting. Dr. Washenik examines my scalp and announces, "Rogaine is made for you. You're not bald; your hairs are just miniaturized." I'm a chemical-phobe, so I'd rather save my dough and wait for a viable hair-cloning procedure, which many of the experts I talked to claim is less than five years away.

Intercytex, a public company based in London, may be closest to a marketable product, says Jerry Cooley, M.D., a transplant surgeon who has been consulting for the firm since 2001. Nobody directly employed by Intercytex would speak to me for this story. "We do not feel that exposure of our research is helpful," wrote Jeff Teumer, Intercytex's director of research, in a curt e-mail. But Dr. Cooley, who works closely with Teumer, tells me that Intercytex scientists have successfully grown large batches of cloned proto-hairs similar to those that other researchers have been struggling to keep alive. What's more, in animal experiments, the Intercytex team has observed cloned hair follicles growing hair again after the original hairs were plucked. This suggests that their cloned follicles cycle through the entire life span of hair—three phases known as anagen (growth), catagen (transitional), and telogen (resting)—something no other researchers have been able to do.

A key to the team's success has been growing proto-hairs in a special medium, licensed from a Japanese inventor, which contains cultured skin cells known as keratinocytes. "I'm very excited about this technology," says Dr. Cooley. "It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when."

Bessam Farjo, M.D., a hair-restoration surgeon contracted by Intercytex to run its ongoing clinical trials, says, "All I can tell you is that we've grown a significant number of hairs on animals through this technique." It sounds encouraging, and Dr. Farjo expects to complete clinical trials this year.

Hair cloning will be pricey initially, so early adopters may be men who are not only wealthy but also desperate because they don't have enough hair left to do a follicular unit transplant. Cloning could also be ideal for younger men who aren't good candidates for follicular grafting. "Younger guys aren't suitable for current surgical techniques because we don't know how much hair they are going to lose," says Dr. Farjo. Imagine if the receded hairline of a 25-year-old male were replaced with a follicular unit transplant. If the rest of his hair were to fall out—and going bald at an early age generally means it will—he wouldn't have enough hair to complete a second or third follicular unit transplant, so he'd end up with a solitary plume sprouting from his forehead. "It would look like unfinished business, which is why we typically avoid working on young guys," says Dr. Farjo. "But if I know I'll never run out of hair, thanks to the new cell therapy, I can treat anyone."

Nobody is sure how the actual cloning process will be implemented. Most surgeons speculate that they'll use boring tools similar to the existing ones used for harvesting follicular units. The follicular units will be sent to centralized labs, where industrial incubators will mass-produce millions of follicle cells for a relatively low cost. Another question is how will the cloned cells be transplanted? Instead of transplanting follicular units, your surgeon may inject cloned cells into micro-incisions, or he may implant lab-grown hair follicles. It could be fast, clean, and painless. Or it might entail something closer to Dr. Cotsarelis's method at Follica. At Intercytex, technicians are tinkering with sundry techniques. "We're experimenting with varying the number of cells in each injection, and whether we have to inject the cells into the skin as it is, or if we have to pre-stimulate the skin," says Dr. Farjo.

Whatever the outcome, choices will abound. In the future, hair cloning will coexist alongside follicular unit transplants, drug therapies, and emerging technologies still incubating in the labs. For his part, Dr. Harris is also part of a team designing the world's first follicular extraction robot: It will fully automate the procedure, making it magnitudes faster and less expensive. While Scott, our balding financial analyst, was being prepped for surgery, Dr. Harris took me into his office to show me a photo of the $25 million speed surgeon (the actual machine was locked in a storage closet a few floors above us). At about six feet tall with a fixed base and a mechanical arm with multiple joints, it resembles one of those space-age automatons you might see on a vehicle assembly line at a Toyota plant. Dr. Harris has already tested it on a couple of willing volunteers (with no alarming mishaps) and is preparing to apply for FDA approval under the name Restoration Robotics.

"We think the robot might be able to extract a thousand grafts an hour," says Dr. Harris. "That's more than triple what can be done by hand. This will broaden the market so that more people can afford the procedure. There may be a time soon when hair-transplant surgery will be available to everyone."

Provided By Best Life / By Michael Behar, Best Life


7 Reasons Leaders Fail

Around two-thirds of workers say the most stressful aspect of their jobs is their immediate boss, their line manager (Hogan, 2006). While this will come as no surprise to most, this statistic suggests a massive number of unhappy working relationships. So, does this mean that leadership is failing on a massive scale? Well, not exactly...
A recent article published in American Psychologist beautifully explains why so many people experience their managers as piping hot geysers of stress (Vugt, Hogan & Kaiser, 2008). What emerges is that bosses aren't inherently bad people (mostly), but that the modern culture of work sets them up to fail. Here are the seven main reasons I've picked out from this article for why leaders fail:
1. Strict Hierarchies

For Mark Van Vugt of the University of Kent and colleagues a large part of the problem with many modern organisations is their hierarchies. Leaders are at the top of the chain and are assumed to have all the answers, so they make most of the decisions. In reality knowledge and expertise is spread across people in organisations. But it's the leaders who must be seen to lead and so followers get frustrated because their superior knowledge and expertise is frequently ignored. This leads to:
2. Poor Decision-Making

Leaders often don't make any better decisions than followers, and frequently make worse ones. This is another consequence of strict hierarchies. Rather than setting up leaders to fail, Van Vugt et al. (2008) argue it's better to agree that leaders are not always the best people to make the decisions. Spreading the responsibility around, or using more participatory strategies for decision-making is often more effective. But this isn't the way things generally work, part of the problem is:
3. Huge Pay Differentials

Followers often hate their leaders because of the huge difference in their salaries. It's hard to feel any sympathy for someone whose pay is stratospheric (average CEO pay is 179 times that of average workers). And, because more pay means more status, leaders can quickly come to believe they really deserve the God-like status their pay suggests, resulting in their thinking they have all the answers and that they have the right to treat their employees less than fairly. In the bosses' defence, though, there are:
4. Impossible Standards for Leaders

Perhaps because of the huge pay and incredible demands, followers expect their leaders to be almost superhuman. The leadership literature identifies a whole range of personal qualities thought important for a good leader. These include integrity, persistence, humility, competence, decisiveness and being able to inspire the troops. While a leader may be high on one or two of these, they are unlikely to have the full set. Followers are almost bound to be disappointed by what is, after all, another fallible human who is just trying to:
5. Climb the Greasy Pole

If the boss is nice to you, it's a bonus, because it's not required for them to get on in the organisation. Leaders are promoted by those higher than them, not those below them - so it's only necessary for bosses to impress their bosses. This is a recipe for disaffection amongst the followers. Talking of which, forget the psychology of leadership, what do we know about the:
6. Psychology of Followership?

One of the best points Van Vugt et al. make is that although it's leadership that has been most extensively studied and discussed, most of us end up as followers. So really the psychology of followership is more important than leadership. What is it that makes us follow someone else? And, more subversively: do we need leaders? For example, some research shows that when people know what they're doing, they resent having leadership imposed on them. Generally, though, there's little known about followership, and how to avoid:
7.  Alienation

As a result of the strict hierarchies, huge pay differentials, poor decision-making, greasy-pole climbing and feeling powerless to change huge bureaucracies, followers naturally develop feelings of alienation, and alienation kills motivation and productivity, along with any hope of job satisfaction.
Talk Is Cheap

By implication the way to rectify these perceived problems is to do the reverse. Don't instigate rigid hierarchies, discourage huge pay differentials, democratise decision-making and don't set impossible standards for leaders. Some organisations are already managing this - presumably those in which followers don't find their bosses the biggest sources of stress - but most are not.
Of course talk is cheap and recognising the problem is quite different to knowing what to do about it, or having the courage to do it. Anyone wanting to make these types of changes across an organisation would have to be a really great leader - and there are truly few of those around.
What Do You Think?

Do you recognise these problems in your organisation? Has anyone tried to do anything about it? Are there other major reasons leaders fail?
Thanks to Psy Blog


10 Ridiculously Cheap Ways to Raise Morale

Just because the economy stinks, doesn't mean your workplace should

It's a really good time for making excuses. Each week seems to bring new highs, but not the kind that cause us to jump with glee.

Instead, we hear about the high unemployment numbers, the high rate of foreclosures, the high price of gas, the high number of people who want to strip down and jump into the frigid ocean in the middle of winter (Okay, so I know that is a bit off subject, but did you know that a group of semi-crazy but oh-so-lovable New Yorkers do this every January for charity?).

The point is, there are plenty of reasons to argue that it's not exactly prime time to be ramping up incentive tactics, when we are really just paranoid about survival…Or is it?

I see it all differently. As someone who lost a successful company overnight in a fire, survived and eventually thrived solely on the changes I was able to make to my attitude (and some delicious lasagna from my mother), I say that hard times are just the time to worry about motivating your employees. More than ever, you need their morale to keep your company afloat. You need their ideas, their energy, their creativity and their loyalty…And you will only get those traits by keeping them as happy as you possibly can.

So, without breaking the bank with European vacations or fancy bling, here are some incentive tips that won't cost you much. In some cases, they might even save you a few dollars:

1. Run a Weekly Contest In Your Office, With a Small Prize. Find out who has the ugliest baby picture, or who cooks the most wicked soup, or who has the most out-of-character hobby. Make it interactive and fun, and allow the staff to vote. Keep the prize small but sweet—a free lunch, a $50 gift certificate to the grocery store or 30 minutes of free time at the end of the day.

2. Allow Your Employees to Work at Home One Or Two Days Per Week, If Possible. (This is not recommended for those who manage surgeons, or hazardous waste removal folks, or cod fisherman—if this is you, skip to No. 3.) Set up instant messaging so you can keep in touch online. Not only does this allow staff the opportunity to work in their pajamas, but it also saves them a buck or two on gas.

3. Host a Monthly Potluck for Employees to Get to Know One Another and Network. Have a theme to each event—such as Retro '70s—and encourage people to title their dishes to match, like Betty's Bellbottom Beans.

4. Provide Blank Name Labels, and Allow Everyone to Make Up Their New "Name Of the Day." Call each person by his or her chosen title, for just eight hours. This will keep people awake, and paying attention.

5. Ask Each Staff Member to Compliment Another Staff Member Of His Or Her Choice, Each Day, In Writing, for a Month. No one may compliment the same person twice until having complimented everyone at least once. Not only does this benefit the one who receives the compliment, but it also gets everyone thinking positively about those around them.

6. Be Open to Input From Everyone In the Company About How to Operate More Efficiently. I've seen so many instances when one employee who is low on the totem pole has some of the most brilliant ideas, which never get heard. Also, when staff members feel like their input is valued, they are more apt to outperform expectations.

7. Be Funny, Even If You Don't Think You Have It In You. Humor in the workplace is like a plate of spaghetti to a marathon runner. Call a staff meeting just to announce that there is no staff meeting. Hide under a visible table in the break room, and when people question you, tell them you are trying to get a new perspective. Mix it up, add your own authentic flare, and don't be afraid to be laughed "at," rather than just "with."

8. Bring In Marshmallows, and allow people to roast them over the stove at lunch.

9. Create An Online Blog For Your Company, and allow each person to provide one (monitored, on their own time) entry per month (or week, or quarter…whatever works), on any subject.

10. Now to shift to something more serious…Be Available, and Show Empathy. If one of your staff has lost something due to the economy, listen and accommodate whenever possible by providing flex time or creative solutions.
Show that you care, and your employees will too.

So…While the economy tanks, try to think of your greatest challenge not so much as how to weather the storm, but how to have fun with it…thriving in whatever way possible. Bring your employees along for the ride, raincoat or not.
By Sam Glenn


Monday, March 23, 2009

Providing Feedback and Direction

Managing people effectively is a tough job under normal circumstances. During the type of economy that we are facing right now, it's especially challenging. Instead of being their usual focused and productive selves, direct reports are increasingly nervous, concerned, and cautious. It's as if everyone has taken a half-step backward in terms of their personal productivity.

For managers charged with getting or keeping their people on track during challenging economic times, Madeleine Homan-Blanchard, founder of Coaching Services for The Ken Blanchard Companies, recommends a renewed focus on setting goals for others combined with equal doses of support and feedback.
Setting Goals

The big thing to keep in mind when you're setting goals for others—or helping them to set their own goals, is to be sure that you can answer the question, "How will I know if I am successful?"
You have to make sure that the goals being set are in alignment with overall organizational objectives. You've got to make sure that every single task, and every single activity that anyone engages in, is moving them, the team, or the organization as a whole, forward in some way.
As Homan-Blanchard explains, "People need to understand how their work connects to the organization's goals and how what they are doing is actually contributing to the greater good. This relevance is huge."
To ensure relevance, Homan-Blanchard recommends that managers practice thinking backward. That's because thinking backward adds an important element of reality and urgency into the mix. Otherwise it's easy to set a goal for six months into the future and say, "That's a million years away. I don't really have to do anything about that yet." But if six months from now is September 15 and there are certain things that need to happen by June 1, and May 1, and April 1, to make that happen, all of a sudden it's like, "Oh, man, I've got to get on this!"
"So thinking backward helps you to realize that in order to make the September 15 deadline, I need to do X, Y, and Z this week. By thinking backward, you see the milestones and action steps, not just for a month, but down to the week and you can even put it into your daily task management system as daily action steps."
Providing Feedback and Support

The next skill that new managers have to develop to keep their people focused and productive is how to provide the day-to-day coaching, support, and resources people need to achieve the goals that have been set.
According to Homan-Blanchard, to accomplish this, managers need to get in the habit of giving constant feedback. "You have to give feedback in the moment and you have to be comfortable with giving clear direction if that is what is needed. New managers need to be able to say, 'Maybe I wasn't clear, or maybe there was some kind of misunderstanding, but it needs to go this way.' You have to be incredibly clear with your direction."
"You also have to be skilled with a problem-solving conversation. It might sound something like this, 'You did this. You didn't get the result we expected. Let's troubleshoot it, let's brainstorm it. What's going on? How can we achieve the goal doing something else?'"
One special type of feedback that Homan-Blanchard likes to call out for new managers is development feedback. This is a conversation about the way things are going. A lot of times, these are the hardest conversations to have because they are feedback about an employee's development and they often involve feedback about behavior, attitudes, and beliefs.
For this type of conversation, Homan-Blanchard recommends that managers start by asking for permission to give hard feedback if necessary. She recommends that managers start by explaining, "This is the situation. This is what I've observed. This is reality."
The good news is that managers can give almost any kind of feedback if they keep the judgment and the blame out of it. The key is to come at the question of feedback figuring that people have the best of intention and that people are always doing the best that they can given the information, skills, and competencies that they have at their disposal. So never blame the person. Instead, take an approach of, "Okay, we have a problem here, let's take a look at it."
Managing In Today's Economy
In many ways, new managers are finding themselves in situations that even the most experienced managers would find challenging.
For managers working in an industry that is doing well, the challenge is to protect themselves from all of the doom and gloom that is going on around them and stay focused on what is working in their own work environment.
For new managers working in industries that are struggling, the challenges are even more considerable. For these managers, there is a lot of emotional difficulty to manage.
In either case, new managers have to look back and assess their current situation. They also have to try and draw on as much former experience as possible.
"If you are a brand-new manager, you have to assess and look back at who have been the managers that have been really good in your life," says Homan-Blanchard. "And if you are lucky, there might be one or two managers that you can reflect back on and hold up as a role model."
In taking that step back, most people will find that two of the traits that made their best boss so successful were their ability to set meaningful goals for people and providing the direction and support to keep people focused and productive—especially during difficult times.

Thanks to KenBlanchard


Beating Workforce Management’s Grim Reaper

Job cuts and lost promotions and raises aren't the stuff of inspiration. But Terry Barber, vice president and senior strategist for Grizzard Communication Group and author of "The Inspiration Factor: How to Tap Into People's Dreams and Create a Culture of Passion and Loyalty," says business leaders don't have to be the grim reaper (even if they suspiciously happen to enjoy dressing in dark colors). Here are Barber's "7 Steps For Inspiring Your Employees:"

Authenticity: "Get out of the image management business for yourself and your company," says Barber. "Share with the people in your organization where you are weak. Verbally express how much you need them, let them know you know your limitations, and invite them to partner with you to get through these difficult times."

Connect with Others' Dreams: "Use these difficult times to uncover the latent dreams and ambitions of your key talent," Barber recommends. "Tell them you are more committed than ever to helping them get to where they want to go, and be creative in aligning their tasks for today with their dreams for tomorrow."

See In Others the Abilities they Don't See In Themselves: "Take time to be observant. Quit the craziness long enough to notice the talent in those around you. This even works if you are trying to manage up," Barber points out. "This principle works best by breaking it down into three steps: notice, name, and nurture. After you notice a talent or strength in a person, let him or her know you noticed it, and be specific about what you noticed. Don't just say, 'I noticed you are a hard worker.' Rather, say, 'I notice you care deeply about making sure the details are in order,' or 'I notice you are very articulate on that subject.'"

Speak and Live with Credibility: "I also refer to this principle as leading with moral authority," says Barber. "It does not mean much for you to say, 'Let's keep looking for opportunity ahead,' while living in fear and operating with a scarcity mentality.

Inspire with Great Stories: "This is the principle of overhearing. This is not to be confused with the art of storytelling," Barber explains. "The emphasis here is looking and telling stories that have a lesson. What can you learn from the story of a mountain climber? What can you glean from the story of one who has gone from rags to riches, or better yet, from riches to rags?"

Help People to Live On Purpose: Remind them that what happens at work is only a portion of their life. "As important as that portion is, it is not all that there is to life," says Barber. "Help people write down a vision statement for their life first and then for their job. If work can be a conduit toward that vision for life, great!"

Create a Culture Of Inspiration: "Following the example of John Wooden, UCLA's iconic coach, become teachers committed to excellence and character development," Barber advises."Chasing numbers and making decisions by looking only at the 'bottom line' causes us to be reactive and impulsive."

Thanks to Trainingmag


The Power of Our Words

There is great power in the words that we utter. It has been said that words are so powerful that when repeated with emotion, they will bring us that which we are affirming.

The following story demonstrates what can happen when we use words in a discouraging manner, and what can happen when we "turn a deaf ear" to those words which could dash our dreams or goals.

Two Frogs

A group of frogs were traveling through the woods when two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the pit. When they saw how deep the pit was, they told the two frogs that they were as good as dead.
The two frogs ignored the comments and, with all their might, they tried to jump up out of the pit. The other frogs kept telling them to stop jumping because they were as good as dead. Finally, one of the frogs took heed to what the other frogs were saying and gave up. He fell down and died.
The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could. Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and just die. He jumped even harder and finally made it out.
When he got out, the other frogs said, "Did you not hear us?" The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him the entire time.

Our words can bring hope to others and to ourself at times when we need hope; they can bring encouragement when our courage is lacking; they can bring comfort when we are experiencing difficult situations.

I am sure that you, like others, have memories of words uttered by others that continue to ring in your memory some decades later. Some of the words were flung without understanding how they might impact us, for the good or to the detriment of our lives. Once spoken, words are like bullets released from a gun; they can not be stopped, and their effects may be devastatingly piercing.

Words used in a responsible manner can be life enhancing, while words used in an irresponsible manner can be menacing or devastating. Which option do you utilize when communicating with others?

"I am aware of the power of my words as I communicate words of encouragement, support and understanding to my family, friends and co-workers this week." 
By Mary Rau-Foster