Saturday, April 18, 2009

Superb Test to Upgrade a Boy

First-grade teacher, Ms Neelam (Age 28) was having trouble with one of her students

The teacher asked, "Boy. What is your problem?"

Boy. Answered, "I'm too smart for the first-grade. My sister is in the third-grade and I'm smarter than she is! I think I should be in the third-grade too!"

Ms Neelam had enough. She took Boy to the principal's office. While Boy waited in the outer office, the teacher explained to the principal what the situation was. The principal told Ms Neelam he would give the boy a test and if he failed to answer any of his questions he was to go back to the first-grade and behave. She agreed.

Boy was brought in and the conditions were explained to him and he agreed to take the test.

Principal: "What is 3 x 3?"

Boy.: "9".

Principal: "What is 6 x 6?"

Boy.: "36".

And so it went with every question the principal thought a third-grade should know. The principal looks at Ms Neelam and tells her, "I think Boy. can go to the third-grade."

Ms Neelam says to the principal, "I have some of my own questions. Can I ask him?"
The principal and Boy. both agree.

Ms Neelam asks, "What does a cow have four of that I have only two of ?"

Boy., after a moment "Legs."

Ms Neelam: "What is in your pants that you have but I do not have?"

Boy.: "Pockets."

Ms Neelam: "What starts with a C and ends with a T, is hairy, oval, and delicious and contains thin whitish liquid?"

Boy.: "Coconut"

Ms Neelam: "What goes in hard and pink then comes out soft And sticky?"
The principal's eyes open really wide and before he could stop the answer, Boy. was taking charge.

Boy.: "Bubblegum"

Ms Neelam: "What does a man do standing up, a woman does sitting down and a dog does on three legs?"
The principal's eyes open really wide and before he could stop the answer...

Boy.: "Shake hands"

Ms Neelam: "Now I will ask some "Who am I" sort of questions, okay?"

Boy.: "Yep."

Ms Neelam: "You stick your poles inside me. You tie me down to get me up. I get wet before you do."

Boy.: "Tent"

Ms Neelam: "A finger goes in me. You fiddle with me when you're bored. The best man always has me first."
The Principal was looking restless, a bit tense and took one large Patiala Vodka peg.

Boy.: "Wedding Ring"

Ms Neelam: "I come in many sizes. When I'm not well, I drip. When you blow me, you feel good."

Boy.: "Nose"

Ms Neelam: "I have a stiff shaft. My tip penetrates. I come with a quiver."

Boy.: "Arrow"

Ms Neelam: "What word starts with a 'F' and ends in 'K' that means lot of heat and excitement?"

Boy.: "Fire truck"

Ms Neelam: "What word starts with a 'F' and ends in 'K' & if u don't get it u have to use ur hand."

Boy.: "Fork"

Ms Neelam: "What is it that all men have one of it's longer on some men than on others, the pope doesn't use his and a man gives it to his wife after they're married?"


Ms Neelam: "What part of the man has no bone but has muscles, has lots of veins, like pumping, & is responsible for making love?"

Boy.: "HEART."

The principal breathed a sigh of relief and said to the teacher, "Send this Boy. to Harvard University, I got the last ten questions wrong myself!"

Why Sexy Isn't Better: How Sexual Behavior Can Submarine Your Career

Women who wear short skirts that display a lot of leg may be overlooked for promotion and pay increases. So says a recent study conducted by Tulane University. Overt sexual behavior at work, whether men and women are consciously aware of it, or not, can submarine your career.

Tulane professor Arthur Brief and colleagues Suzanne Chan-Serafin, Jill Bradley and Marla Watkins searched recent studies and literature and found little about the consequences of sexy dressing and sexual behavior at work. (Most available research studied sexual harassment.) So, they conducted their own study that will be presented at the Academy of Management annual meeting.

The study sought to measure whether sexy dressing and sexual behavior negatively impacted the careers of women - and the researchers found that they did. According to the article in USA Today6, "in the first study to make plain the negative consequences of such behavior, 49% of 164 female MBA graduates said in a survey that they have tried to advance in their careers by sometimes engaging in at least one of 10 sexual behaviors, including crossing their legs provocatively or leaning over a table to let men look down their shirts."

Consequences of Engaging In Sexual Behavior and Sexy Dress

The researchers found that the women who claimed that they never engaged in such sexual behavior had earned an average of three promotions. Women who stated that they had engaged in flirting and other overt sexual behavior had only earned two promotions. Women who did not engage in the sexual behavior earned, on average, in the $75,000 to $100,000 income range; the women who did earned, on average, $50,000 to $75,000.

While these results are new and the study may not reflect the results of additional research, the results are striking for two reasons. First, the percentage of women who admit they have engaged in sexual behavior such as sending flirty or risqué emails; telling a coworker that he looks "hot;" and emphasizing their sexuality while at work by the way they dress, speak, and act, is remarkable. Second, the negative impact of the behavior on the women's careers taps into the gut feeling I have held for years.

Recently, in a sales office, a young woman wearing low rider pants and a short, tight, stylish top leaned over her briefcase to remove her computer. Half of her back was displayed to the whole office, and the people surrounding her cubicle had all eyes focused on her. My entrance caused several to look away with guilty expressions and all were noticeably embarrassed.

In another office, an applicant for a managerial position, asked me why several young women were wearing lingerie to work. A newly hired manager, in the same office, came to me and suggested that a dress code would be a good idea. She had been embarrassed taking a customer to her office.

Recommended Actions to Address Sexual Behavior and Sexy Dress at Work: Individual

Now that the negative consequences of sexual behavior and sexy dressing at work have been demonstrated, if you are an individual, take a look at how you dress for success in your work place. Tops that cling and show cleavage belong on the beach or in a dance club. If you are uncomfortable sitting where your legs are in view, chances are, your skirt is too short for work. Tank tops belong on the beach or in the exercise room.

Additional ways of dressing, while not sexually provocative, are still ill-advised if you want career success. Capri pants, according to Cynthia Nellis, the Fashion Guide15 at About, look good on no one. Flip flops or casual sandals don't work in the office either. In addition to being a safety hazard, (dropped items, stubbed toes) who wants to look at a bunch of bare feet in a professional work setting?

Sloppy, dirty, unpressed, and torn clothing present an image that will never earn a promotion for you. Even if "everyone else" is wearing trendy, tight tops and T-shirts, dress for the job you want to have next. Decision makers will appreciate your efforts to dress professionally. See my recommended business casual dress code16 for more information.

Examine Your Actions at Work. Do you send inappropriate emails, view inappropriate material online, call people "hot" or "sexy", display your physical self inappropriately, or touch other employees? Your actions could submarine your career. The people who make decisions about promotions, customer contact, and pay raises are watching your behavior.

Appearances matter. If you see your own actions in any of this material, do they matter enough to you to make the changes necessary for career success? After all, the statements measured in the Tulane study were taken directly from behavior that individuals had witnessed at work.

Recommended Actions to Address Sexual Behavior and Sexy Dress at Work: Employer or Manager

The cited research gives you factual information you can use to improve the professional behavior and dress code in your office. While people from different cultures and in different parts of the country have different ways of dressing for work, sexy is generally out. Sexually provocative behavior can also bring charges of sexual harassment or hostile work environment, so it behooves you, as an employer, to address professional dress and actions.

I recommend you take these actions.

  • Make sure you have appropriate policies in place. A sexual harassment policy is required. A formal complaint process is essential. A non-fraternization policy is important as well as a nepotism policy. A code of employee conduct that defines professionalism provides additional support.
  • Develop a dress code that is well-supported by your managers and supervisors. They will have to enforce the policy when their reporting staff members dress sexily or unprofessionally for work.
  • Hold training sessions on the policies recommended in the first two points, especially on what constitutes sexual harassment. Marianne Newton, an HR Generalist at a Dexter, MI-based firm, ReCellular, Inc, suggested holding an employee fashion show so employees could see what clothing is appropriate for business casual or professional dress.
  • You may need to speak directly to employees that engage in sexual behavior. Managers who have good relationships with their employees, assisted by Human Resources staff, when needed, can point out to people the error of their ways. Sexual behavior must be corrected to maintain a work place culture that is comfortable and not harassing for all. Recently, a California court found that the preferential treatment of an employee with whom the boss was having an affair had constituted sexual harassment for several other employees. This is just another example of why, as an employer, you need to address inappropriate behavior.
  • Be prepared that you may need to talk with people individually who consistently break the dress code. Some companies send inappropriately dressed employees home. Others use progressive disciplinary action when needed to enforce the policy.
I'd like to think that a well-written, broadly developed dress code, along with training in what constitutes sexual harassment or a hostile work environment, will send your employees a clear message about what is appropriate at work.

The Tulane study reinforces the need for and the professionalism required of your policies, particularly for women seeking career success. Sexual behavior and sexy clothing at work are not only an employer's potential harassment nightmare. Sexual behavior and sexy clothing at work would appear to submarine promising careers, too.

By Susan M. Heathfield


The Words You Use Make A Difference

The following excerpt is from Dr. Denis Waitley

The key to authentic leadership is to listen to your followers, and then open the door for them to lead themselves. The secret is empowerment. The main incentive is genuine caring and recognition.

  • The five most important words a leader can speak are: "I am proud of you."
  • The four most important are: "What is your opinion?"
  • The three most important are: "If you please."
  • The two most important are: "Thank You."
  • And the most important single word of all is: "You!"

Lesson: Be a Caring Listening Leader By Using Words That Nurture Trust.

Thanks to Listening Leader                                



Thursday, April 16, 2009

Holistic Workforce Management

With layoffs and restructuring in the works to keep afloat in an economy with the power to sink you, "holistic" may bring to mind nothing more than the hope you can keep your company together. But for some training and human resources practitioners, the term means a new approach to managing permanent and contingent staffs. Instead of seeing them as disparate entities, a recent report from The Human Capital Institute and TAPFIN Process Solutions describes a new approach that integrates the two. Here are highlights from the report, "Integrated Resource Fulfillment":

  • HR and talent management departments are making solid, if only gradual, progress toward holistic talent management, the report states. Even when an organization cannot necessarily identify its top performers or always align individual goals and rewards with corporate objectives, HR professionals are at least aware of the issues and, in most cases, are working toward solutions.  
  • According to research conducted by HCI in 2009, 94 percent of U.S. organizations use contract talent. Broadly defined, contract talent (where consultants, outsourced talent, contractors, professional services, and temporary workers are included) already accounts for at least a quarter of the country's workforce and is growing at between two and three times the rate of the traditional workforce.
  • Ninety percent of respondents expose high-potential employees to special assignments sometimes or frequently, and 82 percent agree it is important to deploy and assign top performers to the organization's most important initiatives. Thus, the study concludes, "it is important for organizations to know who top performers are, not only to ensure more informed downsizing where necessary, but to fill key positions and assignments internally in a manner that maximizes performance and develops future leaders."
  • The fact that 72 percent of organizations use a human resources management system, and more than half use an applicant tracking system, provides evidence that few organizations practice total workforce management, the study's researchers point out. "HR, as custodians of HR technologies, tends to use those tools to better manage the traditional, full-time workforce only, despite the size and importance of the contingent workforce."
  • A study interviewee described his organization's efforts to track the performance of new recruits over time so recruiters might gain insights into which sources of talent are better than others depending on the position. "By integrating performance management and total workforce acquisition, the potential to transfer intelligence is enormous," the study notes. "This organization also is able to inform those responsible for leadership development which junior managers are best suited to take the next step up, and to which stretch assignments they are best suited."
  • "Key decisions," the study points out, "about whether to hire externally versus deploy internally, whether to staff assignments with contract talent versus full-time employees, about who to develop into the next generation of leaders, about how to motivate the workforce to drive corporate objectives, about how and who to retain, rely on linkages between the components of HR and talent management, and on a view of the entire workforce, including contract and other non-traditional workers."
By Training Magazines


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

There Is Strength In Unity

Have you noticed how much easier and more fulfilling it is when we work together to accomplish a task? Do you recall working with a group on a dreaded project, only to conclude with a positive experience and outcome? Was there a time of crisis when you and others put aside any differences and worked together to help others in need? There is strength in unity. When we gather together to tackle a problem with the desire to create an effective outcome, we may often find unexpected success.

An old man at the point of death summoned his sons around him to give them some parting advice. He requested a bundle of sticks and said to his eldest son, "Break it." The son strained and strained, but in spite of all his efforts was unable to break the bundle. The other sons also tried, but none of them was successful.

"Untie the bundle," said the father, "and each of you take a stick." When they had done so, he said to them, "Now, break," and each stick was easily broken.

And... "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

One of the United State's most beloved and revered presidents, Abraham Lincoln, made this point in a speech that he gave in Springfield, Illinois on June 16, 1858 when he was campaigning to become an Illinois Republican senator. At that time the country was divided in its belief as to whether slavery should be abolished.

Although the challenges that we encounter in our lives today may be trivial by comparison, we may find our workplace and communities divided when we pull against each other. There is strength when we draw together at work or at home. When we are facing challenges, we will find greater rewards if we work together to achieve our goals.

The idea presented by Lincoln in 1858 remains true even today. "We shall not fail -- if we stand firm, we shall not fail. Wise counsels may accelerate or mistakes delay it, but, sooner or later, the victory is sure to come."

At home or work, look for ways to unite to resolve issues and solve problems. It may involve compromise, negotiation or a willingness to give up personal agendas for the good of the organization, family or community, but the success that can flow from these actions can often be more positively impactful than we could ever have imagined.

"I will strive to be part of a solution instead of part of the problem, by uniting with others to bring about a better outcome." 
Mary Rau-Foster


Monday, April 13, 2009

Dynamics of Decision Making

Making Better and More Consistent Decisions

As a valued team member in your organization, you probably make decisions every day. Some decisions are relatively straightforward and simple: Who should serve on the quality assurance committee? Others are quite complex: To improve quality, should we switch to a new manufacturing process?

The first decision will impact people's workloads, and some people might be disappointed when they aren't chosen. However, you know the strengths of individual members of your team, so you can put together a good committee.

On the other hand, changing a manufacturing process is a very complicated decision. You will have to consider what new processes are available. How much will the change cost? When will you see a return on your investment? How large will that return be? How long will it take to train people to use the new system? What impact will there be on our customers? And how will this affect our supplier relationships?

Simple decisions usually need a simple decision-making process. But difficult decisions typically involve issues like these: 

  • Uncertainty - Many facts may not be known.
  • Complexity - You have to consider many interrelated factors.
  • High-risk consequences - The impact of the decision may be significant.
  • Alternatives - Each has its own set of uncertainties and consequences.
  • Interpersonal issues - It can be difficult to predict how other people will react.

With these difficulties in mind, the best way to make a complex decision is to use an effective process. Clear processes usually lead to consistent, high-quality results, and they can improve the quality of almost everything we do. In this article, we outline a process that will help improve the quality of your decisions.

A Systematic Approach to Decision Making

A logical and systematic decision-making process helps you address the critical elements that result in a good decision. By taking an organized approach, you're less likely to miss important factors, and you can build on the approach to make your decisions better and better.

There are six steps to making an effective decision:  

  1. Create a constructive environment.
  2. Generate good alternatives.
  3. Explore these alternatives.
  4. Choose the best alternative.
  5. Check your decision.
  6. Communicate your decision, and take action.

Here are the steps in detail:

Step 1: Create a Constructive Environment

To create a constructive environment for successful decision making, make sure you do the following: 

  • Establish the Objective - Define what you want to achieve.

  • Agree On the Process - Know how the final decision will be made, including whether it will be an individual or a team-based decision. The Vroom-Yetton-Jago Model (member only) is a great tool for determining the most appropriate way of making the decision.

  • Involve the Right People - Stakeholder Analysis is important in making an effective decision, and you'll want to ensure that you've consulted stakeholders appropriately even if you're making an individual decision. Where a group process is appropriate, the decision-making group - typically a team of five to seven people - should have a good representation of stakeholders.

  • Allow Opinions to be Heard - Encourage participants to contribute to the discussions, debates, and analysis without any fear of rejection from the group. This is one of the best ways to avoid groupthink (member only). The Stepladder Technique is a useful method for gradually introducing more and more people to the group discussion, and making sure everyone is heard. Also, recognize that the objective is to make the best decision under the circumstances: it's not a game in which people are competing to have their own preferred alternatives adopted.

  • Make Sure You're Asking the Right Question - Ask yourself whether this is really the true issue. The 5 Whys technique is a classic tool that helps you identify the real underlying problem that you face.

  • Use Creativity Tools from the Start - The basis of creativity is thinking from a different perspective. Do this when you first set out the problem, and then continue it while generating alternatives. Our article Generating New Ideas will help you create new connections in your mind, break old thought patterns, and consider new perspectives.

Step 2: Generate Good Alternatives

This step is still critical to making an effective decision. The more good options you consider, the more comprehensive your final decision will be.

When you generate alternatives, you force yourself to dig deeper, and look at the problem from different angles. If you use the mindset 'there must be other solutions out there,' you're more likely to make the best decision possible. If you don't have reasonable alternatives, then there's really not much of a decision to make!

Here's a summary of some of the key tools and techniques to help you and your team develop good alternatives. 

  • Generating Ideas

    • Brainstorming is probably the most popular method of generating ideas.
    • Another approach, Reverse Brainstorming, works similarly. However, it starts by asking people to brainstorm how to achieve the opposite outcome from the one wanted, and then reversing these actions.

    • The Charette Procedure is a systematic process for gathering and developing ideas from very many stakeholders.

    • Use the Crawford Slip Writing Technique (member only) to generate ideas from a large number of people. This is an extremely effective way to make sure that everyone's ideas are heard and given equal weight, irrespective of the person's position or power within the organization.

  • Considering Different Perspectives

    • The Reframing Matrix uses 4 Ps (product, planning, potential, and people) as the basis for gathering different perspectives. You can also ask outsiders to join the discussion, or ask existing participants to adopt different functional perspectives (for example, have a marketing person speak from the viewpoint of a financial manager).

    • If you have very few options, or an unsatisfactory alternative, use a Concept Fan to take a step back from the problem, and approach it from a wider perspective. This often helps when the people involved in the decision are too close to the problem.

    • Appreciative Inquiry forces you to look at the problem based on what's 'going right,' rather than what's 'going wrong.'

  • Organizing Ideas

    This is especially helpful when you have a large number of ideas. Sometimes separate ideas can be combined into one comprehensive alternative.

    • Use Affinity Diagrams to organize ideas into common themes and groupings.

Step 3: Explore the Alternatives

When you're satisfied that you have a good selection of realistic alternatives, then you'll need to evaluate the feasibility, risks, and implications of each choice. Here, we discuss some of the most popular and effective analytical tools.  

  • Risk

    In decision making, there's usually some degree of uncertainty, which inevitably leads to risk. By evaluating the risk involved with various options, you can determine whether the risk is manageable.

    • Risk Analysis helps you look at risks objectively. It uses a structured approach for assessing threats, and for evaluating the probability of events occurring - and what they might cost to manage.

  • Implications

    Another way to look at your options is by considering the potential consequences of each.

    • Six Thinking Hats helps you evaluate the consequences of a decision by looking at the alternatives from six different perspectives.

    • Impact Analysis (member only) is a useful technique for brainstorming the 'unexpected' consequences that may arise from a decision.

  • Validation

    Determine if resources are adequate, if the solution matches your objectives, and if the decision is likely to work in the long term.

    • Starbursting helps you think about the questions you should ask to evaluate an alternative properly.

    • To assess pros and cons of each option, use Force Field Analysis, or use the Plus-Minus-Interesting approach.

    • Cost-Benefit Analysis looks at the financial feasibility of an alternative.

    • Our Bite-Sized Training session on Project Evaluation and Financial Forecasting (member only) helps you evaluate each alternative using the most popular financial evaluation techniques.

Step 4: Choose the Best Alternative

After you have evaluated the alternatives, the next step is to choose between them. The choice may be obvious. However, if it isn't, these tools will help:  

  • Grid Analysis, also known as a decision matrix, is a key tool for this type of evaluation. It's invaluable because it helps you bring disparate factors into your decision-making process in a reliable and rigorous way.

  • Use Paired Comparison Analysis to determine the relative importance of various factors. This helps you compare unlike factors, and decide which ones should carry the most weight in your decision.

  • Decision Trees are also useful in choosing between options. These help you lay out the different options open to you, and bring the likelihood of project success or failure into the decision making process.


For group decisions, there are some excellent evaluation methods available.

When decision criteria are subjective and it's critical that you gain consensus, you can use techniques like
Nominal Group Technique (member only) and Multi-Voting (member only). These methods help a group agree on priorities, for example, so that they can assign resources and funds.

Delphi Technique (member only) uses multiple cycles of anonymous written discussion and argument, managed by a facilitator. Participants in the process do not meet, and sometimes they don't even know who else is involved. The facilitator controls the process, and manages the flow and organization of information. This is useful where you need to bring the opinions of many different experts into the decision-making process. It's particularly useful where some of these experts don't get on!


Step 5: Check Your Decision

With all of the effort and hard work that goes into evaluating alternatives, and deciding the best way forward, it's easy to forget to 'sense check' your decisions. This is where you look at the decision you're about to make dispassionately, to make sure that your process has been thorough, and to ensure that common errors haven't crept into the decision-making process.
After all, we can all now see the catastrophic consequences that over-confidence, groupthink, and other decision-making errors have wrought on the world economy.

The first part of this is an intuitive step, which involves quietly and methodically testing the assumptions and the decisions you've made against your own experience, and thoroughly reviewing and exploring any doubts you might have.

A second part involves using a technique like Blindspot Analysis (member only) to review whether common decision-making problems like over-confidence, escalating commitment, or groupthink (member only) may have undermined the decision-making process.

A third part involves using a technique like the Ladder of Inference (member only) to check through the logical structure of the decision with a view to ensuring that a well-founded and consistent decision emerges at the end of the decision-making process.

Step 6: Communicate Your Decision, and Move to Action!

Once you've made your decision, it's important to explain it to those affected by it, and involved in implementing it. Talk about why you chose the alternative you did. The more information you provide about risks and projected benefits, the more likely people are to support the decision.

And with respect to implementation of your decision, our articles on Project Management and Change Management (member only) will help you get this implementation off to a good start!

Key Points

An organized and systematic decision-making process usually leads to better decisions. Without a well-defined process, you risk making decisions that are based on insufficient information and analysis. Many variables affect the final impact of your decision. However, if you establish strong foundations for decision making, generate good alternatives, evaluate these alternatives rigorously, and then check your decision-making process, you will improve the quality of your decisions.

Thanks to James Manktelow / Mindtools


Sunday, April 12, 2009


'Why do we shout in anger?' A saint asked his disciples, 'Why do we shout in anger? Why do people shout at each other when they are upset?'

His disciples thought for a while, one of them said, 'Because we lose our calm, we shout for that.'

'But, why do you shout when the other person is just next to you?' asked the saint. 'Isn't it possible to speak to him or her with a soft voice? Why do you shout at a person when you're angry?'

Disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the saint.

Finally he explained, 'When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other through that great distance.'

Then the saint asked, 'What happens when two people fall in love? They don't shout at each other but talk softly, why? Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is very small...'

The saint continued, 'When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that's all. That is how close two
people are when they love each other.

'MORAL' said the saint: 'When you argue do not let your hearts get distant, do not say words that distance each other more, else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return!'