Saturday, August 29, 2009

Who Packed Your Parachute?

As a leader, do you honor and appreciate the power of WE? Do you stop to thank and recognize the members of your team? Do you consistently show an attitude of gratitude?

I recently read a great story about Captain Charles Plumb, a graduate from the Naval Academy, whose plane, after 74 successful combat missions over North Vietnam, was shot down. He parachuted to safety, but was captured, tortured and spent 2,103 days in a small box-like cell.

After surviving the ordeal, Captain Plumb received the Silver Star, Bronze Star, the Legion of Merit and two Purple Hearts, and returned to America and spoke to many groups about his experience and how it compared to the challenges of every day life.

Shortly after coming home, Charlie and his wife were sitting in a restaurant. A man rose from a nearby table, walked over and said, "You're Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!"

Surprised that he was recognized, Charlie responded, "How in the world did you know that?" The man replied, "I packed your parachute." Charlie looked up with surprise. The man pumped his hand, gave a thumbs-up, and said, "I guess it worked!"

Charlie stood to shake the man's hand, and assured him, "It most certainly did work. If it had not worked, I would not be here today."

Charlie could not sleep that night, thinking about the man. He wondered if he might have seen him and not even said, "Good morning, how are you?" He thought of the many hours the sailor had spent bending over a long wooden table in the bottom of the ship, carefully folding the silks and weaving the shrouds of each chute, each time holding in his hands the fate of someone he didn't know.

Plumb then began to realize that along with the physical parachute, he needed mental, emotional and spiritual parachutes. He had called on all these supports during his long and painful ordeal.

As a leader, how many times a day, a week, a month, do we pass up the opportunity to thank those people in our organization who are "packing our parachutes?"

An Excerpt from Aim for the Heart By Tom Mathews

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to Basics for Strong, Healthy Backs

Back pain and injuries are among the most common causes of lost workdays and long-term disability. About 80 percent of adults suffer from back pain at some time in their lives, and hundreds of thousands of workers suffer disabling back injuries on the job every year.

When you think about it, it's not surprising that there are so many back injuries. Just look at the back's unique structure and role. The back is made up of a complicated network of muscles and bones that literally hold up the body and control much of a person's daily movements.

So when the back's abused, the consequences can be serious and sometimes incapacitating. One wrong move can be a very painful mistake, and long-term stresses and strains on the back can cause deterioration, chronic pain, and disability.

Safe Lifting

Perhaps the most important area to emphasize about back safety on the job is lifting. Improper lifting is believed to account for up to half of all job-related back injuries.

Training in the proper lifting technique can go a long way toward keeping workers healthy and on the job. Make sure your employees know these simple steps in safe lifting:

  • Stand close to the load with both feet firm on the floor and spread at about shoulder width, with the toes pointing out.
  • Squat down, close to the load, keeping your back straight, bending at the knees.
  • Grip the load firmly with your hands, not just your fingers. Place your hands on diagonally opposite corners so that one hand pulls it toward you and one lifts.
  • Bring the load as close as possible to your body. Keep your weight centered over your feet, arms and elbows tucked in to your sides, and chin tucked in to your neck.
  • Then lift gradually and smoothly, letting your legs do the work. With the back still straight, lift head and shoulders first while the legs push the body up smoothly.
Other Preventive Measures

Lifting isn't the only cause of back injuries, of course. Most people put unnecessary strain on their backs in a variety of other ways. For example:

Excess Weight—especially potbellies—puts constant strain on the back. That's just one more reason to watch what and how much you eat.

Lack Of Exercise. Exercise strengthens back and abdominal muscles used in lifting and other related tasks. It also reduces stress and increases flexibility.

Poor Posture—whether sitting, standing, or driving—is a major cause of back strain. When you slouch, the ligaments, rather than the muscles, are forced to do the work of supporting the body, which puts pressure on the vertebrae.

Bending and Twisting are both killers on the back. Workers should try to limit bending and twisting motions—for example, by placing objects on tables or other elevated surfaces rather than on the floor so that they don't have to bend and lift.

Thanks to BLR's Safety Meetings

Seven Ways Admins Can Maintain Work-Life Balance

Many work-life coaches glibly assert that administrative professionals must be responsible for achieving their own balance in the face of ever-increasing demands -- from 9 to 5 and beyond. But given their spot in the org chart, admins often feel compelled to sacrifice too much for their jobs.

"It's a partnership, but management has the bigger responsibility for admins' work-life balance, because how work is structured affects the ability of admins to have balance," says Ellen Kossek, a coauthor of
CEO of Me: Creating a Life that Works in the Flexible Job Age and a professor of human resource management and organizational behavior at Michigan State University. Backup arrangements and rules about work schedules are examples of management and HR policies that can constrain an admin's ability to maintain balance.

With these challenging dynamics in mind, here are seven tips for admins who want to get a life -- or keep the one they've got -- while performing to their bosses' expectations.
1. Establish Limits Early Through Strategic Questions

When's the best time to set up work-life balance? When you're new to the job or, even better,
weighing a job offer. But do it tactfully. "You've got a certain set of things you want to happen in the negotiation, but you can't say, 'This is the way it's going to be,'" says Kevin Wilson, coauthor of Administrative Assistant's and Secretary's Handbook. "So ask questions like, 'When would you expect me to be on call when I'm out of the office?'"

2. Don't Give Your Boss 24/7 Access Via Technology

When your manager hands you a shiny new laptop or handheld email device, remember it can turn out to be more of a burden than a status symbol.

"I have a Treo, but I'm only accessible that way while I'm at work," says Marlana Simmen, executive assistant to the CEO of Workplace Options, which provides work-life programs to employers. "There was a clear understanding from the beginning that nights and weekends are usually not work hours." In a special situation, Simmen's boss will call her cell phone.

3. Don't Let Your Inbox Manage You

It's a natural but potentially destructive habit to immediately act on
every message that interrupts you -- whether you're at your desk or snoozing in a hammock on a Sunday afternoon. So train yourself to think before you check email or voice mail.

"It's usually not necessary to respond to emails on weekends or at night," says Jim Bird, CEO of "Just because it's convenient for the boss to get them out then, it doesn't mean they expect an immediate response."

4. Make Priorities Explicit

"List your work priorities for the week with expected dates of completion," suggests Bird. "On Monday morning, share the list with the people you support, and ask if they need to change any priorities. As they add items through the week, ask if they need to change your priorities."

5. Be Flexible, Too

There's no balance without give-and-take. So be flexible when you can, and expect your manager to reciprocate.

"I had some minor back surgery recently," says Simmen. "The boss was very flexible about me working from home during my recovery. In return, I scheduled the surgery when there weren't any site visits."

6. Create a Cheat Sheet for Emergencies

When your personal life calls –- especially if you care for children or aging parents -– you may need to make an abrupt departure from the office. You'll save yourself a lot of stress just by preparing for this eventuality.

"Make sure your managers know how to do things like book a meeting room," says Wilson. "Put together a cheat sheet for them in case you have to run out the door."

7. Prioritize Your Well-Being

Finally, if necessary, tactfully remind your boss you won't be able to perform to your potential unless you have time for R&R -- in the form of most evenings and weekends off work and vacations free from interruption, or nearly so.

"For their health, admins need time to recover from work," says Kossek.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Jack Welch: 'Work/Life Balance Is a Terrible Term' (Part 2)

"Work/Life Balance is a terrible term," says Jack Welch. The term should be "work/life choices." Different choices are not bad choices, but we need to recognize that there are choices and that the choices have consequences.

Welch, former head of GE and a staunch supporter of HR, made his remarks at the recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Conference and Exposition in New Orleans.

As to the specific issue of women who take time off for children and then want to return to the workforce, Welch said, "In my experience, it's rare for someone to stop for a period of years—go off-track—and then come back and rise to the top." They can have good careers after they come back, but they will not likely achieve the top ranks, he said.

How About the Need for Estrogen?

How about the need for estrogen? asked Welch's wife, Suzy, who moderated the session. "There are indicators that diverse groups make better decisions," he responded.

Mentoring—'The Worst Idea'

Mentoring is "The worst idea ever to come down the pike," Welch said. "You could end up with someone who is unliked, or someone who's a horse's ass."

His advice is to look at everyone as a teacher and pick up bits from here and there. "I was a PhD chemical engineer, and I just figured it out," he said. "I read everything and talked to everybody."


Welch said that some people's excuse for why other managers get what they want is that "The CEO likes them." No, said Welch, that's not the reason. "They know how to handle the CEO. There's a difference."

To get that strategic seat that HR managers crave, said Welch, "One word—overdeliver." Make your bosses look smarter, he said.

"In my companies, my corporate HR person gets the company HR managers together with their CEOs and boards every few months," Welch said. "I make it happen."

Times Are Changing

"Take a look at your compensation program," said Welch. "I guarantee it's stale, probably written in 2007." Welch was incensed when he saw a fellow MIT professor using teaching notes that were 4 years old. "How can that be?" he said. "So much has changed."

How about your policies and procedures? Still 2007 vintage? We've just seen major changes to the FMLA. The ADA, military leave, accommodation rules—the list of new policy requirements seems endless. But you can't backburner work on your policies—they're your only hope for consistent and compliant management that avoids lawsuits.

Thanks to BLR HR Daily Advisor

How to Handle Panic Attacks

It may seem hard to get a grip on anxiety during a panic attack, but learning the right techniques can help you get your anxiety back under control.

Panic attacks can be terrifying. These attacks stem from profound anxiety that can make your heart pound and your knees go weak. Panic attacks can make it difficult to catch your breath and can also cause chest pain and dizziness — you may even think you're having a heart attack. A panic attack may only last a few minutes, but it can leave you feeling frightened and uneasy.

Understanding Panic Attacks

A panic attack and its symptoms of tremendous anxiety can strike suddenly, out of the blue. While a panic attack itself may be brief, it can lead to a lasting fear of having another episode. When panic attacks and the fear of having attacks occur repeatedly, people are said to have a panic disorder, a type of anxiety disorder.

"People have these panic attacks under various circumstances," explains Martin N. Seif, PhD, a clinical psychologist in New York City and Greenwich, Conn. They constantly worry about having an attack and may avoid certain situations as a result. Eventually, people with panic disorder may realize that they aren't actually afraid of the situation they're avoiding, but rather of experiencing additional panic attacks, notes Seif.

Fortunately, you don't have to live in fear of panic attacks. There are specific strategies you can use to help manage your anxiety and control your physical symptoms as well.

Panic Attacks: How to Take Control

The best way to stave off future panic attacks is by learning how to control your anxiety so that if you do start to notice symptoms of a panic attack, you can calm your mind and body until the symptoms fade.

"People who experience panic attacks have to learn how to cope with their feelings of panic," says Seif. While medication can be effective, cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the best techniques for managing panic and anxiety. "It involves recognizing that the panic-producing process is fueled by future-oriented, catastrophic thinking," explains Seif. People with panic disorder have to become aware that their thoughts trigger a physical reaction, which results in a panic attack.

To gain control over panic disorder, it's important to learn and practice anxiety management techniques, says Seif. Strategies that you can use to help you curb a panic attack include:

  • Breathing Slowly and Deeply. Anxiety can cause you to breathe very quickly, which makes both the mental and physical symptoms of a panic attack even worse. When you start to feel panicky, be sure to take slow, deep breaths to soothe your mind and body.
  • Stop and Think. When your thoughts start spinning out of control, simply tell yourself to stop. Organize your thoughts and decide what you need to do to get yourself calm again.
  • Think Positively. Push negative thoughts out of your mind, and remind yourself that you are in control. Think about times when you've been able to manage situations successfully and reduce anxiety.
  • Stand Up for Yourself. If you need to leave a situation, do so or tell someone you need to leave. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Allowing yourself to become more upset will not help if what you really need is to take a walk and blow off some steam.
  • Relax Your Muscles. Anxiety causes your entire body to tense up, so make a conscious effort to relax each muscle from your toes all the way up to your neck and face.

Don't wait for a panic attack to begin to try these techniques. Seif notes that it's important to use these strategies regularly and learn to manage your anxiety in gradual stages. As you become more confident that you can rein in a panic attack, you can walk out the door each day breathing easier.

Thanks to © 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jack Welch: 'HR, Get Out of the Picnic Business'

"How many out there (of perhaps 6,000 HR managers in the audience) are perceived by your organizations as equal in importance to the CFO?" Jack Welch asked. About 10 percent believed they were. "That's not enough," he said.

Welch, former head of GE and a great supporter of HR, offered his tips for HR managers at the recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Conference and Exposition in New Orleans.
If I Owned a Football Team

Welch said that if you owned a football team, you wouldn't hang around with the accountant. You'd hang around with the manager of player personnel. That's where the action is. And that's how it should be for HR managers everywhere.

How do you make your case? "Get out of the picnic and insurance forms business," Welch said.

Honesty In Evaluation

No employee should wonder where he or she stands. When we have layoffs, all the affected personnel are saying, "Why me?" That means there haven't been good evaluations, Welch says.

Isn't the 20-70-10 System Barbaric?

Welch spoke about his famous (or infamous) 20-70-10 system that he installed at GE. (Briefly, under the system, 20 percent are rated as exceptional, 70 percent as fine, and the bottom 10 percent are eliminated.) Don't get the wrong idea about the 10 percent, he says. "The idea wasn't to machine-gun them—we worked with them, found a better situation for them, or helped them move on. Many of them had very successful careers."

"The number one thing to do to prove your value is to develop rigorous development and evaluation plans," Welch said.

"I don't want to work for the man."

The shock of the downturn has many employees thinking, "I don't like this." Your stars might stay a while, but when things get better, they're going to want out—a chance to control their own destinies—unless they work for a company that offers flexibility, growth, and excitement.

Challenge your organization to create that kind of atmosphere—"Grab them by the shirts." In today's market, you have to get creative taking care of the best and raising the average. "Make it better every day," Welch said. Do not be a victim, a player who doesn't suit up for the game.

Communicate like Hell

Everybody is scared these days, said Welch. Are you feeling excitement, thinking about new ways of doing things, and how to restructure to come out thriving? Or are you hunkering down scared? "You have to make it vibrate—feel the excitement of tomorrow not the pain of today."

No whining, said Welch. And no over-positive cheerleading either. "People don't want cheerleaders when the thing is leaking," he added.

Walk the floor, tweet, do what you can to communicate, so employees think, "They're working for me."

Long-Term and Short-Term Management

"First of all," said Welch, "recognize that any jackass can manage for the short term—you just squeeze the hell out of it." And any jackass can manage for the long term—you just share your dream. But you have to do both, and that is hard.

Welch on HR: "HR is important in good times; it defines bad times."

Thanks to BLR HR Daily Advisor

Change Your Life

At any time in our life, we have the opportunity to correct or improve those aspects of our lives that pinch us. We make resolutions to improve ourselves and, therefore, our opinion of ourselves. We often break those resolutions because we are not fully committed to them. They are merely wishes, not heartfelt desires. We must resolve to make those changes in our lives that will allow us to live our lives to the fullest.

Tips for Life Changes
  1. Focus on what you want, and not what you don't want.
  2. See the big picture and keep your eyes upon it-not upon the ground looking for those painful boulders that may get in the way. Keep your eye on the donut, not upon the hole.
  3. Create a plan for the change and work that plan.
  4. Watch what you say - words are powerful messengers that will race out and will bring to you exactly what you ask for.
  5. Recall a time when you were successful or felt good about a situation or condition. Build upon what worked, not on what did not work. Ask yourself these questions: (a) What were the circumstances that led me to feel good about myself? (b) How did I feel, look, act, and respond to what was going on in my life? (c) What can I do to recreate that situation and/or those feelings?
  6. Choose what you are focusing on and thinking about. If you don't like the picture that you are seeing, pick up the remote control and change the channel to a more pleasant and satisfying picture.
  7. If getting (back) into shape is one of your goals - be realistic about what you want to accomplish, be focused on how you will look and feel. When you begin to recall the "pain and suffering" that you feel goes along with the exercise program, hang up on that negative chatter in your head.
  8. Will power is not the major ingredient when successfully changing an aspect of your life, but a decision and commitment to yourself are.
  9. Don't be an excusiologist (one who has a Ph.D. in excuse making). There may be legitimate reasons, but there are no excuses.
  10. We will make a change in our lives for one of two reasons: to avoid pain or to gain pleasure. Which one is it for you? Have you experienced enough pain yet?
  11. 11. Stop whining and start winning... Remember any day that we are above ground is a good day!

"When I am calm and attentive, I am able receive the powerful messages in my life!" 
Have a resolving and successful week!

Thanks to Mary Rau-Foster / WorkPlaceIssues