Friday, December 28, 2012

MGM Seeks to Inspire Employees by Letting Them Put on a Show

I love to stay in hotels. I let the wet towels stay on the floor, I don't make my bed and I ignore the overflowing trash cans.
That's because I know that a wonderful maid will clean up my mess, and not give me any grief about it. The concierge will direct me to a great restaurant and the guy at the door will hail me a cab. 
To me, staying in a hotel is like getting a license to be a princess, if only a temporary one.

Photo: MGM's Jim Murren

I know that I'm always nice to the staff (my mama raised me right), but sometimes people aren't nice to them. Hotel staff put up with a lot of crap from hungover guests, cranky children and people that were not raised right. That's why it was nice to do this story about MGM Resorts International, where those nice people who treat me so well are not taken for granted. Here's the story I did for Gannett/USA Today....

Keith Dotson is entertainment supervisor at New York-New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and a normal day at work includes dealing with the box office and making sure ushers and ticket agents are operating like a well-oiled machine.
But his true passion is music, and those who have heard Dotson sing agree he has a remarkable talent.

However, this isn’t a story about how Dotson wins a national singing contest and leaves behind his job with New York-New York.
Instead, it’s a story of how one company, MGM Resorts International, values Dotson and other employees so much for the jobs they do every day that they found a way to celebrate those efforts as only Las Vegas can.
MGM recently put millions of dollars into a production called "Inspiring Our World," designed to recognize, motivate and engage its 62,000 workers around the goal of providing the best experience possible to guests.
Jim Murren, MGM chief executive and chairman, gave workers like Dotson who labor behind the scenes of hotels such as the Bellagio, CityCenter and Mandalay Bay an assignment: Put on a show.
"We sort of had this eureka moment about six months ago, where we said, ‘We’re an entertainment company.’ Why don’t we use entertainment to get our message out in a fun, practical way?" Murren says.
So Murren gave employees the money — "I didn’t give them a budget," he says — to put on a show that would drive home the company’s commitment to diversity, excellence and teamwork.
"The only directive I gave them was that they should do it at the level of excellence that our guests expect," he says.
So employees began writing the script, designing stage settings, having auditions and directing a show that ran about an hour and a half and played several times to various employee audiences.

"It’s been beyond anything we ever imagined," Dotson says. "We just keep saying, ‘This is huge.’ "
But more important, Dotson says that working on the show and its message changed his life "and I will take this message with me wherever I go."
"It’s all about how we can inspire our world every day of our life," he says. "I’ve been with this company for 10 years, and this experience makes me feel so valued as one of their employees."
Murren would be happy to hear Dotson’s description since that was one of his goals when he initiated the project. Another was to just celebrate the "happy story of recovery," he says.
"Las Vegas went through some very dark times in 2009 and 2010. Unemployment was skyrocketing, and people were losing their homes and their cars. But our employees didn’t give up. They kept their personal experiences and troubles at home. I made a commitment at that time that if I could ever repay them for what they did, I would," Murren says.
Murren, who started out on Wall Street, says he still uses that business acumen to keep MGM competitive but also knows the No. 1 reason his hotels will continue to thrive is because of his workers.
"They are our most valuable asset," he says. "I learned pretty early on that it’s the employees who make everything happen. In our business, people vote with their feet. If they don’t have a fantastic experience, they go somewhere else. "

Murren uses employee surveys, personal visits with workers on site and employee feedback to gauge if the company is keeping workers satisfied and committed. The company has taken on other initiatives designed to show its commitment to workers, such as revamping employee dining options to offer healthier choices.
While some initiatives are expensive, Murren says he believes the payout will come when engaged employees work together as a team and put all their efforts into helping guests have an excellent experience.

"I know that I’ve met many people doing this show that I didn’t know before," Dotson says. "Now we all call, ‘Good morning!’ when we see one another and there is just such a positive energy. We all know we’ve been through tough times, and while we don’t know everyone’s story, we’ve come together.
"I think this company has shown that they value us as individuals and as a team," says Dotson, who performed "I Know Where I’ve Been" from "Hairspray." "And that not an easy thing to do."

Thursday, December 20, 2012

More Workers with Autism Entering Workplace

Autism is a subject that often promotes a great deal of debate. The causes. The solutions.
Employers are now entering that discussion, as they will be seeing more job applicants with autism spectrum disorder. It's an issue I looked at in my latest Gannett/USA Today column....

An estimated 1.5 million people in the United States have autism spectrum disorder, so chances are you may be affected by autism in some way.
Your own child, a relative or even a friend may be dealing with the disorder.

But chances are good you soon may start to deal with autism in the workplace. The most visible generation with autism is getting ready to graduate from high school and will be looking for jobs, says Scott Standifer, a University of Missouri researcher who studies employment issues affecting adults with autism.
Some employers such as Walgreens, AMC Theatres and TIAA-CREF already are making efforts to hire and train autistic employees, finding such workers to be dependable and hardworking, Standifer says. These employers are making employment inclusive and don’t isolate autistic workers or give them only limited tasks.
The companies are trying to level the playing field for applicants along the autism spectrum, he says. AMC Theaters learned that asking abstract questions often can be troublesome for autistic applicants.
"An abstract interview question might ask someone if they found $50, what would they do with it? So, someone with autism might say, ‘I put it in my pocket,’ " Standifer says. "But the key is that you have to show them what they should do with that money — such as give it to the manager — and then they will do it."
It’s more effective to focus on showing autistic applicants what duties would be involved with a job and if they believe themselves capable performing those duties.
During interviews and on the job, one of the greatest challenges for those along the autism spectrum is reading social cues.
Job applicants who are told to answer questions honestly may be so blunt that they are considered rude or somehow socially unacceptable. When asked, "What brings you to the interview?" someone with autism might answer, "My truck."
That’s why social-skills training and more detailed explanations of workplace culture can be helpful to those with autism, he says.

Jobs in noisy, hectic environments; positions with a lot of unstructured social contact with the public; and tasks with little or no routine often are not good fits for those with autism.
However, those with autism are adept at noticing deviations in patterns, so jobs in quality control and computer applications are a good fit, Standifer says. Walgreens’ performance data finds that those with autism and other disabilities who work at company distribution centers performed as well as other workers, had lower turnover and required only minimal, inexpensive accommodations.
"The great thing about those with autism is that when they do a job, they’re very focused," Standifer says. "They’re going to do what they’re told, every time. They’re not going to stand around socializing instead of working. They often receive very high marks on performance evaluations."
If your child has autism, get him or her some structured work or volunteer-related experience before high school graduation, Standifer says. Vocational rehabilitation counselors can meet with a school’s special education teams to ensure time to make changes or transitions, which can often be more difficult for those with autism.
While researchers have done many studies on children with autism, they have little data on autistic workers.
State vocational rehabilitation agencies are starting to make important strides in providing services for autism, he says. National autism advocacy groups and researchers are beginning to include adult issues such as employment in their studies.
Many employers — with leaders who often have been touched personally by someone with autism — are much more willing to take a look at hiring such worker

"I’m excited," Standifer says. "I think a lot of cool things are happening."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why Spiked Eggnog May Be Just What Your Career Needs

Are there visions of sugar plums dancing in your head? Thinking about settling down for a long winter’s nap? Trying to figure out where you’re going to find seven lords a-leaping?
It’s not unusual for many of your thoughts this time of year to be about the holidays and the millions of things you have to do before Santa miraculously stuffs himself down the chimney. Holiday craziness can certainly put a crimp in your productivity around the office this time of year, but don’t start to panic that you’re not getting enough done because you’re so distracted.
In fact, let yourself be distracted.
Go to a production of “The Nutcracker” instead of sending emails one night. Download your favorite holiday music and listen to it at work. Offer to organize the office potluck and personally visit other departments to invite colleagues.
You may think all these things are time-wasters, and you’re only going to get further behind in your job. Not so. They’re really all activities that can boost your value and productivity in the long run, and make you happier and less stressed.
What could be a better holiday gift than that?
Don’t turn down the wassail
Research has shown that multi-tasking doesn’t work. But that doesn’t stop us from zipping around on Facebook while sending a text and jotting down notes for an upcoming meeting. Those activities frazzle our brains and lead to unfocused thoughts and unproductive days.
But new input, such as making a gingerbread house or attending a holiday concert, can jumpstart our brains.  New activities spark more creative thoughts, and conversations with people at a neighborhood holiday get-together may trigger new ideas or solutions to (read the rest here)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bullying Continues to Infect the Workplace

Do you know anyone who has not been bullied? I sure don't. 
Even people I know who are bullies have told me about physical or emotional abuse they've experienced in their lives, which is often what led to them becoming bullies.  They simply mimicked the behavior they were being shown.
I've written about workplace bullying many times over the years, and I wish I could say that it seems to be a thing of the past. But it's not. Read this latest column I did for Gannett/USA Today....

In the documentary "Bully," filmmakers followed the lives of five students who were bullied on a daily basis.
Many people identified with the kids who were taunted and called names by school peers, and the film often evoked unpleasant memories for adults who recalled being bullied at school.

Unfortunately, bullying doesn’t end on the playground,"Bully" producer and writer Cynthia Lowen, says.
Many adults are victims of bullying bosses or co-workers. And, just like in school, many peers stand by and watch it happen without intervening.
"There needs to be a lot more education about this issue in the workplace," she says. "We can’t just put zero-tolerance policies in place — in school or the workplace — without having a comprehensive understanding about bullying."

For example, many people may believe that only the bullying target is made to suffer, but a recent government study of bullying in Swedish workplaces shows that that bullying also harmed witnesses. Specifically, women who were witnesses to the bullying saw an increase of about 33 percent in clinical depression while male witnesses experienced about a 16 percent increase.
"Bystanders and the whole organization are involved in the process of bullying behavior, and, in turn, intervention programs should be focused on the whole workplace system," researchers from Sweden’s Institute of Environmental Medicine say .
Lowen says most of us as children tried bullying. Those who felt badly about their behavior stopped.
But children who had success as bullies, such as getting what they wanted when they bullied someone else, continue their bullying throughout their childhoods and eventually into the workplace, she says.
"But in the workplace, the stakes are much higher, especially if the person doing the bullying is the boss," she says. "If the person is in power, it may mean that you’re not included in email or you lose out on a job or promotion."

A recent CareerBuilder survey finds that 35 percent of workers say they have been bullied at work, an increase from the 27 percent reported last year. Nearly half of those workers say their bosses are the ones doing the bullying, and the most common forms of bullying were being falsely blamed for mistakes or ignored.
Lowen is the author of a new book with Cindy Miller called The Essential Guide to Bullying: Prevention and Intervention (ALPHA, $15.95). Lowen says they try to offer several suggestions on how to deal with workplace bullying, such as:
• Teaching conflict resolution. Employees should be trained on how to give appropriate negative feedback and be respectful.
Inappropriate behavior should be confronted and dealt with immediately.
• Knowing what it looks like. Employees should be encouraged to talk about bullying behavior in the workplace.
While it may not be the taunts and shoves associated with schoolyard bullying, the put-downs and deliberate isolation of an employee are indications of bullying behavior that should be identified and stopped.
• Emphasizing individual strengths. Sometimes those lowest on the career ladder in the workplace are the targets of bullies.

But if all employees are allowed to develop their skills and shown respect for their contributions, they’re more likely to be self-confident and not become the target.
Those who are bullying targets often are so miserable that they quit their jobs or are forced to leave because they’ve developed physical ailments related to the stress of being bullied and can no longer work, reports the Workplace Bullying Institute. The problem is especially acute for single working parents, it says.

Lowen says she herself was the victim of some bullying in school although not to the degree that the children in her film received.
"I think we’re just beginning to understand how pervasive bullying really is," she says, "and that it can follow us from school into the workplace."

Friday, December 7, 2012

How to Resolve Conflict with a Co-Worker

One of the most stressful situations to face in the workplace is a conflict with a co-worker. Whether it’s a long-standing feud that you can’t even recall how it began or a recent spat that has made work tense and miserable for you, not getting along in a civil manner with colleagues is often painful.
You may wrestle with how to resolve the conflict. Or, maybe you consider not doing a thing – it wasn’t your fault, after all! The other person needs to apologize, you think.
But while you wage an internal debate about what to do, the situation may only get worse. Your conflict may make other colleagues feel as if they’re being forced to choose sides, or your boss may become irritated you can’t get along with others. The result is that an unresolved conflict can hurt your career, not to mention the tension that can bring on physical ailments such as headaches and sleepless nights.

Steps to Resolve Conflict with a Colleague

There are several steps you can take to try and resolve the conflict or at least keep it from wrecking your career. Consider:
  • Communicating like a grown up. No hiding behind email or texts. Emails and texts can be misinterpreted and certainly don’t convey sincerity or instill trust. Meet with the person privately in a face-to-face conversation.
  • Not expecting miracles.  Even if you get some issues out in the open, your negative feelings aren’t going to disappear overnight and that may be true for the other person as well. The old adage about time healing all wounds should be heeded – give yourself time to get past the experience.
  • Finding the value. You may believe the only thing you have gotten from (read the rest here)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Could Your Name Prompt Hiring Bias?

I've written a lot about how to craft emails that get the attention of key people, but I was taken aback when I learned of a study that says it could be your name that determines whether you get a response or not. Read this latest column I did for Gannett/USA Today....

Could someone named Jamal have more difficulty getting help from a mentor or attention from a higher-up than someone named Brad?
That’s a question that Katherine Milkman, assistant professor of operations and information management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, explored in a study. She says her own experience applying as one of the few female doctoral students in the computer science and economics departments at Harvard University helped inspire her interest in the subject.
The results from her study of more than 6,500 professors at 260 top universities were disheartening, Milkman says, because it was clear that professors often didn’t respond quickly — or at all — to minority students and women with names that revealed their ethnicity and gender compared to a student whose name sounded as if he were a white male.
The only time minority or female students did receive speedy responses from professors was when students cited an immediate deadline in a request, she says.
“When the person had to make a last-minute decision, in that moment the person was more focused on getting the task done and responded right away,” she says.
But if a professor had a week or more to respond to a request, the response time really lagged for minorities and women, she says.
She also notes that some minority groups that experienced “wildly severe discrimination” were Asians and Indians.
Milkman says that minorities and women seeking jobs or perhaps a promotion or big project need to make sure that decision-makers understand their qualifications, they play up their references, and “you leave as little question to your abilities as possible.”
She also suggests trying to close the distance between an applicant and the decision-makers or gatekeepers as much as possible. Use social networking tools such as Facebook or Twitter to become more connected to hiring managers or key personnel. Or bring up the fact that you live in the same neighborhood or city as a way to close the distance with a key person.
“Any distance for a minority is bad,” Milkman says. “Any way you can find to become closer can be helpful.”
Organizations also can learn key lessons from the study, Milkman says.
A company may have a diversity program in place, but it won’t be effective in eliminating bias if all the gateways and gatekeepers aren’t educated about prejudices.
In the case of the professors, they probably were not thinking that their response time indicated bias. But once they are told they must have rules in place to deal with all mentor requests the same way, they can decide whether they will respond to all — or none — of the requests. That eliminates any chance of hidden biases creeping into their decision-making and adversely affecting a student’s ability to succeed, she says.
“We just need to educate about all the pathway moments,” she says. “Organizations have to be attentive and don’t just let people rule by their gut. We have to make sure that rules are race and gender blind.”
Milkman’s research backs up a 2004 study that found white applicants received a 50 percent higher callback rate for job interviews compared to identical black job applicants when resumes indicated an applicant’s race and gender.
While that study identified bias in entry-level jobs, Milkman says her research shows that bias takes place even at higher education levels.

So what can be learned from such information for the workplace today?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

5 Etiquette Lessons for the Workplace

The workplace sometimes changes so rapidly it's hard to keep up with what we're supposed to do and not do.  But some things stick around -- like the importance of good manners. That's why I thought it was a good issue to explore for my Gannett/USA Today column...

Is it OK to tweet during a business conference?
Should you stand up when shaking hands?
Do you get the boss a holiday gift this year?
These are all common etiquette questions that Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, can answer correctly. For the rest of us, the answers often are not as clear, turning the most capable professional into someone who may be seen as a mannerless slob.
"Using poor etiquette can severely limit your opportunities," Post says. "To advance, you need to be able to build relationships. People don't want to work with people who are a pain to be around."
So that Metallica ringtone on your cellphone? It's gotta go. Any cellphone in the office should be on vibrate — and then not left to gyrate in a desk drawer for 10 minutes, she says.
Along the same lines, don't answer your cellphone when you're in the middle of conversation with another person unless it's an emergency call from home. For the record, Post says an emergency is a wife having a baby, not a child unable to find his tennis shoes. (And children should be instructed on what constitutes an emergency to cut down on such types of calls.)
"Giving someone our undivided attention is how we show our respect for others," she says. "When you divide your attention, then that person feels respect has been diminished."
Some other workplace etiquette dilemmas that Post, as a co-author of "Emily Post's Etiquette, 18th Edition," addresses include these:
1. Tweeting responsibly. If you're attending a conference where you're expected to tweet updates, the speaker usually understands that.
But if that's not the case, put your phone away and listen.
2. Getting the phone off the table. "It's not another utensil you need to eat a meal," she says. "If you put it on the table 'just in case,' then that means the potential is there for you to answer it. It's like a ticking time bomb waiting to go off."
3. Giving up texting. Again, if you're texting during a meeting or a conversation, you're showing disrespect to others.
4. Shaking hands. If someone offers a handshake, you should return it and make sure you're standing.
The only excuse not to shake hands is if you're sick. Then Post says she's not sure what you're doing at work in the first place because infecting other people is rude. Still, if you're feeling under the weather and somehow still find yourself offered a handshake, explain that it's nice to see the person, but you're not well.
5. Remembering you don't owe anyone a holiday gift. It can be seen a "currying favor" to give the boss a gift, and you don't owe a colleague a present even if he or she gives you one.
"And don't lie about it and say you have something for the person at home when you don't," Post says. "Just say thank you."
Gifts such as cologne or clothes should be returned to any officemate who gives them to you with an "I appreciate the gesture, but I feel this is inappropriate" response. She advises that any gift from the boss that crosses the line should be reported to human resources.
Another common holiday dilemma: fundraising, whether it's a colleague collecting for the local food bank or a co-worker helping a child sell cookie dough for school.
In those cases, Post says it's best to come up with a policy and stick to it or be prepared to go broke with an ever-growing number of fundraisers.
"You can choose to give on a first-come, first-serve basis to whoever hits you up first." she says. "Or, you have a set amount of maybe $5 that you give to each one. Or, you can simply say, 'No, thank you and good luck.' "

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How to Lead Like Abraham Lincoln

I don't profess to be an expert on Abraham Lincoln, but what I have read about his life has been inspiring. He was the focus on a recent column I did for Gannett/USA Today....

As Steven Spielberg's Lincoln brings audiences into theaters to learn of the 16th president's astute leadership and President Obama vows to work with opposing lawmakers in his second term, it's a good time to consider how compromise can be gained in the workplace on a day-to-day basis.
First, it's not easy. Second, many leaders attempt it and bungle it so badly they forever damage work relationships and hurt the bottom line with their ineptness.
Still, it's not impossible and historical figures like President Abraham Lincoln prove it can be done even in the most difficult of circumstances, says John Baldoni, a leadership coach.
For example, when faced with a group of people who disagree with a course of action, leaders can't immediately dictate "it's my way or the highway" or they will drive valuable employees away, Baldoni says.
"What you want is a win-win solution," he says. "To achieve compromise, the first thing you've got to look at is what is our unifying purpose? What is the one thing we all want?"
In Lincoln's case, it was preserving the Union. "We are not enemies, but friends," he said in his first inaugural address in 1861. "We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection."
In a company today, leaders may be fighting to keep not a country united, but a company. Baldoni says a leader can use the same tactic as Lincoln, pointing out the "greater good" that will be achieved through compromise and teamwork, such as saving jobs.
Still, once that compromise is achieved it's important not to muck it up by gloating about victory or ignoring a former rival, Baldoni says. It's a lesson, he notes, that Lincoln never forgot.
"You've got to reach across the aisle to rivals and tell them that you still want them around, you still value them," Baldoni says.
But what about when that rival continues to sow seeds of discontent?
"A leader's job is to make sure there is alignment and everyone is united in a purpose," Baldoni says. "So if you as a leader find out someone is going behind your back, then you've got to call people on the carpet. You've got to hold them accountable."
Baldoni says that once compromise is reached and a team direction is established, anyone found deviating from that in order to pursue his or her own best interest should be advised to stop such action or face termination by the leader. While that may seem harsh, "a leader's job is to lead the team," he says, "and you cannot tolerate anything else."
Baldoni says that while the political atmosphere in America today is often divisive, it's fortunate that American workplaces don't experience such widespread strife and dysfunction.
"In the workplace, you have to live with these people. You have to engage, cooperate and coordinate with them every day to get things done," he says. "Compromise in the corporate sector is not perceived as a negative. People don't like that 'my way or the highway' attitude."
In his new book, The Leader's Pocket Guide: 101 Indispensable Tools, Tips, and Techniques for Any Situation (Amazon, $19.95), Baldoni offers other leadership tips that can help lead to forming a consensus with the most contentious groups:
How others perceive a leader is critical. The leader's reputation "is essential to creating trust, and in turn getting people to work together to achieve mutually beneficial aims," he writes.
Learn to listen. "Listening to others has seldom been as important and seldom been as neglected," Baldoni writes.
Be optimistic. "People want to believe in their leaders, if only for the simple fact that it makes life easier. People want to believe what they do matters," he writes. "It falls to the leaders to provide that assurance."
Or, in the words of Lincoln: "Determine the thing that can and shall be done, and then we shall find the way."

Friday, November 16, 2012

How To Handle the Mean Girls at Work

Many women would like to believe that the ugly behavior they may have experienced at the hands of other girls in junior high – or perhaps even exhibited themselves – is just an unhappy memory by the time they join the working ranks.
But the truth is:  The mean girls are alive and well in the workplace today.
In a new book, “Mean Girls at Work: How to Stay Professional when Things Get Personal,” authors Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster say they were at first reluctant to tackle such a subject for fear of contributing to bias against women or portraying women in such an unflattering light. But when they got a rousing response to the subject of “women haters” at a training session, they say they knew they had struck a nerve.
“Women have been pushing uphill for so long and trying to get ahead, that no one really wanted to look at what wasn’t working. It is something that women are reluctant to talk about and acknowledge,” Elster says. “It’s sort of the dark side.”
Crowley and Elster says that most women will recognize the “mean girl” at work. “The key indicator is that you have a feeling that she doesn’t like you and is in competition with you,” Crowley says. Elster describes it as a “sinking feeling in your stomach” when you’re around the woman.
There are various levels of professional-woman meanness, such as the “meanest of the mean” the “passively mean” and the “doesn’t mean to be mean,” they explain.  The woman may exclude her target from emails, gossip about her, use body language that conveys (read the rest here)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why You're Never Too Old to Launch Your Dream

Workers over age 50 may only feel exhausted when they think of starting over. But there are plenty of older workers that are successfully launching new businesses that will inspire anyone of any age.  Here's the story I did for Gannett/USA Today on one older entrepreneur who has launched a new business....

When Anthony Full decided to launch his own business in 2010 at age 52, some people might have considered him crazy.
After all, who would start a new business at his age and in such a difficult economy with new businesses dropping like flies?

But Full, who has been a barber since 1979, knew he had a great idea. So with optimism, the support of his family and some working capital, he launched a barbershop in Louisville, Colo.
Again, the skeptics might wonder what Full was thinking to start a business with competition in just about every strip shopping mall from New Jersey to California.
"I think as you get older, you have a lot more clarity about what you want," he says. "You have all these ideas about how to make things better. It was time to sort of bet on myself."

Full’s foray into owning his own business was not his first, and past business experience had given him the entrepreneurial chops to make things happen. Today, his shop is so successful that he is looking into launching a second one.
"I think people feel really good about supporting entrepreneurs," he says. "They want to help you succeed."
That support has been demonstrated by the number of people who have posted photos of themselves wearing hats with his Rock Barbers logo in locations such as the Arctic circle and the equator, he says. His "male friendly" shop offers a putting green, a guitar inscribed with the signatures of anyone who wants to pick it up and play and a hot-sauce tasting test.
"I’m always trying to think of things that are new and fun," he says. "Getting a haircut should help you escape your regular life. I want to build an experience around it."
Full says another key to his success as an older entrepreneur is listening to the ideas of his younger staff and "making sure they’re happy and fulfilled." That leads to customers being treated well.

"I don’t want a myopic view," he says. "I always want to know what my employees see that I may be missing."
Full’s advice echoes the words of wisdom offered by Bill Zinke, founder and president of the Center for Productive Longevity. At 85, Zinke says his boundless energy is what drives him, much as it does other older entrepreneurs.
"It’s not a path for everyone, but it’s a chance to use your accumulated wisdom and experience to create something," he says.
Zinke’s center has been having workshops to help older workers decide if they want to jump into starting their own businesses. Zinke says one of the most common problems is entrepreneurs not realizing how much cash they need to get a business off the ground and survive before the company make a profit.
That’s why the Center for Productive Longevity offers a checklist of what aspiring entrepreneurs need to consider before tackling a new venture. The organization suggests researching the competition, considering how personal and professional connections can help and developing a personal vision.
When Full was putting his business together, he says he turned to a contact about establishing a website. That website has turned out to be a boon to the business because it allows customers to make appointments online at any time and even can send text alerts about upcoming appointments.
The website also features social media contact information, staff profiles and a blog Full writes. Recent posts include three simple rules about the "manly art" of shaking hands properly and information on learning to play adult hockey.
"Every day the staff and I talk about how to get more exposure for the business and new ideas to try," he says. "It’s a lot of fun."

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How to Stop Procrastinating

I'm not a big procrastinator. In fact, I probably try to do too much all the time, which would account for waking at 4 a.m. and making lists and putting the pork chops in the dishwasher instead of the oven (multitasking is a problem for me.) But I know lots of procrastinators (who may never get around to reading this), so I thought it was a good time to address the subject of procrastination in my Gannett/USA Today column...
Thomas Jefferson once said you should never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
Of course, Jefferson didn’t have kids to get to soccer practice, a 45-minute commute, hundreds of emails to read and a boss who believes micromanagement is a gift.
It can be difficult to get everything done in our busy lives. But when you add procrastination to the mix, you’ve got a recipe for career disaster.
Jay Earley, a psychotherapist who has written on procrastination and what to do about it, says procrastinators don’t make a conscious choice to put things off.
“They know they need to do certain things, but they avoid it by forgetting about it or getting distracted with other things,” he says. “Or they may plan to do something, but they just sit there and can’t get going.”
Psychologically, he says procrastination can come from a fear of what will happen if you do the task.
You may be afraid that if you take on a project at work, you will fail or look bad. Or you may even fear you’ll be successful and be attacked for it.
“You may believe people will take pot shots at you or you’ll be ostracized,” he says.
Another psychological reason behind procrastination: unconscious rebellion.
You may not want your boss or your company telling you what to do. You may even be waging an internal rebellion against the part of you telling yourself to do the task and the other part that rejects the idea, Earley says.
The key is getting in touch with the root of your fear or defiance.
“Usually fear comes from childhood, and that’s why it may be overblown,” he says.
If you had a father who was heavily judgmental, you may overreact to a boss who gives you feedback. You then may fear the boss’s reaction to your work, put off completing assignments and miss deadlines.
“In other words, this boss is probably not as judgmental as you believe him to be. You need to do some introspection and see that what is really going now is really not that difficult,” Earley says. “Or you can tell yourself that you can come up with a plan to handle what’s happening in your life today.”
Earley, author of “Taking Action: Working Through Procrastination and Achieving Your Goals,” (Pattern System Books, $9.45), says you can deal with procrastination in several ways:
• Clarify your motivation. Do you want to feel better about yourself or stop disappointing colleagues? List the pain that your procrastination causes and what you have to gain from making improvements.
• Plan ahead. Ask yourself what tasks in the next two weeks you are likely to procrastinate on and what you need to do to overcome those tendencies.
• Get a buddy. Get someone supportive in your life to listen to your plans and help you stay on track. You can check in with that person on your progress.
“This will help keep you on track because you know you’re going to have to talk to someone about what you got done,” Earley says.
Procrastination can be a headache for those who don’t practice it, but must work with someone who does. Earley advises to avoid triggering fear or rebellion in colleagues by not being judgmental.

Friday, November 2, 2012

CIA Officers Share Tips on How to Detect A Lie

There’s an episode of the old “Gilligan’s Island” television show where the castaways eat seeds that make mind reading possible. While it seems fun at first, the Gilligan gang soon finds out that sometimes it’s best not to know what everyone is thinking all the time.
But wouldn’t you like to know what your boss is thinking? Wouldn’t you like to know whether someone at work is telling you the truth or not?
There may be a way to do that without eating some seeds on a fictional island.
If you take the advice of some of the best lie detectors in the world – CIA officers – then you may be able to glean when the boss is fibbing about giving you a raise or a co-worker is lying about meeting a deadline. Such information can be helpful in making career decisions and avoiding missteps that can get you off the fast track.
In a new book, “Spy the Lie,” three former CIA officers share decades of experience in recognizing deceptive behavior and how you can apply their methods to everyday work situations.
One of the authors, Michael Floyd, has spent 35 years finding the truth for the CIA and the National Security Agency. While he says that you don’t want to use these methods to decide who is lying about a romantic weekend liaison while gossiping around the water cooler, it can come in handy in more critical work situations, such as a job interview or to discover who may be cheating on an expense report.
The authors stress that the average person often doesn’t detect untruths because he or she believes that others simply won’t lie or they are just uncomfortable judging someone else. In addition, sometimes we rely on beliefs by others that a person is honest, so we don’t look deeply enough and take everything at face value, they say.
“We’re not human lie detectors,” Floyd says of his fellow authors, Philip Houston and Susan Carnicero. “But we’ve developed a method to help spot deceptions based on our experiences, in real-world situations.”
One of the indicators that a person may be lying is a “cluster” of behavior. Exhibiting what’s considered one suspicious action isn’t enough to show someone is being deceitful, they say, butseveral clues should put up your radar.
Listening for lies
Some of the verbal cues that someone is not being truthful include:
  • Failing to answer.  Dodging a direct answer to your question may indicate the person is trying to come up with a good answer because he or she doesn’t want to admit the truth.
  • Denial.  If you ask someone, “Did you do it?” and he or she answers (read the rest here)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Are You Turning Into a Zombie Employee?

I watched "Zombieland" for the the first time about a month ago, and have to say I thought it was pretty good. That's a rave review from someone who doesn't care for scary movies. (I made my mother sleep with me at night for three days after I saw the first "Friday the 13th.")
So, believe me when I say that I would not want to be a zombie because I'd probably faint from being so terrified of myself. But there's another kind of zombie that should scare everyone -- a zombie employee. Read why in this latest story I did for Gannett/USA Today....
In the 1968 movie, "Night of the Living Dead," Johnny teased Barbara, "They’re coming to get you!"
Johnny was speaking of zombies, and he might want to update that warning for the workplace today if he listens to Susan Battley.

Battley, a leadership and career expert, says that zombies are populating cubicles these days. You might even become one of them if you’re not careful.
"A zombie employee is someone who is neither living nor quite dead," she says. "The person has outlived his or her usefulness on the job."
So, that means a zombie worker might not be invited to important meetings, might be excluded from strategic initiatives or might be ignored by a new boss. Telecommuting employees can be vulnerable to becoming zombies if they don’t stay front of mind with their colleagues, customers and managers, she says.
The problem with zombie employees is that they often start down the road to the undead without being aware of it, Battley says.
The past several years have been difficult at many companies, and some employees took a "keep your head down and survive" mentality. The problem: They never realized they were becoming part of the half-dead employee group that could be discarded quickly, she says.
"You don’t want to become invisible," she says. "You have to be proactive."
That means you’ve got to stay focused on the company’s success and tie your energies to it. Instead of sitting through meetings in a trance-like state or watching "Zombieland" on your computer at work, you need to be selling yourself and your ideas to your team and your boss.
"Twenty years ago, zombies at work could get lost in the crowd," Battley says. "But organizations are much leaner now, and there’s nowhere for these people to hide anymore. And, they’re more damaging that ever."

Zombie employees often undermine morale, Battley says. Other workers see an employee allowed to zone out and keep a chair warm as possibly protected by a higher up, or as someone whose work others must constantly cover.
That leads to cynicism about the company’s mission and can lead to increased turnover and lower production, she says.
In addition, zombies can undermine a manager’s credibility and prevent the upward mobility of workers who deserve a promotion but can’t move up because a zombie is blocking the way, she says.
While zombies have become more popular in movies, television shows and books, being a zombie will do little for your career. If you fear you’re turning into one of the half dead/half alive employees that Battley addresses, don’t lose hope.
There is good news even for undead workers, she says.
"Don’t be afraid. While you can be a zombie in one place, that won’t necessarily be true somewhere else," she says. "Use it as a wake-up call and know that maybe you can’t be vibrant in the job you have now, but you can be somewhere else.