Friday, February 24, 2012

Does Your Boss Motivate You?

Heidi Grant Halvorson is associate director of the Motivation Science Center at the Columbia University Business School and a popular blogger on motivational science. She co-authored “The Psychology of Goals” and is author of “9 Things Successful People Do Differently” and “Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals.” Anita Bruzzese recently interviewed her on how motivation plays a role in the workplace.

AB: What do you think is the biggest mistake mangers make when trying to engage their workers and motivate them?

HGH: Many managers have a hard time giving motivating feedback. When things go wrong, we need to be willing to give honest criticism – because improvement is impossible without it — while fighting employee self-doubt. She needs to believe that success is within her reach, regardless of the mistakes she has made in the past. To do this, you need to be specific. What needs improvement, and what exactly can be done to improve? When you are a manager, helping your employee figure out how to do it right is just as important as letting them know what they are doing wrong.

You also need to emphasize actions that she has the power to change. Talk about aspects of her performance that are under her control, like the time and effort she put into a project, or thor the strategic approach she used.

AB: Do you think that motivation for workers has changed since the economic downturn? Why or why not?

HGH: Americans have a well-earned reputation for risk-taking, but these days we are something of a timid lot. When making decisions, lately many of us have been focused much more on what we have to lose than on what we might gain. Whenever we see our goals – whether they are organizational or personal – in terms of what we have to lose, we have what’s called a prevention focus. Prevention motivation is about obtaining security, avoiding mistakes, and fulfilling responsibilities. It’s about trying to hang on to...(read the rest on Intuit's Quickbase blog here.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

7 Ways to Make a Good Impression on the Phone

I have interviewed a lot of great people in my time, and those talks stick out in my mind.

But so does the phone conversation with the women was yelling at her kids every few minutes without turning away from the phone ("I TOLD YOU I'M ON THE PHONE! NO, YOU CAN'T HAVE ANOTHER COOKIE! STOP HITTING YOUR BROTHER!). I also remember the time I obviously woke someone up, and he denied it while he slurred and stumbled his way through his answers.

In both those cases, I wish the person would have just rescheduled our call in 20 minutes or even the next day. The conversations were frustrating for me, and the outcome (a fairly lousy interview) didn't do anyone any good.

Putting your best foot forward is even more crucial if you're interviewing for a job. Consider these pointers from my latest Gannett/ story and how your first "hello" means so much....

As employers try to whittle down what can be hundreds of applicants vying for one job, they're turning more to phone interviews to screen candidates and streamline the process.

Unfortunately, some applicants are not taking these contacts via phone as seriously as they should, wrecking their job chances with the first "hello," a phone interview expert says.

"People are answering the phone with a 'Hey, how ya doin'?' and crazy music playing in the background," Paul J. Bailo says. "What kind of message is this?"

Not the right one, says Bailo, founder and chief executive of Phone Interview Pro.

He contends that any phone contact is a way to build a relationship and never should be taken lightly.

"In a job search, everything you do or say matters," he says.

After research of what employers like and don't like in phone conversations, Bailo has developed advice that he believes will make the best impression and help you score a job. He advises job seekers to:

• Ditch the cellphone. Dropped calls, weird noises, feedback and a host of other problems mean you always should talk to employers on a land line.

If you don't have one, invest in one for your job search, he says.

Also, don't use a headset, which often can make it difficult for an interviewer to hear you clearly. If an employer calls, let your cellphone voice mail pick up, then call back on a land line.

• Don't multitask. When talking to an employer, don't tap away on your keyboard, fiddle with a pen or wash dishes.

An interviewer can pick up any of those sounds, and your tone will convey your distraction. Make sure it's clear that the conversation is your priority.

• Make a great first impression. The first 15 seconds can make or break a phone conversation, Bailo says.

Don't answer on the first ring. Let it go two or three rings before answering with a professional "Hello." Never say "Hi," which sounds too casual, or just state your name, which seems unfriendly.

• Be prepared. If you know an interviewer is going to call, make sure you've done your homework on the company and the interviewer.

Read the day's headlines so you're prepared to talk about current events if they're brought up. Have a cough drop or glass of water nearby in case you need them. While it should go without saying, Bailo says many people forget to visit the restroom before a phone interview, so he advises taking care of such personal needs beforehand.

• Shut out distractions. Get a babysitter for your children, post a sign on the door to not ring the doorbell and lock the dog out of the room.

You want quiet so you can concentrate and the interviewer isn't distracted with the sound of a howling child.

• Don't be too eager. When an interviewer asks to set up a time for a phone chat, don't jump at the first time offered, Bailo says.

"Tell the person you're not available then, but then give another time the next day. This shows you're in demand with other things. Remember, people like things they can't have," he says.

At the same time, he advises not answering the phone but letting voice mail pick up if an interviewer calls more than 15 minutes late. You then can call the interviewer to reschedule.

• Have a checklist. Make sure that throughout the interview you say things like "I am very excited about this position" or "I would be happy to be part of your organization," he says.

This eliminates any confusion that can come from not having a face-to-face conversation.

What other phone tips do you have?


Friday, February 17, 2012

4 Ways to Deal With Negativity at Work

I once worked with a woman who was so depressing to be around that people literally fast-walked to their offices and slammed the doors to get away from her. We all ate our lunches in our offices behind closed doors, because otherwise we would be subjected to her whining and complaining in the break room.

I wish I had been a little smarter about what she was doing to all of us. After writing this story, I think I could have employed these strategies to combat her negativity and perhaps turn her into a nicer human being to be around. See if you can also relate to this latest story I did for Gannett/USA

There's no worse feeling than arriving at work and immediately being hit with a bucket full of negativity.

"I can't believe I have so much to do. I'll never get it all done. I'll probably be fired, and then I'll lose my house and my kids will starve," a co-worker whines.

Before you can form a response, another colleague chimes in: "You think you have a lot to do? This customer wants a new price quote within the hour. And then the idiot will probably tell me it's still not good enough."

You haven't even taken off your coat and you're ready to crawl under your desk and hide for the rest of the day.

How can you keep yourself motivated when you're surrounded by a morass of negative colleagues — not to mention a boss who is yelling your name across the room?

"I can't imagine why I don't have that report on my desk!" he booms at you. "Did aliens come into my office and take it? Are you going to send it to me telepathically?"

Now is about the time you wish you had won the lottery so that you could just walk out the door and leave your boss and your co-workers behind. But you didn't score the big time, so you've got to figure out a way to survive this job.

Michelle Gielan, a partner health and wellness consultant with Good Think Inc., says it's not unusual to feel overwhelmed when negative comments are being thrown right and left. She says research shows it can often take three positives to balance out one negative, so if your workplace is stocked with even a few negative people, it can be a challenge to overcome it.

And you do want to overcome it, she says.

If you don't, the mirror neurons network in your brain that enabled you to mimic adult behavior when you were a child will kick in and you'll start to fall into negativity yourself, she says.

But the good news is that you can also influence negativity to move in the other direction.

"It's a two-way street. Emotions are contagious," she says. "So if you've got a negative boss, you can be positive and impact that person."

How do you stay upbeat when you feel burdened by negativity in the workplace? Gielan advises:

• Identify the Debbie Downers. Sometimes certain colleagues are like a dark raincloud, so limit interaction with these folks, she says.

"If they set the social script in the office with their negativity, then you also have the ability to set it to be positive," she says.

• Break the pattern. If you find yourself constantly complaining about the economy with your colleagues, break free of that cycle by finding more positive things to talk about.

While you may need to know about current events for your job, don't dwell on less-than-encouraging news and try to balance it with stories about people doing good works.

• Handle social networking carefully. While chatting with friends online can be "amazing for boosting your well-being," the same cannot be said when you get into snarky interactions with strangers, she says.

"If you're just sort of cruising through news feeds and looking at people you don't know, it doesn't add much to life," she says. "It can make you feel detached and lonely."

Instead, use your social networking to add meaning to your life and enhance conversations with people you know, Gielan says.

• Build in down time. "We all need to know our limits," Gielen says. "There has to be a point where you turn off the cellphone and the computer at a certain point in the day and just do something for fun or to de-stress."

She cautions that pushing yourself today could result in burnout tomorrow.

"I think bosses respect limits," she says. "Don't go beyond what you can handle."

What are your strategies for dealing with negativity at work?


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top Leadership Guru Marshall Goldsmith Offers His Secrets to Success

I've been fortunate in my career to talk to a lot of really smart people. People who are not only really smart, but nice. Willing to share what they know, no matter how successful they become. They're the leadership gurus, the people who we need right now more than ever to help us navigate our careers.

Recently I interviewed Marshall Goldsmith, and wanted to share some real nuggets of wisdom from a guy who is comfortable sitting down with a CEO of a Fortune 100 as he is a college student...

AB: How has your leadership coaching changed – if at all – in the last 34 years?

MG: My deepest learning in 34 years has been recognizing that it is not all about me. It’s about the clients. In fact, the person who I spent the least amount of time with improved the most. And the person I spent the most time with improved the least. So I learned a great lesson that it wasn’t about me being smart, it was about great people who work hard.

AB: Are there different pressures on executives today than when you first began coaching?

MG: Oh, yes. Much different. In the old days before the Internet and everyone had cell phones and all that, executives were much more likely to get a pass, especially from the business press, for inappropriate behavior. But today they live in a much bigger fishbowl. Everything they say is quoted. They have to be incredibly careful about everything they do and say because they are under much, much more of a microscope than they were before. They have to be incredibly sensitive in emails because that can all get subpoenaed and go to court and become public record. How many cases do we know where companies have lost billions because of stupid emails?

AB: Is such a fishbowl existence good or bad?

MG: I’m not into the “good or bad” judgment business. I’m in the “helping people get better” business and deal with what’s there. You could argue it’s good and bad. The reality is: It is what it is. The reality is that today it is very, very challenging to be an executive. Your behavior is under incredible scrutiny, and that’s part of life. And if you don’t want to pay the price, don’t take the job.

AB: Is that one of the things you tell your executives?

MG: Definitely. Every meeting is show time. People look at what you say, how you look, your tone of voice. More so today than ever before.

AB: What’s their reaction when you tell them that their every move will be watched and reviewed?

MG: I use the example of the Broadway play. I ask them: “Did they ever hear the kid (actor) complain because their foot hurts or their aunt died last week?’ No. That’s because it’s show time. I tell them the kid isn’t making a hundredth of what they’re making, and if the kid can go out there night after night and be a professional and get everything right, so can you. That’s just part of your job. I think it’s a healthy attitude to have. You’re not being a phony, you’re being professional.

Look, an executive sitting in a meeting listening to a PowerPoint slide already knows what the person is going to say, but everyone in the room is looking at the executive face, and this executive has to look like he or she cares. That’s not being a phony, .....(read the rest on Intuit's Quickbase blog here)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Employer Embraces Older Workers

I've heard plenty of horror stories about age discrimination in job interviews, so it was really refreshing to hear something positive about an employer who not only actively seeks out older job candidates, but older workers who say they've found new careers that inspire and rejuvenate them. Here's the latest story I did for Gannett/

Gisela Ashley had been a real-estate agent for about 18 years when she decided to take inheritance money from her father and go back to school.She earned her master's degree just one month shy of her 50th birthday in 2008, entering what she knew was a very difficult job market.

Her age coupled with the recession and limited experience in her new field of recreation programming for seniors should have added up to tough times for Ashley.

Instead, she found success and a job as engage life director for Atria Senior Living in Newburyport, Mass. Atria is one employer actively seeking senior employees, finding them to be "committed, reliable workers," saysAnne Pinter, senior vice president for the New England-Upstate New York region for Atria Senior Living.

"We run 24/7 care for frail seniors," Pinter says. "We've got to have committed, reliable workers, and we haven't always been able to find that with younger workers who sometimes may not just show up for work. We need those who can grasp the purpose of what we're trying to do."

Ashley says she was aware that some older job seekers have complained about age discrimination. For that reason, she didn't discuss her age and thinks her more youthful appearance helped.

She also nabbed a couple of internships in her field before graduation, which helped beef up her resume and make her more appealing to employers.

"I actually interned for someone who said she had two bad experiences with previous interns who were in their 20s. She said that I renewed her faith in interns and said she appreciated my maturity and felt she could trust me. With the younger interns, she said she felt she had to watch them all the time," Ashley says.

Pinter says 36 percent of Atria's 9,000 workers are older than 50, and of that number 11 percent are part-timers.

"We offer people the chance for full-time careers if they want, but we also have hours for those who don't want to work all the time," she says. "We have a lot of different work."

While seniors may not be physically able to do some of the most demanding work such as heavy maintenance, most can handle duties from serving food to working at the receptionist desk, Pinter says.

"No matter what job they do, they give our seniors a great living experience," she says. "Our seniors say that they love connecting with older workers because they're often about the same age as their own children. They can find it a little difficult to initiate a conversation with a 20-year-old."

For her part, Ashley says the senior residents give her an ego boost.

"They think I'm 20," she says, laughing.

In addition, Ashley says she's inspired by her senior staff, including one 75-year-old women "who puts me to shame she has so much energy."

Atria has learned through assessments that employee energy isn't related to age, and "has more to do with personality," Pinter says. "We don't see a lot of limitations to what they (senior staff) can do."

"One of the things we've found is that our employees really drive the experience of our residents," she says. "Happy employees really drive the satisfaction for our residents, and our senior workers just have a happy factor that is contagious."

Ashley says her experience of going back to school was fun and she bonded with many of her younger classmates who referred to her as "Mama Gisela."

"I would say that the key is just putting your best foot forward," she says. "I really do believe the saying that 50 is the new 30. I just said, 'what the heck' and went for it."

What advice would you have for older job seekers or those changing careers?


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

7 Ways to Tell a Story That Makes Employers Crazy About You

Career experts often advise job seekers or networkers to “tell your story.” But what does that mean? Should you share how you won the school science fair in third grade or how you once locked your keys in the car with the engine still running?

It’s difficult to know exactly what story to tell at the right time – and how to make it interesting enough that eyes don’t start to glaze over or someone pulls the fire alarm just to get away from you. There is a skill to telling the right kind of stories at the right time so that you not only gain the interest of an employer or contact, but also will enable the person to recall you more vividly later.

One important key: Make sure emotion is evoked. Telling the story of winning the science fair might work if it conveys a sense of joy gained through hard work. Even locking your keys in the car can become a funny tale that underlines the sense of satisfaction gained by overcoming an obstacle. Dan McAdams, a Northwestern University psychology professor who has studied storytelling for more than 10 years, told a publication for the American Psychological....

Read the rest of my story on Intuit's Quickbase blog....

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Love CSI? How About a Career in Computer Forensics?

Those who graduate with degrees in romantic art history or have a background making typewriters may find themselves with a very short list of job possibilities. If you're looking to explore a new field that is projected to grow by leaps and bounds in the next few years, check out this story I did for Gannett/USAToday....

Most people may not have any idea what a computer forensics expert does beyond a general knowledge gleaned from spy novels.

But the profession may be worth exploring as a real-life career since it's expected to grow by double digits with the increasing demand for cybersecurity from public and private entities.

Steve Bunting, who has been involved in computer forensics for more than a decade as a law-enforcement officer, says he got into the work almost by accident when investigating an employee's email misuse. Now the field has become more sophisticated and specialized.

"It used to be just the province of law enforcement. But as more information used by businesses has become digitized, you need a tech team to also be working" on retrieving and protecting information, he says.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates computer forensics jobs are expected to grow more than 13 percent in the next several years with starting salaries of about $46,500. The National Security Agency has plans to hire 3,000 specialists to combat the thousands of cyberattacks every day in the United States, while theDepartment of Homeland Security is hiring about 1,000 more cybersecurity specialists.

While some employers may not require a college degree, Bunting says many will want one or more of the computer forensic certifications available.

Why the growing demand for such specialists? Consider events in just the past year:

• Hackers broke into a Zappos' server, giving them access to the records of 24 million customers of the online shoe and clothing retailer. Although credit-card numbers reportedly were protected, an investigation is under way amid new worries that such a large company could be at risk.

• Attacks on U.S. infrastructure, such as energy and water utilities, have been documented. A nuclear lab in Tennessee was the victim of one cyberattack.

• Military drones and other computer systems were infected with a virus, and officials were unsure about whether it was introduced accidentally or on purpose — but it kept showing up even after it had been eliminated.

• In his confirmation hearing, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told the Senate Armed Services committee that the "next Pearl Harbor we confront could very well be a cyberattack that cripples our power systems, our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems."

• Cybersecurity software company Symantec's final report in December found that targeted cyberattacks skyrocketed by 400 percent in 2011.

With the increasing threat to public and private organizations, computer forensic specialists are often on the trail of criminals who may operate domestically or internationally. Many companies now have their own forensic security specialists although they work with law enforcement regarding illegal activity, Bunting says.

"Most companies don't want anyone else poking around in their system, so they'll investigate much of it themselves to protect their security," he says.

While computer skills are necessary for the work, Bunting says those well versed in that field may not be well suited for forensics work since it can be very monotonous, especially when it comes to poring through data for hours, looking for clues.

"Many tech-savvy people like more creative work or troubleshooting problems," he says. "This kind of job requires you to have great people skills, be able to write good reports and be intuitive."

In addition, computer forensic specialists often spend hours in a courtroom, testifying in cases where security was breached or explaining how they used technology to find wrongdoing.

"You've got to be able to write a lot of reports and explain technology in a way the grandmother sitting on the jury would be able understand," he says.