Thursday, June 27, 2013

How to Focus Creativity to Achieve Results

Are you an idea monkey?
According to G. Michael Maddock, author of “Free the Idea Monkey…to Focus on What Matters Most,” an idea monkey is someone who can produce lots of new thoughts, concepts or ideas on demand and is ready to pour his or her abundant creative energies into working with others.
But while this may make such a person more valuable in the workplace at a time when organizations are craving innovation, it also can make him or her a giant pain in the butt.
That’s probably not news to anyone who has to lead or manage such people. While it may seem great when an idea monkey pops up with “We could do this, this and this!” the manager knows he or she is going to have to figure out a way to harness all that creative energy and mold it into into a workable plan.
In an interview with Anita Bruzzese, Maddock explains how a leader can survive working with such energetic, creative types without losing focus and killing the creative spark of the idea monkey.
AB: How can a leader benefit from working with an idea monkey?
CMM:  Research indicates that as much as 54% of a stock’s value is based on ideas you haven’t even thought of yet. Idea monkeys can help your company build a balanced innovation portfolio. New products, services and business models create higher margins and happier and more loyal customers.
The greatest leaders play to their strengths. Working with a great idea monkey may liberate you to focus on process, operations or strategy instead of trying to brainstorm what’s next for your company.
AB: What are some ways to keep an idea monkey on track without killing their creativity?
CMM: 1) Celebrate their talent. The ability to create dozens of unique ideas on command is a superhero power. Make sure your creative people know it. Telling them how much you respect their ability to be creative – and  maybe even admitting you don’t share the same gift – is a great way to show respect and honor their creative genius.
2) Humbly bring them a SPECIFIC challenge. Too many ideas can be distracting, particularly when they have nothing to do with the challenges that are keeping you (read more here)

Monday, June 24, 2013

Is it Time for a Treadmill Desk?

When I was in school, I biked or walked everywhere. Even when I entered the working world, I walked several miles every day, covering my beat as a police and court reporter. It wasn't until the advent of email and the Internet that my butt seemed to become glued to a chair.
Now I do most of my work online. I joked to my editor that I make sure I drink lots of water every day so that I'm forced to get up and walk to the bathroom more often and get some exercise throughout my day.
Read this latest story I did for Gannett/USA Today and see if maybe it isn't time to change the way you work....
In America, nearly 70% of the adult population is considered overweight.
As you sit with your butt seemingly glued to your office chair for yet another day, could it be that you're about to join that group? Maybe you're already part of it.
If so, you may want to consider what some workers are doing to fight the battle of the bulge.
A University of Missouri employee, Nikki Raedeke, says she lost weight in the double digits since getting up out of her chair as dietetics program director the College of Human Environmental Sciences — and never sitting down again.
Instead, Raedeke spends her day walking while she works. Using a specially designed treadmill, Raedeke walks up to 11 miles each day, all while sending emails, talking on the phone, writing reports or conversing with colleagues. Since she began the practice in January, she says she feels much more energized and even will stand in meetings instead of sitting, as was her previous habit.
Raedeke says she doesn't even notice that she spends her day striding in place although "handwriting is still a bit tricky," she says.
Raedeke says she was inspired to launch her walking routine after observing Steve Ball, an associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at MU who also uses a treadmill while he works.
"I just think we've got to practice what we preach," he says. "It doesn't make sense for me to be on my tail when there's a way for me to get moving and be a role model."
Ball says students and professors often stop by to question him about the treadmill, and that gives him an opportunity to promote a message of good health.
The treadmill is designed to reach a maximum speed of only 2 mph, he says. That's slow enough to make working easy but fast enough to burn 100 calories an hour.
If you take into account that adding an extra 100 calories a day can add 10 pounds a year, walking while working makes sense, Ball says.
"For some people, it might be the only exercise they get all day," he says.
Raedeke, 40, says she worked out several times a week walking or running for about 30 minutes, but the continual movement while on the job has made a difference in other areas.
"I think it has also made me more aware of my diet," she says. "I don't want to go and eat back those calories at night."
While Raedeke and Ball use treadmills designed for office work, bestselling author Tom Rath says that while writing his new book he modified his own treadmill and was able to write several hours every day while walking about 1.5 miles an hour. He also walks an additional five to 10 miles every day.
Ball and Raedeke offer tips for others interested in adding more activity to their work day:
• Move more often. Even if you don't have a treadmill desk, you should aim for moving every hour, maybe 10 deep knee bends beside your desk or walking in place for 2 minutes.
Research finds that sitting for more than six hours a day increases your chances of dying sooner than someone who sits only three hours a day, no matter how much regular exercise you may get. Experts like Ball consider it key to schedule regular movement throughout the day.
• Be a leader. "You don't have to be embarrassed for participating in healthy behavior," Ball says, adding that promoting a healthy lifestyle can change the culture of an office and encourage others to join you.
Employers will find that healthier employees are more productive and lower health insurance costs, he says.
• Dress appropriately. Raedeke says she keeps different shoes at work for her needs.
She wears athletic shoes while walking, and slips into other shoes when going to teach a class. She's also learned to dress in layers so she can be comfortable while walking.
• Walk and talk. It's easy to build more movement into the day and it can even help office interactions, Ball says.
For example, difficult conversations between a boss and employee are easier when walking, he says, and meetings can be held while everyone takes a walk outside.
• Track your progress. You're more likely to stick with health goals if you keep track of what you're eating and how much you're moving, Ball says.
Set a timer at work to remind you to move every hour, or try online applications like to track calories and exercise. Another option is FitBit, a watch-like band that tracks your daily fitness.
"A lot of people give up on fitness because it seems overwhelming and hopeless," Ball says. "You see people in magazines with these six-pack abs. Most people won't get to that, and you don't have to. You just need to be active. So make it easy and accessible."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

How to Know When Someone is Lying

I think most people believe they are good at spotting liars. If you're one of them, read this story I did for Gannett/USA Today, and you may begin to doubt your powers of perception.....

You might think you can detect a fibber by reading body language.
Obviously, the weird guy who never makes eye contact or the woman who nervously chews her lower lip are showing signs they are lying, right?
But what about your best work buddy who hangs out with you on weekends and threw you a surprise birthday party? This is someone you can trust.
Well, to be honest, that's a lie. The truth is that we're all liars at work, including you, Carol Kinsey Goman says.
The lying appears to begin with a job interview and never stops, she says.
University of Massachusetts research finds that 81% of job interview candidates lie, and extroverts are the most likely to stretch the truth. On average, participants in the study told 2.19 lies in a 15-minute interview.
The lying doesn't even end in the exit interview, Goman says.
"People lie their heads off in exit interviews," she says. "They say it would be a career killer if they told the truth, and they don't want to burn their bridges."
So what does all this lying mean for the workplace?
At its most benign, a co-worker can lie to tell you that your butt doesn't look big in those pants.
But the problem can become much more destructive if a colleague lies to cover a serious error — or puts the blame on you. Lies can destroy careers and seriously damage companies, which is why Goman believes it's important to become more aware of liars.
"I don't want us to become suspicious of everyone, but I do think we need to understand the lies that are going on and think about what our response will be," she says.
In a new book, The Truth About Lies in the Workplace: How to Spot Liars and What to Do About Them, Goman outlines ways to detect spot liars:
• Look for "tells." Just as a poker player spots nonverbal cues that give away another player's increased stress, you can look for body language that is out of sync with what a person is saying.
Body language that might indicate deception includes touching an eyebrow or squeezing the bridge of the nose while closing the eyes. Or, a liar may show nervousness through increased foot movement.
• Listen to the choice of words. Verbal cues can indicate someone may be lying, such as offering unnecessary elaboration to a story, changing a subject or offering qualifiers such as "to the best of my knowledge."
Once you think someone is lying, what should you do?
The answer may be different depending on the circumstances and the lie being told, Goman says.
You've got to consider who is lying. You might react differently if this person has power over you, such as your boss.
Also consider your goal in confronting the liar: Do you want an apology, a change in behavior or punishment for the person?
You have to figure out the consequences of confrontation, which can range from nothing happening to the liar facing legal action or job loss.
Even with our radar on alert for liars, Goman says they're not always easy to spot at work because we have an "invested interest" bias.
We want to believe our co-workers or boss, "and our biases so blind us we often suspect the wrong people," she says. Our biggest weakness: We often never suspect "people who look like us."
Liars' most successful tactic is using trust to manipulate, Goman says.
So, liars may say that their information is going only to a trusted few or may pitch in to help on a task when they're really the ones hurting us behind the scenes, she says.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why Leaders Need to Train Like Elite Athletes

I'm a baseball fan, and am often concerned about the grueling schedule the players maintain. They play more than 160 regular-season games a year, and that doesn't take into account playoffs, spring training and playing in other games held around the world.
So that's why the story I recently did for Gannett/USA Today really opened my eyes. I shouldn't be worried about baseball players, but instead about the executive I interviewed yesterday. Read on....

If you saw an elite athlete like Tiger Woods play golf for 12 hours a day for years without a break, you would think he was nuts, right?
After all, how can an athlete's body be expected to take that kind of punishment? Not to mention the emotional and mental toll such a high level of performance demands.
Eventually, you might surmise Woods' body will give out and he won't be able to perform at a professional level. He might even do permanent damage to himself, you would think.
And you would be right. Top athletes know they must pace themselves. So to maintain their skills and competitive level, they factor in regular down times between performances.
Executives should take this lesson to heart, says Jim Loehr, vice president of applied science and performance psychology at Wellness & Prevention Inc.
Known for his work with Olympians and other top-tier athletes, Loehr says executives need to view their work and their bodies in the same light as a top athlete.
Specifically, that means they must be able to find ways to regularly replenish their physical, mental and spiritual well-being if they want to go the distance, he says.
If you consider that a professional athlete's career may last around seven years and an executive's career may last 40 years, it's clear that executives face burnout if they don't take better care of themselves, he says.
Still Loehr, whose company is a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, wants to make clear that the stress of a job isn't what breaks down an executive or anyone else
"People think stress is the enemy, and that's myth," he says. "Stress helps you grow. It's what mobilizes us. It is what pushes us."
The problem really is with chronic stress that comes from never taking a break, Loehr says. Without those breaks, we can't recover our balance and grow stronger to perform at a high level the next time we need to do so.
The problem with leaders not taking better care of themselves is that the results are seen in the bottom line. A recent Development Dimensions International, and the Institute for Human Resources survey finds that nearly 3 in 5 respondents report that poor top leadership has led to increased leader and team member turnover almost two-thirds report it has led to lower productivity.
Companies won't get better performances from their top corporate "athletes" unless they start giving them a break on their work demands and schedules, Loehr says. This lesson is important not only for the chief executive, but for all workers.
"The job is killing you because you haven't found a way for intermittent rest," he says. "You have to have sufficient recovery to balance the stress."
Loehr recommends the best ways to condition yourself just like a top professional athlete so you can be at the top of your game:
• Build in physical capacity. Exercising and eating right are critical because they help you develop greater endurance and enable you to recover emotionally and mentally.
Being strong physically will help you be more productive and efficient because you're relying on your health — and not candy bars and coffee — to remain energetic and focused.
Loehr suggests eating five to six small meals a day and working out three to four times a week for 20 to 30 minutes. You also need to plan on seeking recovery every 90 to 120 minutes, which means eating something, drinking water, getting up from your chair and moving around or finding a way to engage in something else mentally.
• Become emotionally stronger. Athletes often use different rituals to offset their stress and restore their positive outlook.
Many top athletes wear headphones to listen to music, which has been shown to provide relief from chronic worrying or obsessive thinking.
• Focus mentally. Using meditation techniques such as sitting quietly and focusing on your breathing can be very helpful in letting yourself recover from stress.
Doing mindless activities such as gardening or taking a shower can help clear your mind and even help you think of creative ideas or solutions to difficult problems.
• Think of spirituality. Some executives are leery of talking about spirituality in connection with their jobs, but Loehr says they should look at it as a way to connect themselves to the deeper meaning of why they do what they do.
Without that connection, persevering during tough times can be difficult.

Friday, June 7, 2013

How to Find Time for What Really Matters

Remember when you were a kid and summertime meant hanging out with friends, sleeping late and going on vacation?
Now, summertime means you’ve got to try and figure out how to get all your work done before you take time off, cover for vacationing colleagues and keep the kids from killing one another while they’re out of school.
Somehow, the summertime giddiness of our youth has turned into the dread of too much work and too little time.
The problem is that this feeling of being overworked isn’t confined just to the dog-days of summer, but seems to be a feeling we experience all year.
A recent survey for Huffington Post finds that 77% of us feel stressed “regularly,” with the biggest causes of that anxiety being reported as too much work and too little time.  Words such as “pressure,” “overwhelmed” and “inadequate” were used as descriptions of the feelings that stress evokes.
Stop channeling a hamster
Carson Tate, managing partner at Working Simply, says there are steps you can take if you want to stop feeling like a hamster on a never-ending exercise wheel. If you want to find more ways to enjoy your summer – and all the other times of the year – you can begin by:
  • Recognizing that time is a commodity. If your co-worker asked for a bunch of money, would you just hand it over? Probably not. But Tate says we often do that with our time. “We’re so willing to give away our time,” she says. “But it’s a commodity you cannot get back.”
She suggests thinking about how much your time is worth per hour.
“Then look at how long you’re spending in meetings, on various tasks or writing emails.  If you’re sitting in a meeting where you’re not contributing and could instead be working on an important project, then that has a direct bottom-line impact,” she says.
  • Develop a five-minute list. If you’re sitting at a swim meet waiting for your child’s competition, it’s a good time to read an industry article you’ve wanted to peruse, or even make a quick phone call to schedule a vet’s visit for the cat. If you write down (read more here)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

How to Avoid Making a Bad Decision About a Job

I wish I had talked to Dan Heath or Francesco Gino before I made some truly horrible decisions in my life, like getting a perm because I believed I could look like Julie Roberts in "Pretty Woman" or that taking a job to work for someone I knew was a complete psycho. 
Read this story I did for Gannett/USA Today and learn how to make better decisions (and possibly avoid a hair disaster of epic proportions).....
Before buying a product, we often check what other people are saying about it online.
But in making one of the most important decisions of our lives — about a job — we often rely on little feedback and jump into a position that may turn out to be a big mistake.
That's why Dan Heath says more people need to learn better strategies in making employment decisions.
In his book with brother Chip Heath, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, Dan Heath says one way to make a tough decision is to think about how we would advise a friend.
"It's often clearer for us to see the big picture when we're thinking about what to tell a friend," he says. "When we're just thinking about ourselves, we can get distracted by a signing bonus or a prestigious job."
Thinking about what to advise a friend "is as close as we've found to a decision-making magic trick," he says. "The answer usually pops out in 10 seconds because it's just such a quick shift in perspective."
Francesca Gino, a Harvard Business School professor and author of Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan, says job seekers often make poor decisions about a job because they're not able to predict the emotions they may have when negotiating.
Job seekers need to better prepare themselves before an offer is made, she says, so they know if the offer meets their goals and what the "walk-away point" will be.
"Too often, we make important career decisions, such as looking for another job, when we are in a heightened emotional state, when we are too focused on the small things at work that disappointed us, or when we learn that our friends or peers have jobs that make them happy," she says.
When job seekers need to make a decision, Dan Heath recommends they should:
• Do a 10/10/10 analysis. Think about how you would feel about your job choice 10 minutes from now, 10 months from now and 10 years from now.
"This is the best advice, especially if you're young. This will free you from the sense you need to pick the right job right now. No one will do that," he says. "Rather than agonize over it, why not just try it?"
• Use a vanishing options test. If you take away your current job offer, what would you do?
"When people imagine they cannot have the option, they move their mental spotlight," Dan Heath says. This exercise helps job seekers consider other options that might not otherwise have crossed their minds and come up with a more practical solution.
• Dip a toe in. If you're considering a big career or job shift, don't think that you have to jump in completely.
Maybe volunteering or moonlighting would give you a chance to try out a particular type of work, or you could shadow someone on the job for a few weeks, he suggests.
"Sometimes when you're dissatisfied with a job, every path looks like the yellow brick road," he says.
• Use multi-tracking. If you're house hunting and you only view one house, you may begin to rationalize away its faults.
But if you weigh several houses at one time, you will be more honest with yourself about the pros and cons, Dan Heath says. Job hunters should use the same strategy and look at multiple jobs at one time.
• Conduct a premortem. Envision what the job you're considering would be like six months from now and the worst-case scenario.
Is that something you're willing to risk? If not, you might want to move on.
Finally, Dan Heath advises you to beware that you may have blinders on regarding other options.
"People are more likely to select information that supports their pre-existing attitudes, beliefs and actions," he says.