Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why Failure Can Be a Really Good Thing

“I failed in some subjects in exam, but my friend passed in all. Now he is an engineer in Microsoft and I am the owner of Microsoft.” — Bill Gates

Failure is often a difficult pill to swallow. We feel angry, humiliated and defeated when we don’t succeed, especially in a culture that seems to shove other people’s success in our face on an hourly basis.
But what we don’t consider is that failing is often a signal of great things to come. Consider this proof that failure may be the best thing that ever happened to you:
  • Walt Disney was told a giant mouse – aka Mickey Mouse – would never work because it would scare women.
  • Oprah Winfrey was fired at age 22 as a television reporter and deemed “unfit for TV.”
  • Dr. Seuss’s  first book, “And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street” was turned down by 27 publishing houses and was such a flop he thought about burning it.
  • Edgar Allen Poe was kicked out of West Point and his early poems were unsuccessful.
Many people who have experienced failure such as Bill Gates say that failure tests you. It forces you to rethink your strategies and ideas and develop resilience and persistence in the face of adversity or opposition.  It is those qualities that often help lead you to greater success, just as when Steven Spielberg didn’t give up when he was rejected twice from the University of Southern California or Jay-Z couldn’t get a record deal.
Psychologists Ryan Babineaux and John Krumboltz teach a popular Stanford University course called “Fail Fast, Fail Often,” and will release a book of the same name in December.
They contend that we need to fight the notion that is instilled in us as children that we need to be cautious and careful – and not fail. Their research shows that happy and successful people spend less time planning and more time trying things – and even failing. Trying new things, they argue, is what exposes you to new and unexpected opportunities.
One part of their advice is that if you’re going to fail, do it quickly. The more things you try – and fail at – the more quickly you will find the solution that works.
That means that if you’re trying to write a book, for example,  don’t agonize (read more here)

Monday, November 25, 2013

Learn to Say "No" and Preserve Your Sanity

The holidays are right around and the corner, year-end reports are due, co-workers are asking you to cover for them on vacation and the boss wants everything done yesterday.
It's no wonder you may be feeling a bit stressed.
But could the stress be generated not from outside forces but your own actions?
At a recent Families and Work Institute conference, President Ellen Galinsky says that many employers are noticing a growing problem of employees being always "on." They answer e-mails at night and on weekends and work outside of regular hours when they're supposed to be off.
Employers are worried about worker burnout, she says.
One of the biggest problems for many workers today is that they can't say "no," says says Preston Ni, a professor of communications studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif.; a career coach; and trainer.
"There's always the concern in the workplace of social rejection or career consequences for saying no," Ni says. "Maybe you don't want to hurt someone's feelings by saying no, or doing so makes you feel guilty."
The problem is that by not learning to say "no," you then become a victim and risk burnout, he says.
The most successful people learn how to manage their own time effectively and aren't buffeted with demands from various sources, Ni says. They are still busy, just not overwhelmed.
With all the year-end activities and deadlines many of us are facing, Ni has advice to let you say "no," take control of your life, and be happier and more successful:
• Set boundaries. If a colleague approaches you about covering for her while she's taking some time off, you can say "no" diplomatically by saying something like, "Unfortunately, I have a lot on my plate as well."
Or "it is important to me that I finish this project, so I need to focus on these tasks." Another option: Say you're "uncomfortable" taking on the other tasks at this time.
• Learn to engage and disengage. Instead of turning down a colleague's request for help, you can offer to take a specific piece of the task, and then (read more here)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Why Having Talent Isn't Always Enough

Let’s say one day you and your co-workers decide to form a basketball team to get a little exercise after work and maybe form a tighter workplace bond.
But then one day LeBron James shows up and offers to play for the team. That’s a no-brainer, right? You grab the chance to catapult your team to a winning season, led by the Miami Heat star.
Once he’s on the team, you don’t say much other than “great job!” and get out of the way.
But then let’s imagine James begins to show up late for games. He can’t get along with any of the team members,  and he begins to make the game a whole lot less fun. But you don’t do anything.
Because it’s  LEBRON JAMES.
Enough said.
The problem with such stellar talent, whether it’s a professional basketball player or a whiz kid from Harvard who could be the next Mark Zuckerberg, is that they are human. So even though they’re crazy good at what they do, they can still do dumb things.
That’s why even the most talented employees need to be careful they don’t make boneheaded moves that can hurt their career in ways their brilliant minds never imagined. (Oh, and in case these brilliant minds think they can always stay one step ahead of the boss, just consider Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer’s checking VPN logs and discovering how telecommuting workers were slacking.)
Here are some ways talented employees can derail their careers:
  • Whining.  Just because you’re smart and make the company a lot of money doesn’t mean you have a special pass that allows you to openly criticize others in a demeaning manner and whine until you get your way. You still have to do the work to present the hard facts about why your way is better. You still have to collaborate and not drag your feet like a 5-year-old about to be sent to bed early.
  • Not accepting feedback. Super-talented employees often believe they should be providing the feedback, not accepting it.  Give-and-take in the workplace is expected, and if you don’t want to accept comments that others have to offer, go live in a cave somewhere.
  • Running a sideline on company time. Reports were that Yahoo employees working from home were spending much of their time and energies launching their own enterprises.  It’s not unheard of that talented employees may have some independent works on the side, but don’t use company resources or do it on company time.  In addition, syphoning off customers for your own business is a good way to get yourself fired before the end of the day.
  • Ignoring the boss.  Gifted workers often feel they have the best ideas and they often do. That doesn’t mean they can treat the boss as if he or she is a potted plant. Bosses do not take kindly to being ignored and can make your life miserable no matter how much talent you have if you ignore their instructions or input.  You have (read more here)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How to Cope With Distractions in a Noisy Office

The popularity of open offices is growing as more companies want workers to be able to collaborate and communicate with ease.
The problem is that such open floor plans can at times resemble a frat party, Grand Central Station and the Dr. Phil show. Workers are sharing and collaborating all right – but also annoying the heck out of colleagues who are trying to get stuff done or don’t want to discuss ad nauseam the season finale of “Breaking Bad.”
Open offices also are found to be unhealthier for those who work there, bring less job satisfaction and make workers less productive. Consider this research:
  • Hong Kong Polytechnic University researchers say that sound is one of the most significant factors hurting office productivity, especially ringing phones, machines and conversation.
  • A study by The Sound Agency finds that workers are 66% less productive in open-plan offices than when left on their own to work.
  • The sound level of a noisy office with people sitting closely together can reach 80 decibels, which is bad news since a German study finds that 65 decibels is the threshold that triggers heart rate increases to heart-attack levels.
  • The Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health finds that workers in open offices had 62% more sick days reported annually than those in more cellular offices.
  • Workers can also become more stressed by constantly being called upon to help nearby colleagues. A study published in “Applied Psychology” finds that while those getting the help do perform better, those supplying the aid perform worse because they go through a cognitive overload being constantly distracted to help others and then trying to get back on task to do their own work.
So what can you do when you must function in an open office? The best way to boost your job satisfaction, health and production includes:
  • Using headphones. This is the most common strategy, but it’s more effective if you listen to instrumental music without lyrics since words can tax your brain. You can also consider a software like ChatterBlocker by The Sound Guy Inc.  that claims to block the distraction of nearby conversations by blurring recognizable speech “with a soothing blend of nature sounds, music and background chatter.”
  • Scheduling quiet blocks.  Aim for a couple of hours every day where you take your work and move to a quieter area. Let your colleagues and boss know what you’re doing and that you’re available for emergencies, but are taking (read more here)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Gain Confidence by Writing Down Your Ambitions

The next time you're feeling a bit down on yourself, you can regain your confidence — and make a good impression on others — if you take time to write down your aspirations and ambitions, a new study reveals.
Writing about two paragraphs outlining your goals will help you feel more confident and energetic, Gavin Kilduff, an assistant professor of management and organization at New York University, says his research shows. That can be especially critical before entering a new group.
Individuals who used such an exercise to pump themselves up showed greater initiative during initial group discussions and appeared more competent to teammates, experiments with Adam Galinsky, a psychologist and professor at Columbia Business School, showed. In addition, that competence gave them a higher rank within the group.
Once you project confidence to the group and its members perceive you well, the effect can be lasting, they found.
Specifically, individuals who initially acted more confidently with the group set up patterns of assertive communications that continued and became self-reinforcing, they say.
"We thought the effect would be more fleeting," Kilduff says. "I was a bit surprised that it worked consistently."
Piera Palazzolo, senior vice president of Dale Carnegie Training, says that the experiment demonstrates how critical it is to show confidence when communicating if you want to be successful in your career.
"No one wants to admit that they're not confident," she says. "But you can improve it by mentally talking to yourself."
If you don't have time to write down your ambitions before going before a group, then mentally review your achievements and goals. That should help to boost your confidence level and help you not appear timid, she says.
Palazzolo has other tips to show off your confidence:
• Be prepared. "Confidence comes from knowing you've done your homework. You have to come into a group like you own it," she says.
That means whether you're networking for a new job or entering a weekly meeting, make sure you have done research so you're up on the latest news and prepared to discuss the issues thoroughly.
• Look the part. Keep your back straight, make eye contact and dress appropriately so others see you're confident before you say your first "hello."
• Show interest. "People love to talk about themselves, so ask questions," she says.
You can use the office break room as a chance to interact (read more here)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What We Can Learn From the Miami Dolphins Debacle

The story surrounding the Miami Dolphins and whether Richie Incognito bullied rookie teammate Jonathan Martin has more drama than seven years of “Sex and the City” and may drag out in the tabloid magazines for just as long.
But underlying all the accusations, rumors, opinions and jokes about the Miami Dolphins is a leadership lesson that all organizations should heed: When leadership loses control of the culture, it erodes trust, commitment and positive results.
Sounds fairly simple, but the Dolphins aren’t the only ones to get it wrong. So, it’s time for another play-by-play of how such debacles can be avoided at other organizations:
  1. Don’t hand off the culture. “If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening,” says Edgar Schein, professor at MIT Sloan School of Management. Former Goldman Sachs employee Greg Smith skewered the “toxic culture” of the company in the New York Times, calling it “destructive” and saying he could “no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.” Martin reportedly sent Incognito a text after the controversy erupted that said, “It’s insane bro but just know I don’t blame you guys at all. It’s just the culture around football and the locker room got to me a little.”  As former IBM CEO Louis Gerstner said, “The thing I have learned at IBM is that culture is everything.” This may be something the Dolphin’s leadership needs to think long and hard about.
  2. Deliver a consistent message. There are reports that other football teams didn’t believe Incognito to be leadership material, but that’s not really important at this point. What is important is that once leaders choose someone to help them deliver the cultural and leadership message, they must always ensure that the message is (read the rest here)

Friday, November 8, 2013

Tips for Vets Re-Entering the Civilian Workforce

Joe Kearney retired from the Army in May after 23 years and has two words of advice for fellow veterans who will be looking for a job in the private sector: "Start early."
Kearney, who now works as a project manager for Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson in Plano, Texas, says jobs are out there for veterans, but finding them takes a lot of planning and hard work.
Sitting by a scenic lake near his Ericsson office, Kearney recalls a brief stint as a government contractor after leaving the military and uses the lake as an analogy for his job-hunting strategy.
"Instead of wading in the shallow end and continuing to work as a contractor, I decided I wanted to jump in the deep end and do a cannonball into the corporate world," he says.
Despite Kearney's enthusiasm for a new career, he admits, "I spun a lot of wheels initially" by applying for jobs online.
The move turned out to be a dead end for several reasons. One of them was that Kearney, like thousands of other veterans looking for work, didn't know how to translate his military experience into civilian language that can attract employers.
Hiring managers cite veterans' ability to show how their skills can be used in the private sector as a top negative, according to the Center for a New American Security.
Kearney says he began tapping into sites like Afterburner to help educate himself more about the business world and began using LinkedIn's resources aimed at helping veterans.
Another source he found helpful was RallyPoint, a professional military network launched by former Special Forces Capt. Yinon Weiss and former Army Battalion Logistics Officer Aaron Kletzing, who first met in Baghdad and reunited at Harvard Business School.
"We had this idea that we literally wrote on the back of a napkin," Weiss says. Just completing its first year, RallyPoint is often touted as a LinkedIn for troops.
It asks users to share their permanent change of station dates from their current position, which helps others know when a position might be opening up in the armed services. But the network also allows military members to explore job options with employers such as Amazon, General Electric and Lockheed-Martin.
Employers are vetted carefully to ensure that vets will get the support they need from a designated veteran advocate with the company, Weiss says.
"A lot of companies don't understand the military language, and they may feel intimidated about hiring vets," he says. "Someone with the company that is former military can help advise and guide."
Soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines leaving for private industry also may not realize the value of networking and may think the only thing they need to do is send their resume with their qualifications, Weiss says.
Kearney says he often used networking to get desired positions within the military, so he was convinced of the value of networking and quickly saw the potential of a site like RallyPoint.
"You don't want to call a former member of the military and say, 'Can you get me a job?' But you can call them and say, 'Can you tell me how you made the transition?' " Kearney says. "They can help you understand how not to (read more here)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Little Things You Can Do to Make Life Better

Tom Rath is a bestselling author of books such as “StrengthsFinder 2.0” with more than 5 million books sold.
But what many people don’t know about Rath is that in addition to being one of the most influential voices today in human behavior, he also suffers from a rare genetic disorder called Von Hippel-Lindau that leads to what he describes as “rampant cancerous growth throughout the body.”
When he received the diagnosis as a teenager, Rath was told that he could stay ahead of his condition with annual medical scans so that tumors could be caught early and dealt with before they could spread. To further tackle his condition, Rath voraciously began collecting information on what he could do to stay healthier based on the best, most reliable evidence.
Rath is well suited for such research after working for 13 years for the Gallup Organization, leading the work on employee engagement, strengths and well-being. Now serving as a senior scientist and advisor to Gallup, Rath has written another book based on his own health practices, the science behind it and how others can benefit from it.
Eat Move Sleep,” is a book that promotes a way to make small choices that can lead to big changes in your health and well-being.
“I started working on this book because I was tired of seeing so many people I care about suffer from poor health,” Rath says. “There is an extraordinary amount of high quality research about how we can prevent everything from heart disease to cancer. But somehow this research is not translating into what simple things people can do differently on a daily basis to improve their overall health and longevity.”
Rath says that many of the poor health choices made by savvy career professionals are rooted in a “good-natured and dedicated work ethic,” that has them grabbing a packaged snack to eat on the go or skipping a workout when pressed for time – or forgoing sleep to complete a project.
But all those small things can cause big problems, he says.
“If you look at any of these little decision points in a day, investing in healthy food, a brief walk, or an extra 30 minutes of sleep can make or break a day,” he says. “The challenge for all of us is to think about how making better decisions in the moment can actually increase our productivity, energy, and well-being throughout the day.”
For example, some of the tips in the book include:
  • Getting off your keester. As soon as you sit down, electrical activity in your leg muscles shuts off and the number of calories you burn drops to one per minute. Enzyme production, which helps break down fat, plunges by 90%. After two hours of sitting, your good cholesterol drops by 20%. Rath suggests taking short walks throughout your day, which can also help jumpstart creativity and make you more focused.
  • Forgetting the snooze button. If you’re hitting the snooze button every morning trying to get more sleep, you’re making a mistake because studies show those broken chunks of sleep don’t count toward the total amount of restorative sleep. One simple way to stop such a bad habit is putting the clock across the room, he says.
  • Being smarter when dining out.  Studies show that when dining out with a group of four or more people, you increase your consumption by 75%. The first person ordering sets the tone, which means that a colleague who orders fried chicken, for example, will prompt (read more here)

Friday, November 1, 2013

How to Figure Out What an Interviewer is Thinking

An interview can be a nerve-wracking experience.
The job seeker feels pressure to answer questions and make a good impression.
But career experts say interviews need to be two-way streets if job seekers want to make sure they won't hate their new jobs in six months.
Specifically, job candidates must be armed with questions to really learn what an organization is all about. They've got to ferret out information that can help them avoid a boss who channels Attila the Hun or land in an organization that is a poster child for dysfunctional companies.
"People think an interview is when they have to sell themselves," says Alexandra Levit, co-founder of the Career Advisory Board. "But I think it's also a time to ask questions and find out more about the employer."
You should ask to talk to other employees who would be colleagues if a job is offered, Levit says.
"Ask them questions about what sets the organization apart, what they really like about the company and their jobs," she says.
Companies are likely to offer "rah-rah" employees who will say only good things about the employer, but Levit says they still can offer valuable information.
Carol Kinsey Goman, a business coach and expert on non-verbal communication, agrees.
You should look at what employees aren't saying with words but indicating with their body language, she says.
"Probably the biggest mistake people make when trying to read body language is that they take one signal for having a ton of meaning," she says. "But what you want to do is look for a cluster of signals."
A hiring manager looking at her watch doesn't necessarily signal that she wants an interview to conclude because she thinks you're boring. But if she begins tapping her foot, looking at the door and glancing at her watch, you should move on because you could be making her impatient or bored, Goman says.
Engage in small talk during an interview because hiring managers can gauge your "likeability" and see how you might fit into the workplace culture. But this chit-chat is also a chance for interviewees to get a feel for a company's culture and management style.
You'll also have opportunity to spot when an interviewer is being less than honest or masking true feelings about you and what you're saying.
Specifically, to spot a hiring manager who may be hiding something or being evasive, Goman advises you to look down. Most people are savvy enough to cover evasions with smiles or eye contact, but they forget about their feet.
When people try to control their body language, Goman says they focus most with their face, hands and arms, but "gestures below the waist are often left unrehearsed."
Watch for these examples, Goman says:
• If you're speaking with a hiring manager who has (read more here)