Friday, January 31, 2014

Why Being Unconfident Isn't a Bad Thing

What would the world look like if people had less confidence? In his new book, author Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic contends that if people had less confidence, they would begin each day better prepared, there would be fewer arguments and mistakes, company leaders would be less corrupt and we’d all be more competent.
This certainly goes against other assertions that confidence is the cornerstone of any successful person’s life, but Chamorro-Premuzic contends we too often downplay things like talent and hard work.
Recently, Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at the University of College London, discussed his book, “Confidence: Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, Insecurity, and Self-Doubt” with Anita Bruzzese.
AB:   You say that successful people like President Barack Obama and Sir Richard Branson did not become great successes just because they have confidence. That appears to fly in the face of everything we understand about how we need confidence to be successful. Can you explain?
TCP: There has never been any evidence for those claims in the first place! If you look at the actual research evidence you will see that the correlation between self-perceived and actual abilities is marginal, meaning that confidence is almost totally unrelated to actual competence. Yes, Obama and Branson are no doubt very confident, but there are millions of people in the world who are as — or even more — confident without having achieved even 1% of what they did.
A second important point is that confidence is more influenced by actual competence than vice-versa; so, while it is true that many exceptional achievers are confident, their confidence is a realistic consequence of their actual accomplishments. The simple truth is that achievement is mostly the product of hard work, and people who work really hard do so because they are aware of their limitations – when you feel that you are super competent you will not have any incentive to work hard.
AB:     Is there such a thing as having too much confidence? If so, what is the result?
TCP: What do you think? Most fights, accidents, wars, health epidemics, addictions, and financial problems are a direct consequence of overconfidence. Furthermore, excessive confidence threatens self-awareness and self-knowledge. Most (read more here)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Is It Worth It to Go Back to School?

When people consider ways to get a better job or a boost in salary, one of the things they think about is whether they should go back to school.
That decision becomes more difficult as the average undergraduate student loan debt hits $25,000 and some jobs don't offer better paychecks with more education.
PayScale, which collects information on salaries, finds that those in finance, computer science or economics may see a salary increase if they have a master's degree but not those in history, English or art, lead economist Katie Bardaro says.
Those in a pickle because their professions demand a master's degree but don't see it translate into better pay are those in psychology, social work and education, she said.
To further complicate the situation, Payscale finds that while thousands of schools offer an master's in business administration, only about 50 name-brand universities' degrees can lead to better pay. That's because they can get better networking connections and more opportunities, she says.
The same holds true for those who get their law degree: Only about 50 law schools give graduates the kind of prestige they need to command higher paychecks, Bardaro says.
Well-paying jobs that will be in great demand are in science, technology, engineering and math, she says. A master's degree in those fields will make you more marketable.
Still, if you decide you don't want to go back to school because of the cost — or other reasons — you still can increase your marketability through self-directed learning.
Kio Stark, author of Don't Go Back to School, says she was inspired to write her book after listening to people talk about going back to school to learn something she knew they could learn on their own. In her book, she interviews 100 people who successfully taught themselves skills that they've used to start their own businesses or break into an industry.
"I wanted people to realize there are options for (read more here)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Can Better Eating Help Your Career?

You may start out the new year with the intention of taking better care of yourself.
But then you go to work.
In the break room is a birthday cake. The boss orders pizza when everyone is forced to work late.
The vending machines have offerings that include chips, candy bars and sugared drinks. You get swamped at work and decide to skip lunch — after breakfast was a giant cup of coffee.
As for exercise, when you get home from work you're too tired to get off the couch. Mornings are too hectic to schedule exercise, so you plan to try and find some time at lunch to go for a walk.
But it never happens because your work takes precedence.
The best way to stick to your resolutions to eat better and exercise more may be in looking at those things as a career-enhancing strategy, experts say. That way you won't push them aside.
If you want to grab that big promotion, earn a better paycheck or impress the boss, then you need to be more aware of what you eat and how you move.
One of the first steps to being healthier is to stop focusing on your weight because it is not a great indicator of health, says Alexis Conason, a New York-based clinical psychologist who teaches mindful eating. So when you eat a piece of colleague's birthday cake, stop seeing yourself as being bad.
She also considers it a bad idea to respond to overeating pizza by doing something like a juice cleanse, which she argues will throw your body out of whack.
"The more we fight against our bodies, the more disconnected we are," she says. "We will eat an entire pizza and lose touch with our internal cues that tell us when we're full."
Conason advocates mindful eating, learning to notice (read more here)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tips for Saving a Project in Trouble

Projects run into trouble every day, but when it’s your project, your job and your reputation on the line, it can seem like a very big deal.
So what action should you take, and when?

Todd C. Williams, author of “Rescue the Problem Project,” recently spoke with Anita Bruzzese about how to save a project that appears headed for disaster.
AB: In your experience, what’s the most common way a project runs into trouble?
    TCW: The biggest issue is lack of alignment to the strategic goals of the organization. This can take many forms. For instance, the most common form is a project trying to add some new capability or product for a company, but they are trying to build everything into the delivery—boiling the ocean, so to speak. They will run out of allotted time. Project proponents argue that the project is critical to the strategy, but they ignore the actual goals. If you have “extra” scope – functions and features that are non-essential to the delivery – the risk in the project increases and it will overrun its budget and delivery date. The project should be trimmed to the essential deliverables.
Projects also can be misaligned if they are someone’s pet project and were part of the strategy at one time, but then the company was bought by another company. Or business conditions change, obviating the need for the project.
It is really the responsibility of management to see and correct this. When they don’t, the problems get out of hand.  Someone needs to make sure projects are focused on what is critical.  Once you start adding a “little thing” here and a little “thing there,” you are stealing resources from other projects. It slowly amplifies and the scope is out of control, hurting the entire organization.
AB: Why does it seem that projects get into such serious trouble before anyone reacts?
    TCW: There are two primary causes for this phenomena: 1) project team members are slow to report issues, usually because they think they can fix it or they fear reprimand; and 2) executives wait too long to declare the project in trouble, (read more here)

Monday, January 13, 2014

How One Bank Invests in Millenials

Many businesses today have expressed frustration with younger workers.
They claim they lack the proper business skills and other professional abilities that will help make them good employees.
However, some employers aren't content simply to complain about Millennials' lack of skills but are being active in addressing them.
BOK Financial Corp. (BOKF) with banks in eight states and headquarters in Tulsa, Okla., has had a financial training program in place since the late 1960s. Since that time, almost 275 young people have been through the program that gives those identified as having high potential not only the skills they need in finance but also the soft skills they need to be successful in their career.
Fifteen to 20 new college graduates are admitted to the Accelerated Career Track program that has more than 1,000 applications every year, says Lisa McLarty, vice president and the program's senior manager. The program lasts 12 to 18 months, and participants are put on three specific finance tracks — commercial, consumer or wealth management — depending on their skills.
But one of the real values of the program may lie in other skills that it offers participants. Participants do spend time learning about wealth management or commercial banking and credit, but they also learn how to give effective presentations and dress professionally.
"We're really focused on a more well-rounded experience," McLarty says. "We want to teach those soft skills" such as dining etiquette, writing skills and even how to give back to the community.
Blair Rosenquist is a participant in the program. The recent University of Oklahoma graduate says she was attracted to the program after doing an internship with the bank.
"I really enjoy the soft skills they are teaching us," she says. "They are giving (read more here)

Friday, January 10, 2014

How to Break the Procrastination Habit

If you’re thinking you might put off reading this story, don’t even think about it.
In this interview by Anita Bruzzese with Timothy A. Pychyl, author of “Solving the Procrastination Puzzle,” the issues of procrastination, its impact and how to change your ways are explored.
AB: In the book, you say that delay is often a necessary part of our lives. How so?
TP: At any given time, there are many things we can or should do. We have many choices. Doing one of these things means delay on others. This is all part of rational planning and setting priorities. Delay is an important part of everyday life as we make choices and set priorities.
AB: How is procrastination different and what impact does it have on our careers?
TP: I like to say that while all procrastination is delay, not all delay is procrastination. Strictly speaking, we define procrastination as the voluntary delay of an intended act despite knowing that we will be worse off for the delay. There is no upside to procrastination. It is self-defeating in that we needlessly delay action when we intended to act previously and nothing is preventing us from acting except our own reluctance.
This negative form of delay typically undermines our performance (and wastes a lot of time), affects social relations negatively, lowers our well-being, and can even result in poorer health overall from increased stress, fewer wellness behaviors and treatment delay.
AB: You mention that procrastination makes us feel good. Can you explain?
TP: When we face aversive tasks, we experience negative emotions such as frustration, boredom, or fear. We certainly don’t feel like doing the task at hand. By avoiding the (read more here)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Why We May be About to Lose Our Innovative Edge

Is America losing its innovation edge?
If so, the reason could be because managers and employees are not on the same page in developing new ideas.
Specifically, many employees think they have a good idea, but their managers won't listen to them. In their defense, managers say these ideas often are out in left field with no real focus or value to the company.
In a recent study, Accenture found that 69% of employees believe that this country will lose its entrepreneurial edge over foreign employers in the next 10 years unless companies focus more on encouraging employees to pursue innovative ideas.
But Accenture research also finds that corporate leaders find it difficult to channel the entrepreneurial enthusiasm to the right areas with 85% reporting that employee ideas are mostly aimed at internal improvements rather than external ones.
Matt Reilly, managing director at Accenture, says he was surprised at the gap between what employees say about presenting entrepreneurial ideas and what executives report receiving.
Some of the problem is because managers may pose "What do you think?" queries to workers without clearly defining what the problem is and what they're seeking in terms of innovative ideas, he says. If managers put up "guardrails" clearly defining their needs, workers would understand the limits and provide better solutions.
Clearly workers have at least some frustration with the process: While the Accenture survey of 800 corporate employees finds that 52% say they've pursued an entrepreneurial idea at work, only 20% believe that their employer offers enough support to develop ideas.
That frustration may be further compounded because of reports from companies like Apple and Google that they give workers the support they need to focus on new ideas. But Reilly points out that such employers have big operating margins, which means "they get to play around more because their currency is employee brainpower."
Other employers operating on tighter margins may have less time and resources to devote to entrepreneurial ideas, he says.
While workers have an entrepreneurial drive, the survey reveals that 36% say they're too busy in their jobs to pursue innovative ideas, and 13% say their employers don't offer incentives to spur them into coming up with entrepreneurial ideas. Twenty percent of those surveyed say the lack of management support inhibits their initiative for innovation.
If they do propose entrepreneurial ideas, 77% of workers report they're rewarded only if the idea is put in place and proven to work, causing 27% to avoid pursuing innovative ideas because they fear negative consequences, the survey finds.
Could that lack of support for entrepreneurial ideas drive employees to take their ideas elsewhere or start their own companies?
The Department of Labor estimates that 2 million Americans leave their jobs voluntarily every month and that number may rise as the (read more here)

Friday, January 3, 2014

How Your Drive for Success Can Derail Your Life

Are you addicted to speed?
You may answer in the negative, thinking this refers to a desire to drive over the speed limit.
But many of us are addicted not to going faster in our cars but in our lives, says psychologist Stephanie Brown, an addiction specialist. We're afraid to slow down our busy, chaotic and frenzied lives that have us constantly chasing success, power and the next big thing.
"It's an addiction because people cannot stop," she says. "We want to stop and we need to stop, but we can't. We're in constant motion and action."
That may mean that you're always working, forever connected to your smartphone so you won't miss a text, e-mail or phone call. You feel rushed, out of control and overwhelmed, but you can't seem to stop the crazy hamster wheel that has become your life.
That behavior is just like an alcoholic who cannot say no to a drink, Brown says. This addiction to speed makes us unable to stay away from our jobs even though we may be suffering the physical problems associated with stress and overwork.
Relationships may be deteriorating around us, but we can't get away from our computers or that craving to be on a smartphone.
Of course, some of the problem occurs because of a sluggish economy that has driven many Americans into working longer and harder to retain their jobs. But Brown says that instead of using such difficult times as a way to look at "what we're doing," people "went to the corner to lick their wounds and wait for the next big thing.
"That just fuels this grandiose sense that life is a jackpot and we can have it all," she says.
Researchers at Kansas State University pegged "workaholism" as working 50-hour weeks, and their study showed those toiling such hours can be affected with mental and physical deterioration.
Most common is skipping meals, but such workers also show higher levels of depression.
"Our culture encourages and even demands that we do more, produce more and never stop," Brown says.
So while we would never encourage an alcoholic to be more acceptable by drinking more, we seem to believe that working more — and faster — somehow raises our value in the workplace. We even (read more here)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

How Not to Behave in Front of Co-Workers

Office holiday parties are an annual tradition, whether they’re a potluck among the cubicles or a more elaborate affair complete with a DJ and a chicken dinner.
But no matter what kind of soiree you’re planning on attending this year, there are a few things you need to remember in order to avoid damaging your career.
I know, I know. You feel like you know how to behave at an office party. That’s what some of these people probably said and then ended up on YouTube and Flickr, their stupid escapades captured for all time.
So let’s go over the rules one more time…..
  1. Never dance alone. It’s OK to boogie like it’s 1999 when you’re at home with Just Dance 4 and the B-52s, but doing so at any company gathering is sure to get you posted on YouTube. This rule is even more important if you’re the boss, because it will be posted so many times on YouTube and Twitter and Facebook you’ll become a trending topic overnight. 
  2. Fluorescent lights make everything worse. If you think your Michael Jackson moves are embarrassing on a barely-lit dance floor, they’re even worse in the middle of the office where cubicles and desks provide a glaring backdrop. If your office party is on the premises, it’s even more important that you don’t make a fool of yourself dancing alone.
    3. No stunt work.Yes, you’ve always wanted to slide (see more here)