Monday, October 31, 2016

The Biggest Distraction in the Office May Be You

If you're tempted to yell "Shut the $#% up!" to a colleague in a nearby cubicle, you're not alone.

As it turns out, loud-talking co-workers are so annoying it has prompted researchers to study it.

Specifically, 74% of workers in a Cornell University study say they have to put up with lots of noisy disturbances and distractions, but the most annoying of the annoying is -- drum roll, please -- loud human beings.

One of the biggest problems prompting us stuff a dirty sock in the mouths of bothersome co-workers is the fact that more offices have moved to the "open" concept. This means that sound now travels across the open prairie of desks like a herd of bison.

So, instead of being able to put your head down and pound out that important report or even spend a few quiet minutes thinking, you're hammered by the debate over deep-fried turkeys for Thanksgiving or Marcia explaining how to use the phone system to a new employee.

Now let's add in the fact that Bob has seasonal allergies and honks like a wounded goose and Lori is talking on her cellphone to her nearly-deaf Nana, and it's enough to drive anyone bonkers.

Of course, more workers are turning to earphones as a way to drown out their co-workers, which pretty much turns off the idea that open concept working spaces will lead to more collaboration.

I'm open to new ideas about how to deal with noisy co-workers, and would love to get a discussion started here. In the meantime, let's all talk a little softer and be aware we may be the ones driving our co-workers crazy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Why EQ Matters More To Some Employers Than IQ

When emotional intelligence is mentioned, there may be agreement that it’s indeed a great thing for someone to be more relatable, more self- aware and better at controlling impulsive behavior.
But does the emotional intelligence of a team really have bottom-line consequences?
While a strong consensus may not have existed before, that is changing as more companies recognize the value of EQ. Many organizations are now hiring for emotional intelligence (EQ) and evidence is mounting that EQ pays off in higher sales and productivity, and lower turnover.
Consider, for example:
  • A large cosmetics company that now hires for EQ have on average sold $91,000 more than salespeople who were not hired before the new system was set up.
  • The International Journal of Organizational Analysis finds that EQ competencies were positively linked to team cohesiveness.
  • Manufacturing supervisors who received EQ training cut lost-time accidents by half and formal grievances by 20%. Plant productivity improved $250,000 over set goals.
  • Firms with high EQ managers found 34% higher growth profits.
Emotional intelligence really is the secret sauce,” says James A. Runde, author of “Unequaled: Tips for Building a Successful Career Through Emotional Intelligence,” and a special advisor and a former Vice-Chairman of Morgan Stanley.
Runde says that too many employees don’t realize that “brains and hard work are not enough” to give them a successful career, and too many leaders don’t understand how the lack of team EQ skills hurt performance for the team and for the organization.
“In the era of artificial intelligence and virtual reality and robots and drones – all those things are wonderful and productive, but for people trying to succeed in a solutions business, you’ve got to have people who can relate to other people,” he says.
According to psychologist Daniel Goldman, there are five elements that define EQ:
  1. Self-awareness. Those who are aware of their emotions don’t let them get out of control and are honest with themselves about their strengths and weaknesses. They work to improve and become better performers.
  2. Self-regulation. As they are aware of their emotions, these people don’t let themselves get too angry or jealous and don’t make impulsive decisions. They show thoughtfulness, comfort with change, integrity and the ability to say no.
  3. Motivation. Those with high EQ are very productive, love a challenge and are effective (read more here)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Why Trust Matters

About a month ago I visited a favorite local deli. 

It reminded me of that scene from "Animal House" when John Belushi yelled "food fight!"

While food wasn't flying across the room, it certainly looked like the aftermath. Food was on the floor, tables were overflowing with trash and employees looked harried.

After observing the chaos for a bit -- several tables of patrons were complaining that they had been waiting "forever" for their food -- I turned to my dining companion and said: "She's not here."

"Who?" my friend questioned.

"That woman manager who is a ball of energy. When she's here, this place runs like clockwork and she knows everything that's going on," I said. "This would never happen if she were here."

Just this weekend, I again visited the deli and saw the manager. I didn't know her name, but commented to her that the place really missed her a couple of weeks ago. She said it wasn't the first time she had heard the story.

"I don't know what it is," she said, sighing. "But no one seems to be able to get it together when I'm not here."

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was because we trusted her. As a customer, I knew when she was around that my order wasn't likely to be lost or late, and I was going to find plenty of clean tables and efficient employees.

Her team trusted her, as well. When she was around, they knew that they had a job to do and everyone was going to pull together.

The point of this deli story (other than making you hungry) is to underscore the importance of trust in your career. It's so critical to your success and those around you. You cannot build it overnight, but it matters a lot -- even down to the little things.

For example, if someone sees you goofing around on Facebook instead of working on an important report, then you erode your trust factor. Or, swiping that stapler from work may seem like no big deal, but studies have shown that if you can't be trusted to do the right thing on the small things, then you can't be trusted when it comes to bigger issues. In other words, it's a slippery slope when it comes to trust -- screw it up in the little ways and people will no longer want you on their team or you may even get fired.

The reason I went back to the deli after the Belushi moment was because this manager had built my trust in the business. My past experiences led me to trust that the ship would be righted. If that chaos had been my first experience with the place, I might never have gone back.

When it comes to your career -- or your business -- building that trust may just be the secret sauce that propels you to success even when you have a bump in the road. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How Anyone Can Be More Innovative Every Day

When a study was released earlier this year noting that procrastination can make you more creative, many people probably rejoiced.
Instead of being thought of as slackers by co-workers and bosses, they can now claim they’re not goofing off – they’re being “creative.”
To a certain extent, that’s true. The research the University of Wisconsin found that those who put off doing work by playing games like Solitaire for five minutes before offering ideas were 28% more creative – as rated by assessors – than those who started working on their ideas right away.
Part of the reason is because you may default to more conventional ideas when launching immediately into work and delaying your efforts may allow you to connect with something more creative. Still other studies have found that when you allow yourself to get bored, you’re more likely to get those creative juices flowing, which is why many people report having breakthrough ideas while stuck in traffic or washing the dishes.
But just delaying the start of your work or getting bored isn’t a guarantee that you’re going to pop up with an idea that will rival the invention of the telegraph or the iPhone.
So what is it that fuels some individuals and organizations to be so innovative? Why does it seem some people get an extra helping of creativity or some companies can churn out innovative ideas seemingly every week?
Moving the world forward
Robert F. Brands, author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation II,” says that it’s important to first understand that individuals and organizations may be their own worst enemies when it comes to creativity and often set up their own innovation roadblocks.
“You might only think you can be innovative in creating a new service or a new product. But there is lots of space in any job to be innovative,” he says. “Anyone can be innovative.”
Second, when you try to be innovative, you need to (read more here)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Why You Need to Practice Saying "No"


Not a big word, is it? Yet for many workers, saying "no" has become very difficult. Whether it's because they fear looking like a non-team player or worry about backlash from a boss, saying "no" has become a very big problem.

Still, if you want to avoid burnout -- or even questionable behavior that could land you in legal trouble -- you need to know that line in the sand when you won't hesitate to say "no."

Unfortunately, one of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking they will intuitively know when and how to say "no."

"Will you run over the boss with your car?" NO!
"Will you steal all the money from the cash register?" NO!
"Will you work 100 hour weeks and agree to not get paid?" NO!

Most of us are pretty certain that we're not going to commit a crime or work without getting paid. Even the workers at Wells Fargo probably said the same thing -- but that was something that became a very slippery slope when the bank's culture and managers allegedly forced them into opening bogus accounts to meet performance targets.

In addition, how many times have employees worked lots of overtime, without getting paid for it? Whether it was answering emails over the weekend or putting in extra hours to be a "team player" and meet a project deadline, many workers are seeing their "no's" turn into something else.

That's why I think it's important to sit down and think through various scenarios that might happen on the job, and how you will respond. I have done this with various friends, family members and even colleagues over the years, and it's really valuable. Once you get started, you'll discover that they may have faced issues that haven't come your way yet (but will), and it's worthwhile to really state what you believe to be your line in the sand.

A recent story outlines some great advice about how to say "no." It includes:

  • Offering alternatives. Sometimes is can be difficult to say "no" to an important client or your boss. You can say "no" with respect, then immediately move to change the direction of the conversation by offering an alternative.
  • Calling for support. If you feel you're being backed into a corner or your "no" is wavering, call and talk to supportive friends or family.
  • Staying calm. You may get some resistance to your "no," so it's important not to get upset. Maintain a professional, calm demeanor so that whoever is pushing you knows that you are open to alternatives but are not budging on your "no."
Next time you read about a workplace scandal or a friend confides about a difficult situation at work, don't dismiss it as something that doesn't concern you. Instead, think about how you would respond in the same situation. Preparation always pays off at work -- even when you are preparing to say "no."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Why Your Company May Be Losing Customers

Service design often can get short shrift when a company is focusing on designing a product, but that’s a mistake if a business wants to succeed in today’s highly competitive marketplace, contends a new book, “Service Design for Business.”
Written by Ben Reason, Lavrans Lovlie and Melvin Brand Flu – all directors of Livework, a service design company – the book argues that service design is under-recognized and undervalued by businesses. The result is that companies are missing an opportunity to transform the customer experience into a more positive one and are at risk of disengaging customers.
The authors point out that companies can’t just focus on introducing new propositions and services to customers and expect the efforts to be successful. The planning must also include how the organization prepares and organizes itself internally to deliver that experience.
Part of that, Reason says, must include the right leadership. For example, Reason explains that he knows of two cases involving manufacturing companies seeking to develop new maintenance service offers and delivery. In one business, the CEO is leading the strategy to boost the service revenue. In the other, the effort is being led by the marketing director.
While both are making progress, the CEO-led project has been able to easily pull together the development teams (pricing, sales, IT and back office) and is able to deliver on the design, he explains.
“The other has had to socialize the design strategy across the same functions and win support by showing the value to each area,” he says. “It’s been slower and a lot more work has gone into the engagement and gathering of buy in. Now in delivery there is more risk of losing the vision because there is not a clear leader holding the pieces together. “
Of course, while the CEO can direct various departments to become more collaborative, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will happen without some pain and upheaval.
That’s why Reason says one of the first steps must (read more here)

Monday, October 10, 2016

5 Signs You're a Jerk Employee

Nothing gets people more stirred up than to ask them about a bad boss. They love to share stories of how a boss is rude, egotistical and selfish.

Believe me, I've heard lots (LOTS) of these stories over the many years I've covered the workplace as a journalist, and have even shared a few bad boss stories of my own.

But I have been reminded by people who are bosses that they also get treated badly. Not by their bosses -- but by their employees.

That's right. There are a**hole employees out there, and it's time we recognized that they exhibit the kind of behavior that we condemn in bosses.

Here are some signs you're a jerk employee:

  • You forget your manners. When it comes to your co-workers, you always say "please" and "thank you" and ask how their kids/pets/partners are doing. When a colleague is sniffling with a cold, you bring over a cup of hot tea. But you never do the same for the boss. You're not even sure if he has a dog, or if that cast on his foot means something is wrong. Bosses are people, too. You don't have to get all up in his private business, but why be impolite and uncaring? 
  • You push boundaries. Most bosses welcome employees who propose new ideas or procedures, looking for ways to be more innovative or productive. But when your requests benefit only yourself, then you put the boss in a bad position. When you ask to be excluded from rules that others must follow or just ignore them, then you are behaving like a jerk.
  • You're unprepared. Whether it's showing up to a meeting without relevant research or deciding to just "wing it" with a new client, you're showing disrespect for your boss and the company. Such sloppy behavior almost always spills over to affect other colleagues, and that puts the boss in an even worse position.
  • You whine. This isn't the occasional kind of complaint about having to rewrite a report for a difficult client. This is whining about the kind of things that bosses shouldn't have to hear about, such as "I hate Marsha in the mail room. She's so mean," or "I really don't like the summers here. I wish we could move farther north. That way I could also ski more during the winter."
  • You're ungrateful. Remember the time your boss arranged it so you could leave early every Thursday to get your daughter to dance class? Or, when he intervened when his boss was so angry about your handling of a big client? What about the time he put in a good word for your son so he could get a job at the local coffee shop? Did you say more than a simple, "thanks" and perhaps buy him a latte? Or, offer to stay late to help him finish an important report? If not, you might want to think about how you would feel is someone did the same to you.
Not all bosses are ogres. Maybe it's time to stop assuming that bosses don't have feelings, or don't need a kind word or helping hand. Before you claim all bosses are a**holes, remember that all employees aren't angels.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

To Be More Likeable, Learn to Listen

Dave Kerpen says it’s “understandable” that a lot of people don’t think much about how to make themselves more likeable at work. After all, there is a tendency to put yourself first when trying to do your job and just take care of yourself every day, so trying to make others like you often isn’t a top priority.

That’s why companies often face an uphill battle when it comes to improving the customer experience. Employees at every level may not easily embrace changing their attitudes and putting the customer first in all instances. Faced with increasing workloads and the stress that goes along with it, employees may find it tough to focus on ways to make themselves more likeable to customers, he says.

Kerpen, founder of and CEO of Likeable Local and chairman and cofounder of Likeable Media, spends much of his time helping companies train employees to develop the skills they need to better connect with customers. It’s a skill that not only leads to a better customer experience, but to better relationships with other team members and business partners.
“Authenticity is key,” Kerpen says. “If you think you can memorize a script, it’s not going to work.”
The biggest takeaway from Kerpen is that companies must create better listeners. Technology, multi-tasking and a multitude of distractions have eroded our listening skills, and that’s not something that will improve unless there is a recognition that it’s a real problem.
“I know it’s something we all struggle with. Some people will claim they are good listeners, but really, they’re not listening. They’re just waiting for a chance to talk,” he says. “I know very few people who are good listeners.”
The fallout is that customers will drift toward companies where they feel heard and give repeat business to employees who are likeable. As competition continues to increase in all industries, companies that don’t help their workers become better listeners – and more likeable – will lose out.

In a new book, “The Art of People: 11 Simple People Skills That Will Get You Everything You Want,” Kerpen outlines ways to help employees become more likeable to improve the customer experience. Among them:

  1. Learn to understand someone in three minutes. In an earlier (read more here)

Monday, October 3, 2016

How a Messy Lunch Table Reveals Poor Leadership

New research shows that leadership integrity matters the most to workers, but that quality may be difficult for some leaders as power can corrupt them.

A Robert Half Management Resources survey finds that three-fourths of workers say integrity is the top attribute of corporate leaders, while just 10% say competitiveness a primary virtue. (Workers 55 and over placed a greater emphasis on fairness, while workers 18 to 34 were more likely to look for a strategic mindset.)

But a recent article on behavioral research in Harvard Business Review shows people usually gain power because they're empathetic, collaborative, open, fair and sharing. But those qualities begin to fade as they rise in the ranks. "The powerful are more likely than other people to engage in rude, selfish and unethical behavior," Dacher Keltner writes.

Keltner offers an assessment to determine if power may be corrupting you, asking questions such as "Do you frequently interrupt people?" or "Do you check your phone when others are talking in meetings?"

While these might not seem like earth-shattering questions, Keltner says they "give you an idea of whether you are being tempted in problematic, arrogant displays of power."

I think one of my favorite questions is "Have you left a room or lunch table messy, assuming someone else will clean it up?"
As Keltner points out: "What may seem innocuous to you probably isn't to your subordinates."

I think everyone should consider taking the assessment -- you've got nothing to lose and lots of integrity to gain.

Find it here: