Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tips for Being Happier at Work

Are you happy with your job?

There have been times I've loved my job, but didn't like the company where I worked. Or I liked the job, but thought my boss was a lunatic.

I know people who thought they would love their job once they reached a certain job title, or got the big office or made a certain amount of money. In some cases, these people seemed content once they reached such goals. In other cases, I saw that people were still not happy in their jobs no matter how much money they made or how big the title.

I think part of the problem with our careers is that we often don't stop to think about what makes us happy at work. In our private lives, I think we spend more time considering what makes us happy, whether it's pursuing a hobby or being with our families.

I don't think my parents ever liked their jobs. They used to say "it's a job," meaning that it was a paycheck and a way to put food on the table and save for retirement.

While I think younger workers like to think they are choosing jobs that make them happy, I know from talking to many of them that they've taken jobs because it paid the rent or helped them pay off student loans. Are they happy? Or do they wish they were doing something else?

Does all this mean that no one ever gets a job that makes them happy? No. I have also spoken with people who can't wait to get to work every day, and say they would do the job for free (personally, I doubt this).

But I do believe that many people try to get jobs that are not going to make them happy. They get stuck in companies that they don't like. They find themselves doing work that they don't care about one bit.

The solution, I believe, is to do a more careful assessment of what can make you happy and then assessing the kinds of jobs and companies where you will find that joy. Here are some things to consider:

  • Make a difference. First, let me say that every job makes a difference. While you may believe that being a firefighter or a teacher or a zombie fighter are the only jobs that really matter to the world, you would be wrong. For example, let's take a janitor. Without the janitor helping maintain order and cleanliness in a company, people could be in danger. They could slip in bathrooms that have wet towels on the floor or lose critical information in a pile of trash. The key is that you should be able to identify how your job -- or your company -- makes a difference. That will help increase your sense of satisfaction and happiness. If the janitor works for a medical research company, for example, he's helping even more people because his diligence in keeping areas safe and clean and that will mean that medical researchers will be better able to do life-saving projects.
  • Find common bonds. When interviewing for a job, look around at the employees. Can you see that one worker obviously loves soccer (his cubicle is adorned with soccer memorabilia). If you love soccer, then already this is someone you can connect with on a level beyond just the job. Does the company do fundraisers for the local animal shelter? Is this something you care about? This would be another way to deepen the connections you feel at work. The point is that when you can form more personal connections at work -- even develop new friendships -- you will be happier. 
  • Look inside.  Are you possibly making yourself more miserable than is necessary? What I mean by this is that sometimes we decide we're unhappy in our job, so we start cutting ourselves off from others. We take lunch alone. We stay away from group gatherings. We only communicate when absolutely necessary. Those actions only serve to make you more unhappy, when if  you just opened up a little bit you could find support among your colleagues -- or even the boss who wants you to be more content and engaged.

What are some ways you have found to make yourself happier on the job?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Why Companies Must Foster "Constructive Conflict"

In today’s tumultuous world, many people will call themselves grateful if they have a peaceful, harmonious workplace.
But Jeff DeGraff, whose advice has been sought by business innovators such as Microsoft, General Electric and Pfizer, says the problem with a placid workplace is that it’s an innovation killer. Too many workers getting along because they all think alike – or don’t want to upset the status quo – isn’t the way to generate new processes and products.
“The death of innovation is apathy,” says DeGraff, a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. “One of the first signs is that people won’t engage in different ideas – they go along with the company line.”
That doesn’t mean that companies should encourage employees to go at one another tooth and nail. But it is important that teams have members with different personalities, cultures and ideas to keep creative juices flowing and prevent companies from getting in a rut.
The proof that such a strategy works is that there are “about 30 places on the planet that produce the most intellectual property and what they all have in common is an extremely diverse workforce,” he says.
DeGraff promotes the idea that it’s critical to stir the workplace pot, as evidenced from the title of his new book, “The Innovation code: The Creative Power of Constructive Conflict.” At the same time, he stresses that he doesn’t want chaos to be never-ending.
It’s “constructive conflict,” he says, that is the most valuable, an atmosphere (read more here)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Vocal Habits That Like, Hurt, Like, Your Career

Vocal fry. Upspeak. Like, you know, those things are so, like, annoying?

In recent comments about whether or not "vocal fry" hurts women in the workplace, readers weighed in on the story and said that yes, it does drive them crazy. (If you don't know what "vocal fry" is, think of Kim Kardashian and the way she sort of growls and gasps out the end of her sentences.)

But readers also went on to complain about upspeak (the voice rising at the end of a declarative sentence as if it's a question. "I went to work? And got a lot done?") and the overuse of the word "like."

"I, like, went to the mall? And, like, I couldn't, like, finding a parking space? And I'm like, so, like, frustrated?"

There was also some debate about whether these speaking habits hurt women more than men.  Are women judged more unfairly for such irritating speaking habits? Possibly -- even though I find such speaking habits annoying whether it's a man or a woman.

Here's what I do know: Communication in the workplace is a constant landmine and is probably one of the biggest causes of careers going off the rails. If you don't consistently communicate well, then all your other skills will not be as appreciated or utilized.

We always need to work to improve what we say, when we say it and how we say it. Upspeak makes you sound unsure, even if you're the CEO of a company. Vocal fry makes you sound like Valley Girl 2017, more suited for planning the prom than a big international project. Using "like" constantly makes it sound as if you're afraid to state your opinion or ideas and are hedging your bets by using "like" instead of being definitive.

You may not even realize you've developed some of these habits. I know that "like" has become part of my vocabulary, and I'm determined to eradicate it. It won't be easy, but I'm taking it one conversation at a time and trying to speak more deliberately until I can break the habit.

My advice is to record your own voice when speaking to others, to try and spot bad vocal habits. Ask friends or family if you say "um" or "you know" or "literally" too much. Learning to speak more clearly and concisely is a great investment in your career -- and can prevent your voice from getting fried.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Why You Cannot Neglect Emotional Intelligence if You Want to Be Successful

Anthony Mersino was 39-years-old and had already been a successful project manager for more than 17 years when a therapist asked him: “Do you have any idea how dangerous it is not to be in touch with your feelings?”
That was 16 years ago, and Mersino recalls that at the time he couldn’t fathom why it was dangerous not to make a connection with his emotions – but he soon learned and now spends time advising other professionals to do the same.
“The more I talk to people, the more I find others who grew up in ways that they didn’t learn to be in touch with their emotions as a child, or stuffed those feelings down,” he says.
The result, he says, is professionals such as project managers who alienate others with their lack of empathy or emotional awareness and end up hurting their careers and the bottom line of their companies.
Still, Mersino says developing emotional intelligence isn’t a quick fix, and he’s living proof.
“It’s still something I struggle with,” Mersino says. “Even this week I was feeling nervous about a meeting and for some reason I made a joke at someone else’s expense – someone I get along with.”
Mersino says that when the therapist began coaching him on emotional intelligence more than (read more here)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Why Companies Need to Address Loneliness

I don't know about you, but I've had jobs that made me leap out of bed every day, feeling so lucky to be going to work.

But I've had horrible jobs, too. You know those jobs that cause you on Sunday night to start dreading Monday? I've been there. In fact, I hated a couple of jobs so bad I started getting depressed on Saturday night.

I also remember the feeling of isolation I had in those jobs. I began to withdraw more and more from my colleagues, often eating my lunch alone in a park or keeping to myself when other people were chatting around the coffee pot.

I recently read a new study in Harvard Business Review that may explain why I hated those jobs so much. It wasn't just that I didn't really like what I was doing and the boss was a butthead. I think a large part of my problem was that I was lonely. I felt no connection to the boss or my colleagues, and it just made the situation worse for me.

Could I have become less miserable in these jobs if I had been less lonely? The study says "yes."

The study finds that just as you can "start an exercise regimen to lose weight, gain strength, or improve your health, you can combat loneliness through exercises that build emotional strength and resilience."

The study was based on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the "alarming" number or soldiers who returned home and had adverse outcomes, including suicide. Many soldiers, it was found, were struggling with loneliness.

In response, the U.S. Army developed a program focused on social resilience and social fitness, a strategy that paid off with soldiers reporting they were less lonely and simply felt better about life after receiving the training.

Researchers believe that workplaces can reap the same benefits. If workers are taught how to develop greater emotional strength and resilience, they can become less lonely and happier at work.

"It's time for managers to turn their focus from traditional structural inventions that are designed to reduce social isolation -- such as mandatory social activities at work or specialized workspace design efforts -- which studies have shown are less effective," researchers say.

Their recommendation for an entry-level social fitness class includes disconnecting online and connecting with someone in person; doing small favors for someone else; taking opportunities to work with others; and asking questions to engage others.

Finally, there is one step that each of us can take today to boost our well-being at work. Just say "hello" to a friend, colleague or a stranger.

"It"s a cliche, but it's true: We are social creatures," researchers say. "We have a social muscle. The more we exercise it, the healthier we'll all be."

Monday, October 2, 2017

4 Ways to Avoid Working With Jerks

The good news is that as the job market improves, more workers are able to leave jobs -- or bosses -- that make them miserable.

The bad news is that some are taking jobs that are going to make them just as miserable in a very short amount of time.

What happens is that many people believe that once they leave a jerk behind in their old workplace, things will be great. They'll work with people they like or they won't have to put up with a jerk boss.

It would be great if that were true. But even in the best companies, there are jerks and a**hole bosses. There might not be as many -- but you can bet they're lurking among the cubicles.

If you're looking for a new job -- or even thinking of jumping to a new department in your current company -- there are some ways you can figure out if you're about to take a job with another jerk and be just as miserable.

Here are some things you need to think about:

  • Your initial visit. When you interview with a company or department for the first time, are you treated with respect? For example, are you kept waiting for an hour and then no apology is offered as to why your interviewer was late? Does a receptionist or another employee smile at you, or ask if you need assistance in some way? Do other employees greet one another by name, smile at one another or walk like zombies through the hallways? The key is to see that employees seem comfortable with one another and are engaged enough to want to reach out and try to help someone else.
  • Body language. Do employees you speak with tense up when you start asking about the boss? Do they refuse to make eye contact when they talk about his or her management style? Does the interviewer quickly change the subject when discussing the boss? These are all caution flags that may indicate the boss isn't well liked or respected.
  • Ask questions. Interviews are not a one-way street. If you really want to see if a workplace is a good fit, don't ask questions like, "What do you do if someone is a bully?" The standard human resource line will be that such a person isn't tolerated, blah, blah, blah. What you really want to do is ask something like, "Let's say that a client makes a mistake in a delivery date, but blames one of your employees. The client says he will take his business elsewhere and really starts ranting against that employee. What would you do?" Listen carefully as to what will be done. If it turns out later that that the employee really did make the mistake -- what will happen? How does management handle mistakes by employees? How does management deal with such volatile situations? If the boss or the interviewer stammer around without a good answer, then that may be a clue they don't handle such situations well or at least not in a thoughtful, fair way.
  • Check social media. Potential employers use social media to check on you -- why not do the same? Look at what company employees post -- are they obviously unhappy people? Or, do they seem engaged in their work? Does the boss post thoughtful essays on LinkedIn or the company blog? What about podcasts? Was the boss interviewed so you can gain more insight into his or her thinking?
The point is that if you don't want to trade in one awful workplace for another, you need to take more responsibility for ensuring that you've done your due diligence in checking out the jerk factor.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Research Shows Learning Is an Antidote to Stress

There's a lot of stress at work these days, which are why things like yoga and mindfulness are such popular topics.

But new research finds that deep breathing and downward-facing dog aren't enough to really reduce worker stress -- it's on-the-job learning that may lead to better outcomes.

Specifically, the University of Michigan finds that workers felt better -- and exhibited less troublesome behavior -- when they were learning something new as opposed to using relaxation techniques.

“When an individual comes out of relaxation activities at work and realizes the stressful situation hasn’t changed, it may generate frustration and reverse the benefits of relaxation," says one researcher. 

While relaxation can help workers feel more refreshed and calmer, it doesn't do much to quell rude behavior, blabbing confidential company information or even taking company property, researchers say. Workers who were learning new things, however, exhibited much less of that kind of problem behavior, the study finds.

The lesson is that managers may want to incorporate learning into even the most routine jobs in order to lessen stress and promote better behavior in their teams. In addition, those who feel stressed by their workplaces may want to explore new learning on their own to help battle their anxiety.

Monday, September 25, 2017

How to Set Boundaries at Work

We all spend a lot of time at work, and some days it feels like a family get-together gone horribly wrong.

You're tired of hearing about your colleague's dating life. You don't want to be pulled into any more conversations about who was the worst actor on "Friends." You don't want to have 10-minute debate about the best font for email.

But unlike bad family times where you can go to your bedroom and slam the door -- or at least get in your car and drive away -- you're stuck at work. You have to show up and do your job if you want to get paid (they're real sticklers about this).

So, how do you avoid some of the distractions that drive you mad without resorting to blocking your ears and humming the theme song from "Hawaii Five-O?"

Here's some things to try:

  • Turn your back. If possible, turn your work station so that your back is to the noisiest, most distracting colleagues. Better yet, put on headphones if the company allows it, and avoid making eye contact with anyone who passes by or sits near you. You'll become totally absorbed in your work -- or at least look like you're totally absorbed -- and it will be much more obvious if someone interrupts you. If they don't get the hint and stop interrupting you, say something like, "Oh, can I finish this thing first? I'm really on a roll and don't want to lose my train of thought." Or simply say, "I'm on a deadline with this and can't fall further behind. Can we catch up when I take a break?"
  • Follow up. Are you one of those people who says you'll call someone back -- and then doesn't do it? If you tell someone you'll reach out when you take a break -- and then use that break to check out Instagram instead -- then that person will call you again later. So, instead of talking to someone while you are free, you've pushed them into interrupting you again later.
  • Be respectful.  If you want people to honor your request to talk later, then you must do the same for them. When someone is obviously in the zone and diligently working, can your interruption wait? Or, can you possibly find the information on your own or wait until you have several questions that can be asked at one time? You will get more respect for your time if you show the same to others.
What are some other ways to set boundaries at work?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Do Others Have a Negative Opinion About You?

I've known many job candidates who cannot figure out why they didn't get the job after what they considered to be a great interview. I've also heard from workers who don't understand why they don't get a promotion after receiving good marks from their bosses.

Why do these people fail to get the job or the promotion? New research may explain the reason.

Zakary Tormala and Aaron Snyder of the Stanford Graduate School of Business say their study reveals that when people are considering the pros and cons of a decision, their ambivalence makes them less likely to take action or be persuaded by someone. They explain that even a bit of negative information -- outweighed by positive points -- can tip the scales toward the negative.

I think this certainly backs up the opinion of many career experts that you want to ensure your interviewer or your boss don't have any doubts about you when it comes to making a decision.

So, it's always smart to ask an interviewer: "Is there anything that concerns or confuses you about me or my skills or abilities that I can address?"

Or, with a boss, you can ask: "Is there anything concerning you about me or my ability to do the job?"

You want to make sure that you're there to turn those negative opinions into positive ones. Make sure you show how any stumbles you might have had make you a better job candidate or worker because you've grown from the experience and will be able to put your learning to good use for the company and the boss.

What are some other ways to address negative information about you?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Merit Pay Raises: Why They're More Popular and How to Get One

If you're counting on a pay raise for next year, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise.

That's because despite greater competition for workers and a steadier economy, employers are re-thinking just who should get a pay boost -- and why.

According to an Aon Hewitt survey of 1,062 companies, an average of 12.5% of payroll is targeted for incentive and bonus pay in 2018. Two-thirds of the employers surveyed report they will use merit pay to reward workers who are doing a good job or those who need to improve. But 40% of those same employers say they plan to trim or eliminate pay boosts for low performers.

Further, some companies are going to raise the bar for high performance, with 15% of organizations say they will set higher targets for bonuses and incentive pay.

While some employers will continue their standard 2% to 3% annual pay raises for all employees, it may only be a matter of time before more organizations start to tie all employee raises directly to performance.

The message is clear: If you want a pay raise every year, you're going to have to ensure you hit important targets and make sure your boss knows it.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you go to work every day:

  • Be part of money conversations. Any time money is discussed, whether it's how to bring in new business, budgeting for a new project or cutting inefficiencies to save money, you need to take part. It doesn't matter if you're part of a key development team or a customer-service representative, you grow in value the minute you can help your employer make money or save money.
  • Solve a problem. Companies like Uber and Netflix were born out of a desire to solve a problem (finding better ways to get a ride or rent movies) and that's the kind of attitude that can quickly propel you into pay bonus land. What is a problem you deal with every day that irks customers, slows down processes or makes life more difficult for your boss? Try proposing ways to solve those problems -- even if the idea may seem a bit outlandish -- and you'll be seen as someone who has the company's best interests at heart.
  • Start shaking hands. Get out from behind your computer or work station and get to know people in other departments. Ask them what they do and their biggest problems. Could you do something to help? Could you collaborate to develop a better process or project? Use the same process with customers. What problems do they face that you could solve in the long term? Begin asking "why" questions and listen carefully -- do you hear a common theme that could lead to new opportunities for your company?
While such strategies may not lead to a performance bonus overnight, it's a good investment of your time that will help your company and enable you to develop the kind of skills that will certainly help your career now and in the long run.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

How to Unleash Creativity in a Team

When asked to describe the personality of a scientist, some might revert to the Sheldon Cooper stereotype made popular on “The Big Bang Theory” and describe an anti-social, uncreative, analytical and somewhat dull personality.
But Lina Echeverria knows better. As an engineer and scientist with a PhD in geology and more than 30 years of experience as a scientist and a senior manager at Corning, she knows that scientists aren’t dull or uncreative. She knows scientists like to jitterbug. And cook. And collect butterflies.
It’s those more creative attributes of scientists and other workers, she says, that help drive innovation in an organization – and too many companies and leaders are ignoring them to the detriment of the bottom line.
When Echeverria was at Corning, she was known for constantly asking team members how they felt about things, whether it was a project or hobbies in their life. Such conversations often led her to a better understanding of how to help her team members stretch and grow. She learned that technicians – who loved to cook gourmet meals – don’t always have to be assigned to technical roles, and can fit better into a human-relations role.
“Your hobbies let you be unrestrained,” she says. “That’s the same flow of energy you need at work to be innovative. A manager’s job is to discover what you have to offer and then let you unleash it.”
She says she encourages team members “to bring (read more here)

Monday, September 11, 2017

Technology Must Stop Being "People of No"

George Westerman thinks that IT leaders need to realize it’s time to change “from a caterpillar into a butterfly.”
Westerman isn’t referring to a change in wardrobe, but rather an evolution of IT leaders’ attitudes and actions.
“The market is moving so fast. Customer and employee expectations are changing so fast. If you do the incremental stuff, you’re going to be left behind,” says Westerman, a research scientist at the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy.
Westerman has spent much of the last decade pushing for IT managers to become senior partners in the business, to put behind them the “people of no” reputation that gets them shut out of innovation discussions.
“The first step is to stop talking like someone you wouldn’t want to talk to,” he says. “The next step is to start offering substantive solutions and delivering on those solutions.”
The best way to do that, he advises IT leaders, is to keep the conversation focused on value. That means doing “the right things at the right price at the right level of quality” and then moving into determining “how each project can deliver more value and more strategic power.”
Just a decade ago, the CIO was not generally regarded as a strategic leader, and there was a clear lack of IT and business alignment, finds the 2017 Global Digital IQ Survey by PwC. But the huge shift toward digital means that CEOs have embraced it as part of their mandate, the report finds, and technology is seen as a critical component to the business strategy as well as the business operations.
“I think increasingly the senior teams are tired of having technology people who are just technology people. They are really looking for technology people who understand where the business is going and help the business get there,” Westerman says.
That means that if a technology person wants to be involved in business (read more here)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Skill You Must Have No Matter Your Job

Many people believe that if they just get that college degree or industry certification, they will have no trouble finding a job.

They also believe that once they get their foot in the door, then they will continue to climb the ladder if they work hard.

If you believe the same, you are wrong.

Today, employers are looking for more than someone to write code or deal with customers. They are looking for those employees who show a greater awareness of how their behavior and interactions with others also impacts the bottom line.

Often referred to as "soft skills," employers want workers who know how to interact well with others, who won't act like buttheads and who can empathize with customers and colleagues. The reason for this emphasis on soft skills isn't just about being a nicer person -- your behavior is seen as a direct impact on a company's success. If you can't collaborate with others or get along with vendors or customers, then you're going to adversely affect a company's ability to be more innovative and competitive.

I don't care where you are in your career -- trying to get your first professional job or a seasoned worker with two decades of experience -- soft skills are critical if you want to get a job, keep a job or rise in the ranks of your company. Without such skills, be prepared to earn less, get less interesting assignments and possibly be forced out the door in favor of someone who does have soft skills.

Soft skills don't just happen overnight. You have to work on them every day, and be committed to making them just as important as your other job skills. Some things to focus on:

  • Seek out people who are different from you. It's easy to get along with people who work and act -- and even dress -- like you. But the only way to develop your interpersonal skills is to challenge yourself. Ask someone you don't know well -- or have clashed with in the past -- to have coffee or lunch. Spend time getting to know the person, and you will find yourself stretching your emotional boundaries in ways that will help you grow in your soft skills.
  • Be more positive. Maybe you don't look at the world with rose-colored glasses, and may even look down upon those who do. But who do you think is getting along better with customers and colleagues? Would it be you -- who rarely smiles, who gets impatient quickly and doesn't even say "good morning" -- or the person who is always friendly  and has a smile for others? Having a positive outlook not helps you get along better with your co-workers, but makes it easier for your boss to see you as having the right soft skills to take on big projects.
  • Breathe. Work can be stressful, no matter your job or title. That's why you may fire off a terse email to a co-worker than makes you sound like a real a**hole. Or, you ignore an invitation to lunch with some colleagues because you've got too much to do. Maybe you don't tell a co-worker you're sorry her cat died because, well, you've got problems, too! OK, it's time to take a deep breath. Wait a a while before you write that email. Go to lunch with your teammates and share some chicken wings and a laugh. Show a co-worker who has lost a beloved pet that you're not so self-absorbed that you don't recognize sorrow. Simply by taking time to breath before you act like a jerk can help you develop better soft skills.
Finally, soft skills aren't just something that will pay off for your career. You will also reap the benefits personally by developing deeper, more meaningful relationships that will help you see that you're not just a cog in the wheel -- you're someone who makes a difference in the lives of others. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Biggest Mistake You're Making With Data

“In God we trust. All others must bring data.” – W. Edwards Deming.

Deming died in 1993, but the oft-quoted statistician and quality management guru’s words still ring true in today’s competitive environment where data is gaining more importance in business dealings.
Specifically, it’s estimated by IDC that worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics will hit $203 billion in 2020, a significant jump from the $130.1 billion spent last year. That nearly 12% annual growth reflects the business shift toward data-driven decisions and the increasing availability of data.
But while businesses are showing no hesitation in beefing up data warehouses, does anyone really know what to do with all that data to make money now with what they currently possess?
Andrew Wells, CEO of Aspirent and co-author of “Monetizing Your Data: A Guide to Turning Data Into Profit-Driving Strategies and Solutions” with Kathy Williams Chiang, believes too many companies do not.
The problem, he says, is that company leaders are issuing the wrong instructions to data scientists.
“In the old era of analytics, the analytics were clustered around the question,” Wells says. “The question helped you describe what was going on in the business.”
Today, leaders should instead make a decision—such as redesigning a website – and then collect the data to see if that’s a viable option or will cost too much money.
“A decision is actionable. It’s what you go do. So, you center your analytics (read more here)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Survey Reveals What CEO are Really Thinking About

Life would be much easier if you could read your CEO’s mind, wouldn’t it?
While that may not be possible, a new survey does shed light on what CEOs are thinking about every day, providing an insight into what your concerns and priorities should be now and in the future.
The survey by PwC of 1,379 CEOs around the world finds that these top leaders are confident about the prospects for business growth, with 38% of the CEOs responding that they’re optimistic about their company’s bottom line in the next year. Among American CEOs, 55% say that they’re looking for new M&A opportunities this year.
Still, that doesn’t mean CEOs aren’t concerned about remaining competitive, as the increasing globalization of business means they worry about economic uncertainty, overregulation and skills shortages.
 One of the ways that CEOs plan to stay competitive is through technology. Edward H. Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines Inc., says that “technology is our lifeblood. That’s our stream of innovation. That’s our R&D.”
Bastian says that because customers want to “be in more control of their experience,” technology is the way to make that happen.
Mark Fields, CEO of Ford Motor Co., agrees that technology is a game-changer for companies.
“I believe that there are a number of technologies that are going to change the way we live and work,” Fields says.
Tamara Ingram, CEO of J. Walter Thompson, says that while technology has “changed everything,” she believes that some things remain unaltered.
“What really remains the same is understanding and connecting human truth (read more here)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Two Words to Save Your Career: "I'm Sorry"

Today, social media is sure to blast the news far and wide when a top leader makes a mistake, whether the person is in the private sector or public life.

Recently, a discussion  about leaders who benefit from showing genuine remorse when things go wrong prompted me to think about how we can all learn from such a situation.

I'm not saying you have to apologize on Twitter or post a remorseful 600-word apology on Facebook when you screw up at work. That doesn't make sense since no one is Wichita is really going to care that you forgot the charts for a presentation at your company in Seattle.

The key is not just making an apology, but an honest apology. You would think that the distinction doesn't need to be made, but we all have had experience with that person who offers a flip "I'm sorry!" and then blithely goes on his or her way. Or, the sarcastic, "Well, excuse me for being human!" that doesn't help at all.

Too often, leaders think that apologizing shows weakness and that erroneous assumption trickles down to their employees. Workers are afraid to apologize to their colleagues or their managers, and vice versa. That only causes resentment, and can impact a team's ability to function.

If you've done something wrong that has hurt another person or the business, you need to:

  • Apologize to the right person. Making a blanket "sorry!" doesn't make anyone feel better. If your actions, for example, caused someone else to have to work the weekend to make up for your failing, then apologize directly to that person.
  • Acknowledge the damage. "I'm sorry I didn't finish my part of the report and you had to work over the weekend. I'm sure you had other things you wanted to do."
  • Offer a solution. When you've made a mistake, it's critical -- especially if you're apologizing to your boss -- that you take steps to fix the problem. "I didn't have my report done because I was waiting on information from shipping. I have an appointment set up with the supervisor there and we're going to come up with a plan for communicating better so there won't be delays in the future," you say.
  • Ask for suggestions. If you can't come up with a way to make things better, simply ask, "What can I do to make this up to you?"
  • Don't be sneaky. If there's more bad news to come because of your screw-up, such as a client threatening to go somewhere else, then you need to get that out in the open. Bosses, especially, don't like to be blindsided by such information. "I understand our client is upset and I've already set up a call for this afternoon. I'll give you a full report when I'm done," you offer.
Things move really quickly these days, which means you can't delay when offering an apology. Act as quickly as possible, and always make your apology in person or via phone if possible. While it can be difficult to admit your failure, it's much easier to deal with it quickly and professionally and move on to showing you can provide real value to your boss, your colleagues and your company.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How to Adapt -- and Thrive -- in the Changing Workplace

How do you drink your vodka?
That’s a question Absolut Vodka wanted to answer when they hired a research firm that was tasked with figuring out how people drink vodka and other liquors.
But researchers didn’t simply poll people about their alcohol consumption to find the answers. Instead, the researchers decided to focus on the emotional nuances of the social setting where people share alcoholic drinks.
So, they went to a party.
What they discovered from watching party-goers is this: what matters most to the attendees and their hosts were the stories that went along with the drinks. Researchers listened as people began sharing personal stories about certain brands of liquor playing a memorable role in their lives, such as during a vacation.
Based on the information gathered from those observations, researchers were able to suggest innovative ways that Absolut Vodka could become more memorable to consumers.
Using such observational methods are part of corporate anthropology, an extension of traditional anthropology that is used in non-traditional settings, explains Andrea Simon, who has a PhD in anthropology and now serves as a corporate anthropologist.
“The reason I love anthropology is because it teaches you to see, feel and think in new ways,” she says. “It’s no longer the strongest and smartest who will survive – it’s who is the most adaptive.”
Simon explains the Absolut story is a good example of how companies can use new perspectives to be more competitive.
“We (corporate anthropologists) see the things (read more here)

Monday, August 21, 2017

5 Ways to Become a Better Listener

Are you a good listener?

Hello? Are you there? OK, put down your smartphone, stop staring at someone across the room and let me try this again.

Are you a good listener?

Most of us would say "Yes, of course!"

Then, we might follow that up with, "Wait a minute...what did you say?"

Don't worry, you're not alone. I am supposed to be a great listener, because that's what I do for a living. I ask questions and then I'm supposed to listen carefully to ensure that I not only quote a person correctly, but I fully understand the context of the remarks.

I'll be the first to admit, however, that I can be distracted. For example, the other day I was interviewing a technology expert on the phone and one of my cats (Ace) decided that he would sit and meow nonstop outside my office door.

At the same time, my cellphone started pinging alerts on the latest White House resignation (I always do interviews on a landline for better quality sound).

Years of training helped me to block out those distractions and they were minor compared to what some people have put up with at work, especially in open concept offices.

I know that we all want to be good listeners, but it can be difficult with so many distractions. Still, becoming a good listener is one of those skills you can never work on enough and one that will always pay off for you in your private life and in your career.

If you want to improve your listening skills, try:

1. Making it a priority. You're never going to become a good listener if you don't really work at it. This may sound ridiculous, but I'm not talking about hearing someone -- I'm talking about listening. This means when a colleague begins speaking, you quit writing an email or texting on your smartphone. You take a deep breath to relax your body language and then fully tune into what the person is saying to you. You must do this every single time. It's like learning to ride a bike. The first time you decide to pedal down the street with your eyes closed, you're going be in for a world of hurt.

2. Don't interrupt. This is nearly impossible for many people, but it's like hoisting a red flag that reads: "Not listening!"

3.  Don't hijack the sentence. You may not mean to be rude when you finish someone's sentence -- it could be that you're just excited and want to join the conversation. But you're not a mind reader, and you never know with 100 percent certainty what someone is going to say to you. So, let the person finish his or her sentence without your input. Besides, it's rude and grabs the conversation away from the speaker.

4. Tune in. As mentioned earlier, you need to completely tune in to the other person in a conversation. People who are viewed as very charismatic are know for completely focusing on whoever is speaking to them. To these people, it seems as if no one else exists. So, stop looking over the shoulder of the person speaking or checking your phone or looking out the window.

5. Repeat. In order to become a better listener, summarize what you've heard when the person is finished speaking to you. This way, you ensure that you heard information clearly and understand the context. This is a step that is critical to ensuring your skills develop so that you're truly on the road to becoming a good listener.

What other steps can someone take to become a good listener?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Why that Toxic A**Hole Gets to Keep His Job

When you hear the word "toxic," are you filled with the warm fuzzies?

Certainly not. When you hear the word, you think of poison. Maliciousness. Harm.

But guess what? If you're in the workplace, you're probably exposed to toxicity not through some chemicals or bad water -- but because of the person sitting in the next cubicle.

A new study released today by Fierce, Inc.  finds that there are toxic people in workplace, and they're causing a lot of harm. But instead of complaining about such people -- as we would if our drinking supply became toxic -- we are silent, the survey finds.

Specifically, the survey finds:

  • 53% of 1,000 respondents say they handle toxic colleagues by ignoring them
  • Only 24% of them confront these toxic co-workers
  • 18% complain to management
  • 41% of employees say that management does nothing about the situation once they are alerted
The fallout from these toxic employees, who are described at lazy, negative and unsatisfied with their jobs, is that that increase the stress of their colleagues. They hurt morale, decrease productivity and negatively impact the quality of the work. Women feel the effects even more than men and are more likely to leave a job because of toxic co-workers, the survey finds.

The survey also finds that less than one in five believe that a toxic colleague will change if confronted. However, that could change if more workers were trained to have better confrontation skills, says Stacey Engle, executive vice president at Fierce, Inc.

"A successful confrontation will leave both parties feeling like the relationship has been enriched and issues have been resolved. Without the skills to confront, it’s not surprising that employees don’t feel like the tactic is successful, and in turn are less likely to try to improve the situation. This cycle can be the downfall of a good team, or even organization if not addressed," Engle says.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Is Your Vocabulary Holding You Back?

It doesn't matter if you work remotely, in an open office or on a assembly line.The way you speak can have a big impact on your career.

Why? Because a limited vocabulary may prompt you to stay quiet in meetings. Or, you may not understand what others are saying and so miss information from your boss or other senior leaders. In addition, at a time when all workers must continually improve their skills, a poor vocabulary could cause you to fall behind if you're required to read new material.

Another problem may be that you're mispronouncing words. The other day on Twitter I saw someone refer to "intensive purposes." It's "intents and purposes." I've also heard other people say "upmost" instead of the correct "utmost" and "mee-mee" instead of "meme."

You may think this is no big deal, but if you want to get ahead in your career then you need to show that you're capable of addressing senior leaders or customers without embarrassing your boss. (Bosses often will avoid telling you that your language needs improvement because it can be a difficult conversation, so they will just avoid it by choosing someone else for an assignment who is a better communicator.)

If you think it's time to improve your language skills (and most people could use improvement), then try to:

1. Hold yourself accountable. If you hear the boss or someone in a meeting use a word you don't know, take the time to look it up on and learn it's meaning and how to say it. (Don't rely on someone else's pronunciation, because he or she may be saying it wrong.) Once you use it in a conversation naturally about three times, you can move onto another word. The website also offers words of the day, which can be a fun way to expand your vocabulary and increase your confidence.

2. Pay attention to key words. If your boss or other executives use words such as "acumen," "affinity," and "visceral," then you need to become comfortable using them. Such "power words" can help executives be more comfortable with you. Make sure you note the context in which they are used and try to replicate them in similar conversations.

3. Ease into it. While you're building your vocabulary, don't feel you have to incorporate every new word or phrase into your conversations right away. You may be more at ease trying new words at the rate of about one a week, or practicing them in front of the mirror. Or, try calling into a podcast and using your new skills -- sometimes that sort of format reduces the initial trepidation.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

How to Become One of the Boss's Favorites

I'm all for work/life balance and making sure that you're not headed for burnout by working too much.

But that doesn't mean you go to work and just warm a chair every day, doing just enough to make sure you keep your job.

A recent study shows why such an attitude can be dangerous to your job security -- and could hurt your career and earning power in the long run.

A study by VitalSmarts of 1,594 managers and employees shows that top-notch employees are seen as three times more valuable to the organization that the average employee. (Such top performers were ranked as 9 or 10 on a performance scale.)

Further, these productive employees are also responsible for 61 percent of the total work done in their departments. They are more likely to finish projects they start; less likely to let things fall through the cracks; don't miss deadlines; and less likely to have overflowing inboxes.

Well. You may think that's just fine and dandy. Let these top performers do most of the work, and you'll keep doing your job and finding enough time to check Facebook every hour or play "Word Cookies" on your phone.

But if that's your attitude, think back about 10 years. Remember the economic meltdown where thousands of people lost their jobs? Who do you think was let go first? The people who just warmed the chair every day or the top performers who did the most valuable work?

Also, consider that no boss promotes someone who isn't a 9 or 10, and such a worker certainly doesn't earn bonuses or garner significant annual pay raises. A so-so work performance is not only affecting you now, but could cut into the amount of money you earn over your career.

If you think it might be time to improve your work performance, here are some phrases that bosses use to describe top performers and average performers, according to the survey:

Communication Practices:
·         Top Performers: “Ask for help”, “Not afraid to ask questions”, “Know who to go to”, “Know when to ask” 
·         Average Performers: “Lack of communication”, “Slow to respond”, “Don’t listen”, “Complain” 
Productivity Practices: 
·         Top Performers: “Organized”, “Good time management”, “Attention to detail”, “To do lists”, “Keep track of”, “Block time on their calendar”, “Prioritize”, “Stay on top of their work” 
·         Average Performers: “Not enough time”, “Lack of attention”, “No follow through”, “Too busy”, “Late”, “Disorganized”, “Don’t meet deadlines”, “Not on task”

Researchers offer these productivity practices of top performers:
1.       Collect everything that owns your attention. Capture all commitments, tasks, ideas, and projects rather than keeping them in your head. Use just a few “capture tools” you keep with you all the time such as lists, apps, email, etc.
2.       Decide what your stuff means to you. Clarify if the items you’ve captured have an action or not. If they do, be very clear about what the VERY next action is and who should take it.
3.       Use the two-minute rule. If an action can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately. Don’t defer. The time you’ll waste letting these simple actions occupy your attention and to-do list is not worth it—two minutes becomes your efficiency cutoff.
4.       Do more of the right things by reflecting in the right moments. Rather than diving into your messy inbox first thing, take two minutes to review your calendar and your action lists. This reflection ensures you make the best decisions about how to use your time.
5.       Review weekly. Keep a sacred, non-negotiable meeting with yourself every week to re-sync, get current, and align your daily work and projects with your higher-level priorities.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Why You Can't Remember Stuff at Work -- and How to Get Better at It

I'll be the first to admit that my memory isn't what it was when I was 20-years-old, and I bet many of you would say the same even if you're only 25-years-old.

That can become a problem in the workplace, where you may have to recall a client's name you met two years ago or remember exactly why a project ran into manufacturing turbulence last quarter.

With so much information coming at us, it can be difficult to hang onto everything in our brains. Why, for example, can you remember the name of your third grade teacher but not the hotel you stayed at two nights ago?

Several studies suggest that you may be able to improve your memory by grouping multiple items into related groups. For example, when test subjects are given a list of words to recall in any order, they tend to remember them in similar groups, such as fruits or vegetables.

Memory experts believe that learning to cluster words speeds up recall responses and working memory capacity.

Try it with things you're trying to remember at work, as well as these other methods for improving memory:

  • Set up a routine. If you're always searching for your keys, make sure you designate a place at work and put them in the same place every day. Same thing with your unopened mail or items that need to be filed. 
  • Stop multitasking. I know, I know. You're one of those amazing people who is capable of writing an email, talking to a colleague on the phone and doing deep-knee bends. But your brain isn't functioning at it's best when you drag it in different directions, and studies have shown when you multi-task you are less likely to recall what you have learned. 
  • Get enough sleep. Successful people like Arianna Huffington are touting the benefits of getting more sleep, citing studies that show it's critical to your physical, mental and emotional well-being. No one has to know you went to bed at 10 p.m. if you feel like you're a wimp for getting more than four hours of sleep a night. Your improved memory and performance will be a big payoff for your career.
  • Pause. If you're having trouble recalling some information, take a quiet moment and try to place yourself back in the place where you originally heard the information. Think about the conference room where you and colleagues were discussing a new timeline for a project. How did the discussion begin? Who was present? What was the mood of the room? Recalling those aspects can help trigger your memory and enable you to remember more specific information.
What are some ways you keep your memory sharp?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Why You're Not as Influential as You Think

When Stacey Hanke begins working with leaders to boost their effectiveness, she knows that at least 95% of these people are going to overestimate their influence on others.
Hanke, a C-suite mentor and leadership trainer, says that even very smart and experienced people are fairly clueless when it comes to how much clout they really have with others, whether it’s peers, team members or customers.
“There are a couple of reasons this happens,” she explains. “First, they get fake feedback. Everything sounds like ‘good, nice job’ from everyone. The second is that they base their influence on how they feel about themselves, and that’s not influence. Influence is how others see you.”
Many of them face a jarring reality when Hanke reveals the perception others have of them, but she says she always adds that it’s possible for anyone to gain more influence if they’re willing to do the work.

Learning to adapt

No matter what industry you’re in, or your job title, Hanke says it’s critical you work on increasing your influence if you want to make a sale, talk your boss into new technology or make your team more effective.
“This isn’t about changing who you are, but rather figuring (read more here)

Monday, July 31, 2017

Survey: Unhappy Workers = Unhappy Customers

Companies like Zappos often are seen as the standard bearers of the top-notch customer experience, but some companies trying to emulate them may find they fall short because they are missing a key component: an equally top-notch worker experience.
The issue of worker satisfaction being tied to customer satisfaction is drawing enough attention that earlier this year Appirio commissioned Forrester Consulting to evaluate “the maturing of worker experience across industries.” What researchers found may have companies re-evaluating how they approach the worker and customer experience connection.
Among the findings:
  • Business leaders agree that giving workers a good employee experience engages them to provide a better customer experience, which ultimately impacts the bottom line.
  • Most organizations are in the early stages of improving the worker experience. Organizations acknowledge they don’t know where to put their efforts to improve the worker experience or how to measure them once they do.
  • When asked to name potential worker experience improvements, the majority of managers named getting workers to share knowledge with colleagues and business partners, along with leaders supporting workers who find a better way to do their jobs. However, the leaders also selected a variety of other initiatives as priorities, a scattershot approach that shows they struggle to identify the drivers of a good worker experience.

Defining “worker experience”

Researchers define the worker experience as building a corporate infrastructure that “fosters worker productivity, engagement and agility” to ensure workers “can design, deliver (read more here)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

5 Signs You're Ignoring That Show Your Job is in Jeopardy

You can't exactly put your finger on it, but somehow your job has started sucking the life force out of you.

Every day you feel a little more depressed, a little more like maybe you should just call in sick and sit home and binge watch "Friends."

Still, the thought of looking for another job is even more depressing. There's the business of writing the resume. You know you'll face rejections. You'll have to go on interviews, and that means you're going to have to iron something to wear. Ugh.

OK, maybe things aren't that bad at work, you think. Maybe you will somehow pull yourself out of this rut. After all, it's better to keep bringing home a paycheck than going through the hassle of a new job hunt. Who knows...the next job might be even worse.

Stop. It's time to listen to your gut and what you're trying to ignore: You need to look for another job because your current position is in trouble. 

How do you know your time is limited in your current job and you need to get your resume together? Consider these signs:

  • The paper trail. I'm always amazed when people don't understand that a case is being built against them whenever they start getting those snarky memos from managers, using words and phrases like "failed" and "falls short" and "not up to standards" and "missed deadlines."
  • The "whammo" performance evaluation. Sort of a Whack-a-Mole game for managers, where everything positive you bring up is slapped down. Another sign a case is being built against you.
  • You have tread marks on your back. Those are signs that others have been running you over on their way to promotions that should have been yours. Missing a couple of opportunities may not be a big deal, but more than that means you're on the fast track to doomed.
  • You repel money. Pay raises? Forget it. Your budget is reduced or put under the jurisdiction of someone else. You're not part of a project that is expected to bring in big money or spend big money. The office manager always seems to lose your request for new equipment.
  • Everyone is too busy for you. Your calls are not being returned, and your e-mails seem to suffer the same fate. You're not included in key meetings, and no one stops to shoot the breeze with you anymore. While you may think this is OK, it's really a sign that others perceive you as someone on the outs.

Finally, keep in mind it's much better to be looking for work on your terms. It's always easier to look for a job when you have a job. Don't wait until it's too late and you're forced to join the unemployed line.

This is an updated version of an earlier column.