How To Stay Balanced And Be Heard

For many of us, a large portion of our time is spent at work; in fact, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime. It’s safe to say a job can make a huge impact on your quality of life.

However, how would you rate the quality of your conversations at work? How well do you know the colleagues with whom you interact on a daily basis? With so much of our time spent at work, it is important to foster an engaged and supportive workplace, and bring meaningful conversations into the office.

In a 2017 study on Global Human Capital Trends, Deloitte found that rather than focusing narrowly on employee engagement and culture, organizations need to develop an integrated focus on the entire employee experience, from the work environment to management practices to supporting functions.

Today, we share advice from business blogger Muir Keir to help businesses positively influence the entire employee experience.

Leaving “balance” undefined. The term ‘work-life balance’ is a regular topic of discussion in modern workplaces. Various strategies are put in place toencourage employees to achieve a work-life balance. However, the distinct line between work and home is no longer clear-cut, and our leisure time is regularly infiltrated by work, because of our own expectations or those of others. With today’s ability to access email and text messages 24/7, it’s easy for this spillover to take place.

The first step companies can take is to recognize that balance is unique to each individual. There is no “one-size-fits-all” concept. Perhaps we can help our teams achieve true balance in their lives by first accepting that the term is entirely subjective or even undefinable. Perhaps we can empower our employees by declaring that as managers we are comfortable that employees create this for themselves.

This means giving employees some autonomy in terms of hours they work and where they work to achieve their personally defined balance, which leads to flexibility.

Engaging through flexibility. Like balance, flexibility is innately personal and strongly valued. Flexibility in the workplace is key not only to increasing employee satisfaction, but also to fostering someone’s unique approach to completing a job to the best of their ability which, in return, results in increased productivity.

An example of flexibility is with the industry giant, Philips. This company developed and implemented employee leave policies that by default enable flexibility at work, including parental leave, grandparent leave, purchased leave and domestic violence leave available to all staff. Building on personalized support, the company also focus on employees transitioning through different stages of their career, including offering detailed career transition planning for those considering their path to retirement.

Creating a forum to be heard. Paramount to ensuring that employers stimulate meaningful conversation is to provide a forum where employees can be heard. Employees face unique personal challenges throughout their careers, and they should be supported to manage these in their own way. This is why many companies now have an employee assistance program (EAP), offering an extensive range of support services to all staff, as well as formal quarterly employee engagement surveys which allows everyone to have a say in how they feel about the organization.

That step of being heard simply starts with a personal question to an employee: How are you doing today and how can I make today a better day for you?

Source: Muir Keir is general manager of personal health at Philips Australia and New Zealand.

Trust Your Notes, Not Your Memory

When it comes time for your annual review or to ask for a raise or promotion, you’ll need to back up your request with examples of your good work. If you’re in sales, it’s comparatively easy to track how you are doing. But, if you are in customer service, for example, charting those accomplishments requires more attention. And, with the fast pace of daily work, it’s hard to find the time to stop and document achievements when you’re constantly in motion.

Today, we’re sharing these tips from blogger and personal finance writer Alicia Adamczyk on how to save and document great work throughout the year.

Take Contemporaneous Notes. Make notes in Google docs or the OneNote app, or write them in a journal book documenting each time you have a major “win” at work and when you routinely do tasks above your pay grade. You don’t need to make a record of every accolade but do catalog times when you’re singled out in a staff-wide email, for example, or you help a coworker with a big project.

Be certain your notes include dates, and if you are including an email or message from someone else, make sure the source is identifiable.

If you want to go further for your own reflection, use these steps from Idealist Careers to examine your accomplishments:

Think of a challenge that needed to be resolved.

What obstacles did you have to overcome to resolve it?

List the steps you took to resolve the challenge one by one.

What happened as a result of your actions?

You might also document additional wins such as:

Difficult situations with co-workers that you successfully worked through and how you did it.

Tasks and projects that were completed on time, and how you did it: Track all projects and tasks, even ones you think are small.

The times you overcame pressure and still succeeded in meeting your goals.

Track those situations when you know you exceeded expectations and explain why.

Take Screenshots of Everything. If your boss compliments you in an email or Slack conversation, take a screenshot and include a copy of it where you keep your notes.

Go Through Your Calendar. If you keep meetings and project due dates in a calendar, go back through it to jog your memory. You can also make note of accomplishments on your calendar, and be sure to set calendar reminders for occasional mini-reviews with yourself.

Make a Spreadsheet. If a journal app or accomplishments box aren’t your thing, try logging everything into a spreadsheet, which is easily sortable and can be customized however you like.

When it comes time to sit down with your boss for that review or raise, refresh yourself on what’s in your notes, and come with a page or two detailing your best metrics and biggest contributions. Then, write a follow-up email laying out your achievements (with dates and supporting evidence as needed). These extra steps will take you a long way to a top review and future promotion.

Source: Alicia Adamcyk is a personal finance writer and lifehacker.

Simple Ways To Recognize Greatness

How hard do your employees work for you? When your employees produce excellent work, do you take the time to thank and reward them? Not only does recognition make employees feel good, your praise incentivizes them to excel and helps retain them. Cultivating an atmosphere of continued achievement begins with giving credit where credit is due.

Research from Bersin & Associates reveals that 80 percent of surveyed employees feel more motivated to work when they believe they are appreciated. Another 71 percent say they’re motivated by the competition when peers are recognized for their work at least monthly. Proper recognition can do wonders for engaging your employees, even if they aren’t the ones being recognized.

Today, we share five simple and effective ways to recognize outstanding work from employees.

1. Buy a gift. The best employees give a lot of time and effort to their job, and you can return the favor with a gift. Put some thought into what you give. Generic gifts, such as gift cards, are appreciated, but they hardly show how much you truly value your employee. Instead, consider the needs and wants of your employees and don’t be afraid to spend a little cash to make them feel appreciated.

2. Create a personalized plaque. When an employee produces particularly good work, they deserve recognition beyond a simple gift. Give them something to forever commemorate the occasion, such as a glass plaque or award that can be displayed publicly on a shelf or mantel, and becomes a long-term keepsake for the recipient. Within the promotional products industry, the options are almost limitless. Opportunities to recognize good work can include special designations such as Employee of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, or other top-performer recognition awards. You might also reward employees for sales, leadership, milestones, customer service, safety, partnership or special categories.

3. Designate an Employee of the Month. If you’re in an informal setting and a banquet or award plaque seems too formal, consider developing an Employee of the Month program. It might seem like a simple way to recognize great employees, but it’s effective, and engenders productive competition and helps boost morale.

4. Invest in professional development. When you have high-performing employees who are eager to learn and advance their skills, reward them by providing professional development opportunities. You might pay for them to attend an industry conference (bonus points if it’s located somewhere tropical) or education program that provides training in their area of specialty, or pay the tuition for college classes related to their current work or career goals.

By investing in an employee’s education, you’re sending the message that they’re truly valuable. In addition, it motivates the employee to do a better job. It’s an investment in the employee and your company.

5. Donate to a nonprofit. Do some good while showing your top-performing employees you care. Allow your best employee to select a charity, and then donate a high-dollar amount to that organization. Studies show that when employees are enabled to provide service or donations to those in need, even vicariously, they tend to be happier and more motivated in their careers.

Source: Jenna Cyprus is a freelance writer in Renton, Washington, who is interested in travel, nature and parenting.

The Real Facts About the Coffee Shop Effect

Myfavorite invention of all time is the one I can’t live without—my laptop. It’s not because of its powerful software or its ability to create content, but because of its flexibility. My laptop gives me

freedom. I can work in the office, from home, by the pool or at my local Starbucks. Changing my work location helps me with productivity when I get brain fog or writer’s block. In fact, I can often get more done in one hour at Starbuck’s than in an entire morning at the office. The question is, why? Freelance writer Kat Boogaard asked this question, too, in her recent blog.

1. Your brain loves novelty. Boogaard says that the human brain has been proven to constantly seek novelty, rather than the repetitive and mundane. It’s a classic case of “shiny object syndrome.” Whether or not you’re aware of it, you’re always keeping your eyes peeled for what’s new and exciting.

When you’re presented with something different, your brain releases dopamine. Known to many people as the feel-good brain chemical, dopamine was previously thought to be a reward in itself. Recent studies, however, have shown it’s more closely tied to motivation—meaning dopamine inspires you to seek out a reward, rather than acting as a reward itself.

So, by creating a fresh, new work environment, a la Starbucks, you are providing a blank canvas for your brain to get stimulated. By focusing on your to-do list in your new environment, you are exercising your brain’s neuroplasticity. So, what you see as being more efficient in a different location is your brain thinking about the tasks in a different light. By doing this, you are climbing out of the stale rut you were in before, activating your brain’s ability to think about things in a new way.

2. You easily fall victim to unproductive routiness. We all have routines in our lives, and sometimes these routines, or rituals, are comforting. However, sometimes these routines can become—well, so routine—that they are unproductive. That’s why, when you need to put something together for work, it’s easy to get distracted by the blackhole known as Facebook or Twitter, or another social media channel. Sometimes a different work environment helps to counteract these bad habits and get productive again.
Boogaard shares this quote from Ralph Ryback, M.D., in an article in Psychology Today. He says, “Environmental cues are essential when it comes to habit formation, in part because the brain is excellent at connecting an environment with a specific situation.”

Pay attention to what productivity boosters you enjoy most and think about how to incorporate them back at your desk.

3. You set intentions to get more done. Is it the actual change of environment that makes you more productive, or is it your intention to work better or smarter in the new environment? Boogaard says that it’s both of those things. Changing your work environment does indeed have an impact on your brain and your level of motivation. But, there’s a lot to be said for good intentions as well. It’s as if you’ve snapped your brain into saying, “I’m going to get through my list.” Intention can be a powerful tool.

As reported by the Harvard Business Review, William A. Tiller, a professor emeritus at Stanford University, is quoted from the book, Intention Experiment, by Lynne McTaggart, as saying, “For the last 400 years, an unstated assumption of science is that human intention cannot affect what we call physical reality. Our experimental research of the past decade shows that, for today’s world and under the right conditions, this assumption is no longer correct.”

In other words, your intention makes a difference. The next time you feel like you’re just barely slogging through your workload, consider heading to a new environment with the intention of getting things done. You’ll likely be surprised by how much it helps your productivity.

Source: Kat Boogaard is a freelance writer and blogger who finally gathered her courage, sprinted away from her cubicle, and started her own business. Now, she lends her voice to various brands and publications to help them craft content that engages their audience. Beyond that, she helps other hopeful freelancers figure out how to jump ship from their jobs and create their own heart-centered and hustle-filled businesses.

How To Respond Faster To Leads – And Why It Matters

What can you do in an hour? You can take lunch or connect with a friend over coffee. In about an hour you can get new glasses, get your oil changed or walk about 4,500 steps on the treadmill. It also takes the C

SI crew about an hour to solve a murder (including commercials, of course). An hour is also the maximum amount of time you should take to respond to an inbound lead. Why, specifically, an hour?

A study in Harvard Business Review analyzed 1.25 million leads across 29 business-to-consumer companies and 13 business-to-business companies. It found that companies that responded to inbound leads within one hour were seven times more likely to qualify the lead (have a meaningful conversation with a decision maker) than companies that responded within two hours. Plus, those that responded within one hour were 60 times more likely to qualify the lead than those who responded 24 hours or longer after receiving the lead.

In a recent article in Inc. magazine, Tommy Mello, the founder of A1 Garage Doors, shared four ways he makes sure his company responds to inbound leads within that critical first hour.

Review your org chart. It isn’t necessary for all employees to be focused on hyper response. Take a look at your organization and identify those who should be.

Make hyper-responsiveness a key metric that you measure. After you know who needs to respond quickly, put the expectations in place. Do they need to respond in five minutes or an hour? Make sure you have the tools and systems in place to track the time to respond and the results.

Provide a centralized customer relation

ship management system. Using a centralized CRM will allow your sales teams to have all the information they need in front of them and provide reminders for follow up. It also allows the company to see who the top performers are to benchmark and replicate their processes across the rest of the team.

Create an FAQ template. Responding quickly has the risk of responding poorly due to the time pressure. Having templates in places to help your employees respond to the most common types of inbound leads will help minimize missteps and keep the conversations on point.

Four Ways To Close Your Best Candidate

No matter how large and successful your business, you need to hire great talent to succeed. Getting that talent is 100 percent a sales process. Perhaps, the most critical stage of this process is extending a job offer to the prized candidate.

Once you’ve found the ideal candidate, follow these three proven steps from Patrick McHargue, director of talent at PromoPlacement, to successfully make the job offer and ensure it’s accepted.

1. Formalize Your Offer. The first step to extending a job offer is getting the offer down on paper in an organized and easy-to-comprehend way. Focus on the main points and make the offer clear and to the point. If you make it too complex, you’ll likely confuse the candidate.

The offer letter should be on your company letterhead and include the following:

  • An introduction that expresses your excitement and hopes for a long relationship
  • Title of the position being offered
  • Potential start date
  • Compensation/pay period
  • Overview of health insurance benefits
  • Number of sick, personal and vacation days
  • Space for the candidate to sign to confirm their acceptance of the offer

2. Sell The Opportunity. The recruiting and hiring process needs to be a marriage of your human resources and sales/marketing teams. In today’s highly competitive talent market, you need to sell the candidate on why he or she should join your company. Sell your company culture, your growth rate, opportunity for promotion and your company’s position in the market place. Sell whatever you must sell about your company and the opportunity. Make it compelling or you will lose your candidate.

3. Present Over The Phone. The single most important aspect of extending a job offer is how you present the offer to your candidate. There are several ways but by far the most effective method is to review the offer over the phone with your candidate. To do this, schedule an offer call with your candidate. Email the offer letter just before your call and read it over together on the phone.

This method is the strongest option for two reasons. First, it allows you to get the genuine first reaction of your candidate as he or she is seeing the offer for the first time. Second, it segues perfectly into a close.

4. Close! Offer your candidate the opportunity to join your team and close the deal. As you read over and review the offer letter with your candidate, clarify any questions that he or she may have. Then get the person on board by saying something like, “Would the second or the ninth be better for your first day with the team?”

Extending a job offer the right way is all about presenting your candidate with reasons to want to join your team. Follow these simple steps and your offers will be accepted far more often, and you’ll have a strong advantage over competitors in the talent war going on now in the promotional product industry.

Source: Patrick McHargue is the director of talent at PromoPlacement, an industry search and placement firm. He grew up in the promotional product industry, earned an MBA ininternational business, and managed a $35 million sales territory before focusing on the development of tools and services to benefit the promotional product industry.

How To Improve Your Luck At Work

It seems like some people have all the luck. Whatever type of business they get involved in is successful. Whatever decisions they make turn out to be the right ones. They appear to have the Midas touch. Now, we all know that’s not completely true, and in fact, luck has very little to do with it. In most cases, their success is driven by the way they work-for example, Elon Musk or Richard Branson.

Today, we share ways to work smarter and improve your luck in business with these principles from Marty Zwilling, founder and CEO of Startup Professionals.

1. Plan to deliver more than you commit. Make your habit one of under-promising and over-delivering. Always give more than you get.

2. Never seek excuses when things don’t work. Among the best of the best, good luck is an excuse for something they didn’t anticipate, and makes success appear to be random. Learn to accept responsibility for all actions and inactions, and never point the finger of blame at anyone or anything else.

3. Always treat failures as learning opportunities. There are no mistakes, only opportunities for improvement. Every good entrepreneur learns to pivot, and learn from that experience or failure.

4. Never give up until you achieve your dream. Many experts believe that the single biggest cause of startup failure is entrepreneurs simply giving up just prior to success. We’ve all heard the story of Thomas Edison who made his own luck by enduring more than a thousand failures before finding a light bulb filament that worked. He kept his energy focused and avoided naysayers.

5. Maintain self-confidence as well as respect for others. Confidence in yourself is key, but not to the extent of arrogance. The best entrepreneurs admit their own weaknesses, and build relationships and trust with people who can help them. The right relationships with the right people can be your greatest source of luck.

6. Be willing and able to work collaboratively. Products may be invented by a single person, but successful businesses require a team of people working together. That means everyone is willing to share what they know and share in successes.

7. Show up for more opportunities. When you are dealing with all the unknowns of new and untested business ventures, success follows the laws of probabilities. Many people set their scope of interest too narrowly, or look for “sure things” before they start a new venture.

Source: Marty Zwilling is the founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to startup founders and small business owners. He has a 30-year track record of demonstrated results as an executive in general management, computer software development, product management and marketing, as well as in leading technical business transformations, conducting due diligence for investors, mentoring new technical executives, and overseeing business development, customer service and outsourcing both onshore and offshore.

Three Ways To Encourage Innovation

Where does innovation fit in your business? Regardless of size, innovation is important to enter new markets and grow the reach and market share of your business.

Innovation, however, can sound rather intimidating to some businesses, but it doesn’t have to be. According to workspace design company, Red Thread, there are simple things you can do today to encourage innovation among your employees.

1. 

Give Your Employees A Reason To Care. Employees with an emotional investment in your company and their jobs are the ones who are going to put in the most effort and produce the best work. If your employees are only at the office for the paycheck, their willingness to participate and innovate is going to be much lower. Encourage innovation by giving them a reason to care. This motivation can come in many forms such as incentives, raises, promotions and feedback for a job well done. When employees feel like they matter, they are more likely to be invested in the company and innovate on new projects.

2. Include Social Spaces In Your Office. Give your employees a physical space to be creative and innovative. Creating social areas or lounge-type spaces in your office is a great invitation for employees to relax, mingle and get the creative juices flowing. Studies show that taking small breaks throughout the workday can boost workers’ productivity and motivation, too. When employees have a space to take a break from their hectic workday, they can recharge and come back to their desk full of fresh ideas.

3. Collaboration Is Key. When it comes to innovating and generating new ideas, the more heads in the room the better. Collaboration allows for employees to put their best ideas together and generate truly innovative solutions. In order for employees to collaborate successfully, they need the technology, space and resources to do so. Equip work spaces with collaboration technology like smart boards and wireless connection to encourage innovation. Make sure you incorporate areas where employees can individually focus as well as collaborate in groups.

Source: Red Thread helps organizations and their partners to create work environments thatsupport productive, engaged employees. Through integrating furniture, architectural products and audiovisual technology, holistically designed spaces can dramatically impact your bottom line. Red Thread was established in 2012 when Office Environments of New England, BKM Total Office and Business Interiors joined forces as a regional enterprise. Red Thread serves as the authorized Steelcase dealer in New England.

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Three C’s To Hiring The Right Person

Have you ever led a team where everyone seems to gel together? You reach success with a highly effective team in both the work they produce and in the attitude of the team. But how do you bring about this type of teamwork?

It starts with hiring the right people. As a leader, one of the hardest jobs is to add high-quality people to your team.

The more homework you do on the front end of the selection process, the better chance you’ll have of finding the right fit, says Ron Edmondson, a church leader and pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. This homework requires that you look within yourself to see what you need most in another person.

Edmondson suggests the next time you have an open position, to consider these three C’s. Which of these types of people would be most helpful to you at this time in your leadership?

1. Someone Who Complements You. This person can do more of what you do. If you are strategic—they are strategic. If you are a relational leader—they will be more so. It could be there’s just not enough of you to go around, but you need more of what you bring to your organization. Edmondson explains that in his large and growing church, he did this by hiring another executive pastor, so the church now has two leaders—one that is relational and one that is strategic.

2. Someone Who Completes You. What are you missing that you simply can’t bring to the team? It could be a quality you are not wired to provide or you no longer have enough time to provide it. This person can fill in gaps you have in your leadership. And, we all have those gaps. Edmondson gives the example of when his church hired a senior adult pastor who was still in the prime of his career. This role was needed because the church had a large senior population and this person provided this demographic with someone they could trust and feel comfortable with; it filled a gap for the church. So where are the gaps or missing holes on your team? Consider, not the open position, but the talent and personality you need for your team.

3. Someone Who Competes With You. This type of person could be needed as you are looking to transition out as a leader or if your organization is large enough to be investing in the next generation of leaders. This is the person who eventually wants your job. They want to do what you do someday, perhaps even more than the position for which you are hiring them. And, if they are really good, they are going to, at times, appear to be in direct competition for yo

ur job. This type of person will push you to be a better leader, and will also serve as bench strength for your team.

Edmondson sums it up by explaining, “You have to decide what you want or need in the person you are hiring. This is beneficial for you and the person who will come to work with you. And, it can hopefully help you avoid making a mistake in hiring.”

Source: As pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, a church leader and the planter of two churches, Ron Edmondson is passionate about planting churches, but also helping established churches thrive. His specialty is organizational leadership, so in addition to his role as a pastor, he consults with church and ministry leaders.

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Sincere Questions That Cut Through Small Talk

One thing I know for sure about myself is this: I’m not great at small talk. I wasn’t born with the gift of gab. While I thrive on other people’s energy, I hate to come up with frivolous conversation starters. I’d much rather jump right into a meaningful dialogue than participate in idle chatter. This makes opportunities like networking events a bit intimidating. And I’m certain I’m not the only one with this aversion to small-talk.

Marcel Schwantes, principal and founder of Leadership From the Core, discovered that to be able to draw people in, he simply had to ask the right questions. Here, we’ll share some of Schwantes’ questions that drive interest and persuasion in a professional conversation. He points out that the first four questions are borrowed from business author David Burkus, which were shared in the Harvard Business Review.

1. What excites you right now? As Burkus explains, this question can go in many directions with a wide range of possible answers that may overlap into your personal life or work life, which will open the conversation further. And asking it allows for the other person to share something that he or she is passionate about.

2. What are you looking forward to? Like the last question, this one is more forward-looking, which, says Burkus, allows for the other person “to choose from a bigger set of possible answers.”

3. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this year? It’s the same technique as the previous two, but this one goes back in time for the other person to reflect on something pivotal that may have changed the course of his or her life. It also opens up a wealth of answers to choose from, which may overlap into some of your own areas of interest for further discussion.

4. What’s the most important thing I should know about you? Because it can come across as a little direct, this is certainly not your first question, and it may not even be your third or fourth, but it “gives the broadest possible range from which they can choose,” says Burkus. Use it in context, listen for clues and wait for the right timing.

5. What’s your story? This is open-ended enough to trigger an intriguing story—a journey to a foreign country, meeting a famous person, getting funded for a startup, a special talent used for making the world a better place, etc. It’s a question that immediately draws in the other person and lets him or her speak from the heart.

6. What is one of your defining moments? This question invites the speaker to share on a deeper level, which builds momentum and rapport more quickly. Obviously, asking a few casual questions before it helps set the mood for hearing about a profound moment or transition in that person’s life.

7. Why did you choose your profession? This assumes that, at some point, you dropped the mandatory “What do you do?” question. As a follow-up, it’s a question that will reveal multiple layers of someone’s journey. It speaks to people’s values, what motivates them and whether their work is their calling. It may also trigger a different, more thought-provoking response: some people aren’t happy in their jobs. By asking, you may be in the position to assist or mentor a person through a career or job transition.

8. What are you currently reading? You may have the same authors and subjects in common, which will deepen your conversation. Also, use this question to ask for book recommendations. You may find the conversation going down the path of exploring mutual book ideas to solve a workplace issue or implement a new business strategy.

9. How can I be most helpful to you right now? To really add the most value to a conversation, once a level of comfort has been established, ask the other person how you can be most helpful to him or her, whether personally or professionally. You’ll be amazed how pleasantly surprised people will be by that thoughtful gesture, and how responsive they are in their answer. Your genuine willingness, no strings attached, to make yourself useful to others leads to more interesting, engaging and real conversations that may lead to future opportunities.

Whatever question you decide to use, the important thing is to always ask open-ended questions and to avoid work-related questions or business questions until much, much later in the conversation. You’ll be surprised by how seamless the transition will be to business, conducting a sales pitch or exploring partnerships once both parties know each other.

Source: Marcel Schwantes is an expert in developing exceptional servant leadership work cultures where employees, managers, executives and their businesses thrive. He is an entrepreneur, executive coach and adviser, and keynote speaker.

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