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Friday
Nov012013

5 Things to Do This Month: November 2013

The leaves are changing and the air has become brisk. Autumn is officially here, and with it, comes the holiday season. From preparing for year-end deadlines to celebrating with family to standing up for a special cause, November is packed full of special events. Here are five things to do this month!

Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Savings Time 2013 ends November 3, so prepare to turn your clocks back one hour to 1:00 am when our clocks have reached 2:00am on Sunday. This means we gain (not lose) an hour and makes Sunday the ideal day to get an hour extra of sleep to feel refreshed for a new month. 

Prepare for 2014

Being the 11th month of 2013, November is the final stretch of the year. So to maintain a competitive advantage in your market, it is imperative to stay ahead of the game. If you haven’t already, take time to plan out departmental goals with your team. This is also a great time to look at goals you achieved this past year and celebrate the company’s accomplishments with your team.

Value Our Veterans

Though we may come from all different walks of life, one thing is certain – we support our troops. Veterans Day is Monday, Nov. 11, and is designed for us to honor those who have served in the military. These men and women have devoted their lives to liberty and safety for all Americans. Take this day to recognize co-workers, family members, and neighbors for their selfless service.

Movember

Movember is a month long event in which men are encouraged to grow moustaches to raise awareness for prostate cancer and other male-oriented cancers, as well as spotlight certain charities and organizations to raise money for such diseases. Get your department involved by raising money for a charity of your choice. Not only will you be helping a great cause, but you’ll also build camaraderie with your team!

Performance Review

With the year nearly over, it’s time to schedule your performance reviews. The holiday season is a busy time of year, and with most people taking vacations during these months, it’s important to ensure you get everyone’s review finished in time for the New Year. The sooner you let your employees know when they should expect the meeting, the sooner they can start preparing for the process.

Is there anything we missed? What do you plan on doing this month? Let us know in the comments section below.

Thursday
Oct242013

Passion vs. Pay: A Generational Debate

The workforce is changing. A constant evolution through generational shifts creates new paths by which processes – once the norm – become archaic. Work atmospheres, which once were considered the best atmosphere for creativity, are now viewed as creative quenchers. Moreover, office hours always seen as written in stone are now being traded for more fluid work flexibility outside the normal eight to five setting. One major reason for this change is the emerging generation who will comprise nearly 75% of the global workforce by 2025 – the Millennials.

There have been countless articles written about Gen Y’s work ethic and their entitlement mindset. The ironic part is a truth media and analysts seem to overlook: each subsequent generation is going to be criticized by each preceding generation. It’s a fact of life. So instead of pointing out issues associated with any group of twenty-somethings, whether in the 2010’s or the 1970’s, it’s important to note a shift in job outlook and career development. Gen Y is tasked with the age-old question: work for passion, or work for pay?

A Passionate Workforce

Ever since Confucius penned the now-famous words, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life,” human kind has been searching for the best way to approach work. The Traditionalists felt a strong loyalty to their company, working for most of their careers in one place. However, each subsequent generation in the work force has stayed at companies for shorter and shorter periods of time, searching for a job that can balance financial goals with underlying, purpose-driven self-fulfillment. But now, it seems the latter of the two has taken a leading role over financial goals as Millennials focus more on life balance and communal purpose than simply making money. A study by professional services company Towers Watson found retaining employees now has more to do with employers providing a satisfying experience, inspiring culture, and good quality relationships than it does rewards-based motivation. And I would argue the shift is directly related to life-changing events and social surroundings.

Happiness = Reality – Expectations

Each generation is affected by life-altering events. The Traditionalists were galvanized by The Great Depression and World War II, giving them strong loyalty and a focus of giving their offspring, the Baby Boomers, a better life, while the Millennials were raised in a time of exponential, technological advancement and were affected by the attacks of 9/11 and the economic shortcomings of The Great Recession. The argument of passion versus pay is basically the age-old question “does money buy happiness?” Tom Magliozzi of National Public Radio equated that “happiness equals reality minus expectations.” So being happy at work means that the reality of office life and pay outweigh what an employee wants or feels like they deserve. That doesn’t have to mean money; it could mean passion toward what they do or if they feel like they are doing work that makes a difference in the world. Either way, passion and pay both fit into Magliozzi’s equation.

What Experts Say

According to some, the problem with following or searching for passion in a profession is that it is detrimental to overall career development and leaves young people holding out for the elusive perfect position. Cal Newport, faculty member at Georgetown University and author of “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love,” says the modern-day thought process that stems from the Confucius’ “do what you love” quote is flawed. He says that finding jobs that fit a passion is a backwards way of thinking; mainly, if you develop skills within a career, you will become passionate. Monique Valcour, a professor at EDHEC Business School in France, explains that “the ‘follow your passion’ self-help industry tends to under-emphasize this key point: all of the self-awareness in the world is of little use if you can’t pitch your passion to a buyer.” And basically, working in an industry develops you and starts creating in you a sense of meaning. And while you develop more skills and become more marketable to companies, you tend to be more fulfilled in your work.

The Disconnect

However, this thinking, while sensible, still leaves a disconnect from what the majority of workers are feeling. According to a recent Gallup poll, only 30% of North American employees feel engaged or inspired and a resounding 70% of workers feel they are not reaching their full potential. Passionate workers are engaged workers, so one could conclude that 70% of North American workers aren’t passionate at work. Disengaged workers tend to cost companies money by lowering productivity and spreading negative energy to the rest of the team. As Newport and Valcour said, people can become passionate about the work, but the formula doesn’t make it to the rest of the 70% of employees who aren’t passionate or actively engaged in their professions.

Learn from Millennials and Older Generations

In the fight between working for passion and working for pay, there are imperative truths on both sides of the spectrum. First of all, those who are passionate about their work tend to work harder and help companies stay competitively innovative in their respected markets. Secondly, workers who focus on developing skills and bettering themselves in careers they choose tend to develop passion for their careers along the way. Finally, marrying the two types of people in the workforce creates a cohesive team that will work hard to achieve the same goal – worth at work. No, there is not an easy answer to this question or a clear-cut winner or loser, but one thing is for certain: people have always been trying to find a good work/life balance, no matter what they are out to get, be it passion or pay.

How have you tackled this question? What do you think is more important, working for passion or developing it throughout a career? Let us know in the comments section below!

Thursday
Oct172013

Be the Leader You’re Meant to Be, Not Someone Else

There have been countless books and articles written on the importance of self-image and the strengths that accompany a positive view of oneself. In fact, if you walk into any bookstore, you will find one of the most popular sections is titled “Self Help.” It’s no secret that most people want to be in a better place in life, whether financially, emotionally, spiritually, or socially. But with so many different people trying to help you get to where you want to be, the advice can end up changing you into a conduit, channeling what they think you should be versus simply a better version of yourself. And at times, that “noise” can be detrimental to your development. One American essayist and poet put it this way:

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

An organization is a symphony comprised of different moving parts, which when working together, compose a greater outcome than if each part were working on their own. As a leader, it is your job to make sure everyone is becoming better versions of themselves. You need realists and dreamers working together to balance creativity. You need leaders and followers to make up a functioning team. You need optimistic and pessimistic people to make sure everything stays in check. The best thing for your organization is for you to encourage members to grow within themselves, not just outside themselves.

How have you ignored the “noise” to become a better leader for your team? Are there any techniques you’ve used to encourage your employees to strengthen their already apparent qualities? Let us know in the comments section below!

Wednesday
Oct092013

0 Steps Forward, 2 Steps Back: The Cost of Inaction

We’ve all been there – the crossroads of a major decision. Whether it’s to expand your business into a new city or hire an extra employee for growing consumer demands, big decisions are constantly looming over us. One of the biggest fears that keeps leaders from taking a step forward is fear of making the wrong decision, so many opt out of making a decision altogether. The simple truth about “opting out” is it is just as much of a decision as choosing one of the options at hand. And as many leaders may know, non-decisions are just as much a decision as proactive innovation – though the costs are much higher.

Cost of Coasting

One thing most leaders have in common is the dreaded F word: failure. It’s at the heart of entrepreneurs, inventors, artists, and more; and its reach stretches further than most success stories. But the inspiring part of failure is that it can drive people to greatness, like it did for Thomas Edison for example. When asked about his failures during the process of inventing the light bulb, Edison simply said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The problem lies when people outweigh the potential negative outcomes with the possible positive ones. This is the state of inaction: when leaders don’t want to fail by choosing the wrong option and they take no step forward. Instead, coasting through and not moving forward can actually hinder your business. By failing to move forward, your business is threatened by the reality of losing a competitive advantage over competitors.  And if you’re staying stagnate while your competitors are moving forward, then you are falling two steps behind.

Signs of Indecision Makers

You may be an indecisive decision maker or you may have a manager who is, but either way, it’s important to identify some of the tell-tale signs of such a leader. This frozen-by-options type of rut is also identified as analysis paralysis, so identifying it may be as easy as taking a step back and seeing if any of these traits apply. First, you or one of your team leaders is constantly adding more and more to the checklist at work without any sign of completion. Secondly, the leader is continuously taking opinions from individuals who don’t have the experience or know-how to give sound advice. Tertiary, seemingly simple decisions take longer to determine and end up holding a project or budget from being approved. If any of these issues apply, you or your team member may be dealing with the inability to move forward.

The Struggle Persists

Usually, identifying problems is the hardest part of fixing issues and growing as a leader. But simply determining a problem doesn’t make it go away. And if you or one of your team leaders are struggling with inaction, taking a step to remedy this won’t be easy. But with a few quick tips, proactive decision making and innovation are only a step away.

  • Journal: Take time each day to write down each decision that freezes forward movement.
  • Checklist: Put simple tasks on a checklist to see improvement throughout the day.
  • Accountability: Get a partner to help sift through some of the biggest inactions and encourage taking steps forward.

Inaction doesn’t have to paralyze you and your team, but when left to its own vices, the cost of inaction can cause you to fall behind in a constant battle of innovation and competitive advantage.

Have you or any of your business leaders struggled with inaction? How has it affected your business? Let us know in the comments section below!

Saturday
Oct052013

Setting Goals Your Employees Can and Want to Achieve in 2014

There are two parts to being a successful business leader. One is having the ability to dream, imagine, and think ahead. The other is ensuring those dreams become reality by making a plan, setting goals, and consistently achieving those goals. Unfortunately, the second part seems to be the more difficult of the two. According to Inc.com, a survey of small business owners by Staples found that more than 80% don’t track their business goals. Not surprisingly, the survey also revealed that 77% of leaders have not achieved their company vision either.

Those two statistics highlight an important, albeit unsurprising, relationship between goals and achievements. To be successful and accomplish something worthwhile, you have to follow a plan. And when you’re referring to workplace and business success, it’s not just about you setting and working towards goals – it’s about your employees doing those things too. That’s why it’s so important to set goals that your employees can and want to achieve.

Set Them Up To Win
Before you can even start thinking about the specifics of your 2014 goals, you must know how to craft reasonable, achievable goals for your team that support your company goals. After all, no one wants to feel like they’ve been set up to fail from the very beginning. Research over the years has revealed a variety of steps for actually achieving goals, such as ensuring your goal meets the SMART-goal standard. But, in the unique case of setting goals for a company that will involve multiple participants, there are a few steps that warrant extra attention.

A how-to guide from The Wall Street Journal on setting goals for employees asserts that involving others in the goal-setting process is critical for business leaders.  In the guide, author Alan Murray states, “You must make sure the goals you set for your team align with those of the broader organization. And you must make sure that your team understands, accepts and commits to those goals. The more you can involve your employees in setting goals for themselves and the group, the more committed to those goals they are likely to be.”

And, while easier said than done, it’s also vital that you find the right balance between a stretching goal and an unachievable one. As The Wall Street Journal’s guide points out, “Goals should give your team something to reach for. But they should not be unreachable, and their attainment or lack of attainment should not be dependent on a host of circumstances beyond the person’s control.”

Focus on Passion
Once you grasp the basic steps to creating effective goals for your business, you should take a step back and consider what types of goals would inspire passion among your employees. Specifically, you’re looking for what would go beyond simply maintaining employee engagement and, as Deloitte’s 2013 Passion Report describes, cultivate “workers with passion to realize extreme sustained performance improvement.” Based on their recent research, Deloitte purports that “While much work has been done to understand and improve employee engagement, employee engagement is no longer enough. Times have changed. Worker passion—defined by three attributes rather than static skills that rapidly diminish over time—will be critical.” Those three attributes, a Forbes article on the study reports, are “a continuing commitment to accomplishment in a particular domain, a disposition to quest and explore, and openness to connect with others.” Currently, only 11% of the U.S. workforce embodies all three.

Cultivating this level of passion among employees may require a restructuring of the work environment, Deloitte found, specifically in relation to organizational silos, predictability, and too restrictive of roles. “Organizations should ask themselves if they reward or punish failure and assess how they encourage, or discourage, workers to actively collaborate with the ecosystem on work projects. Additionally, companies should consider how to provide workers with more visibility and clarity into how each individual makes an impact on the company and the broader industry or domain.” If all these strivings for building passionate employees seem unnecessary, John Hagel, director of Deloitte, would have to disagree. “This transformation effort will be challenging, but external pressures in the form of intensifying competition, mounting performance pressure and continual disruptions will ultimately force companies to confront this imperative or die – the old ways of doing business are simply proving less and less effective,” Hagel said in the Forbes article.

Tap Into Their Desires
Finally, you need to tie the goals and their desired results to something employees really care about. You have to answer the “What’s in it for me?” question before you can earn their true buy-in, which means you need to know what’s important to your employees. A survey from CareerBuilder earlier this year found that employees claim salary is the key factor in job satisfaction and employee retention with a majority of 88%. Other desires that could easily be linked to company goals are making a difference (48%) and challenging work (35%). The survey also found that increased recognition, asking for and utilizing employee feedback, increased training and education, and career pathing are especially important.

Another study from Deloitte – Talent Edge 2020: Building the Recovery Together – uncovered similar findings. When asked what would keep them at their current employer, workers’ top answer was promotion/job advancement. Additional compensation, financial incentives, support and recognition from management, and additional benefits were also noted.

Successful businesses are born out of a great idea and the ability to make that dream a reality. But, most likely, you’re not realizing your dream by yourself. A company is only as good as its employees, so it’s also logical that a company goal is only as good as the employees supporting it. Don’t risk not hitting your goals in 2014 – make sure you can craft achievable goals that inspire passion and directly benefit your team so everyone can succeed in the upcoming year.