Category: Business and Workplace
Three things needed for a long term relationship are commitment, caring and communication. Just as partners in a successful marriage, who are committed to one another, understand the benefits they receive from one another, employees and employers require the same. Employees need to achieve results and employers to provide stability.
Caring is not a word used often in employment agreements but love has a place in the corporate world. The best employers treat their employees well by providing competitive salaries and benefits, training supervisors to manage effectively, giving employees the tools that they need to do their jobs, and, most important, letting employees know how they are doing. Employees show that love back by being passionate about quality and loyal to the companies for whom they work.
And then there is communication. In order to sustain a long term and healthy relationship with employees, smart companies provide job descriptions, mission statements, vision, goals, and frequent performance feedback. And smart employees, who understand where the company is headed and what they need to do, offer innovation.
Just like a successful marriage takes work, the relationship between employers and employees requires the same commitment, caring and communication, not just offered once, but provided continuously over the long term.
About the author: Judy Lindenberger is the President of The Lindenberger Group, an award-winning human resources consulting firm, located near Princeton, NJ. They are experts in career coaching, customized training workshops, online training programs, mentoring, 360-degree assessment and feedback, HR audits, employee handbooks, and more. Learn more about them at www.lindenbergergroup.com.
“Don’t just stand for the success of other women – insist on it.” - Gail Blanke, President and CEO, Lifedesigns
Maybe being a man writing this undermines all credibility. My career has been all about embracing the importance and value of a diverse workplace. Having a silent or marginalized voice isn’t easy. Being an ignored or disrespected voice is soul crushingly depressing. I’ve long been having this conversation with my female colleagues about the importance breaking the silence and finding my voice.
Let’s not kid ourselves though, there’s still knuckledraggers wandering the workplace halls. The staff room at times is more like a locker room. You need hipwaders every time you pass the watercooler, because there’s so much BS and testosterone fueled bravado surrounding it.
There are talkers in your midst. They’re also getting ahead by only talking a good game. It’s time to rise above the bad smell, of less pay, less recognition, and lesser titles. You’re educated, you’re smart, you have skills, and you work harder than most. You’ve got game. Communicating a great game will raise the bar in your workplace.
Improving your verbal and non-verbal communication skills will get you noticed, will help get you ahead, and make for a better workplace. Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Being overly apologetic is undermining. It’s not your fault the network is down, or the caterer messed up the the lunch order. Working late to meet a deadline, don’t apologize for asking your team to join you.
- Your behavior shapes the universe. Your competence and confidence always need to be on display. Showing courage and conviction will inspire and mobilize others to take action. Turning your words into action will get you noticed. Remember the fine line between arrogance and confidence. Speak directly with authoritative tone. Being loud, condescending, or defensive won’t carry the day.
- Do not talk down your achievements or undervalue them when working in a successful group and alongside men. Teamwork matters. Undervaluing yourself in group situations, in front of co-workers or employers, will hold you back. Take the credit and recognition you’re due. Kudos aren’t just a man’s domain.
- Of course there’s merit in wanting to be helpful, and having the get things done attitude to achieve your teams goals. Remember the delicate balance between taking on meaningful tasks versus the busy grunt work nobody else wants to do. You want to be a meaningful and effective contributor. Communicate with the boss about projects that excite you. Let them know what you’d like to work on.
- Ideas are essentially gender neutral. Work at generating good ideas, communicating the value of those ideas, as well as helping others articulate their ideas.
- If direct and open feedback is constructive, don’t personalize or internalize it. Be direct and open in receiving it. Take action on it.
- Be authentic. Know and respect what you are about, and true to your beliefs. You’re more than just what’s on your resume.
- Focus on your own growth and contribute to the growth of the people supporting you.
A truly diverse workplace embraces different voices, with different perspectives. By making your voice is heard and your presence known, you’ll be making a difference.
“Don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions; go over, under, through, and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing, and don’t care if they like it.” ― Tina Fey, Bossypant
About the Author: As VP of Marketing, Bimal Parmar manages the global marketing strategy and execution at Celayix. With over 20 years industry experience, Bimal is responsible for making sure the world learns about the benefits of Celayix’s solutions that include: advanced employee scheduling, time and attendance, employee communication as well as integration modules for payroll and billing. Before joining Celayix, Bimal was Vice President of Marketing at Faronics, a leading provider of IT solutions for the Education vertical where he helped grow revenue over 50% and launched exciting new solutions. Prior to that Bimal held senior marketing and product roles at technology companies such as Business Objects and McAfee Security where he gained significant international experience working with global companies such as Microsoft, Dell, Sony, HP, Orange, Telefonica and Ricoh.
I live in Indiana. It’s February, typically considered a winter month (you might hear a little cynicism in my words…). And it’s snowy. Albeit, there’s much more snow here than we’ve had in recent years, but is that really a surprise?
I was scheduled to attend a local seminar tomorrow. I am a “nerd” and enjoy learning, especially if it will help me be a better HR professional, coach, &/or person. I always like to get another trainer’s perspective & I am familiar with this speaker – who I consider to be excellent, so I was looking forward to it. I got an email yesterday morning indicating it had been postponed until late this month. Our “weather” hadn’t even hit yet, although forecasters had been prognosticating a new “snowpocalypse” for days. And I saw or heard it everywhere I turned – Facebook, Twitter, television, radio.
The weather predictions appeared to be coming true by mid-afternoon yesterday and lots of snow began falling. Our company began monitoring in order to make prudent business decisions about closing or delaying opening today. As weather often does, it appeared to taper off last evening, and yet, the social media and television continued to “blow up” with news and details of “snowpocalypse.” It’s no wonder people overreact – the worse-case-scenarios are played out on every avenue of communication.
My husband was up early today, and was out snow-blowing our drive, and our neighbors, long before any county snow plow would have considered coming down our road. I got to thinking about all of this after getting the 5:55AM email that our business would open as usual today. It seems like everyone is preparing for the worse-case scenario, instead of preparing so it won’t be. Does that make sense?
What I mean is, it seems with the advent of social media and immediate news feeds, we tend to take on almost a ‘victim’ mentality. The weatherman predicts weather, everyone posts it on their statuses or news feeds, we all run to the store for bread, milk, and perhaps some adult beverages, and then we wait for the weather, sometimes predicting early that we can’t make it in. Often, the weather doesn’t end up being near as scary as predicted, and yet, many are paralyzed by the thought of that ‘worse-case scenario.”
What happened to simply preparing for the weather – extra layers of clothing, getting up early to shovel, snow-blow, scrape the car windows, leaving earlier than usual in order to get to work.
I do not remember a day that my Dad & Mom didn’t get up and go to work. Dad owned his own business, Mom worked at the local university, and no matter the weather, they got up, prepared for it, and went to work. Why are we any different today? We have better gadgets – snow blower, automatic car starters, warmer clothing and such, along with better prediction information – and yet, we aren’t preparing for the rigors of getting up and going to work, we are preparing for the worse.
Kind of like my seminar planned for tomorrow. I’m bummed. It seems like with a little preparation, the seminar might have been able to happen. Maybe not, depending on the speaker schedule and travel location, but it feels like we prepared for the worst, instead of preparing for the best.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want anyone to endanger themselves to get to work. Yet, before our social media, did our parents and prior generations know better, prepare better, have a better work ethic? I don’t think so. I think they just used good common sense and prepared – for the best. Without all the “noise” from social media and news 24/7 on television, radio and streaming through our laptops and other devices, people simply prepared. Perhaps they had more time….
About the Author: Dorothy Douglass is Vice President of Human Resources & Training at MutualBank, an Indiana-based financial institution. She began her career with Mutual in 2001 as Human Resources Manager, and is a graduate of Ball State University. She is proud to have been in Human Resources now for more than 17 years and is continuing to “lean in” and working to influence the “people management” side of her organization. She is passionate about managing and developing people; and I have yet to be bored in 13+ years in her current job. She considers herself fairly tech-UN-savvy, though has immersed herself in Facebook and LinkedIn. She’s still working on the Twitter-sphere & has goals to blog more in 2014.
Too many companies are not responding quickly enough to the expectations and needs of the workforce today. Turnover is costly so it’s time to focus on retention. In the continual rush to be productive we often fail to treat people well. Happy employees stay with companies longer. They’re less likely to be vulnerable to recruiting calls.
One obvious trend is employees are taking control of their careers and their life. Companies are not trusted to provide career longevity. Corporations hire and layoff unpredictably. Job security is a myth so employees have learned to style their lives differently. The truth is more employees are willing to walk away from employment scenarios that make them miserable.
On average it costs between $15,000 and $45,000 to replace a worker who earns between $40,000 and $110,000. While the figures may vary from industry to industry, for example the estimated cost to hire a nurse is around $60,000, the fact is companies can save a bundle of money if they have less attrition.
There are several things employers can do to improve retention and lower hiring costs.
1. Training. Give employees more skills. Employees want to increase their value.
2. Provide communication training. Encourage and expect constructive feedback to flow up, down, and sideways. Provide avenues for feedback. Surveys show the number one reason people are unhappy at work is due to an ongoing issue with someone who matters at work. Increased stress can certainly lead to turnover.
3. Mentoring programs. Help employees see the long view and career path options. How do they get to where they want to go?
4. Flexible schedules. Focus on what is expected of an employee. Be clear about what, when, and how they are to accomplish their goals. Define clear parameters. Younger people want a work/life balance and will quit their job to get it elsewhere. Define what fair, good, and excellent performance includes so employees don’t feel unfairly criticized and can improve their performance responsibly.
5. The ability to work from home a few days a week. This makes for happier, more loyal employees.
6. Ask for feedback. How are you doing managing your company? What are the perceptions of your staff on your performance? What are you doing to improve? New managers should know their staff will evaluate them regularly, and anonymously, where possible. Are they willing to improve their management skills?
Different issues arise as a company grows. Pay attention. When I owned an independent adjusting company in the Chicago area the outside investigators who worked for me were highly skilled. When we got together there was a great deal of ribbing and jockeying for some kind of superiority I didn’t quite understand.
I thought of us as a team. We were one exclusive, competent company who handled the toughest workers compensation and liability claims in the city, for the best insurance companies. I wanted to create unity not competition within. One Saturday I asked the investigators to come in for the morning. I had them each read two of their co-workers’ files.
I asked them to verbally critique the work of their peers. They worked independently being responsible for each assigned investigation until conclusion. The result was heartening. Each one was humbled and impressed with the caliber, professionalism, depth, and insights of the people they worked with. Never before had they seen the work product of their peers.
The compliments were genuine and respect sincere. There was an elevated sense of camaraderie. We all belonged to the same ‘club’ of outstanding service and talent. We were more united and the one-upmanship stopped. I knew we had the best investigators in the city but they didn’t know until they experienced it for themselves.
The result was we had no turnover for five years before I sold the company. The loyalty, integrity, comfort, and trust we enjoyed was unique. Situations arise all the time that require an individualized solution. If one approach fails to get desired results, think of a new strategy. Ideas are free, turnover is not.
Leadership is not hard if you’re willing to serve your employees the way you serve the customer. Lower hiring costs by increasing retention. Loyalty is not a given. Earn it and everyone wins.
About the Author: Kimberly Schenk is a recruitment coach and mentor. She trains both individuals and corporate staff. Kim teaches the full cycle recruitment process and has an updated book available online called TopRecruiterSecrets. Learn more by visiting Kim’s blog about corporate recruiting.
Several years ago I did a post on this site called Love, Marriage, and SEO. In it I talked about how through marriage I had lucked into a great new name because I was, and still continue to be, the only Shauna Moerke on the internet. That’s awesome SEO (Search Engine Optimization) right there. I was so confident that I would never change my name again. Ah, to be so young and so naive.
Flash forward a few years and with a divorce and a new marriage under my belt and I found myself with a conundrum. As I mentioned in that previous post, all my time in social media and even my professional HR career I was Shauna Moerke. Now I could keep Moerke as my last name. That was always an option and honestly, it was the easiest choice. And that may have been what I would chose to do if it had been my maiden name. Now, call me superstitious or sentimental, but I did not like entering into a new marriage and keeping my name from a previous marriage. So once again, I find myself running the name change gauntlet as I try to figure out what to do now.
Professionally, the effect can be rather minimal if you are prepared. Make sure you start reaching out to your professional contacts, starting with your references first, to let them know of your new name. This also has the added bonus of getting you to check in on how your network is doing, which is something we should all be doing on a regular basis but often forget to. And as you start changing your name in all the important areas (Driver’s license, passport, social security, voter registration, etc) take the time to update your resume and order personal cards (as opposed to business cards, though you will need those too) with your new name that you can start handing out. It is much easier for others to get in touch with you if they don’t have to figure out how your new name is spelled.
Social media, well, that is a harder problem. I have a lot invested in the name Moerke. Not only is my blog’s name officially “Shauna Moerke is…“, even if I still refer to it as HR Minion, but my whole social media identity is linked to it. So for my social media piece, I decided on a compromise. My blog’s name hasn’t changed. My name on this site and on twitter hasn’t changed. On Facebook and LinkedIn I have Moerke as my former name right next to my new last name and I haven’t changed the link addresses on either. If you found me before as Shauna Moerke, you can find me still. But now you can also find me as Shauna Griffis too.
Oh, did I happen to mention that my new last name is also pretty awesome? It turns out that I am the only Shauna Griffis on the internet, a fact that my new husband was very quick to point out to me long before we made anything official. Gotta love a man with a great name and a head for how this social media game is played.
About the author: Shauna is an HR professional with a diverse work history, a Master’s degree, and a PHR certification. She is also a huge geek, social media advocate, and infectious giggler. Besides being a co-founder of the Women of HR she also serves as the current Ringmistress of the Carnival of HR, is the former co-host of the HR Happy Hour blogtalk radio show, and blogs at her own site as the HR Minion.
When it comes to attracting and hiring top employees, there are several things you can do to help employ the best and the brightest. On the other hand, there are other things you may do, without even realizing it, that will drive your best employees away. In my experience, here are the seven fastest ways to lose employees – and how to turn those negatives into positives for your business. These are tips that Human Resources should share with every manager, and make sure they are practicing within the company.
#1 Unreachable Expectations
The first way to lose an employee fast is to set unrealistic expectations. This does not mean managers should lower their standards. What it does mean is that they should be in tune with the business and what it takes to succeed.
Instead of setting goals and deadlines that cannot be met, managers should come up with realistic goals for employees. This doesn’t mean they should be easy; goals and expectations should involve hard work. The difference is the expectations should be attainable for those who work hard for the good of the company.
#2 Constantly Criticize
Another thing that managers do to drive employees away quickly is to constantly criticize them throughout the workday. It is difficult for a person to do any job well if they feel that everything they are doing is wrong.
Instead of criticizing every wrong move, managers should acknowledge employees for what they are doing right. You can help them by teaching them how to turn a negative comment into a positive one. Constantly reinforcing this within the company will help others learn to manage this philosophy in a daily work environment.
#3 Managing the Micromanager
By the same token, some managers may find it is easy to be critical when they are constantly looking over their employee’s shoulders. It is difficult enough to do your job without the added burden of having a manager within reach, second-guessing every move you make.
Instead of micromanaging employees, managers should learn to give their employees some room to work and occasionally make mistakes. As long as the mistakes are not career or business ending, this will help them learn the right way to do business in the future.
#4 Pass the Blame
Part of being a good manager is sometimes accepting the blame when things do go wrong. It is not possible for a manager to control everything, and mistakes will happen. It is what happens next which will chart the course for the company’s future.
Instead of passing the blame, Human Resources needs to foster an environment where it is acceptable to make mistakes without fear of a person losing their job. This will make it much easier for both managers and employees to accept both success and an occasional mistake.
#5 Expect Long Hours and Overtime Without Compensation
There is no doubt most top employees work hard, and that is what likely keeps a successful business thriving. However, no one should expect to work long hours and put in a lot of overtime without the understanding there will be some type of compensation or job security gained because of it.
Instead of demanding mandatory overtime every week without any extra pay or benefits, build in a structure that compensates employees in some way. If an employee is constantly working difficult extra hours, without an end in sight, it is likely they will soon set their sights on a new place to work.
#6 Fail to Offer Rewards, Incentives or Bonuses
Along with compensation and pay comes the need for some type of system that rewards employees. No one wants to put in a lot of hard work with nothing to show for it. Big or small, rewarding your employees can go a long way.
Instead of avoiding all rewards, incentives and bonuses due to the drain on a company’s finances, Human Resources should lead the charge in finding creative ways to support employees. An occasional treat, a prime parking spot, or even a paid day off can go a long way when it comes to emotionally uplifting employees.
#7 Treat Employees Only as Employees
Finally, managers and executives within a company need to understand that employees should be treated with respect. If workers are acknowledged simply as “employees,” they will not work their hardest for the good of the company and likely be eager to leave.
Instead of creating a division within the company, Human Resources should encourage managers to create a respectful environment. It is important that employees feel valued and that they feel their opinion is respected.
While the economy may still be recovering for many U.S. businesses, employees will not want to stay with any company that does not respect them or value the contribution they make to the business. Ensuring your company understands what drives employees away will help make it easier for you to retain the employees the company values most.
About the Author: Cassy Parker, social media advocate for CreditDonkey (@CreditDonkey on Twitter), a credit card comparison website, has experience helping small business owners thrive. As the content manager for the business section, she keeps a pulse on the challenges small business owners face.
As the Affordable Care Act continues to unfold, we may also see it flop if enrollment numbers don’t change. Based on research performed by HHS (Health and Human Services), many uninsured Americans were young people. With that knowledge, Kathleen Sebelius, the HHS Secretary, assured insurance carriers that they would have at least a 40% enrollment of young (between the ages of 18 and 24) subscribers into the ACA. As a result, the insurance carriers formulated their rates within the ACA exchanges to insure this low risk demographic group. All of the research shows that in order to keep the premiums stable and to prevent carriers from leaving the scene altogether, roughly two in five Americans enrolled need to be young adults.
As of writing this post, there is a 24% enrollment of young folks in the ACA. Not what carriers were expecting. One-third of the enrollments are in the 55 to 64 age group. Open Enrollment ends on March 31 so we’ll know more when the final enrollment numbers are published.
So while folks enrolled in the exchanges might be getting an affordable health plan this year, I certainly hope they’re following this because there is nothing stopping insurance carriers from raising their rates for next year or even bailing from the exchange. What then? Affordable healthcare under the government will no longer be affordable and we’re back to the drawing board.
Enroll or be fined
It may hit your wallet if you can’t prove that you have medical insurance. You may have heard about this under the guise, “Individual Mandate“. This fine isn’t anything to sneeze at — the breakdown of the fines for each year is on this awesomely informative site. And don’t try to lie about having health insurance or you’re looking at a $25,000 fine.
The death of non-group plans
There was a time when you could buy a non-group (not dependent on an employer) health insurance policy that was affordable. Perhaps it was a high-deductible plan with hospitalization coverage — you could self-insure your doctor visits by paying out of pocket. This was a good way for self-employed folks to have affordable health insurance. Those plans are gone. The ACA has put restrictions on the types of plans that are offered in the non-group market. Hence the health insurance cancellations we’ve been hearing about.
I haven’t even touched on the impact it’s going to have on small businesses and, unfortunately, I could fill an entire page on that topic alone.
I’m not sold on how the ACA will help our healthcare situation and I think it’s going to further hurt the economy with the fines to individuals and businesses. I hope I’m wrong.
What really stumps me is how we’re supposed to believe that a government program backed by for-profit insurance companies would ultimately provide anything affordable for Americans?
The long winter months can inspire you to peruse deals online or phone your travel agent for a vacation away from home – somewhere relaxing and fun (or perhaps warmer) where you can forget the bustle of everyday life and stretch out in your finest resort attire for a few days.
Don’t feel guilty or hesitant about taking a little vacation this winter. Even if you’re a business owner, a little time away from the regular office environment and the daily tasks of running your business and managing your staff can refresh you for the new year and make you see things in a new light. A vacation can even help you brainstorm ideas to make 2014 the best year your business has ever had.
Here are a few tips on how to make the most of your winter vacation so that you come back to the office mentally refreshed and inspired.
Disregard smaller tasks for the bigger picture
First of all, don’t forget the fact that you are on vacation once you lock your office door, pack the car or carry-on bag, and bid farewell for a week. This means giving yourself permission to enjoy the time off – not spending it doing the frustrating grunt work that you associate with each weekday.
Instead, take a few minutes every so often while you are on vacation to brainstorm about the bigger picture and feel creative. The point of brainstorming while on vacation is to invite new ideas, not labor over mundane tasks.
Enjoy a different schedule
If you do things in the same order each day – have coffee, shower, brush your teeth – we are hereby giving you permission to ditch your usual routine during a vacation. You may be pleasantly surprised at how mixing it up a little can affect a creative spark.
Get some fresh air
Fresh air is one of the keys to creative success. If you’re the kind of person who sits inside your fancy hotel room and watches the cable channels – or sits by the fire at the ski lodge the entire time – try to get outside into nature a little more and breathe deeply. You don’t have to necessarily think about work while you do it; just clear your head to let new ideas in!
Take something to write with
If you’re out and about during your vacation and you come up with a fantastic idea, it would be a shame to let it escape. Avoid this by keeping a small notebook and pen with you. Why not just use your smart phone to keep track? Studies have shown that your own handwriting is better than a touch screen for stimulating your mind.
Talk to locals
Particularly if you are going somewhere out of the ordinary, it may benefit you to engage in conversations with the locals or with others on vacation. Don’t be afraid to get their input on new ideas as well as products and techniques your business has used in the past. The perspective of someone who isn’t involved with your company – or even part of your demographic – can be valuable.
Do some reflecting
Reflection during the quieter moments of vacation can be beneficial for helping you return to the office feeling refreshed. What do you want to accomplish this year? In addition to thinking about your own business’ highs and lows in the last 12 months (or whatever time period you choose), you may also want to reflect on other businesses. What are they doing right that inspires you? Keep a list of what springs to your mind.
Share your ideas when you return to work
Once vacation is over and you’re back at the office, share any new insight with your team members and ask for input. Explain why you came up with the ideas, and don’t forget to talk about how the new ideas can be used within your business.
Remember, a vacation is not only essential to your own well-being, it’s also great for your business. Even if you never considered taking a vacation as good for your career, brainstorming for 2014 is sometimes easier outside of the daily grind.
About the Author: Allison Rice, Director of Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, has extensive experience in sales and marketing. At Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of custom pens and other promotional items such as personalized USB drives, Allison is focused on providing quality marketing materials to small, mid-size and large businesses. She regularly contributes to the Small Business Know-How blog.
Frankly, as rich as so many of these books are, we often have a tendency to read them, even have the best of intentions to integrate the principles into our personal and professional lives; yet particularly when we are under pressure, these values are put to the test and we may fall short. We all know full well that it is better to tell the truth than to tell a fib and to be loyal rather than to cave under pressure. Most of us also fully embrace The Golden Rule: ‘of doing unto others as we would have done unto us.’ We are certainly not ignorant of the virtues of the spiritual truths, Biblical principles, and even the many current writings on these values.
Yet, how many of us are really honest with ourselves with how and when we practice our beliefs and values pertaining to ethical behavior? How many of us hold ourselves and our team mates accountable for modeling ethical behavior? What can we do to help each other hold fast to these principles? So, in addition to our own spiritual practices and support groups, what are a few additional steps we can take to truly exercise our ethical muscles?
I read a wonderful article in Talent Management a few years ago which really stuck with me. I am integrating a few points I read in this article by Robert J. Thomas – as I believe he had an interesting and pragmatic perspective. One key point he made, which I thought was particularly ‘spot on,’ was that none of these observations or exercises will work unless we are ruthlessly honest with ourselves. So, keep that in mind – only read further if you are willing to look in the mirror of authentic self reflection and be ruthless about what we find.
Step 1: Honestly evaluate our commitments to others.
At the end of each day, (or if you are really strapped for time, do this on a Saturday morning), think about all the commitments, approvals, obligations, and promises you have made. There will be many – as so many of us say ‘yes’ or ‘I will get that to you’ or ‘I will read that and give you feedback’ without even really thinking about it. We are trying to be supportive, polite, or simply not thinking about it being a real commitment. What happens if we don’t come through? What is the cost to ourselves and to the others to whom we made these promises? Some may say that this has nothing to do with ethics. I disagree. Again, when we say we are going to do something – regardless of how small it may seem to us – it is our word to another. Sure, sometimes we forget, get busy, and it falls off the radar; that can happen. The difference is when it does – do we follow-up, admit our mistakes, make it right, and make a commitment to ourselves to do better the next time? This is how we learn and grow. We observe ourselves, put a practice in place to be aware of our behavior, and from here we can improve.
Step 2: Create a personal “Board of Directors” and career support system
Most of us have support systems of some sort: spouses, families, friends, Bible study groups, civic groups, etc. However, how many of us have a pseudo ‘board of directors’ for our professional growth? Just like a corporate board, our own personal board needs to be chosen for their experience, knowledge, skill set, and unrelenting commitment to the company’s success (in this case the company is YOU). These people will care enough to shoot straight with you – even when their observations may not be what you want to hear.
My suggestion is that these conversations need to be deliberate, not episodic or social in nature. They need to focus on you, your adherence to your values, your foibles, areas for improvement and honest observations. So, what’s in it for them we may ask? Well, in addition to the fulfilling nature of ‘paying it forward’ which they will undoubtedly experience when helping another; we can also offer to serve in that same capacity for someone they may want us to help. This is the cycle of leadership – and this is just one step we can each take as a matter of practice going forward.
Step 3: Establish values which will stand the tests of crisis, challenge, and temptation
Most organizations spend days (and often weeks) establishing their value system. Often, these values end up on the bulletin board or a plaque in clear view for everyone to see and read. I wonder if we would really know what the values were within these organizations without the plaque. Would the behaviors the individuals (and teams) exhibit in the organization represent those values? That is the truth serum, isn’t it? The same is true for us.
We may espouse a certain set of values – yet do we live them? What values would our co-workers say we live? Are they consistent with what our families and friends would say? Are our values the same in moments of stress, crisis and potential conflict?
Imagine all the whistle blowers in the news…..do we have the backbone to truly live our values when we are really tested? Think Sherron Watkins (Enron whistle blower). Then think about Eileen Foster – the Countrywide whistle blower who was ignored and then fired for calling suspicious actions into question. Finally, consider Katsuaki Watanabe, the CEO of Toyota, and all the other companies who had to face the realities of product recalls in recent years. What values and strength of conviction were represented in each scenario? What will we do when our ‘Tylenol moment’ happens? Will our values and ethics remain intact when we have to face the music? Establish values, declare them, and hold ourselves accountable to them.
From my perspective, in life and leadership, exercising ethics is a non-negotiable. As Albert Schweitzer (Civilization and Ethics, 1949) offers: “Ethics are nothing but reverence for life. This is what gives us the fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, promoting, and enhancing life.”
What I also believe is that without putting ethics into action any success we may achieve will be fleeting, unstable, and unsustainable – like a house built of sand. And we all know what happens to sand castles when the tides come.
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.
Editor’s Note: Though our guest posts typically come from established business professionals, this post gives a voice to an aspiring future business professional, as she explores her take on the importance of solid writing skills to success in your career.
In our current era of 140 character tweets, quick status updates and instant messaging, one might assume that writing skills have taken a backseat to efficiency and expediency. Unfortunately, those hoping to someday write their business reports in emoticons will have to wait a while longer. If you’re one of the many that feel technology has replaced the need to be a good writer, think again. Writing is as important now as it has ever been.
Unfortunately, writing isn’t held in such high esteem as it once was. Many view it as a necessary evil of the workplace instead of the invaluable communication tool that it is. When we think of improving our communication skills, most of us think about speaking abilities or ways to improve our listening skills. Good writing skills can help us in a number of ways, from improving our credibility in the workplace to improving our persuasiveness.
There are more ways than ever available to us for communicating our ideas through the written word. We have emails, texts, Tweets, letters, notes, reports, presentations and more. If you think about it, we spend a large portion of our time at work communicating to one another through writing. Our writing skills or lack of them are on display every day to a wide audience of co-workers, customers, managers, and stakeholders. Below are some tips for improving your writing skills in the workplace.
Be clear. Eschew obfuscation. That is, avoid confusion. While you want your co-workers to think you’re intelligent, don’t use big complicated words when simple ones will do. On the other hand, nail down the exact message you’re trying to convey by drawing on a large vocabulary. Consider your audience and drop the jargon.
Be persuasive. A big part of your writing efforts are aimed at convincing others to do something you want. Sales and marketing professionals are particularly adept at using this skill. But it is an essential skill at every level of the company. Pay attention to the tone of your writing. Be energetic and positive. Use the active voice.
Be courteous. Don’t become too abrupt in your messages to others. While some forms of communication require you to get straight to the point, this abrupt method shouldn’t be used in every form of written communication you send. Be aware of the sort of language you use and again, consider the audience you are addressing.
Be complete. Don’t leave out information that may leave the recipient with lingering questions. A well written message should be self-explanatory. It should contain enough information so that the person receiving it won’t have to ask for further instructions or information.
If you have effective writing skills then you are viewed as more credible in the workplace. This is a no brainer. Think back to a time when you received an email from a co-worker that was full of grammar mistakes and typos. What was your impression? Chances are you focused your attention on the mistakes rather than the message. At the very best, you assumed the writer was sloppy and didn’t take the time to check their work. At the worst, you viewed them as incapable and perhaps less intelligent. If you want to earn credibility in the workplace, make sure your writing is clear and free of grammatical errors.
About the Author: Jasmine Lloyd is in her senior year of college and looks forward to entering the business world after graduation. When not studying she is often blogging for Essay Edge or working on her writing skills.