Tag: creativity

Your Business Needs a Vacation, Too!

Posted on January 28th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace. 1 Comment

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.

 

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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.


I've Got the Music in Me!

Posted on February 14th, by Steve Browne in Community and Connection. Comments Off

There are some things in life that truly tie us all together. I think that one of them is music!! Seriously, think about it.

We can remember a certain song or group that defined high school, college, weddings, etc.  I distinctly remember the rush of emotion I would get when the High School pep band would play “Jet” by Paul McCartney & Wings during the warm up. Geeked !!

Music follows all people and when you look at that in the context of HR, there is a gold mine of tunes that resonate with all of us.  Paul Smith, author of Welcome to the Occupation, gathered some great lists of HR/work related songs that we can all see ourselves in. Check out his post here: Songs About Work 3-D.

Along those lines and to get you hooked, I want you to try these:

THE song when you're thinking about the potential termination of a team member from The Clash!!

Or, when you've had one of those days that seem to drone on and on, there's the new wave classic by Trio – “Da Da Da”

My “go to” song lately has been what I see happening to employees as they come to work each week - “I Don't Like Mondays” by the Boomtown Rats.

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Those are just a few that hit me and you can probably guess what type of music I tend to listen to. What does that say about me?  That's up to your interpretation. The thing to remember in this is that the great people around you everyday have music in them too!!  They are full of different styles, genres, and themes that get them through each day.

Too often in HR we want everyone to “be on the same page” which really means that we want people to conform to a certain direction or movement.  We often aren't looking for their input. We just want them to get in line with everyone else. Wouldn't it be better if we let them express themselves and bring their ideas, approaches and insight to situations?  It doesn't mean that we won't reach consensus or agreement.

In fact, it's just the opposite.  By involving the diverse reality of employees around us, we come up with better conclusions and strategies.

So, this week, let your music flow!! Let others see the great tunes you love and take in the symphony of those around you. You'll love the mix that comes from it!!

Remember, You've Got the Music in YOU !!

About the author: Steve Browne is the ultimate connector and social media guidance counselor and also works in the trenches of Human Resources. Steve is the Executive Director of HR for LaRosa’s. He has responsibilities for the strategic direction of over 1400 employees. In his spare time, he is active in Ohio SHRM and runs a subscriber-based newsletter called HR Net. Connect with Steve on Twitter as @sbrownehr and on LinkedIn.

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Stop Expecting Perfection: Decide What’s Important

Posted on February 28th, by Bonni Titgemeyer in Business and Workplace. 3 comments

In elementary school, I struggled with handwriting.

My letters were always way out of proportion.  It wasn’t pretty.  I felt it created a negative perception of me and my capabilities.

I was vindicated at around 4th grade when the TV show, Laverne and Shirley, became popular.  Laverne DeFazio used a script “L” on her shirts, which basically broke all the rules of elementary school handwriting.

Since my maiden name was Lile, I adopted the Laverne “L” as part of my signature.  Whenever my teacher would complain, all I would have to do is point out that “L.” It became my trademark.  It was cool and I was proud of it.

Even today, there are lots of things I do that do not fulfill the notion of “fitting within the lines.”  That crisp “hospital corners” type of finish on most things eludes me.  I realized this the other day when I went to make the bed at home.  No bouncing quarters here. I just can’t make the corners fit neatly into the pre-made slots. And folding fitted sheets neatly, forget about it!  Thank goodness for big fluffy comforters that hide the wrinkles!

Strangely, there are times when I am envious of those who can be crisp about their work routines.

I know that I frustrate payroll professionals in particular, who by virtue of their trade, are generally very good at keeping completed documents in proper order, on brads and in the right sub-folders.  Their staples are always exactly in the right place too, and all the correct information is neatly set out on forms.  I’m not going to win a 5S award anytime soon.  I’m just comfortable when the right documents are in the right folders (so that they are handy when I am looking for them), and don’t get too fussed about the order.  And, to quote one of my favorite lines from the movie, Office Space, I have been admonished several times in my career for “failing to put a cover sheet on my TPS report”!

Reflecting on this, it has occurred to me that the notion that there is only one perfect way of doing things is a dangerous habit for an HR professional.  In practical terms, it isn’t possible in most cases, and also it promotes a level of uniformity about things that may result in stymied creativity.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive for some level of polish, but it does mean we should have a meaningful discussion about the cost of the pressure of uniformity.  What stylized “L” might we miss?

My grandmother always ironed the sheets, and underwear for that matter, and spent the better part of a day each week doing it.  I thought it was silly but it was a socialized norm for someone of her generation.

I think it comes back to that old adage about figuring out what is important and focusing on that.  We should stop expecting perfection on things that don’t need to be perfect.


Loving Your Limits

Posted on January 9th, by Laura Schroeder in Business and Workplace. 8 comments

It’s very, very easy to see having too much to do in too little time as a source of stress.  Believe me, I know.  A weasel recently chewed through my brake cable in the middle of a busy week and I was like, ‘Really, car-eating weasels?  3 kids and a demanding job aren’t enough?’

But constraints can also be a source of inspiration, creativity and amazing performance.

Constraints provide structure and help clarify priorities but I never really thought about it in so many words until recently, when I came across the same idea in two completely different books I’ve been reading. It’s clearly a sign of … something.

  • The first book, Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds, talks about how time constraints force the presenter to condense their key ideas down to a single memorable message.

Other types of constraints, such as format or content constraints, force presenters to get creative about how to get the message across. In the absence of such constraints, people come up with some pretty long, boring presentations because it’s easier to cram a lot of words on a slide than figure out what your key message is. If you want better presentations, try telling people they can only show one slide.  Some people will completely miss the point and cover the slide with tiny 10-point words.  Others will surprise you with the simplicity and clarity of their message.

  • The second book, Rise by Patty Azzarello, talks about how successful people not only achieve more but make sure others know about their achievements.

The catch is you don’t get any extra time to do this, you have to figure out how to do more and communicate better in the same amount of time you have today.  This isn’t just a question of working more efficiently, it’s a question of being strategic about how you work. It’s about turning your limits into a competitive advantage, which sounds like jargon but it’s true. No one can do everything. Effective people focus on the 3 things they’re going to do out of the 200 things they could do.

We all know people who achieve amazing results by working 80 hours a week.  Because they work so many hours they don’t need to be particularly efficient or innovate about how they do the work.  These people get a lot done but they don’t move the organization forward – and ultimately don’t move forward themselves – because they don’t scale.

We also all know people who do less but achieve more.  This doesn’t mean they’re better or smarter than everyone else but they ARE better at prioritizing and communicating.  Maybe they have kids.  Maybe they have a health problem.  Maybe they want their work to have a visible impact.  Whatever their constraint, they’ve figured out how to turn it into an advantage, usually through a combination of ruthless prioritization and excellent communication.

Not having enough time can be a gift. It forces you to figure out you core message before you present to busy people.  It forces you to find a way to do your most important work in the time you have available.  And it forces you to focus on what will have the highest positive impact instead of wasting time being ‘busy.’   None of these things are career limiting, by the way.

This would be a good time for a comment about ‘business’ and ‘busyness’ but that would be cheap and obvious. Instead I will leave you with this thought:

Limitations are like opportunities.  They are what you make of them.

Photo credit iStockphoto


5 Things You Need for Long Term HR Staying Power

Posted on November 21st, by Krista Francis in Networks, Mentors and Career. 7 comments

A quick Google search nets dozens of lists with titles like “Nine Essential HR Skills.”

I’ve seen these lists debated from time to time and I don’t disagree that any of the of the frequently listed qualities are important. How can you argue with ethics, business knowledge, communication, organization and integrity? But most of the lists I see don’t include a number of traits that, after 15 years in HR, seem to me to be integral to an HR professional’s long-term staying power (not to mention mental and emotional health):

Optimism – Resilience – Persistence – Courage – Creativity

Some people work at such fabulous organizations where these qualities are less crucial. But the truth is that in many HR positions, in addition to witnessing fabulous successes within your organization, you encounter the underbelly or the dark side. You see candidates lying about their criminal past, employees faking injuries, people trying to get by doing the least amount possible, supervisors alienating their employees or turning a blind eye to employment laws, managers failing to manage and leaders failing to lead. And you are faced with an almost endless stream of ethical dilemmas and conundrums.

I work at a good company with an amazing CEO, yet I have to say that working in HR in my industry is not for the faint of heart. We’re a nonprofit faced with plenty of challenges. We employ mostly hourly workers, almost half of whom are first or second generation immigrants. They work around the clock at remote sites with a supervisor rarely present. Their work is important but not paid well by society. HR is not easy in this setting.

Within your own industry, you undoubtedly encounter different challenges and quirks. Regardless of your setting, if you work in HR, it helps to have:

Optimism. Remember what is good and right within your organization when things go wrong; 10% of people are probably causing 90% of your problems. Focusing too much on the 10% is a glass-half-full approach that may lead to you giving up, leaving your position or even abandoning HR.

Resilience. Have sufficient strength and flexibility to bounce back after disappointments and set-backs.

Persistence. Do not give up easily; when one thing doesn’t work, try 6 or 8 or 90 other things and don’t stop trying until you find something that does work.

Courage. It’s one thing to be ethical yet it’s another to speak up when you know something’s not right or when a response that is convenient in the short-run doesn’t serve the long-term interests of your business.

Creativity. Figure out how you’re going to address or communicate your concern or position without alienating the very people whose cooperation you need to succeed. Some may call this influence, and that’s certainly involved, but I’m thinking more of the mental processes like brainstorming, ingenuity, IQ and EQ.

There are a lot of qualities you must have or attain if you want to succeed in HR. But for long term staying power, you may need a few more. You need to have the drive to persist and the ability to maintain hope and creativity despite adversity and downright disillusionment.

I know you won’t all agree with my list 1o0%, so I’m interested to hear your rundown of the top essential HR skills.

photo by artfulblogger


Don’t Get Angry, Get Creative

Posted on March 3rd, by Jennifer Miller in Business and Workplace. 2 comments

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.  

                                                        – Ghandi

For all the strides women have made in the workplace over the past 50 years, dual standards still exist that cause roadblocks to career success.

Meghan Casserly’s article on Forbes.com called The Bitching Point highlights the bind that assertive women often find themselves in: act with too much authority and you’re given the ignominious B-word label; not enough and you’re deemed unsuitable leadership material.

Yes, these double standards tick women off. In fact, if we let it, our anger could really get in the way of progress. 

Lucky for us though, it doesn’t. 

Historically, women have not had access to many of the societal levers of power— land ownership, voting rights, marital equality and so on.  Therefore we’ve had centuries of practice in learning to creatively overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of our goals. That history works in our favor, according to Yale psychology professor Susan Nolen-Hoeksema.  Nolen-Hoeksema is the author of The Power of Women and she has uncovered an interesting differentiator in the way that men and women handle anger. 

Women don’t get mad. They get creative.

Well, actually, of course women get mad. But it’s what they do with the anger that sets them up for handling obstacles in a uniquely female way. Dr. Nolen-Hoeksema cites research in which men and women were asked to recall and write about a personal experience that made them angry. Similar percentages of both genders were able to easily write a brief synopsis of the event that elicited anger. Then, the participants in the studies were given a choice: choose to continue writing about the event, or move to a new task. Nearly twice as many women as men chose to move on to a new activity. 

The researchers concluded that while both genders are equally predisposed to experience the emotion of anger, women were able to move to problem-solving more quickly than their male counterparts, choosing to focus on overcoming the obstacle rather than seeking some sort of resolution or retribution.

Dr. Nolen-Hoeksema sees this ability to focus on solutions rather than retribution as part of a larger skill set of “mental strength,” which allows a woman be “very creative in finding solutions, focusing on getting things done, not just on doing things their way.”  This creativity is what propels us forward, helps us manage the still-present double standards that impede our acceptance as true leaders in the workplace.

For all the women out there still struggling with those dual standards, take heart. Your sisters before you coped and you can too. The next time you’re feeling ticked at an inequity, acknowledge your anger and then, use it as a catalyst to help you devise a creative solution that will propel you towards your goals.

Photo credit iStock Photo


Why Work Is So Important To Me

Posted on September 8th, by Rebecca Robinson in Wellness and Balance. 2 comments

In the eight years that I spent home with kids full-time, I didn't realize that I was missing anything.

When I left my job for maternity leave, I fully intended to return almost full-time in a special arrangement I had spent months perfecting. I would work a set number of hours from home each week and spend two full days in the office or in the field meeting with clients.

What I hadn't planned for was the overwhelming desire I felt in those early weeks of my daughter's life to spend every moment of every day with her.

Without planning to, I made motherhood my full-time career during those years as we welcomed our second, and then our third, daughter into our family. My work during those years was feeding, changing, bathing, keeping house, reading, playing, cooking, laundering, and training. When we later decided to home-school our children, I added curriculum planning and teaching to my daily plans.

It wasn't until I started doing some freelance writing that I realized what had been missing during those years.

Creativity.

What I did before was re-creating. Every day, I work

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ed to re-create a sense of order and peace in our home by completing the same tasks, again and again. It wasn't drudgery. There is joy in the every day, especially with three beautiful lives unfolding before my eyes. But apart from dinner (devoured in minutes) and memories, I wasn't creating anything.

Finding a creative outlet gave me a new spark for life. I even started waking up at 4:30 in the morning, just so I could have more time to write.

If I could go back 9 years, to my first summer of motherhood, I would make room in my life for creativity. Between play dates and vacuuming, I would tell myself that even though I might not think so, finding meaningful work would add a lot to my life, energizing me for motherhood in a way nothing else could.

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