Transitioning from Summer to Fall

Transitioning from Summer to Fall

Every worker knows that things change during the Summer when kids are out of school. The roads are less busy during commute, the heat keeps people indoors in their cubicles, and at any given time someone is on vacation. Once August hits, and the children start back for the new school year things start to speed up again. Budgeting season hits, planning begins for next year’s projects, and there is the final push to finish up this year’s projects. Do not get left behind in the excitement of the Fall season!

The first thing to do is take a deep breath; recognize that this is happening and just give yourself a moment to shift your mindset. Also, be aware that many of your employees and customers who have children may be overloaded for a few weeks until they settle into a routine. The best way to help your employees get back on track with the business pace is to set a few goals and deadlines to create clear objectives that they can meet and readjust to timewise. Create these goals as a way to prepare your employees to dive into the third quarter and finish out the fiscal year strong. This is especially important because as customers work on their own budgets and plans for next year, you may see in influx in requests for your information and proposals. These are going to set up next year’s work and many businesses have a cycle of what is planned in the Fall is done in the New Year. Do not lose out on these opportunities because your company is stuck in the Summer slump.

            Another great way to kick off the new season is to host a back-to-school team building event to get everyone excited for finishing their current projects and starting new ones. Note, this is not the time to have a go away retreat; try bringing in bagels or donuts one morning and have everyone gather for a stand-up meeting. These “coffee and catch-up” sessions go a long way in building internal relationships and increasing employee motivation.

            Do not get caught up in the slow Summer pace and give your company a boost by using a few simple tricks to get your employees ready to transition into Fall.


Are You Ambitious Enough?

Are You Ambitious Enough?

In the second century, the philosopher and Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, engaged in a discourse with the future tyrant, Commodus, as to what constituted virtues and vices for a ruler. The one topic they could not agree in which category fell ‘ambition’. It seems to be both. A great ruler needed to have the drive to achieve his vision in order to overcome the inevitable setbacks and challenges of any great goal. On the other side, a drive to try too much leads to frustration and often collapse of the empire in the process.

While our own career challenges are not quite to the extreme of leading an actual empire, the question of how much ambition is appropriate is the same. If we do not have the internal drive, then our dreams remain exactly that, dreams. If we push beyond our actual talents and skills, we will frustrate ourselves. Therefore, many people stop short of being all they can be, settling for something they can do well. The potential for personal significance is usually stopped by contentment. Entrepreneurs know well that failure is just an opportunity to try something different, but did you notice that they have failed? We all hate failure; it is embarrassing, and sometimes involves hardship for yourself and your family/employees. Not fun at all.

If we are not bumping into a failure periodically, we are obviously not trying. That may be the secret answer to the question of “are you ambitious enough”. Have you failed recently? If not, you need to try something. Are you frustrated with multiple failures? Then maybe you need to just try something different!

When Inspiration Strikes: The Benefits of Corporate Culture

When Inspiration Strikes: The Benefits of Corporate Culture

We spend a lot of time at work. For a typical 9 to 5 worker, over the 45 years from college graduation to retirement, with a little held back for vacation, illness, and holidays, the total time spent working is around 90,000 hours. Add in a few thousand hours of commuting, a few late-night crises, and a weekend email check or two, and it becomes clear that we spend a significant part of our life in the work environment. It sure better be pleasant!

What makes a job pleasant? It could be affected by many things: interesting tasks, challenging problems to solve, hope for advancement (or at least stability), cordial coworker and client relationships, comfortable physical environment, available refreshments, and lunch options are all aspects which affect the culture of a company. However, the actual culture is a matter of work pace and attitude set of characteristics. As these listed items are all variables in the real business world, so a large corporation may have multiple cultures. Think of the difference in the work culture of a manufacturing plant vs. a corporate headquarters accounting group.

Each employee will view the culture slightly differently as each has their personal priorities and characteristics. It is well known and well researched that happy employees tend to be much more productive and loyal than dissatisfied ones. In a culture mismatch between the company and the employees, expect high turnover unless some outside influence (i.e. depression level job market) forces temporary stability on the workforce.

Some levers of the employee perception of the culture are beyond the ability of the executive team to directly influence. Line management must be the ones trained to recognize and guide the task assignments and team relationships so that employees are neither bored nor overwhelmed. However, policies and behavioral guidelines can be established so that employees at all levels can understand the basic tenets of the culture, and executives need to be honest with themselves about the company’s business. Saying that work-life balance is important and then scheduling night and weekend work activities means the culture is one of workaholism. Not an incorrect culture, but not one of work-life balance. Employees see actions a lot clearer than printed policy. Establishing a Google-ish culture in a buggy whip business is a recipe for disaster, but if innovation and ambition drive the business plan then do not set up a regimented process culture or a different mess will occur.

Being clear about the culture wanted for the business and then putting it into practice will enable the company to have high productivity with low turnover even in the most unexciting business.

How to Stay Motivated Even in Redundancy

How to Stay Motivated Even in Redundancy

Redundancy is a bad word; in the work world it means your job is ending, and even worse it means your job is truly disappearing. This is not because you are doing a bad job and being fired for something you could correct. Unfortunately, this happens to a lot more often than people think. Automation, mark evolutions, competitive substitutions, or even poor business strategies are some of the reasons, but when it happens to you, it all seems personal. People even go through a classic Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. That is the key thing to focus on because this is a grief event and you need to treat it as such, so you can move through it as quickly as possible.

Initially, upon hearing the news of the redundancy event, the typical response is one of compassion for your fellow coworkers who are losing their jobs because surely this event will not affect you. I hate to be the bearer of bad news: yes, it will! You are just in denial. So get started on your search for a new job or see the retirement planner immediately, you really do not have much time. Do not allow yourself to feel shame for being in this situation, it was not your fault. Talk to your coworkers, trade referrals, and get recommendations.

Next, you will feel anger at the company for allowing this to happen. After all, you did a good job, were a team player, supported the boss, and went the extra mile. Use your anger to motivate yourself to network and take training to make yourself a better candidate for the next position; whether you want to or not, a change is coming. During this time, be sure and continue doing your job as well as possible because that recommendation from your boss for helping right up to the end is going to be one of your trump cards when the time for change truly hits.

Bargaining occurs when you start thinking of what you could do to make the current job last longer. Everyone tries this, but do not deceive yourself. This was never personal anyway. Keep your focus on the change that is in progress; use any additional energy you have to go towards that goal. And energy is going to be limited because. . .

The last step before mentally and emotionally moving on to the new world is depression. Classic symptoms being exhaustion, short temper, and dullness. This is our body’s response in a sort of long term “fight or flight” stress response syndrome, and use of mechanisms to overcome that: exercise, meditation, distraction will work. Use them!

Facing a redundancy event is not pleasant, but you can move on and thrive in spite of the situation. Just be honest with yourself and go through the grief; there is a light at the end of this tunnel.


How the Time of Day Can Impact Your Work

How the Time of Day Can Impact Your Work

Mark Twain famously said to eat a live frog first thing in the morning and then be assured nothing worse would happen to you that day. While this is not exactly the most appetizing image, the concept of getting your most difficult task done early is based on basic physiological principals. We each have biorhythms which ebb and flow in 3 to 4 hour cycles as our waking day progresses. Although we may be groggy when we first tumble out of bed, by the time we are dressed and headed out our brain chemicals will be flowing at their peak rate. This is the time to tackle the most challenging tasks you have on the list (i.e. eat the frog).

            As the day progresses these brain chemicals slowly get used up, and by about mid-morning we are in need of a little energy. This is the origin of the concept of a coffee break. Once refueled with some energy, the ability to concentrate returns and we can again be quite productive through lunchtime. Then the typical biorhythm causes a drop in the chemical level, and even with a nice pile of calories to fuel the body, a slump will occur. There is a reason we tend to nod off in those after lunch meetings, and it’s not just because of how boring the topic or speaker may be.

            About mid-afternoon another peak of brain chemicals occurs and the pace of work can be high for a few hours. In most people, they will experience the same slump around dinner and peak an hour or two later making early evening a very productive time personal and social tasks. As we approach bedtime, those brain chemicals drop off once again to enable sleep. Another peak even occurs while we are asleep, and those who can push themselves past the bedtime slump may experience another high productivity time about 1 to 2 hours after normal bedtime as this peak is not dependent on being asleep or awake. Another down cycle will occur before the up-and-at-em morning peak; this down cycle corresponds to the deep sleep period of our nightly cycle and is when most of the body’s resting occurs. If you try to push to stay awake through it, there can be negative effects on your bio-cycles for the next few days.

            By using this knowledge of the body’s biorhythms, you can plan the best times to complete different tasks. This will increase your productivity and make the work day more bearable.

Best Office Gift Ideas

Best Office Gift Ideas

The questions of what gifts to give can be quite perplexing. Giving the boss a gift can be seen as brown nosing, but not giving the boss a gift can be seen as an insult to them. Oh, what to do in this world of hypersensitive office environments? Well, here is a list of things to give that will not have you as the subjects of the twittersphere while still wishing your coworkers a token of appreciation. Here is a list of gift choices that are appropriate for your fellow employees:

  1. Food is good, but some people only eat bird seed and leaves, so a box of donuts is not appreciated. Plus, some people are trying to watch what they eat during the holidays and are insulted when the food is not part of their diet or because it is part of their diet. On second thought, food is not good! However, food gift cards, like a Honey Baked ham or Starbucks, lets them do the choosing. A much better idea.
  2. Sports team memorabilia- this can be a nice choice as long as you are sure what team they support, and they have not recently lost a major game causing all true fans to be depressed.
  3. Toyish trinkets- Think spinners or Rubik’s cubes; items like this are seldom inappropriate and can be fun knick knacks.
  4. Office safe potted plants- It is important to choose ones that can sit on the desk and are able to live in the dark with no water for weeks. If the office environment has the option of keeping a plant at the desk, these work well. Plus, there are plants that live basically in the dark with water every few months, and plants tend to cheer people up for a long time.
  5. Coffee cups, water bottles, etc.- These actually work well, especially if a nice, politically correct, logo or saying is on them. Avoid using company logo —giving those just says you care enough to raid the conference room closet.

Whatever you do, keep it inexpensive. Government employees cannot accept anything with a value over $25 and that is a good rule of thumb. If there is someone very special, then do not use their holiday office gift as their gift. Make it a personal gift and give it outside the office environment.

Top Mistakes As An Interviewer

Top Mistakes As An Interviewer

1. Be On Time

Most interviewees are on time to their interview, so it’s important you do the same. If an interviewee has to wait for you to bring them in, it will start them off with a bad taste in their mouth

2. Read Their Resume

Interviewees submit their resumes so that you can read them beforehand and get to know them a little better before they actually get there. Having an interviewee summarize their resume during the interview is not only a waste of everyone’s time, but it’s also incredibly rude to the interviewee who took the time to send you their resume in the first place.

3. Let Them Speak
Don’t make the interview all about you, they're not there to learn about you. The interviewee is there strictly to learn about the company and tell you about themselves to see if they would be a good fit for the company. Let them speak, show them that you care about what they have to say and what they bring to the table.
4. Stay On Topic
Don’t ask interviewees tough questions that have nothing to do with the position they’ve applied for, not only will this confuse them as to what the position is about, but it’s also not necessary. Stay on topic and focus on discussing the position to figure out if you should hire them or not. If you choose to hire this person, then you will have more time to discuss off topic things with them, but interviews are strictly to figure out if an interviewee is right for your company.

5. Give Them Time
Rushing the interview can make the potential employee feel as if you don't have time for them or you are not interested in what they have to say, so it is important to allot a good amount of time for each interview so you can give each the attention it deserves. Also, interviewees are typically nervous, so if they feel rushed, their answers will not be as great as they would if they had time to really think them through.

How To Reduce Office Turnover

How To Reduce Office Turnover

Office turnover rates are one of the biggest issues in the common workplace, but employee retention doesn't have to be so hard. Here are 7 ways to reduce employee turnover and overall make employees much happier:

1. Hire Better Employees

It all starts with hiring better employees. If you discuss the position in the interview and the interviewee does not seem all that interested, they're probably not, so move on to the next candidate. If you hire employees who are not excited about the company and the opportunity, then they likely won’t be there long and they definitely won’t be the right fit for what you need.

2. Make Sure The Team “Fits”

If you do end up hiring an employee and discover that they aren't the right fit, don't hesitate to let them know. This employee will either work harder to be what the company needs, or it will become necessary that they part ways. A more cohesive team works better together and is more likely to stick around for the long run.

3. Offer Competitive Pay and Benefits

As much as an employee may long a certain company or job, it is increasingly necessary in today’s economy to go where the money takes you. Therefore, offering competitive pay and a variety of medical and other benefits will ensure employee retention.

4. Foster Team Building

The team may be together all the time at work, but how much do they really know about each other? Bonding outside of the workplace can be crucial to allow the team to bond with one another. With the team more bonded, people will feel more like they belong and they will be less likely to start looking for somewhere new.

5. Recognize and Reward Hard Work

If an employee does a great job on their task, let them know. Rewards don't always have to be promotions or pay raises, a simple congratulations can go a long way to boost morale and make an employee feel better about the company and the individuals that they are working for.

6. Be Compassionate, Be Flexible

Some employees have families or other outside commitments that they need to tend to, remember this. Expecting long hours and denying off requests from employees is not the way to make anyone happy. Be flexible, if someone needs to take a day off because their child is in a play that they need to go see, be open to working with them. This doesn't have to mean let anyone take off whenever they want with no notice, but being willing to be flexible with employees from time to time will mean a lot to them.

7. Allow Advancement Opportunities

No one wants to work at a company long term if they know that they will never advance. Offering employees the opportunity to move up within the company is a great way to ensure employees stay on longterm to see what could come of their hard work.

How To Properly Scale Your Business

How To Properly Scale Your Business

Scaling a business can be hard in today’s ever-growing and changing economy. Here are three tips to help you get started:

1. Invest In Your Business

Your business won’t grow unless you put a little of your own money into it to help it along. More so than just money though, you have to be willing to invest time and resources to your business. If you have to get a business planner to help you figure out the next steps, do it. If you have to update your technology or business model to better meet today’s demands, do it. All of your investments will eventually come back to you and seeing your company grow and succeed will make it worth it in the end.

2. Find The Right People

You cant grow a company with employees that aren't willing to grow with it. It’s important that you find employees with similar values who share your frame of mind and want to see the company grow and succeed. Don't be afraid to cut out employees who are hindering the growth of the company, you can find better employees who will be more beneficial to the company’s growth.

3. Market Your Business

Marketing is the most overlooked portion of a business, but it is also one of the most important, especially when you're looking to grow the business. Getting the company out there on as many platforms as you can and promoting events and sales in every way possible will greatly increase sales and help the business grow. There are professionals whose job it is to help market business, so if you're struggling with marketing, there is someone who can help you get your company out into the public eye.

Best Ways To Foster Teamwork

Best Ways to Foster Teamwork

Teamwork is a crucial part of helping a business run, because if the team is not working then the business isn't either. Here are four ways to foster teamwork among your employees:

1. Hire the Right People

It doesn't take very long into an interview to know if the interview is what you're looking for or not. It is typically easy to tell whether they will be a good fit for the team, so if you interview someone that you can tell won't mesh well with the team, refrain from hiring them. Seek out candidates who will fit well with the employees you already have to ensure that the team works together more smoothly.

2. Promote Outside Team Building
Having a retreat or other outing outside of the office to promote team bonding will help them get to know each other so that they may work more effectively as a team. When team members become more comfortable with each other, they will be more likely to help one another and overall work better together.

3. Encourage Collaboration
Collaboration is key to team success, as the team has to be able to rely on one another when they get stuck. When employees collaborate, ideas are better and the team works better knowing that they're not alone.

4. Communicate
It is important for the team to always keep an open line of communication so that no one is feeling left out or harboring other negative emotions that may slow down the team. Knowing that they can communicate with one another is crucial for employees to be able to work better together knowing that they are always heard.