Sunday, July 29, 2012

Effective Pay-for-Performance Strategies

Regardless of the diverse composition of your workforce today, a solid understanding of what launches top-flight individual contributors will be essential to developing an effective pay-for-performance strategy.

Despite its familiarity in the workplace, the phrase ''pay for performance'' likely means different things to different people. This lack of clarity and understanding can keep employers from meeting short- and long-term goals and employees from deriving satisfaction in their roles and careers.

For top management, performance has most often been defined by metrics commonly reported to public-company shareholders or otherwise easily calculated, such as earnings per share or total shareholder return. This has afforded top management and shareholders a clear view of the linkage between pay and the final measure of performance.

But unfortunately, the means to achieving that end measure of performance were not typically included as performance measures. As for other employees, the metrics used for linking pay to performance were not always considered from a business-performance perspective.

In some companies, middle management and lower-level employees might have been incentivized based on overall company goals, without knowledge of how their role impacted the company as a whole.

In other cases, they were incentivized based on individual performance measures that had no direct linkage to company performance, and during years of poor company performance, incentive pay was reduced or eliminated -- even for high performers.

Balancing your organization's use of pay and other rewards with meaningful measures of individual performance helps create a talented, engaged workforce and an organization capable of creating long-term value. This applies to the entire organization, including top management.

A properly managed pay-for-performance program should reflect:

a) What fuels individual performance;
b) What links individual performance and organizational performance; and
c) How to effectively use performance goals to achieve short-term successes and long-term objectives while managing risk.

Fueling Individual Performance

With talent management identified as the No. 1 focus of CEOs around the globe, according to PwC's 14th Annual Global CEO Survey in 2011, it's critical that employers weighing workforce strategies understand and apply the behaviors that enable them to attract, reward and retain pivotal talent.

The retirement-savings hit inflicted by the economic downturn, combined with longer life expectancies, have kept many baby boomers in the workforce beyond traditional norms. These more deeply experienced workers now contribute side-by-side with recent college graduates and Generation X, which is establishing itself as the predominant workforce population.

Amid this diversity, no single approach is likely to enable your organization to achieve its talent-management objectives. Baby boomers may be more highly motivated by financial rewards, while millennials (also known as Generation Y) -- who entered the workforce during the 21st century -- are more likely to respond to career-advancement incentives.

In Managing Tomorrow's People: Millennials at Work, our 2009 survey finds that this latter group chose training and development as its first choice among benefits three-to-one over those who opted for cash bonuses.

When considering the most effective reward package for sparking individual performance, your organization should take into account the typical components of most reward programs: salary, short-term incentives, long-term incentives, benefits (including health insurance, retirement savings, and vacation pay); training and development, and recognition.

Many organizations have also been focusing on work/life balance and offering new benefits, such as flexible work schedules, telecommuting opportunities and sabbaticals. Although the ''pay'' in ''pay for performance'' can refer to any of the more traditional components of reward programs, your organization should look beyond its current forms of remuneration and consider whether additional approaches might work best in the long term.

Regardless of the diverse composition of your workforce today -- in experience levels, gender, location, work style, or any number of variables -- a solid understanding of what launches top-flight individual contributions will be essential to developing an effective pay-for-performance strategy.

Rewards that Resonate

Compensating an employee with the same amount of monetary value as that created by the employee for the organization is viewed by some as the ''holy grail'' of compensation strategies.

But it's rare that such value can be measured. And value can be tough to grasp, particularly when its creation is not a direct, easily quantified objective, as is the case, for example, with employees whose roles are to preserve the organization's value through public relations or customer service.

For top management, responsible as it is for the overall success of the organization, individual success can and should be measured by organizational success. Even so, determining the value created by top management is no easy task.

Because total shareholder return and other measures based on share price don't fully take into account the effect of the market in those measures, high-level managers can wind up under- or overcompensated. And, while measures of performance that can be controlled, such as reducing operating expenses, provide far superior linkage between individual and organizational success, they're still not perfect.

With the lines between individual-performance measures and organizational performance often dotted, the term ''pay for performance,'' while hardly alien, isn't always thoroughly understood or effectively applied.

To strike the right balance, leaders need to understand the behaviors of each employee group responsible for creating or preserving organizational value and use that knowledge to develop reward programs that encourage those behaviors.

Consider, for example, a payroll manager who's responsible for timely and accurate payroll submissions to ensure that employees are paid as expected. This manager's contribution prevents loss of productivity if employees discontinue work to determine why they weren't paid on time.

High performers in this role might, as a rule, effectively manage their time, use proper planning and efficiently apply technologies. As such, the payroll manager can be rewarded based on having achieved measurable objectives in these categories. If the payroll manager is a millennial, a company-sponsored trip to an annual payroll conference, which sweetens the package with millennial-minded training and recognition, can be a crucial ingredient in rendering a reward that resonates.

Your organization can fully assess its linkage between individual and organizational performance by conducting competency assessments and interviews with critical stakeholders, with the approval and support from appropriate organizational leaders.

Enhancing Performance while Reducing Risk

Once you have an organizational understanding of individual-performance boosters and the linkage between individual and organizational performance, individual goals should be established with consideration as to how they'll support organizational goals.

Choosing the right short-term and long-term goals without creating excessive risk for the organization presents the final challenge in the mission to balance the pay-for-performance equation.

Most organizations set short- and long-term goals as part of their business plan, providing the basis for individual goals and incentive-pay programs. Organizational goals, which often pertain strictly to financial performance, are used to set similar financial goals for the workforce.

But armed with the knowledge of how employee behaviors fuel organizational performance, you can determine individual goals that will encourage positive behaviors that will propel the enterprise toward its strategic objectives.

When setting short-term goals for employees, the focus should be trained on what's tangible and achievable. A goal of increasing earnings per share by a specific percentage for the year will be more effective and better support a high-performing culture when rewards reflect achievements that fall within their span of control.

Long-term employee goals should parallel and contribute to the organization's vision for sustainable financial success.

For example, since CEOs place talent management at the top of the corporate agenda, the successful implementation of a strategy to attract, reward and retain pivotal talent should be viewed as a long-term goal of top management.

Although this strategy might not provide staggering return in the short-term, it can position the right workforce and the enterprise to deliver on long-term goals. The success of this goal can be measured statistically using workforce metrics such as the turnover rate of priority talent and employee-engagement-survey feedback.

The goal-setting process should also take into account the importance of risks and rewards. On the one hand, risk management can help keep the process consistent with the company's risk profile and contain and reduce behaviors that might be deemed excessively risky. On the other hand, performance goals that languish without achievement-based rewards can quickly lose impact and relevance.

A performance-funded plan is an effective way to make sure that monies will be available to recognize employee achievement. This kind of funding mechanism can serve as an operational self-fulfilling prophecy by setting performance goals and payout levels based on formulas that depend on corporate success.

Keep It Simple

Many factors contribute to establishing and maintaining a meaningful and effective pay-for-performance program. But program management needn't be overly complicated. A successfully designed plan should be meaningful and simple.

It won't always be feasible or cost effective to set specific goals for every employee, or even every employee group. But if your organization understands and communicates the linkage between individual performance and organizational performance, you can create a sense of concrete continuity for employees, management and investors alike.

By Brandon Yerre -  director in the compensation practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers Human Resource Services.

How Starbucks Trains Customers to Behave

Yes, You Can Brainstorm Without Groupthink

In articles in both the New York Times and The New Yorker earlier this year, the concept of brainstorming as introduced in the 1940's by Alex Osborn has been attacked as ineffective and linked to the concept of "Groupthink."
In her NYT piece and in an HBR ideacast, Susan Cain points out that the popular view — "Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in." — conflicts with research that suggests "people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption." Some of the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverts who are more comfortable working alone. And inhis New Yorker article, Jonah Lehrer cites research indicating, "Brainstorming didn't unleash the potential of the group, but rather made each individual less creative."
We have no issue with the importance of the creative individual to generate focused and powerful ideas. Furthermore, we agree that, used improperly, Osborn's process of brainstorming can promote consensus, not collaboration. Suffice it to say, we dislike consensus-based "Groupthink" as much as the next person. Rather, our issue is with the way both articles have attacked Alex Osborn's concept of brainstorming as a powerful collaborative thinking tool. We are strong advocates of collaboration in innovation, and believe that the proper use of brainstorming techniques is a powerful tool in the collaborative approach. Over our many years of experience, we have seen managers effectively use three simple techniques for avoiding "Groupthink" during brainstorming. Here's our advice:
1. Assemble a Diverse Team
Build your team with people from different disciplines, cultures and age groups Be sure that some members have necessary and relevant expertise, but that some are na├»ve about the issue (we call them "WildCards"). We once ran a session for a client team composed of a range of scientists and technologists from Bell Labs where 25 new patent applications were filed — 20 of which came from the participation of a 70 year-old grandmother!
And when you are considering candidates, include different styles of participation and thinking: Explorers (extroverted, inquisitive, comfortable with ambiguity, free-thinking), Developers (creative problem-solvers, sometimes introverted, quieter, but love being given a problem or challenge to solve), and Commercializers (realists, business-minded, practical problem-solvers).
Encourage each type of thinker to play, bring introverts out of their shells and tone down the influence of the extroverts, and leverage their diversity to not only identify a range of possibilities, but to also find ways to make the newer ideas feasible.
2. Focus on Roles: The Client, the Facilitator, and Resources
Somebody has to own the effort. This is the client role. That individual may have a lieutenant, but clientship cannot rest with the full team or even a large subset. That is a sure way to generate "Groupthink." Instead, one person must make the decisions. The team should advise that person and advocate for their positions with passion, but ultimately, the client has to exercise leadership and decision-making — they must pick the final concepts to recommend or implement. This role cannot be delegated.
The client should not be in charge of running the meeting/dialogue. They must keep their heads in the content and not worry about or unduly influence the process. Rather someone else should be in the facilitator role and in charge of the process — facilitating the interaction, drawing out the range of perspectives, managing the brainstorming process non-judgmentally.
Everyone else is in the resource role. They focus on listening, learning, ideating, building on other offers, etc. Resources advocate, but do not decide! If everyone in the room has to agree, then the outcome will be the worst possible aspect of "Groupthink" — a decision in favor of the lowest common denominator, devoid of originality, risk or newness, and only what everyone can envision and agree to.
3. Encourage Passionate Champions
Many people understand and follow the first two rules of brainstorming well. But if they miss this next technique, they miss the real power of collaborative thinking: The power of one. Seems like an oxymoron, doesn't it? It's not. Collaboration helps individuals improve their own thinking and gives them ideas they may not have thought of by themselves. When this happens, brainstorming results in the best of both worlds.
This is where the Passionate Champion plays a key role. In our work, after the brainstorming process, we often open the session up to "Individual Champions." Anyone, alone or with other people if they need or want help, can pick any idea and develop it further. Even if the idea has already been developed in one direction, a Passionate Champion may see it very differently and develop it in a totally different manner. Or, they can pick an idea that was not advocated by the group or selected by the client, and develop it as they see fit.
In our work, we find that Passionate Champion ideas often account for 50% of those that make it through internal and external vetting, and 20-30% of the ideas that make it into final concepts. What's more, they are often the most breakthrough in terms of truly new, game-changing concepts.
Collaborative innovation involves the genius of the "and" versus the tyranny of the "or." It's not that brainstorming must always turn into "Groupthink" or that introverts or individuals have the best ideas. In good brainstorming, one feeds off the other and the end result is significantly more powerful than either approach alone.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

10 Ways You Can Really Motivate Employees – Without Using Money

Here are 10 ideas from my recent podcast and webinar onMotivating Without Money:

Personal over financial

1. Get Personal. Money is the easiest and least personal way to motivate people (if you have money). If you don’t, you need to make the personal effort to get people to actually care about what they are working on.
2. Persuasion vs. Command. Money doesn’t buy loyalty, it only rents effort. We talked about how to persuade people to work for you, and build real loyalty and support.

Remove uncertainty

3. Create Clarity. The biggest demotivator you can have is when people don’t know exactly what to work on or why it matters. Your job as a leader is to create clarity for your team when it does not exist around you – we talked about how.
4. Deal with chaos from above. What about when management keeps changing direction? Or when your team doesn’t agree with, or is skeptical or angry about where management is heading. You still need to find or create points of certainty for your team. We discussed several approaches.

Communicate a lot

5. Communicate on a regular schedule. Clear consistent communication is a magical motivator that so many leaders miss. You get huge points for leadership and credibility when you communicate well.
6. Build Trust. People are always more motivated to work for people they trust, know and respect. People know you through your communications. Set up the right communication plan with the right content on the right schedule.
7. Don’t be Invisible. If you you fail to communicate regularly, you will appear to be checked out, even if you are not checked out. People need to hear from you.

Find out what matters

8. Don’t guess what people care about, ask them! Personally ask each person that works for you. You’ll be amazed at the answers, and how many things you can do without money that will make a material difference to them. I shared several surprising examples!

Say thank you

9. Recognize good work. Create a habit in your organization to recognize the contributions of people. This goes a long way to motivate not just select individuals, but everyone if you do it right.
10. Don’t over complicate it with processes, nominations, reviews, and spreadsheets. Just make it clear to your staff that you want to know when anyone in your organization does something remarkable, and then have one of the executives find a personal, direct way to say, “thank you.”

By Patty Azzarello - founder and CEO of Azzarello Group Azzarello Group

Five Proven Tips to Get Honest Feedback from Your Employees

We all need praise and confirmation. We love to hear: "Hats off! That's a hard act to follow!" It makes us feel like a million bucks. It reinforces our confidence. However: It should be used with the right touch. Too much praise can also be damaging. 

We all need criticism just as much as we need to have our egos buttered up. Anyone who wants to improve needs honest, constructive feedback from their environment. But getting feedback is easier said than done – especially as an executive leader.

Please criticize me, I need it! 

Only last week, I had this demonstrated to me during a coaching session with a successful Managing Director of a mid-sized company. He is enthusiastic, very involved, and demanding, but also empathetic and committed to his employees. His staff highly respect him. 

However, he was frustrated that he only received limited critical feedback from his employees. He told me that he had repeatedly encouraged his employees to openly and honestly criticize him and his decisions. Even so, they appeared to be unwilling to do so. He was wondering why, and what he could do to change it.

The dominant personality

To me, as an outsider, the cause was readily apparent. As a Managing Director, he had developed an intuitive feel for quickly analyzing complex situations, and continuously contrasting his strategies with the operation. He usually makes a host of decisions, and he makes these quickly to continue working efficiently. He has been on his game working like this, and he has been confirmed by his success! 

Here is the problem with this: Without wanting to do so, all these have prevented the criticism of his person that is so important. Employees with limited confidence simply had not the courage to criticize him openly. Most employees were not equipped to handle his direct nature and immediate response. To them, his mannerisms was dominating and intimidating - without this being his intent. 

These were the reasons why his employees were having such a difficult time to express a contrarian opinion during business discussions. To offer critical feedback regarding his behavior was an even more difficult thing to do. 

Feedback as a matter of trust

Employees will only express open criticism if they feel safe. On the other hand, if an employee feels threatened by negative, personal consequences – regardless of their nature – he will obviously not provide honest feedback. 

One bad experiences can be enough to squelch any criticism of your person – regardless of how justified it might be. Therefore, apply the following 5 tips to receive honest feedback from your employees:

1. Accept feedback without judgment!

Make sure that you clearly separate your employee's feedback from your own judgment. If your employee criticizes you, this is a sign of trust. Thank the person for the feedback, but do not immediately respond.

2. Sleep on it for one night!

Take time to think about it. Take a night to think it over. This is what your employee can rightfully expect of you. 

3. Avoid distorted feedback!

If you are given feedback, you should also avoid well meant positive responses, such as: "Thank you, Mr. Smith, that's a really good point." This is already a judgment as well, which you should avoid as a quick response. By doing this, at some point your employee will limit his feedback to what he believes might be useful to you. In the end, your employee does not want to say anything foolish or inappropriate. But the outcome of this is that you will only receive distorted feedback. 

4. Understand criticism as a sign of trust!

How do you respond to hardly relevant, incidental, or from your point of view, even inappropriate criticism? Here as well: It is essential that you avoid spontaneous rebuttals or even gruff answers - at least if the employee presented the criticism in a respectful manner. Otherwise, you will permanently damage the trust relationship. A sensitive employee will then think: "Next time I better won't say anything!"

5. Keep always in mind: “I hear you” does not mean “I agree with you”!

Listen to your employee's criticism without being judgmental. This does not mean that you are in agreement with what was said. Most employees are well aware that expressing feedback does not automatically result in the changes they desire. 

By Bernd Gerop -coach and consultant to CEO’s and entrepreneurs of European High-Tech companies

Friday, July 27, 2012

Reduce Employee Stress – and Maximize Performance, Too

Many managers mistakenly fear that efforts focused on reducing employee stress require reducing productivity, or creating a “country club” atmosphere of low expectations and reduced workloads.
Thus, they shy away from even talking about employee stress.
However the perception that reducing employee stress requires management practices that reduce employee productivity could not be further from the truth.
In fact, the opposite is true.

The higher cost of stressed out employees

When organizations manage in ways that bring out the best in people, they also reduce employee stress. That’s why most of Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work” are industry leaders and enjoy high employee productivity. Stressed out, worn out, and burnt out employees are less likely to produce high quality products, give great customer service, or generate breakthroughs.
Stressed out, worn out, and burnt out employees DO incur greater health care costs, get into more accidents, make more mistakes, fear and resist change, think inside the box, and give brand-damaging customer service.
Employees who feel passionate about their work and feel energized going to work — they are the key to an employer’s success.
The key to maximizing productivity while minimizing stress is understanding the factors that influence whether someone working very hard will feel stressed out and burnt out, or whether they will feel motivated, excited, and committed. Scientific research on stress, combined with best practices of high performance companies offers clear clues about what factors determine whether employees will be stressed out or energized by workplace demands.
To maximize employee productivity and performance — and reduce employee stress — organizations can:
  • Give employees as much control over their jobs as possible. Decades of research shows that control is the biggest factor in whether people feel stressed out or invigorated when facing a challenge. The more control people have over their work, the greater their job satisfaction, the higher their work quality, and the lower their stress level. Giving employees control includes giving them the power to make job-related decisions, the flexibility to organize their work in the way they find optimal, and the authority to find make improvements on how their job is done. Making this work requires providing employees with the training, coaching, and information they need to make intelligent decisions.
  • Communicate clearly and often about everything important. One of the greatest sources of employee stress is not knowing — not knowing about changes taking place in the company, not knowing their supervisor’s job and performance expectations, and not knowing if they are doing a good job. Communicating clearly in these areas not only reduces employee stress, it also helps them do a far better job. If you’re like most managers and most employers — even really good ones — you can do a LOT better on this.
  • Continually communicate with your employees about what makes your company great, how you bring value to your customers, and how your employees make that possible. People want to feel part of something great, and they want to feel that they are making a significant contribution to that greatness. When they feel this way, they not only become energized by challenges, they can also endure much greater pressures and demands without becoming burnt out.
You can put this principle into action by making sure you always deliver a high quality product or service, by sharing stories with employees about the value your company provides to your customers, and linking these stories to how their doing high quality work makes it all possible. When “sharing stories,” don’t just forward a customer email or tell some watered down second-hand story in a company newsletter. Interview that customer. Get it on tape. Show it to employees at company meetings and on your website. Use them as teaching tools, explaining how what they do made this story possible.
  • Make sure supervisors know how to bring out the best in people. Supervisors obviously play a huge role in employee morale, performance, and stress level. Supervisors with poor management skills or with personal problems, not only can’t help employees deal with stressful times, they themselves are a tremendous source of stress. The time and financial resources you invest in selecting and training managers will pay huge dividends in reducing employee stress, increasing productivity, and minimizing turnover. Also, the courage you display by “freeing up the future” of managers who continue to mistreat — or simply manage poorly — will pay off in terms of reduced employee stress and increased employee performance. It will also increase employees’ respect for leadership.
  • Encourage employees to cultivate their internal social network. An “all work and no play” environment burns out people quickly. Having a workplace where co-workers can talk without worrying about getting into trouble, is especially important in high pressure jobs. Encouraging connections among co-workers also reduces stress ,because having social support reduces the negative effects of stressful situations.
According to a large body of scientific research, having supportive friends and family members is one of the most important factors influencing a person’s ability to handle stress and major life crises without becoming physically or emotionally compromised. Thus, employers with a culture of esprit de corps and camaraderie typically have a much more resilient and hardy workforce.
  • Help employees design their jobs to be as rewarding as possible. Although not all jobs are equally rewarding and fulfilling, much can be done to make even the least desirable more enjoyable. The more opportunity employees have to make decisions, use their mind, and take responsibility, the more fulfilled they will be. To make this work, employees need to be involved in the job enrichment process. If employees have worked for years in an environment where they were told what to do, it will probably take time for them to learn how to take a more responsible and active approach to their jobs.
  • Improve your hiring, orientation, and onboarding processes. Because the first few months on the job are often the most stressful, new employees are often the most vulnerable to accidents and injuries. For companies that have a “sink or swim” approach to new employees, these first few months are also a time of high turnover. The more effective your hiring, new hire orientation, and onboarding processes, the more likely new employees will be well-suited, and prepared, for their jobs.
  • Make sure employees have the resources and training to do their jobs well. When employees are set up to fail — to feel the “Agony of Defeat” on a regular basis, they will be stressed out every day on the job. Employers set up employees experience the “Agony of Defeat” by not giving them the tools, technology, time, staff, or training to do their job’s well.
When an employee’s every day experience is one of frustration, failure, and defeat, they use up all their energy just dealing with the obstacles to success strewn in their path. This is energy that won’t be available for high productivity, spirited customer service, and a “Bring it on!” attitude when faced with big challenges.
David Lee- founder and principal of HumanNature@Work (HumanNature@work).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How BeKnown App Will Make Facebook Work for You has just launched a new professional networking app for Facebook users: BeKnown. BeKnown lets you identify and connect with friends and professional contacts from multiple sources to grow your professional network, enhance your online professional identity and discover new jobs.    

BeKnown allows users to build a professional network on Facebook -- the world's largest and most active social network-- while keeping personal and work-related contacts and content completely separated. BeKnown brings together the 700 million Facebook users and the 97 percent of Fortune 500 companies that use Monster to find candidates.

If you're on Facebook, you can now use BeKnown to:

  • Create professional networks within a professional environment created by Monster -- without ever leaving Facebook. (No more need to switch back and forth between sites.)
  • Easily invite contacts from other social networks to expand your BeKnown network beyond your existing Facebook friends. You can add contacts to BeKnown without having to become their Facebook friends.
  • Keep social activity with friends and family separate from work-related activity with professional contacts.
  • See Monster's millions of job postings -- and see who among your professional contacts on BeKnown is connected to the companies you're interested in.
  • Connect professional networking to Monster’s job search and browse tools and import your Monster or LinkedIn profile to BeKnown from within the app.
BeKnown Invites

Joining BeKnown is easy -- the app guides you through a quick set-up process. You can opt to use your Facebook profile information and/or pull information from other networking sites and your Monster profile.

To invite contacts to join you on BeKnown, click on the Network tab and then on the Invite Friends button. You'll see there that you can invite contacts from your Twitter account, Gmail address book and Yahoo! Mail address book -- just click one of the icons and follow the instructions to grant BeKnown access to those accounts. (No one will be contacted without your permission -- you choose the contacts you want to invite.)

To invite contacts from a platform or program that doesn’t allow access to contacts, export those contacts as a CSV file. Here are the steps:
  1. Export Your Connections As a CSV File: In LinkedIn, for example, go to the address-book export page, choose Microsoft Outlook (CSV file) from the Export drop-down menu, enter the security code and click on Export. This creates a new CSV file containing all your contacts’ information.

    Similarly, Microsoft Outlook and other programs let you export contacts to a CSV file.

    If you receive an error message during upload, you may need to reformat your CSV file. Learn more about CSV files here.
  2. Import Those Connections into Your Gmail or Yahoo! Mail Account: In Gmail, click on Contacts, choose Import from the More Actions drop-down menu, click on Browse or Choose File, and then choose the CSV file you created in the first step. Finish by clicking on Import.

    In Yahoo! Mail, click on Contacts, click on the Import Contacts button and choose Others from the Source menu. Then select "A desktop email program" -- this will allow you to choose your CSV file.

    If you don't have a Yahoo or Gmail account, you can create one for free.
  3. Access the Contacts from BeKnown: Now that you've added contacts to Gmail or Yahoo! mail, follow the instructions in BeKnown for inviting those contacts to joun your BeKnown network. 

By Charles Purdy, Monster Senior Editor

Build Your Brand

Eight Essential Steps
1. Identify the primary "product" (service, resource, special ability, etc.) you have to offer others.
2. Identify your core values. What really matters to you?
3. Identify your passions. What things or ideas do you love?
4. Identify your talents. What have you always been recognized for (particularly as a kid)? What do you do better than most other people? What skills do people seem to notice in you?
5. From your hopefully long list of talents and qualities, choose the top five, the ones you do best and enjoy doing the most.
6. Weave the items on all your lists into a statement of your specialty. What are you particularly gifted at delivering?
7. Write a paragraph emphasizing your specialty and your five key talents, weaving in your most important values, passions and skills.
8. Now add a tag line to your brand.
The Tag Line Tells Your Story
A coach I know who consults by phone -- primarily helping six-figure earners work their way even further up the corporate ladder -- goes by this tag line: "A coach for successful people to help them be even more successful." A senior project manager working in the crossfire between the marketing group and packaging designers at a stressful manufacturing facility has developed this tag line: "An efficient problem solver who understands and enjoys both the creativity of designers and the practicality of marketers." My tag line for my counseling and coaching practice is this: "The permissionary -- a visionary realist to help you discover and manifest your dreams.
A tag line's shorthand helps other people remember a key point about you. At the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts chapter of the NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) breakfast meetings, every member and guest stands up and introduces herself via her tag line, or verbal business card. In this organization, the women remember each other's tag lines as easily as their names, and after each month's meeting, hundreds of ripples go out about each of the women attending and what she has to offer. And it works for entrepreneurs and employees alike.
Get the Word Out
Once you've worked over your tag line and the other items on the list for a few days or weeks, it's time to take them public with someone you trust. Keeping them secret is a sure way to never act on them.
The road to career disappointment is littered with lists, dreams and goals never shared with anyone. So get your "brand me" musings out into the light of day to solicit support and constructive criticism from someone else. And you could be a brand advisor for that person in return. And it would be even better is you could get four or five women together regularly to encourage and critique each other's branding strategies and activities.
Creating and building your unique brand is an organic and ongoing process. So consider yourself and your career a work in progress, and reach out to get and give as much help as possible as your brand shifts and matures across the expanse of your career.
By Barbara Reinhold, Monster Contributing Writer

The Right Way to Resign

After you've landed a new job, the excitement of starting something new may be accompanied by anxiety and guilt over leaving the familiar and perhaps some good friends, too. Even if you're leaving mostly enemies behind, it's still a good idea to leave your job in good standing.
Corporate alumni associations are sprouting up all over the Fortune 500, at companies including GE, Procter & Gamble and Yum! Brands, and it's in your best interest to be a part of these burgeoning professional networks. In fact, if you handle your transition properly, your former employers may even view your ascension elsewhere as a PR asset.
"Whatever the circumstances are around your departure, keep your mind on the big picture and don't do anything that could come back to haunt you," says career coach Deborah Brown-Volkman.
She recommends three steps for wrapping things up at your old job and departing with a pat on the back from your boss.
Write Down Everything You Do and How It Gets Done
Forget job descriptions. They rarely tell us precisely what an individual does day-to-day or reveal the "It's not really my job, but I kind of do it anyway" responsibilities that grace any worker's plate each week. Also, in an age of zero redundancy at many companies, you cannot rely on even your supervisor to understand what you do and how you do it.
"Often a boss feels like, 'I don't know what this person does -- I only know she can't leave!'" Brown-Volkman says.
So, do your boss and colleagues right by creating an exhaustive list of everything you handle, along with detailed instructions on how to handle it. Your coworkers will appreciate you for having this thorough document -- and for having done so much during your tenure.
Remain Until You Train the New You
Two weeks' notice may be the minimum an employer requests, but most companies will appreciate a more lengthy lead-time so you can help train your replacement. If you do so, your boss will be indebted to you. You're also sending a message that you want your former coworkers and employer to succeed.
"It's hard to give a lot of notice because your next employer may be waiting anxiously for you to start, and many people want to take a week off between jobs," Brown-Volkman says. However, she urges departing workers to spend "as much time as you can with your replacement or colleagues who will be temporarily handling your workload. Train them so they've got it down cold."
Also, tap your own network for a potential replacement. You may even be eligible for a finder's fee if you refer the right person for the job.
Wish Everyone Well When You Leave
Brown-Volkman advises giving all your coworkers a heartfelt farewell and offering them a few words of encouragement and appreciation. "Even if you don't like someone, bury the hatchet," she says. "It takes a big person to do that, but you never know when you'll meet this individual again."
Also, she points out that former coworkers are the best candidates to join your professional network. "You will always have common ground with these folks," she says. "They're easy to stay in touch with. There will always be some bit of news or gossip you can bond over, and that makes it less awkward to pick up the phone and chat."
All of this is for the future -- the big picture, she adds. "You could end up working for some of these people," she says. "You may need a favor. You just don't know, so make sure you leave on the best possible terms."
By Caroline Levchuck

The Ins and Outs of Exit Interviews

How to Exit Like a Pro and Keep Good References

Here's how to handle an exit interview and leave on a positive note.
Ask for Anonymity
You'll feel more comfortable discussing management styles or communication issues if you know that your interviewer will not mention your name when sharing feedback with management. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) considers anonymous exit interviews a best practice, because it ensures honest, open communication.
"If I were the employee, I would ask and make sure you like the answer before you give out comments," Deb Keary, director of human resources at SHRM.
Hannah Seligson, author of New Girl on the Job: Advice from the Trenchessays that unless you have it in writing that what you say at an exit interview is confidential, assume that it is not. "Don't just assume things will be kept confidential," she says. "Put it in writing."
Anticipate the Important Questions
Chances are you will be asked why you are leaving and what (if anything) would have persuaded you to stay. "They want a candid answer," Keary says. "HR hates turnover, and they hate to lose good people. You should anticipate and give an honest answer."
Keary adds that employees leave for any number of reasons: They were offered more money or more career growth, they wanted to change industries, or simply needed a new environment. You probably already know your reason, so think of a diplomatic way to explain it without pointing fingers.
Offer Constructive Solutions
Maybe you didn't work well with your manager or took the fall for an error that wasn't your fault. "If blame was misappropriated to you because of leadership or communication issues, an exit interview can be a good time to clear that up," notes Seligson. "However, make sure it doesn't sound like you are pointing fingers, or that could come off sounding too victimized."
HR departments appreciate recommendations instead of rants. "I hope you're not leaving angry, but if you are, it's better to talk in generalities," Keary says. "For instance, 'My department's management could use some guidance in interpersonal relations.' They can't do much with 'So-and-so is a witch.' Offer suggestions to help. I'd be in the recommending mode rather than the taking-it-out-on-HR mode."
When HR departments hear the same comments about certain departments, they get the gist without you spelling it out. And by taking the high road instead of bad-mouthing a boss or coworker, you'll be better positioned for a reference later on.
By By Susan Johnston

Laid Off? Don't Leave Without These Five Things

These days, if you find yourself being shepherded into a conference room with your coworkers, you might expect a pink slip -- not an impromptu pizza party. You may feel blindsided (not to mention angry, a little sick and panicked), but you must fight through the momentary confusion to get your bearings and take action immediately. 
"During a layoff meeting, adrenaline is racing through your body," says Liz Ryan, a thought leader on the changing workplace. "People lose their minds. So, first, take five minutes to gather your thoughts. Sit down. Ask for a cup of coffee."

Then, follow these five steps to make sure you're leaving the building with your dignity -- and everything you need to land on your feet.
Don't Leave Without Your Contacts
If you don't have a backup of your contacts at home, the very first thing to do is to get your contacts, says Ryan. "If you're in the conference room and being seen out the door, you obviously can't," she says. "But if they let you go back to your desk and sit down -- and most companies will let you do that today -- save your contacts. If there's someone hovering, just say, 'Look, I'm just downloading my Outlook contacts.'"
Your contacts are paramount to jump-starting your new job search. "You want to write to each of your contacts and let them know that you've been laid off and give them a paragraph about what you're looking for," Ryan says. Your network will immediately start looking for work for you -- while you're distracted dealing with other tasks.
Don't Leave Without a Layoff Letter
"Get something in writing about this termination before you leave the premises," says Ryan, a former human resources executive. Unemployment is not retroactive, so you should go to your local unemployment officewithin 48 hours, and having such a letter will help.
"If you walk in with something in writing from your former employer saying that you were laid off and you worked there from this date to that date, it will speed up the processing of your check," she says. And because most unemployment checks aren't as much as regular wages, it's important to bring in as much money as possible as quickly as possible.
Don't Leave Without Your Last Paycheck
"It's imperative that you get your last paycheck," Ryan says. "That is a legal requirement, and people can go through hell chasing it down if they leave without it. If you ask for it, they must give it to you. If they can't hand you a live check, ask for a written statement."
Also, make sure you're paid for any time off you're entitled to, such as accrued vacation or sick days. "If you're getting severance and an HR person tells you it will be three weeks or three months, get that in writing, too," Ryan says. Be sure to ask about any bonuses or pay increases that may not have gone through. "There is no harm in asking," she adds.
Don't Leave Without Your COBRA Information
Make sure you get your COBRA information from HR before you leave, Ryan says. "You should receive a written document that indicates that your insurance will end on a certain date," she says. You don't have to panic about pricy COBRA payments immediately as you have 45 days to retroactively enroll, but you'll need the registration materials and you must know your termination date. "COBRA is expensive, but if you don't have another place to turn, do it until you find your next job," Ryan says.
Don't Leave Without a Recommendation
"This is situational and depends on whom you know, but if you're in the conference room and your boss is saying, 'Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. This layoff is because our new product line isn't selling the way we thought it would,' then you should immediately ask, 'Can I use you as a reference?'" Ryan says.
Your boss will likely agree -- so Ryan suggests taking it a step further by asking, "Will you write me a letter of recommendation right now?" Ask your supervisor to detail your strong performance in your position and mention that your departure is because of the company's financial position." She also suggests asking for an endorsement on LinkedIn and accepting whatever additional help you're offered.
"I'm a big advocate for employees, so when I've had to lay someone off, I've written that person a new resume," Ryan says. "You should tap into whatever the company has available. If you leave with all of these things, you have to give yourself a huge pat on the back."

By Caroline M.L. Potter 

Make Any Job Less Stressful

Consider these tips for recognizing and managing work stress:
Become Mindful
"The most important thing [you] can do is have awareness of both what's causing the stress and how you're responding to it," says Dr. Steven Rolfe, principal of the Boswell Group, a business consultancy in New York City.
Focus on your stress response and pinpoint causes:
  • What activities, duties or people leave you feeling drained?
  • What or who causes your neck pain, headaches or racing heartbeat?
  • What tasks or situations do you avoid?
  • How do you talk to yourself about your stress? What stories do you tell?
Take Control
While you probably can't control layoffs or reorganizations, there are things you can control -- and you should focus on those, says Diane Lang, a health and wellness counselor in New York City.
"I had a client who couldn't leave her job at the moment because she was a single parent," she said. "So we made a list of everything she could control and worked on the list."
Such a list might include focusing on improving your own job performance and setting short- and long-term goals for changing jobs.
"Don't hold your breath" is a cliche for a reason. When people are stressed, they literally forget to breathe, says Jeffrey Brantley, director of mindfulness-based stress reduction at Duke University's Center for Integrative Medicine and a co-author of Five Good Minutes at Work: 100 Mindfulness Practices to Help You Relieve Stress and Bring Your Best to Work.
Even taking a few minutes to breathe deeply can calm your body's stress-spurred flight-or-fight response.
First Things First
"You cannot get control of your stress without getting control of yourself physically," says Karissa Thacker, a Delaware-based management psychologist.
So go back to basics:
  • Sleep. Your body may need more rest to deal with the stress.
  • Avoid excess. "Stress is a physiological phenomenon that is immediately increased by lots of sugar or alcohol, which stress the system," says Thacker.
  • Move your body. You don't have to train for a marathon. Even taking the dog for a walk will help clear your mind.
Change Your Pattern
Try this: Talk to someone at work you haven't visited in awhile. Go out to lunch if you usually eat at your desk. Introduce yourself to someone new. Do something to interrupt the usual cycle of stress and anxiety.
"Humans are routinized creatures," Thacker says. "Upset the routine, and you will also unfreeze the thought and emotional patterns that are keeping you constantly worked up."

By By Heather Boerner

10 Excuses for Missing Work

We've all been there. It's a beautiful day, and you can't bear the thought of going into work. So you call in with some excuse about feeling ill, but you know in your bones that your boss doesn't buy it.    
The feeling-ill excuse is a short-term solution that won't win you any fans at the office -- someone else will have to pick up the slack, or you'll miss deadlines. And it won't help your career any. Here are 10 excuses -- five smart and five not-so-smart -- to help you save face and your sanity.
Smart Excuses 
  • I've Earned It: No one can argue with performance. Come in two or three hours early -- or stay late -- for a week or two. Then negotiate a day off in advance. "Really work when you're there, so you'll be able to feel good about taking time off," says Andrea Nierenberg, president of The Nierenberg Group, a management consulting and personal marketing practice.
  • I'm Playing Golf with a Client: For this one to work, you've got to have a job that requires you tomeet and court current and prospective clients. Neil Simpkins, an account executive at Oxford Communications, has used this one successfully. One note of caution: Meet the client; don't just say you did.
  • I Have a Doctor's Appointment: This excuse will get you out of work for a half-day or so. Make the appointment first thing in the morning or late in the day, say around 3 p.m. You can leave the office by 2:30 p.m. and get home (hopefully) by 4 p.m. The shortened day will help you recharge, especially if you schedule it on a Friday afternoon.
  • I Have Cramps: Before you dismiss this one, think about it: Who can argue? "It's such an embarrassing topic that nobody will ever challenge it," says Jennifer Newman, vice president of Lippe Taylor Public Relations. She has used this excuse -- and had it used on her -- successfully. "It's one of those things that men honestly have no clue about, and women can sympathize with,." One important point: Don't use this one if you're a man. It'll never work.
  • I'm Working from Home: This is an excellent way to give yourself a break if your company allows it. Although you'll need to do some work at home, you can generally get away with a shortened day. And you'll eliminate your commuting time. 
Not-So-Smart Excuses 
  • There's a Death in the Family: Don't ever use this excuse if it's not true. Your employer will lose all trust in you. "I had an employee whose mother died -- twice," says David Wear, a Virginia PR executive. "He also had the misfortune of losing all his grandparents -- 12 of them -- during a two-year period."
  • I'm Too Sleepy: When she was a manager at IBM, Marilynn Mobley heard it all. This one still makes her laugh: The employee apparently took Tylenol 3 with codeine instead of a vitamin, because the bottles looked alike.
  • I Can't Get My Car Out of the Garage: This is another one that Mobley didn't buy. An employee said that a power failure was preventing him from opening his power-operated garage door. "I reminded him that there's a pull chain on it for just such cases," she says.
  • I Can't Find My Polling Place: Mary Dale Walters, a communications specialist at CCH, couldn't believe this one. A former employee needed an entire day to figure out where she had to go to vote in the presidential election.
  • I Have a Personal Emergency: This one is so vague that it rarely works. It could mean anything from fatigue to an appointment with your hairdresser, and your boss knows it.
Don't lie, no matter which excuse you use. "I'm not a believer in playing hooky, because it always comes back to you," Nierenberg says. "Don't lie to your boss, your supervisor or your clients. You're guaranteed they will be the ones you'll run into while you're walking down the street in your jeans."

By By Michele Marrinan, Monster Contributing Writer

Tips for Working Mothers

Fulfilling the role of Mom while also holding down a job can be dizzying. But with a little planning and family cooperation, moms can make routine tasks easier, get family members involved and helping instead of asking for things, and reduce everyone's stress level. Try these tips out.   
Teach Cleanup
Do you clean up toys, hang up coats, stow shoes, pick up laundry and make beds? Then stop it right now. These are things even 3-year-olds can do. When you come home, ask politely for everyone to hang up their coats and put away their gloves. Explain to kids that dirty clothes go in the hamper and clean clothes go back in the drawers. Show them how to neaten their beds. Resist the urge to fix or fold after they are done. After all, they're learning and helping, so don't discourage them or make them feel they did an inadequate job.
Delegate Chores
Ask your kids/spouse to help you. At mealtimes, small children can set the table, older ones can serve drinks and everyone can help bring plates to the table. Teach kids to clear the table, how to get their own cereal and how to load the dishwasher. Have children take out the trash, teach them to use the laundry machines and have them put their own clean clothes away. Grant points or make a sticker chart as rewards to show your kids how much you appreciate their help.
Plan Your Morning
Mornings will go more smoothly if you do some things the night before. Pack lunches (or have kids make their own), lay out clothes, ensure homework is done, pack backpacks and check the calendar for after-school plans. Teach kids to get themselves ready in the morning by putting up a wall chart that lists "brush teeth," "make bed," "get dressed," "eat breakfast" and whatever else they need to do.
Schedule Quiet Time
Have each family member spend a few minutes alone when everyone gets home. This gives you all time to calm down and regroup before getting dinner ready and discussing the day.
Plan a Work Schedule
Don't let work pressures eat into your family time. If you often work late, talk to your boss or coworkers and figure out a way to leave at 5 p.m. on certain days. Cooperate with your spouse to make sure you're prepared if one of you must work late. This way, your family will know certain days are family dinner days or one-parent nights, and they will learn to cherish those times together.
Plan Meals Ahead
Make only one shopping trip per week to buy ingredients. Get a cookbook that contains easy-to-prepare recipes. Double a recipe and freeze half for another meal. When you're making a salad, make double and save half for the next night. Keep lasagnas or other one-dish meals in the freezer for nights when you don't feel like cooking. Designate your most hectic night as order-out night and get pizza or Chinese food. Have the kids make dinner one night a week if they are old enough.
Schedule Quality Family Time
Strive to have a family dinner as frequently as possible. Plan a family movie night once a week. Plan a group outing for the weekend. Take the whole family to a child's sporting event.
Make Time for Yourself
Moms tend to put themselves last on the list, but regenerating your own inner strength and peace will go a long way toward giving you the energy you need to be a mom. So take care of yourself: Go to the gym, visit a museum, meet a friend for coffee, join a book club or work on your hobby. Make a deal with your spouse allowing each of you one night a week to do your own thing.
Be a Couple
Get a babysitter once every two weeks, or whatever is feasible, and go out together. It doesn't have to be fancy. Even a trip to the bookstore will help the two of you remember what it's like to be adults together.

By Alyson Preston, Monster Contributing Writer