Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Do You Know the Truth About Checking References?

When it comes to checking job applicant references, you might reasonably think that a great reference means you’ll be getting a great employee.
You might also think a bad reference means you should cross the applicant off your list.
However, it’s often just as true that people who come with great references turn out to be duds on the job, and people with poor references could very well be great employees.
Here are a few reasons why an employer might give a bad reference on a great person:
  1. To try to keep the employee onboard and give the employer the opportunity to make a counter-offer.
  2. To keep the employee from taking his/her skillsand experience to the competition.
  3. Because the former employer is holding a grudge against the employee who left (retaliatory discrimination).

Why bother with reference, anyway?

Here are a few reasons why an employer might give a good reference on a poor employee:
  1. The employer wants to get the poor performer off the payroll.
  2. To avoid the potential legal liabilities of giving a bad reference.
  3. To “make up” for firing or laying the person off.
By Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally-known authority on recruiting, selecting, and hiring hourly employees. 

6 Ways Your Inconsistent Leadership Is Negatively Impacting Your Employees

One of the key causes of poor performing employees is inconsistent leadership, and if you’re hearing employee gossip that says “it’s not their fault there are problems at the office,”they might be right.
An inconsistent leader is sometimes there, sometimes not. They appear at times to be physically present when their brain has left the building. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they blow up. They are at times empathetic and at others an unbearable taskmaster.
If your behavior is all over the board, it’s likely their performance is too, and the following problems are showing up. What’s the fix? Keep reading.

6 ways you are negatively impacting employees

  • They don’t trust you. The leaders who blow up at one person but listen intently to another are creating employees afraid to approach you. They lack trust in your counsel or guidance or words that say “my door is always open,” and no matter how often you persuade them to share, they’ll stop trusting that you actually care.
  • They skip levels. If you have one team member who seems to have befriended your boss, this is not cause for alarm. But, when the majority of the team signs up for the skip-level luncheon, pay attention as it may be a cry for guidance they no longer believe could come from you.
  • They ignore your first direction. Tantrums and explosions scare people, and if you’re prone to huffy moments where you spout off some angry words, employees will begin to brace for impact. For protection of their own sanity, they’ll start ignoring what you say when you’re the most annoyed. Then you’ll have to apologize, explain your behavior and likely repeat your direction which can be, well, annoying.
  • They nod their head, but don’t agree. Those employees gifted at empathy and afraid of conflict will never tell you to your face that they don’t understand your direction or why you’re acting out of character today. Instead, they’ll simply nod and smile and you’ll think that means yes, they understand, and will take action — when they’re really simply trying to keep you from acting scary.
  • They mimic (cold) molasses. Have you ever seen how fast cold molasses moves? That’s about how fast employees will get to work on something when your direction or behavior is inconsistent. All of their time and energy will be spent venting, talking about, or stewing over your irregular moods or missteps and work won’t get done. Or in the case of you being inconsistently at the office, they may learn to act as if their busily working when you’re their only to go back to the speed of cold molasses when you’re away.
  • They ALL appear difficult. It is one thing to recognize you have a challenge in one team member. and quite another to think “Make Difficult People Disappear” applies to your entire team. If they all are acting difficult, chances are the problem is not them, but with their leader. Check your perceptions and then check in the mirror.
By Monica Wofford, CSP, is a leadership development strategist, blogger, speaker, and author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear

4 Things to Consider When You’re Ready to Hire

When you make the final hire/don’t hire decision, there are four (4) important things to consider:
  1. The results of testing should count for 30 percent;
  2. The interview should count for 30 percent;
  3. The results of the reference check should count for 30 percent;
  4. Your feeling, intuition, and opinion should count for only 10 percent (Why? Because no matter how hard you try to eliminate your biases, they may still have undue influence.)
If the applicant scores poorly in any one of these areas, it’s a deal breaker.
However, an exceptional rating in any one area shouldn’t, on its own, get someone hired. You’ll want to have good or better ratings for all four criteria before you make an offer of employment.
By Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally-known authority on recruiting, selecting, and hiring hourly employees.

The 4 Factors Critical to a Smart Total Rewards Program

1. Enhancing employee engagement

My view: As engagement gains more and more acceptance in the broader community, there are also more and more detractors. This is to be expected as too many focus on the “engagement survey” and not enough on what the survey reveals or the actions taken as a result of the survey.
But as this research shows, HR pros clearly understand that true engagement efforts draw employees deeper into the culture and expectations of the organization, helping them contribute in more meaningful, valuable and worthwhile ways.

2. Quantifying HR impact on the organization

My view: “What gets measured, gets respected.” This twist on the common aphorism is of even more importance to the HR community as they are often shunted aside as the “party planners” who deal with “the complainers.” Moving out of this perception requires proving the impact of HR efforts in numbers the CFO cares about – the direct impact on the bottom line.

3. Effectively communicating

My view: One of the most common complaints from employees is a lack of communication from management, especially on greater context for changing priorities and strategies. HR pros can play a critical role in helping to train managers to be better communicators, but they can also take steps to better communicate key messages more directly themselves through programs under their direct control, such as strategic recognition that’s focused on organization priorities and objectives.

4. Tying rewards to business strategy

My view: We all understand that we are paid for the work we do. But we become much more convicted in that work when we understand the underlying importance and value of our contributions to overall organization success. This requires every employee both knowing the business strategy and knowing how they contribute to achieving it.
Again, HR pros can help with a strategic recognition program that makes strategic objectives the central focus. In this way, employees are recognized frequently and in a timely way any time they contribute to achieving the strategy in line with company values.
By Derek Irvine is Vice President, Client Strategy & Consulting Service at Globoforce

Interview Like a Kid, Hire Like a Grown-up

Preparing for an in-person interview can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences throughout the hiring process.
And interview nerves aren’t just limited to your candidate. As an interviewer, you’re probably eager to make a good impression and ask all of the right questions.
You might think that you should have your phasers set to “professional” when it comes to interviews, and while that’s true to a degree, you’d be surprised at how much more successful your interviews can be when you regress back to your Kindergarten mindset. The ironic thing about Kindergartners is that —while they’re just beginning their education — they’re already experts on so much.
Yep, that’s right: grab your finger paint and use your inside voice, because we’re going to tell you how interviewing like a kid can bring you some very grown-up triumphs in your hiring process.

1. Always ask “Why?”

Now, if you’ve spent any time around kids, you know that they aren’t afraid to ask questions (… and more questions, and MORE questions) until their curiosity is fully satisfied. If the candidate offers up a piece of his or her background (“I went to Ohio University for undergrad …”), why not ask why?
Keep in mind the tone with which kids as these types of questions (with genuine intent, not as a challenge), and you might open doors you had no idea were even there. Just, uh, try to shy away from too many “Why?” questions in a row. Rapid fire “Why?”s are only ever cute when they’re coming from a toddler, and … honestly? Even then, it’s not that cute.
If you’re lucky, your “Why?” questions will open up a whole treasure trove of information about your candidate, and might even reveal to you some skills, interests, and experiences that didn’t make it onto the résumé.

2. Play show and tell

Capitalizing on that opportunity means one thing: it’s time for show and tell. When you stumble across something about which your candidate seems knowledgeable and passionate, ask them to tell you more, to teach you about it.
Everyone you interview will be an expert on something, and asking them to explain their interests and expertise to you will show you how they communicate (and how they educate), and who knows — you might even learn something. Ew! Learning! KNOWLEDGE COOTIES!
Ahem. Sorry. It’s easy to over-borrow from the young’uns sometimes.

3. Lose your attention span

If a candidate is taking longer than 30 seconds to answer a question (and isn’t being prompted by you for more information), then time is being wasted. Your average five-year-old would be wandering over the Play-Doh bucket after 30 seconds of listening to his peer drone on and on, so don’t play into long-winded responses from your interviewees. A time constraint on responses forces your candidate to think creatively and indicates how well they can cut to the chase (or, alternatively, how well they can dance around a question).
Interviewing is as much about how an interviewee response as it is about the content of that response. Prompt them to be succinct so you can quickly and efficiently get to the meat of the conversation.

4. Don’t sugar coat your business

Last but not least, adopt a childlike policy on honesty. Kids are connoisseurs at brutal honesty (“Yes, I know she said you look like a Weeble, ma’am, but she’s only 4 years-old.”) and it’s something to consider when bringing new people into your company. Always be aware of managing expectations; your office, like every other one, isn’t perfect. But it can be an incredibly rewarding place to pursue a great mission.
If you feel as though the candidate is disqualifying themselves in the interview, bring it up. If you can’t be honest from the get-go, you’re not setting yourself up well for any kind of potential relationship in the future. Be upfront with the fact that you want to make sure they’re a good fit in their role and your company, and make sure you point out it’s for their benefit as well as your own.
Not to mention the fact that withholding information is basically the same as lying, and if we’re playing by kids’ rules here, I’m afraid that means your pants are most unfortunately on fire. Deal with it.
By Gayle Pazerski is a blogger at The Resumator,

How to Make Sure You Can Identify and Hire “A” Players

In the job search today, there is a lot of “fluff,” meaning it is sometimes difficult for HR managers and recruiters to see through the elaborate words on paper describing a candidate’s qualifications or how social they may be on Twitter or Facebook.
Fortunately, there are ways to be sure you are hiring the best people you can find, and it starts with nixing the “oops” hires.
As a recruiter, it is your job to confidently foresee the value that your next hire will have to the company. It is up to you to conduct thorough research on each potential hire in order to land the best talent around, and more importantly – talent that will endure at your company.
As for the alternative, hiring an individual who doesn’t meet the predicted expectations is every recruiter’s fear.
At my company, we define an “A” player by taking into account the years of experience and education level in combination with the personality, dedication, and intelligence they exude in person and over time. Let’s look a little deeper at the characteristics of an “A” player sought after by most employers, regardless of the field — and sample questions to help you surface these characteristics:

1. Experienced

Proficiency in job-specific skills is amongst one of the very first items to look for in any potential hire. If you are hiring an individual for a top-level management position, key words to look for would be previous job titles. It is imperative, and almost a no-brainer, to seek out those who are capable of fulfilling the job requirements successfully.
Sample interview question: “If a client asked you to come up with a [type of] strategy, what steps would you go through?

2. Strong communicator

Communication competencies extend much further than being able to hold a fluent conversation during an interview. An “A” player is able to adapt to different audiences, establish rapport with their networks, negotiate, persuade, and listen.
Sample interview question: “What three things must be present in the communication within an organization in order for you to work most effectively?
3. Dedicated
There is a difference between a job candidate expressing enthusiasm during an interview and one who is highly motivated to have a positive impact on the company and its mission. The best-of-the-best have an almost tangible go-getter mentality, one that inspires even yourself to make an attitude adjustment for the better.
Sample interview question“How would you define ‘success’ for your career? At the end of your work life, what must have been present for you to feel as if you had a successful career?”

4. Apt decision-maker

The key here is finding individuals accustomed to a proactive approach when it comes to decision making. Rather than finding someone who deals with problems well after the fact, the most elite candidate intelligently plans for any foreseeable troubles that may arise. You might also look for candidates who can lead in the absence of decision, even when a collaborative approach is attempted.
Sample interview question: “When you are working with a co-worker or reporting staff member, how do you decide upon and communicate the points where you need feedback and progress reports?”

5. Confident

For the most part, job candidates are going to look the part when they arrive at an interview. They will arrive in the proper attire and a professional portfolio to go along with their clean appearance. However, it can be difficult to pinpoint whether this professionalism and confidence should be expected on an everyday basis. After all, consistent confidence can make a candidate go from good to great.
Sample interview question: “How would you deal with a supervisor or client giving you negative feedback on a project you completed?”
As for proving these qualities, especially if they don’t surface during the interview process, we turn to what others have to say through personal and professional recommendations.

The power of recommendations

Recommendations are the proof in the pudding. When searching through artificially inflated resumes and applications, it gets difficult to distinguish between who is real and who is fake. Not to mention, the process of sifting through job boards and resumes is often times horrendously time-consuming.
Recommendations and word of mouth are still the best way for candidates to land their next job.
But how can job seekers showcase their recommendations? Maybe they include one or two on their LinkedIn profiles or have two to three obligatory references at the end of their resume or job application – but is this really taking advantage of the most successful way to land a job?
By switching from written narratives (which are time-consuming) to a simple, but powerful rating system, the recommendation process can be sped up, enabling you to gain a greater perspective on a job candidate. Using these types of recommendations can help you quickly find the “A” players while eliminating most of the worry you may have with an unknown job candidate.
By Jesse Gant is the CEO and Co-Founder of Recmnd.Me.,

Top Factors which lead to a good team

Here are some of the factors, which generally lead to a good team:

1.Shared belief in the value and achievability of the team's goals.

2. Awareness of the value of the individual's own role and contribution.

3. Recognition of the value of other team members (whether they are key specialists or just non-specialist, junior assistants).

4. Desire to work collaboratively, sharing thoughts, ideas, concerns, etc.

5. Friendship - enjoying working together with a common purpose.

6.Supporting each other in recognition that the team's success requires all members to be successful.

7. Coaching junior members rather than bossing them.

8. Listening to ideas and advice from other team members.

9. Making time to communicate with other team members.

10. Celebrating successes.

11. Rewarding good team behavior in financial and non-financial ways.

Ten Body Language Tips

EYE contact is one of the most important aspects of dealing with others, especially people we've just met. Maintaining good eye contact shows respect and interest in what they have to say. Here in the UK we tend to keep eye contact around 60-70% of the time. (However, there are wide cultural differences, so be careful in other countries) By doing this you won't make the other people feel self conscious, like they've got a bit of vegetable stuck between their teeth or a dew drop hanging from the nose. . Instead, it will give them a feeling of comfort and genuine warmth in your company, any more eye contact than this and you can be too intense, any less and you give off a signal that you are lacking interest in them or their conversation.

POSTURE is the next thing to master, get your posture right and you'll automatically start feeling better, as it makes you feel good almost instantly. Next time you notice you're feeling a bit down, take a look at how your standing or sitting. Chances are you'll be slouched over with your shoulders drooping down and inward. This collapses the chest and inhibits good breathing, which in turn can help make you feel nervous or uncomfortable.

HEAD position is a great one to play around with, with yourself and others. When you want to feel confident and self assured keep your head level both horizontally and vertically. You can also use this straight head position when you want to be authoritative and what you're saying to be taken seriously. Conversely, when you want to be friendly and in the listening, receptive mode, tilt your head just a little to one side or other. You can shift the tilt from left to right at different points in the conversation.

ARMS give away the clues as to how open and receptive we are to everyone we meet and interact with, so keep your arms out to the side of your body or behind your back. This shows you are not scared to take on whatever comes your way and you meet things "full frontal". In general terms the more outgoing you are as a person, the more you tend to use your arms with big movements. The quieter you are the less you move your arms away from your body. So, try to strike a natural balance and keep your arm movements midway. When you want to come across in the best possible light, crossing the arms is a no, no in front of others. Obviously if someone says something that gets your goat, then by all means show your disapproval by crossing them !

LEGS are the furthest point away from the brain, consequently they're the hardest bits of our bodies to consciously control. They tend move around a lot more than normal when we are nervous, stressed or being deceptive. So best to keep them as still as possible in most situations, especially at interviews or work meetings. Be careful too in the way you cross your legs. Do you cross at the knees, ankles or bring your leg up to rest on the knee of the other? This is more a question of comfort than anything else. Just be aware that the last position mentioned is known as the "Figure Four" and is generally perceived as the most defensive leg cross, especially if it happens as someone tells a you something that might be of a slightly dubious nature, or moments after. (As always, look for a sequence)

ANGLE OF THE BODY in relation to others gives an indication of our attitudes and feelings towards them. We angle toward people we find attractive, friendly and interesting and angle ourselves away from those we don't, it's that simple! Angles includes leaning in or away from people, as we often just tilt from the pelvis and lean sideways to someone to share a bit of conversation. For example, we are not in complete control of our angle at the cinema because of the seating nor at a concert when we stand shoulder to shoulder and are packed in like sardines. In these situations we tend to lean over towards the other person.

HAND gestures are so numerous it's hard to give a brief guide but here goes. Palms slightly up and outward is seen as open and friendly. Palm down gestures are generally seen as dominant, emphasizing and possibly aggressive, especially when there is no movement or bending between the wrist and the forearm. This palm up, palm down is very important when it comes to handshaking and where appropriate we suggest you always offer a handshake upright and vertical, which should convey equality.

DISTANCE FROM OTHERS is crucial if you want to give off the right signals. Stand too close and you'll be marked as "Pushy" or "In your face". Stand or sit too far away and you'll be "Keeping your distance" or "Stand offish". Neither are what we want, so observe if in a group situation how close are all the other people to each other. Also notice if you move closer to someone and they back away, you're probably just a tiny bit too much in their personal space, their comfort zone. "You've overstepped the mark" and should pull back a little.

EARS , yes your ears play a vital role in communication with others, even though general terms most people can't move them much, if at all. However, you've got two ears and only one mouth, so try to use them in that order. If you listen twice as much as you talk you come across as a good communicator who knows how to strike up a balanced a conversation without being me, me, me or the wallflower.

MOUTH movements can give away all sorts of clues. We purse our lips and sometimes twist them to the side when we're thinking. Another occasion we might use this movement is to hold back an angry comment we don't wish to reveal. Nevertheless, it will probably be spotted by other people and although they may not know the comment, they will get a feeling you were not to pleased.

5 Things to Consider on “Bad Management Day”

Once upon a time, I made the case we should celebrate June 25 as “Bad Management Day,” a day when we reflect on all the terrible management decisions made by the many overpaid egomaniacs who wouldn’t know what management was if it walked up and bit ‘em
Why June 25?
It’s because today, June 25, is the 136th anniversary of one of the worst management decisions of all time.
On June 25, 1876, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer made a fateful decision to engage an overwhelmingly superior force of more than 2,000 Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors with only about 210 members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry along the Little Bighorn River in what is now southeastern Montana.

5 bad decisions

History is made of such decisions, and so it was for Custer, who paid dearly for his. He paid for his decision with his life — and the lives of all those under his command — in a battle long remembered as the Battle of the Little Bighorn, or “Custer’s Last Stand.”
Giving your life is the ultimate price for a bad decision, but Custer’s decision-making was especially poor in so many ways.
  1. He refused to listen to others, figuring his judgment was superior. Custer was ordered to hold off on any attack and to wait for reinforcements that were being led byBrig. Gen. Alfred Terry, but impatience got the better of him and Custer foolishly decided to act. Waiting would have been more sensible, because Gen. Terry and his troops arrived on June 26.
  2. He was arrogant. Custer was guilty of overconfident in his own talents and guilty of hubris, just like so many modern executives. He grossly underestimated the number of Indians facing him, pooh-poohed their abilities, and failed to understand the many advantages the competition had. Here’s one big one: While Custer’s troops were generally armed with single-shot rifles, the Indians had a number of repeating rifles that made their superior numbers even more so. Less hubris and ego might have helped Custer have a healthier respect of what he was facing.
  3. He wasn’t entirely focused on the job at hand. Custer’s focus wasn’t on fighting and defeating the Indians who were itching to fight him at the Little Bighorn. His misguided concern was that he needed to trap them and prevent their escape. That’s why he split his forces into three parts, diluting his overall strength. The other two units of the 7th Cavalry, led by Capt. Frederick Benteen and Maj. Marcus Reno, survived a fierce two-day fight that ended when Terry’s reinforcements arrived.
  4. He was outmanaged. Custer was facing wily Indian leader Sitting Bull, who lured him into a fight on his timetable, on a field of his choosing, and with a much larger (and superior) force. In addition, Sitting Bull delegated well. He trusted in Crazy Horse, his able field lieutenant, who executed the battle plan perfectly.
  5. He had terribly bad luck. It’s often said that luck is when preparation and opportunity meet, and that was certainly true for Sitting Bull and his forces at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The other side of that coin is that Custer had the terrible misfortune of deciding to fight what is still considered to be the largest force of Indian warriors ever assembled in North America, and he did it with an undersized and outgunned cavalry unit that he split into three parts.

A management formula: more patience, less hubris

On top of that, the Indian forces were passionate about what they were doing. They were defending their turf and felt they had something to prove. Custer’s cavalry, on the other hand, was tired of chasing Indians and just wanted to get home. They had very little passion for fighting at all.
Add all of that up and what you get is not just bad decision-making by Custer, but also terribly poor luck as well. So it goes for bad managers, it seems.
Change just a few of these elements, and perhaps invest Custer with less hubris and more patience, and perhaps he would have never fought the Battle of the Little Bighorn and survived to do something else. Who knows? But, history would likely be very different if any of that happened.
These are all good things to consider on Bad Management Day. Had George Armstrong Custer thought like a manager and made a few better decisions,  and he not been driven so completely by his oversized ego, he might have survived and perhaps would have eventually run for president.
And, one more thing: sometimes, there’s a fine line between winning and losing, between success and failure (or in Custer’s case, total disaster). Keep that in mind today as you reflect on Bad Management Day.
By John Hollon is Vice President for Editorial of TLNT.com

3 Ways to Help Build and Sustain a Strong Company Culture

1. Focus on your culture

If culture is to be central to how the people who make up your organization work and behave every day, then culture cannot be an afterthought. It must be a primary area of focus. Kyle Zimmer, president, chief executive and co-founder of the nonprofit First Book, put it this way in a recent New York TimesCorner Office” column:
It became very real to me that you have to really focus on the culture of the organization. You can work very hard to build the culture of an organization, and it’s a fragile thing — it’s much easier to lose it than it is to build it.”
The fragility of your culture is something I regularly speak to, comparing it to a bonsai tree. It takes many years of careful attention and focus to prune and bend a bonsai tree into the desired shape, but only one chop to kill it entirely. The same is true of your culture.

2. Hire intentionally

One important factor to ensure you don’t destroy your culture over time is to hire intentionally. Zimmer offers this advice:
If somebody comes in, and has had a 30-year career where they’ve been the boss, and they are not used to being questioned or having their ideas kicked around and challenged, it’s not going to be a fit. It’s also important to avoid hiring those people, because if we do, it’s going to change who comes to the organization.”
Additionally, this article offers some good tips for hiring for cultural fit, including how to get around a candidate’s tendency to say anything to get hired.

3) Make the values behind your culture real

Part of hiring intentionally is hiring to your values. But it’s not enough to stop focusing on values during the recruiting process. Your values must become central to the daily, ongoing work of all employees. Another CEO featured in the Corner Office column, Chris Barbin of Appirio, suggests:
We have three values that we hire against and three that we run it against. The three that we hire against are trust, professionalism and gray matter — as in, how smart are you? The three we run it against are customers, team and fun.”
This is an interesting approach. Once you know the people you hire have the core personal values you desire, you can then refocus their efforts through daily values focused on organizational success.
By Derek Irvine is Vice President, Client Strategy & Consulting Service at Globoforce,

The First 5 Minutes: How to Turn Good Intentions Into Finished Work

People often talk to me about having great intentions about what they want to get done on a given day or week.
But then, they get to work and it all those good intentions go out the window as they deal with all the urgent crap that comes up.
We are all faced with constant distractions and interruptions from others — not to mention a fair amount of wasted time that we inflict upon ourselves through procrastination, 2000 messages in our inbox, or just the general chaos that leaves us waiting, searching, or wasting time vs. doing.

Create your daily five minute plan

I have found a simple practice that only takes five (5) minutes, and it makes an enormous difference in turning those good intentions into finished work.
Each day, before you do anything else, spend the first five minutes planning your day. Think about and write down, “what are the specific things I need to finish today?”
That’s it.
The simple act of doing this shifts your whole mind set from chaos to control.

Take control of your day

You start your day defining and taking control of the kind of day you want to have instead of starting your day reacting to whatever came in on email.
If you start your day by reacting to email, you have ceded the kind of day you are going to have to everyone else.
Sure, on minute six when you “finally” look at your email, there might be something that you must do right away, but if you did the planning beforehand, you will think and act very differently.

Be more productive

Instead of just jumping into reactive mode, by having thought about what you want to get done that day, you give yourself the chance to judge the priority of your intended plans against the new things that have “come up.”
Instead of just getting on the roller coaster by jumping in and reacting, you might decide to first knock two quick things off your list because they are quick and important, and then work on the reactive, urgent tasks during the rest of the day.
Or you might decide that this new task and your thing are tasks that deserve equal time, so you come up with a strategy to make enough progress on both of them by spending no more than four hours each.
If you didn’t think about your plan ahead of time, this new thing you are reacting to will just take over your mind and your time, and you will fail to make progress on the things you intended to get done.

A real example from today…

As an example, today, my my five minutes of planning generated this list: create a proposal for a client that is due tomorrow, work on a key webpage on my website, exercise, answer five specific emails, and publish my blog for this week.
Once I looked at my incoming email, I discovered website issues, new requests, and a plea for help from a colleague.
I decided to lead with the website issues for the first hour, then create the proposal (for up to 2 hours, which I finished), then exercise, the answer the 5 specific emails, then help my colleague, then publish my blog. I got a start on my webpage project, and put the rest of my webpage work on my plan for tomorrow.
Without my plan, I can tell you I would have spent the whole day reacting, not getting my stuff done, (and convincing myself that there wasn’t time in the day to exercise).
But with my five minute plan in focus, I got almost everything on my list done, plus all the reactive, (important) stuff that came in. There were plenty of emails I did not reply to today.

Does it have to be the morning?

Some people prefer to do this at the end of the work day, or before they go to bed. That is fine. Just make sure:
  1. You take five minutes to make a plan every day.
  2. That you look at it first thing — before you look at your email.
Additionally, know that your brain is very receptive first thing in the morning.
What you feed your brain in the first 15 minutes after waking will have a lot to do with the kind of day you have.
So why feed it email? Why not fill it with good stuff instead? Something that energizes you?
Whether or not you use the morning to build your five minute plan for the day, keep control of the first 15 to 30 minutes of your day by keeping email (and everyone else in the world) out of it.
Then YOU can decide the kind of day you want to have when you wake up in the morning.

Don’t let email ruin your day

If your email is going to piss you off, you will be much more capable of handling it, without it ruining your mood and your day, if you deal with it in minute 31 vs. the first waking minute of your day.
Instead of letting email get you all riled up first thing in the morning, use that time connect with your spouse, your kids, your pets, or yourself — first. The before you dive into email, make your 5 minute plan or check the one you made last night.
You will have a much better shot at having a good, productive day that makes you feel accomplished and happy if you start your day in a positive way that you keep control of.
By Patty Azzarello is the founder and CEO of Azzarello Group

The 8 Qualities Employers Most Want in Their Employees

  1. Being a team player (selected by 71 percent of surveyed companies): “Being part of a team has taken on a higher priority since many companies are still operating with leaner work forces and there is a greater need to accomplish goals through others” said Ford.
  2. Fully focused on satisfying customers (chosen by 68 percent of employers): “Employees should share complimentary letters and emails they receive with their bosses. Don’t assume that he or she already knows about your excellent customer service, but do it in a discreet way,” Ford added.
  3. Motivate and engage others in their jobs (chosen by 65 percent of companies): “In a challenging economy, employers appreciate when their employees reach out and keep each other motivated and involved in their work,” noted Ford.
  4. Success in achieving your “critical few objectives” (picked by 62 percent of companies): “These are the top one or two reasons why you were hired in the first place. Accomplishing these will count more than any other contributions you have made,” said Ford.
  5. Work smart (preferred by 60 percent of companies): This includes being up to date on the latest technology, keeping your skills and professional knowledge current, and continually searching for improvements in productivity, efficiency, and profitability.
  6. Work hard (selected by 57 percent of employers): “Although companies for years have preferred working smart to working hard, they still want to see that you are dedicated to your job, put in an extra effort and volunteer to fill any gaps when necessary,” said Ford.
  7. Add value to the organization (chosen by 52 percent of employers): Retention rewards are a recognition of your value. Track and document the specific ways you have added value to your employer.
  8. Contribute to improving the bottom line (selected by 48 percent of businesses): There are various ways to do this, including helping to increase sales, cut costs, decrease turnover, and make useful suggestions and recommendations.
BY John Hollon is Vice President for Editorial of TLNT.com, and the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com.

What Exit Interviews Reveal About Why Employees Leave

From a PwC study of 19,000+ employees who completed exit interviews with PwC clients, the results are clear:

Better compensation is only a part of the reason why people leave an organization.  In most cases it is a symptom of a more complex need that people have to work for an organization that is fair, trustworthy, and deserving of an individual’s best efforts.  Don’t take your people for granted.  While you may not be able to provide the pay increases you were able to in the past, there is nothing stopping you from showing that you care for your people, are interested in their long term development, and are committed to their careers.”
Moreover, five out of the 10 reasons are directly related to supervisor skills or lack thereof (I include recognition for contributions in this category as too often this is fully reliant on the supervisor).
Indeed, employees do leave managers, not companies.

Company Culture Dilemma: Getting Execs & Employees on the Same Page

How do we “live” out the company culture?

Some “94 percent of executives and 88 percent of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success.”
In fact, executives and managers alike agree on the importance of culture to organization success, as evidenced by these results from the survey:
  • 83 percent of executives and 84 percent of employees rank having engaged and motivated employees as the top factor that substantially contributes to a company’s success.
  • There is a correlation between employees who say they are “happy at work” and feel “valued by [their] company” and those who say their organization has a clearly articulated and lived culture.
  • There is a correlation between clearly articulated and lived culture and strong business performance.
And yet, Only 19 percent of executives and 15 percent of employees believe strongly that their culture is widely upheld within their own organizations.”
Therein lies the rub. If we all agree that culture is critical success, how is it that we cannot seem to figure out how to live out that culture?
Perhaps it’s because executives and employees do not agree on what factors most impact a culture. Keep in mind, it’s these factors that make it possible to “live” and uphold the culture broadly throughout the organization.

Factors that most impact culture

  • No. 1 Factor: Executives say financial performance (65 percent), but employees say it’s regular and candid communication (50 percent);
  • No. 2 Factor: Executives say its competitive compensation (62 percent), while employees say it is employee recognition (49 percent) or access to management (47 percent)
It’s also not at all surprising that the factors executives consider to be most important ranked among the lowest for employees.
Indeed, what’s most needed is to get executives and employees on the same priorities page. Instead of focusing so much on “competitive compensation,” perhaps executives should insist on fair pay structures and then more effectively use that budget to fund a strategic employee recognition program.
And yes, financial performance is inarguably important, but success can only be achieved when all employees are pulling in the same direction.
Recognize and reward them when they live your values in contribution to achieving your financial performance objectives. This gives them regular communication on what matters most to executives.
Derek Irvine is Vice President, Client Strategy & Consulting Service at Globoforce