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Archive for the ‘professional development’ Category


Did you ever work in a place where your workmates felt like family? It’s a great feeling, isn’t it? That’s when you really love going to work because you know that whatever happens, there will be harmony. Everyone will be in sync and tasks will be accomplished.

Did you ever work in a place where you felt like prey? You never knew what to expect once you arrived. Everyone was looking out for himself and shifting blame elsewhere whenever possible. The very thought of having to go to work felt like a kick in the gut. You knew that at any time there could be conflict and you would have to be on the defensive. You always had to be on the lookout because no one had your back but someone would surely have a piece of it in their mouth.

It’s amazing how one person can throw off the entire balance of a team. Whether it’s a manager or a co-worker, a single self centred individual can ruin the dynamic of your work environment. These people suck the life out of organizations every day. How do they get in there, anyway?

They get in because it’s hard to know what someone is made of when you interview them. People put their best face forward and they are not necessarily hired for fit, but rather experience or skill. Mind you, experience and skill are both very important, but hiring people who fit into your corporate culture (and hopefully you are trying to create a positive one), is extremely important.

Before you decide to hire someone, make sure they are interviewed by both managers and peers. If the candidate’s personality has a certain edge to it, or if their mentality is simply not compatible with everyone else’s, someone will likely pick up on it. Some people are very astute that way. If you are lucky, you will have at least one person on your hiring team who is a highly intuitive judge of character.

As your new hire settles in, listen to what co-workers have to say about that person. Typically, if everyone has a problem with someone, then that person is the problem. If you do hire someone who turns out to be someone who is hard to get along with, then offer training if appropriate. If that doesn’t work, then get rid of them. Don’t waste your resources on a bad hire and don’t ruin everyone else’s productivity level and your corporate culture because the toxic person you hired happens to produce certain favourable results. Attitude is everything. Your business will thrive the most when all of your employees are acting in the best interest of the team’s objectives for the company. One person putting his or her personal needs first (financial, promotional, etc) destroys the dynamic of the team and the greater results of the company. Even if they are producing, the team as a whole would do much better without the toxic member’s input.

Showing your employees that you have zero tolerance for abusive or difficult people will strengthen their commitment to your company and increase their overall level of engagement. Also, when your company gains a reputation for being a great place to work, you’ll find your hiring pool to be loaded with excellent candidates. After all, who wouldn’t love to work for a company that prides itself on maintaining respect and dignity in the workplace?

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An employee hands his resignation into his manager. The boss is surprised and disappointed. This guy was his best worker. He thought he was really engaged and had high hopes for him. When he asks his departing employee why he is leaving the company, the employee simply states he received a better opportunity from someone else.

What really happened? Do engaged employees really quit their jobs to pursue better opportunities? No they don’t. Being an engaged employee means being very committed to what you are doing with your current employer. It means your work is challenging enough, you are comfortable with the corporate culture, you feel like you are a part of the greater vision and you are making a measurable difference. Engaged employees do not quit. Not ever. It is only when they become disillusioned, frustrated, fearful, or experience some other negative emotion that they become disengaged and then quit “for a better opportunity”. That phrase, “a better opportunity” is really a euphemism for, “you suck”.

So what were the game changing moves that caused your precious employee to become disengaged? It is really important to ask yourself what went wrong. When you lose employees, you need to take it personally, because it is personal. They may not hate you as a person, but you somehow failed them from a management perspective and you will continue to lose employees if you do not reflect on the real circumstances of their departure.

Reflecting on the circumstances will allow you to get to the real issue. Don’t blow off the excuses. Drill down and find the truth you need to see. The employee will never tell you the whole truth, so you need to put your thinking cap on and drop your ego into the garbage bin. If they tell you they need more money, for example, they are more likely telling you they feel taken advantage of (money is rarely, if ever an issue for engaged employees). You need to then ask yourself why they would feel taken advantage of. What did you do to make them feel that way?

Taking the time to reflect on your failings as a leader will allow you to improve your skills. Asking yourself what you could have done differently and remodelling your style, so to speak, will give you better results as you endeavour to keep employee engagement at a high level.

Here are some of the real reasons people become disengaged and quit their jobs:
1. Something damaged the relationship between the manager and the employee
2. Doesn’t fit in with co-workers
3. Feels their job may be in jeopardy
4. Feels taken advantage of
5. Feels unsupported
6. Feels unappreciated
7. Confused about expectations
8. Embarrassed by performance of co-workers/company (lots of mistakes and angry customers)
9. Lack of equipment needed to perform quality work
10. No future opportunities for advancement or improvement
11. Negative corporate culture
12. Bored with tasks (work feels meaningless and unchallenging)
13. Personal values conflict with corporate values or scope of job
14. Life changes (spouse gets transfer, illness, etc)
Except for number 14, all of the above mentioned reasons can be dealt with before employees decide to quit. Communication is the key. Building rapport with your employees and fostering an environment of trust, excellence, respect and integrity will help you a lot.

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In his book, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill suggested that people who want to be successful in business assemble a group of like minded business people and form a mastermind group. Mastermind groups, are essentially support groups. No one can be successful on their own, so a mastermind group is a wonderful resource for entrepreneurs. It is a place where business people can get advice, build strategy and become more effective.

I’ve recently started running mastermind groups for people who want to improve their business results. I love these groups! There is nothing like being able to benefit from the experiences of other people. It is also wonderful to be able to interact with people who are as interested in your success as they are in their own. Not all entrepreneurs have a supportive and understanding family, so getting support from like minded individuals can be vital to creating a successful business.

There are many kinds of mastermind groups. Some focus on building a particular element of a business (like my sales and marketing groups and my leadership groups) while others keep a more open format and use it as a forum to receive input from others regarding nagging problems. Whatever the focus of your group, it is important that all members have the right attitude. Here are some things you need to keep in mind when using mastermind groups to support your business:

Be willing to give. Your input is essential to the success of the group. Be willing to offer advice, give referrals, or do whatever you can to help other members of the group.

Be willing to receive. If members are expected to be generous with their time and advice, then as a member, you must also be willing to receive input from others, even when it may seem a little harsh. The higher purpose of the group is to create a foundation for success. If you are unwilling to accept the advice and assistance of other group members, then you shouldn’t be there.

State your challenges and ask for help. In a mastermind group, every member of the group will have an allotted time to state their challenges and ask for help. Doing this will help you grow so don’t be intimidated. Take the floor when you have the opportunity.

Keep your co-members secrets safe. The mastermind group is meant to be a safe haven for its members. No member should ever disclose what happens in the meetings. If members are to be open about their business goals and challenges, then it is essential that each member is honoured by keeping secrets confidential.

Set goals. Every meeting should provide members with a set of goals to work on. Your group leader along with the other members of the group can help you clarify your objectives. Once you know what they are, write them down and treat them like a homework assignment.

Create an action plan. Use your time in the meeting to create an action plan. The other members of the group, along with your leader will hold you accountable. If you’ve ever had difficulty committing to goals and following an action plan on your own, then the group will really help you achieve things!

Have fun! Take the opportunity to enjoy being among a group of helpful, success oriented people. Be open to developing lasting relationships with the group members and be prepared to have a good time together. We are most creative when we are relaxed and having fun. Let the group bring out the best in you!

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It may seem shallow, but we all judge books by their covers and we all create impressions of people based on what we see.  When people look at your appearance, they pass judgement about your income level, your education, your morality, your social status, your degree of sophistication, how successful you are and your trustworthiness.

How your employees perceive you will affect the degree to which they can take you seriously and that will affect the results you get from them.  If you come to work looking like you picked your clothes out of a pile at the bottom of your closet, that screams incompetence, and no one wants to follow someone who is incompetent.

Anyone who has had to hire people can tell you about the number of candidates that come through the door dressed like they’re going to a ball game or the grocery store. Managers sometimes think that because they are the boss, they can wear what they want, so they come to work with torn jeans, wrinkled shirts or stains on their clothes.

Never go to work looking unkempt or really out of style. It affects your credibility. A bad dye job or hair showing 3 inches of dark roots looks horrible. Not getting your hair cut, neglecting to shave or keep a neat beard says that you are a slob. Men with long nails and ladies who don’t wear any makeup to work create the wrong impression. Take the time to look after your appearance. Your employees will be much more receptive to whatever you have to say if you are not visually offensive.

I have seen bosses who regularly came to work smelling of booze from the night before. It’s hard to respect someone who shows no self-control in their life and doesn’t respect the work environment enough to come to work ready for the job at hand. Sorry, but no one is at their best when they are hung over.

If you don’t look right for the job, then you won’t be taken seriously, and you will have difficulty developing rapport with your employees and other co-workers.

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Not getting the results you want? We all get stuck from time to time as we struggle to achieve our desired goals. This happens to all of us and there are many sources for this problem that need to be analyzed if we are going to come up with an effective solution. Sometimes we stagnate because we are more focussed on the problem than the solution. Sometimes we are too close to the problem to really see the whole picture, and sometimes we are simply distracted by things that invade our mental space and occupy our time. I like to call those misaligned priorities because they seem to demand our attention but do not actually move us toward our goals.

Getting to where you want to be means remaining committed to your goals. I am a very goal driven person, and I get extremely frustrated when things don’t happen for me. Sometimes my tenacity bugs people, because I am like a dog with a bone. I absolutely cannot let go. When the voices around me tell me to let the goal go, I will still push myself to get there. I remember reading in Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich that one of the common traits of successful people is the willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. Whenever I think of that, I strengthen my resolve to keep going and try to find better ways to get there.

Doing whatever it takes means you need to ask yourself some different questions in order to find better solutions. One question I like to ask myself is, “What am I going to do today to bring me closer to my goal?” This question forces focussed action, and since nothing happens without action, it must drive you closer to achieving your goal. After that question, you have to ask yourself what your intended outcome is and examine whether or not the action will indeed bring you closer to your goal.

Another question I like to ask is, “Who can help me?” No one can be successful alone. Everyone who has ever achieved anything worthwhile had someone in their corner. Figure out which relationships you can leverage to get the kind of assistance you need. Before you do this, though, take the time to think of as many things as possible that will help you. For example, you may think all you need is a good business referral, but there may be some other things that could be even more valuable to you. Take the time to reflect on what these could be, then go out and find someone to help you.

Flexibility is really important if you want to achieve a particular goal. A goal may remain unchanged or may need to be modified slightly. Be prepared to modify both your goals and the way you think about your business or career. Ask yourself if there is something more or different that you could be doing. Does your market need to change? Does your product or service need to change? Is your approach inefficient? What do you need to do differently?

In developing questions to ask yourself, put a little pressure on yourself to come up with different questions and solutions each time. By doing the same thing day after day you will not create better results, so insist on changing it up. Only perform actions that produce something. If you can’t cultivate the results you want by repeatedly performing the same action, you must be prepared to do something else. For example, writing a blog requires you to perform the same action repeatedly and doesn’t necessarily produce immediate business results. What it does do, is cultivate opportunities. If no one is reading it, however, it is a waste of time.

Are your wheels spinning or turning? Are you stuck in a rut or are you driving on the road ahead? Try asking some different questions and if you need help, find a friend, a mentor or a coach who can push you to ask the right questions and develop great solutions.

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 I like Seth Godin. I subscribe to his blog and just today received his posting called The Paralysis of Unlimited Opportunity. It made me think about all the distraction we face in our work lives and wonder how many of us are compromising productivity due to a lack of focus. How many of us possess the drive, ambition, know-how and desire to succeed but are distracted by a million little nothings in our day? You know what I mean; web-sites, phone calls, text messages, family, and life in general. It is easy to get pulled in a million directions. How many of us spend too much time sifting through email that adds no value to our lives? Are you spending more time waiting for opportunities than creating them? Are you flogging dead horses even though you know you are not Jesus Christ and cannot give life to the dead? Is this the paralysis of unlimited opportunity or just the paralysis of having a distracted and undisciplined nature? Maybe you are just spending too much time tuning into the white noise of being busy doing nothing.

Here are some tips to help you get around this:

1. Know what you are working toward. Have a very clear purpose, write it down and decide what exactly you need to do to achieve this. Failure to do this will result in your swirling in a sea of white noise for eternity.

2. Turn off the white noise at the end of every day and make a list of priorities for the following day. Your day isn’t done until you’ve accomplished them and written out new ones for the next day.

3. Find someone to hold you accountable. Having a friend at work or even outside of work who can participate in this with you is very effective. Your friend should also be setting goals and reporting to you. You can’t meet every week and have none of your goals achieved; it’s way too embarrassing! Mutual accountability is great for helping you move things along.

4. Read books that motivate you. Filling your head with fluff will result in your being less productive. A commitment to reading or listening to books that inspire you to achieve more, develop important skills and increase your expertise will allow you to become much more productive.

5. Hire a coach. I do provide private leadership coaching to my clients, and it is not terribly expensive. There are many ways to access coaching with the technology that exists today. If all of the above isn’t helping you, consider hiring someone who specializes in working with others to enhance performance.

Taking action to  overcome your white noise will be the difference that gives you an edge and will allow you to be all that you can be. Do something. As Seth Godin says in his blog post, just don’t do nothing.

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Don’t you hate working with people who have no desire to help or do anything beyond what is written in their job description? Isn’t it frustrating to have to wait for some important information to come from a co-worker who takes her sweet old time getting things done and holds up everyone else?

I once saw a T-shirt that read, “Lead, follow or get out of the way!” I can’t tell you how many times I have come across people who made me think of that line. I do get frustrated by those who refuse to take the lead, but aren’t willing to either follow or get out of the way. How do you overcome the hurdles of working with uncooperative people? No matter what your position in a company, everyone needs to learn how to gain willing cooperation from others. Here are a few tips to help you bring about action when you need it the most:

Try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Before you allow yourself to get upset about not being able to move forward on a project, take a moment to think about the other person’s priorities. The world shouldn’t have to stop and come running to help you because you have a sudden need.

Taking the time to politely explain your case and the reason why your need is so urgent, could also be helpful. Sometimes people are unwilling to do things because they either don’t fully understand why they must be done, or they don’t understand the task. Make sure you are very clear about expressing your needs. Never be demanding or hostile. That is the fast way to get shut down.

Use what you learn about your co-worker’s needs as leverage. Knowledge is power. Asking him about the projects he is working on will allow you to better understand his needs. The more you know about your co-worker’s needs the more likely you will be able to offer assistance. Offering to help him out on another project in exchange for a favour, for example, may be enough for you to get things rolling again. It’s all about give and take. You can’t expect to just take all the time. Be prepared to lend a hand whenever the need arises.

Maintain a generous spirit. People like to help likeable people. Make a point of saying hello to your co-workers and take an interest in what they have to say and the things they like to do. People love to talk about themselves, they love to hear their name and they love to hear nice things about themselves. Always be sincere in your interest and comments to others and only say nice things. The warmer and friendlier you are with the people you work with, the better your relationships will be all around.

Bring in a treat once in a while. Everybody loves a little treat. Nothing says you’re special like a surprise cup of java or a batch of cookies. It doesn’t cost much to do and the return on investment is priceless!

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