Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Keeping Up with the Jones’ When You Travel

April 15th 2011

The following is a guest post by Ripley Daniels.  I’m sure any of you who travel or even if you are very active and mobile in your own community will find these tips useful!

Working while traveling is telecommuting, but taken to a whole new level. You’ll have to develop work arounds to help you deal with fluctuating email and Internet access, and if you travel internationally, you’ll want to bring a nice set of international outlet converters along (yes, you’ll need different converters in different countries). You’ll have to keep track of colleagues working in different time zones while coping with jet lag yourself. And you’ll want to do all of this while traveling light. Here are a few tips to keep you on track and help you to avoid making yourself crazy:

Travel Light

All travelers are happier if they have less to carry. It just works that way. Moreover, airlines will charge you overage fees if your luggage is too heavy – i.e., if you’ve stuffed it full of books and papers. The solution is to pack whatever you can in lightweight electronic format. Scan the papers you need to bring along into pdf format (and back them up in some kind of Cloud format that you can access if you experience some kind of emergency that involves breaking your laptop or losing your backup drive). Bear in mind that you can use an iPod or MP3 player as a back-up computer hard drive, if you have one with plenty of extra space. Even if you don’t, it might be worth the investment to buy a used 16 GB iPod simply for storage purposes – iPods are about the slimmest, most lightweight, and hence most easily portable hard drives on the market. You’ll have no problem making room for one in your carry-on or laptop case.

Plan to Work On and Offline

The Cloud is the traveler’s friend, giving you emergency access to your files if you end up having to reach them from someone else’s computer, but don’t rely too heavily on the documents you’ve stored in Google Documents or Dropbox or in a Huddle workspace. While you’re traveling, those documents are there as emergency backup. Your working documents are the ones you have with you, the ones you can access and continue to work on offline, during times of spotty Internet access. Plan to work offline most of the time, and have a plan to make the most of the few minutes of Internet access that you may have here and there. Your plan should include:

  1. Remote Access and Data
    • A resident email program on your laptop that will download your email for you to read and respond to offline.
    • A travel email plan to keep you from getting bogged down reading junk email. You may want to set up a new email account purely for use while you are traveling. Then, configure your current account to forward only those emails that you know you will want to see. Or, arrange for an assistant or virtual assistant to check and respond to your email for you, forwarding to you only those emails that urgently require your immediate attention.
    • A remote access plan to give you access to your home or office desktop computer while you are away. If you forget to bring a file that you have on your desktop, it may save you enormous time and hassle to be able to access your home computer. With a program such as LogMeIn or TeamViewer, you can not only pull up the files on your desktop from a distance, but you can also attach a file from your desktop to an email message – which can be very handy when you get a panicked call from a colleague asking if you have another copy of a document that you finished and sent off two months ago. Some types of remote access software will let you network your various devices – your desktop, your laptop, your mobile phone, or even a flashdrive, so that you can easily access files on any device from any other device. However, if your needs are more limited, and if you are running Windows, you may find that the built in Remote Desktop Connection in Windows is enough for you – check in the Accessories folder of your Start menu.
    • A program like Mozilla Firefox’s Read It Later add-on, which will allow you to save interesting sites on the Internet and find email marketing lists that you can refer to when you return home and have time to putz around on the Internet again.
    • A program such as FeedDemon that will download updates to websites that you regularly read, such as newspaper websites, for you to review offline.
  2. Plan Your Collaborations

If your profession involves working closely with several colleagues, you will want to come up with a plan for collaborating with them from afar. Fortunately, this is not difficult, as many people collaborate from a distance full-time these days, even when not traveling. The basics of your collaboration plan might include:

  • A shared online workspace, such as Huddle. A workspace such as this can be a centralized way to do many of the ideas that I’ve suggested individually – many such programs offer whiteboards, file sharing, telephone conferencing, and can integrate with calendar programs.
  • A place to store shared notes and documents. This could be the shared online workspace mentioned above, or it could be something simpler, such as an Evernote or Stixy account that you set up for a particular project. An Evernote account will allow you to store notes, webpages, copies of pdf documents…anything. Or you could set up an online Wiki file for your project, allowing all the members (or just particular members) of your team to make changes to your project guidelines, for example, as needed. Evernote is set up for individuals, but Stixy is meant for teams of people collaborating together.
  • Try using online collaborative brainstorming or writing software, such as Wridea , Writeboard, ReviewBasics, or EditGrid – there are many such applications out there, and quite a few of them are free. Some of these applications, such as Writeboard, can also be used by an individual to save multiple versions of a document, making it easy for you to roll back to an earlier version if necessary.
  • You might want to set up an email newsgroup, such as Google or Yahoo Groups, to allow you to send information and updates about your schedule to many different colleagues simultaneously. Or have your friends, colleagues, and family members follow you on Twitter, and tweet to your network when you need everyone to know something that will fit into a short tweet. But be careful about publically available tweets when you are broadcasting potentially private information, such as dates when you will be away from home.

Finally, for colleagues, friends and family members who need to know your travel schedule and itinerary, it just makes sense to post your travel details on an online calendar, such as Google Calendar, that you can grant access to as needed. That way, if you are out of touch (on a plane or away from an Internet access point), your colleagues can still check to find out when you are due at a particular location. If you are using a shared online workspace such as Huddle, you might want to post your travel itinerary there, instead.

Happy travels!

Ripley Daniels is an editor at Without the Stress, a passport, travel visa, and immigration advisory firm located in Los Angeles.

Posted by Mike King under Business | 6 Comments »

100 Ways to Ace an Interview and Interview Questions

March 7th 2011

Interview Tips

There is a lot of advice on the internet about preparing for interviews and how to answer specific questions and while much of that is useful, there is not that much content out there that helps with the small behaviors that make a big difference in an interview.  I’ve been hiring and interviewing people now for over 5 years and I have paid close attention to the signs that people exhibit in their interviews to reveal what they are really like.

Behaviors of a person speak a lot louder than words as it is very hard to change your behaviors on the spot, unlike prepared answers, which are easy to remember and be prepared for.  Behaviors will take time to practice, make a much bigger impact and its important to know what behaviors work well in an interview so you can practice them in advance and learn the techniques as habits.  In fact, many of these behaviors are great to have for general business interactions, not just interviews so they are well worth learning.

It seems I have an amusing story on just about every one of these items where someone does very poorly in an interview and it shows clearly their lack of preparation and/or poor behavior habits.  So, I hope you learn something from this list,  it was fun to make and highlight the things I’ve seen and now look for in the interview process and I truly hope they help you in some way. Please add your own ideas in comments, add a story about one of these or any remark about interviewing behaviors.

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Interview Tips – Prepare for a Good First Impression

      1. Take a shower, you want to smell neutralinterview tips
  • Be clean shaven or at least freshly trimmed
  • Use a mint or breath freshener instead of chewing gum
  • Go VERY light on any perfume, deoderant or cologne, you don’t want it to be noticed really
  • Dress above the normal dress code, if any.  When in doubt, overdress
  • Wear black dress shoes that don’t stand out, and polish them if they need it
  • Be early.  Late for an interview without at least 30 minutes notice has no excuse
  • Never arrive more than 10 minutes early. Wait in your car, walk around the block or wait nearby without announcing yourself too early
  • Ensure you are flexible and available for scheduling interviews if you want to be taken seriously
  • Clean up your social media presence and make things private that you wouldn’t want an employer to see.  Trust me, they do look and it can make a difference.  In fact, you should always keep your social media presence professional as there is no way to really remove things, so keep it presentable at all times.
  • Prepare your introduction pitch as you will usually have a couple minutes to introduce yourself, your background and brief history
  • Practice responding to many typical questions and behavior questions
  • If given a choice learn how to win at roulette and always avoid an interview over lunch.  Its messy, complicated and much riskier to leaving a good impression.
  • If you have a phone interview, still dress up, smile and show enthusiasm even if they are not in the room to see it because they will hear it instead!
  • The first couple minutes are often casual just as you are getting comfortable.  Lead this if possible (but only for a couple minutes) to show confidence and to prevent any awkward first impressions.

Interview Tips – What to Have / Bring With You

      1. Bring copies of your resumeinterview tips
  • Bring a few sheets of paper to make notes on
  • Bring a quality pen for writing with
  • Have your own notes and preparation in a small, thin notebook or on index cards
  • A simple, small bag but absolutely no electronics, laptops, large project samples or excess papers
  • Leave your phone turned OFF, vibrate is still distracting and can be heard so simply turn it off
  • Leave your phone out of sight and do not check it, even while waiting
  • Better yet, leave your phone in your car and not on your person
  • Have your references ready and a sheet to provide in case you are asked for them
  • Do your research to bring some knowledge about the companies vision, products, recent news releases and changes to the business
  • Also, gain knowledge of major competitors and recent important activity in the industry

Interview Tips – Personal Behaviors

      1. Be friendly to EVERYONE you encounter while waiting for an interview, as you never know who you might meet
  • That includes smiling at people you see
  • Chat with the receptionist, be friendly
  • Read any company literature available while waiting, not a magazine.  Things like pamphlets, awards, posters, etc.
  • Note any questions that arise from what you read or learn from chatting with people before the interview.
  • Introduce yourself professionally, state your full name and a brief comment or pleasantry such as “Nice to meet you”
  • Always clarify the pronunciation or name you heard if you are unsure, so that you can use it again.
  • Ensure you remember the person’s names you are introduced to
  • Learn to shake hands professionally and never give a weak frail handshake
  • Look a person in the eye when you meet them and shake their hand
  • Maintain appropriate eye contact and well all interviewers equality when not answering a direct question
  • Keep excellent posture
  • Lean forward a little to stay attentive and show interest
  • Keep your hands/arms in your lap or on the table, never cross them or fold them behind your head
  • Its OK to cross your legs, but men, its not OK to rest your foot up on your knee
  • Breathe deeply and calmly to help you relax
  • If you forget something or don’t understand, just ask the interviewer to please repeat it

Interview Tips – Interaction and Communication

      1. Ask where to sit or wait for instruction on where to sit
  • Accept any offer for water if you don’t already have some, but don’t complicate it with coffee or special instruction
  • Elaborate in your responses, an interviewer learns the most by how you describe things and respond
  • State you need a moment to think, when you need a moment to think, don’t just sit silently
  • Be honest, yet positive.  Any lies are easily detected by a good interviewer, trust me
  • Also be yourself and let your personality expose itself as you interact, there is nothing worse than someone not believing you were authentic
  • Know every word and detail on your resume, expect to be asked to explain something from it
  • Reword a question or a response if you don’t understand or are not being understood
  • Ask after a short responses if they would like you to go in to more detail (if you have more you could add) instead of just going on and on
  • If you have questions, ask them during the interview if that topic comes up, but don’t direct the interviewer off topic, they DO have an agenda and you don’t know it
  • Let the interviewer stay in control of the interview, they want to get their questions answered before having to answer yours
  • Look to identify the interviewer’s communication style and behavioral style (such as the D.i.S.C. model) to better understand what they may be most interested in
  • Show some enthusiasm as you communicate and in your responses especially


Interview Tips – Answering Questions

    1. Listen carefully and patiently for an interviewer to finish their question, NEVER interrupt!
    2. Think for a moment about what they are really asking for before you dive in and answer what first comes to mind
    3. You should always strive to use examples or stories in your answers to show practical application, not just knowledge
    4. Be vulnerable with the weakness question.  Lame weaknesses often considered a positive is a bad answer.  Put something realistic and tell about how it has been a struggle, which you are changing and what you still need to do about it.  Don’t fake or discount a weakness as something easy to fix, as that is a very weak answer.
    5. Make sure you highlight strengths not on their own, but why they are strengths in your mind for this specific job.  Your strengths must be useful in your role and fill a need or they are not advantages.
    6. Tell me about yourself is that exactly, yourself.  Not your job history and work experience, but you, as a person. The questions about your work history are coming.  It’s fine to focus your answer on work related things, but talk about your interests, career shifts or major changes / decisions and things that are important to you.  Your background, major travel history and other personal items may be of interest and give insight to who you are, but don’t get deep into unrelated topics like family, hobbies, sports, etc at this point, since its usually early in an interview that this is asked
    7. Salary expectations should never be shared until you have an offer.  Simply state you will consider any competitive offer and expect it to be comparable in the industry
    8. Use questions to show that you are well prepared and you researched some thing about the company to form your questions from
    9. Its best to admit when you don’t know something or can’t answer a question, instead of given some vague or incorrect answer pretending you are right.  You’re not fooling anyone.
    10. Highlight transferable skills in your responses if you don’t have a lot of experience or relevant experience and express your confidence that you will apply and perform in a new area
    11. Often interviewers ask two part questions to see if you were listening and respond to both.  Make sure you think about answering both parts and don’t loose sight of a second part if there is one.
    12. When a question comes up that you don’t know the answer to, this can be a great opportunity to assure them that you would love to learn more about that for the role and expand your experience
    13. Don’t assume people know acronyms or organizations you mention, always ask or elaborate on what things are to ensure they understand your responses
    14. Never bad mouth previous companies or co-workers, if there were negatives to address, make it specific about a decision, strategy, shift in process or some other behavior, but not personal.  Only use something like this if you are answering a question directly or it is used to demonstrate overcoming that particular obstacle.

Interview Tips – Asking Questions

    1. Absolutely never, ever ask about compensation, benefits or bonus in an interview.  Those discussions come once you know they want you or have an offer for you.
    2. Ask questions that are a level above the specific role you are applying for to show you can think beyond the expected role.  Think about things your boss would be interested in or looking for and ask questions to have them answer something they are familiar and passionate about.  Showing interest in things they are interested in is best here.
    3. Ask questions that fit their D.i.S.C. behavioral (or another personality) profile you detect during the interview, to ask what interests them most
    4. Ask about events or news releases about the company to show you’ve done some research but ensure it is a meaningful question that you genuinely want to know about and discuss.
    5. Plan your questions to be a discussion with several more short probing questions
    6. Have questions to ask  that cover multiple areas: the business itself, products or projects you’ll be involved in, responsibilities and the role itself, the work culture and environment, expectations and performance
    7. Use open ended questions, not closed questions since they can be awkward and come across shallow and meaningless to the interviewer
    8. Asking questions about something you learned during the interview or read while waiting can show your curiosity and intelligence if the question is suitable
    9. Don’t ask excessive questions and focus on the most intelligent ones.  Instead of going on endlessly with questions, state you have more questions but would be happy to ask them at the next opportunity or at another meeting.  This shows you respect their time and they will either agree or let you ask more (which is a sign they want to learn more about you, a good thing!)
    10. Use questions to show that you are well prepared and you researched some thing about the company to form your questions from
    11. Experience questions can often be answered with examples from volunteering work or clubs or sports.  Think about ways to highlight outside areas and if possible, tie that behavior back to the workplace as well.

Interview Tips – Closing and Exiting

hire me

    1. Ensure you restate with enthusiasm that you want an offer and how you will best contribute to the company if you get one
    2. Tell them you would love the opportunity to discuss more, meet other team members or see some of the work environments or products if applicable
    3. Get contact details and permission to contact any of the interviewers if you have more questions
    4. Ensure you thank the interviewers for the opportunity to meet, again stating you hope to proceed and am exciting to come back again
    5. Shake hands when you leave and wish them politely to have a great day
    6. Leave promptly when the time comes and show you respect their time by not dilly dallying around and wasting any time

Interview Tips – Follow Up

  1. Assess your interview immediately after leaving
  2. Note all the items or skills that were of particular interest
  3. Prepare any extra comments or questions about those important areas for the next opportunity with them
  4. Review what questions you were not prepared well for, or found difficult to answer
  5. Write out and practice answering those questions again
  6. Note what further information or questions you have before you would accept an offer
  7. Contact the interviewer the following day as well as anyone else you met and got contact details from
  8. Be polite, thank them for the time to meet and restate why you can fill the role and that you are wanting to proceed to the next stage or receive an offer
  9. Include a new example (if brief) about how your skills or experience will fill the role or a specific need you learned during the interview
  10. Never push the interviewers for an answer when following up, but don’t be afraid to call several times.  Things get in the way all the time and can delay an expected hiring process.
  11. Make sure you have voice mail with a personal greeting recorded so any call backs hear your voice directly
  12. Always follow up with any call backs and offers, even if it is not what you want.  Be honest and discuss options or changes that would convince you or why you have made a decision one way or another.
  13. Call all of your references you provided to give them a heads up about the interview, the company they can expect to call and if there are any points you recommend they share if appropriate.

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Posted by Mike King under Business | 25 Comments »

Finding a Job You Love: Stop Insisting on Looking for a Job You’ll Hate

January 25th 2011

I have another guest post this week and have to say, this is an entertaining one on typical job searching irony.  I hope you appreciate the humor as much as I do!

Have you ever wondered why so many people hate Mondays? Obviously it’s because they hate to go to work. But why would you hate to go to work? Why would you even apply for a job that you hate? These sound like naïve questions, but they truly are not. If a job is not the right fit for you, the best advice I can give you is to give it a pass. You’ll save yourself and your prospective employer a big waste of time. But, I’m here to help. If you insist on applying for a job that you are bound to hate, try these tips – they might just help!

  1. Apply only for jobs within a particular salary range. Of course, you have to feed your family, pay your rent, and keep the cable guy in business. But is that high paying job really worth the misery? If you think it is, then go through the job listings with that salary range in mind. If you want to be absolutely certain that you don’t end up with a lower paying job, mention your preferred salary range in your cover letter. There are plenty of employers out there who will appreciate your slavish insistence on money over job satisfaction (see ams fulfillment)
  2. Apply only for jobs within a particular geographic location. I know, you like the city you live in, you grew up there, and your entire family lives there. And having a support network of friends and family can be important if you have kids. But ask yourself if that support network is really worth the daily grind of working at a job that makes you groan and hide your head under the pillow every morning when your alarm goes off.
  3. Apply only for jobs in a large company with plenty of room for advancement. You don’t want to suffer in that entry-level job forever. Nobody does. But the days when the average worker started in the mailroom and worked his or her way up to become the CEO of a large company are long gone. I’m not saying that you can’t do that, but you are much more likely to work your way up the ladder of success quickly if you are willing to make horizontal jumps from one company to another – and that means that it doesn’t really matter if you work for a small organization or a large one. As for becoming CEO one day – that’s not likely to happen unless you start your own company. But if working your way up in one company is your dream, by all means, go for it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
  4. Apply only for jobs that offer good benefits and plenty of vacation time. I cannot overemphasize this point – it is all important when you are searching for a job that you plan to hate. After all, if you hate your job, you will want plenty of time off from it. And you certainly are going to need good personal health insurance for all the stress-related ailments you are likely to develop. Plan now for the diverticulitis, weight gain, depression, fatigue and heart attack that may lie in your future!
  5. Apply only for jobs that have regular 9 to 5 hours. Again, this point cannot be overemphasized. If you hate your job, the last thing you want is to have it encroach on your personal time. You don’t want to be working late hours or weekends. You are going to be miserable enough as it is! Why prolong the agony?

If you insist on applying for a job that you are bound to hate, go ahead and try my tips. But I have to tell you that I can think of one, and only one reason to set your cap for a job you hate. If you spend enough
time miserable at work, you will be able to really, truly appreciate the movie Office Space.

Brendan Cruickshank (Vice President of Client Services) – Brendan is a veteran of the online job search and recruiting industry, having spent the past 8 years in senior client services roles with major sites like Juju.com and JobsInTheMoney.com. He is quoted regularly as an expert in employment and jobs trends in major media outlets like the Washington Post, US News & World Report, and Forbes and has spoken at recruiting industry events such as Onrec and Kennedy Information’s Corporate Recruiting Conference.

Posted by Mike King under Business | 10 Comments »

Take Back your Life: Looking for a Career Change

December 17th 2010

I have another great guest post to share this week on the topic of career change. The article is written by Olivia McHenery. I’m happy to see her using a concept from three signs of a miserable job, a fantastic book by Patrick Lencioni, I just recently reviewed.

Have you ever caught yourself saying these things or asking these questions?

  • “I hate my job.”
  • “I never have time to do anything I want because of work.”
  • “I never get to see my family.”
  • “I thought life began after college?”

Do you hate your job? Maybe at scientific animations? Is your career keeping you from living a life as fully as possible? You’re not alone: Recent studies have found that 6 in 10 workers are unhappy in their current job(s). Job security has become increasingly scarce and is more important to many people than actually loving what they do. However, if you are laboring in a career you genuinely don’t enjoy, you may be hurting yourself more than your paycheck is helping. The stress associated with working in a job that is not satisfying and/or stimulating can take years off your lifeline, take a toll on your family and marriage, and cause full blown depression and anxiety attacks.

Nevertheless, before you march into your boss’s office and quit, assess whether or not you are exhibiting the three signs of job misery:

1.) Anonymity – Feeling that management and leadership does not care about or value you as an individual with a unique life, goals, and interests.

2.) Irrelevance – You do not see how your job makes a difference, or impacts anybody’s life in any way. The tasks you do have no meaning or end result that you can tangibly see and/or feel.

3.) Immeasurement – Inability to measure your successes and contributions to your employer.

If you are experiencing all three of these signs, it is time for you to really consider whether or not you want to stick with your current job, or start looking into a career change. Despite any reluctance, you must ask yourself, what is your joy and happiness worth to you? There are several steps you need to go through when planning a career change, and they certainly do not begin with quitting your current job. You can start your career change plan years in advance, putting yourself in a better position when it’s time to take the plunge.

1.) Assess what you like and what you dislike.

Even if your current job is the worst thing you have ever done, there is bound to be at least one thing about it that you enjoy. Can this enjoyable aspect of your job become a new career path for you? And in finding the activities you loathe about your current position, ask yourself what, if anything, would make these activities more enjoyable. From here, make a list of activities you really enjoy outside of the office and add this to your “likes” column. The key point in doing this exercise is rediscovering yourself; your passions, and what motivates you.

2.) Research new and alternative careers, focusing on what you discovered in step 1.

Now that you have rediscovered your passions, spend some time identifying careers that will center on these passions or will be complimented by them. Talk to professionals you respect about your decision to change careers and pick their brain(s) for ideas that will allow you to utilize your passions and form them into a career.

3.) What are your transferable skills?

Don’t underestimate the skills you have acquired in your present occupation. Use your current skills, experiences, and talents that are applicable to your chosen career path and accentuate them. Most likely, you already possess a good pool of skills that will transfer seamlessly into your new career.   It’s also a wise idea to become familiar with at
least one software product that can be used in many office jobs, such as Quickbooks Online for Accountants.

4.) Education, Training, and Schooling

An old adage states, “You never stop learning.” Be that as it may, your learning can become stagnant and your knowledge irrelevant. When plotting out a career change, it may be necessary to enroll in some online courses to supplement your skills with some new knowledge. This will apply regardless of what your new career path is. Want to be a massage therapist? Enroll in an online massage therapy school. Interested in pursuing accounting? You can get your MBA online in as little as two years. With enough planning, forethought, and perseverance, you can have a degree that will be relevant to your chosen career path before you leave your current job.

5.) Networking

Many professionals who are making a career change think they must build a new network from the ground up, neglecting the network they already have in place but are not fully cognizant of: family, friends, and colleagues. Utilize them for job leads and advice, and plug in to social gatherings that will help advance your career. In addition, join a professional organization or guild for the career you are shooting for, and attend their meetings, and be active on their message board(s).

6.) Internship or volunteer position

Remember that you are basically starting your career from scratch again. Taking an internship (paid or unpaid) or a volunteer position within your chosen field is an outstanding way to get valuable experience that will make you far more attractive as a job candidate.

7.) Search out an adviser

Preferably someone who has had success in your chosen field, but is also familiar with the potential pitfalls and traps that lie ahead. You can also plug into your adviser’s network and find your future job this way. If you don’t feel comfortable asking somebody to be your adviser, man up and drop your pride off at the door; most professionals will be honored that you are asking them to advise you and will be glad to take you under their wing.

8.) Consider changing careers, but not employers

Since you already have your foot firmly in the door at your current employer, inquire as to whether they have any positions there that will line up with your new career. It may be as simple as transferring departments, saving you months of time and hassle in the job search.

9.) Brush up on your job-hunting skills

Things have changed significantly in the job-search world in the past 10 years. There are numerous free tutorials online that will prepare you for what’s out there in the job hunting wilderness, and will equip you with the weapons you will need to survive and thrive.

10.) Be open-minded

Things are most likely going to change for you dramatically now that you’re changing careers. You need to keep an open mind and be flexible regarding your status, pay, benefits, and relocation. Expect some bumps in the road and maintain a positive attitude that while change is hard, change is also good. Set progressive goals for yourself with reasonable time tables and feasible outcomes. Ironically, quitting your current, misery inducing job may be a very hard decision for you to make. There is going to be a certain level of fear and trepidation that will nag at you while you are running through the ten steps, and you may want to throw in the towel and play it safe because of this. Just remember WHY you are pursuing a new career path and play your life’s tape forward: How satisfied with life do you want to be in 20 years?

Bio: Olivia is married and the mother of 3 daughters. She studied Communications and Business in college. She works in maintenance for an online schools website. In her spare time she likes to create bouquets and various flower arrangements for miscellaneous events.

Posted by Mike King under Business | 6 Comments »

Risky Business: It’s One Way to Build a Breakthrough Team

October 1st 2010

The following is a guest post by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, authors of a new book called, The Orange Revolution.  They’ve sent me a book for review and am happy to have this guest article from them as a sample of their work and how one breakthrough team can make such a difference!

As any gambler knows, in order to win, you have to be willing to place the big bet. In business terms, of course, big bets can be risky, and yet when multi-million dollar business wagers do pay off, legends are made. In writing The Orange Revolution, we traveled to Somers, New York, for an amazing example.

A Guru Assembles a Team

When Rajendra Gursahaney introduced himself he extended a hand and said, “Hello, I’m Guru.” His real title is Pepsi Beverages Company’s Senior Director of Engineering; the honorific “guru” has been thrust upon him by his peers.

Now Guru is truly brilliant, but he knows he can’t build world-changing bottling systems alone, especially when this self-proclaimed “cowboy” likes to take risks to improve the process. Case in point: the reason we met with Guru. Two years ago he took an extreme risk when he formed a team that would either revolutionize the bottling industry or cost his company millions of dollars.

Without going into the science of the idea here, we can tell you that Guru’s company was about to roll out a new product line in Russia with Lipton Tea. As always, Pepsi was concerned about the cost, weight, and environmental impact of thick plastic bottles. Guru wanted to take a risk with this new product line that would create a thinner bottle using technology that had never been attempted before.

“I went to my boss with the idea. Nobody had ever tried it in our industry. It was a massive risk.”

We’ve often noted how upper management at progressive organizations such as Pepsi encourage a degree of risk-taking, as long as it based on the type of well-founded analysis that Guru had undertaken. To fail would mean reversing and buying three traditional machines at a cost of $7 to $8 million, not to mention months of delay. But if the idea worked, it would not only save millions per year per line in plastic costs, but could actually help the planet in a remarkable way. He added, “I know it’s a risk, but I think our team can make this work.”

Guru’s boss informed the organization of what they were about to try. And he told Guru that he would “fully support the team through the process.”

With his own belief and that of his boss, Guru assembled a team of people who weren’t afraid to risk, knowing that Pepsi would back them either way. Finally, after 14 months, the team had a bottle that withstood all the technical and aesthetic requirements.

A Sweet Outcome

To get an idea of the impact of this breakthrough team, here are some of the numbers: A traditional 1.5 liter bottle weighs 63 grams. Guru’s team made a bottle that weighs 48 grams. That’s a cost savings of about 2.2 cents per bottle. And remember, these lines produce up to 50,000 bottles an hour. Three lines have already been installed in Russia, so Pepsi Beverages Company forecasts savings of $2.5 million per line per year in plastic costs alone, adding up to $7.5 million in annual savings. And the environmental benefit for all of us is substantial.

Remarkably, Pepsi has decided not to patent this idea, but instead is letting the entire industry benefit by sharing this technology with anyone who would like to save money and reduce the carbon footprint of having to produce the resin for the bottle from a landfill and recycling perspective. It’s a great example of one team changing not only their company, but the world for the better.

In 2009, Guru was awarded PepsiCo’s “Best of the Best” Sustainability Prize, recognizing his efforts to reduce energy consumption and landfill impact. In Guru’s typically direct fashion, he admitted that he didn’t deserve the prize alone, so he shared the reward with the people on his team.

“This just goes to show you, if you get a group of people together who are like-minded, who know they can take a risk and you have their back, you can pretty much make anything happen,” he said.

How Breakout Teams Benefit from Risk

While risk is not the most popular word in boardrooms, improvement and creation demand it. It’s interesting that in the conversations we had with breakthrough team members for our new book, a similar insight emerged time and again: Individuals who created Wow for their current organizations admitted to being stifled in their past. Many reported having great ideas that, when they brought those ideas to leadership, were rejected—often because of the word ‘risk.’ Breakout teams see risk differently. They know risk is necessary, and they understand the impact—both positive and negative—of taking one.

What follows are just four few ideas to spark more smart ideas in your team:

  • Reward risk takers. It’s just as important to publicly praise those who succeed as those who fail if you want to encourage creativity.
  • Tell their stories. Share anecdotes about the innovators on your team, i.e., “Bill faced a similar problem when we were rolling out the CRM system, and he came to us with a great idea to try a new approach…”
  • Get other great minds involved. Edison didn’t invent the light bulb alone, Gates didn’t build Microsoft by himself, and Mother Theresa didn’t feed the hungry alone. They had other great minds working with them.
  • Be curious yourself. Study other great leaders in your organization. Lead out and take risks yourself. Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes, but also pat yourself on the back when your risks pay off.

New York Times bestselling authors Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton are the authors of The Orange Revolution: How one great team can transform an entire organization published September 20 from Free Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. Learn more at their site and blog at carrots.com.

Posted by Mike King under Business | Comments Off on Risky Business: It’s One Way to Build a Breakthrough Team

Fun in the Workplace

July 14th 2010

Anyone who knows me, knows I like to have a LOT of fun and that I really don’t take day to day life all that seriously. I can definitely put in some focused attention and get the job done and while I do that often, I don’t let it happen without any element of fun.  Fun is something I think so many people are lacking in life and its especially true about the workplace.  Many workplaces are places of sterile positioning and power struggles that you can’t just work together as a team, have fun doing it and still make great accomplishments.  In fact, I challenge you with the statement that any workplace that has fun doing their work, will get a lot more done because of the engagement between people and simply because people enjoy their work more when it is something they like to do.

Fun in the workplace comes in many flavors and obviously what I consider fun won’t necessarily be the exact fit for you or your workplace but my examples and suggestions here can easily serve as ideas for building your own fun work environment.  Not surprisingly, most elements of fun in the workplace require some imagination and fortunately, imagination and fun both lead to more innovation and ideas sharing among co-workers.  This is one of the many great impacts fun has on an organization as well, especially in one where design, innovation and new ideas are an important part of the company’s success.  It certainly is in mine and so fun brings even more than its most obvious personal benefits by also encouraging the visual and imaginative mind to do more than what is required for day to day tasks.

Elements of Fun

Personal enjoyment

Everyone wishes their jobs to be something they enjoy and fun adds an element that creates that feeling of enjoyment.  If the workplace is fun, you will ultimately like your work more and put more effort into it and be happier with the job. A good job helps make a person happy and can add a lot of fulfillment and personal enjoyment to a person’s life.

Sparks creativity and imagination

Fun in the workplace can come in many forms and many of those, such as humor, games, jokes, competitions, interesting challenges or systems with prizes require new ways of thinking, wit or cleverness, teamwork or challenge and other activities that trigger new ideas, thinking and creative work. Many people simply consider anything creative to be fun (I’m one of those people) so tasks that involve these elements are often close associated or even sparking new creativity, innovation and imagination among those involved.

Can be a strong change proponent

So fun will trigger people to think about have more fun, often improving systems and processes or tasks along the way to make them both effective and fun in the process. This creativity is a wonderful partner to fun when it triggers ideas and rally’s support for change.  Change is scary to many people and so making change part of something that is enjoyable takes the fear out of it and it helps to support the change instead of add fear to it.  The ideas that come from fun programs then often encourage or reinforce even more change and it can continue to feed on itself if the systems are dynamic enough to let fun steer some of the work tasks and processes.

Engages teams and cross functional teams more easily

Most things that are fun in the workplace will only be successful if they are done with multiple people and when people have a chance to work together or compete with one another doing it.  Many of the systems and programs I’ve seen that are fun are when multiple departments or teams come together.  This can be anything from team building exercizes or job sharing to competitions or social events.  Activities that bring people together from multiple areas that do not generally work together are more social, and even if the activities are entirely work focused, the new social aspect is fun, and engages people more than without these activities in place.  And its this engagement between teams then that really starts to benefit the organization as the company works more and more integrated among its people instead of in silos or separate areas.

Builds personal relationships faster for more effective teamwork

The engagement between teams just above obviously happens within teams as well and the advantage of this is that personal relationships are build faster among teams when they are having more fun in their work.  People interact more and communicate much more frequently during fun activities and ultimately, when they know each other better.  People with closer relationships understand one another well and can be much more effective as a team than people who do not know each other well.  This is the case in all areas of life and it works well in the workplace as well.  Fun in the workplace is simply an element that can encourage this to happy and provide the environment needed to allow effective teamwork.

Increases employee loyalty and lengthens employee service time

People who are happy doing something tend to do more of it or to do it longer and so this is certainly true when it comes to work.  If you like your job and work because you have a lot of fun doing it, you are more likely to stay. People who are more likely to stay, will provide more value to an organization through gained expertise, strong relationships and teamwork with colleagues and by reducing overall training time and learn curve ratios compared to their delivered results.  All can be had by using fun in the workplace to keep wanting to stay!

Examples of Fun in the Workplace

These are just some of the things I have experienced in my work environments or know of that help to promote a fun work environment:

  • Encouraging and allowing people to personalize their workspace with personal items, signs, posters, favorite team jerseys, flags, objects, gadjets or any other simply items.
  • Keeping formalities out of day to day business and making daily communication informal, interesting and lively.
  • Ensuring that staff meetings and group meetings are upbeat, lively and exciting.  Leaders must bring energy and enthusiasm to their teams and make it obvious and visible.
  • Diverse personality types is advantageous for many reasons, but especially for adding fun, since you get more variety in the type of people working together when you have a mix of personality or behavior types.
  • Managers and leaders must allow and promote fun themselves so that all employees know it is not only allowed, but encouraged.
  • Jokes and humorous stories should be regularly available by postings, newsletters, and in scheduled meetings.
  • Create and support an active social club to organize events, games and sports for all to participate in outside of work.
  • Have the social club coordinate monthly social lunches and BBQs.
  • Encourage simple, harmless practical jokes around the office
  • Use team names and nick names for people based on their work or areas of expertise
  • Play on people’s reputation with words, encouragement and tactful teasing
  • Ensure high amounts of teamwork without individuals becoming too self situated in their roles
  • Rotate job functions within teams to experience varying styles and personalities in repetitive tasks

Risks with Fun in the Workplace

There are of course some risks with adding more fun in the workplace and while they should not be ignored, they can easily be mitigated and controlled.  The most easily occurring risk could be that jokes and practical jokes get out of hand or unprofessional.  It is very important to know that any humor must be clean and clean from any prejudice, racism or sexism.  If this is monitored and correctly quickly when it is visible at any level, the humor can be kept professional and fun without the risk of hurting feelings or attacking anyone’s character.

Another obvious risk is that fun can be a distraction to actually getting work done and it can sometimes seem like a waste of time where pressing deadlines and tight schedules just don’t allow any time for fun.  I’d definitely argue against this thought process since I’ve seen how much more productive people are (including myself) at times of stress when there is some fun still to be had in the workplace.  The ratio of time to let the workplace be more fun instead of stagnant, is well worth the small number of hours lost considering the increased productivity, loyalty and imagination that the fun aspects of work bring out in people.  The benefits easily outweigh the risks and with attention and clear expectations about fun and time spent having fun in the workplace, it can properly be managed and encouraged to make all employees enjoy their work a little bit more!

Posted by Mike King under Business | 4 Comments »

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