Being the glue that holds the organization together can be a very thankless job, but also very rewarding if you put the people first.

Our San Diego Human Resource professionals have been put in the spotlight over the last two years as the economy grows and the amount of work on the average HR professional desk is growing faster than the economy!  

HR has to work to execute strategies and make changes across various business functions to come up with innovative solutions to offset business cost pressures internally and externally. Throughout the economic growth, many HR professionals have become more prominent members of the management team, needing to demonstrate objectivity and ask difficult questions in a bid to ensure organizational success.

The ability to act as a business partner and cement relationships with senior professionals across the organization is a critical step in Human Resource’s role within the company. The business needs a senior HR professional to act as adviserto the company and therefore it's really important to invest time in building strong working relationships with the employees of the company.

HR plays a key step in meeting the organization needs, employee’s needs and the executive team’s vision.  This can be done by focusing on the people. People create value & people create efficiency - remember you wouldn’t even have a company if it wasn’t for the people.

Building a company has never been easy, but it's more challenging today than ever before. Getting the right people on the bus and keeping them is like playing a game with rules that are constantly changing and with endlessly increasing competition. The Resourceful Human is the person, or person(s), that keeps the ship sailing, balancing the employees and executive team to drive the company forward.

Focus on people: Innovation doesn't make us unique anymore, or at least not for very long. What makes us unique are the people we hire and the culture they work in. Invest in your people and your culture, to be simple – it’s just the right thing to do. People can create more value quickly because they're more invested in your success as a company. Those HR professionals looking to provide value to their organization must understand how they impact the people as the Resourceful Human.

Those HR professionals that focus on people not only win with senior management – but will win in their careers!

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Ask professionals at any level how they feel about annual performance reviews and you’ll probably hear words like: pointless, ineffective, demoralizing, biased, antiquated, restrictive, and a few more words we won’t print.

Throughout the last century, the performance management pendulum has swung between employee accountability and employee development to assess engagement, accomplishment and overall contribution. Both have proven to have merit but are also riddled with faults. What’s leadership to do?

The Powers That Be are listening. In fact, one-third of U.S. companies are abandoning the traditional appraisal process completely.  According to Wharton management professor Peter Cappelli, “[I]t’s a fundamental change in the way to manage your employees and the relationship with them.”  How will companies assess performance?  The jury is still out.  Meanwhile companies’ need a system that will engage, empower and nurture their employees so that they can not only be success now, but also reach their full potential.

5 Things That Should Be Included in An Effective Performance Review

1. Increased Frequency of Reviews: One of the largest drawbacks of the traditional performance review is that it no longer follows the natural cycle of work. Most employees’ workload consists of a larger number of smaller projects, rather than year-long assignments. Conducting a cumulative year-end review is challenging for managers. Quarterly or project reviews allow for a more accurate assessment of performance and growth and provides the environment for course-correcting coaching throughout the year. Which leads us to the next important component of an effective performance review…

2. Focus on the future, not the past. Current end-of-the-year annual reviews focus primarily on past behavior and sacrifice the opportunity to improve current performance and advise employees for the future. More consistent meetings give managers the opportunity to offer resources and encouragement for future growth – both of which employees can implement immediately.

3. Self- Review: Often viewed as a chore, rather than an opportunity, self-assessment must be part of the equation. Employees should take advantage of this chance to be proud (but honest). By asking themselves two simple questions, employees can share details of completed projects, highlight their leadership roles, identify areas of growth, and give examples of collaboration. “What am I doing that I should keep doing?” and “What am I doing that I should change?” provide the perfect platform for self-review. It also gives managers insight into performance that was not overtly obvious. Employees should also think about career- development, using their self-evaluations as a time to think about what they want out of this relationship.

4. Clearly defined and communicated objectives. Goals and objectives must be assessed and realigned frequently. While some roles may not change between reviews, other will change from project to project. It is imperative that management and their team are in communication to ensure goals and objectives are still pertinent. It’s impossible to meet or exceed a goal that is clearly no longer relevant.  Employees need to proactively engage with management to clarify points of concerns.

5. Real-time feedback. Subjectivity and bias are two of the largest complaints we hear regarding the review process. But eliminating bias and increasing authenticity is not an easy task when reviewers and reviewees have innate biases that they may not be aware of. Using real-time feedback through apps and logs allows managers to create a record more reliable than memories after the fact, give workers quick access on how to navigate certain situations, and fast effective communication and coaching.

A solid review processes strikes a balance between accountability and development. It is comprehensive enough to give management the power to objectively and accurately assess their employees’ performance, highlight development, and set future goals on a consistent basis. On the employee side, the review process should include an authentic self-assessment of contribution, success, and growth, while empowering them to create future goals and a plan to achieve them.

What would YOU like to see included in YOUR next Performance Review?

*Click here for an interesting and comprehensive look at the tug-of-war between accountability and development over the decades.

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Pull it Together! How to Refocus in the Ever-Changing World of HR . . .

Let’s face it . . . Human Resources is often a department of limited resources. Whether you have a department of one or are lucky enough to have a team, it is almost always inevitable that you will find yourself wearing multiple hats. I personally am finding it more and more challenging to sit and focus on a single project because I am constantly being pulled away to extinguish the fire of the moment. I am sure many of you feel the same as we are often juggling several priorities within a limited amount of time.   

I have been testing out a few tips and tricks that can help refocus your energy after being derailed. Having the ability to bounce back and quickly focus on the next task is so important because in the tedious and often high-risk environment of HR there is little room for error.

Try these out in your office today!

Be mindful

Take a minute to think and breathe in the morning about what you want to accomplish for the day. Make a mental note of what it will take to accomplish those tasks.

Make a list and keep it visible

I know this seems basic, but keeping your action list visible and current can trigger focus, help you stay on task and ensure you will not skip a beat when pulled away.

Organize your inbox

Keep your inbox clutter free! Unsubscribe from those pesky emails that may distract you as click bait and be sure to keep only relevant emails visible.

Organize your work space

On average people spend 2.5 hours looking for items in their work space. Minimize this distraction by staying organized and keeping what you will need for the day handy. 

Fight the snack attack

When your mind starts to wonder it often will send hungry signals. Eat a filling and healthy meal so your energy levels will be stable and sustained. 

Keep your cell phone out of sight

Keeping your phone out of your line of sight can minimize distractions from alerts and notifications. Many of us need to keep the ringer on as the boss may call, but I might also suggest changing the tone for those that are urgent so you can disregard other notifications throughout the day. If you can silence it… even better! 

Knock out creative projects in the morning

Before you are burnt out from your hectic day utilize your creative energy in the morning. Save the mindless tasks for later in the day. 

Complete a task, then get up!

Take a stretch break when you complete a task and you will feel re-energized for the next one!  

Learn when to say no

I know we all live and breathe the open door policy, but it is okay to physically and figuratively shut your door. You know when something is a true priority and requires your full attention. Empower yourself to say a polite no and request to get back to whatever is being demanded of you at that moment. Don’t forget to follow up, but it is okay to say no at the time!

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Can People Collaborate Effectively While Working Remotely?

In this current employment marketplace, companies need to stay ahead of the game in order to remain competitive and attract and retain the right talent for their organization.   As such, many startups and enterprise companies alike are turning to remote / agile workplaces instead of the traditional office space. It’s no wonder why — individuals who work remotely are reportedly more productive and seemingly happier.  But what about collaborating remotely?  What may be lost when workers have little opportunity to interact directly and how can companies mitigate these factors in order to be successful while continuing to maintain their status of places where employees want to work?  It can be challenging to master remote collaboration because it’s more complex than simply deciding whether or not to get out of your pajamas for the video conference call. How do you replicate the in-office banter over the computer? How do you communicate effectively without blowing up someone’s email?  Questions like these often come up when considering how to collaborate with remote coworkers. These tips (courtesy of ThinkApps.com) will help quell communication concerns and make remote collaboration more effective.

1. Be Available

While working collaboratively means you’re working with others on a project, there are often times in which you work independently and then meet back together to share ideas. In an office, you can pop your head over a cubicle wall to run a quick idea by your coworker or you might mention something when you’re walking down the hall.

Obviously, you don’t have that same experience when you work from home. However, staying available on chat, email, and phone during work hours provides the same opportunity for experiences like those to happen.

And don’t simply flip the switch to “available” while begrudgingly responding to a chat or being irritated you have to answer the phone. Genuinely welcome calls, emails, or chats from coworkers — it will help keep the lines of communication open and conversations will be more natural.

If you turn off communication, you completely turn off the opportunity to work collaboratively, let alone effectively.

2. Don’t Rely on Email

With the ability to chat, post messages on message boards, and pick up that old-fashioned phone, save emails for important communication that’s lengthier in nature. Similarly, stick to email when you need to address multiple topics of conversation in a single message. Don’t hit the dreaded Reply All when it’s unnecessary, and keep your emails to the point.

Avoid bombarding your coworker with emails for shorter conversations and send them quick chats instead. You could always pick up the phone, but be courteous and send them a quick chat to see if they have time to talk. It will avoid interrupting them if they’re in the middle of something that demands their attention. Be courteous and purposefully communicative.

Here are some great communication apps you and your team might find useful:

  • Google Hangout: You have to have a Google account to use this feature, but it’s well worth it. You can chat or have a call with or without video.
  • Campfire: This is a chat feature within Basecamp (formerly 37 Signals), which allows for on-the-fly conversations while collaborating on a project.
  • Hip Chat: Hip Chat is secure, plus it allows for private and group chats, file sharing, and integration with a variety of APIs, all while staying synced up.
  • Calliflower: This app makes conference calls a possibility, whether you’re working with a tablet, phone, or browser.
  • Skype: The household name for video calls.

Keep in mind that, if you have a dedicated office space, it’s a lot easier to communicate for the simple fact that people are going to be able to hear you better.

If you’re trying to have a video chat from Starbucks, chances are, the person on the other end isn’t going to be able to hear you over the coffee shop atmosphere — and you’ll really be in trouble if the cafe has live music. When jumping on a video call (or even just a conference call), try using headphones and a microphone to keep background noise at bay.

3. Hang Out and Don’t Be Strangers

As I mentioned, Google Hangouts is an amazing tool that allows you to have a video chat with one person or multiple people. Whether you choose to use Google Hangouts or another video chat program, maintaining regular contact with the coworkers with whom you’re collaborating is going to make the remote aspect of your collaboration seem not quite as remote.

Stay current with project progress and keep faces fresh. When you can see your co-workers faces, read their mannerisms, and actually talk, you might not be as guarded when it comes to communicating, especially if it’s happening frequently.

Video chats can also be very useful in sharing whiteboards. With a well-positioned computer, you can see the scribbles that matter.

The bottom line is that maintaining a regular communication schedule lets you and your team stay current with the progress of a project, have the ability to ask questions and gain clarity, and communicate more easily.

4. Have Compatible Technology

Don’t even think about working remotely — let alone trying to collaborate — if your technology isn’t up to par. Your internet must be fast enough to handle video chats, large document sharing, and multiple tabs.

And even more importantly, your computer needs to be up to date and running the same programs as your coworkers. Compatibility issues could cause you to waste hours of time, whether it’s just trying to open the document or reformatting issues that popped up between versions or file types.

Although those working for larger companies likely have the same company computer, laptop, or tablet, if you’re an entrepreneur or a startup where each employee is using his or her own, it’s imperative that you’re all on the same platform and using the same programs (as well as the same versions of programs) to keep collaboration effective and running smoothly.

5. Use Collaboration Tools

There are a number of project management / collaboration tools, some examples include:  Slack, TrelloBasecampCreately.

There is a variety of other project management and collaboration tools out there, so don’t be shy when investigating what would work best for your team.

Collaboration tools not only help you keep track of what you’re doing but help your team as a whole to stay organized. When you’re faced with high-pressure deadlines and complex projects, staying organized and having the ability to monitor the status of a project can hugely affect the outcome of the project in a positive way.

This is especially true for developers, designers, writers and content managers, and other collaborative groups who work remotely and take on large, complex projects with multiple stages and components.

6. Don’t Forget About Time Zones

You might be an hour into work at 9am, but your coworker three time zones over might still be hitting the snooze button.

Especially when you’re collaborating, be mindful of what time zone your coworkers are in and schedule meetings or calls when the work time overlaps. Integrating effectively across time zones, cultures, and work styles might take a while to get used to, but it’s not impossible.

Pay attention when scheduling a time to talk and make sure you’re aware of each other’s time zones — in fact, when scheduling calls with coworkers who live in different areas of the world or even just the US, always include the time zone in the message when scheduling so that everyone is clear.

Always ask before scheduling because it shows you respect your coworker’s time and you’ll be able to find a time to talk in which you both can dedicate your attention to the task at hand.

7. Get Back to the Basics

Don’t forget that not only are you human, but the coworker you’re connecting with is human, too.

Establish a positive working relationship and value your coworker’s contributions. Make sure to take a few minutes to have some “water-cooler” talk — it will help build a rapport and relationship with your coworkers.

Consider how you communicate, especially when working remotely. Your tone, intent, and sarcasm cannot always be easily deciphered through text.  In fact, it’s usually best to leave sarcasm out of the workplace, but if you let it slip, at least let it be on a video chat where your tone and expression can help set up the context.

Keep criticism constructive — when providing feedback to others in your group, be sure to point out the things he or she did well in addition to the areas that need work so you don’t sound like a Negative Nancy. Your comments will be taken more seriously, and the group will benefit from honest feedback.

Remember: Communication Is the Key

When working remotely, it’s critical that you remember your basic communication skills. Communication is the key to effective collaboration — and that’s true whether you’re working remotely or in an office. 

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Back-to-school season is upon us, and those returning to work can learn just as much as students returning to school. Today’s lesson: how to build a wildly successful organization by tapping into the talents of your employees. 

Open any business magazine, and you can’t help but hear about the importance of “employee engagement.” It’s a trendy buzzword, and seems to be sold as the cure for all organizational ills. But what does it actually mean? 

What is employee engagement, anyway?  

Employee engagement means inspiring employees to go “above and beyond.” It results from building a workplace culture where people are free to unleash their passion and commitment to each other and to the organization as a whole. It means building a workplace culture that talented people want to be a part of—and want to stay a part of. 

You know in your gut when you’re in a company that’s getting it right; you can sense it. People treat each other well. They rally together around shared goals. There’s a sense of energy and excitement. The business is successful. 

You know even more clearly when a company is not getting it right. Management is secretive. Employees whisper around the water cooler. Turnover is high, and you have trouble getting new people to apply for or accept positions.

Yes, engagement matters—and is worth the effort 

We’ve all heard of the companies that are exceptionally good at appealing to top talent: Google, Southwest, Zappos. Can you guess what they have in common? You saw this one coming: they’re all known for strong company cultures of engagement. 

Applicants have better odds of getting into Harvard than getting a job at Google, which receives an average of 2 million job applicants each year. Imagine having a culture that attracts that much interest! It’s no coincidence that these are some of the most successful companies in the world. 

Research indicates that organizations with engaged workforces beat their competitors on many critical performance measures:

  • Gallup studied 1.4 million employees in 34 countries and found that the most highly engaged workforces are four times more successful than the least engaged.
  • Top performers have 25% lower turnover, 37% less absenteeism, and 22% higher profitability.[i]
  • The Harvard Business Review surveyed executives at top companies around the world and found that 71% of leaders rank employee engagement as a top factor contributing to their future business success.[ii] 

The news keeps telling us that we’re facing a “war for talent,” so these numbers should make every leader sit up and take notice. As the economy improves and talented professionals have more options, it will become harder to attract them to your company and then keep them around. 

3-point lesson plan for inspiring and energizing employees 

Those who work in your organization aren’t just employees, they’re people—and they find value in the same kinds of things that you do. Just as you want respect, control, and meaning—so do they. Keep that in mind as you make decisions, and you’re well on your way to engaging them. 

There is no magic bullet; no one secret thing you can do to motivate your staff overnight. Engagement comes from sustained effort over time, and success starts with treating people like more than cogs in a machine. All efforts should stem from that core principle. 

Here’s a simple framework you can use to guide your efforts: the ABCs of employee engagement. How you implement these strategies will depend upon your organization’s unique culture, direction, and priorities. 

A. Treat employees like adults. 

First and foremost, the assumption underlying your policies should be that most people are inherently good, mean well, and want to do good work. It may sound deceptively simple, but there are many ways that organizations are inadvertently sending the message that they don’t trust their employees—and in response, employees don’t trust the leadership or give them their best efforts. 

Here are a few quick ways to show that you value and respect employees as equals. 

Act with integrity. Culture starts at the top. The organization’s leadership must model the values they expect from others. If employees don’t trust management, they won’t be motivated or give their best selves. Integrity means doing what you say you will, treating people equally and fairly, and not tolerating bad behavior. Trust is a prerequisite to engagement.
Write policies aimed at the best employees, not the worst. It’s ineffective to craft policies aimed at the small percentage of employees who misbehave. You can’t anticipate and prevent every problem that may occur; and by trying to do so, you irritate the majority of your employees who don’t need to be told how to act. You’re better served aiming policies at the top performers, and handling performance issues as they arise. 
Let them manage their time. Even if you can’t allow employees to work from home, you can still allow them the flexibility to control their hours. In doing so, you remove the distraction of unmet personal demands and enable them to fully focus on their work. By giving them control of their work and their life, you demonstrate trust and foster goodwill that will come back to you in the form of increased productivity. 

B. Be all ears. 

Companies run into trouble when they assume they know what employees want. You can’t know unless you ask. Train your managers to ask good questions, to encourage their staff members to come to them with ideas, and to be attentive to the responses. 

What do they need? Ask about what obstacles prevent them from doing their work efficiently, and what tools would enable them to do their work better. The best suggestions for improving operational processes come from those working on the front line daily. 
How do they want to be recognized? Not every employee wants to be recognized in the same way. While Kelly may appreciate a certificate presented publicly, Juan may prefer a handwritten note presented privately. Recognition is much more meaningful when it feels personalized and sincere, and is something the employee actually values.
Where do they want to go? Find out about their long-term career goals and where they want to go within the organization. Work with them to determine what skill gaps exist and what training or professional development would help them reach their goals. Then provide them that training. 
Act on the responses. Simply by asking these questions, you establish the expectation that you will do something with the information. Managers know that the responses will lead to more work for them, and that is often the key deterrent to inquiring. But wouldn’t you rather know? Ignorance is only bliss until your best employee resigns. Follow-up is key to building trust. 

If knowledge is power, obtaining the answers to a few simple questions will put managers in a much stronger position to make informed decisions. Asking these questions is also a way for managers to demonstrate that they respect and value the people on their teams. 

C. Communicate, communicate, communicate. 

Communication should flow both ways. For maximum effectiveness, an organization needs to create a two-way dialogue and keep employees in the loop. You need to understand what employees think and value, and they need to understand the big picture and the rationale behind decisions. 

Provide context. Most people likely joined the organization because they believe in the mission. Keep that passion alive by continually making the connection of why their work matters. Also be clear on the direction of the organization, and how each individual’s goals are aligned to the broader strategy. Everyone in the organization will make smarter decisions if they understand how their actions impact their colleagues, customers, and vendors. 
Be up front about challenges. Be honest with employees about what’s going on, especially during tough times. They don’t necessarily need to know the gritty details, but they should be aware when there’s a problem and how they can help. If they know that the biggest client has been lost, they’ll be more motivated to bring in new clients and more forgiving of cutbacks. 
Include everyone in designing solutions. Front-line employees have essential insights into the business from working directly with customers, systems, and machines on a daily basis. The most effective solutions are created collaboratively by involving the whole organizational system. Including everyone in problem solving also builds buy-in for the solutions that are ultimately implemented. 

Employees are making decisions every day that affect your customers, vendors, and the achievement of the mission. If they don’t have current information, they can’t make wise choices. 

The bottom line: You’re never “done” engaging employees 

Engaging employees is at once an enormously complex concept and yet a profoundly simple one. It’s complicated because every aspect of a work environment can potentially engage or disengage the people who spend time there—and even the best executives cannot control all of these factors. Yet it’s elegantly straightforward in that a few small changes can have a big impact. 

Motivating employees isn’t about offering free food or building nap pods. It doesn’t come from quick actions you can check off a list—it’s about handling the fundamentals well. The ABCs of employee engagement are simple, but certainly not easy. Creating engagement has to be an ongoing organizational priority, and you have to work at it. These guidelines can get you started. 

About the Author -- Elisabeth Waltz is an employee engagement expert who specializes in creating win-win HR solutions: building company cultures where employees are empowered to do their best work, while developing employees who produce amazing results for the organization. Still a New Englander at heart, you can find her sampling all the cheese and cider available in her new home, San Diego. Say hi on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/elisabethgwaltz.


[i] Gallup, Inc. “State of the Global Workforce,” 2013, pg. 21. Available from gallup.com, accessed August 26, 2016.

[ii] Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. “The Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance,” June 1, 2013, pg. 4. Available from hbr.org/hbr-analytic-services, accessed August 25, 2016.

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26 Leadership Thoughts

(Ideas Related to Each Letter of the Alphabet)

Authenticity: It sounds like a challenging concept but it’s actually quite easy – simply be yourself.  No B.S.  No facades.  That authenticity builds trust between you and your team. 

Bench Strength: If you’re not thinking about and doing rigorous succession planning, think again…Your job as a leader isn’t just managing today’s team – it’s also preparing tomorrow’s team and being ready for the inevitable turnover that comes with any organization.  Build your succession plan.  Now.

Courage: Take a stand for your beliefs.  Don’t let people get thrown under the bus – instead jump between them and the bus and take the hit.  Have some intestinal fortitude to right the wrongs around you despite the cost and risk to you personally.

Delegation: You can’t do it all yourself (even if you think you’ll do it better than they will).  The hallmark of a great leader is being able to let go and let one’s people do things while the leader sets direction, procures resources, and provides motivation.  Let go.

Entrepreneurship: Foster it.  Even huge companies were start-ups at one point in their growth.  Encourage your people to take risks, to build new things, and to challenge existing ways of doing business.  Your business will change.  Either you can change it or the world will change it for you.

Feedback: if you’re not delivering difficult messages to the members of your team when they need to hear those messages, you’re doing them a disservice.  Delivering a tough message is essential to great leadership. Learn how to deliver it well, and don’t forget to “feed-forward” for what you want to see in the future.

Gratitude: Demonstrate it.  Let people know you’re thankful for all they do to make you and the company look good.  Your team needs to know you appreciate their hard work.  A simple thank you note can go a long way.

Humor: See the funny in the frustrating.  When you step back from the frustration and the seriousness, work is pretty absurd and silly.  If you can see the humor in it (and help others to do so as well), the stress level in your organization will be significantly lower than it is today.

Initiative: Take it. Yes, this requires you to assume risk.  That’s the mantle of leadership.  Go out and make mistakes.  Who knows? You may actually get it right and have a huge positive impact.  And if you don’t, you’ve certainly learned something new.

Justice: Dish it out.  When you see unjust behavior, no matter how small, if you let it go without consequences, you’re implicitly condoning it.  Be fair, be fast, and be just.  No one said your job was easy and this will require you to deliver some tough messages. 

Knowledge: Build your knowledge daily.  Read.  Do research.  Look up words or facts you don’t know.  Talk with experts outside your field.  If you constantly seek new sources of knowledge, you’ll be better at spotting risks and opportunities than your competitors.

Leadership: You manage things; you lead people.  Remember – leadership is the art of influencing, setting direction, and inspiring others to take action because they share your vision and goals.  Stop thinking the management tasks you’re performing are leadership.

Managing Up: A major part of your job is buffering for your team.  You need to protect them from distractions and so they can get their work done.  You may be the only shield between them and corporate/company demands.

Negativity: Stop right now.  When the team hears you complaining, not only does it destroy morale, concern them, and make you look immature, it also gives them the right to complain themselves.  Negativity is a cancer.  Prevent it starting with yourself.

Opportunities: Are you creating opportunities for your people to grow, fail, learn, and succeed?  You have to create those stretch assignments and projects if you ever expect them to become more than they are today.

Philosophy: Every leader should have and share their own personal leadership philosophy.  It’s a simple statement of your beliefs and it will help you set expectations and maintain standards. Craft a clear concise philosophy.  

Quitting Time: We work to live, not live to work.  You set an example for balance for your team.  If you don’t know when to quit and go home, they’ll follow your bad example and you’ll burn them out.  Be reasonable about what you ask of yourself because implicitly you’re asking the same of them.

Responsibility: Accountability is an external force holding you to a standard of performance.  Ownership is holding yourself accountable to meeting the standard.  It’s intrinsic.  Make the leap from accountability to ownership.

Strategy: Have one.  It doesn’t matter how big or small your organization is – as a leader you need to articulate a clear destination, goals, and define the path to get there.  If you don’t, your people are wandering aimlessly.

Thinking Time: Carve out at least 4 hours per month to do nothing but think.  Remove distractions and evaluate the major issues your organization faces.  Your job is to look out over the horizon – not to look down at the road you’re driving on.

Under-promise – Over-deliver: Make commitments you know you can keep but always seek to surprise to the upside.  Too many people over-promise and under-deliver, which is a recipe for disaster.  Manage expectations well but then give people more than they thought they’d ever get.

Vision: You need to look into the future and tell people what to expect. Create a picture of the future that is inspiring. Their job is to drive and maintain the bus. Your job is to set the destination and keep your eyes on the horizon to look for unexpected bumps in the road.

Why?:  Ask this question a lot.  Ask why you do things the way you do and if there are new/better ways to do it.  Ask your people why they did something or why they feel a certain way.  You’ll understand them better and be better able to lead them. 

Xenophobia: Avoid it. We’re increasingly global and interconnected.  Celebrate the diversity of your team, your partners, and your customers.  Go to faraway lands to find new people, new opportunities, and new perspectives.  Stop being insular. 

Yelling: Seriously?  No yelling in the workplace unless you’re trying to get someone’s attention as a 1 ton anvil falls from the sky toward their head.  Yelling is crass not to mention ineffective.  Besides, speaking calmly and softly is much, much more effective.

Zebra Cakes: always have some on hand.  They’re good for boosting blood sugar during afternoon doldrums.  I mean, who doesn’t love Zebra Cakes?

Which letters are your favorites?  What would you add to this list?  Adapted from:

Mike Figliuolo – thoughtLEADERS LLC

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You may have noticed the buzz about employer branding over the last several years. As the digital information age continues to flourish, there is a growing awareness among top executives that managing their company’s public, consumer-facing brand isn’t enough. They must also manage their reputation as employers.

The global economy is rapidly changing, leaving 73 percent of CEOs worried about having the right people to meet challenging growth goals. According to Manpower, 38 percent of companies are struggling to fill open positions, which eventually impacts their ability to provide products and services to customers.

As a leader, how can you attract great talent, inspire loyalty, and optimize employee performance? It starts with strengthening your employer brand.

Early on, employer branding focused on how companies could apply marketing principles to hiring employees—typically through employment advertising and later, social recruiting. Today, employer branding has evolved to become an inside-out, strategic process companies use to become an employer of choice and to drive employee engagement. Executives now realize the impact of employer branding on talent acquisition, corporate culture, internal communication and marketing.

Everyone owns the employment brand. Managing your company’s employer brand isn’t the responsibility of a single department—HR, marketing or corporate communications. HR will need to understand how the consumer brand aligns with the employer brand. Marketing teams will need to know how market developments affect workforce planning and employee retention. Everyone will need to become better, stronger internal communicators.

5 Steps to Attracting, Engaging and Retaining Your Best People

The competition for talent, especially in technical, highly-skilled professions, is expected to increase. Here are ways your company can position itself as an employer of choice:

  1. Evaluate your existing employer brand. Marketing can support HR in developing an internal audit of employee perceptions and beliefs to assess existing employer brand awareness and reputation.
  2. Define your employer brand. Why should someone work for your company? And, why should they stay? Your answers become the basis of your employee value proposition (EVP), which describes how you want to be perceived in a clear, compelling way.
  3. Map your employer brand throughout the employee life-cycle. There are four distinct phases of an employee life-cycle that you must consider: attracting new talent, on-boarding new hires, engaging employees, and bidding farewell.
  4. Manage your employer brand. Similar to your company’s consumer brand, your employer brand must constantly be monitored and managed. Many companies leverage social media to highlight key employer strengths, but also to listen to “the word on the street.”
  5. Educate and communicate well internally. It’s one thing to design a strategy for employer branding, but success is in execution. It’s important for managers and employers to know how to deliver on the employer brand experience—through their actions and their words.

Companies can no longer afford to be passive about employer branding. The competition for talent is too high. Plus, the well-known branding advice holds true here: if you don’t define your brand, someone else will. Don’t leave your employer brand to chance.

About Michele Richardson

Michele Richardson is an internal communication consultant and speaker on a mission to build workplaces where people are led by passion and purpose. She advises executives and organizations on how to attract, engage and retain top talent through the art of communication and the science of organizational behavior. Her clients include Boeing, Toyota, CareerBuilder, Sodexo and KPMG. Learn more about how to work with her here or catch up with her on Twitter.

To learn more about Michele’s approach to employer branding, register to attend the next San Diego HR Roundtable Lunch & Learn on March 15 at 11:45 am.

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Growing as a boss and leader is a challenging process when you are used to running your company yourself.  As part of my growth process, I am taking a look at how to let go so my company can grow. Last year, I shared the experience of determining that we hired the wrong person.  But once you have hired the right person, what comes next?

Delegation is such a little word but one of the hardest things to do when you are the boss.  And for the record:  DIY should not be the MO of the CEO.

Delegating is a great way to ensure that more tasks get done in less time, and it also builds team capacity. Unfortunately, a lot of managers don’t pay enough attention to the delegation process, and thus fail to reap the benefits. Are you a successful delegator? There are six steps to successfully delegating tasks. The problem is that most managers only do one or two of them, and then, when a task isn’t completed to their satisfaction, complain that their employees aren’t good enough to get the job done.

Getting outstanding results from delegating demands following a formula. Only once this formula is mastered is it fair to evaluate whether you really have the right people for the job. The good news is that employees are rarely the problem. It’s a lot easier and much less expensive for a manager to learn a new approach than to replace staff.

Here are the six steps you should work through when delegating:

1. Prepare

Employees can’t deliver quality results if the task delegated to them isn’t fully thought out, or if expectations keep changing. Take the time and develop the discipline to map out exactly what you’re asking for. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

2. Assign

Once you’ve taken the time to map out exactly what you’re looking for, you need to convey that information to your employees. Be sure to include clear information on timing, budget, and context, and set expectations for communication and updates, including frequency, content, and format.

3. Confirm understanding

One of the most common mistakes made in delegating is assuming that employees understand what you want, without ensuring that they do. Confirming understanding only takes about 60 seconds, but is the most important determinant of success or failure.

The best way to confirm understanding is to ask your employees to paraphrase the request or assignment back to you in their own words. If you’re not comfortable doing that (many managers feel, often correctly, that it makes them sound like a kindergarten teacher), you should, at the very least, ask questions to make sure employees understand all aspects of what’s required.

4. Confirm commitment

This is another part of the delegation process that most managers skip. They often just assume that employees have accepted the tasks they’ve been given. The most important part of a relay race is the handing of the baton to the next runner. Runners spend a huge amount of time learning this skill. It should be no different in the workplace. Commitment means making sure you’ve successfully handed over the baton.

Confirm that employees are committed to the expected results, and to the process that’s been set out (including the schedule, budget, and tools), and that their overall goals for the task are aligned with yours. Make sure they’re aware of any consequences, both for the company and for themselves, that may result if they fail to deliver on the desired outcomes.

5. Avoid "reverse delegating"

Many managers are extremely overworked. Sometimes, this is because their employees are better at delegating than they are: managers often end up completing tasks they had delegated to others, because those tasks somehow end up back on their plate. I call this "reverse delegating." And for the record, this is one step of which I am most guilty.

It’s rarely, if ever, necessary for a manager to take back a task that he or she had delegated to someone else. If this is necessary, it likely means that not enough time was spent on the preparation stage, and that time, resource, or other constraints have led to problems that you did not foresee.

If an employee reaches an impasse, treat it as a learning opportunity. Coach the employee through it, making sure he or she has the resources and knowledge needed to complete the task. That way, you’ll still be free to focus on other things, and the employee will be better equipped to carry out similar tasks in the future. The bottom line? Don’t take tasks back.

6. Ensure Accountability

Two-way communication is a key part of delegating. Finding out at the completion date that a deliverable hasn’t been completed or has been done unsatisfactorily is the nightmare scenario of delegating. That’s why you need to make sure your employees are accountable for the task.

Accountability is key to the process of delegation: it means employees are regularly communicating with you about the status of the deliverable and the timing of delivery so that there are no surprises at the eleventh hour.

The delegation process becomes faster and more fluid the more you do it. Once you’ve mastered it, it will become a part of your managerial DNA, and you’ll consistently reap outstanding results.

Delegating is the next step in my growth process, and only when mastered can I move on toward being a better leader.

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In 2015, the United States capped its best year for hiring in 15 years, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is great news for job seekers; but it also means it is a competitive job market out there and to nab your ideal role, it’s all about making an impression.  Ideally, your first impression is made face-to-face or at least by word of mouth through a mutual acquaintance or networking opportunity. In reality, not everyone is that lucky, leaving your resume to do the talking for you. With the abundance of resume templates, tips, webinars, and paid services available, there should be nothing but strong resumes flooding the inboxes of hiring managers everywhere. As an executive recruiting firm we can tell you that is definitely not the case. We continue to see poor resumes on a daily basis; and nothing will take you out of the running for your ideal job quite like a subpar resume.

As a job seeker, you want your resume to stand out among the crowd… but for the right reasons. Poor grammar, spelling mistakes, excessive use of industry related jargon, and too many words are common mistakes. Another common resume pitfall we encounter is that many professionals simply “update” their resumes with their recent work experience, rather than editing the entire document.According to Amanda Augustine of TheLadders, “As your career progresses, the emphasis of your resume should change… Employers are no longer focusing on your education, relevant internships, and extracurricular activities. Now they’re more interested in the skill sets you’ve developed and the accomplishments you’ve achieved in your professional career. Your resume needs to tell your story.”

Misspelled words and choppy professional histories are not the only resume fails we see.

10 Reasons Your Resume Sucks and You’re Only Getting 6 Seconds 

1. You included your address.

Obviously, hiring managers want to get to know potential candidates. However, the chances of them coming to your house to speak with you are slim to none. If you are looking at a local position, it is appropriate to include your city and state so the employer knows you are a local candidate. But I’d leave off the street address. Photos and hobbies are another resume no-no. If you want the hiring manager to get to know you, why not take them to the place they can get to know you best… your LinkedIn Profile page. Including a direct link to your LI page allows a hiring manager or recruiter to learn more about your professional experience quickly and easily.

2. You’re still using an Objective while everyone else has written a Professional Summary.

In the 50+ years of combined experience here at TurningPoint Executive Search, we have yet to find a candidate who is not looking to apply their experience and their talent with a company that will provide him or her the opportunity to grow.We all know the stats: Hiring managers spend approximately six seconds looking at your resume before deciding whether you’re a viable candidate or not. Therefore, you need come out of the gate with a BANG! Replace your old Objectives with a well-developed, conciseProfessional Summary that provides a clear overview of who you are as a professional.

3. You did not include a Summary of Qualifications.

We like to think of this as your highlight reel. Developing a bulleted list of skills and experience and inserting it at the top of your resume will allow the hiring manager to see your best moves during the six seconds he or she is going to initially invest in getting to know you.

4. You’re still relying on your Education to get you in the door.

Unless you are a recent graduate, your practical experience will far outweigh your classroom experience in both time and relevance. While including any relevant and important degrees may still be needed to show you meet the job requirements, it shouldnot be at the top of your resume.  Exceptions: A doctorate degree, masters, or relevant certification should highlighted by simply including the post-nominal initials.  This is especially true for certain types of positions, especially technical positions. Some companies prefer to hire professional with an advanced degree or specialty certification such as PHR (Professional in Human Resources).  Secondly, if the hiring manager graduated from the same college or was a member of the same fraternity, sorority or other campus organization, it is not considered unprofessional to make that connection by including your education background.

5. You’ve included unnecessary information.

You only get 6 seconds, remember? Hiring managers do not want to know what you minored in or your graduating GPA. They want the highlights only.

6. Your titles are too vague.

Director, Manager, Assistant Manager, Vice President, Senior, Managing Director. There are a myriad of professional titles used today. Hiring managers want to see what roles you have had in the past and what roles you are targeting in your current search. If you are looking for a senior level position, provide evidence of your experience with that type of role. “Manager” does not adequately define your seniority.

7. Your job description is boring.

Although most job descriptions are typically bulleted lists, this is your time to shine and sell your experience and impact in previous organization. “Managed” and “responsible for” is using passive language. Add life to your experience by using dynamic word choices such as: Drove, Developed, Instituted, Designed, Created, Implemented, or Built.

8. Your resume isn’t unique. It’s just hard to read. 

Unless you are looking for a job in the creative sector – design, graphics, advertising – using multiple font styles and sizes is distracting for a hiring manager who is quickly scanning your resume for key words. Varying the color of topics or sections make your resume appear unprofessional and can unintentionally take away from the value of the content you’ve included. If you want your resume to stand out visually, try avoiding common fonts such as Times New Roman and use clean-looking fonts such as Helvetica or Calibri.

9. Your companies have no descriptions.

Not everyone has worked for Nike or Google. Most job seekers have worked for less well-known organizations that might need some clarification. Including a one sentence company description allows hiring managers to get a feel for the types of industries you have experience in.  In addition “this description will also help the reader put your title into perspective… For instance, if you’re currently a director at a small company, including this description will help the reader understand why you may be targeting a manager-level role at a much larger organization,” Augustine says.

10. You don’t show your value by highlighting what you’ve achieved.

The last thing you want is for your resume to read as a job description. While there will certainly be tasks and duties included, your resume should show the reader what you bring to the table, why you will be an asset to the company. This can only be done by highlighting your successes. Numbers and percentages are excellent ways to show what you’ve achieved. Include money saved, sales projections exceeded, increases in ROI, new business, or revenue that you are responsible for or had a hand in. Emphasizing your achievements demonstrate the value you added to your previous company and what can your potential new company can expect from you.

If you’re only going to get six seconds, you’d better make them count. As cliché as it sounds, you will never get a second chance to make a first impression. In an ideal world, candidates would be able to make that first impression on a hiring manager face to face or on the telephone. With an average of 250 resumes for every corporate position, facetime in the initial phase of a job search is almost an impossibility. This is why it is essential that professionals develop a concise, dynamic, easy to read, error-free resume that highlights their successes, skill set, and experience and leaves a recruiter wanting more… in six seconds or less.

For a few more Resume Myths & Must Haves visit our Resume Toolkit.


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Resume? Check. Interview? Check. Degree Verification? Check.  Reference Check? Is it really necessary? All I’m going to get is verification of previous employment dates, right?

Minus the push for more creative resumes and lengthier interview processes, there have been few significant changes in the hiring protocol used by most companies… save for one: the reference check. Confusing legal guidelines have resulted in many larger companies refusing to provide anything other than the verification of employment, dates, and rehire eligibility. In fact, surveys indicate that while 80%+ of companies actually conduct a reference check before making a hire, many complain about the lack of information gathered from the reference. 

In fact, a significant portion of our own clients tell us not to worry about completing a reference check. Needless to say, we do them anyway. Why? Because the value that can be derived from a quality reference check is significant. Given the constraints that often surround completing a reference check, how is it possible to gain true insight into a potential new hire?


  1. Leverage your network. Reaching out to a candidate’s previous boss is not the only tool at your fingertips. Chances are, your potential new hire worked with a variety of people- many of whom are in your professional network. Connecting with these people will provide insight beyond verification of employment. Questions about a candidate’s ability to collaborate, his leadership qualities, and areas of growth can all be answered by connecting with the people you know who also know the candidate.
  2. Engage with the reference. The key to a quality reference check is engaging with the reference, building rapport and never accepting the first answer as gospel. True, a reference is likely to provide a positive reference (or she wouldn’t be on the reference list in the first place). However, with the right questions, even a candidate’s best friend can provide useful and candid feedback.
  3. Do NOT ask open-ended questions. “Is Bob Smith eligible for rehire?” and “Can you verify the dates Sally worked for you, along with her title.” Do not qualify as a quality reference check. Even the standard “Tell me about Sally” is worthless because there is no context for the type of role and culture the candidate will be immersed in. Instead, ask specific, situationally and behavioral questions. Example: “Tom will be working as a Marketing Director for a 6 year old software company that just hit $10m in revenues. The environment is very similar to a start-up, where everyone wears multiple hates, and is expected to work 50-60 hours/week while embracing the fluid and constantly changing priorities.  How do you think he will fare in this type of situation?”
  4. Call a reference that is NOT on the candidate’s list. Want to gain a completely unbiased and unrehearsed opinion about your potential hire? Ask someone who has not been given a heads up. Keep in mind that in order to paint a reliable picture of a candidate there must be multiple sources to provide information. Therefore, contacting several of the provided references in addition to a few that were not provided can give a broader, and possibly more accurate, view. Just be careful about who you call to ensure that you don’t break confidentiality or jeopardize the candidate’s position before they have given notice.

It is important to peel back the onion to uncover the true make up of a candidate.  While both resumes and in-person interviews provide insight into many of the skills she brings to a new role, the only way to obtain a clear picture of how those skills play-out in the work environment is by communicating with the people who have worked closest with him/her. Leveraging your network to ask specific, situational and behavioral questions about a potential new hire will allow you to engage in a quality reference check.

About the Authors

Ken Schmitt is the President and Founder of TurningPoint Executive Search and the Sales Leadership Alliance. Specializing in placing sales, marketing and operations professionals across the country, Ken’s 16 years of recruiting experience have equipped him with the knowledge to serve as a thought partner to his clients for all recruiting, hiring and human capital-related initiatives. Ken sits on the board of Junior Achievement, the American Marketing Association, the San Diego HR Roundtable and is an Advisory Board Member for San Diego Sports Innovators (SDSI).

Vicky Willenberg has served as the Social Media Manager for TurningPoint since 2011. In 2014, she was elevated to Digital Marketing Manager, broadening her participation across all things digital for the firm. A former teacher with a Masters in Education, Vicky is an active and published blogger at The Pursuit of Normal and a marketing professional. She has her finger on the pulse of the latest trends in the recruiting, hiring and leadership sectors.

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It’s your business.  You have spent a good part of your life turning your vision into a reality, and finally success is peeking just around the corner.  But it is becoming more difficult to manage it all.  Now what?

Every entrepreneur must go through a painful but vital evolution, if scaling the business from startup to global success is the goal. You must transition from the "I-need-to-be-involved-in-everything" mindset to: "I need to let go so my company can grow."

Keeping a white-knuckled grip on every decision, every sales pitch, and every marketing message may be the very thing that has gotten you to where you are now. But it might also keep you there. Whether you're running a startup or a mid-size company with $500 million in annual revenue, there comes a point when the more you hold on, the more you hold your company back.

How do you know if you've hit that point with your business? Here's a hint: you have. Every CEO can do a better job of hiring the right people, enabling and empowering them, and giving them room to fail.

Letting go is not easy. It means that other people may make decisions you would never make. But on the bright side, people may make brilliant decisions you would never make.

Hire Smart:  Have the confidence and the courage to hire talented people, pay them what they're worth, and let them work. Recruit individuals who complement you (not those who compliment you). You want diversity and balance, not a team of "Mini Me's" who are just junior versions of you.

Avoid the trap of self-comparison. Worried that you'll become personally irrelevant if you hire too many star players? Worry instead that your company will become irrelevant if you surround yourself only with people who are less talented than you are.

The smartest CEOs hire the smartest, most competent people they can afford. But one word of caution:  Always hire the person you need right now, not the person you think you'll need in five years, no matter what your growth plans are. It doesn't matter how impressive her degree is, or if he spent a decade at the biggest player in your industry. If your company is not ready for those skills, it will be a bad hire.

Enable and Empower: The worst thing you can do is to hire the right people and then stand in the way of their success, either by over-managing or under-managing them.

If you recruit a strong, competent leader as your vice president of operations and then continue to maintain control of every daily decision, at best you're failing to leverage the talent you're paying for. At worst, you're incentivizing her to find a new job--and fast.

Enable your new hires by removing roadblocks, providing the information and tools they need to be successful, and then getting out of the way. Don't enable them in the negative sense of the word, where you become the crutch they lean on, and you're bearing half the weight of every step they take. It's equally destructive to empower without enabling. In other words, you make the hire and, perhaps subconsciously, wait for him to prove his worth before you've provided the right amount of direction.

As you're onboarding a new hire, take the time to provide all the background, context and hard-fought knowledge you have. Yes, you may know more than anyone else about this segment of your organization, but this is information that can be imparted to someone else. Help your new hire gain the same level of clarity and insight that you've achieved, and make it clear that you expect him to surpass you.

Be clear with yourself about what success looks like for each person you directly hire. What are your expectations for that person in that role? How will you be measuring performance? Communicate this up front. If your direct reports have to ask you for success benchmarks, you're already a step behind.

Welcome Failure:  Brace yourself -- when you empower others, they will fail sometimes. They definitely won't do things as well as you did at first. Neither did you.

Michael Jordan once said, "I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can't accept not trying." Often these words are easier to apply to yourself than to the people on your team. Your company's future, however, absolutely depends on your ability to indoctrinate this belief in every member of your organization.

This starts with modeling a willingness to fail. Make it clear to the members of your team that it's okay to own up to mistakes by actually admitting when you've made a mistake. As contrary as this might seem to the face-saving that afflicts so many in business, it's surprisingly effective. It fosters an environment where mistakes at all levels of the organization can be acknowledged and addressed before they become catastrophes.

Ben Horowitz, author of The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers, once said in an interview, "Pretending that things are perfect isn't actually very effective... People don't believe you and...you can't get people to solve problems that you won't admit you have."

When others fail, avoid the impulse to snatch the task back. Instead, ask yourself if there's anything you did to contribute to the problem, and make amends. Did you hire the right person for this phase of your business? Hopefully, yes. Did you provide all the right tools and information? If not, invest more time in training. Did you make the expectations clear? Now is the perfect time to clarify. Did you get in the way? Stop it. Did you do all the right things and someone failed anyway? That's the risk you take--and another lesson learned.

What Letting Go Looks Like: Letting go is not holding on. It sounds obvious, yet entrepreneurs are notoriously bad at believing it. Imagine yourself sharing your expertise, your advice or your opinion, and then letting someone else make the decision. Imagine yourself accepting that decision, even if you would have made a different one. That's what letting go looks like.

You will lose some control (just accept that now), but you will gain cooperation, camaraderie, and confidence in the people you work beside every day. If you hired smart individuals whom you both enabled and empowered, they are capable of growing your business beyond anything you could've built alone. So let them.


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Are you happy at work? Would you go to your current job if you didn't get paid? How you answer that question may reveal important insights into how your job affects your long-term happiness

Over a lifetime, workers spend an average of 90,000 hours on the job, according to data from Happiness at Work (link is external). For that reason, author Jessica Pryce-Jones suggested to Forbes.com that we should make careful choices about the employment we choose.  Coming back from a recession where millions of jobs were lost, remaining workers are doing more work with fewer resources and a heavy helping of distrust in management.  That said:  Is it possible to find happiness at work these days?  Some experts say: Yes.  Try out these 10 tips to help find YOUR happiness at work. 

1. Throw Out Labels

We spend most of our lives instantly judging things that happen to us. It’s raining: Bad. No bonus this year: Very bad. The boss is out of town: Very good. Author of Happiness At Work, Srikumar Rao, Ph.D., says you can boost your sense of calm by turning off the mental labels. If you decide something is bad, it most likely will be, he says.

2. Let It Go

When something throws you off, being able to let it go quickly will exponentially increase your happiness at work. The ability to move on–resilience–enables you to handle work challenges with composure and strength. Instead of focusing on how bad a situation is, focus on how to fix it or the next step.

3. Write a To-Do List

It’s hard to feel resilient when you also feel like you have no power over your work day. You can take some of that control back by writing a to-do list and completing tasks in that order. Also, limiting distractions by scheduling times to check e-mail or social networking sites will help keep you on task and feeling productive.

4. Focus And Engage

“The current workforce is like the cast of the Night of The Living Dead, says Rao. Disengaged worker-zombies do nothing for the company or for individual morale. If you are able to get excited about your work and focus on it with full attention, time will go by faster and the experience will be much more pleasant.

5. Quiet Mental Chatter

A constant stream of negative thoughts sends many workers into a downward spiral of unhappiness. Quiet the chaos by redirecting your thoughts. Think of a positive memory and create a mental image of it. The next time you have an idle moment, instead of surfing the Web, draw up this mental screensaver. Replay this in order to reset your mind and scale back the negative

6. Find Restorative Time

Workplaces are stressful and you need to cope. But “alcohol and TV won’t help,” says happiness author Jessica Pryce-Jones. Instead, set aside some time each day to recharge. Taking a peaceful walk at lunch rather than mindlessly eating at your desk will restore calm. Maybe a warm bath in the evening or fun book for the commute are your fix-its. Experiment and find what works for you.

7. Connect To Your Values

People who feel more connected to the company’s mission and feel like their work is valuable or meaningful are more likely to be happy on the job. If you begin to feel like your work is meaningless, look at the big picture: Work for a pharmaceuticals company? Think of the lives being saved. Or, consider how showing up each day aligns with your personal values. The money you earn supports your life outside of work, and whether that’s your family or a hobby, it’s a good reason to keep coming in with a smile.

8. We’re the Same

It’s easy to put people–colleagues, bosses, and clients–into categories. People I don’t like; people I do like. Me vs. them. A simple way to make work relationships more pleasant is by finding common ground. Consider what makes you similar to your co-workers rather than different and the dynamics of the relationship will change. Social interaction play a huge part in your happiness on the job, so it should prove a good investment of your time and energy.

9. Feel Compassion for a Toxic Boss

The No. 1 reason employees leave a company is because of a bad boss, says Rao. They’re everywhere, and you’re likely working with one. See a boss for who he or she really is, he advises, and feel compassion for them: “You have to put up with her a couple hours a week, and she has to put up with herself her whole life.” Rao suggests picturing a toxic boss as a child having a temper tantrum. When you remember the negativity is all about them, not you, you’ll be better able to shrug it off.

10. Know When to Leave

You can do everything right and still be dissatisfied with your job. If you’ve tried everything in your power to make a situation work and you’re still unhappy, that’s when it’s time to leave. Situations can be salvageable, and it’s in your best interest to admit it and move on. Since we mentioned before workers spend an average of 90,000 hours at work in their lifetimes. You owe it to yourself–and your health–to discover happiness on and off the clock.

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In most companies culture just happens. In the absence of a concerted effort to define, shape and reinforce an intentional culture, your company will define its own based upon what they see their leaders do (not what they say). Assumptions of how to behave will also be influenced by new additions to your staff, based on the experiences they had in their previous company. And most frightening of all, many assumptions of how to behave and how things work around here are based on the projections of your staff’s biggest fears. (In the absence of information or clear direction, people will make something up to fill the void.)

Is this how you want your company culture defined? If not, it’s time to reassess what kind of culture you want to create and get on with the work of defining, shaping and reinforcing your desired culture. Here is a high level overview of the work that needs to be done.

Leadership defines the desired culture with specific outcomes & behaviors

  • Define 3-6 cultural norms (values) that when embodied in everyday behavior and actions throughout the company, create the desired cultural environment.
  • For each norm:
    • define how this behavior positively benefits customers, employees and the company vision and goals
    • list a minimum of 10 examples of how employees would think or act when demonstrating this norm
    • identify the company processes and procedures that reinforce this norm behavior 

Leadership articulates and demonstrates the Cultural Norms

  • Leadership communications –  newsletters, coffee talks, all-hands meetings
  • Walk the talk – purposely demonstrate the norms in visible real-time situations
  • Participate in and promote 360 feedback
  • Norms imbedded in Managers Development Plans
  • Norms imbedded in Employees/Staff Development Plans 

Create Materials/Program for training staff

  • PowerPoint presentation
  • Laminated cards for employees’ desks
  • Themed Bulletin boards in the lunchroom 

Train Employees – Employees recognize their role in supporting and promoting the norms

  • Managers provide cross-departmental mandatory training to provide thorough understanding of the norms and behaviors and provide skills and tools to use
  • Incorporate in all future new employee onboarding 

Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce

  • Quarterly meetings
  • Employee development plans
  • Awards and recognition 

Incorporate into all business materials – Policies and Practices Align with the Culture

  • employee handbook
  • evaluations
  • recognition program
  • award criteria
  • development plans
  • hiring practices

As you can see, this is a big initiative. It is not your responsibility alone to make this happen. It is, however, your responsibility to be the champion for it. If your leadership team doesn’t yet understand the intrinsic value of an intentional culture, then it is your job to be the change agent and mentor them, advise them, cajole them, and educate them. Create enough curiosity and you will soon find them exploring what this “culture” idea is all about. Once on board, help coach the leadership team to sponsor and lead this process. You may never be involved in a more rewarding endeavor. 

Michael Saul is co-founder and CEO of Human Potential Tools, building software platforms to assist organizations to improve employee accountability and communication. HPTs first product, meetingSamurai™ is now in beta. Michael is also the co-founder of Possibilities Consulting, where he specializes in guiding organizations through cultural and values-based change by facilitating visioning, strategic planning, transition management, leadership development and high performance team development. Michael’s clients include Fortune 100 companies such as Hewlett Packard, Intel, Cardinal Health and Medtronic. Michael also serves on the Board of Directors of San Diego HR Roundtable.

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It’s hard to hold a team together when mistakes happen. The temptation to point fingers may be hard to resist. Good leaders take more than their share of the blame and less than their share of the credit. Unfortunately, most leaders take more than their share of the credit and less than their share of the blame – losing the respect of their team. When errors do occur, are you ready to support heroic efforts even in the face of failure? Here’s a story that a friend shared with me recently.

New hire Tim received his first big task as project manager and promptly assigned various tasks to his team, emphasizing the drop dead due date. As the deadline approached and tasks were submitted, one team member stated he “forgot” and did not have anything to add. Without the data, the task could not be completed. When Tim’s supervisor requested the completed task, Tim had to admit that it was incomplete. The supervisor asked why. How would you reply?

Tim realized it would be easy to blame his team member. But is that right? Tim explained that he had assigned the task to another, but ultimately took responsibility by admitting he failed to follow up with the co-worker to ensure his work would be received on time. In the midst of problem solving, the Division Manager entered the room and requested the completed task. When told it was incomplete, the supervisor was yelled at for Tim’s mistake.

Tim was embarrassed and sure that this would end his employment with the company. Imagine his surprise when he realized that the supervisor was taking the heat for his mistake. Not once had the supervisor even mentioned Tim’s name. It would have been tempting. All he would have had to do was to point his finger at Tim and say, “There HE is. He’s new, and he’s defective!”

After the Division Manager ran out of steam, he said, “This shouldn’t have even happened!” Tim’s boss replied, “It did, and I take full responsibility. This is my department. But every minute we are spending here means we are that much later in getting the project completed.” The DM left the room, leaving Tim alone with his supervisor. The supervisor did not look at Tim. Instead, he stared at the door, closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths. When he opened his eyes, a smile formed on his lips, he looked at Tim and said, “Don’t do that again.”

Tim was effusive with his words of apology. His supervisor stopped him, “I think from this point forward you are going to remember the importance of follow-through. You took responsibility for your mistake, a sign of a good leader. I respect what you did. You’re the kind of person I want working on my team. Now, I’m going to need your help to get this project completed.”

Leadership may not be as complicated as we make it. A great leader will be able to lift some workers up and know how to calm down the others, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat together, a team. Lead by this motto: If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes real good, then you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win for you. Those are wise words on leadership no matter what kind of team you lead.

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