July 11, 2017

Three Top Soft Skills Leaders Need Training On

 Have you ever wondered what benefit your business leadership gets from attending training workshops?  Did they not learn everything they needed in their MBA program that included finance, running a business, and strategic thinking? The answer is NO.  To stay current, good leaders are always learning and improving especially in the area of “soft skills.”

According to Paula Ketter, Editor of TD Magazine, “Leaders in the 21st century require myriad skills to be successful, and those skills are becoming more diverse every day. It is imperative that training professionals incorporate many of these soft skills into leadership programs for high potentials.”

What are the “soft skills” leaders need most?  Leadership development experts run the gambit on what they say are key skills.  Briefly listed below are the three top skills you can find on most of their lists.
  1. Communication (see related Business Insider article) – This includes more than presentation or speaking skills, which may or may not have been offered in a business degree program.  Great leaders also listen well, gather input from all levels of the organization, and are good negotiators.
  2. Self-Awareness – Whether this as defined as emotional intelligence (defined in Inc. article), behavior traits (example in Business News Daily) , or personality style (article from Fast Company); great managers understand themselves and acknowledge that others may think differently.  This knowledge allows them to: emphasize with others, develop change management plans with employee reaction in mind, plus modify their communication methods to better influence and motivate others.
  3. Trustworthiness  (see related Forbes articles on Why and How with 8 C’s) – Building trust is a key component of customer relationships, collaboration with vendors, and employee team building; so it should be in the top three.  However, trust appears on many experts list, although lower than the more easily taught process skills.  

For thoughts on other leadership challenges, check out prior posts on Five Common Leadership Challenges and CEO Challenges.  For a list of additional leadership training ideas, check out older posts Leadership Development – Report Confirms Top Three Needs and Leadership Training – Report Indicates Top Four Needs.

If you can build and follow a process around it, then it typically can be defined as hard or technical skill wheras soft skills are not easily mapped into a step-by-step process. 

If you are designing or looking to buy a leadership development program, you may also want to read the 8-page white paper by Phillips: You Can Measure the Impact and ROI for Soft Skill Programs.

May 16, 2017

Fifteen Common Design Mistakes in Creating Visuals

Since my most popular seminar and  articles are on how to create and deliver presentations, I was intrigued when Payman Taei (Founder of Visme) offered to let me share parts of his video series called "Make Information Beautiful" on my blog.

At the bottom of this post is an 10-minute episode from the series containing great tips to avoid the most common design mistakes by non-designers. The 15 mistakes are indicated below,  However you have to watch the video to get the tips for avoiding these mistakes.

1. Using words instead of visuals
2. Poor readability
3. Mismatching fonts
4. Not choosing the right colors
5. Lack of negative space
6. Place elements arbitrarily
7. Failing to create contrast
8. Not scaling properly
9. Hard-to-read text
10.Inappropriate font combinations
11.Inadequate space between lines
12.Using raster images
13.Striving for complete symmetry
14.Failing to communicate effectively
15.Not being consistent

The additional 4 mistakes mentioned in video are in images and text on Visme blog post
1. Bad kearning
2. Ignoring visual hierarchy rules
3. Copying other's work
4. Forgetting about the medium

April 25, 2017

Career Transitions: No Job Too Small

I have heard people say you need to dress for the job you want.  I have also heard others say you should not settle for a job that is not in your desired career path as it will slow you down or prevent you getting there. 

I agree with the first statement as that has worked for me in the corporate world.  I dressed for the position I wanted, and eventually got there.  Although it may have been due more to having managers with open minds who saw my accomplishments, abilities, and potential rather than seeing me in my various suits.  (Thanks to all the really great supervisors and managers I have had over the years!)

My professional issue is with the second statement above.  You never know where a job will lead you to.  Sometimes what seems insignificant can result in skills that will be useful later on.  Never think you are too good for a task or that the job is too small to fit into your greater career plan.  Each job you do prepares you for the next one.  Skills acquired can usually be applied elsewhere, even into owning your own business.

Here are six examples I can provide from personal experience where something I learned at one job directly led to being hired for another job.
1.    In my teens, I went to work for fast-food chain, where I learned to serve customers with a smile, follow a process, provide quality products, handle money, and do a little bookkeeping.
2.    Before I hit 20 and because of money experience above, I moved to working in a retail store where inventory management was eventually added to my skill set.
3.    After working in retail, I was able to get office positions in companies doing fashion wholesale or car sales, where I learned:  filing, time management, contracts, and some accounting.
4.    Primarily because of my contract and accounting experience, I was able to move to a higher paying position in a financial organization within a technology company, where I learned computers as well as got more experience in: accounting, contracts, and regulations.
5.    Later, the computer experience I gained helped me get a position in another technology company working with programmers and engineers, plus into areas of: training, quality improvement, team-building, and management.
6.    The well-rounded experience gained in the corporate world led to freelance consulting and training.

Note:  I started out babysitting in my early teens.  It did not directly lead to another job, yet I did learn a lot that I could apply to other jobs throughout my career.

April 4, 2017

Millennials in the Workforce: Learn To Use It or Expect To Lose It

A Message to Millennials book
A Message to Millennials is a book that merges Charlie Jones’ 7 Tremendous Laws of Leadership  advice with lessons on followership learned and shared by author Tracey C. Jones.  Tracey calls each of the seven lessons of success targeted at millennials a different function of followership.  Below are examples from the 2nd law of leadership and the 2nd function of followership: USE OR LOSE.

Charlie asks “Are you multiplying what you already have?”  If you are using the skills, talents, and opportunities that are present, you cannot help but gain more.  If instead you are letting things slide or blaming others for your failures, you stay the same or slide backwards.  There is no gain if you do not put in the work with a good attitude. 

Tracey asks “Do you seize the day or do you seize the excuse?” Seek opportunities to be part of something greater than yourself.  Value what you have and share your resources with others and in the organization. Remember not everything is in your control, but you can be diligent in how you handle things and the attitude you choose. 

An excellent word puzzle shared in this part of the book is 
How many words do you see in the puzzle? Why do you think you found those words?

The above is small sample of how this book makes you stop and think about doing their job. A Message to Millennials includes a hyperlink to a 10-page followership questionnaire and an interesting set of ABC’s for millennials in its conclusion.

Leadership and followership are two sides of the same coin.” - Tracey C. Jones 

For other views on millennials or this book, check out these posts: 
If you have more time and want data to help you understand the different generations in the workplace today, check out 11-page Generational Differences Chart or 14-page Understanding Generational Differences whitepaper.

March 28, 2017

Babysitting Teaches Ten Management Skills

As a teen, I was a babysitter.  Back then; this was simply a way to earn extra money.  I recently realized that a lot of what I learned babysitting (especially when working with multiple children), I also applied to working with business teams (as their leader) and with employees (as their manager). 

Below are the top 10 things I learned as a babysitter that also apply to management.

  1. A safe environment should be maintained to avoid injuries, name-calling, and bad feelings.
  2. Training is really necessary to move from a novice to a comfortable skill level on anything new to people.
  3. Good time management skills and prioritization insures important things get done before time runs out.
  4. It is best to match tasks and jobs to the experience and skills of each person in the group.
  5. Having people work as a team often gets more done with better results.
  6. You can save time if you have a more skilled person partner with a new (or younger) person to learn something new or difficult to understand.
  7. A little healthy competition does not hurt, as long as it is done for fun.
  8. Be prepared for quick problem-solving, as there may not be time to dilly-dally.
  9. Always be prepared with a back-up plan or alternate idea, just in case things do not go as planned.
  10. Explain expectations upfront and be willing to negotiate when necessary.

If you want another perspective on grown-up business applications for babysitting, check out 4 Ways Babysitting Prepared You to Kick Ass at Your Job Today.

March 7, 2017

Twenty-three Productivity Hacks Infographic

There will be days that you will not feel as productive or inspired as you would like.  On those days it can be hard to make decisions, get things done, or even get motivated to achieve small or big goals.  It is not that you are no longer interested in your goals or work; it is more that things just happen to distract or discourage you.  The most important thing to remember is that you should never give up.

Anytime you are “not feeling it” when it comes to your goals, completing taaks, or managing your time - consider the tips in this the infographic (made using the made with Visme tool) below.  It contains twenty-three productivity hacks.  If you want more details on the hacks or want to see full-size version of the infographic, you can goto the article 23 Best Productivity Hacks of the Year

23 Productivity Hacks infographic

February 21, 2017

Who will do the job?

After hearing that immigrants were encouraged to walk-off their job to show how much America needed them to fill jobs that Americans themselves supposedly refuse to do. I first asked, what makes the politicians think immigrant people can afford to not go to work?  Didn’t they choose to immigrate legally with green cards or visas for the purpose of work because they need the money to support their families? Was it not inconsiderate to ask them to give up their income for a day and/or possibly risk the loss of their job? 

If the protest requests were directed to undocumented workers (a.k.a. illegal aliens), then I would think that was absurd.  People who have come into the country without the proper paperwork would not risk promoting that in a public setting.  Even though the border patrols, fences, and paperwork checks are directed at them.  They can be deported for coming in illegally and possible employers can be fined or more for illegally hiring them without paperwork.

Then, I wondered who could fill those jobs if these people were let go?  Since they would need to hire if these employers let people who did not show up go. (Employers are legally permitted to terminate someone for not showing up for work as it can adversely affect their services - which would be the true reason the jobs would become available –not because someone was attending a protest). Back to the question – who could do the work?  Maybe the jobs could be filled by the 4.8% adult American citizens who are still unemployed, or those released from jail who want a job to turn their lives around, or where possible give jobs to those  with disabilities who want work, or people who should not be on welfare. If not the jobless adults, then some of these jobs which are already being done by some teenagers maybe could be done by more teens if they wanted a job.

Like it or not, the USA is part of the global marketplace. Saying that immigrants are taking USA jobs and possibly not paying taxes are only part of the issue. > Now people can stay in their native country and get a job as more USA jobs are going outside the country because labor is cheaper and there are fewer restrictions.  These jobs are going across the border as well outsourcing overseas (to China or India). 

Why are these American dollars going to other countries?  Could it be the unions that helped our citizens get better wages, safe environments, and fair hours have gone overboard?  Have worker unions outlived their original purpose and are now part of the problem?  Could it be the wonderful regulations that unions helped inspire have gone overboard with government control? Or has the American worker really gotten greedy when it comes to pay and benefits?  What happened to the company profits that went back into businesses to grow it and hire more workers?  How hard is it to start a business or maintain one in the USA today?  

February 9, 2017

Is the Era of Incivility Going to Destroy American Business?

Mastery Civility book

Recent rude demonstrations from the vocal minority trying to instill political unrest and doubt had me wondering how this could impact businesses.  I was looking for ways other than inconsiderate protests that block airports and streets, which kept people from getting to work or going home. To satisfy my curiosity, I did an internet search and found that there have been many experts showing a concern over how incivility affects business in the last decade.  Below are a few of the best results I found.  There were many going beyond the past 10 years as this has been quickly progressing since the 1990’s.

In 2012, an international survey of rudeness by country was conducted by the travel site Skyscanner.  Results were published by magazines Forbes, citing cultural differences, and Time blaming language barriers.  (USA = #7) A different survey was conducted by international cell phone distributor, Mobal, of both friendly and rude countries (USA = #4) to visit.

A lot of book titles also showed up for personal and professional use.  The following books were published by business experts for company managers and human resources:
The Cost of Bad Behavior  (2009) by Christine Pearson and Christine Porath

And there were various articles based on the oldest book above. 
The Price of Incivility was written by the authors and it appeared in Harvard Business Review (2013) with various statistics worthy of noting. 
- A summary article Bad Behavior Costs Businesses Billions states repercussions and warnings. 
- An informative white paper The Cost of Bad Behavior in the Workplace shows statistics and dollars.

What should be done to turn things around?  A few suggestions can be found in Entrepreneur article Good Manners Are a Career and Business Necessity and sales blog post Increasing Sales Effectiveness via Etiquette: Five Simple Principles.

January 20, 2017

Five Common Leadership Challenges

Each year a new list of challenges facing business leaders comes out.  This post will just take a look at what seems to be common among the lists for last year that most likely will continue into this year.  I looked at four respected sources from last year and found the following in common (not listed in priority order), although they may use different terminology: 

1.    Building Trust (Both with employees and customers)
2.    Managing Change (Moving quickly while staying focused on the goal)
3.    Protecting Reputation (Either the company’s or the leader’s role)
4.    Securing Information (Hackers are still out there!)

What does everyone seem to be saying is the biggest issue for this year?   Hmm…I only found this biggest business challenge listed on the Business Journal article for last year.  Anyway, I will make the new high priority number five for this list.

5.     Talent Management and Retention

Other resources reviewed and worth reading:

November 11, 2016

Five Differences between Good Leaders and Bad Leaders

With all the political “foul” crying that is going on in the USA right now, I thought it might be interesting to look at how leadership works in business.  Why?  Like it or not, the president is the CEO of the country and has the strength to lead .  So what happens if we get a successful businessman running the country rather than a dyed-in-the-wool lifetime politician?  Well, that all depends on whether or not the new CEO is a good value-based leader.  Why compare national  leadership using business leadership?  Let us face reality here – politics affect economy, economy affects business, business success/failure affects people. 

Below is a five-point comparison of good verses bad leaders.

Five Differences - Good Leaders vs. Bad Leaders:

Good Leaders
Bad Leaders
Strive to be ethical and open with followers
Hide their true agenda and have no problem with twisting the truth
Look for ways to cut costs or  reduce spending without sacrificing effective processes or policies
Throw more money at existing problems rather than admit mistakes or consider collaborative solutions
Ask advice by consulting knowledgeable individuals and groups, yet willing to make the hard decisions when necessary.
Decide they are always right or let themselves be mislead into going with non-substantiated solution based on who proposes it.
Admit when mistakes have been made and start a problem solving process.
Blame others, bring division among followers, or deny wrong doings.
Understand  transition and lasting change requires rolling up their sleeves, taking lots of time, as well as proper” planning, work, and dedication.
Use people’s fears and internal politics to either force their changes or maintain the status quo, whether or not it works for the organizational good.

Yes, it was a close election.  However a winner has been declared and we, as Americans, need to stand behind the winner and begin the transition.  A few thousand protestors should not take away from the election.  If every one of the 322 million citizens (those of voting age of course) voted, then truly the majority has spoken…

If anyone did not exercise their right to vote, then they elected to accept whatever the outcome and should not complain.  If you voted and your candidate did not win, then sorry for your sadness but in real life there are winners and losers – not everyone gets the prize no matter what your mommy or coach might have told you…