Always Check the Facts Before You Share the Story

With the increase of "fake news,"  it is important to check the facts before you decide to share a story even if you are leaning towards it as a possible truth.  Spreading distortions,  libelous stories, and downright lies is irresponsible behavior.  Even if you know the story is satire, you need to make that distinction before you hit the "share" or "retweet' button in order to not mislead other readers.  Not everyone understands sarcasm and therefore they might retaliate.  Going viral is NOT worth the harm it can do to yours or another reputation.

So how do you check the facts?  In the past, we could rely on journalistic ethics.  However the desire to sell stories has changed the media from presenting impartial facts to generating sensationalism and repeating social media to not get scooped on a story.  As proof of this, we were incredulous when TV news shows added a Twitter feed or Facebook trends to their news hour.  Of course they had to spend time saying what was true, false, or unproven.  Doing so took away from "real news," weather, and sports because there was no guarantee people stayed tuned for that last part of social media reports.  So some reputable networks have finally discontinued that ridiculous source of news.  Forbes Survey Of Journalists Suggests Accuracy Is More Important Than Being First shows discontinuing that was the right thing to do.

Formerly, the daily newspapers provided details we did not get from TV reports.  However, many print newspapers have gone on-line and have to compete with other web sources to get your attention.  Therefore, they may provide sensational headlines to get attention before presenting the details.  Unfortunately many people are lazy about getting all the news and only read the headline plus the first paragraph or two.  So they do not get the full picture or miss where something was fully presented or falsehoods disputed.   Hopefully, if you want the full story, you check multiple sources to be sure.  According to Business Insider chart, these were the most and least trusted news outlets.

One source historically considered impartial in finding the facts was  Then Forbes magazine told us that we cannot trust them in the article Fact Checking the Fact Checkers.  In the past, many of us used that site for finding out if a story was true or false.  After reading they considered a a skewed story on their site as TRUE after reviewing the full video (story supposedly based on a few  minutes near middle of the hour) and written transcript portion that they said proved the story, I saw a definite misconstruing and misinterpretation of what was said to support a falsehood.  What the story quoted the presenters as saying was never actually said.  For anyone who understands English, the result of fact checking should have been FALSE.  Or they could have at least responded MIXED and said a slip-of-the-tongue seemed to be misunderstood by people not listening closely or reporters were choosing to take a statement completely out-of-context.  Other popular (supposedly non-partisan)  fact-checking sites include:  AllSidesPolitiFactMediaBiasFactCheck, and NewsGuard. So now, not only do you have to double-check the facts of the story, you must verify the accuracy of the fact checkers!

Has journalism moved from being an extension of the English department to under Political Science or Marketing?  Is sensationalism more important than communication of the facts?  It is shame that you have to be distrustful of your news sources in order to be a responsible person and citizen.   Please do not accidentally or purposefully spread lies.  Remember always check the facts before you share a story! As much as possible, you want to be right so you are not shown to be wrong in the future.  You also want to be honest, which:  shows integrity, gains respect, and builds trust.

Top Ten Telecommuting Tips

According to Global Workplace Analytics 56% of the workforce could use    telecommuting to accomplish their work and 62% feel they could  telecommute  part of their work week.  In a time of crisis or because of limited space, telecommuting becomes important to employers as well.

For various reasons, you may need to work from home or another location other than your company office.  Working from home can relieve the stress of traffic going to work.   The reduced travel time can be used to create a different work schedule.  To be as effective as possible working from a home office there are a lot of things to consider.  There are lots of conflicting ideas on how best to telecommute by working from home office.  Below are the top ten tips for telecommuting.

Top 10 Telecommuting Tips

1. Set Work Schedule.  Work-at-home means you set "work" hours for doing the job and keep them separate from "home" time.  Impose "do not disturb" guidelines for your job time.  Set break times, as well as start and stop times.  Make is clear to family that, although you are home, you are really on-the-job during work hours.  Getting dressed, doing laundry or dishes is home-time activities, not part of the job you are being paid for.  Arrange for childcare during work times to eliminate distractions.  Just as you keep work time promise to your employer, keep your promise to family by calling an end to the work day when that time comes.

2. Get the Right Technology.  You must have a good internet connection to work from home.  A LAN connection will typically work more efficiently than WIFI.  Ask your corporate IT for their hardware, software, bandwidth, and cloud/server storage recommendations.  Consider audio/microphone headsets and webcam needs. Make sure your computer/laptop and internet service provider meets those requirements before you transition to home office or telecommuting.  Download the Applications you will be using before you need them.

3. Dress for Work.  Experts say that getting dressed as if you are going to the office will help you concentrate on work and be more effective at the job.  Not only is this a good idea to put you in the right mode, if you end up in an emergency video-conference you will not be caught in your pajamas. 

4. Create a Workspace.  Set-up your work area or office/room with everything you need to perform your job at maximum potential.  When choosing your space, a room with a door is best. Avoid common areas like the kitchen or family room to prevent distractions.  You need a computer, paper and pen for notes, phone, and any job-specific supplies for telecommuting. Using a dedicated workspace in your home lets the rest of the family know when you are "at-work" and therefore you should be left alone.

5. Tackle Priority Duties.  Make a "To Do" list for each day and then develop a plan to accomplish the highest priority items first.  If you want to remain a key employee, as an off-site worker you must show your worth by finishing important projects.  This requires good time management and planning.  Being busy with low-level activities gets work done but it does typically not get recognized.

6. Do not Multi-task.  Trying to do too many things at one time will result in sloppy work or missed deadlines.   Finish each work task before starting another.  While at work. do not get distracted by household chores.

7. Be Available to Co-workers. Quick and easy communication with co-workers, customers, and suppliers is important.  Although it is a good time management technique to limit your phone and email use, most of the time that is not an option when working outside the office.  Keep your email or chat windows open and minimized so you receive notifications when something comes in.  Then immediately decide if response is needed or if it can wait determine when to respond.  Prepare to delete - do not keep items that do not require any action on your part.  Same applies to calls and texts on phone.

8. Prepare for Virtual Meetings.  Even though you are not physically at company office, you will be expected to attend team or staff meetings.  Your meetings may be via teleconference, however many corporations are moving to the internet in order to emulate face-to-face meetings.  You need to prepare for virtual meetings in the much the same way as for live meetings, the only difference is the added technology component.  If you listen to music while you work, be sure to turn it off and be in a quiet location before your meeting starts.
9. Take Creative Breaks.  Staying in one place for too long can be boring.  Boredom can result is less productivity.  Go to another room or go out for lunch to break the monotony.  You do not have to be in a corporate office to take a business lunch or attend a professional association meeting.  Take the dog for a quick walk or run on your short breaks to revitalize.  Set a timer to keep from extending your breaks too long.  If you need to do a lot of on-line research or write creative text, consider taking your laptop and phone to Starbucks, the back yard, or the park for that small portion of your work day.

10. Attend Meetings and Training.  Going into the office for meetings weekly or a couple of times a month keeps your face in front of co-workers, team members, and superiors,  It allows you to develop a bond for working together and keeps you more up-to-date on what is going on.  Attending corporate classroom training is another way to develop a company network, in addition to enhancing your skills.  Although you can do on-line training from your home office, it does tend to isolate you from other employees.
As you can see from the above, telecommuting can be challenging.  It requires proper planning and dedicated effort.  For ideas from the leadership side of telecommuting, see Ten Tips for Preventing Isolation in Your Remote Workforce

Bonus tip: Stay-off social media!  Unless it is your job to monitor a business account - Facebook, Twitter, Linkedn, Instagram, etc. can be distracting.  Do not let what others are saying or doing keep you from getting your work done.  If you do, then you ,ay be forced to make up work-hours during home-time, which will make both your family and employer unhappy.

Ways Businesses Protect Employees and Inform Others During Global Isolation

Very few businesses today are not global in some way.  It is easy to think of large corporations as global because they may have offices in more than one country.  However, any company that has an on-line business is most likely global as they may be sending products or services anywhere in the world.  Even if a small business does not go outside their home country for customers, they may be getting materials from a supplier based in another country.  Face it, current times meant a global economy.  Anything that happens outside your country can possibly impact your business.

INC magazine says Coronavirus May Already Be Affecting Your Business.

What can you do to help your employees at this time?  If they must be at work because your business is one that supports citizens in time of crisis, then provide the materials to protect your employees and customers.  During a pandemic/epidemic or natural disaster, for most this would be hand sanitizer, gloves, soap, water, googles, face masks, and a way to communicate with superiors and where necessary other agencies. For a specialized workforce, there may be additional requirements to meet industry standards.  It is important to provide a safe workplace or outside work environment for your employees.  Knowing you are providing this for them will keep them going and will give some comfort to your concerned customers as well.

If your business is important but is not a support organization, then provide ways for employees to work-at-home (such as telecommuting or virtual meetings), take on-line training/education courses and attend webinars, or take time-off (such as sick leave, LOA, vacation, or furlough) without losing their jobs.  Although your business is important to you, it may not be key during national or global times of crisis.   If this is the case, you may want to consider letting people take time off and if necessary closing for a short period of time.

Forbes magazine shared Impact Of The Coronavirus On Business and the economy, as well as statistics and  plans for What Businesses Can Do In Response To The Coronavirus.

This is why many organizations are taking the time to communicate with their employees, suppliers, and customers what they are doing during local or global difficulties.  Although a few may complainthey are getting to many emails, most will be comforted by the shared information,  Also a few businesses  are going beyond email and taking the time to use social media or upload videos about what they are doing or how they are supporting efforts to keep both out-of-work employees and customers informed.

The new business slogan to customers and employees becomes "let us take care of you while you take care of yourself."

Best Time to Hold a Meeting

Do you ever ask the question "When is the best time to hold a meeting?"  Some time ago, I answered this question in an article on best meeting length and time of day in relation to corporate culture, participant availability, and type of meeting.  This advice still holds true, however there may be more to think about  now, due to technology and research.

Recently there have been productivity studies showing the part of the workday when people are best at decision-making or being creative.  This information is typically used to help plan a daily schedule and to do's for effective time management.  However, this same data may be key to planning meetings, as well.  The studies show that people are most alert during the morning and it is a good time to make decisions, work on major projects or logistical items. Consider the type of meeting you are having, if it is for decision-making, consider planning the meeting in the morning.  Studies also shows people are more creative in the afternoon. This indicates that free-flowing meetings for brainstorming, problem-solving, design, process mapping, or discussion should be planned for the afternoon.  Get the creative stuff done in the afternoon with your group, and if decisions can be postponed plan a shorter meeting the next morning.  This allows participants time to review the minutes and think about things before jumping to fast on a quick solution.

Before deciding on a time to hold your meeting, first determine if the meetings is really necessary.  Information sharing can easily be done via email instead of a meeting.  Most meetings work better face-to-face, but virtual meetings are a good alternative when the participants are not all located in the same building.

Two Key Parts of Strategic Planning: SWOT and SMART

At the beginning of each year, business leaders will take time to review their achievements of the past year and plan for their growth in coming year and future.    Planning will include reviewing the company vision, mission, values, as well as setting goals and creating new projects.  Leaders will look for new products, acquisitions, services, process improvement, marketing, cost cutting, and other ways to improve the profits and placement for the company,  Human, technology, and other resources will be reviewed and future requirements considered to support meeting their new goals and strategic initiatives.  Two items hat can be very key parts of strategic planning include SWOT analysis and SMART goals.  

Knowing how to do all this requires brainstorming and mapping of ideas.   The SWOT process  (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) can help with looking at what was, what is, and what might be.  Doing a SWOT helps to align action with planing for growth and profit.  It creates an awareness of many issues and how to overcome them or build upon them.   This process may be done by the company leaders or a team they have give the task to.  Potential team members could be valued employees, technical experts, current clients, and interested stockholders.

Setting the annual strategy should be yearly process to develop SMART goals and create a plan for success.  Goals must be measured and reviewed during the year to make sure the path is still the direction that the company should be going and if it is, that the target is still achievable.  Celebration for reaching goals and recognizing those that contributed to the company;s success should also be part of the plan  

Ten Tips for Wonderful Webinars

Webinars are a great way to share knowledge or give presentations to multiple audiences at one time.  People from multiple locations can connect at the same time to hear your message without travel requirements or tie zone issues.  Consider webinars as an e-learning option for training and as a marketing tool for sales prospecting.  Below are ten tips to help you have a problem-free webinar.

10 Tips for Wonderful Webinars
  1. Select a webinar platform.  If the organization hosting the webinar does not have a webinar/virtual meeting provider, you will need to research ones that might fit your need.  Most platforms offer a free short trial period you may use to host a small webinar to get started.
  2. Alleviate technical issues.  Presenters should use a landline connection over WIFI option to prevent possible downtime. For the best voice sound, use a microphone headset rather than the mic inside your computer.  Turn off any pop-up notifications to prevent distractions during presentation.  Also be in a room where there will be no background noises or voices to interfere with the audio.  
  3. Have a technical assistant or moderator, if possible.  This allows the presenter to  concentrate on delivering content rand answering questions over clicking on the computer.  Verify with each other when the pre-webinar check-in time together will be , presentation expectations, and any post-webinar activities.
  4. Provide a short speaker bio, if you have a moderator who will be introducing the webinar.  This is especially important if there will be several speakers in a panel or webinar series.  It gives the moderator relevant data on presenter to share before introducing the current topic.
  5. Keep it short at 30-60 minutes, but no more than two hours.  People get tired of staring at a screen even if the topic is absorbing.  If your message requires more time, consider making it a multi-part series over a few weeks instead of a long session.
  6. Promote the webinar.  Webinars target to a specific group should be communicated via email to target audience.  Open webinars may be marketed via email and/or on social media.
  7. Have a photo of the presenter to include with bio and show on introductory/closing slides.  This way the audience knows what you look like.  This will allow you to skip having a presenter camera on you when you are speaking.  Presenter cameras are geared for emulating face-to-face meetings, not for presentations where speaker may be glancing down at notes or on-line ressonses.
  8. Prepare a slide show for display during the webinar that is interesting and informative.  Keep slide text as concise as possible, use appropriate statistics,  have relevant graphics often, and use animations/transitions to get attention.  In virtual presentations there is no eye-contact so you will need show more slides and spend less talking time per slide than if you awee doing a live presentation.You may want to give the audience the option of downloading a copy of the slid es to follow-along and make notes.
  9. Practice your presentation for attention-getting delivery and with your assistant for technical delivery.  With the technical practice session, include testing pauses for: audience to read statistics or graphs, taking polls, giving quizzes, and answering questions.  
  10. Consider recording the webinar so that people unable to attend the original virtual session or missed part of a series has the option of watching at a later date.  You may want to limit the amount of time the recording is available to eliminate the possibility of people seeing out-of-date information.

Making Meetings Effective and Inclusive

In other meeting posts, I have stressed the importance of pre and post meeting A's in order to have  efficient and focused meetings.  More on these A's can be found in my meeting management book.
  1. Prior to the meeting, provide a written Agenda so everyone knows what to expect.  It is also important to quickly review the agenda at the beginning of the meeting as a reminder and to make shifts in timing of items if necessary to accommodate others schedules or topic urgency due to situational changes.  
  2. After the meeting, send out an email with Actions that need to be completed with the names of the people who will do each item and when it is due for completion.  
You may also remember the meeting management podcasts on the A's and the R's from the book, which stand for Roles and Records.  Or perhaps you remember the process form the meeting wizard book, read related meeting management articles, or saw the meeting management infographic?  This time, I want to share new R's for making meetings more inclusive while keeping them effective at the same time.
  1. Respect others in the meeting by paying attention when they are talking.  Listen to their words rather instead of planning your reply or preparing your next suggestion.  Show interest with eye contact and nodding or smiling as appropriate.  
  2. Rephrase what you think you heard someone say in the meeting starting with "I think you are saying ,,," to avoid confusion.  Doing this let s the other person know they were heard and allows them to correct any misinterpretation.  It not only clarifies for the group, it can help to calm an emotional situation.
  3. Raise your hand if you have a question or concern when someone else is presenting rather than interrupting their flow.  This is a visual cue to them that they need to pause and give clarification before continuing.  If they will cover the information you seek later in the presentation, they can let the group know.  Chances are that someone else had the same concern so if you wait until presentation is done, you may miss the opportunity for valuable information.
That makes five R's for meeting management.  Another A for you to think about for meeting inclusivity is using All  words like "us" and "we" instead of "I" and "you" when appropriate.  This fosters a unifying sense of team, which is important for meeting productivity.   Now we have three A's for meeting management!

Ten New Leader Assumptions

Whether a person is hired or promoted into a leadership position, they are expected to have certain skills.  If they are experienced, they will have many of the skills and talent required of good leaders.  Those with experience will know they need continuous learning to become great leaders.

However, people who are new at leadership may fell they have to jump right in and do rather than learn.  Or they may be afraid to ask for training or mentoring as it may make them appear "not up to the job" they have been entrusted with.  Either idea is a false assumption.  Bad leaders choose not to learn, good leaders choose to gain what is need as it is need, great leaders seek to learn continually.  Below are some false new leader assumptions that can be improved with appropriate mentorship, by reading good books on the topic, or through formal training.

10 New Leader Assumptions
  1. Leaders know how to communicate with their followers.
  2. Leaders can facilitate effective meetings.
  3. Leaders know how to inspire and motivate others.
  4. Leaders have excellent time management skills.
  5. Leaders know how to solve problems and make decisions.
  6. Leaders understand vision, mission, and objectives of the organization.
  7. Leaders know how to discipline and reward their employees.
  8. Leaders are technically competent.
  9. Leaders know how to get necessary resources.
  10. Leaders have ethics and are trustworthy,