October 18, 2017

Productivity Hacks that Every Leader Should Know

It seems like we are always trying to get more work done with the limited amount of time that we have in a day. As we find ways to save time, we also have a tendency to fill that time with more work. It's a cycle that can unfortunately often lead to a loss of productivity and disrupt employee performance management.
Fortunately, there are things that you can do to manage yours and your employees' time better, and to maintain the optimal level of efficiency. In this post, we are going to look at the productivity hacks that every leader should know.

Time Blocking

The workday is often filled with all sorts of tasks. With so much going on, it can feel like we are not giving any of our work the attention it deserves. Time blocking is an approach that can guarantee that you give important tasks the time and attention that they need.
By dedicating a block of time to a specific part of the job, you can shut out all of the distractions. This will give you a better ability to get these tasks done, and it will increase your productivity. Schedule your days by blocking off time for the high-priority items first and then work your way down to things that require less attention.

Regular Exercise

We all know that exercise is important for staying healthy, but it can also do a lot to improve your productivity. Along with being good for your physical health, regular exercise can work as a measure to maintain a person's mental health.
You'll feel happier, and happy people tend to be more successful. People that have a regular exercise routine are also more alert and they have more energy. Both of these can have a major impact on your ability to get more done with the time you have.

Taking Breaks

While this might sound counterintuitive, allowing yourself more breaks and even a nap to rest the brain can make you more productive. In some situations, the more you try to force yourself to be productive, the less productive you will be.
When you step away from your work, it is easier to process information that might be vital to the task. It can help you to solve problems, or to get going when you feel like you are stuck.

Meditation

Many of today's top business leaders choose meditation as a way to relax, relieve stress, or to reflect. It can be one of the keys to living a more productive life, as meditation can help a person to think more clearly. When you are thinking clearly, you'll make better decisions, have a better ability to focus, and improve your memory.

Strengths Consideration and Calibration

When you plan the day ahead, try to think about the different strengths that you will need to employ to have a successful day. Once you know the resources that you are going to need to draw upon, schedule your day in a way that will optimize for the strengths that are going to help you get the most out of the time you have.
You might not be able to add more time to the day, but you can make decisions that will help you to get more from the time you have. In the search for a more productive life, you'll find the combination of solutions that work for you. Some might work for other people, but they may not work well for you. The key is to find the productivity hacks that offer the best solution for the individual.

September 28, 2017

NFL Makes BIG Business Blunder

For a business to succeed, it must have customers.  If a business is fortunate enough to have repeat customers, they try their best to understand how to keep them coming back. 

What, Where, and When was the NFL business blunder? Sports is a business!  So why did NFL team owners (leaders), coaches (managers) and players (employees) agree with each other to make such a blunder of their business?  Obviously they were not thinking about fan (customer) response to their actions over the weekend in various stadiums across the country.  Did they not realize that fans are their customers, not blind followers. Their customers (aka American citizens) felt insulted over the weekend and have been showing their anger in true protest by: burning team products and tickets on social media, canceling football packages via cable, boycotting both games and sponsors.

LESSON LEARNED #1: Insult the country of America during the national anthem (or pledge of allegiance) and you insult their citizens as well! 

How does the NFL get back their customers? Good customer service says to apologize and emphasize.  Instead, the NFL keeps piling on excuses for their behavior.  This is a bad move for an organization already showing profit loss.  Apologizing will not get all their fans back this season (business quarter), but it might result in a few since some may be quick to forgive - especially if an incentive to return is given.  If the NFL wants a better profitable season next year, then they need to start with a general apology to the whole USA and then teams need to give a targeted apology with refunds on game tickets where insult occurred to fans. 

Why is it important for their business for NFL and teams to apologize? Like any business, they have competition for their customers' attention and money. For the game pf football, may fans prefer their college team over professional teams, and of course there are the high school games as well. Another obvious competition is other types of sports. For example, the main competition team sports are those that were created in the USA: Baseball and Basketball (unless the professionals here also dis the USA, its citizens, or its president) Other competition team sports with a USA beginning include: Lacrosse, Roller Derby, and Volleyball. American football is an adaptation on the English game of Soccer, as is Rugby. Other team-based sports competitors might include: Bowling (origin Egypt), Hockey (origin Canada), Polo (origin Persia). Then there are also smaller competitions from: Archery, Badminton, Billiards, Boating (all types), Boxing, Climbing, Cycling, Darts, Fishing, Frisbee, Golf, Gymnastics, Handball, Horse-riding, Horseshoes, Jumping, Kites, Knife-throwing, Paintball, Pickle-ball, Racing (boats, cars, motorcycles,and other motor-types.), Rodeo, Running, Shooting, Skateboarding, Skating, Skiing, Skydiving, Snowboarding, Swimming, Tennis, Tug-of-war, Weight-lifting, Wrestling, and even more. Chess, dancing, gambling, and knitting are competitive events now too!


Why is it important for their business for NFL and teams to apologize? Like any business, they have competition for their customers' attention and money. For the game pf football, may fans prefer their college team over professional teams, and of course there are the high school games as well. Another obvious competition is other types of sports. For example, the main competition team sports are those that were created in the USA: Baseball and Basketball (unless the professionals here also dis the USA, its citizens, or its president) Other competition team sports with a USA beginning include: Lacrosse, Roller Derby, and Volleyball. American football is an adaptation on the English game of Soccer, as is Rugby. Other team-based sports competitors might include: Bowling (origin Egypt), Hockey (origin Canada), Polo (origin Persia). Then there are also smaller competitions from: Archery, Badminton, Billiards, Boating (all types), Boxing, Climbing, Cycling, Darts, Fishing, Frisbee, Golf, Gymnastics, Handball, Horse-riding, Horseshoes, Jumping, Kites, Knife-throwing, Paintball, Pickle-ball, Racing (boats, cars, motorcycles,and other motor-types.), Rodeo, Running, Shooting, Skateboarding, Skating, Skiing, Skydiving, Snowboarding, Swimming, Tennis, Tug-of-war, Weight-lifting, Wrestling, and even more. Chess, dancing, gambling, and knitting are competitive events now too!


Who gave excuses for NFL actions? According to reporters, the first kneeling incident was last year and was suppose to be a protest. Typically protests are obvious because of signs or clothing containing words about the reason for protest. Doing this on an NFL field might result in fines, so the protester could lose money. Instead last year's player got a free interview to explain his kneeling and later in interview said he would stand this year for anthem. Some say the mass NFL protests by some team members were suppose to be a sign of solidarity for the person causing the 1st incident, others say there is more to it than that. Whose idea was this so-called political protest now known as a bad business move, even though anthem standing is in existing NFL operation policy? Many American citizens feel it was still an unpatriotic snub of their country's flag and anthem done in retaliation for a out-of-context comment made by the president (who is majority elected leader of USA). To the NFL, the president simply voiced in public what many citizens were saying in private. Whose idea was this so-called political protest now known as a bad business move? A few sportscasters have tried to defend the NFL actions by saying it was not flag or patriotism related. Oops again... Telling your viewers (network's customers) they are wrong might result in lost ratings rather then keeping open a time slot for sports. If sportscasters are worrying about filling time slot with enough sports, without NFL, they might want to check WHY paragraph above for alternatives.


September 26, 2017

Behavior Change Models for Organizational Performance

Mgmt of Organizational Behavior

Business managers have been aware of Management of Organizational Behavior by Hersey and Blanchard for decades because it continues to be updated, reprinted, and part of MBA programs. In this book, they first talked about a basic change model that includes knowledge, attitudes, individual behavior, and group behavior. Each part of the model has a difficulty and time axis associated with it. Let’s look at the four parts of the change model before discussing their two ways of making the model work.



Parts of the change model:

  •      Knowledge is the learning part.  This can be taught via reading, mentoring or training.  It is the easiest change to make.
  •      Attitudes are emotional responses.  These may be more difficult to change as they could be either positive (less difficult) or negative (more difficult) towards the change plan.
  •      Individual Behavior is more difficult to manage as it relates to existing attitudes and lack of knowledge.  This will require more time and proper communication to overcome.
  •      Group Behavior may be defined as Organizational Performance, or how the groups of individual work together as a cohesive unit.  Again, this can require more time as it is often harder to get people working as a team rather than individual contributors.

How the model can work:
-- Participatory Change model, the process looks like:
Personal Power > Knowledge > Attitudes > Individual Behavior > Group Behavior
This method may be easier to implement because it relies on the skills of everyone concerned and utilizes champions at various levels.  The result timeline tends to be longer lasting once achieved, however it can take longer to reach the change goal.
-- Coerced Change, the process looks something like:
Position Power > Group Behavior > Individual Behavior > Attitudes > Knowledge > Attitudes > Behaviors
Although this method seems longer, it can actually reach the change goal sooner as it is being enforced by a champion at the highest management level.  The difficulty here is that there will be resistance to a non-participatory change and there is the drawback that once the current leader leaves, the desired change may disappear.

While Paul Hersey continues on the Situational Leadership path, Ken Blanchard has become the name to look to in management and leadership books - especially through his one-minute series. 

August 19, 2017

10 Questions When Choosing an eLearning Authoring Tool

With each eLearning authoring tool boasting its unique selling features, it can be tough finding one that fits your specific content creation needs. Since we all have different needs, backgrounds and proficiency with new technology, there is no universal tool.  Below are 10 questions you should ask yourself when choosing an eLearning authoring tool.

1. What level of interactivity do we want in an authoring tool?  Ensuring that a course is engaging can be more difficult than producing the content itself. Some form of interactivity is essential to ensure that learners stay focused and retain information. Adding interactivity to a course can vary in difficulty, so it’s important you choose a tool that fits with your skills and resources.

2. Do we desire video delivery features in the tool?  With decreasing attention spans, video has become one of the most popular eLearning formats. With that in mind, ensuring that the tool you choose offers at least basic video is a good idea. Otherwise, adding video to a course can require a significant amount of external resources.

3. Do we need a tool that offers development collaboration?  This really depends on your work environment. Will you be working solo or collaborating with a team? The best collaborative authoring tools will be cloud-based. If you will be collaborating intensely, real-time collaboration is an ideal feature for efficient collaboration.

4. Should our courses be mobile friendly?  If your courses will viewed outside of a classroom setting, they must be mobile-friendly! This is where you should be looking at the publishing output (Flash, HTML5, etc.). Ensure that courses can be accessed and interacted with on all major devices.

5. What is more important to us, a short learning curve or more creative options?  With most tools, you get what you give. Meaning, a complex tool will likely be capable of more impressive results than an easy tool with minimal options. The complex tool will have a much steeper learning curve, but will typically offer much more creative freedom. It’s just a matter of knowing the scope of your needs, resources and capabilities.

6. Which fits our needs better, a desktop tool or web-based tool?  While both types of tools have their pros and cons, web-based authoring tools are increasingly popular. Some advantages include universal access, no installations, automatic updates and more. The opposite is generally true for desktop software. However, there are some benefits, such as offline access, quicker response time and more control over data.

7. Will we require any analytical data on learners?  Will you be tracking learner data through your LMS or must you rely on built-in analytics? Usage data is helpful in understanding how learners engage with your course and whether its design is effective. Some tools offer built-in analytics, but it also depends on the data you require.

8. Is it compatible with our LMS or LRS?  If you are currently using an LMS or a LRS, it’s important to know if the tool is compatible. The same goes for other technology you will be using in the content creation process.

9. How does it fit into our training budget?  Simplicity tends to go hand in hand with price. Below are key points to consider when reviewing pricing plans:
·         Free trial offers
·         Price per authoring versus team pricing plans
·         Monthly storage included and cost of additional storage
·         Monthly payments or yearly contract
·         Number of perks available as add-ons
·         Flexibility of cancellation policy

10. Are there any hidden costs we may not be aware of?  Consider all the features you need relative to how much you are willing to spend. Also consider the costs of external tools that are not included in the plan you are considering buying. For instance, external branching software can cost a few hundred dollars extra per month.

You should now have a good idea of what to look for when choosing an eLearning authoring tool.

August 1, 2017

Quality Management – Where Are We Now? Survey Questions

I was reading a Leadership vs Management” report from Sweden’s LUND University that used Total Quality Management (TQM) models to arrive at their conclusions.  The latest reference in the report was 2006.  After doing an internet search, I could not find a more recent report that was not primarily Healthcare related.  As a corporate trainer during of the quality improvement (quality related posts) and team building (team related posts) booms of the late 1980s thru the 1990s, I was curious about where businesses are now related to continuous quality management programs.  (Check out Kaizen and the history of Quality Improvement processes from Creative Safety Solutions.) 

Knowing that customers expect more now than they did in the past, I wondered if the quality ideas are still in full force at USA companies and global organizations.   The best way for me to find out is to ask, right? Complete survey at
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QYT7VCM 
to let me know what is going on (or not happening) in your company. The survey can take between 1 - 8 minutes depending on your answer to the provided questions. When I get at least 1000 responses, I will publish the survey results in a future post.  

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 
     OPPORTUNITIESNOWHERE.
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.