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Can Your Boss Change?

A bad  boss is one of the top reasons that people leave their jobs.  Of the 595 employees responding to a Society for Human Resource Management  job satisfaction survey, only 39% said they were  ‘very satisfied” with   their relationship with their immediate supervisor.  Bad bosees can be toxic for an organization  and result in high turnover, lower productivity, more absenteesim and higher medical costs due to employee stress.

The skills needed   for success in a leadership position involve vision. But managers need different skills.  Effective commmunication is  an example. It is critical  to tell employees what is expected of them,  explain how their efforts and the efforts of their department or unit contribute to the  success of the company, and provide continuous feedback on job performance.  Of course, all of these things should be communicated in a way that builds the relationship between the supervisor and the employee.

That may take practice for those whose  managers personalities are not naturally suited for then role.  But  manangers  can learn  these skills through coaching and experience.  It helps to have a mentor who cares about your  management development and can give you pointers.

Employees  also want to know that,  as their boss, you care about their own career development.  They want to be given the tools  and be empowered to do the job.

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How Much is Enough?

How much money do you need to be happy?  Will a bigger house make you happier?  In our material world it seems we always want more…more money, more things, more vacations.   “Money can’t buy you love”, say the Beatles,  but how much money do you need to make to be happy?

We know that people who have a certain standard of living are happier than those  living in poverty. But how much is enough?

In an article in the NY times earlier this year, the authors, Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, cite  Gallup data from a Princeton University study  that found  the benefits of having money in the US decreased once  income  reached $75,000.   When Norton and Dunn conducted their own research, they found   that people thought  their life satisfaction would double if their income doubled.   But instead they  found that what you did with your money plays a more important role that how much you earn.   If you  are inclined to buy more things for yourself with more money, you should instead   switch to using your money for more  experiences. This will enhance  your life satisfactionBut they also found that you are  even better served by buying less, and buying for others.  Underindulgence. 

As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us take time to be grateful for what we have, not what we wish we had, that we think would make our lives better.  And this year, after the devastation experienced  by those living in the NE US by Hurricane Sandy, I am personally grateful that over the past 20 years  living in Atlanta, the worst I have experienced is 1.5 days without power several years ago. I cannot imagine what those who have been left homeless by Sandy are feeling.  I give to the Red Cross, but then  my life goes on.  But the victims of this horrible tragedy  continue to deal with homelessness, loss of  their communities, and total disruption to their lives. I am also grateful, as I suffer through the effects of bunion surgery, that it is bunion surgery and not cancer surgery.  I am thankful for a kitchen filled with  healthy and (not-so healthy) food, and neighbors who are such a big help to me, and will help even more as I have my second bunion surgery on the other foot this week.

I hope you can take some time this week to meditate on what truly makes you happy, and what changes you can make in your life to increase your life satisfaction.   Along with this, ask yourself, in what ways do you feel  grateful?

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Become More Productive by Slowing Down

Do you come back from vacation and,  just a day later, the slower memories of a more leisurely pace are a distant memory?  So much to do, so little time….

The organizations of today  are under unrelenting pressure with constant change and the mandate to do more with less. And with email, cell phone, web sites, blogs, facebook and other social media,we are constantly bombarded with information. No wonder we feel like we are always behind.  By always focusing on immediate demands, there is no time to really think, to plan, to strategize, to be creative.  I sometimes wonder what I did with all of my free time before I had a website, several email addresses and a blog.

In a recent article in Time Magazine  Peter Bacevice discusses  how  “slow work” can make us more productive.

Researchers suggest that we alternate between “mindful” activities that require cognitive focus,  and “mindless work” , such as routine administrative tasks that can be more restful.

Here are two ways to handle short-term demands yet have the energy for  long-term creativity.

1.  Block out time for yourself

No interruptions, no meetings.  This alows you time to work on the important tasks that are crucial to your work, but are frequently set aside to address immediate demands.  This also give others the message that you are using your time for maximum productivity.   I sometimes tell people that  the reason I started my own business was to go to less meetings, and so I can structure my day by mixing up tasks in a way that works for me .  When I am tired or drained, I do administrative work that is routine and is restful.

2. Vary your routine 

Take your laptop to the cafeteria or another quitet space in your building. Or better yet, get  out of your office and go to a park or an outdoor cafe or coffee house. One of my clients absolutely cannot work from home.  There are just too many distractions.  She found an outdoor cafe by a gym she uses.  There she  can people watch and  have lunch with a friend.  In this environment she is amazingly productive and  creative.  Years ago  I  was sometimes blocked when  I had to write reports for an organization.  When that happened I would go to a coffee shop and complete the report with little difficulty.

“For fast acting relief, try slowing down.”

 Lily Tomlin

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Five Leadership Competencies

In a recent article by Inc. Magazine, they name five competencies  that are critical to how you are perceived as a leader.

1.  Visibility

It’s not just about how people  see you in presentations and around the office, but also how you respond to accomplishments of the company or work group, as well as how you deal with challenging situations or crises.  Develop skills in areas that are uncomfortable for you.  That will set you apart.

2. Preparation

Often leaders are great at preparing facts and figures  for presentations, but leadership is not just about numbers.  How is your energy level?  How do you connect with people?

3. Comfort

This is related to preparation.  It refers to being comfortable in your own skin and  with your leadership role.  Pay attention to  any feelings of discomfort about your role and your responsibilities. Make sure you are grounded.

4. Listening

This is critical.  Leaders often like to  show control by talking, but often they need to listen instead.

5. Blend

Pull back when necessary.  Sometimes the spotlight should be on others.  Give people the opportunity to come to you with problems  and different  perspectives.

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More Employers Predicted to Add Jobs in October

According to the Society of Human Resource Management’s Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) Report for October:

  •  For the third consecutive month, more HR professionals in the manufacturing and service sectors say their organizations will be hiring compared

with a year ago.

  • More than one out of three manufacturers (34.6 percent) and service-sector companies (33.9 percent) will

add jobs in October.

  • Difficulty in recruiting candidates for key jobs rose modestly in manufacturing and fell slightly in services

in September compared with a year ago.

  • The rate of increase for new-hire compensation was nearly unchanged.

With these numbers we continue to see more jobs as a sign that the economy is continuing to improve, albeit at a slower rate than many would like.  It is still an employer’s market for many jobs  as the competition remains strong for those in many sectors and industries.

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Modest Increase in Jobs in September; Unemployment Down

The nation’s employers added a modest  114,000 jobs in September, according to the Labor Department . The unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent, the lowest since President Obama’s first month in office.

This is  the 24th straight month of job growth after a severe financial crisis.

On a further  positive note, the job growth for August was revised upward to 142,000 from the previously reported 96,000.

This shows that the economy continues to improve, although not at the rate most would like to see.  Organizations are sitting on  reserves of cash, most believe, until after the election and  the resolution of the budget and deficit issues.

Emotional Intelligence: Interpersonal Components

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We  talked about the importance of self-awareness and self-control as the critical first steps in developing emotional intelligence.  We  also discussed  some tools and ways to gain that awareness and self-control.  In this post we will discuss the interpersonal components of EQ:  how we relate to others. This is an extroverted function and generally requires more energy and an outward focus.  It comes naturally to those people with extraverted personalities.  But introverted people also do well  with this if they have enough self-awareness to pace themselves, and can develop the extroverted functon to be effective in their relationships.

1.  Demonstrating Empathy:   This has to do with understanding not only your emotional make-up but that of others as well.  It is the ability to be comfortable enough with your personal feelings that you can share them with others, as well as  being able to perceive  social nuances.  Are you familiar with the TV show “Bones”? In it  criminal pathologist/ anthropologist  affectionately known as “Bones” by  her co-workers is constantly missing social nuances by her inability to be aware of her feelings, as well as those of others.  She operates on an intellectual level to an extreme.

2.  Displaying Energy:  It takes some energy to seek feedback from others and to assertive communicate your feelings as well.

3.  Social Skills:  It takes social  skills to build  relationships.  Also important is being at ease in social situations, be responsive, displaying self-confidence, and being able to communicate to others your enjoyment with their company.

4.  Tolerance:  Is patience one of your virtues?  It is a critical skill for  effective interactions with others.  Not everyone has your same communication style, beliefs or values.  It is important to show respect even if you disagree.

5.  Persuasiveness:  It’s important to make a good impression. If you do not make a good impression, you canot be persuasive.  Persuasiveness means being able to solicit ideas from others,  as well as to be able to communicate your ideas in a non-defensive manner.    Problem-solving skills are also important.

6. Leadership:  This involves being appropriately dominant and assertive.  It also involves having a task as well  as process orientation. Leadership  involves collaboration with others and the ability to see different perspectives.

Maximizing Brain Functioning: The Link to EQ

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How does brain functioning affect how you perform on the job, and specifically, how does it affect emotional intelligence?

I recently attended a workshop by Jackie Sherman entitled, ‘Working with the Brain in Mind.”  Here is what I learned about how the brain can affect your emotional intelligence and ability to think at a higher level.

The hierarchy of paying attention means that  thoughts first go through the survival part of the brain. That is the fight, flight or freeze mentality we may  experience  in a crisis situation. In Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs”  he explains that  the needs for security ,  food, clothing and shelter  must be met before you can move to higher levels of autonomy and self-actualization.  But after going through the survival part of the brain, thoughts then go through  the limbic, or emotional part  of the brain.  The limbic system can automatically  interpret events as negative, and can keep the brain from thinking at higher levels.   Emotional pain is seen the same as physical pain in this  part of the brain.  Our perception of how we are treated by others can have the same impact on our brain  as those thoughts that have us in a flight or fight scenario. In our emotional brain it is difficult to redirect or control our responses, and keep the brain from functioning at higher levels.

The brain  functions to minimize danger and maximize reward.  It also takes additional oxygen and glucose to deal with a threat.

Learning

Working memory has limited capacity, requires cognitive thinking  and more attention and energy.  Long-term memory has unlimited capacity, allows us to function on auto-pilot, and processes many tasks in parallel.  So this is why we may automatically take the same  route we normally take to get to work, instead of making the correct turn to run an  errand. It explains why we may not remember doing things that we do on auto-pilot.  It  also explains why we may not detect nuances in situations that require a higher level of thinking for an emotionally intelligent response, especially  if we are under stress.

The more stress we are under, the more difficult it is for us to function at a higher level  of thinking.  We are not designed for constant stress. 

 Stress affects our ability to function and think at higher levels, and to respond with higher levels of emotional intelligence.  One way to deal with stress is to take in more oxygen by deep breathing.

“You can teach a dog new tricks, but it won’t forget the old ones.”   It takes six months to develop a new habit, but the old ones are stored in memory.

For those of us who want to function at a higher level at work and in our personal lives, it is imperative that we reduce our stress as much as possible, and finds ways to deal with  it such as those I mentioned in  an earlier post;  meditating, yoga, tai chi,  and reading scripture,  are some of these methods. Glasser refers to these as  a “Positive Addiction” in  a book of the same name.

It is critical that we identify the stresses in our lives,and how they affect our ability to think clearly.   That is the first step.  Pay attention.  Look for your triggers.  Identfy what you need to do to keep yourself functioning at an optimum level.  Then find a method to to keep you centered that you can practice regularly .

Developing Better Emotional Intelligence: Reduce your Caffeine

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Many people drink caffeine because it makes them alert, improves their mood and helps them to focus.  Indeed,  many studies have found that caffeine actually does improve cognitive performance in the short-term.   But those people who use caffeine can also tell you about the caffeine crash, similar to the sugar crash. Your performance decreases.  And then what do you do?  Drink more caffeine.  Coming off caffeine actually reduces your performance below what it could have been without the caffeine high. The only way to get back your caffeine performance level is to drink more caffeine. So it makes sense that the way to stay on a even keel to is reduce your caffeine to a level that it does not make you crash, and reduce your performance and mood levels.

Adrenaline

Caffeine also triggers adrenaline , the “flight or fight ” response.  This makes you react faster rather than respond  in a thoughtful, conscious manner, reducing your self-control and  EQ.  Caffeine also trigers irritability and  anxiety, which also decreases your emotional intelligence.   It also raises your blood pressure.

Sleep

Caffine has a long shelf life in your system.  It takes 24 hours to work leave your system.  Any caffeine you drink after noon will still be at 50% strength at bedtime.  Some people say that caffeine does not affect their ability to get to sleep. But it may affect the quality of your sleep, so you do not get the full benefit of the rest so crucial for health and well-being.

For those of us working on our soft skills, our EQ,  how we control ourselves and relate to others, reducing  caffeine intake it critical.

Developing Better Emotional Intelligence: Intrapersonal Components

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Emotional intelligence (EQ) is critical for career success. EQ  has to do with how we manage ourselves and how we interact with others. In research conducted by Daniel Coleman, 67% of the abilities thought to distinguish the best performers were emotional competencies.

Below describe the  eight components of how we manage ourselves:

1.  Self-Awareness:  Believing that challenges can be met, a realistic self-assessment, recognition of your moods and drives, and viewing yourself as capable.

2.  Self Regulation:  The ability to control or redirect our impulses. Being conscious, having the ability to organize and achieve goals, and the ability to fulfill obligations.

3.  Emotional Self-Control:  Emotional discipline, the ability to control your emotions and suppress your more hostile feelings, and to manage  how your emotions flow.

4.  Flexibility:  Being able to enjoy the challenge of change and ambiguity, manage variety, and view the experience as information  you can draw from in the future.

5.  Motivation: The ability to pursue goals with energy, drive and optimism.

6.  Achievement: The drive to do well within a structure, and through your own initiative.

7.  Resilience:   Being able to use resources efficiently, not get discouraged and be persistent in  setting goals.

8.  Well-Being and Stress Management:  The maintenance  of good physical and mental well-being, being optimistic about the future, and being able to draw from coping resources.

Coming soon:  The Interpersonal Components of Emotional Intelligence