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Ten Tips for Improving your Listening Skills

Ten Tips for Improving your Listening Skills Being a good listener helps you connect with family, friends, and coworkers, and in turn, people in your life will feel respected, appreciated and more comfortable opening up to you.

Below are 10 tips for improving your listening skills:

1. Take time to talk or schedule time to talk.
2. Speak in a quiet place with minimal distractions, when possible.
3. Make eye contact with the speaker.
4. Give responses to show that you’re listening, like nodding or saying “uh-huh.”
5. Ask questions, but don’t interrupt.
6. Be patient with the speaker.
7. Don’t judge what the speaker is saying. Keep an open mind.
8. Check for word emphasis, sound level of speech, or speed of speech to tell you how the speaker is feeling.
9. Repeat back what you heard. Ask the speaker if you missed anything.
10. Ask the speaker about his or her feelings. Give the best guidance you can.

For more information or support options to help you improve your listening skills reach out to Cascade EAP.
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Personal Development IS Career Development

In his recent podcast on Embracing a Growth Mindset, Mike Robbins said something that made me shout out loud, “That’s it!!” He said (something like), “When people ask me for advice on career development, I tell them the most powerful thing they can do is to make a commitment to their ongoing personal growth and development….to deepen their own self-awareness.”

I’m fully aligned with Mike on this and have been expressing this sentiment for years, but in a much more roundabout way. I love the clarity and directness of Mike’s wording, and it led me to this idea: Personal development
is career development.

The goal of my self-coaching work is to help people tap further into their potential by becoming more self-aware. Deepening one’s self-knowledge is an important aspect of taking ownership of one’s career. That’s what will make learning to be one’s own coach such a potent cornerstone of the next generation of career development.

As this idea (that personal development
is career development) is not yet mainstream, personal development is underrepresented in today’s career development mosaic. This gap provides HR and Learning & Development professionals an exciting opportunity to experiment with innovative approaches for bringing personal development into the workplace to support employee career growth. Self-coaching is one innovative approach to consider.

Career Development – Three Pillars

Although a bit simplified, I think that a robust approach to career development has three main pillars. They are (1) Identifying career goals and/or a vision, (2) developing technical/functional skills, and (3) working on behaviors and thought patterns.

1 – Identifying Career Goals and/or a Vision


In order to engage in meaningful career development efforts, it is helpful to set goals and honestly assess where one wants to go. Many organizations have this pillar reasonably well covered and provide career development plans where employees can document their goals and discuss them with their managers.

2 – Developing Technical/Functional Skills


In some organizations, developing technical/functional skills is referred to as working on “the what” of one’s career development (i.e., “what” a person does). This may start with a gap analysis to determine where a person is today vs. her/his stated career goals or vision.

Gaps become the fodder for identifying appropriate development actions. For instance, an individual may need to deepen his skill set with certain platforms or tools. Another individual may need to broaden her understanding of other parts of her department to become more holistic in her thinking and planning. Regardless of the particulars, the main point is for each person to create a plan—and execute on it—to close those skill-based gaps.

3 – Working on Behaviors and Thought Patterns

Some organizations refer to working on behaviors and thought patterns as working on “the how” of one’s career development (i.e., “how” a person gets work done). Tying back to the premise of this article, I see this pillar as personal development, or development of the self.

Of the three pillars, this one often gets the least amount of attention and support within organizations.

I believe this is tied to the still somewhat prevalent idea that personal development is only applicable outside the realm of the workplace. It’s “personal,” hence not “business.” This is an outdated philosophy that needs to be further challenged.

While increasing numbers of organizations are more open to embracing personal development, it may still not get the attention it deserves because (a) modifying behaviors and thought patterns is inherently complex and (b) unlike more measurable or skill/knowledge-based outcomes, personal development may feel squishy and hard to define.

The world continues to change rapidly and it’s time for this type of career development to have its day in the sun. The head of HR at one of my clients said it well, “What could be more important to employees in taking ownership of their careers than learning to see where their behaviors get in their own way… and giving them tools to address that?”(Read more in my February, 2016 blog entitled, Self-Coaching – Empowering Employees to Take Ownership of Their Careers. )
 
The Bottom Line

Personal development
is career development.

Personal development is intensely important to one’s professional path regardless of one’s specific career goals.

Other than identifying career goals and/or a career vision, the one thing a person can control is how s/he “shows up” at work. This includes how s/he behaves, how s/he interacts with others, and how s/he manages her/himself, etc. Giving people the chance— and the support—to better understand their blind spots, self-limiting beliefs or stories, for example, may be the most important thing that today’s enlightened organizations can do to help individuals shape their career trajectories.

For Further Reflection

For individuals: What practices will you commit to in order to learn more about yourself and start making shifts toward being your best, most successful self?

For organizations: What innovative approaches will you experiment with to offer powerful personal development opportunities to your employees to help them take more ownership of their careers and become more successful, not only at work, but in all aspects of their lives?
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5 Simple Ways to Practice Mindfulness

5 Simple Ways to Practice Mindfulness Mindfulness is a learned skill where we deliberately focus and pay attention to what is happening in the present moment without judgment or criticism.

Below are 5 simple ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your life:

Daily meditation. A good way to start your mindfulness journey is to practice a mindfulness meditation every day. Sit down in a quiet, comfortable place and bring attention to your breathing. Notice your in and out breaths. Start with 5 to 10 minutes and work up to 20-30 minutes.

Take a walk. Walking is a great mindful activity. Stand up straight but not too stiff. Notice your feet on the ground and where your weight is. As you start walking at your normal pace, bring your attention to your steps. Notice as your feet connect with the ground, and how it feels.

Eat mindfully. Being mindful while eating brings your attention to the taste and smell of your food. You’re also more likely to feel satisfied and nourished. Don’t attempt to do several other things while you’re sitting down for a meal. Simply focus all of your attention on what is in front of you.

Connect with your senses. Your senses - touch, smell, taste, sound and sight - are a nice way to connect with the present moment. Pause to soak up the smell of blooming flowers in your neighborhood, catch the beauty of a sunrise or sunset, notice the comforting hug from a friend, or savor the taste of your favorite food. Focusing on these elements in your day can bring you much joy and contentment.

Mix up your routine. Take a different route, stop at a new coffee shop, visit a new place locally or try something you’ve never done before like paddle boarding, cooking a new recipe or taking a painting class.

If you’d like some support around developing your Mindfulness skills, the EAP is here to help. You can use your EAP visits in-person, over the phone, or as a video session. For assistance, call 800-433-2320, text to 503-980-1777, or email at info@cascadecenters.com.
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Where Do You Get in Your Own Way?

Do any of these tendencies seem like you?

· I frequently interrupt others when they are speaking.
· I am too easily distracted (emails, texts, etc.) during meetings and/or conversations.
· I talk too much in meetings (i.e., I “take up too much space”).
· I don’t speak up in meetings (even when something wants to be said).

These are just a few examples of “self-limiting behaviors.” Whether or not you personally relate to these patterns, it’s likely that you know someone who exhibits one or more of them. And I’d bet that it’s easy to see how such behavior can block someone from reaching her/his potential.

What if you turn the mirror back on yourself? If you aspire to reach your fullest potential, it’s helpful to identify and begin to work on shifting your own self-limiting behaviors!
In this article, I will:

· Provide some context about the importance of working on self-limiting behaviors.
· Share a list of common self-limiting behaviors.
· Suggest some action items to use these ideas to help yourself, your team, and your organization.

Behaviors and Professional/Personal Development

Many companies ask their employees to identify development/growth goals in two areas. The first is “The What”, or technical/functional skills. The second is “The How”, which are more behavioral and soft-skill oriented.

It’s easy for employees to identify development areas associated with “The What”. However, many people struggle with identifying behaviors to work on (The How). Those of us in the HR arena know that “how” a person shows up at work has huge implications for her/his overall career success.

Think of someone you know that frequently interrupts others. It’s pretty easy to imagine how their baseline career “trajectory” will be constrained if s/he doesn’t work on that self-limiting behavior.

Now imagine a different trajectory if that person starts to make small shifts toward becoming a better listener. How much more of their potential will they realize in 6 months? A year? Five years? How many more career-enhancing opportunities may be presented to that person because they are engaged more productively in meetings, or within teams or with their direct reports?

By making small shifts in our behavior we are literally “bending our future” toward realizing more of our potential and being our best selves.

I want to acknowledge you readers who embrace an emphasis on developing strengths. I’m a huge fan of strengths-based development. And I also believe that each of us has self-limiting behaviors that warrant attention.

By the way,
behavior may be a loaded word for some people. I use this word literally and non-judgmentally: “the way in which one acts or conducts oneself.”

It may seem obvious, but most of us don’t simply decide to change a behavior and make it so. We must first acknowledge that one or more of our behaviors (that may have served us in our past!) are now detrimental to our success, whether at work or in our personal life. This requires self-observation and the willingness to identify behaviors that don’t serve us well.

We must also recognize that this will push us out of our comfort zone and will hence often trigger fear and internal resistance. This work is important but not easy.

Example of Self-Limiting Behaviors

As noted, it’s often difficult for individuals to identify behaviors that they want to change. Below I’ve listed some relatively common self-limiting behaviors for your review. This list can also be shared with employees to help get them thinking about this topic.

Check out the list below. Do you see yourself in any of these statements? Here’s a hint: don’t beat yourself up….be curious!

· I frequently interrupt others when they’re speaking.
· I don’t listen to others when they’re speaking.
· I succumb too easily to distractions (emails, text messages, etc.) during group meetings.
· I succumb too easily to distractions (emails, text messages, etc.) during 1:1 conversations.
· I’m unable to say “no” (when it’s a viable and reasonable option).
· I talk too much in meetings (i.e., I “take up too much space”).
· I don’t speak up in meetings (even when something wants to be said).
· I speak too softly.
· I solicit the input of others with no intention of changing my position.
· I take credit for the work of others.
· I blame others when things go wrong.
· I talk about others behind their backs.
· I react too negatively / emotionally when issues arise.
· I get frustrated too easily / often.
· I complain a lot.
· I’m unable / lack confidence to make decisions.
· I’m condescending and/or dismissive of others.
· I frequently ‘bully’ others until they acknowledge that I am right.
· I am consistently late.
· I treat people as objects (lack of empathy).
· I don’t solicit advice or help from others when it would help me to do so.

It is common for people to identify with multiple behaviors on this list. However, it’s also normal to not identify with any of the behaviors listed. While it’s possible to not have any self-limiting behaviors, I’ve not yet met anybody who matches that description.

One way to push through uncertainty is to consider soliciting feedback from people you trust. Ask them to help identify one or more self-limiting behaviors they see that may be in your ‘blind spot.’

Call to Action

I hope you’ll agree that if we aspire to unlock more of our potential, it serves us to always be working on our personal/professional development. This includes addressing our self-limiting behaviors.

These behaviors influence how we impact and are perceived by others. Imagine how powerful it would be for you to minimize, or even remove, one or more of these self-imposed barriers from your life.

Here are some ways you can get value out of the ideas shared in this post.

1. Choose one(!) self-limiting behavior and commit to working on it for at least a few months.
- Research shows that we are more likely to succeed with behavioral change if we are focused in our efforts.
- If you can’t think of any self-limiting behaviors that apply to you, consider sharing the list above with colleagues you trust to give you candid feedback. You likely have one or more self-limiting behaviors hiding in your blind spot.

2. Document your goals / intentions somewhere (e.g., personal journal, formal development planning tool).
- Research shows that the simple act of writing down our intentions increases the likelihood that we will follow through.

3. Share your goals / intentions with one or more trusted colleagues / friends who can help hold you accountable.
- Expanding the sphere of accountability will help you stick with your plans. You’re not only more likely to stick with it if you’ve shared it with others, you can ask for support from those people as well.

4. Share this list with your team or department and encourage others to join you / start a larger dialogue. “How can we help each other be more effective at working with each other?”
- This can be a simple process of encouraging everyone, in the spirit of being his or her best self, to be working on a self-limiting behavior.
- This helps to create an environment where employees can become more comfortable being vulnerable and feeling like the team/organization is supporting their ongoing development.
- Here’s a clean one-pager that you can use to share this information with others.

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Don’t Let Anxiety Control Your Life

Anxiety is familiar to everyone due to the many stresses and complexities of modern life. But about 25 percent of U.S. adults have a serious problem with anxiety at some time in their lives.

“Unlike fear, which is usually directed toward a concrete thing or event, such as a snarling dog or not meeting a deadline, anxiety is often nonspecific and can be brought on by worrying about the future, your finances or your health, in general,” says Edmund Bourne, Ph.D., author of Coping With Anxiety. “Anxiety can appear in different forms and at different levels of intensity, and can range in severity from a mere twinge of uneasiness to a full–blown panic attack.”

The causes of anxiety are varied and include upsets in brain chemistry, heredity, childhood trauma, abuse, chronic stress, loss of a loved one and drug and alcohol abuse, to name a few.

“While it can be helpful to identify possible causes of anxiety and address them, you don't need to know why you feel anxious to be helped by practicing coping strategies,” says Dr. Bourne.

Coping Strategies

The following practices are helpful for anyone with anxiety and may be all that's needed if your anxiety level is mild and not disrupting your life.

People with more severe anxiety, including anyone dealing with panic or post–traumatic stress disorder, will still find the exercises helpful but also may need therapy and medication.

These exercises can be done singly or in any combination:

Take Calming Breaths

This exercise quickly interrupts the momentum of anxiety symptoms. Breathing from your abdomen, inhale through your nose slowly to a count of five. Pause and hold your breath to a count of five. Exhale slowly to a count of five. Take two normal breaths, then repeat the cycle for three to five minutes.

Stop Magnifying Problems

Exaggerating problems by making them seem bigger and more serious than they are can lead to anxiety. To combat this way of thinking, stop using words such as terrible, awful or horrendous in relation to events or situations in your life. Instead of saying to yourself, “It's unbearable,” or “I can't stand it,” try saying, “I can cope” and “I can deal with and survive this.”

Stop Worrisome Thoughts

Use this strategy if you find yourself stuck in a spiral of worrisome thoughts that won't go away. “If you're alone and want to halt a chain of anxious thoughts, shout in a loud and forceful manner, ‘Stop!' or ‘Stop it!'” says Dr. Bourne. “If you're with other people, shout internally as you visualize a large stop sign.” Every time the worrisome thoughts return, repeat the spoken or internal command to yourself.

Shift Your Point of View

When anxiety or worry about an actual or possible problem is getting the best of you, try thinking about the situation in the following ways:

Tell yourself you can lighten up about it. Affirm “this too shall pass.” Realize it's not likely to be as bad as your worst thoughts about it.

Combat Negative Self–Talk

Positive affirmations can help you cope with anxiety in the moment and over the long–term by helping you change long–standing beliefs, which tend to enable anxiety. To make your thoughts more constructive and supportive, replace or refute each negative statement illustrated below in italics with the one that follows it.

For example, replace “This is unbearable” with “I can learn to cope with this.” Or, replace “What if this goes on without stopping?” with “I'll deal with this one day at a time.”

“Resisting or fighting anxiety is likely to make it worse,” says Dr. Bourne. “A more constructive approach is to cultivate an attitude that says, ‘OK, here it is again. I can handle this. I've done it before.' In most cases, anxiety peaks and begins to subside in a few minutes. It will pass more quickly if you practice coping strategies regularly when you start to feel anxious.” Krames Staywell

For more information on reducing anxiety, counselors are available over the phone 24/7.

Call:
800-433-2320
Text: 503-980-1777
Email: info@cascadecenters.com
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Having a Difficult Conversation: How to Mediate Conflict Between Employees

It’s not a fun part of being the boss. But you know that if you don’t deal with it, it will only get worse.

It may be something as common as creative differences, or something as severe as abuse allegations, but whatever the matter, conflict among colleagues should always be addressed before it spirals out of control. But how do you tackle it? Here are some tried-and-true tips for success:

Don’t Take Sides

It may be true that certain employees seem prone to drama, but before you lay blame on them or write their grievance off as nonsense, examine all sides of the problem from an objective lens. It’s not always true that there are two sides to every story—in fact, there are more often three or four. Playing favorites isn’t fair to those involved and over time will erode your team’s trust in you.

Have a Plan

Leaders may want to jump in immediately to diffuse a bad situation, but their pre-emptive actions may actually make problems worse. Before you approach a conflict, get all the facts and explore possible solutions. Consult with your HR department if there are legalities to be considered. Brainstorm solutions that will allow the team to learn from their mistakes and emerge stronger.

Be a Good Listener

It should go without saying, but never enter a collaborative conflict meeting and do all the talking. As the leader, and ultimately the one who will decide on next steps (if necessary), you need to make those involved feel heard. Let them walk you through exactly what has been going on, even if you’ve witnessed it yourself. Hear their perspectives. Respect their voices. Communicate next steps if the conflict can’t be resolved in one session. The main goal is that everyone is on the same page and making progress.

Remove Fear

If your team members are walking on eggshells around you, you should step back and reset your management style. Employees who live in fear of their leaders operate in a state of stress, which can lead to lower productivity, defensiveness, and absenteeism because it makes them mentally (and sometimes physically) sick. Instead, take an empathetic approach to get at the heart of the problem. Is there something happening in the employee’s personal life that could be a contributing factor? Don’t pry if they’re not willing to share, but if they let you dig deeper, you’ll often learn workplace problems are not always about the work. Offer support like a conversation with HR or give them the number of your employee assistance plan.

Cultivate an Open Culture

Offices and work environments that share fun times outside of the daily grind experience less conflict. This is because colleagues who know each other better have a greater understanding of what makes each other tick. And while enjoying office icebreakers may not come naturally to everyone, that’s all the more reason to host them. Getting outside of our comfort zones enables us to better deal with transitions and change, which is key to healthy conflict resolution.
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Strategies for Building Resilience

Building Resilience Resilience is the ability to adapt well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy or significant stress. Resilient people don’t dwell on failures; they acknowledge the situation, learn from their mistakes, and then move forward.

Below are some strategies for building resilience:

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Nurture a positive view of yourself. Develop confidence in your ability to solve problems and trust your instincts.

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Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems. We can't always prevent stressful events from happening, but we can change how we interpret and respond to these events.

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Accept that change is a part of living. Certain goals no longer may be attainable as a result of adverse situations but acceptance can help you focus on circumstances you can affect.

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Look for opportunities for self-discovery. Many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship report better relationships, a greater sense of strength, an increased sense of self-worth and a greater appreciation for life.

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Make connections. Good relationships with family, friends or others are important. Accept help and support from those who care about you.

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Maintain a hopeful outlook. An optimistic outlook enables you to expect good things to happen in your life.

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Take care of yourself. Pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in activities you enjoy and find relaxing such as exercising, getting enough sleep, eating a healthful diet and limiting alcohol consumption.

If building resilience is on your self-care to-do list, we have some great tools to help you succeed. First, as an EAP member you can log into our interactive member site to access our Resilience Journey program. Second, connecting with one our counselors may be helpful. We can coordinate an appointment with a counselor by phone, in-person or even a video session.
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Five Common Mistakes Leaders Make When Onboarding New Hires

New Hire It’s exciting to grow a team. Adding employees can improve every aspect of your organization, from efficiency to morale. When you find the right person for the job, it’s a win-win you’ll celebrate for the life of their career with you.

Unfortunately, starting a new job can feel more like an initiation than a celebration for many new hires. It’s not intentional, but the beginning can be clunky if not handled well by those in charge.

Here are 5 mistakes commonly made by leaders:

1. They don’t welcome new hires from the get-go

Once they sign on the dotted line, there’s usually a span of time before the new hire begins work. During that gap many leaders forget to reach out, leaving the soon-to-be-employees in an agonizing limbo. New employees will have questions about what to expect and how their day-to-day life will change in their new role; many will have apprehension about fitting in with their new team.
Instead of remaining silent, consider sending a welcome note and gift that you know the new hire will like. How will you know about their tastes and preferences? When new hires accept the job, have them fill out a survey that asks basic questions about their hobbies and extracurricular activities. There are even Pinterest boards dedicated to new hire gifts to help spark inspiration.

2. They don’t make a plan

Before the leader made their new hire, they posted a job description of what qualities/skills they were looking for to fill the role. Unfortunately, sometimes the definition of a role ends there and when the new employee begins, they’re passed around to various team members to learn bits and pieces of the big picture that may or may not be relevant to their responsibilities.

This is easily solved by crafting a simple onboarding plan. Include everything from online access (logins and passwords) to lunch-and-learns with key people they’ll work with on projects, and the learning curve won’t feel so overwhelming. Communicating clear roles to everyone involved is also vital to onboarding success.

3. They put off the logistics

How many times have you started at a company and spent the first day or two simply filling out paperwork? It’s nerve-wracking to be excited about a new position only to get stuck feeling like you’re at the doctor’s office. It would be better for everyone to harness the new hire’s energy for the role by letting them dive into the job.

So many of the required forms (insurance, taxes, etc.) can be completed in advance, it makes more sense to get them out of the way before the employee begins. That also allows more time for the new hire to read through the material and familiarize themselves with company policies and perks. Just make sure they know the deadline for the return of the items is their first day on the job.

4. They forget the pain of the first week

Even in the best of situations, starting a new job can be awkward. From learning to use new tools and equipment, to finding your place in the lunchroom, the smallest of tasks can be daunting. For introverts, it’s often overwhelming. Leaders who neglect to acknowledge different styles are creating unnecessary anxiety all around.

The easiest way to lessen the worry is to appoint an orientation mentor or new hire buddy. Someone who is qualified to answer questions about everything from remote access to supply closets. Have that point person available and close-by the first week for anything that comes up. Often times managers and directors have packed calendars and are unable to serve as a guide—and that’s okay, as long as there’s someone there in their place. It’s also nice to plan out a week of welcome coffees and lunches to introduce the new hire to different departments and colleagues. Plus, they’ll learn about favorite neighborhood go-tos by default!

5. They neglect to check in at regular intervals

Often, leaders recognize that the new hire is a good fit and forget to see if the employee is confident in their work. This is a crucial mistake that can lead to long-term issues or in the worst of times, departures—all because of poor communication.

The best way to overcome this is to simply plan for scheduled check-ins at regular milestones. They can be monthly, weekly or even more often if warranted, but the employee should never lack feedback on performance long enough to wonder if they’re meeting expectations. Checking in at the 90 day mark is a good way to find out how things are going and whether there have been any surprises in the new job.
Really, great onboarding is achieved by careful and constant communication tailored to the needs of the new hire and the job they perform.
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Five Ways to Improve Workplace Communication

Your most important business asset—your staff—is often your most complicated one, too. Whenever you put a large group of people together, there are bound to be differences, arguments, small slights that turn into big grudges.

How can we keep these inevitable interpersonal issues from derailing our work? According to Laura MacLeod, a licensed social worker and the creator of the From the Inside Out Project, it all comes back to communication. MacLeod combines her social work expertise and 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry to teach employees at all kinds of companies how to resolve conflicts and speak and listen with empathy.
Here are five of her tips for improving workplace communication.

#1. Remember that all healthy communicating groups have conflict

Your goal is not to avoid conflict altogether. Some kind of conflict is unavoidable, and not necessarily a bad thing—it means people are actually discussing what’s bothering them.

“If your group, your staff, your meeting is all smiles, and everyone is happy and agreeing with each other, then you are not doing your job right. People disagree, and if they’re keeping it quiet, that’s not healthy.”

Your goal, instead, is to develop structures for dealing with conflict effectively and proactively. That all starts with creating an environment where people know they can air their grievances.

#2. Create an atmosphere where people feel safe and comfortable speaking up so problems don’t fester

Without this step, none of the other steps will work. If your employees think they might be punished in some way for talking about their concerns, by you or the employee they are struggling with, they will ignore the issues until they get much worse. But a lot of people are unable or unwilling to confront conflict head-on.

“Nobody wants to be the person to say, ‘Hey, what’s going on here?’ so the problem gets ignored,” MacLeod says. “Maybe you pick up their slack and some resentment grows. The work still gets done, perhaps, but the resentment builds.”

“If you sweep something under the rug,” MacLeod adds, “it’s only under the rug. It’s still going to pop back out later.”

Tell your staff plainly that they should feel comfortable talking to each other about their concerns. Encourage them to talk things over in one-on-one conversations, not around other coworkers, and definitely not around customers or clients.

The best way for you to create this kind of culture is to model this behavior yourself whenever you encounter conflict.

“Doing this helps create a safe atmosphere where people can be direct with each other about what they’re observing, what’s bothering them,” MacLeod says. “It helps people feel safe and comfortable enough to hear others’ points of view without feeling like they’re being attacked.”

#3. Be honest!

Your employees might not even realize they’re ignoring problems—or causing them. In order to identify issues and be able to move past them, they need to be honest with each other.

“I worked with a group of employees where someone was very negative on a regular basis,” MacLeod says. “You know those people: nothing is ever good enough, nothing is ever right, and they really bring you down. Oftentimes, these people have no clue what they’re doing. They don’t know they’re being negative and poorly affecting people because nobody wants to tell them.”

If someone doesn’t confront the person causing problems, MacLeod says, they may never realize the issues they’re creating. Ultimately, being honest not only helps other employees feel better, and feel like the problem is being addressed, but it helps that person become a better employee, too.

#4. Start with a check-in

Some teams have a difficult time adapting to more open communication. Break the silence by starting meetings with a check-in. MacLeod says this can also be a way for coworkers to see how everyone is feeling before a shift begins.

“You say your name and the sentence ‘I feel _,’ and then fill in the blank. And you can’t use good or bad, because that’s too general. So you might say, ‘My name is Laura, and I am really exhausted today. I was up all night with my baby.’ Okay, so now that we know Laura is a little tired today, we know she might not be totally on target. So let’s try to help her out here. The people who step up to help then know they can ask for help next time they need it. It’s a way to create a culture where people are supporting each other.”

And remember: don’t steamroll the conversation with suggestions for how to fix people’s day-to-day issues. Often, people just want to be heard. Be authentic when you ask how people are doing and listen more than you talk.

#5. Don’t jump in to solve your employees’ interpersonal problems for them…unless it starts affecting their work

Lines of communication can scramble very easily, whether it’s because people work opposite shifts and rarely speak face to face, or because of conflict that started off the clock but merged into the workplace.

No matter the cause, you shouldn’t jump in to resolve the issue. At least, not right away. Keep an eye on whatever is happening, but give the employees a chance to handle it themselves.

However, if the issue is affecting the employees’ work, then you can and should step in. MacLeod suggests talking to the involved employees individually. Let them know you’ve noticed what’s going on because it’s keeping them from getting their work done. Not only does this signal to the employees that they need to step it up, but you’ve also modeled a direct approach to dealing with the problem.
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Six Simple Strategies to Have an Organized and Productive Day

Six Strategies_Organized and Productive Want to ensure you have an organized and productive day tomorrow (and every day after that)? Here are six simple strategies you can implement to increase your daily productivity. It’s amazing what a big impact small change can have. Follow these tips to save time, money and stress and to get the most out of your day.

1. Get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.  Everyone needs a different amount of sleep to feel rested, rejuvenated and ready to be productive, but studies show that for most people, between seven to nine is ideal. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Follow a familiar bedtime routine, limiting “before bed” activities to things that relax you and help you wind down. You will enjoy the benefits of more energy and of feeling well rested while you work. You will also be more productive and efficient.

2. Plan out your week.  Finish your week by reviewing projects and tasks accomplished and looking ahead to the next week to see what the priorities will be. Make sure you have time allotted on your calendar to work on these priority projects and make strides towards your goals. Take time over the weekend to have a family meeting and discuss everyone’s plans for the week ahead (who will be home for dinner what nights, who has commitments or activities?) This will help you to plan meals, plan transportation and will ultimately save you time and money in the week ahead.

3. Do as much as possible the night before.  Set the coffee pot on a timer so it is ready and brewed when you come down for breakfast. Pack up your gym bag the night before. Set dry cleaning or any other items you need to take for activities or errands the next day right by the door. Pick out the outfit and accessories you’ll wear so you can ensure what you want is clean and ready to go. By doing these things the night before, you will make your morning less hectic.

4. Prioritize your work day.  Once you arrive at your office or as you start your day at home, immediately plan and prioritize your day. (Alternatively, this can also be done at the end of the day for the next so that you can come in and hit the ground running). Focus on high-priority activities first. Eliminate distractions (turn off email notifications, send your calls to voicemail, put a “do not disturb” sign on your door) for periods of time so that you can really dig in, uninterrupted and make great progress on those priority tasks and projects.

5. De-clutter.  Take a few minutes at the end of each day to tidy your desk or space at home where you get things done so you have a clear space at which to work, free of distraction. Put supplies back where they belong, file loose papers, put books and binders back on shelves and take a few minutes to get organized. At home, enlist family members in a “Ten-Minute Tidy” to scurry around, room by room (you may need to do ten minutes in each heavily used room) to put things back where they belong. This makes it so much easier to find what you need, when you need it!

6. Schedule appointments with yourself.  Block off time in your calendar to regularly de-clutter and organize.  If you don’t schedule time to do this, it won’t happen. Take time to purge old papers you don’t need, supplies you no longer use and to weed out old files. Consider biting off a small area to organize in just 30 minutes. Make this a weekly habit and you’ll tackle all sorts of areas in your office and home. Likewise, block off and protect chunks of time on your calendar for high priority activities. If you know there’s something you want to get done in a given day, make an appointment with yourself and then honor that time (meaning when the appointment rolls around, work on that task or project). Seeing the appointment visibly can also make it easier to say “no” to something or someone else that might serve as a barrier to your productivity on the priority.


Want more strategies, motivation and accountability to live your most organized and productive life, and to have more time for what matters most? Join Simply Placed’s It’s About Time – Virtual Productivity Program. Register today and then email marilyn@itssimplyplaced.com to request a free copy of Six Word Lessons to be More Productive, as our gift to you to thank you for joining the program. Here’s to your organized and productive life!
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