Challenges, Opportunities, and Strengths.
A number of challenges were faced in January starting with global concern about economic conditions in a number of emerging market countries, often linked to weakness in the Chinese shadow banking system. Inflation that was below central bank target rates in the Eurozone and Japan remained a continuing concern. The stock markets faced increased volatility and generally declined throughout the month. The Federal Reserve continued its bond-buying program, but tapered their purchases from $75 billion to $65 billion per month.
Opportunities. I am always energized by thinking about ways to grow both personally and professionally and to innovate and grow business. Several of the suggested articles that follow deal with personal growth and personal impact.
Strengths. Even though the financial markets cooled, conditions weren’t all bad as consumer confidence and spending continued to improve in the U.S. and the International Monetary Fund pronounced that the global economy had hit the long-awaited inflection point and was expected to post a 3.7% increase in global economic output. I have provided a link to a Forbes article that explores the Federal Reserve’s plans for supporting growth in the U.S. economy. I hope you enjoy this issue’s selection. Mike
Want to Be Truly Productive? End Each Day Like
This BY Kevin Daum
How you end your day is just as important as how you begin it. Here are eight tips that will close your today right, leaving you well prepared for tomorrow.
Recently, I wrote a column with tips on how to start a great day. What I neglected to mention is that the best way to make sure your day has a solid start is to have a great ending to the day before. If you finish your day stressed and worried with lots of loose ends, it will impact your time at home as well as your sleep. String a few of these unhappy endings together and you’ll watch your productivity plummet like a rock.
You can solve this problem with a small paradigm change. Focus as much or more energy on ending your days well and you’ll start each day more rested and vibrant. Here are 7 simple tips to help you finish right so you can start the next day with a clear mind and a happy heart.
1. Finish one “organizing” project. Busy people always have some organizing project they have yet to get accomplished. It might be cleaning out an old file drawer or clearing your email. Whatever it is, schedule 20 minutes at the end of the day and tackle it. Even if you get partway done you’ll feel like you started to accomplish something. Within a week at most the task will be done and you’ll feel lighter inside.
2. Address all communication. I hate having email and messages that lag overnight. They create little voices in my head screaming Answer me! Answer me! I feel like I was rude and left people hanging. I hate ending the day feeling guilty. Even if you can’t find a way to deal with all your correspondence and messages, the least you can do is acknowledge that you received the communication. Create a signature that says: Thanks, I got this. I’m a little busy but I will respond within a day or two. Then you can add the task of responding to your list of things to do without offending those who made the effort.
3. Do a brain dump. When I am really busy, my brain will run in circles and I struggle getting to sleep. Rather than suppressing the mental energy, I prefer to release it. I sit down and write down everything in my brain. Not everything that comes out has value (as some have told me.) But once it’s in a document or on paper, my brain frees itself and allows me to rest. Journaling can also help extract those sticky thoughts. I often write my columns at the end of the day since it leaves my head drained and ready to recharge on the pillow. (This one is being written at 2:30 AM.)
4. Review your calendar and to-do list. It seems obvious to do this, but many people wait until the morning to make their list and set their dates. I find the later part of the day is the best time for making the to-do list and reviewing the calendar since that way I can make sure I didn’t leave anything hanging or open-ended from the day. There is nothing worse than trying to rest and feeling like you forgot something important.
5. Set out your clothes. Weather reports have become sufficiently accurate to know how to dress the next day. If you followed tip #4, you’ll also know if you have any meetings that require you to dress a little nicer. Better to have a fashion crisis in the evening while watching TV than to end up late because you couldn’t find that tie or blouse. You can even catch a little more sleep if the clothes are all there, pressed and waiting when you wake up.
6. Set a “Shut Down” time. Even though late-night phone calls are rare around my house, email and texting can go all night long. This is not a good idea. I finally made a decision to stop checking a couple of hours prior to bed. It allows me to decompress and takes away the risk of adding more thinking to my brain that will disturb my rest. I’m not a doctor or paramedic, so there are few emergencies that need my immediate attention. They can wait until morning when I am fresh and ready to address them.
7. Center yourself. Once everything is put away, organized and the day is over, find 20 minutes before bed for some relaxing introspection. Be it meditation, prayer or simply quiet breathing, isolate yourself from people and electronics so you can spend some quality time slowing the outer world. (It’s ok to have the poodle on your lap. At least this works for me.) This is a good time to let go of anything that made you angry or upset. It’s also a wonderful time to acknowledge gratitude for anything good that happened. If that doesn’t help you start the next day on the right track, nothing will.
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What People Really Care About When They Meet You: Are You a Good Person?
by Andrew O’Connell | HBR Online | 8:30 AM January 22, 2014
When people meet you, their impressions are formed more by their perceptions of your moral character than by your personal warmth (or lack thereof), suggests research by Geoffrey P. Goodwin, Jared Piazza, and Paul Rozin of the University of Pennsylvania. For example, in one study, research participants who were asked for their overall impressions of people rated those who were “cold” but had “good character” more positively than those who were warm but of bad character (5.59 versus 3.60 on a nine-point scale). The researchers’ finding about the importance of moral character—that is, whether you’re a good or bad person—contradicts recent theories that the two fundamental dimensions of perception are warmth and competence.
Progress Versus Perfection: What Steve Jobs Can Teach Us About Coping With Failure
It’s more important to do good work over a long period of time than to seek perfection at one thing. Besides, if you fail, it’s a great opportunity to learn.
I realize I am a little late to the party, but I have finally read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. His portrait is fascinating. Jobs was equal parts futurist, salesman, slave driver, narcissist, and perfectionist. And it is hard to argue with his success at creating products that fundamentally changed the way we live.
Of course, when we read biographies like this, we hope to draw lessons for how we should live our lives. Is there something in the life of Steve Jobs that holds a lesson for us that might help us to make a contribution to our own industry? I have spent a lot of time thinking about this question. I serve as the director of the program in the Human Dimensions of Organizations at the University of Texas. This program brings the humanities and the social and behavioral sciences together to train a new generation of leaders. Towering figures like Steve Jobs loom large in the eyes of our students.
Many of the lessons we might try to take away from Jobs’s successes are wrong. The one that frightens me most is his perfectionist streak. In products ranging from the Mac to the NeXT to the iPod, Jobs stayed focused on seemingly minor details trying to get them exactly right. Products had to look and feel beautiful. Even parts of products invisible to the consumer had to be beautifully designed. Jobs would routinely push back release dates until every aspect of the product met his standards.
And (with a few exceptions like NeXT), it clearly worked out well for him.
Generally speaking though, I think people are paralyzed by perfection. When I start working with new PhD students for the first time, one of the first pieces of advice I give them is that the best dissertation is a completed dissertation. That is, it is crucial for students to find projects that are manageable. Many PhD students never finish their dissertations, because they want their PhD thesis to be a masterpiece. But, careers are built up through the repeated development and refinement of ideas. If a dissertation is the best piece of work a student ever does, that is a shame, because it means they did not sustain a career. It is much more important to do good high-quality work over a long period of time than to seek perfection in any particular project.
The same is true in any endeavor. It is far more important to make steady progress on projects and to get things done than it is to guard against the possibility that any mistakes will be made. No product (not even the Macintosh computer) is perfect when it is first released. Instead, it has to be improved through successive versions and revisions.
We have a toxic relationship with failure. From an early age, we are taught in school that mistakes are bad. Mistakes on papers and tests are marked with a red pen and points are taken off. As a result, school teaches us to avoid mistakes rather than to make mistakes and then learn from them.
Failures are actually brilliant opportunities to learn. It is often easier to diagnose what went wrong after a failure than to figure out the key elements that lead to a success. By avoiding failure, then, we are removing an important tool from our mental toolbox.
It is important to readjust our relationship to mistakes and failures. To do that, it is important to distinguish between negligence and failure. Negligence happens when a project is done without effort and careful attention to detail. Failure is when a project does not turn out as we hoped it would, despite our best effort. Negligence should be punished. Failures should be studied. The good efforts should be praised and the mistakes should be corrected.
And if we truly look carefully at the success of Steve Jobs, it becomes clear that, while he had very high standards, he was not truly a perfectionist. He did make compromises to get products out the door knowing that they could be improved in the future. Indeed, it was significant failures like the NeXT that helped drive home for Steve Jobs the danger of striving too hard for perfection.
[Image: Flickr user Shawn Campbell]
As the economy improves, employees are feeling more comfortable with their career prospects. A new Glassdoor survey found that two in five employees expect a pay raise in 2014 and their fear of layoffs is at an all-time low since 2008. Though this speaks to a healthy economy, perhaps most distressingly for small business owners, one in five employees also plan to search for a new job in the coming year.
So, what can you do to retain your top employees? Many small businesses don’t have the funds for lavish benefit packages, but there are cheap ways to improve your employees’ satisfaction and morale.
Hold On To Your Best Employees
Most employers conduct exit interviews to find out why employees are leaving, often at a moment in time seen as “too little too late.” But stay interviews can be a great way to check in with your top employees and make them feel valued even midst their tenure.
Ask your employees what they love about their job, and what they could do without. Do they feel that they are doing the “best work of their life.” Are they treated fairly by their managers? Do they feel that their work makes a difference to the company? All of these questions are viable and not only a great tool for helping an employee feel valued, but equally great for encouraging an open company culture.
If done effectively, stay interviews are a cost-effective way to boost employee engagement. Interviews are informal, you won’t have to train your interviewers, and limiting the interviews to only your most essential employees will save you time and effort. In turn, the employees will appreciate the personalized attention that a stay interview offers. In fact, Webroot Software enjoyed a noticeable decrease in turnover rates after implementing stay interviews.
Additionally, once you’ve conducted a round of these interviews, you will have specific, actionable insights on how to make your company a better place for your employees.
Most employees struggle to balance their career with their life outside work. According to recent study by Accenture, more than half of employees value a work-life balance more than their salary or their specific position. This balance can be especially important to parents who have major outside obligations that often interfere with work.
Make your employees feel like they can always ask for time off if something comes up unexpectedly. These emergencies will most likely be rare, and your employees will really appreciate it. Additionally, consider allowing your employees to work from home, at least part-time. In a recent survey, 94 percent of respondents believe that working from home is an important option for new parents.
As an extra bonus, at-home workers are actually more productive than their in-office counterparts. In one study (PDF), home workers had fewer breaks and sick days than office workers, and there was a 13 percent increase in their performance.
Another great way to give your employees flexibility? Let them take their lunch. According to a recent study in the Academy of Management Journal, about 30 percent of employees feel pressured to work through their lunch break. Instead, employees should have the choice over how they spend that time. This autonomy decreases their end-of-work fatigue, and presumably increases their satisfaction with work in general.
Perks, Perks, Perks!
Can’t afford to give your employees a comprehensive health care plan or a month-long vacation? Don’t worry. According a recent survey, more than a fifth of employees rank perks among the top office benefits. These include easy and cost-efficient perks like allowing your employees to dress casually or to bring pets to the office. You can also provide free drinks and food on special days.
The survey also found that these perks are especially valuable to women and to those living in the South and the Midwest, so know your company’s demographic makeup before implementing any changes. It is also a good idea to send out a survey to your employees to see what perks they’d like to have in the office. For more ideas, check out what sort of perks the top companies offer.
Employees have more career options these days, so you want to make sure your company remains the best option. Conducting stay interviews, allowing your employees flexibility, and offering fun office perks will help to maintain a positive working environment. You employees will do anything they can to stay.
Employee Photo via Shutterstock
The secret to growth, innovation, and happiness at work? It all begins with organizational health. Here’s a five-point checklist for gauging your team’s health and well being.
Being a great team is a choice.
It doesn’t just happen naturally when you bring together a group of talented individuals; it takes hard work and a firm commitment. The sum of a team’s parts is tremendous when working cooperatively, as is the pay off for all that hard work. That’s the good news.
The bad news: Most startup teams are actually functioning more like working groups, which look like teams but don’t achieve the same results because they’re just not as productive. What’s the key difference? Organizational health.
So how do you know if your team is healthy? Here are five quick questions to gauge your team’s health (and future prosperity):
1. Are your team meetings a nightmare?
You can tell a lot about a team by its meetings. One toxic example with which you might be familiar: the leader holds court while everyone around the table nods their heads and takes notes, then the meeting is adjourned. No discussion; no argument; in fact, hardly any interaction at all. No one really feels part of a team in this scenario. It’s more like a monarchy.
Equally bad is the meeting that plays like one PowerPoint deck after another, leading up to a foregone conclusion. There’s no real discussion. A decision is rubber-stamped, and the team leaves. Then the real meetings start. Team members meet up casually in offices, the lunchroom, and the hallways to share ideas about what should really be done.
When a healthy team meets, it discusses issues relevant to everyone present. People voice their opinions — even those outside their areas of expertise — without fear. Decisions are made and everyone is clear on the reasoning, benefit, and company-wide message.
2. Do you always get the best ideas on the table?
Do people hold back their honest opinions from the group? Perhaps they fear being ridiculed or, worse, ignored. Maybe they’re just not sure if the idea is good, and they don’t want to risk sharing a doozy.
The reason doesn’t matter. Keeping silent undermines productivity. On healthy teams, opinions — no matter how far into left field — are shared at the meeting, in front of the leader. Team members do not hold back and they’re not afraid to advocate for their point of view. The goal is to hear all of the best ideas before making a decision for the organization. Where those ideas come from and how they get aired is immaterial.
3. Is there backstabbing?
Do team members hold one another accountable and discuss destructive behaviors openly? Or do they take the backdoor and complain to colleagues but resist telling the person directly? Do managers end up playing the middle role and negotiating between two warring colleagues?
This, like #2 above, is fundamentally about trust. High-performing teams trust each other and know that whatever feedback they receive — no matter how hard it may be to hear — is aimed at getting the best results for the team. It is not personal. Of course, on great teams, teammates tell each other the kind truth — the most constructive way of saying something. And they honor their colleagues by saying it to their faces.
4. Do you hold each other to the same standards?
Do you look the other way when star performers act out? This is a touchy one. Some people bring in the bacon. Others fry it up. I’m kidding. But not really. There are different roles on every team, but the succesful ones hold everyone to the same standard. Regardless of whether they’re generating revenue, providing support, or leading, each person plays by one universal set of rules .
5. Do team members put the good of the group ahead of their personal goals?
Do people understand that the goals of the team supersede their personal or departmental goals? Do they automatically put the good of the whole first?
Let’s play this one out. If a team is struggling and needs to cut expenses, do teammates willingly make sacrifices in their areas for the greater good? Would a team member offer a painful cut that might greatly benefit the entire organization? That’s what happens on great teams. People have a sense of shared responsibility, and they trust that they’ll be taken care of when it matters most.
In my work, I’m asked a lot about the worst behavior I’ve seen on a team. Well, I definitely don’t air clients’ dirty laundry, but this list is a pretty good overview of common unhealthy habits. Focus on these five and your team will achieve great things.
Fed To Further Trim Monthly Asset Purchases To $65 Billion As Economic Growth Continues
In a press release announcing the reduction, the FOMC wrote, “Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in December indicates that growth in economic activity picked up in recent quarters. Labor market indicators were mixed but on balance showed further improvement.”
In wording nearly identical to last month’s taper announcement, the release noted that the decline unemployment rate remains higher than the committee would like, but household spending and businesses investment are accelerating, even as home buying slows. Again the committee wrote, “Fiscal policy is restraining economic growth, although the extent of restraint is diminishing. Inflation has been running below the Committee’s longer-run objective, but longer-term inflation expectations have remained stable.”
Looking ahead, the FOMC once again noted that, “the Committee will likely reduce the pace of asset purchases in further measured steps at future meetings. However, asset purchases are not on a preset course, and the Committee’s decisions about their pace will remain contingent on the Committee’s outlook for the labor market and inflation as well as its assessment of the likely efficacy and costs of such purchases.”
The Fed maintained expectations that the federal funds target rate of 0% to .25% will remain low as long as unemployment remains above 6.5%. They expect inflation to be at most a half percentage point above its 2% long term target for one to two years. The statement reiterated anticipation that targets will hold “well past”when the unemployment rate declines below 6.5%.
The Fed purchased $85 billion worth of bonds each month for most of 2013 in an effort to stimulate the laggard economy. Last month, citing moderate economic expansion, the FOMC cut monthly asset purchases by $10 billion, while maintaining tight control on interest rates. Discussing the Fed’s December decision in a press conference Bernanke noted that “even after this reduction we will be continuing to add to our securities holdings at a rapid pace.”
While global markets initially responded favorable to the announcement, stocks have trended down since the turn of the year. In the last two weeks investors around the world have been sharply selling off equities as emerging markets falter. Experts say that the Fed’s December taper was a catalyst for recent moves, even if it took a few weeks to trickle through.
“If you think back to last April, May, June when the fed was really hinting at tapering,” notes Kathy Jones, a fixed income strategist at Schwab, “we started to see some of riskier markets globally start to decline, not hugely but there was a decline in emerging market currencies, and commodity prices had already been falling for quite some time. I think that was an indication that the proverbial punch bowl was being pulled away.”
Following the FOMC June meeting, Bernanke unveiled plans to begin cutting back asset purchases within six to 12 months. At that point investors began to realize that liquidity would be leaving the global economies that had benefited from the Fed’s open pocketbook. The Dow lost more than 200 points that day and the 10-year treasury note yield jumped to 2.34%.
Markets rallied when the Fed ultimately declined to taper in September and again in October. But once tapering finally began, and markets came to anticipate more, investors began fleeing risky assets in favor of safer havens.
“My interpretation is the first phase was a recognition that there was a frothiness to certain markets,” says Jones. “In the second phase we are uncovering the unwinding of positions people have probably had for a number of years. One that we talk about is the carry trade, which is where you borrow in, say, U.S. dollars because rates are so low and you invest in higher yielding currencies and earn the spread. When you start to unwind those trades after people have had them on for a couple of years, that can go very very fast.” She calls disappointing data from China’s Purchasing Manager Index the “final straw” that sent markets into their current decline.
Jones, like most Fed watchers, expected a $10 billion reduction to bond purchases, evenly split between mortgage backed securities and treasuries. While she believe “everything” factors into such decisions she notes that the Fed tends not to set policy based on global conditions, instead focusing on what is happening at home. While the Fed still hasn’t hit it’s targets on inflation and employment things seem to be improving.
After the economy added 200,000 or more jobs in both October and November, the light 74,000 jobs added in December caught many by surprise. But with many saying that the December slow down was due to bad weather, most didn’t expect one number to convince the Fed to change course.
How You Give Back Provides Purpose to Your Personal Brand
The following is the 13th in the series, “Personal Branding For A Better Life,” in which marketing expert Jim Joseph applies big brand marketing lessons to help you build a successful personal brand.
If I can be accused of anything in this series, it could be that I appear a bit self centered. The hyper focus on personal branding can make it seem like it’s just all about you and what you want and need and how are going to do to get it.
That is indeed partially true. Personal branding is about self focus, self reflection and self actualization.
But it’s also about being a part of a larger team, as we mentioned in the last post. Doing for others as they do for you is a core part of who you are as a person.
There’s another dimension to personal branding that is even more important. While personal branding is self centered, it’s also about figuring out ways that you can give back.
It’s about having a purpose to your brand. Giving back to those in need — in your community, around the world, to the next generation or whatever fits your brand.
This isn’t just about charity — it’s about giving back in a way that suits your personal brand. It’s about putting a purpose into your brand so that you stand for something more than just yourself.
This is about making your mark, not just having personal success. It’s about doing good for those around you.
This should not be an afterthought once you’ve achieved your goals. Having a brand purpose should be a natural extension of your brand definition and a definitive part of your brand as you progress through life. You need to bake it into how you carry yourself and weave it into your plans.
Part of my brand purpose is to support the next generation of marketers. That is why I teach and write so much; it’s my way of giving back and it’s woven into the very fiber of my daily life. It’s been an evolving part of my own personal brand definition as I have grown through the years. I do it because I had amazing mentors early in my career, so I want to make sure those coming into our field have access to those who have come before them.
But that’s me and my personal brand.
Think about how you can add purpose to your personal brand. Create a way to give back. Find a way to make your mark, and make it a part of your plans … you’ll find it brings rewards you never thought possible.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.