Archive for the ‘productivity’ Category

Value and Appreciation

February 5, 2009

“A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” is fair enough. However, a lot of the time you do go the extra mile and work the long hours.

A word of praise, a personalised email of encouragement or thanks can make all the difference to how you feel about a situation.

These mementos last longer than the pay cheque and show that someone has valued what you have done. There are some managers and even companies that people love to work for because they are known for having a special way of treating people. These managers and companies recognise that people really are their means of doing exceptional business, and treat them accordingly. However, too often it seems people are treated as resources rather than individuals who are valued for their own sake. 

 

So why is this important? Isn’t it enough that we get paid for our work?

For many people in the modern Western world, the pay is well above the poverty level. It can be assumed that everyone can feed, house and clothe themselves so work is generally not just about survival anymore. Once the basic needs are fulfilled, then work must be about something more than that.

 It should give people the opportunity to develop and grow, and appeal to something other than just financial gain. There must be personal growth, something that can be achieved, a goal to reach towards, respect from others and rewards appropriate to the situation. Your self-esteem is also affected by what peers and managers think of you, as well as how much you perceive you are valued.

What kind of work will make you feel valued?

People have feelings, aspirations and something to add to companies if given a chance to express themselves. The following areas contribute, in part, to making work more positive and demonstrating that people are valued.

  •          Self management and autonomy. Being trusted to do the job without micro-management.
  •          Helping others. Doing things for other people can help escape negativity, especially if the job seems pointless or repetitive. In being needed by others, individuals can feel useful and valued.
     
  •          Being able to make decisions and not have those decisions overturned.
  •          Taking control and responsibility over specific areas of work.
     
  •          Ability to achieve goals and succeed at tasks.
     
  •          Being given the opportunity and encouragement to take the initiative and act creatively without fear of blame.
     
  •          Being rewarded appropriately and in proportion to the job done.
     
  •          Confidence in being able to plan your personal life around work. Stability in working hours.
     
  •          Being treated well and respected as a person and not as just a company resource. Acknowledgement of your other important roles such as partner or parent.

Which of these would make you feel valued at work? Are there ways you could improve any of these areas for yourself? 

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Holidays: New study shows Australians are not taking them

January 10, 2009

A new study by Tourism Australia has shown that people are not taking their annual leave, but working instead.Close to 60% of full-time workers did not use their 4 weeks holiday, citing “workplace issues” and “personal issues” as reasons why. 

Stockpiling annual leave has an effect on people’s performance and workplace happiness as well as the company bottom line. The study is aimed at turning this missing leave into Australian holidays to boost the tourism industry, which should have a positive effect for everyone. 

“In the interests of workplace productivity as well as individuals’ mental refreshment and general health, it is important that annual leave be taken seriously by business.  During this time of skill shortages, employers who want to retain their talented workers increasingly need to be seen as employers of choice.

 “Employers who impose a culture of ‘work first at all costs’ are not investing in their people and will lose them to competitors who have a culture of looking after their human capital,” Jo Mithen, AHRI executive director said in the report.

Top Tips from Smart Company

December 23, 2008

One of my favourite websites for business related tips is Smart Company.

They have just released a free download of tips in the areas of Managing People, Cashflow, Wealth/Super, Tax, Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Web 2.0, Online Tools, Sales and SEO.

Definitely worth reading for links to some of their top posts this year.

Improve Communication in the Workplace

October 17, 2008

Communication is critical in the workplace, and there are many ways we can all improve. This benefits our own careers as well as improving working relationships.

In order to help us all improve, I interviewed Nancy Kaye from American Communication English on communication tips, cross cultural workplaces and why she is so passionate about communication. 

What are your tips and tactics for communication in the workplace? 

Practice Conscious Listening: At the start of our communication sessions with our clients we practice experiencing ACE Inner Tube Breathing™ which calms down, relaxes the mind and brings focus, stilling the inner chatter providing an open space to really hear the lessons. The practice prepares and supports our clients to know how to actively listen to the essence of what someone is conveying. 

Engage in Asking Questions: To receive feedback and clarification. Our clients are taught to digest what you think is being communicated to the other person. Pausing prior to responding is creating a safe space that gives you time for contemplating, comprehension and understanding.

Truth and Authenticity: Learn to discern when the truth is shining in someone, and distinguish when there is incongruence in their communication.

The following limiting idea comes up often with our global clients, and seems to be a stumbling block with interacting clearly with co-workers, especially with higher management. This is how we coach them.

Label Lock: We all have unconscious assumptions about how other people judge us. The ‘generalized other’ is the psychologists term for this. When we fall into this mental trap the reduced negative image constantly comes up for you each time you endeavor to interact with your colleague or coworker. It could very well be an erroneous judgment, a limiting idea such as the “Big Bad Boss.” Your perception may be limited by your personal bias, life experiences, age, and so on. We all see the world as we know it through different filters. We then get bogged down by casting someone in a partial role that has to be incomplete. We are all humans with foibles and unique ways of understanding our particular role in our job and how it should be handled. And we think others should behave accordingly.

Avoid Label Locking: Our clients are trained to become mindful of not labeling people as this or that. Labeling them puts them in a space that may not be true for them or for you.

Label Lock Reversal: When you believe someone sees you in a certain negative way and you adopt and hold that thought for who you are. This is just as stagnant a view of your whole self possibilities, as when you believe someone else’s false opinion of you.
Remember: You have total domain of how you view yourself. Unlock unwanted beliefs, phantoms and limitations.

During the ACE Communication Workshops, we teach our clients the following tip.
GOAL: I can communicate with ease with other people in my workplace with “PASS” To be; Precise, Articulate, Short & Slow.

 

Many of us work in multi-cultural workplaces. How can native English speakers be more sensitive to those for whom English is a second language?

Cross-Cultural Communication Workshop™
Embrace Diversity: We train our clients to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, which is an illustrative idiom that gives you the opportunity to role play and see the view from another’s perspective. Entertain the idea that it may be a struggle for them to come into a new country from a different culture and to try to communicate with a new language. They may be self conscious about their inability to communicate clearly. Learn about the other person’s culture, ceremonies, food and customs. Experience empathy. Locate something that resonates with your understanding and make it a discovery, perhaps you’ll make a friend.

Compassionate Communication: Practice patience with them and try to understand the words and thoughts of multi cultural co workers who are trying to communicate.
Show understanding, by using friendly body language, share your smile, look directly into the person’s eyes, nod your head acknowledging that you are listening, use a warm voice, slow you speech down a bit, paraphrase what you think someone has said, these are all great stress busters.

Treasure Hunt Adventure: You may discover a new way at looking at the world and gain a friend in the process. This is beyond a ‘win win’ situation. Everybody wins. Your company with the ever-evolving marketplace, your understanding of culture and the world at large. These are a few of the ways that we can bring about a society of conscious individuals transcending the differences and seeing the sameness and what you have in common with your colleagues.

 

Tell us a bit about your business. Why are you passionate about communication?

My passion is creative communication problem solving. I have a multi-faceted career background with a distillation of many diversified experiences.


As a child I was interested in knowing more about the world’s philosophies and religions and how they were similar to each other. I sought out friends and went with them to see what their belief systems were. Having traveled extensively I have learned about many cultures and countries. I am truly interested in other people and their cultures and different ways of doing and being.

Founding an English as a Second Language School and having taught for many years, I feel the frustration of those who wish to be able to communicate well and who struggle to do that. I understand how it is for them to try to get from place to place, understand the culture and language. Those in a new country do experience culture shock. 20 years ago, I began to explore and develop interesting creative programs to put students at ease and help them learn to communicate better. We discover, discuss and listen to their goals.


Our coaches assess each individual’s needs and we then create dynamic courses that deliver answers and produce great results for our clients. That is my passion.

English has more words than any other language. When our international clients study with us they gain the benefit of vocabulary enrichment. This enhances their ability to learn to articulate their thoughts.
We teach communication workshops to English as a first language clients as well ESOL speakers in companies and organizations to develop their ability to be confident communicators. The Confident Communicator Workshops cover many areas of communication capability.

You cannot speak that which you do not know or share that which you do not feel. You cannot translate that which you do not have or give that which you do not possess. To give it and to share it, and for it to be effective, you first need to have it.

Great communication starts with good mindful preparation. In our fast paced world we often do not take the time to be full communicators. We speak in shorthand and move swiftly flitting from idea to idea. Deepening our communication capability deepens our connections.

My passion extends to all people to be able to become articulate confident communicators. I love helping others find and express their voice.

“It warms our heart to know that we have been understood. The connection with other people is true communication in action. The thread of connection weaves itself with others and we become one in understanding.” ~ Namaste, Nancy Kaye

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You can find out more about American Communication English here. She also has a few special offers for you. 

Special Offers: I invite you to Sign up for the “What is Communication?” A lively, interactive & informative free monthly series tele-seminar series with participants from all over the world teaching new tips and tactics to assist you in communicating confidently.
Learn about interesting people and their books and the work that they do. Send in questions about communication issues to be answered during the call. request@acemyenglish.com. This popular series has listeners in 12 counties.

Useful Attitudes for Speaking and Listening. Recently I was invited to attend to The Seeds Of Compassion 5 day event hosted by The Dalai Lama and featuring Archbishop Desmond TuTu and notable scientists, childhood-development advocates, organizations, foundations, educators, business leaders and the greater community to promote tools and strategies to assist the healthy development of children as happy compassionate members of society. I attended workshops and discussion panels of leading researchers with scientific data proving the value of compassion in our society. I brought  back Useful Attitudes for Speaking and Listening.
To receive your copy go to: request@acemyenglish.com Code # Joanna.

To request receiving our popular ACE Communication Tips and Tactics mailing: learn@acemyenglish.com

 

Write a book…10 reasons you should do it

September 23, 2008

 

Create your own book

Create your own book

Studies have shown that 82% of people want to write a book, but few of these actually ever achieve that goal. Here are 10 reasons you should overcome your blocks and write your book.

 

  1. Say something important. Maybe you are passionate about a cause, maybe you have a story that needs to be told. Your voice is important and your words can be heard if you get them out there. Write your story and inspire others. You don’t know how your words can help other people in their own lives.     
  2. Demonstrate your expertise. You may have spent long years gathering your expertise in a subject. You have notes and seminars, training programs and articles. You may even be a speaker on your subject. But having a book elevates you in people’s eyes so they perceive you as the expert.
     
  3. Use as a product to sell. You can create another stream of income by writing a book and selling it, either on the internet or in bookstores. You can create spin off products that relate to the book that your market may be interested in.   
     
  4. Grow your business. If you market your books to a wider audience, it can be a means to attract new people to your business. They may read your book and then want your professional services to help them in their business. The book then functions as a giant business card.  
     
  5. Start a new career. If you have always wanted to be an author, then writing a book is the way to start this career. Many people talk about being “an author”, but you do actually have to write something to become one! It may take a few years, but you can have a career as an author.   
  6. Fulfil a life goal. If 82% of people want to write a book, how many of these consider it a life goal worth achieving? In these days of digital printing, print-on-demand and small print runs, you can achieve your goal of writing a book even with a small budget. So state your goal, and get writing!
     
  7. Be immortal. A print book will contain your words after you are gone. The internet will become ever more cluttered, but print books are difficult to throw away so they carry on giving for a long time. People may give them to charity shops, or to friends, but seldom will they go in the trash.  
  8. Status and confidence. Authors are generally respected. People look at you differently when you say you are an author. They know you must have worked hard for it, and most people consider it a worthy profession. It gives you a certain status in some people’s eyes. This will also give you confidence. If you can write a book, and achieve your goal, then you have become a more interesting and accomplished person in the process.
  9. You don’t have to do it alone. If you want to write but you are unsure how to, there are plenty of courses and tips online to help you. If you have the raw material, you can find a freelancer to help you write or edit it. If you need a community of people to discuss your ideas with, there are groups online and locally you can join. Writers are everywhere. Start to share your ideas and you will find the support you need.   
  10. Learn about yourself and open the door to new opportunity. Writing a book can reveal many things, and you can become someone new in the process of writing. It can open your eyes to new opportunities and ways you can improve your life and other people’s.  

So pick up that pen, or sit down at the computer and get writing!
If you need some help getting started, you can get a f.r.e.e. e-workbook at http://www.HowToBeAnAuthor.com
 

Business email: 22 tips for appropriate communication

August 29, 2008
Business email

Business email

Email is the primary way businesses communicate, as well as how people interact with friends. But there are important differences between the style and content of these types of emails. The following are some tips to help you communicate appropriately on business email.

 

  1. Be careful what you say in emails. Remember that this is still professional communication. Re-read your emails before you send them to ensure you have been professional.
  2. Make sure you know your company policy about email communication so you are not caught out with personal email. Some companies will ban social networking sites. Some prohibit personal email on company computers. If you know the policy, you won’t make mistakes.
  3. Business communication is for recording, transferring or communicating information. It should not be overly emotional or full of non-factual information. It should be clear, concise and easy to understand
  4. Business communication should also express thoughts in a careful way. Think before you write, and think again before you send.
  5. If the email is particularly important, it may be beneficial to get someone else to read it before sending to a wider group. Often someone else will see flaws in your approach, and change the wording to be more objective.
  6. Business email should also protect confidentiality of the business, so be aware of what you are sending externally.
  7. Question whether you need an email at all. Would this be better done through a phone call or a meeting? If you think you are emotional about the issue, speaking about it can be better than writing so your thoughts are not captured in an email which may jeopardise your position later.
  8. Always state facts objectively, as opposed to your feelings on the matter. You can express an opinion but back it up with facts and not emotion.
  9. Don’t be abusive on email. Always use professional language.
  10. There is a difference between knowing something and hearing about something. Be sure you get your facts right. Don’t gossip on work email.
  11. Leave out irrelevant information from your communications. People are busy now so just state what is necessary.
  12. Make sure email headers contain enough information so people know what they are about to read.
  13. It is best to avoid humour and sarcasm in email as it doesn’t cross the medium well, especially if someone has a different sense of humour to you. Certain types of humour can also be considered harassment, so just avoid it in workplace communication. 
  14. Defamation is when untrue information is communicated that could damage someone’s reputation. This can sometimes be mistakenly done on email.
  15. Never email anything you don’t want that person to read – as chances are, they will end up seeing it even if they are not on the original mailing list.
  16. Email lasts forever. Even if you think you have deleted it, it can be pulled from the backups.
  17. Email is not always private. Assume it can be seen or accessed easily.
  18. Be careful if you communicate with your lawyer by e‑mail. In certain countries, doing so could result in the loss of the attorney-client privilege, since an e‑mail can be read by someone other than the attorney or client more easily than other forms of communication.
  19. Protect access to your computer and to your email accounts. Someone could send an email from your address that could jeopardise your position.
  20. Be careful of clicking “reply to all”. Do all those people really need to see your comments. Only copy people in if they need to be part of the decision/ communication.
  21. No copyrighted material should be transmitted unless you first obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you’re ever not sure if sending an e‑mail attachment will violate copyright laws, ask your company’s law department.
  22. When emailing a member of the opposite sex, keep all written business communication professional. Don’t flirt by email as this can easily be found out by others.
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Job efficiency: 12 ways to improve your personal efficiency

August 4, 2008
Filofax

Filofax

We are all busy. Work is busy and so is our personal life. So how do we get it all done? Here are 12 tips to improve your efficiency.

  1. Make lists. These will help de-clutter your mind and organise what you need to do into specific tasks.
  2. Spring clean your office space. At work and at home, go through and ditch all the old paperwork in your drawers. Do the filing and create a To Do pile that consists of the relevant information. Make space on your desk and you will find your head clearing.
  3. Streamline your bill paying. Set up direct debits for the common household bills. Organise online banking for everything else and make sure you pay early for discounts.
  4. Shop online. You can get everything online now including your weekly groceries which saves you time (although may cost more). You are less likely to browse online, and you can shop out of hours.
  5. Organise your email. Keep your Inbox for items that need actioning. Archive old mail and delete old stuff. If you use a searchable email system like Gmail and don’t use folders, then make sure you use the Archive function so the Inbox is still actionable items.
  6. Be proactive about your calendar. Whether you use a PDA or a Filofax/ paper diary, make sure that you actively manage your calendar. Put in your regular appointments, birthdays and things to remember. Then plan your weekends, and week nights writing in items like the gym, social plans and business meetings. If you organise in advance, you will fit so much more in.
  7. Be ruthless with your email and phone contact. Limit your phone and email usage to specific times during the day, and do all admin tasks at the same time. This chunks your time into manageable pieces.
  8. Learn to say no.  When asked to do something, weigh up whether or not you really need to do it. Sometimes people get trapped into doing tasks that are not part of their job because they are being nice. But this can impact stress levels and people are often respectful if you say no for good reason.
  9. Find out about job opportunities for flexi-working. In these times of high fuel prices and the need to retain staff, companies are allowing telecommuting and flexible hours. If you can work from home, you can use the commuting time for other things.
  10. Stop procrastinating.  There are always things you don’t want to do, but they need to get done. By putting them off, blockages are created as those items just sit on your list. Stop procrastinating and do them first. At the beginning of the day is always a good way to get them done quickly.
  11. Delegate and outsource tasks. Within a company, see who you can delegate or share tasks with. At home, consider outsourcing tasks like cleaning and gardening to free up quality time for other things. In business, try using a Virtual Assistant or outsourcing to contract labour online e.g. www.Elance.com
  12. Set up Google alerts for targeted information. If you need to monitor specific news or information online, set up Google alerts so you are emailed with the latest updates. This prevents the need for trawling the internet. The information is sent daily. Subscribe to newsfeeds and RSS feeds for the sites you want to monitor.  
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Multi-Cultural Workplaces: 7 ways to make them work

July 30, 2008
Multicultural workplaces

Multicultural workplaces

Nowadays, people work in global offices with colleagues from different worldviews, religions and attitudes. It is important to be aware of cultural differences and how they affect team dynamics, communication and management style. Multi-cultural workplaces also offer a wealth of new experience and self-growth opportunities. Here are 7 ways to improve multicultural relationships in your workplace.    

  • 1. Make it ok to ask questions. Some people may feel that they cannot ask a person where s/he is from for fear of being offensive or being seen as racist in some way. This can prevent communication, team effort and even friendship from happening. Encourage people to talk about where they are from, and their culture. Most misunderstanding comes from lack of communication. If you can ask questions of one another, then the growth in relationship will enable more effective working together.

 

  • 2. Learn about each other’s countries and cultures. Many people want to travel to exotic places and experience a different culture. But nowadays, there might be someone from one of those countries in the office. Put a map on the wall and stick pins in it linked to photos of your team members so you can see where people are from. Encourage people to add to the display with information and other pictures and use it as a group talking point.
  • 3. Be respectful and open-minded. Cultural differences can sometimes be confusing or misinterpreted. Be respectful of the way other people work and interact. Try to learn from them instead of considering your way to be the best and criticising. Apologise if you feel you might have offended someone, and ask them how you can behave more appropriately in the future. Speak out again discrimination in the workplace and encourage understanding.
  • 4. Celebrate holidays of other cultures. Festivals and celebration are a great way to learn about other cultures. Have a lunchtime meeting where you share some traditional food and discuss what the festival means. People are the same underneath and festivals often reflect what is important to all cultures – family, faith, children, honouring the past and looking to the future.
  • 5. Create cultural awareness factsheets. If your company employs people from other countries, give them some material on what it is like to work in your company and country. If you send employees overseas to meetings or conferences, they should also know how to work in those cultures. For example, what is the customary greeting within each culture? These worksheets will help provide context for interactions and enable easier work relationships.
  • 6. Treat people as individuals. Culture does not define a person, and cultural stereotypes can also be responsible for more misunderstanding. Don’t jump to conclusions just because someone is from a certain place. Get to know people as individuals regardless of their culture.
  • 7. Identify gaps in your own knowledge. We are all a work-in-progress, and we can always learn more. Identify what you don’t know about your co-workers and their culture. What can you learn about your own culture that affects the way you work? How can you improve the situation so your team can work more effectively together?

“Understand the differences; act on the commonalities” – Andrew Masondo, African National Congress
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Lunch breaks: Why you need to take one every day

May 17, 2008

The lunch hour seems to have disappeared in the modern office world. People rush from one meeting to the next and spend every spare minute trawling their in-boxes. Coffee or cigarette breaks are more common than the lunch break which is often spent wolfing down a quick meal at the desk. A study by KFC Corp found that 60% of workers in corporate America consider the lunch hour to be “biggest myth of office life”.

But the demise of the lunch break is having an adverse effect on the office workers of today. Employers should take note of the benefits that a break can provide in terms of productivity and employee happiness.

Here are 6 options for the lunch break that could benefit you and the company.

1.    Give your brain a break. Concentrating hard on work tasks all the time makes it difficult for the brain to rest. In a resting state, or doing something different, the brain can often come up with the answers that are sought. If somewhere is available, take a nap. A study with NASA pilots showed that a 26 minute nap improved mental performance by 34%. A 45 minute nap boosted performance for up to 6 hours later.

 

2.    Give your body a break from the computer. Office workers suffer from posture issues, eye strain and Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). Workplaces may encourage stretching and mini-breaks but these are often forgotten in the rush of trying to get everything done. Get out of the chair and go for a walk. Give your mouse hand a rest, change posture and stretch in the lunch break.  The majority of offices are also air conditioned which dries the air and recycles fumes, spores and other people’s germs. Dehydration and inactivity can cause headaches. A walk in the fresh air and drinking more water can help combat these issues.

3.    Get some sunlight. Sunlight improves mood and lifts happiness. People spend so much time under fluorescent lighting which has been linked in some studies to health problems and inability to concentrate. In winter, people may arrive and leave in the dark and get no natural light in the office. Make sure you get some sun in the daytime hours by going outside even just to walk around the block.  

 

4.    Get some exercise. Exercise has been proven to improve brain function and productivity. It reduces stress and improves blood flow to the brain and the muscles. Aerobic exercise in particular improves executive functions like problem solving, planning and attention which are critical to office jobs.  

5.    Eat a proper meal slowly. Focus on eating when you take your lunch break rather than multi-tasking on the computer. Take your time and make the most of it and you will feel less hungry in the afternoon. Eating the right food can also modulate mood and enable more effective concentration in the afternoon.  

 

6.    Social support reduces stress, improves job satisfaction and retention. Meet up with colleagues and friends to spend your lunch hour catching up and discussing issues. Get it all out of your system in one go instead of going round to people’s desks to have a chat at other times which may disrupt a productive day.

These options will improve productivity in the afternoon, as well as job satisfaction resulting in benefits for the company as well as for individuals. So put a recurring meeting in your diary every day for the lunch break and make a decision to improve your day. If you are a Manager, tell your employees to have a lunch break every day and see how the office improves.