Monday Mornings with Madison

Monthly Archives:
May 2012

Falling On Deaf Ears

Ever had a conversation with a coworker or friend that you knew was hearing you but wasn’t really listening? Ever sat down to talk with your boss and knew you’d made the same point before – perhaps many times before – but you just weren’t getting through? The words came out of your mouth but weren’t absorbed by the other person. There weren’t any sound barriers or language impediments. There was no hearing loss. The person could certainly hear you, but they just weren’t listening.

Why is it that, even though the ears can hear, the mind does not take in the message? That’s because comprehension is tied to listening. Poor listening is a growing epidemic. There are many factors contributing to the increase in poor or non-existent listening. Yet, being an excellent listener is one of the most important qualities of a good leader, particularly in business. Great leaders spend more time listening than they do writing, speaking or reading. In order to understand problems and identify solutions, management must listen to staff and customers in order to identify the best remedies. So, given the importance of good listening, is there anything that can be done to improve one’s own ability to listen? The answer is yes. Continue reading

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Breaking the Desk-Ache Blues

How many hours do you sit behind a desk each day? One of the few things that most employees — from entry level staff to C-suite execs — have in common is that they spend a lot of their work day behind a desk… sitting in a chair, probably in front of a computer, either typing, calculating numbers, researching, reading, filing, talking or pushing paper. Compared to the back-breaking conditions of manual labor jobs such as plowing fields or digging ditches, earning a living by sitting in an air-conditioned room in a comfy chair at a sleek desk is certainly a major improvement. Or is it? Although no one would argue that tough manual labor in the hot sun or frozen tundra is physically daunting and exhausting – especially in the middle of a scorching summer or brutal winter – there are also some drawbacks to working behind a desk all day, day after day.

Just ask anyone who sits behind a computer, calculator or switchboard all day. Sitting at a desk all day can cause aches and pains of a different, but nonetheless hurtful, nature. People who sit at a desk all day can experience back aches, neck pain, carpel tunnel syndrome, headaches, eye strain, stiff shoulders and reduced flexibility. Using one’s brain while keeping the body motionless for prolonged periods of time can also contribute to weight gain, higher cholesterol and other issues related to lack of exercise. While most people can ill afford to give up their desk jobs to work as an aerobics instructor, personal trainer, or bicycle messenger, there are some things that can be done to reduce the impact of sitting still all day and eliminate the desk-ache blues. Continue reading

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The Disadvantages of Hand-Held Devices

Once upon a time not so long ago, people went through life without having a mobile phone, smart phone or tablet attached to their hip. They somehow managed to walk down the street without taking a call. They could watch their child’s soccer match without doing a Google search. They could relax on their living room couch at the end of the day without responding to a text message. They could eat dinner with the family without replying to a client’s umpteenth email. And children could talk about their day at dinner without playing an electronic game. Adults and children alike weren’t continuously “plugged in” and yet were somehow still industrious, successful and happy. Those days seem gone forever thanks to the “Hand-Held Device Revolution.”

According to, in March, 2012, 234 million Americans age 13 and older had mobile devices. Half of those phones were smart phones. Companies provide their employees with smart phones or tablets that have apps, email and Internet connectivity 24/7. Those companies then expect employees to have those devices on 24/7. Indeed, 50% of employed respondents in a survey felt that think that mobiles increase their workload. That’s because, thanks to those hand-held devices, for many the work day doesn’t end. Even for those who turn off their devices to honor the Sabbath, the hand-held devices are on 24/6. That turns the 5-day, 40-hour work week into the 6-day, 144-hour work week. In fact, many are addicted to their hand-held devices – such as iPads, iPhones, Blackberries (there’s a reason they call them Crackberries), Androids, tablets, iTouches, etc. — and cannot imagine life without them. While many managers may consider this a good thing, few really stop to consider the price being paid for keeping staff constantly ‘connected’. It is not just a vague social or emotional toll, but an actual hard cost. Just as last week we did a cost-benefit analysis of providing employees with unlimited Internet access, companies may also need to weigh the pros and cons of hand-held devices. Here are just a few drawbacks to consider. Continue reading

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The Downside of Unfettered Internet Use At Work

According to recent survey, the number of Internet users in the U.S. is expected to expand by 3.1% in 2012 to 239 million, representing 75.6% of the total population. Only three other nations in the world have populations with a higher percentage of Internet users. And, in terms of sheer number of users, only China has more people using the Internet than the U.S. (although only 38.4% of China’s total population has Internet access). Some see this as progress and believe that — in today’s modern world — increased Internet access for all is a good thing. After all, the Internet has revolutionized communication as we know it. As its name implies, the “world wide web” delivers a world of information, goods people and ideas to any computer, tablet or phone with the click of a button. The problem is that the Web does indeed deliver a world of goods, information, people and ideas to any computer, tablet or phone with the click of a button… and all those goods, information, people and ideas are not necessarily needed, useful or good. As with every innovation, the Internet has advantages and also disadvantages.

Setting aside the moral challenges raised by some of the questionable content found on the Internet (which is not the focus of discussion here), from a purely business standpoint, unfettered Internet access at work does have its drawbacks. While most may be quick to embrace the advantages of the Internet, it may be wise to also consider and weigh its disadvantages carefully. After all, business owners, leaders and managers are forever focused on making the most of their organization’s resources, minimizing the risks and maximizing the return. It stands to reason that a similar cost-benefit analysis should be done on the impact of Internet use at work. Here are five significant costs generated by providing unlimited Internet access in the workplace which hurt the bottom line. Continue reading

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