In today’s PR-driven, social-media crazed, self-promoting world, humility is a quality that has perhaps lost its appeal. While everyone is busy yelling “Look at me! Listen to me!” with their selfies, posts, videos and TED talks, the humble are not boastful. They adopt a modest posture that refuses to draw attention for themselves. Humility is self-effacing, and unpretentious. The humble person will not think or act as if he is better than anyone else, and won’t try to impress others by appearing or seeming to have greater importance, talent or culture than he actually has. The humble person may even come across as shy, even if he is actually outgoing and confident. According to Meriam-Webster dictionary, humility is “a freedom from pride or arrogance.”
In the workplace, humble people often go unnoticed because of the very fact that they are not boastful. They don’t draw attention to themselves for their own benefit. When they share or contribute, it is because they have something to offer that adds value or helps others. Those who don’t brag are often seen as having minor value and contributing little to the team. Their modesty is attributed to their work rather than their personality. And yet humility is quite possibly the most valuable quality to have in employees and employers alike. Here’s why. Continue reading
In the business world, there is a constant tug-of-war between doing something ‘right’ and doing it fast. The pressure of profitability is forever pushing companies to get things done fast, and then faster still. Managers submit requests and the due date is “yesterday.” The more quickly a job is performed or a task is completed, the more it is praised by management and investors. Employees are urged to pick up the pace. An entire engineering discipline – ergonomics – was developed to focus on improving efficiency by saving time through small adjustments in motion. Sayings abound about not wasting time. Time waits for no man. Wasted time is a wasted life. Don’t waste time or time will waste you.
On the other hand, the more quickly a job is performed, the higher the chance of an error or mistake. Software updates are released too soon, full of bugs and glitches. New phones are rushed to market, often with serious defects such as combustive batteries. Haste is often the enemy of quality. That is why there are also sayings about the problem of rushing. Haste makes waste. And haste does not produce breakthrough ideas. Tham Khai Mend, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy, one of the world’s leading advertising agencies, once said “Miners shift five tons of rocks to extract one ounce of gold. Just like you have to shift a ton of rubbish to get a good idea.” Detailed or creative work requires a great deal of thought, research, concentration, reflection and mulling over to produce the truly valuable nuggets. It is a process that cannot be rushed. And, work that requires precision and accuracy — such as surgery, architectural design, accounting, proofreading, and dispensing medicine – also cannot be rushed. In such work, quality is arguably more important than speed. So how does an employer balance the need for speed and efficiency against the often painstakingly slow nature of achieving quality? The answer is not to balance them. Improve quality and speed is sure to follow. Continue reading
A study of high-tech firms found that 32-42% of their software engineers rated their skills as being in the top 5% of their companies. This is mathematically impossible. A study at the University of Nebraska found that 68% of the faculty rated themselves in the top 25% for teaching ability, and over 90% rated themselves as above average, which is another mathematical impossibility. A study of medical technicians found that they consistently overestimate their knowledge of real-world lab procedures. This problem is not restricted to just employees. Studies also found this phenomenon in college students. Students in the bottom quartile of a number of tests on grammar, logic and humor grossly overestimated their ability. Those who tested in the bottom 10% for grammar actually thought they were in the top 33%. That’s a huge gap between perception and reality. And given that a study of over 30,000 employees found that fewer than half said they didn’t know if they were doing a good job while most managers believed their own performance was above par, then this phenomenon seems to also apply to those in management and leadership whose job it is to assess and communicate employee performance.
According to countless studies, many people have an inflated sense of their own skills and abilities. A large percentage of people are less skilled than they need to be in their work while their own perception of their skills is significantly higher than their actual skills. It is a common phenomenon. And, for employers, it is also a significant problem. Not only do most companies have many employees whose skills are subpar and thus aren’t doing their jobs well, but these marginally-skilled employees have no idea that they aren’t performing well. In fact, they usually think that their work quality is above average. This problem is not only widespread, but it is one that seriously hurts productivity and service delivery. This is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. But what is an employer to do when an employee’s opinion of his skills and performance don’t align with what is needed and expected for the job? Is there a way to help underperforming but unwitting employees improve their skills? Continue reading
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.” Fear is the great conqueror. Fear is a paralyzing and malevolent force that lies, cheats and steals. Fear of speaking in public – which is one of the most common but also one of the most undermining fears to have — whispers lies in the mind of a person, robbing him (or her) of the ability to share ideas, influence decisions, connect with others and lead groups. By keeping a person silent, fear of public speaking steals away achievements, promotions, and raises. Fear of speaking in public cheats a person from reaching his fullest potential and making his greatest contributions to the world. It not only robs him of success, it also robs others of his voice and wisdom. Fear of speaking in public is a prison of a person’s own making.
It’s also been said that the truth can set one free. The truth is that people who fear speaking in public are not alone. College surveys indicate that 80-90% of all students suffer from stage fright at the beginning of any course that involves public speaking. Just knowing they aren’t alone in feeling afraid to speak to groups helps. It is also true that a certain amount of stage fright can be useful. It pumps adrenaline into the body. A manageable amount of that adrenaline and stimulation helps the mind think faster, speak more fluently and communicate with greater intensity that normal. Here’s another truth. Most professional speakers – even the very best ones — never completely lose all of their stage fright. Most professional speakers usually have a small amount of stage fright before they start and for the first minute or two, and then they get past it and use that adrenaline to deliver a great presentation. So it’s good to be a little afraid. But here’s the most important truth of all about public speaking. The main reason most people fear public speaking is simply because they are unaccustomed to speaking in public. It’s normal to feel unsure and uneasy when learning anything new. Riding a bike. Being interviewed for a job. Driving a car. Public speaking is no different and no more difficult. It just takes practice. Knowing these truths should make it a bit easier to conquer the fear of public speaking. But the very best way overcome this fear is to properly prepare. Continue reading
While it might seem impossible to prepare for the “unexpected”, business owners must think about and prepare for crisis situations. Some of those might be man-made, such as a cyber attack by hackers. More commonly, though, those unexpected events are those of nature, such as the massive flooding of the last few weeks experienced in Houston due to Hurricane Harvey and the rampant forest fires that are sweeping through California right now. Blizzards. Tornadoes. Earthquakes. There is no limit to the kinds of crises that businesses can experience, and they can happen anywhere, any time. Whether natural or man-made, these events are a cautionary admonition that the unexpected can and does happen.
It is up to business leaders to prepare for all types of emergencies in order to offset the impact of those situations on the bottom line. So how does a business owner prepare for the unexpected? Regardless of the location or type of business, every company should have an Emergency Preparedness Plan to deal with crisis situations. It is just good sense for every company to have and share its plan of action with staff. And some measures should be thought through and taken long before an emergency occurs. If no plan exists, it’s time to create one. Here are some things to consider in developing a corporate Emergency Preparedness Plan.
Everyone needs a vacation every so often. According to countless studies, people need time to disconnect from work and allow time for “play.” For some, play might mean just relaxing at home, reading a book and doing some gardening. For others, play may constitute high-adrenaline sports such as snowboarding, skydiving or bungee jumping. For the vast majority, play is all about changing scenery and exploring a new place and all that entails. Culture; architecture; cuisine; language; history; the arts. Whether it’s an adventurous vacation or a calm staycation, the one thing all vacations have in common – if done right — is a complete disconnect from daily grind of work. It’s a mental break… as in breaking away from the day-to-day routine. Even people who love what they do for a living and thoroughly enjoy their jobs need an occasional vacation.
But, from a global perspective, Americans are among the worst at taking vacation time. They are notorious for not taking all (or sometimes even any) of their vacation time each year and for often working during vacations. Americans vacation less than workers from most other industrialized nations of the world. Consequently, by the time Americans do take a vacation, it is often desperately needed and long overdue. The tough part is that once a person finally gets relaxed enough to be really enjoying their time off, it’s time to return to work. At that point, it is hard to shift back into high gear after letting go of it all. Some find it hard to bring their A Game after a week or two break. But there are ways to shift back into high gear quickly and easily after returning from holiday. Here are some tips to make the transition smoother. Continue reading
Everyone has had a “bad day” at one point or another. Certainly everyone in business – and especially in sales – has had bad days… periods when nothing seems to go right. And every business owner has most likely endured his or her share of bad times. An important piece of equipment breaks. A big account switches to a competitor. The computer network goes down during a peak time. A deal falls apart. It happens. In fact, bad days can even stretch out into weeks or months or longer. 2009 was a downright bad year for builders, investors, bankers, lenders and financiers. Many could not take the stress and left the real estate and financial sectors in search of greener pastures. Those “bad day” blues can be devastating… even killing careers. But they needn’t be so damaging.
Those who have overcome the “bad day” blues have learned a few things. They don’t let a bad day stop them from reaching their goals. They know that there are bad days… and understand that those days can be tough… and even leave scars. But they know not to be ashamed of the battle scars obtained in the scrappy world of business. They understand that those scars means they were stronger than whatever tried to take them down. So how does a person develop the resilience and fortitude to deal with a “bad day?” How do you overcome the “bad day” blues? Continue reading