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Overcoming Most People’s Biggest Fear: Speaking in Public

Forget heights, planes and confined spaces. Snakes, spiders and frogs move over. Most people’s biggest fear is talking in public. Standing up and speaking in front of a group of strangers is downright paralyzing to a great many people. Giving a speech. Teaching a class. Addressing a group at a social gathering. For many, these are all scenarios that cause some people to complete freeze. Perhaps that is why those who are particularly good at it can make a living doing it. Gifted motivational speakers such as Tony Robbins, Les Brown, Zig Ziglar, Dr. Wayne Dyer and Jim Rohn earn seven figure salaries annually and their primary job is to speak in public.

Speaking to dignitaries and groups is an essential skill for certain professions, such as teachers, trial lawyers, news reporters, politicians and PR spokespeople. But speaking to groups is actually an increasingly important skill for people in most any profession. Web conferencing, social media groups and other technologies have made speaking to groups more commonplace and the ability to be able to speak to groups – large and small — more necessary. Yet, the fear of public speaking plagues many today. Even incredibly talented media icons were once intimidated to speak to famous and powerful people as well as to groups. For example, Barbara Walters was once a shy, introverted person. But she overcame her natural shyness and went on to become arguably one of the world greatest media reporters ever, having interviewed hundreds of business tycoons, royalty, political leaders, celebrities and religious leaders around the world. If she can do it, anyone can. Here are some tips. Continue reading

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To Amp Up Productivity, Creativity and Career Success, Go on Vacation

Attention workaholics, movers and shakers, corporate climbers and rising stars! Want to increase your productivity? Have a desire to get your creative juices really flowing? Hustling to shift your career into hyper-drive? If you answered yes to any or all three of these questions, then there is one simple thing you can do that will help with all. Stop working and go on vacation. As counter-intuitive as that may sound, a vacation is the best way to increase output, inspire the imagination into high gear and achieve even greater career success. If this sounds like millennial HR hype, it’s not. Vacations are essential for long-term success.

Yet, even as the summer winds down and kids head back to school, many employees have not yet taken any vacation time this year. And, those who have taken vacation time still have more vacation time available that they haven’t used and won’t use. Some think this is a good thing and even take pride in going years without a real vacation. (Long weekends don’t count.) While many Americans take pride in their workaholic ways, this is not a uniquely American phenomenon. Nor is it a by-product of the Great Recession… the lingering fear that jobs might disappear tomorrow. But regardless of the reason, forgoing vacations is not a good thing. Companies that want to increase their output should track employee vacation time consumption and consider requiring all employees to use ALL of their vacation time annually. And professionals who want to up their game need to seriously invest in “down time”. Here’s why.
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Staying Top-of-Mind… For Better or Worse?

There’s a saying that goes: “Talk good about me; talk bad about me; just as long as you’re talking about me!” It is also kiddingly said that the only thing worse than death is to be forgotten.  This may seem extreme, but it is emblematic of the pressing need to be known and remembered; an epidemic that has spread to all industries. Overwhelmed by constant digital noise, companies and business people struggle to be remembered and stay connected with contacts. It’s referred to as “staying top-of-mind.”

Staying top-of-mind is the great challenge in business today. Companies search for ways — from the legitimate to the trivial — to keep in touch with all of the customers and potential customers possible. Webinars. Blogs. E-mails. Advertising. Junk mail. Billboards. Sky writing. Commercials. The messages scream “Know me! Remember me!” All of this effort to stay top-of-mind is contributing to the white noise that, in turn, is making it ever harder to stay top-of-mind. It is the quintessential vicious cycle. So, is all of this effort really necessary? Or worth it? Most would argue “Yes!” Not only is it worth it, but it is absolutely necessary. So what strategies can a company or business person use to stay top-of-mind?
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The Video Revolution – Part 4

In a world where reading has become increasingly passé, video is emerging as the go-to tool for businesses to deliver information quickly and easily. Videos give customers information about a product or service without overwhelming them with text. In thirty or sixty seconds, a prospect can learn a lot about a business through a short, impactful video. If a picture paints a thousand words, then a video paints a million.

The upside is that creating videos has become ever easier. Thanks to technology, almost anyone can create an affordable video. Anyone with a smartphone can record video segments. There are also countless vendors that use software programs to create animated explainer videos. But easier and cheaper is not always what is best. Perhaps more than ever before companies must create marketing videos that connect with their audiences. They must have a refined balance of information, visuals, sound, and action. So, what should a marketing video include?
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The Video Revolution – Part 1

The video revolution has been six decades in the making. The first video cameras to capture color images were used only in television studios in the late 1950s. They were huge, clunky and connected by wires. In 1982, Sony successfully released the first Betamax camera for news outlets, but this also ushered in the age of portable video camcorders anyone could use. These recorders used uncompressed tape, which limited how much video could be recorded on one tape. In 1986, Sony created the first all-digital video camera but the format was still uncompressed. In 1993, Ampex developed the first compressed digital video camera, allowing hours of video recording on one tape for the first time. That was less than 25 years ago. Compressed digital video opened a floodgate of video products and innovations. Thanks to those innovations, video has become an increasingly useful tool.
The next big leap happened when video recording capability was added to smart phones. Video went from being a useful tool to becoming a vital, ubiquitous device to tell stories, capture moments, save time and even save lives. And new social media sites made it possible to share amateur videos with the world. Indeed, as of 2015, 300 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube every minute. Today, that number is thought to be closer to 500 hours per minute. Police are increasingly using “body cameras” to increase transparency and trust with the public as they serve and protect. Homes and buildings are using surveillance cameras 24/7 to watch over people and property. Video cameras have been installed at traffic lights to deter (or catch) drivers who run red lights. Businesses are increasingly using video to market products and reach today’s video-driven audiences. Now, even HR departments are starting to use video in the recruiting and hiring process, and for good reason. It saves time and money for the company… and its applicants. But beware, there are some possible pitfalls to avoid. Continue reading

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The iGen and the Alpha Generations

The first rule of sales is “Know Thy Audience.” Anyone who deals with sales and marketing probably knows at least a little about the various generations living today. For business purposes, there are currently six generations or audiences alive today. The frugal Silent Generation, born from 1929 to 1945 and now in their 70s and 80s, grew up during the Great Depression and World War II. The free-spirited Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964), who grew up during the Civil Rights movement and the Cold War, are now beginning to retire and are redefining what that means. The GenXers or Boomlets (born 1965 to 1981) were the latch key kids who grew up during the race to Space and the Vietnam War. Theirs was the first generation to transition from an analog to a digital world. Generation Y — the now much discussed Millennials (born between 1982 and 1999) — were the first generation to grow up as technology natives and watched terrorism become a global threat. They are currently the biggest generation living. But there are two more generations emerging. Meet the iGens and the Alphas.
The iGeneration, also known as Generation Z or Post-Millennials, are those born after 2000 who are not just technology natives but also social media natives. This generation is comprised of those born roughly between 2000 and 2012. The oldest of this generation are about to become adults and the youngest are in Kindergaarten. While most iGens haven’t begun to work yet, they benefit a lot from and have access to their parents’ considerable spending power. And right on the heels of Generation Z, the next generation is already emerging. Dubbed the Alpha Generation, they are comprised of today’s babies and preschoolers. Most haven’t even been born yet. While this generation has absolutely no buying power and has hardly had time to be shaped or affected by the world around them, some things can already be gleaned about them. Here’s more about the two newest generations that will be shaping our collective future. Continue reading

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The Many Facets of Leadership – Part 3

Hiring managers often claim to prefer employees with the right character traits and organizational fit over those with the right education, training, skills and experience. They want people with a positive attitude, drive and passion. But what they are really looking for are people who exude confidence. Finding a highly confident employee is viewed like striking gold! Why? Confident people are seen as being self-assured, reliable, assertive, positive, dependable and steady. Confident people also tend to be charismatic, extroverted, and have strong social skills. In most cultures, these are highly desirable qualities. Also, in practically every culture — but especially in the technologically-advanced, developed world – confidence is equated with competence. We automatically assume that confident people are able, skilled and talented.
On the surface, this sounds right. Who doesn’t want to hire a confident go-getter!? However, this is the epitome of judging a book by its cover. Managers often hire people based on confidence rather than on their actual ability to do the job. That’s because employers commonly confuse confidence for competence. In fact, they even sound alike. This is especially true when filling leadership positions. Unfortunately, confidence is the pyrite — or Fools Gold — of leadership traits. On the surface, confidence looks like competence… attractive and desirable. Employers trick themselves into believing that confident people make competent leaders… and that confidence is better than modesty, especially in a leader. The manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential. In reality, confident people are often not competent at all. Why is that? And, if that’s so, how can companies learn to distinguish between cotton-candy confidence and real competence? Continue reading

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Top 10 Reasons Employees Stay with their Employer, Part 1

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employee turnover is highest in industries such as hospitality, banking and finance, healthcare and the service sector. Turnover also seems to vary by wage and role of employee. For example, employee turnover of salespeople is often particularly high. This should be of critical importance to businesses because turnover is a huge expense. According to a study conducted in November, 2012 by the Center for American Progress, the estimated average cost to replace an employee in the U.S. was 16% of annual salary for high-turnover, low-paying jobs (earning under $30,000 a year), 20% of annual salary for mid-range positions (earning $30,000 to $50,000 a year), and up to a whopping 213% of annual salary for highly educated executive positions. That means the cost to replace a $10/hour retail employee would cost a company on average $3,328, while the cost to replace a $40k manager would be $8,000. But the cost to replace a $100k C-Suite exec is a whopping $213,000. Keep in mind that the cost to recruit, hire and train new employees and the additional workload that the process puts on management and existing employees add no value to the business. It is just a loss. So employee turnover has a huge effect on profitability.
If employee turnover is so costly and generates no value, then it should be every company’s focus to keep employee turnover as low as possible. But how? And what is the right amount of employee turnover? Given how costly it is, what should the target rate be for this “wasted” cost? While zero employee turnover is ideal, it is certainly not realistic for any organization that isn’t family-owned and operated. So what is the bulls-eye on staff retention? Continue reading

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The Six Keys to Fulfillment and Work-Life Balance

In the U.S., work consumes a huge part of most people’s lives. In 2014, 40% of all U.S. employees worked an average of 40 hours per week, not including the time it takes to get ready to go to work and the commute to and from work. But the majority worked even more. A Gallup report released in 2014 showed the average time worked by full-time employees had ticked up to 46.7 hours a week, or nearly a full extra eight-hour day. And salaried employees worked an average of 49 hours per week. In fact, 50% of all U.S. employees work between 40 and 60 hours per week, not including prep or commute time. And for business owners and top-level professionals, a work week consumes upwards of 60-80 hours. Since a week has just 168 hours and the average person sleeps from 35-60 hours a week (depending on the person), for many people there isn’t time for much else.

Given this huge commitment to “the job”, one might conclude that work is one of the keys to happiness. Is it? While it’s never good to generalize that what is good for some is good for all, research has provided some scientific evidence that there are certain things that are fundamental to success and living a fulfilled life, and it is only partly related to work. Here are the findings. Continue reading

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Handling Difficult People – Part 1

According to Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” If employees are the lifeblood of a company, then customers are its food and water…. the basic nutrition without which a company cannot exist. But digesting those nutrients is not always easy. Companies often struggle with how to handle ‘difficult’ clients. What is the right protocol for handling the most hard-to-please clientele? After all, the adage says that the customer is always right. If so, then how should a company handle those most challenging clients? Should a company kowtow to an ill-tempered client, even if it is at the expense of the morale and respect of the staff? Should a firm go the extra mile to please a fractious client even when that extra care means the transaction is no longer profitable to the company? Does it make sense for a business to indulge the over-the-top demands of an exasperating client if it is going to overwhelm the business and cause it to neglect the needs of the rest of the clients?

Is there an invisible line that, when crossed, means the client is no longer right? If so, where is that line? How will the rank and file employees of a business know where that line is? When it comes to handling challenging clients, companies do best when they communicate clear rules of engagement that protect the dignity and respect of both clients and employees, provide extensive training on how to handle difficult situations, and encourage staff to have genuine compassion for the needs of others. Even so, when all else fails, there may be times when a business should put the needs of the company and staff ahead of the tough client and just say no or say goodbye.
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