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Via CBC News : Tips on increasing productivity and battling workplace distractions

Turn off the notifications on everything — ignore the beeping phone noise every once and a while

Many workers need to concentrate deeply to get their work done, yet workplace design, technology and our colleagues conspire to distract us.

This has never been truer given workplace layouts with he notifications our phones and computers generate and how we’ve convinced ourselves our entourage requires a response to everything all the time.

Distractions are problematic. They sap the finite resource we have between our ears.

The energy required to restart our concentration after being distracted by checking email, talking to a colleague or responding to a phone notification is significant.

People and others who work with their hands figured this out a long time ago. When is the last time you saw a welder with an eye on their Facebook feed and a hand on a welding torch?

Knowledge workers could learn a lot from the disciplined focus and concentration trades people demonstrate every day.

Here are a few steps to counter the productivity-robbing and brain-power-depleting distractions.

Carving out, scheduling and protecting time for focused concentration.

Removing yourself from the hubbub works.

Employers are increasingly amenable to working from home or another location to accomplish those specific tasks requiring quiet and full attention.

Thankfully modern office designs are including more and more quiet spaces for meetings or focused work that can be reserved.

Having a notification-free zone can help too.

Turning off the notifications on everything and learning to ignore the urge to constantly check stuff that beeps, vibrates and sings you a song is huge.

You are rewarding the same part of your brain that enjoys sugar and you are indulging in a very destructive habit that is killing your focus and productivity.

Email batching

Evidence from researchers at UBC associate increased levels of workplace stress to how often you check emails.

Try carving out times in the day to send out emails, rather than respond every second.

Practitioners of email batching schedule 2-4 windows per day when they do nothing but send emails.This requires you to refrain from believing the world will stop if you don’t respond in milliseconds.

You may indeed annoy others, check that, you will annoy those who are conditioned to rapid fire email responses from you. They’ll get used to it.

It’s better to disappoint some folks by responding a few hours later and deliver required results over pleasing yourself and others but not delivering on the work that needs deep thinking.

Even worse is dragging unfinished work home at night and blaming distractions you could manage otherwise with a bit of discipline, scheduling and systems.

Devise an end of work day mantra to tell your brain your work is done for today

Author Cal Newport sheepishly admits his personal end of day routine is to rise from his chair and boldly proclaim “system shutdown complete.”

He’s referring to himself not his computer.

It’s a playful but clear signal to his brain that it’s now time to recharge with food, family and leisure not to mention much needed sleep.

He makes a compelling case for why you’ll be way better off tomorrow by doing a deliberate work shutdown at days end.

His book Deep Work-Rules for Focused Success in the Age of Distraction is chock-full of other helpful strategies.

Bad habits regarding distractions are destructive to our wellbeing and our productivity. As leaders, when we model such behaviour we infect others.

By “shutting the door and unplugging the phone” you give yourself a chance to minimize the productivity-robbing nature of workplace distractions.

Time to check the afternoon’s email batch.

Via Forbes : How To Standardize Corporate Communication

Corporate communication has never been an easy or straightforward matter. The business world sees professionals from all different backgrounds interacting in bustling, stressful environments — the sheer diversity of languages, rhetorical behaviors and personality types is enough to make one’s head spin. This Tower of Babel-esque situation has been dramatically compounded in the modern age, with modes, mediums, technologies and platforms of communication proliferating at breakneck speeds.

Whether it’s public relations or internal communications, directors, managers and executives who oversee the written and spoken words of an organization face one doozy of a task. Rather than discussing specific social media marketing tactics or another listicle on how to speak to your employees, let us take a moment to evaluate general tactics and considerations that help to identify balanced, efficient common-speak in today’s corporate landscape.

Adaptation: A Two-Way Street

An effective, centralized communications strategy balances how much the business adapts to the employees entering the workplace and to what degree those professionals will be expected to adapt to the communications culture of the company. Despite sitting at the foundation of corporate communications, this balance is seldom discussed and (likely) rarely discussed in a corporate boardroom.

I work at a company that certainly falls into the territory of a Babel-esque communication risk, as countless backgrounds and personality types are represented – techies, salespeople, literary types, nerds, jocks – you name it, we got it. Internal communications are one matter, but client interactions are an entirely different story, as we primarily work with some of the finest rhetoricians around — attorneys. Long proposals, quick emails and all communications in between are scrutinized in epic fashion, especially given the sensitivity of the work we complete.

Somehow we managed to find ways to speak the same language, all while building and maintaining exceptional relationships with our clientele. Like so many other businesses that made the jump from startup to midsize in the proverbial blink of the eye, the communications culture crept out of the primordial ooze and blossomed into this cosmic, unified language that (incredibly) worked for everyone.

As a business grows, its language and communications culture will have to adapt and transform but remain standardized at any given time to avoid minor to major issues with corporate efficiency, performance and progress.

This is where the two-way-street element of corporate communications culture comes into play. First, the language needs to grow and refine itself naturally. Then, leaders must take purposeful, substantive steps to keep it all under control, adding in some clear definitions and essentially turning abstract culture into firm policies of sorts.

Standardization: People, Process, Technology

Any strategy will live and die with its functional ability to unify people, process and technology. As such, communications policies and strategies must swiftly and coherently cover all bases in this triad of management frameworks.

A few elements that might be helpful for each include:

People: onboarding, training, and monitoring frameworks that help all employees adapt to the corporate culture of communication and stay on the same page throughout their tenures. Employee feedback and perspectives can be invaluable when building these frameworks out.

Process: policies that govern everything from email and conference-call etiquette to information sharing and knowledge management. There should be a governance web that guides communication in each department and across the business as a whole.

Technology: management and governance statutes that control the use of devices and applications as they relate to both internal and client-facing communications. Chief technology officers should be highly involved in the development of such rules.

At the end of the day, communications managers, directors and executives will need to customize the governance of people, processes and technologies in accordance with their unique corporate cultures. There is no cut-and-paste solution to the Babel-esque challenges faced in each business environment today.

The goal here should always be standardizing and unifying the communications culture of the business, building off of strengths and learning from weaknesses every step of the way. These policies should be viewed as agile yet steady compasses for directing all personnel.

Justification: Attaining Buy-In

Directors and executives alike will often run into issues when trying to gain buy-in from the C-Suite, floor-level employees and everyone in between. Once communications strategies have been properly standardized, buy-in will be the final challenge that needs to be hurdled, and it is arguably the most difficult.

This is where employee feedback and insights will be invaluable. For example, if three-quarters of personnel prefer to use a specific device that policies prohibit in the workplace, buy-in will be unattainable. Or if the C-Suite has not been involved in the manifestation of policies and procedures, chances are there will be some significant demands for adjustments and changes once the complex web of governance is already established.

So, communications directors and executives need to do what they do best: Communicate. Get feedback throughout the process of overhauling or establishing the standardized, unified, common language and communications culture of the business, and attaining buy-in will be a far more straightforward, speedy and seamless pursuit.

Do not let the threat of Babel-esque communication quandaries hinder your company’s performance. Adapt, standardize and modernize in every possible way to rescue your colleagues from the perils of modern corporate dialogue.

Via Forbes : 10 Ways To Gain Respect As A Young Leader

The makeup of leadership teams in the workplace is rapidly changing. One study found that about 10,000 baby boomer employees are retiring every day, and that by 2020 millennials will comprise about 50% of the workforce in the United States.

Because of these trends, young leaders are being asked to take on significant leadership roles. This can present challenges both for the managers and for those who are being managed. This article provides readers with 10 ways to gain respect as a young leader; respect that should also help those being managed.

1. Prove Your Value As Soon As Possible

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, young leaders are faced with a number of unique challenges related to the way colleagues perceive them in the workplace. A primary concern is that young leaders lack the necessary experience or knowledge to be successful.

To overcome this perception, young leaders should create a goal for themselves early on, and should share this goal with the team. They should then make sure to actually hit the goal. Doing this early in a young leader’s tenure can demonstrate to the team that they are capable of performing as expected.

2. Genuinely Care About The Wellbeing Of Your Team

It becomes considerably easier to earn people’s respect when they believe that their manager cares about their wellbeing. Caring about an individual’s wellbeing does not mean that you should be a pushover, or that you should accommodate every personal request a team member makes.

Instead, you should show that you care about your team’s success, both individually and collectively. You should make time to be available for your team for work and personal matters, and should listen more than you talk.

3. Understand That Their Success Is Your Success

A key difference between a business leader and an individual contributor is that a leader is judged by the success of his or her team. That means that a leader should constantly be thinking of ways to put his or her team in the spotlight if they do well-executed work. Others in the company will swiftly realize that you are the one leading those on your team to success.

Putting the success of the team first is also an effective way to earn respect as a young leader. If people feel that you are interested in their professional growth, they are more likely to be open to feedback and guidance.

4. Give And Ask For Honest Feedback

Speaking of feedback, it is important to provide candid feedback to your team. It is the only way that your people will grow professionally. As Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, said in an interview, “You reinforce the behaviors that you reward … If you reward candor, you’ll get it.” Welch went on to espouse the importance of providing candid feedback to people on your team. Failing to do so is a great way to ensure mediocrity.

5. Provide Employees With Reasonable Autonomy

If you micromanage from the get-go, people will quickly become frustrated with you. This is especially true if the previous manager was relatively hands off.

Instead, provide employees with a reasonable level of autonomy and trust them to make the right decision. After further evaluation, decide whether employees can work autonomously. If they cannot, put them on a performance-improvement plan. If that doesn’t work, you may have to let them go. Managers should not be micromanagers; they should be facilitators who empower employees.

6. Hold Regular One-On-One Meetings

Ben Horowitz is a well-known venture capitalist, and the former CEO of 2 successful technology companies. After years of leading people, he came to realize the importance of conducting meaningful one-on-one meetings with the people on his team.

Holding a one-on-one meeting lets employees know you are available to help them succeed. It provides employees with a space where they can ask for and receive feedback, and it also provides a mechanism for you to hold those on your team accountable on a regular basis.

7. Ask For Advice From Other Leaders

You won’t have all the answers all the time, and that’s okay. Develop a network of business leaders whom you feel comfortable calling when a challenging managerial task pops up. Cultivating a network of other successful business leaders can accelerate your learning curve, making you a more effective leader.

8. Practice Patience

Be patient with yourself and with your team—within reason. Understand that it will take time for you to learn the ropes of management, and that it will take time for your team to acclimate to a young business leader.

Create a management routine for yourself; one that involves regular one-on-one meetings and self-reflection. In time, your team should come to respect you as a leader.

9. Be Humble

Accounting to a study cited in the Washington Post, humble leaders are more effective leaders. Humble leaders (those who have an accurate assessment of their strengths and weaknesses) were more likely to lead their business to success, and were more likely to receive positive assessments from people on their team.

Being humble means putting the good of others, and of the organization, ahead of yourself. It also means being able to clearly take stock of areas of strength and opportunities for improvement.

10. Make Personnel Changes If Needed

If, after following the 9 best practices listed above, you find it difficult to establish respect among some members of your team, it may be time to make a personnel change.

True leaders will not tolerate insubordination after a sustained effort to earn respect. One toxic employee can negatively color how others within the organization see you as a leader. It is important to be open to making personnel changes should that be called for.


It can be challenging to be a young leader in the workplace today. To quickly gain respect, remember to put the success of employees ahead of your own success. Hold regular one-on-one meetings and create a culture of candid feedback to help employees grow quickly. If all else fails, remember that firing an insubordinate employee is acceptable in some situations.

5 keys to a better workplace

Posted by | September 28, 2017 | Workplace

Via The Des Moines Register : 5 keys to a better workplace

What distinguishes a Top Workplace from an average one? The truth is, there’s no single practice, no one-size-fits-all solution for achieving great results. But there are common qualities of success you should be able to identify in every company.

We know from our decade of research it’s not perks or “coolness” that makes the difference. The best employers carefully craft a positive workplace culture. We also know these organizations on The Des Moines Register list of Top Workplaces for 2017 share a common foundation that supports a healthy culture — and employee engagement.

Here are five key lessons:

1. People really are the greatest asset: It goes beyond lip service. It’s a core principle that’s brought to life every day, with leadership putting employees at the center of their thinking. Done right, the feeling is returned: Employees consistently tell us that a sense of appreciation and confidence in leadership are among the most important factors for their workplace satisfaction.

2. Leaders listen: The best leaders listen to the feedback provided by employees both formally and informally. While some leaders might dwell on the inherent risks of giving employees a voice, leaders at Top Workplaces are clued in to their team’s challenges and use this knowledge in decision-making. This builds a sense of commitment and accountability.

3. Everyone is in the loop: It’s difficult to be fully committed if you’re kept in the dark. Employees want to be well-informed. Leaders in Top Workplaces recognize this. They’re committed to sharing information as much — and as often — as they can. And they don’t just share the happy news. Organizations that fail to communicate with staff on a regular basis, substantively, will leave an information void. That gap will be filled quickly with rumors and speculation.

4. Live with a purpose: Employees want to feel their work contributes to something meaningful. Effective leaders deliver an inspiring vision, which the entire team connects with day to day. In 2016, among the top 10 percent of companies we surveyed nationwide, 96 percent of employees reported feeling motivated. Compare that to the bottom 10 percent of organizations (which most closely represent a “typical” workforce), where just 62 percent of employees felt motivated. This 34 percentage-point gap represents a massive drop in productivity. Motivation matters.

5. Build community: Neuroscience teaches us the importance people place on feeling accepted and safe in their “tribe.” It helps them stay focused and contributes to success. In forging productive employee experiences, Top Workplaces care about building community. They hold regular, purposeful events that foster a sense of belonging. That sense of appreciation also keeps employees connected. We see it in the WorkplaceDynamics survey comments, like this one from an employee at Storm Lake-based Central Bank: “Open communication and brainstorming is welcome here. It is a true teamwork atmosphere where everyone benefits by working together.”

The best workplaces always look to improve. After all, it’s a journey, not a destination. Even top-ranked companies will find things to work on in a process of continuous improvement.

If done right, employees will know their workplace is special. Employers shouldn’t be shy asking for extra effort in return. Ensure staff remains active in the ongoing success of the organization — with all the necessary accountability. And remember to celebrate along the way.

Via Forbes : 3 Simple Steps To Keep Your Employees Talking To You Instead Of The Press

We live in an era when sweeping workplace problems under the rug is no longer an option for corporations—and thankfully so. Still, there are always going to be conflicts in the workplace, well-meaning policies that lead to unintended consequences, and employees and managers who cross the line despite clearly outlined regulations. So how do you stay on top of what’s happening in your workplace if you’re a CEO, senior leader, mid-level manager, or HR team member? How do you address internal conflicts and ensure that you’re promoting an inclusive culture?

Whether you’re leading a team, a department, or an entire company, your role as a change agent has never been more important. And your ability to hold your organization to its stated values and policies or to establish new ones when the time calls for it has never been more necessary.

We’ve all seen the headlines—“BetterWorks CEO Hit With Sexual Harassment Suit,” “Susan Fowler Alleges Sexual Discrimination Against Uber,” “Amazon’s Work Culture Really Is Terrible.” Employees who experience issues in the workplace that go unresolved, even after they alert management, can blog or go to media directly as a last resort. Allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct continue to come out about companies like Binary Capital and 500 Startups, meanwhile Uber is looking for a few new board members and had to recently hire a new CEO.

Too many companies today still respond to the whistleblower phenomenon by fearing their employees, introducing NDAs, or worse—policies that aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. Corporations need to respond to their employees’ concerns and needs, not try to control them from speaking out about problems. If there are problems brewing inside your organization where employees are feeling excluded by the company culture or that their concerns are going unheeded, you want to be the first to know about it. Not the last when it appears in the media for the whole world to see.

As an advisor and educator who specializes in helping Fortune 1000 executives become “corporate change agents” within their organizations, especially in relation to gender equality and diversity initiatives, I often see the blind spots and land mines from my outside-in perspective and help them to build effective channels for capturing and responding to employee feedback so that they can tackle issues swiftly long before they get to the point of a national media frenzy.

Here are the top three things companies can do to address employee feedback head on and avoid a whistleblower moment:

1. Don’t talk the talk, walk the talk.

Some of the most beloved companies have been exposed when their internal practices don’t match their external PR. The disconnect between appearances and reality reads as hypocrisy and lack of concern for employees, and this does more to fuel their discontent and make them ripe for reporters covering your industry.

Susan Fowler, an engineer at Uber, and her unaddressed reports of sexual harassment to HR, which echoed the complaints and experience of other women, ultimately led to the the CEO’s departure and the firing of 20 executives. More than 100 Amazon employees detailed the relentless and punishing work culture to The New York Times. Former Googler Erica Baker went public with a salary spreadsheet to help co-workers negotiate for more equitable compensation.

On first glance, the proliferation of blogs and publishing sites like Medium that make it easy for anyone to shout from their own soapbox might seem like a liability for corporations. But trying to quash this trend by establishing draconian PR policies or managing away leaks through damage control after the fact is not the answer. Instead, companies need to view employee feedback as an opportunity for senior management to empower employees to become courageous intrapreneurs—people within the organization who can not only speak up about an issue, but who can also contribute to the solution that improves it.

2. The three Cs: clarity, consistency, and C-suite commitment.

Organizations need to define and publish their core values and commitment to inclusive workplaces. What are your policies when it comes to gender equality and diversity, both inside and outside of the company? What kind of impact do you want your work to make on the world? For your employees? This also means getting rid of the old model where diversity initiatives are centered in HR. Progressive policies must be driven by a deep commitment from C-Suite executives. Diversity is now an imperative for any business that wants to remain competitive in the marketplace for customers and for talent.

3. 360 Employee Engagement.

Organizations must publicize their commitment to diversity and their process for engaging and soliciting employee feedback internally. Develop channels for employees to report problems or suggest improvements to company policy. Give workers the tools to problem-solve and make the workplace better for everyone. Designate leaders in each department across the company who will hold new mandates and policies accountable. Strive to engage with employees at all levels, from senior executives and middle management, to entry-level and contract workers.

Gender equality and diversity is not just a PR problem, but a business imperative. Research shows that companies with a more diverse workforce outperform others that are not. According to an MIT study, shifting an office from all-male or all-female to one that is split equally by gender can increase revenue by 41 percent. Stocks with higher gender diversity experience less volatility and deliver better risk-adjusted stock returns according to Morgan Stanley. Being exposed to diversity makes people more creative and hard-working, and companies with a reputation for having a good work culture attract and keep top talent more easily.

The landscape has changed for corporations. Whistleblowing is not a trend that executives can wait out, and organizations don’t have the luxury of thinking they are immune to a PR crisis. Instead, view employee feedback as an opportunity to empower your workforce and improve company culture.

The new workplace reality is one where corporations must reflect the population they employ, serve, and market to. Your employees are the soldiers on the ground; they know the ins and outs of your organization like the back of their own hands. Think of all the potential innovations and improvements you’re missing out on when you don’t have an effective way to capture and implement their feedback. Is that something you want to pass up?