Archive for November, 2013

When you’re the new one in the office, it is a humbling experience with a dash of an adrenaline rush and so much to learn. Even for the “seasoned” manager, there is never an end to learning professionalism. While a management position offers great rewards, there are certainly challenges too. One of the biggest challenges is learning how to give an employee “critical feedback”.

young businessmen working in the officeThis can be an emotional thing for any manager, no matter how seasoned they may be or how much training they have had, this is one part of being a manager that isn’t easy or pleasant. However, when an employee isn’t performing to the expectations, it is necessary. It is possible they may not ever realize there is a problem. What you have to remember is to stay professional and keep personal feelings out of the situation.

If you are new to management, or even if you are a seasoned manager, the following tips could help:

Speak Direct To The Employee

Leaving a voice mail or sending an email is easier, but those two options can leave you open for problems that will make it even worse. The voice mail may have a personal touch, but it can be taken wrong and the same is true with an email. Both are informal and there is the chance that the employee will be left angry and confused. Be professional and pick up the phone, request a one-on-one meeting with the employee.

Immediate Addressing A Must

The longer you put off having this conversation, the longer it will weigh on you and the more the problem will stew, thus waiting to address the “talk” will only weigh on your mind, thus intensify your feelings when you finally do have that meeting. The problem needs to be addressed sooner than later so that the employee has the opportunity to correct the the situation too. The longer a problem situation goes on, it also will stand out to your superiors as well. So take a deep breath and dive in head first.

The Positives

When we feel like we are being attached, we become defensive, this is completely normal and especially so when your manager is advising you of problems that needs to be corrected. Your conversation with the employee should offer positive feedback and reinforcement as well as corrective and critical feedback. When you can make this uncomfortable situation a little more comfortable, you will be more likely to see corrective action in a more timely manner. As you prepare what needs to be covered with the employee, list the employee’s strengths too. This will make the corrective part of the conversation not sting so bad.

Keep Focused

As you offer your advice for the employee’s opportunity to make this correction, give exact examples and not just general comment. When you tell them “there is a need for improvement”, the range of what needs improvement is to varied and wide. By giving them specifics and offering advice, guidance, resources and tools to make these corrections, you’re letting them know you are on their side and want to see them succeed.attractive woman talking with a man

Listen Without Lecturing

After stating the problems that need to be improved, it is your time to listen. You need to be open minded and let the employee speak their piece. You may find that they have not had the proper training or have the property resources and tools to do their job correctly. They may not have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. Giving them the opportunity to speak and know that you are listening, will encourage them to take to heart what you have said.

Instead of taking this conversation as a dreaded management task, look at it as an opportunity to help an employee improve and possibly help you learn as well. Through the whole process, remember that handling it with professionalism is the key to it being a successful conversation

102813_keep_meetings_on_track 2As we’ve discussed here recently, it’s important to be heard and seen in meetings at work in order to have any chance of moving up, especially when you work for a large company. However, there are also things you shouldn’t do or say in those meetings, unless you’re trying to be recognized for the wrong reasons:

  1. Be Indignant: Demand why a meeting has been called 

  2. Make a noise of disagreement each time you feel like a point the boss makes you believe is unimportant 

  3. Give indication to others in the meeting that the speaker is crazy, off-the-mark or weird 

  4. Prop your feet up on the conference table and lean back 

  1. Nod vigorously in agreement with what the speaker is saying 

How you behave in a meeting speaks more of you as an individual and a professional when it is a company meeting. When there is a guest speaker, such as a vendor, or if a client is sitting in on a meeting, your behavior speaks loudly for about the company as well. For the most part, how to behave in a meeting is common sense and things your mother taught you growing up, but for the sake of covering the subject, we offer five basic and simple rules: 112313_meeting_behavior 1

1. Always be on time. If you can’t be on time, then be early. Those are the only 2 options.

2. Always come prepared with the materials you know you’ll need and any that you may possibly need.

3. Be courteous and stay focused on the meeting.

4. Never speak out-of-turn.

5. Be calm, diplomatic and don’t argue during the meeting.

By avoiding the first 5 things and following the second list of 5 things, you will present yourself a professional, no matter you position in the company. This will not only speak loudly about you and your employer, but how your mother raised you too.

 

Everyone knows that in order to get promoted at work, you have to be noticed. This entails selling yourself to not on your direct boss, but other management and your co-workers, even those that aren’t in the same department as you. By saying that you have to sell yourself means showing those people on your level, below and above, what you are capable of doing. You need to promote the knowledge and skills as well as your worth.

This can be easy enough if you work for a small company, but when you work for a corporation, it can be a bit challenging getting noticed by those who need to see you. If you are in the corporate work, you must learn how to sell yourself and make yourself noticed so that you don’t become one of those people that others wonder what exactly is it that you do and what purpose does your position serve. With that being said, we offer some tips:

112313_get_noticed 6Speak Up!

This doesn’t mean to just talk for no reason. What we mean is that during a meeting, contribute to the discussions. When you sit quietly while others do the talking, you’ll just fade into the walls and be non-existent.

Get To Know Co-Workers Through The Whole Company

Best way to do this is to volunteer for a project that is company wide. It may be going around collecting for a charity or getting a birthday card signed. Or it could actually be something business oriented. Getting around the office though is the best way to meet your co-workers that you may never have met otherwise.

Take On An Unwanted Project Or Task112313_get_noticed 3

If there is a project or task that nobody wants to work on, or many have and failed, volunteer to take it on and then do everything you can to succeed or at least get further than anyone ever has. That will get you noticed! Don’t worry about not succeeding though. If other have tried and failed, it will only make you part of a team.

Get The Credit You Deserve

When you submit a project, make sure that you have your name associated with it and that others are aware that it is your doing. Take the steps needed so that your boss and other bosses know who did the work. 

112313_december_calendar 3 November 22 – January 04

Festival of Lights

As the largest holiday lighting events on the Gulf Coast, the Festival of Lights receives over 125,000 visitors, many of whom have made the festival their own holiday tradition. In addition to over 100 sound-enhanced animated light displays and nightly live entertainment, visitors can strap on a pair of skates and glide across the ice at the area’s only Outdoor Ice Skating Rink.

November 29 – December 31

The Santaland Diaries

Todd Waite reprises his role as Houston’s favorite holiday elf. A compact, one-character comedy, David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries is a hilarious cult classic featuring comic encounters during the height of the holiday crunch.

December 06

Adult Gingerbread House Competition

Compete against your friends while sipping bottomless holiday mimosas, indulging in their aperitivo, and  decorating your dream home with gum drops and pretzels

December 08

Bizarre Holiday Market on Main Street

The Holiday market will take place along Winbern street and in the Mid Main Art Garden and will feature live music, drinks and unique holiday gift selections from vendors featuring vintage, hand made and second hand goods.112313_december_calendar 1

December 13 – December 15

The 2013 Christmas Revels: An Irish Celebration

Traditional Irish music, dance, song and storytelling blend in a family-friendly holiday show set onboard a ship carrying Irish immigrants to America a century ago.

December 14 – December 21

Cafe Adobe’s Party With Santa: Breakfast & Cookie Decorating

The holiday celebration will include a delicious buffet style breakfast, festive cookie decorating, and of course, the opportunity to snap photos with jolliest couple, Mr. & Mrs. Claus!

December 14 – December 15

Christmas at the Villa

Christmas at the Villa has become a Houston holiday tradition. The Chapel of the Villa de Matel, built in 1928, is modeled after Northern Italian basilicas and when paired with the voices of the Houston Chamber Choir produces a radiant musical experience.

December 15

2013 Total Jingle Bell Run and Walk

Get in shape and support a great cause during the 2013 Total Jingle Bell Run and Walk Dec. 15 in Downtown Houston.

November 15 – December 26

112313_december_calendar 4A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas

A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas follows Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey with the three ghostly spirits that visit him on Christmas Eve. A Christmas Carol instills a powerful message about redemption and the spirit of the holiday season.

 

We have all seen the excitement that grown men have when they win the World Series. While they are jumping around hugging each other and spewing champagne, in the other dug out is the team that lost. Some players have already slumped off into their locker room while others just glare toward the winners. The losing side is looking at them with a look that says “Can’t you take that celebration to the locker room? Nobody likes a bragger.”

So,be all that at it may, they won the title and they are good. They are the best of the best and their sports resume will brag about it for all to see. The job market is the same way. As a job seeker in today’s world, you need to take on that same ego and mentality. Yes, you need to brag about yourself and let the world know what you are good at in your career, be proud of it and let your resume put you at the top of the 100s to 1000s of resumes out there.

It is not unusual today for a HR person or staffing agency to receive hundreds to thousands of resumes for one position. So when you send in your standard resume, chances are your resume has gone into that stack and more come in on top of it. Unless your resume stands out.

To make it to the chosen few for actual interviewing you need to increase the odds of your resume going in the smaller stack and moved to the top. How do you do this? Well, you need to brag about yourself. Prospective employers are drawn to resumes of people that that can show them something they need, liked how you landed the best contract ever for the company and set an all time record in sales. Or how you saved money for your last employer.

A prospective employer wants to see into the future with your past so that can get an idea what their ROI will be. If you are applying for a sales position, your resume should brag about your numbers. What were your sales each month, quarter and year? Better yet, what was the profit percentage of your sales?

For a customer service position, its not as easy to show what your work did for the company in dollar value, however, you can brag how much money you saved the company and what kind of impact that made on the company’s bottom line. You may need to some research the dollars, but the more quantified information you can provide, the larger the “wow factor” a prospective employer will get from your resume. Find a way to show the value you brought to the table at your last job and indicate what you know you can bring to their table. 111713_resume_brag 1

Just as the Boston Red Sox have been able to boast and celebrate their recent pennant, all of the MLB is working toward next year and the opportunity to have that bragging right. So it is for job openings too … If you were good at something, don’t let it go by without strutting your stuff. As they old saying goes “Make hay while the sun is shining”.

What is the difference between the word ‘its’ and ‘it’s’? When do you use a participle and when should you use a pronoun? How should you use commas in a long sentence? When do you use the following words: to, too and two? Does it matter if you use the word ‘wheel’ or ‘will’?

These should be the basics you learn in English before you ever get out of grades school. Sadly, there are too many adult and teen job seekers that couldn’t answer these questions. This is what employers are complaining about. There aren’t as many jobs out there as there was 4-5 years ago, but there are jobs. Too many job candidates today have poor grammar in reading, speaking and writing.

While October saw over 200,000 new jobs but unemployment rose to 7.3 percent. Why? A recent survey of employers say while they may have more candidates to choose from, there just aren’t good quality candidates. So what’s happening to the job seekers today to cause this?111613_johnny_cant_read 1

Where Does The Blame Fall?

 

The first place that is quick to get blame are schools and colleges. Grading is so much on a curve so that “no child gets left behind”, they aren’t really learning now. Grades kindergarten through 12th are passing students and sending them on to college or into the workforce without really being able to read or write, much less carry on a conversation.

Some human resource and staffing experts say that it is because of the common use of shorthand and texting. They are seeing an increase in current employees as well prospective job candidates. Technology is a big part of the blame.

In 2012 a report was published called “The Nation’s Report Card: Writing 2011” that indicated not even 24 percent of 8th through 12th grade students were skilled in writing. Experts interviewed after this report was released blame it on nobody taking the responsibility to teach writing anymore.

Even business schools are seeing problems with this situation. Technology may be a piece of the problem, but even with technology, one must know how to read, spell and write. However, because more and more people are communicating by way of emails and texts, the art of conversation is disappearing.

So what can be done about this? For those job seekers already out there, it is going to take their own drive, initiative and motivation to improve. When prospective employers and recruiters are asking for writing samples first, a prospective employee most likely won’t have a chance if they can’t compose a well written piece.

Employers Willing To Help

Because it’s not taking place before they hit the workforce, some companies are now offering to help the right candidates with career development, such as improving communication skills and learning practical skills. Teaching them how to organize their writing so that it is clear and persuasive. Even candidates with MBA have needed some help, simply going to the best schools and getting the best grades does not make one exceed in forms of communications.

111613_two_week_notice 1Breaking up is not fun. In terms of with someone else or with your job. It becomes awkward and uncomfortable and if there was any way possible, you would rather have a root canal done than face this situation. Now you may be thinking, if you really hate the job and can’t get away fast enough, breaking up wouldn’t be that hard. Just walk out and never look back.

Before you do that though, remember Karma. She’s not a nice person when you mess with her. What that means is, who knows where life is going to take you and who may cross your path again. You may be working with that supervisor you despise again. They could be the contact for a future client that holds the power to sign a huge contract you want.

Never walk out of a job on bad note because … you may need somebody in that organization for a reference. Even though you’re walking into a job you’ve already secured, you just never know. So with those words of wisdom, we offer you some tips when you have decided now is the time to depart your job:

1) As standard as it has always been, giving a 2 weeks notice just isn’t done anymore. Or people give the 2 week notice but just can’t seem to stick it out and quit showing up after the first week. A two week notice is professional. The 2 week notice not only shows respect to your current employer and co-workers, it serves two purposes: Gives your employer time to find a replacement and give you time to close up things.

2) Your immediate boss should be the first person you tell about your plans. Even if you have nothing but a love-hate relationship, take the upper hand and show them the respect of being your boss. You may feel like you can share this wit your office buddy and it won’t go any further, but you can’t count on that for certain. Nothing travels faster than lightening and office gossip.

3) Stay positive. Stay professional. For whatever reason you’re leaving your current employer, bad mouthing the company, your boss or your colleagues is totally unacceptable and unnecessary. Remember, you don’t know where life is going to take and who you may come in contact with again. If you leave ill words spoken, they will stay with others even if you have forgotten. Show respect to the company, your boss and your co-workers for the opportunity of working there. 111613_two_week_notice 4

4  Create a plan, think of the what-ifs. What if they offer you more money to stay? What if they tell you can go ahead and take leave now, no need to work the 2 week notice. You may have a scenario in mind, but again, you don’t know what life is going to bring. Once you volley that ball, it’s in their court, so be prepared.

No matter what position you have with a company, it is of importance in some manner, or they wouldn’t have you there to start with. So take the time to think it through before deciding to leave and thoroughly evaluate your current job from all angels and the job or situation you’re going into as well.

Breaking up is hard to do. It is awkward, uncomfortable and makes people uneasy. But keeping your head on straight and following these tips will make it a little easier.

It’s leap of faith when you hire a new employee. It’s like chemistry and a combination of research, skill-matching and often, gut feeling. When you start the hiring process, you must look at the duties of the position and what education, experience, knowledge and skills are needed to complete those duties. However, when the time comes to make the final hiring decision, the technical expertise should not be your main focus. 

You will find that by looking at more than just the skills later, when it’s a surprise when that person that seemed perfect on paper isn’t as productive as though or is a disruption instead of a contributor. Or simply, they just aren’t good at the duties of the position they were hired for. 

What we find too often is that after a period of time working with an individual, they don’t see things in the same way that we do. So we may spend endless hours discussing, reviewing and discussing some more until we get to the point that is may be best if we hadn’t filled that position at all. What we should do instead of looking at only their education, experience, knowledge and skills, we need to look into their style and make sure it meshes with our style, or the style of the company. 111613_more_than_skills 2

When you invite a prospective candidate for an in-person interview, you have already determined that they are capable of doing the job. So as you talk to them and get a better grasp of their talents , you should also take the time to get a feeling about this person and if they are able to meet your needs and share the same approach and vision that you do.

How do you do this? Here are four tips that can help you take that interview process a little further:

  • Your questions should be open-ended. Such as how did they handle any tensions with their managers or teammates? If they come back with answers that they were the smart one, they most likely aren’t going to be respectful to your current management and team and the experience they have.

  • Cross interview the prospective candidate. Chances are you aren’t the only person in the company that will be working with this person, so ask other department managers to interview them briefly. When they aren’t the decision maker in hiring this person, they will have an open view of this person and will more likely be honest with you as to whether or not this person is going to be a good fit.

  • Checking references are very vague these days by law, so it may be tricky, but ask those contact about this prospective employee’s “soft skills, if they got along with others and how they did working through problems.

  • Give the prospective candidate the opportunity to debate you on approaches to a certain problem. Let them tell you how they would handle a situation and the have them defend their explanation. IF they get defensive and frustrated during the interview, chances are they will do the same in real time. You want confident people, not overbearing. Nor do you want somebody that just gives in because you’re the boss either. You want people who will listen to your side and try to find a way to incorporate your ideas with theirs for a win-win.

Keep in mind the interview is for the prospective candidate to show how they will fit your team and what they are bringing to the company table. Follow these tips and chances are you will learn some things on the way as you interview that you can use yourself going forward.

111613_public_speaking 3Have you ever attended a conference or a meeting and couldn’t take your attention away from the speaker? Their actions, their words, the way they spoke just kept your attention and you waited to hear the next thing they had to say.

Have you ever been asked to host a meeting or make a presentation in front of others? You just couldn’t do it and passed on the opportunity, or rather the challenge. That’s for other people to do, right? Not really. Speaking in front of a crowd can be done by anyone, if they just have these secrets that we’re going to share here:

Have A Big Idea

A good speaker will have one big, really good idea. You have to ask yourself what good story can you create from this idea, even if you were giving the subject or topic to speak about, you can still find one good idea and build a story from that. Visualize that your subject is the tree trunk and everything you’re going to talk about is a branch off that tree trunk.

This Is About Your Audience, Not You

Speaking is not about you and your performance. It is about your audience. Your objective should be to give something to your audience that they can walk away with, mentally, maybe even emotionally.

Share with your audience something you have learned. If you will create a mental picture of your talk, you will be closer in touch with your audience, making it more comfortable and relaxed. Speak as if you are carrying on a conversation with one person.

Getting Started

There are three recommended ways. The best way and the one many experienced speakers choose is to just start right into your story and tell it with emotion. Don’t just retell your story, RE-LIVE it with your audience.

The second option is most common is to start with an open-ended, question. A question that is thought provoking and then make the answer your theme.

The third choice is to begin with an unexpected statistic that will shock the audience.

Have A Catchphrase

When you have speak, have a catchphrase that you sprinkle. What makes a good catchphrase? The fewer the words, the better, no more than a dozen is ideal. It should be action centric so that your audience will want to make it personally applicable. A catchphrase will rhyme or can be made into a short song of sorts, it should be something that sticks. Think “right-tighty” or “lefty-loosey”.111613_public_speaking 4

Let The Screenwriter In You Come Out

From the moment we are born, our parents, grandparents and others tell us stories and we learn how to tell stories from them. Inside all us there is a natural born storyteller. So as you begin to speak to your audience, keep in mind a classic, three-act story. Your opening is Act One. Act Two is the base of the story. Act Three climaxes to the ending.

Of course, there is the nervousness about being in front of people and the many suggestions on how to get past that. Like picture everyone in the audience is in the pajamas. Or find one person, somebody you know usually, and just focus on them. With these tips discussed here though, anyone can talk in front of a crowd, whether it’s 6 people or 60 people.

110913_learn_to_fire 1To have a great environment when you own a business or manage a department, it is important to hire the right people. Just as important is to identify and remove the wrong people that are already employed too. This is even more important for small companies because you don’t have enough buffer zone to cushion the dings of bad employees.

When you are just starting to build a business, or if you are managing a department of a company that is already in place, you need to focus on the environment of the workplace and the people in that environment  You want a team that is going to be knock-out awesome and share with you the set of values that you hope to build your business on or grow it an already existing business. What you must realize thought, that there are going to be people that just aren’t going to work out.

Firing people isn’t an easy thing to do. It most certainly isn’t the most pleasant thing about owning a business or managing a department. However, it is inevitable and something that you need to learn how to do early on in starting a business or going into management.

Skills vs. Environment

When you’re starting your company or taking your first management position, it’s common to hire people based on their skills. You are focused on trying to get your team built and business built. Then after you have a few employees under your belt, you begin to realize that it necessary to have a cohesive team. A group of people that not only want to be there, but get along with others on the team.

Your hiring process begins to evolve and you start looking for the people with the needed skills, but they are also going to be a positive influence on the environment you’re trying to build. You want employees that are happy, positive and want to improve themselves as well as be a part of the company’s growth and improvement. You want people that are grateful for a ob and humble to be a part of the opportunity you’re giving them. 110913_learn_to_fire 2

One suggested way is to have a one-on-one with any new hire at a 2 week period, 30 day period then 45 day period. From this conversation, you are want to make the determination this person is a good fit for your company or department. You also want to determine if the company is a good fit for them as well.

Why Is Firing Hard But Important?

When the wrong person is on your team, the team can easily be derailed. When you keep some people on just because you don’t want to deal with the ugliness of firing, you’re doing them as well as your company, a disfavor. The sooner you realize they aren’t going to fit the environment you want to establish, the sooner you need to cut the ties. This allows you room to hire the right person and it allows them time to find their place sooner. While they may not thrive at your company, they may blossom elsewhere.