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Key Ideas that Will Make You Better at Creative Problem Solving

Key Ideas that Will Make You Better at Creative Problem Solving

What is the last problem you had to solve? Maybe it was so small you hardly realized you were making choices to reach a resolution. Or maybe it was so overwhelming and stressful you never want to relive that moment again. We are challenged to solve problems each and every day. The difference between whether these problems are minor speed bumps or major road blocks lies in our creative problem solving skills.

Some people have a very natural ability to solve complex problems with creative, out-of-the-box solutions. While others get stuck in the mindset that only one way is the right way. By embracing these five key ideas, anyone can benefit from becoming a better creative problem solver, and as a result make life easier, enrich relationships and effectively find compromise in the most challenging situations. Take a look!

No one will get everything they want

In order for creative problem solving to work, everyone involved must be accepting of the fact that they will not get everything they want. It’s called compromise. And with compromise, you know it’s working if everyone leaves just a little bit dissatisfied. That’s a good thing, really. It means everyone gave a little to get more what’s really important to them. With creative problem solving that uses compromise, people are more likely to be appreciative of the pieces they did receive than the pieces they did not.

You have to be willing to ask for something

The biggest hurdle for most people to cross when it comes to problem solving is the courage to ask someone for something – especially when it may not be well received. My personal struggle with problem solving is that I don’t want to inconvenience anyone else, so I’ll take on the burden of doing something or giving up something to make everything work out. The result is that I’m unhappy, frustrated and feel taken advantage. But this can be avoided. If you’re like me, we must speak up to initiate compromise, or accept the fact that we caused our own struggle.

You have to be willing to give something

In order to receive, you must also give. When searching for a solution to a problem, it’s to be expected that you’ll need to give something as well. Maybe this is to give time or money, or to give up your desired outcome. Prioritize what’s most important to you and let all the other, more minor details go. Stay focused on the fact that by compromising on lesser important items, you can still gain the things you really want.

It takes many pieces to solve a puzzle

Creative problem solving is exactly like it sounds. It takes creativity. You may need to blend and pull from a variety of possible solutions to ultimately build the best solution to your problem. Brainstorm all possibilities and ask for input. Though you may not adopt any one of these solutions exclusively, you may be inspired to use elements from each to piece together something far better than what you could have thought of on your own.

A good solution takes time

Finally, creative problem solving takes patience. It’s natural to want a clear and obvious solution to present itself overnight, but good solutions take time to develop. There are many moving parts and you want to be sure you’re carefully considering all of your options before you latch on to the first thing that sounds “good.” Now of course you should weigh this against the levity of the problem you’re trying to solve. If you can’t agree on what restaurant to get take out from for dinner, it’s really not necessary to “sleep on it.” How great is the potential impact? If it’s life-changing, give it time. If it’s merely a matter of meal preference, you’ll have another chance to choose your food in a few hours.

Have you recently had to find a creative solution to a complicated problem? Share that various elements you used to reach a resolution. Did you use some of the ones we mentioned in this article?

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Posted by on June 25, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Revealing Character Through Communication

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


textingDuring the steps along my career path, I’ve encountered some truly great communicators who were friendly, organized and a pleasure to work with. As with any balance to life, I have also encountered a memorable few who were quite the opposite – impatient, rude and condescending. I used to take negative communication very personally, wondering what I could have done to make it a more pleasant experience, but have since reconciled that it had little to do with me. I wasn’t giving the person the answer they wanted (maybe I wasn’t the right contact to address their request or maybe it simply couldn’t be done). And because of this, they felt as though they could treat me with less respect or professionalism than someone who could offer them immediate solutions.

I continue to encounter similar styles of communication from time to time and it really grates on me. I believe that character is best demonstrated by how you treat those who can do nothing for you. Therefore, these incidences are a reflection of a character flaw that many people may be unaware they exhibit. I’m sure I am not exempt from this – a lapse in my communication may have left someone else feeling brushed off or belittled at one point or another. In an effort to put an end to unprofessional communication, I want to examine the following key points to shed light on why this is such a critical problem:

The importance of always being professional

It’s a small world. We all know the meaning of this phrase as we have likely had the experience of running into contacts again and again through similar circles or completely unrelated circumstances. This is a reminder to me every day that my reputation is my most valuable business asset. Whether you live in a big city or a small town, you can’t afford to burn bridges if you want to be successful in your career. Nothing slows down business growth faster. The importance of always being professional when communicating with customers or vendors is realizing that you may very likely have to deal with them again. Don’t ignore this important lesson! Most of the unprofessional communicators I’ve had to deal with have popped up in my life again, needing information or services from me – often with their tail tucked between their legs.

Identifying the subtle negatives

Sometimes the worst communication experiences are hard to identify because they’re subtle, yet leave you with an overall feeling of hurt, frustration or anger. It may be hard to pinpoint the exact reasons the conversation was so unpleasant, but the feeling it leaves you with is real nonetheless. The subtle negatives I’ve most often identified have involved someone exerting their power or position to make me feel dumb or incorrect about an answer I have provided. Another common subtle negative is someone being bossy or aggressive in their tone and in the type of services they demand. In less subtle situations, I’ve had people outright yell at me, hang up the phone or threaten me in various ways (chalk this up to some good old political campaign experience). Most often negative communication can be identified in someone’s tone and word choice. Even if you have something negative you must communicate – and this does happen – there are various ways to still make it a positive communication experience overall. There’s no excuse.

Letting someone know when they’re being unprofessional

This is a difficult subject to breach. No one wants to directly confront someone else about their attitude or negativity because it can be, well…scary. We’re more willing to put up with the unprofessionalism and belittlement than we are willing to tell someone they’re just being rude. The risk is that we end up looking rude in return or that we anger them even more and the communication further declines. If the negative communication is subtle and you’re not sure if they even know they’re coming across this way, it’s important to handle the situation softly, but directly. Let them know that it’s how they’re making you feel rather than accusing them of being outright mean. No one can argue with how you feel and hopefully even if they don’t want to recognize that their actions are causing this, they will at least be professional enough to make an effort to change. On the other extreme, if someone is being unprofessional to the point of yelling or insulting you, then you must also address this directly, but more firmly. Identify specific examples in which their communication is unacceptable (swearing, yelling and hanging up a phone are never acceptable in my mind) and let them know that you will have to cut off further communication if they can’t approach the situation more professionally. Hopefully such instances are rare, but it’s important to know how to speak up to put and end to it.

They key concept worth taking away from all of this is that character is best demonstrated by how you treat those who can do nothing for you. Negativity is never acceptable even if you realize you’re “only” dealing with an office administrator, assistant or intern. Most often, these are the gatekeepers for who you really want to be talking to. As I said before, it’s a small world, so be sure to be kind and professional to everyone you encounter. It truly takes no more (maybe even less) effort than it does to be rude and when the world connects you with them again you’ll be glad you have a friend, not a burnt bridge, to work with.

 

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5 Ways To Help And Support Employees Coping With Grief (Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who transitioned from a corporate HR career into freelance writing. In this article, she shares her insights on helping employees cope with grief.


5 Ways To Help And Support Employees Coping With Grief

pablo-varela-311608Grieving a deceased loved one is one of the most unbearable things that a person can go through, and it’s even harder to cope with the loss when you have to be at work. In the U.S., workers typically get two to three days off for funeral leave, but according to experts, workers need at least a week to deal with their grief, apart from the logistics that surround a death and burial. Even more troubling is the fact that only 57% of small businesses with staff under 100 employees provide funeral leave. Organizations must recognize the fact that grieving workers need to be given enough time to cope with their loss. Moreover, companies should find ways to help and support their employees during this difficult time.

The effects of grief

According to a study, 75% of mourners said that their ability to concentrate in the workplace has been affected. And while grieving employees may turn up for work after their bereavement leave, these employees are more likely to make poor decisions, put workplace safety at risk, and supervise ineffectively. It’s also common for grieving workers to have difficulty concentrating, become socially isolated from their co-workers, and have lower productivity. For all these reasons, it’s imperative that companies should help their employees cope with the death of a loved one. Not only will it help to ease some of the worker’s personal burden, but it’s also better for the organization as a whole. Here are some tips on how to help and support your employee who’s coping with grief.

Offer an effective bereavement policy

A good bereavement policy includes paid leave for up to a week, extended unpaid leave, and vacation leave. Find out how much paid leave your company can offer and make sure to take into account the cultural differences, as some mourning traditions may take some time.

Don’t rush your employee to get back to work

There is no specific time frame as to when grief ends, so you will have to be flexible with regards to this situation. Ask your employee if they need more time to mourn and offer other work arrangements such as telecommuting or job sharing during this time. It’s important for them to get back into a well-balanced lifestyle and process their grief so when they come back they are truly ready to give 100% for the company again.

Acknowledge the fact that your employee is grieving

Let your employee know that you are sorry for his or her loss. Offer your support during this difficult time and ask if there’s anything you can possibly do to help. Assure the worker that everything is fine at work and that his job is secure and his duties are being looked after.

Create a culture of respect

Ask the grieving employee whether he or she would like you to speak to the team about the loss. Make sure that the team members are not gossiping about the situation, as this can be offensive and stressful.

Offer support

Help your grieving employee to get grief counseling once he or she returns to work. You should also encourage team members to offer their support and thank them for their efforts to support their colleague.

The grieving process can be difficult for any worker, but building a caring and supportive working environment can do a lot as your employee learns to cope with grief. With an effective bereavement policy, you will  help your employees properly cope with grief and sooner return to their job ready to re-engage.

What is your company’s bereavement policy? How could this policy be improved to offer more support to grieving employees? Share your ideas by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


8 Reasons Why We Never Have Enough Free Time

Think of the last time you went a whole day without doing something that could be considered work. Whether this is catching up on emails over the weekend, working ahead on a project after the kids have gone to sleep or spending what should be leisure time overexerting yourself cleaning the house, tending to the garden or sorting out a closet.

If you’re lucky to have recently enjoyed a fully unplugged vacation, you are in the rare minority of people who can actually recall a day in which they have not worked. What’s worse is that most of this “work” is self-imposed when really leisure time would totally be acceptable. We are creatures of habit and work has become a habitual part of our daily routine that gives us comfort and security.

As Americans, our growing addiction to using every ounce of our day doing something productive has greatly impacted the way we view and distribute our free time. We are now wired to always feel like free time is this luxury we can never afford when really it’s surrounding us all the time. We simply cannot break out of our habit of busyness to enjoy it.

After some deep reflection on the way I personally view and use my own free time, I want to share with you 8 reasons why I believe we feel we never have enough free time (even when we do). Take a look…

We quite literally see time as money.

Back in the 18th century, the clock was first used to synchronize labor. Ever since then, our society has grown an increasingly strong correlation between time and money. We are paid by the hour, bill by the hour and even if we’re salaried or paid on a per project basis, we still know approximately how many hours we’re working and how that breaks down into dollars.

In our minds, time is money. This is why we worry more and more about spending, saving and profiting from time.

Busyness is a badge of honor.

Centuries ago, only the wealthy were afforded the luxury of free time. Now we no longer see free time as a luxury, but as a sign that we’re not working to our full potential or that we are not needed. Think of the typical office environment. The people who are deemed dedicated and successful are often the first to arrive in the office and the last one to leave for the day. Sometimes it even becomes of competition over who is willing to skip lunch, forgo bathroom breaks and steer clear of water cooler talk just to appear the busiest.

Our society now sees the busy person as the more valuable person. Clearly they must be more talented and in higher demand if they have nonstop work to do, right? With busyness as the new indicator of success, free time makes us question our self-worth.

The more we feel our time is worth, the stingier we become with how we spend it.

As we continue to link the relationship between time and money, here is one more reason why we never feel like we have enough free time. It’s because we overvalue what our time is worth. We keep moving the target for how much we should earn per hour, always striving for more. Because for many of us, this amount will never be enough, we struggle to find any leisure activity that is worth the opportunity cost of not working (thus not earning money) for this amount of time.

The thought of “wasting time” is causes more anxiety and stress than we realize.

And because we see time as money, it now has a real value to us. Anything that is valuable seems scarcer, therefore we see time as this resource we cannot afford to waste. When we have free time, our habitual minds tell us to use it to do something productive or something that will earn more money.

We feel comfortable and secure when we are spending time working. It’s what we know and what we ultimately crave. If someone were to take away your means to be productive for a day (cell phone, computer, tablet and internet connection), how anxious and stressed would you feel? See how long it takes people to realize the internet isn’t working in a coffee shop and you’ll see this scenario play out before your eyes. You would think the oxygen had been “turned off.”

Choices raise the opportunity cost of leisure time.

There are so many ways we can spend our free time and this often results in the paralyzing inability to spend it at all. We struggle to narrow down our options and stress over the opportunity cost of picking one thing over another. Simply put, we overthink how we spend our free time and then default to the easy and familiar option of work.

We can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

One of the biggest traps we fall into is deferring our happiness for this mythical moment in the future in which we will finally enjoy the fruits of our labor. The reality is, we will always keep pushing this goal further and further away with the promise that the end result will be even bigger and better if only we work a bit harder for a while longer.

As we work hard to earn more money to one day afford a life of leisure and happiness, we are using up prime hours that could make us very happy right now. The bottom line is that we can earn more money, but we can never earn more time.

Instant gratification breeds impatience.

Yet another reason why we can’t seem to enjoy free time is because technology has us so high strung. We want instant access and gratification for everything we do. Leisure activities become stressful when we feel like we are being inefficient with our time – which is the whole point.

I know I personally feel annoyed or panicked when I try to stream a movie and the internet is slow. I get impatient and usually check emails or answer texts while I wait. Or think about spending a day at an amusement park. Not only does it cost a lot of money, it also requires a lot of time to wait in line, sometimes several hours for a single ride. For these reasons, many would agree that a trip to an amusement park feels anything but leisurely.

We are surrounded by constant reminders that our work is never done.

Even if we dare to take a break and use some of precious time to do something that is unrelated to work, we can never fully escape. Our phones, computers and tablets seem to always be within reach. Our deeply rooted habits tell us we should be refreshing our emails or answering any call that comes in “just in case it’s an emergency” (though it rarely ever is).

One of the biggest reasons why we don’t feel like we have enough free time is because we never actually experience being completely disconnected to the point we couldn’t answer a work email even if we really wanted to. If you haven’t taken a vacation somewhere where internet simply isn’t an option, I urge you to do so this year (think tropical island, secluded cabin, etc). Shutting off your phone and stowing it away for a few days is one of the best things you will ever do to find true relaxation and redefine your self-worth beyond your hourly billing rate.

Do you share in some of these reasons why we never seem to have enough free time? Do you have others to add to the list? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 

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Online Bullying Even When Working From Home (Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who left her HR career behind to pursue freelance writing and to spend more time with her young daughters at home. This article is based upon her own entrepreneurial journey and balancing family and work.


Online Bullying Even When Working From Home

African man sleeping at his workplace in officeFor me, this is a personal topic. Bullying was endemic in the company where I worked prior to becoming a mother. Human Resources is a challenging and fast moving area of any business. At first it excited me – the ability to find ideal, new employees, evaluating them, helping them flourish and rewarding the good ones. However, it soon became like many other areas of business and life in general – a case of who you know, what you say to the right person, and more, how you destroy those you do not like. Those in power bullied the new, the weak, and the ostracized. This had nothing to do with ability or work ethic, but everything to do with cliques.

No Boundaries for 21st Century Bullying

The level of bullying increased whenever someone was ill, made a mistake, or worst of all, got pregnant. So you can imagine my own feelings on becoming pregnant for the first time. Sure enough, the bullying stepped up a notch. Luckily, senior management was flexible and accommodating, so they let me become a remote worker. My jobs could be done from home just as well as in the office and for a while this was fantastic; largely because I had a new daughter who brought joy to my life, a supportive and engaged husband, and maternity leave – sweet maternity leave.

Once back, even though I worked from home, I would receive bullying emails, text, Skype messages, and phone calls. Eventually I was released from my work for “under-performance,” despite being one of highest producing employees. Working from home is not a protection from bullying in the 21st century. Whether as a remote employee or a freelance worker, those who seek to bully will do so regardless of the working environment. It can be brazen and open or covert. In fact, the proliferation of smart devices, chat apps, online work platforms, and so on make it easier for bullies to get a hold of their targets and harass them 24/7.

What Employees can do to Reduce Online Bullying

If you need to leave your current employer or client, then you are presented with several options. There may be legal angles you can take due to the nature of the bullying. This is, however, a long term compensation rather than a solution. Finding new clients is obviously the first thing for a freelancer to do. Being self-employed, there are benefits and problems when work is slow, so it can feel difficult to give up a source of income and trade it in for insecurity. If you have been earning for long enough, you may be eligible for unemployment insurance. While there are federal regulations, most of this is handled on a state by state basis. Any unemployment insurance and benefits can be vital in giving you the chance to turn around your situation and find new employment, new clients, or a totally new direction.

However, it may be possible to save the situation. Being bullied has untold effects on our bodies and our minds, but it is not something to suffer or put up with. First, you should gather evidence of how you are being bullied by this person or people. Then you need to find the support of someone in authority – this can include a Union Rep if you have one. Check your legal rights under both federal and state law. Then you need to stay tough, hold your ground, and sadly, as noted above, have an exit strategy just in case. Now, the important part is not to confront the bully directly because they can and will twist this to suit them. First confide in management or a colleague, and work with them to address the situation.

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Bullying can come in all shapes and forms – and even from someone you consider a friend. If a colleague or client’s actions are causing you mental and emotional distress and impacting your work, it’s time to take action. No amount of money is worth putting up with negative and harassing comments. Often it’s the subtle harassment that builds up over time that is the hardest to identify. Working together doesn’t mean you have to be friends, but it absolutely means you must treat each other with respect!

Have you been a victim of workplace bullying? Please help us shine a light on the common occurrence of this very important topic!

 

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9 Quick and Effective Ways to Relieve Stress During the Workday

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


9 Quick and Effective Ways to Relieve Stress During the WorkdayOne area of my life which is a constant work in progress is managing stress. As an entrepreneur, wife and mother, you simply cannot avoid all the triggers that can cause you to worry or feel anxious. I will also admit that my desire to have things fit into pretty little boxes in life doesn’t help in this effort one bit.

Throughout my workday, I can feel subtle signs of stress creeping in. My shoulders get tense, I hold my breath and I get easily distracted. This is something I can’t – and shouldn’t – push through. I need to address the root of the problem and take action to relieve my stress. It’s the only way I can change this mindset and get back to working effectively.

Can you relate? If you have ever experienced stress at work (or even at home), here are nine techniques you can put into action quickly and discreetly to let go of this tension and get on with your day.

Take one minute to simply breathe

When tension sets in, one of the most common reactions is to hold our breath. Do you remember the last time you took a deep, conscious breath? Try it right now. Breathe in and out slowly three times. Not only will this drive oxygen to your brain, it will also give you a brief moment to collect your thoughts and reflect on what’s really weighing on you. I personally tend to carry stress long after that stressful moment has ended, leaving me feeling anxious and “off” for the rest of the day. A few deep breaths can do wonders for restoring a peaceful mindset.

Do a quick stretch

Even at your desk, you can get in a discrete but effective stretch that won’t draw too much attention to you (and make your co-workers wonder why you’re in a full on yoga pose in your cubicle). Lift your arms over your head, look side to side and pull your arms forward while looking down. Focus on whatever seems tight and tense. Stretching, combined with breathing, will get your blood moving and help you to feel more alert. It will also relieve stress.

Get outside

If you work in an office space that lacks windows or natural light, make getting outside for a few minutes throughout the day a priority! Sunlight, fresh air and new scenery are all great stress relievers. This will also boost your mood. If you are feeling particular stressed or tired, get outside and take a few minutes to reflect on how you can improve what’s getting you down.

Mentally list a few things for which you are grateful today

When we’re stressed, we tend to only focus on the problems of our day, but forget about everything that’s actually going right. Make a mental list of all of the positive things you’re taking for granted and appreciate the little blessings of the day. Most of what we’re stressed about are first-world problems anyways.

Browse a collection of inspirational quotes

Over the years, I have compiled a folder on my computer that consists on inspirational quotes. These cover all topics imaginable and are from authors old, new, famous and unknown. Whenever I’m feeling stressed or uninspired, I turn to these quotes. In just a few minutes, my mind is no longer on whatever was bothering me and I have a renewed positive outlook. I highly recommend trying this!

Make positive small talk with a co-worker

As an introvert, I have never been fond of small talk, but I promise it can do wonders for relieving stress. Talk to a co-worker, friend or complete stranger and keep the conversation light. Talk about the weather, plans for the weekend or a funny show you recently watched. When I’m stressed, I love talking to someone who knows nothing about my problem and is simply happy to see me. Realizing there are other, wonderful things in life aside from we are I’m worrying about is a refreshing reminder to not overlook the good all around us.

Look at photos of happy memories

Similar to keeping a folder of inspirational quotes on your computer, keep a folder of some of the best memories – family vacations, weddings, holidays and birthdays. When you are feeling stressed during the workday, take your mind to a positive place and reflect upon happy memories. This will give you a brief distraction while reminding you that the big things in life are really the small things. Tip: Limit each folder to no more than 20 or so photos so that you don’t risk browsing photos for hours as a means of procrastination.

Enjoy a healthy treat

People respond to stress differently when it comes to appetite. Some have no desire to eat at all, which can leave you tired and weak. Others crave junk foods as a coping mechanism, which is equally as detrimental. No matter what camp you’re in, you could benefit from eating a healthy snack when you need a stress relief. Why? These nutrients will provide your body with fuel to combat stress, grant you a break from whatever task you’re working on and give you the peace of mind that you did something good for yourself.

Get off social media

Finally, resist the temptation to turn to social media for distraction. Social media is a great platform for personally connecting with people, but it can also be a stress and anxiety inducer. Have you ever been casually browsing social media and feel your mood worsen? You are not alone. Many people experience this effect as they see the “highlight reel” of everyone else’s life and compare it to their own. Combine this with already being stressed out about other things going on in your life and you have a recipe for disaster.

Stay away from social media and anything that might tempt you to compare yourself to someone else. Everyone’s journey is unique. Instead, relieve your stress by practicing any of the techniques mentioned about (or combine two or three for added effect)!

How do you relieve stress during the workday? Share your tips and tricks by commenting below!

 
 

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Twas The Day After Christmas…

Twas The Day After Christmas

(As retold by an entrepreneur)

Twas the day after Christmas, when all through the house
not a computer was turned on, not even a mouse.
Their cords were wrapped up in the corner with care,
in hopes that I had strength to leave them there.

Miss Pinot was nestled all snug in her bed,
while visions of toy mice danced in her head.
For once taking a cue from my sleepy, gray cat,
I settled my brain for a short winter’s nap.

Is it possible to tune out all of the clatter,
to focus on Christmas and what truly mattered?
No doubt it would feel different to completely unwind,
what’s the worst that could happen, we’d have a good time?

So from now until New Years, the blog posts can wait
there are loved ones to hug and cookies to bake.
This short disconnect will help creativity to soar
and inspire me to write better than ever before!

Until then, don’t worry what to do with your time,
make your own holidays relaxing as I’ve made mine.
Here’s my final wish before the exit I make,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a short break!”

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Posted by on December 26, 2016 in Life

 

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