The Work-Life Balance Challenge

Over the last few months, I’ve had plenty of friends and family get on my case about my work-life balance. As always, they’ll ask me what’s new in life and I’ll go off on a tangent, telling them all the different things I’ve been involved in or what I’m currently learning. Once I catch my breath and the glazed-over look leaves their eyes, they feel the need to express their concern for my work-life balance. “You need to give yourself a mental break,” my family will say. “You need to get out and have a life,” my friends will add. Of course, this annoys me to no end. It might seem like I’ve dedicated my whole existence to work or networking or blogging or whatever else to help my career, but such is not the case. What they don’t realize is that I can accomplish all of these things easily in a 40-45 hour work week. Therefore, the balance is fine- I’ve just learned how to make the most out of my time.

No, I’m not a superhuman by any means. I’m just a woman with a type A personality and a slight obsession with whiteboard calendars. My whiteboards and my intense scheduling skills are another thing that my friends and family feel the need to critique but these things are what help me accomplish as much as I do within a reasonable time. Maybe not everyone is great at working their lives around a schedule, but here are the things that help me:

  • Determine necessary time for each task: Take a couple weeks to determine the appropriate time each task takes you to do. This can help you regulate how much time you would need to block off.
  • Schedule accordingly: every person has their favorite way to schedule things, such as phone task apps, email calendars, and so on. Although I use those forms of technology, I still like to keep it old school. Writing it down and seeing it in front of my face each day can help reduce any anxiety about potentially forgetting something. It also keeps me on track. I literally have three whiteboards: monthly, weekly, and daily.
  • Set realistic goals: the reason why I put things on a schedule is because it automatically makes it feel like a goal that I need to achieve. Nothing motivates me more than seeing all my “to dos” crossed off on my list. It also makes me feel like I’m making steady progress.
  • Give yourself wiggle room: I usually set my to-dos to be completed at least a couple days in advance. I also try to give myself a few minutes in between each task. Life is crazy and you never know what can happen that could potentially knock you back a bit. Giving yourself some wiggle room can help you still accomplish your things on time without stressing, even if an unexpected situation occurs.

Maybe some of my friends and family don’t get it at this point in time but doing these things have honestly allowed me to progress in my career, professional development, and professional education. I spend less time running around clueless and more time getting things done. And like I said earlier, it might seem like I have a lot going on but setting up my days like this have truly allowed me to be the most efficient that I can possibly be. I work hard but I get things done within the 40-45 hours a week which allows me to have plenty of time to “relax” and “live a little” like I’ve been advised to do. Take these tips and test it out. See if it makes a difference in your life, whether it is for work or your own personal goals.

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Job Preparedness: What Employers Want

More often than not, I have job seekers approach me for some career advice. They ask me all sorts of questions, such as: how should I format my resume; how should I prepare for an interview; how can I display my skills to be attractive to employers; what skills do I need to build to be qualified; and so on. Of course, depending on the role, company, and situation, my responses tend to be different per each case. However, I do remind my candidates that certain skills can be taught but passion and business ethic cannot. So, I ask them what they’re truly passionate about and how they’re going about displaying these qualities to potential employers.

After speaking to employers and researching the topic, I’ve noticed that the skills that are most valued are actually pretty surprising. For example, employers value candidates who have strong business ethic and are accountable vs. candidates that have technical skills and can work well with others. Why? Because technical skills can be taught but accountability is an internal motivation factor that an employer can’t teach an employee.

To get a better idea of this, check out this infographic on The Undercover Recruiter Blog provided by Youtern.

This is a great visual resource for candidates to not only learn what employers are looking for, but to also see how their current experience level (entry-level, managerial, etc) can tie into this. Additionally, many hiring managers evaluate these skills through the interview process, so it’s important for candidates to be on top of their game. Review the top skills that employers are looking for and take the time to think of examples from your experience to display your competency in these skills. Thinking of these examples before an interview can not only help you be prepared with strong information, but it can also help you clearly show the employer that you have what it takes to meet their value expectations.

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Will Your Company Benefit from Social Media?

Recently I was involved in a discussion regarding social media in the workplace. Different individuals in this discussion had debated whether or not using social media would be beneficial or counter-productive. Although I do agree that some organizations wouldn’t find social media helpful, there are plenty of other companies that could use it as a useful tool. Today’s post will help educate companies on how social media can be functional.

The individuals debating that social media would be counter-productive mainly thought that it was only for personal use. They wondered how “gossip” or quirky status updates would help and believed that this would distract employees from doing their jobs. Although those are true points, there are also different social media sites that are geared towards business use. For example, Work Simple, Salesforce, and Yammer are three companies that come to mind.

If utilized properly, social media could be beneficial to companies for the following reasons:

Collaboration is easier. Technology is allowing businesses to be able to reach audiences on a global scale. To be able to keep up with this: employees are now available around the world; are working remotely while traveling; or are working different shifts to be accessible to all time zones. If all employees can’t participate in business meetings, it can be very hard for teams to effectively work together. Social media can allow employees to collaborate at any time and in any location so no one ends up missing out.

Employees get more exposure to executives and managers. Social media allows managers, HR, and executives to easily see which employees are influential. Many employees can have a hard time proving they are worthy of a promotion or raise. This tool will allow management to see employees’ documented efforts. It will display their progression and contributions in a way that validates their eligibility for promotion or rewards. It is a social recognition and performance management tool.

It can increase employee engagement. Social media can empower employees by giving them a voice. Additionally, having a tool that keeps a record of employees’ suggestions or ideas can make them become accountable for following through.

It can allow employees to communicate in a way that creates a solid community within the organization. Employees might work in different departments, locations, or time zones. Or, employees might work in a role that has them strapped to a desk or on the road. With those being realistic factors, employees can’t always converge in a way to get to know each other. Social media can allow employees to communicate throughout all levels of the business-spectrum. This is a team building tool that can create stronger cross-departmental teams and company community.

Employees will know who the correct point of contact is. I know I’ve wasted so much time trying to figure out who I need to contact for more information or assistance. This tool can allow employees know who does what in the business so they can get what they need faster. It can also help employees follow up easier by letting them to see who else was working on a project/task. This feature permits them to contact that person for clarification, status updates, or help. Pictures can also help employees put a name and job function to a face.

It can encourage learning and development. Employees can connect with others throughout the company and set up mentoring sessions. Additionally, this can be used as a knowledge base in which employees can find information faster so they can do their job more efficiently or help customers quicker. In addition to this, those using the tool can expose other users to helpful information by posting useful resources, invites to webinars, and so on.

It is a brainstorming tool. Great ideas don’t always get formulated right away. Discussion boards can be used as brainstorming meetings which will let employees provide thoughtful, innovative, and creative ideas when it comes to them. Having suggestions easily available can allow other members to jump in, build off of it, and develop it into something functional.

There are so many benefits to using business social media that I could go on and on about it. I feel that majority of companies could use it to their advantage if they utilize and customize it in a way that suits their industry, mission, and culture. Hopefully this information can open up minds to the endless possibilities that can come from using this tool.

If you want to read more about the benefits of business social media, please click on the following links:

Yammer-Business Benefits
Work Simple- Performance Management for Social Goals
Salesforce- The Social Enterprise Solution

Micromanagement Kills Productivity

The other day I had posted a conversation on Ted.com and was delighted to get an interesting comment. This individual had mentioned that her ideal employer would be one that explains why we do certain processes. Also, another ideal quality would be an employer that does not micromanage. I was so glad that these things were brought up because it is a subject that my peers have passionately discussed in the past. Why do managers think that micromanaging is actually helping? In reality, it does more harm than good.

To start, I’m going to dive into this post by discussing the first part of this person’s comment: why the company exists and why do we do the procedures. Nothing is worse than being trained by someone who only shows you how to go through the motions but doesn’t give an explanation. It is important for employers to train in a way that allows employees to get a full understanding of why they do certain things and how it impacts the business. If all an employer does is train an employee how to do “A. B. and C.” and nothing further, then the employee’s thought process most likely will end there.

A good training program should almost be like a story. For example, a trainer should show an employee how to do “function A.” but also explain what that function’s purpose is and why it’s important to the company. Giving this background and additional information will allow employees to have a clearer picture and retain information easier. Additionally, giving employees those details can allow them to be innovative. If an employee truly understands why they do specific tasks, they may be able to figure out a better and more efficient way to get to the end result. Essentially, you’re allowing employees to have the knowledge and ability to take their job duties a step further.

Once the employees get the swing of things, managers need to learn how to loosen up on their micromanagement. It is perfectly OK to mentor them this way in the beginning since new hires are bound to make a few mistakes through the first few months, but managers need to eventually give them room to do their job without breathing down their necks. Micromanagers feel like they need to be in control of things because they believe that is the only way they can ensure results. Contrary to their belief, it actually kills productivity rather than helps.

These employees were hired for a reason: they are competent; they are educated; and they have experience. In other words, this isn’t their first rodeo. Once they learn the basics of how your company works, what the processes are, and what the expectations are, then they should be good go. If they are micromanaged after that point, it can cause a few issues:

• Employees will be distracted by constant monitoring.
• Employees will feel like they aren’t trusted by the employer.
• It will cause stress and frustration.
• It will limit employees’ feelings of empowerment, accountability, and responsibility.
• Micromanaged timelines may actually slow down efficient employees.
• Constant updates and status meetings will take time away from the actual task at hand.
• It will kill employees’ drives to be creative, innovative, and find better solutions.
• It will make employees question their abilities and limit their professional growth.
• It will make employees feel disrespected.
• And—it’ s just generally suffocating.

When I was recruiting, I used to hate it when I received a job order alert, and within a minute my manager was hounding me about filling the order. At that point, I had barely even got time to read the job requirements before she was down my back. (I often wondered if she had some sort of super power to read the e-mail and get to my desk that fast). Anyway, she started to come off hostile by doing this and employee morale went down tremendously. The stress from being micromanaged caused employees to be unhappy at work to the point where absenteeism and turnover became high. Without these employees present, the company lost a lot of business because there wasn’t enough manpower to keep them competitive.

If you want employees to be happy and engaged, then give them the freedom to do their work. They are capable professionals. The best thing a manager can do is to give employees clear goals and timelines then allow them to work on it without having their every move observed. Even without micromanaging, managers can still make themselves available to the employees if they have questions or need guidance. Perhaps this is a suggestion to keep both ends happy?

If you’re a micromanager, please try to loosen up the control a bit. Your employees will appreciate you for it and you may end up discovering that giving them the empowerment will allow them to be more productive. Giving them the “why” in their training can allow them to be exceptional employees without the need for hand-holding.

Links:
Ted.com
Forbes-How to Manage a Micromanager