Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Is Email Ruining Your Life?

Blackberry user checking his e-mails
E-mail on the move adds to workers' stress level

We can spend up to half our working day going through our inbox, leaving us tired, frustrated and unproductive.

A recent study found one-third of office workers suffer from e-mail stress.

And it is expensive, too. One London firm recently estimated that dealing with pointless e-mails cost it £39m a year.

Now firms are being forced to help staff deal with the daily avalanche in their inboxes. Some hire e-mail consultants, while others are experimenting with e-mail free days.

Email has changed the way that we communicate changed the way we worked.

This technology also has its downside. It's too easy to write an e-mail and hit the send button.

And when an e-mail goes wrong, it can be around the world in 80 seconds and headline news the next day.

On average, we spend 52 hours a year just dealing with our junk mail.

Additionally, e-mail is a major source of employee anxiety.

E-mail inboxes are causing employees concern, because of the number of e-mails and the poorly written e-mails. They really want to find some sort of solutions for these problems.

We are 24/7, we are interfaced by the mobile phone, by Blackberrys, by e-mails, by a whole range of technologies, so that we are almost on call all the time.

City accountancy firm Deloitte found its employees had a problem with e-mail overload. So it came up with a radical solution.

"A lot of people complain they get too much e-mail, that they're swamped with it, a lot of the messages they receive are unwanted, unnecessary targeted to the wrong people," says Mary Hensher, who heads Deloitte's IT department.

"We all tried to see if we could avoid sending internal e-mail on a Wednesday. Now the first thing that happened was it got everybody talking.

"Everybody started to think about what they were sending, who they were sending it to and whether they could use another method instead of sending the e-mail. So it had a very good immediate response, where people were actually thinking more about what they were doing."

E-mail is so ingrained in our working lives that Deloitte's experiment was abandoned after only a month. But the company still thinks it was worth it.

"Although the e-mail free day is not an e-mail free day any more, the actual amount of internal email circulating has dropped, because people are more conscious of what they're sending," Ms Hensher says.

Top tips

One man that might have the answer to all the problems surrounding e-mail is Tom Jackson.

He has spent the last nine years researching and developing better e-mail practice and has five tips he believes can help you take control of your inbox:

  • Invest in a spam filter. You shouldn't open a spam e-mail, because as soon as you open the e-mail up, it notifies the organisation that has sent that, saying this is a valid e-mail address. They know how long you've looked at it, when you looked at it and did you go back to it.
  • Target your e-mail. One of most annoying things about e-mail is the sheer number of messages we receive that aren't addressed primarily to us. Does everyone in the cc box really need to be copied in on your words of wisdom? Basically, a cc is there for information purposes only, and you should only use it for that purpose.
  • Write more carefully. The reason to write carefully is crystal clear. It just vastly increases the chance that whatever it is you want to get done will get done. If you don't write carefully, there's room for misunderstanding.
  • Reduce interruptions. I think it does start to stress people out. Simply by changing the way they have their e-mail application set up, they can start to reduce some of that stress.
  • Get training. E-mail seems like common sense. Anyone can write an e-mail. But the issues we're having are that many people are struggling with e-mail communication - and training can really help with that.
Simon Turner

Body Language: Giving Good & Bad Messages

Much is made of using body language to project strength and competence in the workplace, but as any FBI profiler will tell you, nonverbal cues are an indicator of larger underlying truths that shouldn’t be swept under the rug.

Given our sometimes brief workplace interactions, nonverbal communication plays very large role in our communications.

Meetings, presentations and hallway encounters offer precious little time to present yourself, but trying to mask your deficiencies with hand gestures, eye contact or a well-timed touch on the arm is like taking Panadol not bothering to think about the reason behind your pain. Plus, you also risk coming off as inauthentic. Here are some things to look out for:

Poor eye contact: Wandering eyes suggest you may have something to hide. If you have trouble being forthright with a teammate or manager, you have to ask, “Am I representing myself honestly, or is this job a stretch for me?” (Either in terms of qualifications or interest.)

Not smiling: When you aren’t smiling very often, there’s a good chance that you aren’t at ease. Do you have enough passion for the job you are doing that you feel a connection with your coworkers? Is your manager making any effort to make you comfortable? What might that say about your working relationship?

Slouching: When people are excited to meet someone or to make their point, they generally stand or sit up straight or even lean forward. If you regularly aren’t energetic or confident when in a meeting or presentation, you should be wondering, “Have I chosen a job that is something that I’m excited to get up and do most days? Is this person (or company) for whom I’m working someone I really respect?”

Simon Turner

Student Gems: Don't Get Wrecked by HECS

Student Gems matches students in need of work with businesses in need of occasional or one-time help.

Student Gems is open to UK students or recent graduates 18 and older. To register, students begin by creating a profile that lists all their skills, including anything from language translation or website design to any of 1,400 other skills categorized on the site. Businesses or individuals in need of help can then search the database for someone who has the skills they require for a one-off or occasional job; if they can’t find a match immediately, they can post their job requirements. Students can also browse through tasks listed by businesses seeking someone with a particular talent and initiate contact themselves.

Ad-supported Student Gems is free for use by both businesses and students; by mid-January, more than 1,000 students and 100 businesses had registered with the site, including a software house, a chartered accountant, a media company and even a firm of funeral directors. Cofounder Joanna Ward explains: “Most small businesses cannot afford to take on professional staff for small tasks. Studentgems.com allows them to find someone quickly and easily and negotiate a price that suits their budget.”

Given skyrocketing levels of student debt and a tough employment landscape, this just could do the trick both for students and for smaller businesses. One to bring to other parts of the world?

Website: www.studentgems.com

Zero tolerance: Drinking in the Workplace

A recent case serves as a warning to all employees to be aware of “zero tolerance” policies that apply at their place of work and ensure their conduct does not contravene those policies. In May 2007, Woolworths dismissed one of its store managers for drinking two beers during his lunch break. The store manager, who had over 20 years of service with Woolworths was dismissed because the consumption of alcohol during working hours (including meal breaks) was strictly prohibited and was expressed in several company policies as well as the manager’s employment contract. Woolworths’ decision to terminate the employee’s employment was upheld by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) in October 2007 and the application was dismissed. Woolworths’ decision to terminate was further upheld by a full bench of the AIRC on appeal in February 2008.

Does the punishment of dismissal really fit the “crime” in this instance? If you are generally an exemplary employee, in a position of seniority and have been in a position for several years, should one slight break of the rules cost you your job? In this case, the AIRC upheld the dismissal and found that it was not harsh, unjust or unreasonable because the manager had breached an express term and condition of his employment contract. This strict approach suggests that a wilful disregard of zero tolerance policies will not be viewed lightly by the courts. This decision further highlights the fact that employers are entitled to take appropriate disciplinary action when their employees are found to have breached express terms and conditions of employment.

Selak v Woolworths Limited [2008] AIRCFB 81 (8 February, 2008)

Simon Turner simon@marquetteturner.com.au

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The 10 Worst Days For Driving

Regardless of where you live, what you do or how old you are, this survey is worth a read!

Sunday is the least common day for car accidents and the most dangerous day to be on the road is Friday, 18 January.

After analysing 1.8 million claims received over the past 15 years, a leading insurer has identified the days when accidents are most likely to occur.

Historically, more accidents happen on 18 January than any other date in the year, while Friday is the most common day of the week for crashes. Unsurprisingly, the date with the least reported incidents is 29 February.

'Long week'
According to the research, the next safest dates are 25 and 26 December, when the roads tend to be very quiet. For the same reason, the report highlights Sunday as the days of the week when accidents are least likely to occur, followed by Saturday. The vast majority of problems happen on weekdays when the roads are busier.

1. 18 January
2. 20 December
3. 27 October
4. 22 March
5. 20 July
6. 1 October
7. 21 October
8. 1 November
9. 15 December
10. 20 October

It's not surprising to see that the worst day of the week for accidents is a Friday: people are tired after a long week at work and can easily get caught up thinking about their weekend plans instead of the road ahead.

It is less clear, however, why there was such a concentration of incidents on 18 January: it could be that people have a lot on their mind as they haven't been paid for a while, the bills are coming in, and the fun of the festive period is a long and distant memory.

How did you fare on 29 February this year, given that 2008 is a leap year?

The Five Minds of a Manager

Does your management job seem impossible? If so, that's not surprising. Your many roles are so often contradictory.

You can, however, triumph over managerial obstacles, despite conflicting expectations, if you focus less on what you should do and more on how you should think. Successful managers think their way through their jobs, using five different mind-sets that allow them to deal adeptly with the world around them:

1) A reflective mind-set allows you to be thoughtful, to see familiar experiences in a new light, setting the stage for insights and innovative products and services.

2) An analytical mind-set ensures that you make decisions based on in-depth data--both quantitative and qualitative.

3) A worldly mind-set provides you with cultural and social insights essential to operating in diverse regions, serving varied customer segments.

4) A collaborative mind-set enables you to orchestrate relationships among individuals and teams producing your products and services.

5) An action mind-set energizes you to create and expedite the best plans for achieving your strategic goals.

The key to your managerial effectiveness? Regularly access all five mind-sets, not in any particular order, but by cycling through each as needed. And don't go it alone. When you collaborate with colleagues by interweaving your collective mind-sets, you--and your organization--will excel.

How to Archive Your Instant Messanger Chats

If you rely heavily on instant messaging for business communications, you’ve probably wished for a way to store conversations for future reference. Simkl archives instant messages to an online server and lets you search and share them.

This “history saver” works with virtually all IM clients, from AIM to MSN to Yahoo Messenger. Savvy users know that IM aggregators like Pidgin and Trillian already let you save conversations, but they’re stored locally; you can’t access them from the Web like with Simkl. Check the video above to see it in action.

Unfortunately, you’ll have to pony up a few bucks to use the service: Simkl charges $24.99 annually or $2.99 per month. Those are reasonable rates, especially if you ever need an IM “paper trail” for legal reasons. [via Download Squad]

How to Improve Your Time Management

Feel like time is your adversary rather than your ally? Maybe you need to get a little better at managing the sucker. Dumb Little Man offers 11 tips for improving time-management, including these little gems:

1) Concentrate on One Thing: The human mind works more efficiently when it is focused. As we’ve seen before multitasking is actually a disadvantage to productivity. Focus on one thing and get it done. Take care not to bleed tasks into each other. At times, multitasking may seem like a more efficient route, but it is probably not.

2) Avoid Procrastination at All Costs: When trying to be more productive and trying to save time, procrastination should be avoided like nothing else. It is the ultimate productivity-killer.

3) Set Personal Deadlines: Nobody likes deadlines. They cause stress, aggravation, worry, and, more stress. A guaranteed way to alleviate some of this stress is to set your own earlier deadlines. Be realistic but demanding of yourself. Challenge yourself and reward yourself for a meeting a difficult challenge.

What methods do you use to manage your time? I’m still a fan of the "to-do list". I make a list of three or four things I must get done each day. It doesn’t seem overwhelming, and I get great satisfaction from crossing them off.

Simon Turner simon@marquetteturner.com.au

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Rental Applications Being Taken as Seriously as Job Applications

Renters are treating the house-hunting process like the search for a job, even submitting resumes and photographs of themselves with their tenancy applications.

As Sydney's rental crisis spirals out of control, many applicants are also offering $50 to $100 above the asking rent to secure a property. Some are offering to pay 12 months rent in advance to secure a place to live.

People have been putting together compendiums of their whole lives, together with glowing references, binding them, and presenting them as if they're awards. The Marquette Turner team can certainly attest to this. One instance we can name are a Kiwi couple in their early 20's that put together a presentation folder of the quality that our agents would present.

We're being given life stories, their CVs, referrals, savings history, parent/employer guarantees and even including portfolio pictures of themselves.

It really is like applying for a job, they want to make their applications stand out. And, quite simply, this DOES go along way.

Finding a property to rent these days is almost a full-time job - and thus it is being taken just as seriously as career applications.

Building a raport with the real estate agent also goes a long way - they are after all the ones that provide the landlord with the applications and their "thoughts" on each applicant.

Michael Marquette or Marquette Turner confirms this, saying that "It is becoming increasingly rare for rental properties to become vacant these days, with existing tenants more willing than ever to sign up a new lease, rather that simply continue month to month."

He continues "On the rare occasion that a property does become vacant, tenants are already offering much higher than the asking rent, so it's becoming like a rental auction, and with so many people being forced to sell up as interest rates rise, more people will be forced into the rental market."

Quite simply, the situation for would-be tenants continues to look challenging.

Simon Turner simon@marquetteturner.com.au

3 Steps to Handling Stressful Conversations

If you haven’t been involved in one, I’m sure you’ve witnessed a heated conversation between work colleagues in which potentially beneficial discussion gets lost in the tension.

A colleague of mine, Donald Jessep from Profitableteams.com, was describing a heated exchange between Mike, a Financial Controller, and Steve, a Sales Manager. Mike suggested they close one of the company’s branches.

“You can’t do that” was Steve’s retort to Mike’s suggestion. Mike fired back a dirty look and the blood pressure of both men clicked up a notch. Mike’s enthusiasm evaporated and what could have been an idea worth discussing went no further.

If Steve had exercised discipline in applying the three steps of an age-old process there would have been a different outcome to the discussion.

Step 1 — Acknowledge the person. Even if you don’t agree with the comment. Acknowledgment can be a smile or the gift of undivided attention.

Step 2 — Give a reason to explore another angle. The reason has to be plausible, even encouraging to the person who proposed the idea … and free of all judgment.

Step 3 — Ask a question, a high-quality question. A high-quality question demands just the right amount of mental stretch to answer.

They’re simple ideas, but sadly, especially once we become familiar with people we sometimes lack the awareness and discipline to apply them. Highly influential people have this process deeply ingrained and can apply it even under pressure

3 Simple Ideas That Made Millions

Sometimes a single brainstorm can change the course of a career. Here are 3 people who turned brilliant ideas into big career moves—and the pitches they used to close the deal.

Microsoft Xbox: Beating Sony at Its Own Game
The Product: Electronic gaming platform
The Genius: Game Programmer Seamus Blackley
The Story: In early 1999, Microsoft hired Blackley to work on software that would make games easier to implement on PCs. At the time, industry analysts were calling the then-new Sony Playstation an "alternative computing platform" and saying it represented a long-term threat to Microsoft's software dominance. Microsoft had recently bought the WebTV set-top box, which was proving to be a huge flop in the market. Blackley took advantage of management's paranoia about WebTV's failure and the threat from Sony and co-wrote a proposal suggesting that Microsoft regain the initiative by producing its own gaming console. Executives bit, and the Xbox is now the mainstay of Microsoft's $4.6 billion a year Entertainment and Devices division Blackley later left Microsoft and today represents video game developers at the Creative Artists Agency.

Basic Sell: "If you don't buy this idea, we'll eventually get screwed."
Advantage: Fear is a wonderful motivator.
Disadvantage: There's a fine line between "out of the box" thinking and "out of your mind" thinking. (Hint: If you suspect your idea isn't being bought because of a conspiracy against you, you're probably out of your mind.)

MTV's The Real World: Reinventing the Sitcom
The Product: Reality television
The Geniuses: Daytime soap producer Mary-Ellis Bunim, TV newsman Jonathan Murray
The Story: In the early 1990s, Bunim (Search for Tomorrow, As the World Turns) and Murray (WXIA-TV, Atlanta) observed that production costs for situation comedies and drama were rising, yet the expansion of cable channels meant they were also generating less advertising revenue. MTV was changing formats at the time, moving away from its mainstay music videos. Since the network's more successful VJs had the look and feel of actual college students, Bunim and Murray pitched the idea that young viewers would prefer to watch the dating exploits of real-life peers rather than professional actors.

The combination of low production costs and conceptual similarity to MTV's existing "personality" lowered the risk for MTV execs. The network debuted The Real World in 1992, creating a new genre—reality TV—which has become a massive cash-cow for the network television industry. Bunim and Murray went on to a string of hits, including Road Rules and The Simple Life, creating a franchise that generates around $30 million in yearly revenue, according to Hoovers.

Basic Sell: "This idea will simultaneously reduce costs and increase revenue."
Advantage: Appeals to both visionaries and bean-counters.
Disadvantage: Cheaper and faster doesn't always mean better.

Tom Peters: Redefining Management
The Product: Books and speaking engagements
The Genius: McKinsey consultant Tom Peters
The Story: In the 1970s and earlier, most business books were dry tomes written with the academic market in mind. In 1981, Peters co-wrote a book that changed all of that. In Search of Excellence expressed Peters' observation that successful corporations had eliminated hierarchical decision-making processes in favor of "empowering" decision-making at lower levels of the corporate structure. The idea of a more democratic workplace resonated with the ex-hippie Baby Boomers who were just then entering the executive ranks. When sales of the book spiked, Peters flogged the concept mercilessly, and it was later turned into a series of PBS television specials. In the process, Peters became arguably the world's most popular management guru. Twenty-five years later he still commands speaking fees in the high five figures.

Basic Sell: "Your intuition and experience tell you that this idea makes sense."
Advantage: Buyers are already emotionally inclined to your idea.
Disadvantage: You must be a living example of your idea. For example, if you're selling ideas for financial success, you'd better know how to look and act successful.

Crash Course in Mastering Office Politics: Step 1

Like it or not, every workplace is a political environment. But operating effectively within it doesn’t have to mean sucking up, lying, or slinging dirt.

In its purest form, office politics is simply about getting from here to there: securing a promotion, seeing an idea come to fruition, or gaining support to make an organizational change. Playing the game well is about defending your position, earning respect, exchanging favors, and keeping your sanity amid the chaos.

To get started, you need to know what you really want from work, then orient your political moves toward those goals. It all starts with strong relationships and helping others; those people in return make up the support system that helps you realize your goals. Here’s how it’s done.

Figure Out Why (and If) You Want to Play

Goal: Let what’s most important to you guide your actions.
Office politics gets a bad rap because the most obvious practitioners often do it for the wrong reasons: They enjoy the ego trip, or they like to compete for the sake of competition. But the people who quietly succeed at work are also political operators — they just do it better. Those who play the game well map out their career or workplace priorities and align their politicking to those goals. “Political moves are the navigation through your career — not the driver,” says Susan DePhillips, former vice president of human resources for Ross Stores.

Start by writing down your top five career goals and priorities. These could include switching departments, making more money, unloading some of your responsibilities, or becoming the go-to person for your area of expertise. Then write down the five things you’ve spent the most time and worry on during the last six months. Do they match up? If not, you may be caught up in your colleagues’ goals instead of your own.

Next, prioritize your goals. Maybe you’re seeking a promotion, but you recently had a child and want to start leaving the office earlier. It’s not that you can’t have both, but you’re not likely to get them at the same time since new positions usually entail more responsibility and a learning curve. Decide which matters most to you right now, and start thinking about who you’ll need to persuade or influence in order to get it.

Big Idea
Getting What You Want
It’s tempting to think that the best way to get ahead is to buckle down and work extra hard. You’ll be recognized and rewarded for the effort, right? Don’t count on it. You can’t expect other people to magically know what you want in return. Be clear on your goals, and don’t feel shy about going after them.

If: You want a promotion...
Then: Find out how to get one.
Ask your boss what she wants from you and what skills you need to demonstrate to get promoted. Document the conversation in a follow-up email, then master those tasks and skills. This puts you in a better spot to open the conversation again — and get the promotion.

If: You want buy-in from another department when you propose an idea...
Then: Ask for support.
Ask your counterpart in that department when and how he would first like to hear about new ideas: Over coffee? In an email? As soon as they come up? Once they’ve gained approval in your department? See if he wants to be included in related meetings. Involving him earlier will increase your chances of gaining support.

If: Someone’s blocking you from your goal...
Then: Stand up to them — nicely.
Dan Coughlin, a management consultant whose clients have included Toyota, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola, remembers a regional operations head who was frustrated because her boss finished all her sentences in group settings. “He was stepping in to make sure she succeeded,” Coughlin says, “but in doing so he wasn’t giving her enough room to operate.” The woman confronted her boss privately, and he backed off. With her increased autonomy, she gained the support of the managers in her region, and her boss recommended her for a promotion shortly thereafter.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Australian's Working Harder But Not Smarter

Australians are spending less time playing, sleeping, eating and drinking and are working longer, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures on how Australians use their time.

There has been a huge leap in the time people are spending on education, with people over 15 on average spending three hours and 30 minutes a day on educational activities (15% higher than in 1997). Time spent on recreation and leisure activities has decreased by one hour and 45 minutes a week since 1997 (to 29 hours, 31 minutes a week).

Australians are spending on average an extra hour a week on activities such as watching television and using the internet than in 1997 (16 hours 20 minutes a week).

However time spent on sport and outdoor activity has decreased by nearly one hour compared to an average week in 1997. The average time people spend on getting fit, playing sport and outdoor activity is now 2 hours, 13 minutes a week.

Men and women spent a similar amount of time on both paid and unpaid work, although women work harder than men putting in almost 53 hours a week compared to men’s 52 hours. This is around two hours more a week than in 1997. Men continue to spend much less time on unpaid work, just 20 hours four minutes a week, than did women (36 hours 31 minutes).

While men have not increased their contribution to unpaid work at all since 1997, women have decreased the time they spend on domestic duties by one hour a week. Men spent almost 32 hours a week on paid work (up 5% on 1997) compared to women who spend 16 hours 27 minutes (up 7% on 1997).

When it comes to voluntary work men are spending 15 minutes a day on care activities and volunteering compared to women (24 minutes).

How men and women spend their day:
Recreation 19%
Employment 19%
Domestic activities 7%
Recreation/leisure 16%
Employment 10%
Domestic activities 12%


How To Have The Perfect Life

You already have everything you need to create a wonderful life for yourself. You know everything you need to know to be your own best friend, a gentle guide, a teacher and a helper to yourself so you can be truly happy and fulfilled. You can learn how to become your own psychotherapist for life, and how to resolve the difficulties that stand between you and personal joy.

Be Honest With Yourself
The starting point of becoming your own best friend is for you to be perfectly honest with yourself and your relationships. Refuse to practice self-delusion or hope for the best. For example, when something is making you unhappy, for any reason, the situation will tend to get worse rather than better. So avoid the temptation to engage in denial, to pretend that nothing is wrong, to wish and hope and pray that, whatever it is, it will go away and you won't have to do anything. The fact is that it probably will get worse before it gets better and that ultimately you will need to face the situation and do something about it.

Deal With Your Problem at a Higher Level
There's an old saying that you can't solve a problem on the level that you meet it. This means that wrestling with a persistent problem is often fruitless and frustrating. For example, if two people who are in a relationship together are constantly fighting and negotiating and looking for some way to resolve their difficulties, they may be attempting to solve the problem on the wrong level. Dealing with the problem on a higher level, those people would ask the question, "In terms of being happy, is this the right relationship for us in the first place?"

Find the Right Job For You
Many people work very hard and experience considerable frustration trying to do a particular job. However, in terms of their own happiness, the right answer might be to do something else, or to do what they're doing in a different place, or to do it with different people-or all three.

Here are a few questions for you to answer in this arena of happiness. Write them down at the top of a sheet of paper, and then write as many answers to each one as you possibly can.

What Would It Take?
The first question is: "What would it take for me to be perfectly happy?"
Write down every single thing that you can imagine would be in your life if you were perfectly happy at this very moment. Write down things such as health, happiness, prosperity, loving relationships, inner peace, travel, car, clothes, homes, money, and so on. Let your mind run freely. Imagine that you have no limitations at all.

What is Holding You Back?
The second question is a little tougher. Write down at the top of a page this question: "In what situations in my life, and with whom, am I not perfectly happy?" Force yourself to think about every part of your day, from morning to night, and write down every element that makes you unhappy or dissatisfied in any way. Remember, proper diagnosis is half the cure. Identifying the unsatisfactory situations is the first step to resolving them.

Determine Your Happiest Moment
The third question will give you some important guidelines. Write down at the top of a sheet of paper these words: "In looking over my life, where and when have I been the happiest? Where was I, with whom was I, and what was I doing?"Decide What to DoOnce you have the answers to those questions, think about what you can do, starting immediately, to begin creating the kind of life that you dream of. It may take you a week, a month, or a year, but that doesn't matter.

Every single thing you do that moves you closer to your ideal vision will be rewarding in itself. You'll become a more positive and optimistic person. You'll feel more confident and more in charge of your life, and you'll achieve true peace of mind.

Action Exercises
Here are three steps you can take immediately to put these ideas into action.

First, examine your business and personal relationships carefully. Is there any situation you wouldn't get into again if you had it to do over?

Second, make a list of every single thing in your life that would make you happy and then think about what you could do to begin achieving them.

Third, allow yourself to dream and fantasize about your ideal life, what it would look like and feel like, and then do something every day to make it a reality.

Brian Tracy is the most listened to audio author on personal and business success in the world today. His fast-moving talks and seminars on leadership, sales, managerial effectiveness and business strategy are loaded with powerful, proven ideas and strategies that people can immediately apply to get better results in every area. For more information, please go to www.briantracy.com

Top 3 Tips to Avoid Entrepreneur-Burnout

Being an entrepreneur is exciting and dynamic. It can also be draining - physically, mentally and emotionally. After the initial boost of activity, some entrepreneurs realise they've simply created a job for themselves - one they work harder in than any job they've ever had before.

Unlike a regular job, you also have more responsibilities, fewer days off and more stress. I've been speaking to an increasing number of entrepreneurs who are burnt out. "I just don't want to work so much, all day, every day, at all hours of the day," one told me in desperation. So how do you overcome this?

There's no magic bullet for entrepreneur burnout. But there are certainly steps you can take to alleviate some of the pain.

1. Use technology to automate as much as possible
It goes without saying that you need systems in your business. I've written about this many times before. You need clear, documented procedures for all your processes. This applies to everything from how to answer the phone to how to pack and send widgets. In addition to this, remember to consider how you can use technology to automate any processes. For example, use email autoresponders to deal with standard product/service enquiries. Automate payments where possible - both incoming and outgoing. Use technology to batch process as much as possible.

2. Outsource or hire someone to do low dollar-value work
Your time is better spent being an entrepreneur than it is on administration, book-keeping or answering the phone. If you're still in the early days of your entrepreneurship journey, you might be hesitant to invest in staff. Or you might simply not be ready to let go of control. However, ask yourself whether you are making the most of your time. The bottom line is that if the work you are doing could be done by someone else at a lower hourly rate than what you can charge per hour, then you should delegate or outsource the function. I used to spend countless hours on my book-keeping until I finally outsourced it. Now, my book-keeper does a better job at my accounts than I ever did - in a fraction of the time.

3. Rethink your business model
This might be a radical idea but it could be worthwhile to rethink your business model. If your income is a direct function of your time, then your business model definitely needs an overhaul - or else you will burn out. Where do you start? Look at other people in a similar business to yours. Talk to a business coach about what you want to achieve. Force yourself to consider other opportunities and ways of structuring your business. This is your chance to be an innovator.
If you don't take steps to avoid entrepreneur burnout, the joy of entrepreneurship can get sucked out of your business. Don't let it happen.
Posted by Valerie Khoo

Friday, February 15, 2008

Take The Test To Find Out If You're a Good Boss

Most employers want to be good bosses, but sometimes it can be hard to tell if you’re heading in the right direction. Perhaps try asking yourself this list of questions produced as a kind of self test for bosses by the US-based National Federation of Independent Business:

1. Have you ever publicly criticised an employee?
2. Do you take credit for your employees’ work?
3. Do your employees fear you?
4. Do you expect employees to do what you tell them without question?
5. Do you believe employees should know what to do without you telling them or providing guidelines?
6. Are you a yeller?
7. Do you demean employees as a form of punishment?
8. Do you play favourites?
9. Do you hate delegating?
10.Do you check everyone’s work?

The New York Times has also put together a collection of some of the qualities the best bosses have, as deduced by experts in the subject.

Good bosses: Inspire confidence, are humble, have integrity, know what they were talking about, let workers get on with things, are always there when workers need help and usually say “Yes, try it.”

Bad bosses: Don't give employees a clear and compelling company direction; say important things only once and leave workers scrambling to catch up; don’t hold employees accountable; and concentrate on trying to improve employees’ shortcomings instead of figuring out what employees are really good at and training them to be brilliant.

Simon Turner simon@marquetteturner.com.au

What a Boss Looks Like Determines How They Performs

A couple of years ago a group of management scholars from Yale and the University of Pittsburgh tried to discover if there was a link between a company's success and the personality of its boss.

To work out what that personality was, they asked senior managers to score their bosses for such traits as an ability to communicate an exciting vision of the future or to stand as a good model for others to follow. When the data were analysed, the researchers found no evidence of a connection between how well a firm was doing and what its boss was like. As far as they could tell, a company could not be judged by its chief executive any better than a book could be judged by its cover.

A few years before this, however, a team of psychologists from Tufts University, led by Nalini Ambady, discovered that when people watched two-second-long film-clips of professors lecturing, they were pretty good at determining how able a teacher each professor actually was. At the end of the study, the perceptions generated by those who had watched only the clips were found to match those of students taught by those self-same professors for a full semesterNow, Dr Ambady and her colleague, Nicholas Rule, have taken things a step further. They have shown that even a still photograph can convey a lot of information about competence—and that it can do so in a way which suggests the assessments of all those senior managers were poppycock.

Dr Ambady and Mr Rule showed 100 undergraduates the faces of the chief executives of the top 25 and the bottom 25 companies in the Fortune 1,000 list. Half the students were asked how good they thought the person they were looking at would be at leading a company and half were asked to rate five personality traits on the basis of the photograph. These traits were competence, dominance, likeability, facial maturity (in other words, did the individual have an adult-looking face or a baby-face) and trustworthiness.

By a useful (though hardly unexpected) coincidence, all the businessmen were male and all were white, so there were no confounding variables of race or sex. The study even controlled for age, the emotional expression in the photos and the physical attractiveness of the individuals by obtaining separate ratings of these from other students and using statistical techniques to remove their effects.

This may sound like voodoo. Psychologists spent much of the 20th century denigrating the work of 19th-century physiognomists and phrenologists who thought the shapes of faces and skulls carry information about personality. However, recent work has shown that such traits can, indeed, be assessed from photographs of faces with a reasonable accuracy.

And Dr Ambady and Mr Rule were surprised by just how accurate the students' observations were. The results of their study, which are about to be published in Psychological Science, show that both the students' assessments of the leadership potential of the bosses and their ratings for the traits of competence, dominance and facial maturity were significantly related to a company's profits. Moreover, the researchers discovered that these two connections were independent of each other. When they controlled for the “power” traits, they still found the link between perceived leadership and profit, and when they controlled for leadership they still found the link between profit and power.

These findings suggest that instant judgments by the ignorant (nobody even recognised Warren Buffett) are more accurate than assessments made by well-informed professionals. It looks as if knowing a chief executive disrupts the ability to judge his performance.

Sadly, the characteristics of likeability and trustworthiness appear to have no link to company profits, suggesting that when it comes to business success, being warm and fuzzy does not matter much (though these traits are not harmful). But this result also suggests yet another thing that stockmarket analysts might care to take into account when preparing their reports: the physog of the chief executive.

The Association for Psychological Science issued a press release about Dr Rule and Dr Ambady’s researchm which was used in the preparation of this article by The Economist

Simon Turner simon@maruetteturner.com.au

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Active Employees Pull More Weight!

SmartCompany reports that employees who tend to engage in regular physical activity are absent from work almost half as often as those who don’t, according to research released today by the Centre for Heart Disease and Diabetes Prevention.

The report compared the absentee rates of 200 Australian employees taking part in the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC), an event in which office workers use pedometers to track and increase their daily step count, with 200 who didn’t participate.

Over a six month period the 200 GCC participants took a total of 666 sick days, almost half as many as the 1128 sick days their more sedentary colleagues took. Overall, GCC participants took 3.3 days off over the six month period, compared to 5.6 days for non-participants.

During GCC 2007, 23,000 corporate workers across the globe walking a collective 30 billion steps, travelling 19.6 million kilometres and averaging 10,516 steps each every day.

How Well Read Are You?

In 1996 there were about 40 million internet users worldwide, by the end of 2000 there was conservatively around 500 million. Anyone know-what it is for 2007/8?

More information has been repduced in the last 30 years than in the previous 500 years. The total of all printed knowledge doubles every four or five years.

One weekday edition of the New York Times contains more information than the average person was likely to come acress in a lifetime in the 17th century England.

More than 4000 books are published around the world every day.

Christine Watson christine@marquetteturner.com.au

Thursday, February 7, 2008

To Hire or Not to Hire

During the first few minutes of meeting a potential employee you tend to get a “gut feel” as to the suitability of a person within your organisation.

There are no guarantees to say this person is perfect in every way for the role, however if they have the right attitude, and the skill set that you need, or the ability to learn, chances are they will be a good match.

With the shortage of excellent candidates in today’s market, don’t take too long to make your decision. Often, in the time you take to make up your mind, the candidate has been offered and accepted a job elsewhere. The message here is simple, if your gut instinct says it is right, act upon it quickly.

Christine Watson christine@marquetteturner.com.au