7 Free or Almost Free Things to Do as a Family

Today’s post is perhaps a sidebar to leadership development. However, work-life balance is a key factor in being able to give strong leadership to others.

Right now, we are finding our way difficult circumstances as we work to contain the virus outbreak. Schools and businesses are closed. People are working from home, or e-learning.

Maybe you’re finding yourself with more family time than you might usually experience. Here are 7 things to do as a family that have little or no cost.

  1. Catch up on your reading – take advantage of the extra daylight and free time to dig into those books you’ve been putting off reading. Make sure you add some fiction to the list.
  2. Have a movie or television binge-day – pop some popcorn, get everone in the family room, log onto your favourite streaming service and watch some movies, together. Or maybe it’s time to introduce your children to some classic television shows from your youth.
  3. Tune up your photography skills – dust off the camera(s), read some photography tips and spend some time taking pictures of everyday objects. Take a photo “walk” around the house or property.
  4. Get active – Turn off the small screen and get the whole family active. Depending on your circumstances and location, it may have to be indoor activity; dust-off Wii Sports and get playing. Maybe you’re able to get out into the yard toss a ball or play some badminton. Even raking and yard-work would do.
  5. Start a blog or a Facebook page – Blogging may be past its peak, but there are still lots of blogs out there. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, why not start a family blog to keep the rest of your relatives informed as to what is going on in your life? Or, if blogs seem passé, get the family connect via Facebook.
  6. Watch online concerts or plays – In this time of closures and self-isolation, many performers and venues are streaming content online, at no charge. Pick your favourite genre of music or live performance and check out Facebook pages, or artist websites to see what’s available.
  7. Plan special family meals – skip the turkey or roast beef dinner. Now’s a great time to get everyone involved in the kitchen. Have a DIY pizza night. Spread out a variety of fixings and everyone designs there own pizza. Now’s a good time to experience variety by having family members take turns making meals.

We have great opportunity to work on building a strong family. Don’t bury yourself in all the negative media reports. Take this opportunity to grow closer as a family.

7 Ways to Develop Your Employees

One of the ongoing challenges of operating a business or running an organization is that of employee recruitment and retention.

One strategy that can improve recruitment and retention is training. Investing in staff training and development can alleviate skill shortages by improving your current staffs abilities to handle increased or new challenges.

Training may sound expensive, but the cost of turnover is even more expensive. Replacing and employee can cost between 50 and 100 percent of a positions’ annual salary! With this in mind, take a look at the following 7 ways to develop your employees.

  1. Training
    • A well-designed training program that maximizes learning before, during and after instruction translates into positive, lasting changes on the job.
    • Effective programs should include orientation, on-the-job training and classroom instruction.
    • Internet-based learning is an option that allows employees to learn at their own pace and on their own schedule.
  2. Self-directed learning
    • This approach puts individual employees in control of their own learning, allowing for personal differences in learning styles and encouraging ownership of the learning process.
    • When using this approach, many employers work with employees to develop a learning contract or personal development plan. The contract or plan, which is signed by both parties, outlines clear learning goals.
  3. Coaching and mentoring
    • Demonstrated benefits of these approaches include improved quality and quantity of work, transfer of learning and, for employees, improved communication and problem-solving skills.
    • Effective coaching and mentoring programs depend on the skills and personality of the mentor or coach, adequate time for coaching and mentoring sessions and established time-lines and goals.
  4. Job enrichment
    • Job enrichment increases the employee’s authority or responsibility within their current position. Examples include committee work, special assignments or serving on cross-functional teams.
    • This approach increases interest and motivation by allowing employees to try new skills, build new relationships and explore new areas of specialization.
  5. Job rotation and cross-training
    • Job rotation moves an employee through one or more different positions. The rotation can last several hours, several months or even a year or two. Cross-training is a specific type of job rotation where an employee learns the skills of a different position.
    • These approaches can effectively add diversity and interest, prepare individuals for promotion, rejuvenate work units and improve communication.
  6. Lateral moves
    • In a lateral move, an employee moves to a different position with similar status, pay and responsibility. A lateral move may offer new challenges or encourage the development of different skills for an employee who may not necessarily want increased responsibility.
    • This approach increases flexibility and communication among work units and, in small businesses with few opportunities for advancement, helps to retain valuable employees who might otherwise leave.
  7. Job aids
    • Job aids include checklists, tip sheets, wallet cards, posters, pictures, code lists, flow charts and diagrams—anything that offers on-the-spot practical help or reminders. Job aids can reduce the amount of information employees need to recall by providing easily accessible facts.
    • Well-designed job aids are concise, written in plain language and make good use of white space and graphics for easy interpretation.

Effective training and development better equips an organization to meet business challenges from filling staffing shortages to retaining current staff. Developing employee skills help generate the kind of performance that carries employers and employees forward.

7 Steps Towards a More Satisfying Life

Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, of the University of California, has conducted considerable research in the area of personal satisfaction. The following seven points summarize her findings.

There’s a lot of common sense wrapped up in these steps. Unfortunately, our calendars and to-do lists often get in the way of common sense. If you find you “can’t get no satisfaction”, try any or all of the following.

1. Count your blessings. One way to do this is with a “gratitude journal” in which you write down three to five things for which you are currently thankful—from the mundane (your peonies are in bloom) to the magnificent (a child’s first steps). Do this once a week, say, on Sunday night. Keep it fresh by varying your entries as much as possible.

2. Practice acts of kindness. These should be both random (let that harried mom go ahead of you in the checkout line) and systematic (bring Sunday supper to an elderly neighbour). Being kind to others, whether friends or strangers, triggers a cascade of positive effects—it makes you feel generous and capable, gives you a greater sense of connection with others and wins you smiles, approval and reciprocated kindness—all happiness boosters.

3. Savour life’s joys. Pay close attention to momentary pleasures and wonders. Focus on the sweetness of a ripe strawberry or the warmth of the sun when you step out from the shade. Some psychologists suggest taking “mental photographs” of pleasurable moments to review in less happy times.

4. Learn to forgive. Let go of anger and resentment by writing a letter of forgiveness to a person who has hurt or wronged you. Inability to forgive is associated with persistent rumination or dwelling on revenge, while forgiving allows you to move on.

5. Invest time and energy in friends and family. Where you live, how much money you make, your job title and even your health have surprisingly small effects on your satisfaction with life. The biggest factor appears to be strong personal relationships.

6. Take care of your body. Getting plenty of sleep, exercising, stretching, smiling and laughing can all enhance your mood in the short term. Practiced regularly, they can help make your daily life more satisfying.

7. Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardships. There is no avoiding hard times. Religious faith has been shown to help people cope, but so do the secular beliefs enshrined in axioms like “This too shall pass” and “That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” The trick is that you have to believe them.

7 Things Great Leaders Do

7 Things Great Leaders Do

Once in a while you meet a someone who stands out as a leader. They are more than just charismatic or likeable. You can quickly tell, they think and act and lead differently than most people.

However, people don’t become outstanding leaders overnight. Truly outstanding leaders are made. Through training, experience, self-examination and practice, they learn to nurture, motivate, and inspire.

They learn to truly lead.

Over time, those skills become automatic and reflexive. While great leaders do a tremendous amount of thinking, that thinking happens behind the scenes. In the moment, in the trenches, when people look to them and need them most, they act: swiftly, decisively, and confidently.

Want to become a truly outstanding leader? Work hard to do these seven things well:

1) Build a great team

Leaders must be rigorous in the selection process for getting new people “on the bus”, as Jim Collins puts it, in “Good to Great”. Invest time in evaluating each candidate and make systematic use of at least three evaluation tools (e.g., interviews, references, background, testing, etc.).

When in doubt, do not bring that person on the team. Keep the position vacant—taking on extra work as needed—until you have found the right person. Ensure your company does an exceptional job of retaining the right people to perpetuate good hiring decisions.

2) Offer recognition and praise

Offering praise to your employees is all about recognition. Most workers thrive on feeling appreciated. For an employee, knowing that what they are doing means something to their boss and the business, gives a feeling of worth that can motivate them to improve their work.

The happier your employees, the more engaged and productive they will be. Receiving praise is empowering. It doesn’t cost anything to recognize and praise your staff. However, not giving them credit when and where credit is deserved can cost you big time.

3) Improve constantly

Whatever you’re working toward, it’s important to constantly assess, evaluate and appraise where you are and where you want to be. It’s something you do because you want to be a better leader, not only for your own sake but also for the sake of those who are part of your team and work hard to achieve the vision and goals you set. Great leaders make self-improvement a daily practice.

4) Cross-pollinate

Great leaders know the benefits of working in a variety of departments in the organization. This cross-pollination is a productive development tool, giving organizations a competitive edge. When leaders better understand organizational processes, they can make better decisions. The same applies to staff.

Rather than compartmentalize employees in rigid departments, great leaders mix people from a variety of fields and allow them regular contact. As a result, the employees have a better understanding of the overall operations of the organization. This allows them to apply ideas from as many fields as possible to the problems at hand, just in case something unexpected applies.

5) Delegate

Delegation in leadership not only helps get things done, but it also empowers employees by giving them greater autonomy. No leader can do all things at all times, and delegation is a key tool for boosting team and organizational performance and efficiency. A Gallup study found that companies led by CEOs who were strong at delegating achieved a higher overall growth rate compared to companies whose CEOs delegated less.

Great leadership has many components, and delegation is an important factor for maximizing employee contributions and increasing productivity among all members of a team.

6) Share Information

Communication is a core leadership function. Effective communication and effective leadership are closely intertwined. Leaders need to be skilled communicators in countless relationships at the organizational level, in communities and groups, and sometimes on a global scale.

You need to think with clarity, express ideas, and share information with your team. You must learn to handle the rapid flows of information within the organization, and among customers, partners, and other stakeholders and influencers.

7) Create a Vision

“In order to take the organization to the highest possible level, leaders must engage their people with a compelling and tangible vision.” ~Warren Bennis

Leadership vision is essential for focusing attention on what matters most; on becoming the kind of leader you wish to be. An effective vision has to be rooted in your past, address the future, and deal with today’s realities. It represents who you are and what you stand for. It inspires you, and the people whose commitment you need, to act to make constructive change towards a future you all want to see.

A visionary leader who clearly and passionately communicates his or her vision can motivate employees to act with passion and purpose, thereby ensuring that everyone is working toward a common goal. The end result is that everyone contributes to the organization’s forward momentum.

7 Keys to a Successful Life

7 Keys to a Successful Life

A successful life doesn’t happen by accident. A successful life is the result of deliberate focus of your time, energy and thoughts towards what you want to accomplish. Rather than accepting what comes along as unavoidable use these seven keys to create a successful life today.

Simplicity

Simplify your life. Having “too much” takes energy from productive actions. Whether it’s too many commitments, too many possessions, or too many calories, you need to trim these things back to a manageable level. The you will have more energy and time for the goals you are trying to accomplish. In order to create a successful life, you will have to make room for it first.

Excellence

Always give your best your best effort. Don’t settle for second best in your endeavours. You may have to evaluate how you spend your time or money. You might have to redirect the extra energy freed up by simplifying life.

Priorities

You can spend your days responding to the next crisis that grabs your attention or you can set priorities to using your time effectively. You need to know what is important in moving your towards your goals. Then, eliminate those things that prevent you from meeting your priorities.

Energy

A lack of energy will hold you back. Once you have simplified, build on that. For example, once you have eliminated any unnecessary tasks, see which of the remaining tasks can be delegated to someone else. Look from the most efficient ways to process all that must be completed.

Focus

Get rid of distractions. Up to 75% of your mental energy can be tied up in things that are draining and distracting you. Reading through e-mail may seem productive, but it’s not going to help if your goal is to three chapters of a book. If need be, turn off the phone, shut down the computer and throw the television in the garbage. Free up your mental energy for the things that are important to you.

Think

Eliminate negative thinking. Control your thoughts to accept the possibility that what you are working toward will happen to you. Your belief in the outcome dictates how successful you are. Highly motivated people have goals and work to achieve them. Whatever you think, you accomplish. Listen to your self-talk and, if necessary, change what is being said.

Begin

Just do it. The old adage says, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” You have to start. You can dream, think and plan, but if you don’t get moving, it will never happen. There’s no better time to start than today. Don’t wait for circumstances to improve or become “just right” start your journey to success today.

7 Tips to Help Overcome Procrastination

I was planning to write this post last week, but I put it off. 

Okay, now that the obligatory bad joke is out of the way, we can look at another internal time waster, procrastination.

We all put things off. We hope to avoid tasks that are boring, difficult, unpleasant, etc. When faced with something we don’t want to do, we can find a dozen tasks of no consequence to fill our time.

We secretly hope that, by procrastinating, the unpleasant task will shrink and go away. Unfortunately, the reverse is often true; the deferred job just gets bigger and more difficult.

Overcoming procrastination requires strategy. The next time you’re tempted to put off something you don’t want to do, try some of these tips:

  1. Set a deadline – a task without a deadline can be put off indefinitely. Set a date and stick to it.
  2. Set up a reward system – make it commensurate with the task. An afternoon cleaning out the garage is worth dinner out, while a 14 month software roll-out might warrant a tropical vacation.
  3. Arrange for a follow-up – assign someone to be a “nag-buddy”. Give them permission to check in periodically to make sure you’re staying on track.
  4. Do it first – tackle difficult jobs early in the day, when you have the most energy.
  5. Break the task into small pieces – if the whole seems too big to tackle, break it into manageable sub-tasks.
  6. Avoid over-thinking – Doubts will arise for even the most confident of people and doubt can lead to procrastination. Try doubting your doubts.
  7. Do it now – don’t put if off any longer. Sometimes you just have to jump in and get it done.

Procrastination Quotations

  • Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James
  • Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday. ~Don Marquis
  • There are a million ways to lose a work day, but not even a single way to get one back. ~Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister
  • You may delay, but time will not. ~Benjamin Franklin
  • Someday is not a day of the week. ~Author Unknown
  • Don’t fool yourself that important things can be put off till tomorrow; they can be put off forever, or not at all. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic’s Notebook, 1960
  • Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin. ~Victor Kiam
  • The best way to get something done is to begin. ~Author Unknown
  • Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week. ~Spanish Proverb
  • Putting off an easy thing makes it hard. Putting off a hard thing makes it impossible. ~George Claude Lorimer
  • Tomorrow is the only day in the year that appeals to a lazy man. ~Jimmy Lyons
  • A year from now you may wish you had started today. ~Karen Lamb
  • Procrastination is the thief of time. ~Edward Young