What’s at Stake, Up and Down

Guest Post by: Fred Jones, GUAA Coaching Partner

Most of the bosses you’ve had probably fall toward the middle of this contrast: between whether you felt they made it easier or harder to do your thing as a leader. If you’ve had enough bosses, as I’ve had, there’s also at least one on each extreme. Someone who wore you out and drove you crazy, and one who made you better and stronger than you thought possible.

Take a longer look and consider what each of those extreme bosses was doing. Add to that an assessment, from your perspective, how they were “being”–by which I mostly mean the degree to which they seemed at ease, at least in the roles they were playing, in their own skin. Do you sense a difference?

Without fail, we have a lot at stake in our boss. The same goes in reverse. The quality of the connection makes a difference in how information flows and how productively it is used in an organizational system. It also affects the climate–the mood, the weather–from day to day. Poor relationships up and down leave us carrying an extra weight as we move through what already may be complex and challenging. This quality also is visible to others, and it affects their confidence in what’s possible and what’s worth putting discretionary effort into.

From below, there are things you can do to work on the quality upward. You can get in tune on the kind of access you can provide each other, the range of authority you have, how you represent your own point of view even when it varies from your boss’s, and more. Even that sample of a much longer list may sound difficult. The key: making it discussible. This means making the functioning of the relationship itself the focus of attention, with candid sharing of what each of you need from the other. There’s a chance that if you are suffering in the relationship, so is your boss. They may want to make it better, but they never took the time to take your perspective on it.

You may be that boss with one or more of your direct reports. Not necessarily the extreme boss. But you may be in the middle, the one who hasn’t really paused to see what it really is like to report up to you. The boss who is responsible for some amount of lost productivity and personal suffering. You can open the way for them and make the relationship discussible–which means, of course, not making it all about you. If you engage to learn, you are likely to discover something important that may affect not just them but you and the quality of your life as a leader.

Creating a High Performance Organization Culture

Guest Post by: Susan Levine (I’89)

There is a strong correlation between highly engaged employees and high performance organizations. Our people are our assets, our engine and our lifeblood. And no one would dispute the fact that our long term success will be driven by our ability to attract, retain, motivate and develop the best team in the industry. But not every organization has a base of highly engaged employees. So how can you take the pulse on your employees? Ask them!

There are a variety of ways that you can ask employees for their views – pulse surveys targeting a few topics the leadership team would like to understand are becoming even more popular. Whether you outsource or insource, the most important thing is to regularly engage your employees. If you do, it will be the beginning of an ongoing change in the way your company conducts its business.

First, decide what it is you want to measure and take the pulse on – firm strategy, firm culture, professional development, career path and incentives, lifestyle. Organize a team to design the questions. Senior leadership on the team in critical. Skeptics on the team are invaluable to the process and will ultimately enhance credibility and buy-in to the process.

Write questions that are simple and direct. For example, “I am engaged and motivated by [my firm’s strategy]”; or “[My firm’s] culture fosters collaboration and teamwork.” Don’t hide or ignore questions about topics you know will be potentially controversial. Your employees will appreciate your asking the tough questions. Finally, make the survey totally anonymous. If you really want to get honest feedback, you will want people to feel there will be no repercussions for the feedback they may provide.

And the most important question, by far, is the “Net Promoter Score”: “I would recommend [my firm] as a place to work to a friend or relative.” The question is asked on a 10-point scale. Promoters are those who answer a ‘9’ or a ‘10’; those with a neutral response are those who answer a ‘7’ or ‘8’; and detractors answer a ‘1’ to a ‘6’. The net promoter score is the percentage of promoters minus the percentage of detractors.

Ultimately, asking employees about organizational topics and being ready to share the results is the first step in the journey to creating a more engaged workplace. But you have to be willing to commit the appropriate amount of time to tackle important issues highlighted in the results and communicate progress to the organization.

In the next topic, I can discuss what to do with survey results and how you can develop a prioritized set of actions coming out of your high performance organization efforts.

Speaking Tips: Last Things First

Guest Post by: Dean Brenner (C’91), The Latimer Group

Have you ever led a meeting, handed out the slide deck, began discussing the topic and while still on slide 1 or 2, most of your audience has already flipped to the last slide? I’m sure you’ve seen this before… Perhaps you’ve been the one flipping to the last slide, or perhaps you were the frustrated presenter. It happens all the time.

One of the questions I get asked most frequently is, “How do I prevent people from automatically skipping to the last slide?”

I usually respond by asking, “Why do you think they go there first?”

Everyone usually says some version of, “They want to see the summary information right away.”

And then I usually say, “Then if they want to see the last slide first, why do you put all that info on the last slide? Why make them wait?”

Business storytelling is counter-intuitive. This is not like a movie or a good book. The point is not to keep your audience in suspense until the very end. The point with business communication, especially in the 21st century, is to get to the point quickly, explain to people where you are taking them, and then backtrack just enough to explain to them how you got there.

Don’t make your audience wait. It will be better for them, and they’ll pay closer attention to what you have to say.

Good luck.

Dean Brenner (C’91) is a recognized expert in persuasive communication, and is the founder and president of The Latimer Group, an executive coaching and training firm that that specializes in creating powerful communication skills. Dean and his colleagues offer coaching and training to a global client list of Fortune 500 companies. In addition, Dean has written two books on effective communication, and is currently working on his third. Dean lives in Connecticut with his family. To learn more about Dean and The Latimer Group, please visit TheLatimerGroup.com.



Back to the Grind: Making Your Post-Vacation Transition Easier

It’s summer. And hopefully all of you will be able to get away for a bit to relax and rejuvenate. Bonus points if you’re able to REALLY check out and not be on email the entire time!  While you may be relaxed and rested, all good things must come to an end and the return to the office is inevitable.  Here are a few tips to help make the transition back to work at least a bit less painful!

1. Create a to-do list and leave it on your desk before you head out.
There’s nothing worse than forgetting what you were even working on before you left the office.  Make yourself some notes right before you head out the door so you can at least reorient yourself when you get back in to the office.

2.  To check email or not check email: That is the question.
Some people argue that just checking out of work totally is the only way to really get a break and rejuvenate. Others say that in today’s tech savvy world that’s not an option.  I go for the hybrid approach where I check email twice a day, delete anything that is irrelevant or junk and respond to any fires. Other than that I’ll get back to you when I return to the office.  If I go through things throughout my vacation I find I’m less overwhelmed by an overflowing inbox when I get back.

3. Don’t schedule meetings the morning you get back!
I’ve done it and it’s the worst. Who wants a 9 am meeting on a Monday much less a Monday after vacation? It may sound like a great idea when you’re heading out of the office on a Friday looking forward to 7 days and 2 tickets to paradise but, trust me, you’re not going to feel as motivated when you are sporting your tan at the water cooler instead of beach side.

4.  Have a day at home before you head back into the office.
A day to catch up on laundry, unpack, and get situated can help make the first day at work a bit less painful.

5. Schedule lunch.
Ease into your first day back by scheduling lunch with a colleague that you need to catch up with.  Combination of work + fun is ideal. Plus, you probably won’t have too much food in your fridge.

6. Work on your favorite projects first.
Which parts of your job do you love the most? What are your pet projects? Work on those to help get your head back in the game.

How do you manage your vacations and transition back into the office?  Any tips to share?  We want to hear! In the meantime, happy summer Hoyas!


image source: officelols.blogspot.com

The New Buzz Phrase: Employee Engagement

Examining employee commitment to organizational priorities isn’t necessarily a new concept but it’s definitely one that is trending in 2014.  It has even left one writer even asking “is employee engagement the new black?”

After seeing the headlines in so many places, I can’t help but wonder, why now?  Management 101 fad or cultural paradigm shift? In a world where the job market is still tough, it’s not necessarily an employer’s market.  Company culture, benefits, perks, and overall brand are still major factors for job seekers to consider.

So, what gives? Why now?

Is it the new generation of millennials entering the workplace that are influencing the way we do business?
Is it that technology has forced work and life to merge more than it has in the past and therefore we need more out of our work?
Has the emerging dotted line between profitability and employee happiness simply become a strategic advantage business can’t afford to ignore?
Have we redefined leadership for 2014 and beyond?

In his book, The Purpose Economy, Aaron Hurst, asserts that  “purpose has now become a business imperative. In today’s world, running an organization without an intentional emphasis on purpose for employees and customers is like running an organization in the early 1990s and failing to implement technology.”   Alum Arthur Woods (B’10), Co-Founder of Imperative recently presented on the subject via the ACS webinar program in January.

A few case studies:
Zappos has an entire website about their culture:  http://www.zapposinsights.com/The CEO of Zappos often discusses corporate culture and has been quoted as saying “So many people when they go to the office, they leave a little bit of themselves at home, or a lot of themselves at home. And they have to put on this different persona in the office, especially in corporate environments. And our whole…there’s a lot of talk about work life separation or balance and so on, whereas our whole thing is about work life integration. Its just life.”
Google donates $50 for every five hours an employee volunteers. Last year a new program sent employees to Ghana and India to work on community projects. (Not to mention they provide kitchens stocked with gourmet food and onsite laundrey services!)
Recreational Equipment (REI) uses social media to offer an online “company campfire” providing associates and executives the ability to share their thoughts and participate in lively debates and discussions.
Dreamworks Animation headquarters is visited by fresh-juice trucks to distribute free smoothies, and employees are given stipends to personalize workstations.

We want to know: What have you noticed about employee engagement trends in your workplace? What is your employer doing to engage you in the mission and culture of your organization? 

Further reading:

Employee Engagement is  A Leadership Commitment
Create  a Vocabulary That Inspires Employee Engagement
It’s Time to Rethink the Employee Engagement Issue
5 Secrets to Better Employee Engagement
5 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Now


Image source: http://www.miniworkshopseries.com/highlights/?p=776


Make Your New Year’s Career Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions aren’t just about eating healthy and working out. Consider making some work resolutions too to maximize your career. Apparently you are much more likely to achieve a goal if you take the time to put pen to paper (or keyboard to screen as is the case here). In the spirit of the New Year and in the hopes that posting these will make us that much more accountable, below are our staff resolutions. We hope they inspire you!Bridget Holmes, Senior Director, Career Initiatives
Be more organized.
I used to be able to remember my to-do list, birthdays, and my grocery list without even writing it down.  Now, with working full time and having two little ones at home, my memory is just not what it used to be!  Here are some tips:

1. Maximize your calendar.  Utilize your calendar system to keep track of all dates and deadlines that are important to you – even birthdays.  If you utilize Google calendar in particular, it makes it easy to share dates, deadlines, and meetings with colleagues.
2.  Maximize your email.  Color code your emails by category, file them to make it easier to find.  It’s the little things that can make a big impact. Use the task list in either your email or calendar to keep a running list.
3. File things.  Electronically.  While paper may never go away, having a scanned copy of some of those important documents can save you from a panic attack later.
4.  Take notes.   Meeting after meeting means you may not remember the action items from your 9am at 3pm.  Keep a notebook, take notes on your IPad, whatever works for you – just be consistent and keep it all together. Follow up meetings with typed notes to those in attendance to keep everyone on the same page.
5. Keep lists. To do lists, project lists, grocery lists, etc.  I never met a list I didn’t like.Sarah Hay, Assistant Director, Alumni Career Services
Time Blocking
Having both internal and external clients and stakeholders in addition to the interdependent nature of many of our projects makes it easy to get derailed from your daily to-do list. 2014 is going to be all about time blocking for me. Over and over again in the Webinar Program, we hear presenters discuss the importance of only checking email at set intervals, and not treating every request as urgent.  Some strategies for achieving this goal:

1) Update your to-do list. Often.
2) Prioritize. Check in with your manager to to understand prioritization of projects and deadlines
3) Respond to emails in order of importance/urgency, not time
4) Recognize first, respond later. If  you are coming close to the end of the day but need to respond to emails, send brief responses letting the person know you saw their note and will be responding soon.  If there is one urgent item in their email, respond to that and tell them you will send a more thorough response later.
5) Make more internal phone calls.  Sometimes a task can be crossed off quickly if you can speak with a colleague as opposed to communicating via email.  It only takes a few seconds to try someone’s extension!
6) Step back from the inbox. Close out of email while working on projects and on phone calls.  It is too easy to respond to things that pop up in your inbox!
7) Less meetings.  Do not schedule meetings for the sake of meetings.  See our blog post on the topic!
photo source: prythm.com

Apps We Love… For Work

Evernote – We’re still exploring this newly discovered app.  It allows you to create to-do lists, capture ideas, store meeting notes, store photos and then sync them and find them anywhere – tablet, phone, or computer – via a powerful search tool that even searches words in photos.  You can store documents, design and manage projects and more.  The supplementary app “Skitch” allows you to mark up documents with annotations and symbols.  Seems a bit complicated to get started but could be worth the time.  Free.

Georgetown Mobile App – The Alumni portion of the app has it’s very own careers section which includes a job search tip of the week, alumni job postings, and a schedule of upcoming webinars. Make sure you select the “Alumni” homescreen at the bottom of the app to access. Free.

GoToWebinar – Our favorite thing about the gotowebinar app is that you can now view our award winning professional development webinars from your phone or tablet!  From the hilltop to your desktop… and now your phone… or tablet. Free.

Indeed – Simple and easy job search app. Search by job title, key words, company, and location.

GlassDoor – We like this easy to use app to search for jobs, salary information, or companies in geographic regions.  The app is sleek and intuitive.  Filter your searches easily, flag the jobs you are interested in and email job descriptions to yourself or friends. Free.

Studio – Studio is doing for graphic design what Instagram did for photography.  We use this for work but it’s also fun for home!  Import pictures, add text, graphics, and overlays, and you have a powerful image to convey your message.  Free.

Lumosity – Improve your memory, attention, and overall brain performance through scientific brain workouts.  A  good alternative to Candy Crush. Free.

Easilydo – If you have trouble keeping up with all of your emails and social media accounts this app may be for you.  Easilydo aggregates your email, contacts and social media account information to pull out the things that can make you more efficient. You can schedule happy birthday messages to friends on Facebook, congratulate colleagues on promotions through Linked In, in addition to tracking packages, get directions to your next meeting, add contacts to you address book automatically, have your boarding passes and travel documents handy, and more.

Things We Love… At Work


Say Thank You… Sometimes we forget the power of a simple thank you note.  They aren’t just for interviews or gifts either. Thank you notes can be powerful tools when networking.  If you’ve had a great conversation with someone, they have provided you with some sage advice, connected you with colleagues, or sent business your way, don’t forget about the power of a handwritten note.  We love these simple and classy personalized notes available online or print on PaperlessPost.
Source:  http://paperlesspost.com

Triple C for J.Crew universal charger

Stay connected…  Don’t worry about your cell phone not being charged for that next conference call when you have this handy universal charger. We love this striped version from J Crew.
Source:  http://jcrew.com

Put Pen to Paper…  We’re always in search for the perfect pen and we might have found it!  It can write 1.7 meters a day for 7 years. We’ll let you know if it runs out of ink any time soon!
Source: http://Paper-Source.com

“One thing you can’t recycle is wasted time.” – Anon  We all may use our e-calendars and smart phones to schedule or lives but there is something to be said for a classic calendar.  We love this oversize desk blotter calendar to keep track of events, birthdays, holidays, and our to-do lists.  Use your 7 year pen to jot down your important meetings and deadlines.
Source: http://Paper-Source.com

Spice up your brown bag lunch… This Ikat Cooler Lunch Bag is perfect for bringing your lunch to the office. The whole thing goes in your freezer and will keep your lunch cold through all of your morning meetings.  Plus, the patterns are on trend for fall!
Source: http://Paper-Source.com