Monthly Archives: January 2017

10 Clever Tactics that will Motivate and Retain Your Employees

There is a direct correlation between how motivated your staff are to stay with you and how generous you are. Fortunately, if you’re smart, your generosity doesn’t have to cost you anything!

Give them some time

Before you can truly motivate someone, you need to know what motivates them. This takes time and effort on a manager’s behalf, but the reward is immeasurable. Get them to complete a personality profile, send out a company-wide motivation survey, ask their colleagues and associates, or even better, go out of your way and ask them yourself!

Give them some vision

If I don’t know where I am going, how do I know if I’ve got there? In fact, how do I even know if I’m in the right direction in the first place?! Ask them individually if they know what the vision of the business is – you’ll be surprised at some of the answers we hear from people! If their answers are different, or you don’t really have a vision in the first place, then create one, making sure it is believable yet compelling. And don’t forget to tell them what it is!

Give them some purpose

Now you have a vision, outline what their role is in that vision. If they do their job successfully, what does that mean for the company? Enable them to wake up each morning believing they have a real purpose in what they do at work, and that it makes a tangible difference. Otherwise, why would you bother?

Give them some freedom

Your staff want to grow and develop. However, we are often afraid of handing over tasks to them in case they get it wrong and so we limit their freedom, which in turn will limit their opportunity to grow. Just think about how many new ideas are being held back by managers who are afraid to let go.

Give them some inspiration

Think of a person who inspires you. Anyone at all. What is it about that person that inspires you? What does that inspiration make you want to do? Now imagine your staff being asked that question about you, what would they say? Every day, do at least one thing (it doesn’t have to be new) that inspires your staff, and watch the results.

Give them some consistency

Everyone is different. Every day is different. We need to stretch and transform and re-channel and adjust everything we do so we can ensure that everyone is treated fairly and equitably, every day. Maintaining that consistency across all of your staff will keep the idle gossip, the de-motivators and even more significantly, the tribunals at bay!

Give them some opportunity

Many of the staff we interview have long-term personal ambitions, and whether we choose to believe it or not, they may not always involve you! Talk to them about them, accept them and then help them to achieve them. You’ll immediately gain their loyalty, and in most cases, far higher levels of retention. If your staff turnover currently averages at around 2 years, then why not create 4 year development plans with each of your staff, which will both help them and give them more reason to stay with you for the full 4 years.

Give them some recognition

Every day in your office, someone in your team will do something good. Something that is worthwhile recognizing. It could have been a difficult customer they managed to appease, or a confused colleague they supported, or a proposal they submitted. Recognize it by talking about it, publicly. They’ll then want to do it again, and even better, those who were told about it might even try it for themselves.

Give them some composure

Many people tend to run away from stress whenever possible. It is draining, demoralizing and unproductive. On the other hand, people congregate around people who can remain composed and unruffled when under pressure. Look at your current management team and ask yourself, how do they respond to stress? What impact does that have on their staff?

Give them some fun

There are 24 hours in a day. Typically we sleep for 8 of those, spend another 8 hours with friends and family, and the other 8 hours at work (in some cases much more!). That’s surely reason enough to want to make work a bit of fun! Furthermore, the more fun people have, the more enthused they will be, the more motivated they will be and the more effective they will consequently be at doing their jobs.


By James Osborne

Three Steps You Can Take To Unlock Your Team’s Full Potential

Leaders must encourage their organizations to dance to forms of music yet to be heard,” meditates Warren Bennis, a great mind pioneering what is known today as contemporary leadership. One of the roles of a true leader is indeed discovering the unknown within organizations. Being able to have an overview of the organization enables leaders to see where there are resources within the company that could be put to use. These resources can range from hidden strengths of employees to transferable expertise or experience, and informal networks. The benefits of discovering and using your organization’s hidden resources are many, depending on whose shoes you are in. If you are a leader:

  • Since these sources are already present – but they just need a little digging up – they are mostly cost-free and may help prevent seeking out external resources such as contractors or new hires.
  • They can help increase engagement at your company. Employees and managers will appreciate the time and resources a company puts in them to unlock their full potential.
  • You can recognize and organize each individual’s key strengths effective enough to achieve the best business results and create great team dynamics.

In today’s age where personal and professional growth are the main currency in employee satisfaction, discovering hidden internal resources of your business is helpful to anyone no matter where you stand. Here are three useful methods to discover the hidden potential of your business and put it to good use:

Help employees discover their purpose in life

William James, philosopher and the founder of modern psychology, delivered a great speech at the American Philosophical Association at Columbia University in 1906. The speech, which is still valid and valuable, focuses on the importance of achieving one’s true potential:

“On usual occasions we make a practice of stopping an occupation as soon as we meet the first effective layer (so to call it) of fatigue. We have then walked, played, or worked “enough,” so we desist. That amount of fatigue is an efficacious obstruction on this side of which our usual life is cast. But if an unusual necessity forces us to press onward a surprising thing occurs. The fatigue gets worse up to a certain critical point, when gradually or suddenly it passes away, and we are fresher than before. We have evidently tapped a level of new energy, masked until then by the fatigue-obstacle usually obeyed.”

— William James

The kind of fatigue James talks about is an obstacle to getting in touch with the treasure trove of creativity and skill embedded in each individual. At your organization, a way to hush the sounds of frustration and fatigue goes through helping each employee find out their purpose in at work.

Purpose, albeit a loaded word, is the fuel that can leave you with a sense of satisfaction with every aspect of your life and every little project. This is what Jeff Goins, the author of The Art of Work, argues in his book. If people at your organization feel like they are contributing to their purpose in life with their work, having happy and full engaged people is inevitable. For this reason, leaders should coach and support their employees in finding their purpose. Here are some questions that can help leaders find their employees’ with this quest:

  • What would you love to do even if you did not get paid for it?1
  • What are you really good at according to other people?
  • What do you still want to experience in your career or which job you would take if you could start all over again?

Asking these questions during 1-on-1 conversations and checking in how each employee is doing in terms of workplace morale can help leaders define more targeted paths for their teams and drive engagement and happiness.

Leaders can use real-time feedback feature of Impraise to maintain a continuous conversation with their employees. The data saved on the platform can help managers keep each employee’s career track targeted and open questions can be used to ask questions like the ones given above.

Identify areas of strength

Many of us draw a blank when this common interview question is asked: “What are your strengths?” Knowing your strengths is as elusive as finding your life’s purpose, but it is central to enabling growth depending on your superpowers. If you are a leader, strengths are vital to your team’s efficiency when assigning tasks and building a team where every individual fits each other like pieces on a puzzle.

A psychology professor at George Mason University and the author of Curious?, Todd Kashdan tells that working on one’s strengths is the best way to grow personally and professionally. Here are some steps offered by Kashdan himself for pinpointing you and your employees’ strengths:

  • Look for signs of excitement: According to Kashdan, we show visible signs of excitement when we are using our strengths. Our pupils dilate, our chest is broader and we speak in a fluid and confident manner. Observe your employees when they show these signs to identify their strengths.
  • Do not conform to the status quo, be experimental at work: Discovering your team’s key strength points goes through encouraging curiosity at your organization. Employees should be made aware of what everyone in their team does on a daily basis and be encouraged to take on different roles not confined to stereotypical role definitions. You can implement daily stand-up meetings at your organization, and everybody can quickly describe what is on their agenda for that day. This way, everybody in your team is aware of one another’s work.
  • Notice your differences: Kashdan argues that when your employees are truly using their strengths, they tend to stand out. During these moments, they will offer a unique point of view to the issue at hand. For leaders, it is necessary to capture these moments.

You can use the real-time feedback feature of Impraise in order to keep a record of these moments and provide valuable insight to your employees. To give an example, when you notice a moment of strength during a meeting, you can give feedback to your employee immediately to praise them. This way, your feedback is used to fuel performance instead of only capturing the past.

Discover informal networks and use them to your advantage

Informal networks are relationships employees form with each other across roles and teams to achieve tasks more efficiently. Although sometimes helpful in getting the job done, the informal nature of these networks often result in the useful knowledge transfer to elude formal networks. Being able to identify and map these networks can help leaders use this potent resource for greater business results.

In most organizations, there are three types of informal networks that give valuable clues on how informal networks operate in your company:

  • The advice network identifies the people at your company to whom other employees turn to for insight on solving certain difficulties.
  • The trust network identifies the employees that trust each other enough to share delicate information in times of crisis.
  • The communication network identifies employees who talk to each other on their work life on daily basis.

These networks could help any company to identify their organization in depth and use them in the organization’s advantage to solve problems faster. With Impraise, you can clearly identify the advice network by showing who gives feedback to whom and the trust network by showing who asks for feedback from whom. You can turn the data in your business’ advantage to make the best out of informal networks within your organization.

Having a fulfilling life through work is an important part of having a life with a purpose. If your employees do not feel like they are contributing to their life’s purpose or growth, voluntary leaves are inevitable. For this reason, helping your employees have more satisfying career paths and truly paying attention to their personal and professional development ultimately lead to overall business success.

Great Teams Are About Personalities, Not Just Skills

At the start of 2016 Google announced that it had discovered the secret ingredients for the perfect team. After years of analyzing interviews and data from more than 100 teams, it found that the drivers of effective team performance are the group’s average level of emotional intelligence and a high degree of communication between members. Google’s recipe of being nice and joining in makes perfect sense (and is hardly counterintuitive).

Perhaps more surprising, Google’s research implies that the kinds of people in the team are not so relevant. While that may be true at Google, a company where people are preselected on the basis of their personality (or “Googliness”), this finding is inconsistent with the wider scientific evidence, which indicates quite clearly that individuals’ personalities play a significant role in determining team performance. In particular, personality affects:

  • What role you have within the team
  • How you interact with the rest of the team
  • Whether your values (core beliefs) align with the team’s

Importantly, the above processes concern the psychological factors (rather than the technical skills) underlying both individual and team performance. These psychological factors are the main determinants of whether people work together well. If team fit were only about skills and experience, Donald Trump might invite Bernie Sanders to serve in his administration — yet it is unlikely that they would work together well. Likewise, there are often substantial compatibility differences between you and your colleagues, regardless of how similar your expertise and technical backgrounds are.


For example, a study of 133 factory teams found that higher levels of interpersonal sensitivity, curiosity, and emotional stability resulted in more-cohesive teams and increased prosocial behavior among team members. More-effective teams were composed of a higher number of cool-headed, inquisitive, and altruistic people. Along the same lines, a large meta-analysis showed that team members’ personalities influence cooperation, shared cognition, information sharing, and overall team performance. In other words, who you are affects how you behave and how you interact with other people, so team members’ personalities operate like the different functions of a single organism.

Consider the crew that will one day (soon?) travel to Mars, perhaps working for Elon Musk or one of the government space agencies. Simulations of such voyages put astronauts in cramped quarters for hundreds of days. They show that different cliques form in the crew based on values similarity and that higher agreeableness and lower neuroticism predict better team cohesion and cooperation.

A useful way to think about teams with the right mix of skills and personalities is to consider the two roles every person plays in a working group: a functional role, based on their formal position and technical skill, and a psychological role, based on the kind of person they are. Too often, organizations focus merely on the functional role and hope that good team performance somehow follows. This is why even the most expensive professional sports teams often fail to perform according to the individual talents of each player: There is no psychological synergy. A more effective approach (like the mission to Mars example) focuses as much on people’s skills as on their personalities.

In our own work we found that psychological team roles are largely a product of people’s personalities. For example, consider team members who are:

  • Results-oriented. Team members who naturally organize work and take charge tend to be socially self-confident, competitive, and energetic.
  • Relationship-focused. Team members who naturally focus on relationships, are attuned to others’ feelings, and are good at building cohesion tend to be warm, diplomatic, and approachable.
  • Process and rule followers. Team members who pay attention to details, processes, and rules tend to be reliable, organized, and conscientious.
  • Innovative and disruptive thinkers. Team members who naturally focus on innovation, anticipate problems, and recognize when the team needs to change tend to be imaginative, curious, and open to new experiences.
  • Pragmatic. Team members who are practical, hard-headed challengers of ideas and theories tend to be prudent, emotionally stable, and level-headed.

Observing the balance of roles in a team offers an extraordinary insight into its dynamics. It also indicates the likelihood of success or failure for an assigned task. For instance, we worked with a finance team charged with rolling out a novel business reporting product for transforming the culture of a staid government agency. But the percentage of players in each role showed the team was doomed from its inception:

  • 17% of team members were considered results-oriented
  • 100% of team members were considered pragmatic
  • 0% of team members were considered innovative
  • 50% of team members were considered process-oriented
  • 0% of team members were considered good relationship builders

Since no one played the relationship-building role, the team lacked internal cohesion and failed to establish any connection with the frontline leaders who were required to take on the team’s new accounting process. Similarly, with only a few playing a results-oriented role (and a leader who wasn’t one of them), the team struggled to drive itself forward.

Conversely, when too many people play the relationship-building role, it can produce a nice, almost saccharine environment, with too little challenge or contention, as in the leadership team of this social work organization:

  • 0% of team members were considered results-oriented
  • 0% of team members were considered pragmatic
  • 29% of team members were considered innovative
  • 29% of team members were considered process-oriented
  • 86% of team members were considered good relationship builders

In this example, the team spent too much time ensuring harmony and cohesion and too little achieving results. When you focus too much on getting along (with your teammates), you probably will not have much time or energy left for getting ahead (of other teams or organizations).

It is informative to use these kinds of profiles to assess how an incoming team member will impact team performance and dynamics. As the renowned teams researcher Suzanne Bell, who is working on the Mars project for NASA, put it: “…We assume that astronauts are intelligent, that they’re experts in their technical areas, and that they have at least some teamwork skills. What’s tricky is how well individuals combine.”

Thus, evaluating the whole person can offer pivotal insights into how people are likely to work together, and can help flag areas of conflict and affinity. Anything of value happens as the result of team effort, where people set aside their selfish interests to achieve something collectively that they could not achieve by themselves. The most successful teams get this mix of personalities right.

  • By Dave Winsborough and Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic from Harvard Business Review

Five Best To-Do List Tips

As an entrepreneur, how can you be productive and ensure that you are focusing on the right areas? Every entrepreneur is a self-starter; it tends to come with the territory. Being an entrepreneur also means that you don’t necessarily have a daily playbook to follow. Many entrepreneurs are breaking new ground and learning through trial and error. It can be daunting, and even a bit scary, to determine where to focus your energy on any given day. Should you have your team spend the day creating marketing copy for that new product, or reaching out to customers to get feedback on an existing product? It can feel as though there is never enough time to meet all the demands of the business.

One tool many entrepreneurs use to get organized and improve focus is to create a To Do list. This can be a very helpful tool. Unfortunately, in my opinion, about 85% of the population is using the To Do list in a completely ineffective manner. Here’s why: most people are using their To Do list as a measure for self-worth…and this is a huge mistake.

Biggest Mistakes with a To Do List:

1.   Confusing quality with quantity. Many people incorrectly associate self-worth with checking things off their To Do list. If I am able to complete a lot of things in one day, it must mean I’ve done a good job and, therefore, I’m a good enough person. Right? We all want validation. Here’s the problem with this – it means that you’re likely to waste your time on low impact, easy to complete tasks just to feel good about what you’ve accomplished. How many of you have spent time on something that was easy and quick, but not very strategic? Was this because you were avoiding the harder, more impactful thing? We waste time on menial chores and tasks just to have a sense of accomplishment. Over time, this makes us much less effective at our job. Truly successful people find a way to outsource many of these less strategic tasks

2.   Using the To Do list as a form of torture. Do you have a tendency to create a very long To Do list that you can never complete in a single day? Do you then feel bad about never getting to everything on your list? If so, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Many of us do this out of habit, and it’s an important habit to break. Here’s the deal with this subconscious self-flagellation: it wastes a TON of energy. Every time you even THINK about a task on your To Do list that hasn’t been accomplished, it drains your energy. So if you have a list that’s 20 items long, and you spend a few minutes every hour stressing out about how you haven’t tackled item #19, you are using an incredible amount of your energy and mental stamina just keeping track of, and feeling bad about, all the things you haven’t done. This negative thought pattern tends to hold you back and make you much less productive. Plus, it generally feels crappy. So let’s agree to be done with it.

The Secret to a Successful To Do List.

Here are some straight forward and easy to follow steps to creating a powerful and productive daily To Do list:

1.   Keep it simple. Your To Do list should have NO MORE THAN THREE THINGS on it for a given day. Some of the most highly successful people I know only allow ONE ITEM on their To Do list each day. This is where the rubber meets the road on focus and prioritization. If you could only do one thing today to move your business forward, what would that thing be? Make this the #1 item on your To Do list.

2.   Write your To Do list the night before. This helps you start your day with clarity. You know exactly which item you need to complete by 10am the next morning.

3.   Tackle the first item on your list first thing in the morning when you are fresh. Now that you’ve effectively prioritized your To Do list, you need to get the biggest, most important task completed before moving on to anything else. It’s important to be proactive rather than reactive. You need to make yourself and your goals a priority. This starts by completing your most high level, strategic action FIRST, before checking your email or responding to phone calls or other requests. People and technology will always be there to distract you. One study found that Fortune 500 CEOs averaged only twenty-eight uninterrupted, productive minutes a day! To be truly successful, you must be able to set boundaries and make your biggest strategic goals your daily priority.

4.   If you have a hard time limiting your To Do list to a maximum of three items, or your mind keeps wandering off thinking about all the other things you “need to do,” I recommend doing a mind dump. Take five minutes, no more, and write down every single thing you can think of that you need to do in the next week. This can be personal or professional. Write it all down just to get it out of your head. Then put that list away. This is NOT your To Do list. This is a data dump, a psychic release. Your To Do list is the list of your 1-3 most important items that you created the night prior. Re-focus on this list after doing your mind dump by putting the mind dump list in a drawer and forgetting about it. If you aren’t taking action, worrying is just wasting your energy.

5.   Sometimes small is big. Be strategic about your energy. Occasionally, a small and menial task that isn’t highly strategic will start to take up an incredible amount of mind space. Maybe you haven’t put this item on your To Do list because it’s not one of the three most important tasks to move your business forward, but over time, you notice yourself thinking about this one small, annoying thing because it’s really bothering you. Maybe it’s that stain on your carpet at home, cleaning off your desk, doing that ROI analysis, or buying that late wedding present for a friend. Sometimes, a small To Do becomes a huge energy suck because we’ve put it off for so long that it truly bothers us. In this case, it IS one of the three most important things for you to do that day because releasing all the anxiety you have built up will move you forward more than anything else. Ask yourself now – would doing a task you are avoiding take less energy than you are spending on the avoidance? Is there something you’ve been procrastinating that would free up a lot of energy if you just went and did it? If so, put that item on your To Do list for tomorrow. And DO IT. You will discover a new source of energy to apply to the next strategic item on your To Do list.

If you follow these five steps, you will increase your productivity while decreasing your negative mind chatter. It’s a win/win. Try it out for yourself and let me know in the comments section below what you think!


By Vanessa Loder, Forbes 

Superstition and the Job Search

Happy Friday the 13th!

“Happy?” you say. “Are you nuts?”

On the contrary (knock on wood), this always turns out to be our lucky day. Good things happen on Friday the 13th!

“You just made that up!” say you.

Yes, we did. And why not make it up? Try a little superstition yourself! Maybe today will turn out to be the day you find that perfect job lead, or get a call for an interview or receive that job offer. Why not believe so? What good is the alternative?

Still skeptical? OK, fine. Let’s all step back, throw some salt over our shoulders, and talk about this thing called superstition. Could it really help you in your job search? Or, is it just for “goofy” people who practice the art of magical thinking?

The Power of Good Luck Charms

A Wall Street Journal article entitled The Power of Lucky Charms reported that a 2010 study showed that the more strongly participants believed in their good luck charms, the more confident they were. The study was conducted by Lysann Damisch of the University of Cologne. With her colleagues Barbara Stoberock and Thomas Mussweiler she designed a set of experiments to see if activating people’s superstitious beliefs would improve their performance on a task.

The study showed that “the more confident superstitious participants were, the better they performed, perhaps due to self-efficacy — the belief in one’s ability to succeed at a specific challenge — which has been linked to how willing people are to persist at a given task.”

See? Add some superstition to your job-search mix and voila! Possibilities appear! Your mind in the positive gear called “belief” revs up to move you forward toward your goal.

Some Personal Experiences with Superstition

In her July 13, 2012 blog post, author Katie Koerner says that “fifty percent of Americans admit to being superstitious.” Now, we don’t know where she got that percentage, but we ourselves certainly know many people with superstitions, including ourselves.

And just whom do we mean by “ourselves?” Well, I am Kathy McAuliffe, Employer Liaison at the DuPage County Workforce Development Division. Here’s one of my own superstitious experiences to share with you:

While going through a particularly challenging time a number of years ago, I carried a lucky coin in my purse. I would take it out once I got to work, or when I was in the hospital, and study it and hold it. It always made me feel more grounded and more optimistic about my situation. I loved the design, and the way the pewter felt, and that it was a gift from my special niece. It made me feel positive. It really helped me get through that rough spot, with a smile on my face.

Here is what the other half of “ourselves” has to share:

I am Cirse Vertti, Career Counselor and Workshop Facilitator at the workNet DuPage Career Center. While I do not carry a lucky coin or item in my bag for luck as many people do, when it comes to things like my performance in sports I have a few different “habits.”

Similar to that of tennis player Serena Williams who bounces her ball 5 times before her first serve and twice before her second, and basketball player Jason Terry who wears 5 pairs of socks during every game that he plays; I tend to work in twos. In other words, I wear two pairs of socks every time I bowl, I bounce my basketball twice before taking a free throw, I spin my racket twice before each new point, and take two steps back before throwing a football. I think these little rituals help me focus before I take action, and by now they’ve become unconscious habits. If I forget an extra sock, my bowling game is officially off!

But we digress.

The Power of Confidence and Positivity

In 2012, Time Magazine interviewed Matthew Hutson, author of The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy and Sane. Hutson proposes that acting confidently will lead people to treat you as competent, “and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

In that article, he mentions, “There is one study where people were given a golf ball and asked to make 10 putts. Half were told that the ball was lucky and these people made 35% more successful putts than the others did.”

Hutson concludes, “There’s such a thing as a positive illusion and it’s not always best to have a clear-eyed picture of the world.”

Blogger Thorin Klosowski would agree. “Imbuing objects and routines with the magical power of a superstition is essentially a way to prime yourself to act a certain way. It’s not magic, but it’s pretty close.

Okay, so now that we have convinced you that yes, superstitions may help you in your job search, let’s talk about how you can start to build your own luck if you do not currently have a superstition or “good luck charm.”

Open yourself up to the idea of luck, and start making your own!
You have nothing to lose! If anything, finding your lucky charm or superstition will bring the idea of luck into your mind and maybe even that extra boost of motivation and confidence!

Talk to others and have them wish you luck!
The important point is that you are putting yourself out there. People are going to be aware of your current job search and may have leads for you. You will feel supported.

Failures may not necessarily be failures…
It may just be your luck in the works! Failures happen, but remember the saying: “Everything happens for a reason.” Believe that your good luck charm or superstition helped you ward off a bad job or situation. Other opportunities will appear, as long as you’re looking. Cross your fingers, hold onto your lucky charm, and try for the next opportunity!

Try It! You Might Like It!

Even celebrities admit to having their good luck charms or helpful superstitions:

  • Brad Pitt reports wearing a shark tooth necklace that he believes keeps him from harm.
  • Benicio Del Torro wears a wooden ring for good luck. He explains that he likes the fact that he can “knock on wood anytime.”

So, use the mysteries to your own benefit. Look in your old keepsake box for your grandpa’s medal from the 100-yard dash that he won repeatedly back in the day; for your mom’s old ring that makes you feel loved and confident. Carry that lock of hair from the day before you started coloring it, or wear the lucky tin bracelet you found in the street so many years ago. Keep them close to you; feel their power. Believe they can help you find your next lead. If you believe, they can! Now, get back to your job search.

Make Friday the 13th your lucky day, too!

by Kathy McAuliffe and Cirse Vertti

The Art and Science of Loving Your Job

Most people work long, hard hours at jobs they hate that enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like. — Nigel Marsh

It can be really tough to work a job you’ve gotten sick of. The grind of knowing you’re spending most of your time each week doing something you don’t care about can be hard to bear.

It’s not just a feeling, either. A survey from the Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia actually found that working in a job you hate is worse for your psychological well-being than being unemployed.

Think about that for a second: Working in a job you hate can make you more miserable than having no job at all.

John Haltiwanger, Senior Politics Writer at Elite Daily, says this is because when you’re unemployed you can at least hold onto the hope of finding a great job:

Unemployment is stressful, but it still leaves room for possibilities. When you’re unemployed, you focus all of your efforts on finding a fulfilling position. Yet, when you’re working a dead-end job, you’re so depleted at the end of the day it’s difficult to begin thinking about the future.

I’m not advocating you quit your job if you’re unhappy, but if a bad job can make this big of an impact on your wellbeing, it may be worth trying to improve the one you have.

Nigel Marsh, author of Fat, Forty, and Fired, says trying to make sweeping changes at work is actually a bad idea. He compares making huge changes at work to jumping on a crash diet—inevitably, it will end in failure.

Marsh’s advice is to focus on small, strategic changes to improve your work life.

Let’s take a look at three strategic changes you can make to improve your current job, backed by research and experience.

Do more of what you like to do

Though you probably have a job description stating what your responsibilities are, finding ways to incorporate more of the work you enjoy most can improve how you feel about your job overall.

Adam Dachis from Lifehacker was able to make his customer support job at a previous company more enjoyable by incorporating one of his hobbies: making videos and short films.

Dachis built himself a DIY green screen one weekend and made a customer support video for his company. His effort paid off:

[After a few days] marketing asked me if I’d like to create videos regularly for our customers and I made a new episode once a month. For the holidays, we even did a musical.

This isn’t the first time Dachis has improved his work by incorporating a hobby, either:

Many years ago I had a job addressing envelopes and I would draw pictures on them as well. Eventually people started calling in because they liked the drawings and I was asked to try my hand at some design work.

Dachis suggests finding ways to integrate things you love doing with your existing work. “Don’t leave your creativity and passion at home just because your job doesn’t call for it,” he says.

Even if you don’t have a hobby that seems applicable to your work, you could ask to spend more time on the aspects of your role you like most, or offer to help out in another department you’re interested in.

Improve (or remove) your commute

You could be spending all day doing work you love, or bringing your hobbies to the office, but a long commute would still be a drag. In fact, we tend to put commuting at the absolute bottom of the list of things that make us happy.

Research has shown that despite most people thinking a pay raise or a bigger house can make up for the despair bestowed upon us by a long commute, the commute will still get us down. In fact, to compensate for a long commute, you’d need to get a full 40% raise in salary.

In light of that researchand this might seem counterintuitiveHillary Rettig, productivity coach and author of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific, suggests extending the length of your commute. “When people are commuting,” Rettig says, “they’re most likely rushing.”

Rushing degrades our happiness. Most of us probably don’t realize the stress it causes us physically and emotionally.

Rettig suggests allowing more time for your commute so you don’t have to rush so much. When you’re not rushing, she says, “you have more of a sense of control and self-management.”

Rettig also suggests planning as much as possible the night before, and avoiding distractions like morning TV, email, and social media when you should be getting ready to leave the house.

Rettig’s final suggestion for improving your commute is to change how you spend that time:

The key is to do what you want to do, not what you think you should do. We often choose the thing that seems more productive because it feels like the right thing to do. But using your commute to read a fun novel or listen to music is productive because it’s taking away the negative aspect of the commute. It becomes like a little holiday that will help fuel your productivity for the rest of the day.

According to Rettig, some people actually enjoy their commute! She says these people find their daily commute peaceful, and enjoy the chance to spend time alone doing something they enjoy.

You can also try switching up your commute to a physical activity, such as walking or cycling. Research has shown people who actively commute rather than driving or taking public transport tend to weigh less and have a lower BMI.

Personally, I like the idea of doing something fun like listening to a podcast or reading a book during my commute, but if cycling or walking makes you happy, go for the active commute to kickstart your day.

Find meaning in your work

A commute is a lot less stressful when it’s a way to get to something you enjoy. One of the best ways to enjoy your work more is to derive personal meaning from it.

Unfortunately, one survey of 12,000 employees in various fields found that a full 50% of those people were lacking a feeling of meaning and significance at work.

According to the same survey, employees who find meaning in their work are more than three times as likely to stay in their current organization. Whether or not an employee found meaning in their work turned out to have the highest impact on fulfillment at work of any variable in the study.

Not only were those employees more likely to stay in their current jobs, but they also reported 1.7 times higher satisfaction with their jobs, and were 1.4 times more engaged at work than other employees.

Meaning is one of those hard-to-put-your-finger-on ideas. But a Stanford research project can help us understand what it means and how to get it. According to this project, happiness and meaning are quite different: while we derive happiness from taking—that is, focusing on what we get from others—we derive meaning from giving—how we’re helping others.

So how can you increase the meaning you find in your job? One way is to focus on the why behind what you do, rather than the job itself. For instance, in one study of hospital janitors, the janitors saw themselves as part of a team of people who helped to heal the sick. Rather than focusing on the act of cleaning, they focused on the why behind their jobs—they felt they were helping others, which is key to finding meaning in your work.

Another option is to focus more on personal relationships at work. Gallup research has found the most engaged workers report having a best friend at work. Other research has found having several hours of social time can improve our day overall.

If you have a friend at work who you can help, it can increase your own feeling of how meaningful your job is. You don’t even have to help them with work-specific tasks. You might help them by going out for a coffee, being a lunchtime workout partner, or offering a friendly ear when they need someone to talk to.

Most importantly, look for ways to help others at work. Think about the why behind your job: who are you helping with the work you do, and how? Try helping others in the office by lending a hand when you have free time. The more you give, the more you’ll feel like you’re spending your time in a meaningful way, and that will make coming to work much easier.

Not every job is salvageable. You may find that it’s simply time for you to move on to a new role or company.

But if you’re struggling to feel good about the work you do, try starting with these suggestions. You might be surprised to find how much better work can be if you’re doing work you enjoy and helping others.



15 of the Best Job Interview Questions to Ask Candidates (And What to Look for in Their Answers)

Why are manhole covers round? How many times heavier than a mouse is an elephant? How many golf balls can you fit in a school bus?

Most hiring managers have heard about using these “creative” questions to identify the best candidates. Fortunately for smart, well-qualified candidates everywhere, recent studies have found that the brainteaser interview questions made famous by Silicon Valley and Wall Street are just as silly as they sound. (In fact, Google started to phase out brainteasers from its interviews several years ago.)

But when you’re interviewing people to join your team, you have to get creative somehow. There’s only so much that questions like “What was the last book you read?” and “Where do you see yourself in five years?” reveal about who your candidates truly are. 

To help give you some ideas for the next time you’re screening candidates, here are some of the best job interview questions to ask with the answers you should expect.

15 Great Interview Questions & Answers to Use in Your Next Job Interview

1) “Tell me about a time you set difficult goals. What did you do to achieve them? Walk me through the process and purpose.”

If you’re looking for a candidate who is goal-oriented and results-driven — as most hiring managers are — then this question will help you gauge whether they’ll be able to handle the audacious goals you have in store for them. A great answer shows they understand what difficult goals are, and they put a lot of effort into attaining their goals while maintaining a high standard of work quality.

2) Pitch [name of your company] to me as if I were buying your product/service.

This is a unique and more challenging approach to the generic “What does our company do?” question. It forces candidates to drum up the research they’ve done to prepare for the interview, and also to craft a compelling message on the fly.

This will come more naturally to some candidates than others — for example, someone interviewing for a sales or marketing position might find it easier than someone interviewing for a more internal-facing role — and that’s okay. You aren’t necessarily assessing their delivery. But it’ll be interesting to see how each candidate thinks through and gives their answer.

3) “Tell me about the relationships you’ve had with the people you’ve worked with. How would you describe the best ones? The worst?”

Each team is different, so this question helps you tease out whether the candidate would be happy, productive, and well liked on your team. Their answer will tell you how they interact with others — and which kinds of interactions they want to happen.

Many candidates are hesitant to bad-mouth their coworkers and bosses, so it will also be interesting for you to hear how they navigate a question about their worst working relationships.

4) “What single project or task would you consider your most significant career accomplishment to date? Walk me through the plan, how you managed it, how you measured its success, and what the biggest mistakes you made were.”

Lou Adler, author of The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired and Hire With Your Head, spent ten years searching for the single, best interview question that will reveal whether to hire or not hire a candidate — and this was the one. Candidates’ answers will tell you about their prior success and sense of ownership. A great answer will show they are confident in their work and professional choices while being humble and giving credit to others.

5) ”What have you done professionally that you succeeded at, but isn’t an experience you’d want to repeat?”

A candidate’s answer to this question will give you an idea of how they viewed work they weren’t very happy with, which is bound to happen to everyone in every job at one point or another. HubSpot’s VP of Global Customer Support Michael Redbord says candidates’ answers generally fall into a few categories:

  1. Something menial (e.g. envelope-stuffing). Pay attention to whether they understand the value of this getting done for the business, or whether they just think they’re too good for a job like that.
  2. Something really hard. Why was it hard? Was it because it was poorly planned, poorly executed, or something else? Where do they put the blame on it being such an unpleasant experience?
  3. Something team-related. Follow up with questions about the team, what their role on the team was, and so on.

Even the category of what they consider an experience they wouldn’t want to repeat is interesting, says Redbord. When you talk about extreme experiences that get people emotional, it can be very revealing.

6) “Is it better to be perfect and late, or good and on time?”

For most companies, the correct answer is “good and on time.” We’ve written before about the importance of letting something be finished when it’s good enough — because let’s face it, every blog post, email, book, video, etc. can always be tweaked and improved — but at some point, you’ve just got to ship it. Most managers don’t want someone who can’t hit deadlines because they’re paralyzed by perfection.

If your candidate responds with “It depends,” then hear them out — the interview question itself is phrased in such a way that candidates can sense there is a right and wrong answer, and they’ll be looking for signs from you they’re heading in the right direction. Try to remain neutral as they feel out their response. If their conclusion errs on the side of “good and on time,” then their priorities are probably in the right place.

7) “In five minutes, could you explain something to me that is complicated but you know well?”

This is a much better test of intelligence than a college GPA, and it’s also a great gauge of a candidate’s passion and charisma.

The “something” in this question doesn’t have to be work-related — it can be a hobby, a sports team, something technical … anything, really. Their response will tell you how well your candidate comprehends complex subjects and how well they can articulate a complex subject to someone who doesn’t know much about it. Candidates who are passionate and knowledgeable about something — and can convey that well — are more likely to be charismatic, enthusiastic, and influential at work.

8) “What’s your definition of hard work?”

Some organizations move at very different paces, and this question is an effective way to tell whether your candidate will be able to keep pace with the rest of the team. It also helps you identify someone who is a “hard worker in disguise,” meaning someone who might currently be at a slow-moving organization or in a role that is not well-suited to them, but wants to work somewhere where they can really get their hands dirty.

9) “If I were to poll everyone you’ve worked with, what percent would not be a fan of yours? Then, if I were to interview these people, what words would they most frequently use to describe you?”

At work, you can’t please everyone all the time. The answer to this question will help you find out if your candidate has enough drive and conviction to have alienated a small percentage of their colleagues, but not so many that they are a polarizing figure.

The word-cloud follow-up is more important than the percentage they give in the initial question. In their answers, you should be encouraged by words like “passionate” and concerned by words like “stubborn.”

10) “Tell me about a time you screwed up.”

An oldie but goodie. This is a tried-and-true test for self-awareness. (Honestly, well-prepared candidates should see it coming and have an answer ready.) Someone who takes ownership of their mess-up and learns something from it are usually humble and mindful. Candidates who blame others or give a “fake” screw-up (something like “I worked too hard and burned out.”) are red flags.

11) “Who is the smartest person you know personally? Why?”

These questions test what the candidate values and aspires to by forcing them to think of a real person they know, and then articulate what makes that person smart. Ideal answers vary, but could include specific examples of the person they’ve chosen’s ability to think ahead several steps and execute. They could also touch on the person’s decision-making skills, ability to connect, desire for learning, or application of the things they learned.

12) ”What is something you’d be happy doing every single day for the rest of your career?”

While it’s important to hire for skill, it’s also important to hire someone who’s likely to be happy in the job you’re hiring for. A question like this will help uncover what makes each candidate happy at work — which is a great way to gauge whether they’d enjoy their role and stay at the company for a long time.

13) “If you had $40,000 to build your own business, what would you do?”

This question is a favorite of HubSpot Hiring Manager Emily MacIntyre’s. First, the type of business they choose to talk about can reveal a lot about their interests, values, and how creative they are.

Second, it’ll give you insight into how business-savvy they are. By giving them a specific amount to work with (in this case, $40,000), they have the opportunity to parse out how they’d spend that money.

The best answers will get specific: They’ll offer an overview of the business, and get into the logistics of where that money would go, whom they’d hire first, and so on.

14) “What’s the biggest decision you’ve had to make in the past year? Why was it so big?”

Here’s a great way to figure out how a candidate approaches decision-making. Were they quick to make that big decision, or did it take them a long time? Did they spend most of their time reflecting on it by themselves or fleshing it out with others? How did they make a plan? Their answer could be work-related or personal — and if they ask you to specify, tell them either.

15) ”What’s surprised you about the interview process so far?”

This is a question no candidate can really prepare for, and it’ll give you some indication of how candidates are feeling about the whole thing. Plus, you can see how they think on their feet. You’re looking for specifics here — something about the office space; the personality of the team; an assignment they were given to complete.

Written by Lindsay Kolowich

3 Painless Networking Tips For People Who Hate To Network


Do you see networking as too complicated, too time-consuming, and too fake? That’s understandable. We’re all way too busy, and we’ve all seen the slimy schmoozer who’s given networking such a bad name—we don’t want to be like that.

Related: 10 Tips For People Who Hate Networking

The problem is that networking really is essential to your career success. With a great network, you’ll hear about job leads or opportunities you’d otherwise miss. You’ll be more successful in your job because you can tap into the collective knowledge and experience of a lot of smart people. So, if you hate networking but you know you need to, start here:

1. Focus Less On “Networking” And More On Building Relationships

If you hate networking, it may be because you don’t want to feel as if you are only in it for what you can get from someone (a few people who do that very thing have given networking a bad name). The truth is that good networking isn’t about racking up a body count—it’s about building relationships. If some of these relationships turn into great friendships, that’s wonderful, but if most of them are simple friendly acquaintances, that’s great, too.

When you think about networking, remember: not every meeting needs to have a goal. The important thing is to establish or refresh a connection.

2. Offer Help To Others

One way to get over the feeling of being a networking parasite is to try to give more than you get. When you email or message your network, try to send them something you think they might enjoy—a link to an article, the name of a great book, or some news you heard. It doesn’t have to be big or profound. It will still make a big impact.

3. Do A Lot Of Your Networking Through Email

One of the things that may make you anxious about networking is the feeling that you have to talk to everyone in person. That’s not always true. Some of the most effective networking you can do is sending a regular email (or Facebook message or LinkedIn message) to everyone you know. Status updates won’t work—direct, purposeful contact is the key. It’s super-easy…every six months or so, send each person a quick email (or message) that says something like, “Hi, how are you? It’s been a while. I’m [wherever you are, doing whatever you’re doing]. If you need anything, give me a call. My phone number is ____. Feel free to pass it along if you know of someone I could assist. Keep in touch!”

While it’s true that sending these messages and nourishing those connections does take time, it probably doesn’t take as much as you think. Think of the time you spend networking as an investment in your career success. You probably went to school to do your job, and maybe you’ve gone to continuing education classes in one form or another. Those things are investments, too. The investment you make in networking will pay off for you throughout your career in countless ways. Use these tips to make it a little easier.

Discover more easy, valuable ways to network in Networking Effectively: How to Build Your Network for Career Success, available on Amazon.

This post was originally published at an earlier date on Work It Daily.

How to Be The Leader Of Your Own Life

When it comes to your own life, learn to live it like a leader. 

When people talk about leadership, they the focus is most often on others–how leaders serve them, empower them and motivate them.

What if we turn the tables, though?

What if instead of thinking about leadership in relation to others, we concentrate on the leadership we can take within our own lives? What would that look like?

Here are 12 ways that becoming the leader of your own life will make a big difference:

1. Set goals for your life.

Set daily, monthly and long-term goals tied to your visions and dreams. Don’t be afraid to go for something big–remember, nothing is impossible if you believe you can achieve it. Once you’ve set your goals, ask yourself daily what you’re doing to reach them.

2. Lead by example.

Every day, you’re setting an example for those around you–whether you realize it or not, positive or negative. Your life is your message, so to be leader of your life you need to decide what message you want to send.

3. Be fearless.

Too many people coast through life without ever taking the initiative to find greatness within themselves. Instead, teach yourself to be daring, bold and brave. Be willing to fall down, fail and get up again for another round. To lead in your life requires that you do things that make you afraid–because life will unfold in portion to your courage.

4. Honor others.

Others will tell you to make sure you get all the credit and validation that are due to you. But being the leader of your own life means learning to be humble and give away the credit. Going out ahead of others is only part of leadership; you also have to go with them. Instead of seeking recognition for yourself, show that you stand with them and that you recognize and appreciate them.

5. Embrace new ideas and opportunities.

Don’t shy away from anything new, whether it’s an opportunity, an idea, or an experience. Turn every day into an adventure and work to turn all the programs, projects and processes in your life into possibilities. Everything was impossible until the first person did it, so work to always be that first person.

6. Question everything.

Become the person who’s constantly asking questions. The more you question, the more you learn, and the more you learn, the more you know. If you weren’t born with it, develop the drive to increase your knowledge, skills, and understanding. Ask yourself questions to stay focused–simple questions to clarify issues and facts, and complex questions for deeper insights into concepts and beliefs. Curiosity is an important way to become the leader of your own life.

7. Do what’s right, not what’s easy.

There are some things you simply don’t take liberties with. When it comes to integrity, honesty and ethics there is no room for compromise. Make sure that what you say and what you do are always in alignment; keep integrity at the heart of your character and you will never lose sight of it. We’re all human, and humans aren’t perfect. But you can always make the effort to choose what’s right over what’s convenient or personally beneficial.

8. Find goodness and beauty in everyone and everything.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the negativity and ugliness that exist in the world. But if we spend our time seeking out beauty in everything and in everyone, how different life becomes. It’s up to us to see, appreciate and share the beauty that surrounds us every day.

9. Actively reject pessimism.

There will always be something to be negative about. Instead, practice zero tolerance for negativity. The more you reject things that are defeatist, critical, fatalistic and apathetic, the more room you leave in your life for positivity. As leader of your own life, you have the power to either make yourself miserable or happy with the choices you make every day.

10. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Everything you want begins with you. It starts within. To live in the world of your dreams, you must, in Gandhi’s famous words, be the change you want to see. Dream big and start small.

11. Surround yourself with mentors and teachers.

You can’t grow when you think you’re the smartest person in the room. Always be on the lookout for teachers and mentors who are smarter and more experienced than you. Seek to be continually inspired by something and learning about everything. Encouraging growth and development is as important to leading in your own life as it is with your employees at work.

12. Care for and about people.

Make sure that compassion and empathy are a central part of who you are, and you’ll stay connected to your basic humanity. When you do, you’ll not only become a better leader of your own life but also someone others choose to lead them.


By Lolly Daskal