Posted on March 27, 2017 by ZFR

Why Successful Individuals Wear The Same Outfit Daily

Every single day we make hundred of decisions: Should I hit the snooze button or not? What time should I leave for school/work? Should I exercise today? And if so, what time? What should I eat for dinner? Should I work more hours today or go home? Etc.

There are hundreds of things, if not more, that have to be decided on daily. Some decisions are important, but most are trivial. Unfortunately, studies have shown that as humans, our capacity to consistently make well thought out decisions is finite.

What this means is that when you use your brainpower earlier in the day deciding what to eat for breakfast, you’ll consequently have less of it later in the day when you have to decide if you should have that piece of cake or not. This is what’s known as decision fatigue, which is the psychological condition where making a decision in the present will reduce your decision making ability in the future.

John Tierney, coauthor of the New York Times bestselling book “Willpower,” says,

“Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue – you’re not consciously aware of being tired – but you’re low on mental energy.”

Simply put, every decision you make uses up your mental energy. Just the simple act of thinking about whether you should choose A or B will tire you out and reduce your brainpower. This means that the more decisions you have to make throughout the day, the weaker your decision making process will become.

This is why many successful individuals like Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Albert Einstein decided to reduce the amount of decisions they make throughout the day by doing things such as choosing to adopt a monotonous wardrobe.

They understood that less time spent on making decisions meant more brainpower and time for everything else.

For the majority of the time Obama spent in office, he always wore either a gray or blue suit. In an article by Michael Lewis for Vanity Fair, President Obama explained why he did this,

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

Steve Jobs famously wore the same black turtleneck, blue jeans and New Balance sneakers every day. This quickly became his signature look as well as a part of the overall brand of Apple. Steve also understood that he had a finite capacity of brainpower to make well thought out decisions. A minute more a day using his brainpower to decide which T-shirt to wear is less brainpower he would have to think about his company.

Albert Einstein was also known for owning several variations of the same gray suit so that he wouldn’t have to waste time and brainpower deciding on which outfit to wear every morning.

If you’re constantly worrying every day about little decisions like what to wear, you’ll become more mentally exhausted as the day progresses. In order to save your mental power for the important decisions of the day, you have to learn to automate the mundane decisions you go through every day so that you don’t have to constantly think about them and waste brainpower.

Here are some things you can do:

1. Like Steve, Zuckerberg and Einstein, find a few t-shirts, sweaters, jeans, and dresses you like and buy multiple quantities of them. Then essentially wear the same thing every day.

2. Schedule a set time to exercise every day. Don’t constantly use your brainpower trying to think about when is a good time to exercise.

3. Do your grocery shopping at the same time once a week.

4. Design a morning routine. The morning is filled with a lot of mundane decisions that you can learn to automate such as what to wear, what to eat, what time to leave, what time to wake up, etc. You can automate all your morning decisions with a routine.

5. Make a few meals that you have every day the same. This can be a great dieting tool, but the main idea is you don’t want to be worrying about what to make, which ingredients to use and what the nutritional value of each meal is throughout the day, every day.

These are just 5 of the hundreds of decisions that you make throughout the day that you can learn to automate. But truthfully, you could probably automate and eliminate about 80% of the decisions you make every day. You just have to be aware of this concept and learn to notice which decisions aren’t high quality important decisions and then delegate those.

Connect Deeper

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Thank you for reading! Have a beautiful day.


Edited by LinkedIn Campus Editor Miki Ding


Posted on March 14, 2017 by ZFR

How To Build A Talent-Acquisition Strategy

Now, full disclaimer, there is no “one right way,” and you will find a plethora of contrary advice out there, so you will need to choose what you feel works best for you and your specific situation. However, these have served me very well during a successful career, and I believe with slight necessary modifications, they can serve you also.

Step 1: Assess Current State

I will further divide this into four subgroups: Demand, Resources, Process, and Results. When entering the assess stage, do your best to withhold judgment or preconceptions. The more neutral you can be, the more effective your assessments will be.

Let’s start with demand:

  • What is average annual/quarterly/monthly hiring load?
  • How much of that is driven by turnover?
  • How much of that turnover is regrettable?
  • How much of the hiring demand is based on growth?
  • What is the geographic breakdown?
  • What is the position type breakdown?
  • How does all of this compare historically?

Understanding your hiring load goes a long way to crafting resource strategies when I get to that point. When you break it down to a monthly and quarterly level, you can better identify periods of high or low demand.

Turnover, of course can give you an eye into possible quality issues or external/internal pressures that may exist.

Regrettable vs. non-regrettable turnover is a clarifying area that will help you better hone in on reasons for turnover later.

I use the position breakdown to look at positions by difficulty in sourcing and recruiting. I use the following criteria: What is the barrier to entry for the role? This is usually defined at years of experience and education required, at the most basic level. What does the potential candidate pool look like? What I look for here is supply vs. demand and competition in my markets.

Finally, you need to do a historical comparison — a minimum of three years, if available. This will help you to start look at trends that have impacted the current state. Please remember that at this stage you are still neutral, so don’t worry about “good” or “bad” impact, just impact.

Now for Resources:

  • What is the current human capital supporting TA?
  • What are the role breakdowns?
  • What are their loads?
  • What tools are in place?
  • What is their utilization?

These are pretty basic, but need to be asked. Particularly in role breakdowns and loads. Are they fully applied to their role, or are they doing double (or triple) duty? Are they primarily aligned based on: internal customers? Locations? Recruiting methodology? =Based on alignment, what are their req loads? When gathering this information, you can look at position descriptions, but you should also ask, and observe your people in action.

When evaluating tools, first do an inventory of all tools and their costs. Next look at their utilization. I would break utilization down to the same buckets you broke recruiter alignment into. If you try to do an overall analysis, you could be starting with data that will skew your plans later.

Utilization can be measured on time spent using the tools, and/or number of times tools are accessed. Most vendors can provide these reports for you easily. Hold off on results for now, as that will come into play later.

Now I move into Process:

  • What is the current recruiting process(s)?
  • When does it begin?
  • When does it end?

These seem like really simple questions. However, the answers are often complex.

When looking at the current process, it is not about the current ideal process, the one that may be handed to new hiring managers, but the actual process. How much variation exists? How is the variation aligned? Is the variation based on individual managers, groups, divisions, locations, position types? How many steps, and how long does each take? Keep these times sorted by your alignment determined above. How many decision points? How many handoffs?

There is not right or wrong answer for when the process begins. At some companies it may be when the vacancy is announced, at some once the req is created, and at others when the req is approved. Just be certain to know how “start” is defined for your team.

The same is true for when it ends; there is no right answer. It can be at offer acceptance, clearance of background check, or start, for example. Again, just make sure it is clearly defined.

Finally, in defining the current state you need to look at and define Results. This can be the trickiest part of the process, since this is based so much on the quality of data being measured and how it’s measured. I’ve often found that I’ve had to go old school manual to get to the data I need, so do not be surprised if you have to as well. It’s far better than just relying on what has already been reported.

To that end, try to look at the following (and as above, segregate by any variation already identified):

  • What is the funnel and pass through from end to end? This should align with the process steps above, overlay prospect candidate and applicant numbers.
  • Tie this in with time, look at req aging, time to fill.
  • What is the offer filled percentage? Is it net gain, loss, or neutral?
  • What is the offer acceptance percentage?
  • What is candidate satisfaction?
  • What is hiring manager satisfaction?
  • If known, what is recruiter satisfaction?
  • If possible what is quality of hire?
  • What is the cost per hire?

Most of these are pretty straight forward, so I’ll only pull out a few for further discussion.

When measuring satisfaction use the data you have to start. If it is inconclusive, do a current state survey to get a better benchmark. For candidate satisfaction, reach out to rejected candidates if you can; their experience is far more telling than hired candidates. I know almost no one measures recruiter satisfaction, which is a huge missed opportunity, but get their thoughts as well if you can.

Quality is the toughest to measure, and it really depends on how you define it. If it’s tenure, then you have an easy-to-measure data point. It may not be accurate to all quality, but it’s easy. If it’s performance based, make sure it is a consistent measure or can be easily defined. If not, skip it and deal with it later in the process.

Finally, take all the data and overlay cost. To factor cost, use hard costs that you can control at this point … salaries, tech spend, travel, agency, assessments, etc. Baking in soft costs will be harder, but it is safe to assume that a complicated process will be more expensive. If you don’t have super-sophisticated systems, the technique that can at least get you an estimate is to the following:

  • First take the sendout-to-interview ratio and using conservative numbers, factor five minutes per candidate in hiring manager review. Add that time up and multiply by the average hourly pay of your hiring managers. It’s not perfect, but it will get you close.
  • Step two: factor total time in actual interviews by candidates, and multiply by average employee hourly pay (again being conservative and assuming that interview teams are mixed).

Shake, stir, or adjust how you see fit. What you are looking for is the soft cost of lost time spent interviewing.

This will give you a good benchmark to work from in defining future outcomes.

Now I will discuss how to define a relevant, and achievable future state for your TA organization.

Building a TA Strategy — The Why

Now let’s focus on building the “why” so you can then start to build the “how.”

Above, I was about doing a neutral assessment of the current state, looking at various factors to define demand, resources, process, and results.

Now that we’ve mapped that out, move onto desired future state. There are really only two steps at this point: define and design. I can assure you that the number of steps correlates inversely with complexity!

Now I will focus on Define, as in defining your desired future state. More specifically, there is only one place to start, and that is the end. What is the end output that the organization desires? This is ultimately the question you need to answer, but first be aware that you cannot produce that answer in a vacuum, nor dictate that answer to the organization. That answer can only come from leadership. You may or may not agree with it, and you may or may not be able to influence it, but it is the only answer that matters, since that is who is determining how your success will be measured. The great news is you will get to apply your unique skills to designing and implementing the strategy to meet the defined future state outcomes.

The four most common outcomes desired are decreases in cost and time or increases in quality or quantity.

Let’s get a sense for each:

  • Reduce Cost: Who doesn’t want to save money, right? As you did your assessment from the first part above, where were cost inefficiencies? Agency spend? Unused or underused tech? Complicated process? You get the idea. You need to assess why cost is the issue as well. Does your customer feel they are lacking value for what they receive? If so, why? Has the company experienced an unexplained increase in hiring costs? Remember, unexplained does not mean unreasonable; it just means an expert hasn’t explained it to them yet. You also have to look at the dark side as well. Is the request for cost reduction an indicator of poor company finances?
  • Reduce Time: Just like cost, who doesn’t want to save time? So again where were the inefficiencies? Look for time gaps in your process map. I’ve used some simple visual tools in the past to show the process by position, manager, location, etc., with all the times displayed for each step. So where are the issues? Can you control it? Can someone else control it? You have to ask why time is important. The quick answer will always be “we need people yesterday,” but that doesn’t tell you anything. What you really want to know is the specific effect time has on company performance. What is the financial benefit to the company for each day that time to fill is reduced? If no one knows that, that’s a problem. Next, is there any relationship to time and quality that will outweigh short-term benefits with long-term gain? Is time causing a fall out of what appear to be top candidates? For the roles my team manages, I will always trade time for quality. In order to make that assessment, you have to be able to clearly show that the roles that you recruit for have differentiated outcomes based on the quality of hire, and specifically how much differentiation. As purely theoretical example, if you hire cashiers, there may be very little differentiation between your best and worst performers, whereas if you hire for brain surgeons, there may tremendous variability between top and bottom performers.
  • Increase Quality: Once again, who doesn’t want better quality hires? You need to know two critical pieces of data right away. First, why? Do you have data that suggests that a measurable improvement in quality produces a measurable difference in company performance? There are great examples out there that show this to be the case. Sullivan has presented on this in the past. Next, how is quality defined? What I just laid out is one definition; however, how an organization defines quality can be a fickle thing. I know organizations where quality of an employee is measured based on their obedience. Some may define it based on other “fit” measures aligned with culture. Challenge those ideas, unless they clearly demonstrate improved performance for the organization. Be wary of situations where the primary quality measure is tenure. It is almost never a valid measurement in my experience, and should be questioned thoroughly.
  • Increase Quantity: For the sake of discussion, this can be further defined as quantity of candidates. So what is the root cause, from the customer’s perspective? Is it a perceived lack of quality based on the number of choices presented? Is it a lack of diversity? Is it discomfort from not having “enough” candidates to review? Is it a lack of trust of TA to review and assess applicants? Is it indicative of a broken decision process? As with all of these, once you hit root cause, you can solve!

Below I will start breaking down these four outcomes into strategies.

Reducing Costs

Now I will focus on a strategy specific to reducing cost in your process. If you remember from above, I broke the drivers of your strategy into four buckets: reduce cost, reduce time, increase quality, and increase quantity. Each will be addressed in turn, and your end strategy may incorporate pieces that address each.

In order to start building your plans, return to the process work you did in the beginning. First, the heavy lifting: you need to assign a solid ROI on your various sourcing tools, whether they be human or automated. This means you have to have a strong degree of confidence in your source-of-hire data. As a note, candidate self-selected source of hire data will almost never allow you to have a strong degree of confidence.

As you begin this process, remember to start with hires, not the total number of applicants per source, just the hires that can be traced back to the source. The ratios are often in the form of a metric, but they are not truly a value add, so let’s just focus on results at this point. To come up with your basic ROI measure, simply divide the cost of the source by the number of hires produced. There are advanced calculations you can do to refine this, but that’s a topic for another day, for now let’s stick with this basic calculation.

Now that you have the numbers, rank your sources based on the ROI. Remember at this point to add your sources that you paid for that didn’t produce any hires as well. Draw a line so you can see which ones are above and which ones are below your average cost per hire. Does it line up with what you expected, or are there underperformers who have revealed themselves?

This is a tremendous opportunity to remove wasteful underperforming tools and reduce spend. Often time the myriad of sources you may use grow out of a sense of pleasing a customer by engaging in codependent behavior and supporting a “more is better” approach to sourcing. This creates an opportunity, as you build your strategy, to demonstrate your expertise and speak to the benefits of a better targeted strategy, and one that is more respectful of company resources. Your hiring managers will get that. They wouldn’t last long in their roles if they spend company money on things that didn’t produce results.

As a side note, I’ve seen situations where leaders are afraid to expose this information for fear that they will call their past strategy out as ineffective. As you introduce your new strategy, keep the focus always forward, you are doing the right thing, good strategy is fluid and agile and adjusts to adapt to our VUCA world.

Hopefully, you were able to make some significant spending reductions in this step. The next step is to look at unnecessary spend linked to process inefficiencies. These will vary by organization, but some common examples might be multiple flights and/or hotel stays for candidates to interview on site more than once, testing or assessment tools that have not been validated against performance, or even the soft costs of having too many people involved in the hiring process.

The upside here is that solving for these issues will help you create a more elegant process as part of your strategy. Most companies and their leaders, if not formally versed in process improvement, are well aware of the concepts and understand the value of reducing waste in various processes to increase the bottom line. So you will be speaking their language! The challenge will not be in identifying the waste, but in providing and selling the solutions you generate to alleviate the waste. Here, your expertise will come to the rescue. It is easy for you to build a case as to the negative impact on candidate experience based on too many flights to interview. What your hiring managers most likely perceive as a good or at best a neutral thing can cost them candidates, based on that poor experience of repeatedly taking time off work, leaving their family, etc. They may not understand that if there is no true value to actually physically being on site, video technology is cheaper, highly effective, and flexible.

With regard to overly complicated interview scenarios, use your expertise and knowledge to show the benefits of team interviewing, for example. Demonstrate how even though fewer bodies may be involved in the interview process, you can still accurately capture all the information you need to make a proper decision.

These are just examples, but regardless, the final step is to quantify the cost associated with the waste. Money and ROI resonate with your leaders, so provide them with before and after forecasts. Seeing the bottom line will better allow them to support your new strategy!

Stick around, to get into reducing time.


Time is something there is never enough of, and something you can’t buy more of. It is a valuable commodity, but the question is how valuable?

Time to fill is one of my least favorite metrics, but it one of the most heavily weighted in measuring the effectiveness of a recruiting team and their leader. As I discussed above, it is really only a valid measure if it truly ties into quality and has an impact on company performance.

The key to reducing time, in my experience, is twofold. First, don’t swing for the fences, seek incremental improvements, and second, manage what you can control, and report what you cannot.

In seeking incremental change focus on:

  1. Recruiter inefficiency: simply by providing guidance and coaching on how to best manage their desk and time, you can help your team get candidates into the pipeline faster. This sounds so basic, but oftentimes day to day you get pulled into things that aren’t value add or necessary at the time, and a leader can have a huge impact on results by keeping us focused.
  2. Flexibility: in corporate recruiting, one of the “sells” is that you don’t have the perceived brutal hours of agency recruiting. However, let’s first be honest. If you want to be a successful recruiter and/or recruiting leader, and think you can do it in a 40-hour week, well, best of luck to you. Part of the reason for this is based on candidate availability. If you work 8-5 and your candidate works 8-5, it will probably be tough to have meaningful communications during those hours. So allow your team flexibility to work when it make the most sense. You often serve two customers: the company and the candidate, but a good leader will insure coverage and give folks the freedom to work responsibly.
  3. Scheduling: this is a beast. The herding required, and the time it takes to make multiple phone calls, emails, texts, and IMs to get an interview team and a candidate coordinated to meet for an interview is Herculean. Look at your process map for this step. Anything longer than 30 minutes to make this (the scheduling) happen is too long. There are a number of ways to improve it. You can have “coordinators” on your team who set up interviews. Be careful that they don’t become a dumping ground and catch-all for work the rest of the team does not want to do, so as not to overwhelm your process. Another idea is to not schedule interviews. Why is that recruiting’s job? Empower the hiring managers to schedule their own interviews. They feel the pain of the vacancy more than anyone else; they can negotiate with their hiring team quicker and more effectively if one or more of the members needs to be asked to move something or to make themselves available. A great number of pros I’ve talked to are afraid to implement something like this. I’ve done it, and can tell you it is easier than you think, and can really get the process moving.
  4. Feedback I’ve looked at a lot of process maps in my day, and this seems like a common hangup point — recruiters and candidates sitting around waiting for feedback. My experience is to be proactive and not wait, but how do you do that? A couple of options: as part of the interview schedule, schedule a debrief at the end. If that doesn’t work, use an electronic form to capture the info. There is no guarantee that those will work, but if they don’t, and you don’t get feedback in a reasonable time (it’s best to get this agreement upfront from the hiring manager during the intake) let the manager know you are going to close the req. I’ve always explained that I’ve got a ton of other open positions and hiring managers that want to hire, so I’m going to work with them as a priority. It works.
  5. Interviews: Show what you control and what the hiring manager controls. Here’s a process map example you check out. It’s simple and is in real time. It also shows what recruiting controls and what the hiring manager controls, so if time is important, it can show pretty quickly if your interview process is working against you. Believe me, managers managers don’t realize this. You are always thinking about it, but they aren’t. Once you show it to them graphically, it’s like a light goes off!

So there are some quick and easy ways to improve your time to fill. Next I will look at quality.

A Quality Model

Now I will talk about setting, or resetting, your TA team up to focus on a quality model. This is the Golden Metric, the one that trumps all others. If you cannot introduce candidates who will perform well with in your organization, then you are, in a way, dooming your organization.

Quality is a very tough metric to measure, as I’ve discussed before, and I will need to divide this discussion into two parts: 1) You do not have a clearly defined measure for quality, and 2) You do have a clearly defined measure for quality. The caveat is this: hiring manager satisfaction is not the same as quality of hire!

Let’s start looking at the first scenario, where “quality” isn’t clearly defined, and performance is measured more subjectively. Although I am starting to see a shift, the vast majority of companies are still in this boat. So how do you measure quality? And how do you as a recruiting leader ensure your team is driving quality?

I’m going to give you three different measure you can use, either combined or individually as a starting place:

  1. Tenure: not a great metric because it only accounts for how long someone stays and doesn’t differentiate performance. However, for roles where there is little differentiation in performance, it can be an effective benchmark.
  2. Performance rankings: if this is subjective, the metric is only as good as the data in, but look for trends and correlations. You should also look at the one-year performance ranking against the interview score.
  3. Sendout-to-interview ratio and sendout-to-hire ratio: How many candidates does it take to get it right? The lower the ratios, then most often, the better job the recruiter is doing at identifying quality candidates. Be sure to control for positions where these ratios may be naturally low due to very small candidate pools.

These will help you articulate performance and results of your team. They are easy to understand and to display visually.

Now for those that fall into the second bucket, where quality is clearly defined and measured, your role switches to sleuth and analyst. To me, the fun part!

The method I like to start with is gathering the top 20 percent and bottom 20 percent of performers’ information from your recruiting system … all data, notes, etc. Within each group, look for commonalities, and you can subdivide within the groups as necessary, by team, location, etc. Is this group heavy with people whi have similar education backgrounds, past employers, tenure, experiences, source, etc.? I start looking at as many datapoints as I can, probably too many, but that’s my system.

Once you’ve done both groups, look first for what they share. For example, did a high percentage in both groups go to the same college? If so, exclude that as a predictive factor — it cancels out, and, it’s just proven itself not to matter. Now look at the differences. These will be the factors that you can use moving forward to do better targeted sourcing and recruiting. But don’t skip the first step and jump to the second. You must know what doesn’t matter … as much as what does. That’s because it shows you know what you are doing, and it will help you manage push back on certain recruiting targets. For example, if you show that a high percentage of your top-performing employees all have degrees from The Ohio State University, and a high percentage of your low performers have degrees from the University of Michigan, and your VP of marketing wants you to spent time, money, and resources recruiting at the University of Michigan, you can spare yourself the headache, because you have the data showing that there isn’t a positive ROI to justify it.

Good quality measures take you to the next level as a leader and help you best manage your teams’ efficiency and spend!

I’m not going to talk about strategies for increasing quantity, since there is a huge body of work on that subject both here, and especially from our friends at Sourcecon.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and thank you so much for being a part of the recruiting community. Your commitment to this profession makes all of us stronger.

By Jim D’Amico

Posted on February 22, 2017 by ZFR

7 Secrets to a Productive Work Day

A few simple measures taken at the start of the day can make all the difference to how productive and how calm you are by the end of it. Here are some tips to help you get your workday off on the right foot.

1. Limit Start-Up Time

Don’t spend more than 15 minutes getting coffee, settling in, looking at newspapers or reading emails. You are often at your freshest and most productive at the beginning of the day. A prolonged morning routine takes the positive edge off and makes your afternoon more stressful. Better to jump into the important work quickly and read the non-essential emails after you’ve covered lots of ground.

2. Write Two To-Do Lists

The first should contain everything you need to get done soon. It should be a comprehensive list of short, medium and long-term projects and work, and you should constantly adjust it. The second to-do list should be what you can reasonably expect to get done today, and today only. Be fair to yourself. Factor in the likely disruptions, meetings, phone calls and travel hassles. Make the tasks as specific as possible and assign the amount of time you plan to devote to it. Print the list out on brightly colored paper; this keeps it from getting lost on your desk. By prioritizing your work and breaking it down into small, achievable pieces, you greatly increase the chances that you will be satisfied with your day’s accomplishments.

3. Assess Your Day

Take a few moments to assess the day’s emotional challenges. Almost as important as your to-do list is a ‘be-prepared-for’ list. Make an inventory of tough phone calls, boring meetings, challenging customers, frustrating red tape, infuriating rush-hour commutes, droning detail work and other mental challenges you are likely to face. Then accept that they are inevitable and prepare yourself to get through them without anger, frustration or impatience. Remember: it’s usually not work that gets us down, but rather the challenges that lie along the periphery of the job.

4. Schedule Social Time

You probably work with people whom you like and know well. In fact, camaraderie is what makes many jobs great. So build a ritual into each morning in which you spend a few moments of social time with colleagues. Make it short, at an appropriate time, and don’t let the day go by without it. But avoid personal phone calls if you can; they can unexpectedly turn into big time-eaters.

5. Schedule in Some Reading Time

There’s no job that doesn’t require at least some reading, be it about the company, the industry, the marketplace, the economy. Create a ritual that gives you 15 minutes or so to review newspapers, electronic newsletters, industry magazines, company memos and other reading. Be disciplined – this is not the time to do online shopping. You’ll find that being up-to-date with your business has many advantages, just one of them being a sense of control about your own situation.

6. Drink Some Hot Cocoa

Research shows that one cup of pure cocoa a day for five days can increase blood flow in the brain, hands and legs, as well as helping to regulate blood pressure. Choose pure coca over drinking milk chocolate to get the full effect.

7. Set Your Alarm

Set a quiet alarm on your watch or computer to go off every hour. This will be your signal throughout the day to take a break, get up and stretch, walk around the building, etc. But, in an open-plan office, for instance, keep volume low so that it doesn’t upset your colleagues.

Posted on February 21, 2017 by ZFR

20 Ways to Save Time with Your Smart Phone

In many ways, life has become more stressful for the knowledge worker. Information is coming at you in many different forms. Sometimes it can seem relentless. This is made even harder if you are regularly required to spend time away from your desk. Not long ago, time spent away from your desk meant that there would be a great deal of time where you couldn’t do anything important e.g. if you had to travel to a one hour meeting, it was hard to make effective use of the time spent traveling before and after the meeting. If you were taking public transport, you could carry work with you but this brought its own problems. Thankfully there is now a tool which allows you to make the most of your time, even when you are on the move – a smart phone. Almost everybody in the western world has a smart phone but they may not be aware of the many ways in which it can help them save time.

Save time with your smart phone

Your smart phone, if used correctly, is an excellent tool for helping you to save time. Your smart phone can perform a wide array of functions which save you time. The following list covers just 20 of the easiest ways that you can use your smart phone to save time.

1. Capture commitments and information

The first step in staying organized is to capture your commitments and important information. You don’t just receive information when it is convenient for you to do so. You will have conversations, ideas and receive requests at many different times. While it may not be convenient at that time, it is imperative that you capture that information so that you can review it and process it at the earliest opportunity.

For example, you may be out to lunch when you have a great business idea. When you have your smart phone at hand, you always have a means to capture that idea e.g. you can email yourself or call your own voicemail and leave a message. Then, when you review your email or voicemail later on; you will have captured the idea and be in a position to act upon it.

2. Task lists

Task lists are fantastic if you manage them properly. One of the most important aspects of effectively managing your task lists is that you must have access to it. When you maintain one or more task lists, you must maintain them in a way that means you will have access to them when you need to.

For example, my friend Jay works from his desk for the vast majority of his day. He chooses to maintain his task lists using Microsoft Outlook and that works for him. My work requires that I am regularly away from my desk and I do not have Microsoft Outlook on any mobile devices. Therefore, if I was to depend on Microsoft Outlook to manage my tasks lists, I would be without access to them for much of the day.

Thankfully, smart phones have a large number of apps which allow you to store your task lists online and access them from a mobile device. I choose to use a Google Spreadsheet to manage my tasks lists as I like to keep things as basic as possible. Thanks to my smart phone, I can access my task lists 24 hours per day, allowing me to maximise my productivity.

3. Contacts

With a smart phone, you always have the contact details from your all of the important people in your life. You don’t have to go digging through files or business cards. You can also back up your contacts list meaning that a change of device does not mean that you have to manually transfer all of the contact information. This is one of those tips where you don’t realise how it will save time until you hit a problem.

4. Calendars

Just like task lists, calendars are a wonderful time management tool, if you use them properly. You should only ever use one calendar and you should always have access to it. There are a number of different calendars that you can use with your smart phone; just choose one that meets your needs.

5. Document access

In the knowledge work era, more and more people are spending large chunks of time away from their desks. It used to be that if you wanted to work on a document or, just read it, you had to be on your PC or Mac or, you had to print it and carry it with you. Now there are a number of apps that allow you to store documents online and access them from anywhere, on any device. This allows you to save time by reducing down time.

If you are away from the office, you can still get valuable work done thanks to apps such as Google Drive or Dropbox which allow you to store and retrieve your documents, as and when you need to.

6. Reading material

When I worked in my first job, we used to have an external consultant who regularly came to the office to do some work for us. When I would go to meet him at reception, he would be reading a novel to kill time. While novels are great, they are not the best use of work time.

As highlighted in the previous point, you can now access important documents via your mobile device so that you can save time by using your mobile device to maximise downtime. In addition there are a number of apps which allow you to read books related to your industry e.g. Kindle, Scribd. And, if you want to stick with the novel, you can access it on your smart phone rather than having to carry it everywhere.

7. Social media

The advent of social media has seen a new way to provide customer service, provide information and market yourself. It is important work which if managed correctly, can be done in just a few minutes. This makes your mobile device an ideal way to check in on social media and handle quick tasks. It can be done from anywhere at any time.

It is important to remember that the objective here is to save time so, any time that you go onto social media, it should be with a clear purpose. Once you have done what you have set out to do, you should be logging off again.

8. Timer

Parkinson’s Law tells us that a task will expand to fill the time allowed. If you are struggling with time management, one of the best things that you can try is to use a timer. You can set a time limit e.g. 40 minutes and work on the task for that period of time, without interruption. It is far easier to avoid distractions when you know that you are only working for a set period of time and that at the end of that period of time, you will be able to tackle anything that pops up.

You can check out the Pomodoro technique for more ideas on how to use a timer to improve your time management skills.

9. Picture capture

When I say picture capture, you are probably thinking of pictures for fun or for posting on social media but let me give you an example of using the camera on your smart phone to save time.

I was on a coaching course in London when we were divided into groups to brainstorm an exercise. As a group, we produced a Flipchart sheet full of great ideas. Three more groups did likewise.

As you might imagine, nobody wanted to lose these great ideas so we all took out our pens and notebooks to write them down. Suddenly, one lady walked up to the Flipchart sheets (we had pinned them up) and took out her smart phone. She took a picture of each sheet and sat back down. The rest of us just laughed before following suit.

When you have a smart phone in your pocket you can save time by just taking a picture of anything important rather than spending time trying to write it all down.  You can also take pictures of important documents, receipts, business cards etc. which may prove important in the future.

10. Videos

Video can be used for many wonderful purposes; from recording events to making tutorials. Within your smart phone, you have a video making machine. You may need to add one or two tools to make it even more effective but you can save time by making videos for clients, colleagues, friends etc.

For example, imagine that a colleague has emailed you asking for some advice on setting up a proper filing system. Rather than trying to explain in great detail how you use your filing system, you could just take your smart phone out of your pocket and record a video of you walking them through your system. They can watch the video any number of times until they understand thoroughly, meaning that you save time by not having to answer questions by email.  You could even upload this video to YouTube so that others may learn from it too, meaning that you can record it once and use it an unlimited number of times.

11. Audio recording

As well as making video recordings, your smart phone is also capable of making audio recordings .This function can be used to dictate notes, make educational resources or even record interviews.

12. Reservations

With access to the internet, the opportunity to make bookings and reservations is easy. Regardless of where you are going or what you need to do, you will usually be able to make the reservations with a few taps on your smart phone.

13. Shopping

Online shopping is becoming more and more popular. Most physical stores now have an online presence too. I remember during my college days, Amazon was just starting out. Many people laughed at the idea of buying books online. What they failed to understand was how much people value convenience and time saved.

You no longer need to go to a store for most items. You just order and pay online and they will deliver it straight to your door. Even supermarkets offer home delivery so you can just order your groceries online and they will be picked up and delivered straight to your door. If you want, you can usually save your grocery list on the supermarket’s website. That way you just have to login, review your list and either add any additional items you need or remove items you do not need before you complete your purchase. Once you set it up, the amount of time saved really does add up.

14. Travel arrangements

Not only can you book your travel and accommodation via your smart phone; you can check for potential delays too e.g. you can check to see if there are any traffic delays on your planned route and search for alternatives.

With many travel companies, you don’t even have to waste time printing your tickets now. You just save them to your phone and display them at check in, meaning that you save time, save paper and help save the environment. Now you’ve got to love that.

15. Banking

Waiting to be served in a bank is a pain in the backside and, now it is an unnecessary pain in the backside. You no longer have to travel to a bank, wait in line and fill out a multitude of forms just to make a simple transaction.

With your smart phone, you now have your own banking machine in your pocket. You can check your balance, transfer money and pay bills in mere moments. Save time and save hassle by setting up online banking and installing your bank’s app.

16. News

It’s important to keep up to date with what is going on in the world and in your industry. With your smart phone you can do this. You can search the internet or you can set up RSS feeds from your favourite news sites. This allows you to access the news when you have a few free moments, rather than having to sit down at an exact time to watch a news bulletin. This flexibility means that you can fix your own schedule and keep moving throughout the day.

17. Relaxation

Life cannot be all work and no play. Neither your body nor you mind were designed to work that way. Rather than wait for the opportunity to relax, you can make a conscious effort to use down time to relax and unwind. Play a meditation or some relaxing music – even a hypnosis track. Just a few moments spent relaxing can have a massive impact on your health, wellbeing and performance. As a result you will save time and improve your performance.

With your smart phone you can do all of this. Just make sure that it is safe to do so e.g. do not do any of the above while driving.

18. Fun

Just like relaxation, fun is an essential component of effective time management. Having fun will allow you to unwind, release stress and escape the pressures of your work life for a few minutes. With your smart phone, you have a virtual amusement arcade. Whether you are into video games, music, comedy etc. your options for fun are virtually unlimited.

19. Education

The internet is full of educational content. Whether it is in the form of writing, audio or video, your smart phone allows you to access any of the educational content that you desire. Free time can easily be used to improve your knowledge and skills allowing you to learn and improve on the go.

20. Communications

Yes, I know it is obvious but you have a communications hub in your pocket when you have a smart phone. With email, phone, text, Skype etc, there are unlimited ways to contact people and conduct important business. One of my task lists contains tasks for which I only need access to my phone. That is so that when I am out of office, with only my phone, I can still quickly scan these tasks and choose the most important one that I can get done at that moment.

Note: it is important to remember that while you can contact others, they can also contact you so, if you are working on something important you should remember the most important function on your smart phone – the power button.

Being away from the office is no longer an excuse for not being able to do some important work. With your smart phone in your pocket, you have an abundance of ways to make better use of your time. It is important that you have predefined work hours and this article is not intended to have you working 24/7/365. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the many ways that your smart phone can help you to make better use of your working hours, meaning that you are less likely to have to work outside of these times. With your smart phone you can make your productive time more productive; allowing you to relax and enjoy your own personal time.

Posted on February 2, 2017 by ZFR

6 Ways to Build Healthy Competition at the Office

Charles M. Schwab (the steel magnate, not the investor) once said, “the way things get done is to stimulate competition.” For Schwab’s steel business, it meant encouraging a friendly rivalry between the day and night shifts by writing their respective production numbers on the mill floor. 

Even if you’re not a titan of steel, you can employ similar management tactics by helping employees understand how they stand relative to their colleagues, encouraging the best performance from each individual and motivating everyone to have a stake in furthering business goals. 

I think all business should be approached the same way, with the right balance of teamwork and healthy competition.

Here are six ways to build an organization that strikes this balance: 

1. Remember, it’s a game.

People often ask what advice I’d give my 18-year-old self. If I could go back in time, I’d remind myself that business is the sport people play as they get older.

Nobody dies when you make a mistake — in most industries, at least. Take risks, swing the bat and see what happens.

2. Hire for hunger and humanity.

When interviewing candidates, I always ask myself, “Does this person want to win?” Some people believe success happens to other people. Then there are those who expect it from themselves.

If you can find the right balance of goal oriented and likeable in a person (skip those who are cutthroat), that’s the magic combination.

Consider if you can imagine working with this individual during an hour-long brainstorm or sitting next to him or her during a five-hour plane ride. That’s the kind of person you want on your team. 

3. Translate athletic experience into teamwork.

I like to hire athletes. If you walk through the office of my company, Invoca, you’ll see a semi-pro tennis player, a former sprinter on the UCLA water polo team and a member of the US ski team.

You certainly don’t have to be an athlete to succeed in business. But I believe that athletes are self-motivated, want to win and know how to help one another achieve a common goal.

Are they trying to close as many deals as they can? Yes. Are they helping each other do it? Yes.

4. Be clear about acknowledgment and goals.

Ensure everyone is appropriately challenged and acknowledged. My company holds monthly all-hands meetings where high-achievers who are exceeding their goals are praised.

Don’t just give top performers a high five. Encourage others to learn from what they’re doing right.

Consider upping the level transparency by creating an open office plan where people become comfortable making calls in front of colleagues, overhearing one another’s pitches and leaning over desks to ask one another questions.  

5. Create a culture of ownership.

Every person should think like an owner and walk the floors like the company is his or hers. Whether your employees are literally owners or stakeholders, encourage them to blend their personal brand with the company’s.

At my company, there’s a whiteboard that’s always open for suggestions. If leaders decide to dedicate resources to one of the suggestions, the person who came up with the idea knows he or she must do research and make it happen.

For instance, one of our engineers thought the company ought to have bikes available for employees’ commute. The company funded the project, but she put in the research. Now there’s a fleet of company bikes.

Another employee wanted to start a company ski trip. Still another wanted to brew a company beer. And yet another wanted to start a company band. Guess who got to make all those things happen? 

6. Make things playful.

Competition doesn’t have to be serious or even directly related to a business objective.

Beyond setting formalized goals, incorporate fun challenges into your company’s culture. Every year at my company’s off-site meeting, staffers do silly things like sumo wrestle in 30-pound padded suits and race through obstacle courses.

It’s these kinds of moments, along with a spontaneous Nerf fight in the middle of the office on a Tuesday, that help people break out of their shells and think of themselves as part of the team. 

Whether you’re in the steel business or building a software as a service company, build friendly competition into your work culture. And hire people who expect the best from themselves and helping them achieve their personal best every day —  on their own and as part of the larger team.

That’s the kind of competition I’m interested in fostering. I believe it’s the kind that Mr. Schwab would say “gets things done.”


Published on Entrepreneur by JASON SPIEVAK

Posted on January 27, 2017 by ZFR

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

Posted on January 27, 2017 by ZFR

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.

Posted on January 25, 2017 by ZFR

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
Posted on January 20, 2017 by ZFR

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 

Posted on January 13, 2017 by ZFR

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