b Self-Helpless: True Tales of a Working Girl: March 2007



You've Just Been Promoted... Now What?

You worked hard, became the go-to person on your team and finally were promoted to manager. You feel that you've arrived. And you may have already made your first mistake.

"A lot of people think there's some glory in getting this title of manager" and take the job because of the success it implies, not because they really want to manage other people, said Gerard H. Gaynor, author of "What Every New Manager Needs to Know."

But never fear. Gaynor and other experts have tips on five common mistakes new managers make -- and how you can avoid them.

Take Time to Learn

You naturally want to show the people who promoted you that they made the right decision, so it's tempting to try to make big changes right away. "There's always pressure to do something soon to get some visibility," said Libby Pannwitt, a career counselor and principal of Work Life Design Group in San Carlos, California.

But it's better to take it slow. "There's an awful lot to learn," Pannwitt said. "Who are the other players? What is your place in the hierarchy? What is the contribution that's expected of you?" And if you spend some time listening and learning, when you do take on a big project you'll be more likely to succeed.

Share the Work

If you're feeling overwhelmed with all the work you have to do, take a careful look to be sure you're not still trying to do your old job as well. It's a common mistake of new managers, said Carol W. Ellis, a business and career management consultant and in Placitas, New Mexico, and author of "Management Skills for New Managers."

"In many cases they've been rewarded for doing work," Ellis said. "Therefore they're afraid to give it up." Remember, though, that your old job is now someone else's responsibility -- and yours is to make sure your team succeeds, not to do all the work yourself.

Listen to Your Staff

Making decisions without getting your staff's input can cause two problems. First, you won't benefit from the insights they may have had about how best to go about your project. Second, your staff will not have any investment in making sure the project is successful.

"If employees don't feel that they were involved in the decision, then they can have all kinds of excuses for why this program or project is not going to work," said Carole C. Edman, a human resources consultant and coach in San Jose, California.

Share Good News

If someone compliments you on your team's work, tell your team. Some new managers "don't think people need to know when they do a good job," Ellis said. But that's not true. Sharing praise helps build trust.

Expand Your Perspective

As a manager, you have to expand your thinking to know what other groups are doing and how their work and your group's affect each other.

"Your scope of interest must go beyond the scope of interest of your group," Gaynor said. "You just can't sit back and say, 'I've got my own little shop over here.'"

Original article published on Yahoo! Hotjobs.




Multitasking Will Make Your Brain Explode

I live for multitasking. I would get nothing done without it. I watch TV while I'm writing, read a story in another window, keep a magazine propped to one side, and answer emails/the phone/the doorbell on the side. And according to a new study this is all going to lead to my ruin.

The New York Times reports on a new study that basically says multitasking actually makes you less efficient than if you concentrated on one thing at a time. I'm not entirely sure that's what it says, though. I was talking on the phone while reading the article. (Kidding!)

To some extent, this is common sense. It's long been known that talking on a cell phone while driving a car is exceedingly dangerous. Some studies say it's just as bad as driving drunk.

But the science of the phenomenon is intriguing. I feel more productive when doing multiple things at once, but maybe I'm not. The key, says the researcher, is that you lose time and focus when you switch between tasks. Try it for yourself. Type half of a sentence. Go check your email. Then come back and try to finish your thought. It's tough to get back in the groove of what you were doing.

The expert advice? Check email once an hour. And turn off outside distractions except, maybe, for soft background music.

As for me, I'm going to experiment with checking my email less frequently and see how that works for my concentration. An hour? No, but I am changing my "check for new messages" setting in Outlook from checking once every two minutes to every five.

So, multitaskers: Still think working on more than one thing at a time makes you more productive? Sound off!

Original article published on Yahoo! Tech.




Five ways to kill productivity or Your employees are not trained monkeys

Original article can be found at Saving Grace Virtual Assistants, LLC.

Some managers envision in their heads, the perfect rows of 3x6 cubicles. The grey walls, and blue grey fabric, with the metal railing tops, stacked side by side, aisle by aisle as far as the eye can see from the manager's office. The 15 inch monitor, occupying half the desk space, the Qwerty keyboard, and two button mouse, and phone, another third, leaving just enough room for a piece of paper and pen to jot notes on. No room for personal items, cups of coffee, glasses of water, not even work related files. The tower workstation sits on the floor, under the desk, it's blinking green and amber lights signaling that work is getting down, and there is not nearly enough room for legs and feet to fit comfortably under the desk besides it. The armless chairs protruding partially into the aisles, in which the trained worker monkeys sit; headset in position, fingers poised to type, the data entry screen flickering in anticipation, waiting for the ACD to route the next call in the phone system roulette. There is no extraneous thought, there is only work; take the call, type the information, save to the system, hang up, Repeat.

Some managers might envision this as the perfect world; maybe, but only if you work with trained monkeys. So read on for five surefire ways to kill morale and productivity:

Treat them like trained monkeys. – Behave as if they, the workers, have the brain capacity of a legume, and that you, the monkey trainer, are far superior to them.

Micro Manage. - This also is part of monkey trainer syndrome. If you want to micro manage, you must specify in agonizing minutia, what you want done and how you want it done. This may sound like a good idea, but miss one small detail and the whole thing will be a mess. If you need to micro manage, you should probably be doing it yourself, because it will never get done to your standards.

Always Criticize, Condemn, and Complain. - Trained monkeys will never really understand what you are saying, however, they will usually cower in some manner due to the tone of your voice. Things may change in their performance and behavior, but it is usually only temporarily, until you have to do it again, or they escape.

Don't Praise Anyone. - Trained monkeys don't need praise, they need treats, like bananas, so why waste the time on using praise, when it won't be appreciated anyway. You have more important things to do.

Let them know that monkeys are a dime a dozen. – Make it very clear to all your monkeys that they are very easily replaced. They should be grateful to you that you spend all your time: training, micro managing, criticizing, complaining, and condemning, and occasionally throwing bananas.

Employees are people. They have feelings, independent thought, and aspirations to be more than a trained monkey; as shocking as that may seem to some. Treat them like a trained monkey and you will ensure that you won't get anything more from them than performing the basic trained task. They won't contribute to the profitability or growth of the organization. They won't be empowered, feel appreciated, or make any effort to help in your advancement or the company's.

If you treat your employees like trained monkeys, they may just act like it, and they will treat your customer as if they were trained monkeys too.

Copyright © 2006, Saving Grace Virtual Assistants LLC.




Cyber Career Killers

Technology is supposed to be good for your career, right? After all, with Blackberrys and other devices, you can stay on top of work developments around the clock. But when used unwisely, technology can be a career saboteur.

On the job hunt

When it comes to applying for a job, the days of stamps and envelopes have passed. The vast majority of resumes and cover letters are submitted electronically, making a person's e-mail address an important piece of contact information. But using a cute, playful or downright inappropriate e-mail address can be a quick way to eliminate your chances of earning a call from interested employers. Consider "surfgod@example.com" or "borntoparty@example.com." While your friends may get a kick out of your sense of humor, those outside your circle won't be in on the joke. The best type of e-mail address to use for professional correspondence is one that includes your name or a combination of your name and some numbers. Here are two examples: "roberthalf@example.com" and rhalf1948@example.com.

Another technology trap to watch out for is attaching the wrong document to an employment application. More than one professional has had their hopes dashed after inadvertently submitting an outdated resume, incomplete cover letter or even documents completely unrelated to the job search. A good rule of thumb: Once you attach a document to an e-mail, open it before hitting send to ensure it's the correct one.

In the workplace

New federal rules enacted at the end of last year make it more likely your employer is saving electronic communications among employees. That's even more reason business e-mail should be all business. Off-color or offensive jokes or messages should be immediately deleted and never forwarded to others. Discourage friends from sending them to you in the first place. Also avoid e-mailing about sensitive topics, such as politics or office gossip. Not only could your messages prove embarrassing, they also could land you in trouble with your employer. Don't be fooled into thinking that your exchange will remain private. According to anti-spam firm ProofPoint, 38 percent of companies with 1,000 or more workers employ staff to read or analyze outgoing e-mail messages. If you must send a personal note, use a personal e-mail account and send it from your personal computer.

The same holds true for your Internet activities. Your employer has the right to monitor the activities you conduct on your company-supplied computer and Internet connection -- and many do. In fact, a poll by the American Management Association and the ePolicy Institute indicates that 26 percent of companies have terminated employees over Internet misuse. So, avoid visiting off-limits Web sites, viewing online video and checking your Internet auctions until you're out of the office.

Of course, for many professionals, the computer holds less interest that an iPod or other portable music player. While some companies allow employees to don headphones while on the job, check with your boss about your firm's policy before doing so. Even if this activity is condoned, think twice about playing your music too loudly. Use headphones instead. Just don't spend all of your day listening to hot hits. Show your employer you're engaged in the job.

Outside the office

Even outside the office, workers aren't immune to technology gaffes. When meeting with clients or other business contacts for lunch or dinner, interrupting the conversation to answer a ringing cell phone could immediately sour the mood. The simple fix: Place your cell phone on silent mode and let voice mail answer any calls. Even if set on "vibrate," your phone might still make noise. If you must take an incoming call or answer an urgent e-mail, excuse yourself and make it brief.

Also, keep tabs on your use of your cell phone and Blackberry use. If your firm provides you with these tools, you need to follow your company's usage policy, even if you make calls outside of work hours or to personal acquaintances.

Never before has technology been so central to the way people work. By being aware of business protocol for e-mail, Internet use and cell phones, you can be sure these tools work for you, and not against you.

Robert Half International Inc. is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices throughout North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. For more information about our professional services, please visit www.rhi.com. See the full article here.

For more information on email and job-hunting advice, check out these original posts as well: Think Your Emails Are Secure?, How Do You Spend Your Lunch Hour?, and To email or not to email?




It's True: Meetings Make Us Stupid!

Brainstorming sessions backfire when group thinking clouds decisions.

People have a harder time coming up with alternative solutions to a problem when they are part of a group, new research suggests.

Scientists exposed study participants to one brand of soft drink then asked them to think of alternative brands. Alone, they came up with significantly more products than when they were grouped with two others.

The finding could be good news for advertisers who buy spots during big events like the Super Bowl, since consumers often view those commercials with others.

The clouded thinking might also extend into corporate boardrooms.

“When a group gets together, they can miss out on good options,” study team member H. Shanker Krishnan told LiveScience. This could mean ordering from a pizza place advertised on television even if there’s a better option, or making a poor decision in the boardroom. “Whether it’s with family or a group of co-workers, we could very quickly fixate on things and all come up with the same options.”

The research appears in this month's issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

Yeah, what he said. The researchers speculate that when a group of people receives information, the inclination is to discuss it. The more times one option is said aloud, the harder it is for individuals to recall other options, explained Krishnan, associate professor of marketing at Indiana University.

Another contributing factor is variation in learning and memory styles. People store and retrieve information in myriad ways, so in a group situation, the conversation could cause individuals to think about the cues differently than they would if they were alone.

Krishnan said individuals, whether students, executives or football fans, should take time to consider the facts on their own before coming to a consensus.

Original article can be found here. © 2007 LiveScience.com. All rights reserved.




What Women Do Wrong at Work

Wrapping up the series on "How women sabotage themselves in the workplace", the following are more issues that Debra Burrell CSW, claims women are guilty of doing:

Women resent being told what to do. Women are generally less comfortable with a hierarchal, “report only to your immediate supervisor” framework. While men may be comfortable with clear lines of authority, most women prefer to view work as a collaborative effort. We want to reach a concensus, respect all participants equally, regardless of position. We want to understand why we have to do something and mightly resent “Because I said so” as an explanation. Our need for inclusion is greater than our ability to be subordinate.

Caring about personal lives is seen as off point. Women are basically curious and care about other’s personal lives. We like to know who is married; single, just had a baby, where people went on vacation, if they bought a new home, etc. It’s one way that we connect to others and build relationships – by caring about the details in people’s personal lives. Yet a woman who spends too much time chit chatting – passing around birthday cards, ooohing and ahhhing of vacation/child/pet photos may be taken less seriously than her position and responsibilities demand. Our interest in others as full human beings is perceived as a waste of time.

Women give away too much credit. A woman’s tendency is to want to be liked. Therefore, we can be excessively validating and complimentary in order to get on people’s “good sides”. We say about others what we would like said about us. “I don’t know what I would do without my assistant Janet.” “This report would just not be as good if I didn’t have Bob’s expertise on the computer.” This creates a climate in which colleagues and assistants really do think we wouldn’t make it if it weren’t for them. It also contributes to the perception that we must need more help than our less effusive colleagues.

Women aren't likely to ask or fight for what they want. A man will go into his boss’ office, and ask for a raise. A woman will sit at her desk, thinking, “If I do a really good job, someone is going to notice. I shouldn’t have to ASK for recognition, or a raise, or a promotion.” We are the same way when it comes to personal gifts… if we have to ask for flowers, then what’s the point? We want it to come freely. What we don’t understand is that all employers will try to get us to accept the lowest possible compensation for the longest possible time. We don’t want to think that if we really wanted it, we would be willing to fight for it. We need to be willing to send the message “We want to play in the game”.

Women perceive criticism and correction as a personal attack. It hurts to hear we spoke too much at a meeting, or no one liked our presentation or that others find us difficult (who me?). The challenge is to take what’s said and understand our impact on others and make changes where possible.

Women tend to believe that “No” always means no. Women are polite. So if we hear someone say, No, we think it means no - a straightforward don’t-ask-again. A man however, has grown up hearing no from girls and discovering that sometimes No really means not yet or maybe. Another example would be when a guy tries out for a sports team – and will try and try and try whenever possible to get on. A girl will try to get on a team, and if she is rejected will automatically think I’m not good enough and then not try again. Women need to know it’s okay to try again and not be afraid to keep going for something. When a woman gives up after the first No, it looks as if she isn’t trying that hard.

Debra Burrell CSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice as well as the Regional Training Director of the Mars Venus Institute. She can be reached by calling 212-754-6232. You can also visit her website at http://www.debraburrell.com/.


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