Category: Strategy

Keeping Your “To Do” List Manageable During The Holidays

While the holidays promise fun, parties, and time with loved ones, more often than not, the result is mounding credit card debt and exhaustion. Vowing to do better next year, we make a resolution on New Year’s Day not to repeat the same mistakes. But why wait until the New Year? Here are a few ways to ease the stress of the holidays and evaluate what’s truly important. And they don’t involve heavy spending and acquiring more possessions!

Delegate: The holidays are not about perfection and adding more items to your “to-do list”. Let someone else bring a dish to the party. Share the shopping, wrapping, and decorating.

Think Outside the Box: Gifts don’t have to be expensive to be meaningful. Give your time instead of gifts and use your imagination. And above all, make a budget for gift giving and stick to it! There is no joy in being in debt.

Pay It Forward: Each of us can touch another person’s life in a profound manner. Random acts of kindness go a long way! Take baked goods, magazines and /or toiletries to a senior community. Often residents don’t have family to visit them. Many of them are on a fixed income.

Show Yourself Some Compassion: Keeping your body, mind, and spirit relaxed goes a long way in making the holidays fun. Stressing over gift giving does not.

We can help your organization and employees focus on what’s truly important and a top priority and help weed out what’s not. Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to discuss your organization’s needs.

Tips For Dealing With A Work Slump

Even people who love their jobs experience a slump from time to time. It’s not uncommon and fortunately, it’s something you can fix. It’s easy to blame your manager, co-workers, company culture or industry for your feelings, but taking personal responsibility for your slump and taking action puts you in control and increases overall motivation. Here are a few tips to put that slump behind you:

  • Determine why you’re struggling: Are you bored with your project and know that it’s short term? Problems with your boss or colleagues? Or would you rather be working in another field? Start with the basics and spend some time getting to know what is causing the slump.
  • Identify what matters to you: We discussed this in our previous article on Finding and Doing What Makes You Happy, but think about what interests and values you place above everything else. Is your current job supporting them?
  • Focus on what’s working and going well: When you’re in a slump, it can be easy to focus on what’s going wrong. Take a few minutes each day to think about what went “right” and what you’re grateful for. It can improve your health and overall life too!
  • Stop comparing yourself to everyone else: Step away from social media and stop obsessing over who just received a promotion. Social comparison is a huge barrier to overall happiness and motivation. Redirect your attention to your own standards of accomplishment and happiness.

Interested in creating personal or career development goals that can lead to a happier, more fulfilling work life? Please call Leah M. Joppy and Associates at 301-670-0051 or email us at leah@lmja.com to discuss your organization’s needs.

It’s My Co-workers Fault!

Your co-workers may have their own habits and preferences. Sometimes these work habits will clash with yours. In this article, we give tips on how to make it work for all.

I once had an assistant that worked hard to get 90% of the project done, but couldn’t seem to wrap it up. It was frustrating. A project could end up on the to-do list for months, when really, it would only take an hour to put it to bed! I finally figured out the problem. She insisted on doing things her way.

How we work is personal. Some of us create to-do lists religiously. Others work on what’s urgent and forget the rest. A lengthy meeting where the project strategy is presented in detail is perfect for some workers, whereas others would prefer to read a long memo. A CEO might be the big thinker – willing to publish his/her ideas to the company – expecting others to figure out the details. We are all different. Figuring out the best way to work with others can significantly increase your chance for success.

Making changes for the benefit of the team. How we work may depend on our age, culture, experience and geographic location. But at work, we’re all on the same team. The success of that team may depend on how we work with each other and what changes we make in consideration of others. Here are some tips for working with people who have developed habits that are different from yours.

  1. Build a common understanding, trust and commitment. Easier said than done, right? To build a common purpose, it’s imperative that we consider what is important to people, what is below the each person’s surface (what you cannot see), and the inner layers of values and beliefs. As a team, when we create common ground rules we help build trust and commitment in our purpose.
  2. Instead of lamenting our differences, focus on the strengths everyone brings to the table. The truth is, the more opinions, and the more variety of ideas around the table, the more likely we will be more creative and innovative in the solutions we develop.
  3. Celebrate collaboration. If you always have a habit of wanting to do things on your own, think differently. While independence is good in some situations, generally people who are team players experience more success at work.
  4. Listen, and be empathetic. Being respectful builds trust. Knowing how you work, and understanding how others work, strengthens the communication among all team members.

As for my assistant mentioned in the beginning of this article, she insisted on closing the loops in projects through email. It was her preferred method of communication. But many of the people she needed to communicate with were either very busy, or travelled frequently. By adjusting her habit and putting aside an hour to either walk to each office (we were all in the same building), or talk to them on the phone, solved the problem. A simple changed proved successful.

Why Do We Work So Differently?

If you type “successful work habits” in any search engine, you’ll find numerous articles on what habits we should develop if we want to be successful. So why can’t everyone just understand and foster those habits? It’s not quite so easy. There are some habits ingrained in our personalities because of various factors. Consider the following:

  • Age. How old we are dictates subtle differences in work habits. Consider the following. 60% of people 55 years old and older prefer to meet face to face. Of those 24 – 35 years of age, only 35% prefer to meet in person. When asked if they should be promoted every 2-3 years if they’re doing a good job, 43% of those 55 and older agreed, while 61% of 25-34 year old agreed.
  • Culture. Values and beliefs are part of our national culture. Some people may not even be aware of these values and beliefs until challenged by others. Different values lead to different behavior. It’s important to learn these differences in order to work with people from other cultures.
  • Experience. The more experience we have, the more problems we’ve encountered. We believe we know what works, and what doesn’t work. Those with less experience however, are willing to try new ideas. Sometimes we clash over those ideas.
  • Geographic location. Sometimes our culture and our location work together to influence our work habits. You can even see the difference in the continental U.S. Very often Californians are at work early in the morning – as early as 6 a.m. They work with colleagues on the east coast who are sending email and conducting meetings on our side of the country. Consequently, they’re gone from the office by 3 pm their time.

Considering all of the complexities of a team, if we can create some common ground rules for everyone, we can help building trust and commitment.

A Toxic Workplace

It’s a hot topic these days. From the problems at Uber to the damage experienced at a major network, hearing a story of a dysfunctional workplace seems like part of the daily news feed. Indeed, if you sit down with colleagues, almost everyone can tell a story about a bad boss or misplaced priorities in the workplace.

The trick here is knowing how to filter through all of the information you are hearing, or witnessing, and deciding whether the environment is stressful, not the expected norm, or definitely toxic.

We’ve outlined key problems that are often seen in toxic workplaces.

  1. Major Communication Problems. This is sort of like the “who’s on first” syndrome. When you are in an environment where communication problems are rampant, working together to further the good of the company or organization is extremely difficult. It may start with the director, who may not be communicating properly with his/her supervisors. The next thing you know, supervisors are communicating different stories to their employees. It can even extend to customers, who are given misleading information. It’s also possible that a toxic organization has NO communication – so employees find out about major decisions after they’ve been implemented.
  2. Leaders Who Only Agree. I once had a boss who really only wanted to hear people agree with her. Any effort at disagreement, or giving another side to an argument, was considered treason. The result was that employees simply shrugged their shoulders when asked to do something. It became easier to comply rather than to face getting fired!
  3. Employees Who Don’t Care. If employees feel the need to survive, rather than fight, they become apathetic. There is absolutely no interest in setting the record straight or providing another opinion. Instead, employees trudge forward, holding a blind eye and deaf ear to anything that is going on.
  4. Inconsistent Policies. In this case, depending on who you ask, you get different answers. Companies or organizations who do not have consistent policies often experience chaos – employees decide to do whatever they want!
  5. Narcissistic Leaders. These types of leaders consider themselves better, brighter and privileged. Rules don’t apply to them. Witness how many leaders you know from history who have made stupid decisions that ruined their careers.

The solution? So what’s our point with this article? It may be that some places are just plain toxic – they were created that way and continue to run that way. But in most cases, a dysfunctional workplace happens over time. It is entirely possible to change the atmosphere of an environment that is leaning toward toxicity. But in most cases, it takes an outside resource to change an environment.

That’s where Leah M. Joppy & Associates can help. We have seminars on diversity, workplace performance and leadership. We can help build trust and integrity within an organization. Give us a call today and let’s discuss your needs.

Becoming a Better Employee

Help people good better best achievementMost of the talk is about being a better manager. But what about our own contributions as employees? Seriously thinking about our work persona and making changes may also make you more indispensable. Here are some ideas for becoming a better employee.

  1. Show Emotional Intelligence. We live in ever-changing environments. Stress levels can be high. But the ability to manage the highs and lows at work is an increasingly important skill. If your coping mechanism keeps you from getting defensive or emotional, you probably work more effectively is tough situations. Cooperation is high among those with emotional intelligence, which makes them more valuable in the workplace.
  2. Plan for your own development. You may work for an organization that includes a formal development process, but if not, plan your own. The goal here is to bring out your fullest potential – you have to WANT to improve for it to happen. And when you discover what really matters to you, you’ll foster real change. Understanding what you can work on and how to improve it is important. When you actively seek out new skills, you are recognized as someone willing to take the initiative. More than likely, you’ll be given more responsibility.
  3. Connect. Connect. Connect. The more connections you have in the workplace, the more opportunities present themselves. Connecting with people often means admitting to what you don’t know. As you connect with more people, you can learn exponentially. Be patient. Give people a chance to get to know you, and trust you. And give as much as you can.
  4. Say Thank You. The most innovative managers are those who recognize the work of others. Why? Because they encourage innovation and productivity. Recognition doesn’t have to be expensive, or hard. It may mean giving a spot award to someone who has made a concerted effort to launch an initiative. If a team deserves recognition, consider something that may not be the norm for your workplace – wearing blue jeans for one week, for example. You can also consider recognizing anniversaries – perhaps a lunch outing or an unexpected coffee and bagel.
  5. Plan your goals, and strive to implement them. Work with your manager to plan your goals. And then make sure you review these goals daily. Try printing them out and posting them at your desk. Being proactive about progress and challenges will make you a better employee.
  6. Manage your time more constructively. Think about the day’s activities. What usually pulls you away from your important work? Whatever it is, minimize the time you spend on that activity. If it’s email, try checking your email just twice a day. If it’s finding files, develop a system that’s easier to remember.
  7. Make things easier for your boss. The idea here is to be more concise. Can you send emails that get to the point quicker? Leave out all the details that are unimportant and get to the point immediately. Can you give regular updates on a project rather than wait to be asked? Be honest. Your manager will trust you more. Ask questions. If you admit what you don’t know, you are more likely to build respect. And in many cases, your manager can point you to someone who may have the answer.
  8. Deal with conflict proactively. The cardinal rule is to first find out what’s causing the conflict. It may just be a stressful time in the workplace. Or it could be an overload of emotions. Talk it out. Suggest a compromise. See our tips in the next article.

You probably have ideas of your own on how you can be a better employee. This may in fact, be a good discussion to have with your manager. Be open to new ideas. You manager will come away realizing that you are on the job to be more productive. You benefit. Your organization benefits. It’s a win-win.

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn this month. I’ll provide more information on how to be a better employee! Share your ideas with me!

Keys to Dealing with Conflict

  1.  Conflict word cloudSound business practices. Don’t assume. Instead, define acceptable behavior. Having clearly defined job descriptions help. Effective communication from leadership goes a long way to avoiding conflicts.
  2. Don’t shrink. Some people go to great lengths to avoid conflict. What usually happens in such cases is that conflict grows. At the first suggestion, seek out potential areas of conflict and resolve them. The time you spend identifying potential projects will help you avoid future conflict.
  3. Identify motivations. If you can approach the problem from the prospective of what’s the best action needed to help everyone reach their objectives, you should find few obstacles
  4. How important is it? While it’s best to meet conflict head-on, there are some conflicts that are not important. If you call attention to the problem, you may just be blowing it out of proportion.
  5. Conflict is really an opportunity. There is some learning possibility that comes from any conflict. Take advantage of that opportunity and build in the potential for growth and development. Opposite positions can stimulate innovation and learning. Take advantage of it.

Ditch Bad Habits This Year

Can 2017 be the year that you get rid of bad habits and make real strides forward? It can, but it requires new thinking. Moving forward means we have to drop some of the things we hold onto, even though they may be things we’ve come to expect, and accept. I’m one of the worst at letting go! I know it. The people around me know it. But sometimes, it seems that I just HAVE to keep those old habits going. Not this year. I’m going to make a concerted effort to let go of these bad habits. Do you want to join me? They say that if we join forces, there’s a better chance we’ll succeed in ditching our bad habits. Here’s a list of bad habits often seen in the workplace.

Striving for perfection. While we all want our work to be correct, striving for the perfect result does not pay off. We lose time, the project takes longer to complete and the end result is not significantly improved. Instead, we overstress ourselves and those around us.

Addiction to our phones. Have you noticed sometimes when you’re out, that everyone’s on their phones? Whether they’re playing games, on social media or checking email, it’s a habit most of us need to break. There’s a difference between responsible communication and not interacting with the people around you.

Accepting a high level of stress. I blame this one on the “east-coast-culture.” Truthfully though, it’s prevalent everywhere. There is so much going on in our lives that it’s easy to accept a high level of stress as normal. We sometimes contribute to our own stress. Even before we begin work, our thinking turns negative. We say to ourselves, “I’ll never get this all done today!” It’s up to us to break our own stress habit. We can turn our attitude around by saying “Let’s see how much I can get done on this project today.”

Sticking with the way we’ve always done things. There are so many tasks that can be done faster and more efficiently today than in the past. These tasks may require learning new technology – which can be frightening to many. But spending time to sit down with someone who can explain a faster way of accomplishing a tasks broadens our minds and keeps us current.

Acting too quickly. When I can’t answer emails quickly, I notice that some problems solve themselves.  The same thing happens in meetings. When we listen to the discussion for a while, rather than come to a quick decision, the best way to solve the problem surfaces naturally. Holding back, rather than jumping in too quickly, is often more effective.

Follow me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn this month. I’ll provide more information on bad habits we should kick and how to succeed! Share your ideas with me!

Four Ways To Engage Your Employees

The Word Results on a Brick Wall Background

  1. Listen. Every company has good ideas. The question is, are they recognized? Too often, the good suggestions fall on deaf ears. Even if an idea seems silly, or not doable, before you reject it, let it work itself inside your brain for a while. Often, the best ideas come from where the work is being done.
  2. Get Feedback From Within. Being recognized by our manager is important, but just as important, and maybe more sincere, is the recognition we get from our colleagues. Start a campaign where employees can recognize the work of others.
  3. Inform. Sometimes organizations don’t see the need to inform everyone of progress, issues and roadblocks. So instead of knowing what’s going on, employees guess. Or wonder. A thorough understanding of the situation engages employees even more powerfully. Providing information encourages a culture of assistance. Instead of being discouraged, employees are more likely to ask, what can we do to overcome this barrier?
  4. Involve. No one is expected to have all the answers. Even management can’t possibly have all the answers. Involving employees in decisions is powerful. With involvement comes ownership. Employees work harder to make it happen.

Working Effectively as a Team, Motivating Employees, Building Trust and Integrity – these are just some of the courses we’ve developed for organizations. How can we help you? Give us a call at 301-670-0051. Let us help you put a plan in place to instill a culture of accomplishment in your organization.

Planning for the Year Ahead

Business strategic planningYour business plan is essential to the success of your organization. Your plan is your map. It not only describes what you are going to do, but also provides a direction on how you and your team will get there. Without this execution strategy, your plan is meaningless.

Having a solid plan for how your department or organization will run is a key component of its smooth and successful operation. Your plan is critical to achieving success. It’s important to you, your managers and equally important for the staff you lead. Everyone needs to understand how your organization should be run on a daily basis. Your thoughts and expectations should be clearly defined.

Obviously, for smaller organizations, the business will be far more streamlined and less complicated than it is for larger ones, but your plan still needs to demonstrate an understanding of the work required and how you’ll handle the work flow.

So let’s discuss how you can put together a plan that is organized and understood. Your plan should contain the following items.

Mission. Your mission should be clearly defined so that everyone knows what your organization or department does and why you do it. You may be part of a broader mission, but your organization should still have its own mission. A clear and thoughtful mission statement creates a connection with the organization and the people you serve.

Keys to Success. Organizations have a few key factors that lead to success. What are the things your organization must do to be successful? List these factors in your plan.

Analysis of your organization’s position. Think about your organization’s position or circumstances. A good tool to use is a SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. What is the present position of your organization and how does it need to grow, or change?

Description of Services. What are the services you offer to the rest of your organization? A clear description of these services, what they do and the benefits they provide are important. You may provide a variety of services, depending on whether your customers are internal, external or both.

Delivery Requirements. You must define the requirements of the services you will deliver. These requirements may be set by your team or defined by an outside source. In either case, deciding the measurements and stating them within your plan is important to tracking success. Your next step is to define the responsibilities around each step and the tactics you will take to accomplish your goals. These requirements will play a key role in helping you analyze the success of your staff and the organization as a whole.

Implementation Plan. How are you going to carry out your plan to provide the services needed by others? Your plan should be strategic. Each task should bring you closer to accomplishing the plan.

Objectives. There is a reason why you are taking certain steps, or actions. These are the objectives – and should be stated in your plan. The objectives also help to define success factors.

Personnel and Expertise Needs. Your managers and staff carry out most of your plan. It’s important that everyone understands his or her responsibilities, as well as the qualifications for doing the job. Our next article provides more detail on roles and responsibilities within the plan.

Leah M. Joppy & Associates would like to be your partner in your strategic plan. We provide training – training for leadership, professional and personal development, and many different types of computer training. Give us a call at 301-670-0051 and let us help you achieve faster results with your team.