Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gotta Get Some!

Energy, that is. We’ve all been there – some more than others – wish you had more energy to do more, stay awake longer, or have more concentration. Yeah, you’ve been there.

Jon Gordon, author of
The 10-Minute Energy Solution says that, "Everyone has lows. The key is to know when your energy is down and what you can do to turn it around." He maps out a 30-day plan with a simple 10-minute exercise each day to give you a boost physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Here are 10 things you can do:

1. Start your day with a positive energy walk. Step briskly and say what you're thankful for. Think positive thoughts like "I look forward to the rest of the day, the people I'm going to meet, the things I'm going to learn." Or complete these sentences: "I believe that... I trust that..."
2. Neutralize the "energy vampires," the people who drain you. They’re everywhere. Counter their negative comments and attitude with kindness and compassion. Notice something? Another person's negativity can only bring you down if you let it. Like I always say, attitude you give = attitude you get.
3. Lose your mind. No, don't go any more crazy than you already are. Go meditate. Sit in a quiet place. Focus on your breathing. Inhale and think of a word like so or one or peace. Exhale and think of the same word or another. (Gordon likes the mantra so hum.) Repeat with each breath. If a thought floats into your head, let it float out, and focus on your breathing and mantra again. "You want to lose your thoughts, your thinking mind, so you can be one with the moment," Gordon explains.
4. Add play to your day. Run around the yard with your kids or your dog (chase a squirrel). Put on your favorite pick-me-up song and dance. Grab three tennis balls and try to juggle them. Go for a bike ride. Build something out of Legos or Lincoln Logs – remember those? Write the lyrics to your life as a funny country song (and then share it with me!).
5. Connect. Call an old friend you haven't talked to in a while. Invite a coworker to lunch. Drop a line -
not by email but by good, old-fashioned pen and paper (wow, what a concept) - to someone you don't see often.
6. Smile and laugh. Walk around your office and smile at your coworkers. They won't think you're strange (probably), just in a good mood. Several times a day, think of a funny joke or experience, and laugh.
7. Let stress go. "Energy is like a river," Gordon says. "Stress blocks it." To get it flowing again, first, list your stresses. Take a deep breath and clench your hands into fists, as if you're holding on to all the stress. Exhale forcefully, opening your hands and throwing your arms wide. Feel your tension release? Good. Say, "I choose not to have my stress. I let it go." Repeat this exercise for each stress you listed and let it go.
8. Pray for someone. It recharges your spiritual batteries. Studies suggest those who have a strong faith are better able to handle adversity. Make a list of people and what they need help and prayers for. Find a quiet spot and get comfortable. Listen to your breath, feel your heart beat. When you're nice and relaxed, pray for each person on your list.
9. Look for signs of grace. Think about the times in your life when you thought something bad happened, but it turned out to be a blessing. It may have happened and you just haven't realized it yet. Write these experiences down. Next time something you didn't want or expect occurs, look back on this list and remind yourself everything happens for a reason, even if you don't see it just yet.
10. Do a little lifting. Giving someone else a lift gives you a lift too. In one study, college students who performed five small acts of kindness a day (such as helping a friend with a paper or visiting an elderly relative) experienced a significant increase in well-being. What will your five acts of kindness be? Plan two. Then
look for three random opportunities to be kind as the day unfolds. If you come across more, keep going! As Gordon says, "Positive energy never decreases by being shared. With each gift, it grows."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

So You Think That's Funny? Good!

Things getting a bit too serious and stressful around the ole think tank? I bet you didn’t know that, besides making it a more enjoyable place to work, adding a bit of humor can significantly enhance your own professional development. In a survey conducted by Robert Half International, 91% of executives surveyed consider a sense of humor important to career advancement. The other 9%’s last name was Scrooge.

A chuckle here and there can help you build rapport with the staff around you, encourage open communication, and contribute to a positive work environment overall. And, possibly most importantly, a comic touch can work to relieve tension on even the most stressful days (even if that’s every day).

But keep in mind that not all fun and games are well received. It's crucial to take into consideration your organization's, and your co-workers', perceptions when it comes to comic relief. Humor should be work appropriate and never mean-spirited or at the expense of others.

Here are some tips to keep things on the up and up:
Just say no to sarcasm
People often use humor as an indirect way of criticizing others. "I can't believe you're here on time -- what's the occasion?" Sarcasm is rarely a good idea, so keep these types of comments to yourself.

Be the butt of your own joke
Go ahead, poke fun at your peculiarity’s. This can put others at ease when you’re around, and you don't risk offending someone else by making him or her the target. Just be sure to keep your comments light - you don't want your co-workers to think your attempt at humor is a cry for help.

Laugh with others
You don’t have to be the court jester. You can be perceived as having a great sense of humor without ever telling a joke. Just tune in to the humor styles of those around you and share in the fun.

Creating a fun culture at work can bring about positive advantages such as improving communication, reducing stress, and increasing productivity. So don't be afraid to flex the ole funny bone once in awhile - just be sure you do it in an appropriate way.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009


THE root cause of a problem is seldom the first idea that you come up with. So you end up struggling with what types of problem-solving techniques to use (there are MANY). The 5 Whys is a simple technique that helps you get to the root of the problem quickly. It simply involves looking at any problem and asking, "Why?" The answer to the first "why" will prompt another "why", and the answer to the second "why" will prompt another, and so on. This is pretty much where the name 5 Whys comes from. Duh. Pretty simplistic.

Like I said, it’s easy. Start at the problem and work backwards to find the root cause, continually asking, "Why?" Repeat it over and over until the root cause of the problem becomes apparent. It’s kind of like trying to explain something to a kid – “You have to go to bed.” “Why?” “Because it’s time.” “Why?” Yadda-yadda-yadda. You get the picture.

Here’s an example:
1. Why is our client ready to drop us? Because we didn’t deliver our product when we said we would.
2. Why didn't we deliver our product when we said we would? The job took much longer than we thought it would.
3. Why did the job take so much longer? Because we underestimated the complexity of the job.
4. Why did we underestimate the complexity of the job? Because we made a quick estimate of the time needed to complete it, and didn’t list all the steps needed to get it done.
5. Why did we make such a quick estimate? Because we were running behind on other projects and didn’t clearly review our time estimation and procedures.

From there you can make plans to ensure that no matter how behind you’re running you have a process in place to properly plan and review time estimations and procedures.

The 5 Whys is an easy and quick tool for uncovering the root of a problem. Because it’s so elementary, it can be adapted quickly and applied to most any problem, AND by most ANYONE. Keep in mind though, that if it doesn't get you a decent answer, there are many other problem-solving techniques you can choose from. The 5 Whys just happens to be my personal favorite.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

We’ve Got Some Work To Do

I recently read the Josephson Institute’s 2008 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth. It was based on a survey of nearly 30,000 students in high schools across the U.S. It’s quite alarming as this is the future. NOW is the time to be working with kids to get them, and keep them, on the right track to success. These are the people that will be running our local businesses and international corporations in the near future.

The report showed that a “total of 30 percent of teens admitted stealing from a store within the past year.” One “good” thing about this is that “Honors students (21 percent), student leaders (24 percent), and students involved in youth activities like the YMCA and school service clubs (27 percent) were less likely to steal.” Although not totally, positive influence programs DO help.

It goes on to say that “42 percent said that they sometimes lie to save money. More than eight in ten students (83 percent) confessed they lied to a parent about something significant.” And “64 percent cheated on a test during the past year (38 percent did so two or more times).”

“Despite these high levels of dishonesty, the respondents have a high self-image when it comes to ethics. A whopping 93 percent said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character and 77 percent said that when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.”

Personal responsibility, personal ethics, leadership – these things don’t necessarily come naturally. Why wait to teach them till bad habits have already taken root? Get involved with local schools or the “Y” as a volunteer or a mentor and start shaping tomorrow’s replacements today.