Leadership

Five Ways to Beat the Winter Blues

Beat the Winter BluesIt’s winter and chances are you may feel less energetic than usual. Shorter days with less sunlight, coupled with the season’s characteristically inclement weather, may have you reaching for sweat pants and flannel sheets, comfort food, and the remote control.

The weather outside may be frightful, but the recession’s climate of uncertainty can also make for a bleak forecast. Coupled with job and financial stress this year, the usual winter blues may be magnified for some with headlines that are hard to ignore.

Unemployment has remained steady throughout the past year as companies have cut their workforce to operate with minimal staff. Research conducted by Express Employment Professionals found that 68% of employed survey respondents feel that their workload has increased, with 49% also reporting higher stress levels.

Whether you’re looking for a job or feeling stressed in your current position, here are some ways to stay positive this winter and throughout the new year:

Stay engaged with lifelong learning: Whether it’s through a local college or just your local library, pursue an interest with an evening class or seminar. You’ll have something to look forward to a few nights each week and the experience can help spark creativity, an attribute that’s highly sought in professionals.

Get some exercise – with a friend: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that winter weight gain averages four to six pounds. Make plans with a friend to take a brisk winter walk, go ice skating, or head to the gym. You’ll release stress-fighting endorphins and have the opportunity to spend quality time with others.

Write a card to someone: Write a cheery note to someone, just because. It doesn’t have to be a special occasion to make a friend feel valued, and it can actually boost your mood as well.

Change your work routine: If your work allows you to take an additional break now and then, try to get up, stretch, and walk around during the day. Bring a special blend of coffee to try with your co-workers, organize a fun lunch together, or find other meaningful ways to change your work routine.

Take a break from technology: Society is now more connected than ever and it’s easy to feel bombarded by negative news. Give yourself permission to turn off your TV, mobile devices, and computer for awhile. A little down time can go a long way.

Find a balance: While sleeping to avoid stressful situations can be a sign of depression, it’s also important to get plenty of rest. Eight hours of sleep and sticking to an established sleep schedule is part of wellness. A good night’s rest can change the next day’s perspective.

Don’t let the winter blahs get the best of you. Stay focused on feeling confident in your job or job search, and seek out the support you need. Regardless of the season, you always have the ability to make positive changes to impact your life today.

3 Tips to Finding Your True Strengths in the Workplace

Everyone is born with special talents, skills, and gifts that they exercise throughout their lifetime. Whether it’s personal growth or growth within your job position, there are ways you can improve your skills. In your career, it’s important to find your strengths and build on your skills. Learning new skills and tools help you develop yourself or even help make your job easier. Follow this three-step process to improve yourself in the workplace.

Discover your strengths. You have lots of different skills and abilities that help make you who you are as an employee and as a person. Your strengths will help you stand out at work. But, in order to put your strengths to good use, you have to know what they are. So, take the initiative to find resources that can help you identify your assets and skills. Books like Strengths Finder 2.0 are great for identifying your strengths and learning how you can build on them. Talking to your employer, co-workers, and friends is another great way to get perspective on the things you excel in. Building your skills and strengths is important to your future. So find ways to learn about your today.

Develop your skills. When you’ve figured out what you’re good at, continue to cultivate those skills. But, don’t just stop at the skills you’ve already established. It’s not only important to develop the ones you have, it’s also important to constantly seek new ones. After finding your strengths, identify your weaknesses, and find out how you can improve and overcome them. If you want to develop a particular skill, don’t wait for someone else to lead the way. Instead, look for resources on your own. Want to develop your skills even more? Find ways to use your strengths outside of work like in organizations and at networking events or association meetings. And, don’t forget volunteer opportunities in non-profit organizations. Developing your strengths at work and in your community can improve your resume and impress your boss.

Put your strengths to good use. Building your skills and strengths is important to your future. Once you’ve identified your greatest strengths, find how you can use them. What role do you play in the group – facilitator or follower? Do you enjoy tackling problems? Once you know what your skills are, start utilizing them throughout the day. Ask your employer for projects you can tackle or for leadership opportunities in the work place. Participating in team building activities can help you develop your talents. Using your strengths during meetings and on projects will help you reach your potential. The more you use your skills, the more expertise you’ll have.

There are many things you can do to develop your skills and grow your strengths. For example, setting a goal to read a business book each month is a great start. You will be amazed at how successful you can be when you have a lot of knowledge, not to mention how helpful you will be to your business, company, and your boss. Staying in tune to what’s going on in your field is also a great way to get new ideas so be sure to stay up-to-date updated on industry news online. Check out blogs and newsletters, and focus on things you’re interested in. In addition, be sure to attend webinars and conferences where you can learn effective tools you can use at work.

Discovering skills and strengths will not only make you better at your executing tasks, but it’s also a fun and exciting way to figure out things you didn’t know about yoursel!

What’s the Worst Kind of Boss?

Chances are you’ve worked for many different types of bosses. There are four basic boss personalities you’ve probably encountered on the job: the tiger, the fox, the chameleon, and the ostrich. Each boss has their own style, and there are good and bad elements to each style. But, when a boss only uses the negative sides of their leadership instinct, it can make work miserable. So, we want to know what you think.



Want to know what kind of leader you’d be? Take our quiz and discover your leadership instinct style today!

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Set the Example

It’s safe to say that everyone is tired of this economy. And, many of today’s workers are feeling the strain because of increased workloads, longer work hours, and decreased salaries. It’s no wonder everyone doesn’t always have the greatest attitude, right?

Although you can’t control how your co-workers feel or act every day, you’re in control of your own feelings and actions. YOU can be the example you want to see in the office. You can take the initiative to make your overall office environment better and be a good example for your fellow colleagues. How? Here are a few acts of kindness you can do around the office to help relieve tension and make the day a little brighter. And, the best thing about this is you don’t have to be in a leadership position to do this. Anyone can do this.

Send a word of praise. For this, buy a greeting card. You can write a kind note on it about someone you work with, telling them such things as they did a great job on a certain project, tell the funniest jokes, are a great cook, have a wonderful fashion sense, etc. This is just a little way of letting that person know you’re glad to be their co-worker. Then, present them with the card! After that, the person who received the card has to keep the good times going by writing another positive note to another teammate and presenting it to them.

Recognize the “Stars of the Week.” Every Friday, recognize a few individuals you feel have done a great job for the week. Each week, you can recognize different individuals until everyone has been recognized for something. Include in the e-mail why you’ve recognized them for the “star” award, and if it’s OK with management, send the e-mail to everyone on your team so they can check it out. If you want, you can also award small prizes.

Find out how things are going. Find out how your teammates are doing. What are their interests, how is their family doing, do they plans for the weekend? Make it a point to just chat with them and get to know them. If they don’t want to share information with you, that’s OK too. But, at least you made an effort to learn more about them and that will mean something to them.

Get away from the office for lunch. Plan a lunch outing for you and your co-workers. Take a vote on where everyone wants to eat, and go there for your ENTIRE lunch hour. It’s important to use your break to relax. Make it a rule for the outing that no one can talk about work during lunch.

Potluck, anyone? Everyone likes food, so why not have a potluck one Friday? You could either do a breakfast or lunch potluck. This is a cost effective choice instead of everyone going to a restaurant to eat.

Bring cupcakes, just because. Surprise everyone on your team with cupcakes just to help brighten their day.

Start a book club. Despite the economy, you and your teammates still have an opportunity to learn and advance your skills within your current job roles. Purchase books on leadership and strengths development and start a weekly book club. This gives you a chance to get to know each other more and grow your knowledge and skills.

These are just as few examples of things you can do to help create a more positive work environment and help generate some happiness. Do you have other ideas of things to do around the office to increase morale? We want to know!

Finding Your Passion, Pursuing Your Dreams

The highly anticipated 2010 Winter Olympic Games are well under way. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this year’s games and have a few favorite athletes I’m following. It’s amazing to think about all the different sports that exist for people to compete in. Freestyle skiing, figure skating, short track speed skating, snow boarding, and ice dancing are just a few of the many sports the world’s best athletes will compete in during these games. I find myself wondering how these sports ever came to exist. Have you ever stopped to think about how these athletes discovered their talent and love for their sport?

With years of practice and dedication, these athletes have honed their skills. They’ve put in hours upon hours of practice to perfect their techniques. They’ve made sacrifices. They’ve changed the way they eat, sleep, and exercise to ensure their bodies are in top condition for competition. They’ve endured injuries and setbacks. They’ve experienced triumphs and defeats. But, in the long run it has all been worth it. Along the way they have become experts at their sport, well respected and admired for their skills and abilities.

These same ideas apply to you and your career. What things in life interest you? What do you have a passion for? What is your dream? Whatever it is, take a lesson from the Olympic athletes. Discover what you love to do and make it your goal to become the best at it. If there are classes you can take, mentors you can meet with, information you can read, or organizations you can join, make it a point to do it. To achieve your dreams, you will sometimes have to make sacrifices. Stay late to finish a project instead of heading out the door as soon as the work day ends. Save your money for a training seminar you’ve wanted to take instead of buying the latest video game. Change your habits to change your life. 

As with anything, we are always continuing to grow in our professions. You don’t just wake up one morning being the best. You have to work at it.  It takes time to develop those skills, trial and error, and hours, days, and years of gaining and applying knowledge. It takes focus to become the best at what you do, so figure out what that is and pursue it to the fullest. Like Apolo Anton Ohno, you too can blaze a course in your career. You can soar to new heights like Shaun “The Flying Tomato” White. Keep your eyes focused on the gold, and you’ll come out a winner. In the end, the dedication is worth everything.

Professional Lessons from the Barnyard

Some days, the hustle and bustle of cube life doesn’t seem all that different from a barnyard full of animals. The gossip group around the water cooler sounds like a henhouse full of clucking chickens. Your cube-mate’s laugh breaks your concentration like the hee-haw of a mule. And, the papers stacking up around your desk make you feel like a tired work horse. But, despite the negative attributes your daily routine may share with a brood of barnyard animals, if you look closely, there are also positive characteristics you can learn from all creatures – great and small – to improve your work environment and career.

Not sure where to start looking? Follow theses examples to be a whole different kind of employee that companies need to lead the pack.

Be loyal like a dog. Learn an old trick from man’s best friend and be a loyal and dependable employee to your company, your supervisor, and your team. Employers know that loyalty can be a hard thing to come by, so they value trustworthy employees with devotion. By being loyal, you will stand out as top dog. You can prove your loyalty by keeping confidential information confidential, ignoring and avoiding harmful office gossip, and being a dependable employee everyone can count on.

Every dog has its day. So, choose to be reliable and faithful in your daily tasks, actions, and attitude and your loyalty will be rewarded with the affection and respect of your employer and your entire team.

Keep cool like a pig. Pigs don’t have functional sweat glands, so when things get hot, they have to cool themselves down with water or mud before they overheat. Losing your cool at work can be a career killer. So, it’s important to always maintain your composure in the office. When you’re faced with stressful situations, don’t sweat it. Instead, take a deep breath and take everything in stride, because reacting inappropriately or unprofessionally will only add fuel to an already hot fire.

Since rolling around in a mud hole is not an option, if you’re having trouble staying calm under pressure at work, take a break, find someone outside of work to talk to, or listen to music to improve your serenity and keep your cool.

Rule the roost like a rooster. No matter what your title or job position, you can be a team leader who motivates your co-workers to succeed. Start every day by rousing your colleagues with a positive and energetic attitude and outlook that is contagious. Be sure to crow loudly about your co-workers’ accomplishments and triumphs with sincere praise and celebration. Protect them from the sly predator of negativity by carefully guarding your own outlook and approach to life, work, and your company.

So, next time work gets a little crazy and messy like a pig sty, keep your cool, be a loyal and dependable employee who motivates your team, and you will be the needle in the workplace haystack.

A Simple Goal-Setting Guide

Creating goals is a great way to keep yourself motivated, focused, and progressing throughout the year. As we approach the close of the year, goal-setting is a hot topic, especially in business. But you can set goals for yourself any time of year, for any reason. To get started, determine the areas you want to set goals in.

1) Select Goal Types.

Personal – As the most common type of goals, these  may focus on personal enrichment activities, health and fitness objectives, hobbies, spiritual enrichment, etc. Though the new year is a popular time to set these goals, creating short-to-mid-term , measurable personal goals may be more realistic and help you get the results you want. 

Job Search – Looking for a job? The job search can be a long and daunting process, so create weekly and monthly goals to keep yourself on track.

Work – Want to really enjoy your work? Create goals for yourself so you can enjoy the feeling of continual success as you accomplish your daily tasks.

Career – Want to move up in your career or even switch fields? Career goals can be mid-to long- term and help you advance in your profession.

Networking – Whether in social media or in person, creating networking goals can help you expand your network and deepening relationships with important contacts.

Education – Want to pursue a degree, vocational training, or apprenticeship? Educational goals are critical because they can help you make important decisions on coursework, programs, conferences and even career choices.

2) Create SMART Goals.

Once you’ve selected the areas you want to create goals for, use the SMART goals formula to set goals that will help you progress. This formula is a time-tested way to create goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.

Specific – Make sure your goals are clear and well-defined. For example, instead of creating a health goal such as “work out more,” create a goal: “to exercise twice a week.” 

Measurable – How will you know if you’re accomplishing your goals? Make them measurable from the get-go! The goal “ to exercise twice a week” is something you can measure, as long as you can count to two! Let’s try a more complex goal, like an educational process. Instead of “to obtain a college diploma,” which is very vague, “complete 20 hours of coursework towards my bachelor’s degree this year,  is something you can check to ensure progress as time goes by.

Achievable – You don’t want to set your goals so high you can’t reach them. On the other hand, you don’t want to set them so low they don’t mean much. So, make sure you are taking into account personal, financial, and other factors. Make your goals something you can accomplish through diligent effort.

Relevant – This may seem like an odd component of a good goal, but especially when it comes to your work life, it’s important to have relevant goals. For example, if you want to become a manager, setting a goal to get a degree in philosophy might not be the best idea. So, make sure your goals are something relevant to you.

Time-based – Goals that have no deadline are little more than talk. That’s because without deadlines, you’ll find yourself procrastinating on your progress. Timelines are one of the most important parts of goal-setting, but it’s the thing most people leave out of the process. So, give your goals deadlines and stick to them!

3) Commit and Follow Through.

The final step in the goal-setting process is to write your goals down, share them with someone who can hold you accountable, and measure your progress. Also share your goal deadlines with a friend, colleague, family-member, or other trusted person. Have them follow up with you on your timeline to help keep you on track!

Are you setting goals for this month? Are you already planning goals for next year? Share your thoughts on goals in the comments section, and feel free to share a goal with us there, too!