Articles for Corporate

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    3 Ways to Be a Better Listener

    A few years ago a video, It’s Not about the Nail, went viral. Today it’s been viewed more than 16 million times. In case you haven’t seen it, it's worth the watch! 

    The video shows a husband and wife arguing about a nail in her forehead that is snagging all of her sweaters and causing her headaches. When her husband tries to tell her that the nail is causing the problem, she becomes defensive and tells him he always tries to fix things - when what she really needs is for him to listen. When he listens to her describe how awful it is to have this constant nagging pain, he responds by saying, “That sounds really hard.” Relieved that she feels like he finally understands, she says, “It is. Thank you.”

    Whether you are listening to your child, a co-worker, your spouse or you are the one wanting others to listen to you, something powerful happens when people feel like they are not only being listened to, but completely heard. 

    When people were asked, “How do you know when someone is listening to you?” they said things like, “They don’t interrupt me when I am talking. They look at me. I can tell they are 100 percent zoned in to what I am saying and not distracted by their phone or who might be walking through the door. They ask questions to make sure they are on the right track.”

    Most people believe they are good listeners, but when you get right down to it, we live in a society that is filled with noise, and most of us have a hard time slowing down enough to listen well. In fact, many have gotten so used to the chatter they literally have a hard time focusing when things get quiet. 

    One thing is for sure: You cannot seek to listen well and also be doing something else. 

    David Myers’ work as the director of the Brain Cognition Lab at the University of Michigan makes it very clear that the brain does NOT multitask. It may act in parallel functions (touch, sound, vision), but when engaging in distinctly different tasks, the brain operates like a toggle switch - jumping from one thing to another. You cannot be looking at emails and listening to someone talk about their day at the same time. It’s literally impossible.

    If you want to enhance your listening skills, consider trying some of these strategies:

    • Be attentive. If you are in a place filled with distractions, move to a different room. If timing is bad, say so and propose a different time to talk so someone can have your full attention. 
    • Ask questions. Sometimes, asking clarifying questions can help to make sure you are tracking with the conversation and not making assumptions. This also helps cut down on the temptation to start crafting your response instead of listening to the very end.
    • Pay attention to body language. Even young children will grab their parent’s face and say, “Look at me,” when they are trying to tell them about their day. We can tell when people are present without really being present by the look in their eyes. Turn toward the person who is speaking and make eye contact with them - it shows them you are not just physically present in the moment. Taking notes can help you stay focused, but it also sends a message that you are paying attention.

    Listening is a skill that takes practice. If we are honest, most of us would admit we can do a better job of listening to the people in our world, whether we agree with them or not. While listening well takes time and energy, it’s a worthwhile investment in any relationship, especially since communication involves both talking AND active listening. People know that what they say matters when you listen well. 

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    Why Soft Skills Matter in the Workplace

    People often talk about what helps young people succeed in the job market. In the last few years, we've placed tremendous emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The question is, however, will these skills actually help young adults find and keep jobs?

    In a recent Washington Post article, Cathy Davidson cites two studies touting that workforce readiness isn’t only about the hard skills. Take Google, for instance. They analyzed hiring, firing and promotion data since the company began in 1998. The most important qualities of Google’s top employees were: being a good coach, communicating and listening well, people smarts - valuing different points of view and values, having empathy toward and being supportive of colleagues, being a critical thinker and problem solver, and being able to make connections across complex ideas. Guess what came in last? STEM expertise.

    Additionally, Google found that their highest functioning teams were not necessarily the teams with the smartest team members. Instead, they were the teams with members that exhibited these traits: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of teammates, empathy, emotional intelligence and emotional safety.

    Caroline Beaton, a Forbes contributor who covers the psychology of millennials at work, asked more than 100 top HR managers, recruiters and CEOs what was important for entry-level job seekers. Nearly all of them said soft skills such as leadership, communication and collaboration were more important than others. The head of HR at Prezi said he looks for candidates with a solid foundation of soft skills and trusts the rest can be built upon those. 

    According to Beaton’s research, there are four additional soft skills that are under-discussed yet essential for workplace success: focus, more than a college degree, agility and humility. 

    Employers today look for workers who can concentrate, which is apparently difficult due to various things, including technology. Additionally, Beaton shared that while employers value higher education, many interviewers said college graduates often lack people skills. One CEO said that recent college graduates do not have the necessary skills, and he realizes he must hire someone who is still willing to learn after graduating from college.

    Job seekers who can adapt and adjust will have a leg up when it comes to applying for a job due to the fast pace of change in almost every workplace. One CEO said she looks for individuals who demonstrate resourcefulness, goals-driven behavior, team player mentality and relentlessness. 

    Finally, Beaton found that employers want to hire humble people who don’t take themselves too seriously and are willing to admit when they don’t know something - in addition to willingly asking for help when they need it.

    Undoubtedly, hard skills are important. The Google research, along with others, shows that teaching soft skills will be every bit as important in preparing the next generation well for the real world of work.

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    What You Need to Know About Sexual Assault

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    Involved Fathers are Good for the Workplace

    Most CEOs know that a satisfied workforce yields higher productivity. They also know that retaining employees is better and more cost-effective than dealing with turnover issues like recruitment and training. But do they know that many employees are conflicted about the time they spend at work versus with family?

    When a national survey by the Families and Work Institute asked what factors were very important in taking a job, 60 percent of respondents cited “effect on personal/family life.”

    Yet the big question still looms: “If we become more family-friendly, will it hurt the bottom line?” Perhaps the better question is, “How does not being family-friendly affect the bottom line?”

    CEOs and upper level managers may want to explore these findings from the survey of almost 1,000 working fathers. Updating the Organization Man: An Examination of Involved Fathering in the Workplace was published in the February 2015 Academy of Management Perspectives. It found that fathers who spend more time with their children on a typical day are more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to want to leave their organizations. These men also experience less work-family conflict and greater work-family enrichment.

    The survey also revealed that the more hours men devote to their children, the less central their careers are to their identities. This might create some anxiety for management.  However, the study's authors found that involved fathering is not just good for workers. It's also good for the companies via its positive association with a fathers’ job satisfaction, commitment to their work and lowered intentions to quit.

    Previous work/life balance studies show that women experience more on-the-job conflict when they devote more time to their children. Why does spending time with their children equate with good job results for men, but increased conflict for women? The authors surmise that working fathers experience ambiguity around their fathering identity. However, they do not seem to experience threat to their work identities in the same way that mothers do. Perhaps men don’t experience the same level of guilt that working mothers feel. And it's possible that men don’t view caring for children as a source of stress.

    Additionally, on a scale of 1 (not important) to 5 (extremely important), study participants rated the most important aspects of being a good father this way:

    • Providing love and emotional support received an average rating of 4.6.

    • Providing discipline and financial security each received a 4.0.

    • Participating in day-to-day childcare tasks received an average rating of 3.9.

    The study’s authors challenge employers to recognize the changes in how men view their roles. Many of today’s fathers desire to be more than the traditional organization men. As men transition from a narrow definition of fatherhood to one that embraces work and family, they must find a happy medium between the two. Doing meaningful work and living meaningful lives enhances their effectiveness, both as workers and caregivers.

    It's encouraging to see from this study that fathers truly see the benefits of being there. Plus, when a company’s bottom line is stronger, imagine the positive impact this has on a man’s family.

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    How to Be a Family-Friendly Workplace

    If you were a CEO or business owner, how could you help increase productivity, improve your bottom line and decrease employee turnover?

    You might think it all boils down to money. But what if the answer was to simply help your employees lead more fulfilling lives and be better family members?

    In 2009, the Sloan Center for Aging at Boston College studied this topic. Ninety percent of workers said that workplace flexibility moderately or greatly contributes to their quality of life. And, a 2010 study of IBM employees suggests that telecommuting workers find it easier to balance work and family life.

    Studies consistently indicate that a family-friendly workplace is the key to higher productivity and a better bottom line. In October 2016, Working Mother magazine released its annual 100 Best Companies list. The magazine asked these companies why they invested in work-life benefits such as on-site child care, flex time, job sharing and telecommuting. The unanimous answer was, “It benefits the bottom line.”

    More companies are seeing the advantage in adopting these practices. However, only a small percentage of U.S. companies have included family-friendly policies into their benefits package. Some companies cite cost as a reason for not doing so.

    Professors from Stanford, the University of Munich and the London School of Economics conducted extensive research to see if family-friendly workplace practices are worth the money. The result? Family-friendly firms saw an impact in areas such as employee retention, improved attitudes and behaviors. Interestingly, the amount of money spent equaled the financial benefit derived from these policies. According to the researchers, family-friendly workplace practices may not increase profits, but they at least pay for themselves.

    There is a downside to not adopting family-friendly workplace policies. The Business Case for Work-Family Programs reports that employees who experience work-family conflict are three times more likely to think about quitting their jobs than those who do not have that conflict. And according to Working Mother magazine, turnover from work-family issues costs companies about three times the job’s annual salary for an executive or managerial position. The cost is one and a half times the salary for line positions. Hidden expenses such as delays and training time also affect the bottom line.

    You can take steps to make your company more family-friendly. When implementing these policies, make sure you communicate with and include workers at all business levels.

    • Offer child care in the workplace and encourage both parents to utilize it. Employee child care centers allow workers to be near their children during the day.
    • Offer flex-scheduling so parents can participate more in their child’s schooling, doctor appointments, social activities, etc. Giving employees more control over when and where they do their jobs is an important element of reducing the work-family conflict. It allows the employee to feel better about his or her job because it is not taking away from family time.
    • Develop family-friendly policies for both parents that cover arrangements for the birth of children or a family illness.
    • Survey employees to assess their needs. This provides a clearer picture of what families need and cuts down on wasted time and energy establishing unnecessary programs.

    October is National Work and Family Month. It's a month nationally recognized by businesses, academic institutions, federal agencies, members of Congress, work-life advocacy groups and individuals who want to make it easier for employees to succeed at work and at home. How is your organization’s work-life effectiveness?

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    How to Score Those Life Goals

    When University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling coach Heath Eslinger spoke to Chattanooga's Downtown Rotary Club in February 2017, he shared a story about watching his daughters play basketball on their second and third grade team.

    “It was late in the fourth quarter and the score was tied. With about 10 seconds to go, our team was throwing it in. The coach called a play, the girls scattered, we passed it in, took the shot and missed," said Eslinger.

    "The best player on the opposing team, who was possibly the best player in the age division in the entire league, gets the rebound, takes one dribble and goes right back up - putting the ball perfectly off the square - makes a layup and the ball goes in.”

    The young lady put forth great effort. She spent energy to make it happen. And, her technique was the best on the floor. Unfortunately, she put the ball in the wrong basket and won the game for the opposing team.

    Eslinger asked Rotary members a to consider a question.

    In all of the places where you spend your time – home, workplace, places of faith, schools, etc., are you shooting in the right basket?

    "I work in the world of athletics where we may be missing the mark as much or more than any other,” Eslinger shared. “We have great intentions, spend lots of energy and give great effort. But often times, we are shooting in the wrong basket.”

    Eslinger embraces two guiding principles in all that he does:

    • Put focus on the good AND the great.
    • We must teach both global and stable attributes.

    “Jim Collins wrote Good to Great,” Eslinger said. “It is a phenomenal book, but I believe we must have a priority on the good as well. Great is the evaluation of what we do – wins and losses, GPA, test scores, etc. Good is the essence of what we do – providing hope, instilling a moral compass and teaching someone how to build meaningful relationships.”

    When it comes to global and stable attributes, Eslinger quipped that it had been a long time since he had used a wrestling move to get something he needed in life.

    “Qualities such as empathy, teamwork, resilience, discipline, self-control - these traits cross boundaries and will stand the test of time.”

    What about you? When you catch a pass, get a rebound, or go to the free throw line in life's journey, do you consider what basket really matters?

    According to Eslinger, if we want our education system to improve, we have to determine what basket really matters.

    “If we want our teams to excel, we must invest in the right basket. If we want our children and our grandchildren and our great grandchildren to survive in this world that often seems chaotic, then we must make a decision to invest in the right basket,” he said.

    Finally, Eslinger cited Andy Stanley’s book, The Principle of the Path.

    “The principle of the path is simple. Direction will always determine destination,” Eslinger said. “I challenge all of us to run in a direction that matters and shoot in a basket that counts.”

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    The Key to Finding Your Purpose

    People who serve in leadership positions are often the ones in the spotlight. They also usually receive accolades for changing people’s lives. When it comes to finding your significance though, Dr. Kathleen Patterson contends that it isn’t all about the spotlight.

    “During my childhood, I lived in an orphanage,” says Patterson, who directs Regent University’s Doctor of Strategic Leadership Program. “When I was in the second grade, I did not know how to read. I remember my teacher taking me home and patiently working with me to help me learn how to read. She had no idea I would go on to get a college degree and a doctoral degree. She wasn’t in the spotlight, but she made a difference in my life.”

    When people were asked, “If you could ask God or your supreme being any question and get an answer, what would you ask?” They most frequently asked, “What is my purpose?” Or, “Why am I here?”

    “In many instances, people struggle to find their purpose and they believe if they aren’t doing something significant in the world’s eyes, they can’t really make a difference,” Patterson says. “The reality is, that’s just faulty thinking. Just like my teacher, there are many men and women who aren’t in the spotlight, yet they are leading from the seat they are in and making a difference in people’s lives.”

    Patterson contends that the world’s definition of significance may not necessarily be where people truly experience it. In fact, many believe that being the ‘top dog’ will create significance.

    “The world tells us you have to take charge in order to be significant,” Patterson shares.

    “However, many have found significance in quietly serving others. According to the world, money, fame, beauty, intellect, power and accolades make people significant. If that is true, why do so many people at the time they are preparing to leave this world lament the time they spent pursuing these things at the expense of the relationships that mattered most to them?

    “A friend of mine who served as dean of a college was giving a ride home to one of the housekeepers for the men’s dorm,” Patterson says. “He asked her how her job was going. She said, ‘I never graduated high school. I don’t have a degree, but I love my job. I won’t be the one to find a cure for cancer, but I might be cleaning the room of someone who will. My goal is to do my job to the best of my ability every day.’ This reminded me once again that you clearly do not have to be leading the pack to make a difference.”

    Finally, Patterson says that although the world tells people to seek comfort, we often find our significance in the midst of difficult things.

    Fifty years ago, while in high school, a diving accident left Joni Eareckson Tada a quadriplegic. At first she spent a lot of time asking, “Why me?” She eventually asked, “Why not me?” She went on to create camps to help quadriplegic adults and children adjust and deal with their unique challenges. Through the biggest challenge she had ever faced, she ultimately found her purpose and significance.

    “The truth is, we don’t have to wait until we accomplish great things. And the spotlight is shining on us to impact the lives of people around us,” Patterson says.

    Most of us can probably look back and remember those who shaped, supported or challenged us in some way. They may never have known it, but their actions somehow affected us. Perhaps the key to finding significance is to live in the moment and do the next right thing, one step at a time. 

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    Relationships are Key to Happiness

    What's the secret to a happy life? Many might say that money is a big part of the equation. But intrigued with discovering the secrets to a meaningful and happy life, a group of Harvard researchers launched a study in 1938. Then, they followed 268 male Harvard undergraduates - for 75 years.

    The unique Harvard Grant Study collected data on the men’s lives through surveys and interviews. They looked at all aspects, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies and alcohol use. What they found may surprise you.

    Perhaps one of the biggest revelations was that love really does matter when it comes to living a fulfilled life.

    In his book about the study, Triumphs of Experience, Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant, study director from 1972 to 2004, writes: “There are two pillars of happiness. One is love. The other is finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.”

    The study’s most important finding? Relationships are the only things that matter in life. You could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, you'd be unhappy. The ability to take in love is a great human skill.

    Interestingly, Vaillant says that so many of the things people thought mattered when it comes to happiness don’t. For example, many believe money and social class are vital to success. These two things were at the bottom of the list.

    Even our earliest relationships are important to long-term happiness, especially the mother-child relationship. Men who had a warm mother-child bond were less likely to develop dementia later in life. They were also more likely to have professional success.

    Avoiding smoking and not abusing alcohol were by far the most important things to increase longevity. The study found that alcohol abuse was the greatest disruptor of health and happiness for the study’s subjects. Alcoholism was the leading cause of divorce among the 268 men and their wives. Plus, a strong correlation existed between alcohol abuse, neurosis and depression. Interestingly, the mental illness followed the alcohol abuse rather than preceding it.

    Another interesting finding: More money, power and intelligence do not mean more happiness. Vaillant found that men with IQs between 110 and 115 were no more or less happy than men with IQs higher than 150. Furthermore, the only thing that really matters when it comes to achievement is contentment at work. Having a meaningful connection to our work is more important than achieving traditional success.

    Additionally, Vaillant found that early success did not necessarily mean future success. Conversely, failure early in life did not necessarily mean ultimate failure. In fact, some who seemed they would not end up doing well actually became successful. Vaillant shares that the journey from immaturity to maturity is a sort of movement from narcissism to connection. Moreover, a big part of this shift has to do with the way challenges are handled.

    In the end, it all comes back to relationships, connection and love. Are you on a pathway to happiness and a meaningful life or a dead-end road?

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    5 Benefits of Play for Adults

    Imagine walking down the street and hearing laughter and hollering coming from around the corner. Assuming it is a group of children, you turn the corner and see blindfolded adults being led around by other adults. Balls fly through the air as the blindfolded people attempt to tag other blindfolded people. In the midst of it all you see that these people are clearly having fun.

    Most parents know about the importance of play for their children, but what about the importance of play for grown-ups?

    The National Institute for Play (NIP) believes that play can dramatically transform our personal health, our relationships, the education we provide our children and the capacity of our corporations to innovate.

    Perhaps you have heard the saying, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." There is probably more truth to the saying than most realize. Research indicates that without play, it is hard to give your best at work or at home.

    What do you do on a regular basis for fun? When did you last go down a slide, play hide and go seek or join a good game of whiffle ball? Many adults have the mindset that they are too old to be playful. There is actually strong evidence that this could not be further from the truth. Play may be the very thing that keeps you young and healthier. In fact, studies show that a life lived without play is at increased risk for stress-related diseases, mental health issues, addiction and interpersonal violence.

    Are there more benefits?

    • According to the NIP, play is the gateway to vitality. By its nature, it is uniquely and intrinsically rewarding.

    • Play generates optimism, seeks out novelty, makes perseverance fun and leads to mastery. Additionally, it gives the immune system a bounce, fosters empathy and promotes a sense of belonging and community. Each of these byproducts are indices of personal health, and their shortage predicts impending health problems and personal fragility.

    • It also enhances relationships. The NIP cites studies that indicate that play refreshes a long-term adult-adult relationship.

    • Some of the hallmarks of its refreshing, oxygenating action are: humor, the enjoyment of novelty and the capacity to share a lighthearted sense of the world’s ironies. Other hallmarks are the enjoyment of mutual storytelling and the capacity to openly divulge imagination and fantasies.

    • Playful communications and interactions, when nourished, produce a climate for easy connection and a deepening, more rewarding relationship - true intimacy. Who wouldn’t want this in a relationship?

    Believe it or not, the blindfolded adults were actually working. This playfulness was part of a work activity. When finished, almost without exception, each person commented on how good it felt to play and how energized they felt. When they began to actually work on a project, many said they could feel high energy levels in the room.

    Just as children need play to help them de-stress, play can help adults be at their best when it comes to career, parenting and marriage. Instead of looking at play as a waste of precious time, consider it a great investment in well-being.

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