a pokemon back pack

What a Pokemon Backpack Taught Me About Organizational Culture

It started off as an uneventful morning.  Wake up. Brush teeth. Hustle the kids out the door.  On that day it was my turn to drive my son to school.   He was surprisingly ready and in my car as I was pouring my morning coffee.

My wife Sherri reminded me to grab his Pokeman backpack.  I barely nodded acknowledgement and muttered something about not being as forgetful as she thought.

Yea….. I forgot the backpack.

I could see the school driveway in the distance when I finally made the realization. We were barely on time as it is. I announced to my son:

“Hey bud! I forgot your backpack. No worries though. I’ll drop you off and go back home and bring it to you so you won’t be late.” Easy solution! Win-win, right?

Not so much.

My son suddenly became worried and upset. He talked about how if we walked into the classroom without his backpack (and more importantly the homework folder in it) that he would get in a lot of trouble.

I reminded him that he’d have the backpack in 12 minutes.

He became more upset. “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT IT’S LIKE WHEN YOU DON’T BRING IT IN DAD!”

Maybe I’m a softy. Maybe my son scammed me into an extra twenty-minute round trip journey so he could attend less school that day. I really don’t know.  

25 minutes later, I dropped him off at the office, signed him in as late, and as I drove to my speaking engagement had this realization:

What are we emphasizing that is important to people and what is the effect of that emphasis?

On some level I am sure my son was overreacting but the fear was real. I’ve received the notes about remembering to bring in the backpack and the much prized folder that holds the secrets of the universe. No wonder he was freaked out. 

That day when he got home I tried to walk that fine line of teaching my son to respect the rules and not letting trivial things get to you…..but it was hard.

I thought about my experience working in office culture.  The things that were often emphasized and prized as important.

·        Attendance over engagement

·        Perception over productivity

·        Deadlines over everything else in your universe that can’t wait either

I am not saying things like attendance and meeting deadlines aren’t important. Of course they are. 

As you go back to your organization think about what is emphasized and rewarded in the lived experience. Focus on the actions that occur instead of the rhetoric. What impact does it have on the workplace culture? How do people react? Pay attention to the subtle cues. You will be surprised at what you notice.

A Pokeman backpack and a faulty memory taught me that.

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Paul Artale is a motivational speaker and organizational culture expert. He is also the author of the book “The 2-Year-Old’s Guide to Work-Life Balance.” For more information visit www.paulartale.com

#leadership #shrm #organizationalculture #management #employees #retention

a piece of metal in the shape of the number 7

7 Habits of a Positive Work Life Balance (Part 1)

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People had such a great impact on me and the Franklin-Covey training I received years ago shaped me as a leader and a person.  In honor of Covey,  the next few blogs will show how his 7 Habits can be used as a cornerstone for positive work-life balance.  This week deals with the first 3 Habits or the Habits that deal with going from Dependence to Independence.

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Aint this the truth.  Work-life policies and opportunities often do not fall into place.  We have to work at them.  Proactivity in this area means educating, advocating, and negotiating your way to a better work-life situation.  Proactivity carries the mindset of “I impact the world” vs “the world impact me.”  Being proactive means looking for alternatives and positive outcomes and by doing so we grow our circle of influence.  Remember, most family-friendly and positive work-life policies come from employees taking the initiative to ask and create these opportunities.  They also come from managers who go to bat for their staff because they want to keep them on as happy and effective members of their team.  In either case, the improved situation did not magically appear; someone made it happen.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind.  Simply put, what’s your end game?  What is it you want to achieve on your work-life balance journey?     Are you interested in a compressed workweek as a short term or long term goal?  Is telecommuting something you want to do for a year or two so you can spend time with your young children or do you want it to be the standard norm?  When you know what you want, you will be in a better position to clearly communicate that supervisors, policymakers, and coworkers.  This will lead to less conflict or at the very least, misunderstandings about expectations.

Habit 3: Put first things first.  Amen!  Not all jobs are created equal in terms of work-life balance so you have to sit down and prioritize what is most important to you.  Are you a work-centered person?  A family-centered person?  Are you trying to be balanced between the two domains?  Add to the mix your hobbies, side jobs, ambitions, etc and things can get sticky in a hurry unless you rank and prioritize what is most important to you.  Doing this not only gives you a better sense of who you are (and who you want to be) but allows you to put forth a constant effort towards achieving those goals.  This habit also focuses on committing your time to activities that progress you goals.  Spending your time on tasks that are not urgent and not important becomes an illogical choice, especially when compared to working on tasks that are not urgent but extremely important (this is where the good long term planning is done).

Final Thought….

What is awesome about the first three Habits is their ability to help us define what we want and lay a foundation to go out and get those things.  Mastery of these steps takes us from dependence on a system, a boss, or life circumstances and moves us towards independence.  Independence gives us much more control over our lives and our situations and in the case of this blog, work-life balance.  As a leader moving from dependence towards independence means you are someone who makes things happen and does not use company policy or culture as the framework for all decisions.  Authentic leadership makes you a rockstar!   As great as independence is the next three steps move us even further along towards interdependence.  We” touch on that next week.

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Paul Artale is a motivational speaker who specializes in Labor and Industrial Relations.  He is also a keynote speaker and facilitator.  Please visit http://www.paulartale.com for more information.

a piece of metal in the shape of the number 7

7 Habits of a Positive Work Life Balance (Part 2)

The first 3 habits discussed steps we need to take to be independent; in other words, personal (private) mastery.  The next 3 Habits add the team (Public) dynamic into the equation.  Positive work-life policies and practices are largely dependent on the ability of different parties to communicate and cooperate effectively.  Let’s dive into it.

Habit 4: Think Win-Win.   Many of my blogs on this topic mention negotiation and discussions with other coworkers in some form.  The research shows that many organizations are not open to the work-life policies even when they offer them!  The bottom line is that when we are discussing different work arrangements, setting boundaries, or justifying actions to our family or boss, we have to do so from a point of view where all sides benefit.  Positive work-life policies help every body involved.  Let’s dissect this briefly:

Management/“The Company”: Positive practices and policies (say that fast 3 times) have been shown to strengthen output and more importantly decrease employee stress and health problems.  Not only is this more humane, but the company benefits by having less health claims which in turn contributes to keeping insurance premiums low.  Plus, work-life policies have been shown to increase employee loyalty and decrease intent-to-leave and we all know how costly rehiring is!

The Employee: This one is pretty obvious but employees benefit by having a senses of control and enjoyment over the various domains in their lives.  This increases their satisfaction, performance, and quality of overall life.

The Family: Those not directly involved in the business relationship also benefits as rates of work-to-family and family-to-work spillover tend to decrease.  Spending more time with loved ones is what life is really about (sorry if I am getting sappy here).   Having to listen to a family member groan or vent their angry on a constant basis because of work is just not pleasant.

Enacting positive work-life policies means thatthe company gets the same (or improved) output, increased loyalty, and fewer health costs while the employees are happier due to less conflict in their lives which is greatly appreciated by the family.  This appreciation increases employee satisfaction, decreases family-to-work conflict and benefits the company.  Now that’s WIN-WIN!

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  With all my pleas for self-advocacy this habit may seem counter-intuitive at first.  Before we can start asking for changes or accommodations we need to understand where the other side is coming from.  For employees there may be reasons as to why you may get that call or home or have to pull in extra hours beyond your boss being a controlling jerk.    There may be legal reasons or company policies that prohibit certain work arrangements as well for whatever reason.  Employers should listen to why their staff want changes in their current situation.  At its most base level, an employee coming to a supervisor asking for a change in the routine/practice/policy is a sign of some form of discontentment and should be listened to.  That discord could be as simple as a misunderstanding about job functions/expectations and as serious major problems at home or within the office.  In any case, understand the entire situation before conclusions or arguments are made.

Habit 6: Synergize.  Synergy says 1+1=5.  When people are working together, listening to each other, and looking out for everybody’s best interests then a powerful and addictive positive synergy is created.  What I love about synergy as a work-life concept is that it embraces multiple alternatives and truly is focused on the end goal (see Habit 2).  That’s what success and leadership is about.  Finding what works in any situation is at the heart of effective work-life balance implementation as well.

Final Thought…

As we move from independence to INTER-dependence we see a shift from me to we.  When work-life balance becomes a team effort then we come up with the most effective and fair ways for all parties to be successful.  Moving towards interdependence also means we are focused on long term success rather than trying to put out short-term, immediate fires.  Next week….the 7th Habit and the one that is all encompassing of work-life balance: Sharpening the Saw.

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Paul Artale is a motivational speaker who specializes in Labor and Industrial Relations.  He is also a keynote speaker and facilitator.  Please visit http://www.paulartale.com for more information. Posted

a married couple enjoying coffee

What if every weekend was a 3 day weekend? Considering the Compressed Workweek.

In a society where life is becoming increasingly complex we sometimes need a job that can be flexible beyond the normal 9-5, 9-7, 8-10pm Monday-Saturday timeframe.  The compressed workweek can battle the rigidity of traditional schedules while still allowing for employee productivity.

What is a compressed workweek?

The compressed workweek involves working more hours four days a week in exchange for not having to work the fifth.  The employee still works the 40-45 hours required per week; the only difference being that those hours are squished onto other days.   It is important to note that extra day off is not intended for work of any kind.  This is not a telecommuting or alternative location arrangement.

With that in mind, here are some considerations when inquiring about a compressed workweek:

1) Does your company already have a policy?  Many companies have compressed and flextime policies and procedures already on the books.  Read up on your company’s specific policy to see if a compressed schedule is possible and what steps to take.

2) Talk to your manager. A consistent theme in HR literature reveals that managers are often the gatekeepers to all sorts of alternative work arrangements.   Have a conversation with your supervisor to see if this is possible.  Why not be a trend setter?

3) Make it an occasional thing.  Some employers may not be a fan of the weekly compressed schedule.  That being said, there is no reason why you can’t work a compressed week occasionally or on part-time basis.  Doing so could give you that three or four day weekend without burning vacation time.

4) Make it a seasonal thing.
  Most businesses have a “crazy” time and a “lazy” time.  Not being at work during crazy periods could make for a more stressful work environment overall or lead to calls/communications from your office on your extra day off.  Who needs that?   You may have better luck pitching a compressed workweek during points in the year when things are calmer and there is less chance of stressful deadlines and situations popping up.

5) Consider mid-week.  We all want that long weekend but maybe taking Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday off is the better way to go.  If deadlines at your workplace revolve around a specific day of the week then build your new schedule around that.   If deadlines are usually on Fridays or Mondays then the long weekend approach may not be so popular.

6) Pitch the benefits of a compressed workweek to your supervisor.  Some bosses may not like the idea or not see the benefits (other than you getting a day off) to compressed workweeks.  Here are some positives that you should bring up

  • Increased employee satisfaction (more time off = a more satisfied employee)
  • Increased employee retention (more satisfied employee = a more likely to stay employee)
  • Decreased attendance problems such as lateness, absenteeism, and calling in “sick” (if an employer agrees to a compressed week there is no excuse to be late, or lie about why you can’t go into work.  Not that there ever really is a good excuse to do this).
  • Increased productivity (Largely due to increased morale but also the fact that you a larger block of time daily allows for more to be done with less interruptions.
  • More hours of coverage (Working later may also mean that the company will be open longer.  In a customer service environment this can be especially useful).

Final thought…

The compressed workweek is just another tool as you strive for work-life perfection.  It may be appropriate as a weekly occurrence or may be a nice way to accommodate key events in your life.  In either case what is important is that we seek work arrangements that allow us to flourish both inside and outside of the boardroom.

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Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, author, and organizational coach who helps organizations create high performance culture through understanding employee needs and leveraging their strengths.

  Please visit www.paulartale.com for more information.

#shrm #hr #humanresources #worklifebalance #leadership #manager #virtualwork

characters from the muppets tv show

Mindset Lessons You can Learn from the Muppets

“They‭’‬re not quite mops,‭ ‬they‭’‬re not quite puppets but man are they funny.‭”‬  -‭ ‬Homer Jay Simpson.

‭Like many people from my generation,‭ ‬I grew up adoring the Muppets.‭  ‬They were cute,‭ ‬they were funny,‭ ‬and they could put together one heck of a variety show.‭  ‬The celebrity guests were a really cool bonus.‭

Every Holiday season my wife and I rewatch many childhood classics:‭ ‬among them are a Muppet Christmas Carol and a Muppet Christmas.‭  ‬Both are awesome in their own way and for us,‭ ‬anyway,‭ ‬have a rewatchable charm that many childhood films do not.‭  ‬But alas,‭ ‬this is not a film review.‭  ‬There are tons of those out there and I am by no means an expert on these awesome creations.‭  ‬No,‭ ‬this is a brief review of Muppetism.‭ ‬A simple but powerful ideology that (in my opinion) stresses four principles:‭ ‬Teamwork,‭ ‬Diversity,‭ ‬Fun and Attitude.

Let us begin.

  • Teamwork.‭  ‬The Muppets face many challenges from things going wrong backstage,‭ ‬to celebrities or performers not being around when needed,‭ ‬to tyrannical billionaires trying‭ ‬to‭ ‬buy and demolish their old theatre because it sits on large oil reserves.‭   ‬Not only do they work as a team to achieve the common goal but they are‭ ‬ultra-supportive.‭  ‬Fozzy‭’‬s comedic routines don‭’‬t always go well but they keep giving him shot after shot.‭    ‬No matter what the problem is,‭ ‬the Muppets always find a way to come together and overcome their challenges as a cohesive unit.‭ ‬Sure they have their tiffs and disagreements but they always pull through in the end.‭   ‬This is partially a byproduct of the next principle:’
  • Diversity.‭  ‬Pigs loving frogs,‭ ‬international culinary experts,‭ ‬intellectual‭ ‬athletes,‭ ‬biracial general managers,‭ ‬wise-cracking rats,‭ ‬whatever the heck Gonzo is and so on and so forth.‭  ‬They all look‭ ‬different‭;‬ have different backgrounds,‭ ‬and different motives.‭  ‬None of that matters though because they accept each other for who and what they are.‭  ‬There is no better metaphor for this than the Muppet band led by Rolph.‭   ‬I mean look at them‭ (‬see photo below‭) ‬if that‭’‬s not‭ ‬a diverse group of people I don‭’‬t know what is.‭  ‬The best part is,‭ ‬these‭ ‬“different‭”‬ people come together and make some of the catchiest and sweetest music this side of Muppetdom‭!
  • Fun.‭  ‬Life is tense and full of twists and turns.‭  ‬Sadly,‭ ‬bad things do happen to good people but one of the keys to keeping our sanity and persevering is keeping a sense of humor.‭  ‬This is what I love about the Muppets:‭ ‬they always find ways to have fun.‭  ‬They don‭’‬t take themselves too seriously even when you think that they should.‭  ‬You have to be able to laugh some things off or at least escape into a world that gives you a good chuckle.‭  ‬The Muppets have turned this into a fine art.‭  ‬Let us learn from their frolicking wisdom.
  • Attitude.‭ ‬This is the most important aspect‭ ‬of Muppetism.‭  ‬I read an interview with Jason Segel on how he came to be the driving force behind the recent Muppet movie.‭  ‬At one point in the article,‭ ‬Jason was asked what challenges did he have in writing for the Muppets.‭  ‬One part of his answer really stuck with me.‭   ‬Segel stated that certain jokes had to be rewritten because they made reference to the Muppets not being real.‭   ‬Although the Muppets break the fourth wall and poke fun at their shtick,‭ ‬the one thing they never do is refer to themselves as puppets,‭ ‬made of felt etc.‭  ‬Their mindset is that they are a frog,‭ ‬a dog,‭ ‬an eagle etc.‭   ‬When you request an interview with Kermit,‭ ‬you are in fact interviewing Kermit and not his puppeteer.‭

What a great metaphor‭!  ‬One of my core values is that‭ ‬“disability‭”‬ is a state of mind,‭ ‬and not a diagnosis.‭   ‬Much like a Muppet,‭ ‬I don‭’‬t see myself as‭ ‬“disabled‭”‬ and definitely do not like the term.‭   ‬I am a strong believer in the power of positive thinking and having the right attitude.‭  ‬I am not a fan of labels-‭ ‬especially when they are imposed on us by others.‭  ‬Muppets say‭ ‬“I ain‭’‬t no puppet,‭ ‬I am a large and very stately‭ ‬Eagle who delivers the news.‭”‬   What is apparent on the outside means nothing to them and because of that they go out and achieve what they want.‭  ‬That‭’‬s the frame of mind we need to have.‭

I‭’‬m not‭ ‬“disabled‭;‬” I‭’‬m Paul Artale and that‭’‬s all I need to be.‭   ‬Now if you‭’‬ll excuse me,‭ ‬I need to go.‭  ‬You see it‭’‬s time to play the music and it‭’‬s time to light the lights…..I sure that you can figure out the rest.‭

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Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, author, and coach who teaches organizations how to break through challenges and turn adversity into opportunity. For more information visit http://www.paulartale.com

#adversity #motivation #motivationalspeaker

a team working at a table

Managers: The Key to Positive Work-Life Balance

A job in itself does not sentence a person to long hours, family conflict and a generally unhappy life.  Sure, some lines of work require more hours or intensive types of work but the boundaries and expectations related to our jobs are influenced heavily by one group of people: managers.

Managers are the ones who regulate hours, workload, and set the tone as to what is appropriate in terms of work and personal life.  Sure, we have company policies but quite often it is up to the manager to interpret that policy.  Beyond policy, the standards employees are evaluated on (whether they be billable hours, output goals, clients called etc) are created by some level management.  At some point, somebody in the hierarchy said “we value this if people want to get promoted or raises.  Spread the word.”  Once that word is spread then a culture begins to form.

Here are some things for those in managerial roles to consider as it relates to their ability to impact work-life balance for employees.

1) Controlling the schedule is power: use it wisely.  Consider the effect of calling an earlier or later than normal meeting has upon your staff; especially if it is called at the last minute.  Is it essential that all personnel are there?  Can some employees Skype/conference call in if appropriate?  When you’re in an authoritative role “Yea boss…no problem” doesn’t necessarily mean employees are ok with the extra meeting.

2) Educate yourself!  Knowing company HR procedures, benefits in addition to some basic law can go a long way in improve employee work-life balance.  This is definitely the case when it comes to major issues such as parental leave.  Many employees do not take full advantage of parental leave policies because they are worried about stunting their career advancement or flat out retribution.  What a shame!  Becoming an advocate for your staff will go a long way in terms of retaining staff and improving morale which both saves and makes the company money.  Now that’s a Win-Win situation!

3) Analyze: What do you reward? I recently read an article where a woman would show up to the office once a week at 2 am because her manager applauded the effort and it helped her get a promotion.   This woman admitted she usually worked from home at that time but she received such a favorable reaction from her boss that she decided it was better to get up earlier and come to work.  She also admitted that it was putting strains on her personal life but felt she had to do this in  order to succeed in her job.    As a disclaimer, this was a very driven software engineering firm that was accustomed to strange and extremely long hours.

Nevertheless, the point is: what behaviors and efforts do you and your company reward and what can you do to make sure that they are more conducive to a better quality of life for your workers?

4) Be flexible!   If we expect employees to be able to work longer hours or adjust their schedule with little notice then at some point as managers need to be flexible about things that may occur in their employees lives.  This could mean allowing people to work from home on occasion, allowing them to leave early or come in later, or even compressing their workweek.

5) Vacation!  As in let them take it.  Every year many employees don’t take all of their alloted vacation time and in many cases, lose that time altogether.  Encourage your employees to take time off and to maximize that benefit.  This may require being more strategic or strongly encouraging employees to take time off during certain times of the year.  One of my former supervisors allowed me to leave during an extremely busy time so that I could attend an important family function.  It took some discussion, lots of work before I left, a little work from the road, and communicating with those who would pick up the slack.  In other words it wasn’t easy but we made it work.  Not only did the company achieve their outcomes but I was able to take part in an important part of my family life.  I was very appreciative to my boss and the company for letting me have that precious time.

Final Thought:

Arthur Miller once wrote: “You can’t eat the orange and throw away the peel.  A man is not a piece of fruit!”  As a manager one is in a position of power and influence.  Managers often have the power to create culture and expectations that directly impact their employees and quality of life.  At other times managers have the ability to inform, educate, and guide their workers in a direction that leads to a better quality of family and professional life.  There are also occasions when being in a supervisory role means advocating for a more positive work-life balance.  Deadlines and organizational goals are important.  We all want the company to stay afloat.  Every once and a while, though, we need to unplug ourselves from the grind and recognize the human element that is behind facts, figures, and bottom lines.  By doing so we take great strides not only towards long-term productivity from employees, but we also decrease chances of employee stress and illness.

Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, author, and organizational coach who helps organizations create high performance culture through understanding employee needs and leveraging their strengths. 
For more information visit www.paulartale.com

#shrm #hr #humanresources #worklifebalance  #leadership #manager #teamwork

the words success go get it

Motivating Employees for Success

here is no better feeling in the world than achieving a goal.   Imagine this: you plan something, put in the hard work, and at the end of the journey you achieve success.  Sweet, isn’t it?  Of course things do not always go so smoothly but when they do…BOOYA!  You feel like you a rockstar.

Success is a whole other beast, however, when we are managing others.  Sure we can still apply that same 3 step formula described above but the addition of another element (a human element) means that we are responsible for managing more than just our own attitudes, actions, and emotions.

There are several managerial styles and perspectives but quite often, it feels like there are two dominant philosophies: cut them down or build them up.   Quickly, the cut them down philosophy says “let’s throw “Sandy” into the fire and see how she does.  If Sandy is strong and capable the she will prove herself worthy of my praise, promotion, and better compensation.”  Going through misery will make them stronger and thus a better employee in the long-run.  There are times when this perspective is unavoidable but generally I do not subscribe to it and this is about all I have to say on this perspective.

The “build them up” philosophy focuses on developing the employee and putting them in positions to win.  It focuses on building upon strengths, improving weaknesses, and developing a win-win strategy.  When I coached football I did not always have the biggest, fastest, or most talented players.  My challenge as a coach was always to maximize and improve the talent I had.  I could have easily said “my nosetackle is only 5 foot 1, if he’s any good he’ll find a way to make plays”  but that would have been counterproductive.  Instead I worked on strategies and drills to utilize his talents (low center of gravity, aggression, and feet that kept on moving) to turn him into an All-Star player.

Beyond organizational success we need to remember that as managers we hold the keys to much of our employees happiness (read my previous BLOG for more on this topic).  Have you ever come home from a rough day at work or negative encounter with a supervisor and had those events ruin your personal/family time?  Of course you have, we all have.  It’s called work-family conflict and managers are often a key component of that.  Although managers can’t control everything (employees  think we do!) one thing that we can control is whether we have done all we can to make someone successful.  Here are some managerial considerations when trying to lead your employee and team to glory:

Dumping vs Delegating: When delegating tasks to others are you just taking work off one plate and plopping it onto another?  Are you assigning tasks without thinking about employee strengths, mindset, or current projects?  Do employees have input into what new duties come their way or do you just hand out extra tasks because you are the boss and you know best?

Skills training: There are times when that unsexy task needs to be given to someone because of circumstances outside of your control.  In other cases, employees will be asked to perform tasks that are new and possibly strange to them.  As a manager are you giving them the skills training and tools they need to be successful in these new roles?  Although there may not be time for a lengthy training or skills session, some effort towards ensuring that the employee has the right tools to succeed must be ensured.  Sometimes this skills training can be as simple as a discussion about time management or how previous priorities and deadlines may shift with this added workload.

Context matters.  What is the current company climate?  If you’re working with “Bob” then what prior experiences and backgrounds shape Bob’s thinking and actions?  What have Bob’s performance and interactions been like in the past week, month, or quarter?   I am not suggesting
having weekly counseling sessions with workers but having a basic understanding of organizational and personal contexts can assist managers in understanding behaviors and performance.  Bob will likely act and operate very differently if he came from a regimented and highly regulated company before working for you as opposed to a creative “come when you want, just get the job done” environment.  Factors such as layoffs, departmental shuffling, or that fabulous staff retreat may also impact how Bob acts.  No matter what the specific details are, context cannot be ignored.  Plugging into personal and professional context will also fill a lot of gaps regarding your staff on several levels.

Different workers have different styles.  This is where you get to apply all of those fun and fancy personality tests that inevitably become part of staff development sessions.  All organizations have their fair share of introverts and extroverts; of highly organized individuals and free spirits.  No one style or personality type is better than the other and a balanced staff is needed for optimal performance.  Working with an employee’s style quickens goal achievement and will have a positive impact on morale.  It also opens the doorway of communication and makes it easier to foster employee growth in areas of weakness.  Just demanding that a quieter, more introverted worker be more outgoing and social is not as effective (it’s actually quite stupid) as discussing ways that the employee could take baby steps towards involvement in the company community as a whole.   Scientifically speaking, job demands that are starkly different to ones personality type will freak an employee out.  Why cause that undue stress?  Managers should also consider aligning tasks that play towards worker strengths and comfort whenever possible.  Remember: there is a fine line between pushing the comfort zone in the name of development and eroding an employees sense of self and worth.

Just because you went through it…: One of my mentors when coaching football was brought up “old school.”   As a poor grad assistant he slept many nights in the film office, as an assistant coach he was brought up under tough men who would rip into their staff in front of players and the public.  He prided himself on this experience (and rightfully so) but his old school approach was not always relevant to new age staff.  As an aside, I liked the old school approach but I saw how other staff members hated it.  We are often proud of what we have accomplished and gone through.  That being said, trying to simulate your experience for other employees is usually not very effective.  As a manager you are likely in a different time, a different context (see how that works?), and too many variables are different.  Be proud of the path you took but do not let that path cloud your judgment.  Even when situations are eerily similar to your past do not assume that your employees will or should react in the same manner you did.   Let go of the past and work towards finding methods that fit your current situation.

Final thought….

Being a leader is more than just giving rah-rah speeches and powering through.  Like a good quarterback, you have to have a good feel for the team and what their limits are.  Push them too hard and you lose their trust.  Don’t push them and you will get dismal results.  Finding that balance can be difficult but as managers we have to have an open mind.  We have to think of employee success as a vehicle to our own personal and organizational goals.  Covey’s Habit “Think Win-Win” is the ultimate metaphor for this week’s message.   All parties should come out of a situation energized and proud of their success.  The bulldozer mentality can only get you so far.  Likewise, relying on your favorites or workhorses really does little to improve team strength.  Anybody can manage a team of all-stars- there is no skill in it.  More importantly, working with employees to improve their skills and abilities will make them feel valued and energize them to come to work.  They will also feel content when they clock out at the end of the day paving the way for them to spend their family time in a positive and life-giving way.

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Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, author, and organizational coach who helps organizations create high performance culture through understanding employee needs and leveraging their strengths. 
For more information visit www.paulartale.com

#shrm #hr #humanresources #worklifebalance  #leadership #manager #motivation

a paper with the word time burning

What’s the Deal with Comp Time?

ave you ever had that crazy workweek where your contracted 40 hours turns into 60?  Have you ever been comforted by the fact that the extra time you put in can be banked as comp time/bonus time somewhere in the near future?   Weeks later you find a great deal on a 4 day weekend getaway to Vegas and you decide “I am going to cash in my comp time and take a long weekend” only to have your boss or an HR manager tell you that you can’t do that.   They utter the words that I so often hate to hear “Comp time does not officially exist at our company.”

*cough* bullcrap *cough*

I think the idea of comp time has its origins in an innocent and simple truth: people were willing to trade hours that were supposed to be worked at a later date in order to complete a task that requires an immediate effort.  It’s a fair trade off.  Most businesses have a slow time and trying to fit everything into the 9 to 5 bubble doesn’t always work.  Fair enough.

So why then can comp time be such a difficult thing to peg down?  Does being a salaried employee automatically mean we should accept working longer hours with no reward except for  a company tshirt or smoked meat at the holidays?

I don’t think so.

If the same person was an hourly employee they would be paid for those extra hours.  Comp time is not illegal is it?   No, it isn’t.  According to the Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) time off can be substituted for extra pay when an employee exceeds working the standard eight hour day.  The parameters of this policy are subject to state and/or county law, institutional policy and contracts with unions or other labor groups.

Companies: what’s the big deal about making it official policy?   I know why an organization may keep the rules grey but that does not mean that I agree.  We know that stress and overwork (a topic of future blogs) leads to poor employee health and higher turnover.  If companies don’t want to run their employees into the ground (and according to most official policies…that is not an objective) then I would like them to ponder these points of consideration:

1) If comp time is arranged between a manager and employee then keep it that way.  Whether it is official policy or not I am always frustrated to hear about a comp time arrangement being interfered with by a superior.  For tho who manage managers, trust that those directors/deans/vice-president’s etc will make the right decisions regarding their staffs.  They do know them better than anyone else in the company.

2) Have a policy.  I know that the “P” word can be a dirty word to some but some policy is better than no policy.  Although I don’t personally like the “no comp time, some weeks you work more, live with it” mentality at least I can respect the honesty.  Keeping things grey is shady in my opinion….and we all know how many shades of grey there are.

3) Give employees choice.  I love it when comp time is an open policy in a company.  That being said, I am not a fan of the “hey you worked hard this week, take Friday off if you want comp time” approach.  Don’t get me wrong, some comp time is better than no comp time but I recommend giving employees the ability to choose when they can use those hours.  Maybe this Friday or a two-week window doesn’t work.   As long as it does not conflict with essential duties then what’s the harm?

4) Don’t rob the bank.  Managers often ask employees to record extra hours to keep tabs on how many comp hours are in the bank.  If  this is the system then respect the hours recorded.  A colleague’s supervisor once asked him to record all his extra hours which he gladly did.  During their weekly one-on-one session, the boss looked at the hours and declared: “that’s too many.”  In the end, my colleague lost some hours.   As a manager, if you’re going to ask someone to officially document the extra time they put in then be prepared for the reality that the results could be very high.

*The above example is based on HONESTLY recording hours.  Inflating the hours you work can get you fired and it is just bad practice.  Likewise, use some common sense when recording hours.  If you worked an extra hour one day but breaks went a little longer than expected then you may be best off not claiming that time.

5) Ebb and flow approach.  If counting hours is not your thing then consider the ebb and flow approach.  Hours aren’t counted or stored but if an employee needs to take half a day here or there or work extra hours earlier in the week in order to get another day off then go for it.  This may actually cause less conflict than haggling over hours or over an unofficial policy.  Beware, it is more art than science but in healthy working relationships may be a strong tool.

Unless you work in a highly unionized or systematized environment comp time will be an issue in some form.  Addressing the issue up front and clearly will help define expectations and avoid conflict.

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Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, author, and organizational coach who helps organizations create high performance culture through understanding employee needs and leveraging their strengths. 

#shrm #hr #humanresources #worklifebalance  #leadership #manager #virtualwork #comptime

For more information visit www.paulartale.com

a woman working by a computer outdoors

The 5 Elements of Successfully Working from Home

Working from home can be both a blessing and a curse.  On one hand you don’t have to worry about traffic, subway lines, forgetting (insert object) at home, or being unable to care for loved ones.  On the other hand, working from home can blur the lines between work and family and have the potential for decreased effectiveness and who wants that?

Here are steps you can take to make sure your work-from-home experience:

1) Have your own (distraction free) workspace.   A separate office used solely for work is ideal.  If a solo office does not exist create a work area somewhere in the house that is free of distractions.   The coffee table table in front of the tv may not be the best location unless you have great discipline.

2) Set your hours.  People telecommute for different reasons.  Regardless, setting your hours will help get you on schedule.  For 9-5 type jobs it is pretty simple.  Things get a wee bit more complicated when your schedule may be irregular due to family or personal commitments.  These commitments are not bad (they are often the reason we do telecommute) but this is not an excuse not to block off the required work time on a calendar.

3) Communicate with your office.  Make sure your hours are clearly posted and accessible to coworkers.  Also, it is helpful if coworkers know how and when to reach you.  If work does not provide a telephone line then you have to decide, will you use your home phone, your cell phone, Skype etc to communicate with others.  Those who work away from the office sometimes  feel isolate or are even neglected in decisions because coworkers (and even supervisors) are not always sure how to reach people or what times are appropriate.  There is often a stigma of laziness associated with telecommuting.  Letting people know how and when to communicate with you is important in making sure you are still part of the team.

4) Embrace Distractions- they happen!    If a life circumstance makes this difficult make sure to be upfront with others about it.  For example, if you are working part time to spend more time with your preschool children you may want to give that client a heads up if they are not familiar with the situation. Ideally you want a distraction free zone but life happens, so embrace it.

*Point #5 is for those who are going from a traditional office environment to a work-at-home environment on some sort of basis.

6) Tell them why.  Telecommuters are sometimes thought of as slackers or as having it easy.  I am not recommending airing your personal affairs but consider telling colleagues who work closest with you what is happening.  It can help diffuse gossip or odd sentiments.

Final Thought…

Telecommuting is here to stay as companies can save money on brick and mortar costs.  For employees, telecommuting offers a part-time or alternative work arrangement that can help them meet the demands of personal commitments.  In either case, approaching your job with the same professionalism and work ethic one would approach site based employment is vital in decreasing workplace conflict and increasing personal satisfaction.

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Dr. Paul Artale is a motivational speaker, author, and organizational coach who helps organizations create high performance culture through understanding employee needs and leveraging their strengths. 

#shrm #hr #humanresources #worklifebalance  #telecommute #manager #virtualwork

For more information visit www.paulartale.com

Looking at Work-Life from a Results-Based Perspective

“I would love to offer more flexibility, but I need people onsite to get work done.”

This is one of the most common statements I hear when managers attend one of my workplace flexibility seminars. For me, it can present a sticky situation since every work environment is different. While I don’t know your institution’s “face-time quotient” to ensure objectives are being met, I can ask one very simple question that can help move the work-life conversation along:  what are your deliverables? To rephrase: what are the key results you expect from your employee(s)?

If we know the results that are expected, then we can properly analyze if flex or alternative arrangements are appropriate for a position. Herein lies the problem – both managers and employees don’t always know what the deliverables are, therefore, when a work-life conversation comes up, it becomes difficult to make a strong case for or against flexibility and even more difficult to create a work plan that seems to be win-win.

Continue reading “Looking at Work-Life from a Results-Based Perspective”