What it Takes to Build an Effective, Efficient, and Cohesive Team

Teamwork has become a crucial aspect of today’s business world. Organizations have learned that teams are especially useful for improvement projects, research and development (R & D), problem solving, and creating new products. This is mainly because everyone has a different perspective and group environments encourage discussions. Discussions are important because they allow individuals to express their views. Teams also generate company pride, synergy, and unity.

Team building has become a requirement for all managers. Organizations expect their managers to be able create effective teams and to resolve any issues that have the potential of hindering a team. In fact, team building is so important that many management interviews will ask candidates to describe their team building style. I found this great article that gives fifteen ideas for team building. Some of my favorites were:

  1. Take an employee to work day –  This involved firms having employees shadow a staff member in another department. This is a very effective way to “show” staff that every department is important. It also helps staff understand what other departments do. Another twist on this idea is job shadowing. The difference is that “take an employee to work” sheds light on what other departments do. On the other hand, job shadowing is longer (usually several weeks) and shows employees the different career options available within a company.
  2. Provide lunch – Since everyone likes to eat, providing food is a great way to get everyone to relax and to get comfortable before they start a group activity.
  3. Use ice breakers at meetings – These are especially effective for new teams because they encourage people to talk to each other.
  4. Provide mentoring – This is a benefit to both the mentor and the mentee and lifelong friendships are often created.
  5. Encourage family involvement – Companies should have regular picnics and field trips where employees are encouraged to bring their families.

I have provided the link below if you would like to read the whole article.

http://humanresources.about.com/od/teambuildingactivities/qt/15-team-building-activities-for-the-workplace.htm

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How to Overcome Your Fear of Giving Presentations

If you are like most people, then you do not particularly enjoy public speaking. Over the years, I have continuously worked to improve my presentation skills. I have given presentations in all types of settings including: professional, educational and extracurricular.  Additionally, I have presented in groups and individually. Although I am still a long way from perfect, I have learned some great strategies to giving good presentations. They are:

  • Dress professionally:
    • Wear professional attire but be aware of your surroundings. For example, if you have to walk up a set of stairs to get to the podium, you may not want to wear a long skirt that you could trip on.
  • Always use 3 x 5 note cards:
    • It would be a huge mistake to try to memorize your entire speech. On the other hand do not write out your entire speech (on the note cards) but rather key words and phrases. Reading a speech is a sure way to annoy your audience. Using note cards is both professional and allows you to write down key words and phrases that will aid you in giving the presentation.
  • Use visual aids:
    • If you use a PowerPoint, only have a few words/phrases on each slide. You should elaborate more when you give presentation. Use pictures if possible because it is a quick way to get your point across and will help your audience remember key information.
  • Make sure not to go over your allotted time:
    • Another way to annoy the audience is to go over the time allotted for your presentation. It sends the message that the audience’s time is not important.
  • Make eye contact:
    • This is important because it engages the audience and compels them to pay attention. Also make sure that you spread your attention with all the audience (don’t single out just a couple of people).
  • Be Prepared:
    • Practice, practice, practice. Make sure that you read the speech several times in addition to saying it out loud. It is also a good idea to give your speech to a family member/colleague/friend.
  • Be familiar with the equipment:
    • Make sure you are familiar with the equipment you will be giving the speech with. This includes making sure the PowerPoint runs smoothly.
  • Relax:
    • Smile and have fun. Your audience will pick up on your mood, so make sure it is positive and confident. Also if you make a mistake, just keep going. (Your audience might not even know that you made a mistake.)
  • Explain why you are qualified to speak on the subject:
    • This does not have to be an elaborate discussion of all your degrees and certificates, but merely a brief explanation of how you are familiar with the subject matter.
  • Prepare for the Q & A:
    • A good presenter should try to anticipate what questions their audience might ask and be prepared. On the other hand, if you do not know the answer to a question, do not guess. Simply say you do not know and that you will find out and report back. The audience will appreciate your honesty.

I also found this short video that is very informative. I have provided the link below:

How to Manage Generation Y (AKA: The Millennials)?

Whenever a new generation enters the workforce, there is a transition period. Some of you may ask why this is since it’s not like the generation is new to the planet, just to the workforce. In other words some find it strange that there is tension, misunderstandings, conflict and an overall decrease in work output when a new generation joins the team. The reason for this initial adjustment period is because the new generation is interacting with others in a work environment instead of a social atmosphere. In the adjustment period, both the veteran staff and the new generation are learning how to interact in a work environment.

Some of the unique characteristics of Generation Y are: they are comfortable with all forms of technology, they have lots of questions and expect instant answers, they like to stay connected (they take smart phones and tablets everywhere), and they like to do work independently. I just read an article by Elizabeth Harrin called 10 Tips for Managing Gen Y that I think has some really useful information. In the article she gives ten tips on how leaders need to adjust  their management style to fit Generation Y. They are:

  1. Be their mentor – Millenials want to self manage and expect their supervisors to be mentors.
  2. Give feedback quickly – Millenials are used to using technology to obtain answers almost in real time. So managers can mimic this by giving feedback often.
  3. Watch out for itchy feet – Millenials don’t plan to keep the same job all their life and will change jobs frequently (usually every 2-3 of years).
  4. Provide challenges – Millenials like to be challenged and will seek accommodate this.
  5. Make work fun – Millenials realize that they spend more time at work (waking hours) than at home and therefore expect work to be fun.
  6. Don’t discriminate – The Y Generation grew up with both parents working and therefore they do not expect to be judged based on their gender. (They think that gender discrimination is a thing of the past.)
  7. Be family friendly – Millenials expect to remain in the workforce even after they have kids. They want to instead work flexible hours and even work from home.
  8. Encourage technology – This is where Generation Y excels and companies would be wise to foster this talent.
  9. Offer personal and professional development – Millenials are very interested in continuously improving and seek employment that offers on the job training and/or cross training. They value being able to constantly update their resume because they know it will make them more marketable.
  10. Allow international mobility – Since Millenials are always using technology, they are able to connect with people all over the world and consequentially they seek careers all over the world as well.

Here is the link if you would like to read the entire article.

http://www.theglasshammer.com/news/2009/09/02/10-tips-for-managing-gen-y/

Why Leaders Need to Practice Professionalism at All Times

Although it is a good idea for everyone to act in a professional manor, it is especially crucial for leaders to act professionally. One of the reasons for this is because most employees mimic their manager’s behaviors. Another reason that leaders need to be professional is that it will make their job easier. If managers are professional at all times, then it will be easier for them to give performance reviews, discipline staff, and ensure that work is completed on time and correctly. Some of the key aspects of being professional are: dressing appropriately, using tact, being respectful, being honest, and being punctual.

The Mind Tools web site has an insightful article called Professionalism: Developing This Vital Characteristic. The article breaks professionalism into seven characteristics which are:

  • Specialized Knowledge – Having an extensive knowledge in a specific subject area.
  • Competency – Being able to use ones knowledge/skills to get the job done.
  • Honesty & Integrity – Keeping your word and not exaggerating facts. Also having strong values.
  • Self-Regulation – Being able to maintain composure even under stressful situations (Never let them see you sweat).
  • Accountability – Own up to your mistakes, actions, and thoughts (both your staff and colleagues will respect you for it).
  • Image – Dress like every day is an interview.
  • Respect – Treat everyone from the entry level employee to the top executive with respect.

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/professionalism.htm

Why is Time Management so Crucial for Leaders?

I recently changed jobs, and while I was job hunting I found that time management is a prerequisite for all management positions. This got me thinking what exactly does it mean to effectively manage your time? During my 11 years as a manager I have perfected my time management skills and for me the four key aspects of time management are: being flexible, being organized, making lists, and prioritizing tasks.

Flexibility is important because the unexpected will always happen and good managers need to be able to quickly adjust their tasks to  ensure that deadlines are still met. A benefit of having good organizational skills is that it greatly reduces the chances of important documents being lost. If managers are constantly looking for documents, then they are wasting valuable time. Making a list of everything that you need to do is also crucial. Trying to keep track of everything in your head is a big mistake and will surely lead to missed deadlines and frustration. Managers should also frequently refer to their list throughout the day to check off completed tasks and to make adjustments where needed. I find great satisfaction when I am able to check something off as completed from my list! Also, periodically referring to a list will ensure that managers stay on track throughout the day. Finally, managers should also prioritize their lists. It is important to do the most important task first and then the next important task and so on.

University of Kent has an interesting time management article. It even had a short quiz one can take to determine how well they manage their time. The quiz breaks time management into eight categories and then gives you a score on each category. This is helpful because it allows you to pinpoint exactly where you need to improve. It should be noted that some of the questions refer to specific study skills for college students. I found that these questions can be easily converted into work scenarios. For example, a question that asks how you review after a lecture could be converted to how you review after you attend a meeting. I have provided the link below for your convenience.

http://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sk/time.htm#Revising

The Power of Persuasion

Over the years persuasion has gotten a bad reputation and most leaders do not want to admit that they exercise persuasion on a daily basis. I feel this is because many people think that the words persuasion and manipulation are interchangeable. This is a mistake. The Webster’s New World Dictionary definition of manipulate; is to falsify for one’s own purposes or to manage artfully/shrewdly often in an unfair way. The Webster’s New World Dictionary definition of persuade; is to cause to do/believe something by reasoning or urging; to induce or convince. This clearly shows that there is a distinct difference between persuasion and manipulation.

A good leader uses persuasion to lead their team every day. Due to the fact that everyone has their own opinion, managers need to persuade their staff to do what they say to ensure success. Good leaders do this by explaining what the goal is, and how the course of action that they are suggesting is best. Another part of successful persuasion is to allow the individual to state their opinion. Leaders need to listen to their staff and then work with them to come up with solutions that ultimately produce the company’s goals. Another important aspect to persuasion is to realize that not everything needs to be exactly as planned. For example, a manager may have a per-determined plan on how to meet their aggressive sales budget for the month. But they need to keep an open mind to suggestions when they present the plan to their subordinates. There might be a way to meet the sales budget and accommodate the suggestion of  staff members as well. This is a win-win situation because the manager has persuaded their team to strive to meet the company’s sales goal while still being flexible.

I found an article titled Becoming a Better Influencer: 4 Most Effective Influence Tactics by Eva Ryksmith. The article explains how managers need to have excellent influencing skills if they want to be successful leaders. The author also states that the four best ways to influence others are: inspirational appeal, consultation, collaboration, and rational/logical persuasion. I have provided the link below if you would like to read the whole article.

http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2011/11/15/becoming-a-better-influencer-4-most-effective-influence-tactics-part-i/

How to Deal With Stress

Stress is a natural reaction to emotional or physical stimuli and everyone experiences stress in their lives. This is worrisome because prolonged stress can cause serious health problems including high blood pressure and diabetes. Some common causes of stress in a work environment are too much work, having a boss who is always criticizing your work, or plain boredom from doing the same thing every day. Managers can also feel stress from the pressures of trying to manage others and of from constantly refereeing disputes (between co-workers or colleagues).

Unfortunately, stress can’t be avoided but there are things that we can do to reduce its negative effects. The the online book titled Managing Stress by Sean McPheat talks about five ways to manage stress which are: getting enough sleep, maintaining a proper diet, exercising regularly, time management, and being aware of our emotions. He explains that people who get a good night’s sleep are better able to handle stress. He recommends that adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. Diet is another important aspect of stress management because overeating and alcohol consumption can actually cause additional health problems like obesity and addiction. Another way to manage ones diet is  to make sure that meals are balanced (have items from all the four food groups). Also people should minimize the amount of sugar and fat that they eat.

Exercise is another way to reduce stress because it allows us to expend pent up energy (which is a side effect of stress.) Time management helps to reduce stress because it allows us to focus. Additionally, those people who plan their day find that they are more productive. Finally, McPheat explains that being aware of our emotions (AKA emotional intelligence) will allow us to respond in more productive ways when we are faced with stressful situations. A person should periodically ask themselves, “What am I feeling and why am I feeling this way.” The next step is to take actions that will reduce these negative feelings. For example, if I realize that I am feeling anxious because work is piling up on my desk, I should take actions to resolve this problem. Some solutions could be to schedule a couple of undisturbed hours to work on my assignments or I can delegate some of my work to others.

I just found a short YouTube video on stress management that was very informative. They say that you should identify the most stressful things in your life and then put them into one of three categories which are: Remove, Change, and Accept. The first step is to identify and categorize all of the stressful aspects of your life. Then you need to create a plan to either remove, change, or accept the situation (depending on the category that it is in). I have a link to the video below.