Behold the Power of Productivity

10061396Penny pinchers make every cent count. So do productivity pros – but their currency is time.

If you want to work smarter and faster, don’t waste another second! An Entrepreneur.com story reveals 11 things ultra-productive people do differently.

Among the techniques (if you kick off your mornings by “eating a frog,” you’re on the right track):

• They Get Ready for Tomorrow Before They Leave the Office
Productive people end each day by preparing for the next. This practice accomplishes two things: It helps you solidify what you’ve accomplished today, and it ensures you’ll have a productive tomorrow. It only takes a few minutes and it’s a great way to end your workday.
“For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” – Benjamin Franklin
They Eat Frog
“Eating a frog” is the best antidote for procrastination, and ultra-productive people start each morning with this tasty treat. In other words, they do the least appetizing, most dreaded item on their to-do list before they do anything else. After that, they’re freed up to tackle the stuff that excites and inspires them.
They Go Off The Grid
Don’t be afraid to go off grid when you need to. Give one trusted person a number to call in case of emergency, and let that person be your filter. Everything has to go through them, and anything they don’t clear has to wait. This strategy is a bulletproof way to complete high-priority projects.

“One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week.” – Charles Richards

Good tips. Good intentions. Good luck!

Complimentary Chamber Series Features Energy-Saving Tips, Member Benefits

in chamberRising electric bills unfortunately appear on the horizon due to new federal regulations. To help prepare the Hoosier business community, the Indiana Chamber will highlight timely energy-saving tips at its complimentary 2015 Connect and Collaborate series.

“Ten Tips to Manage Your Organization’s Energy Costs” will feature Vince Griffin, vice president of energy and environmental policy at the Indiana Chamber. Griffin is one of the leading voices on all energy topics as a result of his 17-plus years at the Indiana Chamber and previous industry experience.

Griffin will be joined by Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar and a local business/community leader in each of the eight Connect and Collaborate stops throughout the state. They will share guidance that can be applied for organizations of all types. Each session will also include a moderated panel discussion featuring questions and comments from attendees.

What’s more, these events offer a free lunch and introduction for non-Indiana Chamber members about the organization’s benefits, as well as act as a reminder for existing members about how to take full advantage of the membership services.

“Connect and Collaborate luncheons are a great way to gain simple tools to improve your workplace,” remarks Brock Hesler, director of membership with the Indiana Chamber. “This will be an excellent opportunity to learn what others are doing and bring some new ideas back to your office or production floor.

“In addition to inviting all of our members, we encourage those not currently part of the Indiana Chamber to attend and learn more about the organization,” he says.

There is no cost for the luncheons, which take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time. The schedule kicks off in Indianapolis on May 11 and wraps up in Muncie on August 25. In between are stops in Fort Wayne (May 19), Lafayette (June 2), Merrillville (June 8), Elkhart (June 9), Evansville (July 28) and Bloomington (August 20).

Details and registration are available online or by contacting Nick Luchtefeld at [email protected] or (317) 264-6898.

On the Job Hunt? Remember These Few Interview Dos and Don’ts

Twice now I’ve had the pleasure of venturing back to my alma mater (Franklin College) and helping the journalism department with some student mock job interviews. In the interviews, I am the employer and the student is testing out his or her interviewing skills, with the ultimate goal of helping the students build confidence in those skills.

I came across this infographic on Ragan Communications and found it pertinent to that experience and to anyone currently searching for a job. If you’re getting ready to interview or if you’ve had no luck in landing new employment, read on for some helpful guidelines that might just tip the scales in your favor next time.

Make sure you’ve done your research. Of 2,000 employers surveyed, 47% said the No. 1 mistake job seekers make during interviews is having no knowledge about the company.

Another one to be aware of (but this should come as no surprise): 65% of employers say clothing influences the decision between two candidates. But don’t think being overly fashionable or trendy will land you the job: 70% of employers claim they don’t want applicants who dress that way. Aiming for modest and professional is probably your best bet. And don’t go too heavy on the perfume or cologne. Your interviewer can’t focus properly on your responses if there’s a giant pink cloud of perfume surrounding you.

When I work with college students, most have some serious handshake work to do – and 26% of employers also see a weak handshake as tanking your probability of landing the job. Other physical actions that aren’t great: failure to make eye contact, not smiling, hunching over, keeping your arms crossed over your chest, making too many hand gestures, or just simple fidgeting.

The infographic also gives some handy lists to help with your interviewing, but here’s a quick one to keep handy:

  1. Learn about the organization.
  2. Have a specific job in mind.
  3. Review your qualifications for the job.
  4. Be ready to briefly describe your experience.

Good luck!

Winter Wellness: Keep It Simple

This column was originally posted at Inside INdiana Business:

Braving the brisk air for a jog may be the last thing you want to do when you wake up. Pursuing indoor activities is a rewarding alternative. Head to the gym or pop in an exercise DVD. Short on time? No problem. You don’t have to use a treadmill or lift weights. Spend two or three minutes doing stretching exercises. Take deep breaths as you prepare for the day ahead.

During your workday, keep active. Conduct standing or walking meetings. In addition, discuss projects in person with co-workers rather than always using e-mail. Or call them and stand up while you’re talking. Nine times out of 10, if I’m on the telephone, I’m moving.

If those options don’t appeal to you (it’s all about personalizing your initiative), try one of these simple desk exercises. Grab a Frisbee or paper plate and turn it upside down. Then put it under your desk and move your legs back and forth on the carpet. It’s a great way to work lower leg muscles.

Looking for inexpensive strength training tools? Use resistance bands (also called therapeutic bands) to stretch. Another idea is to replace your traditional office chair with a stability ball, which helps improve posture and works core muscles. If that is not an option, you can still engage your abs by sitting up straight on the edge of your chair and slightly leaning back.

Prefer something more social? Take a stroll on an indoor path with co-workers. After hours, create your own walking route at a shopping mall. And if the weather isn’t too chilly, venture outside and have fun! Take a scenic walk through the woods at a park or go sledding.

Did you know that you don’t have to exercise for long periods of time to reap the benefits? Ten minutes here and there – adding up to approximately 30 minutes a day – can make a big difference. The key is figuring out how you can incorporate physical activities into your normal day based on what you feel you are capable of doing and what interests you.

Take the stairs. Walk up an escalator rather than standing in place. When you’re grocery shopping, push your cart through every aisle. Small steps add up.

The holidays bring good tidings and… lots of temptation. Why not take a walk after a big meal with family and friends? Also, instead of sampling all of the festive foods you crave, enjoy one or two things and savor them.

Many people will enter 2013 with a resolution to stop smoking. It’s an important step that can dramatically improve your health and well-being. The QUIT NOW Tool  offered by the Wellness Council of Indiana is a valuable resource to assist Hoosier employees in their smoking cessation efforts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each smoker costs his or her organization $3,391 annually in direct medical costs and lost productivity. That’s a huge impact. Remember: Healthy employees lead to healthy workplaces with happier, more productive team members.

The best gift you can give to yourself is good health. Find what works for you and makes you happy. That’s how you truly make a lifestyle change.

Hamburglin’: Steal Some Beefy Social Media Tips from McDonald’s

Despite your position on the merits of the Big Mac, you may be able to benefit from some social media tips from the king of fast food chains. PR Daily reports:

As one of the most successful businesses and most recognizable brands in the world, McDonald’s is no stranger to the particulars of marketing and PR.

But how does the company manage social media?

Rick Wion, director of social media for McDonald’s, spoke with PR Daily about the ways the Golden Arches manages the wide world of social media. From that conversation, here are seven tips for social media success, including how you can take action at your organization:

1. Determine why your company is using social media.

Wion said that McDonald’s uses social media for three main purposes:

  1. To sell products;
  2. To build the brand;
  3. To engage with customers and manage issues as they emerge.

Take action: Sit down with your communications, marketing, and PR departments (and whoever else you think should be involved) and determine your objectives for social media. This way, your team will understand its goals and have structure.

2. Employ different strategies for different platforms.

The social media team doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to social media. It has different strategies for the various platforms on which it operates. “People want to see videos, polls, and brand entertainment,” Wion said of the McDonald’s Facebook presence.

Instead of posting nothing more than updates (or, God forbid, linking your Twitter feed to your Facebook page), set out to entertain your audience, Wion advised. Poll them about current events, post funny pictures and videos, and share stories about your brand.

Wion and his team use Twitter for “general communication, customer satisfaction, and building awareness.”

Take action: Which social media platforms make the most sense for your business? How do you plan to use each platform? When posting, keep the purpose of the platform in mind.

3. Make sure measurement jibes with your strategic goals.

“The blessing and the curse of social media is that you can measure in dozens, if not hundreds of ways,” said Wion. “The problem is that there aren’t any standards for what success looks like.”

As a result, McDonald’s has found that the best way to measure is to do so by campaign, because what is being measured varies by product and brand.

Take action: Don’t measure just for the sake of measuring. Have specific objectives in mind. Figure out what you want to see.

4. Entertain people.

Would you visit a boring Facebook page or regularly check a mundane, repetitive Twitter account? No? Your fans don’t want to, either.

Wion suggests publishing “unexpected posts” on your social media channels. From sharing posts that provide little-known information to drafting humorous updates, you can surprise and delight people and separate yourself from the millions of other updates.

Take action: See what other people are doing on social media and then experiment with your own content. What time of the day do people tend to engage with your page? What kind of posts does your audience respond to most? Respond accordingly.

5. Get organized.

Though there’s something to be said for spur-of-the-moment creativity, it’s not always sustainable or practical to live by the seat of your pants. Wion and his team use an editorial calendar, created using Excel, to manage posts and stories. Your team can use one to ensure that posts are relevant to upcoming holidays, events, and times of the year.

Take action: Create a calendar with your team. Mark important dates and ensure your team is aware and on top of the schedule.

6. Give your social media content some personality.

Wion knows that different social media platforms call for different social media “voices.” On Twitter, the McDonald’s team lets the personality of the Twitter team shine through because “people want to connect with actual people on Twitter,” he says.

The official McDonald’s Twitter feed features a link with the bios of its social media team. On Facebook, McDonald’s understands that people want to connect with their brand, so they use a “voice” that best represents the McDonald’s brand.

Take action: Determine your brand’s target audience. Use the voice most appropriate for that audience and the channels on which you’ve chosen to promote your brand.

7. Provide opportunities for consumers to ask questions.

McDonald’s hosts Twitter chats under the hashtag #MCDChanging to give fans the opportunity to speak with people like the company’s vice president of sustainability and, most recently, its chief marketing officer.

Take action: Find opportunities for your fan base to connect with decision-makers. Show them that they have a voice and that you’re listening to them. You can easily create a Twitter hashtag and promote your chat on your blog, on your Facebook page, and through your Twitter account. Follow other chats first to get a feel for the format and what to expect.

How to Keep Your Audience Awake

If you’re in the professional world long enough, odds are pretty high that you will have to make at least a few speeches. While some people tense at the thought of public speaking, others take to it like ducks to water. However, the real keys are organizing your thoughts and practicing.

Regardless of your comfort level, one frequent challenge for everyone is making the speech interesting and engaging. We all know that business topics can be a little dry and crammed with information. The question is how to take what may be a dull topic and turn it into an attention-getter.

In its e-newsletter for communicators, Ragan recently offered five good tips to follow and featured a video of a speech that embodied this approach.

The speaker:

  1. Began with a story
  2. Created the framework for his talk
  3. Took his time
  4. Gave the audience a roadmap of what to expect
  5. Didn’t rely on PowerPoint

When Stress Strikes, Be Prepared

Don’t let my positive attitude fool you; I am a world-class worrier.

Just because I view the glass as half full doesn’t mean I’m immune to stress – whether it’s financial, work related, physical or mental.

Fortunately, I’ve discovered throughout the years that laughter truly is the best medicine. It’s certainly helped me weather life’s storms. But, since I can’t walk around cackling like the Joker all day long (that may freak people out), I’ve found other ways to alleviate stress.

Curling up with a book, watching a movie (especially 1980s Molly Ringwald classics) and writing poetry always helps me relax. Another outlet is music (bring on the Beatles)!

Looking for more tips? The Wellness Council of Indiana helps employers across the state create and enhance wellness programs. Stress management is an important element.

In addition, the Mayo Clinic web site lists the top 10 stress relievers. Here is an excerpt:

  1. Get active
  2. Virtually any form of exercise and physical activity can act as a stress reliever. Even if you’re not an athlete or you’re out of shape, exercise is still a good stress reliever. Physical activity pumps up your feel-good endorphins and refocuses your mind on your body’s movements, improving your mood and helping the day’s irritations fade away.
  3. Meditate
  4. During meditation, you focus your attention and eliminate the stream of jumbled thoughts that may be crowding your mind and causing stress. Meditation instills a sense of calm, peace and balance that benefits both your emotional well-being and your overall health.
  5. Laugh

A good sense of humor can’t cure all ailments, but it can help you feel better, even if you have to force a fake laugh through your grumpiness. When you start to laugh, it lightens your mental load and actually causes positive physical changes in your body.

Don’t Let Perception Make You Seem Insincere

Now as much as ever, it’s critical for all American businesses to convey one characteristic — integrity. If people don’t believe your communicators when they speak, your days as a profitable business are numbered. Michael Sebastian of Ragan.com offers a few key phrases to avoid when speaking with reporters or the public, lest you seem like you’re hiding something:

Ever prefaced a statement with, “To be perfectly honest, I …”?

Look out. That’s a verbal crutch—sometimes called a throat-clearing statement—and when speaking to the media it could hurt a spokesperson’s credibility.

Barbara Gibson, a social media trainer and former chair of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), discovered this phenomenon while assessing the strengths and weaknesses of corporate spokespeople.

To perform the analysis, a journalist interviewed individual spokespeople for 40 minutes, then the journalist and a PR assessor rated their abilities across 12 key skills. Among the areas she examined was whether journalists considered the spokesperson “open and honest.”

“We found there is a very big difference between being open and honest and seeming so,” Gibson explained in an email to PR Daily.

She began by analyzing various aspects of spokespeople’s performances to learn why journalists think they’re not truthful when they are, in fact, telling the truth.

“I found that the higher the number of uses of verbal crutches within an interview, the lower the score in this area,” she said. “Then I also realized that those spokespeople [who use] what I identified as ‘honesty-related’ verbal crutches … almost always had lower scores.”

Four of these “honesty-related” crutches are:

1. “Let’s be clear”;
2. “To be perfectly honest”;
3. “Frankly”;
4. “Just between you and me.”

Revitalize that Job Search

Still looking for a job at a reputable Indiana business? While job searching can be painful and frustrating, there are ways to optimize your ability to land work. Staffing firm Robert Half offers five tips for revitalizing a lengthy job search:

  • Reconsider the chronological resume. A new format, such as one that highlights skills versus work history, may be more productive.
  • Invest in new packaging.  If an extended search in a particular industry or field isn’t yielding results, focus on how you could repackage your transferable skills for a different industry or type of role.
  • Switch up your networking. People tend to focus on certain groups or techniques (e.g., using LinkedIn to make connections or attending regular trade association meetings).  Look for different groups to join, and new ways to meet people outside of your usual circle.
  • Get a second opinion. Do you get lots of interviews, but no second calls? Ask a friend with good professionals judgment to give you feedback on your interview performance. Or perhaps your resume hasn’t landed you any interviews. Have a recruiter or trusted friend give you their ideas.
  • Expand your reach.  Some parts of the country are recovering faster than others. If your search isn’t working in a particular area, could you look at a move to a different city? Large staffing firms who have offices nationwide can connect you with jobs outside of your immediate locale.

The Importance of Good Customer Service (Part XXIV)

We’ve offered quite a few posts on customer service tips, errors, blunders, horrors, etc. Why? Because your customer service reps are your first and often only point of contact with your customers. A bad experience could lead to not only a customer taking his/her business elsewhere, but can also earn your business a serious thrashing on Twitter or Facebook, thus souring others on your services. CustomerContactNews offers this advice:

You might unknowingly tick off customers if anyone in your contact center commits any of these stupid service mistakes:

  • Lazy courtesy. In the rush to get information, agents might forget to use common courtesies such as “please,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome.” Use them early and often in all conversations.
  • Poor record keeping. Misspelled names, incorrect pronunciations and repeated mistakes on paperwork bother customers. Regularly check that your records are correct.
  • Promises fell short. Promise a little less than you know you can deliver and you’ll keep customers happy.
  • Policy protection. You’ll lose customers if you hide behind policies so you don’t have to do something for them. Instead, find ways around roadblocks and help eliminate policies that inhibit agents and customers.
  • Inaccessibility. If customers can’t get through to you easily, they won’t stick around to try harder. Give them options (e-mail, online chat and a quickly answered toll-free number).
  • Untrained staff. If agents consistently have to turn to others for help, customers will get frustrated. Agents don’t have to know all of the answers, just where to find them. So train more on accessibility and encourage them often to do what’s right for customers