All posts by Jon Bradshaw

6 Best Vacations for Boosting Productivity

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People take vacations for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it’s to spend more time with friends and family. At other times, it might be to fulfill an obligation. Some vacations, however, are specifically meant to help you return to work stronger. 

 

There are times when things aren’t quite clicking at work. You start expending more energy to accomplish the same tasks as before. And while some would recommend pushing through, be warned that this approach can backfire. 

 

Whether you’re a business owner or employee, overworking will actually ruin your productivity and your personal life. So when you feel overworked, it’s best to step away before burning yourself out. 

 

Unfortunately, not every vacation will give you the desired result. Some vacations can actually leave you feeling more drained. To make sure to get the most out of your vacations, check out the following kinds of vacations proven to boost productivity:

1. Wilderness Adventure

One of the best ways to get more done is to spend more time outdoors. Spending a few days in nature is a great way to relieve stress and come back refreshed. 

 

Going backpacking or camping is calming while building resilience. Why not schedule a visit to a nearby national park? National forests are also good options: They tend to be cheaper and less crowded but every bit as beautiful as America’s national parks.

 

What should you do on your wilderness adventure? Favorites include:

  • Hiking
  • Nature photography
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Kayaking or canoeing
  • Mountaineering

 

Whether you are renting a cabin or roughing it completely, you’ll come back feeling stronger and less stressed. If you’re looking to make it more social, bring your outdoorsy friends along.

2. Beach Trip

If camping isn’t your cup of tea, you can still enjoy the outdoors with a beach vacation. Here, you can soak up the sun and relax by a body of water. 

 

With this vacation, consider an all-inclusive resort. It saves the hassle of having to plan every little detail beforehand. And because food and drinks are typically included, it may not be as expensive as you might think. 

3. Wellness Retreat

Maybe you’re interested in a vacation that emphasizes wellness practices. Especially during a time like this, taking care of your mind and body is critical.

 

Wellness practices can help you be more focused, stay healthy, and grow in your personal life. Choose your retreat based on the specific area of wellness you want to focus on. Consider the following:

 

  • Intensive exercise 
  • Yoga 
  • Meditation
  • Spa relaxation
  • Diet transformation

 

4. Road Trip

Driving may not sound like a relaxing activity. But when you focus on the journey rather than the destination, it becomes a lot more fun. Think of the stops you make on the way as part of the experience rather than a nuisance. 

 

Being out on the road is a great opportunity to think and process life. The scenery moves around you in a way that can help you feel less stuck in your life.

Again, bring friends. Discover new music, enjoy deep conversation, and share plenty of roadside meals together.

5. International Vacation 

The Harvard Business Review reports that many of the most memorable vacations people take are to locations outside their home country. International trips are so fulfilling because everything about them feels new. They’re opportunities to both have fun and learn about new people and cultures.

 

With that said, these vacations can be the most stressful if you don’t plan well beforehand. Start planning this type of trip at least a month in advance. Think through everything from how you’ll get around to where you’ll exchange your currency, but also leave some room for spontaneity. 

 

Another key to an international trip is a local guide. Find someone to host your stay and tell you what to look out for. They can give you the knowledge you need to quell your fears of uncertainty. 

6. Activity-Focused Vacation

Everyone has a favorite hobby. This type of vacation is all about catering to it. Wine tastings, cooking trips, and artistic getaways are examples of activity-focused vacations. 

 

In the hustle and bustle of modern life, people get so busy that they neglect their hobbies and interests. They also don’t have the time to explore new things they might be interested in. 

 

On an activity-based vacation, you can explore a favorite hobby or establish a new one. You can also interact with other people who are interested in the same thing, helping you build new relationships. 

 

You have so many options when it comes to vacationing. The last thing you want to do is waste your time and come back even more stressed out than you were. With the right planning, these vacations can breathe new life into your work. 

How to Bounce Back from a Setback in the Workplace

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How to Bounce Back from a Setback in the Workplace

Business is full of pressure to succeed. As a leader, your team members depend on you to have a vision and answers to their questions. So what happens if you fail in front of them? 

Perhaps you dropped the ball on an important project. Maybe you misdirected your team in a way that hurt the company. Or maybe, you’ve upset your team in a personal way. These actions jeopardize the rapport you’ve built with them.  

As a leader, solving problems is an essential aspect of your role. But when you’ve caused the problem, solving it gets a bit more complicated. What’s more, the impulse to overcompensate is ever-present and can make matters worse.

Despite the complications, there are basic steps you can take to bounce back from major setbacks. Take a look at the following ways to do so without overcompensating: 

1. Accept personal responsibility.

Often when we fail, we may get defensive. These tendencies cause us to blame others or deflect from the issue. But bouncing back from a setback starts with accepting your mistakes. 

When you deflect and blame others, you become a victim of circumstance. But accepting personal responsibility gives you a sense of control. By seeing the ways that you contributed to a problem, you are able to be part of the solution. 

Accepting personal responsibility is a multi-step process. Get started by:

  • Reflecting on the process that led to the failure
  • Unpacking your thoughts and feelings associated with the failure
  • Responding graciously when others point out your mistake
  • Being intentional about rectifying the situation

 

Even if others contributed to the problem or failure, you’re better off focusing on your role. From there, you can begin to rebuild.

2. Don’t succumb to depression and anxiety.

Depression and anxiety are common responses to your problems and failures. And they can creep in as a result of accepting personal responsibility. 

When you’re going through these emotions, it’s best to take a step back. This might mean taking a short break from work. Or it might mean engaging in an activity that you love in order to recover. 

You don’t need to rush your recovery. Whatever it takes, take the time to get to a healthier state of mind. 

3. Reframe the issue.

One way to stop yourself from wallowing in your problems is to reframe the issue. It involves taking a step back and thinking of your situation from a different angle. 

Instead of viewing a setback as an insurmountable problem, try seeing it as an opportunity to grow. For example, if you’ve strained a relationship with an employee, focus on how reconciling can strengthen the relationship.

Reframing an issue is not necessarily about looking at the bright side. That approach can lead to toxic positivity. On the contrary, reframing is looking at the objective facts of a situation. Those facts will show you that failure is inevitable for everyone — but is also fixable by everyone.

From there, use those facts to embrace your potential. You are defined more by how you rise from failure than the failure itself. 

4. Address the problem with your team. 

Actions speak louder than words, but words are also important. It can be awkward in the office to carry on regularly as though nothing significant happened. You might think you’re saving face, but this is nothing more than overcompensation. You need to acknowledge these issues with your team. 

Doing so is key to maintaining transparency at your company. Unless you speak up, you’ll struggle to build and maintain trust with your team. This is especially important when your failure in leadership has caused persistently problematic team relations. 

A moment like this calls for a meeting. Give your team a heads up about what you’d like to talk about, and encourage them to bring their own challenges. After all, you’ll need everyone on board to move forward. 

5. Create a plan to remedy the situation.

Detailing the actions you’ll take to solve the problem is the final and most important step in a successful bounceback. As a leader, it’s also an opportunity to demonstrate your competence. 

The good news is, you won’t be in it alone. The input from your team members will help you refine your plans and put them into practice. Lean on them to build a healthier, more stable culture across the team. 

Good leaders are built through tests. A major setback might be hard to go through — but it may also be just what you needed to transform into a better version of yourself. 

How Far Is Too Far Out to Schedule Appointments?

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Imagine if someone wanted to schedule an appointment with your company 10 years into the future. You’d probably laugh it off. A lot can change in a decade. 

That may seem like a wild scenario, but the underlying question is an important one: How far is too far into the future to schedule client appointments?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. Just because your scheduling software lets you book years in advance doesn’t necessarily mean you should. 

So how can you decide on a cutoff? Maximize your scheduling software by asking yourself the following questions: 

1. What are the limits of my tools?

Before you can even think about customer preferences, know the limitations of your scheduling tools. 

How do you attract clients? What about booking their appointments? And how do you send out reminders and handle change requests?

Although some platforms can do it all, many can’t. In each program, click as far as you can into the future. When you can’t go any further, you know how far into the future you can schedule appointments.

What if it’s not as far as you’d like? Start searching for a program that can meet your needs. 

2. Is there customer demand?

Everything you do — including how you schedule appointments — should be based on what your clients want. If customers like things as they are, there’s no reason to switch things up. But if they want the ability to schedule sessions further out, then give them what they want. 

When it comes to scheduling, beware that customers won’t always tell you their issues. They may not even know that they have a say in your scheduling practices. 

In order to figure out what they might want, check out your appointment management platform. How far in advance does the average customer book their appointment? What about the fifth and ninety-fifth percentiles? Try to accommodate even your pickiest customers. 

Just as importantly, ask them directly for feedback. Soliciting feedback can come in the form of an email, a text message, a survey, or a conversation. 

However you do it, check back in after you set new booking parameters: Do your customers appreciate the changes?

3. Does it make sense with my business model? 

Scheduling appointments far in advance makes more sense for some businesses than others. Consider where you fall in the range of companies that typically use appointment scheduling software:

  • Call centers would likely want to confine appointments to a shorter time frame.
  • Event planners and caterers would likely prefer to schedule far in advance.
  • Academic advising appointments make sense to schedule within the semester.
  • Dentists and doctor’s offices may prefer to schedule checkups 12-16 months in advance.

When in doubt, learn what’s typical for your industry. Ask partners how far in advance they book appointments.

You don’t necessarily have to do what your competitors are doing, though. If you discover nobody is booking appointments a year out, maybe it could be your competitive advantage. Do what will set your brand apart without hamstringing your team. 

4. What does my customer volume look like?

The limits you place on far-ahead scheduling depend on how many people are booking appointments. If there’s always an opening on a given day, then there may be no reason to schedule something a year or two in advance.

If there’s a high volume, though, open up your appointment schedule. You may have heard of restaurants that have reservations years in advance. The reason is probably their popularity: People simply need to wait that long in order to get a table. 

Booking appointments far in advance can create a sense of exclusivity. If that’s your strategy, however, do your best to cater to people who would prefer to be served sooner. 

5. How far ahead has my business planned?

Your company calendar will be a big factor in how far ahead customers can schedule appointments. If you have a ton of new initiatives in the works for next quarter, then it may not be a good idea to book it up already.

Remember, customer expectations should be set at the time of booking. If you know your service offerings are going to change, then it’s probably best to shut off bookings past that period. 

Another way to think about this is based on the season. Your company may see a surge in clients in one season and a drastic decrease in another. If that’s the case for your company, you can prepare for the busy season by getting appointments booked far ahead. 

6. What are my goals for recurring clients?

Some businesses automatically schedule recurring clients after their most recent appointment. A dentist’s office, for example, typically schedules clients every 6 months. That kind of schedule can get customers into a rhythm. 

Some people prefer to plan in advance, while others like to live by the seat of their pants. Some are more diligent than others about keeping appointments. Others tend to go with the flow. 

Extending your scheduling horizon can help you accommodate all types of clients. Your stricter customers will like having something locked in, and you’ll still have space available for those who like to book at the last minute. 

Appointments are a juggling act. There are pros and cons to scheduling things far out, just as there are for short-term scheduling. Let your customers guide you, and you’ll make the right call more often than not. 

How to Simplify Scheduling for Working Parents

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Having a quality product or service isn’t enough to attract more customers. Getting more business is a matter of minimizing the obstacles preventing people from engaging. And a key demographic with significant obstacles is working parents. 

Working parents are constantly struggling to balance their careers, families, and personal lives. And that job is even harder in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the school year begins, many parents will have to homeschool on top of their other parenting and professional duties. 

Because they have to prioritize, many of them let their appointments fall by the wayside. Therefore, anything your business can do to make scheduling and attending appointments easier on working parents benefits you both.

Working parents have their work cut out for them. Use these simple strategies to tap this valuable, time-crunched audience:

1. Normalize self-service scheduling.

Allowing customers to schedule their own appointments can be a gamechanger. Working parents, in particular, want this ability. They simply don’t have time to hop on the phone for every appointment they make. 

It only takes a handful of scheduling calls to disrupt your daily flow. But with self-service scheduling, you can book appointments at any time of day and on any day of the week. 

Letting clients schedule their appointments makes things simpler for them and your employees. Working parents need this kind of flexibility; if you can deliver, you’ll bring more of them in your door. 

2. Create special times for working parents.

A way to demonstrate your awareness of working parents’ circumstances is to offer special hours for them. This could double as a promotional opportunity for your company. 

Think about this strategy like parking lot spaces for expectant mothers: It’s easy to offer, and people will respect it because they understand the plight of working parents.

For an added layer of protection, give working parents special access codes for your scheduling software. Not only does that support them, but it helps you collect data on a key customer demographic: What proportion of your client base is working parents, and how often do they visit?

3. Initiate contact.

Working parents are a lot more likely to make an appointment if you initiate the process. Don’t think of it as bugging them; treat it like an additional service you provide your most loyal customers. 

The good news is, there are a number of ways to get the ball rolling:

  • Ask them about scheduling their next appointment after their current one.
  • Send an email reminder about scheduling after a predetermined amount of time.
  • Call them with their permission.
  • Set up recurring appointments.

All of these methods can help get your clients into a routine. The more they interact with your company, the more important you become to them. The result is fewer cancellations, no-shows, and difficult clients.

4. Bring your business to them.

There’s nothing wrong with bringing more customers in your door. But if you can, why not offer house calls? Parents who need to stay home in order to watch their kids will appreciate it. 

A big part of making an appointment is getting there. Remember, not every client lives right next to your business. Designate a radius you’ll drive to for house calls, and make this public on your website. Blast it out on social media, and see how many working parents sign up. 

If house calls aren’t a fit for your business model, consider delivery. While you can’t deliver a service, it would certainly help working parents if their eye doctor would drop off contacts to try on, for instance. 

5. Make your office kid-friendly. 

Parents often worry that bringing their children to an appointment will disturb others. In a kid-friendly office environment, it’s not nearly as much of a concern. 

Setting up a play area in your office could solve this problem easily. Provide kids with toys and space, and they’ll stay out of other customers’ hair. Include a water cooler and some snacks in case kids — or their parents — get hungry or thirsty while they wait.

Working parents aren’t a rare breed. There are bound to be working parents at your company who can attest to that. Accommodating their — and their kids’ — needs isn’t always easy, but it can make a night-and-day difference to your company’s bottom line. 

How to Boost Employee Engagement With Community Involvement

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Community involvement is more than a branding opportunity for your business. While showcasing your values is never a bad idea, there’s more to the story. 

Your employees are also members of the community. Their sense of how your company gives back to that community can affect their engagement levels at work. Companies that are heavily involved in their communities have high levels of employee engagement

Why is that? Because employees want their work to be aligned with the things they value. When your company makes an effort to improve where they live and work, they see that.

The good news is, there are many ways for your company — and its employees — to get involved. Take a look at the following ideas to jumpstart your company’s local involvement:

1. Institute volunteering days. 

Many local organizations need manpower just as much, if not more, than monetary donations. Volunteering takes time: That’s why employees would probably appreciate a day off centered around volunteering. 

One way to make this happen is to give employees paid time off to volunteer. Let them choose the day and organization. Link employees to local opportunities they are interested in. 

Another way to do it is to volunteer as a team. In this case, you’d get your team together to figure out what organization to serve. After reaching out to the organization, you’d all take the day off together. Not only can this scale your contribution, but it acts as an opportunity for your team members to build stronger social bonds. 

The key to company volunteering is that it’s ongoing. Continue to reach out to organizations in need. Build service into your company calendar on a monthly basis. Volunteering isn’t just an investment in the organizations you’re helping; it’s also an investment in your employees. 

2. Sign up for sponsorships.

Another great way for a company to get involved in its community is by sponsoring philanthropic events or programs. People call companies for these kinds of opportunities all the time. 

Don’t ignore them. Better yet, go the extra mile and seek out initiatives to sponsor. Common opportunities include:

 

  • A charity race, such as a marathon or triathlon
  • An annual festival that is a staple of your community
  • A local art gallery
  • A library or nonprofit bookshop
  • A local school’s theater production
  • An afterschool program for kids
  • A sporting event

Look around: The opportunities are endless. And if you’re not in a position to donate money, you could always offer to do pro bono work. You could provide free samples of your product. This way, you’ve both marketed your company and helped make an event possible. 

3. Organize your own local event.

Although other organizations would appreciate your help, why not throw your own community event? It could be something educational or artistic. It might be something purely fun, such as a block party with food vendors and performers. You could even get other companies in your network involved.

The key to event planning is to know who will attend. That knowledge allows you to tailor your event to the audience you expect. And while it might be appropriate to organize an event that directly correlates to what your company does, don’t feel limited. Planning something with a wider appeal is a great way to get attention for your company. 

Encourage employees to help you plan the event. Those who do will get to witness their community impact firsthand. 

4. Invite students for a company visit.

The students in your community can benefit from engaging with your company. Bringing them in for a field trip can be inspiring, while giving your team a sense of gratification. 

Reach out to local schools. Let them know what you could teach young people. For younger children, you could discuss what your business does and show off product concepts.

For secondary students, talk through your industry as a possible career path. You could pair employees up with students and have them discuss what they do. What does the work look like? What difference does it make? How can they follow in your team’s footsteps?

Another option is young adults. Bring college students in to talk through internship opportunities. Work with local colleges to offer course credit for the work they do. Put students who might not be a perfect fit for you in touch with other companies in your network. 

Contributing to your community boosts your company’s image within your community. Your employees will see that, and they’ll feel all the better about their role within it. 

5 Ways to Create Constructive Competition at Work

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Competition can tear people apart. Whether it’s friends fighting over their love interests or disputes over money, the wrong kind of competition can sour even the strongest relationship.

But not all competition is bad. In a business environment, it can motivate workers to perform at a higher level. Across a company, it can create camaraderie, build culture, and boost focus.

What’s the difference? The first sort is destructive; the right kind is constructive. 

How can you get the good parts of competition without risking the bad? It’s all about context. Here’s how to get your team members to butt heads in ways that build your business:

1. Be open about your expectations.

Whether it’s a sales competition or a summer fun run, it’s critical that you tell participants what you expect from them. Remind everyone that, regardless of who wins, you’re one team. That means no disparaging comments, dirty tricks, or hard feelings afterward.

There may be periods when your upfront spiel isn’t enough. When that happens, simply bring everyone together for an open dialogue. Left unchecked, excessive competition can lead employees to overwork themselves to the point where productivity actually drops. 

If you do need to have a heart-to-heart with your team, realize it doesn’t necessarily mean you failed to create the right environment. Competition can get out of control on even the closest team. What counts is whether and how the team comes back together.

2. Put employees in teams or pairs.

One danger of an overly competitive work environment is that it isolates workers from one another. In that context, even the smallest mistake or shortcoming can be demoralizing. The result can be frustration, aggression, and ultimately, employee turnover. 

To combat this, put employees in pairs or teams. Having even one other person on your side can stave off a sense that everyone is out to get you. Be sure to move people around periodically to fight the formation of cliques.

If you’re not sure how to pair people up, try personality types. Not only does it reduce the risk employees think you’re playing favorites, but different types can shore up each other’s shortcomings. 

3. Start with the fun stuff. 

Words have a way of tripping people up. The word “competition” can be upsetting or scary for some people. Words like “game” or “contest” have more positive connotations. 

But don’t just use the word “game” and think it’s enough. Before setting up things like client service competitions, get employees used to fun contests. Favorites include:

  • Fitness challenges

Get everyone moving, especially if you run a desk-based business. You’ll cut your health insurance costs while reducing absenteeism.

  • Cook-offs and potlucks

Who can cook up the tastiest chili? Do the bakers on your team have a favorite cookie? 

  • Trivia contests

Who knows the most about British rock bands of the ‘60s? What about Civil War generals?

  • Intramural sports

Is your agency or the one down the street better at baseball? Who’s got game when it comes to basketball?

Once everyone is comfortable playing games together, graduate to work competitions. The healthy competition you’ve built should translate seamlessly. 

4. Emphasize self-competition.

Constantly comparing yourself to others is anxiety-inducing. It’s much more fulfilling to compare yourself to your own accomplishments.

Encourage employees to set their own goals. Maybe your email marketer’s goal is to boost her clickthrough rate by 5% next month. Perhaps your engineers have a per-feature development time to beat.

The key is to redefine winning. Remind your team: When you’re competing against yourself, it doesn’t matter how anyone else performs. All that counts is whether or not you can post a personal best.

5. Offer the right rewards.

Rewarding employees for their growth is critical.  To figure out the right rewards, it’s important to know what your employees value.

In some contexts, bragging rights might be enough to get people going. In other situations, a bonus at the end of a quarter would make more sense. 

The good news is, rewards don’t have to break the bank. You could offer winners:

  • A physical trophy 
  • Extra time off work
  • A prime parking spot
  • Free lunch on the company
  • An office or desk location of their choice
  • Gift cards to local retailers or restaurants

The key is to align the prize with the effort required. Offer too small a prize, and people might not feel motivated to work for it. Make it too big, and the competition could become cutthroat. 

The key to office competitions boil down to one word: healthy. It’s a balancing act: You don’t want to create tension on the team, but you also don’t want people to feel like it’s OK to coast.

You know your team best. Pair people thoughtfully. Offer prizes they’ll actually appreciate. Dip your toes before diving straight into revenue- and cost-related competitions. Interteam competition is valuable, but only when it’s done right.

How to Plan a Stellar Speaking Event for Your Business

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When you hear the phrase “speaking event,” you might think of a huge conference. It sounds like something complicated that only a large organization or corporation could do. 

Think again: Any business can host a speaking event. Picture something more in line with a team-building workshop. The only difference is, engaging with the speaker is more central than the activities. 

A good speaker can make it look like a cinch, but the truth is, there’s a lot of moving parts. If you want your speaking event to be stellar, focus on these seven things:

1. Choosing the right occasion

Every event needs a “why?” Otherwise, it’s just a rambling monologue. 

You don’t want your audience to wonder “What’s the point?” Make sure to select an occasion that merits bringing in a speaker.

The good news is, there are plenty of reasons to plan a speaking event. Popular ones include:

  • Motivating employees before a busy period
  • Celebrating a job well done at the end of a busy period
  • Breaking the ice on a new team
  • Starting a discussion about company culture or team dynamics
  • Promoting productivity or wellness strategies to improve performance
  • Providing an opportunity for future leaders to learn

To be clear, that list isn’t exhaustive. As long as you can articulate your “why,” go ahead and schedule your speaking event.

2. Picking the right speaker

What would a speaking event be without a speaker? Selecting the right person is just as important as finding the right occasion. 

Relevance is key. If you’re trying to promote diversity and inclusion, for instance, why would you choose a speaker who built his or her name in sales?

Remember that your speaker doesn’t have to be a big name. Consider inviting someone with a personal connection to your company or subject, such as:

  • A close friend in your industry
  • A community member who advocates for your company
  • A client who had a exceptionally good — or exceptionally poor — experience
  • Someone from an organization that your company sponsors

You don’t have to break the bank to do a speaking engagement. Do what you can with what you have. 

3. Figuring out the number of speakers

Rather than inviting one person to speak at your company, you might consider multiple. One upside of choosing a low-cost speaker is that you might be able to afford more than one.

If so, think of your speaking event as a mini-conference. Allow team members to choose which talks they want to attend. Get everyone back in the same room to listen to your keynote speaker.

Another way to involve multiple speakers is to plan a panel discussion. Choose guests with different perspectives on your topic, and select someone to be your moderator. 

4. Finding the right location

There are pros and cons to any forum. You can hold it at your office, at an external venue, outdoors, or virtually. 

If you have the space, holding your speaking event at your office keeps things simple. With that said, it could make employees feel like it’s just another work meeting.

Doing a speaking event at a third-party location, whether indoors or out, can add excitement. However, this could cost more money depending on what space you find to do it. 

Finally, doing the event virtually might be a good option for a remote team. Particularly during COVID-19, it can also keep your team and speaker safe. But it might be harder to connect with a speaker when nonverbal cues are limited.

5. Setting up your equipment

Unless your speaking event’s audience will be small, you’ll need some sort of amplification system. And if the speaker has slides to share, he or she will need a screen and projector. 

When used well, technical equipment can enhance a speaking event. But as we all know, it can also be distracting.

Be sure to test any equipment your speaker will need beforehand. If you can afford it, hire a professional to manage the sound. Make sure any slides or clips the speaker wants to show display well.

6. Taking care of the speaker

Aside from compensating a speaker, it’s also important to be hospitable. Treat people how you’d want to be treated. 

If your speaker is coming in from out of town, assist them in finding accommodations. Allow them to mingle with your company as they please. Make sure they’ll have meals and water available throughout the day. 

When it comes to their speech itself, however, give them space to do their thing. Resist the urge to micromanage. And be sure to give them an introduction that highlights any accomplishments relevant to the topic they’ll be discussing.  

7. Planning the reception

A speaking engagement doesn’t end when the speech is over. Especially if it’s a formal event, encourage people to mingle afterward. One-on-one time with the speaker may be more valuable to attendees that the speech itself. 

Receptions don’t have to be big productions. Set out hors d’oeuvres and drinks, if appropriate. Put out materials like paper and pens, if your reception includes activities. It’s perfectly OK, though, if your speaker and audience members simply want to mingle. 

Speaking events don’t have to be stress-inducing or costly. If you have a receptive audience, an engaging speaker, and a fitting venue, you’re most of the way there. Sprinkle in some hospitality and tech-savvy team members, and you’ll be gold. 

6 Mentorship Problems to Avoid

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No doubt: Mentorship is the best way to build new leaders. A system of senior professionals investing in younger ones can also create camaraderie and share skills across the team.

The truth, though, is that not all mentorship programs are created equal: Some build real relationships, while others simply make mentors and mentees go through the motions.

What’s the difference? Some of it comes down to individual relationships, but many dysfunctions are due to the program itself. 

Everyone can benefit from sharing wisdom and encouragement. If you want to build a meaningful mentorship program, watch out for the following pitfalls:

1. Forcing mentorship on all new hires

Requiring mentorship for all new hires is one of those ideas that sounds good but doesn’t work well in practice. That’s because when something is forced, people become less willing to partake in it. 

Don’t undercut new employees’ autonomy. Realize that mentorship may not be the best way to integrate them into your team. 

Onboarding and orientation are short-term, one-size-fits-all processes. Employees don’t need a senior member of the team to show them how to fill out a benefits application.

Mentorship, in contrast, is a long-term endeavor that seeks to support employees’ individual goals and development. It’s more about helping people find fulfillment than getting a company process down pat. 

Misunderstanding the purpose of mentorship can cause frustrations down the line. Provide the opportunity to everyone, and emphasize the benefits. After that, let each member of the team engage when they are ready. 

2. Making it all about leadership roles

Mentorship is a lot more than management training. To be valuable, mentorship must be holistic and guided by the mentee. 

The truth is that leadership means different things to different people. Some people are suited to management positions. Others lead by excelling in their work or being a strong team player. 

A solid mentorship program encourages employees to chart their own path. The mentor’s role is to help them become the best version of themselves. 

3. Matching the wrong people

The mentor-mentee relationship can thrive or fail simply based on the people involved. Each person needs to feel like they can relate to the other on some level. That could mean that they have a lot in common; it could also mean that they have mutual respect for each other. 

One way to begin the matching process is to understand people’s personalities. A personality test like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can help you identify pairings that might work well together. However, personality tests should only be a starting point.

After getting preliminary data, check the fit. Hold a mentorship mixer for interested mentors and mentees to interact. Use team-building events to determine who works well with who. 

4. Having unrealistic expectations

Mentors and mentees should challenge one another, but expecting too much can be detrimental. Neither personal nor professional growth is linear. 

Both parties should always be in agreement about the terms of the mentorship. Mentors can overstep their boundaries and overwhelm mentees. And on the other side, a mentee might expect the mentor to put in all the work. In some cases, both parties can feel like the other person is too clingy. 

Check in with mentors and mentees periodically. Ask both parties whether they’ve experienced tension with the other. If their answers don’t match, get them in a room together to talk it out. 

5. Failing to prioritize 

Many mentor-mentee relationships fail due to neglect. Balancing work and life can be difficult in the best of times, and stressors can cause people to shut down or ignore their partner. 

Nip this in the bud by structuring your mentorship program. Don’t leave the dynamic completely up to the pair. Help them decide when and how often to meet. 

 

Support both sides by sharing tips about how to prioritize their time. Key steps include: 

  • Setting achievable work goals
  • Deciding what is essential and non-essential
  • Keeping a work log
  • Tackling your toughest task for the day first
  • Minimize interruptions and distractions

6. Structuring the program too rigidly

A mentorship program needs structure in order to be successful, but don’t overdo it. Nobody wants to open a binder of to-dos every time they meet with their partner. There should be some level of informality. 

Too much structure can stifle relationships. It can also create a crisis for people who feel like they aren’t reaching the outlined growth outcomes. It’s better to let people develop at their own pace — and that’s true for mentors and mentees alike. 

Mentorship can be remarkably rewarding. But if one or both sides aren’t willing to put in the effort, it can also fall apart. 

Make sure mentees and mentors are invested, and remember that adjustments may need to be made. As long as you’re flexible and fair in your expectations, your mentorship program will work its magic. 

What Should Your Office’s PPE Policy Be?

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As the COVID-19 crisis drags on, offices everywhere are reopening. Work has to get done. With that said, there’s no reason to subject your staff or customers to unnecessary risks. 

There are many things to consider when reopening your business. You must reorganize the office to allow employees to work at a safe distance. You need to be vigilant about cleaning. You also need to adjust the way customers interact with your business by restricting things like drop-in appointments. 

The biggest challenge, however, might be effectively utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE). Depending on the nature of your business, masks, gloves, and employee-customer barriers may be necessary.

Not sure where to start? To figure out your next steps, take a look through the following questions:

1. Do I need a PPE policy?

Yes, you do. COVID-19 is contagious, and you have a responsibility to keep your customers and employees safe. That starts with a clear policy on PPE usage. 

Policies provide a level of accountability that recommendations can’t. A cancellation policy for appointments can lower no-show rates more than “soft” guidelines ever could, for example.

The same is true when it comes to wearing protective equipment. Don’t leave something so important up to chance or choice.

2. How common is COVID-19 in my area?

No matter where your business is located, having a PPE policy is worthwhile. With that said, it’s important to build yours around conditions on the ground. 

More drastic types of PPE, such as face shields, should be used in hotspots. If you’re in a place where the coronavirus is under control, regular cloth masks may be plenty.

The bottom line is, you can’t throw caution to the wind. But you shouldn’t go whole-hog if there are only a few cases in your country. 

3. How will PPE affect productivity?

There’s an argument to be made that PPE can be distracting. But when people use it long enough, it becomes the norm. The real productivity drain, in fact, comes from anxiety caused by a sense of unease at work. From that perspective, wearing PPE might actually help employees be more productive at a time like this. 

What if employees claim their PPE is getting in the way? Look for workarounds. Perhaps someone who finds a face covering to be distracting would be better off working at home. Simply getting him or her a softer mask could solve the issue. 

4. How will I get employees to comply?

When introducing new policies, there’s always a question about how workers will respond. If they don’t buy into your plan, then it isn’t going to be effective. The key is to involve your team in crafting the policy.

Solicit their input when putting together your PPE policy. Keep them in the loop about your decisions related to how and when to re-open the office. Transparency boosts engagement and encourages compliance. 

Most importantly, listen to your employees’ concerns about returning to work. Take steps they suggest to make everyone feel more comfortable. 

5. What should I provide?

According to OSHA, employers must provide the PPE necessary for employees to do their jobs safely. That guideline, however, has a lot of room for interpretation. Arguably, no customer-facing job is perfectly safe right now. 

The basic piece of equipment is a face mask. While employees may opt to bring their own, it’s important to provide backups if necessary. Keeping gloves and hand sanitizer stocked and accessible is also a good idea. 

If your employees interact intimately with customers, plexiglass shields should be provided. At high-risk companies, such as nursing homes and doctor’s offices, full-body protective coverings may be necessary as well. 

6. What consequences should I impose?

The toughest part of creating a PPE policy is figuring out what to do if employees break it. Not every infraction is intentional, and not all sanctions work with all employees. 

What will you do if someone forgets their PPE on accident? What if it slips off in the course of their work? And what if the same team member keeps violating your policy?

For first-time accidents, a verbal warning is plenty. Perhaps repeat offenders are required to work from home for a certain length of time. Intentional offenses should be punished more seriously.

No one knows how long the pandemic will last. It’s probably safe to say, however, that the virus isn’t going away anytime soon. Using PPE at work may become the “new normal.” Design your policy thoughtfully, and get buy in across your team: You may need it for the long haul.

5 Ways to Encourage Reading at Your Workplace

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5 Ways to Encourage Reading at Your Workplace

Many business moguls, including Warren Buffett, swear by reading. But while reading is a great way to grow, it’s awfully time-consuming.

If members of your team are struggling to find time to crack a book, productivity hacks can help you make space in your schedule. Tactics like time-blocking can prevent other priorities from stealing time you’d meant to spend reading.

Encouraging employees to carve out reading time makes sense on multiple levels. Not only is it a great approach to personal development, but it also builds community. Book clubs help team members connect from afar, and everyone appreciates a good book recommendation. 

Reading is a key employee development strategy, especially at a time when people are stuck at home. Take a look at these tips to get your team members into the habit:

1. Set the example.

Like other aspects of company culture, teamwide reading starts at the top. If you never read anything, then how can you expect your employees to do so?

Start by setting a goal for how much you want to read in a month. Also, make note of what you want to read. Once you get into a rhythm, you can challenge yourself with more frequent reading or more challenging literature.

Not sure what to start with? Consider some of this year’s top-rated leadership books, such as Brené Brown’s “Dare to Lead.”

Don’t worry too much about showing off your reading. In team conversations, you’ll naturally bring up ideas that you find interesting. Soon, others on the team will start to do the same.

2. Start an office book club.

Reading might not seem like a social activity, but it’s a great way to build relationships. The readers on your team can provide new perspectives, which are fun to discuss and can enhance your leadership skills. 

A book club is a great way to do this. Select a different book each month and designate a time to discuss it. Let a different person choose the next book when you’re finished. Make a game of it: Perhaps the first person to finish the current book gets to select the team’s next read. 

The books chosen do not need to be directly related to work. The benefits of reading can come from fiction as well. You might be surprised by what insights you can glean from even the most “left field” readings.

What if people can’t agree on what to read? Don’t force everyone on the team to read the same thing. A happy hour where people discuss their favorite books is less formal but still beneficial. 

3. Create an office library.

Sometimes, the barrier to reading is merely accessibility. If there are reading materials around, people are more likely to utilize them. 

Think about waiting rooms: Customers naturally pick up magazines left out to pass the time. An office library takes this to the next step by giving meaningful and varied choices to your team. 

Of course, you’ll need books to fill the library. Get your employees’ help choosing what to include. Aim for a good mix of nonfiction and fiction books. 

Bookcases are a must, but you can’t just put books on a shelf and call it a day. Change up your display periodically. Implement a checkout system so you can track what’s been removed and returned.

Finally, make sure your library has a reading space. Put a comfortable chair by a window. Leave out a selection of coffee and tea nearby. 

4. Set up a Goodreads account.

Goodreads is a site that tracks the books you’ve read. Readers are able to friend each other and see what people are reading. 

Until COVID-19 is over, this is one way to make an office book club work remotely. Set up a company account and ask employees to connect their personal accounts to it. Give a small incentive, such as a gift card, to the employee who manages to read the most books in a quarter or year. 

5. Stick with it.

A reading culture won’t take off by itself. The good news is, you don’t have to be the one to keep it going. Appoint a team member who’s a particularly voracious reader. 

Consider giving a raise or desirable title to the person leading your reading group. Even extra days off can make tempt people to take the position.

What if the book group’s leader is struggling to make enough time for it? Encourage them to delegate some of their other responsibilities. Creating culture can be a full-time position by itself, so don’t treat it as a small side project. 

When you put the right pieces together, you can have a robust reading culture. And when team members are constantly consuming new ideas, they become more valuable to the company. Treat reading like a critical part of their professional development because, after all, it is. 

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