Category Archives: Knowledge Base

Why Leaders Need to Embrace Transparency

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One of the most important goals you should have as a leader is to be able to unleash your employee’s full potential. And while there are many ways to accomplish this, workplace transparency is often the most effective. Workplace transparency makes everyone feel valued. Transparency encourages employees to step outside of their comfort zones and not fear being punished after sharing feedback. Freedom to share both ways also keeps them in the loop whenever you’ve made an important decision.

Many leaders still hesitate to embrace transparency. Possibly the hesitation is from a lack of understanding of how to create transparency or cultivate it. Let me try to convince you of the benefits.

Why Leaders Need to Embrace Transparency in the Workplace

Improves workplace engagement.

Transparency in the workplace is one of the most effective ways to motivate and engage your team. Using current research, we see that transparency is the number one factor contributing to employee happiness. When your peeps are satisfied, they’re more productive and loyal.

What’s more, transparency reduces stress and creates a healthier work environment. Mainly the work situation changes because transparency creates a sense of fairness. It also encourages collaboration and cultivates a safe space where everyone can express their opinions. Employees and other people don’t have to be concerned about being penalized for making a mistake. Instead, they’re encouraged to learn from the experience.

Better alignment.

“Employee alignment, for transparency’s sake, means taking a look at the big picture and seeking to understand everyone’s role within it,” Andre Lavoie wrote previously for Entrepreneur. “This is easily done when employers practice transparency in the workplace.”

“Transparent leadership results in employees who understand the company vision and how their efforts help achieve company-wide goals,” adds Lavoie. As a result, both you and your team will become more proactive, improve your decision-making, and only fill your calendar with items that push you closer to your goals.

Problems are solved faster.

Employees and leaders learn more about one another and can grow to work toward solving problems faster when their leaders are transparent. While creating an open environment, we can see less of the ‘perilous’ leader. “Three factors contribute to one behaving as a perilous leader,” says Karol Wasylyshyn, Psy.D. in Psychology Today.

Using transparency as the vehicle, the managers and bosses begin to embrace total brain leadership (TBL), and better emotional intelligence (EI) can start to emerge. When there is less fear, there is more honesty, and people are freer to express opinions. Empathy increases and narcissism fades in a more competent transparency environment.

For example, if you need to improve your bottom line, then solicit feedback from your team on how to improve your cash flow before jumping the shark and making cuts, like issuing pink slips.

It creates a flat hierarchy.

As Angela Ruth points out in a piece for Calendar, “more and more organizations are opting to go with structures that are flatter and are more democratic.” For starters, it’s been found that organizations with flat structures outperform those with traditional hierarchies.

Furthermore, hierarchies are becoming outdated, move too slowly, stifle creativity, and prevents everyone from getting on the same page. However, through transparency, organizations can become more flexible and encourage more fluidity within positions.

Builds trust and respect.

Employees will trust and respect you more when you’re open and honest. For instance, you could discuss the challenges and mistakes you made early on in your career and how that helped you grow. While you don’t need to be too personal, you could also share your struggles with mental health as a way to improve your employee’s well-being.

Being transparent isn’t a sign of weakness. It actually shows that you’re a human being who had flaws, as well as strengths. That takes a lot of courage to admit. And, it can make you more relatable to others, which in turn, creates stronger bonds.

How You Can Create More Transparency Within Your Organization

There’s no denying that transparency should be on your radar. But, how can you promote it within your organization? Well, here some of the best ways to achieve this specific goal.

Hire wisely.

Yes, you can embrace transparency as soon as you begin hiring and recruiting employees. For example, make sure that you post detailed and accurate job descriptions. Look for potential hires who are honest. And keep the lines of communication open during the interview process.

Not only will you find the right people for the job, but you’ll also find those who will fit in with your culture. And, it also sets a precedent for openness right from the start.

Build connections through swift and focused frequency.

“Building trust isn’t just about intent, but also frequency and detail,” Marcus Buckingham, author of “Nine Lies About Work,” told Fast Company. “Employees need to know that you have their back and that only happens through regular check-ins or light touch, individualized communications.”

“If you meet with employees once a week for 10-15 minutes and simply ask, ‘what are you working on and how can I help?’, it goes a long way toward building trust,” adds Buckingham. In addition to one-on-ones, find other ways to communicate and engage your team frequently.

At Calendar, we use Slack to touch base, share information, and keep everyone updated. However, you can also break down silos through town meetings and implementing an open-door policy. And, don’t forget to provide easy access to crucial information like sharing cloud-based documents or creating web-based Wikis.

“People want to know where they stand with you as a manager, and every employee knows that’s a moveable feast,” says Buckingham. “When you take time to hear from each team member on their near-term priorities, while also letting them know ‘we don’t need to solve everything this week,’ you move the relationship forward, and see stronger engagement and performance as a result.”

Share results.

“Don’t just share plans, let employees see what worked and what didn’t,” notes Kasey Fleisher Hickey over at Wavelength. “Leaders who speak openly about the state of the company gain trust.”

“While it can be difficult to reveal you had a bad quarter financially, keeping employees in the know every step of the way maintains confidence in your leadership and company,” continues Fleisher Hickey. “It can be particularly important during periods of high growth or financial struggle.”

Ask questions and show interest.

Put your ego aside for a moment and admit that you don’t have all of the answers. Instead, talk to your team members who do have the right answers. Not only will you learn something, but it also shows your humanity. And, most importantly, it lets your team know that you actually care about what they’re bringing to the table.

Treat everyone the same.

It’s only natural that you would click with certain people. But, when it comes to the workplace, you can’t pick favorites. It’s a surefire way to breed an unhealthy and toxic environment. Treat everyone with the same amount of respect. And never make exceptions when someone breaks company policies.

Involve others in the decision-making process.

Solicit feedback from your team through brainstorming sessions, online polls, or even the good ole’ suggestion box. It makes them feel like crucial players within your organization. And, because everyone made the decision together, you don’t have to explain yourself.

Don’t avoid difficult discussions.

A long time ago, I worked at a job that promised me a promotion. Every month I kept asking, and there was always an excuse. Finally, right around Thanksgiving, I was laid off because they were making cuts. I was furious. They strung me along for several months instead of just being honest with me.

Of course, no one likes having these types of conversations. But, at least you’ll be admired for addressing it head-on and not avoiding it. And, who knows? Maybe you and your team can find a way to resolve the problem together without having to resort to something as drastic as layoffs.

Always know “why.”

Discovering your “why” gives meaning and purpose behind your work. It’s what gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you plowing ahead when times get tough. And, it keeps you passionate and motivated.

When it comes to leading a team, explain why each member is essential to your organization. Acknowledge why their contributions matter to you. Encourage honesty through understanding. Let your employees know the purpose behind their work, so they buy into the dream of your business. When you take a moment to be transparent, your team, office, and employees will be more driven and focused during the day-in-and-out efforts.

How to Take Time Off Without Inconveniencing Your Team

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old-fashioned alarm clock sitting on desk.

Everyone needs a break from work sometimes. Time away improves team morale, de-stresses the mind, and boosts productivity

If you aren’t planning appropriately or considering your team, though, your relaxing getaway may turn sour when returning to the workplace. No one wants to work with a team member who unapologetically prioritizes his or her time over everyone else’s.

Here’s how to take the time off you need without making life hard for those around you:

1. Work ahead.

The most important step to making sure your colleagues aren’t adversely affected by your time away is simple: get ahead of your work. Don’t just complete your pre-vacation projects; get a jump on those you know will be happening while you’re out. 

There is no way to avoid some future work pileup, but you can prepare for it. Write down all your outstanding deliverables and deadlines before you leave so you don’t feel swamped when you return. Delegate smaller tasks that others can handle in your absence. For unknowns that may come up, designate someone to make decisions in your absence. 

2. Avoid overlap.

When other members of your team are out of the office, it might be best to postpone your vacation. Treat busy periods the same way: You don’t want to be the person who takes off when everyone else is swamped with work.

Respect your team’s time so they can respect yours. It’s hard to expect a co-worker to adjust his or her schedule for your vacation when you won’t do the same. A great workplace environment is built by team members who have each other’s backs.

When in doubt, consult your company’s online calendar. Encourage co-workers to place major projects and upcoming vacations on it for all to see. 

3. Keep in touch.

Unless you will be going somewhere on your vacation with no Wi-Fi or cell service, stay in touch. You never know when there might be an emergency at work. Because of this, make sure you are never “off the grid” for too long.

You don’t need to be glued to your phone — it is time off, after all — but being part of a team means being accessible. If you use collaboration software, such as Slack or Basecamp, to stay in touch with a remote team, make sure you also announce your break there. Email clients, even those that are not responsive, with the dates you’ll be out. Don’t leave anywhere unchecked.

Finally, before you leave, set up an email auto-responder. That way, people who email you expecting a fast reply aren’t caught off guard when you do not respond for a week. This is especially important if you’re in a customer-facing or sales role. 

4. Use time off wisely.

Vacation time is a tool to use when needed and not too often. Make sure you are utilizing your time away by resting, clearing your head of stresses that may have piled up, and satisfying any other needs you may have. 

You aren’t doing anyone any favors if you come back exhausted from working while away or overextending yourself. Remember, your other team members may need a break just as much as you do.

Even if you’re taking time off for a not-so-fun reason, such as a family member’s death, make time for mindfulness. A meta-study published in the Journal of American Medicine found meditation to be an effective tactic for easing anxiety and reducing stress.

Time off is a gift. Use it sparingly, prepare well, and make sure you get the relaxation you deserve. Your team members want you to take care of yourself, but they don’t want to be left behind in the process. Keep them in mind, and they’ll extend the same courtesy to you when it’s their time to take a break. 

4 Methods to Control Your Calendar Before It Controls You

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appointment guide
Over the course of my career I’ve learned a lot about the importance of time management. How you as a business owner should control your calendar. Early on, I woke-up whenever I wanted and didn’t put an emphasis on my priorities. This pretty much resulted in aimlessly wandering through my days like a walker on “The Walking Dead.” But, that was just the beginning. I haphazardly accepted appointments, checked my emails every time I got a notification, and scheduled meetings at the last minute. And, to make matters worse, I was planning events when I should have been home with my family. I eventually realized that I was no longer focused or productive as I needed to be. Simply put, my calendar was taking control of my life — both in and out of the workplace. Thankfully, I was able to take back the reigns by utilizing the following four methods.

1. Take inventory and identify what’s not working.

First things first, get crystal clear on where your time is spent. If you’ve never done this before, simply keep a time journal. This is where you jot down everything you do and exactly how long each task takes you. This may sound tedious, but after about a week you’ll notice where you’re spending a bulk of your time. More importantly, you’ll identify the time wasters on your calendar. Once you do, you can make the proper adjustments to change things around. For example, if you noticed that you spend two or three hours a week scheduling meetings, then it’s time to look for a solution. In this case, you could use a tool like Calendar to eliminate this issue. You’ve now just freed up a couple of hours per week in your calendar to work on your priorities.

2. Create your routine.

Another perk of tracking your time is that it can help you create a daily routine. This is where you block time for specific activities. So, in a nutshell, your calendar consists of a bunch of blocks. My routine consists of a morning routine where I block out specific time for exercise, getting ready, writing, and responding to emails. I then block out from eight am to noon for undistracted work. My afternoons contain blocks for a nap, returning calls or emails, and hosting meetings. This method ensures that I stay focused on my priorities. It also ensures that I won’t let unplanned activities jump in and distract me from getting things done. I should add, that you should definitely block out time for rest. I block out time in the afternoon to take a nap and review my goals. It helps me recharge and refocus. If I didn’t block out this time, it would never happen.

3. Control Your Calendar by Stacking your Meetings.

If possible, try to schedule all your meetings on the same day or two each week. Ideally, you should schedule these meetings around 3pm, because research shows that this is the best times for meetings. The reason I use this method is fairly simply. It gives me a heads-up that I’m not going to complete as much work on these days. Instead, I’m going to be focused on conversations, exchanging ideas, and motivating my team. For me, this is a different type of work flow. I’m thinking differently when writing a blog post than when discussing an upcoming project with a colleague. By stacking my meetings, I can keep this more conversational flow going. At the same time, it’s guaranteeing that the meetings won’t interfere with my other work. One final note about meetings. Stop scheduling meetings back-to-back. This ensures that you won’t be running late for your next meeting. And, since meetings can run late, it may hold you up from leaving the office on-time and getting home. Give yourself a little buffer time so that you’re no longer running late. And, try not to schedule meetings late in the afternoon. Like don’t schedule right at 4:30pm unless you’re positive it’s just a quick 15-minute phone call.

4. Set boundaries, but also be flexible.

There’s a belief that once something has been scheduled into your calendar it’s set in stone. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s say you have a meeting with your team on a Monday afternoon. However, when you were planning out your day first thing in the AM you notice that your website crashed. The worst part is that it’s not a minor fix, it’s actually going to eat-up your entire morning or longer. This means that your entire schedule has to shift. The work you had planned in the morning now has to move into the afternoon. Now you have to reschedule that team meeting for another date or time. In short, the unexpected happens and you need to be flexible. Just make sure  when this happens, you give notice to the other party. At the same time, you have to set boundaries. If you’ve blocked out two hours of unexpected work, then don’t schedule a meeting or phone call during that time. Again, a tool like Calendar can help you accomplish these goals because it allows you to select when your calendar is open and when it is not. You then share this availability with others so that they can pick an open slot when they’re free.
Originally published here.

How to Make Sure Your Personal Life Doesn’t Negatively Affect Your Business

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Let’s be real. Sometimes, your personal life can wreak havoc on your business. As much as we try to keep personal and business separate, we’re human. The problem is when the issues in our personal lives affect our productivity. In recent weeks, I’ve engaged in multiple conversations with business owners who have all been dealing with things in their personal lives. No one makes it public, of course. However, when they are in circles with other business owners they trust, all the personal life dramas are shared. I’ve also had my fair share of drama in my personal life in recent months. As such, I’ve learned several strategies for not allowing it to affect my business. Here are some of the strategies I find work best.

Always prioritize savings.

As a business owner, the amount of money you make can be directly correlated to your output. Sometimes, things in our personal lives do require more of our attention and it causes us to take a temporary step back. That’s why it’s always good to have savings in the bank. For example, a couple of years ago I had to take a step back from my business to help my family with some things. Because I had savings, I was able to do it without any issue.

Give yourself a set period of time to feel your emotions.

Making sure your personal life doesn’t affect your business doesn’t mean ignoring things. This can actually escalate conflict and make everything worse.  It simply means managing them. For example, if you’re going through an emotional period in your personal life, give yourself a set period of time to feel your emotions. Christine Hassler, a life coach for millennials, suggests giving yourself a few minutes each day to really feel your emotions. This way, you’re not ignoring them, but you’re also not letting them affect your business.

Be careful who you surround yourself with.

Sometimes, issues in your personal life can be traced back to those you surround yourself with. While you may be careful who you surround yourself with your business, perhaps this is a lesson you’re still learning in your personal life. I know I definitely am. If you notice that drama always seems to surround one or two people, then it’s time to cut them out. The last thing you need as a business owner is to always be involved in some mess because of the company you keep. Keeping your personal life out of your business becomes impossible when the people in your life consistently drag you down. Toxic people can easily overrun your life with their energy, which is why they need to go if you plan on running a successful business. Bottom line is if you don’t want your personal life ruining your business, then you need to take the preventative measure of making sure unnecessary drama won’t be caused.
Originally published here.

25 Ways to Be Happy With the Life You Have

By | Appointment, Business Tips, Knowledge Base, Maintenance, Scheduling | 4 Comments
Happy With the Life You Have

Aristotle said, “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.”

The problem is that our brains just aren’t wired this way. Instead, our brains are more concerned with surviving. Even worse, we get preoccupied by what-is, like “If I made more money I could be happier.” As a result, being content and happy with the life you have becomes elusive. Read More

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