martes, 28 de mayo de 2013

Misc: The Power of the Pen: How to Boost Happiness, Health, and Productivity

Four months after a hundred senior engineers were laid off by a computer company, not a single one was reemployed. In an effort to improve the situation, Stefanie Spera and Eric Buhrfeind conducted a startling study with James Pennebaker, a mild-mannered health psychologist.
They divided the engineers into three groups. In the control group, the engineers did nothing unusual. The remaining engineers were randomly assigned to a second control group, where they wrote about time management, or an expressive writing group, where they kept a journal about their deepest thoughts and feelings associated with the job loss. Both groups wrote for five days, 20 minutes per day, describing the emotional challenges of searching for a new job, relationship problems, financial stressors, the immediate experience of being fired, losing their coworkers and feeling rejected.
Three months later, in the control groups, less than 5% of the engineers were reemployed. In the expressive writing group, more than 26% of the engineers were reemployed.
Interestingly, expressive writing didn’t land the engineers any more interviews. It just increased the odds that they were hired when they did have an interview. Expressive writing affected the quality, not the quantity, of their job search. The engineers who wrote down their thoughts and feelings about losing their jobs reported feeling less anger and hostility toward their former employer. They also reported drinking less. Eight months later, less than 19% of the engineers in the control groups were reemployed full-time, compared with more than 52% of the engineers in the expressive writing group.
Why did writing about thoughts and feelings surrounding job loss multiply the odds of being reemployed? Pennebaker believed that suppressing negative experiences was stressful, and expressing them might have lifted the burden. A decade earlier, Pennebaker and Sandra Beall had invited adults to write for 15 minutes a day over the course of four days. In the control group, the adults wrote about everyday topics―they described their shoes, their living rooms, and a tree. In the treatment group, the adults wrote about the most traumatic experience of their lives. They expressed their deepest thoughts and feelings about the traumatic event.
Pennebaker was stunned by the results: writing about a traumatic experience made them worse off. They were unhappier and more distressed, and had higher blood pressure. Pennebaker was dismayed. He had apparently discovered a foolproof method for causing depression.
But in the next six months, the effects reversed. Consider the number of visits that participants made to a local health center due to illness. In the control group, the adults showed no changes in illness visits. The adults who wrote about a traumatic event showed a 50% decrease in illness visits per month. Expressing the traumatic event improved their health; it just didn’t do so right away. One participant explained, “Although I have not talked with anyone about what I wrote, I was finally able to deal with it, work through the pain instead of trying to block it out. Now it doesn't hurt to think about it.”
Since that groundbreaking study, Pennebaker and colleagues have replicated and extended the effects many times. Although writing about trauma is uncomfortable in the short run, after approximately two weeks, the costs disappear and the benefits emerge―and they last. Pennebaker’s team has demonstrated physical and mental health benefits of emotionally expressive writing with arthritis and chronic pain patients, medical students, maximum security prisoners, crime victims, and women after childbirth, from Belgium to Mexico to New Zealand. They’ve found decreases in depression, anxiety, anger, and distress. They’ve shown that writing about stressful experiences also reduces absenteeism from work among employees―and increases grade point averages among students. They’ve even found that emotionally expressive writing has objective immune system benefits. After writing about traumas, people show higher t-cell growth, better liver function, and stronger antibody responses to hepatitis B vaccinations and Epstein-Barr virus.
In total, well over a hundred experiments have documented the health benefits of disclosing thoughts and feelings about negative events. “When people write,” Pennebaker summarizes in The Secret Life of Pronouns“healthy changes occur.” Talking into a recorder works just as well as writing, but it’s not effective to express the trauma without language, through mediums such as art, music, and dance. It seems that people need to express the negative experience in words—either through writing or speaking—to reap the health benefits.
It appears that expressive writing helps people make sense of bad experiences. Indeed, Pennebaker’s research has shown that writing about traumatic events only improves health when people describe facts and feelings. Together, writing about what happened and how they felt about it enables people put together a coherent story. By putting their feelings into words, they can start making sense of a negative event. They come to understand it better, gain insight and perspective, and sometimes even find silver linings. Now that they have a coherent story about the negative event, it’s easier to summarize and move on.
The benefits of expressive writing aren’t limited to negative events. Research by Laura Kingshows that writing about achieving future goals and dreams can make people happier and healthier. Similarly, there’s plenty of evidence that keeping a gratitude journal can increase happiness and health by making the good things in life more salient. And Jane Dutton and I found that when people doing stressful fundraising jobs kept a journal for a few days about how their work made a difference, they increased their hourly effort by 29% over the next two weeks.
For expressive writing to be effective, timing is critically important. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, legions of more than 9,000 counselors descended upon New York, hoping to prevent posttraumatic stress and relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression and grief. But research suggests that most of the interventions didn’t do much good for local citizens, firefighters and other people close to the tragedy. In Redirectpsychologist Timothy Wilson describes how many of the counselors conducted critical incident stress debriefing, encouraging trauma victims and observers to spend several hours expressing their thoughts and feelings as soon as possible. Evidence shows that this can backfire: inone study of people who suffered severe burns in a fire, those who went through critical incident stress debriefing had higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety a year later. Expressing thoughts and feelings about a trauma turns out to be most salutary if we wait until we’re ready to start processing it with thoughts as well as emotions.
Timing matters with writing about positive events, too. In one experiment led by Sonja Lyubomirsky, people counted their blessings either once a week or several times per week. Reflecting on good things once a week increased well-being; doing it several times a week didn’t. As the authors speculate, “Perhaps counting their blessings several times a week led people to become bored with the practice, finding it less fresh and meaningful over time.”
Journaling is a practice shared across many centuries by icons—not only writers like Virginia Woolf and Mark Twain, but also inventors from da Vinci to Edison, cultural icons such as Pablo Picasso, military leaders such as general George Patton, and political leaders from Washington to Jefferson to Franklin to Truman to Churchill. Along with preserving a record of their ideas and experiences, journaling might have helped them make sense of stressful experiences, focus on their goals, and achieve success. As Virgin mogul Richard Branson writes, “my most essential possession is a standard-sized school notebook.”

jueves, 23 de mayo de 2013

Misc: Beyond The Paycheck: What We Wish For

Beyond The Paycheck: What We Wish For
Plenty of studies show that pay increases only serve as a short-term performance motivator.
Certainly salary is important; every company should strive to compensate its employees fairly – even, if possible, more than “fairly.” Equitable pay is a given.
But it’s also often true that receiving a raise is a lot like buying a new car. Pretty soon we ratchet our expectations upwards and even a new Ferrari is “just” a car (unless it's a Tesla, which is never “just a car”).
So where long-term performance is concerned, what matters more than pay? What do people wish for from their work
? What helps employees feel truly valued and appreciated – and motivates them to do their absolute best?

1. Fulfilling goals. Goals are motivating. Goals are fun. Goals provide a sense of purpose and meaning to any task. Without meaning, a job is just toil… and toil sucks the energy out of people.
So how do you make a goal truly fulfilling? Show its purpose. Describe its relevance to larger business goals. Show how a goal isn’t just an arbitrary target but an outcome that truly matters.
Then allow employees to help create goals, both at an individual and a broader level. They may set even higher targets than you. And, when people help set a goal they are much more likely to achieve that goal… because they own that goal.
2. A true sense of mission. We all want to feel we are a part of something bigger.
Let employees know what you want to achieve for your customers, for your business, and for your community.
And just like with goals, allow them to create a few missions of their own, because caring starts with knowing what to care about—and why.
3. Recognition.
Even though it costs nothing to give, praise is priceless to the recipient. So start praising.
Be specific. Be genuine. Recognize the employee the way she likes to be recognized. (Some people are uncomfortable with public recognition; others love to bask in the glow of applause.)
No one gets enough praise… and that’s too bad, because everyone loves to be recognized for their hard work, dedication, sacrifice… for just being awesome.
Genuine recognition rewards effort and accomplishment, reinforces positive behaviors, builds self-esteem and confidence, and boosts motivation and enthusiasm.
Recognition gives employees “permission” to be awesome. Help people be awesome. Praise is free – but it means everything.
3. Basic expectations. While every job should include some degree of latitude, every job should also have basic expectations regarding the way specific situations should be handled.
If you criticize an employee for shifting resources to a project that's behind – even though last week that was standard protocol, you risk crushing that person's morale.
When guidelines change, make sure you communicate those changes first. When that’s not possible, take time to explain why this particular situation is different and why you made the decision you made.
Communication creates understanding, and understanding is everything.
But at the same time, employees also need…
4. Significant autonomy. Best practices can create excellence, but every task doesn't require a best practice.
Why? Autonomy and latitude breed engagement and satisfaction. Autonomy also breeds innovation. Even otherwise “systematic” and “process-driven” jobs have room for different approaches.
Give your employees the freedom to work the way they work best. If someone screws up, don’t punish the many by creating rules and guidelines designed to “control” the mistakes of the few.
5. Meaningful contributions. Everyone wants to make suggestions and offer ideas. Deny people the opportunity to give input, or shoot their ideas down without consideration, and you turn people into machines… and machines don’t care.
Make it easy for employees to offer suggestions. Make it easy for employees to question, to challenge, and to share their opinions. When an idea doesn't have merit, take the time to explain why.
You may not always implement every idea, but you can always make employees feel valued for their ideas.
6. Genuine relationships. People don’t want to work simply for a paycheck. People want to work with and for people.
A kind word, a short discussion about family, a brief check-in to see if they need anything... personal moments make a lot more impact than meetings or formal evaluations.
A manager doesn’t have to be a best friend – and shouldn’t be – but she must always be friendly, and show that she cares on a personal as well as professional level.
7. Reasonable consistency. Most people can deal with a boss who is demanding and quick to criticize... as long as he or she treats every employee the same in one important way. While you should treat each employee differently, you must treat each employee fairly. (There's a big difference.)
The key to maintaining reasonable consistency is communication. The more employees understand why a decision was made, the less likely they are to assume favoritism or unfair treatment.
8. Deserved opportunities. Every job should have the potential to lead to greater opportunities, either within or outside your company.
Take the time to develop employees for jobs they someday hope to fill—even if those positions are outside your company. (If you don’t know what an employee hopes to do someday, ask.)
Employees will only care about growing and developing your business after you show you care about growing and developing them.
9. An atmosphere of excellence.
Superstars want to work with superstars. Excellent employees want to work in an environment where outstanding performance is the rule, not the exception.
So be unreasonably selective about the people you hire. Then, work hard to turn around a failing employee or, failing that, to weed out the poor performers. As Drew Houston, the CEO of Dropbox, says, “You become the average of the five people you hang out with.”
As a leader, your goal is to surround every employee with awesome people. The best they have ever worked with. Make sure you do.
And, if you liked this article, you'll also probably like Culture Code, a slide deck about company culture.

viernes, 10 de mayo de 2013

Misc: I'd like your honest, unbiased and possibly career-ending opinion on something


viernes, 3 de mayo de 2013

Misc: There Are Only Four Jobs in the Whole World

For the past 30 years my company has been involved in creating over 2,500 different performance-based job descriptions that define the actual work a person needs to do to be considered successful. Based on preparing these performance-based job descriptions for jobs like camp counselor at the YMCA, accountants and engineers from staff to VPs, mid- and senior-level executives in industries ranging from automotive and aerospace to construction and consumer products, I can conclude that there are only four different jobs in the whole world.
Everything starts with an idea. This is the first of the four jobs – the ThinkersBuilders convert these ideas into reality. This the second job. Improvers make this reality better. This is the third job. Producers do the work over and over again, delivering quality goods and services to the company’s customers in a repeatable manner. This is the fourth job. And then the process begins again with new ideas and new ways of doing business being developed as the old ones become stale.
As a company grows and reaches maturity, more of the work gets done by the Producers and Improvers. However, without a culture of consistent improvement, the Producers soon take over and implementing change becomes slower and slower until it stops. Long before this the Thinkers and Builders have left for some new venture. Improvers soon follow to join their former co-workers and hire new Producers to add some order to the newly created chaos. The old Producers who aren’t continually evolving, learning new skills and processes, are left behind to fend for themselves. Maintaining balance across all four work types is a constant, but a necessary struggle for a company to continue to grow, adapt, and survive.
Every job has a mix of all four work types dependent on the actual work involved, the scope and scale of the role, and the company’s growth rate. To ensure balance and flexibility, all of these four work types should be taken into account when preparing any new performance-based job description. Here’s how:
Producers: these people execute or maintain a repeatable process. This can range from simple things like working on an inbound help desk and handling some transactional process like basic sales, to more complex, like auditing the performance of a big system, writing code, or producing the monthly financial reports. Producers typically require training or advanced skills to be in a position to execute the process. To determine the appropriate Producer performance objectives, ask the hiring manager to define how any required skill is used on the job and how its success would be measured, e.g., “contact 15 new customers per week and have five agree to an onsite demonstration.“ This is a lot better than saying “the person must have 3-5 years of sales experience selling to sophisticated buyers of electro-mechanical control valves.”
Improvers: these people upgrade, change or make a repeatable process better. Managers are generally required to continually monitor and improve a process under their responsibility. Building, training and developing the team to implement a process is part of an Improver’s role. Improvers can be individual contributors or managers of teams and projects, the key is the focus on improving a existing system, business or process. A performance objective for an Improver could be “conduct a comprehensive process review of the wafer fab process to determine what it would take to improve end-to-end yield by 10%.”
Builders: these people take an idea from scratch and convert it into something tangible. This could be creating a new business, designing a complex new product, closing a big deal, or developing a new process. Entrepreneurs, inventors, turn-around executives, deal-makers, and project managers are typical jobs that emphasize the Builder component. Ask the hiring manager what big changes, new developments, big problems or major projects the person in the new job would need to address to determine the Builder component. An example might be, “lead the implementation of the new SAP supply change system over every business unit including international.” This is a lot better than saying “must have five years international logistics background and strong expertise with SAP."
Thinkers: these people are the visionaries, strategists, intellects, and creators of the world, and every new idea starts with them. Their work covers new products, new business ideas, and different ways of doing everyday things. Ask hiring managers where the job requires thinking out-of-the-box or major problems to solve to develop the Thinker performance objectives. “Develop a totally new approach for reducing water usage by 50%,” is a lot better than saying “Must have 5-10 years of environmental engineering background including 3-5 years of wastewater management with a knack for creative solutions."
Recognize that every person is comprised of a mix of each work type, with one or two dominant. Likewise for every job. Most require strengths in one or two of the work types. As you select people for new roles, it's important to get this blending right. This starts by understanding the full requirements of the position, the strengths and weaknesses of others on the team, and the primary objective of the department, group or company. In the rush to hire, it’s easy to lose sight of this bigger picture, emphasizing skills and experience over performance and fit. This is how Builders get hired instead of Improvers and Thinkers get hired when Producers are required. While there are only four work types, hiring the wrong one is often how the wrong work gets done.

miércoles, 1 de mayo de 2013

Misc: 14 Telling signs you love your job

14 Telling Signs You Love Your Job

You may not give your computer screen an embarrassingly gushing smile and you might not write little love notes during your lunch break. But, there are ways to tell if you love your job.
Of course, no job is perfect -- even the best of relationships have their down days. We all have to do things we don’t like. I love working at HubSpot, it's the best job I've ever had. But, even I have “off” days where I'm not spending all my time doing things I absolutely love.
So all of the following may not be the case all of the time… but when you love your job,many of the following should be the case much of the time:
1. You don’t talk about other people; you talk about the cool things other people are doing.
“I hear Mary is heading up a new project. What are they working on?” “I’d love to know how Mike managed to rescue that customer relationship.” “Sherry developed a new sales channel; is there some way we can leverage that?”
When you love your job you don’t gossip about the personal failings of others. You talk about their successes, because you’re happy for them – and because you’re happy with yourself.
2. You think, “I hope I get to…” instead of, “I hope I don’t have to…”
When you love your job it’s like peeling an onion. There are always more layers to discover and explore.
When you hate your job it’s also like peeling an onion – but all you discover are more tears.
3. You see your internal and external customers not as people to satisfy but simply as people.
They aren't numbers. You think of them as real people who have real needs.
And you gain a real sense of fulfillment and purpose from taking care of those needs.
4. You enjoy your time at work.
You don't have to put in time at work and then escape to life to be happy. You believe in enjoying life and enjoying work.
When you love your job, it’s a part of your life. You feel alive and joyful not just at home – but also at work.
5. You would recommend working at your company to your best friend…
In fact, you can't stop talking about how cool your company is and the awesome work you're doing even when you're away from work.
6. You enjoy attending meetings.
No, seriously, you enjoy meetings. Why? Because it’s fun to be at the center of thoughtful, challenging discussions that lead to decisions, initiatives, and changes – changes you get to be a part of.
7. You don’t think about surviving. You think about winning.
You don't worry much about losing your job. You're more worried about not achieving your potential. Not being as impactful as you can.
8. You see your manager as a person you work with, not for.
You feel valued. You feel respected.
You feel trusted.
9. You don’t want to let your coworkers down.
Not because you’ll get in trouble or get a bad performance review, but because you admire them – and you want them to admire you.
10. You hardly ever look at the clock.
You’re too busy making things happen. When you do look at the clock, you often find that the time has flown.
11. You view success in terms of fulfillment and gratification – not just promotions and money.
Everyone wants to be promoted. Everyone wants to earn more.
You definitely feel that way too… but somewhere along the way your job has come to mean a lot more to you than just a paycheck. And if you left this job, even if for a lot higher salary… you would still miss it.
A lot.
12. You leave work with items on your to-do list you’re excited about tackling tomorrow.
Many people cross the “fun” tasks off their to-do lists within the first hour or two.
You often have cool stuff – new initiatives, side projects, hunches you want to confirm with data, people you want to talk to – left over when it’s time to go home.
13. You help without thinking.
You like seeing your colleagues succeed, so it’s second nature to help them out. You pitch in automatically.
And they do the same for you.
14. You don’t think about retirement… because retirement sounds boring…
…and a lot less fulfilling.


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