The Effects of High Unemployment

By Peter DeHaan

Author Peter DeHaanTen years ago, the unemployment rate was running high. Businesses needing to hire found themselves in a “buyer’s market.” This was what I wrote back then:

There are plenty of people looking for work. This results in more applicants to pick from for each opening. High unemployment has also served to limit employment options, thereby reducing worker mobility. The result is that employee churn rates are—or at least should be—decreasing. Having more applicants to pick from and fewer staff leaving by choice should be indicative of stable work forces. Unfortunately, this may not be the case and even if it is, it affords a false security.

Consider the following employees. Although their names have been changed and some details obscured, all describe the true plights of real people: With downsizing, layoffs, hiring freezes, employees have been stretched and pushed to a near breaking point. Click To Tweet

Chuck worked in a small satellite office of a large organization. The staff in his office were close and worked together well. They cared for each other and were like family. They helped each other to complete their work and serve clients, regardless of job description and title. Sadly, this idyllic reality ended when corporate closed Chuck’s office to save money. Some people were let go, but Chuck was told that he could work remotely from home. Then Chuck got a new boss, who rescinded that promise. Chuck now commutes 120 miles each day to work. The corporate office is nothing like his old office. Teamwork has been replaced by finger-pointing and blindly following job descriptions; no one cares about the clients—or about each other. One by one, Chuck’s coworkers have quit or are being let go. He fears he is next and is frantically looking for comparable work closer to home.

Carly is a college graduate whose chosen profession currently has a 40 percent unemployment rate. Unable to find work, she went to grad school. Her summer employment offered her a full-time position when she graduated but has been frustratingly vague on the details (right now she is relegated to computer work no one else wants to do). Unfortunately, this job is not in her field of study, nor does it interest her. However, out of necessity, she may be forced to take this job. Even if she does, she doesn’t expect to remain long.

Danielle also recently graduated from college. Her college internship continued after graduation, with the promise of a promotion when the economy turned around. She is now doing the work she was trained for—but without the title, recognition, or pay. This has been going on for a year. Although she is now working full-time, it is at her part-time hourly internship rate—or 40 percent of what is typical. She has polished her resume and is looking for better paying alternatives.

Karl has a full-time job in his chosen profession. At first, he liked his company and earned stellar reviews. However, in his latest review, he scored the lowest in each category. Last year, after their busy season, a coworker was abruptly fired. Karl fears that this year he will get the axe as soon as the seasonal peak is over. He is salaried and was initially told to expect working an additional twenty-five hours a week during the busy season. However, his employers recently tacked on an additional ten hours. He desperately wants to find a new job but has no time to pursue it. As soon as things slow down, he will begin his job hunt in earnest.

Larry greatly enjoyed working in his chosen career, finding it rewarding and fulfilling. However, after a planned move out-of-state, he was unable to find work at his level of experience and education. He eventually acquiesced to a much lower position at less than half the pay. The company promotes from within, so he hoped that he would eventually move into a position matching his skills and have his compensation level restored. Unfortunately, because he was performing a low-level position, he was looked down upon and demeaned by those who should have been his peers, in spite of the fact that he had more experience than some of them. The circumstances became so dreadful that he left, taking an even further pay cut in the hopes of finding a nicer place to work. Once again, he has the expectation to be promoted and, although feedback on his performance is very favorable, there are no current openings, so he could find himself repeating the process.

These people share two common characteristics. First, they do not like their employers or their jobs. Some have been lied to, others have been treated badly, two are significantly underpaid, and all are unhappy. The other commonality is that each of them desperately wants a different job and is working to make it happen. Since they have stellar qualifications and employable skills, their job expectations are not unreasonable. When the economy turns around, they are sure to find better work.

From this we can interpolate that:

  • Employees are unhappy, but they continue to endure difficult work situations—for now.
  • Many people are underemployed; they will correct that as soon as companies start hiring again.
  • Some people are working outside their fields of expertise. For many, this is not a choice but a short-term necessity.
  • When an entry-level employee sticks around after graduation, it may not mean that they like the company, but that there aren’t any other options.

What does all this mean?

  • When the economy turns around, many employees will immediately seek to improve their work situations. Some reports indicate that one third of the workforce is waiting to change jobs.
  • The most employable people (likely the best workers) will be the first to switch; those who lack skills or drive will stay.
  • There is pent-up worker frustration, which employers will be confronted with when alternative employment options emerge.

What can employers do?

  • Begin thinking and behaving as though unemployment is low and it’s a “seller’s market.” Treating employees better now, when you don’t have to, will keep them working for you later, when they don’t have to.
  • Recognize that with downsizing, layoffs, hiring freezes, and consolidations, employees have been stretched and pushed to a near breaking point. Look for ways now to relieve stress and reduce their pressure now.
  • Talk to employees and really listen. Perhaps there are slights that can be amended, injustices that can be corrected, and oversights that can be righted.

You can take steps now to keep the employees you have, or you can wait for economic recovery and take steps then to find and train their replacements.

Peter DeHaan is a commercial freelance writer who provides content marketing services and does ghostwriting.

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Avoid Leadership Pitfalls: Direction Versus Speed

On a Fast Train to the Wrong Destination?

By Elizabeth McCormick

Elizabeth McCormickHave you ever had a day where your wheels spin a bit slower? Have you noticed your team not putting the usual miles in at the office? Could it be burnout? The need for a vacation? Or is there something more underlying the malaise?

Many have experienced a much bigger drag on resources by giving the orders for your team to take off flying at full speed, only to find out later that the course was in the opposite direction of your desired goal.

Then, there are other times when a project is well underway and everything seems aligned properly, but there’s just no lift. The wheels just won’t leave the ground. Although tasks are getting completed and checked off the list, there’s no altitude allowing the project to accelerate. What’s happening? When started with a laser-focused goal in mind, the direction can change quickly if the proper guardrails and benchmarks aren’t set in place to keep everyone on target.

There’s a world of advice on staying productive, but those activities don’t mean anything if your coordinates are off, and that may be one of the biggest wastes of time (not to mention energy drains) you and your organization could experience. Assume nothing, clarify everything, and have it in writing. Click To Tweet

Here are five tips to assure your leadership and team directives match the end result you envision.

1.  Know Your Destination: When you begin with the end in mind, you have a distinctive vision of your desired direction and destination before instructing your team to launch. It doesn’t matter how big or small your project is—if the direction, intention, or desired outcome isn’t clear, it will be tough to fly your team to the dream. Assume nothing, clarify everything, and have it in writing. If some aspect is open to interpretation, close that loophole up, or better yet, ask your team to contribute to the ownership of the project by being open to their quest for clarity.

2. Engage Your Team: Once you have communicated the objectives to your team, start by having team members re-state the goals and desired outcomes in their own words. Confirm and clarify often. This quite naturally highlights any variance between intention and perception. You can also use this opportunity to start fleshing out the project, brainstorming with the team, and adding detail to the project. This type of activity will help jumpstart the comradery as your team begins working together as a team toward a common goal. This will also enhance the collaboration necessary to ensure proper communication can take place from beginning to end.

3. Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan: Once everyone is on board and the team is headed in the right direction, be sure you have established the proper safety devices, benchmarks, and signposts for you and your team, so that if there is any drifting off course, it will be recognized and realigned quickly without much time or effort wasted. Ensure that work is broken down into manageable, measurable, short-term goals to aid in motivation and increase productivity. Work organized into logical segments also aids focus and self-management of direction.

Complex projects lend themselves to digressions and diversions. Spelling out where you should be and when keeps efforts centered on the essential goals originally intended.

Another way to encourage motivation and productivity is to take the time to get to know your ‘flight crew’ and their strengths. Don’t randomly dole out tasks; be strategic in aligning tasks with specific gifts and skills, allowing team members to take ownership of their part of the project.

4. Own Your Results: As a leader, it’s your attitude, stamina, direction, commitment to the project, and work ethic that establishes the environment and culture of your team, as well as the success of your project at hand. If you are unclear of your destination, you can be sure your team will have a tough time understanding the purpose of the project and the directions you are trying to communicate.

One of the biggest reasons people drift, get distracted, and are taken off task, is that the purpose for their task isn’t strong enough to keep them engaged. If this is happening, recognize it, take some time to clarify your purpose and your destination, and then let your team know you wish to communicate better as you share your vision more clearly and effectively with everyone involved.

Sometimes the best of plans just don’t have the results intended. It happens. Maybe it was due to misinformation, miscommunication, not enough research, too many agendas, a drastic change in the economy, or an unexpected shift in trends to name just a few of the ever-changing facets of being a leader in business. Regardless of why it happened, own the results. Empower your team to help you assess what went wrong, develop the proper benchmarks and guardrails to prevent that from happening again, and then map out a new flight plan to a better destination.

4. Collaborate—Share Your Progress: For most people in corporate positions, there’s (hopefully) an effective boss who helps ensure there are proper reports on progress, with the responsibility to follow up. What happens, though, when you’re the boss? Who does your project most effect, and who needs to know about the progress of your company, your goals, and your overall destination—your stakeholders? Your staff? Your clients? Other departments?

Regardless of who your project affects most, it is important to communicate, collaborate, and share your progress. Your strategic plan very well could be a thing of beauty, worthy of a business textbook. The marketing department, however, may have new information that invalidates an initial premise or puts your data out of date. Informing them only at completion risks the success of your entire project. Or, your biggest clients may be ready to sell their business and retire, which now means your project underfunded.

Include progress updates to those who your plans will impact, so that changes can be incorporated along the way. Sure, detours are inconvenient, but navigating them minimizes backtracking and maximizes the effectiveness of your efforts.

Leadership On Course and at Full Speed: With the direction of your project embedded in the planning and with contingencies made for changing conditions, you’ll soon see that the extra work in project planning serves productivity. When the runway is clear, your direction is plotted, and your flight plan is filed, you and your team can attain top speeds as you soar to success.

Elizabeth McCormick is a Keynote Speaker specializing in Leadership, Sales and Safety presentations. She was recently named number four on the list of Leadership Experts to Follow Online.  A former US Army Black Hawk Pilot, and author of “The P.I.L.O.T. Method; the 5 Elemental Truths to Leading Yourself in Life;” Elizabeth teaches instantly applicable strategies to boost your employees’ confidence in their own leadership abilities. For more information, please visit: www.YourInspirationalSpeaker.com.

What’s Your Copyright IQ?

By Andrew A. Gonzalez, Esq.

Andrew A. GonzalezIn the old days, the Power of the Press was a luxury reserved for those with a press. Today, anyone with a desktop computer and an internet connection can become an electronic publisher. Before the internet, any entrepreneur not only had to know the nuts and bolts of marketing, but they had to be aware of complex legal issues such as libel and copyright infringement. An unintentional mistake and you could be sued out of existence. Professionals understood that the Power of the Press carried with it great responsibility and legal risk.How much do you really know about copyright law? Click To Tweet

If you are a website designer, or business owner, it is time to wake up to laws that have always applied to intellectual property in the real world. How much do you really know about copyright law? A copyright is a form of protection for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Dangerous myths about copyright law.

MYTH: If it doesn’t have a copyright notice, it’s not copyrighted.
FALSE. In the USA, almost everything created after April 1989 is copyrighted and protected whether it has a notice or not. The default you should assume for other people’s works is that they are copyrighted and may not be copied unless you know otherwise.

MYTH: It is okay to copy as long as you give proper credit to the author/artist.
FALSE. If you copy an original writing, graphic, song, or other work without
permission, you are guilty of copyright infringement. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act [DMCA] restricts access to or distribution of copyrighted material. Violators may be subject to civil and criminal penalties.

MYTH: I goofed and used someone’s graphic on my web page without realizing that it is copyrighted, but I cannot be sued as long as it was an honest mistake.
FALSE. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Copyright law does not care about your “intent”, only that you have infringed work of another.

MYTH: It is okay to use less than 10 percent of someone’s work.
FALSE. Although it may be permissible to use limited portions of a work for limited purposes, there is no rule permitting a certain percentage of the work to be reproduced, distributed, performed or translated.

MYTH: The work doesn’t show a copyright notice, so it is in the public domain and content can be used freely.
FALSE. A work has automatic copyright protection the moment it exists and in tangible form. While it is good practice to insert a copyright notice, it is not mandatory.

MYTH: If I don’t charge for it, it’s not a copyright violation.
FALSE. It is a violation even if you give it away—and there can be serious damages if you diminish commercial value of the property.

MYTH: It doesn’t hurt anybody and it’s free advertising.
FALSE. It Is up to the owner to decide if they want the free ads or not.

MYTH: I paid someone to create something for me so I own the copyright.
FALSE. If the content creator is on staff, and the work is created during their employment as part of their job, usually the employer owns the copyright. If, on the other hand, the content creator is an independent contractor, then the contractor may own the copyright unless there is something in writing transferring copyright to you.

MYTH: I copyrighted the name of my brand.
FALSE. Copyright protects original works of authorship, but a trademark protects words, phrases, symbols and logos that identify the source of the goods or services.

MYTH: I can mail myself a copy of my work to protect it [commonly known as “the poor man’s copyright”].
FALSE. There is no provision in copyright law granting any such protection and it not a substitute for registration.

MYTH: If I am caught infringing, I will just stop.
FALSE: The penalties for copyright infringement can be severe, and the technology for catching offenders gets better all the time. The penalties for copyright infringement include both criminal and penalties.

The purpose of copyright law is to provide a commercial framework to ensure that artistic, intellectual or other works of value are fairly rewarded. The development of technology in general and the internet in particular has dramatically increased the ease with which works are violated. In this environment, a number of misconceptions have become common currency. This article is intended as an introduction to copyright laws and is provided in good faith to gain a general understanding of the topic.

Andrew A. Gonzalez, Esq. is an experienced attorney with over twenty-five years in practice. He focuses attention on business and intellectual property matters. He provides sophisticated services to commercial and individual clients who need to effectively compete in a business environment. For more information, call 914-220-5474 or email gonzalez@golawny.com.

Managers Become Leaders with a Shift in Focus

By Brian Braudis

Brian BraudisSenior leadership at the corporate headquarters of a large retail chain was entertaining succession planning. What started out as an exercise turned into a sweeping new protocol for transitioning managers into leaders.

For the organization, it’s vitally important to get this right. Managers sometimes trip on their way up. Senior leaders can mitigate stumbling with an aggressive strategy.

Managers are typically promoted into leadership roles with the thought that their effectiveness will continue; but rather than assume, senior leaders are wise to put into place a two-pronged approach. The first prong is to place the right candidate. The old cliché applies: “Hire for attitude and train for ability.”

The second prong is to cultivate the well-selected candidate. This involves extensive training opportunities and environments that promote growth. New leaders typify the shift from a working manager to a learning leader. Click To Tweet

Transitioning managers into leaders should ideally start long before the switch is flipped. Early on, candidates should be “groomed” through extensive training, cross-program experiences and leadership development. Preferably the training, experience and development will culminate by equipping the candidate-leader with a view and an understanding of the “leadership landscape.”

Placing an incumbent leader in a productive environment is less precise.

The context of leadership can be polarizing, ambiguous, volatile and complex; so out of necessity, strong support systems must be in place. A network of colleagues to model the way and offer reassurance along with mentors, coaches and careful monitoring will serve as the classic challenge/support system to promote a productive transition while cultivating new leaders.

New Leaders Must Shift in Five Broad Areas: The biggest difference to grasp for new leaders is the change in role that entails a focused shift in five broad areas:

1. Production to Outcomes: The immediate challenge for managers is to shift their thinking and operating from a “making widgets” mindset to an influencing outcomes mindset. It is inherent in the leadership process that the leader influences the outcome. As the new leader begins working with department heads and stakeholders they need to be operating from a new perspective, a long-term view with idea of short-term, stepping stone implementation. The role of the leader is to influence the long-term with organizational strategy in mind.

Rather than making and counting widgets, a new leader must have both eyes toward efficiencies now and necessary adaptations toward the future.

2. Specialist to Visionary: Managers thrive as specialists. They know their department, their people, and their function. That’s not enough for a leader. Leaders must know the language of all departments. They must be able to translate information, patterns and trends from departments into the language of efficiencies, profit and direction. The vision of the organization is up to the leadership. No one else will take the reins here. Leaders must harness what is known now with the trends they see in the telescope and provide direction. Vision can be complex and multifaceted, but nothing can beat everyone pulling in the same direction. This is one big advantage that is difficult for competitors to duplicate.

3. From One to All: Managers have the responsibility to manage the day-to-day on the floor. They are embedded with the staff. Leaders don’t manage things as much as they lead direction. Whereas a manager focuses on employee engagement, a leader has a focus of workforce engagement.

A new leader may have lingering “departmental biases” that show up as baggage that slows meetings and other processes down. The classic mistake is for new leaders to over-manage and under-lead, especially their previous function. Colleagues need to give the new leader their patience while he cultivates an open-minded shift from managing one department to serving all departments in the organization.

4. Solving Problems to Seeing Problems Before They Develop: Strictly speaking, managers and leaders are keen problem solvers. But one of the finer points of leadership—and where leaders earn their keep—is seeing problems before they happen. If a leader can identify slowed growth or a decline in earnings early on and proactively put things in place to avoid the dreaded “workforce planning,” this “seeing” can save everyone.

5. Worker to Learner: Leadership is not about knowing—it’s about learning. New leaders typify the shift from a working manager to a learning leader. As they work to cultivate an open mind and flexibility, they must also demonstrate a commitment to relentless self-improvement—that means applying continuous learning toward competency, excellence and greatness.

When new developing leaders are hand selected, cultivated and afforded the organizational backing necessary for success, it’s more than an exercise in succession. It’s a testament to a leadership strategy and the state-of-the-art demonstration of a leadership culture. Over time the effort builds into the ultimate competitive advantage.

Brian Braudis is a highly sought-after human potential expert, certified coach, speaker and author of High Impact Leadership: 10 Action Strategies for Your Ascent. He has also authored several audio programs from executive leadership development to stress management. Brian believes “leadership” is a verb not a title. Brian’s passionate and inspiring presentations are based on the foundation that regardless of your position or role everyone is a leader. For more information on Brian Braudis, please visit: www.TheBraudisGroup.com.

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Reaching the Professional Summit

Three Pillars to Redefine and Understand Success

 By Lei Wang

Stephanie is in her early fifties. She has been a business consultant for twenty years and worked her way up from a junior associate all the way to one of the few female partners in her company. She lives a comfortable life and no longer need to pull all-nighters frequently just to stay “on top” of her work. Though considered rather successful by most people, she is a bit lost as to her next step. Coasting through the rest of her professional life? Early retirement? Do something different? For many years, other than working like mad, she hardly set aside time for herself. Driven by a strong desire for success and the responsibility for taking care of her family, she never entertained the possibilities of other “options”.

Her only daughter recently graduated from college, .Now that her daughter is asking her for career advice, she finds herself questioning her own professional direction. How can she provide her daughter with the best career advice? Also, what’s next for herself?

While launching or furthering your career, knowing what success means to you will help you find greater meaning and happiness. Here are three pillars to help you define success for yourself:Knowing what success means to you will help you find greater meaning and happiness. Click To Tweet

1. Make every achievement personal and measure success against your own effort rather than any external comparison: If you rely on external comparison to validate your sense of success, you may obscure your own perception by comparing yourself to people who are less or more “successful” than you. Or you could be confused as you bounce between being applauded by a full room after a presentation, and being passed over at the next promotion opportunity.

The external criteria used for comparison is frequently random. Yet, as an individual, you long for a consistent and trustworthy confirmation of your worthiness. The only reliable source has to come from you—no other people or commonly accepted social norm.

Every person has a different starting point and different talent. So your success can only be judged against your own effort. What matters is not where you start from, or where you are today, but how hard you are working and how fast you are making progress. Someone starts low but consistently works hard could surpass someone who starts high but only makes a mediocre effort.

Instead of resorting to any external comparison, compare where you are today versus where you were yesterday. Keep an eye on where you want to be tomorrow, and constantly make your best effort day-after-day. Sooner than you realize, you will be surprised to find how high you have reached.

2. The energy and motivation that a challenge inspires in you will make it easier to reach the summit: Be sure not to overachieve at the expense of being able to sustain yourself mentally and physically for the next challenge.

Do not put yourself in a position where you are in the “flow” of your work and resist taking breaks for fear of falling behind. This creates burnout—plain and simple.

You may find yourself at a critical junction that taking a break means failure and render void your previous efforts. But you have to remember, your ultimate goal, your ultimate success, is much further than the goal in front of you. The journey is a long marathon, and the finish line is further than you can see. Keep in mind: even though sprinting to reach that immediate goal in front of you right now may appear to be the most important task, it’s just a very small step in the long journey.

What can you do to prepare yourself for the long-haul to success? What can you do today so you will be better prepared when you face another “critical” moment tomorrow? By taking care of some important—but not yet urgent—issues today, you could avoid making every important issue today an urgent problem in the future. In business, that’s what risk management is for; in combat or competition, that’s what training and rehearsal is for; in your daily life, that’s what learning and taking care of your health and your relationships is for.

3. Success is a journey of constant searching and reconnecting with purpose: Any achievement, no matter how significant it may be, is just a point on this journey. You will have many opportunities for success.

While the only criterion to evaluate your success has to come from within and the journey to success is a long marathon, you still need some “target”, right?

Common goals include reaching a certain number in revenue, scoring a certain position in an organization, or attaining a certain rank in your profession. However, you need to understand that each of those goals is just a point on your journey to success. Those points themselves are not the ultimate success you are pursuing. Just like the measurement of success comes from within, the goal also needs to connect to something within yourself.

The most important question is why? Why are you in this business? Why are you pursuing in your profession? What does reaching those goals mean to you, to your family, to your community? What is the ultimate “goal” you are trying to reach beyond those “points”?

You have to dig deeper to understand your internal drivers, and discover the purpose of your life. Once you “know” the purpose you are serving or pursuing, it will be easier to see how those “points” on your journey connect and where you are heading. Let your purpose be the guide posts on your journey. You will never feel lost no matter if you succeed or fail at reaching that immediate next point, because you always know how to find the next guide post and you know where you are heading to in the future.

Be prepared to go beyond the immediate goal or achievement. Too often we sacrifice long-term success for short-term goals. There are always new summits and new goals. You will reach further faster if you look beyond the summit just in front of you.

Lei Wang is an internationally-recognized adventurer, motivational speaker and author of After the Summit: New Rules for Reaching Your Peak Potential in Your Career and Life. The first Asian woman to complete Explorers Grand Slam (climb the highest peak on each continent and ski to both poles), Lei channels her experiences to convey a message of perseverance and steadfast determination that her audiences can use at work or at home. For more information about Lei Wang, please visit www.JourneyWithLei.com.