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March 16, 2017 / Molly Moseley

How effective leaders find success within the madness

When you sit down to fill out a blank basketball bracket form, the page seems like pure chaos. The multi tiered chart packed with team names is overwhelming until you start going through each slot, making tough choices to navigate the maze in hopes of winning the top prize.

In your career there will be many times chaos will cause your head to spin on a much larger scale than that of a college basketball tournament. What’s on the line is much larger, too. Instead of winning the office pool, job success, satisfaction and advancement are the ultimate reward.

Rather than falter during times of stress, effective leaders use that chaos as a driver to thrive. These periods can be the perfect reason to ask the tough questions, do some self-reflection and define career goals. Consider the following ways effective leaders find success despite the madness.

Be a star coach by evolving as a leader

Great leaders embrace the idea that they are always growing personally and professionally. Sometimes changes come naturally; other times, it’s the result of something unexpected. It’s important to be agile, resilient and open to change, no matter the circumstances.

In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski recalls the only time he felt burnout was after a back operation in the mid ’90s. “My schedule was nuts. And I never took time to critique how I was handling things. I was just moving forward,” he says. “But that setback prompted me to change a lot: delegating more responsibilities, not micromanaging, being a different type of leader. Since then, my energy and hunger have never wavered.”

Have a coach’s attitude about your team

It doesn’t matter if you’re coaching a basketball team, launching a business or running a Fortune 500 company: Great leaders know people are an organization’s biggest asset. These leaders must be able to motivate their teams with steadfast dedication, even during rough patches. It might be a down economy or the star player has an injury — be the role model for the attitude and aptitude you expect.

Krzyzewski tells the Harvard Business Review he keeps his team motivated by staying motivated himself, a true testament to his abilities as a leader. “You have to show motivation yourself,” he says. “They have to see it in you on a day-to-day basis. The older professionals understand that you have to show up every day, no matter what, no excuses.”

Expand the playbook by paving your own path

The tried-and-true plays will serve you well, but there will be times in any big game when you have to bend the rules and try a different play. Your career is similar. Just because a colleague found success down one path doesn’t mean you will. What’s more, their definition of success may be different than yours, so if you follow the well-worn path, you’ll end up disappointed. Great leaders know to follow their heart.

Although Coach K openly admits that his approach to retirement planning is to have no plans at all, there are other times when he’s had to make big decisions that defined his career. Most notably, he’s always stuck with college basketball despite numerous offers from the pros.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be asked several times,” he tells Harvard Business Review. “The toughest ones to decline were the Celtics in 1990 and the Lakers in 2004. But at the end of the day, I love college basketball more. I really love Duke, and I’m really happy I’ve stayed.”

 

March 9, 2017 / Molly Moseley

Good internal communication doesn’t just happen

Communicating with clients is a daily discussion by company leaders across the globe. What often doesn’t get as much attention — yet can be equally important to business success — is communication between employees.

Good internal communication has countless benefits. It fosters a strong culture, improves collaboration, streamlines results and can even improve morale. In today’s diverse business landscape, creating clear communication channels can overcome generational, gender and cultural differences to create cohesive teams and ultimately, successful outcomes.

Good internal communication doesn’t just happen. It must be deliberate. Consider these five ideas to supercharge your communication efforts to create a happier, healthier workplace:

Build trust with small talk

The daily banter around the water cooler is more than just casual socialization. Company leaders can better know their employees by participating in idle conversation from time to time. A pleasant greeting and genuine interest about an employee’s interests outside of work can provide amazing insight plus bring teams much closer together.

Be mindful

Strive to be present and focused when in conversation. Listen more carefully, so you can respond more thoughtfully. It is important to think about who you’re talking to, even before your conversation, so you feel prepared and can minimize misunderstandings. Respect should be at the heart of all communication.

Invest time in training

Communication training is a worthwhile investment for companies. Many nuances of communication are unclear, and specialized training will help all employees understand each other better while clearly laying out expectations. This is important when onboarding employees but is also valuable from time to time as a refresher for everyone. Cater lunch, incorporate some team exercises and make it fun!

Use modern collaboration tools

Most co-workers use legacy methods of communication, which can cause confusion. It’s incredibly easy to misinterpret an email or text! However, emails, phone calls and texts make up 75 percent of all communications with co-workers, according to technalysis research. Bring teams together with modern communication tools like Skype, Google Hangouts or other video conferencing technologies. What’s more, ask teams how they prefer to communicate and adopt methods that work best.

Keep an open door for feedback

Constructive criticism is important for maintaining effective internal communication plans. Employees should feel comfortable communicating their concerns to their supervisors and HR. Maintain an open-door, no-judgment policy. Develop a process for evaluating any issues and developing solutions. Not only does this help build company-wide trust, but it also can provide valuable insight into improving the workplace.

Research shows that companies with strong communication are rewarded in many ways. Employees that feel respected through solid, open communication are loyal, engaged and even more innovative. Bottom line: Good communication is good business.

What other tips can you provide about internal communication? Please share in the comments.

March 1, 2017 / Toby Dayton

LinkUp Predicts Disappointing Jobs Report For February But March Should Be Better

For the nearly 66 million voters who voted for Hillary Clinton, it is not the least bit surprising that the new administration has proven to be as horrifically inept, chaotic, mendacious, and nasty as we all expected. What is perhaps somewhat surprising, given where the bar was set, is that things have actually turned out to be even worse – a hellscape of lies, bigotry, racism, hypocrisy, corruption, and fear-mongering. And from the truly apocalyptic category, the President and his administration have already raced through the first few chapters of the autocrat’s playbook while desperately trying to fend off serious allegations of Russian influence and campaign collaboration.

The cavalcade of atrocities has been dizzying, to say the least, and I’m certain I’ve left out much, but the insanity reel of the first five weeks includes obsessing over (and lying about) inauguration day crowd size, Michael Flynn’s resignation on day 24, Russia, alternative facts, Russia, labeling the media the enemy of the people, banning major news outlets from the White House, Russia, the unconstitutional immigration ban, miserable cabinet appointees, incessant tweeting, Ivanka and Nordstrom, Russia, terror attacks in Sweden, Bowling Green, fake news, the wall, TPP, Jeff Sessions and the Russian ambassador, and the utter fallacy of repeal and replace (but of course, “nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated”). And while Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway are great fodder for SNL, with the exception of Mike Pence, it is impossible to imagine two more terrifying human beings whispering in Trump’s ear than Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller.

As Thomas Friedman wrote in an editorial entitled ‘Dear C.E.O.s‘, Steve Bannon was quoted by the Washington Post stating that he and Jeff Sessions were at the center of Trump’s Pro-America movement. “What we are witnessing now,” Bannon said, “is the birth of a new political order, and the more frantic a handful of media elites become, the more powerful that new political order becomes itself.” As Friedman advises, “When someone tells you he is giving birth to a new political order in America, be afraid.” No worries there – we couldn’t be more terrified.

And what about jobs? It was jobs, after all, that stood as the bedrock foundation of Trump’s electoral college victory. Through 5 weeks, other than a few trivial tweets targeting specific companies and vague mentions, completely devoid of details, of a terrific $1 trillion infrastructure plan, the administration has not taken a single step of any kind to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to create 25 millions jobs in the next decade.

Despite Trump’s horribly misguided set of prescriptions, there is no debate around the diagnosis that millions of Americans have been decimated by a multitude of tectonic factors that have made it brutally difficult to make a decent living in the modern economy. As Friedman writes in that same editorial, “Yes, the acceleration in technology and globalization has particularly benefitted higher-skilled knowledge workers in the West and lower-skilled rising middle-classes in Asia. And yes, it did squeeze middle-skilled workers in the West, who were more vulnerable to outsourcing, algorithms, and automation. More needs to be done to help them.”

Unfortunately for the country (and Trump voters), Trump’s priorities around deregulation, immigration, tax cuts, repealing Obamacare, building walls, and reducing trade will only exacerbate the challenges the country faces in narrowing the income gap, restoring the middle class, helping lower-income workers, and providing more opportunity for all.

And factoring in the priorities of the conservative policy nihilists and Republicans in Congress (gutting the social safety net, deregulating Wall Street, eliminating major aspects of the Federal government, etc.) only adds gasoline to the inferno that is Washington these days. Who would have thought it possible that John Boehner, at least relative to the 115th Congress, could ever be regarded as a sensible moderate?

With the absolute train-wreck in Washington, it is nearly impossible to predict what this economy will look like in a few quarters, let alone where the country might be before the year is out. So for now, I’ll focus on what Friday’s jobs report for February will look like.

Based on the declines in new and total job listings on LinkUp in January, we are forecasting a net gain of just 150,000 jobs in February.

 

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Our below-consensus forecast is further evidenced by the increase in LinkUp’s Job Duration which rose from 49 days in January to 53 days in February.

 

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Our Job Duration metric measures the average length of time that a job stays in LinkUp’s job search engine (which indexes 3.2 million jobs daily from 30,000 company websites). As we have pointed out in the past, rising duration points to a slow-down in hiring due to either weakening labor demand or increasing difficulty in finding qualified applicants to fill open positions (or a combination of both).

Given the fact that we’ve been in a full employment environment for nearly a year, there is little doubt that companies are finding it increasingly difficult to find suitable candidates to hire. What is more challenging however, and what will be of paramount importance to the Fed, is determining to what extent labor demand is slowing down.

Although we’ll have one more data point for February when we compare February to March on April 1st, our initial data for February shows a slight increase for both new and total job listings over January. As a result, we expect to see continued wage gains and sustained strength in the labor market through at least March and likely through the 2nd quarter. Beyond that, however, is anyone’s guess, and speculating as to what Republicans in Washington will end up doing is virtually impossible.

What is certain, however, is that the long-term prescription for strengthening the American economy and improving conditions for the American workforce is the complete opposite of the policies that Trump and Congressional Republicans are likely to enact.

As Friedman writes at the end of his editorial, “The way we lift American workers is not by building higher walls, but rather stronger communities — where business, philanthropies, the local school system and local government forge adaptive coalitions to enable every worker to engage in lifelong learning and every company to access global markets and every town to attract the smart risk-takers who start companies.

That is exactly what is happening in America’s best communities, and the job of government is to scale it, and the job of big business is to defend it. So don’t be fooled by a Trump sugar high; your businesses will thrive only if America is the country that prepares itself and its workers to live in a world without walls, not one that goes around erecting them.”

 

February 27, 2017 / Molly Moseley

How can it be worse? How reverse brainstorming inspires innovation

Mind maps, brain dumps, group discussions and SWOT analysis — there are a variety of brainstorming strategies companies use, but the goal is always the same: Find a solution to a problem.

Traditional brainstorming embraces the idea that “no idea is a bad idea” in an effort to collect many different thoughts. Essentially quantity trumps quality. Those thoughts are then evaluated, often blended into hybrid ideas, and then the best ones are applied to the issue at hand. It’s a scientific approach that requires loads of creativity on the part of the participants.

The problem is the actual brainstorming process is bland and boring. You sit in a conference room (sometimes for over an hour) and make a list. If you’re lucky, you might get donuts out of the deal.

While companies often can’t change the setting for brainstorming sessions, they can change the process to try to stimulate different parts of the brain in order to get more creative solutions. This is exactly why reverse brainstorming is gaining popularity.

Basically, reverse brainstorming is teams getting together to chat about how to make a problem worse. It can be loads of fun because the answers can vary from the interesting to the insane. Plus, unlike traditional brainstorming, you’re likely to get a lot of laughs from your colleagues, which not only makes it an enjoyable process, but further inspires creativity.

So why spend time thinking about how to make a problem worse? The heart of reverse brainstorming is you must find the wrong in order to find the right. Once you have a list of things that make a particular issue that much worse, it becomes readily apparent what needs to happen to make it better.

Want to give reverse brainstorming a try? Here are five simple steps to guide you through the process:

Step 1: Identify the problem.

Step 2: Ask “How can we make the problem worse?” instead of “How can we solve it?”

Step 3: Record all answers without criticism.

Step 4: Review answers and flip each to reveal the fixes for the problem.

Step 5: Evaluate the results to determine the best solution.

Consider a design team evaluating a website that suffers from low user engagement. People are finding the website through online searches, but once they click through they leave quickly without visiting different pages. Why are they be leaving? Reverse brainstorming could reveal ideas like confusing copy, dated graphics, complex navigation and annoying background music straight out of the ’80s.

After coming up with a list of ideas for making the website even more terrible, it becomes clear what must be done to improve it. By asking “How can we make it worse?” you’ll get an entirely different list of thoughts than the tired old “How can we make it better?” And those ideas might be just what’s needed to get the deep insight you need to solve problems once and for all.

 

February 21, 2017 / Molly Moseley

Look to email to help gauge cultural alignment

Hiring managers know that finding the best talent is one part science, one part art and one part gut instinct. While it’s easy to check for quantifiable skills (10 years in the health care industry, advanced educational degrees, specific certifications), it’s not as easy to verify personality traits that ensure a good cultural fit.

This is incredibly important because it’s often cultural fit and ability to adapt that really makes a hire successful. Plenty of people might be able to do a job based on required skills. Not as many are able to fit into the organization and be a positive part of the cultural fabric that makes up the company.

Determining cultural alignment during the hiring process is difficult. You may only meet with a candidate a handful of times before a decision must be made. How someone looks, acts and communicates all influence your opinion about if they’ll fit. While your intuition may often be right, we’re all human, and it will at some point be wrong — a costly HR mistake.

Because it’s such a gamble, many companies are trying new strategies for verifying cultural alignment. Email, for example, can reveal a surprisingly large amount of information about cultural fit. Studies show email can even predict the likelihood that a candidate will stick around and advance up the ranks.

Researchers from Stanford and The University of California, Berkeley published an extensive report based on analysis of 10.24 million emails exchanged over five years among 601 full-time employees of a mid-sized U.S. for-profit technology firm. One of the most compelling findings included:

“Rank-and-file employees with high cultural fit have a cumulative probability of 48 percent of being promoted to a managerial position by the end of their third year at the firm, which is 1.5 and 2.7 times greater than their counterparts who exhibit median or low cultural fit, respectively.”

What’s more, emails that demonstrated poor cultural fit were from candidates much more likely to get fired:

“The implications of low cultural fit for involuntary exit are particularly dramatic: at 46 percent, the cumulative probability of involuntary exit after three years is four times greater for an employee with low cultural fit than it is for one with median cultural fit.”

Company emails are a treasure trove of linguistic information that can tell a whole lot about an employee’s potential. When hiring managers take a closer look at candidate emails noting similar linguistic cues, they can gain important insight into cultural fit, and ultimately, insight into whether this person is worth onboarding.

Considering the rapid growth of companies with telecommuting options, email has never been more important. Just one example is technology company Buffer. Their hiring page notes the main way they gauge cultural alignment is by analyzing email wording. Because the company is made of remote teams worldwide, this helps them ensure anyone they hire is a good fit.

What role does email analysis currently serve in your hiring process? Do you believe it’s the key to better understanding an employee’s ability to culturally align at an organization?

 

February 9, 2017 / Molly Moseley

Diversity fuels innovation and without it, we all suffer

President Trump’s executive order on immigration continues to make headlines. With so much uncertainty about the future, many businesses are starting to have new discussions about diversity in the workplace and how it affects culture and the bottom line.

Racial and gender inequality have obvious social impacts on any business, but it’s so much more than that. Without a diverse and inclusive workforce, we all suffer. Innovation flounders, brand reputations bomb and profits plateau.

McKinsey & Company analysis found companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. The companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to be over those medians.

This diversity has a snowball effect that in turn has a massive impact on the global economy. Let’s look at gender equality, for example. A McKinsey Global Institute report found that $12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by advancing women’s equality. That’s a whopping 11 percent increase!

But you can’t simply will workplace diversity to happen. One common pitfall for companies exploring diversity initiatives is to focus too heavily on the numbers. If you hit certain numbers, you have a proportionately diverse workplace, right? It’s not that easy.

Diversity and inclusion are two different things, and both are required for a company to see true success. Diversity numbers may indicate representation of different groups across departments, but without inclusiveness, you won’t get the value you’re seeking, and in fact, there may be backlash.

Workplace diversity advocate Verna Myers says it best: “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

So what can you do to transform your company into a diverse, inclusive workplace that benefits employees and the bottom line?

Admit there is a problem: The first step to solving any problem is to admit there is a problem. It’s a sensitive topic, and one some people are bound to get defensive about. However, without honesty you can’t make any changes that have lasting impact.

Start at the top: In order for diversity and inclusion to be part of a company’s culture, it must happen from the top down. Company leaders need to send a clear and consistent message to employees, plus show they embrace these values by taking action in their own position.

Remove hiring bias: Hiring biases are prevalent at many companies. It’s difficult to pinpoint because many are unintentional and happen subconsciously. That’s why it’s important to take an in-depth look at hiring from start to finish. A specialty consultant can help with this.

Compensate equally: There are countless studies that have found women and minorities often make less than their white male counterparts. Is this true at your organization? There are many influential factors that go into determining someone’s wage, but make sure race, gender, religion and sexual orientation aren’t one of them.

Provide career opportunities: To boost inclusiveness, it’s essential to provide clear career paths so employees can be empowered. This can include internal career development documents, educational classes to boost skills, mentorship programs and the willingness to promote from within.

Go beyond numbers: Understand what people think and how it’s affecting their job. Quantifying emotion and analyzing inclusion can be difficult, but the more insight you have, the more likely you are to make a lasting impact.

 

February 3, 2017 / Toby Dayton

January Job Gains Beat Consensus Estimates (Just As LinkUp Predicted)

Nice way to start off another year of NFP forecasting…

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February 2, 2017 / Toby Dayton

LinkUp Forecasting Solid Job Gains In January and Continued Strength In February

Just two weeks in, and yet, already…

 

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Based on gains in new and total job openings on LinkUp in December, we are forecasting a net gain of 215,000 jobs for January.

 

Jobs By State December 2016

 

Sustained strength in U.S. labor demand, combined with the fact that we’ve been in a full employment environment for nearly a year (since at least Q2 of last year), resulted in continued growth in LinkUp’s Job Duration metric as employers find it increasingly hard to find applicants for open positions. In January, LinkUp’s Job Duration rose from 47 days in December to 49 days, a pretty clear signal indicating continued growth in wages.

 

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And based on job listing growth in January, we expect to see continued strength in job gains and wage increases throughout the entire labor market in February and perhaps even through at least the first quarter.

 

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Of course, our bullish forecast for the U.S. labor market in the coming months assumes that the world doesn’t continue cratering at the rate it appears to be at the moment…

 

 

January 23, 2017 / Stephanie Anderson

Bouncing back after a troublesome 2016

We’re a few weeks into 2017, but the sting of 2016 remains. For a lot of people, it was a tough year. Many big companies like Wells Fargo, Twitter and Samsung didn’t do so hot. We lost some really awesome celebrities like Prince, Muhammad Ali and Carrie Fisher. The election seemed dirtier than ever and scandal rumors continue into the new year.

So how do you shake off the shadow of last year so you can fully bounce back? The key is to focus on yourself and what you can control. Here are five ways to refresh your attitude and life approach so you can take 2017 by storm.

Remain optimistic: Now more than ever, it’s important to focus on the positive. It’s easy to get down given the steady stream of negative headlines, but right now there are positive things happening too. The economy is great and job markets are rocking. There’s always a silver lining, and when you look at the glass as half full, you’ll be amazed by how your perspective can change your perception.

Focus on gratitude: Americans often focus on what they want, not what they have. Try a simple daily exercise: Before you get out of bed, think of three things you’re grateful for. It could be your health, your house, soft new sheets, coffee — anything that makes your day brighter. By doing this each morning you set the tone for the entire day. Try it with your kids over breakfast and everyone will stay more grounded and focused.

Inspire change locally: If you’re upset about the election results, it’s going to be tough as the new administration takes over. When big changes are happening, it can feel like so much is out of your control. That’s why you should focus on the impact you can make at a local level. Look into volunteering. Get involved in community improvement programs. Communicate with your local government officials about important issues.

Make a plan: You can’t will something to happen. If you want something to change, you need to make a plan. To advance your career, write down steps to get you to your goal: take a class, volunteer for a new project, step outside your comfort zone, meet with your boss. Same goes with personal goals. Whether it’s visiting the gym twice each week or reading a new book every month, you need to write it down and make it happen.

Create a 2017 bucket list: A bucket list usually focuses on big things you want to do before you “kick the bucket.” In 2017, focus more on the present by creating a bucket list you want to complete before the year’s end. It could involve travel, exploring local parks, trying a new hobby, etc. Add things that you tend to put off. Working through the list will bring you a lot of joy and could make 2017 your most productive and happy year yet.

January 19, 2017 / Molly Moseley

Managing Change: How to foster positive transitions at work

Old way, new waySitting on the cusp of Inauguration Day, Americans are paying close attention in order to prepare for what is sure to be sweeping, dynamic change. Whether you’re happy or discontent about the new administration, you know the next four years will be a wild ride.

Change is difficult. As humans, we like what we know. We feel comfortable with the status quo. When what we come to expect shifts, it can be alarming. There’s no better example of this than when change unfolds in the business landscape.

When leadership changes and other major transitions transpire at work, it can make everyone nervous. These are the moments that can make or break a company. With so much on the line, you’d think leaders would be savvy in change management best practices, but studies show they aren’t.

Organizational Change: Motivation, Communication, and Leadership Effectiveness” by Performance Improvement Quarterly features a study that found approximately 80 percent of respondents feel their leaders never, rarely or only sometimes effectively implement change.

The leaders themselves aren’t any more confident in their abilities to manage change. A 2013 Strategy& survey on culture and change management found major change initiatives by global senior executives are only 54 percent successful.

So how can you beat the odds to better manage change at the organizational level? The following six ideas can boost your success. President-elect Trump should take note.

Communication: Frequent communication before, during and after change implementation is critical to eliminate transition pitfalls. Transparency should be at the heart of all communication strategies. Honesty will build your reputation for integrity, even during rocky times.

Open-door approach: When those who are affected by change feel like they have an outlet in which to voice their concerns, a transition can happen much more seamlessly. Maintain an open-door policy and listen with genuine interest. Accept feedback even from the biggest critics. Engagement is key.

Start at the top: How is change being embraced by the leaders of the organization? During transition periods employees will look to leadership for cues about the future. By embracing change and keeping a positive, enthusiastic attitude, leadership will influence others to do the same.

Cultural assessments: Assess the cultural landscape and address how the change will impact culture, if at all. Cultural dynamics can mean the difference between a smooth transition and one that is utterly dismissed by employees. Be straightforward about any cultural changes that are expected to facilitate change.

Ongoing reviews: When a major change takes place, it’s essential to monitor the positive and negative impacts. Furthermore, this analysis should be ongoing. Looking at progress and remembering that plans evolve will help ensure you make the necessary corrections along the way to reach the ultimate goal.

Expect the unexpected: You can have the most detailed plan about how a major change will unfold, but you will always experience the unexpected. From muddied processes, negative reactions and even resignations, you need to be resilient and adapt as necessary.