By now everyone has come to associate the cliché term of “Thinking Outside the Box” as a way to describe enhanced creativity. The box has been around the block for many decades now. It is nothing new. In fact, the whole aspect of thinking outside the box is not so creative anymore. Maybe it is time to just throw that whole box idea away, because whether you are thinking “in it” or “outside” of it, there is still a box.

What if There Were NO BOX or Limitations at All?

Creativity and imagination is becoming less of a characteristic these days. Our society has so much information and things that make their lives easier. Technology serves us, but it also fails us in a way because it limits our minds to only what we can do within the parameters of technology. Think carefully and you will see that this is true!

For example, most inventions you see these days are technology-oriented, either as a “something” that people can use online or even offline in the form of digital. Children go outside and play less, and when they do, they have gorgeous playgrounds that are available within every five-mile radius of most communities. In contrast, before technology became the mainstream focal point of our society, the inventions were more wholesome, and the children had to go outside and use their imaginations to come up with games to play that would fight boredom. Sticks and rocks were all you needed for a hockey game. A treehouse consisted of scraps of boards that your parents built with whatever they could find.

Our society has changed, and to a certain extent, it has inhibited our ability to be creative. This extends into the workforce.

Take the Box Away and Let Failure Happen Without Repercussions

The best inventors, presidents, authors, philosophers, painters and innovators of the pre-technology era often failed repeatedly before they finally “got it” and became successful. They did not give up. They believed in something and had the creativity and determination to see it through. What if we adopted this practice in the workplace?

Let this not be misconstrued for laziness. However, when a company has an employee who truly strives, tries or even fails multiple times on the quest for something greater, this is a noteworthy trait! This is a person you should WANT on your team, at all costs! Let the creative individuals shine, and give them a few words of encouragement. Whether they are developing a new system, project, poster, content, invention, book, or anything you have assigned them to do, there should be some type of reward, even for failure. Failure is just one step closer to success, but many people cannot live without “the box” that confines us, whether we want to think outside of it or not.

The larger a company, the more likely it is to have multi-generational employees. A lot of workers are forgoing retirement until much later than the normal age of 55, for a variety of reasons. Some simply don’t have the financial safety net of social security or pension benefits to fall back on, either because they started saving too late or simply because of the increased cost of living. Others want to work because they enjoy the social camaraderie and bigger paychecks.

Meanwhile, keeping the new workforce relevant, engaged and interested in working also requires a strong company culture. In order to hire and keep the millennials and Gen-Xers interested, a company must incorporate relevant programs and systems that are more contemporary in values. As you might imagine, the struggle to maintain balance between the old and new is an ongoing topic for any business. There is often a gap between the “oldies” and “newbies” that is not only noticeable, but problematic in some cases.

Balancing Tradition While Blending New Methods and Technologies; Can This Be Done?

The importance of preserving tradition in the workplace is not about maintaining “status quo”. It is about connecting and bridging the gap between the baby boomers and the youth who are entering the workplace. By merging the new technologies and programs with the old, companies can satisfy the needs of all of the staff members on a broader scale, while creating a harmonious working environment.

Another reason to preserve the corporate traditions is for the benefit of the customers. Too many changes all at once can create confusion and discontent. There is nothing that will alienate customers faster than disgruntled employees, and after working so hard to build a brand that is rich in tradition, it would be a shame to throw it all away. Nevertheless, a company must evolve. The best way to provide balance is through training, implementing and by nurturing effective leadership. Teaching the management to pass on the most critical aspects of a company culture – while consecutively embracing the newer systems and concepts – is an ongoing process.

How to Know Which Traditions to Keep vs. Which to Toss

As far as knowing which traditions matter most, this can be done by using two methods.

  1. asking the employees; or
  2. asking the customers.

Both should be done subtly. You don’t want to alienate either of these vital aspects of your business, but there is value in their opinions. One way you could do this would be simply by asking for feedback. A straightforward approach makes employees feel included, whereas changes that suddenly appear might seem scary. Come outright in your approach. For example; “How do you feel about our traditional July cookout, do you feel that it should be changed?” or; “Our company is leaning toward a simplified method of networking online, how do you feel about that?” You could also ask which traditions are their favorite, versus which they care the least about. Their answers may surprise you! Traditions connect people and are very important in our very disconnected world!

There is a book by one of the most successful leadership trainers of our time, John C. Maxwell. “Good Leaders Ask Great Questions” is a topic that many people would not even think about, much less write an entire 304 page book about. Yet, when it comes down to it, the importance of asking questions is understated as a leadership skill. Not just any ‘ole questions, but the thought-provoking kind that make people stop and wonder how you came up with them.

Why is Question-Asking Considered a Valuable Leadership Skill?

Good question.

It does require thought to answer a question, but the act of “asking” it in the first place requires cognitive, tactical or logical thinking. Asking questions also uses creativity, because the asker must first notice what is wrong in the first place and then process the information to realize there may be an answer. In other words, the asker has done the following (ANIV):

  • Analyzed: The question asker has analyzed that something is amiss.

  • Noticed: After analyzing that something is wrong, the asker has “noticed” and wondered this question.

  • Initiative: Rather than settling for what is wrong, the asker has taken the initiative to question it.

  • Voice: After analyzing what is wrong, noticing it, and taking the initiative, the asker then “voices” it out loud. This is what sets the person apart as a leader, because rather than silently musing about the topic; they have expressed it out loud in the form of a question.

Makes sense, right? In other words, the person who inquires about what is wrong has not only noticed (through logic), they have also voiced it in the form of a question. Now, as a leader, how can you develop these thought provoking questions?

Let’s begin by brainstorming. Think about a team of people. Think about typical questions they might ask. Then, think of the complete opposite, or stretch your mind beyond the typical questions to make your questions more engaging, enlightening and more on the side of problem solving.

Questions and Answers Help to Solve Problems

Questions are challenging and give employees a chance to “figure things out”, which can also make them look up to you. Instead of doing things for them or answering and solving your own problems, by presenting it as a question, you are asking them to think for themselves. You are helping them to develop not only in the workplace, but as individuals!

Here are some examples of thought-provoking questions you could present to your staff. This might help you come up with other pertinent examples for your business. There is a “typical” question and then a similar, yet more thought-provoking way of asking it directly underneath.

  • Typical: “How can we beat the competition?”

    • Thought-Provoking: “If another company came along offering the same services, what weak areas of ours would they most likely target?”

  • Typical: “How can we be more successful?”

    • Thought-Provoking: “What are two key areas that are preventing us from moving forward?”

  • Typical: “What do you like about working here?”

    • Thought-Provoking: “What is your biggest concern about working here, and what can you do to overcome this?”

  • Typical: “What do you think of this project we’re doing?”

    • Thought-Provoking: “If you were to be solely responsible for this project, how would you handle it or make it better?”

  • Typical: “How should we handle this?”

    • Thought-Provoking: “Assuming there was absolutely ZERO chance of failure, what would be the first thing to do?”

Asking questions is stimulating and nurtures a creative workforce. By making your employees think harder, they will decidedly earn your respect as a leader who listens, cares and who asks the right questions to help them succeed.

by The Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce

The Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce, Women in Business Council presented their quarterly luncheon on Tuesday, March 25th at the Palm Beach Gardens Marriott. They were thrilled to have guest speaker, Rita Craig.

rita-craigI Showed You So…Lessons from Mom about the Business of Life
Do you wonder what ever happened to good ‘ol common sense? You’ll be sure to find out when you join executive leadership consultant, author and coach Rita Craig as she talks about her latest book, I Showed You So – Lessons from Mom about the Business of Life. In her book, Rita takes a fun and insightful trip down memory lane, sharing what it was like to grow up in a house with 14 people, and detailing  fundamental life lessons she learned from her mother along the way. A bit of a romp at times, her book is much more than simply entertaining; in her own inimitable style, Rita connects these life lessons with today’s business climate in a way that is direct and hard-hitting. This will be a time of laughter and learning…Be sure not to miss it!

Rita B. Craig, Senior Professional Human Resources (SPHR), is founder and president of Top Tier Leadership, headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Ms. Craig taps into her 40 years of global human resources experience, including nearly 25 years in the corporate arena, to help transform clients – individuals, companies, public sector and associations – into highly effective employees, executives and organizations.

Fortune 50 to 500 companies in the United States, Canada, Europe, China, Singapore and Latin America have capitalized on her ability to swiftly drill down to identify issues, engage stakeholders and create positive change solutions. She has developed and implemented hundreds of customized strategies for clients around the globe on such topics as leadership, ethics, personal success and organizational effectiveness.

sharon and friendsA master in the art of listening and communicating, no two clients, keynote addresses or coaching sessions are ever the same for Ms. Craig. Each is treated with a personal approach to fit the client’s needs. Her ability to connect with each client to provide relevant content and measurable results consistently rewards her with top ratings from attendees around the world. Ms. Craig adheres to strict confidentiality, as many of her dealings are of a private, sensitive nature.

Rita is President-Elect of the Florida Speakers Association, a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA) and the Global Speakers Federation. Her publishing credits include Welcome to the Workforce, I Showed You So, and a manuscript entitled, “Ethics: The Hot New ‘E’ Word,” featured in the NSA’s first-ever book, Paid To Speak. Her reputation as a consummate professional has awarded her with a number of honors from respected sources such as the South Florida Business Journal, HR Florida, North Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, Executive Women of the Palm Beaches, SER Jobs for Progress and The Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.  In October 2012, she was presented with the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Human Resource Association of Palm Beach County.

Ms. Craig earned her master’s degree in business administration with a specialty in Human Resources from Nova University.  She has also completed the Columbia University’s human resources executive management program. Her past and present civic and community involvement reflects a diverse business and non-profit base, which helps her connect with clients from many disciplines.

wibThe Women in Business Council was founded 2002 by the Jupiter Juno Tequesta Chamber of Commerce and is now a part of the merged Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce. The mission of the council is to promote networking and education for professional women and female entrepreneurs while highlighting the women leaders in the community. To find out more, please visit the Northern Palm Beach County Chamber of Commerce website at www.npbchamber.com.

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women_in_power women_in_power_000

Power of Confidence:

7 Characteristics of a Confident Person

Confidence can take a life time to build, while taking only a moment or two to crumble into tiny bits. Depending on the life circumstances we are dealt with, having a confident demeanor can start very early in life; as young as toddlerhood.

Some of us had great parents who instilled positive values, which in turn made us believe we could become, do or be anything in life. Others did not, but perhaps found confidence later in life in other ways, such as through sports or by forging ahead in academics and within the workplace.

Confidence IS power, and vice versa. It has been studied and scientifically proven that confident people carry a different persona; one of poise, high self-worth, strong radars between right and wrong, and an ability to lead or convince others to follow.

People who are not confident are less likely to succeed, because they constantly second-guess their own ability to do things. They have excuses and often fall short of their own expectations, as well as failing to meet up to the perceived expectations of others. They may say things like,

  • “I could never do that, because I didn’t receive any formal education.”
  • “I’m not cut out for these things.”
  • “My Dad never showed me how to do that when I was a kid.”
  • “I’m not even going to try, because I know there will be a lot more qualified people applying than me.”

Listen, confidence is KNOWING. You must know you are good enough, without blaming anyone else (past, present or future) of your character faults. If you haven’t done something before, teach yourself how to do it. You can learn most anything these days just by doing an online search. Stop blaming your parents, your family, or your imperfect partner, or your kids, and most of all, yourself.

The power of confidence IS power. It is a knowing that no matter what you do, you will not fail. Here are 7 distinguishable characteristics of confident people:

  • Poise – Standing up, walking with an attitude
  • Eye contact – Never be afraid to look at people dead in the eyes, as it can put you in a position of power and knowing whether the person is truthful or not
  • Firm – Staying true to yourself and not sacrificing your personal beliefs for another person
  • Appearance – Confident people take pride in the way they look, including overall fitness, health and wellness. Looking good transcends to feeling good. Dressing nicely automatically makes you feel more confident.
  • Tone – Confident people keep a level head. They have self-assurance; therefore they do not need to yell to get their point across.
  • Stand up for others – Never talk badly about other people, because it can diminish or weaken your own confidence and self-esteem. Remember that it is the people who speak negatively about others who often feel the worst about themselves.
  • Do what is right – Doing the “right” thing is not always easy, especially when outside pressures persist. Whenever you bend on someone else’s wishes and not uphold what you feel in your heart is the best action, step or course to take, and then your confidence level goes down. Never let another person control your destiny, you are in control of your own.

People who lack confidence have excuses, whereas people with confidence have ambition. With the power of confidence, you cannot fail.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

-Thomas A. Edison

Top Five Development Books

Just like many of you, I’m an avid reader. I truly enjoy books for the process of self-betterment and to learn more ways to improve my techniques, happiness and get ideas. While I do enjoy fiction reads, I find non-fiction to be beneficial as a way to pick up new strategies. Often I use some of the strategies and techniques to teach others. As a coach and business consultant, it is my job to present techniques that help businesses, individuals, teams and others and to empower them to become better leaders.

That said, there are a number of great books that I would like to offer as my top picks. Each of them for different purposes.

The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential

Rita’s top 5 picks for development and leadership reading:

  1. The 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential by John C. Maxwell: This book has achieved 5 star ratings and I can tell you why. John is a known author, speaker and leader who knows that being a leader isn’t about having a certain “title” such as supervisor, boss, etc. This book empowers anyone to take the reins and become a leader with many facets of life.
  2. Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling by Michael Port: This book helps you to navigate between the decisions faced by new business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders.
  3. Welcome to the Workforce by Rita Barreto Craig: This book covers five major areas that must be addressed to put your best face forward in presentation, demeanor, communications and more. If you’re new to the job market, this is a must read! Perfect for students!
  4. The Happiness Project: by Gretchen Rubin: This is a personal favorite and is written in a fiction style, but the book accomplishes what it sets out to do… and leads to happiness and a positive mindset after its finished!
  5. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Usby Daniel Pink: It’s true that many people (including bosses) think that the best way to motivate is monetarily, but that’s not always true. The author persuasively reveals another motivator for high performance, which he reveals in this great book!

Can Job Instability Lead to Poor Health?

With the economy the way it is and the uncertainty of a new election on the immediate horizon, this presents a question that may or may not have a clear answer. However, many studies reveal that there is a link between job insecurity and health problems. This is attributed to a number of factors, many of which make perfect common sense yet that are worthy of discussion.

Stable Employment = Better Health

The most obvious reason that someone might have health problems as a result of job instability is the lack of health insurance. Despite Obama’s attempt to overhaul the health care system with health care for everyone, this has not yet gone into effect and therefore many people are finding themselves in a place where they are unable to seek treatment when they have a health problem. Some are due to worry of whether they will be able to pay the medical bills associated with adequate treatment, while others may not even have the transportation or means to get themselves to a doctor for a diagnosis.

Another consideration is the stress that is caused by job insecurity. When someone loses their job, it can cause financial and emotional strain. Worry, anxiety and depression can lead to even more health problems. These three determinants can also lead to sickness.

How can we improve health by promoting job security?

Job stability is something that many companies don’t have control over, however this is a topic that can be addressed within HR departments. When employees get laid off, this is when the snowball effects of other factors can transpire. It may be worthwhile to address the topic at a meeting and to discuss ideas of how to put employees’ minds at peace, which can subsequently lead to greater health and productivity.

Another way is to invite employees to participate in wellness programs. Some companies allow their employees to take yoga classes, for example. These paid opportunities represent the best of both worlds in that they enable employees to feel more stable in the workplace and they promote activity, better health and even a more productive attitude.

As employers, the issue of job security transcends beyond just the obvious. People’s health and well being are also affected.

Time flies by exceedingly faster each year. Maybe it’s because of being busier or just having a full plate, but I’ve had to learn some great time management strategies to keep up with everything. These tips and tricks have worked so well, I’ve told them to others and hope you find them helpful!

6 Time Management Tactics:

  • Manage Emails and Social Media Less. Everyone keeps emailing you. Texting you. Calling you. Tweeting you. Leaving comments on your Facebook. It’s difficult to keep up. Instead of getting sucked into these time eaters, make a commitment to only check them three times daily; once in the morning, once in the afternoon and if you must, one last time at night. There’s no reason to do it more than that.
  • Finish what you started. Another big time killer is interruptions. You start doing something and then a co-worker or family member busts in and tries to change your track, or perhaps you just think of something else you need to do and get sidetracked. Stay focused on the task at hand and finish it. You’ll feel more accomplished.
  • Write down 5 daily time wasters. Evaluate them. I’m not talking about personal time; you need that for yourself to recharge your batteries. I’m talking about those itty, bitty things you don’t really need to do but that you’re in the habit of doing anyway. Try a day or two without them. Does it make any significant difference whether you do it or not? If not, cut them out of your daily routine.
  • Come back to earth. What do I mean by this? When things are hectic, it’s a tendency for people to feel overwhelmed, which can lead to a decrease in productivity. Instead of focusing on what is in front of us and most urgent, we may try to multi-task or even sit there with a puzzled and dazed look, wondering where to begin. Multi-tasking can actually decrease the quality of your work and make you more frazzled. Instead, try closing your eyes for a couple of minutes and visualize yourself completely out of where you are now. You are not in the midst of chaos, you are sitting in your happy place (in your mind) whether that is a bookstore, the beach or in your backyard garden. Then when you come back to where you are, you should feel refueled and able to channel your focus on the most important task you need to do now.
  • Clear your desk. Do you have mail, paperwork and general “junk” on your desk that you know is very important but that you simply don’t have time to file, respond to or manage? If you don’t have an assistant to do it for you, try devoting one whole afternoon to go through it all. You can also invest in a NEAT which is a cool invention that scans your paperwork instantly and saves it on your computer. When you want to retrieve something important, you can just use your search tool. How cool is that? Get rid of filing cabinets all together!
  • Set goals. It’s more often said, than done. Some people have no time for this one, but I would encourage you to make time, and to be specific. For example, if you have an important promotion you’ve wanted to do, mark it on your calendar. Then, back up to today and write one task you need to accomplish every day to get towards that goal.

May you achieve even more than ever. Keep striving and pushing onward towards success!

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Be More Like a Coach and Less Like a Boss

As a manager or leader at your company, you have a tremendous undertaking. People look up to you for leadership. They rely on your expertise from training to managing, motivating and problem-solving. But when a boss is not effective, it could be because they lack respect of their colleagues. This can happen when a boss is too “bossy” and overzealous with their term of power. For some leaders, the “boss” title can be taken too far if too much control is implemented.

Instead of standing over everyone’s shoulder and directing them like a traffic cop, try giving your employees more freedom and ability to make common sense decisions on their own. This can be done by showing them how to do what needs to be done, rather than just ordering directions. Sometimes they don’t understand the way you think or what you want to do.

Be clear about goals to put everyone on the same page

Unfortunately, some supervisors think that by running a tight ship they have more control over the organization. However, many times the opposite is true. As a leader you have goals to meet, so the best way to empower your staff is to show them that vision of success. Give them a reason to strive for those goals. Whether monetary or through rewards, recognition and even offering a chance for more freedoms, you’ll notice a difference in the attitude of your staff.

Think about a time when you took up a sport, perhaps in grade school, high school or college. You had a coach who taught you, both as a team and individually. A good coach takes the students / team members aside and discusses their weaknesses and strengths. Instead of pointing them out, some will come right out and ask, “How could you have done that differently?”

Coaches also have a primary goal of winning games. As a boss, your goal is to win new customers, clients, etc. When you pump them up and tell the employees how good they are doing and what you are happy with as far as their performance, it makes them try harder to achieve that recognition. However, when you constantly complain or point out negative aspects of their performance through constant criticism or even yelling, reprimanding, passing out warnings and other forms of admonishment, these types of leadership could backfire. The employee could rebel and even talk badly about you behind your back to other staff, which can open up a really bad situation.

Make time for staff both individually and as a team

This is not to say you should let your employees walk all over you. As a leader you need to gain the respect of your team. This is done through positive reinforcement, encouragement, motivation, helping and guiding. Your employees may feel more comfortable asking you how to do something if you make yourself attainable and approachable for one-on-ones.

As a matter of fact, it’s good to schedule one-on-one sessions with everybody in the organization. Depending on the size, you can make these as frequently as bi-weekly, monthly or quarterly. In this manner, employees can confide in you without being made to feel awkward by being singled out. Schedule the personal sessions with EVERYONE and not just one person on an as-needed basis. Even if the employee is doing great, the personalized attention is an excellent way to build camaraderie, create loyalty and to bounce new ideas with him or her. Consider it like a brainstorming session between each of your employees individually.

Don’t wait until there’s just a problem before scheduling these sessions, either. Then the interface will be met with dread, instead of perceived as a positive thing. Kind of like an, “Uh-oh, the boss wants to talk to me alone.” The employee will be too afraid to talk. However, if you schedule the personal sessions with everyone, then people will open up and talk to you more. They’ll be more open, honest, friendly, and comfortable and may even tell you things they are happy and not happy about.

Then, you can also have “team” sessions. Instead of meetings, create a fun name for your pow-wows. Making the workplace better happens when you take on a coaching mindset.

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Backwards Brainstorming and How it Can Benefit Your Company

When you brainstorm or have brainstorming sessions, everyone thinks forward. They come up with ideas of how to make things better, propose different solutions to problems or think of creative suggestions to achieve a goal. But what is backwards brainstorming?

Well, think about going backwards and what it does. To go backwards, first you must look behind you to make sure there is nothing in your way. You have to look left and right to make sure nobody is hiding on your blind sides. You literally have to shift into reverse.

What’s the purpose of backwards brainstorming?

The next time you have a brainstorming session, whether it is alone or in a group of peers, or even with a partner, try backwards brainstorming. Write down or state the topic that you are brainstorming about and imagine that you are going behind the problem. Take yourself out of where you are now and put yourself back… back to before you arrived at the problem. Basically, you are thinking about the opposite of what you wish to achieve.

Sounds silly, but try it and it will open your eyes to a whole new world of brainstorming differently. For example, let’s say you’re brainstorming with other staff members on the topic of engaging customers better. Typically, you would brainstorm solutions such as sending out customer newsletters, writing to them, staying in touch with them on social media, or other similar strategies.

However, with BACKWARDS BRAINSTORMING, you would transverse the topic. Instead of asking how you can engage customers better, you would ask everyone, “How can we disengage customers or turn them off completely?”

So the staff would laugh, of course. But the answers might look something like this:

  • We never call them or stay in touch after they make a purchase
  • We never send a newsletter or an email
  • We don’t thank them for their purchase or for their business, loyalty, etc.
  • We do nothing to ensure their repeat business

Suddenly, the room is quiet. There are things on that list that are true. The backwards brainstorming session is a way to reveal unspoken truths or really open up everyone’s eyes to the possibilities. It’s a different way of brainstorming that can make everyone reevaluate the problems they are faced with and perhaps tackle the finding of a solution in a different manner.

This works with many other brainstorming sessions too. Just think of a brainstorming topic. Let the conversation flow. Think of something current at your company. Here are a few examples:

Brainstorm: Let’s think of different ways we can hit our sales goal for the month.

Backwards brainstorm: How can we make sure we don’t hit our goal and fall flat on our face this month?

Brainstorm: How can we find the best employees to fill the new openings at our company?

Backwards brainstorm: Where can we find the worst employees to hire?

By doing these exercises, you will be shocked to find answers or solutions that are completely unexpected! You might discover better ways to ensure hitting your goal or new places to find great employees. How? Well by writing down what doesn’t work, you’ll be looking at solutions from a different vantage point. If you went backwards then you can only look forward, but you’ll be able to see your left and right at the same time for the whole bigger picture!

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