SOUNDING OFF

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You can learn a lot by observing and asking questions. But to shake things up, you have to get real ticked off about the important things that need fixing. The dangerous alternative is complacency.

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Political Discussions with Colleagues Can Backfire

More older Americans are working, Part 2

More older Americans are working, Part 1

Neglecting Your Personal Brand Can Stall Your Career

Great leaders invest in their workers’ strengths

Political Discussions with Colleagues Can Backfire

Experts agree that it’s unwise to talk about politics with your colleagues.  Yet it’s almost impossible to escape talking and arguing about the hotly debated issues triggered by this contentious and unprecedented upcoming presidential election, according to

Beverly Jones, executive coach and author of “Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO.”

Jones advises workers to avoid engaging in political discussions.  For many, this is easier said than done, because it’s hard to keep our opinions to ourselves about this explosive and device election.  As difficult as it is, Jones advises staying neutral and calm, and then to shifting the topic to something else. 

Jones offers the following advice about what we can do to avoid being sucked into heated political discussions about this upcoming election:

Ask coworkers to stop talking about the election. “It’s easy to ignore the occasional reference to politicians, but if co-workers won’t stop talking about them it’s OK to ask them to cease,” Jones said. “Be polite but direct, and say, ‘I don’t like to talk about politics at work.’”

 If they talk too much about everything.  We are in the midst of a highly political season so it’s not surprising the topic keeps coming up. Your problem, however, may be co-workers who talk too much about anything in the news. While you don’t want to be rude, you can set boundaries.

Set boundaries, but don’t be rude.  You can politely say, “I can’t take the time to talk now because I’ve got a deadline.” To keep the conversation on track during meetings, always propose an agenda, and stick to it.

What do you say if you disagree with what people are saying?
It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to stop them from making political comments. “But you can decide how much to let it bother you,” Jones added. “When you can’t walk away, take a lesson from successful politicians and let the rhetoric just flow.” Heated political speech is part of our culture. Like the weather, it may get stormy, but it’s not about you and soon it will pass, Jones said.

Restrain your kneejerk reaction to respond to outrageous comments.  Some people relish arguing about politics. If you want to avoid these discussions, don’t take the bait.  “If you stop rising to their taunts, you will ruin their fun and they may stop bothering you,” Jones said.

 If it’s over the top. There’s a difference between annoying political dialogue and hate speech, Jones said.  “If colleagues describe your favorite candidate as an idiot, that’s not about you and it’s best to let it go,” she said.  But if they make comments that are racist, homophobic, misogynous or otherwise demeaning to an entire class of people, that can feel like it’s directed at you.  Sweeping dismissive comments can create a hostile, unproductive workplace, and you don’t have to put up with it.  Jones advised speaking to your boss or the human resources department and let them know about the situation.

Jones said that the best way to escape a political diatribe can be to walk away or tune it out. But if we find ourselves drawn into the conversation, don’t make it worse. Maintain a matter-of-fact, analytical tone and stick to the issues.  

 

Posted on: June 29, 2016 03:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

More older Americans are working, Part 2

Picking up where I left off in my last blog, the Pew Research study findings are significant because they point to a positive trend. Where thousands of older workers struggled to find work, they’re now finding jobs in all industries fairly quickly. Whether this is due to changing attitudes toward older workers or because of supply and demand factors is debatable.  While I have no hard data to support my contention, I lean toward the latter reason.

With a few exceptions, older Americans are working in virtually all sectors. But they’re less likely to work in the accommodations/food service sector (only 3.4 percent did so last year, versus 7.1 percent of all workers). Pew found that older workers are more likely to be in management, legal and community/social service occupations than the overall workforce, and less likely to be in computer and mathematical, food preparation, and construction-related occupations.

Considering that statistics point to a changing trend that has been gaining momentum over the past five years, this trend is likely to continue because of the shifting workforce.  Technically, it began in 2011 when 13 percent of the U.S. population, 78 million people, turned 65 or older. By 2030, more than 18 percent of the U.S. population will turn 65 or older. And the following disturbing statistics prove that older American, particularly the baby boomer cohort, will continue to be a viable part of our workforce:

  • More than 40 percent  of Americans can’t afford to retire, according to a report by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

·        Four of 10 Americans have retirement savings of less than $10,000 and three of 10 Americans have retirement savings of less than $1,000.

·        In recent years, Americans spent more than what they’ve earned. Social Security provides 73 percent of the typical retiree’s income, compared with 17 percent from pensions and 10 percent from savings and other sources.

·        Without Social Security, more than 3 percent of Americans ages 65 and older would live in poverty.

 

Posted on: June 28, 2016 10:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

More older Americans are working, Part 1

More older Americans (ages 65 and older) are working than at any time since the turn of the century, according to a recent Pew Research study. Pew’s conclusions are based on statistics from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Today’s workers are also spending more time on the job than did their peers in previous years, according to Pew researchers.

In May, 2016, 18.8 percent of Americans ages 65 and older, or nearly 9 million people, reported being employed full- or part-time, continuing a steady increase that dates to at least 2000 (which is as far back as Pew took its analysis). In May of that year, just 12.8 percent of 65-and-older Americans, or about 4 million people, said they were working.

To measure employment among different age groups, Pew used the employment-population radio, the employed percentage of a given group’s total population (including those not actively looking for work).

The steady increase in the share of working older Americans contrasts with the adult population as a whole, whose employment-population ratio fell sharply during the Great Recession and has yet to recover to pre-slump levels. In May 2000, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics’ seasonally unadjusted data, 64.4 percent of all adults had jobs, a figure that had drifted down to 62.5 percent by May 2008 as the recession took hold. The ratio bottomed out at 57.6% in January 2011, and as of last month stood at 59.9 percent.

The relatively strong presence of 65-and-older workers is found across age brackets: 65- to 69-year-olds, 70- to 74-year-olds, and those 75 and older. All are working at higher rates than they did in May 2008, the only age groups about which that can be said.

Though Pew took the current analysis only back to 2000, an earlier Pew report noted that the labor force participation rate (that is, workers and those actively seeking employment as a share of a group’s total population) among older adults began rising in the mid-1980s, after declining for more than three decades.

Not only are older Americans working, more of them are working full-time. In May 2000, 46.1 percent of workers ages 65 and older were working fewer than 35 hours a week (the BLS’ cutoff for full-time status). The part-time share has fallen steadily, so that by last month only 36.1 percent of 65-and-older workers were part-time.

The share of both older men and older women who are working has grown over time, but working during what are commonly thought of as retirement years remains a largely male phenomenon. While less than 45 percent of the total 65-and-older population are men, they represent more than 55 percent of older workers. Older Asians (20.2 (percent) and whites (19 percent are somewhat more likely to be working than older blacks (16.7 percent).

Now that I’ve outlined the foundation of this trend, find out why a growing share of America’s older population will continue to represent a significant percentage of the workforce in decades to come.

Posted on: June 28, 2016 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Neglecting Your Personal Brand Can Stall Your Career

AT&T understands the importance of promoting its brand. So do Toyota, Disney, McDonalds, and every large global corporation.

But career builders often fail to understand the importance of promoting their personal brands as well.  Their careers depend upon it.

 “No one from the CEO to the secretary can afford not have a strong personal brand (online and off), if they want to succeed in today’s job climate,” said branding expert Karen Tiber Leland, and author of “The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand.”

Our personal brand, like corporate brands, tells the world about ourselves, said Leland. It’s a way of selling ourselves and our image in a way that leaves a positive impression.

While personal branding has been getting a lot of attention, it’s not a new concept, according to Leland.

In 1997, Tom Peters wrote “The Brand Called You”, which helped give rise to the idea that an individual can be just as much a brand, as a soft drink or laundry detergent, said Leland. She also points out that people such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin were carefully nurturing their brand images decades and even centuries before it became fashionable.

“Even though personal branding has been with us for decades,” said Leland, “the advent of social media as a daily part of all our lives, has brought it to the forefront and made it a priority in today’s wired world.”

Leland went on to say that there are several reasons why it’s important for everyone to follow Churchill and Chaplin’s lead and cultivate a personal brand. A few of those reasons include:

• Need to outshine the competition. The job market is a competitive place and it’s easy to get lost in the clutter of all those other applicants. “You can stand out from the crowd by carefully crafting your brand with elements that can range from the way you dress to the way you tell the story about the accomplishments you have achieved,” said Leland. 
Social media is forcing your hand. “It’s critical to make sure your online presence (including Facebook, LinkedIn etc.) represents you in the most powerful and professional way,” said Leland. Why? Because potential employers will check them out to check you out, said Leland.

A 2015 CareerBuilder poll found that 52 percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. And not having social media accounts isn’t a good option because 35 percent of those employers say they are less likely to interview someone who doesn’t have an online presence.
A negative image could undermine your career goals. While social media sites can help promote your personal brand, Leland said they can also be your worst enemy. That same CareerBuilder poll reported that 48 percent of employers chose not to hire someone based on social-media content. Get rid of inappropriate photos, references to drinking, critical comments about former employers and anything else you wouldn’t want a prospective employer to see, said Leland.

“Anyone who plans to wait out the personal-branding trend until it passes needs a new plan,” Leland said. “It’s no longer an option in career management. If you don’t define your personal brand, someone else will define it for you.”

Posted on: June 25, 2016 07:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Great leaders invest in their workers’ strengths

That’s one of the important findings of Gallup’s research about the components of effective leadership, and the foundation of the recently published “Strengths Based Leadership,” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie.

Rath and Conchie’s book is based on Gallup’s extensive research, which consisted of 20,000 in-depth interviews with leaders.  One of the critical questions Gallup scientists asked interviewees is why they followed the most important leader in their life.

The most effective leaders are always investing in strengths. But when an organization's leadership fails to focus on individuals' strengths, the odds of an employee being engaged are a dismal 1 in 11 (9 percent). But when an organization's leadership focuses on the strengths of its employees, the odds jump to almost 3 in 4 (73 percent). 

The most effective leaders surround themselves with the right people and then maximize their teams. Top-performing teams have strengths in four distinct domains of leadership strength: executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking. 

Leaders also understand their followers' needs. And that’s why they follow leaders for very specific reasons, most importantly, trust, compassion, stability, and hope.

Here are some of the authors’ important findings and conclusions about the components of true leadership:

  • Don't lead by imitation. Different leaders have different strengths and talents.
  • Learn about the one leader you know least about — yourself.
  • People who are aware of their strengths and build self-confidence early on will reap increasing advantage that continues to grow over a lifetime.
  • Successful leaders surround themselves with the right people and build on each individual's strengths.
  • Four leadership strength areas are executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking. Every individual on a leadership team needs to be well rounded in these areas.
  • Strong teams share the following common goals: focus on results; consistently keep the bigger picture in view; demonstrate a healthy work-life balance; embrace diversity; and thrive on intense competition.
  • Effective leaders understand why people follow them and what they expect of their leaders.
  • Followers' four basic needs are trust, compassion, stability, and hope.
  • Extraordinary leaders do not strive for personal success as success lies with those who follow.
  • People follow leaders for the following reasons: trust, compassion, stability and hope.

Nelson Mandela exemplified great leadership. He engendered trust because he never veered from his mission, and was steadfast about achieving is goals, which were support peace, prosperity and unity not only in South Africa – but throughout the world. It’s been said that Mandela led people in ways others weren’t able to do. Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Trust is often cited as the foundation of leadership, according to John C. Maxwell, author of “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.”

To build trust, leaders must demonstrate competence, connection and character, Maxwell said.

Maxwell went on to say that “people will forgive occasional mistakes based on ability, especially if they can see that you’re still growing as a leader.  But they won’t trust someone who has slips in character.  In that area, even occasional lapses are lethal.  All effective leaders know this truth.”

Posted on: May 30, 2016 04:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
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