Studies show that athletes who train in groups perform better than athletes who train by themselves. This is true not only as an athlete, but at work as well. I’m currently training for the 2012 Andrew Jackson Marathon in Tennessee. While I would have been able to get enough training under my belt to finish the race, there’s no way I would have trained as hard as I have without the great companions I have. When March 31st rolls around, I am going to be ready for my first marathon. How can we translate the success that I’ve seen as an athlete to the workplace for all of us?

A sales pitch for accountability partners

Dale Carnegie, one of the most successful businessmen in American history, attributed much of his success to what he called a “Mastermind Group.” He would routinely gather fifty successful people at his home and discuss issues and solutions to problems. Those interactions and relationships were continuously providing new ideas and alliances to help him in his leadership position. Benjamin Franklin did something similar with a group he called “Junta,” and there are stories of other leaders in history doing the same sort of thing.

Hint: You don’t have to be a millionaire steel magnate to pull this off or see the benefits. Having just two or three people you can rely on as a sounding board for ideas can help you become more successful. If “mastermind” sounds a little hokey, feel free to call them your “personal board of directors” or “peer reviewers” or something else more innocuous.

When I speak I usually mention this hard-hitting quote by Jim Rohn: You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Want to be great? Spend time with great people.

Pick wisely

Finding someone to hold you accountable probably won’t be very hard. It’s finding someone with the judgement and ability to add just the right amount of pressure to keep you on your toes. This is true for mentoring relationships as well. Too laid back? The protege won’t get anything out of the relationship. Too tough? The protege will start to resent the forceful relationship.

Ask questions. Dig into motivations. Find out what short and long term plans are and how those intersect or parallel with your own. If it looks like a fit, move on to the next step below.

Pick a priority

Let’s say you find someone willing to work with you. They don’t have to be a mirror image of your own dreams and aspirations. They can have one specific piece that aligns with your own goals. For instance, they may want to return to school for their graduate degree, or maybe they want to pass the PHR or SPHR exam. Whatever the case, you are free to work with them through the specific “project” and then find someone else for the next stage of your career.

With a little work, you can find someone to team with for higher performance. And you’ll be following in the footsteps of some of the most successful people in our history. Pretty neat, eh? I have correlated running to work performance before in a post about keeping a “running” log of your performance. If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy that one as well.

Anyone thinking of a way to harness this sort of relationship? I’d love to hear about it!

I saw a great post by my good friend Krista Francis recently on honeymoons at work, and it came just as I was crossing my first “work anniversary” at my current employer. If you haven’t read it yet, it will cause you to stop and think when you realize how important the first interactions new hires have with your company (hint: the “honeymoon” stage should last more than one hour!).

I rarely celebrate or dwell on anniversaries at work. I’m one of those people who will work at a place until it’s no longer interesting or challenging and then move on to another employer, so I measure my work in experiences and relationships, not years. Some people care about how many years they’ve been with an employer, but there are plenty who do not.

On a related note, I have never been a fan of seniority-based awards. However, when I was listening to Dave Ramsey the other day I heard him say something interesting. I don’t remember the exact quote, but paraphrasing: We don’t believe in paying people according to how many years they’ve been here. But I realized recently that we are very tough on people to produce results. If you aren’t producing results, you go work somewhere else. If that’s the case across the board, then we really do pay people somewhat according to their seniority level. If you’re still working here you must be doing something right. 

That one idea twisted my head around in a circle. While I still think celebrating years of service just for the sake of it is fairly useless, I do like the idea of recognizing that people who are still engaged in their work and producing solid results after a long term track record has been established. Of course, many companies hold onto poor performers for a number of reasons, but for those with a strong performance appraisal system, it’s an interesting way to look at longevity in a position.

I’ve been with my company for over a year now. People still come up and ask me, “Do you still like your job?”

I must still be in the honeymoon phase, because my response never deviates: I love it.

Ever had a “honeymoon” at work turn sour? Or maybe you still feel like you’re in that stage despite a long tenure? I’d love to hear about it!

I enjoy talking about policies and whether or not policies are necessary. Recently someone asked me what I thought about a policy on working through lunch. The phrasing led me to believe that their employees were working from their desks while eating (and by working I mean surfing the web).

So, with that in mind, did I recommend a “no eating at your desk rule?”

No.

I encouraged my friend to look at the situation in the context of job performance. If employees are completing work and abiding by the rules, leave them be. On the other hand, if it is affecting performance by causing them to not finish their work on time, have more mistakes, etc., then approach the situation from that legitimate standpoint.

A follow up comment by my friend was that the policy would be “too hard to manage” if done piecemeal, so it should be a flat ban across the board if it went into effect. My response was that people choosing to eat at their desks or not isn’t something that really requires management (or attention) unless it impacts their level of performance.

This isn’t 1910. We don’t have to stand over people every minute of the day to “crack the whip” and make them work. If you do, then you have larger problems on your hands.

Focus more on what is accomplished and less on the how.

What are your thoughts?

You are my favorite!Favoritism. Bias. Preferential treatment. Nepotism in the workplace. How do you stop it from becoming an issue? Today we have a special post with someone needing assistance. Let’s pitch in and help.

Sometime last year I posted a rant from someone who was being stepped on at work. That person received help anonymously through the comments and today I have another post from another frustrated, anonymous HR pro. Let’s hear what they have to say and then give some tips and pointers in the comments. If you’re looking for more info, here’s a post on how to communicate with difficult people at work.

So here’s my deal. I’m an HR rep at a well-respected organization. We’ve been quite successful and I would say we are in the top 5 or 10% in the state for our industry. Continue reading

28 Hour DayToday we\’re kicking off the 168 Hours Series (cleverly named because there are 168 total hours in a week). After seeing others struggle with their own time and focus, I thought it would be helpful to put a few posts together with some tips and strategies for managing time. And if the term “managing time” bothers you, then replace it with something more palatable. It\’s a misnomer, really, because unless you\’re Hiro Nakamura, you are most certainly not the master of time and space. But you can still do some pretty amazing things with some focused effort.

Everyone has 168 hours in a week. Make yours count.

168 hours per weekThat\’s not to say that you have to be doing something every one of those 168 hours. It just means that you should be purposeful with your time. You have a finite amount and an infinite number of activities to choose from. Be purposeful with how you spend your time, and I guarantee you\’ll have more satisfaction than if you wander aimlessly, hoping you\’ll be able to accomplish your goals in some general time frame.

Of all of your resources, time is the one that you just can\’t get more of.

What will be covered?

  • Golden Hours, Batching Tasks, and Cutting Distractions
  • The (dreaded but effective) Time Log
  • Goals, Time, Focus, and Snowballs
  • And more…

More topics may be added as time goes on, but those are a few that I definitely want to include. Interested? Make sure you subscribe for free updates. And if you know someone who could use a little bit of help on the time management side of things, please pass them the link to this post. You just might not want to tell them why you’re letting them know. :-)

It’s October. That means Halloween is just around the corner. And I’ve got a Halloween business strategy that employers will be dying to get their hands on. Okay, I’ll let you in on my secret. Zombies. What if your HR reps could reanimate dead flesh and bring those zombies into the workplace? The potential benefits more than outweigh the occasional brain-eating frenzy. Here are 10 reasons to hire zombies in your workplace…

  1. Use them to cull the bad employees from the herd. That should discourage the ‘ole quit-and-stay mentality.
  2. While they\’re not great at complex tasks, you can use them as motivators for the people who do those types of work. Bob in accounting wouldn\’t screw up the numbers with a zombie hanging over his shoulder!
  3. Since they don\’t get diseases or sickness, you won\’t have to waste any more time with FMLA.
  4. The benefits package would be cheap. They don\’t even need vacation pay!
  5. Zombies don\’t get tired, and they never waste time on Twitter (although Zombiebook is growing in popularity from what I hear).
  6. Everyone loves zombies. They\’re so cuddly. There have been dozens of movies dedicated to their antics.
  7. There is a drastically simplified recruiting/hiring process associated with zombies, and it\’s actually just a single question. Are you a zombie? [grunt] Great! You\’re hired.
  8. In case #7 worries you, don\’t freak out too much. Zombies aren\’t a protected EEOC class. I checked.
  9. You can train them to recognize and attack union organizers, IRS agents, or OSHA inspectors.
  10. With all of the recent employee engagement talk, you really don\’t have to worry. Zombies stay 100% engaged until a shotgun blast pulverizes their skull.

But, as always, I’m not covering something. What are we missing? Is there another great reason to hire zombies that I’m not covering? Drop it in the comments below! And if you enjoyed this list, then you might want to check out the Batman list as well!

Update: I posted a sequel list (more reasons to hire zombies). Check it out!

training log I keep a running log. I\’m not great about it, but I can still give you a fairly approximate average of my monthly mileage, and I can even remember some of the more memorable workouts (like the one on New Year\’s Eve in 2006 when I ran 7 miles in twenty degree weather while my family prepared for a party). Anyway, that running log helps me in multiple ways, and I think you should have one, too. Even if you\’re not a runner, it helps to chart your progress and make note of milestones. What if you used a log at work to keep up with your accomplishments?

Victories

Did you finish a big project at work recently? Write it down and try to capture some of the specifics (dollars saved, process time cut, etc.). You might also want to put that on your resume. Next time you need it for a job search, it will be updated and full of your latest accomplishments. On a more short-term basis, it’s a great way to put together your performance review comments to make sure your work is being recognized.

Trends

Seeing an ongoing issue in your weekly work life? Make a note of that recurring event. You might not have an answer now, but looking back in a few days/weeks/months might help you see the problem from a different angle and provide some valuable insight.

Beware

Some runners can predict injuries/illness before it ever happens. A heavy workout regimen can take its toll in the long run, and work is the same way. If you\’re consistently handling tough tasks and seeing signs of too much stress, then you might want to cut back a bit. Sometimes the best way to make progress is to pull back, reset, and leap back in with renewed energy.

Keeping track of your progress for the long-term should reveal a steady upward trend. There will be ups, downs, and lateral moves, but the overall goal should be to increase your performance level. And five years down the road when you look back and see how far you have come in terms of knowledge, skills, and abilities, you will be pleasantly surprised by the results.