The Power of Gratitude at Work

I worked my way through college in the restaurant industry, a sector that relies on the gratitude and appreciation of others. One of the things I learned during my time in that industry is that it can be hard for people to be gracious and friendly. For some people, there’s an expectation of an outcome, and, as long as that expectation is met, there is no need to appreciatively acknowledge the results. People are quick to offer feedback if the outcome is negative, but we often fail to acknowledge a person’s efforts when they does something good. Because of that, many people are apprehensive of feedback and don’t have a sense of being valued.

What has become of acknowledging people just for coming to work and working hard? At one point in my career, I was the front house manager for a restaurant, and I learned the value thanking the people who came to work and of thanking them when they finished at the end of the evening. I realized that people had a choice in where they worked and that they had a choice to leave if they did not feel valued. I believe that creating a culture of value within an organization will increase productivity and decrease turnover, which helps the organization to grow. According to a Gallup survey it is estimated that 22 million workers are actively disengaged, costing the American economy approximately $350 billion. In that, same report, it was noted that when a supervisor or manager actively focuses on the development of employee strengths and weakness, the supervisor can essentially eliminate the active disengagement among the employees. An example of this is a supervisor once saying that he understood his employee would leave; it was his job to make the decision to leave a hard one.

Accomplishing this level of engagement between employee and supervisor comes down to one thing: communication. This is communication on both sides. For example, as a supervisor, take the time to get to know your employees on more than a superficial level. Demonstrate that you have a stake in their success even if it means that they might leave the organization for a different or better opportunity. Another way to build this relationship is for supervisors to ask their employees for their opinions (even if you know the answers).

And when that opportunity to share an opinion is offered, it’s important that employees take it. Share your thoughts and break down the idea that only the supervisors can create change. After all, change can begin at any level of an organization. If a supervisor takes the time to learn about you, offer them that opportunity to the point that you are comfortable. I am not saying that you need to pour out your heart and soul, but as you build a trusting relationship with your supervisor, don’t be afraid to let them have a chance to get to know you.

It is important for employees to know that they are valued in the workplace on a regular basis – not just annually when bonus checks or Christmas hams are handed out.  While these expressions are appreciated, your employees also need a kind word and a pat when it’s not a special occasion. Their contribution to the organization’s success goes on year-round. Let your gratitude do the same.


Robert Jones, Employee Assistance Program Trainer at The Village Business Institute

About the author
Robert Jones is an Employee Assistance Program Trainer with The Village Business Institute. Robert has a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in counseling and leadership. He also has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, and recently began working on his Educational Doctorate in Leadership.  Robert has nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality field and has been doing freelance training for almost 10 years.

Can gratitude improve your wellbeing? You bet!

Thank You printed on an old typewriter as a headline of a letter

Can gratitude improve your wellbeing?

By Kathryn Berg
The Village Business Institute

Is it too obvious, with Thanksgiving approaching, to write about gratitude? Yes, probably. I find, especially around Thanksgiving, everyone tends to remember that it’s important and good and worthwhile—and a lot of other bland descriptive words—to express gratitude. But, most of the time, the expression of gratitude becomes a “should do” or “have to do” practice rather than a “want to do” activity. It almost becomes a heavy burden that we have to drag with us throughout the holiday season, adding one more responsibility to our ever-growing list.

In order for me to shake that weight of the “should dos,” I always need to change my perspective. I love to look at alternate points of view to create new ways of thinking. In the course of my research for a training topic, I’ve learned a lot about the science behind gratitude, and it has really changed my attitude on thankfulness as a whole. There are so many biological benefits to gratitude that even the most selfish person can see its expression as a “want to do.”

The field of positive psychology studies happiness: where it comes from, how to achieve it, and so on. One of prominent psychologists in this field, Dr. Robert Emmons at UC-Berkeley, focuses largely on the link between wellbeing and gratitude—he is even part of the Expanding Gratitude Project, an initiative at UC-Berkeley and UC-Davis that aims to “engage the public in a larger cultural conversation about the role of gratitude in civil society.” They hope to do so by growing our knowledge of the benefits of expressing gratitude.

These benefits are real and far-reaching. They include anything and everything from having a robust immune systems and low blood pressure to stronger relationships and fewer feelings of loneliness and isolation. People who regularly express gratitude are happier, can more easily recognize joy in their lives, and tend to become more optimistic. They also tend to practice greater generosity and compassion. A quick scroll through research studies online at the Greater Good Science Center (a really great name for a research institution, unless, of course, you are a devout Harry Potter fan like me), home of the Expanding Gratitude Project, shows 16 studies citing a correlation between wellbeing and gratitude.

Rather than slog through these research studies, I want to look again to Dr. Emmons and some of his suggestions for the real-life application of gratitude. His ideas are simple yet diverse, making it easy for any person to turn gratitude from a “have to” to a “want to.”

Keep a gratitude journal.
Make a conscious effort to “recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life.” This practice makes it easier to recognize good things, even on bad days.

Come to your senses.
Focusing on every one of your senses (sight, hearing, feeling, taste, and smell) allows you to further appreciate the great improbability that you are alive. Sometimes it’s easy to forget, when entrenched in the daily grind, that the fact that we have the opportunity to live on this planet is practically a miracle.

Go through the motions
Studies have shown that smiling, even if it’s fake smiling, makes you happier. The same can be said for saying thank you, writing letters of appreciation, and other thankful activities. Even if your heart isn’t in it at the outset, your grateful emotions will eventually be triggered, and you will feel more grateful and happier as a result.

Dr. Emmons details several more ways to incorporate gratitude into your daily life on the Greater Good Science Center website. If you are interested in the scientific research and practical application of gratitude that are part of the Expanding Gratitude Project, I highly recommend you check out their website at greatergood.berkeley.edu. While you do that, I’m going to check out Etsy: if I’m going to start a gratitude journal, I had better find a cute notebook first!

 


About the author
Kathryn Berg joined the Village Business Institute in September of 2014 as a trainer serving the VBI’s Employee Assistant Program client companies. Prior to joining the Village, Kathryn spent two years working in the human resources field, focusing during that time on recruitment, training, wellness and benefits administration. Kathryn provides training on a wide variety of topics and currently focuses subjects such as harassment prevention and drug-free workplace compliance. She graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, with bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology and a minor in French. Outside of her work at the Village, she spends her evenings and weekends as a competitive swim coach.

Star Wars and the Millennials: The More Things Change…

By Robert Jones
The Village Business Institute

So there’s been some pretty big news for many people of late. No, it has nothing to do with a Vikings victory, the Chicago Cubs actually winning a playoff series, the various political debates, or the fact that it was Back to The Future Day … although this is close. The big event was the release of the new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” trailer. I realize that for many people this might seem like a trivial part of life; but not for me.

When I was almost four years old, my parents took me to see the original Star Wars movie in the theater. As my parents tell the story, about half way through the movie, they realized that they had lost me, eventually finding me sitting in the isle of the theater completely mesmerized by what was happening on the screen. Now as my friends and family begin to make plans to take their kids to see this movie, I am seeing the circular aspect of generations. And the return of “Star Wars” isn’t the only thing that looks familiar about the current generation.

Over the past few months, I have been conducting a number of trainings on the topic of generations in the workplace. I remember at one of these sessions I was struck by the idea that the perspective of the different generations are not as different as we might think. For example, there is the assumption that the millennial generation is lazy and does not care about anything except themselves. However, in a recent survey of college freshman by the Higher Education Research Institute showed that millennials have the highest level of community involvement since 1966.

There are some similarities between the socially active Baby Boomers of the 1960 and the millennials of today. First, the baby boomer grew up in a time of global fear and upheaval as the Cold War was waged between the United State and the Soviet Union. This brought about a fear of people from Eastern Europe whether they were actually from the United States or not. The Cold War changed how we looked at our neighbors, and there was a constant fear of attack. These baby boomers also grew up in a time of both the Korean War and the Vietnam War. During the time of the baby boomers, there was also a heightened sense of racial inequality. This was in fact during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Does this sound familiar? The millennials are also living in a constant state of fear of attack and questioning the motives of neighbors because of the War on Terror. This generation has witnessed Operation Desert Storm/Shield as well as the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And there are people who believe were those wars were unjustified, just as some the baby boomers felt that way about the war in Vietnam. This generation is still dealing with the struggles of racial inequality. So the question is why has this generation been labeled as lazy?

The only solution I can come up with is the idea that the millennials are not as visible as the baby boomers. For example, the baby boomers chose to conduct sit-ins and picket. They choose to organize speeches and protest to in an effort to let their opinions be heard. The millennials instead are leading the protest on social media and by attempting to inform the masses. The baby boomers and the millennials both struggled with the accuracy of the information.

The baby boomer and the millennials believe in challenging the government and issues they feel are wrong with society. The baby boomers focus on changing leadership and believing this to be the solution to the world’s problems. What is curious is that the baby boomers are now the leaders, which I think leads to the misperceptions between the baby boomers and the millennials. The baby boomers believe that the millennials should be more like them – visible protesters for change, or, in the workplace, they should be working 60 hours a week. Millennials are more active in change from behind the scenes. As for work, millennials are more interested in creating balance, and they do not want to work more than 40 hours a week so they can have a life outside work. Both groups directly challenged the establishment through protest and by getting out and voting. According to an article in the Huffington Post, the millennial vote played a big role in electing Barack Obama to the White House. The ratio of millennial votes for Obama compared to McCain was 2:1. This generation has learned that it can have influence society much the same way the baby boomers did in the 1960’s.

As I consider the differences and the similarities between the baby boomers and the millennials, I realize there is another similarity that started this stream of thought. My sister, who is part of the millennial generation, will now have the same opportunity to take their son (who is only slightly older than the little boy who got lost in the theater nearly 40 years ago) to see a new Star Wars movie in the theater. So in 1978, the baby boomer generations introduced generation X to a galaxy far, far away. The millennials can do the same for this new, yet-unnamed generation. I am curious as to what this experience will do to open the minds and imagination of my nephew’s generation. And I wonder how different – or not so different – they’ll be from their parents.


Robert Jones, Employee Assistance Program Trainer at The Village Business Institute

About the author
Robert Jones is an Employee Assistance Program Trainer with The Village Business Institute. Robert has a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in counseling and leadership. He also has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, and recently began working on his Educational Doctorate in Leadership.  Robert has nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality field and has been doing freelance training for almost 10 years.

Grit: 5 Times I’ve Failed Miserably and Why I’m Still Okay

By Kathryn Berg
The Village Business Institute

Research from Angela Duckworth, a psychologist at University of Pennsylvania, shows if there is one predictor of success, it’s something called grit. PrintBy her definition, grit is “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” One way to develop grit is to fail, and to learn and grow from those failures. Thinking about how grit applies to my life, I realized I’ve failed a lot. Below are the failures that stuck with me and made me a little grittier.

In fourth grade, I got an “F” on a test about telling time on an analog clock.
This particular failure is a classic millennial problem, I know, but my first bad grade had a huge impact on me. Even though I wasn’t great at telling time, I didn’t think I needed to make an effort to study this subject with which I struggled. I had done well on past tests, so why bother studying for this one? At ten years old, I learned that I’m allowed to admit that I’m not perfect, and people around me won’t offer help unless I ask for it.

 In high school, I played tennis.
Growing up a swimmer, I am painfully uncoordinated in any sport on land. To avoid burning out, I tried tennis. I was bad. I was really, really bad! But I did it for a whole season, then I tried something else. After short sojourns in tennis, track and field, and soccer, I returned to the pool to happily swim for six more years. Participating in an activity in which I wasn’t the best helped me realize that being the best isn’t always the goal.

In college, I sprained my ankle because I was texting while walking down a flight of stairs.
I often cite this incident as my most embarrassing moment. I fell down several stairs in front of dozens of people, limped with tears streaming down my face to the dining hall, and had to be carried the rest of the way to the athletic trainer. I spent days on crutches and weeks in a boot—all for a text message! In today’s connected world, staying “connected” isn’t always our best option. I’m still learning to reign in my impatience, but when I feel the urge to pull out my phone in the car or on the sidewalk, I think of my humiliating tumble and remember that the reward is never worth the risk.

Last summer, I didn’t say “I love you” when I meant it.
Last year, trying to play it cool with someone I hadn’t known very long, I refrained from saying the L-word. I knew very early on that I loved this person, but not wanting to seem overzealous in a relatively new relationship, I kept it to myself. Our relationship has been over for several months, but I still get pangs of guilt knowing I didn’t share how I really felt. I’ve learned that emotions should travel a two-way street, no matter how awkward you may feel. If someone feels strongly about me (whether love or anything else), I want to know! And the same is likely true for those I feel strongly about in return.

This past spring, I showed up to a presentation without the presentation.
I drove to a presentation with a client out of town, began setting up my materials, and realized both my laptop and backup flash drive were still at my desk in Fargo. I was able to get a hold of the presentation, but the whole ordeal was hugely embarrassing and unprofessional. What I primarily took from the experience is an awareness of my mindfulness (or lack thereof). Spending time thinking too far ahead or whiling away the minutes reminiscing about past occurrences don’t really matter. “There is no time like the present,” and I am doing my best to adjust my behavior as such. When I am mindful of the present moment, I will be less likely to forget important materials, and more likely to enjoy moments as they happen.

Dr. Duckworth doesn’t know yet whether you’re born with a certain amount of grit, or even a specific formula to develop it in a person. What I know is that my lifetime certainly hasn’t seen its last failure. But thanks to the grit I’ve developed in my first 25 years, I’m ready for whatever disaster comes next.


About the author
Kathryn Berg joined the Village Business Institute in September of 2014 as a trainer serving the VBI’s Employee Assistant Program client companies. Prior to joining the Village, Kathryn spent two years working in the human resources field, focusing during that time on recruitment, training, wellness and benefits administration. Kathryn provides training on a wide variety of topics and currently focuses subjects such as harassment prevention and drug-free workplace compliance. She graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, with bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology and a minor in French. Outside of her work at the Village, she spends her evenings and weekends as a competitive swim coach.

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The seasons change — so should your business

By Robert Jones
EAP Trainer, The Village Business Institute

The power of change in business September is a month of change. Summer gives way to fall. Parents wrap up the summer break and send their kids back to school. For some families, it marks the culmination of their in-home parenting as children pack up to start their life in college.

When I talk about change, I am not just speaking of the seasonal change that puts an end to the warm sunny weather of summer and brings the frigid snow-covered tundra of winter. I’m thinking bigger. The world is changing rapidly, and we as a society can often barely hold on amid this change. I am reminded of this every year when Beloit College releases its annual “List.” Beloit College is a small (about 1200-student) liberal arts school in Beloit, Wisc. Most people around the country have never even heard of this school, but every year social media is inundated with the “Beloit College List.”

The Beloit College list is an annual change in mindset to help professionals in higher education gain a better understanding of the incoming freshman at any college. This is a list of things, events, or people that these students have not participated in or have missed because they were not a part of this world. For example, here are a few from the list for the Class of 2019:

  • “Hybrid automobiles have always been mass-produced.”
  • “They have never licked a postage stamp”
  • “They have grown up treating Wi-Fi as an entitlement.”
  • “If you say “around the turn of the century,” they may well ask you, “which one?”

I do not mention these to make people feel old, even though that is often a byproduct of reading this list. I mention it as a reminder that change brings innovation. Think about this: in the past 20 years we have gone from VHS tapes, to DVD, to Blue Ray, and we can now watch any movie, almost anytime, anywhere on a variety of devices.

Our attitude toward change is interesting. In certain areas, we embrace it. We often want the latest material thing, (e.g. the newest iPhone, smartwatch, etc.). But we can be very hesitant about change in other areas. For many people, the phrase “This is how we have always done things” is common in the workplace. Businesses where this phrase prevails will struggle to keep their staff engaged and may struggle to keep quality people.

VBI logo w.division(not outlined)Employers who are not afraid of change and who are willing to embrace the ideas of employees are the organizations that move to the forefront of their communities and industries. The company that encourages employees to challenge “how we have always have done it,” is the company that develops a new approach and moves the industry forward. There is some truth to the belief that one idea can change an industry.

Starbucks is perfect example of how an experience and an idea can lead to huge change. As the story goes, Howard Schultz began working for Starbucks in 1981. At the time, Starbucks was a fledgling coffee shop in the historic Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Wash. While on a trip to Italy, Schultz began to experience (yes, experience) the power of coffee on a community and the variation of coffee drinks. When Schultz returned to Seattle, he presented this drastic change to the owners of Starbucks and was told, “That is not how we do coffee.” In 1987, the owners of Starbucks offered Schultz the opportunity to buy the company for $3.8 million. He jumped at the opportunity, and the rest you can see in just about every community in the country. The idea of grabbing a latte in your way to work was unheard of by many in 1980, yet today there is a line at least five cars deep every morning at every Starbucks in the nation. Schultz is still determined to find ways to innovate and change for the betterment of the staff and community of Starbucks because he isn’t bound by the old notion: “We have always done it this way.”

I am always amazed when I read the Beloit List because I think of where I have been and what I have experienced. As I look at those moms at Walmart buying the last of the “essentials” before they “abandon” their baby boy at college, I become excited about the future and watching the direction we as a society are going. I wonder what the Beloit List of 2037 is going to say. Maybe “They’ve always ridden in flying cars,” “They are a generation that has never know cancer or war,” or “They’ve never seen a Twins team have a losing season.” Who knows what the future holds? But if we empower people to think big and grow, the only way we can go is up.The power of change - The Village Business Institute


Robert Jones, Employee Assistance Program Trainer at The Village Business Institute

About the author
Robert Jones is an Employee Assistance Program Trainer with The Village Business Institute. Robert has a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Master’s Degree in Education with an emphasis in counseling and leadership. He also has a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies, and recently began working on his Educational Doctorate in Leadership.  Robert has nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality field and has been doing freelance training for almost 10 years. 

The Village Business Institute provides a range of services to make businesses better, including employee assistance programs, coaching, organizational development and strategic planning, workplace mediation, human resource consultation, critical incident stress management, management and employee training, career transition and outplacement services, and specialized services for nonprofits.

 

Introverts Are Annoyed By Your Customer Service (Here’s How to Stop Doing That)

By Kathryn Berg
The Village Business Institute

Everyone has their own conceptions and misconceptions of introverts. Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy, although the two traits do often come as a package deal. At their  simplest level, the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is the way you feel after having been around people. Are you drained, or are you energized? Those of us who are drained and need to spend some alone time to recharge are introverts. The individuals who draw their energy from other people are extroverts.

As a faithful introvert, one thing I’ve found that I struggle with is customer service. No matter where the service provider, herself, falls on the introvert-extrovert scale, typically, her style of service is geared toward the extroverted customer. They ask a lot of questions, laugh a lot, and strike up superficial conversations to, hopefully, connect with her customer and close a sale or earn a better tip.

Generally, introverts are not interested in this kind of behavior. It’s draining to take part in these high-energy interactions. And, when they aren’t necessarily meaningful ones, they seem frustrating and wasteful to someone with a limited supply of energy to put toward outside interaction. So, from a customer service standpoint, how do you build a relationship with an introvert who, for the most part, just wants to be left alone?

Recognize the difference. Your first job as a customer service provider is to understand your customer, but without a close or long-term relationship, introversion may be difficult to spot. Some identifiers may include bringing a book or headphones if he is alone, or letting others order or speak first if he is in a group. Introverts tend not to initiate conversations or participate in small talk, whether in person, over the phone, or in emails. If they have a choice, they will usually receive more calls, texts, or emails than they send. Being alone in a public place is, of course, a great indicator that a person is an introvert as well.

Keep your distance. Once you’ve taken the time to understand the difference between introverts and extroverts, a change in your behavior should follow. Though customer service usually means just that—serving the customer—serving an introvert should be a bit different. Try to suppress your initial desire to check in on the introvert often, and when you do, try not to speak too loudly, and keep your conversation brief. A colleague taught me the Platinum Rule: treat others the way they want to be treated. This behavior goes much further than the Golden Rule because you’re taking the time to understand the other person rather than projecting your own wishes upon her.

The Village Business InstituteOne of my most horrifying customer service experiences took place in a restaurant when my server spent my entire meal dropping by my table to chat because, I presume, she felt bad that I was there alone. She later yelled to the food runner that my plate was meant for “that lady over there, who is all by herself!” I am not embarrassed to eat on my own, but I nearly imploded as the entire restaurant turned my way following this loud declaration of my aloneness.  A better option, based on the platinum rule, would have been for the food runner or server to drop off my food in a way that was unobtrusive to me or the other customers around me.

Make it meaningful. Interestingly enough, my best customer service experience lately was also in a restaurant. The difference between the meal I previously described and the one at the Duluth Grill in Duluth, MN, comes down to my excellent server and the way she made my time at the restaurant memorable in a positive way. While this server did spend time talking with me throughout the meal, she made note that I was not comfortable with small talk. Instead, she noticed when I showed interest in the Duluth Grill’s story, including its on-site garden and the rooftop beehive they used to have. She took the time to realize that I am interested in local businesses and created a meaningful interaction based on that interest. She even went so far as to let me keep my coffee mug after having told me about the local artist who created them for the restaurant.

As with any conversation, the interaction with my waitress in Duluth left me wanting some alone time to recharge. But in this instance, I was happy to do so after having a conversation that I could talk (and write) about later, rather than the lowest-common-denominator conversations we are all used to having and forgetting as soon as we exit a shop or restaurant. Now, to quote my server, I “have a fun story to tell when people see [my] mug,” and I am happy to tell it because it means something to me.

Good customer service comes down to providing the service that the customer needs, but great customer service goes beyond that to understand the customer as a person, instead of just a patron of your establishment. Taking the time to get to know and recognize your customers’ personalities will require more effort, but the relationships you create will be worth the work.


About the author
Kathryn Berg joined the Village Business Institute in September of 2014 as a trainer serving the VBI’s Employee Assistant Program client companies. Prior to joining the Village, Kathryn spent two years working in the human resources field, focusing during that time on recruitment, training, wellness and benefits administration. Kathryn provides training on a wide variety of topics and currently focuses subjects such as harassment prevention and drug-free workplace compliance. She graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, with bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology and a minor in French. Outside of her work at the Village, she spends her evenings and weekends as a competitive swim coach.

Introverts and customer serviceinteroverts pinterest

We Still Haven’t Cracked the Employee Engagement Code

By Kathryn Berg
The Village Business Institute 

One day when I was training a group of supervisors, I jokingly asked the group, “Who has heard of employee engagement?” Everyone laughed and nobody raised their hands, a reaction I took to mean, “We are so sick of hearing about employee engagement!”

employee engagement pinterestI have to agree. I am so sick of hearing about employee engagement. It seems like every expert has advice to add to the engagement conversation. But if that’s true, why is it that although “engagement” has become such a buzzword, the actual percentage of engaged employees has remained relatively stagnant (at about 30%) in each of Gallup’s annual surveys over the last fifteen years?

A thought occurred to me as I read an older article in the Harvard Business Review. The author, Frederick Herzberg, postulated that “The opposite of job dissatisfaction is not job satisfaction, but no job dissatisfaction.” Don’t worry—the first time (or two) I read that, I had no idea what he meant either. Reading beyond Herzberg’s vocabulary tornado, I learned that he meant that the things that cause job dissatisfaction and those that cause job satisfaction belonged in distinct categories with little overlap.

For example, a low salary is likely to cause job dissatisfaction, but increasing that salary doesn’t increase job satisfaction—it decreases the dissatisfaction. On the other hand, increasing opportunities for growth and learning will in turn increase job satisfaction, but the lack of those opportunities will not increase dissatisfaction.

I know, I know! Still very confusing. I’m going to focus on the satisfaction side for now. A lot of companies have been trying to increase satisfaction in creative ways—allowing for naptime, throwing Cinco de Mayo parties, having ping pong tables, just to name a few—and while those are fun and probably do make for happy employees in the short term (low job dissatisfaction), they’re probably not going to lead to long-term happiness (high job satisfaction).

According to Herzberg’s review, what will lead to satisfaction (and by extension, the “E” word—engagement) has much more to do with what motivates employees from the inside—enjoying what they’re doing, being recognized for doing well, achieving their goals, and growing within their roles.

All of this convoluted explanation brings me back to that original thought I had. If we want to harness these intrinsic motivators, we’re not going to do it by keeping beers in the break room fridge. We’ll do it by ignoring the pizzazz of the modern workplace and zeroing in on what really matters at work: our jobs. Everyone in an organization can play a part in making this change.

Organization
When planning for new hires or helping with internal career development, the company should consider who is or will be working and what they are or will be doing. Are you hiring people who love their work? Are you allowing them to learn new skills and take on new responsibilities? When hiring, we tend to focus on whether or not the candidate will be able to do the job duties at hand. Do your best to determine not only if they are able, but if they enthusiastic about those duties.

Managers
What kind of people are you managing? One of the most important parts of being a supervisor is creating relationships with your employees. Once you have done that, you’re able to help them in creating opportunities to grow and learn within your organization. You’re the one who gets to dole out more responsibility to those seeking it, and also the one recognizing high achievement. Getting to know your employees, learning their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses, is not a small responsibility. But the way you handle it will help determine the level of engagement you’ll see in those you supervise.

Employees
All the effort in the world from your organization and your manager can only go so far in engaging you as a worker. A former coworker of mine used to say, “What is your ‘why?’” In other words, why are you doing what you’re doing? Do you have a reason, a passion for your work? If you don’t, what can you do to find that passion? It’s a scary road to navigate on your own. Input from coworkers, managers, family, friends, or even a career coach (like my own manager, John Trombley!) can help you figure out your ‘why’ and, as a result, increase your satisfaction and engagement at work.

By no means am I suggesting we rid our workplaces of kickball teams, catered lunches, or slides from the second to the first floor. We should definitely keep those! But if engagement is our goal, we should start by thinking about what got us here in the first place: our jobs.

 



Kathryn Berg 2014 squareKathryn Berg

EAP Trainer

Kathryn joined The Village Business Institute in September of 2014 as a trainer serving the VBI’s Employee Assistant Program client companies. Prior to joining the Village, Kathryn spent two years working in the human resources field, focusing during that time on recruitment, training, wellness and benefits administration. Kathryn provides training on a wide variety of topics and currently focuses subjects such as harassment prevention and drug-free workplace compliance. She graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, with bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology and a minor in French. Outside of her work at the Village, she spends her evenings and weekends as a competitive swim coach.employee engagement facebook

5 ways to stay productive when working from home

productivity at home pinterest
By Kathryn Berg

EAP Trainer
The Village Business Institute 

Whether it be taking care of a sick child, travel, or simply a need for a change in scenery, there will likely come a time in your professional career that you will need to get work done outside of your office. Working remotely has become commonplace in recent years thanks to advancing technology: one 2014 study found that 67% of Americans spend time telecommuting each week.

But while our laptops and cell phones have reached that higher level, have we humans? Getting into the “work zone” isn’t always easy when most of the time, you’re used to physically being at work. Maintain your productivity at home or on the road by sticking to a few easy tips.

1. Dress for Success
It sounds simple (and it is), but one of the easiest ways to get in the productive mindset is to simply get dressed in the morning. Many telecommuters joke that wearing sweatpants is the best part about working from home, but putting on a lazy outfit just puts you in the mood to have a lazy day. Getting dressed as you would for a day in the office sets the tone for professionalism and productivity, no matter where you are.

2. Stay In Touch
Sometimes even though we are always available, emails aren’t the right medium for conversation. Luckily, technology allows us the immediacy that work often requires. When working off-site, make sure your phone is always on in order to keep up with clients and coworkers. Consider using an instant messaging service like GChat or Skype to hash out quick conversations that don’t necessarily require a phone call. If you’re missing out on meetings, talk to your supervisor or IT department about downloading a service like WebEx or GoToMeeting to join in remotely via video or by sharing your screen.

3. Nix the Netflix
Minimizing distractions is key for keeping your productivity levels high. While the new season of House of Cards is tempting to play in the background as you work on other things, studies show that when you try to do two tasks at the same time, neither one of them gets done as quickly as when you focus on one task at a time. Multitasking costs us 40% of our productivity and increases our likelihood of making mistakes. Just like getting yourself in the right mindset by putting on the right outfit, remove yourself from distractions like TV and focus on your work while you’re “at” work. Frank Underwood deserves your undivided attention, anyway.

4. Maintain a Routine
With the options of waking up, eating lunch, and getting your work done when you want, working from home seems like an ideal set-up for anyone. However, a lax schedule is a surefire way to cut into your productivity. Beginning work, taking breaks, and ending work around the same time each day will help in creating that sweet-spot mindset that gets stuff done. That’s not to say, however, that you should necessarily be strapped to an 8 am-5pm schedule. If you find yourself to be more productive in the evening (and your supervisor and team approve), consider maintaining a regular routine later in the day instead.

5. Set Goals
Goals are important no matter where you’re working, but they take special precedence at home or on the road. If you find yourself unable to get things done, make a point to sit down with your supervisor and set specific, attainable goals that you can deliver on. Having these specific goals in place will be a key motivator and help you maintain your productivity no matter where you are. Make sure you check in with your progress and deliverables often, and adjust or re-up your goals as needed.

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About the author
Kathryn Berg joined the Village Business Institute in September of 2014 as a trainer serving the VBI’s Employee Assistant Program client companies. Prior to joining the Village, Kathryn spent two years working in the human resources field, focusing during that time on recruitment, training, wellness and benefits administration. Kathryn provides training on a wide variety of topics and currently focuses subjects such as harassment prevention and drug-free workplace compliance. She graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, with bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology and a minor in French. Outside of her work at the Village, she spends her evenings and weekends as a competitive swim coach.

We Should All Approach our Work like Sarah Koenig

By Kathryn Berg
EAP Trainer
The Village Business Institute 

“Serial,” the wildly popular true-crime podcast, finished its 12-episode first season in mid-December. During the podcast’s run and in the weeks following its finale, everyone seems to know the story of Adnan Syed and his conviction for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. If a person isn’t hooked, they are likely still familiar with the podcast’s premise, possibly its cult-favorite MailChimp ad, and certainly its host, Sarah Koenig.

Sarah Koenig is the narrator, executive producer and lead investigator for “Serial,” and has garnered high praise for her work on the podcast. Whether fans of “Serial” or not, we could all learn something from the way Koenig approached her work while studying and reporting on the factual and not-so-factual evidence of Adnan Syed’s murder conviction.

 

She Manages Her Expectations

A common complaint among “Serial” enthusiasts is that (spoiler alert!) Koenig does not prove Adnan Syed guilty or innocent in the season finale. Many listeners expected that Koenig’s meticulous reporting would uncover new facts or reveal old lies in a way that would provide closure in an otherwise murky and unsatisfying murder conviction.

Koenig, on the other hand, took on the journalistic endeavor simply because Syed wanted his story to be told. She did not enter into the investigation believing that after a 15-month analysis of a 15-year-old case she would have all the answers. In fact, Koenig was certain that she would not have all the answers. She remained steadfast in that belief, despite constant public outcry hoping for more, more, more.

Managing our expectations does not mean working toward something that is less than perfect. Rather, it means approaching situations, relationships and projects with the knowledge that even when we do put forth our best effort, the end result may not be what we anticipated—and that’s okay! If you can manage your expectations like Sarah Koenig and be okay with something other than what others may unreasonably expect of you, you (and your team) will be much more likely to be satisfied with your results.

 

She Does Her Due Diligence

Koenig may not have figured out who killed Hae Min Lee, but nobody would argue that it was because her research and investigation were lacking. Koenig followed every lead she was given, tracked down every person involved with the case and sought out help from experts in areas she knew she was unable to properly examine on her own. She had appropriate expectations about what she would probably discover during her investigation, but that did not stop her from going above and beyond to ensure she fleshed out every given detail.

We are more likely to deal with harassment or drug-free workplace investigations than murder investigations, but due diligence belongs in the typical workplace just as much as it does in Koenig’s atypical one. Like Koenig, you probably do not know how your project or presentation will turn out at its conclusion. Whether you intend to solve a murder case or bring your business to the next level, you owe it to yourself and your employer to do your due diligence to create a product or idea you will be proud to stand behind. Follow every lead, enlist the help of experts when you’re in over your head, and simply put in the hard work necessary to get things done.

 

She Stays True to Herself

“Serial’s” unexpected success created an unexpected celebrity in Sarah Koenig, but along with fame comes criticism. A simple search on Google for “Serial” will bring up hours’ worth of reading on the podcast and its host. Some spout endless praise for Koenig and her endeavor. Others think she is a shoddy journalist who says “I feel like” too often and is too emotional for someone who is supposed to be objective.

With opinions coming at her from every direction, it would have been easy for Koenig to succumb to the public opinion of the day and change her reporting style or the style of the podcast itself. Maybe keeping up with the criticism would be a good way to maintain the unexpectedly large fan base. Koenig, however, did not make any changes based on “Serial’s” wild popularity. She set out to create a true-crime podcast, a story told week-to-week, and that is exactly what she did.

Pressure to change our ways of thinking and acting come from all sides in the workplace. While we should always be open to new ideas, it’s important to stay true to ourselves and our values. We may change and adjust the way we work as we learn and grow, but beliefs and values will likely stay the same no matter what. Sticking to these beliefs and values – our true selves – no matter what criticism we may encounter, will bring fulfillment and satisfaction at the end of each day.

There may only be one Sarah Koenig, but that doesn’t mean we can’t all approach our jobs the way she does. Managing her expectations, doing her due diligence, and staying true to herself got Koenig renewed for a second season. Practicing her working style, our own success could be similarly limitless.


About the author
Kathryn Berg joined the Village Business Institute in September of 2014 as a trainer serving the VBI’s Employee Assistant Program client companies. Prior to joining the Village, Kathryn spent two years working in the human resources field, focusing during that time on recruitment, training, wellness and benefits administration. Kathryn provides training on a wide variety of topics and currently focuses subjects such as harassment prevention and drug-free workplace compliance. She graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, with bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology and a minor in French. Outside of her work at the Village, she spends her evenings and weekends as a competitive swim coach.

Planning 2015 with passion

By Dawn Kaiser
The Village Business Institute

Where did 2014 go?

It feels just like yesterday I was sitting in my office dreaming of all the things I wanted to accomplish in the coming year. But, here we are already in the first month of 2015.

Now I don’t know about you, but looking back over the year, I see there was a lot crossed off my to-do list, but I feel that there was still so much more that needed to be done. Part of me feels like I needed more time, but then I remember what Zig Ziglar once said, “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem.” Direction really is about focusing on the things that are most important. It is about getting clear on your goals and passions in life and then incorporating them into your daily life, not just adding them to a to-do list.

A friend of mine introduced me to a new tool called the Passion Planner. (www.passionplanner.com) Yes, this is an old school planner, not a high-tech one, but to me there is something powerful about writing things down that connects more with my soul than just typing things into a computer. I’m not telling you to get rid of your technology tools. In fact, I will still use my online calendar system because I need to share my calendar with others, and I will still have my master list online because I can use that to store potential activities that are not urgent.

What I love about the Passion Planner is that it helps to create a roadmap for achieving your goals by helping you  breakdown the big dreams that lay ahead in 2015 and beyond. Essentially the creator of this planner is using the “goal setting to the NOW” technique that Gary Keller describes in his book The One Thing. It takes your “someday” goal and asks what can you do this month, this week, this day, and right now to achieve your desires?

Another shift I’m making in 2015 is a move toward focusing on tasks that help me achieve how I want to feel in life and at work. I know most of the time we don’t talk about feelings, especially at work. But I think it is important to recognize that our passions are linked to something bigger than just doing; they are linked to our being. How do you want to feel in 2015? Smart? Empowered? Sassy? Connected?  Influential? Spend some time thinking about what feelings you desire and then focus on creating experiences or activities that help you achieve that feeling. If you want to dig deeper into this area check out Danielle LaPorte’s book, Desire Map. It has been instrumental in helping me get clearer about what I desire out of life.

As we begin 2015 I wish you a year full of passion and joy. May you find fulfillment in all you do and in who you are. Let 2015 be a year of making the impossible, possible!

Live Joy-filled. Lead Joy-filled. Serve Joy-filled.

 


Dawn Kaiser, The Village Business Institute

Author Bio

Dawn Kaiser is an inspirational educator, joyologist, blogger, altruist and positive thought leader. She specializes in heart-driven leadership, positive psychology and personal achievement. Dawn focuses on helping hundreds of clients all over the world thrive both personally and professionally in life through her work at The Village Business Institute. Find her on Facebook, Twitter (@joyrefueler), LinkedIn or online at www.dawnmkaiser.com. Dawn is available to speak nationwide.