Businessman with many hands- productivity concept

Whether you’re the CEO of a company or an entry-level worker, we can all agree that inspiration to be more productive is never a bad thing. Let’s face it; we all have bad days where our focus is shot, and we feel like we can’t accomplish anything. While there are many reasons for a productivity slump, these books are sure to give you inspiration and help you get more done in your day with less headache.

1. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Studies conducted on workplace productivity have shown that stress can have a huge impact on your ability to focus and be productive. Allen makes a strong case that the more you can relax, the greater your ability to get things done. Offering tips on overcoming anxiety, goal assessment, task delegation, project planning, and confidence building, this book is sure to help you get the most out of your time at the office.

2. Eat That Frog!: 21 Tips to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy

Procrastination is damaging to productivity; often times, we put off our most difficult tasks because they’re overwhelming or discouraging. Tracy argues that these are the tasks we should be starting our day with when our productivity levels are higher. Once you complete that dreaded task, the rest of the day should be a piece of cake. He also includes some excellent time-management tips for those of us who can’t seem to find enough hours in the day.

3. The Productive Person: A How-To Guide Book Filled with Productivity Hacks & Daily Schedules for Entrepreneurs, Students, or anyone Struggling with Work-Life Balance by James Roper & Chandler Bolt

Having a poor work-life balance can have a huge impact on your performance at work. Without time to recharge, you’re left returning to work the next day with your mental resources tapped. This book stresses not only time management and scheduling ideas, but also how to let go of guilt and allow yourself to take some time off from work now and then.

4. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Life for many of us these days consists of endless distraction; from emails and notifications coming in on our smartphones to the never-ending options you find at the grocery store, our attention is constantly pulled in multiple directions, making focusing on anything for very long difficult. Newport’s book discusses the valuable skill of being able to tune out distractions and how to master your mind’s ability to focus in our fast-paced, overstimulating world.

5. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

Covey’s book isn’t focused on work; it’s a self-help book devoted to changing the way you view life. As many of us know, perspective can have a major influence in your life, both on a personal and professional level, and several studies have suggested that the power of positive thinking can increase productivity. Sometimes a simple re-framing of a problem or looking at a situation from a different perspective is all we need to get over a hurdle. Covey focuses on a holistic approach to being positive, using personal stories and anecdotes to drive home the message that you are in control of your perspective and attitude.

 

Make yourself a world-class marketer by tapping into social proof, or following the herd

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Most humans look to each other on the assumption that someone nearby will know. This is called social proof, or informational social influence, or the intelligence of the herd.

Social proofing is nothing new. It is based on a human desire to behave in an approved manner. When in doubt, ask the crowd what they are thinking. Of course, you can’t always just ask. And, because you have to suss it out from clues, you have to choose someone you trust.

A Social Influencer

That’s where it gets fun for a world-class marketer. You have so many tools to implement your social media strategy. But, even if you optimize your SEO, you won’t be optimizing your message unless you prioritize social proofing, where people’s behaviors are influenced by other people’s actions.

We are social beings, belonging to a group guides us in everything we do. We connect at church, work, school, through activities. Just about anywhere. Therefore, it is no surprise that, when we see people talking about a product or service, we become motivated to take an interest ourselves. Just like joining a club or a team, we gain a sense of connection with others by looking at what they are looking at and buying what they are buying.

With messages to buy, buy, buy fired at us relentlessly, consumers have become cynical about their choices. They become less trusting of the messages they receive, wanting something to lean on, to trust. Social proof in the form of customer reviews and testimonials gives a transparency we yearn for. If we believe we are getting an honest, authentic opinion, we are much more likely to purchase.

Attracted By The Familiar and FOMO

We also seem to be strangely drawn to the familiar, including such arbitrary data as the letters in our own name and numbers in our own birth date. Because of this, we are more likely to take action when we see someone who looks like us endorsing a product or service. In this way, it is good to know who your target market is and to find ways to find familiar endorsers for them.

Another factor seems to be FOMO. No one really wants to miss out on all the fun someone else they trust is having. The more reviews we see about a product or service, the more desire we have to purchase that product or service. Finding ways to increase the number of reviews you are getting, perhaps by adding online reviews to your website, is an effective way to up your sales.

By leveraging social proof you can tap into our innate desire to belong, become a world-class marketer, and bring the value of your goods and services to more customers.

Smiling employees standing around a desk- positive workplace culture

The culture of a company can shape every aspect of it: morale, productivity, turnover, quality of service provided, how the company as a whole is viewed — even the types of clients a business attracts. Culture is everything, which is why cultivating a positive one is so important. We’ve compiled a few of the best tips to ensure your company culture is as positive as possible.

Hire for Culture

Culture is shaped by every individual who works at a company — from the top managers to every employee. This makes the hiring process for all positions crucial to the shaping of the company culture. An interview isn’t just a time to discuss a candidate’s qualifications for the position, it’s also an excellent opportunity to ask questions that can determine a candidate’s values to see if they align with that of your company.

Recognize and Commend the Team

Employees who feel valued and appreciated are more likely to work harder and stay with a company longer than those who aren’t. Recognizing milestones like birthdays, employee anniversaries, or simply telling them they’re doing a great job can go a long way for morale. These recognitions don’t need to break the bank; they can be as simple as an email or announcement thanking everyone for their hard work, or the boss giving everyone a big shout out at a meeting.

Allow for Work-Life Balance

Even if your employees enjoy their job immensely, having a strong work-life balance is important for productivity and to prevent job burnout. This could mean different things to different employees; some may want the weekends off to spend time with their family or need to take the occasional early day to take a pet to the vet. To some, it could mean that their workday is confined to work hours so that there are no duties encroaching on their personal time at home. Or it could mean all of the above. Having flexibility for employees’ needs makes for a more positive culture where people feel they’re able to work while still taking care of the things that matter in life.

Open Communication

Open communication is important in all types of relationships — even that of an employer/employee. Creating an environment that allows for openness, whether through “open door” policies or asking for employee feedback, is crucial for allowing employees to feel valued and heard. Performance reviews, while dreaded by many employers and employees alike, can be an excellent time for both parties to get on the same page and ensure that any of the employee’s concerns are addressed. Having open communication shows that a company cares and is concerned for the employee’s well-being, making the employee care more about the company in return.

These small steps can go a long way to ensure everyone feels happy and valued, and it ultimately leads to the betterment of the company. Employees are more enthusiastic, more productive, and more devoted when the culture is a positive one that is designed to make everyone’s workday the best it can be.

In red, scratched, thick lettering reads "discrimination" against a white background.

Denying a problem exists just because it isn’t a personal problem only harms those that do experience the struggle. Problems like discrimination and harassment are often one of those problems that people try to dismiss. Sometimes it’s because microaggressions are just that, micro and all too easily brushed aside. Or the problem could be denied because it wasn’t personally witnessed. But ignoring problems like sexism and racism harms those experiencing it and aids those who are getting away with it.

False accusations of discrimination aren’t as common as the loud voices shouting about them would have everyone believe. Saying that isn’t meant to lighten how serious of a problem that false accusations are. But there are people who would go on about how false accusations are the worst part of discrimination, which detracts from the problem at hand.

For people experiencing the discrimination, the worst part is often seeking help, and then not being believed. It usually shuts off the idea of any future attempt of seeking help, creating a toxic environment. In the workplace, it is the job of those in charge to make sure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen, and that accusations are taken seriously. It’s important to handle the situation carefully and tactfully, and ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. Rather, it just may take it away from view. Different levels of discrimination and harassment should have corresponding consequences according to severity, be it a written notice, sensitivity training, or employment termination if severe enough. Different industries are more prone to specific types of discrimination and harassment. As a business owner, it’s important to rise above a set standard and treat everyone fairly and respectfully.

How do you move forward after a devastating loss?

Call it what you will. Hitting the wall. Crashing into a ceiling. Having the bottom fall out from under you. It doesn’t matter what direction it comes from, failing is a painful, devastating experience. For entrepreneurs who often have their lives wrapped up personally and financially in their businesses, failure can be difficult to overcome.

On one level or another, failure is certain. Yet everyone deals with defeat differently. And some find it very hard to move on.

If you have found it tough to gain forward momentum after a reversal, what is stopping you? Here are a few ideas on what might be happening and how to get back on track.

Hitting the Books

Have you been so focused on day-to-day activities that you haven’t kept up with industry knowledge? Is there a weakness in your foundational understanding? One great idea is to go back to the books and resources that are the bedrock of your expertise. Are they still relevant? If so, re-examine them, and, like watching a great movie a second time, allow new ideas to surface. Also, if you sense those resources are no longer applicable, seek out new ones to fill the gaps.

Another way forward, especially when you have hit bottom, is to reset your goals. Working without overall personal and business objectives is like being adrift on the open sea. You might end up on a beautiful island, but you’re likelier to have wind and current leave you in the doldrums. Take the time to become very clear on where you are going and how you plan to get there.

Going it alone is a possible downfall for anyone, especially entrepreneurs used to shouldering the responsibility for their organizations. It may be time to return to a mentor, someone who inspired and taught you along the way. Don’t let fear of admitting defeat stop you from contacting an important resource. If they are a true mentor, they will have themselves tumbled down mountains and have astute observations to help you climb back up.

Give Yourself the Gift of Time

You may also have to review your time management. The only person who can give you the time you need to succeed is you. For some, that might mean cutting back on personal time-wasting habits such as social media or television bingeing. For others, it may mean making difficult decisions to create revitalizing personal time such as exercise or meditation. The Dalai Lama wakes at 3:00 am for two hours of meditation each day before his day begins. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, famously gets up at 3:45 for personal time. The idea is that taking time to rebuild and reset is absolutely essential for getting your career back on track.

Once you begin taking these steps, you will find that the setback has made you stronger and more knowledgeable. Of course, when you are down it is hard to imagine, or hear someone tell you, that it is all going to be okay. That is why it is important to begin by taking practical, steadying steps as you begin moving forward again.

 

 

Universities incentivize student and faculty on-campus entrepreneurship

Have you noticed that many innovators leave college early? Or, they begin making their groundbreaking innovations after graduation? Colleges have noted this, too.

The Morrill Act of 1862 granted land and resources for higher educational institutions focused on agricultural and technical studies. These public and land-grant colleges include leading universities focused on research, including the University of California and Pennsylvania State University. In a recently released position paper, these colleges attempt to contribute and remain engaged in a fast-paced economy.  Though their approaches are different, one element that is crucial is supporting university-based innovation and entrepreneurship.

Show Me the Money

Many schools already have policies to pay faculty or students when they make a research breakthrough that is commercialized. Yale, for instance pays 10 percent to inventors after a number of expenses are deducted. One of the main ways to spur entrepreneurial growth in universities is to evaluate these royalty split policies. University innovators are likely to hide key findings when universities take most or all of the royalties from innovations. Low or no royalties cause innovators to either leave their institution or give up their ambitions entirely. By more generously sharing revenues, universities can spur innovation and create a dynamic entrepreneurial spirit.

Similarly, entrepreneurial growth is slowed by traditional “walls” built between departments and even individual professors. One way to break down these walls is the establishment of technology transfer offices. These offices increase institutional capacity to turn discoveries into market-ready products. They can also make donors aware of university opportunities for product commercialization, startups, and venture formation. Opening communication within the entire higher educational environment— alumni, management, faculty, and students—encourages cutting edge innovation.

In response to student loan debt, another recommendation is to establish scholarships and financial aid opportunities for student innovators. This will inspire students, who are increasingly aware of the long-term negative effects of student loan debt, to stay in school and innovate. The study also proposes developing internal prizes and endowments to encourage faculty entrepreneurial education and activities. Additionally, universities can incentivize faculty innovation by connecting their accomplishments to promotion and tenure.

Incubate or Perish

Research-focused university campuses should be highly productive incubators for business development resources, according to the paper. It is imperative for universities, which house state of the art research facilities and attract the brightest students and faculty, to be engaged in entrepreneurial efforts to stay relevant and to continue to contribute to the national and global economy.

Turning a university into a makerspace, in which people with shared interests and ambitions work on innovative projects, is necessary as we step forward in the 21st century. Figuring out ways to encourage students, faculty and alumni to work together is the way to build these spaces.  

Should businesses stay out of politics?

Keeping up with the news means sometimes seeing articles about what companies have donated to, and some people taking that personally. Some vocal people say that businesses should keep their noses out of politics, but in reality, that is up for the business to decide.

Depending upon the size of the company, there are various things to consider. If it’s big enough to have shareholders, it means having to consider what they think before donating. If the company is smaller, there may not be a whole lot to donate in the first place. And even if a donation is made, it likely won’t make front page news anywhere. But in the smaller company, employees might take it more personally if business profits are given to a cause they feel strongly against.

Outside of the business, going back to the idea of current and potential customers not liking any sort of political involvement, that idea seems to mostly come from older crowds. There’s a newer idea, at least being vocalized more, that consumers are okay with businesses donating to causes that align with their ideals, because then the consumer can choose either to support that business or not.

There’s another bit of truth that businesses can’t entirely avoid politics, even if they aren’t actively donating to a cause. Business practices like deciding who to hire or what regulations are enforced more strictly than others can be seen as political statements by consumers. At that point, it becomes a matter of deciding what principals they want to back, to stand firm by those values, whether they’re called political or not.

Caucasian man standing in front of other business people in wood paneled room, giving a presentation.

The great balancing act of being a business owner has a lot of factors to it. One of the most important balances is making a business functional, and still keeping the workforce happy. With how many people it often takes to keep a business running, it also tends to mean there’s no one right answer to keeping people happy. But there are some basic ideas that business owners can try out as a starting point.

Try thinking first of what you always hated having happened at work before you became your own boss. Sometimes, less than desirable events have to happen for the sake of the business, but maybe they don’t have to be as awful. Maybe there’s easy access to refreshments when employees have to work late. Or, perhaps if employees from one department have to do work for another department that is less desirable or extends for a longer period of time than what would be expected, think of ways to show their effort is appreciated. Maybe once the special project is complete, let everyone involved have a small break. Yourself included, because being in charge isn’t easy.

As a business owner, it’s important to remember that you’re not the sole member of the team. Making an environment positive enough to bring out maximum productivity often means listening to others. It helps to encourage employees to bring problems to either a manager’s or your attention. That way they’ll likely feel more comfortable with bringing problems for consideration early on, rather than waiting for it to become intolerable. Communication in general is a great way to keep cohesion in a workplace, even if the subjects aren’t always pleasant.

There’s always something that has to be added to the mix of keeping a functioning and thriving workplace. Ask what your employees think, and try some new things. The next best idea may just be waiting for someone to speak up.

Business woman standing on log that's breaking- The Most Valuable Lessons CEOs Can Learn From Failure

Being a CEO isn’t an easy job; as the highest ranking executive in a company, they have to wear many hats at once. A CEO may spend their day handling employee concerns, managing the executive team, developing company strategy, and making major corporate decisions. With so much responsibility, it’s little wonder that some of them may worry about failure — there’s a lot riding on their shoulders! The good news is everyone fails sometimes, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some of the most successful CEOs have experienced failure and proven that there are lessons to learn from it.

1. Embrace Failure as an Innovation Tool

Striving for perfection prevents risk-taking, and often risks are needed to make a business stand out from the crowd. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has had a number of failures over the years (the Fire Phone, Amazon Destinations, and Amazon Auctions) and has joked that failure feels like “a root canal without anesthesia.” Despite this, he’s learned to embrace failure as a tool to create successful endeavors. “I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon,” he’s said. “If you decide you’re going to do only the things you know are going to work, you’re going to leave a lot of opportunity on the table.” Some of Bezos’s experiments have become huge successes, such as Prime, Marketplace, and Amazon Web Services; Amazon Web Services alone brought in over $5.4 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2018.

2. Learning From Your Mistakes Can Be More Valuable Than Success

It’s not enough to embrace your failures; you have to be able to learn from them. Failure can teach you a lot about how to improve an idea or give you valuable hindsight. Bill Gates, principal founder of Microsoft and former CEO, has had many pitfalls over the years that he was able to learn from. From his ill-fated first company Traf-O-Data to his failure to recognize internet opportunities, Gates has been candid about some of the lessons he’s learned from failures. While discussing how Microsoft missed the boat when they failed to develop a search engine, he said, “success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” He’s also admitted that Microsoft made missteps in the mobile arena. As Gates has said, “It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

 3. Don’t Give Up

Persistence can pay off. Elon Musk, entrepreneur and CEO of SpaceX, has had repeated failures over the years. One of those failures that turned to success is SpaceX. He founded SpaceX in 2002, with the purpose of less expensive transportation to space, and had nothing but a string of roadblocks. At the start of the company’s launch, they had trouble hiring anyone who had experience building rockets. Musk has said, “And the reason that I ended up being the chief engineer or chief designer, was not because I want to, it’s because I couldn’t hire anyone. Nobody good would join. So I ended up being that by default.” The first three launches failed, and the company almost went bankrupt. Having only enough money for one more launch, they tried again, to great success; not only did the rocket launch, the company received a $1.6 billion contract from NASA. “Persistence is very important. You should not give up unless you are forced to give up,” Musk stated. “When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”

Radical Vulnerability: Small surfer on a giant wave

What is vulnerability? Though it can mean different things to different people, it essentially comes down to being brave enough to be yourself. And that means being your whole self, including weaknesses and strengths. All the energy you spend projecting an image of strength and invulnerability becomes a mask that insulates you from the real world.

If you are an entrepreneur, you don’t want anything getting between you and the real world. That’s where all the solutions are.

The Emotional Impact of Being Authentic

Being authentic is what helps you connect emotionally with your team. Truth and authenticity are at the foundation of vulnerability. If you show your team your humanity, your genuine heart, they will know that you trust yourself and that they can trust the organization.  

One way to do this is to illuminate your flaws rather than try to hide them away. Be willing to admit mistakes. Understand your strengths and weaknesses and be willing to get support where you need it. This means, instead of projecting confidence, being confident enough to be uncomfortable.

It also means having the ability to be self-aware. Often, the people and situations that bother you the most, the ones that really electrify the negative feedback loop in your brain with repetitive thinking, are places you need the most work. For example, maybe you label someone as a bullshitter. That person really bugs you, and you hate doing business with him. If you look inside, maybe you will see there is a part of yourself that is willing to be less than honest in certain high pressure situations. Maybe you’re the bullshitter! If you take steps to deal with that then you won’t have to plug in and give energy to every dishonest person you run into.

Shame Is an Organizational Virus

When you are willing to look at your own flaws, your team can admit their own mistakes. Everyone makes errors. Why not let them live in the open where they can be learned from? Shame is a terrible organizational virus that mutes voices, making team members less bold and less able to suggest big ideas.

Of course, you work in a demanding environment, and being vulnerable and willing to accept who you truly are does not mean you are willing to accept mediocrity. In fact, it’s the opposite. When you challenge yourself and your team to be fully vulnerable and driven while building solutions for clients, you build an organization that has the best chance of dynamically moving forward. Being a radically vulnerable leader is the optimal strategy to becoming a successful business leader.