Sunday, December 14, 2008
Savings and Retirement Plans for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners
If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner, you are the one who’s in control regarding your financial future. There is no one else to rely on when it comes to saving and planning for the future, so you must take on this matter yourself. The thing is many traditional savings and retirement plans are unavailable to you due to income limitations. Here are a few savings options for entrepreneurs and small business owners.
A solo 401(k) plan is a great alternative to the traditional 401(k), and was created for self-employed individuals, entrepreneurs, and small business owners with no full time employees. The only exception to this is if the small business owner’s spouse is an employee. Solo 401(k) plans have simplified administrative rules, unlike their traditional counterparts.
The advantage of a solo 401(k) is that it is simple to use and maintain. You may contribute up to $13,000 of tax-deferred income, in addition to up to 25% of profit from your business. As long as you contribute no more than $41,000 annually, you fall within the limits of the solo 401(k). The amount you contribute to a solo 401(k) is completely discretionary and can be decreased or suspended at any time. Additionally, loans against your plan, as well as hardship withdrawals may be allowed. Rollovers from previous 401(k) plans are allowed as well.
There are a couple of drawbacks to the solo 401(k). Naturally, there is a cost to establish and administer a solo 401(k), which may or may not be desirable for the individual investor. Solo 401(k) plans may not ultimately end up meeting your needs for you and your business. If your business grows, you may end up needing to hire on additional full-time employees. When this happens, you are no longer eligible for a solo 401(k), and must revert to a traditional 401(k), which is far less simple to administer.
An SEP IRA, or Simplified Employee Pension Individual Retirement Account, is a savings and retirement tool that can be used by both small business owners and self-employed people as well. SEPs are considered part of a profit sharing program, and the employer may contribute up to 25% of a qualifying employee’s income to the fund.
SEPs are affordable and simple to administer, and is an excellent benefit to provide to employees. If an individual is self employed, they are still able to put aside a little over 18% of their net profit, which is a powerful savings tool indeed. Contributions to the plan are tax deductible, and standard income tax applies to the money once it is withdrawn for retirement use after the investor reaches age 59½. Additionally, its high contribution limits make it very attractive ($46,000 in 2008).
One of the drawbacks of this type of retirement plan is that it is seen strictly as a profit-sharing plan, so employees must have another savings vehicle if they wish to put more money away on their own. There is no catch-up payment clause for those who started saving later in life, as there is with the solo 401(k).
Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees (SIMPLE) IRAs are fairly simple to administer, no-hassle IRA plans that offer a great benefit for employees in your small business. Recommended for businesses with 10 or fewer employees, it s a great savings tool to offer for employees, and benefits both parties in the process.
SIMPLE IRAs allow employees to contribute up to $10,500 of their annual income to the plan. Employers match this amount as part of the process. Employees are then vested and are eligible to receive this money upon reaching retirement age. Contributions are tax deductible.
For business owners, the drawback of this type of account is that the employees doesn’t have to earn his or her vesting, but is vested once the account is opened. That means matching someone dollar for dollar who may not be around to help you grow your company may not be a sound investment. SIMPLE IRAs are also very strictly administered and cannot be rolled over, nor can a traditional IRA or 401(k) be rolled into a SIMPLE IRA.
SOLO DB Plan
This plan is a slimmed-down version of a standard defined benefit plan. If you are looking to save a whole lot of money over a short period of time and have the resources to do so, this is the plan for you.
Like other retirement plans, contributions are tax-deferred and the money is available to you once you reach retirement age. These plans are very popular with people in business for themselves who are over 50 years of age, due to the ability to save vast amounts of money in a short period of time in order to meet future income requirements for retirement.
The drawback for this type of retirement account is that investors must be willing and able to contribute ongoing mandatory contributions of at least $45,000 for five consecutive years to keep this plan going. For many, this amount of money is simply not possible. For the well-compensated small business owner or entrepreneur, however, this account could be just perfect.
50 Best Social Networks for SeniorsBy Kelly Kilpatrick
One of the fastest growing demographics for social networks, seniors have discovered the joy of connecting with others online. Unlike the groups on some of the younger social sites, the sites for older users tend to be less superficial and have a more grounded community. If you are looking for a place to connect with other seniors, then take a look at this list that provides social networks with a focus on sharing life experience, looking for romance, or connecting with others who share a specific interest like travel or Scrabble.
Social Networks for Mature Users
If MySpace and Facebook seem too young for you, then no worries. These social networking sites are all designed for communities with more life experience to share.
- eons. A popular social network for Baby Boomers, eons offers plenty of ways to connect with others as well as brain games, blogs, videos, and photos.
- Rezoom. With lots of articles on music, activities, going green, money, and more, you will find plenty to keep your mind busy. Also, find a friend, read blogs, or visit one of the city-specific sites here.
- Multiply. While not just for older users, this site does have a large number of senior members. The features here include blogs, a social calendar, movie and restaurant reviews, and photo sharing.
- Seniorocity. Only for adults over 40, this network offers plenty of ways to connect with others including blogs, chat rooms, groups, and photo galleries.
- Maya’s Mom. Specifically for parents, this site is known to have lots of older members. Connect with other parents in groups, by sharing photos, and more.
- BOOMj. This social networking site offers the opportunity to connect with friends and colleagues, shopping, photo and video sharing, and much more.
- Boomertowne. Create a profile, then jump into the fun with discussion groups, movie reviews, recipes, and more. Boomertowne also features a singles dating service.
- EldersVoice. This site is a "social networking site for senior citizens who are young at heart." Post photos, video chat, play games, or post on your blog here.
- TeeBeeDee. For anyone over 40, this site emphasizes sharing experiences and knowledge. Topics range from travel to food to sex to spirituality.
- BoomerGirl. Targeting Baby Boomer women this site is part social network and part eZine. Sign up for one of the blogs and let your voice be heard.
- Eldr. Participate in the forums or start blogging to connect with others here. Don’t forget to take advantage of the great articles ranging from travel to the environment to exercise.
- Secondprime. For the 50+ set, this community includes the usual forums and such as well as volunteer activities, a social calendar, and more.
- Growingbolder. The concept here is to create an intergenerational community around news that is inspiring, amusing, and uplifting rather than the typical fare on at 5:00. While most content is specifically directed at those over 50, they do welcome members of any age.
- RedwoodAge. This site has a definite social-change aspect to it with topics such as the environment, poverty, and the state of health care right along side articles about health, exercise, and travel. Visit the Village to connect with others.
- eGenerations. Their tagline explains that they are "a worldwide community of experienced adults" and the home page shows there are members from 62 countries and ranging in age from 30 to 101.
- Boomer-Living.com. Join the Coffeehouse at this site to find their social network where you can meet others, play trivia, and more.
- LifeTwo. "Midlife improved" is how this site is described. Follow your online buddies with a free membership here or just read the blogs and articles available.
- My Boomer Place. Create a profile here and get started connecting with friends or making new ones, sharing photos, writing and sharing articles, playing games, and much more.
- Maple and Leek. For those 50+, this community is one of adventure and entrepreneurial spirit. Connect with like-minded seniors at this fun site.
- GrownUps. From New Zealand, this social network for those over 50 provides information on health, money, games, and more as well as an extensive listing of their various online groups and organizations you can join.
Give online dating a try with these dating sites specifically for more mature singles.
- SeniorFriendFinder. Exclusively for singles over 40, this site offers free member profiles and almost 500,000 members. You can use email, instant messaging, and video messaging to contact members with a paid subscription.
- Your Senior Dating Site. This dating site promises it’s about the people so you won’t get advertisements, but you will get personal service and ease of use. Signing up is free, but you will need a membership to contact a potential date.
- SeniorMatch.com. This site is only for singles over 50 and imposes a minimum age as well. This is one of the largest senior dating sites.
- Primesingles.net. This site for those 40 and over has a fast sign-up and is easy to navigate.
- 50YearsPlus.com. "A singles site for seniors with integrity" is how they describe themselves at this site. Enjoy a seven-day free trial to see if you like this one before buying a membership.
- Executive Senior Dating. This matchmaking service conducts a 30-90 minute phone call with you and a matchmaking counselor to start their matching process.
- Real Mature Singles. For those 40 and over, this matching service verifies that every applicant is legitimate before providing services.
- Senior Singles Only. This matching service meets and screens all applicants in person. The applicants must be at least 40 and looking for a long-term relationship.
- Dating For Seniors. For dating, friends, or a life partner, this online dating site offers opportunities for older singles. Your free basic membership must be upgraded to a paid subscription in order to have full access to all services.
- Senior Passions. This free dating and social networking site offers the opportunity for "the next big love of your life, companionship, or just to make new friends."
Most of these sites cover a wide range of ages, but you can usually specify the age range in which you are interested.
- Yahoo! Personals. Completely free, this online dating service offers a wide range of categories from which you can search. Due to not having a cost associated with it and the popularity of Yahoo!, you are sure to find lots of potential here.
- Match.com. One of the top online dating services, Match.com provides a huge member database. You can browse for free, but you will need a membership to contact any potential matches.
- Chemistry.com. A part of Match.com, and working like eHarmony, this site relies on matching techniques to connect people and is one of the up-and-coming dating sites. For those who have been rejected by eHarmony, Chemistry.com offers a great chance to try this method of online dating again.
- eHarmony. This dating service offers a unique approach to online dating. Instead of browsing for dates or waiting for someone to come to you, they rely on a complex personality matching formula and provide you with potential matches.
- Perfectmatch.com. Using a compatibility system, this dating site emails you when a good match for you becomes available. Perfectmatch.com has been receiving lots of rave reviews recently.
- SinglesNet. This free service offers most of the same services available in the for-pay dating services. Gaining in popularity, the database is over 5 million large.
- Lavalife. Choose to look for dates, relationships, or intimate encounters on this site. You can create three different profiles for each of the three different categories offered or select only one or two of them. This service is totally free and has a huge member base.
- Great Expectations. Combining online dating services and in-person matchmaking, this service meets every member in person and creates a match for potential dates. They also offer invitations to Great Expectations events where you can meet members face-to-face. This service is available in about 50 cities in the U.S.
- Matchmaker. Answer questions about major issues to create your matchability with this site. The service is free, but you will need to pay if you want to contact a member.
- Plentyoffish.com. This totally free site matches singles from around the world. Touting itself as a dating site for everyone, you can choose a specific type of dating environment such as older couples or Christian dating.
From finding golf romance to dog lovers to gardening fans, these social networks all offer a very specific interest for its members.
- Mango Tree. If you love to travel but don’t like to go alone, this site is specifically for finding travel partners. While it is available for any age group, you can specify an age range of interest.
- DateAGolfer.com. Golf players looking for romance need look no further. This dating site offers free matching with other golf fanatics, most of whom appear to be from the senior set.
- Animal Attraction. Pets and their parents can post photos, participate in forums, and more at this site specifically for pet lovers. The services are not only completely free, but Animal Attraction also donates $.01 to the charity you’ve chosen every day that you log in.
- Dogster. Dog lovers can exchange ideas, gain knowledge, and even date on this site. If you would like to connect to other doggie parents, this is a great place to look.
- Folia. Gardeners from all around the world can find each other on this social networking site. If gardening is your thing, you should check out this community.
- PatientsLikeMe. This site brings together people with similar health issues for support and knowledge. Learn about symptoms, treatments, and research while you find others going through the same experiences you are.
- Classmates.com. If you haven’t been active in your class reunions or are just interested in looking up old friends, this site is a great way to connect with classmates from both high school and college.
- reunion.com. Similar to Classmates.com, this site allows you to look up old school friends. Reunion.com has a reputation of a great place to find anyone with whom you’ve lost touch over the years whether they are from school, family, work, or wherever.
- Famiva. This social network for families allows you to work collaboratively on a family tree, share photos, family stories, make family maps and more–and it’s all free.
- Scrabulous. If you like playing Scrabble, then this community is for you. Sign up for free, then find others in the Scrabulous community to join you in one of several variations of online Scrabble.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Assess Your Skills Shortage
Do you want to assess the effect of the skills shortage in your company? To start off, here are some questions to ask your managers.
AchieveGlobal asked trainers and managers in a variety of industries why many of their workers do not have a knowledge of basic workplace skills and behaviors.
Among basic skills and behaviors that are lacking are the ability to manage interpersonal relationships and differences; communicate to co-workers, supervisors and customers; and maintain self-esteem and a work ethic. Overall, workers do not know how the workplace operates or what their employers' basic expectations are.
The company then developed the following questions to ask supervisors, managers and HR professionals in order to assess your employees’ skill levels and the impact of that deficiency on the workplace.
- What competencies and skills do you look for in hiring line and staff employees?
- What role do fundamental workplace skills play in your hiring profile?
- Do you have to make compromises in selecting job candidates or in expectations of job performance?
- Do these compromises affect the length of time for the employee to become productive?
- What impact does employee "ramp-up time" have on the performance of your organization or service?
- How many line or staff employees do you hire in a year?
- How is your retention of such employees? Are you hiring repeatedly for the same position?
- What are the main causes of turnover in your organization?
- What are the effects of turnover on productivity and on team morale?
- What are the effects of turnover on your customers?
- How much and what kind of training do new line and staff support employees go through?
- How are your line and staff support employees' listening skills? Ability to ask questions and clarify?
- How do your line and staff support employees accept and learn new tasks?
- How do your support employees handle problems with peers? With supervisors and managers?
- How are your organization's absenteeism rates?
- Can your employees articulate problems and work with others in a constructive manner to solve them?
- What role will your line and staff employees play in your organization's growth?
SOURCE: AchieveGlobal, Tampa, FL.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Learn More With Less: Corporate Education in the Current Economy| posted by Marcia Conner I've directed large education organizations with huge budgets and small departments without a dime. Training rooms I managed accounted for the largest portion of real estate on a spatial corporate campus and another time I ran the training function of a startup out of my attic office. The journey has been a productive one, sometimes flush with money, other times only rich in experience. Each has its merits and all were educational.
So when I began getting asked by education execs for tips on how to manage the corporate education function with less, I wasn't surprised. Working in extreme situations comes naturally to me and that reputation draws me into conversations with people who don't know where else to turn. With each call, I've reminded people approaches they've forgotten amid recent stresses and pointed to new approaches they may have missed.
I believe this is a great time to be learning while short on cash. Never before in modern history has it been so easy to run a training department (or be accountable for people's learning when you're in another department yet still focused on knowledge transfer) without large budgets, blocks of free time, or even an organization to help marshal your resources.
Deputize More Trainers
My first suggestion is to increase the number of teaching opportunities for people throughout your organization. Although the best way to learn is to teach, in recent years I've seen a trend to bulk up training organizations and reduce reliance on in-house subject matter experts as instructors, managers as mentors, and new employees as a source of fresh knowledge.
By relying mostly on the training department to teach, fewer people remember that educating is part of their job, there is less opportunity for employees at all levels to improve their facilitation skills, and the time-tested, "Gotta learn this now," which comes from the pressure of explaining it to someone else, dissipates into the regular old rhythm of work. Worse yet, this change of policy shuts down a vital source of innovation in our organizations: the practice of capturing as much new outsider insight from new recruits as we can before they've gone "native," leaving their old responsibilities and brain cells behind.
At Microsoft, at a time we were challenged to train throngs of people with very little funding, we met with all of the managers in our division to ask if they could each volunteer one person for a 3-month period to work part time -- sometimes just for a few hours a week, in other cases practically full time -- to get some trainer-training and help enlarge our small team's capacity. While we were very nervous about their receptiveness to our proposal, fourteen managers took the offer to their respective teams and found people not only willing but very enthusiastic to be part of the effort. As a result from this type of creativity, the employees grew their teaching skills, had an excuse to learn some new cool stuff, and their teams widened their bench-strength considerably.
The benefits of giving new hires, even those just out of school, an early job assignment to teach people in their new organization about what they learned before they arrived may be the best investment of time (not money) you make. Empowering new employees in every part of the organization to teach what they know gives them a chance to feel competent at a time when they may not be feeling all that sturdy and it gives your organization an almost unlimited low-cost source of diverse and fresh information. If lunch-time talks mean they don't get the time they want to bond with new co-workers, create a Friday afternoon panel where a seasoned employee with a Tonight Show-style personality interviews new employees about themselves and some of the lessons they learned in previous situations. Film the show and post it on your intranet. There are many creative ways to gather and share information at little or no cost; it just takes some imagination and motivation.
Thinking this is all too 20th Century? Consider adding a supercool bottom-up, grassroots component to your education efforts. Modeled after the Supercool School Facebook app, which allows participants to initiate (and join in on) learning programs for topics they want to learn about, you can do the same within your enterprise. When enough people have joined together with a request, open a teaching position and anyone willing and able to teach may. This says to people in your larger ecosystem, "Here are programs where your expertise is requested now. Who's interested?"
It's no shame for an education department to focus most of their resources on classes for the masses. The money you have should make the largest possible impact. That also may mean there's no other vehicle for taking advantage of the long tail. For example, if a small group of people are interested in learning how Twitter can be used on the job, but there isn’t a strategic need or numbers to justify a course, most training departments wouldn't step up. If the group has an easy way to find an instructor, though, why stop them? This self-organizing model offers a vehicle for people to enroll in and teach class on topics interesting to only a few people, and it gets more instructors, not fewer, excited about teaching what they know.
Erik Davis and several of his colleagues at Booz Allen Hamilton, are piloting a hybrid supercool approach by using their internal social media software to post Craig's List-style classified ads where people can request and respond to learning opportunities. Their social media space has become a hub for people offering and seeking goods: education, learning, and the teaching that leads to wider knowledge transfer and deeper responsibility throughout the organization. And it costs next to nothing.
While I encourage you to enlist the teaching skills of people throughout your organization, please realize this doesn't need to be only for courses. Consider job swaps or have novices shadow expert employees.
Every activity that helps people become mindful about their role as educators ups the conversation about learning in the workplace and leads to people learning more.
If you don't believe in the traditional separation of learners and teachers, either, or you have your own favorite low-cost solutions, write here or in fewer than 140 characters @marciamarcia.
Marcia Conner >> www.marciaconner.com
Monday, November 24, 2008
THE HARD FACTS About Soft Skills
- A survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that although MBA’s were strong in analytical aptitude, quantitative expertise, and information-gathering ability, they were sorely lacking in other critical areas that employers find equally attractive: strategic thinking, written and oral communication, leadership, and adaptability.
- Research at DePaul University concluded that recruiters want business schools to pay more attention to people-oriented skills like leadership and communication. Students, however, frequently complain that those "soft skills" won't get them jobs, and they're pressuring their business schools to focus instead on functional or technical content, the researchers say.
- One study found that among 358 randomly selected Johnson and Johnson managers, the best performing ones possessed significantly higher levels of self-awareness, self-management capability, social skills, and organizational savvy.
- Research on more than 200,000 managers and workers at multiple companies during a 10-year period links employee recognition with financial performance. According to the data, companies that effectively recognized personal excellence had triple the profitability—as measured by return on equity (ROE)—in comparison with firms that didn't.
- In a survey of 100 human resources executives conducted by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, the outplacement firm, nearly half said that entry workers lacked writing skills and 27 percent said that they were deficient in critical thinking. “It appears that young employees are writing company e-mails as if they were texting cellphone messages with their thumbs,” noted the New York Times (Phyllis Korkki), adding, “in response employers a sending a message of their own: When you’re in the office, put on those dress shoes and start spelling your words correctly, and in full.”
'The Hard Truth About Soft Skills'
Workplace Lessons Smart People Wish They'd Learned Sooner
The Hard Truth About Soft Skills'
Workplace Lessons Smart People Wish They'd Learned Sooner
Why didn't someone tell me . . . and if they did, why didn't I listen?
This, as they used to say when I was growing up, is the $64,000 question. It's the one that comes up over and over again when the thousands of business professionals I coach and train each year tell me their tales from the trenches. Whether young or old, experienced or inexperienced, what strikes me most about their stories of missed opportunities and derailed careers is this: The source of their anxiety and frustration is rarely a shortfall in technical or professional expertise. Instead, it invariably stems from a shortcoming in their soft skills repertoire--the non-technical traits and behaviors needed for successful career navigation.
Get More Career Advice From Peggy
Learn the essential soft skills for taking your career to the next level.
- Buy 'The Hard Truth About Soft Skills'
- Get More Advice From Peggy Klaus
- Visit Peggy's Web Site
- Peggy's Take 24 Soft Skills Quiz
- Is Your Procrastination Telling You Something?
- See More Business and Career Features
IN SEARCH OF A DEFINITION
When it comes to soft skills, most people think they are all about those warm-and-fuzzy people skills. Yes, it’s true people skills are a part of the equation, but that’s just for starters. While hard skills refer to the technical ability and the factual knowledge needed to do the job, soft skills allow you to more effectively use your technical abilities and knowledge. Soft skills encompass personal, social, communication, and self-management behaviors. They cover a wide spectrum of abilities and traits: being self-aware, trustworthiness, conscientiousness, adaptability, critical thinking, attitude, initiative, empathy, confidence, integrity, self-control, organizational awareness, likability, influence, risk taking, problem solving, leadership, time management, and then some. Quite a mouthful, eh? These so-called soft skills complement the hard ones and are essential for success in the rough-and-tumble workplace. You can have all the technical expertise in the world, but if you can’t sell your ideas, get along with others, or turn your work in on time, you’ll be going nowhere fast.
However you define them, soft skills still suffer from a fundamental lack of respect. After all, how could anything described as soft be valued in the hard-charging, results-driven business world or impact the bottom line? Soft skills are generally viewed as “nice to have”—maybe even something you are just born with—but not critical for success. This attitude always makes me chuckle. It’s like saying that Yo-Yo Ma has a brilliant career as a cellist solely because of his genes. While no doubt some of his musicianship and subsequent greatness may be linked to DNA, it belies all of the other elements that have contributed to his phenomenal success: disciplined study and practice, collaboration with ensembles, making sound career decisions, taking risks, developing and promoting his brand, dealing with conductors, and connecting with his audience. In Yo- Yo Ma’s case, as in most situations, the soft skills are as important, if not more so, than the hard ones and deserve our respect. In other words, there’s nothing soft about soft skills.
In fact, companies are finally starting to respect their value, linking competency in the soft skills arena to positive performance appraisals and salary increases. Soft skills have also become a significant consideration for firms in their recruitment efforts. Recent research underscores their importance in the workplace, showing that soft skills competency can be as reliable an indicator of job performance as more traditional qualifications of technical mastery or experience. One study found that the best performing managers at a Fortune 100 corporation had significantly higher levels of self-awareness, social skills, self-management, and organizational savvy. Additional research on more than 200,000 managers and workers links employee recognition with financial performance. According to the data, companies that effectively recognized personal excellence had triple the profitability—as measured by return on equity (ROE)—in comparison with firms that didn't. A simple "thank-you" from the manager can have a dramatic impact on the company's bottom line!
Even though companies today are placing more value on soft skills, most of us are still out on our own when it comes to developing our personal repertoire. Despite collectively spending more than $50 billion on training programs for employees, many corporations fail to offer soft skills programs at all. And when they do provide them, the programs are often exclusively reserved for “high-potential” employees or senior executives. A comprehensive analysis of U.S. employer-sponsored training confirmed that the most frequently provided instruction consists of new employee orientation, computer applications for end users, technical skills or knowledge, and customer education. Soft skills training—which typically focused on communication and leadership—was provided “as needed,” primarily for top executives. Unfortunately, college and university curriculums—even for advanced business degrees—are doing little more than the corporations when it comes to teaching soft skills. And it shows. A survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that although MBAs were strong in analytical aptitude, quantitative expertise, and information-gathering ability, they were sorely lacking in other critical areas that employers find equally attractive: strategic thinking, written and oral communication, leadership, and adaptability. Increasing workplace and customer diversity across age, gender, racial, and ethnic lines—along with business globalization and virtual offices—have only heightened the need for strengthening soft skills competency.
HOW THIS BOOK WORKS
Throughout the years, I've collected stories about struggles and triumphs in the workplace based on thousands of hours training, coaching, and interviewing people at all levels on the corporate ladder. From these experiences, I've distilled fifty-four important workplace lessons that will increase your understanding and awareness of soft skills by showing you how they are woven throughout your career. Within these lessons, you'll also find practical insights, strategies, tools, and techniques for learning or improving a particular soft skills area. The lessons are organized into eight chapters, each covering particular aspects of your career in which soft skills play especially significant roles: career management, getting the job done, communication, handling critics, office politics, self-promotion, dealing with differences, and leadership.
Get More Career Advice From Peggy
Learn the essential soft skills for taking your career to the next level.
- Buy 'The Hard Truth About Soft Skills'
- Get More Advice From Peggy Klaus
- Visit Peggy's Web Site
- Peggy's Take 24 Soft Skills Quiz
- Is Your Procrastination Telling You Something?
- See More Business and Career Features
Career survival depends on meeting your supervisor's agenda-- not necessarily yours. In chapter 2, I shift the focus onto getting your job done. We'll cover the entire gamut of mission-critical soft skills lessons--from managing the details to managing your time, from being viewed as a problem solver with a can-do attitude to not letting the use of common sense fall through the cracks.
When it comes to communication, the whole shebang can do you in. That's why you need to be on high alert when it comes to everything from minding your words to minding your manners. And although technology has revolutionized communication, you'll find out in chapter 3 why the basics matter more than ever in a world that's filled with increasingly distracted people. I'll zero in on soft skills under the communication umbrella, such as opening your ears and adjusting your communication accordingly, asking the right questions, and displaying confidence and authenticity when presenting--even when your nerves are trying to get the best of you.
Chapter 4 brings you face-to-face with the realization that you are always being judged, so you better get used to it. From making a good impression the first time (and every time!) around to drawing on conflict-resolution techniques when confronted with heated situations, the lessons in this chapter will bring to life a variety of soft skills needed for handling criticism and your critics.
Are you apolitical and proud of it? Like the air we breathe, politics is everywhere, including at work. Yet when it comes to office politics, most people fall into three camps: those in denial, those who think they are above the fray, and those who claim playing politics at work simply isn't that important. Chapter 5 focuses on how misperceptions like these can send a career into the danger zone and why it's critically important to learn the unspoken rules of your workplace. I'll highlight some of the essential soft skills of office politics: organizational awareness, spreading your influence, having a mentor, managing up, deflecting gossip, and handling office romance.
Chapter 6 starts off with a simple question: "Do you think branding is just for cows and that brag is a four-letter word?" If so, think again. In this chapter, I'll be covering some of the key soft skills associated with self-promotion, from personal branding so you stand out in the crowd to learning how to toot your own horn--especially when surrounded by people with sharp elbows.
As the forces of technology and globalization merge, our workplaces are becoming increasingly diverse. The lessons in chapter 7 highlight the factors that can bring about friction, while offering a whole slew of soft skills for dealing with issues that rise from generational, gender, and cultural differences: emotional self-control, motivating those who operate from a different competitive mind-set, finding the best in every person, and keeping ourselves in check when it comes to stereotyping.
Do you have an assistant? Surprise! You're a manager. While for many the holy grail is a position in management, not everyone is cut out for the job--and those who do advance into management roles often struggle with their leadership skills. From recognizing your strengths and weaknesses so you can address shortcomings to influencing people to think and act the way you want, in chapter 8 I'll uncover some of the most important soft skills just beneath the surface of good leadership. I'll end with some final thoughts on the benefits of having enough humility to know when it's time to go back to the drawing board.
So keep reading, and you'll find out more about how soft skills have a tremendous effect on nearly everything you need to do to get ahead at work. And that's the hard truth.
Copyright © 2007 by Peggy Klaus. Posted with permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
The MIT Leadership Center is dedicated to advancing the extraordinary knowledge, perspectives and experiences that enable leaders to transform their passion into action. World-class researchers and practitioners combine energy and intellect to create cutting-edge theory, pragmatic tools and innovative education. Operating at the dynamic nexus of technology and business, the Center prepares present and future leaders to take on the world's most formidable challenges.
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Sunday, November 23, 2008
Monday, September 1, 2008 by Dan McCarthy
"A question on talent pools. We have a talent pool comprising executives of different ranks. After putting them through a development phase (different soft skills), the question is how do we evaluate the impact of all these soft skills. As you know it is really hard to do that. How would you approach this situation? Any ideas welcome."
First of you, good for you for establishing a “talent pool”, instead of lists of replacements for specific positions. Other than a few critical positions (i.e., CEO, CFO, CTO), I think that’s the way to go. Although I’d advise not mixing levels in the same pool.
I do have to take issue with the term “soft skills”. I hate the term. I know it’s a commonly used term with line managers, and I’m all for using simple terms that managers can relate to (like ROI, P&L). However, I think we owe it to ourselves to educate ourselves and our managers about what’s important when assessing, hiring, and developing senior leaders. “Soft skills” sounds like fluff, while “hard skills” must be more important.
Here’s a typical success profile for a senior manager:
- Creates strategic advantage
- Promotes a global perspective
- Uses sound judgment
- Uses financial acumen
- Manages and improves processes
- Leads change
- Coaches and develops people
- Inspire trust
Most companies – or leaders – don’t fail because of a lack of technical skills. It’s almost always due to what many would call a lack of a critical “soft” capability.
Back to your question – if you’re trying to improve these skills, how to you know if you have or haven’t? And if you have, what’s the impact?
That’s a question the training industry has been struggling with since the early cavemen were teaching fire-starting and wooly mammoth hunting techniques. There have been stacks of books and research that address that topic, and quite frankly, I think it’s something we in the training industry obsess about too much. I suspect a lot of training measurement activity is self-serving, and if we were doing a good job, line executives wouldn’t really care. Think about it – does the finance and accounting
Given that, it is important to have some sense of if what you’re doing is working. I’ve written a previous post called “Six Ways to Measure the Impact of Leadership Development” that provides some guidance on high-level measures.
Here’s a few ways to measure the impact of a specific program:
1. Ask the members of your talent pool. Either through interviews, surveys, or focus groups, you can ask them:
- How satisfied they were with the development
- Their perception of their skill improvement
- Their perception of their behavior change
- Their perception of the business results achieved as a result of the development. Even better if they can put an estimated dollar amount on the ROI.
The time to think about measurement is really BEFORE you design a development program, that way you can get a baseline of current skill level. That way you can compare before and after. Again, you can use surveys or self-assessment, you can even administer before and after 360 degree assessments (make sure you allow 3-6 months for the change in behaviors to become noticeable).
- Dan McCarthy
- I’ve been a practitioner in the field of leadership development for over 20 years. I’m currently the Manager of Leadership and Management Development at a Fortune "Great Place to Work", "Training Top 125", and "High Impact Learning" (HILO 80)company. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and don’t represent the views of my current or former employers. I’m married, have two daughters, and had an old lab named Annie.
- Source: http://www.greatleadershipbydan.com/
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Profit-Driven Training Programs for Partners and Customers
October 2nd, 2008 1:00 pm Central
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Optimize Your Investments: Ensure the Life of Your Enterprise System After Go-Live
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The Increasing Speed of Change and Its Impact on Business
November 7th, 2007 1:00 pm Central
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Thursday, November 20, 2008
Concerning soft skills, there are two measurements involved just as there are with quality.
First, there is measurement of the manager's compliance with using soft skills. This requires precisely defining those skills just as one would define quality standards.
Second, there is measuring the effect of the result of the use of soft skills or the use of quality standards. This would mean measuring productivity for soft skills or increased sales and consumer satisfaction for quality.
I think that we know how to make the second measurements, but that we don't have a defined set of measurable soft skills. As a starting point, I would recommend the following test.
This is a simple test of 10 questions. Rank a manager on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best or almost always, 1 being the worst or almost never. Add up the points for each question.
If the score is close to 100, I would expect that employees will be over 3 times more productive than if the score was 30 or less. In addition, with a score close to 100 employees will unleash their full potential creativity and innovation, love to come to work and have very high morale. :)
DOES THE MANAGER
-provide regular and frequent opportunities for employees to voice complaints, suggestions and questions, provide reasonable and timely responses, and give employees what they say they need to do a better job? (At least weekly?)
-elicit answers/responses from the team and get them to use their brainpower to solve problems?
-listen to employees with 100% attention without distraction, without trying to figure out a response and with the use of follow-up questions to obtain missing details and suggested fixes?
-refrain from giving orders since by their nature they demeaning and disrespectful and destroy innovation and commitment?
-treat members better in terms of humility, respect, timely and high quality responses, forthrightness, trust, admission of error, etc than they are expected to treat customers and each other?
-publicly recognize employees for their contributions and high performance and never take credit him/herself?
-openly provide all company info to employees to the extent they need/desire?
-use values and high standards of them in order to explain why certain actions are better than others?
-use smiles and good humor with subordinates, not frowns or a blank face?
-generate in employees a sense of ownership?
Does Your Company's
Hiring Process Measure Up?
Measuring Return On Investment
For Soft Skills Training
J.T. Taylor, M.A.
Senior management is demanding cost justification for training more than ever
Translating soft skill training into measurable results
Setting SMART goals
Moving goals into action
Participants list several personal benefits they will receive once they hit their goal. This provides the key ingredient in goal accomplishment - motivation.
Impact - Next we calculate the financial impact achieving their goal will have on the organization. Every goal can be translated into hard numbers. Use questions like: how much time will this save?, how much inventory will be reduced?, by streamlining this area what additional projects will there be time to accomplish? and how much more efficient will I be? There are many ways to turn these questions into hard line numbers, but the easiest is employee compensation. Your company has already determined a return on investment value for it's employees - it is their hourly wage. (For salaried employees divide your annual salary by 2 to get your hourly wage, i.e. $50,000/2 = $25.00 hr). For every hour saved because of hitting that goal (based on the employee's training session) the employee is that much more productive, thus more valued to the company. Project the savings over a 12 month period to get a grand total.
Next, I have participants break goals into specific tasks. This becomes their daily action plan for achieving the goal.
And finally, I encourage them to share the goal with their supervising manager. The manager can then review the projected cost savings or increased productivity estimates for validation as well as offer ways to support the direct report in his/her goal. Incidentally, if the supervising manager agrees the goal will have a concrete bottom line impact of X amount it strengthens the employee's negotiating stance when review/raise time comes up. This approach also gives supervising managers (i.e. HR Directors) concrete financial projections they can relate to senior management regarding training return on investment.
Note: The industry standard for measuring training effectiveness was formulated by Donald Kirkpatrick. He explains four levels of training effectiveness in his book, Evaluating Training Programs - The Four Levels (1959). The four levels are: reaction (learner satisfaction), learning (retention), behavior (skill translation to job), results (business impact). Jack Phillips has added a fifth level in, Return on Investment in Training and Performance Improvement Programs (1997). He offers a fully integrated, statistically accurate guideline to measuring return on investment. If you want to go deep into measuring ROI scientifically I recommend Phillips approach.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
The Learning CONSORTIUMWe are 252 organizations seeking a few new colleagues. We include the learning leaders of some of the largest companies in the world (e.g., Wal-Mart, Home Depot, British Airways, Wendy's International, Ericsson Inc. and American Express). Every day throughout the year, Learning CONSORTIUM members turn to each other and the staff of The MASIE Center for benchmarking, networking, research and collaborative projects in the Learning and Training field.
Here are a few examples of how our CONSORTIUM benefits from collaboration on a daily basis:
- A member contacts the CONSORTIUM office to identify 2 members using a specific Learning Management System to get references, context and experiences.
- Six members work together on a working group considering alternative models for employee Orientation and On-Boarding.
- Elliott Masie conducts 1-to-1 coaching sessions with learning executives from two member organizations.
- Members participate in a rapid fire "poll" to benchmark spending per employee on Compliance issues.
- MASIE staff member attends a conference and sends a PodCast and text summary to all CONSORTIUM members.
- Members provide Microsoft with input on how their new operating system could support content sharing for learning.
- A member brings several of its business leaders to The MASIE Center Lab in Saratoga for a strategy session on the futures of learning and collaboration.
More than 1,000 people in 252 organizations worldwide collaborate and learn together on the issues and challenges you face. Together, we are evaluating, inventing, revising and improving the exciting field of learning! This is a community of trust, appropriate confidentiality and syndicated efforts to enhance the effectiveness of our efforts on learning and training.
The Learning CONSORTIUM is a small and very focused organization. The charge is only $5,000 per entire company for a year of service, collaboration and events. Our model is to be a long-term trusted collaborative of learning professionals that is vendor-neutral and ethically based.
Learning CONSORTIUM Resources:
The Learning CONSORTIUM is a non-stop source of learning resources, invitations to benchmark, common work projects and exclusive access to Elliott Masie's research and development activity.
Here are just some of the resources that your organization can access:
- LifeLines: Member-to-member requests for specific information, experience and resources (e.g., "How are organizations changing their leadership development programs for international employees?).
- CONSORTIUM Staff for Support & Coaching: Elliott Masie, Ria Christian and Brooke Thomas (member requests and research), and Chryseis Hunt (sales).
- Benchmarking for Learning: Periodic surveys and scans on key industry topics, which gather information to help you find organizations for member-to-member dialogues and industry trend analysis.
- Events, Meetings & Classes:
Learning 2008: Each member organization receives two complimentary seats to our annual fall Learning conference.
Semi-Annual and Regional Roundtables: Regional CONSORTIUM-only meetings on key industry topics.
MASIE Center Events: Discounts on the wide range of Elliott Masie's classes and briefings.
- Learning Briefings with Elliott Masie: Receive personalized briefings twice a year by Elliott Masie. These are 30-minute, live telephone briefings for your team, focused on changing trends in Learning or on key learning issues selected by your organization. The briefings are often scheduled as part of a staff meeting, team retreat or as part of an internal global learning conference. The briefings can also be scheduled with senior executives in your organization and digitally captured for later use by a wider audience within your organization.
- LifeLines and Mutual Support: Information and resource sharing among members about your questions through out on-line discussion board tool.
- CONSORTIUM Projects: Opportunities to participate in active projects and receive updates. Current topics include 3-D Learning, Mobile Learning and Learning Polls.
- Representation: The Learning CONSORTIUM will represent your organization on national and international committees, including SCORM, AICC and LETSI.
- Content Focus:
Learning Strategy and Management
3-D Virtual Learning
Shared Learning Services
- Monthly Calls: Telephone conference calls about key industry initiatives related to your business, technology and learning decisions.
- Learning Reports: Just-in-time reports on the learning priorities and issues raised by CONSORTIUM members.
- Video/PodCast Perspectives: Brief updates from Elliott on key learning priorities and issues raised by CONSORTIUM members.
Annual Membership Fee:
The fee is $5,000 for one year from your date of acceptance into the CONSORTIUM .
The Learning CONSORTIUM is an active community of practice and learning. We expect our members to:
- Participate in on-going benchmarking, networking, and dialogues
- To refrain from "selling" CONSORTIUM Members at group events
- To participate in a fashion that builds trust and openness within the group and honors diverse perspectives and also the confidentiality and competitive roles of members
The CONSORTIUM is looking for a few additional members, primarily large organizations implementing Learning across the enterprise and a few larger vendor/suppliers.
The MASIE Center staff reviews all applications for membership in the Learning CONSORTIUM. We ask that each organization applying complete the on-line form and submit to our office. We will then schedule a telephone interview to process this application.
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