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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Seven Tips for Becoming a Better Boss

Want to build a better workplace? Follow these tips from the leaders of companies recognized in the annual Best Small Workplaces list.

Is better hiring and retention high on your to-do list this year? Many people need to do more with less nowadays. A great way to start is with better management and more effective workers.

It’s easy to see why companies would want to start building a great workplace. Where to begin can be more difficult to discern. This lack of clarity makes it tough to take focused actions that move a company forward. In some cases, it can even be discouraging to a leader if the scope and breadth seem too large to overcome.

If you’re among those aspiring to build a better workplace, even a great one, here are seven tips from the leaders of companies recognized in this year's annual Best Small Workplaces list.

1. Begin with yourself. “In order to build a great workplace, you must first build yourself by gaining a deep understanding of your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, and you must completely commit to developing yourself into the best leader and person you can be. At the same time, you must hire outstanding people who are as committed as you are to build a great workplace.” — Robert Pasin, Chief Wagon Officer, Radio Flyer

2. Flip the traditional management dynamic. “Treat every employee as a colleague, and turn the management structure upside down. If you are hiring well, then the management of the company is there to support the talent and aspirations of your employees, and not the reverse.”  — John Saaty, CEO, Decision Lens

3. Hire the best. “Hire people smarter than you. This is the best advice my father gave me when I was starting my business, and I believe it holds true today. In today's competitive environment, your time at work will be easier and more pleasant if you are surrounded by smart people — those who share your values, mission, and vision and like to have FUN! Talented employees will help your business to grow, and create a great place to work. Customers value knowledgeable employees — the smarter your new hires are, the better off your business will be in the end.”  — Lauren Dixon, CEO, Dixon Schwabl

4. See employees as whole people. “Every employee has things in their life more important than work. If you fail to realize that, there will be a fundamental disconnect in your relationship with that employee. Realize it and embrace it, and you will be on the way to a mutually beneficial relationship. ”  — Tim Storm, CEO & Founder, FatWallet

5. Use positive, constructive motivation. “It’s said that eight out of 10 people come to work in the morning wanting to make a difference, but by lunch it’s down to four. That’s usually a result of the environment more than anything, not just the physical but the interpersonal. Lead your employees with a clear vision, support them with adequate resources, and possibly most important — reward them for treating others with respect. Motivate everyone in a positive, constructive way, and your biggest problem will be having to build more office space sooner than you thought!”  — Tim Hohmann, CEO, AutomationDirect

6. Practice accountability to your values. “Hold everyone accountable to your core beliefs and values, including you. No ‘license to kill’ is allowed no matter how much money someone brings into your business. Otherwise, a double standard develops which will derail the creation of a great workplace.”  — Jim Rasche, 3EO, Kahler Slater

7. Start now. “Don’t wait till you get bigger to put in place key items, such as staff surveys, peer interviewing for hiring and clear standards of behavior [developed by staff].” — Quint Studer, CEO and founder, Studer Group

Adapted from MSN
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Published by Gusti Putra at: 3:19 AM

Tips on Overcoming Workplace Phobias

How to overcome phobias in the workplace

Few people truly love public speaking. So when you have to give a big presentation to your boss and a room full of your peers, it's normal to feel nervous, get a little sweaty and rejoice once the presentation is over. Yet for some, the idea of public speaking evokes such fear that it's debilitating and renders them unable to participate. That kind of anxiety may be considered a social phobia.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 5.3 million Americans suffer from a social phobia, an overwhelming anxiety and self-consciousness in social settings. What's more, the institute estimates that more than one in 10 Americans have one or more specific phobias. WebMD defines phobia as "a lasting and unreasonable fear caused by the presence or thought of a specific object or situation that usually poses little or no actual danger."

A variety of phobias -- both social and specific -- could be manifested at work. Psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of "A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness," names fear of heights, elevators, flying and germs as examples of phobias that could interfere with work. Others may be more specific, such as the fear of making a decision, the fear of computers or the fear of speaking on the phone. So what should a worker do if he has a phobia he believes may hurt his job performance?

Be upfront in an interview 
If you have a phobia that is associated with any part of the job description and you don't think you'll be able to perform that task, you should be upfront during an interview. "The only time you really need to mention your phobia during an interview is if the phobia will prevent you from doing the job for which you are interviewing," Lombardo says. "For example, many people who are phobic of flying still do actually fly. So in this case, there is no need to bring up your fear. However, if you refuse to fly and the job description includes travel that requires flying, you need to mention this during the interview."

Work with human resources
A phobia can be considered a disability if it limits a major life activity, says Scott Barer, a labor and employment law attorney. "For example, if the phobia rises to the level of, or causes, a mental disorder that limits a major life activity, then the phobia could be considered a disability," he says. "In that situation, the employee has rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and likely under similar state laws."

If the phobia rises to the level of a disability, "then the employer has to engage the employee -- or applicant -- in an interactive process in order to try to find a reasonable accommodation that will allow the employee or applicant to perform the essential functions of his [or] her job," Barer says. "Only in the rare situation where an accommodation would cause the employer an undue hardship is the employer not required to accommodate an employee's disability."

So what does this mean? If you believe your phobia will get in the way of your job performance, say something to human resources, and they can work with you to develop a plan that will work for both you and the company.

Build confidence
If having to deal with a phobia in your workplace is inevitable, Lombardo recommends gradual exposure as a way to build confidence and address the fear. "Take smaller steps to allow you to be more comfortable," she suggests. "For example, if you are fearful of giving a presentation, try speaking in front of a group of three to five people for five minutes, three times a week. As you do, your fear will decrease. Then, increase the number to seven to eight people." Beyond working with co-workers, Lombardo also suggests looking into organizations that help build specific skills. One such company is Toastmasters International, which is dedicated to helping members improve their speaking and leadership skills.

Attempt to overcome your phobia
Lombardo shares three tips for working to overcome your phobia:
  • Address your stress: Phobias become stronger when overall stress levels are high. So take steps to reduce stress, such as meditation, exercise or deep breathing.
  • Distraction: What you focus on gets bigger, so, for example, rather than focusing on your fear that the plane will crash, distract yourself by having a few good movies and magazines available to keep your mind on something else. The topic should be light, not stressful.
  • Exposure: Ironically, avoiding your fear makes it stronger. A technique called systematic desensitization causes you to couple your fear with relaxation techniques. So, just like how Pavlov's dog salivated at the sound of the bell, people's bodies will relax, or at least not be so tense, when they are exposed to their phobia.

Seek help
The best approach to overcoming a phobia is to seek help. While every phobic person is unique and requires a treatment plan that specifically addresses his phobia, Lombardo says that phobias are very treatable with the right approach. "Sites like, and many insurance company sites, allow you to search for a psychologist by location and specialty -- in this case, phobias," Lombardo says. "If you are really in a bind for money, community mental health center[s] could be an option. Or look into a local graduate program for psychologists or counselors. Often students, under the supervision of licensed professionals, will work with clients for little or no money."

Courtesy of MSN
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Published by Gusti Putra at: 3:08 AM

Monday, February 13, 2012

Meanings of 10 Valentine's Day Flowers

Whether you’re planning to give—or hoping to receive—flowers this Valentine’s Day, brushing up on the meaning behind the blooms will likely inform your choices or heighten your appreciation of your sweet-smelling gift. Think a rose is just a rose? Read on to find out what 10 popular Valentine’s Day flowers really symbolize.


Not surprisingly, this classic bud is “the most popular choice for Valentine’s Day,” says Kate Law, Product Design Manager at It could be because red roses symbolize love, romance, beauty and perfection. The iconic flower is also known for being pricey—according to Michael Gaffney, Director of the New York School of Flower Design, “flower growers hold back their rose bushes for months in order to have them bloom in time for February 14th—and then they raise the prices, giving roses that sought-after reputation.”

Gerbera Daisies

Daisies are known for symbolizing beauty, innocence and purity, says Law. The Gerbera variety, recognizable by their large flowering heads, is available in an assortment of peppy hues, which gives them the additional meaning of cheerfulness. The happy buds are “always a favorite to receive,” she says.


“Tulips stand for perfect love,” says Gaffney. The elegant and easily identifiable blooms are one of the most popular flowers in the world but are most often associated with the Netherlands, where they flourished in the 17th century. They convey comfort and warmth, says Law, and are a good Valentine’s Day pick since they’re classic and affordable.


Otherwise known as Peruvian lilies, these long-lasting, attention-grabbing petals represent friendship and devotion, says Law. They’re native to South America and feature multiple blooms per stem, which make for voluptuous arrangements. Perhaps best of all, they’re easy to find in most neighborhood supermarkets.

Casa Blanca Lilies

These white Oriental lilies typically stand for “beauty, class and style,” says Gaffney. “A man who creates a bouquet with these dramatic—and expensive––lilies is sophisticated and knows his partner well.” And, notes Law, people love these stunning blooms’ heady fragrance.


According to Gaffney, these rare blossoms symbolize love, beauty, luxury and strength. Plus, they send the message of exotic seduction. “If someone gives you orchids, they’re a little wilder than the person who goes for a dozen roses.” Orchids also hold up well over time, says Law, both in bouquets and pots.


These ruffled blooms stand for fascination and new love. “For some reason, carnations get a bad rap,” says Gaffney. “But I love them; they’re marvelous flowers.” Even better, these cheerful blooms are hearty and very affordable.


Like the sun they’re named for, these blossoms represent warmth and happiness, says Law. They also stand for loyalty, according to Gaffney. Though the bright yellow blooms scream summertime, these spirit-lifting flowers are available all year round.


In some parts of the world, dark blue or purple irises indicate royalty, according to Law. No matter their color (they’re most commonly seen in blue, white and yellow), they stand for faith and hope, says Gaffney. Mix them up with red tulips or daisies for a “striking combination,” suggests Law.


Loaded with fragrance, these elegant flowers signify purity and joy, and connote deep, old-fashioned love, says Gaffney. “The man who buys these likely has a history with the woman he’s buying them for.” Because they’re pricey and are sold as single blooms, they’ll definitely make a statement on the holiday.

Courtesy of Yahoo

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Published by Gusti Putra at: 8:03 PM

The 10 worst Valentine's Day gifts

The Teen Worst Presents

We know what you’re thinking: Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday. It’s forced. It’s too much pressure. But if you’re dating this month, you’ll probably wind up roaming the aisles for a gift to give your date on February 14th. And, “like it or not, Valentine’s Day becomes a test in which you have to show you’ve been paying attention to the other person’s taste,” says Christine Silvestri, founder of Urban Shopping Adventures, which gives tours of LA’s shopping districts. 
But choosing the right gift can be quite a challenge: Too many frazzled sweethearts reach into the Valentine’s void for gift ideas and come up with something that’s just plain wrong. To help you avoid joining their ranks, we present the 10 worst presents possible — and what to give your sweetie instead.

1. Ye olde bouquet of red roses and baby’s breath
What’s wrong with it: Yes, you went out and got something nice and romantic. Unfortunately, certain types of flowers are the equivalent of a shrug because they are so predictable and clich├ęd... and the rose bouquet falls into this category quite neatly. Says Kristin, 40, of Lake Geneva, WI, “I was dating a guy who said he adored all my quirks and my adventurous spirit. Then he turned around and gave me a big bunch of roses with the lacy white stuff for Valentine’s. It was embarrassing, because I’m so not the kind of woman you give that to! It made me feel as if he didn’t really know me or get what I was all about.”

Indeed, Frank Leusner, manager of Delphinium Home, a popular gift shop in New York City, says this of the classic red and white bouquet: “There’s absolutely no thought behind it. It’s a copout because it’s just so expected.” Obviously, a gift that says “I’ve never paid attention to your tastes” or “This would also work well on a tombstone” is not a Valentine’s Day message worth sending. Or, consider the way Brittney Cason, relationship advisor for Elevate magazine in Charlotte, NC, puts it: “A gift should never make a woman wonder if you picked it out at the pharmacy while waiting to get a prescription filled on the way over.” 

A simple solution: Ask one of your more florally-inclined friends to name a cool-looking bloom (think calla lily, parrot tulip, Gerbera daisy) and then buy three dozen of those. Or order up a monochromatic bouquet of various blooms in your honey’s favorite color — arrangements look especially striking when the flowers are all one shade.

2. A box of assorted chocolates
What’s wrong with it: “Taking candy from guys you know on Valentine’s Day is the only thing more risky than taking candy from strangers,” says Amy Borkowsky, author of Statements: True Tales of Life, Love, and Credit Card Bills. Let’s face it — not all chocolates are created equal. And while a variety pack of sweets shows that you’re trying to cover the bases, the dark (or milk or white) secret is that some of these morsels will be, well, icky. Do the math: Out of every box of 15 assorted chocolates, a woman will probably have three or so favorites. And there’s all that crazy, frou-frou wrapping as part of the picture — enough satin and ribbon to fashion a child’s “princess bride” Halloween costume. So what would you rather get? Three chocolates you want and 21 you don’t — along with a lot of excess red metallic cardboard? Or a small box of something you actually like? 

A simple solution: This is where a hefty dose of your sweetie’s favorite sweet can come in handy. “Get creative with your packaging or give it as a gift within a gift — who wouldn’t like that?!” says Silvestri. “If you’re dating a Reese’s peanut butter cup gal, she’d rather have a bag of those in a nice hand-painted bowl or wrapped in a soft scarf than a lifetime supply of random chocolates in a heart-shaped box.” 

3. Jewelry in a ring-sized box
What’s wrong with it: In truth, most women love something glittery. But the biggest jewelry mistake a man can make is anything in a ring-size box — be it earrings, a pendant, or a 1 oz. tube of saffron — that’s not, in fact, an engagement ring. Women know there are five key probable proposal days (namely, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s, and her birthday), so giving her false hope on one of them is cruel. “When a girl sees that box, she’s either going to freak out because she’s not ready or hope that it is the ring and then be disappointed, so it’s lose-lose,” says Cason. 

A simple solution: Even if you do get her, say, pink sapphire earrings — which we’re sure she’ll love — wrap them in a shirt box just so she doesn’t get the wrong idea. 

4. Something girlie and decorative like a sachet, a candle holder, a silver wishing stone…
What’s wrong with it: We’re talking about things like rhinestone-studded soap dishes, elaborate aromatherapy dispensing devices, and other stuff people would never buy for themselves. “Anything red and pink and cutesy often winds up being kind of cheap and useless when you look at it on February 15th — the luster is gone,” says Borkowsky. “And any solid red trinket risks saying, ‘I love you — just enough to get you Christmas stuff at 75 percent off.’” Recalls Adrienne, 35, of Cincinnati, “My boyfriend tends to get me things like little heart-shaped pink velvet pincushions or a wreath of red satin hearts for Valentine’s Day, because he thinks that’s in keeping with the theme of the day. I wish I could tell him to stop wasting his money this way. I never use that stuff!” So before plunking down your dough, ask yourself, “Do I see this gift bringing my date pleasure and enjoyment... or do I see it winding up in his or her guest room?” The answer ought to make your purchase decision very clear. 

A simple solution: “Bath products are a great choice,” says Leusner. “You can find scents and formulas that suit your boyfriend or girlfriend’s personality, and most people really enjoy using them.” 

5. A cute stuffed animal bearing a message of love
What’s wrong with it: We’ve never heard anyone admit to expressing themselves best through plush koalas, yet that medium remains popular for many a romantic utterance. “It’s so cheesy,” says Leusner. “When you buy that gift, it could be for anyone — even a child. What’s an adult going to do with a stuffed animal?” We’ll tell you what: stuffed animals get tucked somewhere out-of-the-way. And when the romance dies, the Stuffed Bear of Love serves no practical purpose, so the recipient feels pathetic keeping it around as a reminder of her ex (that’s you) and donates it to a children’s charity. 

A simple solution: Cut to the chase and make a donation in your honey’s name to a charity you think he or she respects. Now that’s a thoughtful gift. 

6. Racy sleepwear
What’s wrong with it: Look, we all know that when you buy someone underwear, it’s more for you than for her. So don’t use Valentine’s Day as your excuse to present all the secret fantasies you’ve been keeping hidden away for the last 364 days. “A lot of the lingerie you see in stores for Valentine’s Day is opposite of women’s tastes,” warns Silvestri. Something that’s not her style can make her feel uncomfortable (figuratively and literally) — and criticized. The point of V-Day is to make couples feel happy about being together, so the last thing you want to say is “I don’t think you’re sexy enough — put this on.” 

A simple solution: Buy a black or lacy version of a type of undergarment she already wears, if you two are intimate enough to know that kind of thing. At least you know you’re somewhere within her comfort zone. Or acknowledge the weather outside with something that will actually caress her skin for more hours than you: long, silk underwear. 

7. Anything that could be considered a small appliance
What’s wrong with it: A toaster, a humidifier, a yogurt maker... trust us, if she needed it so badly, she’d have gotten it already. “Being too practical is a real romance killer — no one wants anything with an electrical cord for Valentine’s Day,” says Silvestri. (Disclaimer: This rule can be waived if you’re buying an mp3 player or pre-loading a digital camera with shots of yourself holding up signs that say “Will you marry me?”). Here’s how one recipient puts it: “My boyfriend knows I love to cook, especially Asian food. But when I unwrapped a rice cooker last Valentine’s Day,” says Amy, 39, of Portland, ME, “it just felt very roommate-like or haus-frau-ish... as if he didn’t see me as this amazing woman who rocks his world.” 

A simple solution: Get her something she absolutely does not need but that you know she’d love, whether it’s a helicopter tour of the city or a pair of microfiber massaging slippers. C’mon, it’s a day for romance, which is supposed to be fun — think about her definition of that and shop accordingly. 

8. A nice bottle of cologne or perfume
What’s wrong with it: It’s a time-honored gift, and all that fancy packaging might actually make you think you’re buying something your pumpkin will love. But the same spritz that reminds you of a splendid beach holiday in Europe may smell like bath day at the zoo to your beloved. Problem is, “Perfume choice is so specific that it’s a real challenge,” says Leusner. “It’s almost impossible to know what smells good to another person.” And let us not forget that nothing says “You smell weird” better than a bottle of concentrated fragrance. Recalls Danielle, 29, of Oakbrook, IL: “I like really feminine floral perfumes. When my boyfriend gave me this intense, musky stuff one year, I felt like, ‘Do you not know how I like to smell? or are you trying to tell me you wished I smelled like someone else?’ It really did a number on my confidence!” 

A simple solution: Buy a soap, aftershave, or other body product in a fragrance that your loved one already has, or go for a high-end unscented body lotion. 

9. A tie
What’s wrong with it: “Women actually have a harder time than men shopping at Valentine’s Day, because there are fewer gift options for men than for women,” says Silvestri. “Still, a tie is a big yawn.” It’s amazing how many women complain about generic gifts and then hit the tie aisle for their man. At best, the tie is by a great designer — which the guy likely won’t care about. At worst, it’s a novelty accessory featuring pigs, the Blues Brothers, or some other unwearable gimmick. But usually, it’s just “about” the color the guy usually wears, meaning he already owns a dozen of ’em.

A simple solution: Head a little further into the menswear section and pick out a great scarf instead — it’s more casual and therefore more wearable; some fun or extra-soft (cashmere, maybe) socks; or another item that shows a dash more originality. 

10. A gift certificate
What’s wrong with it: It’s one thing to not know exactly what your cutie might want, but it’s another to throw in the towel entirely. “Gift cards are too impersonal and disappointing,” says Borkowsky. “There’s no actual gift, yet you know how much someone spent. It’s like saying, ‘Happy Valentine’s Day, honey — I got you a price tag!’” Any gift for a service or store your partner doesn’t already frequent could be read as your attempt to change the person to your pleasing. 

A simple solution: Take the money, reread our suggestions above, and give gift-giving your best shot. Or, to earn bonus points, call your honey’s best pal and ask what to get — that will make a great impression on many levels. 

Adapted from Yahoo
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Published by Gusti Putra at: 7:45 PM