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Listening is one of the most important, yet most underrated, management skills. It may seem like a simple, even passive, task, but being an effective listener actually requires concentration, effort and time. Keep these five easy steps in mind in your everyday office interactions and dramatically improve your listening skills.


1. Keep eye contact.

When someone is talking to you, stop what you are doing and face him. It’s easy to become distracted by emails, cell phones or stacks of papers on your desk, so take a break from multitasking to look the speaker in the eye.


2. Acknowledge what you are hearing.

It is important for the speaker to see that you are actively listening. Acknowledge what she is saying by nodding your head encouragingly, saying “Uh huh” or adding an occasional short comment when appropriate. Keep your body language open and inviting, and be aware of your facial expressions (eye rolling, frowning or eyebrow raising can be roadblocks in communication).


3. Don’t interrupt.

This rule can be a challenging one for most people, but when mastered, it will improve your listening skills by leaps and bounds. It takes restraint and effort to listen without mentally formulating your responses or rebuttals or interrupting the speaker with your own thoughts. Be respectful, and wait until the speaker pauses to comment or ask clarifying questions. If you allow the speaker to finish his thoughts, you will often find your questions have been answered already.


4. Give feedback and clarify what you are hearing.

Keep an open mind as you listen, and try to set aside any personal biases or assumptions. To avoid miscommunications, occasionally paraphrase what the speaker has said (“What I’m hearing is…”) and ask if you are understanding correctly. Make sure your questions stay on topic and don’t distract the speaker from the topic at hand.


5. Respond calmly.

When the speaker has finished what she has to say, take time to think about what you have heard. Remain respectful, calm and understanding when you respond, keeping in mind how this person would like to be treated. Express your opinions honestly, and work with the other person to find solutions, if necessary.


Start using these tips to improve your listening skills, and learn more about management development through the Communicating to Manage Performance  course.

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Kindergarten Life Skills for Personal AccountabilityAs you grow older and become more established in the business world, you are expected to be a serious, professional adult while performing your job. Seriousness and professionalism are both valuable qualities in the workplace, but you might be surprised by how you can apply the simple life skills you learned in kindergarten to your current job and organization. Getting back to basics can improve your approach to leadership, management training courses and personal accountability, and the results will benefit your company as a whole.


  • Play fair and be nice.

Remember the old adage “treat others as you want to be treated”? It is just as true in business as it was in school. Be respectful of your colleagues, superiors and employees, and show appreciation for their time, talents and ideas. Avoid office politics and gossip; if you have a problem with a co-worker, address it calmly and honestly or seek mediation and conflict resolution assistance if needed.  Employee development courses will serve you well.


  • Use your imagination.

Once upon a time, you were able to imagine a pile of sheets and pillows formed an imposing fort—drawbridge, moat and all. Now you can use your imagination to think of creative business plans, innovative solutions to problems and new products or services for your organization. When you are in need of inspiration, gather your team around a blank whiteboard or easel and let the ideas flow. Don’t be afraid to draw outside the lines and take some risks—you may be handsomely rewarded.


  • Clean up your own mess.

This rule can be interpreted both literally and figuratively: 1) Keep your work area tidy, and be respectful of shared spaces, and 2) Accept personal accountability when you make a mistake, and do everything you can to fix it. Learn from your errors, take responsibility for your actions and try not to make the same mistake twice.


  • Lead a balanced life.

As a child, it’s easy to find the balance between work and play, activity and rest. As an adult, the lines get blurred as you work long hours, take projects home and eat lunch at your desk. Recognize that giving yourself time away from work to rest and recharge is necessary for increased productivity and efficiency. Take breaks throughout the day, work reasonable hours and encourage healthy habits among the rest of your team.


What life skills did you learn when you were young that you still use as an adult? Add to the list in the comments below.


Learn more about personal accountability  in the Powerful Choices program.  

Posted by & filed under Communication.

Working with others in some shape or form is necessary for most professions, and collaborating with a team of people can often be beneficial, productive and rewarding.

Some work, however, must be done alone, without outside distractions. Peace and quiet are not always easy to come by during a busy work week, but it is essential to set aside time for solitude to maximize your productivity and personal effectiveness.

1. Find the right time.

Examine your daily schedule and find a block of time (at least 30 minutes to an hour) that you can dedicate to independent, uninterrupted work. For some people, this is first thing in the morning before other colleagues arrive; others prefer a time toward the end of the work day. Stick to your schedule, and do a little work on your solo projects every day.

2. Put it in your calendar.

Once you find a good time, mark it off on your shared office calendar, and let your co-workers know that you are unavailable for meetings during that period. If you have an office with a door, close it. If you work in a cubicle or open-plan space, find a polite signal to inform others that you are working independently.

3. Unplug.

Technological distractions can quickly derail productivity. To maximize personal effectiveness, silence your personal cell phone and close your Internet browser. If you have some web research to do for your work, do it first and then focus on your offline work. Be strict with yourself, otherwise you may end up checking email and watching YouTube videos instead of focusing on your work. For writing projects, consider using a distraction-free writing tool to make it easier to concentrate.

What do you do to stay focused and increase your personal effectiveness?


Find out more about the Increasing Your Personal Effectiveness course.

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It can be overwhelming to try to figure out the behavior and motivations of all the diverse people in your organization. Each person is a complex individual, so how can you possibly understand what makes him or her tick? You may be surprised to learn that complicated behavioral styles can actually be divided into four core types of people:


  • The Dominant Director
  • The Interacting Socializer
  • The Steady Relater
  • The Cautious Thinker

The Disc online personality assessment  identifies the main characteristics of each style and demystifies the process of how to work effectively with different types of people. When you understand patterns of behavior and the internal motivations behind them, it becomes much easier to amplify strengths and minimize fears and weaknesses.

For example, let’s say everyone on your team at work takes the DISC personality assessment, and one person is the quintessential Interacting Socializer. He is outgoing, optimistic, energetic and always at the center of the action. He truly values personal relationships and is positive and supportive to other team members, but sometimes he is less task-oriented and focused than his job requires.

He is genuinely a people person, and his main strengths come from his enthusiasm, sociability and persuasiveness. He is passionate about his ideas and has the ability to influence others to achieve goals. He likes variety and gets excited from change and innovation. The Interacting Socializer naturally supports his colleagues and boosts morale, tending to look on the bright side of any situation.

On the other hand, his weaknesses are that he tends to be impatient, excitable and easily distracted. He may rush through or procrastinate on tasks he doesn’t find interesting, and details may fall through the cracks on projects he manages. He puts a high value on the approval and admiration of others, and he can be sensitive to criticism.

As the manager of an Interacting Socializer, you can tailor his duties to capitalize on his strengths while avoiding his weaknesses. Since he is an emotional thinker who craves approval, give him positive feedback and appreciation for his work whenever possible. He thrives in social situations and constantly changing environments, so make sure he works with others and has a fast-paced, varied routine. To counteract his lack of organization and attention to detail, assign him to tasks that are more “big picture” and pair him with a teammate who complements his strengths.

Learn more about how the Disc online personality assessment  can help you be a better manager.


Posted by & filed under Assessment.

In any given workplace, the staff is made up of people who have different backgrounds, experiences, skills, strengths and challenges. This diversity has the potential to create a powerful team of employees who learn from each other and use their strengths for the greater good of the organization. These differences also have the capacity to cause friction and conflict when personalities and behavior styles clash.

The Disc online test is an invaluable tool that can help your organization avoid the latter situation and achieve the former. It only takes 10 minutes to complete, yet it opens your eyes to your own personality type and how you best relate to others, and it gives you the same insight into the personalities of your colleagues and employees. The more you understand and empathize with the people you work with, the easier it becomes to communicate through misunderstandings and prevent workplace conflict.

DISC Online Test as Mediator & Facilitator

An updated version of the Golden Rule– treating others the way you would like to be treated– is the Platinum Rule — treating others the way they want to be treated. The question is: how do you know how people want to be treated unless you take the time to find out?

The DISC online test asks all the right questions to reveal the “real you”– your strengths, struggles and the kind of support and communication to which you respond best.

For the best results in your organization, have everyone take the assessment, from entry-level employees to top leadership. Each person receives his or her own home page to view detailed results and invite others to observe and respond. Encourage each department or team to share their results with their colleagues and employees and have an open conversation about their discoveries. Ask questions, and make sure everyone has a chance to talk about their own results.

  • Which personality categories did you fall into (The Dominant Director, Interacting Socializer, Steady Relater or Cautious Thinker)? Do you agree?
  • What are your biggest strengths? What are your biggest struggles? What are possible areas for improvement?
  • What do you need in the workplace? What motivates you to do your best work?
  • What is the best way to communicate with you? What tips should others keep in mind?
  • Do you disagree with any of your results? Why?
  • What are the biggest takeaways from this assessment?

Find out more about how the Disc online test can prevent workplace conflict in your organization.

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No matter what the size of your company or the scope of your industry, employees are the most important part of your business. Employees who feel valued and respected are more likely to feel invested in their work and willing to stay and grow with the company. Make strategic employee development a high management priority, and reap the benefits of improved retention, productivity and team performance. A supportive company culture encourages personal effectiveness in individual team members and benefits the team as a whole.


Effective Employees:


  • Communicate well with colleagues to foster teamwork and collaboration
  • Take initiative to create strategic plans and solutions
  • Are accountable for their decisions
  • Are responsive to employee development ideas and make an effort to learn new skills to improve continuously
  • Know their strengths and weaknesses (and how to utilize or improve them)


Increasing Personal Effectiveness in the Office:

1. Listen to your employees.

The easiest way to show your staff you respect their professional opinions is to listen to their feedback, suggestions and ideas. Make time for a casual team meeting or a one-on-one conversation with individual employees. Ask specific questions and carefully take note of their responses.

For example: What processes or systems help the company run smoothly? What changes can be made to improve them? What kind of support would help them do their jobs? What are the most satisfying or dissatisfying parts of their jobs? Each employee knows his or her job best, and you may be surprised by the insight you receive. Encourage honesty and be responsive to all company and employee development ideas. Involve your team in creating solutions for the problems discussed, and keep them updated on steps you are taking to implement changes.

2. Allow them to make decisions (and sometimes mistakes).

An essential part of nurturing employee development at your company is empowering your staff to take on leadership roles and have ownership over projects. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of your employees, and tailor work accordingly. Whenever possible, let team members take responsibility over different parts of a project. They may make mistakes along the way, but they will learn from them and improve their personal accountability on the job (an important part of personal effectiveness).

3. Encourage critical thinking and innovation.

When brainstorming new ideas or solutions to problems, reinforce a “no idea is a bad idea” mentality. Sometimes what seems like a crazy notion is actually the best approach, so leave yourself open to creativity and innovation from your employees.

4. Provide opportunities to learn new skills and gain knowledge.

To retain the top talent in your organization, you must provide opportunities for employee development, allowing your employees to expand their existing knowledge, acquire new skill sets and increase their leadership and responsibility. Promoting continuous learning and management training courses shows you are willing to make an investment in your staff and value their growth and success. Keep your eyes open for potential employee development ideas, and encourage your team to do the same.

5. Give credit where it is due.

Everyone appreciates recognition for a job well done, so don’t be afraid to praise employees for quality work. Small signs of appreciation—an afternoon off, a thank-you note in the employee newsletter or even a simple “great job”—go a long way to improve morale.

Interested in learning more? Find out how the Increasing Personal Effectiveness  course can improve your business.

Posted by & filed under Work Life Balance.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and employees across the country are getting into the holiday spirit with seasonal decorations, baked goods, gift exchanges and festive parties.

The holidays are a perfect opportunity to celebrate and relax a bit with colleagues, but when you work with people who have diverse backgrounds and beliefs, it is also important to keep cultural sensitivity in mind. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, and everyone in your organization should feel comfortable with the festivities. By being aware and making conscious efforts to be inclusive, you can ensure that all of your employees enjoy holiday celebrations.

3 Ways to Build Cultural Sensitivity

1. Use Your Words
Sometimes wording can make all the difference. When writing holiday cards, planning office get-togethers or other related activities, avoid using specific phrases that refer to religious holidays, such as “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah.” Instead, opt for writing “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” on cards and calling the office event a holiday or end-of-the-year party. You could also consider celebrating in an unconventional way– an organization-wide outing to the ice skating rink or an off-the-wall themed party.

2. Give Goodwill
Exchanging gifts can sometimes create pressure or tension within a workplace. Relieve the stress and find an inexpensive and fun way to give presents. Host a “white elephant” or “Yankee swap” gift exchange where everyone brings an anonymous, wrapped present, and people are able to trade or steal the gifts they choose throughout the game. You can determine a reasonable price limit and any rules (for example: something you have at home or something to display on a desk) ahead of time. Gifts should also uphold standards of cultural sensitivity, with no religious meaning.

If you want to do something different from the regular office gift exchange, you could volunteer at a local nonprofit with co-workers or collect a few dollars from each person to donate to a good cause.

3. Offer “Floating” Holidays
The most recent issue of the EDSI professional development newsletter, The Performance Report, suggested giving employees paid time off for “floating” holidays, giving them the flexibility to celebrate their own cultural and religious traditions throughout the year.

How do you encourage cultural sensitivity within your organization?

Learn more about EDSI’s diversity resources.

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As a manager and leader in your organization, it is essential that you stay up-to-date on resources and information that will improve your skills and advance in your career. It can be difficult to find time in your busy schedule to take classes and read books for performance improvement, but there is a convenient solution.


The Performance Report, our comprehensive professional development newsletter, is a free service that delivers useful, action-based tips to your email inbox twice a month. Each newsletter features engaging, thought-provoking content that will challenge you to excel in your current position and inspire you to reach your career goals.


What The Performance Report Has to Offer:


  • Articles and interviews from authors, consultants and other experts in workplace performance
    • Take a look : We interview Chester Elton, the motivational speaker and best-selling author who wrote The Carrot Principle, 24-Carrot Manager and The Invisible Employee, about effective leadership training in a struggling economy.   


  • Step-by-step action plans for topics that concern you as a manager
    • Take a look : What are the attributes of a mindful middle manager, and what steps do you need to take to embody them? Walk through an action plan that helps you be active and improve your influencing style.


  • Workplace simulations that challenge you to solve conflicts (submit your solution and win prizes each edition)
    • Take a look : An employee you directly manage has made numerous errors and you have received complaints from clients and colleagues. When you tried to address the problem, she became defensive and you both exchanged angry words. What do you do to diffuse the conflict?


  • Individual and group activities for hands-on learning
    • Take a look : Do a brainstorming activity and take a short quiz to determine how skilled you are at delegating tasks and what areas you should work on.


  • Reviews of the latest books, assessments and other resources
    • Take a look : Check out this month’s featured tool, 50 Activities for Achieving Change, which contains helpful group discussions, written exercises, role-play scenarios and questionnaires.


Sign up for our top-notch professional development newsletter , and start seeing immediate results in your career.

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This headline for an article in the Houston Chronicle on June 9, 2010, caught my attention  How can this be when the Gallup Underemployment rate reported on June 3, 2010, is still a whopping 19.1%?  Some are leaving for new jobs, but most have no firm offers.

Many stayed in jobs during the recession out of fear, which is never a good reason from an employer’s standpoint.  As morale fell and productivity rose many overworked employees will jump at the chance to leave unless their organization provides employee development courses and management training courses and an ongoing curricuum to demonstrate the investment in human capital..  In fact, many are prediciting a mass exodus of the top performers as the economy starts to turn around and the talent retention problem will grow..

“About 25 percent of companies’ top performers said they plan to leave their current job within a year, according to a survey published in the May edition of the Harvard Business Review.”  This could have a devastating effect to the bottomline of many companies.

One of the key ways to retain talent is to provide talent development and management training opportunities on a continuous basis which demonstrates to the employees that the employer has an interest in their career development plans.  Much less expensive than recruiting, hiring and traing new talent plus the lost opportunity costs.

If you want to learn more about one of EDI’s most popular employee development courses, click on Increasing Personal Effectiveness.

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I received an email from McBassi & Company and I downloaded the whitepaper entitled “Human Capital Management Predicts Stock Prices”

The bottomline is, the stock prices of those  companies that provide training and development and career development, human capital management, outperform the competition.  Why then in an economic downturn, one of the first areas cut is human capital management?  A major reason is that beyond the lip service of ‘our most important asset is our people’, most senior executives at organizations that do not invest in their people in a continuous   effort of improvement, have not been presented with conclusive measurement results.

Our client organizations realize the value of our interventions through the strategic alignment of our programs and the business objectives and the results.  Our courses have had numerous ROI studies over the past three decades.