Posted by & filed under Employee Development.

At Employee Development Systems, Inc. we are keenly aware of how important your time is to you, and we are grateful that you regularly spend some of it with us. Please accept this download of Personal Effectiveness Skillbuilder, compliments of Employee Development Systems, Inc., as a thank-you gift.

As another way of staying connected, join our Facebook community and together we will stay engaged on the topics of personal effectiveness, management, employee engagement and multi-generational issues in the workplace.

Many thanks, and happy holidays!

Posted by & filed under Career Development.

What are your professional resolutions for the upcoming year? If you have not yet taken the time to map out your goals and make a performance improvement plan for 2011, now is the perfect opportunity.

No matter what you hope to achieve at work in the next year– from leadership development and mentoring to team building and conflict resolution– you will find inspiration and support for your goals in the EDSI professional development newsletter. It is free and easy to subscribe, and twice a month you will receive valuable resources, interviews, articles and active learning opportunities delivered to your email inbox. It’s an ideal way to expand your knowledge and advance your leadership skills without taking too much time away from your hectic schedule. Start the new year off on the right foot and subscribe!

Highlights from 2010’s Professional Development Newsletter Issues

December 15

“Manage Across Generations”: Learn how to give your team members the support and guidance they need to improve their performance, no matter what their age.


Give boomers credit for their historical memory and bank of experiences. Coach them in their goals and challenge them to grow in their skills and career by providing guidelines for improvement.

Generation Y

Establish yourself as a “teacher” versus a traditional “manager” for your Gen Y employees. Give ongoing feedback that is toggled with ways to immediately improve.

August 15

An interview with Neal Schaeffer, president of Windmills Marketing: Use social media marketing to communicate and build strong connections with your target audience.

“Remember, at the end of the day, it’s all about people. Social media was not created for businesses, so businesses need to get used to that. It’s important to get people to start talking about your product or service. You are playing on consumers’ turf.”

May 1

“Leverage Stress for Success”: When your job becomes overwhelming and stressful, follow these simple steps for keeping your cool and moving forward productively.

Make better decisions by accepting 100% responsibility for yourself and for everything that happens from this minute forward. Refuse to blame anyone for anything. Your mind will become clear as soon as the anger and blame dissipates, and clarity of thought leads to clarity of purpose.

February 15

“Create a Learning Organization”: Nurture a collective desire to learn and improve within your organization.

Building shared vision is essential to garnering commitment. Improve your chances by being willing to take a stand for the guiding ideas they consider important. Bind people together by creating a shared vision, purpose and values.

What topics would you be interested in seeing in the newsletter? Share your feedback in the comments section.

Are you ready to take the next step in your management and leadership growth? Read the current issue of EDSI’s professional development newsletter and subscribe.

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It goes without saying that strong leadership skills are essential for any successful manager. Defining what makes a good leader is a more difficult task. Our Leading With Credibility  course helps managers find their true leadership potential by becoming more honest, forward-looking, competent and inspiring.

Since leadership is a continuous journey, keep advancing your knowledge by reading engaging, well-written and insightful leadership books as a supplement to your courses and on-the-job training. Kick off your reading list with a few of our favorites.

1. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us  by Seth Godin

A “tribe,” according to management and marketing expert Seth Godin, is a group of people of any size who are connected by a leader and an idea. The nature of business and communication is constantly changing as technology continues to advance, so tribes are no longer necessarily limited by geography or money (for example, a group of people in different countries can use the Internet to work for a shared cause). The Internet may help connect individuals, but it can’t provide leadership. Godin outlines what leadership skills are necessary in the modern world: the ability to connect a tribe, the desire to create change and the willingness to be a leader.

2. On Becoming a Leader  by Warren Bennis

This classic book promotes the idea that leaders are not born, they are made. Warren Bennis, a Distinguished Professor of Business Administration at the University of Southern California and a business consultant, uses 30 interviews with influential leaders (from CEO John Sculley to feminist author Gloria Steinem) to define leadership and offer practical advice for individuals.

3. True North: Discovery Your Authentic Leadership  by Bill George

Bill George, former Medtronic CEO and Harvard Business School professor, focuses his book on the idea that any person who follows his or her inner compass can become an authentic leader. He interviews 125 top leaders to give concrete examples and demonstrate how individuals must build their own personal leadership development plan based on five key strategies. 

4. The Leadership Challenge  by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

Kouzes and Posner’s book is a practical guide for anyone, from a CEO to a new graduate, looking to develop solid leadership skills. They use responses from interviews and questionnaires from more than 3000 leaders in different industries to illustrate the “five fundamental practices of exemplary leadership.” The book inspires readers not only to learn about leadership but to act using the key principles.


What books are on your reading list? Check out our management training book recommendations  to get started.


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“Team building” is often tossed around casually in workplace conversations, but it is more than just a clever business phrase. Creating a cohesive, collaborative team is important in any organization, and it takes leadership and dedication to achieve.

In a successful team, individuals are able to set aside their personal motivations to put the interests of the group first and work toward a common goal. Take note of these strategies to build a strong team and ensure that members truly care about the overall success and health of the organization.

1. Set Clear Goals and Expectations  

A good team is like a finely tuned machine; each member knows his or her role and has the training, support and resources to get the job done. The team as a whole must be aware of its overall short-term and long-term goals and the steps necessary to achieve them. Do you define clear performance expectations for each team member? Does each person know what the desired team outcomes are? Do you check in frequently with individuals to answer questions and make sure there isn’t any confusion?

2. Encourage Employee Engagement

Employees who feel engaged in their work are more likely to be happier in their jobs and more likely to remain committed in the organization. Do your team members feel that their work is valuable to the organization? Are they invested in their jobs and their contributions to the team? Read more about employee engagement tips  you can implement with your team.

3. Build Relationships

Team building is centered around trust, respect and cooperation. For a team to thrive, all members must be able to work harmoniously and collaboratively. They may not be best friends, but a group is able to accomplish far more when members like and respect each other. Give your employees opportunities to get to know each other outside of the office in a more relaxed, social setting. Host a team party or barbecue for a special occasion, such as the holidays or an important milestone for your organization. Celebrate a team victory by taking a long lunch together. Spend a work afternoon volunteering  together at a local charity or nonprofit. Small rewards improve team morale and give employees renewed enthusiasm for their work.

4. Support New Ideas

A key component to team building is encouraging innovative thinking, creative solutions and fresh ideas. Motivate your team to think outside the box and really listen to their suggestions. Schedule regular casual brainstorming sessions, and empower team members to speak up and take ownership of their ideas.

What strategies do you find most successful for building strong teams?

Explore EDSI’s effective team building resources .


Posted by & filed under Conflict Resolution.

When you have a new and exciting idea that will improve the way your organization operates, it’s natural to want to run with it and implement it as soon as possible. Change can unfortunately be slow and painstaking in many organizations, and too often, good ideas become tangled in red tape and abandoned.

Challenging the status quo can be a bumpy road, but it’s important not to give up before you’ve even started. With hard work and perseverance, you can save your brilliant idea from ending up in the trash can.

1. Get straight to the point.

When you are proposing an idea, whether it’s in a meeting, a PowerPoint presentation, a casual conversation or an email, be concise, straightforward and clear about your message. No one wants to sit through a rambling presentation or read a verbose proposal. Lead with your main idea and make it easy for your audience to find your reasoning, supporting evidence, action steps and goals (read more about tips on communication skills).

Your proposal should include a written component that highlights the major points of your idea. Even if you are presenting verbally at a meeting, pass out a one-page sheet that helps your audience follow along and stay focused. Formatting is important; people like bulleted or numbered lists, short paragraphs, white space and headers and bolded phrases that emphasize important ideas.

2. Get others on board.

Challenging the status quo is much easier when you have support from other members of your team. Before you take your idea to the larger group, consider running it by a few other people you think will be good allies. Pitch your concept to them and invite them to ask questions, give feedback and bring up possible obstacles. If they see holes in your argument, chances are, others in your organization will point out the same issues later on. Tighten up your proposal, get buy-in from your initial panel, then open it up to the rest of the team.

3. Welcome debate and discussion.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes debate and disagreement can actually be good for challenging the status quo and guaranteeing the success of your idea. Harvard Business School professor John Kotter argues that conflict gets people’s attention, gives you an opportunity to defend your idea and can eventually win active support:

Worst case scenario, the idea does die. But if it is a nontrivial idea, it will almost certainly need a lot more support than a non-enthusiastic group voting 51% in your favor. My research and experience show that proposals approved in such a way often die a slow and very painful death…

Good ideas need active, engaged support for a considerable time until they reshape how we think about and do things for the better. To make positive, lasting change, you need to energize people, and at a deep enough level to make buy-in — then ultimate implementation — achievable. And you need conflict to accomplish that.

Encourage debate, take on the naysayers and fight for your idea. If you have a viable proposal, you will find supporters and make your idea a reality.

What suggestions do you have for implementing change in your organization? Share your comments.

Learn more about Employee Development Systems, Inc.’s Challenging the Status Quo for Continuous Improvement course.

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Ideally, collaborating with a team of people is an inspiring and productive process. Each person brings his or her own ideas and strengths to the group, and everyone cooperates seamlessly to reach shared goals. Of course, working with a group can also be challenging when you bring together many individuals, often of different generations and varied behavior styles.


It can be stressful and complicated for a manager to stay focused on the tasks at hand while trying to diffuse conflicts among employees. The Dealing With Difficult People course  maps out, step by step, the best approaches to communicating with challenging personalities.


Here’s a glimpse into the skills-based course:


Focus on Behavior


The first step is to focus on an individual’s behavior rather than on the individual’s personality. If he feels as if he is being attacked, he will become defensive and you will lose an opportunity to have an effective conversation. Before addressing a difficult behavior, take time to reflect on a few questions:


  • What is the specific behavior you have difficulty managing?


  • Who is affected by the behavior?


  • What are the results of the behavior?


  • Why do you think this person engages in this type of behavior?


  • How does the behavior hinder your ability to manage?


  • Are you the only one who struggles with this behavior, or have others noticed it as well?


  • Does your management style seem to make the behavior worse?


When approaching this person, keep your responses to these questions in mind and remember that he most likely wants to have a harmonious working relationship as well. Speak assertively and communicate your viewpoint clearly, but also ask questions and remain open to the other person’s opinions and ideas. The more you can listen to each other, the more progress you will make. Focus on how the behavior can change positively in the future instead of dwelling on past mistakes. Take the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and move forward.


Learn more about how the Dealing With Difficult People course  can help your organization.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.


We all have our own pet peeves about the behavior of colleagues, employees and managers at work, from the woman who talks on her cell phone in the bathroom stall to the man who constantly forwards cute kitten YouTube videos to the whole staff.


Office etiquette can be delicate to navigate, so it is important to make sure your own behavior is up to par. Compare your conduct to this checklist, and improve your professional presence.


1. Bring Back Common Courtesy

Sometimes our busy, fast-paced culture makes us forget the basics. Always say “please,” “thank you” and “you’re welcome” sincerely. Hold the elevator and the door for co-workers when you have the opportunity. Look people in the eye when you speak to them, and ask how they are doing (and listen to their responses).


2. Be an Email Pro

Email is becoming a bigger and bigger medium of communication in the business world. We use it to contact co-workers, vendors and clients, so every email we send should reflect the professional presence we work hard to develop in person and over the phone.


  • Use proper English, as you would in a regular printed business letter. Capitalize words where appropriate (but don’t use all capital letters), and check your punctuation, spelling and grammar for errors.
  • Include polite questions and pleasantries, but be concise and get to the point quickly.
  • Don’t use emoticons (smiley faces, etc.) for formal communication.
  • Don’t pass on email forwards to colleagues, even if you think they’re funny.


3. Keep Conversation Respectful

Make sure everyone in your office is comfortable with the topics of conversation. Be clear that there is no tolerance for offensive jokes or comments, foul language or controversial topics. Avoid office gossip and stop the rumor mill whenever possible.  Take any communications skills training that is offered.


4.  Be Aware of Personal Space

In the close quarters of an office, it can be easy to invade other people’s personal space unintentionally. Curb any behaviors that might be loud or invasive to Keep your voice down when speaking on the phone, leave the chewing gum at home and avoid bringing strong-smelling food for lunch.


5. Cut the Cell Conversations

Many people bring their cellular phones with them to work, which is fine as long as the practice doesn’t interfere with your work or the comfort of others around you. If you bring your cell phone to work, be sure to turn off the ringer or put on vibrate. Use it only for important calls that you need to answer immediately; screen all others with voicemail. Find private place to make personal calls when you have to use your cell phone, and never, ever bring it with you into bathroom.


Learn more about improving your Professional Presence in a Casual World 

Posted by & filed under Communication.

A recent court case in France serves as an important reminder that content you publish on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, is not confidential and can come back to haunt you if you don’t exercise smart social media privacy habits.

A French labor tribunal ruled in favor of Alten SIR, a consulting company near Paris that discharged three employees after they posted “denigrating” and “rebellious” comments about their employer on Facebook from their personal home computers. The comments discussed Alten SIR managers, including its human resources director.

Here is the story, according to TLNT, a human resources blog:

The conversation appeared on one of the three employee’s Facebook page, with comments by two other employees, including the individual responsible for recruiting at that company. The comments included the statement by one employee requesting the other to join what he called a “club des néfastes” (club of the “evildoers” or “ill-fated” employees) for those whom Human Resources Director was alleged to have held in poor esteem.

Among the statements in this exchange included an employee’s statement “welcome to the club,” and that in order to join the club des néfastes, members had to make the Human Resources Director’s life “impossible” for many months.

The Facebook page that featured this conversation had relaxed social media privacy settings, allowing “friends of friends,” including other Alten SIR employees, to see it. All three employees were dismissed when the employer saw a screenshot of the conversation. The French court upheld this decision because the employees abused their right of expression by participating in the discussion on Facebook.

This case is a necessary wake-up call for everyone in the expanding information age. Since many of us are among Facebook’s 500 million active users, it is important to reassess our own posting practices. Here are four basic rules to keep social media appropriate and professional.

Savvy Tips for Social Media Privacy


1. Use the strictest privacy settings available for personal pages. Settings often change, so make sure your profile can only be viewed by friends you have approved. Photos have separate privacy settings on many sites as well, so check your albums (and avoid posting pictures that might be embarrassing or incriminating).

2. Be selective about your friends. Facebook and other websites can be a wonderful way to stay in touch with old friends through social collaboration, but keep in mind that the wider your network becomes, the more people who have access to your information. Think twice about “friending” colleagues or superiors within your organization.

3. Use the “mom” rule. Before you post something online, consider what your mother (or father or high school teacher or employer…) would think of it. If you would be embarrassed to have your mom see what you are posting, don’t do it.

4. Be nice. It’s never a good idea to badmouth or attack others, but doing so online an land you in personal and professional trouble. Don’t use social media sites for venting or commiserating with colleagues about your awful boss. Keep it nice, friendly and non-confrontational.

What are your social media privacy rules?

Learn more about EDSI’s Professional Presence in a Casual World course.

Posted by & filed under Communication.

In a perfect world, cooperation between different departments in an organization is a smooth and streamlined process. It is easy to combine complementary skills and knowledge and work together for a common goal; you also know exactly who is in charge of what and how to give feedback, ask questions or request changes.

Unfortunately, social collaboration in most organizations is not always so simple. Departments often operate independently from one another, and it can be time-consuming or confusing (and sometimes downright frustrating) to figure out how to navigate hierarchies, processes and rules different from our own.

For example, consider this hypothetical situation: you are a manager in the marketing and sales department of a company that does most of its customer sales online. Your company’s website is outdated, and your staff is constantly receiving complaints from customers who have had problems with their online orders. You have been lobbying for several months to get approval for a website overhaul that will simplify and improve the online ordering system for your customers, but you have gotten the runaround. After talking to managers in the technology and accounting departments without making any progress, you become frustrated and table the issue. Social collaboration between departments has become an obstacle instead of a solution. Sound familiar?

Ron Ashkenas, an author and managing partner of Schaffer Consulting, wrote a blog post for the Harvard Business Review website this week discussing this common problem. Though Ashkenas recognizes that these situations are challenging, he argues that it is the managers’ responsibility to take the initiative to break out of their comfort zones and do everything possible to achieve interdepartmental social collaboration.


The reality is that all of us live and work within a personal box that constrains what we think we can do. Obviously part of the box is determined by official limits set out in job descriptions, hierarchical arrangements, and formal work rules. But a large part of the box — perhaps even most of it — is self-created and self-imposed. We work within our comfort zones, doing what we think we should do and what we are used to doing. And most of the time we don’t question, challenge, or test those limits, which makes them self-perpetuating.

If managers want to succeed in today’s organizations, they are going to have to redefine their limits and go beyond their traditional comfort zones. Instead of being constrained by reporting lines, they need to driven by whatever it takes to get results (within the limits of respect and integrity) — and if that means chasing down people in other hierarchical structures, so be it.

The comments on the blog post show contradictory opinions from readers: some agree with Ashkenas’ proactive point of view, while others think the “get it done by any means” mentality can actually be counterproductive in an organization.

What do you think? Is this approach the most effective? How have you successfully overcome social collaboration obstacles in your organization?


Learn more about EDSI’s Challenging the Status Quo course.

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Even with four generations in the workforce, there are generally accepted business norms that define professionalism beyond table manners and dress.

1.   Business language should use clearly defined business terms in the correct context with meaningful objectives. As millennials countinue to enter the workforce, organizations need to understand styles and their business perspectives.  However, “dude”, “sweet”, and “wasup” among other terms are not yet in the generally accepted lexicon.

2.   Meetings are a necessary part of the business environment whether actual or virtual.  They should be a setting that everyone is respectful of others’ time and arrive on time.  They should be an environment of collaborative employee development and not just criticism or oneupmanship.

3.   Cellphones or smartphones can be a valuable business tool.  However, they probably should be on vibrate-only during the business day unless that is the only means of communication.  Personal calls should be at an absolute minimum.  They should be turned off during meetings and no texting.

4.   Correct spelling and punctuation define you as an individual.  You are viewed as uncaring and unprofessional if you send correspondence whether snail mail or email or any other media that contains typos, because this reflects upon your employer.

5.   Listen more and talk less.  Listening is a skill that can be developed and by focusing on the conversation, your response is more effective.

6.  Deadlines are necessary evils of the business world.  If you consistently meet your deadlines, you will be viewed as dependable.

7.   Add value by generating new ideas.  Think creatively about new products, saving the organization money, or innovative customer service.

8.   Time management is a hindrance if you don’t schedule your time properly.  Schedule a time each day for planning with most to lest important activities.  You will get more done in less time.

9.   Build your vocabulary.  Start with a word a month and you will be viewed differently by your colleagues and your employer.

10.   Avoid conflict by honing your communication skills training and becoming part of the solution and not part of the problem.