Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.


Reducing your office’s carbon footprint through small, manageable actions can be a smart move in many ways. If you make a commitment to “go green” at work, you protect the environment, create a healthier workplace for employees and save your organization money over time. As part of your employee development foster a culture of conservation by implementing these easy eco-friendly tips.


  1. 1.      Reduce Emissions

Greenhouse emissions add up if every person in your office commutes in a separate car to work. The EPA  estimates that leaving your car at home twice a week can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1,600 pounds a year.


  • Encourage employees to take public transportation by offering discounted bus and metro passes.
  • Set up an organization carpooling chart where people can find co-workers who live nearby.
  • Put in bike racks outside the office to make it easier to bicycle to work.
  • Allow employees to work from home one day a week or try a work week with four 10-hour days instead of five eight-hour days.
  • Consider starting an incentive program  for employees who carpool, take public transportation, bike or walk to work.


  1. 2.      Save Paper

Think twice before you hit the print button, and you can save money and trees by reducing your paper consumption.


  • Conserve paper by only printing what is absolutely necessary and emailing, saving and reviewing other documents in digital format.
  • When you do print, go green and use 100 percent recycled, unbleached paper and print on both sides.


  1. 3.      Power Down

Energy costs can add up over time, but you can cut back on your bills by making a few small changes.


  • Replace light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which last longer and use up significantly less energy than regular bulbs.
  • Use natural light from windows whenever possible.
  • Turn off lights when rooms are not in use and at the end of each day. Consider putting in lights powered by motion sensors for hallways, conference rooms and other spaces that are not regularly used.
  • Turn off all computers, printers and fax machines when you leave for the day. Machines that are infrequently used can be plugged in when needed.


  1. Go Green Meals

Make it easy and enjoyable for employees to make food and drinks at the office instead of buying meals and snacks to go.


  • Buy a small refrigerator for employees to store their brown bag lunches. Stock it with milk, coffee creamer and condiments for everyone’s use.
  • Store reusable mugs, cups, plates, bowls and silverware in a cabinet for employees to use instead of disposable materials.
  • Buy a coffee pot and brew a batch a few times a day to cut back on coffee shop runs.
  • Set aside a break room with tables and chairs for employees to eat lunch and take coffee breaks.
  • Buy biodegradable soap, dish soap and dish towels for easy cleaning.


  1. 5.      Recycle

Make recycling a no-brainer and just as easy as throwing something in the trash can.


  • Place well-marked recycling bins for paper, cans and bottles right next to the garbage.
  • Recycle printer cartridges and old electronics when they are expired.


How do you go green in your office? Add your tips in the comments.


Learn more about taking your leadership skills  to the next level with EDSI.

Posted by & filed under Personal Effectiveness.

As 2010 comes to an end, it is important to take time to reflect on the past year, evaluate your challenges and successes and begin looking forward to the new year. Use the month of December as an opportunity to create a specific performance improvement plan for 2011.Consider your personal and professional goals and the steps needed to achieve them. On January 1, you will be able to hit the ground running, staying focused, productive and inspired for the coming year.

Customize Your Personal Development Plan


1. Before you jump into your plans for 2011, make sure you spend time assessing 2010. In a notebook or a computer document, write down your observations about the last year:
  • What were your proudest achievements? What were your greatest obstacles?
  • What worked? What didn’t? What were the most important lessons you learned?
  • What specific training, skills or knowledge did you acquire? How will this education help you in the future?
  • How did you grow as a leader or manager?
  • How did you grow as an employee?
  • On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate this year? Why?
2. Reread what you wrote about your experiences in 2010 and think about how your reflections will influence your personal development plan for the next year. On a new page, write down your goals for 2011.Start by describing your overall hopes and expectations for the new year. What do you hope to write down next December as your greatest achievements?

Now make a list of all of your major goals for 2011, elaborating on each in detail. For example:

Description: What exactly do you hope to accomplish (in 1-2 sentences)?
  • Goal
    • Reasons: Why do you want to achieve this goal? How will it benefit you personally and/or professionally?
    • Skills, Knowledge or Abilities: What specifically will you be learning or developing through this goal? (For example, will you be receiving training to help strengthen your management style or taking a class on a new software?)
    • Action Steps: What do you have to do to accomplish your goal? Break it down into concrete action steps, and be as detailed as possible.
    • Support Needed: What additional help or resources will you require to make your goal a reality? Do you need financial assistance or help from others in your organization?
    • Potential Challenges: Try to anticipate any obstacles that may stand in the way of you reaching your goal. How can you overcome them?
    • Completion date: Set a projected date to finish this goal, which will keep you more accountable and motivated.
3. When you have finished your personal development plan, print or tear it out and sign it to make it more official. Post your goal list somewhere you will see it every day, and check in on your progress monthly. If you are worried about staying on track, consider asking a friend or colleague to keep you accountable by asking for progress reports regularly.
Have you ever created a personal development plan at the start of a new year? How did you stay focused on your goals?
Learn more about setting goals in Employee Development Systems, Inc.’s Taking the Initiative course.

Posted by & filed under Communicating To Manage Performance.

In work relationships, clear and direct communication is often the key to staying productive and avoiding conflict. It is important to learn to be assertive with your employees and colleagues, without being overly aggressive or, the opposite end of the spectrum, too passive.

Assertiveness training can teach you to express your thoughts, both positive and negative, in an honest and respectful manner, which will help reduce stress and strengthen your relationships. You may be amazed how simply learning to say “no” politely can keep your work life balanced and calm.

4 Guidelines for Assertiveness Training

1. Practice your tone.

Your words are important, but your tone of voice is even more significant. If you speak in an antagonistic voice, chances are, anything you have to say will not be well received. Instead, use an even, firm, calm tone to demonstrate that you have a friendly message to communicate. For example, if a colleague asks you to help with a project you don’t have time for, reply firmly but apologetically, “No, I’m sorry, but my schedule is packed and I won’t be able to do that” (instead of snapping in exasperation that you are too busy).

2. Focus on the facts.

If you need to talk to someone about a sensitive situation (for example, a behavior you would like him to change or actions you disapprove of), describe concrete facts without editorializing or attacking. If you are upset that an employee is regularly arriving late to work, explain to his what the problem is and what the consequences are, then ask for his side of the story. Look for compromises and solutions; for example, if he is late because he is taking his kids to school, you could discuss the possibility of him starting 30 minutes later and making up the time at the end of the day.

3. Be honest and ask for honesty.

One of the greatest challenges of assertiveness training is learning to be honest and accept honest answers in return. Be direct, pleasant and confident when delivering difficult news, using “I” messages to focus on how you feel about the situation instead of judging or attacking anyone. In a discussion, ask questions to try to understand where the other person is coming from. Listen carefully to her responses, and strive for mutual understanding in your communication.

4. Time it right.

Timing has a major impact on how receptive your audience is to your message. Find a time when you can speak in private without interruption or embarrassment. This demonstrates respect for the other person and will make him more receptive to listening to you.

What are your personal assertiveness training tips? Share them in the comments below.


For more on this topic, learn about the Employee Development Systems, Inc. Assertive Communications course.

Posted by & filed under Leadership.

5 Management Training Lessons “Undercover Boss” Can TeachWhat insights can executives gain by going undercover as entry-level workers in their own companies? According to CBS’ Emmy-nominated series “Undercover Boss,” they can learn a series of valuable lessons. As a viewer, you would be wise to learn, too.

Each week, “Undercover Boss” follows a different corporate executive pretending to be a new employee in the company that he or she leads. CEOs at companies such as DIRECTV, Frontier Airlines and Great Wolf Resorts have participated. As the show’s website says about the experience of the executives:

While working alongside their employees, they see the effects that their decisions have on others, where the problems lie within their organizations and get an up-close look at both the good and the bad while discovering the unsung heroes who make their companies run.

Here are 5 things that you’ll learn from “Undercover Boss” by interpreting it as a mini management training course:

1. Get out into the field.

Several of the bosses became aware of issues in their companies only by experiencing them personally. For example, the COO of Waste Management realized that the garbage truck drivers didn’t have time for bathroom breaks because of overly demanding routes.  He was able to modify those policies, maintaining efficiency while taking better care of his workforce. Make a point of getting out of your office and spending time with your employees.

2. Keep an ear to the ground.

Dave Rife, owner and executive board member of White Castle, listened at length to the employees in the company’s fast food restaurants. This is what Rife took away from his conversations, which included both the personal and the professional:

I think I need to be a better listener. Sometimes you hear people but you don’t truly listen to what they’re really telling you. You don’t always read between the lines to pick up the nuance of what they’re telling you. Now I work hard to make sure I’m getting the true message that people are trying to send to me.

3. Engage your employees.

Larry O’Donnell, President and COO of Waste Management said that his undercover experience taught him the importance of employee development. Now the company regularly surveys all employees and gives management an engagement score.  Says O’Donnell:

We want to improve that engagement score throughout the company because we’ve seen the impact that having an engaged workforce can have on the company. Who better to ask how to improve the company than the people on the front line doing those jobs each and every day?

4. Give your employees plenty of room to grow within the company. 

Episode after episode, the CEOs on “Undercover Boss” discover hidden gems on the ground floors of their companies. Often these employees love their jobs but have considered leaving because they don’t see a path for growth.

Roto-Rooter President and COO Rick Arquilla learned that his company’s success depended largely on employee development:

I think you do your very best to create the environment where people can be successful, then have a key eye toward recruiting and keeping talent. I really believe the competitive edge for any company ultimately comes down to attracting, hiring, training, and retaining talent.

5. Stay humble.

Most of the undercover executives got their hands dirty on the job, from installing a DIRECTV satellite on a rooftop as a storm approached to emptying lavatories on a Frontier Airlines plane. While an air-conditioned office may be comfortable, it’s important to remember the day-to-day intensity of many entry-level jobs. Make a point of getting your own coffee sometimes, making your own copies or otherwise fending for yourself. It will make you a more compassionate manager.

What lessons have you learned from spending time with your employees? Leave a comment.

Take your management and employee development skills to the next level with Employee Development Systems, Inc. courses. 

Posted by & filed under Actively Engaged Workers.

For Global Entrepreneurship Week, which took place from November 15 to 21, the blog BrandMakerNews paid tribute to female entrepreneurs around the world:
Women all over the globe are starting their own businesses, playing by their own rules, and earning respect on their own terms.

As we salute the strength, creativity, and passion of women business owners as a whole, we are pleased to introduce you to five female entrepreneurs we had the pleasure of meeting this week. These dynamic women are running their own businesses and making a living doing exactly what they love to do.

The post featured profiles of five businesswomen who created, respectively: a pet photography and design studio, a luxury personal concierge service, an online marketplace that donates a percentage of proceeds to charity, a women’s shoe liner company and a PR and marketing agency. BrandMakerNews congratulated female entrepreneurs for their hard work and ingenuity and encouraged other women to follow in their footsteps.

The business world is still surprisingly male-dominated, despite the fact that US women now outnumber men in colleges and are close to surpassing them in the workforce. A Catalyst Women in US Business report finds 46.3 percent of the labor force is female, but women make up only 6.7 percent of Fortune 500 top earners and 2.4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. According to Business Week, women are also statistically less likely to take the entrepreneurial path than men.

A lack of leadership development opportunities for women may be to blame for this gap, according to a recent study from Development Dimensions International:

Specifically, Ms. Howard and co-author Richard Wellins, a senior vice president at DDI, found women being shut out of “high-potential” programs designed to boost people’s careers by providing experiences such as managing multinational business units or training and support that helps them transition smoothly to higher-level jobs… As both men and women rose through the ranks, the gap widened between the genders in involvement in leadership development programs.

The Columbia Journal of Gender and Law also found that women have a more challenging time in leadership roles; even when performance is equal between men and women, women’s competence is rated lower: “People more readily credit men with leadership ability and accept men as leaders. In one study where subjects were shown slides of a man seated at the head of a table for a meeting, they assumed that he was the leader. They did not make the same assumption when the person in that seat was a woman.”

The US economy is just starting its long road to recovery, and creative thinking and entrepreneurship will be invaluable during the process. Since women make up a growing percentage of the American workforce, it is important to examine the causes of gender discrimination and focus on leadership development for women across different types of industry.

Do you think organizations offer enough growth and leadership opportunities for women?

Learn more about Employee Development Systems, Inc.’s leadership development courses.

Posted by & filed under Leadership.

This is unfortunately a common scenario that happens again and again in many different organizations: employees spend significant time and energy undergoing training programs to improve their performance, and after the training is complete, they go back to their old ways.McKinsey & Company estimates companies around the world spend up to $100 billion a year on employee training and development programs, but only one-quarter of survey respondents said training programs noticeably improved their performance on the job. What will make these programs “stickier” and enable them to create lasting change?

1. Get leadership on board first.
For new ideas and methods to take hold in an organization, it is essential to have the full support of leaders and managers. If they understand and subscribe to the goals of the training, they will be more motivated to lead by example and help others adapt. On the other hand, if leaders in the organization are resistant to change and continue to use the “old ways” of working, employee development programs are much less likely to stick.

2. Practice real-life applications.
One of the most challenging parts of employee training and development programs is finding ways to apply lessons learned to real situations. It can be difficult to translate what you learn in a lecture or a role-playing game into practice in everyday life, so it is essential to integrate practical examples into the training. For instance, if your organization is trying to expand team building activities at the moment, use this opportunity to brainstorm possible ideas in small groups. If you find viable solutions during the training session, make it part of the follow-up for participants to implement their ideas.

3. Dispel myths.
Sometimes employees have a resistance to new ideas because of myths or misconceptions they believe to be true. Addressing and correcting these beliefs during employee development programs is a necessary step toward progress. For example, if people believe project management software is a waste of time, a training on project management tools should include a frequently asked questions and concerns section where you can dispel these myths and illustrate the benefits.

4. Track results.
Surprisingly, McKinsey finds only 50 percent of organizations measure participants’ feedback after employee training and development programs. It is essential to track your results to determine what is effective, what needs improvement and what your long-term return on investment is.

What suggestions do you have for making your training programs more effective? Share your comments below.

Learn more about EDSI’s employee development courses.

Posted by & filed under Personal Effectiveness.

Increasing Personal Effectiveness with Index Cards

If your to-do lists are out of control, it’s time that you tried an inexpensive tool for keeping track of your action items: blank index cards. Much like Post-Its, index cards cost only a few dollars per pack of several hundred, and they can do wonders for increasing personal effectiveness. With practice, they can sharpen your focus, improve your organization, and increase your productivity.

To get started, all you need are two things:

1. One package of 3×5 index cards (color or white)

2. A pen

Now, transfer your mental to-do list onto the cards. In the book “Getting Things Done,” productivity guru David Allen says that the key to personal effectiveness is to declutter the mind. Transform your mess of nebulous thoughts into concrete action items, separated into three categories: Do It, Delegate It, or Defer It. Anything that doesn’t fit into these categories probably isn’t important enough for your time.

Here are two techniques for using the index cards to create action items:

1. Consultant and blogger Chris Brogan recommends this method on

List what’s on your mind.

ALL of it.

When there’s an action required, put an !

Add context to it: @email @call @bankCheck once more.

Put the cards down.

Then, Brogan says to silence all distractions: close any Internet browser tabs and open applications, and silence your phone. Set a timer that will help keep you on task. Then start tackling the cards with exclamation points, action by action.

2. On, productivity blogger Merlin Mann introduces what he calls “The Hipster PDA.” He suggests clipping a stack of index cards together and carrying them around in your pocket. Every time you think of a task or a project, write it on a separate card and move it to the bottom of the stack.

When you get home, sort your stack of cards into three piles: Do It, Delegate It, or Defer It. Within those piles, you can sort by project, priority, or location where you will accomplish each task (on the computer, at the office, etc.). Then, as you accomplish each task written on an index card, throw the card away – or even better, recycle it.

Using index cards to organize your task list will contribute to higher productivity and lower stress, and all for the cost of a latte.

Have you used index cards, Post-Its, or other inexpensive tools for increasing personal effectiveness? Leave a comment!

Check out EDSI’s Increasing Personal Effectiveness course.

Posted by & filed under Actively Engaged Workers.

If you have ever worked with a group on a project, you probably understand that teamwork doesn’t always come easily. Social collaboration, when executed properly, can be rewarding, productive and participatory, resulting in better outcomes than individuals working alone. However, working with others requires concentration, effort and cooperation, and it can be challenging to stay on task and achieve goals.

Take the obstacles out of working with others by using these tried and true social collaboration techniques.

1. Be structured.

Nothing is worse than a disorganized project meeting that lasts for hours and accomplishes very little. Before you schedule a brainstorm or kick-off meeting for your project, determine what your initial goals are (for example: choose one idea for the annual fundraising event and narrow down the list of potential vendors) so you won’t get distracted later. Keep the rules for effective meetings in mind as you start the planning process and develop an agenda.

2. Share resources. 

Notify team members who are involved in the project, and share any materials that people should review before the first meeting. For large files, avoid sending email attachments and instead try file sharing technology, such as Dropbox or YouSendIt. For more advanced collaboration, there are a wealth of online tools, such as MindMeister, Basecamp, Wikispaces and Google docs/spreadsheets. Progressive organizations will employ these new communication skills at work.

3. Determine a location. 

With new technology, social collaboration can now take place in person or virtually. If your team will be able to work together in the same physical location, reserve a space with plenty of table and wall space. Bring in a whiteboard, a large flip chart or sticky notes and markers for keeping track of ideas. If you are meeting with people in different locations, schedule a conference call or video meeting (Skype 5.0 just released a beta version of group video calling)and use online tools to stay on the same page.

4. Come to a consensus. 

When working on a group project, there are bound to be a lot of ideas, some viable and some not. In the initial brainstorming phase, let all ideas flow without any questions or judgments. Write down everything and then start to narrow down the list as a group. Listen more than you talk, ask questions and build upon the ideas of others. Narrow down your list to three possibilities, and divide up into smaller groups to flesh out all of the ideas. Talk about each one as a larger group and finally come to a consensus on which idea to select and what the next steps should be.

What social collaboration techniques do you use in your organization?

For more on working productively in groups, check out the Roles and Responsibilities on Teams course.  

Posted by & filed under Communication.


Six years ago, Facebook was just a socializing and procrastination tool for college students. Today, Facebook reports  having more than 500 million monthly active users, spending more than 700 billion minutes and sharing more than 30 billion pieces of content each month.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites have grown to become essential components of organizations’ communications and marketing strategies. Large corporations, including Starbucks, Whole Foods and Target, use social media successfully as a promotional and customer service tool.

Of course it may be easy for a big company with thousands or millions of dollars to invest in social media marketing, but what about organizations without those resources? Building a strong social media presence is important for every business and nonprofit, no matter what its size. Luckily, the following social media tips don’t cost any money and only require an investment in time and effort. Make it a priority to strengthen your organization’s social media and your online brand identity.


Social Media Tips: Getting Started

1. Put one person in charge.
Like any other project, social media is most effective when it is owned and managed by one person. Splitting the work up among several people can create an inconsistent and disjointed approach. Designate an individual to take charge of your organization’s social media accounts as part of his regular daily duties, and work with this person to create a concrete strategy. You can seek input and feedback from other team members as you craft and revise your plan, but implementation should rest with the social media manager.

2. Determine your goals.
What is it you hope to achieve by using social media? Do you want to boost sales for a product you are selling? Do you want to rally people around the mission of your nonprofit? Do you hope to create buzz around a film you are promoting? Write down your top five goals and make them as concrete as possible.

3. Start with your personal networks.
One of the simplest social media tips is to start with the people you know. If you are creating a Facebook page for your small financial consulting firm, begin by suggesting the page to your Facebook friends who have firsthand experience working with your business—clients, vendors, friends and family members. Include a personal message with your request saying they should become a fan of your page if they have been satisfied with your services. Ask all your colleagues to do the same thing. Social media can often become noisy with advertising and marketing from all sides, and a real-life personal connection still carries a lot of weight.

4. Recognize it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
There is no magic bullet that will guarantee you thousands of followers overnight (and don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you or sell you otherwise). Building an engaged base of fans or followers takes time and requires diligence and patience. If you don’t see gradual positive changes over the course of a few months, reevaluate your initial strategy and see what you could improve.

5. Offer valuable content.
People use social media to stay connected, be entertained or acquire content or information of value to them. Be conscious of what you post to your social media profiles and how it benefits your audience. Find a balance of your organization’s own content (blog posts, videos, photos, product or service promotions, etc.) and content from outside sources, such as blog posts from authorities in your field or videos from news outlets.

6. Stay engaged.
Interaction is the key to a successful social media strategy. You should not be posting in a vacuum but instead engaging others in conversation. If someone comments on your Facebook post, respond quickly and try to keep the discussion going. If you see an interesting link on Twitter, retweet it with a positive comment. If someone asks a question on your LinkedIn profile, answer it thoroughly and promptly.

Having trouble getting started? What other social media tips would be helpful to your organization?

Learn more about making innovative decisions in the “Challenging the Status Quo for Continuous Improvement” course .

Posted by & filed under Personal Effectiveness.

During busy periods at work, it can feel as if you are in survival mode, just trying to stay afloat from day to day and not making any progress. It can be challenging to break this pattern of simply trying to keep up with work and taking proactive steps to create a more productive long-term system. Start with adopting small, manageable habits that you can integrate into your daily schedule, and you will find lasting ways to increase your personal effectiveness.


1. Stay Focused on Action

In meetings, brainstorms, memos and other organizational communications and activities, it is important to stay focused on tangible action steps. It can be easy to get sidetracked by exciting new ideas or projects, but be sure to bring every topic back to specific tasks and goals, with ownership assigned to one person on the team. Find a way to organize your own action tasks in an accessible way, whether that’s a bulletin board of sticky notes or a computer-based project management system. Hold yourself accountable to your system; this is an important part of maintaining and increasing personal effectiveness.


2. Set Deadlines for Yourself

Long-term or open-ended projects can be often the most difficult to manage because of their flexibility. The temptation to procrastinate can be powerful when you have an open timeline, so make it more concrete by dividing a project into smaller tasks over time, setting deadlines for each. For example, if you have a large presentation due in a month, write down smaller action steps you will need to complete to be ready to present—1. Gather financial figures from the last quarter, 2. Ask the marketing director for five stock photos, etc. The project seems more manageable and timely when you see it broken into smaller tasks.


3. Do the Little Stuff Now

We all have those pesky little tasks that we put off until tomorrow when we could easily complete them today. Challenge yourself to improve your personal effectiveness by taking care of any to-do list items immediately that take less than 10 minutes to finish. Make that quick phone call or edit that memo now.


4. Delegate When Possible

Delegation is an important part of being an effective leader. Though it is tempting to try to do everything yourself, it is not a productive or sustainable practice. Delegate tasks to the appropriate people and follow up with them until they reach completion.


How do you stay organized on a daily basis? Share your tips below.


Learn more about productive work habits through the Increasing Personal Effectiveness  course.