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Mindfulness: What It Is, How It Can Help You

When professionals think of meditation, the first thing that often comes to mind is religion. But while meditation may be widely used in Eastern spiritual practices, the act of quieting one's mind each day has major health benefits, especially for today's busy executives.

Meditation in Business

Last summer, an article on Google profiled the company's Search Inside Yourself course, designed to help employees learn to manage their emotions. Through the art of meditation, Google's workers believe they are able to better focus their minds to improve their work performance.

But meditation isn't unique to Google. For years, some of the most successful professionals in the country have relied on regular yoga classes to relax and cleanse their thoughts. But executives don't need yoga mats to practice the principles of meditation. It can be done while seated at a desk, while waiting for a meeting to begin, or at the end of a stressful day.

Healthier, Happier Workers

Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn has helped call national attention to the medical benefits of regular meditation. With his Guided Mindfulness Meditation series, Dr. Kabat-Zinn puts meditation in a new light, instructing listeners on how to use meditation in their daily lives to reduce illness, learn to better deal with stress, and potentially extend their lives.

In Silicon Valley and around the country, meditation is catching on as a new trend. Managers aren't just exploring the practice for themselves, but their encouraging employees throughout their organization to take time each day to quieten their minds and internalize their thoughts. In fact, meditation and yoga are being seen as a way for businesses to increase their bottom lines by creating a more contented workforce.

The health benefits of meditation can also help your business when it comes to health insurance premiums. As the increasing number of businesses now participating in wellness-based health insurance programs know all too well, healthier workers keep premiums low.

Are Your Job Descriptions Hurting Your Business?

A thorough, accurate job description is the key to a successful team. When an employee knows what is expected, it's far easier to strive to do a good job. But some organizations are still using outdated job plans that have been shown to be ineffective.

New, more effective job plans focus on the duties that are required, rather than the experience a person should have. To be most effective, job plans should be performance based, outlining between six and eight objectives for each position. The plan should list specific goals for a position. An administrative staff member who processes applications each day could have a job plan that include wording such as, "Processes 100 applications each day without error."

Problems with Traditional Job Descriptions

The years of experience often mentioned in many job descriptions can be an inaccurate predictor of success. In fact, many businesses have found that the best employees can often be those who are able to learn quickly, rather than those who have years of work experience in a certain areas.

By being specific about a job's expectations up front, a business is more likely to attract and retain employees who are able to tackle the task. New hires know exactly what they are getting themselves into and, through regular performance reviews, supervisors can update workers on their progress at meeting those expectations. In the above-mentioned example, if a worker is unable to reach the goal of 100 applications every day, the job description provides a jumping-off point for discussions. Supervisors may find this is an unrealistic goal, given the other demands placed on that employee.

Required Documentation

In the unfortunate event a business has to let an employee go, a detailed performance-based job plan will prove invaluable. This job plan can be used as a jumping-off point for a supervisor's performance reviews to create a paper trail of employee conversations. The employee processing only 20 tasks a day when the description clearly states 100 could be warned in writing and marked down on evaluations repeated times before finally being let go. This will help in the event the employee retaliates with legal action.

Takeaway: Replace Traditional Job Specs with Performance Based ones:

If you are in a bureaucratic environment, then write and interview on your own performance based description)

Traditional Job Description:

The Person

1. BS degree

2. 2-4 years sales experience

3. Industry background required

4. Product knowledge essential

5. Strong interpersonal skills

6. Good solution selling skills

Performance Profile:

The Job

1. Achieve quota within 90 days

2. Obtain 20% new customers/month

3. Conduct thorough needs analysis

4. Coordinate proposals with engineering

5. Prepare detailed cost/benefit analysis

6. Manage multiple projects in intense environment.


Source Lou Adler ERE


Hiring the wrong employee can be devastating to a company, especially if it happens repeatedly. A well-crafted performance-based job plan can help businesses hire and retain the best employees possible, giving the employee a firm sense of an employer's expectations.

After all, who do you want to hire the one who "has all the skills" on paper or the one who can get the job done?

The First 30 Minutes: A Three-Part Guide to Hiring The Right Employee

Finding great employees can be more challenging than some managers realize. Often without realizing it, interviewers base their choices on initial first impressions, which can be dangerously inaccurate in a face-to-face interview situation. Professionals choose a person based on charisma and confidence and potentially disregard someone who might simply be nervous in interviews.

Lou Adler, author of The Essential Guide for Hiring & Getting Hired, recently described a three-part method for finding the best candidate possible. This method puts three major rules in place for hiring.

Rule One: Suspend Judgment for At Least 30 Minutes

In the first 30 minutes, a person's behavior could lead an interviewer to make an uninformed decision. The rest of the interview is then spent looking for reasons to support hiring or not hiring the person based on that initial impression. Adler recommends instead making a commitment to withhold judgment for the first 30 minutes of every interview. Interviewers should instead take that time to gather evidence of exceptional performance without making any decisions.

Rule Two: Probe for an "Achiever Pattern"

The goal for an interviewer is to find a candidate who is within the top 25 percent of his or her peer group. Adler lists a few telltale signs that a candidate is a true achiever:

  • Each job change was made to move the candidate upward in his or her career.
  • The candidate consistently took on responsibilities that were above his/her level of experience.
  • The candidate has a demonstrated history of volunteering for assignments that led to growth.
  • Early in his/her career, the candidate was regularly exposed to senior-level executives.
  • The candidate was placed on high-profile assignments in multi-functional project teams.
  • Supervisors often promoted the candidate ahead of his/her peers.
  • The candidate has received industry recognition in the form of awards, honors, and the like.

Rule Three: Rank Candidates Based on the Information Gathered

Adler stresses the importance of ranking candidates, with interviewers eliminating all applicants who don't rank a Level 3 or higher. While it's easy to spot a Level 1, Adler says Level 2s can be trickier, since they often possess all the skills but lack the motivation. While not all positions can employ Level 5s ("rock stars"), Level 3s and above fall in the top 25 percent of their peer group.

Through following Adler's three-step method, those responsible for hiring in an organization can find the best candidate. Since people are the lifeblood of any organization, finding achievers is key to helping a business grow.

How to Spot a Winning Employee and Hire Smart

Hiring is one of the most important things a professional will do. People are the lifeblood of any organization, so it’s imperative that each person a company adds to its team is a good fit for the organizational culture.

Learning to spot the right person during the course of the hiring process is a skill that is usually learned over time. But with the help of experienced professionals, many hiring managers can get a head start on that learning process. Here are a few tips that can help you pinpoint a good candidate quickly.

Learn to Spot Potential

One major mistake hiring managers make is in focusing so intently on past experience that they lose sight of what's really important. A marketing director with a full marketing resume that has no experience in the auto industry may be able to learn the ins and outs of car dealerships. A software developer with one OO langauge, if smart can learn a new language within weeks or at most a couple of months. It's important to determine which job requirements can be learned and which can't. Even an inexperienced but enthusiastic candidate may have an aptitude for those skills most essential to the job in question.

Look for Team Players

All too often, businesses don't realize an employee isn't a team player until he's already part of the team. There are techniques for spotting egocentric employees during the interview process. One such technique is to watch the way interviewees treat staff members who aren't upper-level executives. If a candidate speaks down to receptionists, HR staff, or prospective team members, that should send up a few red flags for interviewers.

Listen Closely to Past Experience

One way to predict how a candidate will behave as an employee is to get a glimpse into that employee's past. This is often done through behavioral questions. Each of these questions should ask a candidate to recall a time in the past when they were faced with a particular challenge and describe how they handled it. If possible, include a member of your HR team in the interviews to get an expert opinion on the candidate's answers.

While hiring can be a complex process, by taking the time to measure each candidate's suitability for an organization's culture, a hiring manager can stock his team with the best employees possible.


Philip Foti, CEO Atavas, Inc / Summit Allen



10 Ways to Improve Your Organizational Culture

Are your employees happy? Whether the answer to that question is "yes" or "no," chances are the reason for that answer is an undefinable something that makes your workplace better or worse than some others. That something has a name: culture. If you think you can't control your organizational culture, you're wrong. There are things you can do every day to make sure your workplace is a positive one.

There is No "I" in Team

As cliched as it sounds, teamwork is an important part of corporate culture. That means you, too. Instead of making major decisions that impact everyone and laying down the law, bring staff in to get their own thoughts. While there are admittedly times senior management must make decisions without the input from staff, but if you're interested in staff retention, it's important to encourage employees to be emotionally invested in the direction of your organization.

Encourage Flexibility

Studies have shown that flexible workers are more productive workers. If you're still one of those bosses who expects workers to sit at a desk from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, you may be missing a great opportunity. Today's technology allows workers to connect to the server and work at night, on weekends, or while on an overnight flight to meet with an important client. Flexibility could make a big difference in whether your workers stay or leave for a competitor who does offer those opportunities.

Lighten Up

When you're trying to run a business, the idea of someone speeding around the office on rollerblades may seem incomprehensible. But small perks like allowing workers to bring pets to the office or having a fun day out can go a long way toward satisfying your employee retention strategies.

Promote from Within

When it comes time to hire a new team leader or manager, look at your own staff before hiring from outside. Better yet, ask each employee what his or her long-term goals are and work to find ways to help those employees reach those goals, even if it means they'll eventually have to leave. Showing your interested in helping your workers achieve their dreams establishes you as a great boss.

Take Time to Celebrate

Your organizational culture should include plenty of celebrations, whether you're sharing cake for someone's birthday or ending a long, grueling project with a pizza party. These get-togethers can also offer a prime opportunity for workers to bond.

Acknowledge Accomplishments

Did you know most employees would rather have appreciation than more money? Your employee retention strategies should include plenty of back pats. If you're tight on funds, have the head of your company stop by to personally acknowledge the hard work employees are doing. When cash flow is positive, use that extra money for bonuses to reward especially impressive performers.

Use Creative Hiring Strategies

Your best efforts to create a positive, open organizational culture can be negated by one poorly-chosen employee. To avoid bringing someone into the workplace who will bring office morale down, actively recruit each new employee rather than simply choosing from a small pool of candidates. Don't rush into choosing someone just to fill a vacant position. Take your time and find the right person.

Provide Perks

By partnering with local organizations, you can improve staff retention by offering perks. Strike up a deal with a local dry cleaner to pick up employees' dry cleaning and pay the delivery fee yourself. Secure group discounts for family attractions, restaurants, and service providers and pass those deals on to your workers.

Keep Staff Informed

Numerous bosses say they have an "open-door policy," but their actions contradict that. Whether your organization has 5 employees or 500, find a way to regularly inform them of all the goings-on in the organization.

Develop Written Strategies

Every time an employee leaves, it costs your organization. Crafting written employee retention strategies can ensure your entire leadership team works in unison to provide an environment that has employees wanting to come to work each day.