Productivity After a Summer Vacation

habitHow to create a surge in your productivity when you return to work

We tend to admire people who jump in feet first and don’t hesitate, but if there is ever a time to pause and take a deep breath, it is the moment when you return from vacation. Don’t dive in and bury yourself in the craziness of NOW; first, take charge of your time.

As life around the office settles down as people return from summer vacation, follow this guide to rapidly maximize your productivity after a break:

1. Give yourself a post-holiday break.

Don’t return to a full calendar of nonstop meetings. Always block your first day back to be meeting free to catch up on what you have missed and reconnect with your team.

2. Reset where you spend your time and energy.

Use the break to consider where you spend your time and energy. Are you thoughtfully ruthless about being in control of your time and who absorbs your energy? Press reset on your calendar as you return to work.

3. Throw a starting not an ending party.

Gather your team to launch your new product, your new sales quarter, or simply to refocus everyone as they return to work following a major holiday period. Share your goals, ask for feedback, and allow time for your team to simply socialize with each other.

4. Say thank you in advance.

I have probably said, “What do you say?” a thousand times to my three daughters because they are often too excited or distracted to remember their manners. Leaders are the same–with a lot on our minds, it is easy to forget the basics. Don’t wait until someone is leaving your team or a product is launched to say thank you. Try saying thank you in advance: thank your new hire for joining your team, thank your team for their hard work and for holding the fort while you were on vacation. Build daily gratitude into the way you work as you return from vacation, and your team will thank you for it.

5. Plan a year of vacations.

My biggest culture shock when I moved from England to Seattle 10 years ago was the fact that 51 percent of Americans don’t use all of their vacation time. Europeans don’t suffer from such an affliction. As you return from your break, take a moment to look at the next 12 months, and block and book your vacation time. Block off your birthday, and plan time with people who energize and inspire you. If you have kids, plan family vacations, date weekends, and time with your friends. Your productivity when you are in the office will increase because of it.

Stores are currently filled with back-to-school presents and supplies to help children make a successful transition back to school. Follow these tips to help your employees with their back-to-work transition.

 

Conflict into Collaboration

Turn Conflict Into Collaboration with 6 Powerful Words

By Sylvia LaFair

How one sentence can change the dynamics in teams, remove blind spots and obstacles, and help you move from reactive to proactive mode.

The meeting started on a tense note. Michael, the fun-loving charismatic Sales Manager had handed in his resignation days before the off-site. No one saw it coming. Everyone was shocked learning that he called the VP of Sales from his home town across the country and said he was done. No face to face would happen. He said he would not be at the regional meeting, or any other meetings, ever. And no, there was no turning back. Done meant done. He agreed to give the required two weeks and turn over all the accounts. He was sorry that the timing was bad, however, he had given this much thought and it was best for him to step away before the busy season started up again.

The VP felt blindsided.

There had never been a discussion of discontent. When Ed, the VP walked into the meeting room, his sour mood spread like a virus to the rest of the team. There was a sense of hopelessness. Michael had been a star and they had depended on him. Emotions were all over the place. First blame Michael. That was easy. What they had loved about Michael, his easy going style and fast response time, was now seen in the negative.

To lighten the mood John asked “What is the difference between Michael and a savings bond?” And without missing a beat said “Savings bonds mature!”

Then quiet side comments were made pointing the blame at the VP who should have known something was amiss. And, the VP was good at blaming himself whenever anything went wrong. So, he started the meeting being accountable for what happened. He should have talked at a deeper level with Michael, and asked better questions. He went on and on with his mea culpa thinking that would help.

Being accountable is good, yet often not enough.

I had been asked to facilitate the meeting and I knew they would need something new and fresh to get out of the downward spiral that was leading to a quagmire of wasted energy. Figuring out what to do next was not happening. The team was swirling in platitudes and simple answers. They accepted the VP’s assessment of his role in the situation. Yes, they all agreed, he should have talked with Michael on a deeper level, yes he should have asked better questions. Now what?

They then talked about an organizational reset. More ideas came to play. This was a seasoned team having been through lots of team building and off sites and they knew the lingo.

They made a list of what to do differently that included:

  • Clearer expectations
  • Acceptance of current reality
  • Transparency
  • No Complaining
  • Cooperation not competition

They needed to go deeper themselves and I knew it would take some time to let them air their grievances, finish pointing fingers of blame and eventually come to completion with what had led them to the present situation.

Time was going and there was a need for that reboot. However, if they stayed with the logic of lists and left brain expectations they would end up with merely longer lists. The list they had was excellent and it was simply not changing the mood or the vision of the team. We took a break and when the team came back we went to another realm of operating.

It was time to do a dive under the obvious.

Freud was correct when he talked about how we, as humans, function with our conscious thoughts like the top of an iceberg along with the unconscious thoughts and desires we have that are below the surface of that same iceberg.

The unconscious parts of ourselves talk best in dreams, hunches, and intuitions. This part of us sees more than check lists. This part looks at more than just the next step. It includes and connects.

While there was initial resistance to undertaking a visioning process using music and imagery, the team was willing to go there, so long as it did not take too much time. You know, the old “time is money” comment.

Solve business problems by thinking less.

The process we used involved less than ten minutes of sitting in silence while I led the team through a short visualization of what their work environment would look like six months into the future. That was it!

Ten minutes is all it took for the creative juices to start to flow. Each individual was asked to remember a book or film that would give some pointers to what was needed now.

Focus elsewhere and focus internally.

Here is the end result of another ten minutes of sharing from the unconscious: Someone remembered the book The Three Musketeers and wrote down “All for one and one for all.” And within no more than five minutes the team came to the sentence that opened the door to new ideas and solutions.

Ed took a deep breath. That was what he needed. The rest of the team sat up. That had been the missing piece. They had until then, still been operating in a silo mentality and not looking as a system.

“We can work it out together” is a powerful, six word sentence that connects teams emotionally as well as logically, and when used, that is when creativity, productivity and harmony ignite.

Trick Yourself into Getting Everything Done

thinkingceoIt can be a huge mental battle to get through work that you don’t want to do. So how do you push through?

Everyone has that one thing on his or her to-do list. That nagging task that’s just too hard, too time-consuming, or too intimidating to start. The thing that mysteriously gets pushed to the next day—every day.

It can be a huge mental battle to get through that work that you don’t want to do. But the reality is, it has to get done. So how do you push through?

Simple: You trick yourself into thinking it’s not that bad—with one of these four mind games.

 

Mind Game #1: It Could Be Worse

Finally tackling that dreaded item on your to-do list may seem terrible, but remember: It could be worse.

Just think of the possibilities. For instance, maybe you have to call a customer to inform her of some changes to her contract—something she’s not going to be happy about. What could make that worse? Well, you could have to tell her face-to-face, without notes in front of you to help boost your confidence.

Maybe it’s something as simple as that you have to hustle to get three blog posts written and uploaded by the end of the day. Well, you could have seven blog posts due. And your deadline could be in an hour, rather than in six hours. And you could be sitting in an office building in Florida without air conditioning. Now that would be bad.

Thinking about worst-case scenarios brings perspective to the thing you’re struggling with. Yes, the assignment may be hard or uncomfortable or time-consuming, but it could be a lot worse.

 

Mind Game #2: How Do You Eat an Elephant?

 The answer—as you probably already know—is one bite at a time. Taken literally, it’s a pretty unappetizing saying, but the meaning holds true. If you set out to accomplish one gigantic, all-important goal, you can easily become completely overwhelmed with the enormity of the task. But when you focus on just one small piece of that goal at a time, it becomes a much more realistic objective.

 You can apply this to almost any task lingering on your to-do list. Instead of setting out to write a six-page report, for example, look at it as two three-page reports—and focus on only one portion at a time.

 Or, maybe you’re tasked with managing an entire client account—something you’ve never done before. As a whole, that can be an intimidating task. But take it one step at a time. First, for instance, say you have to make an introductory phone call. Well, you’ve made hundreds of customer phone calls in your career. Piece of cake! Then, you have to address a billing issue for the account. You’ve done that before, too.

 When you shift your mindset, suddenly, the overall assignment doesn’t seem so large or intimidating.

 

Mind Game #3: Time’s Running Out

 One of the hardest parts of tackling an intimidating task on your to-do list is simply getting started—especially if you have no set deadline or the existing deadline isn’t immediately looming.

 So, force yourself. Set a timer for a specified amount of time—I usually go with 30 minutes to an hour—and dive in. Commit to working on only that task for that amount of time. Then, you can stop.

Creating that imaginary deadline and knowing that you have only a set amount of time to work on it can drive you to move faster and get as much done as possible before the timer goes off.

 At the end of that time period, you may not have flawless, ready-to-show-your-boss work, but you’ll have something—and that can be the push you need to push forward and complete the task.

 

Mind Game #4: Look at How Far You’ve Come

 Think back to your first day in your current role. Remember how unsure you were? How you didn’t know where to start on your entire to-do list? How you asked your co-workers endless iterations of “Did I do this right?” and “Can you help me with this?”

 And now, those things are a breeze. You fly through those tasks without a second thought. You’re confident in your abilities.

 This difficult task on your to-do list? It’s may seem like an insurmountable hurdle right now, but in just a matter of time, you’ll likely be looking at it with an entirely different perspective.

 Maybe you’re putting together a presentation that you’ll be giving in front of your entire company. Right now, you’re not great at public speaking, your body language is timid, and you are having some major PowerPoint issues. But once you get past it and start giving more presentations, you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come—and in the rearview mirror, it won’t seem like a big deal at all.

 Looking back at your progress can give you the boost you need to remember that you’ve faced trials like this before, and you’ve made it through to the other end even stronger. And you can do it again.

 It’s easy to get in your own head and convince yourself that you just can’t do that nagging task on your to-do list. But you can also get in your own head to convince yourself that you can—and sometimes, that’s all you need to get the job done.

In The News

New home sales rebound in July, supply improves

New U.S. single-family home sales rose a bit less than expected in July, but the trend pointed to housing market strength that should underpin economic growth for the rest of the year.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday sales increased 5.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 507,000 units.

June’s sales pace was revised slightly down to 481,000 units from the previously reported 482,000 units.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast new home sales, which account for 8.3 percent of the market, rising to a 510,000 unit-rate. Sales were up 25.8 percent compared to July of last year.

The housing market is gaining stream, with data last week showing home resales jumped to a near 8-1/2-year high in July and groundbreaking on new home building climbing to its highest level since October 2007.

The recovery in the sector, which touches almost all spheres of the U.S. economy, is being driven by a tightening labor market. Solid job growth is boosting confidence among Americans and encouraging young adults to move out of their childhood homes.

Housing is expected to contribute to gross domestic product this year, but remains constrained by a persistent shortage of homes available for sale.

New homes sales surged 23.1 percent in the Northeast to the highest level since May 2014. Sales increased 6.7 percent in the West and were up 5.8 percent in the populous South. In the Midwest, sales fell 6.9 percent.

The stock of new houses for sale increased 1.9 percent to 218,000 last month, the highest level since March 2010. Still, supply remains less than half of what it was at the height of the housing boom.

At July’s sales pace it would take 5.2 months to clear the supply of houses on the market, down from 5.3 months in June.

The median price of a new home rose 2 percent from a year ago to $285,900.

8 Tips From A CEO That Might Just Win You That Promotion

By Quora Answer by Jason M. Lemkin,

irreplaceableYour peers’ feedback, even if just informal and word-of-mouth, is critical to your promotion.

I’d like to provide some insights from my experience as a VP at a leading F500 tech company, and as a reasonably successful startup CEO.

Promotions in the F500 are indeed complicated, but let me focus instead first on the performance review, which is a penultimate step to promotion, and something in my F500 experience that materially impacts your compensation.

And here is my learning. Reviews go into High, Strong, Good, and Needs To Improve basically in all Big Tech companies. Some have SuperHighs, but that’s rare. And in my experiences, even at Adobe, even at a F500 leader with 10,000 employees, there were zero politics in becoming a High. Because it’s so clear who the Highs are.

The only real issues, the politics, is the fact that some groups have too many High candidates (often the outperforming products), and some have too few, which warps the curves a bit. So it’s actually harder to be a High in an outperforming group than an underperforming group.

Having said all that…really, no politics. This was pretty surprising to me.

Now, of course, not every High can get promoted. But even the promotions, while not always the decisions I might make or you might make, were always based on results.

I know some of you will say your experience is different, but I’m going to suggest once you strip away the emotion, and once you see how the sausage is really made, that it’s probably the same in any growing tech company of any scale that has solid, experienced management.

So now, how to get promoted? In both my Big Tech Co. experience and my post- 20-to-50 employees in a strong startup experience, here is what I learned about what it takes to get promoted:

  • Demonstrate successful leadership. This is what everyone is looking for. Everyone. Someone to take and carry the load. As long as you have an experienced boss, they will take notice. Because what we all really need is help – real help getting our initiatives done. If you can get one of my key initiatives done for me — not talked about, not analyzed, not discussed, but done — you are a rock star.
  • Work in a hot or at least warm area of the company. No need to promote anyone in the EOL’d products, though it does happen.
  • Don’t schmooze. Just engage and be positive and respectful. Schmoozing is a turn-off. Instead, as you demonstrate leadership, positively (never negatively) engage with your peers and colleagues outside of your small group. Be critical as needed, but always positive. Naked criticism will get you worse than nowhere; it will get you in the cellar. Your peers’ feedback, even if just informal and word-of-mouth, is critical to your promotion.
  • Don’t sell up. Yes, I know selling up sometimes “works” in big companies, but it doesn’t really get you promoted, and really it’s a sign you are weak. Focus instead on selling down, and selling across. On getting your colleagues to follow your ideas and insights. That’s how you demonstrate true leadership.
  • “Dress” for success. I don’t mean that completely literally (but yes, dress a little better than the rest, it can’t hurt). I mean act and carry yourself like someone that cares. That always goes the extra yard. Never look at the carpet, or yawn. Never be late to a meeting — ever. Always be positive, give constructive feedback, but never destructive feedback. Never be cocky, but be confident in what you know is correct.
  • (Try) to be patient. Even if you do everything right, there can only be so many promotions. It may take another whole year. This isn’t politics per se, but companies of any size have a finite number that they can make. Don’t give it more than one extra year, but assume it will take one more cycle than it should.
  • Ask. Ask your boss how and what it will take to get promoted. If you don’t ask, you probably won’t get. Just be ready to get some tough feedback when you ask, and be ready to grow, change, and learn.
  • Working hard and doing a good job is insufficient. Again, promotion in big companies and tech companies of any scale is about leadership, and in many cases, management. You’ll get well paid if you work hard and do a good job. You just won’t get promoted all that far.

Just my learnings and observations in the BigCo. I’d say all but the second point also apply to startups too.

I know that some companies are much more fracked up than this. But I think and hope that maybe 50% of the well-run ones work just this way.

What are the real reasons some people get promoted and others don’t: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and access insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

  • Career Advice: What are the best-kept secrets of successful business people?
  • Organizational Culture: How does Apple keep secrets so well?
  • Promotion: Does the way I dress affect my chances for promotion?

5 Hacks That Will Blow Up Your Brand

By Carey Smith

Every decent company has its own faithful, loyal, and hard core base of customers who embrace the products and services.

Conventional: Find people to like you on Facebook

On the Contrary: Engage people who challenge you in person

bossEvery (decent) company has them, the faithful, the loyal, the hard core base of customers who embrace your products and services. At Big Ass Fans, we call them ‘super fans.’ From our first-to-respond Facebook commenters to the retired engineers who call customer service to offer a point-by-point analysis of each feature of our latest product, our super fans are like family. And, like a real family, they are the first to praise and the first to criticize any new service, product or campaign.

Relationships are an investment, and super fans ask for the most time and resources. Especially in the early days, when manpower is scarce, it’s easy to view people who demand attention as a drain on your energy. But, cutting off a relationship with a customer, even one that’s time-consuming or negative, hurts your brand more than it helps your schedule. No PR-comeback campaign or social strategy will outperform these five simple proactive tips to building brand loyalty.

1) Give Your Company a Personality

Be the company you want to talk to at a party. Be friendly, accessible and genuine. Big Ass Fans is funny and brash because people who work here want to make each other laugh. We crack ourselves up first, then we try to share that with our customers.

But our playfulness is only a fraction of our company personality. The rest of it is hard work, usefulness and trustworthiness. We don’t think about grabbing customer attention–our real goal is to earn respect.

2) Be Good at What You Do

It’s simple, but it’s important: Products that show craftsmanship and quality are increasingly rare.

In a world of expendable goods, people go crazy about cars that don’t break down (Subaru), food that lasts beyond the parking lot (Costco) and experiences that are fun (Disney). The first step to becoming a love–or even a like–brand is being the best in your field. If you aren’t striving to be the best, you won’t.

3) Ask People About Their Lives

Caring about customers doesn’t mean just fixing their problems and checking them off your list. It means listening and then digging deeper.

Our favorite question to ask our do-it-yourselfers, tinkerers and super-fans is “can you send us a picture?” Then, they let us inside their homes, garages, warehouses. In that relationship we learn more than a hundred market research surveys could ever teach us.

4) Make Friends With Haters

As the kids say, haters gonna hate. Most people shy away from criticism, but from your customers, any kind of feedback–even the bad kind–is a signal that they’re invested. When they call in to give you an hour-long lecture on what they want your product to do that it doesn’t do yet, listen. Then invite them in.

When we have a particularly tricky customer, we often ask them to join one of our beta-testing groups. If they care enough to complain, then they are probably the kind of people who will give us the best feedback.

5) Act Small, Think Big

None of these tricks work if you relegate the customer experience to a customer service department. Even though we’ve grown our team from 200 to 700 in the past five years, we try to stay as flat as possible. Open offices and drive-by style conversations get a bad reputation as productivity killers. We ignore those studies because our goal in the office isn’t building widgets, but staying accessible to customers.

A good idea or a crazy picture from customer service spreads through headquarters like wildfire. Most of them aren’t scalable, or practical, but when you put them all together, you get a real time picture of how people use your products (instead of just how they think they’ll use them). That points you in the right direction for big projects like market research and product development. It makes business less risky and more fun when you collapse the distance between the customer and the inner workings of the business.

8 Remarkably Effective Ways to Cope With an Unreasonable Customer

By Minda Zetlin Co-author, ‘The Geek Gap’ @MindaZetlin

What do you do when “just say no” is not an attractive option?

It happens to everyone, and we all dread it. A customer calls and asks-or demands-that you make an impossible deadline, provide a benefit that you just can’t, or cut your price to a level that will jeopardize your business. But the customer is always right-or at least, they always believe that they are. So how do you respond when they make a completely unreasonable request? It’s always awkward when it happens. But there are things you can do to make it easier:

  1. Empathize.

Unless this customer is deliberately screwing with you, he or she believes that the unreasonable request is in fact quite reasonable. This is because customers know less about your business than you do. If they knew more, you might be their customer instead. To turn this situation around, you have to begin by standing in your customer’s shoes for just a moment. Knowing what they know-and not what you know-why does this seem like a reasonable request? Fully understanding where they’re coming from is the necessary first step to solving this problem.

  1. Lift the veil.

Once you understand your customer’s point of view you also need to help them understand yours. One of the best ways to do this is to share inside information. At the ASJA conference in New York City, we serve luncheons that generally consist of a piece of chicken, some vegetables, some rice, a salad, and a dessert. Those lunches cost ASJA in the neighborhood of $100 a serving. It’s a shocking number-if we simply handed out $100 bills, our attendees could each get a much more lavish lunch anywhere else. It only makes sense if you understand the hotel industry and the challenges involved in serving lunch to 500 people in the space of about 45 minutes. I tell people the cost of our lunches as often as I can to help them understand a) why the conference price is what it does, and b) why we don’t serve more meals.

  1. Ask why.

Why does this project need to be completed by next week? Why do they want you to reduce your price? What problem do they have that’s led to this request, and how else might you help them solve it? What kinds of offers are they getting from your competitors and are those offers really the same as what you’re offering?

  1. Explore alternatives.

Once you’ve learned as much as you can about the problem your customer is trying to solve (or the “better” deal your customer has been offered) start looking for solutions that will work for both of you. Can you meet that impossible deadline with part of the project instead of all of it? Can you solve your customer’s cash flow problem with better terms rather than by lowering your price? Can you suggest a similar product or solution that might work better for them? I guarantee you will find new ideas or approaches that you haven’t considered.

  1. Weigh the consequences.

What are the consequences of saying no, and perhaps losing the customer, compared with saying yes? If what they’ve asked is flat-out impossible, and you fail to find an acceptable alternative, then you won’t have a choice. But often it’s more nuanced-you could say yes if you cut your profit margin out completely, or pull an all-nighter, or do something else you don’t like. Every calculation and every situation is different, and there will be a different right answer in every situation. (Here are some tips on how to customer servicesay no without losing a customer.)

  1. 6. Consider a one-time deal.

If you really don’t want to lose the customer, and you can’t find an alternative that is good for both of you, then consider taking the hit-just one time. Tell them you can provide special consideration in view of your history together. Emphasize that this is a one-time-only concession that won’t be repeated and stick to it if they ask again. Otherwise they will never believe that no means no. There are risks to this approach. You may merely be delaying the inevitable if the customer leaves anyway the next time the same situation arises. An even bigger risk is that your other customers may hear about it and ask for similar concessions. But sometimes this is the best among bad choices.

  1. Apologize.

If you just can’t say yes to the unreasonable demand, then make sure to apologize. After all, you are genuinely regretful that you can’t make them happy. And an apology can go a long way toward preserving a relationship. One caveat-if the customer’s request made you angry, take a deep breath, take a walk, play a video game, or do whatever you need to get over that feeling before interacting with the customer. Otherwise, your relationship-building won’t come off as sincere because it won’t be.

  1. Say thank you.

Even if your customer is being unreasonable, even if he or she is leaving for bad reasons, you have a history together. Honor that history and preserve your connection by thanking the customer for all your past business. Besides being a good thing to do, it’s a smart thing to do. Knowing you’re still on good terms may bring that customer running back to you if whatever they’re leaving for doesn’t work out. More:

  • Why Most Businesses Lose Customers (And How to Keep Yours)
  • 6 Smart Ways to Use YouTube to Win Customers
  • How Stories Make Customers Fall in Love

10 Things to Know About Microsoft Windows 10

windows 10By John Brandon @jmbrandonbb

 Windows 10 is now available. Here are ten things you should know about it.

Quick, name some big tech news from this week. If you think it’s how Apple is dominating the smartphone market (again), think twice. Or, maybe…ten times.

That’s right, Microsoft Windows 10 has hit the Internets (intentional misspelling, natch) and that means you should immediately go ahead and download it onto your laptop, right? Well, to help you decide if that is a wise course of action or if it might be smarter to just get a new iPhone app, here are ten things to know that are important for small business owners (or anyone who owns a laptop).

1. It’s a really good operating system

People are raving about it already. Quick and nimble, reliable, easy on the eyes. I’ve been using it for several weeks and just started using a new HP Elite x2 laptop for review purposes that runs Windows 10. Everything is easier to access using the new Start menu, which works like the Start button in Windows 7. Microsoft has learned from many of their past mistakes.

 

2. Careful about that privacy policy

I’ll let the experts wrangle over the privacy issues on this one, but you have to admit the new policy reads a bit funny. Here it is: “We will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to protect our customers or enforce the terms governing the use of the services.” Does it mean Microsoft could decide they can share your personal data with a private party? Or with the U.S. government? No one knows…yet.

 

3. Do your drivers work?

It’s a good question to ask, even if Microsoft has been putting a fresh face on the OS for years instead of messing too much with how drivers for your printer, scanners, and other office gear work. I’ve had great success so far, but then again, I mostly use the Web these days. Check with your vendor first to make sure a driver is available.

 

4. You probably won’t be able to go back to Windows 8

I haven’t tried this yet, but in most cases it is extremely hard to go back to a previous OS and have it run exactly the same as it did before. You can certainly downgrade, but your settings and apps might not work quite the same (if at all). I always recommend a fresh install anyway.

 

5. The tile interface still exists

I had high hopes for Windows 10 when I tested the early preview. The whole-screen tile interface is now a half-screen menu that pops up when you click Start. But if you didn’t care for those colored tiles, they do still exist. I’ve grown to strongly dislike the color scheme and still find it confusing. My suggestion is to do a search on Google for Windows 10, then click images and look through all of the pictures that come up showing Windows 10 and see if you like it.

 

6. Get ready for patch city

 There’s no way of knowing how many patches Microsoft might need to make for Windows 10, and we do live in an age when even a large security update might take seconds if you are on a fast Internet connection. However, every previous operating system had some holes and bugs. It’s a good idea to plan your upgrade to make sure you have time to deal with any issues.

 

7. The Edge works

Most early reports on the Microsoft Edge browser are positive, and I actually really like it. It’s lean and trim, running just as slick as Google Chrome in terms of not having any extra pop-ups and clutter within the interface. You don’t feel overwhelmed — it puts the emphasis back on the site you’re visiting. That said, I still use Chrome because I’m living in the Google ecosystem of Google Docs, Google Drive, and Chrome OS (when I use a Chrome laptop). I might use Edge just because I like the name.

 

8. Microsoft is ditching smartphones 

Well, this one depends on who you ask–but all signs point to a future when there is no such thing as a new Microsoft smartphone that syncs perfectly with Windows. It’s not a big deal if you use Android or an iPhone because most of the cloud data we use today is synced easily without needing to use a laptop at all. It’s just that your phone and laptop won’t work the same.

 

9. Microsoft is serious about this one

It’s worth noting that Microsoft has put a ton of effort into this release, especially in terms of making apps that run the same on many different devices — from tablets and laptops to weird desktop computers like the HP Sprout. They’ve done a great job with unification, responding to user requests to make the OS easier to use, and making it all reliable.

 

10. It’s still OK to use a Mac

I keep one handy. There’s something about using a Mac that matches up nicely with the entrepreneurial mindset, that rare breed that is not afraid to go against the norm. if that’s your statement, keep making it. You are not missing out. When I use a Mac, I still fire up the Chrome and still use Google Docs. I love that there are no colored tiles, too.

 

CMCA Recertification

CAMICB sent reminder notices this month to individuals who need to recertify and/or pay their annual service fee by October, 2015. Here are a few helpful links:

A few things to note:

  1. It is the responsibility of each CMCA to provide documentation of their 16 hours of continuing education at the time of recertification. CAMICB does not track your CEs. If you took a class with CAI, please log into their website (caionline.org) to print out a certificate of completion.
  2. Only courses completed between April 1, 2013 and April 1, 2015 present will count as continuing education.
  3. If you have held an active AMS, PCAM, FL CAM, NV CAM or NAHC-RCM for at least a year, this will satisfy your CMCA continuing education requirement.
  4. Credit hours may be earned only for education that meets either of the following criteria: It pertains to community association operations or management and/or it contributes to the professional development of the CMCA.
  5. The CMCA Annual Service Fee is $105.00. Oftentimes this fee is confused with CAI’s individual manager membership. Recently, CAI increased the rate of the individual manager membership from $130.00 to $134.00. While CAMICB maintains an affiliate relationship with CAI, we are an independent credentialing body: separately incorporated, governed by an independent Board of Trustees, and guided in the administration of our program by the standards of our accrediting body, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. We are not a membership organization; we do not collect membership dues. We assess our credential holders an annual maintenance fee which is used to support the development and delivery of our core exam and the operation of our program in accordance with best practices in professional credentialing.

recertification

Roland Richardson, Certification Assistant, is happy to assist you with the recertification process. Contact Roland at rrichardson@camicb.org with any questions.

Are We More Productive When We Have More Time Off?

By Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman

We were recently working with a company in Amsterdam, and having difficulty getting a summer meeting scheduled because of the number of executives who were on vacation. Experiencing some frustration, we began to wonder how this company actually got its work done. But their VP of HR assured us, “I am confident that because of the rest and break from work that our European executives get more accomplished in their working days than those in the U.S. who burn themselves out.”

This seemed worthy of some research. Because European executives get significantly more vacation time than their U.S. counterparts, we theorized that studying the two groups would essentially give us a control group and a test group. (Of course, this is not perfect as there are other cultural differences between countries, but for our purposes it seemed like a reasonable proxy.)

In a dataset of 2,310 respondents, we looked at data from the 20 countries with the most paid vacation days (247 respondents) and compared them to respondents in the United States (1,151). The 20 countries with the most vacation ranged from Australia, with 28 days allotted, to Sweden and Brazil, with 41 days. By contrast, the United States has no law requiring paid time off, and the average full-time worker with a year of service gets 10 paid vacation days (and only 25% of Americans take their full allotment, according to another survey).

To gauge how different amounts of vacation might affect attitudes toward productivity, we asked respondents to complete an assessment that measured their preference for working at a slow or fast pace. Granted, our sampling for this research was not large. But when we tested the differences between these groups for speed, quantity focus, and impatience we came upon some intriguing results: first, we found that leaders in countries with more paid vacation days actually tend to seem slightly more likely to work at a faster pace, have a higher quantity focus, and feel more impatient.vacastress_intro

We also asked respondents how much they agreed with the statement, “If I were able to move faster, I could become much more effective.” Respondents from countries with more paid vacation days responded more positively to this thought.

Taken together, these results should reassure managers who worry about the possible deleterious effects of longer vacations. In fact, having more vacation time seems to help employees better understand the importance of being impatient for results and getting as much done as possible.

So is our Dutch HR manager right? Is it the “rest and break from work” that causes longer-vacation takers to be more focused getting a lot done, quickly?

While our investigation is not conclusive, signs point to “no.”

We also asked employees if they generally felt “overwhelmed with too much to do” or whether they “had things under control.” Twenty-six percent of those with the most vacation felt overwhelmed, compared with 23% of Americans. This is not a statistically significant difference, but this response does suggest to us that for a few longer vacation-takers, the work may simply pile up on vacation, requiring significant prep before the departure and additional effort to catch up upon return.

It appears from this data that employees in countries that take more vacation do have a strong desire to get a lot done as well as a tendency to move faster. So while our particular study did not find that having more vacation reduced stress, we do see evidence that it results in greater productivity at work all the same. In other words, it’s not that taking a break will refresh your brain and let you get more done; it’s that simply spending less time at your desk forces you to waste less time.

Perhaps instead of telling your head of HR that you need more vacation time for your mental well-being, you can simply tell him or her that having more vacation time will force you to be more efficient.

Jack Zenger is the CEO of Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy. He is a co-author of the October 2011 HBR article Making Yourself Indispensable.Connect with Jack at twitter.com/jhzenger.

Joseph Folkman is the president of Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy. He is a co-author of the October 2011 HBR article “Making Yourself Indispensable. Connect with Joe at twitter.com/joefolkman.