U.S. Census Bureau: Alternative Credential Data

This month the US Census Bureau released its first data on measuring alternative educational credentials.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s study, Measuring Alternative Educational Credentials, 12 million adults had both a professional certification or license and an educational certificate; 34 million had only a professional certification or license; and 7 million had only an educational certificate. The report shows that, in general, these alternative credentials provide a path to higher earnings. The report also showed that among full-time workers, the median monthly earnings for someone with a professional certification or license only was $4,167, compared with $3,433 for one with an educational certificate only; $3,920 for those with both types of credentials; and $3,110 for people without any alternative credential.

This information coincides with The Foundation for Community Association’s (cairf.org) most recent salary survey that says community association managers holding the CMCA certification earn approximately 18% more than those without the CMCA credential. 

Credentials are playing a major role in improving the earnings of community association managers and other professions. 

Community Associations and Snow

By: Jeffrey Van Grack

As the entire country continues to endure severe winter weatehr conditions, Jeffrey Van Grack takes on the issue of snow in community associations.

From Thanksgiving until the end of winter (and sometimes even later), snow may fall in area community associations and create issues of safety and parking that can escalate and become dangerous. The biggest concern and perhaps the biggest complaint that boards struggle with is snow removal. This is usually a no-win situation for the manager (think Snowmaggedon).

Despite what individual owners may think, boards of directors have no control of the snow, but they are responsible for snow removal (or lack thereof). In an effort to meet their legal obligation and to diminish the amount of callers, the board and management should hire a competent, properly insured snow removal company that is reliable. Hiring at the last minute the guy who shows up with the plow at the end of his truck is a mistake waiting to happen. Hiring someone who you are assured will show up as required pursuant to a written contract will go a long way towards goodwill of the owners for the entire year. Aside from the inconvenience and chaos it creates in the community, the removal of snow can be filled with liability issues, so having a competent properly insured contractor in place before the first snowfall is vital.

My favorite issue in a blizzard is when an owner (especially in townhouse communities) cleans a parking space and returns 20 minutes later to see a neighbor has taken over the “common area” parking space. Wars sometime start with this process. Your association may wish to send a reminder at the beginning of the season that all spaces are common spaces and that they may not be reserved.

Jeff Van Grack is a community association attorney whose practice has been devoted exclusively to representing community and homeowners associations, condominiums and co-operatives for more than 30 years. For more information visit www.lerchearly.com/team/jeffrey-van-grack.

8 Ways to Improve Body Language

BY Jeff Haden

Sometimes how you move matters more than what you say. Check out eight ways to use your body language to your advantage

We’re all students of body language. Too bad we’re not students of our own body language.

Here are some tips to help ensure your body language works for you and not against you:

1. Prep with a power pose.

It turns out Leo was on to something: According to Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, two minutes of power posing–standing tall, holding your arms out or towards the sky, or standing like Superman with your hands on hips–will dramatically increase your confidence.

Try it before you step into a situation where you know you’ll feel nervous, insecure, or intimidated. (Just make sure no one is watching.)

It may sound strange… but it works.

2. Dial up your energy level.

Imagine you’ve just led a meeting. Now rate your energy level on a scale of 1-10.

Most people will give themselves an 8 or 9. Unfortunately, most of the people in the room will give you a 3 or 4. What feels high energy to us can come across flat and lifeless to others.

Next time, remind yourself to dial up the energy by 20 percent or so. You don’t have to go all Matthew Lesko, but you should definitely display more enthusiasm and passion than you would under other circumstances.

3. When the going gets tough, start smiling.

Frowning, grimacing, glowering, and other negative facial expressions send a signal to your brain that whatever you’re doing is difficult. That causes your brain to send cortisol into your bloodstream, which raises your stress levels. Soon stress begets more stress–and pretty soon you’re a hot mess.

Instead, force yourself to smile. It works.

Plus when you smile, that helps other people feel less stress, too. Most of us mirror the actions of others, so if you smile, other people will smile. If you nod, others will nod.

And if you frown, soon others will be frowning, too.

4. Play supermodel to reduce conflict.

Standing face to face can feel confrontational. One way to reduce the instinctive level of threat you and the other person may feel is to shift your stance slightly so you’re standing at an angle–much like models who almost never stand with their bodies square to the camera.

If you’re confronted, don’t back away; just shift to a slight angle. And if you wish to appear less confrontational, approach the person and stand at a 45-degree angle (while still making direct eye contact, of course.)

Best of all, try to find a way to stand side by side, because that implicitly signals collaboration.

5. Don’t gesture above your shoulders.

Unless you’re one of these guys. Or this guy. Otherwise it just looks odd.

Watch any Steve Jobs presentation. He never raises his arms above his shoulders.

That should be enough of a reason for you not to, either.

6. Talk more with your hands.

The right gestures add immeasurably to your words. Think about how you talk and act when you’re not “on.”

Then act the same way when you’re in professional situations. You’ll feel more confident, think more clearly, naturally punctuate certain words and phrases, and fall into a much better rhythm.

7. Use props to engage.

Body positions affect attitude. People who stand or sit with their arms crossed and heads tilted forward are naturally more resistant and defensive.

So pull them out of their resistant poses. Shake hands. Ask for their business card. Offer a drink. (I have a friend who is the king of, “I’m going to get a water, can I bring you one?” He feels the act of handing someone a bottle of water is not only courteous but also forces them to open up their body position, which also helps overcome resistance.)

Or if you’re speaking to a group, ask questions that involve raising hands. Pass around relevant items. Find a way to get people to stand or change seats.

The more people move and open up the more engaged they feel.

8. Think before you speak.

Eye contact is important, but it’s hard to maintain eye contact when you have to think. Most of us look up, or down, or away and then we swing back when we’ve gathered our thoughts.

Here’s a better way. If you have to look away to think, do it before you answer. Take a pause, look thoughtful, glance away, and then return to making eye contact when you start speaking.

Then your words are even more powerful because your eyes support them.

Mortgage rates creep down toward 4%

feb 2014 econ map

(CNNMoney)

Maybe the days of rock-bottom mortgage interest rates aren’t numbered, after all. Once again, rates are creeping down towards 4%.

Rates dropped 0.09 percentage point this week to 4.23% for a 30-year, fixed -rate home loan, according to the latest weekly report from Freddie Mac.

Mortgage rates started the year at 4.53%, and have sunk each week in 2014, falling a total of 0.3 percentage point.

Borrowers with a 4.23% mortgage would pay $982 a month on a $200,000 balance, compared with $1,017 on a 4.53% loan.

Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, attributed the move to cooling home sales.

“Mortgage rates fell further this week following the release of weaker housing data,” he said. “The pending home sales index fell 8.7% in December to its lowest level since October 2011.”

The drop in mortgage bond purchases by the Federal Reserve, the so-called taper, that started last month, was expected to push rates gradually higher.

But worrisome economic news and a plunge in stocks has counter balanced the Fed action, according to Keith Gumbinger of HSH.com, a mortgage information company. Anxious investors have scurried to safe havens like treasury bonds and mortgage backed securities.

“Much to the benefit of mortgage shoppers, this move [to bonds] is dragging down yields and mortgage rates,” said Gumbinger. “This is a nice surprise” for people looking to purchase or refinance their homes in a rising rates environment, he said.

Rates may keep dropping, according to Gumbinger.

“The reduction in Fed support, slowing manufacturing activity here and in China, some less-than-stellar figures on consumer spending, housing, and more are causing some concern that the economy has decelerated over the last couple of months,” he said. “The economy doesn’t need to slow very much to put us back into the kind of funk we’ve been hoping to escape since the recovery began several years ago.”

Featured CE course

April 1, 2014 recertifications were just sent out.  Are you due for recertification?  Check here. Each week CAMICB will be featuring a course by a pre-approved course provider to help you meet the 16 hours of required CEs for recertification.

Community Associations Institute is offering a new online course on ethics.  The course is approved for 6 CMCA CE credits.

M-300: Ethics and the Community Manager

Learn how to become a more ethical and professional community manager.

This interactive, online course discusses the nature of ethics and how it applies to community management. Registrants will learn to apply CAI’s Professional Manager Code of Ethics, examine the fundamental ethical responsibilities of a professional manager, resolve potential conflicts of interest, identify the appropriate response to the potential receipt of gifts and other remuneration and accurately identify situations where disclosure is necessary. Topics include:

  • Codes of ethics
  • Duty of care and duty of loyalty
  • Common ethical challenges faced by community managers
  • Consequences of unethical behavior
  • Ethical relationships with fellow managers, including competitors

Course Length: Students have 4 months—120 days from purchase date—to complete the course and take the 60-minute exam to receive credit.

Course Materials: All materials are included in digital format within the course.

Tuition: APCM member: $445 | Nonmember: $545

Continuing Education Credit: M-300 meets requirements for PCAM redesignation, is approved for six hours of continuing education for CMCA recertification, and is approved for continuing education credit by many states.

 Registration: Register now for the M-300 online course.

 Check out the CAI website for more information on their courses and stay tuned for next week’s featured course!

5 Easy Ways to Work Smarter, Not Longer

By Erik Sherman

Working insanely long hours is doing you more harm than good. It’s time to distance yourself from the cult of overwork–here’s how.

You know what they call a Wall Street banker with an hour free from work? Unemployed. The assumption has been that if you’re not at the grindstone all the time, you’re not pulling your weight and are unsuitable for promotion, responsibility, and opportunity.

Entrepreneurs, of course, are often driven to work similar hours–there’s always more to do, right?

Now consider this: according to the New Yorker, a number of major banks and brokerages are putting limits on work hours. In an article called “The Cult of Overwork,” James Surowiecki notes that Goldman Sachs has banished junior investment bankers from work on Saturdays. Analysts are supposed to work no more than 70 to 75 hours a week. Credit Suisse has told its analysts to stay home on Saturdays, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch now insists that analysts take 4 weekend days off per month.

OK, so that may sound like a diet consisting of only 4,000 calories a day. But as Surowiecki wrote, this type of change is “positively radical.” The short take is the companies have begun to realize that they’re not getting more work out of people with even longer hours, and might be cutting down on the volume and quantity of effort they actually could get. Fatigue and sleep deprivation slows thinking and impedes effectiveness, not just in the extra hours, but during the whole week.

Seeing the dangerous effects takes an open mind (and perhaps a break from work for some perspective). Here are five easy ways to extricate yourself from the cult of overwork:

Be ruthless about prioritizing tasks.

One of the biggest drivers of overwork is to assume that absolutely everything is important and, therefore, must be done. But that is silly. Is changing the shade of red on an interior page of your website something that will make or break the business? Of course not. I’ve written about the famous time-management tip that Bethlehem Steel CEO Charles Schwab thought so valuable that he paid a consultant what today would have been $550,000 after he saw its effectiveness. List your items to do, prioritize them, and work on the most important, then the second most important, and so on. Now you need to move beyond your own day and prioritize the tasks for your company as a whole. Focus on what drives value for customers, investors, and employees. Everything else is superfluous.

Don’t start anything without a plan first.

The biggest time waster is redoing a task you didn’t do completely the first time around, thus doubling the time it takes. That includes not having everything you need at hand to accomplish something, allotting insufficient time for what is necessary, failing to track and follow up on items when you were supposed to, or otherwise wasting opportunity because you didn’t think things through sufficiently up front. Planning takes a little extra time up front, but you save enormous amounts–more than you think possible, until you try it and see the results.

Be realistic about how many gains you can really make.

You need to think and dream big. It’s one of the cardinal differences between you and people who settle for following orders all their lives. But temper your long-term ambitions with short-term realism. Want to squeeze in one more city during a business trip? You can try, but cutting short buffers for planes that may leave late could have you miss an important meeting. Get a few more sales this week? Great thought, but not if you prospect when your customers are out on a long weekend. Examine every effort and ask yourself, “Will this really make a difference, or am I indulging in wishful thinking that keeps me in the long-hours cult?”

Invest in help.

You want to save money–understandably. And you want things done right. Trying to do everything yourself, though, is another way of ignoring priorities and avoiding planning. You can’t do everything yourself and shouldn’t. Get the help you need and train people to do a job the way it needs to be done. At the same time, avoid being overbearing. Don’t expect others to put in the same efforts when they don’t own part of the business. Put people on a treadmill and you’ll help them build up enough momentum to walk right out the door.

Carve out and protect time for yourself.

One of the hidden problems of overwork is that people often have put their entire sense of identity into the business or job. You end up working more and more because there’s either not enough going on in your life or you’re not recognizing its importance. Schedule time to keep yourself healthy, maintain important relationships, and follow passions that aren’t related to your current venture.

By giving up the cult of long hours, you will probably find that you do at least as well as you did and run a good chance of doing better than ever before.

3 Leadership Trends of 2014

By Will Yakowicz

The styles, tools, and theories of management that CEOs and academics are espousing this year.

1. Unlocking hidden strengths

Chris White, managing director of the Center for Positive Organizations at The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, tells Inc. that today’s best leaders are engaging in “endogenous resourcing,” an academic term that refers to finding unique ways to unlock employees’ hidden strengths. White explains that by focusing on building relationships with your employees, you can discover their full capabilities while also providing them with a feeling of ownership over their work and a greater sense of well-being. “There are positive physiological outcomes from this type of leadership that can be scaled to whole companies,” he says.

A good example of endogenous resourcing can be found in the leadership style of Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb. “He draws on individuals’ strengths in a way that is firm yet deferential and open,” White says. “He’s able to be collaborative but is also clear in his directions.”

White says that when new employees begin working at a Whole Foods store, they undergo a three-month trial period. At the end of that time, their team votes on whether they will keep the job or be fired. “This practice helps to build ownership and collective responsibility, which are all resources from within,” White says. “You can’t buy that stuff–you have to lead it.”

2. Giving second chances

Fred Keller, founder and CEO of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based plastics manufacturing company Cascade Engineering, has led his multimillion-dollar business based on a quote from 18th-century theologian and social reformer John Wesley: “Do all the good you can.

Cascade, which Keller started in 1973, now has 12 business units around the world, producing auto parts, furniture components, waste containers, and installing wind turbines, solar panels, and affordable water filters for the developing world. Cascade is the largest manufacturing business certified as a B Corporation, which means it has made a commitment to solving social and environmental problems and meets a lengthy set of performance, accountability, and transparency standards.

Keller, who also teaches sustainable business practices at Cornell University’s Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, says his leadership style is ruled by his heart first and his brain second. Cascade’s signature program is “Welfare to Career,” where the company brings aboard people who have been on government assistance for long periods. Keller says the program has saved the state of Michigan millions of dollars by getting people off the welfare rolls.

“It isn’t just about providing a job, it’s about providing a career,” Keller says. But it hasn’t been easy. “We had to learn how to change our culture to be more accepting and welcoming. Guess what? When we did this for people who have been on welfare it made our culture more positive throughout for everyone. And it turns out to be good for business.”

After the program took off and the culture changed, Cascade’s retention rates rose, as did employee satisfaction. About five years ago, Keller launched a new program to hire ex-felons.

Management policies like these are spreading, and taking on a greater importance all the time, Keller maintains. “There is an increasing sense that our politicians are not going to solve our problems. They have demonstrated that they can’t even keep the trains coming on time,” he says. “But then who is? It’s up to business leaders who align their businesses to solve some of the world’s problems.”

3. Implementing democracy

Avinoam Nowogrodski, CEO of project-management software company Clarizen, says the command-and-control style of leadership popular in decades past doesn’t work for today’s business environment. “People want a voice, people want to participate, and this requires democratic principles,” he says.

Nowogrodski attributes his company’s success to hiring the right people and leading democratically. He says he hires people who have three distinct characteristics–curiosity, modesty, and passion–or what he calls the “Clarizen DNA.”

Once you have people in place who exhibit those key traits, you can implement a democracy focused on individual participation and empowerment, he says.

“It requires all the principles of democracy: People can say whatever they want to say and you want to cultivate their voice and make sure they are outspoken. There needs to be a justice system where everyone is equal. This makes people feel as if they’re in a fair fight, things are possible instead of being dictated from above,” he says. “We make our employees feel like they contribute more than they ever did at other companies and are a part of a big story.”

WILL YAKOWICZ is a reporter at Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime and politics at Patch.com, and his work has been published in Tablet Magazine and The Brooklyn Paper. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
@WillYakowicz

6 Huge Tech Trends Headed Your Way

By Kimberly Weisul

Accenture says these are the trends that will affect big companies in 2014. They’re going to influence you, too

File this under “Know Your Customer:” Accenture recently released its Technology Vision 2014 report, detailing the six big technology trends that the global consutling firm thinks will soon transform large companies.

At first glance, you might not care too terribly much about what’s going on at big companies. But if you sell into a large company of any type, you know that whatever affects it sooner or later affects you. And since many of these trends have their roots in the consumer world (wearable technology, for instance), they’re likely to affect businesses of all sizes before long.

1. The digital-physical blur

What this really means is that we’ll increasingly get information exactly when we need it, rather than stopping mid-project to Google that missing fact or pausing mid-run to see how our vital signs are doing. We already see beginnings of this in products such as a Fitband or Google’s Glass. Smart businesses of all sizes that can take advantage of this same instant, integrated access to information will use it to empower their workforces and re-engineer their processes.

2. From workforce to crowdsource

When big companies talk about crowdsourcing, it often means they’re more open to ideas from their smaller suppliers and from entrepreneurs. Procter & Gamble had a stunning success in so-called outsourced innovation with the Swiffer. A small design company actually came up with the idea, and then P&G worked with them to license, develop and market it. A similar process led to the Olay Regenerist product. Expect to see more willingness to pursue deals like this from the big companies in your ecosystem.

3. Data supply chain

Big companies, like smaller ones, often have more data than they know what to do with, and certainly more than they can analyze in a timely, competent, and useful way. The key to getting the most from “Big Data,” says Accenture, is in treating it like a supply chain issue. Data is just one more input that has to be processed and delivered to the right people at the right time to enable them to do their jobs–whether they’re vendors, employees, or customers.

4. Harnessing hyperscale

In search of higher efficiency and lower costs, companies are looking to optimize their power consumption and get more out of their processors, solid state memory, and infrastructure architectures. Sounds like a great opportunity for entrepreneurs with expertise in these areas.

5. Business of applications

Accenture says 54 percent of the highest-performing IT teams already have in-house app stores. If you’re selling a tech-related product or service to a big customer, do you have an app to help them use and manage it? And would it make sense to make that app available to a wider range of people through the customer’s own app store?

6. Architecting resilience

Businesses of all size increasingly have to be prepared to run 24/7, but most operations aren’t designed to run non-stop. Accenture says that means systems must be ‘designed for failure,’ not designed to spec. In other words, the product or service you’re selling needs to be rock-steady. And then you need a plan B and C.

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Here’s what you missed this week:

Can HOAs ban pot use in homes?
Homeowners associations in Colorado are contacting lawyers in an effort to ban the usage, growth and distribution of marijuana following the legalization of the drug in the state. Legally, HOAs can’t take action until owners become a nuisance to neighbors, said Jerry Orten, an HOA legal analyst. A two-thirds vote by homeowners within an HOA could ban the use and growth of marijuana in a community, but such actions may be difficult to enforce, Orten said. Jeff Gard, a marijuana-law expert, said he believes the larger issue of a widespread ban will be decided in court. The Denver Post/The Cannabist blog(1/14)

Boutique condo buildings attract wealthy buyers
U.S. cities including Miami and New York are experiencing a boom in small condo buildings with a handful of residences and high price tags. Wealthy residents and investors are willing to pay top dollar for privacy, including higher association fees that aren’t spread among many members, Candace Jackson writes. The Wall Street Journal (tiered subscription model)(1/16)

HOA wants neighboring gun range to pack its bags
A homeowners association in Wood County, W.Va., is battling a neighboring gun range in court after more than two years of residents filing complaints about errant bullets. The Wildwood Homeowners Association says the gun range is a safety hazard, with many spent bullets being found close to people and propane tanks. A cease-and-desist order against the gun range by the county expired last week, but the range owner said he has taken safety precautions to prevent bullets from going astray. The State Journal (Charleston, W.Va.)(1/18)