6 Tips for Recruiting Future HOA Leaders

By Community Association Management

  1.  Start the conversation early.

“The best way to get people involved is to do it right when they move in,” says Debra A. Warren, principal of Cinnabar Consulting in San Rafael, Calif., which provides training and employee development services to community association management firms and training and strategic planning sessions for association board members. “Have a program in which a board member is assigned to go meet new residents and bring basic information about the association.”

“The intention should be to get them to come to board meetings and meet the rest of the board members to have a conversation about their interests,” adds Warren. “From a committee perspective, you should be trying to get a feel for where they might fit in because they have an interest. The idea is to have a member of the board start that conversation.”

  1. Be wary of burdening busy professionals.

 “Look at new owners’ leadership ability, communication ability and so on for potential leadership positions,” advises Warren. “But be careful because I’ve seen problems develop. It’s important for board members not to be coercive to get someone to volunteer for the board who doesn’t have the time to participate.

“Maybe a CPA or financial planner moves in,” Warren explains. “She’s a very busy professional but has expertise the board can use. Board members will get excited to recruit her, and she can certainly be helpful. But maybe she doesn’t have the time available to devote to the board. Maybe the answer isn’t for her to be on the board but to be on a committee or available to provide extra advice to the board when necessary. You don’t have to lead people all the way into the swamp the first time.”

  1. Empower members to get involved.

“I just ran across a huge community with thousands of residents that’s particularly good at this,” says McCormick. “I asked, ‘What’s your secret?’ The response was that it’s a matter of giving volunteers the authority to do things and recognizing them for their accomplishments. You need to have a process that supports them and enables them. If you don’t have that, they’ll fizzle away.”

If there’s a local meeting of association members or professionals that’s open to the public, encourage your residents to go. “The volunteers I saw were at an association industry event, and the association had told them, ‘Yes, please get involved,’” explains McCormick. “The association fosters those residents’ desire to go to industry events, and the residents feel involved, important, and like they’re really accomplishing something. That’s good for them and the community.”

  1. Delegate authority to your residents.

“Another key is giving volunteers the authority to do things,” says McCormick. “You have to pay attention to what residents are saying. A resident may come to a meeting and say, ‘I was out doing this in the community, and I met this person.’ That person sounds like she has a natural tendency to meet people and might be perfect for a welcoming committee for new residents. In that case, you’re giving her the ability to do things she already likes on behalf of the association, and she’s going to have an investment in it. But you have to pay attention. If a resident says he loves gardening, you have to think: ‘Perfect for the landscape committee!’”

  1. Start them out slowly.

“I’ve seen some people want to get involved, but they’re not quite ready yet,” says Robert M. DeNichilo, an attorney at DeNichilo & Lindsley LLP in Irvine, Calif., who specializes in representing community associations. “So they get involved on committees. It’s a platform to graduate from before serving on the board, and it’s a way for them to get a taste of what it’s like to be involved.”recognition

  1. Recognize their efforts.

Residents are more likely to want to continue helping out if you recognize them for their contributions. “Give recognition at the annual meeting, even if it’s simple,” says McCormick. “How much does it cost to create a certificate that you print out?

 

 

Secrets of the Superbosses

By Sydney Finkelstein

What do Ralph Lauren, Larry Ellison, Julian Robertson, Jay Chiat, Bill Walsh, George Lucas, Bob Noyce, Lorne Michaels, and Mary Kay Ash have in common?

Certainly all of them are known for being talented and successful—even legendary—in their respective fields. All have reputations as innovators who pioneered new business models, products, or services that created billions of dollars in value. But there’s one thing that distinguishes these business icons from their equally famous peers: the ability to groom talent. They didn’t just build organizations; they spotted, trained, and developed a future generation of leaders. They belong in a category beyond superstars: superbosses.

leader

I started researching this cohort of managers a decade ago, when I noticed a curious pattern: If you look at the top people in a given industry, you’ll often find that as many as half of them once worked for the same well-known leader. In professional football, 20 of the NFL’s 32 head coaches trained under Bill Walsh of the San Francisco 49ers or under someone in his coaching tree. In hedge funds, dozens of protégés of Julian Robertson, the founder of the investment firm Tiger Management, have become top fund managers. And from 1994 until 2004, nine of the 11 executives who worked closely with Larry Ellison at Oracle and left the company without retiring went on to become CEOs, chairs, or COOs of other companies.

Eager to learn the secrets of these star makers, I reviewed thousands of articles and books and conducted more than 200 interviews to identify 18 primary study subjects (definite superbosses) and a few dozen secondary ones (likely superbosses). I then looked for patterns—common tastes, proclivities, behaviors—anything that might help explain why these people were able to propel not only their companies but also their protégés to such great heights.

I found that superbosses share a number of key personality traits. They tend to be extremely confident, competitive, and imaginative. They also act with integrity and aren’t afraid to let their authentic selves shine through.

But far more interesting (and more important for teaching purposes) were the similarities I saw in the “people strategies” that superbosses employed. Their remarkable success as talent spawners was not the result of some innate genius. These leaders follow specific practices in hiring and honing talent—practices that the rest of us can study and incorporate into our own repertoires.

Unconventional Hiring

Superbosses begin by seeking out unusually gifted people—individuals who are capable not merely of driving a business forward but of rewriting the very definition of success. As Lorne Michaels, the longtime producer of Saturday Night Live, has said, “If you look around the room and you think, ‘God, these people are amazing,’ then you’re probably in the right room.” Here’s how he and others do it.

Focus on intelligence, creativity, and flexibility.

Superbosses value these three attributes above all others. C. Ronald Blankenship and R. Scot Sellers, both protégés of real estate guru Bill Sanders before they became CEOs of leading property companies themselves, remember how Sanders would brag about bringing in so many people who were “four times smarter” than he was. He would insist that if you weren’t going to hire someone great, you shouldn’t hire anyone at all.

Superbosses want people who can approach problems from new angles, handle surprises, learn quickly, and excel in any position. Norman Brinker, the casual-dining innovator who founded Steak and Ale, was a good example. As Rick Berman, who worked under him before founding a successful lobbying firm, recalls, Brinker “wasn’t a fan of hiring people to play first base; he just wanted to hire a good baseball player.” That emphasis on versatility helped give rise to a generation of top leaders in the restaurant industry, including the CEOs of Outback Steakhouse, P.F. Chang’s, and Burger King.

Find unlikely winners.

Superbosses consider credentials, of course, but they’re also willing to take chances on people who lack industry experience or even college degrees. According to Marty Staff, who worked for Ralph Lauren before becoming CEO of Hugo Boss USA, Lauren once made a runway model the head of women’s design “for no other reason than she seemed to get it—she got the clothes.” At health care giant HCA, Tommy Frist sometimes set even physical therapists on a path to the C-suite, simply because he spotted something in them.

Because they reject preconceived notions of what talent should look like, superbosses often show greater openness toward women and minorities. Mary Kay Ash, in fact, expressly designed her company to empower women, holding sales conferences where the message was “If she can do it, so can I.” Walsh started a fellowship program in the NFL for minority coaches, giving participants a fast track into the league and himself a chance to tap into a vast new source of talent.

Superbosses often dispense with the conventional interview process, too; instead, they pose unusual or quirky questions or use observation as a tool. When Ralph Lauren met with job candidates, for example, he would ask them to explain what they were wearing and why. Sanders would invite prospects to hike a 7,000-foot peak on his New Mexico ranch with him and other managers. “We learned a whole lot about these kids on the hikes,” recalls Constance Moore, who worked for Sanders at Security Capital before becoming CEO of BRE Properties. “After, we would all sit down and talk about each of them and figure out which ones we wanted to ask to join.”

Adapt the job or organization to fit the talent.

Superbosses opportunistically tailor jobs and sometimes even their organizations to new hires. As an assistant coach for the Cincinnati Bengals, Walsh had to invent a new offense to enable the backup quarterback to excel after an injury brought down the team’s starter. Because the second-stringer had more accuracy than arm strength, Walsh designed an unusual strategy around short passes—which later became known as the West Coast offense (when Walsh was with the 49ers). Lorne Michaels lets his ensemble’s ideas and abilities constantly shape and reshape their contributions to Saturday Night Live. Writers sometimes become performers, and performers or assistant directors sometimes become writers. At Industrial Light & Magic, George Lucas’s employees didn’t even have job descriptions. They were assigned tasks on various projects according to what was needed and who was available. All these examples run counter to traditional HR practices, but they reflect an innovative mindset that superbosses bring to virtually everything they do.

Accept churn.

Smart, creative, flexible people tend to have fast-paced careers. Some may soon want to move on. That’s OK with superbosses. They understand that the quality of talent on their teams matters more than stability, and they regard turnover as an opportunity to find fresh stars. Consider how Discovery Communications founder John Hendricks reacted when, in 1997, his second in command, Richard Allen, was asked to become the head of National Geographic’s for-profit arm. Hendricks would have loved to have kept Allen but never tried to hold him back, realizing that he’d rather have a friend leading his rival than anyone else. “It was a real indication of his generosity of spirit,” Allen says.

This kind of attitude has an added payoff: When word gets out that people who work for you succeed not only at your organization but outside it, the world will start beating a path to your door. Superbosses barely need to recruit, because their reputations bring a continuous stream of talent to them.

The Three Types of Superbosses

bosses

Hands-on Leadership

Superbosses also have a distinct way of developing employees. Take Larry Ellison. His greatest strength, according to one of his protégés, is his ability “to make exceptional people do the impossible.” I heard stories in a similar vein about other superbosses. From them, one can distill these principles:

Set high expectations.

Superbosses are bullish on what their teams can accomplish. They demand extraordinarily high performance; “perfect is good enough” captures their attitude. The legendary Bob Noyce, for instance, “could be a very, very tough taskmaster,” remembers his fellow Intel cofounder Gordon Moore. “If you were up for the challenge, you could be very successful.” But superbosses go beyond pushing hard for results and instill a sense of confidence and exceptionalism in their people. Michael Rubin, who was a young member of Lucas Film’s Graphics Group in the 1980s, recalls how transformational it was to hear Lucas talk about his vision for digital filmmaking and the role they would all play in it. “I heard him explain what the future could be like, and I was infected with that at age 22. I believed him. And it changed my career.” Tom Carroll, now chairman of TBWA Group, sounds a similar note about former boss Chiat: “Jay left something in people that makes it hard for you to go back to being ordinary. Once you feel it, you can’t change it.”

Be a master.

Superbosses are extremely effective delegators. Having chosen smart, ambitious, adaptable people and offered them a vision, they trust the team to execute. “Norman Brinker gave us incredible autonomy,” explains Richard Frank, a former senior manager at Steak and Ale who went on to run Chuck E. Cheese. “We definitely had the ability to fail.” And yet superbosses also remain intimately involved in the details of their businesses and their employees’ work. HCA’s Tommy Frist, a licensed pilot, would take subordinates on his plane to company events, using the flight time to engage in what was almost a tutorial on some aspect of what those people were working on. I compare it to the master-apprentice relationship you find in a traditional artisan workshop. Like highly skilled craftsmen, superbosses give protégés an unusual amount of hands-on experience but also monitor their progress, offer instruction and intense feedback, and step in to work with them side by side when necessary.

Superbosses’ teachings extend to leadership and life lessons as well. Frist would counsel managers on everything from setting daily goals to the importance of exercising to stay sharp. Luc Vandevelde, the former chairman of Marks and Spencer and Carrefour, was taught by former Kraft CEO Michael Miles to walk a fine line between partnering with subordinates and micromanaging them. Miles advised Vandevelde to work closely enough with his people to “elicit skills” but not so closely that he would “limit skills.” “I’ll never forget those words,” Vandevelde explains. “They profoundly changed my management approach, creating an environment where people can be at their best.”

Encourage step-change growth.

All the superbosses I studied offered advancement opportunities far beyond those found in traditional organizations. Rather than relying solely on “competency models” to guide development and promotion decisions, they customized career paths for protégés who had proved their worth, seeking to dramatically compress their learning and growth. Chase Coleman, a disciple of Julian Robertson, says that his former boss “was good at providing a steep learning curve for people who excelled at their first task.” In fact, just three years after Coleman joined Tiger Management as a technology analyst, Robertson sent him off with $25 million to start his own fund. Larry Ellison took a similar approach, says Gary Bloom, a former executive VP of Oracle who later became CEO of Veritas. “One thing Oracle was incredibly good at was on a continual basis throwing new responsibility at people,” Bloom notes. For example, Safra Catz was acting as CEO in all but name for a decade before formally being elevated to co-CEO (with Mark Hurd) in 2014.

Stay connected.

For superbosses, counseling protégés is a long-term commitment. Even after someone moves out of their organization, superbosses continue to offer advice, personal introductions, and “membership” in their networks. Former creative director Ken Segall says that although he served under Jay Chiat for only three years during the mid-1990s, he made a practice of calling his former boss whenever he changed jobs. “Usually within two or three hours at the most, I would get a call back,” Segall recalls. “He would consult with me and advise me. He was that kind of guy.”

Maintaining relationships with ex-employees sets superbosses up for all sorts of follow-on opportunities, such as developing business partnerships. Frist helped many of the managers who’d worked for him at HCA start companies in the health care space by investing or becoming a customer. Lorne Michaels excelled at this, too, producing films and TV shows with former SNL stars Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen, and Tina Fey.

Superbosses employ practices that set them head and shoulders above even the best traditional bosses. They seek out talent differently and hire them in unusual ways. They create high expectations and take it upon themselves to serve as “masters” to up-and-coming “apprentices.” And they accept it when their protégés go on to bigger and better things, making sure to stay connected.

You, too, can move closer to this ideal. Don’t feel you need to try every move in the playbook at once. Experiment with one or two. Consider unorthodox applicants for open positions, looking at people who might possess unusual abilities. Remember that people are more effective when they feel confident, and make it your job to build them up. Get in the trenches more often with line employees, so you can learn more about their particular talents and challenges and impart wisdom that will help them grow. Look for opportunities to delegate big responsibility even to younger team members.

Following the superboss playbook, we can all become better at nurturing talent, creating higher-performing workforces and, ultimately, more dynamic and sustainable businesses and industries.

Sydney Finkelstein is the Steven Roth Professor of Management in Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and the author of Superbosses: How Exceptional Leaders Manage the Flow of Talent (Portfolio/Penguin, February 2016) from which this article was adapted.

 

Maximize Your Productivity in 30 Minutes

By Kenny Kline

When you’re stressed at work, it’s easy to let organization slide to the bottom of your to-do list. But office clutter comes with serious consequences: A messy workspace can lead to decreased productivity, diminished creativity, and impaired work performance. Clutter can also make you feel anxious, irritable, and generally out of control — and therefore less effective overall.

Luckily, a boost in mental clarity and productivity is available to any office worker with approximately 30 minutes to spare. Set a timer, shut out all distractions, and tackle the following tasks as quickly as possible. Make this routine a habit, and you’ll improve your work performance for life.

Place similar items near each other.

Assign a designated space for each category of office gear, from cords to writing utensils to books on leadership. Label each of these spaces so you never again have to think about where anything should go. While you’re at it, eliminate redundant equipment — do you really need 25 pens? Be quick and ruthless: Scale it back to the essentials, and you’ll minimize both clutter and overwhelm.

Straighten desk drawers.

Even when it’s out of sight, uncategorized junk can still inhibit clarity of mind. Start by pulling everything out of your desk drawers and grouping similar items together in categories (thumb tacks, loose change, personal items, etc.). Again, move quickly and don’t overthink it. Assign each category to a section of the drawer, label each section, and commit to putting things back where they belong instead of randomly dumping items into the drawers.

Tie up loose ends.

Loose wires and cables aren’t just visually distracting — they can also be a safety hazard.  For a quick and easy fix, tuck cords into a cable organizer. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, wrap adhesive Velcro strips around the cords and attach them to the inside of your desk.

Organize paperwork.

You won’t have time to completely overhaul a paper file system in 30 minutes, but you can set up a more efficient means of sorting papers. Start by labeling three different bins: one for incoming papers, one for paperwork that you’ve reviewed but still need to address, and one for anything that can be digitized and then shredded.

Digitizing files is an incredibly effective way to cut down on office clutter, so commit to scanning and shredding these documents in 20-minute increments over the next few weeks. (Add this task to your calendar to help ensure it actually gets done.)

Next, grab a stack of multicolored filing folders from the office supply closet. Assign each color to a different category (blue folders could contain client contracts, yellow folders could contain financial info, and so on).

Moving forward, whenever you’ve processed papers from the “new” or “to be addressed” bins, promptly place them in the correctly colored folder. This will save you precious time whenever you need to locate files in the future.

Don’t forget digital clutter.

Workers can lose up to an hour a day searching for digital files. If your desktop is a mess, you may need more than 30 minutes to get it completely under control. But you can get the process started by mapping out an overarching hierarchy for folders on your computer.

Create folders for large categories (client communications, contracts, etc.) and spend a few minutes dragging-and-dropping files into the relevant folder. Then, whenever you have the time, work on creating clearly labeled sub-folders within each category.

Once the timer dings, you’re all done — for today. Office organization requires regular maintenance, so it’s important to commit to this routine for the long haul. Set aside time on your calendar to maintain the systems you’ve put in place — depending on your schedule, you might want to assign daily 15-minute cleanups, 30 minutes twice weekly, or a one-hour organization session every Friday afternoon. Experiment with a schedule that works for you, and stick to it. Your work life will be better for it.

make-today-a-productive-day.

Kenny Kline is the founder and managing partner at JAKK Solutions, a New York City digital marketing agency. He primarily focuses on traffic generation, lead capture, and conversion for small businesses. @ThisBeKenny

Effective Meeting Agenda Design

By Roger Schwarz

We’ve all been in meetings where participants are unprepared, people veer off-track, and the topics discussed are a waste of the team’s time. These problems — and others like it — stem from poor agenda design. An effective agenda sets clear expectations for what needs to occur before and during a meeting. It helps team members prepare, allocates time wisely, quickly gets everyone on the same topic, and identifies when the discussion is complete. If problems still occur during the meeting, a well-designed agenda increases the team’s ability to effectively and quickly address them.

Here are some tips for designing an effective agenda for your next meeting, with a sample agenda and template below. You can use these tips whether a meeting lasts an hour or three days and whether you’re meeting with a group of five or forty:

effective_meeting_3Seek input from team members. If you want your team to be engaged in meetings, make sure the agenda includes items that reflect their needs. Ask team members to suggest agenda items along with a reason why each item needs to be addressed in a team setting. If you ultimately decide not to include an item, be accountable — explain your reasoning to the team member who suggested it.

Select topics that affect the entire team. Team meeting time is expensive and difficult to schedule. It should mainly be used to discuss and make decisions on issues that affect the whole team — and need the whole team to solve them. Examples might include: How do we best allocate shared resources? How do we reduce response time? If the team isn’t spending most of the meeting talking about interdependent issues, members will disengage and ultimately not attend.

List agenda topics as questions the team needs to answer. Most agenda topics are simply several words strung together to form a phrase, for example: “office space reallocation.” This leaves meeting participants wondering, “What about office space reallocation?” When you list a topic as a question (or questions) to be answered, it instead reads like this: “Under what conditions, if any, should we reallocate office space?” A question enables team members to better prepare for the discussion and to monitor whether their own and others’ comments are on track. During the meeting, anyone who thinks a comment is off-track can say something like, “I’m not seeing how your comment relates to the question we’re trying to answer. Can you help me understand the connection?” Finally, the team knows that when the question has been answered, the discussion is complete.

Note whether the purpose of the topic is to share information, seek input for a decision, or make a decision. It’s difficult for team members to participate effectively if they don’t know whether to simply listen, give their input, or be part of the decision making process. If people think they are involved in making a decision, but you simply want their input, everyone is likely to feel frustrated by the end of the conversation. Updates are better distributed — and read — prior to the meeting, using a brief part of the meeting to answer participants’ questions. If the purpose is to make a decision, state the decision-making rule. If you are the formal leader, at the beginning of the agenda item you might say, “If possible, I want us to make this decision by consensus. That means that everyone can support and implement the decision given their roles on the team. If we’re not able to reach consensus after an hour of discussion, I’ll reserve the right to make the decision based on the conversation we’ve had. I’ll tell you my decision and my reasoning for making it.”

Estimate a realistic amount of time for each topic. This serves two purposes. First, it requires you to do the math — to calculate how much time the team will need for introducing the topic, answering questions, resolving different points of view, generating potential solutions, and agreeing on the action items that follow from discussion and decisions. Leaders typically underestimate the amount of time needed. If there are ten people in your meeting and you have allocated ten minutes to decide under what conditions, if any, you will reallocate office space, you have probably underestimated the time. By doing some simple math, you would realize that the team would have to reach a decision immediately after each of the ten members has spoken for a minute. Second, the estimated time enables team members to either adapt their comments to fit within the allotted timeframe or to suggest that more time may be needed. The purpose of listing the time is not to stop discussion when the time has elapsed; that simply contributes to poor decision making and frustration. The purpose is to get better at allocating enough time for the team to effectively and efficiently answer the questions before it.

Propose a process for addressing each agenda item. The process identifies the steps through which the team will move together to complete the discussion or make a decision. Agreeing on a process significantly increases meeting effectiveness, yet leaders rarely do it. Unless the team has agreed on a process, members will, in good faith, participate based on their own process. The process for addressing an item should appear on the written agenda. When you reach that item during the meeting, explain the process and seek agreement: “I suggest we use the following process. First, let’s take about 10 minutes to get all the relevant information on the table. Second, let’s take another 10 minutes to identify and agree on any assumptions we need to make. Third, we’ll take another 10 minutes to identify and agree on the interests that should be met for any solution. Finally, we’ll use about 15 minutes to craft a solution that ideally takes into account all the interests, and is consistent with our relevant information and assumptions. Any suggestions for improving this process?”

Specify how members should prepare for the meeting. Distribute the agenda with sufficient time before the meeting, so the team can read background materials and prepare their initial thoughts for each agenda item ahead of time.

Identify who is responsible for leading each topic. Someone other than the formal meeting leader is often responsible for leading the discussion of a particular agenda item. This person may be providing context for the topic, explaining data, or may have organizational responsibility for that area. Identifying this person next to the agenda item ensures that anyone who is responsible for leading part of the agenda knows it — and prepares for it — before the meeting.

Make the first topic “review and modify agenda as needed.” Even if you and your team have jointly developed the agenda before the meeting, take a minute to see if anything needs to be changed due to late breaking events. I once had a meeting scheduled with a senior leadership team. As we reviewed the agenda, I asked if we needed to modify anything. The CEO stated that he had just told the board of directors that he planned to resign and that we probably needed to significantly change the agenda. Not all agenda modifications are this dramatic, but by checking at the beginning of the meeting, you increase the chance that the team will use its meeting time most effectively.

End the meeting with a plus/delta. If your team meets regularly, two questions form a simple continuous improvement process: What did we do well? What do we want to do differently for the next meeting? Investing five or ten minutes will enable the team to improve performance, working relationships, and team member satisfaction. Here are some questions to consider when identifying what the team has done well and what it wants to do differently:

  1. Was the agenda distributed in time for everyone to prepare?
  2. How well did team members prepare for the meeting?
  3. How well did we estimate the time needed for each agenda item?
  4. How well did we allocate our time for decision making and discussion?
  5. How well did everyone stay on-topic? How well did team members speak up when they thought someone was off-topic?
  6. How effective was the process for each agenda item?

To ensure that your team follows through, review the results of the plus/delta at the beginning of the next meeting. If you develop agendas using these tips, and the sample agenda and template below, your team will have an easier time getting — and staying — focused in meetings.

Roger Schwarz is an organizational psychologist, speaker, leadership team consultant, and president and CEO of Roger Schwarz & Associates. He is the author of Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams: How You and Your Team Get Unstuck to Get Results. For more, visit www.schwarzassociates.com or find him on Twitter @LeadSmarter.

Sample Meeting Agendas are below:

sample agenda 1sample agenda 2

Smiling Through Adversity: 4 Lessons From Astronaut Scott Kelly

By Jessica Stillman

scot kelly

American astronaut Scott Kelly recently touched down in Kazakhstan after spending a year at the International Space Station. How did a year cooped up with one other guy in a cramped quarters affect Kelly?

Based on the fact that his first words upon being pulled from his landing capsule was a joke about the weather, clearly not too badly. That’s great news for Kelly, NASA, and the future of manned space flight, but it’s also interesting for the rest of us stuck here on earth amid the usual small hassles and daily annoyances of a planet-bound existence. If Kelly can laugh through adversity, surely we can too, and borrowing some of his tricks for maintaining his sanity can surely help.

1. Humor is powerful medicine.

Kelly’s year in space revealed that he’s a science ninja, a seasoned hand with social media, and a not-half-bad photographer, but it also showed that he’s a pretty good comedian. From chasing his fellow ISS resident around in a gorilla suit to bantering with the President of the United States, one key to Kelly’s resilience was obviously his sense of humor.

So if a guy living inside a giant, high-tech tin can floating in the most hostile environment imaginable for a year can find the funny in his everyday life, certainly most of us can do the same despite our mundane professional challenges and personal annoyances.

2. Gratitude is a mental health workout.

Sure, living in a confined space for a year, missing your family, and dealing with giant urine-acid balls has to be challenging, but on the other hand Kelly was in space! He clearly never forgot to appreciate the extraordinary experience he was having, as well as the large team that made it possible.

Science suggests it’s a strategy that can work for everyone. Counting your blessings, studies show, strengthens your brain’s ability to see the bright side going forward, making it easier to be even more grateful and happier in the future — no matter the challenges you face.

3. Keep your perspective with awe.

How does living in space affect astronauts psychologically? It has its difficulties, sure, but previous manned missions suggest one of the biggest effects is positive.

“Something that can happen to the human mind when it breaches near space. Believers call it the ‘overview effect,'” Fast Company has reported.. In essence, the awe-filled feeling you get when you see our planet glowing below expands your sense of humanity, giving you a stronger sense of connection to your fellow earthlings. Research suggests that awe has a powerful impact on us, boosting kindness and well-being.

Every one of us can try to find opportunities to wonder at the majesty of nature or art in our everyday lives, expanding our horizons and helping us see past our petty individual challenges and constraints.

4. Everyone needs someone to talk to.

Astronaut is one of the toughest jobs to land out there. NASA tests would-be space men and women rigorously not just for physical health but mental toughness as well. And knowing that one’s career hangs in the balance doesn’t exactly encourage an astronaut to speak up about any mental health challenges they might be facing. But even the toughest of the tough need someone to talk to, a fact NASA acknowledges. “Over the past several years, NASA has been funding a group of psychologists to develop a software program astronauts could use, while aboard spacecraft, to help them work through depression and conflicts with their fellow space-goers. Because astronauts are often reluctant to admit to anxiety or depression, out of fear they won’t be allowed to go to space again, the software is designed so nobody can track whether an astronaut uses it,” reports the Pacific Standard.

If badass test pilots and astronauts need an outlet, so do you. No one should white knuckle their way through adversity alone.

What was your favorite moment of Astronaut Kelly’s #YearInSpace?

 Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in Cyprus with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

Home buyers face a new threat: higher mortgage rates

By Jonnelle Marte and Ylan Q. Mui

 Americans looking to buy a home are facing pressure to act as soon as possible, as the era of rock-bottom mortgage rates that have sustained the nation’s housing market since the recession could be coming to an end.

 For years, many home buyers have enjoyed interest rates of under 4 percent, far lower than historic averages. But many analysts say that will change if the Federal Reserve begins pulling back its support for the American economy next month, as is widely expected. An increase in the central bank’s benchmark rate is likely to result in rate raises for all sorts of loans, particularly mortgages.

Already, rates have crept higher in anticipation of Fed action — and that is forcing both buyers and sellers to reevaluate their budgets and behaviors. Average rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages have climbed in recent weeks by about a quarter-percentage point, from 3.75 percent to almost 4 percent — about a $600-a-year difference on a $350,000 mortgage.

 Several sources of data suggest that buyers are paying more attention to the threat of higher rates. The number of mortgage applications submitted this fall was about 20 percent higher compared with the same period a year ago, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association, an industry group. That could reflect the fact that more people are looking to buy even after the busy summer season. The number of home tours requested in October by users of the real estate Web site Redfin increased 34 percent compared with the same time last year.

 But while some are moving more quickly to buy, others are feeling as though an opportunity may have passed.

 Kradak Thomas, a 43-year-old chemist living in Potomac, Md., said he and his wife had recently considered moving their family to Virginia for a shorter commute. But moving from their home, where they have been for seven years, would have meant giving up a 3.25 percent mortgage rate.

 The higher rates now mean they would need to find into a less expensive, potentially smaller home in order to keep their monthly mortgage payment about the same. So they have decided to stay put.

 “You add all of those things up and say, ‘Well, what’s that going to do for us as a family?’ ” Thomas said.

Predicting how the housing market will respond to higher rates always involves some guesswork, and many factors can influence home-buying activity. The last central bank hike was in 2006 — before the iPhone was released — and many in the industry have little experience working in a ­rising-rate environment. In addition, there is no precedent for increasing rates after such a long period at historically low levels.

 “There is a level of urgency to consumers when they think — whether there is one or not — that there is a rising-rate environment,” said Katie Miller, vice president of mortgage lending at Navy Federal Credit Union.

 More than 90 percent of buyers in a recent Redfin survey cited low interest rates as motivation for purchasing a home. Rob Ross, senior vice president at the lending service MVB Mortgage, said his workload has jumped from one new home loan a day to as many as six.

 “Psychologically, when people say the Fed is going to raise interest rates, it may push people to get off their duff,” said Lorraine Arora, managing broker at Weichart Realty in Fairfax County.

 The Mortgage Bankers Association expects that rates on 30-year loans could reach 4.8 percent by the end of next year, topping 5 percent in 2017. Rates haven’t been that high since the recession.

 The Fed aimed trillions of dollars in stimulus at the housing market in the wake of the financial crisis, buying up mortgage-backed securities to help push rates to record lows. But that is not the only factor influencing the direction of mortgage rates. Interest rates in the United States are being held back by uncertainty in the global economy and easy money in other countries. (The Fed doesn’t control mortgage rates; it does manage a rate that banks use to charge one another for overnight loans, setting the baseline for all other activity.)

 Realtor.com’s analysis found that as many as 7 percent of people who applied for a mortgage during the first half of the year would have had trouble qualifying if rates rose by half a percentage point. Government regulations require lenders to consider potential buyers’ debt in comparison with their income.

 Higher interest rates effectively mean that borrowers cannot spend as much on a home. Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner said that could hamper the ability of all but the wealthiest borrowers to jump into the market.

 “The lower end is having a hard time coming up with the down payment,” Vitner said. “The middle has seen very little increase in pay, and the upper end, they’re not as sensitive to interest-rate increases.”

 Even when mortgage rates begin to rise, they are still likely to be low by historical standards. The Fed has tried to assure financial markets that it expects to increase its benchmark rate gradually over the next few years, allowing the economy plenty of time to digest the moves.

But even a tiny bump in rates could have a big impact on buyers’ wallets. Realtor.com’s chief economist, Jonathan Smoke, estimated that an increase of half a percentage point translates into a 6 percent rise in monthly payments. On an average loan of $231,000 with a mortgage rate of about 4 percent, that’s an extra $68 a month.

 New York state resident Melanie Theisen had hoped to find a home before the interest rates go up. But the 41-year-old government contractor is having a hard time finding a home within her $200,000 budget that has what she wants: a two-bedroom cottage with at least half an acre of land for planting a garden and raising chickens. So she moved into a rental and plans to keep looking throughout the winter.

 Theisen hopes her strong credit score and sizable down payment will help her qualify for a good loan, even if interest rates rise. A rate increase might reduce how much of a loan she can qualify for, but waiting would also give her time to keep saving and adding to her down payment.

 “I didn’t want to be pressured into something that wasn’t what I wanted,” Theisen said.

 Higher interest rates can also affect decisions among potential sellers, many of whom may be loathe to sacrifice their ultra-low mortgage rates to move to a new home. The phenomenon is known as “rate lock,” and analysts said it could result in tight inventory for years to come.

 Rather than drop out of the hunt, buyers are more likely to adjust to higher rates by lowering the amount that they are willing to spend. That could mean settling for a smaller home or one in a less desirable location.

Others simply wait, socking away money until their dream home can become a reality.

 “The money part has been the biggest learning curve with me through this process,” said Britt Manchester, 27, a first-time home buyer from Arlington.

 Manchester has her heart set on a two-bedroom condo on picturesque Corcoran Street in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. She has been living with her mother for the past two years to save money for a down payment. If higher interest rates mean she must wait a little longer and save even more, so be it.

 “I know that my place is out there somewhere,” she said

 

Tis the Season for Stress: Holiday Decorations and Snow Removal in Community Associations

By: Jeffrey Van Grack

Every year as the holidays approach, community association owners and renters become passionate about two issues: decorations and snow removal. With some forethought, boards of directors and managers can avoid conflict and liability around these issues.

In most communities from Thanksgiving until just after the first of the year, and around other holidays throughout the year (Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day, Purim, etc.), owners and renters begin the process of putting decorations (of all colors, sizes and shapes) on their property. These include everything from a miniature Fenway Park for the World Series to a tiny Mount Rushmore on President’s Day to a 24-hour-a-day brightly lit and noisy Christmas tree with Santa wishing everyone in the neighborhood a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year at very high decibel levels. Many communities’ covenants prohibit “any exterior change or alteration of any nature without the written approval of the Architectural Control Committee,” but taking a Scrooge-like attitude to require approval of these decorations is not recommended.

Communities should be proactive and adopt guidelines that allow for and regulate the short-term installation of holiday decorations. This will ensure that the association will be protected while allowing it to be reasonable and to act in the holiday spirit. Some guidelines should include the following:

◾Timetable for Decorations: The guidelines should spell out a reasonable period both shortly before and after the holiday for decorations to be displayed that are consistent with reasonable and customary practices.

◾Holiday Lighting: Lighting (especially bright and blinking lights) should not be allowed to disturb neighbors.

◾Blow Up Decorations: The association should address blow up decorations specifically, including issues such as whether decorations may be inflated all day, how large they may be, etc.

◾Common Area/Element Decorations: Sometimes the association itself places holiday decorations on the common areas of a homeowners association or common elements in a condominium. The association needs to be conscious of a potential claim for a violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and other federal and state fair housing laws. Associations must not favor one religion over another and they have an obligation to be non-discriminatory and uniform in the application and enforcement of holiday decoration rules. While common area religious displays either should be avoided or carefully monitored, residents of the community should be allowed to display personal religious items in their homes and on their property within the association’s holiday rules and regulations.

My favorite real life war story is the homeowner who installed red and green Christmas lights that he kept in place until mid-January. When the association sent a letter asking him to remove the lights, instead of removing taking them down, the owner replaced them with pink lights for Valentine’s Day, which remained until early March; they became green for St. Patrick’s Day. The cat and mouse game continued throughout the years with red, white and blue replacement lights for July 4th, orange and black lights for Halloween and everything else in between. It ended only when the owner moved.

 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.

 

The Real Reason Millennials Are Distracted in Your Meetings

By Ryan Jenkins, Contributor, Inc.com @theRyanJenks

Phones aren’t to blame for distracted employees in meetings. Stagnant and poor communication is the problem.

Millennials continue to get razzed for having their heads buried in their phones. For managers of Millennials, this behavior is most frustrating during the middle of a meeting. Those finger flicks and swipes can make the blood of the most seasoned managers boil.

If the small Yondr pouches that lock smartphones shut with a wireless signal while in the “no-phone zone” aren’t an option for your meeting, then what’s a person to do?

This challenge extends beyond the business environment. I recently spoke to a room full of highly esteemed doctors from around the country, and many asked me about how to get their Millennial residents to turn off their phones while in the classroom.

My answer to the room full of doctors is the same answer I’d give to business leaders wondering, “How do I get Millennials to ignore their phones while in a meeting?” That answer is: You’re asking the wrong question. The better question is, “How do I create more engaging communications?”

You can’t control the attention of Millennials. Even if you get them to power down their devices, that doesn’t mean you’ll win their attention. Instead, you’ll earn Millennial resentment and the label of an irrelevant and outdated leader.

The only thing you can control is the message and the delivery of that message. The secret to engaging Millennials in meetings is crafting captivating content.

As a professional speaker, every time I step onstage I am competing with the audience’s hundreds of pending emails, endless status updates, continuous news stories, and prospects of beating their high score in Fruit Ninja…all in the palms of their hands.

My content has to be more gripping than the next post of their favorite Instagram follow. My delivery has to be more dynamic than a sports highlight.

There’s more competing for our attention than ever before. It takes intentional communication to cut through the noise.

It’s a battle for people’s attention, and the battle starts in the preparation and extends through the delivery. Having an audience turn off their phones is the lazy way out.

Attention can no longer be expected, it must be earned. Whether in the conference room or classroom, take responsibility for the attention of your Millennial audience. Prepare meticulously and deliver with passion and brevity.

Here are a few other ideas to consider when engaging the mobile-dependent Millennials:

1.Tell a story. Stories remain timeless as a way to captivate any audience.

2.Ask questions. What’s 12 minus 5? I bet you just answered that question in your head before continuing to read. Questions are inherently engaging.

3.Use images. Humans think in images. Take note from Instagram’s success with Millennials and supplement your message with appealing images.

4.Be shocking. The unexpected and surprising will attract the attention of the most mobile-addicted.

5.Simplify. Simplify the message to its bare essentials and simplify the logistics by cutting the time of every meeting you have moving forward in half.

6.Co-create. Prior to the meeting, ask attendees to help create or shape the content.

7.Draw in digitally. Pull engagement through mobile devices. I use PollEverywhere to engage my audiences with live polls.

If, for some odd reason, phones must be shut off, then you must present a clear and compelling case as to why they cannot be used.

The Millennial worker and today’s ever-evolving times demand transformative communications. Today’s tech should be your motivator to become a better communicator.