This article from FastCompany addresses: How to keep your work from creeping into your personal life. Why do so many people feel like they’re never really able to turn work off completely?

By Elizabeth Grace Saunders

With some jobs, you truly do have to be available to work 24/7: think doctor on an on-call day. But most jobs don’t require giving your work this level of access to your personal time. So why is it that many people—likely you if you’re reading this article—feel like they’re never really able to turn work off completely?

In my work as a time management coach, I see that this “work creep” falls into two big buckets: work you need to complete, and interruptions from others who want something from you. With both buckets, you can proactively reduce the amount of time work intrudes in your personal life with some simple, yet powerful, time management strategies.

Work you need to complete

If work outside of when you want to be working happens primarily due to your own uncompleted tasks, you’ll need to push back more during the workday to protect your time after hours.

1. Know what you need to do

The first step to avoiding working outside of work is to know exactly what needs to be accomplished for the week. Increasing your awareness of what might keep you up at night or working on the weekend allows you to not have it surprise you at the end of the day or the end of the week. Then if possible, look for open blocks of time in your calendar when you can complete the work—for example, an hour gap between meetings or an open morning. If you don’t have any open time, then you’ll need to begin blocking time out in your calendar if you want to have any hope of getting work done at work.

2. Hide from people

Once you have time blocked, you’ll need to work to protect it, including potentially declining meetings that people try to set during that time. In many work environments, it can be hard to get work done at your desk because of the number of interruptions. You may need to take it a bit further and find a place to hide. That could look like simply closing your door (if you have one), finding a conference room, a quiet area of the building with empty desks, or even working from home or at a coffee shop. Remember: If you don’t hide from people at work, you’ll end up hiding from your family and friends outside of work because you still have stuff to get done.

3. Get out of your inbox

During your work time when you are trying to get tasks done, limit the amount of time you spend being responsive. Offices have different standards so some people may truly need to be instantly responsive. Generally, however, giving yourself 30 (or even 60) minutes away from answering email or other forms of communication is acceptable. That way you’re keeping space open at work to complete tasks and slowing the churn on items that may not be that important.

With the above three strategies, you may not eliminate tasks you need to complete outside of work but you can greatly reduce them.

People who want something

Sometimes it’s not you, it’s them. If work creeps into your personal life because of others’ uncompleted work, then you’ll need to put a greater emphasis on pushing back during the hours when you want to be off.

1. Ask what people need

Instead of assuming that people will come to you with enough time to get help, go to them first. If you’re a manager, ask your direct reports what kind of feedback they will need from you. Also, let them know when you will need to receive things in order to review them. Getting something at 10 p.m. that needs to go out to a client the next morning is a recipe for grumpiness. If you’re on a project team, get clear on where your colleagues may need something from you, and prioritize that work during your day. It’s ideal for people to come to you, but if they’re not traditionally proactive, you can take the initiative to find out what’s needed from you.

2. Do what you said you will do

You teach people what to expect from you. If you said that you will get feedback to them by a certain time, keep that commitment. If you said that you wouldn’t check email after 6 p.m., stay off of it.

If you consistently demonstrate through your actions that you do what you say you will do, people learn that you’re serious. On the other hand, if you don’t do what you say you will do, people will expect that it’s okay for them to turn things in late because you do the same. Or they will learn that you will check for their work on the weekends even though you said you wouldn’t.

3. Unplug from work

Ideally, you can have a separate phone and computer for work. That way you can leave one or both tools at the office—or at least keep them in your laptop bag. If for some reason that isn’t possible, you can at least do things like shut off work email notifications when you’re done for the day or the week.

In some cases, you do need to know what’s going on. But in many cases, situations can wait. If you don’t know about them, they either figure themselves out, or you can attend to them when you return to the office.

Using these strategies, you may not prevent all work creep due to other people’s emergencies, but you can at least prevent a great deal of it. It’s time to work hard on the job and then give yourself permission to be off the clock.

About the author

Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the author of Divine Time Management and How to Invest Your Time Like Money and a time management coach.

Courtney Rosenfeld, author, creator of Gig Spark shares some tips on using outsourcing. Especially relevant in this tight labor market, it might make sense for some of your work to be done by a non-employee.

A Cost-Effective Investment: Finding Good Freelancers

Hiring a full-time employee is a big investment when you factor in salary, benefits, training, and overhead costs. However, it doesn’t always make good financial sense, especially if you can find a talented freelancer to do the same work at a fraction of the cost. According to Forbes, it’s a lot easier to find qualified, affordable freelancers these days than it used to be — after all, they’re expected to comprise a majority of the US workforce by 2027.

Freelancers are less expensive in the long term because they’re generally paid a one-time contract fee to perform a specific job for a set period of time, which (usually) ends when the work is delivered. The trick is finding good ones. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Assess Your Need

Think through the work at hand and assess the qualities and background of the individual you’d want for that particular role. Make a list of the personal attributes and experience you’d expect, and then conduct your search based on those parameters. Spend some time on social media (LinkedIn and Facebook) and freelancer websites studying the profiles of people who’ve built solid reputations doing great work.

Outsource Your Needs

There are plenty of tasks that take up your time. Imagine how much more efficient and profitable you could be by plugging in the right freelancer to handle that work. For example, data entry is a specialization that’s ideal for an experienced, organized, and detail-oriented professional. Look for specialists such as an Upwork data entry contractor who can help you with everything from documents to databases and spreadsheets. Farming out this important and time-intensive responsibility will help you focus on other responsibilities, such as promoting and growing your business.

Check out the Reviews

Many freelance platforms allow former employers to leave comments about the quality of the work for which they contracted. These are good places to seek out qualified people because you can choose from a list of professionals with established track records. Employer reviews will tell you a lot about a freelancer’s skill and suitability (much like Angie’s List can help you find a good housing contractor or landscaper).

Ask Around

Chances are your colleagues, clients, and former co-workers can help you find quality freelancers, either from firsthand experience or through word of mouth. Do some networking at professional conferences, and put out the word via social media that you’re looking for a qualified person for a specific role. Also, include details like the assignment’s expected length and whether they’ll be working from home or in your office. 

Ask Prospects to be Specific

If you’re looking for a freelancer, chances are you don’t have a lot of time to waste going back and forth with prospects. Be direct — ask candidates to include a cover letter with their rates so you can weed out overpriced candidates right away. Always set an application deadline to see who’s reliable (and who’s paying attention).

Don’t Jump the Gun

Take your time finding the right person, even if you’re on a tight deadline. It’s better to be thorough, ask plenty of questions, and hire a reliable individual than trying to cope with the foibles and shortcomings of someone you hired in a hurry. You shouldn’t settle or compromise when choosing a freelancer anymore than you would if hiring a full-time employee.

Remember, the work your freelancer does represents your company, so take the time to find the right person for the job; if things go badly, explaining to a customer that you hired the wrong person won’t salvage the situation. Use your personal contacts and professional network, and pay careful attention to online feedback and reviews. It might require some hard work and dedication, but your diligence will pay off in the long term.

Written by Courtney Rosenfeld, author, creator of  Gig Spark

When Life Gets Busy, Focus on a Few Key Habits

HBR article helps us keep it simple to maintain sanity…
by Jackie Coleman and John Coleman

Eight months ago, we welcomed our third child. In the past, we’ve written about how to navigate careers, stress, and even “annual planning.” You’d think we’d be prepared for wonderful but disruptive life events like these, but as Mike Tyson famously quipped, “Everyone has plan until they get punched in the mouth.”The past year has been a time of radical prioritization for us. We’re constantly optimizing — identifying our most essential priorities and activities while reluctantly and painfully cutting things that are important but not urgent.

Maybe you’re facing a life event that forces this type of radical prioritization. Whether it’s changing jobs, taking care of a sick parent, relocating, or facing a diagnosis, disruptions in life can make it hard to maintain moment-by-moment focus and well-being, much less think months or years in the future. Long-term goals remain important. But in the fog of life’s most intense moments, long-term focus can be hard.

Daily or weekly habits aligned with your long-term goals can keep you on track even when it’s hard to think ahead, and they can add stability in an otherwise unsteady time. Each of us have regular practices we try to maintain to give our lives structure, to remain mentally and physically healthy, and to assure we’re approaching life consciously. These habits, important at any time, are essential in our busiest and most chaotic periods. So what do these habits look like?

The first step in maintaining regular habits is to articulate and track them. We find the key is to keep this simple. What are the 5-10 things you need to do daily or weekly to keep life on track? Once you’ve written them down, track them. The Momentum app, for example, is an easy way to set daily and weekly habits and be reminded of them. There are many others. If you’re more old-fashioned, you can use a simple Excel sheet or paper planner. The important thing is to reflect on the right habits, write them down, and stay accountable.When setting habits, we’ve found the most critical are clustered in four key areas.

The first is personal reflection. This can look radically different depending on the person. For us, as people of faith, this involves prayer and scriptural study. It also includes religiously agnostic habits, like keeping diaries, documenting the funny things our children say, and crafting gratitude journals in which we can record what’s happening in our lives and what we are grateful for multiple times per week. Studies have shown that these kind of practices can help us better process life events and remain joyful about the good we experience.

Relatedly, we need time for professional reflection. For years, John has maintained the same professional routine. He sits down on Sunday night with a weekly Moleskine planner and maps out his most important meetings and priorities for the week. This helps him assure he’s focused on not simply what’s most visible or immediate, but what’s actually important. And it offers structure so that when new demands arise he can more easily prioritize them. Then, each morning, he inserts a note card into the planner where he prioritizes what needs to be done that day. Simple, daily reflection on priorities and to-dos can make a meaningful difference in productivity and focus.

A third category of activities is building and maintaining relationships. Social science is crystal clear on the centrality of relationships to personal well-being. It’s important to prioritize and manage relationships. For us, right now, the primary relationships we’re focused on are with our kids and with each other. Each day, we structure a bedtime ritual with the kids where we all get together and spend time together, reading and talking about our highs and lows. As a couple, we try to make time to speak every day, and we try to get out of the house together, without the kids, once per week. We also each try to make at least some time to spend with a friend or two once a week. These sound like small things, but they can be critical to maintaining positive relationships and emotional well-being.

Finally, we all need to maintain habits that encourage physical and mental health. Studies show that people who get at least two days of exercise per week are happier (with each additional day boosting happiness further) and as little as 20 minutes of exercise can boost mood and 11 minutes of lifting weights can boost metabolic rate. For mental health, daily meditation can be a lifesaver restoring some order and balance in disordered and imbalanced times. Apps like Headspace and Calm have made practices like this more accessible than ever and easier to track and maintain. For both of us, the simple act of reserving 30 minutes each day for reading or writing can also promote mental health, a task that seems to be backed by science.

Everyone’s life looks different. But we all have periods of life which are busy, disordered, and stressful. In those times, short-term habits —weekly or daily practices — can trump long-term goals as a way to focus, survive, and thrive.

Jackie Coleman is a former marriage counselor and most recently worked on education programs for the state of Georgia.John Coleman is a coauthor of the book, Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders.

Less can be more, as evidenced in this Smithsonian article about a grocery store distributor…

The Bizarre Story of Piggly Wiggly, the First Self-Service Grocery Store

What’s in a name?

Self-serve grocery stores saved shoppers money and made financial sense. The one question is why their innovator named the first one Piggly Wiggly.

On this day in 1916, the first Piggly Wiggly opened in Memphis, Tennessee. Today, the chain has more than 530 stores across 17 states, according to its website. Its founding is one of the stranger stories in the history of retail. But its founder Clarence Saunders was clearly onto something—today, self-service grocery stores are the norm.

Saunders was a bit of an iconoclast. For the store’s opening ceremonies, writes Mike Freeman for the Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Saunders promised to hold a “beauty contest” that he advertised in local newspapers. “At the door Saunders shook their hands and gave to their children flowers and balloons,” Freeman writes. “Newspaper reporters posing as contest judges awarded five and ten dollar gold coins to every woman, while the supply lasted. A brass band serenaded the visitors in the lobby.”

This enthusiastic greeting was necessary because Saunders was trying something completely new. Before Piggly Wiggly, groceries were sold at stores where a clerk would assemble your order for you, weighing out dry goods from large barrels. Even chain stores used clerks. 

Although the chain store model helped keep costs down, the University of Michigan Library writes, the “small army of clerks” necessary to fill orders were expensive, the university writes, and at least part of that cost was passed on to the consumer.

Saunders’s model cut costs by cutting out the clerks. Shoppers on that first day did see some employees stocking shelves, Freeman writes, “but they politely refused to select merchandise for visitors.” Just like today, a shopper picked up a basket (though Piggly Wiggly’s were made of wood, not plastic) and went through the store to purchase everything. By the end of that first year there were nine Piggly Wiggly locations around Memphis.

“One day Memphis shall be proud of Piggly Wiggly… And it shall be said by all men… That the Piggly Wigglies shall multiply and replenish the earth with more and cleaner things to eat,” Saunders said a few months after the store’s opening, according to Freeman.

As for the name, nobody knows. “He was curiously reluctant to explain its origin,” Piggly Wiggly’s corporate history reports. “One story says that, while riding a train, he looked out his window and saw several little pigs struggling to get under a fence, which prompted him to think of the rhyme.” Another option is branding, Piggly Wiggly writes: “Someone once asked him why he had chosen such an unusual name for his organization, to which he replied, ‘So people will ask that very question.’”

The year after the first store opened, Saunders secured his concept with a series of patents belonging to his Piggly Wiggly Corporation. Though his model quickly took off, he wasn’t at the helm for very long. According to Piggly Wiggly, not long after he franchised the Piggly Wiggly idea Saunders started issuing public stock in the company. As a result, he lost control of it early in the 1920s. But he wasn’t done redesigning the grocery business. He later tried to introduce concepts like Keedoozle and Foodelectric, fully automated grocery stores, didn’t take off. Must have been the names.

Article by Kat EschnerSMITHSONIAN.COM

6 Reasons We Make Bad Decisions, and What to Do About Them

HBR article by Mike Erwin

Research has shown that that the typical person makes about 2,000 decisions every waking hour. Most decisions are minor and we make them instinctively or automatically — what to wear to work in the morning, whether to eat lunch now or in ten minutes, etc. But many of the decisions we make throughout the day take real thought, and have serious consequences. Consistently making good decisions is arguably the most important habit we can develop, especially at work. Our choices affect
our health, our safety, our relationships, how we spend our time, and our overall well-being. Based on my experiences from three deployments as an Army officer and from researching Lead Yourself First, I’ve found the following mindsets to be detrimental to good decision-making. When you have to make an important decision, be on the lookout for:

Decision fatigue. Even the most energetic people don’t have endless mental energy. Our ability to perform mental tasks and make decisions wears thin when it’s repeatedly exerted. One of the most famous studies on this topic showed that prisoners are more likely to have parole approved in the
morning than when their cases are heard in the afternoon. With so many decisions to make, especially ones that have a big impact on other people, it’s inevitable to experience decision fatigue. To counter it, identify the most important decisions you need to make, and, as often as possible, prioritize your time so that you make them when your energy levels are highest.

A steady state of distraction. The technology tsunami of the past decade has ushered in an era of unprecedented convenience. But it’s also created an environment where information and communication never cease. Researchers estimate that our brains process five times as much
information today as in 1986. Consequently, many of us live in a continuous state of distraction and struggle to focus. To counter this, find time each day to unplug and step back from email, social media, news, and the onslaught of the Information Age. It’s easier said than done, but doable if you
make it a priority.

Lack of input. The Kellogg School recently found that in a typical meeting, an average of three people do 70% of the talking. As author Susan Cain articulates so well in her book Quiet, many introverts are reluctant to speak up in a meeting until they know precisely what they want to say. Yet, these
members of our teams often have some of the best ideas to contribute, since they spend so much of their time thinking. To counter this inclination, send out a meeting agenda 24 hours in advance to give everyone time to think about their contributions, and work to set a meeting culture that allows
people to contribute their ideas after the meeting is over.

Multi-tasking. There aren’t many jobs left in the world today that don’t require at least some multitasking. While that’s the reality, research clearly shows that performance, including decision-making effectiveness, suffers by up to 40% when we focus on two cognitive tasks at the same time. When
you need to make important decisions, carve out and commit to several blocks of time during the day to focus deeply on the task at hand.

Emotions. Experiencing frustration, excitement, anger, joy, etc., is a fundamental part of the daily human experience. And while these emotions have a meaningful role in our lives, you probably don’t need to see the research to know that our emotions, especially during moments of peak anger and happiness, can hinder our ability to make good decisions. Deciding to speak or send an email while angry often compounds a tough situation, because the words don’t come out right. To counter this, pay attention to your emotional state and focus on the character strength of self-control. Resist the temptation to respond to people or make decisions while you’re emotionally keyed up. Practice walking away from the computer or putting the phone down, and return to the task at hand when
you’re able to think more clearly and calmly.

Analysis Paralysis. While the Information Age has gifted us with an abundance of information, big data, and metrics, there’s also no end to the amount of information we can access. And we know that the more information we have to consider, the longer we typically take to make a decision. While the decision-making process should be thorough, the best way to make good decisions is usually not to take more time or to look at more information. Instead, review the pertinent information you need,
set a deadline to make a decision, and then stick to it.

The decisions we make determine our reality. They directly impact how we spend our time and what information we process (or ignore). Our decisions shape our relationships — and increasingly in today’s hyper-connected world, decisions contribute to our energy level and how efficient we are in
the various aspects of our lives. Inevitably, we all make some poor decisions every single day. But if we are aware of these six enemies of good decision-making, and take steps to outmaneuver them, we can make better decisions that have a positive impact on the people we work with and lead.

Mike Erwin is the co-author of Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude and CEO of the Character & Leadership Center. He is also the president of The Positivity Project and a Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserve, assigned to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as an Assistant Professor in Leadership & Psychology.

How to be ruthless with your time and support your team at the same time.

Unless you’re a one-person operation, time management requires you to consider how your practices impact everyone else.

Your time is a precious commodity. It’s your one nonrenewable resource, and it’s something that you can’t get back. As linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson have noted, the metaphors we use around time reflect sacred scarcity. We say time is money. We invest, save, protect, spend, audit, give, squander, waste, and budget our time.

It’s unsurprising that time management ranks as one of the biggest challenges in the modern workplace. To maximize efficiency at work, you need to be hard-nosed with your time. And there are a host of productivity tools designed to help you do just that: the Pomodoro Technique, Kanban Board, Eisenhower Matrix, time audits, and so on. However, unless you’re a one-person operation, you can’t rely on these tools alone. You also need to communicate your time-management approaches to your colleagues.

The key is to be ruthless with your time without being ruthless with your team. At LifeLabs Learning, we study what makes unusually productive teams and leaders different. Below are eight tools we’ve collected from our research to help reach that mutually happy quadrant where you can manage your time and support your team at the same time.

1. Do a precheck

If you’re trying out a new time habit, check in with people who might feel the impact ahead of time. Make sure that you explain the reasoning for the change, and do so with empathy.

“I’m trying out X to be more efficient with my time. However, I understand this may impact you and would love to set up a time for us to problem-solve together.”

2. Have a trade-off conversation

If someone asks you to do something that interferes with your current workflow, let them know what that entails and make them part of the solution.

“I can do X, but it means I can’t do Y. I think I should stick to X because it’s imperative to the company at the moment. What are your thoughts?”

3. Show the pie

Create a quick visual of what’s on your plate. For example, one team we studied had a “key lime pie of productivity,” and each project represented a slice. When someone asked for help, they showed their pie as a way to decide which slices they could exchange.

“I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but here is what my to-do list looks like at the moment. Do you see this request as more critical than one of these items? If not, I would still love to help in the future. My earliest available date is . . .”

4. Create if-then rules

This is a set of rules that automate actions. If X, then Y. For example, if you’re the manager who continually gets bombarded with questions, then ask your team to come up with at least one solution before asking for help. This if-then will not only save you time but will also help your employees become more independent.

On the flip side, if your manager regularly “surprises” you with requests, instead of reactively reprioritizing your whole day, then politely ask about urgency and/or share trade-offs.

5. Create “dark time”

This is a term that we use at LifeLabs Learning to describe the times that employees aren’t available to work (usually after 6 p.m. or on weekends). Having such norms also prevents burnout. For leaders, it’s essential to model this behavior and hold others accountable as well.

“I’ve noticed that a few people on the team communicate during off hours. I was wondering if we could establish an explicit norm around when we should/shouldn’t expect people to reply. What are your thoughts on this?”

6. Hold “office hours”

Creating new time habits at work can induce anxiety. People may feel like they’re losing access to a valuable resource. That’s why you must schedule a recurring meeting, or “checkpoint,” when people know they can come to you. This gesture is likely to reduce anxiety and unscheduled shoulder-tapping.

“Some of you may have noticed that I’ve made efforts to be more deliberate with my time. That said, in addition to our regular 1-1s, I want you to know that I’m available to meet and discuss anything you need during these hours [list them].”

7. Model time integrity

“Quick question.” “I’ve got a minute.” “EOD.” “ASAP.” These are all examples of being blurry and unspecific about time. The most effective teams we study do something different. They model time integrity and are specific with their communication when it comes to time. Here are a few examples.

“To make sure I can respond on time, can you please specify by when you need this?”

“I have ten minutes to talk now. Is that enough time? If not, let’s schedule a time that works.”

“To make sure I’m focused on this conversation, how long do you think we need?”

The magic of time integrity lies not only in being specific about your own time but also in respecting the other person’s request and time.

8. Do a calendar cleanse

In many organizations we work with, it’s hard to say “no” or “not now” to meetings. Often, you feel like you’re violating a cultural norm. But at the same time, most people feel like they’re spending way too much time in pointless meetings. If you’re not sure if a meeting is a good use of your time, get in the habit of asking.

“Thanks for inviting me. So that I can contribute well, can you share the agenda or goal of the meeting?”

If, after receiving a response, you feel that the meeting isn’t a top priority, then politely decline.

“Thanks again for inviting me. To stay efficient, I would prefer to collect a summary of what was decided/discussed. Does that work?”

By using these methods, it’s possible to manage your time and maintain a positive relationship with your coworkers. The key is learning to communicate preemptively, set expectations, make people part of the process, and find structured and creative ways to solve problems together.

This article was written by Roi Ben-Yehuda he is a leadership trainer at LifeLabs Learning, where he helps people at innovative companies (like Squarespace, Tumblr, Venmo, WeWork, and Warby Parker) master life’s most useful skills.

This HBR article shares that it’s not either/or for companies deciding to get through an economic crisis. It’s BOTH/AND. Saving in some areas and investing in others is key.

Save or Invest? How Companies Should Navigate Recessions

by Ioannis Ioannou and Caroline Flammer

The financial crisis and economic meltdown of 2007-2009 was disruptive for firms across industries, markets, and geographies.  It resulted in the collapse of the financial sector, radical changes in the regulatory and policy environment, and a severe contraction of the world economy. In fact, an economic meltdown of this magnitude fundamentally affects all aspects of firms’ business environment, unsettles their relationships with customers, employees, suppliers, and local communities, and generates a major shift in the competitive landscape. Consequently, companies are likely to fundamentally rethink and reshape their strategic investments to ensure survival and sustain (or even enhance) their competitiveness during and after the crisis.

Indeed, one of the major challenges of an economic meltdown for strategic management is that it exacerbates resource constraints. As a result, companies might need to make fewer investments and divest from at least some of their previous ones in order to ensure survival in the short run. Doing so is a balancing act though, as divesting from too many resources — or picking the wrong ones — could jeopardize a firm’s ability to thrive in the long run.

Despite the severity of economic meltdowns, we know little about how exactly firms adjust their resource base as they navigate through the shifting landscape and new economic realities. To understand this phenomenon and its implications for companies, we set out to investigate how companies adjusted their strategic investments, i.e. their workforce, capital expenditures (CAPEX), R&D, and CSR investments. More specifically, we asked: How did companies adjust their resource base during the Great Recession of 2007-2009? Did they try to “save their way” or “invest their way” out of the crisis? In which direction and to what extent did they adjust their strategic investments to survive or even enhance their competitiveness?

It’s not obvious whether firms would decrease, maintain, or increase their investments, on average, since an economic meltdown presents firms with both challenges and opportunities. On one hand, an economic crisis may severely undermine firms’ ability to undertake investments because they’re short on cash. As a result, firms may lay off employees, divest from their physical assets, postpone or even cancel R&D projects, or eliminate CSR programs in order to maintain cash flows. In other words, firms may try to save their way out of the crisis.

On the other hand, an economic crisis may present an opportunity for firms to expand their investments; that is, they may try to invest their way out of the crisis. For example, an economic crisis might generate opportunities to acquire new equipment at lower cost or hire employees at lower wages. Moreover, firms could invest in their innovative capabilities and CSR to strengthen their competitiveness for when the economy recovers.

Using data for U.S. publicly-traded companies, we find that, overall, these firms significantly reduced their workforce and CAPEX during the Great Recession. Yet – remarkably — they maintained the same level of R&D and CSR. (To construct our sample, we use data from Standard and Poor’s Compustat database. After merging it with the KLD database – our source of CSR data – and with loan data from DealScan, we arrive at a sample of 670 companies for our main analysis.)

These findings suggest that companies, on average, responded to the crisis by following a “two-pronged” approach of simultaneously “saving their way out of the crisis” by reducing their workforce and CAPEX, and “investing their way out of the crisis” by sustaining their investments in R&D and CSR.  Therefore, our results imply that innovation capability and stakeholder relationships were seen as instrumental in sustaining firms’ competitiveness during the Great Recession.

Importantly, we observe considerable differences across industries. While we find that on average firms did not reduce their investments in R&D and CSR, we document that some firms did—namely firms operating in less R&D-intensive and less CSR-sensitive industries, respectively. This result makes sense since, in these industries, firms’ competitiveness is less likely to depend on their innovative capability and stakeholder relations, respectively. The takeaway is that industry characteristics matter in understanding how firms adjust their resource base in response to an economic meltdown.

Finally, we examine whether companies that sustained their investments in R&D and CSR perform better in the years following the economic meltdown. We find that indeed they do. They exhibit higher operating performance—as measured by the return on assets (ROA)—in the post-crisis years. In contrast, we find that companies that maintained their workforce and CAPEX did not achieve higher performance. We also find that firms that pursue the two-pronged approach of simultaneously maintaining their R&D and CSR while reducing their workforce and CAPEX achieve an even higher performance in the post-crisis years.

Our findings therefore suggest that companies choose to maintain their investments in R&D and CSR as these resources may enable them to address key challenges that arise during the meltdown. First, by maintaining their investments in R&D during the meltdown, companies may find innovative ways to become more efficient—i.e., to do more with less—thereby enhancing their ability to maneuver through the meltdown. Second, communication and collaboration with the firm’s stakeholders are important factors in the firm’s processes. In this regard, firms that continue investing in stakeholder relations are likely better positioned to understand the changing conditions inherent to an economic meltdown, identify concerns and opportunities, and adapt to the shifting needs, demands, and expectations of suppliers, consumers, and other stakeholders, compared to firms that curtail such investments. Third, CSR can help firms differentiate themselves from their competitors, enhance firms’ ability to recover from unfavorable situations, strengthen connections with the local communities, improve labor productivity, enhance consumer loyalty, improve access to government procurement contracts, and lower capital constraints. These mechanisms are likely to be especially important during an economic meltdown, as they can improve companies’ resilience and, as a result, help companies maintain or even enhance their competitiveness.

Taken together, our findings suggest that firms that simultaneously “save their way out of the crisis” (by reducing their workforce and CAPEX) and “invest their way out of the crisis” (by sustaining their investments in R&D and CSR) are better able to adapt to the new and unique challenges brought about by an economic meltdown.

From Dr. Henry Cloud: Making a change means making a change…

To get to the next level, we need to improve. Whether it’s improving your skills, your performance or even your attitude, it can be hard to accept this blunt fact of life.

See, improvement speaks to the closing of a metaphorical gap. Where we are now and where we want to be is separated by ground we have yet to cover. At first, it’s tempting to believe we just need commitment to achieve our goals. 

But there’s a problem. Something’s missing. We haven’t changed in any meaningful way.  We’re still the same person, just with a new sense of discipline.  We inevitably fall into the same traps or hit the same ceilings.

Closing the gap requires a change to the system, opening it up to new things. We need new sources of energy and intelligence to transform how we approach our goals.

Einstein is often credited with defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. The same applies to the science of improvement. Simply trying harder and willing ourselves to get to the next level always fails. We get tired, discouraged and ultimately demotivated.

The fuel we really need is positive support. The connections we have, our teams and relationships, must fill us with the belief and confidence that we can improve. Intelligence is key. We need to know what we don’t know.  Then we need to fill those holes with new information, intelligence we didn’t have before.

By applying new intelligence to our goals and surrounding ourselves with a strong support team, we equip ourselves with a better arsenal to bridge the gap.  To improve.


I Was the Only Woman in a Group of Male CEOs. Here’s How the Experience Helped My Company

In January of 2018, I reached out to the head of a local CEO group and inquired about joining.

After a one-on-one phone call to learn more about me and my business goals, he invited me to their next session. The group met for a full day each month. Half the day was spent discussing a specific topic, the rest of the time was spent helping each other with individual issues. I quietly observed the morning session. At the lunch break, as we sat around the table together, the group leader asked me to share my story and more about my business so the other members could get to know me better. Then, he asked, “Do you have any questions for us?” I looked at them all, took a deep breath, and said, 

“Can I call out the elephant in the room? I’m the only woman here. You all are clearly very close and this is a private formum where you can be truly honest about what’s going on in your personal and professional lives. So, I have to ask, do you even want me here? Because I would understand if you wouldn’t, given all that’s going on in the world today.”

I realize that was overly direct, but I wanted to see their initial reactions. Some looked down and away, others looked right at me with a blank face, and a few clearly had a twinkle of a smile in their eyes, laughing at the directness of my question. After what seemed like a really long pause (to me!), one said something to the effect of, “Actually, I’d like to have more women in the group. We need your perspective. Both from your HR and recruiting expertise and from the female point of view.” At which point, a few others nodded and agreed. I then asked the follow-up question:

“Why aren’t there any women currently in the group? Have you ever had any?”

This response was a little bit disheartening. They explained there had been two women in the group previously, but both of their businesses had ultimately failed and they had to quit the group. Not the most reassuring response. But, at the same time, entrepreneurship is hard and many businesses do fail. Plus, they were honest and pointed out there had been several male CEOs who had failed and left the group too. Running a company isn’t easy. That’s why you join a CEO group – to help you feel less isolated and to try to reduce the risk of failure by accessing additional persepctives that challenge you to make more informed business decisions. However, it doesn’t guarantee to make you successful.

I went home that night and told my husband I guessed they likely wouldn’t want me and that I could understand why.

And then, something wonderful happened…

I started to get individiual emails from the CEOs in the group. Each one shared why I should join. They were personal and sincere. It made me really happy. Why? I have lots of amazing female colleagues. I’m talking insanely successful professional women who I adore and respect. But, I don’t have many who have bootstrapped their businesses to the size of mine. Which means, they can’t really offer advice or guidance the way other CEOs who are at the same level as me can. The reality is, there are more male CEOs I can relate to at this stage in my business then female ones. I told the group leader this was the one thing I was most drawn to about the group. And for that reason, I joined.

A year later…

Those meetings were instrumental in taking my business to the next level. Company revenues grew by 50 percent. I learned so much. I had smart people to bounce ideas off of. I was introduced to some new resources and key networking contacts. But honestly, the most important thing this group gave me was the confidence to push the business to the next level. These guys made me feel capable. They showed me I wasn’t alone and that I didn’t need to be perfect. This particular group of male CEOs was much more comfortable with competition and failure than I was. Listening to them work through their own business challenges helped me be less emotional and hard on myself. They never treated me like a woman, they treated me like a peer. And for that, I am truly grateful.

So, when I see the statistic that came out this week that says 60 percent of men are avoiding mentoring women due to the #MeToo movement, I am sad.

I want men and women to find a way to work together. This movement wasn’t meant to build a divide between us. It was meant to help us work better together. We have so much to learn from one another. While I wish I had some suggestions to fix it, all I can offer is this story in hopes it inspires men out there to find a way to mentor women who need it. 

Published on: May 22, 2019 by

Better to have a GOOD BOSS in a bad company, rather than a BAD BOSS in a good company ! Agree ?

While I was waiting for my INTERVIEW in a reception area, a pizza delivery man, a young guy, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans carried a heavy pack of pizza boxes and water bottles.

 He struggled with the door, I jumped up, but before I could help him, a receptionist let him through.

5 mins later I am sitting in the interview conference room, the pizza delivery man walks in.

He extends his hand for a handshake and says:

“I am Greg Tagaris, Chief Information Officer of DoubleClick. Sorry I am a little late, I was taking food to my guys. They are working without lunch because we have technical problems.

I saw you trying to help me, thanks”.

He offered me a job right at the end of the interview, and I accepted, without negotiation.

Greg was one of many good bosses I had a good fortune to work for.

You can tell a good boss very quickly by how they treat other people.

Greg was a good boss in a good company, but I would work for him in any company.

A bad boss can make your job bad even in a very good company – they will micromanage you, blame you, and make your life miserable.

A good boss will stand up for you, will trust you, will listen to you, will make yours a good job even in a weak company.

Do you agree ?