Getting Rid of Negative Self-Talk: Words Become Your Experience

While it can sometimes be helpful to criticize yourself, so you can aspire to do better, it can be hard not to cross the self-criticism line into damaging, negative self-talk. There is a huge difference between telling yourself that you need to work on your organization skills, and berating yourself for being the world’s biggest failure because you lost a file at work.

Negative self-talk is not only counterproductive, it also increases your stress levels and can lead to depression over time. Here’s how you can silence the negativity committee in your head, and turn self-directed trash talk into positive motivation.

Use a “box” to put negativity in perspective

If you make a mistake, negative self-talk can inflate that small blunder to world-destroying proportions. Instead of stewing over what happened, take a deep breath and create a mental “box” to put the problem in. Make it as small as possible—in the example above, “I lost a file” should not equate to “I’m an idiot and my career is ruined.” Simply tell yourself you need a better system for organization, so the mistake won’t happen again.

Put a spin on it

In public relations, there are people whose job it is to turn negatives into positives—or neutrals, if positive isn’t possible. You can use something like this to change your thinking with a simple change in semantics. For example, instead of thinking, “I’m so disorganized that I’m never going to get anything done,” learn to say to yourself, “I’m having a thought that I won’t be able to get this done.”

This allows you to focus on the problem at hand, instead of going off on a self-berating tangent and stressing over your organization issues until it’s impossible to move ahead.

Think possible, instead of positive

Everyone knows that positive thinking is supposed to be powerful—but if you’ve ever tried to “think positive,” you may have discovered that you’re one of many people this strategy simply doesn’t work on. In fact, research shows that when you’re discouraged and trying to think positive, you actually feel worse—because your inner lie detector tells you there’s nothing positive going on.

So instead of positive, think “possible.” Focus on what you can actually do to move in a positive direction, even if it doesn’t completely solve the problem. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, tell yourself “I know how to lose 10 pounds, and I’m going to do it” to banish the “I’m a hideous, jiggly blob” line of thinking.

Be your own best friend

If you told your best friend that you’re disorganized, would he or she gasp in horror and tell you that if you don’t fix that problem right now, you’re going to get fired and end up living in your car?

If you find yourself piling on the negative self-talk, stop and ask yourself what your best friend would say when you mentioned the problem. This also works in reverse: never tell yourself anything you wouldn’t say to your best friend. Treating yourself like a friend helps to cut down negativity and generate more self-confidence.

Embrace your flaws

Flawless people are boring—and they don’t exist. Nobody is perfect. Look to any hugely successful person in any profession, and you won’t find a perfectionist. You’ll find someone who recognizes that they’re a flawed human being, but focuses on their strengths.

Trying to achieve perfection in everything will only lead to frustration, and an inability to finish anything because it’s not “perfect.” So understand your flaws, accept them, and spend way more time understanding your strengths and looking for ways to capitalize on your uniqueness. You’ll soon find that negative voice in your head doesn’t have much to say.

 

6 Ways to Ace an Interview

Resumes are important tools for your job search, but interviews are the key to moving from job seeker to happily employed. Right now, millennials in the job market are facing tough competition from both their peers and an older, often more experienced workforce—so knowing how to ace the interview is crucial.

Here are six ways you can make a strong, positive impression at your next interview, and land that perfect job.

  1. Do Your Homework

Career expert and Millennial Branding founder Dan Schawbel states one of the biggest problems employers have with millennials is that they aren’t prepared for interviews.

Thorough research is one of the best things you can do to prepare for job interviews. Find out as much as you can about the company and the person you’re interviewing with ahead of time by reading their website, searching them on Google, connecting on LinkedIn, checking out company reviews on sites like Glassdoor, and talking to current and former employees.

While you’re researching, think about how your skills and experience will benefit this company in particular.

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice

Did you drive perfectly the first time you got behind the wheel of a car? If not, why would you go to an interview and expect to be amazing if you’ve never done it before (or you’ve done it once or twice, but not very well)? Just like any other skill, practice makes perfect when it comes to interviewing.

There are several ways you can practice interviewing before you go for the real thing. Mock interviews with a professional can not only help you get some interview time in, but also provide you with feedback to improve your interviewing skills. You can also try practice interviews with a friend, or video yourself answering interview questions so you can review and analyze your performance.

  1. Bring a Business Card

To most millennials, this advice might sound archaic. After all, everything is online these days, and no one carries around those little rectangles of paper with printed contact information when you can just text or email.

In an interview with Business Insider, Schawbel recommended that millennial job seekers can benefit from having a business card to hand interviewers “because people don’t expect you to have that.” Where business cards used to be an expectation, they’re practically a novelty in the digital age—and employers will remember you for having them.

They’re also very affordable, with sites like VistaPrint.com offering 100 custom business cards for around $10.

  1. Bring Samples of Your Work

Chances are, you’ve already sent potential employers a link to your online portfolio or other samples of your work when you submitted your resume. But if you’re looking to ace the interview, bring copies with you—especially if you’re applying for a creative position like marketing or design.

Directing employers to a link or website during an interview can be awkward, or even annoying. Instead, have a thumb drive you can hand to the interviewer with your work pre-loaded, so your accomplishments can conveniently speak for themselves.

  1. Ask Great Questions

One of the most important things you can do to prepare for an interview is to come up with great questions to ask your interviewer. Use all that research you’ve done on the company to formulate interesting, well-informed questions that demonstrate your knowledge, and prove you really want to work for this company.

Virtually every interview is guaranteed to end with the interviewer asking whether you have any questions for them—but don’t save your questions until the end. Keep an ear out for strategic, relevant openings during the interview to ask your questions, and pay close attention to the responses.

Some sample questions you might ask your interviewer include:

  • Why did you choose to work for this company?
  • What is the workplace culture like here?
  • How would my performance be evaluated?
  • What challenges are facing [the department you’re interviewing for] right now?
  • Does the company encourage collaboration and innovation and how?
  1. Know Your ROI

When it comes to hiring, nearly every employer is looking for a return on their investment. When you arrive at an interview, be prepared to show them the numbers.

Your resume should contain this information as well. Make sure you can demonstrate ways you’ve been able to decrease costs, increase revenues, improve processes, or boost returns for past employers. If this will be your first job, have some prepared ROI statements for school accomplishments or personal projects.

Keep in mind that an interview is your chance to show an employer why they can’t afford not to hire you.

The Power of Thanks

You know how much you appreciate your employees, but do they know? Every workplace can get hectic and it’s easy to take things for granted, including the great work your employees, co-workers, supervisors and even clients do. But if you make a conscious effort to say “thank you” more often, you’ll realize powerful results.

Research from advisory services firm Bersin & Associates has added numbers to the common-sense idea that saying thanks is good for you, and your business. The Bersin study found that companies with excellent employee recognition skills are 12 times more likely to generate strong business results than companies that don’t.

The specifics of thanking employees

According to Bersin & Associates, businesses that focused on rewarding their employees realized a 14% improvement in employee engagement, productivity, and customer service. The study looked further at these gratitude-prone companies, and found that they all share three common traits:

  • Focused recognition programs that include feedback and thanks from both managers and peers
  • Recognition that ties directly to business goals and company values to reinforce strategy
  • Open and transparent access to the recognition program, allowing employees to recognize anyone, and see who else is being recognized

 

Here are some tips on the best ways to thank your employees, co-workers, customers, or anyone in your business environment—and boost your productivity and profits.

Don’t just say thanks—mean it

People can tell when you’re not being sincere, and offering empty praise just because you feel like you should can backfire. Thank your employees when they do something you appreciate, in a general and heartfelt manner.

Include the why

The best thanks are specific. A lot of employees have heard “great job” or “keep up the good work,” but this vague praise really doesn’t mean anything. Instead, spell out exactly what you appreciate—you might say “thanks for handling that difficult customer in a tactful way,” or “I appreciate you staying late at the office yesterday, we wouldn’t have finished that project on time without you.” Get in the habit of starting your gratitude with “thank you for…”.

Break out the stationery

In a world brimming with texts, emails, posts and tweets, a handwritten thank-you note is really something special. Written thanks, whether presented on a nice sheet of paper or a simple thank-you card, can mean a lot to the recipient. They’ll not only appreciate that you took the time to write a thank-you note, but they’ll also have something they can show others—concrete proof that they’re appreciated.

Make your handwritten thanks personal, and vary your message so you aren’t writing the same thing to everyone. Here are some example thank-you note starters you can use:

  • We really appreciate your help with…
  • I’m so grateful for…
  • Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to…so thank you.
  • I’ve learned so much from you…
  • I think others will benefit from your work. Can I share it with…
  • You always give 100 percent, and I really appreciate it…
  • We’re so lucky to have you as part of our team…

 

Don’t wait to start saying thank you more often in the workplace. The more often you offer your genuine and heartfelt appreciation, the happier your employees (and clients) will be to work with you—and they’ll work even harder to keep receiving thanks.

5 Surprising Benefits of Manager Employee Interactions

Employee motivation is the key to a happy and productive workplace. But unless your managers are interacting with your employees, the potential for motivation is slim.

It’s important to remember that money isn’t the only motivator—it’s not even necessarily the biggest. Motivation is often personal, driven to a large degree by individual circumstances, but there are some universal motivators that can fuel any employee’s performance. Among them are recognition, non-financial rewards, increased autonomy, and simple human connections, all of which can be achieved through greater manager-employee interaction.

Here are five ways managers can interact more with employees, and the motivational benefits these interactions achieve.

  1. Make Interaction a Daily To-Do

In the business world, nothing happens unless it’s a priority. Managers are often pressed for time and will focus on work-related issues before less urgent matters like talking with their staff.

Employee interaction can become a priority if managers realize that it truly is a work-related issue. Talking with your employees daily helps you build rapport, get to know them better, and lets them get to know you—so that “open door” policy you have truly feels like an open door.

It doesn’t take much. Simply greeting employees at the start of the day, saying goodbye at the end, and working in a few quick conversations about your employees’ work projects, personal life, or even weekend plans can go a long way toward building a happy and productive work environment.

  1. Help Employees Manage Themselves

Autonomy and a sense of purpose can be powerful motivators. Managers can help to build these motivational tools by empowering their employees to self-manage performance, development, and career progression.

Ask each of your employees to draft a yearly set of goals and development plans, and make the time to sit down with them individually for discussion and refinement. When your employees play an active role in their own career performance, they’ll be more motivated to deliver—and less in need of direct management.

  1. Reward Employees on a Personal Scale

Financial rewards for great performance is standard and accepted, but not all of your employees may need, or even want, extra money. Instead of defaulting to monetary rewards, ask your employees directly what they’d like or appreciate in return for recognition-worthy efforts.

Some may still want money. Others might prefer an extra day off or flexible scheduling, branded items or company stock, or even public recognition. Personalizing rewards and recognition for your employees demonstrates that you care about their interests and truly value their contributions to the team.

  1. Take the Time to Talk Shop

You may be surprised to discover that your employees can have valuable business insights that may benefit your department, or the entire company.

Employees are the closest people to actual work processes—and the customers you serve. They’re often able to identify the best opportunities for improvements, innovation, and increased customer satisfaction. So turn your small talk into shop talk, and stay tuned for important insights into your organization.

  1. Make the Little Things Count

No matter what kind of overall environment your company has, it’s the little things that make the difference. When interacting with employees, keep in mind that small, day-to-day actions—from the way you manage performance in general to the tone you set by greeting (or not greeting) employees each morning—can have the greatest impact.

Often, all it takes is a heartfelt “thank you” to restore disengaged employees and spark motivation. The more effort you put into manager-employee interactions, the more your company will benefit from happier and more productive employees.

 

What creative ways have you discovered to motivate and recognize your team members?

The #1 Most Important Communication Tool

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear “communication tool”? Most people might think of phones or email, or apps that streamline communication. Some might even think of speaking or writing as basic, essential tools for communication.

But in reality, the most important tool we have for communication is our ears.

Listening is the key to effective communication. The ability to truly pay attention to what someone else is saying improves not only the quality of what we hear and understand, but also the enthusiasm and engagement of the other person involved in the communication.

Here’s why listening is crucial, and how you can improve your listening skills to significantly increase the effectiveness of your communication.

Being present in an age of distraction

Everyone has tried to hold a conversation with someone who’s busy texting, checking their messages, or using an app on their mobile device. Smartphones and tablets are fully integrated into our culture—so firmly that many people aren’t even aware of their reliance on these devices, or how often they’re using them.

If you’re used to multi-tasking, the first step to improving your communication is teaching yourself to listen without distractions. This means putting the phone down while you’re talking to someone, whether you’re at work, at home, or out and about. Implementing this practice yourself can also encourage others to ignore their devices and be more present, which strengthens your relationships.

Catching non-verbal cues

When you’re truly listening, you’re able to interpret non-verbal cues that can be easily miss if you’re distracted or not paying attention. Communication experts say that up to 85% of communication is non-verbal—including physical movements, eye contact, posture, and physiological presence.

Non-verbal cues can help you understand what someone is really saying, even if the context isn’t clear. Another important part of active listening is paying attention to your own non-verbal signals, and making sure you’re demonstrating your interest levels through good eye contact, attentive posture, and a lack of distracted gestures.

Speaking in listening mode

Great listeners are able to demonstrate their attention through verbal as well as non-verbal cues. Verbal listening strategies include extending an open invitation to talk, encouraging the other person with a few brief words, and asking open-ended questions.

Inviting someone to talk can be as simple as reading their body language and asking about it. For example, if a person seems upset, you might say, “You look like something is bothering you. Want to talk about it?” Or if someone seems happy or excited, you could say, “It looks like you’ve had some good news. Do you want to share?” Once you’re engaged in a conversation, you can use short, encouraging phrases like “I see,” or “Go on,” to indicate that you’re listening and want to hear more.

Finally, great listeners use questions to connect and engage with others. They ask an open-ended question—one that invites a more thorough answer. For example, instead of asking, “Are you worried about the meeting tomorrow?” a good listener would say, “How do you feel about the meeting tomorrow?”

 

Developing your listening skills can vastly improve your communication, and help you advance in both your business and your personal life. How do you show others that you’re listening?

 

4 Ways to Connect Employees to Your Brand, Using Social Media

As a business, you’re looking to brand your products or services in ways that appeal to your target audiences. An effective branding strategy is consistent across every channel and touch point where customers interact with your brand—and that includes your employees.

Employees who are knowledgeable and excited about your brand can be your most powerful assets. These brand ambassadors will spread the word about your company without being told, increasing your brand’s visibility and strengthening its credibility.

But how can you turn your employees into brand ambassadors?

Here are four “real world” ways you can engage your employees to connect to your brand, and create an army of ambassadors to drive word-of-mouth and increased revenues.

  1. Encourage employees to share your brand: use social media at work

For a long time, most companies limited or banned social media usage in the workplace. Sites like Facebook and Twitter were considered unproductive, and even potentially damaging to the company’s reputation.

However, these restrictive policies end up backfiring more often than not. In addition, keeping employees away from social media is closing off a potentially powerful avenue for building your brand and engaging customers. Instead, invite employees to use social media in a positive and constructive way. They’ll spend less time hiding their social media usage, and more time developing great relationships with customers and generating leads.

Not everyone is comfortable using social media, so it’s a good idea to offer training for employees who may be interested in promoting your brand through social networks, but aren’t sure how to get started.

  1. Communicate openly and clearly with your employees

One of the biggest challenges employees face in using social media for business is what they should share publically, and what should stay internal. You can make sure employees know what’s acceptable by communicating frequently, and maintaining transparency about appropriate social media usage.

When you have something that employees can share with their social media networks, broadcast the information on every channel at work. Some people might miss a company email, but attend a meeting. Some may not check the bulletin board, but read every email that lands in their inbox. When you make a concerted effort to get the word out, your employees will follow suit.

Employees feel much more comfortable sharing company information on social media when they know the company approves. Don’t keep them in the dark about what to share, and what to keep private.

  1. Focus on the right channels – know your audience

You can amplify the effectiveness of your employees’ branding efforts by finding out which channels are best suited for your particular business, and asking employees to work through those channels.

The audiences for various social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest can be very different. Your company might flourish on Facebook, but flop on LinkedIn. You may drive great engagement on Pinterest, but fizzle out on Twitter.

Look into the various social media platforms and find our which are most effective for your business. Then, share that information with your employees so they understand not only which platforms they should be using, but how they will drive success.

  1. Make it easy for employees to engage others

Everyone wishes they had more time in a day, including your employees. While some may want to participate in your company’s social media program, they may not have the time to figure it all out, or to come up with interesting content and status updates to share across their networks.

Make it easy by providing content for all of your employees to share. This will not only save them time, but will also help you ensure that your employees maintain a consistent company voice across platforms and channels. Ask employees to follow the main company pages on various social media sites, and repost any content their individual networks might enjoy. The easier it is, the more often they’ll share.

 

Let’s connect our companies on social media – follow launchbox on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Are You Operating From Your Strengths? 3 Ways to Know

Whether you’re looking to land the perfect job or advance your current career, understanding and leveraging your strengths is one of the most important things you can do. When you operate from your strengths, you’ll have less stress, higher satisfaction, and greater productivity—and most importantly, you will be in complete alignment with yourself.

On the other hand, if you’re working against your strengths, your performance will suffer, your stress levels will increase, and you’ll find yourself stuck in your career and your life.

A strength is any ability you have that you are naturally inclined to do well, a natural talent …it’s where you perform at your highest and best. But how do you know what your strengths truly are?

To effectively leverage your strengths, you need to understand them beyond generic statements like “I’m good with people” or “I’m a fast learner.” Here are three ways you can determine your own strengths and put them to work for you to achieve bold success.

CONSIDER YOUR CORE VALUES

What’s important to you, both personally and professionally? Your values and your passions can help point you toward your strengths—people spend more time and energy on what’s important to them, and as a result, skills based on your values tend to improve at a faster rate.

Some common personal and professional values include:

  • Work-life balance
  • Physical and/or mental health and wellbeing
  • Job security
  • Financial gain
  • Respect and/or recognition
  • Advancement opportunities
  • Continuous learning / ongoing education
  • Helping others / giving back
  • Collaboration/ team environments
  • Creativity / innovation

 

LISTEN TO YOUR EMOTIONAL CUES

You will often know where your strengths lie on a subconscious level , but you may not have paid attention to how you feel when you’re performing certain activities so you can pinpoint them. Listen to your internal cues as you work and play to learn which activities bring you happiness and satisfaction. Do you feel confident and accomplished when you’re in a leadership position? Does it thrill you when you solve a complex problem? Do you enjoy brainstorming or taking a class?

 

GET A SECOND OPINION

Another way to identify your strengths is through the lens of other people. So ask them directly. Sit down with someone who knows you well, and ask them what they feel are your greatest strengths. The answers may surprise you.

You can also consider other people’s responses to your efforts. For example, if you enjoy organizing events, do you typically have a lot of people show up? Do they enjoy the events, and come back for others you organize? Positive actions are a strong confirmation of your strengths.

Finally, if you’re unable to identify any of your strengths innately, try adding new activities to your work or personal life. Choose something that aligns with your natural passions—and you may discover strengths you never expected to find, that could lead you in exciting new directions.

 

DISCOVER YOUR STRENGTHS

At launchbox, we use Gallup’s Strengths Finder 2.0 book and online assessment. It’s a great tool that helps you identify your strengths, from 34 different themes, and gives you strategies for applying them to your life. Get Strengths Finder now and start living from your strengths.

Work Life Balance

Work-Life Balance. What exactly does this mean to you?

A large majority of millennials rank Work-Life Balance extremely high on their list of things to consider before accepting or applying to a job opportunity. According to the PWC’s ‘Managing Tomorrows People’ study, 95% of millennials studied said a work/life balance is important to them.

Recently, Forbes release a list of 20 jobs that offer the best work-life balance and why. Some seem exciting, some seem unusual, and some are surprising. Did the list surprise you as much as it surprised me? Check out the reasons behind this list here.

The List

  1. Data Scientist
  2. SEO Specialist
  3. Tour Guide
  4. Lifeguard
  5. Social Media Manager
  6. Group Fitness Instructor
  7. User Experience Director
  8. Corporate Communications
  9. Firefighter
  10. Equity Trader
  11. Law Clerk
  12. Investment Analyst
  13. Administrative Assistant
  14. Office Assistant
  15. Sales Representative
  16. Help Desk Technician
  17. Substitute Teacher
  18. Carpenter
  19. Real Estate Broker
  20. Game Designer

Did any of these jobs catch your eye? If so, launchbox can help make them attainable. Come in to get your launch plan and discover the necessary tools to start the career you want today! A perfect work-life balance is closer than you may think!

 

Millennials Just Want To Have Fun

Time flies when you are having fun, right? But how many times have you stared at the clock waiting for a work day to end? Chances are, unless you work for an exceptionally innovative company, most people wouldn’t describe their workplaces as “fun”.

However, many millennials crave a fun ad innovative work environment. The main reason millennials switch companies is boredom, and an exciting work environment is likely to help retain employees. Studies show, when employees feel they are enjoying themselves, they become more creative, and more efficient. Companies like Facebook and Google have embraced the ‘fun’ work environment, and are shining examples of success.

At launchbox, we strive to create a fun work environment that keeps our team upbeat and innovative. Members of the team should be excited to come into work, not dreading it, and a fun work environment is conducive to that.

Check out the Forbes article regarding why a ‘fun’ work environment is so important for the incoming workforce.

Secrets Behind Retaining Millennials

“I’m not going to hire millennials because they are just going to leave in a few years anyway, so what is the point.” If we had a dollar for everytime we heard that we would be retired on a tropical island by now. On the surface, this statement raises a valid point: why hire people that will just leave? Those darn millennials are just so indecisive!

At launchbox, we find quite a few faults with this statement.

The first is that we, as a society, are getting to a point where we are no longer going to have the option to bypass hiring millennials. According to CICSO’s Millennial Research, “75,000,000 millennials are joining or looking to join the work force” and “by 2025 about 75% of the workforce will be millennials”. What are you going to do, scour the 25% of non-millennial workforce until you find a 50 year old willing to accept a starting salary? Good luck with that. Plus millennials think differently, are innovative, and create real diversity in the workplace. How about that for changing results against your competitors?

The second flaw with the reasoning is that millennials wouldn’t leave companies so frequently if these companies would learn to attract and retain millennials. Companies can’t expect to treat millennials the same way they treated incoming employees 30 years ago and achieve the same result. In fear of sounding too obvious, the generations are vastly different!

Millennials grew up in the digital age, and they don’t know any differently than to use the technology they grew up with. Information is at their fingertips, and everything is immediate. They would rather work harder than longer, which frankly makes a lot of sense to me. If I could complete a project in 4 hours with the same level of quality as a co-worker who took 8 hours but wasn’t as efficient, why wouldn’t you.

Millennials work differently, and have different expectations from a workplace. If you and your company met more of those expectations, maybe millennials wouldn’t ‘jump around’ as often.

Is it your duty to meet the needs of your employees? You ultimately get to choose.  Zappos and Google chose, and who wants to work there: most everybody. You may ask, why? Because they just get it.

As always, we’d love to know what you think.