The “I” In Team

January 15th, 2015

There is an “I” in team.  That’s not what we’ve been told our whole lives, but it’s true.  It’s clear this old adage is meant to foster a spirit of cooperation, not competition.  However, there is an “I” in team, and it is this “I” that makes all the difference in putting together a complete and strong, successful team.  The “I”ndividual.  Each individual in a team and the differences in the way they work from rest of the team are essential to building a balanced, strong, productive unit.

Some people are natural leaders and thrive on being the one in charge, overseeing projects or processes, or taking the reins and delegating to others.  Obviously, if a team is composed of all or many leaders, there would be no one to delegate to.  Everyone would have their own way of getting things done.  A leader can sometimes be labeled a “control freak”.  However, a leader is essential to keep a project on task, to make sure everyone plays a part, and to ensure each aspect of the task is being handled.  Having someone who oversees the big picture and makes sure each member’s strengths and resources are being utilized to their full potential is essential to maximize a team’s effectiveness.

Another essential component of a strong team is having someone with expertise in a field or area of concern.  Someone with a lot of years of experience in an industry carries an innate knowledge and a gut instinct for handling issues or problems that may arise. They may foresee problems ahead of the rest.  Team members can sometimes see these “experts” as overbearing or “know it alls”, but they are invaluable to a team’s success, keeping things smooth by preventing problems and raising concerns.

Then there are the creative minds.  For those who are detailed and task driven, the creative minds can be a challenge.  They may be more laid back and focused on the big picture, not the details.  They may seem not invested or unfocused.  However, their contributions in brainstorming ideas and coming up with unique ways to see or do things help bring new perspectives to the mundane.  Their laid back nature also contributes to the team’s harmony and keeps interpersonal issues from escalating.

Not everyone can think creatively or generate ideas quickly.  However, a team needs someone who can fill in the knowledge gaps.  It needs someone who is going to fill in the blanks by researching what needs to be done or what compliance concerns there may be in operating a business or in overseeing a specific project.

A team also benefits from having a “planner”, someone who will keep the team on track in meeting goals and ensuring all details are being addressed.  They may seem to micromanage at times, but planners like to see that all aspects are addressed and will see them to completion.

Communication is essential for everyone in the team.  Someone with the ability to communicate effectively with other team members, or to those who are being reported to, keeps everyone on the same page.   Communication is the key to any relationship, and within a company or team, effective communication saves time, prevents misunderstandings, and fosters that team mentality.

Some people are natural team players.  While it is essential that all members of a team are team players, having people who naturally operate that way is crucial.  These might be the individuals who seem to lack drive or initiative, but when given a task are more than happy to complete it.  They happily take on whatever is delegated to them.  They are flexible and a great support in making sure the small things get done.

There is an “I” in team.  There are several “I”s, and these differences while challenging at times, make a strong, complementary team.  Everyone working together, recognizing our own weaknesses and appreciating the strengths in others that are different from our own, creates a cohesive unit that can meet the countless needs of functioning within a team or company.




September 18th, 2014

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
― Stephen R. CoveyThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

I know you can hear me, but you are not listening”.  What are we really saying when we say that?  We are letting another person know we want to be understood.  We want them to acknowledge what we say in a way that reassures us we are on the same page.  Effective communication is so important in the workplace.  How efficiently and effectively we can communicate equates to time and we all know “time is money”.  Communication is a two way street – what is said and what is received both play an equal role in effectively communicating with one another.

How can we communicate efficiently and effectively? How do we know when we are understood, and how can we convey we are truly listening and understand others?

7 Habits author Stephen Covey advocates the principle of “Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood”.  This principle highlights the importance of really listening to the person we are speaking with.  While they are speaking, we are not formulating our argument or waiting for a moment to interrupt.  Instead, we are present with them in the moment.  We are truly ingesting what they are saying with the intention of connecting with their needs at that moment.

One way to not only show others we are actively listening but to also ensure them we are understanding them is to repeat back to them what they have told us.  It gives the other party a chance to confirm or to clarify and correct our understanding. However, we are not just parroting what they say.   We want to first acknowledge their statement or feelings and draw them out by providing additional ways of expressing what they have said.  For example, if someone says “I don’t like my job”, we don’t just day “You don’t like your job”, we can say “It sounds like something at your work is making you unhappy”.  This type of response all at once feels empathetic and opens the door for them to elaborate. It seems simple, but it really works!

Listening to what is not said is just as important to what is said.  Some people need to be more drawn out than others, and actively listening can help them do that.  We help them find additional ways of expressing their feelings, getting at the core of what it is they want to convey.  It is also an easy way to express empathy for another’s feelings.  We are acknowledging what they say, not brushing them off or not replying with a “fix-it” solution or unwarranted advice.

When people feel understood they are more willing to open up and express themselves.  Feeling free to express oneself is the first step to communicating effectively.  Actively listening perpetuates open communication and gives both parties opportunities to clarify their expressions and to demonstrate they care about and understand one another.

Tracking Transformation

August 1st, 2014

There are many areas of life where the same principles apply … “do unto others”…. “people in glass houses…”.  These adages are used to help people achieve success in interpersonal relationships.  The areas of business and wellness also share some of the same underlying principles when it comes to achieving success.  One of these principles is in setting measurable goals.

 “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible

-         Tony Robbins

We can say we want to increase our profit margin, but by how much and what will we do to achieve that?  Obviously, the way to measure success in this area is with the specific formula measuring our profit margin.  Once we have a goal set, we can then make specific plans on how we are go about achieving it, continually measuring incremental progress and analyzing outcomes along the way and changing strategies as needed.

 When it comes to wellness, we can set similar goals, specific targets that will not only tell us if and when we achieve our goals, but ones that will motivate us and guide us to our larger goals.  Goals are measureable when we focus on how much or how many.  Recently at Johnson & Hill Staffing we have adopted this principle in two ways.

We are utilizing pedometers to measure our daily activity.  Each person can set their own goals, but we also create contests to promote a little extrinsic/competitive motivation as well.  Recommended activity for health adults is 10,000 steps per day.  I know, for me, seeing my pedometer say 8,724 at 8 pm at night motivates me to reach that 10,000 and got me moving when I might not have otherwise.

The other way we are using measured goals is with water intake.  We have water bottles that are marked with measurements.  Some of us have 64 oz. water bottles so we can easily see how we are doing on our daily requirement of water.

We can also measure goals with time.  Maybe we want to accomplish something we have not done before.  Setting a timeframe in which to do it or a deadline is one way to measure our success.

It seems like such a small thing, but these measurement devices are a constant reminder of our wellness goals.  It’s easy to let the tasks of the day distract from wellness goals.  However, having these constantly in front of us, we are continually reminded “drink more water” or “get up and move”.  They also keep us from fooling ourselves – “I was pretty active today” or “I think I drank a lot of water today”.  We often alter our memories to prevent cognitive dissonance so we can live with ourselves.  The numbers don’t lie.  We can know for certain what a 10,000 step day looks like.  For me, I know it’s very hard to get to 10,000 if I don’t go to the gym for my 45 minute workout where I get about 5,000 steps.  I also know it requires me to forgo the elevator at work and get up and walk to other desks instead of sending an email.

I’m a numbers person, so this form of measurement appeals to me.  But there are many other ways to measure progress that are less number driven – how do you feel at the end of the day – did you wake up refreshed? What kind of food did you eat today?

Whether in business, health, or other areas of life, measured goals have proven to be effective ways of transforming ourselves.  We can have tangible evidence of our progress, or perhaps lack of, and have confirmation of what it takes to achieve the goals we set out for ourselves.

Erin Counter, Wellness Guru


Your Best Job-Search Resource: Staffing Services De-Mystified

July 17th, 2014

In other posts, we’ve talked about the benefits of a staffing service, the flexibility of temporary work, and all the opportunities one can find through a service. However, we really never defined some key staffing service lingo or explained how all this works! So here it goes.

Temporary (AKA contract)
Just as the name implies, these assignments have a specific end date. There may be someone on medical/maternity leave, a seasonal increase in business, or a special project. These are just some of the possible reasons a client may have need for a temporary employee. The timeframe varies rather widely. Some assignments are just one day or a couple weeks, and others could be for as long as a year! On average, they tend to be around 2-3 months long.

And a quick note about some other terms that can be rather confusing. The labels full-time and part-time really refer more to number of hours worked per week; it’s not an indication as to whether a job is temporary or permanent. Actually, it’s quite possible to have a full-time job that’s temporary or a direct-hire position that is part-time.

Temp-to-hire (AKA temp-to-perm)
In the temp-to-hire scenario, the client is looking to fill this position on a permanent basis. And while this trial period allows them to see if things work out from their end, it’s also a fabulous chance for you to test out the job and see what you think. If at the end of the trial period both you and the client are happy with the match, then the job offer would typically follow. The length of time for this trial period varies. But overall, it usually averages out to about 3 months or so if you’re working full-time hours. So it actually functions very similarly to the 90-day probationary period that many employers use.

Direct hire
In this scenario, the company is using the staffing service to help with the sourcing and interviewing of applicants. But when the client selects someone for the position, that individual is an employee of the client company from the very first day on the job.

The process and what to expect

While it varies a bit from one staffing service to the next, the process typically unfolds like this:

  1. Get started with the application, which is often found at the staffing service website. Be sure to submit your resume!
  2. Interview in-person with the staffing service. You can talk a bit more about your background, skills, preferences, etc. This conversation is crucial; it paints the picture of what you’re looking for!
  3. The process may include computer evaluations and reference checks

That should give you an idea of the basic language you’ll encounter in the world of staffing services. And during this process, a really great staffing service will take the time to get to know you just as thoroughly as they know their business partners. And from there, they can match you with jobs that meet your needs while also meeting the needs of the companies they work with, resulting in a wonderful win-win situation. So now that you’re an expert, get started and find the path to your dream job!

Put Your Best Foot Forward–And Get Your Dream Job! (Part 2)

June 26th, 2014

In the last posting, we talked about ways to put your best foot forward and stand out to employers in the resume/application process. The next step is the interview. If you have received an invitation to interview, this means you must be doing great things in the application/resume department. Excellent work! So with that said, how do you go about continuing with the positive impression you have made thus far?

It’s simply a matter of handling yourself professionally. For phone interviews, here are some ideas for you to keep in mind:

  • Be sure you block your schedule for that time so you will be uninterrupted and free from distraction
  • Prepare by practicing some classic interview questions and also some behavioral-based questions
  • Review your resume and really be able to elaborate on any section or bullet point
  • If possible, do the call on a landline. Cell phone service can be unpredictable. You don’t want to lose the call or struggle with interference
  • This is not the time for multi-tasking. Focus on your call. No driving while interviewing!
  • As always, use your professional voice, smile, and say please/thank you
  • And just as you would with an in-person interview, have some questions ready for the interviewer(s)

Not surprisingly, some of the same concepts apply to an in-person interview. But in this case, you also want to make sure that you totally look the part. Be the whole package deal, and employers will be thoroughly impressed with your professionalism and poise! Before the in-person interview, consider doing all of the following:

  • Have resumes printed out on formal paper
  • Select what you’re going to wear and have it ready the night before
  • Definitely eat your regular meals that day but avoid restaurants or coffee shops that will leave a strong aroma in your clothing
  • Give yourself time to get ready at a deliberate, leisurely pace
  • Pop a breath mint in your mouth and walk in the door 10 minutes before your interview time.

When you do arrive for the interview, bring your A-game. Shake hands, make eye contact, smile, and say please/thank you. As we said in the last posting, so many of these suggestions seem like common sense, but there are many applicants out there who aren’t putting this level of detail into the process. So it really stands out in a very positive way!

The great thing about all this prep work is that it will leave you feeling less stressed because you’ll have all your ducks in a row, so to speak. Preparation is the very best way to help minimize nerves in just about any type of stressful situation. While no set of steps is a formula that leads directly to a job offer, following the advice in these blogs will help you to really stand out as a professional. And in some cases, it’s the little things that end up being the tie-breaker between you and another candidate.

Put Your Best Foot Forward–And Get Your Dream Job! (Part 1)

June 12th, 2014

The economy is definitely showing positive signs of improvement on the job front. But what’s making things complicated right now is the fact that many are still looking for work, which means it’s rather competitive out there. So with that said, how does one stand out? Well, the best way is to really be the part when you’re applying to jobs. This simply means that you truly take charge of the job search and give attention to every detail in the process. Naturally, this involves some planning and extra effort, but it’s that extra something that makes you shine!

Typically, the resume is the first chance you have to stand out, so it’s definitely key to be meticulous with this. Sometimes in the midst of the tiring job search, we start to take short cuts for the sake of getting things submitted. Instead, take a breath and really draft the perfect document—neat and organized, bullet pointed, and tailored to the job. And if it’s late at night and you’re too tired to focus, put it away. First thing in the morning when you’re refreshed, jump back in and complete the process so you have a strong submittal.

The next stage here is one that’s easy to forget because it’s a quick one. Between the resume and the interview, you will receive communication of some kind from the employer. Whether you hear via email or phone call, definitely be top-notch.

If you receive a call, take the call in a quiet area. It means you can speak in a normal, professional voice, and it also means the caller will be able to hear you. Creating a professional vibe here is key to maintaining the good impression you created with the application.

Also, remember that a potential employer may leave you a voicemail. What does your voicemail greeting sound like? If it’s a prank-style recording, you may want to temporarily change that until you’ve landed a job. Play your recording back and have a listen. If there are distracting noises in the background or if you aren’t quite using your “professional” voice, you may wish to make a new recording. At first glance, this likely seems small. But if you think about it, your voicemail greeting may be the first sort of “real” interaction the employer has with you, so it’s definitely important to instill confidence in their decision to call you.

Perhaps you received an email instead. Well, here’s your chance to show your fabulous email etiquette. When you respond, treat the email message like a professional conversation. Start with a greeting and thank the person for contacting you. The best route here is to use full sentences, fighting the urge to type in the quick text-message-style of communication. Be sure to address all questions so you don’t leave anything unanswered.

Following these methods will ensure that your communication is clear and polished. While it sounds common enough, it’s actually becoming quite unusual for applicants to give attention to these details, so this is a huge area where you can stand out.

In our next post, we’ll explore how to tweak the next steps of the process all the way through the interview. In the meantime, keep up the great work with those resumes!

Finding Summer Work the Easy Way!

May 8th, 2014

We’re always talking about the many benefits of using a staffing service to find a position and how temporary assignments can be a great choice for many applicants out there.  Well, summer is just around the corner!  So now is a great time to talk about summer work.

If you’re planning to be around for the next couple months and would like some work but know you can’t commit to anything permanent, temping could be an option!  Even short-term summer work can be something in a professional office setting, which means it’s a great way to build your resume!  Plus, you also might find something that can really utilize some of those great skills you’ve been working on! 

Some key things to think about all revolve around timing.  Typically, the summer staffing season starts around early June, so it’s important to be available as early in the season as possible.  Next, it’s also important to start the process ahead of time.  Get things moving by completing the staffing service application before the month of June.  This way, you can schedule your intake interview, take care of computer evaluations, and have the staffing service handle reference checks.  With the whole application process totally complete, the staffing service will be able to consider you immediately for any possible matches that may come in for you. 

Also, be sure to let them know of any summer vacation plans you may have. If you’re taking vacations, it doesn’t automatically mean they can’t help you!  This is just information that will be important for the staffing service to share with clients so that everyone is on the same page. 

So time is ticking!  Get a jump on the process today so you’ll be ready for when that great summer work opportunity knocks on your door!

Clear Communication the Easy Way!

April 18th, 2014

Looking for some easy ways to save time and build a happier workplace?  Changes in communication can have dramatically positive results!  Clear communication doesn’t necessarily happen on its own, but it can be as simple as creating some new habits and then you’re off and running as a communication champion.  Today, we’re specifically looking at some common email pitfalls.

First, do you read your messages?  The answer seems obvious, but the question is not necessarily so simple.  The days never seem to have enough hours, so it can be very easy to scan emails quickly.  Unfortunately, you can miss some key details and actually spend more time fixing an error than you would have spent reading the initial email thoroughly.

For example, convinced I already knew what the instructions were for a new required form, I did a quick scan of the email before incorporating the document into my daily routine.  Unfortunately, my speed reading missed important words, so I was actually doing the exact opposite of what the email instructed!  Not only did I feel pretty sheepish when I had to apologize, but I also had to follow up with everyone I gave that form to so they could correct my error.  All this could have been avoided if I had just read the instructions rather than doing a quick scan.

Admittedly, some individuals have not quite mastered the art of writing detailed but brief email messages.  So yes, there will be times where you have to wade through a very dense email to find the key messages and points.  And even in those cases, the time savings will still be greater if you force yourself to stay focused with the email.  If nothing else, these emails can serve as your inspiration to ensure that you always write pithy messages!

This, of course, segues nicely into some thoughts on the art of crafting emails.  There are typically two extreme ends of this spectrum:  the 1-word email and the 500-word message.  In some cases, the 1-word email is actually sufficient.  But what about instances where the composer of the email has asked multiple questions?  In this case, the one-word answer is confusing and incomplete.  That individual is then forced to write back (or call) to follow up for clarification.  Or he/she could take option B and move forward without the answers, operating instead on assumptions.  But in any case, both individuals involved end up spending unnecessary time on damage control.

And if you’re the culprit of the 500-word email, focus on the real key points/questions.  In some cases, the long email is necessary.  And when you realize the lengthy nature of your email, maybe it would actually be easier to just pick up the phone and hash things out quickly that way?

But if you absolutely must communicate this long message via email, it’s key to break down your thoughts/questions with bullet points, keeping each item separate and easy to read.  While it’s the reader’s job to treat your words with respect and read the whole document, it’s helpful if you can perform your due diligence by making the long document as accessible as possible to your readers.

So in the end, it seems that we have some responsibility both as readers and as writers!  While it may seem daunting at first, it’s nothing that a little self-reflection and intention can’t tackle.  So don’t wait!  Start saving time today by using fabulous email etiquette every day!

Surviving Unemployment & Getting Back Into the Workforce

March 20th, 2014

In a recovering but still tough job market, we regularly hear from folks who have found themselves recently unemployed and in search of work.  Our hearts really go out to these applicants during what is usually a very stressful experience!  The first step is to take a breath.  There’s hope for a new beginning and there are steps you can take to maximize your chances of getting right back into the workforce.  Here are some thoughts to help you get started!

The place to start is with your resume.  How long has it been since your last update?  Dust off this document and craft it into the resume of a star candidate.  Take some time to reflect on your recent experience and what this might qualify you for on the job market.  The answers you come up with will help you to know which jobs to apply to, and that segues nicely into the next step!

Applying to Jobs
With resume updates and self-reflection crossed off the checklist, now it’s time to search the job listings and submit your brilliantly crafted resume.  This part can be tricky, but a few easy tips can really simplify what otherwise could become a daunting process.

One way to really stay on track is to focus your efforts on the jobs that are a strong match for your experience and skills.  Applying to jobs outside of your expertise can be challenging for a couple different reasons.   First, it doesn’t maximize your chance of getting call backs on jobs, which can be really discouraging!  During this process, we definitely want your morale to stay strong!

The second challenge is that applying to jobs that may not be a match probably means that you are applying to a higher volume of jobs.  The downside here is that you spend time on quantity over quality, which could mean that you aren’t able to create strong applications for the jobs that are the best match for you.   Creating a strong application is definitely key in landing the interview for the job of your dreams!

Never forget the importance of personal and professional networks!  While traditional job-search methods are still valid, there are lots of folks out there who are finding out about jobs through word of mouth.  Stay in touch with your contacts and keep an open mind.  You never know what can happen!

It’s a competitive market out there, so it may take a little bit longer to find work now than it did several years ago.  But with that said, there are definitely signs that things are improving!  The search is far from hopeless, so stay positive and keep up all the great work with applications and resume submissions and you’ll find your way right back into the workforce.

Paying it Forward (With Returns)

March 6th, 2014

Recently, around Christmastime, my Facebook feed was filled with posts from friends who were at Dunkin Donuts and had their order paid for them by the person in front of them in the drive thru line.  They then, in turn, paid for the person behind them.  This seemed to catch on and become a frequent occurrence over the holidays.

What would prompt someone to start such a movement?  What triggered the first person to decide to make a difference in the day of a complete stranger?  Perhaps it was just holiday spirit or maybe someone was just feeling extra generous one day.  Whatever the reason, that person was on to something.  Not only were they creating a happier day for the person to whom this gestured was paid forward, they were creating greater mental health and happiness in themselves and all the subsequent givers.

We all know that giving to others makes us feel good.  We find gratification in helping others in small and large ways.  While our motives may be altruistic, we are also benefiting from the transaction as well.

Giving to others helps us direct our attention outwardly.  Rather than focusing on ourselves, often critically, we shift our attention to the needs of others, turning down the volume on negative thoughts.  The connection between our thoughts and emotions is strong.  What we think about has a direct effect on how we feel about our lives and ourselves.  Our emotions then translate into actions.  By focusing our energies outwardly, we are creating a cycle of positive thoughts, emotions, and actions.

When we focus on others, we become recipients of their gratitude.  Even if we don’t receive such gratitude directly, we may see the consequences of our actions.  As the recipient of appreciation, this adds to our positive self-talk and promotes a healthier view of ourselves and our personal value.  Subsequently we will think and behave in more positive and healthier ways.

Of course there are many ways to give to others.  We can formally volunteer at a local charity or community organization.  We can donate to a food or clothing drive.  We can donate monetarily to any establishment.  We can also do the simple things like our Dunkin Donuts giver has done.  By giving in any of these ways we are reconnecting ourselves with our human family.  We are reestablishing connections through simple acts of kindness and generosity.  The feeling of social connection is powerful as well.  Feeling connected to our fellow humans and our individual communities helps combat powerful negative emotions related to depression, anxiety, and loneliness.  We are helping our brain reestablish neural connections in the areas of our brain affecting our mood.  The more we use these connections, the stronger they become.

Companies, too, can benefit by participating in community activities together.  Individual workers will benefit emotionally and mentally while the company benefits from an overall morale boost and community visibility and connection.  Johnson & Hill Staffing participates regularly in charity events benefiting community and national organizations.  Participation is always voluntary, but it is a great way to give busy employees an opportunity to give to others utilizing company resources and connections.

So, the next time we are overwhelmed with life or perhaps not feeling our best or need a morale boost for our employees, why not make a small effort to pay a little forward…and get a priceless return?