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  1. How do you control online productivity suckers?

    February 17, 2015 by Jenna

    Technology has revolutionised the way we work and how we run business. We can obtain data faster, respond to the needs of customers and connect with others locally and globally. We have multiple avenues to source information and tools that help us to be more productive.

    However, with access to so many resources we can also get caught up with many distractions. Our eyes are easily drawn to flashes on the computer screen or mobile phone.

    Anyone can relate to the irritating sound of an alarm going off or the ‘pings’ and ‘zings’ of notifications on mobile phones.  You are not just distracting yourself, others around you are also affected. However, with some simple discipline, you can still be in control of your online networks, without letting it take control of you.

    Silencing Notifications

    There are multiple ways that technology can catch our attention. There are calendar reminders, instant messages, online notification updates on your social media pages, you name it!

    While it is important to keep calendar reminders for appointments chances are most of your other notifications can wait.

    Solution: You have the control to silence the notifications on your phone and disable pop ups on your laptop/PC. If you are receiving texts, chances are if the matter is urgent, the individual can call you directly. While calendar updates are important for reminders, you don’t need to set yourself up to receive every LinkedIn or Facebook notification.

    Sometimes it can be as simple as keeping your mobile off your desk if you feel yourself inadvertently checking it for no reason.

    You can even block sites completely from your PC if you know they will distract you from your work.

    Managing your time to access different resources

    Many emails will not require a direct response, but as the amount of emails increase in your mailbox, it can be easy to get caught up with trying to answer all of them at once. But you will normally find as soon as you finish that last email, all of a sudden, another email pops up.

    It can also be very distracting to be on the phone with a customer or colleague and see the notification come up on your computer screen advising you of a new email. You can find your eyes wander to the subject heading, and then immediately you are thrown off from your conversation.

    Solution: Block out an allocated amount of time to just action emails and nothing else. If any matters are urgent or you need an immediate response, avoid the email trail by making a direct phone call to the person.

    By managing your priorities for the day, you can then allocate time to check on LinkedIn requests, customer queries, and company social media statistics. This may require setting a disciplined routine to start off with so that it becomes a habit to manage your priorities before letting technology distract you.

    Unless Social Media is part of your job description, save your personal updates and group chats for personal time outside of the office or in your breaks.

    How do you deal with online distractions and notifications?


  2. Personality Tests – Trials or Treasures? – By Susan Kealy

    June 13, 2012 by Jenna

    There has been a lot of talk this week about Latvian Airline, Air Baltic, introducing a scheme to allow travellers to be seated according to their mood. The idea is that passengers can be seated according whether they’d like to work, relax or chat, and even the topic of conversation can be pre-booked online- this really is the future!

    This to me, raises some really interesting questions – and let’s face it – concerns. Like for instance, am I allowed to talk to someone for some of the time if I’ve signed up to work? If I get sick of gardening chit chat, can I ignore my fellow passenger for the remainder of my flight? What if the topic is interesting, but I find the individual arrogant, rude and annoying?

    All this got me thinking about whether Air Baltic (does that name not conjure up images of freezing aircon and shaking chills?) would not be better matching passengers on personalities and then letting them work it out for themselves.

    In last week’s poll, we asked people what they thought of personality tests. 71% of respondents stated that they felt that personality tests were a great way to confirm unique strengths, while 29% concluded that they were a bunch of psychobabble. What was interesting were the reasons that people gave for their dislike of these assessments. In no particular order these were:

    1. Concern that these tests are easy to fake
    2. Bias with regard to age, gender, race or disability
    3. Whether any test really has the capacity to identify how someone will behave
    4. Concern over being pigeon-holed
    5. Whether behaviour is in fact context specific and not stable
    6. Beliefs tests are lazy; interviews, work samples and reference checks can tell more.

    All of these points are to my mind extremely valid, and really bring to light the importance of educating all test users and clients as to what tests to use, how the process works and what tests can help to determine.

    Choosing a well validated, well researched and reputable personality test is absolutely essential, regardless of the application. Test bias can be dramatically reduced by using the right test and the right interpreter, and most tests have mechanisms to identify respondent faking.

    Extensive psychological research into personality testing has shown that tests tend to be modest to good predictors of behaviour, and that they offer very strong predictive power when combined with other assessment tools such as interviews. Tests are not perfect, and even if they were, they are not designed to predict what someone will do at all times in every situation, they depend on the self-awareness of the test taker, and they don’t take account of abilities or experience. It is for this reason that in selection, personality tests should not be used in isolation, but rather as part of a set of assessment methods, usually including interviews and reference checks as a minimum.

    However, personality tests can provide an invaluable method of really exploring the strengths and capabilities of respondents, and can provide the insight to help employers identify that all-too-elusive employee-role or employee-organisation ‘fit’. In career guidance, development or counselling, tests can act as a catalyst to help clients really explore their strengths and interests, and help to guide them to a position where they are likely to be happier and more effective.

    As seen by the 71% of poll respondents, tests are becoming increasingly more popular, and employers are progressively determining that they are the most effective way of really gauging attitude and probable behaviour.

    To my mind, the real challenge for Air Baltic might be to determine a method for effectively matching personalities with one another. In my opinion, this is an area that would merit from more attention in organisational selection scenarios also. Do you consider behavioural styles when selecting people for your organisation, or matching candidates to roles or leaders to subordinates?

    Don’t forget, the Ignite Your True Potential Promotion will end on Friday 29th June 2012! You can win a complete Psychometric Package that is all about YOU! PLUS a one-on-one consultation with our organisational psychologist and expert in EQ, total prize value of $1,000. To find out more information, click here.


  3. Is it OK to do your makeup during the morning commute?

    December 13, 2011 by Jenna

    I suppose I should begin by coming clean and explaining why I chose this as my topic for last week’s online poll and, subsequently, this week’s blog post. 

    Last Monday, I was sitting on the train during the morning commute and I became riveted whilst observing a young lass applying her makeup. And I don’t mean daubing on a bit of lippy, I mean her whole makeup routine, from foundation and concealer on those unsightly dark circles and areas of uneven skin tone through to a dusting of loose powder over her face and neck, from eyeshadow, eyelash curler and mascara through to lip liner and lipstick. A final dab with a tissue and she was ready to face the world. It was quite instructive in a way. 

    However, I felt somewhat sorry for the gentleman sitting beside her (at least I think it was a gentleman – it was difficult to be certain given the cloud of powder he was cloaked in, magician-like). 

    Personally, I do not like it. At all. I can cope with a slick of lippy and a dab of powder from a compact, but the whole routine from go to woah? No no no. No. 

    Am I overly sensitive? Should I just build a bridge and get over it? I just had to know what other people thought. I first posed the question “Is it OK to do your makeup during the morning commute?” on my Facebook profile. Reponses were mixed, but were essentially divided between “no, I hate it, why don’t you do it at home or in private somewhere?” and “yes, who cares, as long as the person is not encroaching on my personal space”. 

    I then put it out there to our eNews readership and visitors to our website’s homepage

    And again, it was pretty much evenly split between YES and NO. The few respondents who chose “Other” were basically smart alecs who said they were okay with it as long as they could shave / brush their teeth / squeeze their pimples / pluck their eyebrows / cut their toenails. 

    Gross. 

    One respondent enjoyed the fact that applying lipstick whilst on a moving vehicle was rich in comic potential: “how amusing is it to watch the application of lippy go horribly wrong as a result of heavy braking?” 

    Another respondent had no issues with a quick touch up but drew the line at anything heavily scented or that released clouds of powder or particles that might be irritating to other people or even cause allergic reactions. Fair enough, I say. 

    Another was quite adamant in their response: “Who cares what you do in your personal space on public transport! As long as it doesn’t disturb anyone else, why should it matter?” 

    And ultimately, I suppose that is the crux of the issue – we should always ask ourselves “Is what I am doing right now in this public space going to p*** the people around me off? How would I feel if someone, especially a stranger, was doing this very close to me?” 

    And that extends beyond rampant makeup application to playing computer games without using headphones, wearing headphones whilst listening to music that you may as well not be wearing because your music is so bloody loud that everyone on the carriage can hear it anyway (and why is it somehow worse when you can ONLY hear the tinny treble track or the tortuously repetitive bass track?), taking part in endless, inane conversations rendered even more so because only on side can be heard, sending text messages on a mobile phone that is not set to “silent” … I could go on. And I KNOW I am not alone in finding this list of things maddening. 

    What annoys you when you’re on the bus or train? Leave your comment below!

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  4. Are we relying too much on email, rather than actual conversation, to communicate?

    November 2, 2011 by Jenna

    Latest online poll results:

    Yes – 80% 

    No – 20% 

    First, I would like to convey my thanks to everyone who responded with comments this week – obviously this issue struck a chord with lots of you, and there was some very thoughtful, heartfelt feedback!

    It is, naturally, a fact of living and working in the 21st century across cities, states, countries and time zones, that email communication has become a toll of communication that cannot be avoided.

    And, as with all forms of communication, email is not an all-encompassing evil. Sometimes it is the best and most efficient way to convey information. However, when it is used to ask simple questions when it would be faster to pick up a phone, or when people hide behind it, or when they copy in huge contact lists of irrelevant people, it becomes silly and annoying.

    I loved the anecdote shared by one poll respondent: “In my office, the IT lines went down for two days. Suddenly there were people at my door wanting to chat, and I had numerous marvellous conversations on how to do things better. People were walking around the corridors, having a laugh at the photocopier, and the whole atmosphere in the building lifted. Now with the IT lines restored, I sit in a silent space, no one chats, and even the colleague right next to me sends me an email with a simple question. Bring back the conversations!”

    As another respondent said: “there is no substitute for having a conversation to stimulate ideas and creativity.”

    Indeed. Getting everyone around the table, brainstorming, sharing ideas, laughing, asking questions, listening to each other, is unarguably more stimulating and fun than a series of silent, staid emails.

    But, a single email sent to all participants afterwards listing the main discussion points and action items is, equally, an efficient and effective way to convey the ideas generated and itemise the next steps for everyone involved to take.

    Email is also an excellent way to keep a record of an important exchange between colleagues, or between yourself and a client: “In the workplace, I prefer to communicate via email. I like that I have information in writing (both from what I have sent and received from clients) to refer back to.” Further: “Emails should be used as a confirmation of a conversation, and not as the main form of communication.”

    However, there are some situations where an actual conversation, either face-to-face or via telephone, is supremely preferable to an email exchange. “Too many people rely on emails to issue orders, bad news and to address employee issues. Excessive email usage kills the art of spoken communication and removes the opportunity for someone to respond to a certain situation.”

    No one enjoys difficult conversations, such as performance managing someone. We all have a client or contact we loathe speaking with. It is always so tempting to simply shoot off an email. But, of course, these are precisely the situations where a conversation is the best approach.

    How many times have you changed the tenor of what you will say next because of the reaction to your last statement?

    Would a problem with a customer be handled more quickly if the customer’s response was immediate? The nuance of the spoken voice includes information you would miss with electronic communication.

    Some organisations have initiated “no-email Fridays” and encourage people to pick up the phone for a conversation on any day of the week or to see others in person. These organisations report they soon experienced better problem-solving, better teamwork, and happier customers.

    I also found it interesting and somehow reassuring that listed amongst the dozens of titles in our new range of online skills tests is one that assesses Office Telephone Etiquette: “The focus of this assessment is on evaluating a test taker’s communication skills along with their ability to recognise proper telephone etiquette and the best way to handle calls.”

    What do you think? Leave your comments below or, of you feel moved to do so, please give me a call! 

    Our new poll is live! Tell us: Does your manager really care what you think and is their door really ‘open’? Results published in next week’s ChallengeBlog …

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    Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. Click the FB icon to “Like” us now and stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …


  5. Do you wish the people around you would SHUT UP so you could get some work done?

    October 11, 2011 by Jenna

    Apparently, yes. 

    Well, at least that’s what the 60% majority of respondents to last week’s online poll – “Are you more productive in a noisy or quiet (office) environment?” – wish. One poll respondent stated: “I definitely get more work done when I get to work before everyone else arrives / work back after everyone has left. I am easily distracted.” 

    Personally, I prefer to work in an environment with a bit of a hum, a bit of a vibe happening. It’s energising. You feel as though you’re not the only one actually doing anything. I do not wish to work in a tomb-like setting. Another poll respondent commented: “Working in a silent office can sometimes be a tad uncomfortable. You suddenly become aware of how much noise you are making, especially if you are having a conversation on the phone. You can feel very aware of what you are saying and are conscious that everyone is listening in. This can then distract you from what you are actually supposed to be talking about!” Yet another said: “The work place is essentially a collaborative team environment with people of all levels of seniority and skill sets. Together they are working to achieve a common goal in delivering a successful outcome for the company.” 

    However, it does depend on what you’re actually attempting to get done, and the level and type of noise around you.

    If you’re working on something that requires focus, attention to detail, and concentration, a quiet atmosphere is probably more suitable. I know when I was attending to our end-of-month reporting last week in the absence of our managing director (thanks very much, boss), I retreated to her office and shrieked “Don’t speak to me! I am doing sums!” whenever a colleague approached. In this age of open plan offices, it is wonderful when there are also spaces provided for employees to retreat to when uninterrupted quiet is desired: “Open plan offices may save money and increase collaboration to a certain extent but if you need to concentrate on a task, it is a completely unsatisfactory environment.” 

    In an opinion piece published on the Dynamic Business website, “How to increase productivity in an open plan office”, Dr Jim Taylor had this to say: “In theory, people are more accessible, so that problems can be discussed and decisions can be made more easily.  This, in theory, should improve productivity. There is a downside however. These are noisy, busy places where there is no such thing as a private conversation. Humans value privacy, especially when discussing matters requiring sensitivity. This is virtually impossible in a busy open plan situation.” 

    Plus, it’s also important to make sure you’re not the office noise pest. “Try business etiquette expert Tracey Hodgkins’s tips:

    – Don’t approach colleagues while they’re on the phone. This happens too often, she says.

    – Don’t speak at them when they’re concentrating – regaining concentration is time consuming.

    – Try making an appointment for a conversation.” [Source]

    Finally, Challenge Consulting’s Organisational Psychologist Narelle Hess directed me to a very interesting study that examined if noise and music are more distracting to introverts at work. “Many workplaces allow the playing of radio or recorded music during working hours, providing a chance to personalise and brighten the working climate. But how does music affect our ability to perform tasks at work? And does this depend on the kind of person we are?” In a nutshell, “higher extraversion eliminated the penalty from noise.” Interesting … 

    How do you like your desk: Streamlined Order or Organised Chaos? Tell us in our latest online poll and stay tuned for the results in next week’s ChallengeBlog post …

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    Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. Click the FB icon to “Like” us now and stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …




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