A good friend of mine has recently been posting a series of articles about the art of critical thinking and based on the current social and political climate I started to consider whether in world of business this important skill has been forgotten or overlooked? For the sake of brevity let’s assume that many individuals have lost this ability I will share a few attributes over the next blog posts to get you thinking about the elements you need to start thinking critically again. “The sole purpose and objective of critical thinking is to get at the truth no matter how unpleasant or unexpected it might turn out to be.”
Perception (the five senses) must always be tested against the available evidence to validate or dismiss the truth claim behind the appearance. This is the first step in critical thinking.
Reasoning is the well-spring of critical thinking. It is the the process of thinking the thing through, logically and precisely, beginning with it’s animating assumptions, while drawing well-founded inferences and conclusions.
Trite as it may sound critical thinking is aimed at real-world problems with real-world tools of reasoned analysis to reach sound, concrete and productive outcomes.
I will continue this discussion in an upcoming blog.
Inclusive leaders understand their identities, privileges, and biases, and recognize how they have shaped how they view the world and the people around them. They employ that understanding to take a staunch stance against even the subtlest forms of prejudice and discrimination. They model the way for others to stand up to discrimination and inequity through their words and actions. Inclusive leaders are committed to the work of allyship. They align themselves in solidarity with marginalized groups and use their resources and social capital to help speed their impact.
But leadership is uncomfortable by nature. If you aren’t pushing yourself to do more and encouraging others around you to do the same, then chances are you aren’t doing enough. One of the most important qualities of an inclusive leader is resilience—persisting in the face of risk. The true measure of leadership is not how an individual performs during the good times, but rather the strength, fortitude, and courage they display during times of crisis and uncertainty.
Creating workplaces that are more equitable and inclusive is needed now more than ever. We have a unique opportunity to construct a different, better future. I believe that we each have the capacity to effect change, especially if we are leaders and have been sitting on the sidelines. Every single one of us is needed—not just to register our good intentions on paper or social media, but to actually do the work necessary for real change. We each have spheres of influence, and we leave much on the table every day when we don’t see our role in driving change.
It’s also important to remember that change takes time. Leaders love shortcuts and quick fixes, but change doesn’t always work like that. If you’re actively working to drive change, you have to be patient. I think a lot about failing forward, the agility and flexibility of getting feedback, adjusting, and trying again. What’s most important is to keep trying, to keep moving forward. Inclusive leadership isn’t a goal or a destination; it’s the embracing of a journey, where skills are built, day by day, experience by experience.
“People power is on the up”.
This is one of the key messages of a new survey of labour-market dynamics, which looks at why many of today’s employees are re-evaluating their approach to work.
The study by employment services provider Manpower Group, “The Great Realization,” found that workplace happiness is coming to the fore, with employees expecting more from employers than good pay and traditional benefits.
Pandemic-induced life changes have prompted a work-life balance reset for many, leading to global media reports of a “great resignation”. Switching from office life to remote working and other changes have caused many to question the how, when and where of their workday expectations.
Such trends are not new but newly urgent, says the report.
Swapping the 9-5 office routine for a desk at home has changed employee expectations, with individual choice now the preserve of the many rather than the few, the Manpower study notes.
Many individuals are looking to employers to prioritize flexibility and skills development, including workers having the freedom to decide their start and finish times, to enjoy increased vacation days and fully flexible work options.
Wellbeing and purpose are also important priorities, with almost half of workers prepared to move to a new organization to improve their wellbeing.
The changing work landscape means employers need to rethink their duty of care to include mental wellness. Staff are increasingly looking for support to prevent burnout, build resilience and increase mental fitness – such as mental health non-working days.
An increased sense of shared values and culture is taking shape, with a heightened focus on building trust and cohesion within teams, especially where employees interact remotely. Three quarters of employees surveyed by Manpower want to feel motivated and passionate about the work they do.
With both talent shortages and hiring difficulties reaching a 15-year high, companies that invest in their employee experience will be well placed to retain existing staff and attract newcomers.
Employees, consumers and other stakeholders are choosing to engage with companies that prioritize people, communities and champion social challenges and the environment. And in the age of instant communications through social media, the actions of companies and other organizations matter more than ever.
In its 2021 white paper “The Future of the Corporation” the World Economic Forum highlights the need for businesses to understand the impact of remote working on workplace culture: “The remote environment has acted as a great leveller and reduced hierarchies, making it easier for those with a weaker voice to engage, as well as allowing senior managers to realize they can reach staff far junior to them without intermediary levels of management”.
BY CHRIS WACKER
Some people grow up dreaming of becoming a CEO, but my journey to the corner office was quite different.
In 1974, my wife Nien-Ling Wayman founded a technology company in California. By 1987, she’d realized the need for electronic document repositories with instant search capabilities and launched Laserfiche—the first DOS-based document imaging system in the world.
Back then, the world of enterprise software wasn’t my forte. I had been working as a researcher for the U.S. State Department and then as an analyst in municipal government development. While I did eventually take a position as vice president of sales and marketing at Laserfiche, Nien-Ling was at the helm and determined to grow the company. I enjoyed this role and knew that the technology was truly revolutionary. Nien-Ling, however, remained the driving force behind Laserfiche’s growth for two decades, and I was—and remain—incredibly proud of her legacy.
Then, in early 2013, Nien-Ling was diagnosed with cancer. While she fought incredibly hard, she and I knew we had to begin transitioning day-to-day management of the company. Despite all efforts, Nien-Ling passed away in late 2014. To this day, it is an indescribable loss. She was my partner in life, an inspiration, and an exceptional person.
Suddenly, I was the CEO. I began thinking about the ways Nien-Ling led the company and tried to emulate them. Now, five years later, I continue to think of her and her leadership style every day. She continues to provide invaluable lessons for any leader.
Nien-Ling always believed that money should be made from customers, not investors. She often said that “money is a byproduct of a job well done” to remind us that money is not our main goal. Our primary objective is to create a product that people love to use.
Many people assume that you need a very specific type of background and skill set for jobs in tech, and that’s simply untrue. One of Nien-Ling’s talents was to recognize people’s strengths first, and then build a job for them that would leverage those aspects of their character. I still do that today. If I meet a programmer who studied in an unrelated field but demonstrates accomplishment, then I’ll give that person just as much consideration as I would anyone else.
Nien-Ling was a physicist by training and a programmer by experience. Everything she did had to be precise—it’s particularly important in programming since one extra character can cause a program to crash. She helped people to be more than they could be on their own, like the professors she idolized. But don’t forget that precision isn’t perfection, and aiming for the latter can be disastrous. Nothing burns out an employee like insistence on perfection. Research shows that making mistakes helps us to learn. Tossing people to the curb just because of a mistake breeds fear within an organization and fosters a risk-averse culture. Thomas Edison even famously said, “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.” We have to remember that perfection is an ideal, not a reality, and by insisting employees try and maintain an impossible standard, you will self-sabotage your company.
Company culture is what gets everyone moving in the same direction with common values and goals, both short- and long-term. Nien-Ling believed that multiple people working on a project in cooperation was better, and if that cooperation extends throughout the company, it’s powerful. Laserfiche offers company-sponsored activities to employees like yoga, book club, sailing, and more. The goal is to foster positive relationships that will be reflected at work. We’ve also offered free lunch since day one because it provides us all with quality time to get to know one another and share ideas. We’ve found that employees from different departments often have lunch together; it gives them a unique opportunity to get to know people that they wouldn’t normally cross paths with and discuss ideas, challenges, and solutions. If you set a positive culture in place from the beginning, it will endure.
A lot of people think the technology industry solely relies on numbers, science—clear, black and white objectives and solutions. But Nien-Ling always felt that software development is a creative endeavor. People who code need time to think about how their code will be used. Things can always be improved, so I love it when I see or hear about an out-of-the-box idea from one of our employees. In fact, one of our employee-led initiatives recently resulted in the installation of mob programming stations around the office, allowing both technical and nontechnical teams to collaborate on projects.
That’s right, I said it. If people do meaningful work, they can spend their eight-hour workday being incredibly productive. But then they need to go home and do other things. Since we’re based in Southern California, that can mean playing beach volleyball, or going surfing—something else that allows employees to recharge. Sure, people can work three days straight, but they can’t do that forever, and they can’t do it as effectively as they could if they had time to recharge. Nien-Ling believed that to build a truly productive organization, eight hours comprise a workday. Do that consistently and it allows you to build a powerful company. You don’t need to exploit your workers to do that.
Nien-Ling developed a powerful culture that endures. In my mind, she started something that is unstoppable, and we are executing on her vision. I know she would be proud to see what we have done with the company.
In a chapter in The Negotiator’s Fieldbook (American Bar Association, 2006), Ellen Waldman and Frederic Luskin write that forgiveness isn’t an essential component of negotiation; you may be able to get to the finish line despite resenting or disliking your counterpart intensely. But when you’re suffering from a grievance, you could get trapped in a cycle of anger, self-pity, and resentment that puts you at risk for further conflict as well as emotional and physical stress.
Because simply remembering a hurtful experience triggers a biochemical stress response, moving beyond blame can help you better regulate your emotions and even lower your blood pressure, researchers have found. The health benefits offered by forgiveness can have a transformative impact on conflict, write Waldman and Luskin.
In one of its studies, the Stanford Forgiveness Project brought together people on both sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland who had suffered personal losses, including the deaths of loved ones, for a week of forgiveness training. When assessed six months later, the participants’ rating of the intensity of their hurt had declined significantly.
Overall, conflict resolution training has been found to encourage people to experience greater empathy toward their offenders and to change their story of victimization to one of overcoming adversity.
In the context of negotiations, the forgiveness inspired by a sincere, well-timed apology can potentially improve the odds of settlement and repair relationships.
That’s not to say that forgiveness is always achievable or even desirable. In particular, the greater the trauma people have suffered, the less open they will be to reconciliation. Studies of judicial initiatives in Rwanda and post-apartheid South Africa suggest that victims must feel a sense of economic and psychological stability before they can summon the strength to forgive those who have harmed them.
But if the prospect of moving on psychologically from a grievance appeals to you, how can you increase your own capacity to forgive? Your willingness to forgive someone who has hurt you may depend on your beliefs about human nature, according to the results of a 2010 experiment by Michael P. Haselhuhn of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Maurice E. Schweitzer and Alison M. Wood of the University of Pennsylvania.
The researchers had participants square off against an opponent who repeatedly violated their trust in a computerized negotiation before apologizing. Participants who believed that moral character can change over time were more likely to trust their counterparts following the apology than were participants who believed that moral character is fixed.
The results suggest that you can increase your capacity for forgiveness by allowing for the possibility that a counterpart who expresses a seemingly heartfelt apology is capable of personal growth.
No. 1: Flexible, hybrid work arrangements
It’s considered the No. 1 benefit employers can provide outside of salary and standard benefits.
“Hybrid work is here to stay,” said Jennifer Schoenig, VP, Guardian, in the webinar, The Future of Benefits. “We’ve become accustomed to new behaviors and lifestyles. Work and life have intermingled more than they did before. Now it’s the norm for most of us.”
Schoenig, who works from home, was able to coach softball for the first time. Working in the office with the time demands and commuting never allowed it previously.
But not everyone wants to be at home 100% of the time. Some people miss being with their colleagues. Others, who live alone or have children, want to get out of the house for a while. And each side has its benefits.
Why the constant focus on mental health?
Well, let’s face it. The last few years haven’t been easy. Add to that, one in five adults experience mental health issues every year, and 55% of adults with mental health disorders go untreated.
It’s been that way for years. It’s just that the pandemic put a bigger spotlight on the issues and got more people talking about it which has reduced the negative stigma.
And while many employers do offer mental health resources, the problem is they’re underutilized. So how do you improve employee utilization of mental or emotional health resources?
The pandemic has caused 75% of employers to change their unpaid leave policies. And this trend will continue through 2022, according to a Guardian study.
This may not be surprising when you think about the fact COVID-19 prompted brand new or separate COVID-19-related policies. It was a must. And now 80% of employers said that senior leadership’s awareness of the “importance of leave management” has increased significantly due to COVID-19 and the number of employees that had to take leave to care for a family member or their own illness.
“COVID-19 definitely shifted the mindset of leave management and gave employers the opportunity to really hit a reset button on leave policies,” said Garlande Patz, Sr. Absence Management Practice Leader, Guardian. “So, we’re seeing the pandemic put that spotlight on the importance of supporting the emotional well-being of employees and realizing that many employers didn’t have policies or process in place that really permitted employees to take paid time off to care for a family member.”
From a policy perspective there’s been a huge growth in the number of companies that are offering paid family care benefits. In part it’s due to COVID-19, but it’s also due to the introduction of numerous paid state leave regs many of which do include coverage for family care. And employers want to ensure that their company policies are keeping up with those state benefits as well.
From a process standpoint COVID-19 has also highlighted some gaps, the biggest one being the lack of education that employees have regarding their company’s leave benefits. When it comes to leave, employees really want to know what benefits are available to them, where to go to read about their benefits, and then how to claim the benefits when they need them.
Strength in business critical thinking skills is required for the strong decision-making and problem solving skills that move a company forward. Success depends on people able to learn their jobs quickly and to perform successfully in situations requiring problem solving.
Business professionals must be able to act with autonomy. They must be able to make sound decisions, solve problems, communicate clearly, be collaborative, flexible and multi-task.
Implementing corporate goals require a leadership team who can identify critical elements, evaluate options, anticipate risks, prioritize goal achievement.
The best way to reduce the risks of poor decision-making and problem-solving is to hire people with strong business critical thinking skills .
The ability to analyze problem situations and identify the significance of key/critical data elements. A strongly skilled problem solver uses analysis and interpretation skills to determine the issues that must be addressed and to understand the complexities of the problem.
The ability to evaluate options accurately and establish priorities. A successful business professional can differentiate the quality of different possible choices and explain the reasons for their decisions.
The deductive reasoning skills necessary to anticipate outcomes and see logical consequences. Effective business professionals need to be able to see applications and implications of executive directives, company policies and regulations
Problem solving in contexts of risk, ambiguity and uncertainty. Strength in inductive and inferential reasoning lead problem solvers to determine the solution that has the strongest likelihood of success, given information at hand.
The ability to reason well in contexts involving numerical data. Business problem solvers must demonstrate the ability to interpret and evaluate vital information presented in a variety of numerical formats in order to reach an optimal problem solution.
As a high performer set on goal achievement, you have probably programmed your subconscious mind to believe that your perceptions are aligned with the optimal way to perform at your highest level. But if your perceptions are stimulating anxiety, that is not the case. When anxiety overwhelms you, it limits your ability to create and connect with confidence and clarity, which is essential to an entrepreneur’s long term success.
Diminish anxiety, and you can operate from a state of flow that grants you confidence and clarity. If you choose to shift your perceptions in the following three areas and align them with your flow state, you will do just that.
The vision of massive impact you hold in your heart will undoubtedly stimulate pressure in your mind. Because of this, time becomes more precious as almost every minute of your waking day is analyzed from a lens of performance, productivity and profit. But a curious perception of time starts to unfold in your mind when you live this way: You think you don’t have time, but you act like it’s never going to end.
This perception that “you don’t have time” triggers impatience, and impatience is a symptom of anxiety. Impatience will cause you to make mistakes in your business operations, like overlooking details and skipping steps in processes that could be vital to your success. At the same time, since you act like your time is never going to end, you put aside the things that are most important to upholding a healthy work-life balance, like your mental and physical health, upholding meaningful connections with friends and family or a well-deserved vacation.
This perception of time will have you believe that quick fixes to manage anxiety are the best way to operate, surrendering to the subconscious belief that you will always have to deal with it, rather than prioritizing the time to find the source of it. Don’t get me wrong, I utilize breathing techniques, mindfulness and meditation as tools to reduce temporary anxiety. But when you come into the awareness of the source of your anxiety, you can more accurately align these tools for optimal use.
In order to achieve the patience needed to unlock your optimal work-life balance and business performance, you must shift your perspective of time.
You have time, but it will inevitably end.
When you overvalue your desired outcome and perceive it to be attached to your emotional well-being and self-worth, you are setting yourself up for a state of fear and anxiety that will trigger self-sabotaging patterns.
Prior to coming to this awareness in my own thought process, I experienced self-sabotage repeatedly and with great intensity. I know the feeling of gut-wrenching pain when you realize that you’ve created the same result as before, falling short of your desired outcome while following the same pattern of behavior.
Self-sabotage is very tricky to catch while it’s happening. It is rooted in your subconscious mind, which is arguably more powerful than your conscious mind, and responsible for analyzing and registering your repetitive thought and behavior patterns as a part of who you are.
The problem is, your subconscious mind does not distinguish whether your patterns are serving you or limiting you. But to your advantage, your conscious mind has the power to control your thoughts, emotions and behavior.
When you set high expectations to accomplish a lofty goal that you never have before, there is a dynamic between your conscious and subconscious mind you will need for success. You must simultaneously be conscious of letting go of past thought and behavior patterns that may ultimately sabotage your success. But when you are overly attached to the desired outcome, you will struggle to be grounded in the present moment enough to be aware of this dynamic for success.
Instead, shift your perception to work without emotional attachment to your desired outcome.
This perception will grant you the mental space needed to be in the present moment, shifting your focus to optimally perform the daily actions and habits needed to achieve your desired outcome.
Entrepreneurs, and society for that matter, commonly give anxiety a bad rap. It’s usually perceived as a burden that cripples you from showing up in your most authentic self and hindering your desired daily performance. The main cause of anxiety is, in very simple terminology, stimulated by the unknown.
If you perceive your anxiety to be a burden and nuisance to your daily life, you will be resistant to discovering the real source of it, and instead look for quick fixes to manage it.
From my own experience of self-discovery and guiding many others do the same, I have found this problem to be deeper than just the sources of your anxiety that can be situational and circumstantial. It is the void of knowledge that must be filled.
Once you can clearly define the characteristics of your authentic self (which can be created by becoming aware of your conscious intentions) and align them into daily habits, you will begin to act more authentically. Over time and with consistency, your subconscious mind will start to register your new aligned habits as the new normal.
Once you have achieved this, your perception of anxiety will shift from a burden to signal that you are out of alignment. The feeling of anxiety will empower you to look inward to review the alignment of your thoughts and behaviors, to become open to alternate truths and to seek the lessons in all of your experiences.
You have the power to align your authentic, conscious intentions with your desired outcome and manifest it into reality at any and all times. Your perceptions are what block you from seeing this truth. If you have the courage to shift your perceptions and align them with new habits, you can take control of your anxiety and thrive as an entrepreneur.
This past year our lives have undergone extraordinary change, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that has shaken the globe. As a result, the world of healthcare has changed drastically, with this global health crisis flooding emergency rooms and standard medical consultations taking place virtually rather than in-office. These changes have affected how people use their benefit plans.
An employee benefit plan is essentially a promise between an employer and a group of employees. Considering the unprecedented state of the world in this past year, how have benefits been adapted? Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the world of employee benefit plans? Should it?
Since March 16, 2020, the province of Ontario has been in and out of various levels of restrictions that have affected our businesses, personal lives, healthcare practices, and finances. With much of the past year having been spent in a state of province-wide shut down, insurance claims have been significantly reduced.
The majority of large businesses follow an Administrative Services Only (ASO) plan. Under these restrictions people have been unable to visit their doctors, dentists, physiotherapists, and any other non-essential healthcare service. By extension, insurance companies have been receiving significantly fewer claims, approximately 50% of the standard pre-covid reports. This means that corporations have been able to contribute 50% less to their employee benefits plans, without breaking their original promise.
For small and mid-sized employers, however, traditional benefit plans have not been working well in these extenuating circumstances. The plan sponsor often has little to no control over the costs, and many small businesses have experienced a reduced cash flow. This has created a great deal of strain amidst a period of uncertainty, as employers have still had to pay full premiums for employee benefits plans. Sure, insurance companies have provided premium credits for small businesses, but these credits came too late and left too soon, leaving small business owners struggling. Despite claim levels having decreased significantly, clients are still paying their full premiums.
I am having an absolute blast being a grandfather to two recent additions to our family a granddaughter two years ago and grandson five months ago. So what does this have do with my business blog? I am in awe with my two year old granddaughter’s passion, sense of fun, directness and her ability to focus when she is learning something new. She has no fear of taking my hand and directing me to join her in an activity she wants me to participate in with her. She is very direct in her questions and requests with very few filter or fillers. She has a total sense of wonder in her universe and she lives in the moment. The problem for us as working adults is we lose so many of these wonderful qualities over time for so many reasons that I don’t have time to cover in this blog. The problem with losing our inner child is that we become so dour and serious that we most of us often don’t enjoy what we don for a living. Fear sets in and we don’t want to take any risks for fear of failure or looking foolish amongst our peers. We start to overthink and analyze everything thing we do. Most of us reign in our spirit of fun and over time depending on our circle of friends, associates and advisors often that fire and passion we initially started with gets pushed aside with doubt and worry. That is human nature. What I am proposing in this blog is spend some time hanging with little kids, watch and observe them and let some of their wonderful qualities filter back into your life you will be surprised how much better you will feel and how your business will benefit from this new sense of wonder, openness and joy for life.