Millions of people want to improve and change, so how can you increase the odds of success? Research has shown that there are several things you can do to improve the chances of your making - and maintaining - changes you want to make. 1) Make sure the change is realistically achievable and something you’re motivated to actually undertake. 2) Break changes down into step that are achievable and measurable (keep track of your progress on a regular basis). 3) Make a commitment to yourself in writing that you’ll make these changes. 4) Make a public statement that you intend to make the change, and seek support from others close to you. 5) Keep track of your progress and keep yourself motivated by referring to the reasons why the change matters to you. If you do each of these 5 steps, the chances of your changing and maintaining the change is high.


Being a manager doesn’t guarantee being a leader, as a survey by the consulting firm Novations, of 2,500 white collar employees, showed. As many as 85% of organizational leaders identified by peers, were not managers.


A survey by Catalyst, a non-profit research organization, of 24 career women who used flextime over the past decade found that more than half had been promoted even though they, at times, had shorter workweeks. For many working mothers, career involvement was temporarily reduced, but career advancement and return to full time work was likely. Most women said they were satisfied with the trade-offs in order to have a better work/life balance. And 83% said they were satisfied with their non-work lives.

When looking to change jobs, a top item is hoping our boss gives us a good recommendation. But that strategy severely limits our possibilities, for good references can come from all around us. Managers, executives, former customers or vendors, retired and current colleagues, independent contractors, and even direct reports who know your work well, can all comment on your strengths and talents from their own points of view, adding positively to your resume, interview and other factors.


The #1 complaint on the job? According to a survey of 1,105 working adults, it’s “too much workplace bureaucracy.” When asked what would provide the biggest boost to productivity, the top ranked answers included: “less organizational bureaucracy,” a “greater sense of purpose,” “clear goals,” and “being able to see results.” Workers estimate that on average they spend 10 hours a week tangled in corporate red tape.


Use the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. It says that 20% or your activities account for 80% of your results. So, apply this to yourself. Thinking about today. Which one of each five of your activities is likeliest to pay off the most? Ask your self: Which of my activities will give me the most 'bang for my buck' in time and energy? Then, to the extent that it's realistically possible, focus your time and energy on these high impact areas, those most likely to make the most difference in your achieving your top goals. Of course you want to keep the old adage in mind, and 'Be careful what you wish for, 'cause it might come true.' Choose your goals wisely and use the Pareto Principle to help get you there.
How about never? Is never soon enough for you?
I like you. You remind me of when I was young and dumb.
You’re validating my belief in humankind’s stupidity.
I have plenty of talent and vision. I just don’t give a damn.
Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.
It’s a thankless job, but I’ve got a lot of karma to work off.
Do I look like a people person?
This isn’t an office. It’s Hell with fluorescent lighting.
I started with nothing and I still have most of it left.
If I throw a stick, will you leave?
A cubicle is just a padded cell without a door.
Too many freaks, not enough circuses.
Nice perfume. Are you marinating?
How do I set a laser printer to stun?
Chaos, panic, disorder - my work is done here.
Sarcasm -- just one of our many services.
Recently, a magazine ran a contest. They were looking for people to submit humorous quotes from their real-life managers. Here are some of the submissions:
  1. As of tomorrow, employees will only be able to access the building using individual security cards. Pictures will be taken next Wednesday and employees will receive their cards in two weeks. (Microsoft Corp in Redmond, WA.)
  2. What I need is a list of specific unknown problems we will encounter. (Lykes Lines Shipping)
  3. E-mail is not to be used to pass on information or data. It should be used only for company business (Accounting manager, Electric Boat Company)
  4. This project is so important, we can't let things that are more important interfere with it. (Advertising/Marketing manager, United Parcel Service)
  5. Doing it right is no excuse for not meeting the schedule. No one will believe you solved this problem in one day! We've been working on it for months. Now, go act busy for a few weeks and I'll let you know when it's time to tell them. (R&D supervisor, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing/3M Corp.)
  6. My Boss spent the entire weekend retyping a 25-page proposal that only needed corrections. She claims the disk I gave her was damaged and she couldn't edit it. The disk I gave her was write-protected. (CIO of Dell Computers)
  7. Quote from the Boss: "Teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say." (Marketing executive, Citrix Corporation)
  8. "How About Friday?" My sister passed away and her funeral was scheduled for Monday. When I told my Boss, he said she died so that I would have to miss work on the busiest day of the year. He then asked if we could change her burial to Friday. He said, "That would be better for me." (Shipping executive, FTD Florists)
  9. "We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees." (Switching supervisor, AT&T Long Lines Division)
  10. We recently received a memo from senior management saying: "This is to inform you that a memo will be issued today regarding the subject mentioned above." (Microsoft, Legal Affairs Division)
  11. One day my Boss asked me to submit a status report to him concerning a project I was working on. I asked him if tomorrow would be soon enough. He said "If I wanted it tomorrow, I would have waited until tomorrow to ask for it!" (New business manager, Hallmark Greeting Cards.)
  12. Speaking the Same Language: As director of communications, I was asked to prepare a memo reviewing our company's training programs and materials. In the body of the memo one of the sentences mentioned the "pedagogical approach" used by one of the training manuals. The day after I routed the memo to the executive committee, I was called into the HR director's office, and told that the executive vice president wanted me out of the building by lunch. When I asked why, I was told that she wouldn't stand for "perverts" (pedophilia?) working in her company. Finally he showed me her copy of the memo, with her demand that I be fired - and the word "pedagogical" circled in red. The HR manager was fairly reasonable, and once he looked the word up in his dictionary, and made a copy of the definition to send back to her, he told me not to worry. He would take care of it. Two days later a memo to the entire staff came out directing us that no words which could not be found in the local Sunday newspaper could be used in company memos. A month later, I resigned. In accordance with company policy, I created my resignation memo by pasting words together from the Sunday paper. (Taco Bell Corporation)
  13. This is the closing paragraph of a nationally-circulated memo from a large communications company: "(Company name) is endeavorily determined to promote constant attention on current procedures of transacting business focusing emphasis on innovative ways to better, if not supersede, the expectations of quality!" (Lucent Technologies)
History, philosophy and literature offer crucial, fundamental lessons that can help us succeed at work and in life. Over 2000 years ago, Socrates and the Delphic Oracle taught: ‘Know Thyself.’ The key to success lies, for example in knowing our strengths to maximize them, and knowing our limitations to work with them. We also need to know our priorities, goals and values to use as guiding principles in the face of life's complexity. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Polonius advises Laertes ‘To thine own self be true.’ Knowing yourself, stick with who you are, and be true to your priorities, goals and values. Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, recommended taking action, making your plans and dreams come to life. Know and keep learning about your self, growing in awareness. Be true to yourself, sticking with what you want, need and value. Take action, carrying out your plans. Follow these few pieces of basic, timeless advice, and the odds are high you’ll have a successful career and life.
An estimated 1 million employees are absent each day due to stress, which is responsible for about 275 million lost workdays annually. It's also estimated that 40% of worker turnover is stress related, with 46% saying their job is very stressful. 70% of American workers say job stress causes them frequent health problems, leading to absenteeism and interfering with productivity.

What can we do? One way is to understand our natural cycles and work with them. Each of us has biological rhythms throughout the day, which can help us accomplish more and feel better doing it. Ultradian rhythms occur in cycles, alternating 90 minute periods of activity with downtimes needed to rest and recharge. The normal work day is structured around these cycles: breakfast, work, break, work, lunch break, work, afternoon break (siesta time in Latin cultures), work, home. By paying attention to our naturally occurring patterns, we can try to coordinate our energetic times with our most important activities. And when we’re in a downtime and feeling like it’s an uphill climb, we can realize that we need to take a break and rest for five or ten minutes. One of the reasons we find work stressful is that we're having caffeine and intense effort, when we really need a brief down time. By paying attention to our naturally occuring patterns, resting briefly when we need down time and charging ahead when we're at peak efficiency, we can reduce stress and maximize our effectiveness.

Finding and keeping good people, especially top performers, is a key to business success. And the key to keeping your top people happy and around? According to a study by MasteryWorks, employees base their decision to stay put or change jobs mostly on trust. The less trusting the relationship between employee and employer, the more likely is the employee to leave. The more a manager knows an employee, respects and trusts her/his competency, and listens about aspirations, quality of worklife, and sense of career advancement - the far greater the chances of developing and retaining that key employee.
Increasing integration of North and Latin America brings a host of business possibilities. But how to deal with Latino culture without feeling muy estupido? Here are a few tips that might help: Expect greater initial formality. Develop a personal relationship first, before doing serious business. Serious business comes after coffee. You’re both ‘Americans.’ Take a day or two to enjoy and respect your host’s efforts and country. Use your high school Spanish; any effort to speak Spanish is appreciated muy mucho. Don’t brag about your self. Dignity counts. Arrive on time, but expect to wait, and no complaining or working while waiting. Don’t discuss ‘Montezuma’s Revenge.’ Other possibilities include: cheek kisses and other physical contact, emotional expression, laughter, tequila and fiesta. The deal can be made on a handshake between amigos.
Want to come across as a strong person? Have a firm handshake. As reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, a recent study showed that a firm handshake generally makes a favorable impression on the receiver. Those with a good grip were found to be more extroverted, open to new experiences, and less shy than those with limp handshakes. Women generally were found to have weaker grips than men, but women who were “more liberal, intellectual and open to new experience” had firmer shakes and were seen more positively than other women. Want to make a good first impression and come across as confident and assertive: Look ‘em in the eye and give their hand a firm shake. The proviso, however, is that if you’re too firm for a weak handshaker, you could risk seeming too strong, putting the other one off. You pick: Come across as confident and assertive with a strong grip; match the other to increase rapport; or just be yourself and don’t worry about it
Though known as a high powered executive, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of, mentioned that he sleeps at least eight hours a night. Bezos knows what health experts tell us: the proper amount of sleep is a primary key to mental and physical fitness (along with good nutrition, stress management, etc.). According to the Nat’l Sleep Foundation in Wash. D.C., however, 66% don’t get enough sleep at night, with 45% giving up sleep to work, and 43% staying up late to surf the web or watch TV. Recreational downtime is important, but turning off the computer and TV earlier to get to bed might be a better decision. The NSF estimates that about 15% of adults have insomnia, costing the US $18 billion in lost productivity. Sleep suggestions include: consistently waking up early in the morning to cause tiredness at night; no napping; no lying awake in bed; avoid stimulants two hours before sleep time. Get enough rest at night and you’ll have more power during the day.
We usually think of corporate strength as being measured by profitability and stock valuation. But ‘Stakeholder service’ in which companies act as good citizens to their community, country, employees and the environment are crucial additional indicators of long term strength and success. According to Business Ethics magazines’ recent rankings, the top 10 corporate citizens are (in order of rank): Procter & Gamble (home products), Hewlett Packard (consumer electronics), Fannie Mae (mortgage refinancing), Motorola (cellular communications), IBM (consumer electronics), Sun Microsystems (computer servers, Herman Miller (office furniture), Polaroid (consumer electronics), St Paul (insurance), Freddie Mac (mortgage refinancing).
Remember the New Year’s Resolution you really meant last January? According to research at the University of Virginia, your well meaning resolve has probably dissolved. That’s because old attitudes and behavior are never fully forgotten and tend to resurface in spite of our good intentions. “Changing may be difficult, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it,” said Timothy Wilson, PhD, one of the study’s researchers. To change, first modify the behavior cycle. Start with some easy walking, for example, if you want to overcome lack of exercise. Or speak up more at small meetings, to build greater confidence and leadership. Or eat some healthier foods, to change your existing diet. But be realistic. Since old habits don’t die, the best you may be able to do, especially in the beginning, is to add new habits than can coexist with the old ones. And give your new patterns full credit: ‘walking does feel better; speaking up more has increased my personal power; eating somewhat healthier has been better for me.’ Then over time, you can build and strengthen your new pattern, making you much more likely to succeed in the long run.

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Copyright© 2007
Jonathan M. Kramer, PhD