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Barbara Bowes

  • Blurred lines

    If you're a people watcher like me, you've probably noticed a widespread social phenomenon in our community and beyond that represents a distinct and interesting shift in people's communication behaviour. For instance, if you recall, years ago when smoking was popular, you would see a group of individuals gathering and/or walking down the street with a cigarette in hand.
  • Delegation situation

    It's been one year since the congratulations started rolling in; after all, you had been promoted! You were thrilled to be selected for your high-performing, demanding job. It's the type of job where you experience an adrenalin rush all the time. It's exciting to be challenged as you resolve one crisis after another. Yet somehow, your spirit is starting to lag and you are worried the bloom is falling off the rose, so to speak. In fact, you're becoming seriously concerned there doesn't seem to be enough time to recover as you jump from one crisis to the next. Your email inbox is always full, deadlines are being missed and staff morale is beginning to slip.
  • Don't ignore the B team

    Talent management is a long-term strategy for ensuring an organization hires and retains the right person in the right job at the right time. There are a number of different tactics such as general workforce planning as well as replacement and succession planning, targeted recruitment, psychometric assessments, employee development and career management. All of these strategies are aimed at finding and keeping top talent, yet it is well-known this pool of talented candidates and employees probably represents only 10 per cent of your workforce.
  • Work smarter, not harder

    In an ever-changing profession, human-resource managers are continually seeking new ideas on how to assist employees to be the best they can be. With this in mind, HR professionals are now seeing the trend of "mindfulness" being introduced to more organizations. Mindfulness is described both as a mental state as well as a set of skills and techniques related to the ability to focus on and observe one's own feelings, thoughts and sensations during the present moment. Initially utilized in psychology to relieve anxiety, depression, addictions and obsessive-compulsive behaviours, the art of mindfulness is now being taught in organizations as a means for employees to learn to handle their emotions, pause in the moment and choose to respond in a more skilful way. In other words, mindfulness teaches people to think before they act and/or be aware of what they are doing while they are doing it.
  • Dress for success

    Have you heard the latest gossip? No, not gossip about the latest Hollywood romance and/or the recent Angela Jolie-Brad Pitt wedding. Believe it or not, the Internet is abuzz with online gossip about what U.S. President Barack Obama wore during a recent foreign-policy press conference. Really, it's true.
  • The business of change

    GROWTH is one challenge all businesses face; the other major challenge is keeping up with the times. In other words, assertively managing change over the lifetime of your business is the key to success. It means changing with the customer market, planning ahead, managing finances in tough times, solving problems with workable solutions and putting systems in place that are efficient and effective for the long term. It also means adapting to the work styles new generations bring into the work world.
  • Confidence key when changing careers

    Have you ever been in the situation where you've started to second guess yourself and rethink your career? Have you been asking yourself, "What am I doing here?" or, "What's wrong with me?" These thoughts and questions often reflect a sense of career unease and are usually a sign that personal job satisfaction has either slowly or abruptly come to an end. Yet, job satisfaction is critical to one's self-esteem and self-confidence, so when your feelings of accomplishment begin to wane, it's time to seriously think about where you are in your career. Sometimes this simply means you need to add new tasks or challenges to your current job. On the other hand, it sometimes means you need to change jobs within your organization or change employers altogether in order to seek out new challenges and opportunities.
  • What's with your attitude?

    What's your opinion about people who are always late versus early for work? How do you value a college diploma versus a university degree? Why do you so dislike carrots versus broccoli as a favourite food? And why did you go ahead and purchase a white coloured Nissan car versus a blue coloured car from a competitor? Believe it or not, your answers will be influenced by attitude. In fact, all of your beliefs and your behaviour reflects your attitude. Yet, most of us don't think very much about what exactly attitude is and how we acquire it. Nor do we think about how our attitude influences how we think, believe and act. But attitude does indeed influence us and it is visible for all to see. So, what exactly is attitude? Attitude is all about how we evaluate people, issues, objects and events in our life. It determines how we act towards any of these elements. Attitude incorporates emotional, cognitive and behavioural components that lead us to hold a positive, negative, uncertain or neutral view of something. As well, our attitude can also be conscious or unconscious. When we are conscious of our attitude, we absolutely know how it impacts our beliefs and behaviour. On the other hand, some people are not consciously aware of their attitude nor are they aware of how their attitude impacts their beliefs and behaviour, nor how others perceive them. Unfortunately, this lack of self-awareness can lead to behavioural issues in the workplace, which in turn will impact on personal destiny, education and career success.
  • Reading between the lines

    Time and time again, all through our educational years and into our work life, we hear about the importance of interpersonal communication. When our communication is deemed to be effective, we can quickly develop trust and respect, build teamwork, problem solve and resolve differences. On the other hand, if our communication is deemed to be ineffective, it's well known we can cause conflict and frustration. In fact, poor communication can destroy professional relationships and/or create unhealthy family dynamics. Yet, many people think because we can talk, we are communicating. Actually, that is not the case at all. In other words, just because words leave your mouth, doesn't mean the listener really understands the message. And just because words leave someone's mouth, doesn't mean they are telegraphing you their true message.
  • Policy makes perfect

    Appropriate workplace etiquette and professionalism have long been topics of discussion. We've talked about the need to interact with colleagues in a polite manner, to work effectively in teams and to ensure we focus on work tasks instead of taking personal phone calls or shopping online. In the last few years, there has also been a good deal of focus on workplace behaviour that is regarded as harassment or bullying. And finally, ever since casual dress entered the workplace, there continues to be considerable discussion regarding what is proper dress and what is not, especially as summer rolls around.
  • Transforming the career

    AS a columnist and public speaker, I have spoken and written about accountability from several perspectives. For instance, I shared with readers that taking personal responsibility means to focus on one's work and doing one's assigned work efficiently versus "sneaking" work time to text friends, keep tabs on your Facebook account or continually checking for personal phone messages.
  • Bye, bye boomers

    The baby-boomer exit is here. So far, it's been somewhat innocuous, with rather quiet retirements of distant corporate executives. Lloyd Robertson, lead anchor of CTV evening news for instance, stepped down a couple of years ago with barely casting a ripple. Locally, many well-known entrepreneurs and organizational leaders have quietly passed the torch to up-and-coming leaders.
  • Accountability counts

    For the last five to 10 years, the word "accountability" has been widely discussed and bandied about. Whenever you pick up a business and/or human resource article to read, the word accountability is sure to be found. Yet, even after all these years, do leaders, managers and employees really know what it means? And are people indeed applying a personal- or organizational-accountability framework? Is it well-known that the concept of accountability applies to everyone in the organization? Frankly, I am not sure, but no matter what your job role or responsibility, the concept of accountability applies to you.
  • A problem with authority

    Recently, I received several requests for assistance on the deeply troubling human-resource issue of bullying in the workplace. Worse yet, the boss is the person doing the bullying. These distressing situations prompted me to read a recent report published by the U.S.-based Workplace Bullying Institute. Its 2014 survey found at least 20 per cent of workers reported they were being bullied, while 23 per cent of other workers were aware of bullying and 21 per cent reported witnessing bullying in their workplace.
  • Keep bad news bears at bay with positivity

    It seems the "bad news bears" have struck again and more workers have lost their jobs. Frankly, whether it is downsizing, right sizing or whatever you want to call it, "bad news" is simply bad news. And bad news isn't always about a layoff situation: bad news can result from the news that a close colleague has become ill or decided to retire. You can also experience bad news when you are told your performance is not up to par. Or bad news may be when you learn about a work transfer to another location or the fact you may be getting a new boss whom you already know and don't care for. However, bad news in your personal and work life will continue to come in all shapes and sizes and at any time. Yet, you can't allow a cloud of negativity to develop and take over your life. Therefore, the challenge is to remain positive, but as everyone knows, this in itself takes a lot of work. Not only that, what steps can you take to ensure positive thinking?
  • Leaders lacking

    The latest research by the now-famous Gallup survey and polling company says today's organizations are continuing to fail at hiring the right talent for their organization 82 per cent of the time. The study suggests people are still being hired and promoted for their technical talent rather than leadership talent. Not only is this statistic alarming, but according to Gallup, it appears to account for the 70 per cent variance in worldwide employee-engagement scores. As a result, the survey suggests bad management can indeed be blamed for the low employee-engagement and employee-morale scores.
  • The challenge of following

    Today, the most effective leadership style in a participative, teamwork environment is known to require the right combination of soft skills and technical expertise. As well, we also know this combination of skills is not easy to attain and requires substantial self-awareness, as well as the ability to motivate others to follow your lead. But what about those followers? According to David Day, a psychology professor currently at the University of Western Australia, we have a preconceived notion leaders are always out in front of the band. In his view, each team has several leaders, so sometimes, leaders are also followers who engage in shared leadership in both formal and informal roles.
  • Spring clean your business

    OK, the grass is cut, the garden ready to plant and all your spring chores are complete and your home is ready for summer to officially arrive. But what about your workplace? Have you taken time to "spring clean" at work? Frankly, most people don't do this at all unless they are engaged in a planned move. As a result, clutter continues to grow, operational processes become routine, systems and policies become outdated and sometimes no one notices products and/or services are in decline.
  • It's about ability

    Looking for a job is a full-time job. If a job-hunter has a disability or a health condition, finding work is even tougher. Statistics show disabled Canadians have a more difficult time finding work and staying employed. Their challenges are often significant and that may explain why disabled employees are underrepresented in the workforce.
  • Climbing the ladder

    Spring always seems to be full of celebratory events, and the month of May is no different. During this month, we not only officially celebrate Victoria Day on May 19, we also celebrate Mother's Day, the YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction Awards and the Women Business Owners Entrepreneur of the Year award among a flurry of many other important events.
  • Let's talk

    Are you a listening loser? At one time, watching people strolling down a sidewalk involved counting the number of smokers. Then, as society made smoking a social no-no, we started to see more people strolling along with a coffee cup in hand. Paper cups, sippy cups or insulated mugs, it didn't matter; their hands were full.
  • The pivotal pro

    Every month seems to have its day of celebration. And in the month of April, we have celebrated the well-known Secretary's Day and/or Administrative Professionals' Day since approximately 1952. This special day is now celebrated across the world in recognition of all the important work these key professionals do to ease the challenges faced by management. As well, the Professional Association for Secretaries and Administrative Assistants (PAFSA) has declared the year 2014 as the International Year of the Secretary and Administrative Assistant. You'll note that I used the word, "professional" when discussing this job role, and I did so for a number of reasons.
  • Nip that talk

    Yes, spring is finally here. Yet, while it's certainly time for celebration, for some unknown reason, I recently found myself thinking of dandelions and weeds instead of spring and beautiful, colourful flowers. On reflection, it occurred to me I was disturbed about the reported proliferation of gossip in a particular workplace and what advice I could provide to help the employer overcome the mess gossip had created. These days, I'm also encountering more and more concern about employees engaging in gossip activities via the Internet; so, perhaps there's a need to seriously pay attention to the topic of gossip again. However, one of the challenges about gossip is there isn't strong consensus about what exactly constitutes gossip. Ask a group of people and you'll get a group of different answers. There seems to be a wide range of opinion that might even be growing. For instance, some people believe a statement is considered gossip only if it contains untruthful remarks. Others believe gossip is any statement that speaks about an individual and/or an employer without their presence. Still others suggest a statement would be considered gossip only if it includes disparaging remarks, criticism, rumours and/or consists of a range of behaviour, right up to a malicious form of attack bordering on workplace violence.
  • On the straight and narrow

    As you've likely noticed, infamous Toronto Mayor Rob Ford can't stay out of the news, but at least the latest message was he had been "cleared" of allegedly smoking crack cocaine. However, with another ongoing police investigation and the mayoralty campaign heating up, the story of Rob Ford is far from over. In fact, while Ford may be taking comfort from this latest announcement, I would suggest he still has a lot to do to clean up his image. That's because his personal and professional behaviour over the past year has once more brought to light the importance of ethics in the workplace.
  • Teach your workers well

    Canadian employers have been sounding the alarm about skills shortages for some time. The gaps span across industry sectors and affect every province. A recent report estimated one in 10 jobs will go unfilled by 2020. The other challenge is that 10 per cent of the worker supply is predicted to consist of "low-skilled" workers who are not ready for the jobs that will be created. Governments, both provincial and federal, continue to scramble to create programs and put new investments in place to help alleviate the situation. At the same time, the situation is being studied across the world and creative alternatives such as a global mobility strategy are being proposed. With respect to mobility, a recent guest commentator in a national human resource journal commented that steps should be taken to improve the mobility of all Canadians so they can work and practise their profession wherever they wish to.