Apr27

Mark Twain

A few interesting quotes:

  • If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.
  • Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.
  • Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.
  • Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
  • Great people are those who make others feel that they, too, can become great.
  • The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
  • Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
  • To get the full value of a joy you must have somebody to divide it with.
  • The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.

 

Click here to download more information about  Mark Twain and the “The Great Book of Best Quotes”.

 

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Dec09

The benefits of helping each other

A culture of helping each other contributes more to productivity than you could imagine, according to a recent report by McKinsey.

Post 9/11, a team of Harvard psychologists investigated the US intelligence network for effectiveness, and to isolate the most important factors that contribute to a group’s effectiveness.

After analysing various standard factors (stability of teams, the right-size teams, the vision, the mission statement, well-defined roles, rewards and recognition and leadership, to name a few), the Harvard team found that the critical factor was how much help team members gave each other.

“In the highest-performing teams, analysts invested extensive time and energy in coaching, teaching, and consulting with their colleagues.”[1]

If you think about it for a minute, it makes sense. If you and your colleagues are constantly sharing information and sharing skills, you’ll find it easier to solve problems, you’ll form better trust bonds, upskill new employees more quickly (so they’re productive sooner) and produce work of overall better quality because the load is shared.

The level of a ‘helping culture’ in an organisation has been shown to be a strong predictor in all types of productivity: sales revenues in retail; costs and customer service in banks; creativity in consulting and engineering firms.

So why aren’t more companies encouraging this behaviour of generosity?

The rigid structure

Well, it comes down to corporate culture, how employees are rewarded, and the structure by which they’re rewarded.

Most large organisations now work on an individual ranking system. Individuals must compete constantly to improve their ranking to the detriment of colleagues.

To allow a ‘giving’ culture to thrive, employees need assurance that ALL their efforts are considered, especially when they’re giving their time and resources to help a colleague. The overall success of the team, not just the contribution of an individual, should be factored in.

Random acts of help

The corporate culture needs to foster the concept of asking for help, and also giving help unconditionally. In many large corporations, employees hesitate to ask for help for fear of looking incompetent or downright foolish. However, it’s the ‘dumb questions’ that most often spark innovation. As well, a workforce that is actively engaged in helping each other is more satisfied, has a better sense of community and, overall, better productivity and customer relations.

Our contribution

Building on this sense of community, Anista has developed numerous feedback mechanisms for the benefits it offers their clients, giving users a voice and a means of improving the product/service quality, delivery standard and relevance of the benefits offered. It’s not good enough, in todays competitive environment, for Human Resources to simply hand out benefits without a proactive means of measuring/benchmarking feedback that would ensure benefits are valued by both employers, employees and family.

The results, so far, are clear: to get, you need to give.

Resource

A recent report by McKinsey

 



[1] McKinsey Quarterly Member Edition: Givers take all: The hidden dimension of corporate culture.

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Oct14

So you want to be a leader…

You’re a manager but would like to be seen as a leader. So how do you tell where you are?

Leadership is quite different from management. In short, managers delegate but leaders anticipate. Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but a recent article on the Harvard Business Review blog site offers three tests you can use to decide if you’re a manager or a leader.

Counting value vs Creating value. If you’re managing, and not leading, you’re probably counting value. The focus of a leader should be to create value, and to allow employees the freedom to innovate, rather than reporting their every move.

Circles of influence vs Circles of power.

Are you the ‘go to’ person for advice and mentoring or do you merely wield power? The more people outside your immediate circle go to you for advice, the more likely it is that you’ll be seen as a leader.

Leading people vs Managing work.

This about about control compared with motivating. Managers control people to achieve a short-term goal; leaders inspire others to achieve greatness.

This Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article offers further insights (not all of which are shown here).

Managers

Leaders

Administer

Innovate

Focus on systems

Focus on people

Rely on control

Inspire trust

Have a short-range view

Have a long-range perspective

Have an eye on the bottom line

Look to the horizon

Accept the status quo

Challenge the status quo

In the new creative economy, it’s ever more important that individuals are encouraged to free their knowledge, to share it and to look beyond the norm for solutions.

We need leaders and managers, as both have a role. We need managers to help define roles and organise the workload. Good managers who aspire to leadership, according to the WSJ article, also “nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results”.

So, do you want to be a leader or a manager?

 

Links

Wall Street Journal

http://guides.wsj.com/management/developing-a-leadership-style/what-is-the-difference-between-management-and-leadership/

 

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Aug25

Stand up for your life: Why sitting down is bad for your health

Stand up for your life: Why sitting down is bad for your health

The Huffington Post calls it ‘the smoking of our generation’

Most of us spend way too much time in front of our computers, sitting down while taking phone calls, sitting in meetings or sitting in front of the TV.

In fact, research has shown that we now spend around 9 hours a day sitting, compared with only 7 to 8 hours sleeping.

A study by Queensland University links sitting to increased rates of mortality. In fact, they describe that if you watch 6 hours of TV a day, you can expect to die 5 years younger than would someone who doesn’t watch TV at all. Don’t think you can exercise your way out of trouble, either. A burst of exercise won’t cancel out what damage you do to yourself over hours of being seated.

After an hour of sitting, the production of the enzymes that break down insulin decreases significantly. Prolonged sitting, without short activity breaks, can lead to obesity, a major health problem now in the developed world.

According to the Huffington Post article, “You might already know that the death rate associated with obesity in the United States is now 35 million. But do you know what it is in relationship to tobacco? Just 3.5 million.”

Obesity and lack of exercise can also lead to diabetes. This latter is a particular problem in the developed world. Recent research has linked diabetes to Alzheimer’s disease; so much so that, according to a New York Times article, researchers are now referring to Alzheimer’s as ‘Diabetes 3”. Yes, the links are mainly to junk food but a real risk is the insulin spikes, and they’re worse if you sit all day.

So how can you head off these potential health risks? (If you don’t think it’s important, check out the cool infographics in this article.)

A few simple steps:

  • Stand up when you talk on the phone
  • Set your smart phone to remind you every 20 minutes about getting up. This is also a good time to refresh your eyes. (Every 20 minutes, look out 20 metres for 20 seconds.)
  • Drink more water…and get up to get a glass of water rather than keeping a jug or a bottle at your desk.
  • Instead of sit-down meetings, change one a day to a ‘walk-and-talk’ or a stand-up meeting. You’ll find this has more than just health benefits; generally, you’ll find that meetings are shorter and more to the point. You’ll be more productive with more time to get on with your job. The best benefit? Studies show that walking is good for the brain.

So take the first step and stand up.

 

Links

Smoking of our generation

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nilofer-merchant/sitting-is-the-smoking-of-our-generation_b_2506748.html

cool infographics in this article

http://visual.ly/sitting-killing-you

study by Queensland University http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/46/13/927

35 million http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_22285260/author-sugar-trending-new-dietary-scourge

a New York Times article http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/25/bittman-is-alzheimers-type-3-diabetes/

walking is good for the brain. http://www.theguardian.com/education/2010/oct/13/walking-could-protect-brain-against-shrinking

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Aug09

Do you want to be happy?

Follow these 6 simple steps

Everyone wants to feel happy. The problem is, too often, that we let our busy lives get in the way.

Most of us are suffering from information overload: the amount of material we need to read just for work, our smart phones beeping every time someone has a random thought and feels the need to share, Facebook, keeping our LinkedIn profile up to date…where does it end?

Well, there are six simple steps you can practise every day that will clear your head and improve your wellbeing

1. Do a good deed every day.

This doesn’t have to be a big thing. It’s about looking for the difference you can make in someone’s life that day – something that only you could have done. It’s the random act of kindness (and you don’t have to donate a kidney). An example: You see someone getting on your bus who only has a $20 note to pay for her fare, the bus driver doesn’t have change and the passenger is obviously distressed. You have the change; pay for her fare. Be aware of the opportunity to help. Look around you; if you’re the only person who’s noticed, then it’s you that the universe expects to help. When you notice that opportunity, don’t miss it; it may be the only chance you have all day.

2. Love everyone.

You don’t have to like everyone all the time but love them for who they are – even if they annoy you. Never wish anyone ill. (For more on universal love, check out this inspiring article from UTNE Reader about love in Vietnam.)

3. Be creative.

Arrange flowers, paint, build the best swimming pool in your neighbourhood, help your child with a project, take up pottery or knitting or sewing or singing. Not only will you feel more fulfilled, but also, you give your brain a holiday from the daily grind of work and family responsibilities.

4. Look for one ‘magic moment’ every day.

Notice the sunrise or the sunset, notice the clouds, notice the musician busking at the station, the smile of a stranger. See how beautiful the world is and appreciate that you’re in it.

5. Have a goal.

We all need something to aim for – a degree, a home, to complete an artwork, to improve our relationships. Work towards something, then you always know where you’re headed and feel a sense of purpose.

6. Love your job.

“Find something you love to do, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

– Harvey MacKay. Do your work with joy.

Try to be mindful of these six ‘rules’ and practise for a week. You’ll notice that you’re calmer and less anxious, and feel more of a sense of purpose – and happy.

 

 

 

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Jun20

Energy at Work

Winter is upon us – less sunlight and fewer opportunities to get outside before or after work. It’s at this time of year we can find our energy levels dropping, especially as we make our way through the working day.

But, there are ways to increase our natural energy levels. Increased energy while we work helps us not only get through more, but also helps us focus more effectively on what’s in front of us. Check out this list of tips and techniques to get a boost to your energy levels going, fast.

Increase your intake of magnesium

Magnesium is the best nutrient for reducing stress levels. It can be found in unprocessed, natural foods. Food sources include beans and other legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds, whole-grains and green leafy vegetables. Cook lightly to reduce the amount of magnesium lost.

Reduce your caffeine consumption

While caffeine can give you a short-term boost of energy, it also stimulates the production of stress hormones. These hormones contribute to anxiety, irritability, muscle tension, reduced immunity and sleep problems. Alternatives include thins like decaf coffee or herbal tea.

Get good sleep

For the vast majority of people, eight hours of sleep is the right amount for positive health and energy. When we sleep our cells produce and release proteins essential for growth and tissue repair. When we don’t get enough we suffer poor concentration and mood swings, not to mention a weakening of our immune function. More sleep = fewer colds.

Increase the iron in your diet

Iron is crucial to production of energy from glucose. This energy is the primary fuel for both the brain and the body. Foods that are naturally rich in iron include red meat (lean), chicken, fish, eggs, wholegrain breads and cereals, beans, nuts, seeds and leafy green vegetables.

B vitamins = energy

The B-group of vitamins plays an important role in providing the fuel for the body via carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Optimal foods for B-group vitamins include chicken and poultry, whole cereals, len red meat, salmon, eggs, milk and green vegetables. Some people also benefit from taking a B-complex multivitamin.

Complex carbohydrates

Refined sugars – or simple carbohydrates – provide calories but lack vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Complex carbohydrates help keep blood-sugar and energy levels stable. Good sources of complex carbohydrates include grain breads and pasta, oats and muesli, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, and root vegetables such as beetroot, pumpkin and sweet potato.

Diet and sleep are very important contributors to our levels of energy. Our next article will focus on the behavioural opportunities we have to gain and maintain higher levels of energy at work.

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Apr26

Employee engagement – actions speak loudest

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald discusses the ‘behavioural capability framework’ being introduced at RMIT. It is apparently a “dot-point cajolement to be happy at work”. While it stops short of asking employees to “whistle while they work” it does exhort them to “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative”. It’s fair to say that the introduction of this framework has met with some serious resistance. (SMH article can be found here).
Primarily, it appears that academics and staff at the university resent “being told to be passionate, positive and optimistic”. It’s an understandable position in many ways, but it does beg the question, “How do you encourage a happy, positive, engaged workforce without coming across like Captain Pollyanna?”
Employee engagement is not a new concept. In essence, it’s a reinterpretation of what used to be called ‘job satisfaction’. The basis of the idea is that an engaged employee or workforce if beneficial to any organisation on a number of dimensions. The broad findings of the research done to date indicate;

  • Engaged employees are more likely to invest ‘discretionary effort’, they add incremental value to the business over that which is spelt out in their job description
  • Satisfied, happy employees talk about their organisations in a more positive light, improving perceptions of the organisation as a good place to work – an ‘employer of choice’
  • Positive emotions deliver twice the impact on performance of negative emotions
  • Employees who feel ‘engaged’ show lower levels of intention to resign, they show lower rates of voluntary staff turnover

So if the goal is to have positive, engaged employees, how should organisations act to increase levels of employee engagement without risking the kind of negative backlash and ire RMIT has seen?
As is often the case, when it comes to building levels of employee engagement, actions speak louder than words. It’s not enough to talk about it, the senior leadership within the organisation need to be active participants in the process of driving higher levels of engagement.
Before we look at how, let’s look at what the key drivers of employee engagement are. Research conducted in the UK shows the key aspects to be:

  • Feeling encouraged to share thoughts and opinions about the organisation in an ‘upward’ direction
  • Communication is key – people want to be up to speed on what is happening within the organisation
  • Witnessing commitment from senior managers – employees need to be able to believe that their boss is as committed to the organisation as they are being asked to be

Adding to this list are issues like ‘empowerment, consultation, organisational concern for wellbeing’.
The starting point is ensuring senior leadership within the organisation have a clear picture of the mood and attitudes of the employees. Culture surveys, engagement surveys – there is no shortage of tools and advice available on how to gather this information. Whichever you use, the key is to ensure the ‘telemetry’ of the organisation is understood and that the issues and opportunities are identified and quantified on a broad, thematic level.
Once the issues and opportunities for improvement have been identified, plans can be created to address these. If Communication is seen to be an issue, forums/channels for information sharing can be created. If the issue is one of organisation-wide clarity of purpose, activities to ensure employees are aware of the central strategy the organisation is pursuing can be beneficial.
Even better, involving the employees in the process of creating the strategy will ensure higher levels of commitment at the outset, from the very people the organisation will rely on to implement the strategy. If the issue is one of burn-out and a work/life imbalance, programs can be instituted around employee wellbeing.
An engaged employee is one who is able to get into “flow” easily and quickly. Creating positive flow within an organisation is a long-term objective that is worth pursuing, but one where identifying the issues is only the first step. Employees need to be able to easily identify the initiatives being introduced to deal with the issues they themselves have identified as being important but not delivered. As always, Dilbert summarises all of this into a ‘what not to do’ synopsis here.

Actions show you mean business.

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Feb24

Employers can save up to 12% on Health Insurance Premiums for their employees!

April Fool’s day for some, but 1 April 2010 will mean something different to many Australians, when health insurance premiums go up and the annual debate on how much deeper our pockets need to be heats up. However, there is a way for businesses to save their employees money on health insurance – and gain valuable employee engagement on the way.

In this time of skills shortage when people can pick and choose where they work easily, employee engagement has become the key to loyalty and staff longevity. Businesses are finding if they don’t reward and engage with their staff, they can have trouble keeping them. And the rewards don’t necessarily mean more money, or have to be job-related.

Many companies can actually save their employees – and their business – money by creating a group health insurance program. They can negotiate better corporate health insurance plans for their employees, simply by using their staff numbers, and a willingness to connect. The National Health Act enables health funds to provide a discount of up to 12 per cent.

Typically, businesses with more than 300 employees can negotiate favourable insurance terms through the waiver of waiting periods, discounts, better products or better service. This number comes down even further if companies can contribute to hospital excess.

Corporate health insurance is a win-win for all concerned, because the business has happier and healthier employees, staff feel valued, more engaged and save money, and all this has a flow-on effect to the employee’s family. It is a simple way of providing an added benefit to the staff, which leads to better engagement, while adding value to the company and showing it is an employer that takes work/life balance seriously. It’s about creating moments of truth.

Negotiations for a corporate health care program can not only net better terms, but also secure access to corporate-style products and a host of other services such as company flu vaccinations, executive health checks, stress management and weight loss programs.

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Mar17

Take care of your back, you’ve only got one!

take-car-of-your-backIf you suffer from back pain, you are not alone! In fact, back pain affects 80% of Australians at some time, and is the most common cause of absenteeism at work1.Instead of suffering in silence, it’s possible to take action to prevent or alleviate back pain and its symptoms, so that your body remains fully functional, and you can enjoy life, rather than being hobbled by a “pain in the back”.

There are many causes of back pain, ranging from the easily preventable and treatable, to problems that may require consultation with a doctor or a specific back care expert, such as a physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath.

For back problems that result from work or recreational injuries, or diseases such as scoliosis, arthritis, osteoporosis or sciatica or referred back pain from an injury elsewhere, such as the knee, foot or hip, you should seek medical advice. Back pain can also occur as a result of changes to the body, such as carrying extra weight during pregnancy, or decreased flexibility with age.

However, there are some back problems that are much easier to solve yourself, by making some simple lifestyle changes:

• Take regular exercise to keep your spine and its supporting tissues in good shape. Weak muscles and ligaments are unprepared for sudden or heavy loads, and are therefore easily injured.
• Perform specific strength training exercises every day to create a tight ‘girdle’ of muscle around your abdominal core. This can reduce existing back pain and help to prevent future injury. For advice on how to start a daily program, see ‘Your Essential Back Exercises’
• Reduce your stress levels. One of the side effects of stress is increased muscle tension, which can lead to fatigue, stiffness and localised pain. Constantly tight muscles can create postural imbalances that may cause misalignment of the spine. Learn some relaxation techniques to reduce stress levels and subsequent muscle tension. Try massage, heat or cold applications and gentle exercise, or ask your back care specialist for advice.
• Be careful when lifting and carrying heavy loads. To begin, squat down, hold the object as close to your body as practical, and lift by using your legs, keeping your back straight. Think of your back as a forklift, not a crane! ) If the load is too heavy to manage comfortably on your own, ask someone to help you, or use equipment (such as a trolley).
• Maintain a healthy body weight: being overweight or obese puts extra strain on your back.
• Be aware of your posture. Consider your bearing, particularly in seated positions, such as when driving or sitting at a desk for long periods of time. Don’t slump, instead, keep your back upright and use support where necessary (such as a lumbar support cushion or footstool).
• Take regular breaks. When driving, standing or sitting for long periods of time, take a break at least every hour to change the position of your joints and loosen your muscles. Include a short walk and a few stretches as part of your break.
• Change your mattress – surfaces that are too soft or too hard can aggravate a sore back. Avoid sleeping on your stomach.2

In addition, the Australian Osteopathic Association have some extra tips to keep your back in top shape:

• For back pain, see your back specialist sooner rather than later
• Watch children’s posture: don’t let them carry a heavy school bag on just one shoulder
• During pregnancy, treatment by a back care professional can help your body to adjust to changes as the baby grows
• Do your best to make your workplace more ergonomically friendly.  1 For more information on posture and ergonomics at work, read ‘How to sit at a computer’ on the Ergonomics Australia website.

Sources

1.    Back Pain, Australian Osteopathic Association, www.osteopathic.com.au/download/Backpain.doc,  visited 4 May 2006
2.    Back Pain, Better Health Channel, Victorian Government, www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Back_pain? OpenDocument, visited 4 May 2006

Author details

Written by vielife May 8 2006.

All articles credited to vielife are written by a team of trained, qualified journalists and checked and approved by vielife’s in-house chief medical officer, Dr Peter Mills. These articles are reviewed by our panel of specially selected health professionals to reflect our view of current best practice.
Editorial disclaimer and copyright notice

© vielife Limited 2001-2006 . For reprint information, contact support@vielife.com.

Information provided in this article is for general information and guidance only and vielife accepts no responsibility for its accuracy (see Terms & conditions for details). This site is not designed or intended to provide users with specific advice or diagnosis in any particular case and is not a substitute for, or an alternative to, seeking specialist advice. Users are advised to seek the professional opinion of a relevant health professional before self diagnosing any ailment or embarking on any new lifestyle or exercise regime.

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Dec13

Welcome to our Blog :)

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the all new Anista company blog! Please check back here on a regular basis to see what’s happening at Anista.

This blog hopes to provide you with both informative and thought provoking question into your Employee Benefit Program.

So stay tuned :)

Regards,
Dujon

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