God, it was hot! Forget about frying an egg on the sidewalk; this kind of heat would fry an egg inside the chicken.

Rachel Caine - American writer of science fiction
If you can't Stand the Heat, you Need to Have a Plan

If you can't Stand the Heat, you Need to Have a Plan

Posted by martin.parnell |

Most of us look forward to the long, warm, sunny days of summer. However, it’s not so great when the temperatures rise to such a degree that it’s a challenge to perform everyday activities. 

Now, as you know, I have a tendency to take everyday issues and try and relate them to a business setting. So, I looked at Health Canada’s website to see what advice they give for dealing with a summer heat wave. Maybe I could apply them to situations in the workplace when “the heat is on”? 

Under their section on Safety Tips, I came across these words of advice: 

Prepare for the heat - In business, there should always be a plan in place to deal with times of crisis – if you don’t have one – make one. 

Pay close attention to how you and those around you feel - In business, see how times of stress are affecting your employees. By keeping them in the know as to what is going on and how it’s being dealt with can alleviate some of their anxiety. 

Stay Hydrated - In business, keep providing the support that’s needed, so that employees don’t flag and become overwhelmed. 

Stay Cool - In business, this is not a time to panic. Look at the situation calmly and tell yourself it’s just a hitch and with a calm head you can get through it. 

Avoid exposure to extreme heat when outdoors - I’m not sure about being outdoors, but, if you can pre-empt any issues that might occur, try and nip them in the bud, before you enter the crisis stage. If you don’t see it coming, stay focused, get advice and above all, be flexible. 

One other thing I feel worth mentioning, for some people this time of year can cause an increase in symptoms for many conditions. As Lauren Gelmen writes, in The Reader’s Digest, these include Eczema, Asthma, Migraines, Rosacea, Autoimmune Diseases and even kidney stones. 

Try to keep this in mind, some of your employees may be dealing with more serious issues than you know and not everyone is rejoicing in the thought of those long, hot summer days and nights.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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Surely, anyway, a working day of eight or nine hours which is not split by a nap is simply too much for a human being to take, day in, day out, and particularly in hot weather.

Anon.
How to Deal with Summer's Challenges in the Workplace

How to Deal with Summer's Challenges in the Workplace

Posted by martin.parnell |

In many parts of Alberta, we are still waiting for summer to properly arrive. Where I live, we’ve experienced plenty of rain and not many of those glorious, long, hot summer days. Still, whereas some of us are longing for those lazy, hazy days, for some, Summer can be quite stressful if they have to endure a daily commute and work in sweltering conditions.

I found an article by guest writer Jesse Wood, CEO, eFileCabinet on the Entrepreneur website, who addresses some of the issues that might arise during the summer and solutions to dealing with them. Entitled The 6 Worst Office Problems Employers Will Face this Summer and How to Solve Them, I’ve picked my top three: 

 “1. Auto commutes on hot days

Hot weather has been scientifically proven to increase levels of aggression - hence the terms "hothead" and "heated" and their relevant connotations.

Given the uptick in summertime temperatures, commuters can expect to both display more bouts of road rage and to be on the receiving end of these tantrums more frequently come summertime.

This is no small problem, AAA reports that eight out of every 10 drivers has expressed "significant" road rage, including but not limited to, deliberate tailgating, purposeful blocking of other vehicles and intentional thumping of other cars’ bumpers.

And that’s just the beginning: Between commutes to and from the office, there are eight or more hours of workplace labor subject to the residual effects of road rage, threatening to escalate tensions among coworkers.

Solutions? Meditating during your lunch break can prevent a bout of road rage on your return commute, which is likely to be more stressful than its morning counterpart. Step outside, sit down on the grass and focus on breathing deeply for 10 t-15 minutes. This will lower your heart rate and give you a good dose of sunshine before your return to work for the afternoon.

2. Thermostat wars

Contrary to popular opinion, thermostat wars aren’t just a problem in households - they also cause disagreements in the workplace. And although many employees remain silent on the issue, everyone has a very different idea of what constitutes an ideal temperature at the office.

The differences tend to be split between the genders, as well, with men preferring cooler temperatures while women prefer warmer ones -- further fueling the age old battle of the sexes.

If you work better on the cooler side of thethermostat and others don’t want to turn down the temperature, you’ll have to implement a solution to not be that guy (or gal) who applies deodorant at his or her desk.

This will involve exerting as little energy as possible. Although research suggests that sitting too much at work can be harmful, summertime demands we preserve our energy for staying active outside the office and fully enjoying all the season offers.

Solutions? Try to use the fax machine, printers, scanners and any other device that requires you to move around the office as little as possible. Another strategy is to move closer to these items in the office, provided space is available near them.

However, one study suggests that centralized printers and work devices can lower productivity, rivaling the water cooler as the location of choice for office banter.

Solutions? A case can be made to HR directors that workers should have access to a greater number of printers, scanners and fax machines. This will not only reduce the likelihood of distracting conversation and the number of steps employees must take each day to complete tasks, but also help employees not work up a sweat while jaunting to and from centralized printers, fax machines and scanners.

3. The countdown to leaving the office to enjoy the weather

If you’re watching the clock at 4:50 p.m. in the wintertime and counting down the seconds until you can leave, imagine how intense the urge to leave will become when the summer sunlight pours through the pellucid clouds and beams through the window pane by your desk.

If work circumstances allow it, put on those headphones and listen to a wintertime playlist while crunching numbers or drafting up that report. This will keep you focused on what’s in front of you at your desk, not the sunshine you’re missing outside.

Additionally, reserve your paid time off for summer. It may be tempting to schedule time off as soon in the year as possible, but you’ll thank yourself later if you save it for summertime.

Solutions? Try closing the blinds while at work. This can prevent you from being enticed by the beautiful distraction of sunlight, and suffering the potential sunburn that comes with it, given how windows allow the passage of light.

Additionally, make an extra effort to simplify your workspace to streamline workflow; this can mitigate the need to stay late to wrap up projects. Changing the way documentation is handled in the office is another good place to simplify your workspace.

Poor workflow can lead to increased time spent on administrative work, forcing employees to work longer hours. Keeping files organized and in a secure digital format can significantly improve this. It saves employees from having to sift through endless stacks to find files, as well as losing files or having to reproduce the information from the lost documents, only to find they’ve just been misplaced. The more efficiently employees work, the more likely they are to leave the office on time to enjoy those beautiful summer evenings.”

Hopefully, you won’t have to deal with any of these issues, but just in case, I hope this proves helpful and with reference to the quote, at the beginning of this piece, see my blog posted on June 12th. 2018 Why Sleeping On The Job Can Be A Good Thing

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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If you’re not representing properly the available pool of talent then you’re missing an opportunity.

Alex Wilmot-Sitwell, EMEA President at Bank of America Merrill Lynch
How to be Flexible and Diverse when Developing a Strategy for Hiring

How to be Flexible and Diverse when Developing a Strategy for Hiring

Posted by martin.parnell |

I have just returned from a trip to Ontario and, whilst waiting for my flight to leave Sudbury airport, I picked up a copy of Northern Ontario Business. 

In it, I read an article by Lindsay Kelly, entitled “Employer toolkit promotes hiring by design” andsubtitled “Recommendations to aid Timmins employers close labour gaps”. Kelly reports that “The Timmins Employer Council has published a new guide to help local employers find and keep workers.”

I found the piece very interesting as the report addresses issues relating to the recruitment and retention of employees. Launched in May 2019, the Employer Toolkit outlines strategies employers can use to help close a widening labour gap.

Apparently, “Statistics show attracting and retaining workers is a growing problem in the area. According to a 2018 report published by the Far North East Training Board, 40 per cent of Timmins’ current workforce will retire in the next decade.”

Although the report focuses on the problems employers are experiencing in this area of Ontario, I know there are other communities where the same problems arise. Therefore, I thought I would share the rest of the article with you:

“Council co-chair Mike Resetar said there aren’t enough workers to fill current gaps, and businesses are struggling to expand because they don’t have the staff required.

"We've been seeing it over a few years with the number of retirements that were happening, and we were quite alarmed when we saw what the statistics were,” said Resetar, vice-president of human resources at the Timmins District Hospital.

“We're looking at 1,100 workers leaving the workforce, so in order to maintain current productivity or service, that's a lot of workers that need to be replaced.”

Jessica West, project coordinator, said that successful employers are seeking workers from diverse groups, including Indigenous people, persons with disabilities, newcomers and young workers.

“The general public, or many employers, may not realize how valuable these employees can be,” West said. “They shy away from targeting or attracting these groups, when they’re really valuable employees and they have great things to bring to the table.” There are sections of the toolkit dedicated to each demographic.

For example, hiring Indigenous people can mean lower recruiting costs because workers already live in the community and are likely to remain long term, the toolkit suggests. Having a more diverse workplace can also help create an inclusive community and bridge cultural gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations.

To make a workplace more attractive to Indigenous workers, the toolkit suggests implementing meaningful inclusion practices, training staff on cultural awareness, encouraging Indigenous employees to take on senior roles, and understanding traditional practices and community obligations.

Resetar said it really comes down to employers shifting their mindset during the hiring process. “We always want the perfect candidate with the five to 10 years' experience,” he said. “Maybe look at individuals with not as much experience and invest those monies in terms of training them on the job.”

Though the toolkit is still newly released, Noella Rinaldo, council co-chair, said what’s most important is that the community is now aware of the issue and talking about it. "I think there needed to be a realization of the problem first,” said Rinaldo, executive director of the Downtown Timmins BIA. “I think people were in the trenches and they weren't taking a breath to kind of look at the big picture, and this gives them the realities of the big picture.”

The hope is that now that people are aware of the issue, they will start to change their approach to hiring and work a little differently, she said. “We’re dealing with different age groups and they all have something that makes them tick and makes them want to stay,” Rinaldo said.

As a follow-up to the toolkit, the Timmins Employer Council is in the process of forming a task force, which will plan and implement city-wide projects to attract and retain a more diversified workforce. “It’s already attracted representatives from 38 groups, and new members continue to come on board.”

According to the article, the group’s first task came on June 25 when it met to develop a community-based labour force attraction and retention strategy.

If you are having problems recruiting new employees, it’s worth thinking about some of the comments made and one in particular by Noella Rinaldo: “You have to be very flexible. You can’t be a one-trick pony; you can’t do just one thing. You have to be able to work with every employee that’s there.”

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own 'to do' list.

Michelle Obama – Speaker and Author
When the Holiday's over, How to Improve your Career

When the Holiday's over, How to Improve your Career

Posted by martin.parnell |

During the Summer months, many people take their annual vacation. Hopefully, it’s a time to relax and forget, at least for a while, about the pressures of work. However, sooner or later, the time comes when they have to think about returning to their job. 

For some it’s a time to go back to a routine they enjoy, a job that gives them satisfaction and a good salary. However, that’s not the situation for everyone. Others may dread going back to what they may consider a grind. Whichever of those categories you fall into, why not give some thought to just how you regard your work situation and perhaps ways in which you can improve it? 

I was thinking of reasons as to why it’s worth making an evaluation and actions that might be taken to make improvements, when I heard an item on Sunday’s Daybreak Alberta, with Russell Bowers, on CBC radio. A guest speaker was talking about the issue many people face of living pay check to pay check and she suggested ways in which they might look to earn more and have the opportunity to save, either for a rainy day or their future. 

Two of the ideas she shared were: 

“Update your skills” – is there a course you could take that would bring you more up-to-date in your field. This may apply to the technology being used in your workplace. Does your company offer extra training? 

“Are you being paid fairly?” – Take a look at what other companies are paying their workers who do the same job as you. 

For a more comprehensive look at this issue, I’d like to share this post from July 12th. 2017, on the FORBES website, by contributor, Liz Frazier, entitled  9 Simple Ways To Make More Money In Your Current Job, in which she gave the following advice: 

Ask for a raise - Don't wait until your boss offers more money, because that may never happen. Be prepared and show them your specific achievements.  Research comparable salaries and give them a specific number. It should be on the high end of the range so you have room to negotiate, but not unrealistic. The worst they can do is say no. If they do say no, ask them for the specific goals needed for you to qualify for a raise. 

Ask for a promotion - If there is an opening, be prepared to show you are qualified for it with your resume and accomplishments as it pertains to the new role. If there is not a specific role, show your ambition and loyalty to the company by creating a new role and present it to your boss. Make sure the discussion is open and straightforward. You need to communicate that you want to grow with your company, are a valuable and engaged employee and are ready for the next step. However, make sure you treat this as a two-way conversation. Present your ideas, then ask for feedback. If your idea isn't accepted, ask for suggestions on other possible career opportunities. 

Continue your education - Always look for ways to improve your set of skills or learn new ones. This can be an evening or online graduate course, industry webinars, a new certification or additional training. Ask your manager and colleagues for suggestions. 

Build relationships, in and out of your department - This is a good practice in general. If you want to move up and / or make more money, you need cheerleaders. When asking for reports from accounting or materials from marketing - walk over and ask them (if possible). It's easier to build a relationship by putting a face to the name. Treat everyone in your company (and in your life!) with respect: from the CEO to your assistant. By building relationships and a good reputation across your company, not only do you create support for roles you seek out, but it may open up opportunities in other departments down the road. 

Make yourself indispensable - I do not necessarily mean take on extra work. I mean make yourself indispensable through your character and hard work. Be honest, helpful, adaptable and positive. You will become indispensable simply because your colleagues and management will want to work with you. 

Put yourself out there - Opportunities are not going to walk into your office. You have to be out there to find them. Even the most social of us sometimes dread the company picnic or the awkward 3rd floor birthday celebration. I get it, but these are the times when you meet people in other departments and hear company chatter; not just who is secretly dating, but projects and opportunities you may not hear about otherwise. There are opportunities everywhere, but you have to be present and available for them. 

Push yourself before you're ready - One of my favorite quotes (think I've already used in several articles...but it's that good!) is from Richard Branson. "If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you're not sure you can do it, say yes - then learn how to do it later!" Nuff' said. 

Have a Plan B - If you are 100% dependent on a job, with no other options, you may accept less than you deserve because you are scared to lose it. Keep informed on industry trends, opportunities with other companies and business opportunities. Get additional training and education, even if not needed in your current role. Most important, keep a strong database of past colleagues and business partners across the industry, who can provide insights and opportunities. 

Switch jobs – One of the most effective ways to increase your salary is by getting a new job. If you stay at a company, you start at a base salary, and every raise is a % of that base - employees who stay in one job can expect about a 3% yearly salary increase. Switching to a new job allows you to start new and renegotiate a higher base – on average those switching jobs will receive 10 – 20% increase. 

Of course, it’s not just about the money. You may be in a situation where you are happy with the pay you are receiving, but your working conditions are not great. 

That’s a topic I will address in my next blog – watch this space!

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

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Write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow.

Lawrence Clark Powell - Librarian, Bibliographer and Author
To Communicate Effectively, you Need to Listen

To Communicate Effectively, you Need to Listen

Posted by martin.parnell |

At the end of my last blog, I indicated that I would follow it up with a piece about how the conditions in your workplace can affect your attitude to work. However, I found some information relating to this week in history that I would like to cover. I will tackle the previous topic at a later date. 

If we look back at the events of this week, in history, apart from England winning the soccer world cup (July 30th.1966) and Prince Charles marrying Lady Diana Spencer (July 29th. 1981), three other significant events occurred. 

Firstly, on July 30th. 1935, the first Penguin book was published. Penguin Books was co-founded by Sir Allen Lane, his brothers Richard and John and Indian politician, V. K. Krishna Menon. At the time, it was quite a revolutionary concept, to produce inexpensive paperbacks and, therefore make high- quality fiction and non-fiction more accessible to the public. The books were sold for sixpence through Woolworths and other high street stores. Penguin's success demonstrated that large audiences existed for serious books. As a consequence, Penguin had a significant impact on public debate in Britain It got more people discussing British politics, the arts, and science.

Secondly, on July 29th. 1914. Theodore Vail, he president of AT&T, succeeded in transmitting his voice across the continental U.S. Later, President Woodrow Wilson spoke to an audience in San Francisco from the White House and is quoted as saying "It appeals to the imagination to speak across the continent." 

Thirdly, on July 29th.1958, the U.S. Congress passed legislation establishing a civilian agency responsible for coordinating America’s activities in space. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has since sponsored space expeditions, both human and mechanical, that have yielded vital information about the solar system and universe. It has also launched numerous earth-orbiting satellites that have been instrumental in everything from weather forecasting to navigation to global communications.

According to Wikipedia, the agency was founded in order to “encourage peaceful applications in space science. Since its establishment, most US space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo Moon landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. 

NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Space launch System and Commercial Crew Vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services program which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches.”

On the NASA website, it states “Every NASA mission has a communications system to receive commands and other information sent from Earth to the spacecraft, and to return scientific data from the spacecraft to Earth. The vast majority of deep space missions never return to Earth. Thus, after launch, a spacecraft’s tracking and communications systems is the only means with which to interact with it. In addition, any issues with the spacecraft can only be diagnosed, repaired, or mitigated via the communications system. Without a consistently effective and efficient communications system, a successful mission would be impossible.”

In my role as a communicator, in my professional work as a speaker and author, these events hold particular interest to me as they all relate to aspects of communication. Communication is a key aspect of any business. The ability to communicate well can have a significant effect on the impression you give to employers, employees, colleagues and clients.

In her article, How to Communicate Effectively on The Story Exchange website, January 1, 2019, certified life and career coach, Ann Mehl, writes about the importance of the ability to communicate effectively, in work and life and offers tips on how to develop those skills.

I have selected a number of quotes from her article to share with you here:


“Effective communication is the most important skill in life. But it’s a two-part skill. The first is the ability to clearly articulate our own thoughts and feelings. The second (and more difficult) part is the ability to listen while others do the same.”

“According to some experts, about 50 percent of what is said in the workplace is not what is actually heard.”

“While most of us learned to talk at a young age, very few of us received any actual training in listening. Most of the time we’re too busy formulating our own thoughts and opinions, waiting impatiently for our turn to speak. As a result, there is no real connection happening, just two competing monologues. But really listening to someone, with your whole being, can be transformational.”

“It is impossible to talk and listen well at the same time. Give the other person space and permission to speak without fear of interruption. You’d be amazed at what you’ll hear when you can do this”

 “Most of us listen through a very selective hearing filter, based on our own experiences, bias, frame of reference and autobiography. Our mind is like a busy computer, constantly evaluating what we hear, looking for cues, openings, and connections that bring the conversation back to us. What we know to be true. But truly empathic listening requires that we abandon that filter in order to fully understand another’s perspective. Doesn’t mean that you have to agree with that person, but only that you can deeply see and feel where it is they are coming from. You are no longer listening to evaluate or judge. You are listening to understand.”

“What people say and what they mean are often two very different things. Leaving aside gender, cultural and language differences, there are many obstacles to good communication. The key to uncovering the meaning behind the words is to remain curious and ask the right questions.”

Reading Mehl’s piece, there is one thing, in particular that stands out for me. In these times of ever-increasing use of personal communication devices and social media, it’s even more important that we look at the ways in which we communicate and not lose the skill of listening.

So, do take time to listen to the people you interact with, whether at home or in the workplace, it’s a valuable skill and one which we should continue to develop, unless we lose it altogether.

About the Author

Martin Parnell is the Best-Selling author of MARATHON QUEST and RUNNING TO THE EDGE and his final book in the Marathon Trilogy, THE SECRET MARATHON-Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan through sport, was released on October 30th 2018. He speaks on having a “Finish the Race Attitude – Overcoming Obstacles to Achieve Your Full Potential” and has written for, or been covered by CNNBBCCBCThe Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, Runners World, Men’s Journal, Canadian Business, and Maclean’s.

In a five year period, from 2010 to 2014, Martin completed 10 extreme endurance “Quests” including running 250 marathons in one year and raising $1.3m for the humanitarian organization Right To Play. In 2016 he ran the Marathon of Afghanistan in support of Afghan women and girls running for equality. Find out more about Martin at www.martinparnell.com  and see what he can do for you in the long run.

Read More