ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Did you join in?

MATRIX Atlanta ALS Challenge

Still wondering why your timeline was full of people dumping ice cold water over themselves last month? They were participating in a viral movement to attract attention and money to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” It’s unclear how the challenge actually started, as the earliest roots go back to 2013. However, August 2014 was definitely the peak. As of August 29th, the challenge has raised $100.9 million for the ALS Association, not including donations to other ALS research programs. Fortunately, it seems the challenge has winded down and is just about gone from our newsfeeds.

Our MATRIX headquarters in Atlanta participated in the challenge after being nominated by multiple employees. Those employees then nominated the Dallas, RTP, and Houston offices resulting in numerous Ice Bucket Challenge videos and donations throughout the company. To take the challenge a step further, MATRIX vowed to match every dollar that employees donated. So far, MATRIX has raised $2,091 for ALS.

Of course there has been some controversy surrounding the challenge, but that comes with anything that goes this viral. The real question is how did it catch on so quickly?

The reason the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been able to attract attention from your family, friends, favorite celebrities, and political figures is because it focuses on one thing in a unique and genuine way: people. The challenge is not only entertaining, but it socially bonds us to others who’ve participated while making us feel good inside.

Visit our Facebook page to see all six videos from our offices. Did you participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge? Feel free to share your own photos below!


About the Author: 

Danielle is a graduate student earning a master’s degree in public relations and marketing from the University of Denver. She enjoys developing strategy in a variety of areas, from playing fantasy football to reaching goals for clients. She is receptive to learning about new opportunities and ideas. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

Posted in: 
Fun

Take Control of Your Time and Reach Your Goals

If after all these years of leading your team, you still say things like “I’m totally slammed this week” or “I’m working weekends just to get by,” you are doing something wrong.

If this sounds harsh, it is meant to challenge you to truly evaluate the way you run your business, and make changes that allow you to work ON your business and stop working FOR your business. Here are some signs that this is your issue also:

  • Are you often late to meetings or appointments?
  • Do you stay long after the last employee has gone home?
  • Do you have days where your time belongs to everyone else but you?
  • Is every issue an emergency and you spend your day putting out fires?
  • Are you frustrated that things have not moved forward like you expected?
  • Do you set goals and don’t hit them – or worse – do you not even have goals?

Hard work is necessary to start a BUSINESS, smart work is needed to grow it into a COMPANY, and focused work is needed to build it into an ORGANIZATION.

Contrary to some beliefs, we don’t work better under stress – we just work faster. The quality of the work is often worse than it would be if it were done under the proper conditions. The pressure to get things done is good, but stress comes when you are not in control of the situation. Most employees say having a good “Boss” can make or break their job, and as the leader of your team, you set the tone for everyone else.

This month, the members of Renaissance Executive Forums Dallas will be focusing on the topic of Time Management in our monthly meeting. Regardless of the number of years they’ve led their company, or how many millions of dollars their business generates each year, all of them are focused on accomplishing their goals in a timely manner, and this was the topic we needed to focus on.

I have found that most leaders know what to do, they just can’t seem to get it done. There are many reasons why this happens, and one reason is poor planning. So, for the sake of good time management, we’ll address just one issue today – planning.

Planning

There are three key areas I suggest you focus on in order to develop a lifestyle of proper planning. This applies to your work and your personal life; as one area is never good, when the other is not taken care of.  These three areas are Setting Goals, Tracking Them, Being Accountable.Take Control of Your Time and Reach Your Goals

Set Goals - In life, we are often distracted by the “Tyranny of the Urgent” type issues that pop up and leave behind the important ones. This increases the size of your “To Do” list and keeps you from accomplishing the things that will truly help you reach your goals on time. As Zig Ziglar once said, “It’s not about a lack of time but a lack of direction.”

You have a lot on your mind and you need to have a clear and compelling vision of where you are leading your team in order to know what needs to be done, and the order in which it should be done.

Often we see our team members doing SOMETHING for the sake of doing something, but not really knowing where they are going or where they want to be. They feel that if they do enough of SOMETHING long enough, then they are sure to get somewhere. It just may not be where you wanted them to go.

For example, if you want to “grow” your company, you need to have goals in mind that will direct the team efforts. These would be a few things to consider:

  • How much Growth?
  • Over what period of time?
  • In what market?
  • With what products or services?
  • Is it Top-line or Bottom-line growth, or both?
  • What does the team need to do in order to handle this growth?

By knowing where you are going, and getting your team onboard with your plans, you can set clear goals everyone can follow.

Track Tasks - Written goals are essential for success. If you don’t have a plan in writing that everyone can follow, your team can easily lose direction and delay your results. Most people have heard about setting SMART goals, so I won’t list them here, but this is a link that will refresh your memory about the definition of SMART goals. Once you have these goals laid out, you can create projects and tasks for each team member to follow in order to reach your goals in a timely manner. This is what should drive the work of your team, and it needs to be written down and tracked so you can see the progress, offer help where needed, and praise for successes.

I use a “TOP 5″ sheet that I picked up during my days with US Leadership. This is the engine that move my goals into actions. The real value is not just filling out the sheet, but how it fills out your calendar each week. I have tasks and projects that I want to complete for both my personal and business life. These are written lout in my weekly TOP 5 so I keep on target with deadlines, and meet my goals.

Let your goals and tasks determine what your calendar looks like, and not the other way around. This way you’ll never have to say “I just didn’t have time to get it done this week.” I also review them with others so we hold each other accountable.

Be accountable - As leaders, we tend to give ourselves a break when we don’t do what we’re supposed to. We show up late, change our own plans and deadlines, ignore the policies and procedures we insist others follow, and no one can tell us we’re wrong. (I know that’s not you. I’m talking about other people of course.)

This is why people pay someone to be a Life Coach or Business Consultant, even though they already know what they should be doing. I once met with a group of business leaders who have been in a peer group of Owners and CEO’s of very successful companies. As I shared the model of REF Dallas with them, one said to me in front of the group “I’d pay you a $1,000 a month just to hold me accountable.” Here was a group that has been together for 10 years but they’d lost one of the key values of a peer group, Accountability. Find someone who you will allow yourself to be truly accountable to, and then be transparent with them so they can help you lead with excellence.

About the Author: 

Robert Hunt is a Forum Leader with Renaissance Executive Forums and the Owner of Hunt Consulting DFW.  He has a background in Marketing and Business Development with over 25 years of leadership in technically demanding industries such as Aerospace, Composites, Printed Circuit Boards, and Wireless Telecommunications.

Robert’s PASSION is to help leaders reach their business and personal goals, using the gifts GOD has given him, and the skills he developed over the last 30 years as a leader. As a Business Partner and Forum Leader with Renaissance Executive Forums Dallas, he brings Owners, CEO’s, and Presidents together in a monthly confidential setting designed to challenge, motivate, inspire and hold each other accountable to reaching their goals.

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Hiring Manager

5 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Cognitive Success

Stop me if you’ve ever spoken or heard this during the work day:

“He was depleted after a long day of meetings.” ”She did not forget about the meeting. She was completely focused on something else when the meeting was set and just didn’t hear you.” ”He didn’t bother to check whether what he said made sense.”

Once, I would have thought those to be incongruous statements. Each has happened to me many times, and looking back on each situation I could easily explain the reasons why. The meeting was not as stimulating, I was rushed by a tight deadline, or I had too much on my plate at the time. See how easy it is?Thinking Fast and Slow

While they have to do with some sort of mental capacity, it’s easy see them at face value and miss the deeper message: we are sometimes misled by our fast and slow-thinking processes. That’s what Daniel Kahneman is teaching me through reading his book Thinking, Fast and Slow.

The Israeli-American psychologist, along with a long-time collaborator, did so much research into our instinctive and deliberate thought processes that he was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2002. The 80-year old academic did so much for the psychology community that the APA give him a lifetime achievement award seven years ago. The man is a legend.

Our mind works in two states. There are some things our mind is asked to negotiate intuitively, and on the spot. A question that qualifies is, “what is your favorite color”. This is referred to in the book as System 1.

Some things take a little more thought. If I were to ask you to count the number of punctuation marks on this post, that would qualify as something that takes a little more concentration and time to accomplish. Kahneman refers to this as System 2 in full effect. It is possible that some activities could become more intuitive, as does our driving ability. Just takes effort and time.

The research in Thinking, Fast and Slow blows you away when you see what exactly it takes to be a deliberately thoughtful person on a daily basis. So much of what we do during the day, and how we behave, can be explained with science. Got me thinking of how this could be applied to improve things, if even only a little.

I’m not even halfway through the book, but here are five things you can try tomorrow that will show immediate improvements.

1. Mentally challenging tasks should be saved until you are not just rested, but fed well.

This is because of the revelation I learned that thinking takes actual energy. Eight parole judges in Israel were unwitting participants in a study that measured how we perform cognitive activities throughout the day.

Spending entire days reviewing cases, their response time and approval rates were measured. The overall approval rate of parole during the study was 35%, but the approval rate jumps to 65% right after meals are eaten. It dropped to nearly zero right before the next meal.

What does this mean for your day? Why not schedule your most difficult mental task, such as a tough feature to implement or that meeting you really need to concentrate during, right after lunch? Your brain not only needs that energy, but will respond better.

2. Our intuition lulls us into a false sense of security when problems arise.

Quick, give this math problem a quick glance and blurt out the first answer that comes to mind:

“A ball and bat cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball.How much does the ball cost?”

Most would say the ball costs $0.10. When I say most, 80% of college students give that answer (ivy leagues aren’t immune either, 50% of them fall for it). The correct answer is actually $0.05, and no I did not get it right either.

It’s important to note that our mind would preferably solve problems quickly, because there are surely more important problems in the world to solve. Kahneman calls this concept a “Lazy System 2″. If we can negotiate something quickly, our ego kicks in and sorts the task under System 1 as opposed to question how easy a problem actually is. Action item from this section is to do just that: question your problems more. Are you putting the right amount of mental effort into this task? Don’t let your mind be lazy!

3. Slow down; we are never as hurried as we think.

Another reason the ball and bat problem proves difficult is we are prompted with the request to just give the first answer that comes to us. If we were prompted with the directive to take 3 minutes before answering, I think the correct percentage rises.

Part of the mind’s need to solve as many problems intuitively as possible is because we all have an internal metronome. As Kahenman states in the book:

“Just like the juggler with several balls in the air, you cannot afford to slow down; the rate as which material decays in the memory forces the pace driving you to refresh and rehearse information before it’s lost.”

If you are feeling hurried by something that you doing during your day, there is a good chance that you’re mind is just juggling different ideas at the same time. In fact, the more ideas a task involves, the more hurried we will feel. A little organization and reflection on your task can take these multiple ideas and transform them from airborne balls to grounded principles. Kind of like a mental Kanban board.

4. There is something to be said for batching your tasks.

After we are fed, set aside laziness, and organized our thoughts, what have we done to ourselves? Quite simply, we have prepared ourselves for long periods of effort without having to exert willpower. It’s what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls “flow”. The book defines this term as:

“People who experience flow describe it as, ‘a state of effortless concentration so deep that they lose their sense of time, of themselves, of their problems,’ and their descriptions of the joy of that state are so compelling that Csikszentmihalyi has called it an ‘optimal experience.'”

The quickest thing that can pull us out of our flow is having to exert mental energy to switch back and forth between certain tasks. Instead of taking advantage of this heightened mental state, we stay stuck in Interruptville. Cut to every single developer on my teams nodding their heads vigorously.

It takes effort to set this zen garden in our mind up, why would we intentionally trash it with answering the text you just got? Pomodoro is a technique I have written about before, and can easily give you the freedom to offload unimportant tasks until you have the time and mental capacity for this.

5. You can prime your mind for success.

Ever hear of word association? It’s a fun game that we’ve undoubtedly all played, but did you know we can be primed to give specific answers?

Take the word “SO_P”. Now if I were to mention food before asking you to tell me what word you are thinking of, what would you say? This time, if I were to talk about washing my clothes, would you answer differently? Kahneman thinks so. The greatest example is in a study that uses the “Florida effect”.

An NYU study asked two groups of students to assemble four-word sentences from a group of five words (the example is “finds he it yellow instantly”). One group involved words associated with the elderly, such as “Florida, forgetful, bald, gray, or wrinkle”. The others didn’t. Once finished with the task, each set of students was timed walking down a hallway to exit the room. Which group do you think walked significantly slower than the other?

As funny as that study was, we can prime ourselves for mental success with some playful word association. Instead of the family photo as your desktop background, try using a solid color or a positive trigger word. Before you have a difficult call or meeting, there’s nothing wrong with pumping yourself with some stickies with positivity abounding. Triggering success can be that simple every day.

Which ones have you tried before, and what kind of effect did it have on your day?

About the Author: 

Chris Murman is an Agile Coach for Bottle Rocket – a multiple Apple Hall of Fame award winner and #61 on the Forbes America’s Most Promising Companies List. With over five years of combined experience in the mobile and agile technology worlds, Chris marries both worlds in his blog located at chrismurman.com. In February, along with co-author Matthew David, Chris has the upcoming release Designing Apps for Success from Focal Press. He can be reached at chrisdmurman@gmail.com or @chrismurman.

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PM-Agile

How to Start a Job Search at 55: What I've Learned

This is Part IV of Glen Bradley's blog series. Read Parts I-III here.

I’m now a little over two months into my job transition, at least from a focused perspective. Since there are so many times for reflection in this process, I was recently thinking about some of the lessons that I’ve learned from this experience that I will now take into my work as I land in a new career. It never occurred to me at the beginning that I would grow in areas through this process. That it would make me a better leader at my next company. How to Start a Job Search at 55: What I've LearnedHere are four areas where I feel I will be improved:

1. With all of the work I’ve done to understand and articulate my value proposition, I’ve realized that I can be better about communicating the value of work proposals. Whether developing a business case for the C-suite or simply gathering support within my team for a new company initiative, I think I may have assumed that my audience saw the proposal, its value and possibility, in the same way I did; without really ensuring the communication was fully presented. I will be better at the sales pitch in the future.

2. While I was always a believer and encourager of networking, both personally and with my teams, I really understand the importance now. In my last role, I insisted that my customer relations managers have a performance objective around their networking actions i.e. so many contacts made while attending a trade show, etc. However, because my job was so spread around North America and even Europe, I had a dearth of contacts in my own city. I have since began to “think global but network local”.  Networking is as critical to those employed.  Whether it is benchmarking, needing a reference for a service provider, learning about needed partners or competitors - having trusted advisors to discuss business is crucial. I have vowed to continue to join local organizations and attend events despite the busyness of a new position.

3. The development of resilience. Wow, this is a big one. I now understand that being an executive in a global iconic company buys you an often rapt audience both internally and externally. If I left voice messages, I did get a reply. If I made proposals that weren’t accepted they were at least listened to and considered.

Welcome to my new world! Applications made to online postings are basically ignored by software programs and in some cases HR gatekeepers, who count keywords rather than connect the value on resumes. To be fair, I realize there are too many resumes submitted to be handled much differently, but rejection seems to be the dish that HR serves cold.

Additionally, LinkedIn “inmails” to recruiters or hiring managers are returned unopened. Gaining contacts within a target company is both tenuous and tedious. I could go on but the point is that job seekers have learned to pick themselves up off the ground on an almost daily basis. There is no choice but to persevere and carry on to the next opportunity. I know that my resiliency in my next role will be considerably stronger than when I was accustomed to ongoing success.

4. This leads into the final trait to take forward: empathy. I am somewhat embarrassed to think how I came across to others seeking work, information, etc. when I was always employed. The old adage of walking a mile in another person’s shoes is true with the job seeker. I now know the frustrations, the roller coaster ride, the daily “twenty-mile march” that is required to find new employment.

Again, I have resolved to be accessible and willing to help where I can in the future as a job seeker comes my way. The Southlake Focus Group (networking for those in transition) uses the acronym of HOPE – “help one person everyday” as a way of maintaining the right attitude and spirit while in the job search.  The attitude shouldn’t stop with the job landing. If we can all take that charge into our next workplace, cube by cube, we’ll see a difference in our offices. Stephen Covey calls the ongoing learning process the “sharpening of the saw”. Never thought it would apply to the job search but there you go, the blade is a little sharper.

About the Author: 

Glen Bradley is an executive with a diverse background in IT, Logistics, and Commercial Operations. He is passionate about getting stakeholders aligned to deliver the strategic goals that help companies win in the marketplace. Learn more about Glen or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Posted in: 
Job Seeker

It’s Summer - Is Your Career on Vacation?

School is out, everyone is either on or going on vacation, and something other than work is calling your name. Sound familiar?

It’s Summer - Is Your Career on Vacation?Aside from seasonal jobs and internships, summer isn’t known as the high season for career moves. Most professionals just aren’t focusing on their careers in these months - but business still goes on. In fact, our data shows that job postings increased by 5% in the past eight weeks. On the flip side, candidate applications actually decreased by 14% - meaning that, at least for us, there are more jobs available, and fewer candidates to fill them, right now.

So while everyone else is working on their tan, it’s your opportunity to retool, get noticed, and land that killer job/career you covet. 

Below are a few simple steps you can take today to get started:

Focus

Not saying you have to be all work and no play. Want to get some sun? Grab your iPad and work on your resume while you do. Don’t miss out on the summer, but make sure your career doesn’t take a backseat in the meantime.

Learn a New Skill / Get Certified

If business is slow right now, then it’s a great time to get that certification that’s been on the back burner. Or maybe there’s a new skill out there that would make you more marketable. Be proactive with the spare time that you have.

Reach Out to a Recruiter

If the thought of looking for a new job is overwhelming to you, just remember that there are people out there who get paid to do it for you. Reach out to a recruiter specialized in your industry and fill them in on your situation. Maybe you’re comfortable in your current position, but would like to know if there’s something better out there. A recruiter can get a good feel of what you’re looking for, and find out if there’s a better match for you. For experienced IT professionals, you can update your job status here and engage with MATRIX.

Say YES to Happy Hour

There is a high volume of after-work events happening in the summer. Pick out a few groups (check out the MATRIX Events Calendar for some suggestions) that could be beneficial to you, and get out there and network. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 70% of all jobs are found through networking. You can’t ignore that number!

Automate your Job Search

This one doesn’t have to be daunting. Job boards, staffing agencies, and many direct employers have search agent technology built into their career portals and job boards. Spend five minutes crafting the perfect search, save it, then sit back and wait for relevant positions to land in your inbox. And don’t forget, many companies now allow you to apply using LinkedIn or Indeed.com profiles. And some (like MATRIX) even allow you to upload resumes and cover letters via Google Drive or Dropbox.

Lastly, don’t get too caught up that you forget to take time for yourself – after all, that’s what summer is all about. By adopting even a few of the tips above, you can keep your career on track without derailing summer plans and fun.

About the Author: 

Jennifer is the Digital Content Specialist for MATRIX. Her primary mission is to understand what information our various communities want and need from MATRIX, and to deliver it to them in ways that are enlightening, engaging and in sync with who we are as a company. She loves pop culture, Oklahoma football and the great state of Texas. Feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

Posted in: 
Job Seeker