Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at www.thevertexfighter.blogspot.com.

Monday, December 19, 2016

"Employees need not check their home lives at office door"/ "Ten books to top your business reading list"

Nov. 30, 2016 "Employees need not check their home lives at office door":Today I found this article by Virginia Galt in the Globe and Mail:


There are still organizations that insist employees leave their personal lives at the door when they go to work. But, for many, work-life boundaries have blurred – a development that, handled responsibly, can actually lead to better performance and productivity, new research suggests.

“Who says you shouldn’t combine work and life?” asks Sara MacNaull, program director at the Vanier Institute of the Family, flagging a U.S.-based study challenging the conventional wisdom that employees need to keep their home and work lives separate in order to maintain concentration at work.

In their report, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, published in the journal Human Relations, researchers from Ball State University and St. Louis University note that advanced communication technologies, and the ease with which they can be used, “contribute to the regular crossing of boundaries that separate work and family. … Most individuals transition between work and family roles on a daily basis, and often, multiple times within a day.”

The Vanier Institute of the Family has found that the younger generation of managers and employees, in particular, is adept at blending both roles and expects the freedom to be able to do so.

A quick check to ensure school-aged children are home and, in fact, doing their homework, gives working parents the peace of mind to concentrate more fully on the work task at hand. A text about which spouse will pick up milk on the way home and which will get the dry cleaning takes seconds.

Ms. MacNaull said in an interview that more employers are recognizing that flexible work arrangements are necessary to attract and retain high-quality employees.

Studies by the Vanier Institute and others have found that “the more flexibility employees have, [and] the greater their ability to integrate work and life as they define it, the higher their productivity, the higher their performance and the greater the return on investment,” added Nora Spinks, chief executive officer of the Ottawa-based research organization.

Brennan McEachran, the 25-year-old co-founder and chief executive officer of Toronto-based SoapBox Innovations Inc., said a couple of his colleagues are world-class Ironman Triathlon competitors.

“They are literally training as much as professional athletes and they are also doing a great job at work. That lifestyle puts different stresses on their work relationship, but as long as the results are there, that’s really what we are asking of our team,” he said.

SoapBox has developed a software platform that makes it easier for employers to collect, and act on, innovative ideas from employees about how to improve the way they do business. Clients of the rapidly growing startup include Bank of Montreal, Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), Indigo Books & Music Inc., Viceroy Hotels & Resorts, and Coca-Cola Co.
SoapBox uses its own technology to tap the in-house expertise of its own people as well.

“We are growing faster than we can add people, so we have to make smart decisions. We have to work smarter, not harder.”
It’s a “high-trust” work culture, with the staff of 30 empowered to decide how they can best do whatever has to be done. Members of one of his work teams routinely work off-site a couple of days a week, sometimes meeting in a coffee shop or working individually from their homes. “The key thing we think about is ‘Are you getting the results that you want and/or are you stopping someone else from getting the results that they want?’ ” Mr. McEachran said.

Given the young company’s momentum, it would be tough to sustain any sort of lifestyle without a very fluid approach. Mr. McEachran uses his personal Facebook and Twitter accounts as his work accounts – “I post about work a lot because I am very passionate about what I do.”
There are no restrictions on the personal use of Facebook or Twitter at work, either, he said. Employees’ connections go well beyond the work sphere “and there are very powerful networking effects when employees share content [about the business] on their own social networks.”

Some of the staff members are new parents, some are just out of university, Mr. McEachran said. “I’m a huge dog person, so there are two or three dogs in the office. … Our lunch table conversations are always quite interesting” – ranging from shop talk and the psychology behind the SoapBox technology, to university life, training dogs, teaching babies. “There’s a lot of overlap and a lot of shared knowledge.”

While advanced technology enables instant communication from work to home and home to work, the key to whether this is welcome or disruptive comes down to control, Ms. Spinks said. “Is it within your control to turn it on, turn it off? Does it control your life, or do you use the technology to effectively manage your multiple responsibilities?”



Dec. 7, 2016 "Ten books to top your business reading list": Today I found this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail

Courage. It was the theme of this year’s remarkable Tragically Hip tour, Gord Downie mesmerizing audiences with his brave, bravura performances after a brain cancer diagnosis. And it’s also an underlying theme of the sleeper book that I am choosing as the best management and business book of the year. Courage is a vital theme to be reminded about as we think of our role in workplaces.

I was surprised by Heretics to Heroes, not expecting much when it arrived. And I’m also surprised that it tops my list this year. I had never heard of Cort Dial before a publicist sent the book. It’s independently published, not a big publisher imprint. You can’t even get a hard copy version in Canada, having to settle for a Kindle (although it’s a heavy book, so maybe that’s a blessing). And it’s not jammed with the kind of specific management advice I favour.

But it touched me. It has some lovely storytelling, guiding you leisurely through many of his experiences in the business world, notably coaching execs in the oil and gas industry in recent years. He is unwavering in his devotion to people and safety in the workplace, and brings that passion to those he works with – or walks away from the assignment if it fails his values test.

The book is a quest and so is the path to being what he calls an “all-in leader,” someone who is fully committed to his or her people and their greater good.
All-in leaders must, in his words, “be up to the big adventure, the one lesser leaders shy away from.”

It’s a highly inspirational book. Let’s celebrate courage for 2016, reminding ourselves how hard and important it is.

This year’s list

1. Heretics to Heroes by Cort Dial: A memoir on leadership that starts with lessons learned as a youngster but moves into full gear the pivotal day when a worker died on a site where Mr. Dial was a supervisor and the boss insisted on finding an answer to the question, “How did we kill this man?” With that, a life’s quest began.

2. Under New Management by David Burkus: A management professor’s contrarian look at leadership, urging us among other things to outlaw e-mail, put customers second, lose the standard vacation policy, pay people to quit, make salaries transparent and celebrate departures, policies that initially seem, well, heretical, but which you may decide are highly sensible.

3. ReOrg by Stephen Heidari-Robinson and Suzanne Heywood: Two consultants provide an incisive look at what goes wrong in reorganizations and how to get it right the next time you are faced with this all-too common organizational impulse. Even if you’re well-versed in the literature of change management, you’ll find this perspective different and helpful.

4. The Productivity Project: Chris Bailey spurned two job offers after graduating from the University of Ottawa a few years ago and spent a year trying many of the productivity solutions we have been offered by the gurus, explaining which ones worked best for him.

5. Superbosses by Sydney Finkelstein: The Dartmouth College management professor looks at leaders who are talent magnets, drawing people to work at their side, teaching them and then helping them to make their mark elsewhere in their industry. A surprising number of top performers worked for these folks and the book explains why and what you can draw from them.

6. Deep Work by Cal Newport: The Georgetown University professor looks at how to find the opportunities to tackle your professional activities in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capacity to its limit. We live in a world of shallow work. This thoughtful, well-researched book shows how to find significant moments for deep work.

7. Negotiating the Impossible by Deepak Malhotra: The Harvard professor mixes wide-ranging negotiating examples with analysis as he offers three levers to improve your results: Reframing, process and empathy. If that sounds vague, the book isn’t, with short chapters each revolving around a key point.

8. Leading Great Meetings by Richard Lent: The Boston consultant argues that to improve your meetings, you need to draw from the techniques used in facilitating large group sessions – no doubt some of which could help you in the weeks to come.

9. Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool: Florida State University Professor Anders Ericsson is an unknown famous person – few recognize his name, but his research results, the basis for journalist Malcolm Gladwell’s formula of 10,000 hours practice to achieve excellence, are widely known. With journalist Robert Pool, he clarifies the research and offers a thorough look at how to improve performance through practice.

10. The Ideal Team Player by Patrick Lencioni: The master fable writer and consultant argues you want to seek out people who are humble, hungry and smart as colleagues. His fictional story exposes the idea in dramatic, emotional fashion but it’s followed by 60 pages of solid, non-fiction explanation, the latter something many fable readers fail to provide.

Runners-up

Small Data by Martin Lindstrom chronicles his archeological-like studies of marketing for his consulting corporate clients around the world, looking for small clues to reveal big insights on customers.

Winning the Brain Game by Matthew May, a business coach, shows how to fix the seven fatal flaws of thinking.

Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg is smoothly written, looking at the science of productivity, inspired by the frustration he faced trying to organize his life as he was finishing his previous best seller The Power of Habit.




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