Category: Credit 101

5 Great Ways to Increase Remote Working Productivity

When the COVID lockdowns started, most business owners probably didn't think much about the efficiency of their remote working solutions as long as they were able to keep the lights on. As we head into 2021, we can see that remote working is going to become a permanent feature of our business lives. With more than half of employees reporting frustrations with their remote work solutions, now is a good time to think about getting the best software and apps in to help your team stay productive.

Remember, too, that many of your people will find working at home a very lonely experience and so things like video conferencing can help alleviate the mental health impact of a lockdown.

Let's look at some of the products that are available to help you stay in touch and remain effective no matter what 2021 throws at you!

Workflow boards

One of the things that many people have reported is difficulty in keeping motivated and understanding what needs to happen and when.

When you're in an office, it's easy to simply lean across the desk and ask what is going on. But what happens when your team is all working remotely?

Using Kanban boards like Trello and Asana allows you to posts jobs, tasks, and subtasks and then allocate them to individual staff members or team so that everyone knows where they are and what still needs doing.

Remote access software

Remote access software can have some real benefits for users across the organisation and doesn’t need to be confined to your IT helpdesk.

Modern remote working can give users a virtual desktop, which is the same wherever they log on. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can also increase security.

Remote access software can also include functionality that enables video conferencing, chat functions, shared word processing, and file sharing, along with resources for troubleshooting in a pinch.

If you’d like to find out more about what it can do for you, check the best options in this excellent remote access software review by Neil Patel.

Remote shared storage

Many companies rely upon having drives readily available to all staff, and when you're all working in the same office, this is a simple matter. But when your team is spread out, then you need to think about organizing remote storage.

Google Drive and Dropbox are probably the most well-known offerings, but there are many more. They all provide you with the ability to have shared drives that are accessible based on your own organization’s security protocol.

Remote storage is a very competitive area, so prices have dropped over the last few years. So in many cases, you are better off subscribing to a best-in-class cloud storage solution (especially if it includes remote access desktops as above) rather than upgrading your on-premise servers.

Business-class video conferencing

For many businesses, this is one area where they just had to get a solution in place quickly so everyone could carry on working. But it really is worth choosing a business-class video conferencing system.

Having a better system makes life easier for your staff, but it also portrays a professional image to your customers and suppliers.

Free systems are great, but they will always come with limitations. Zoom, for instance, limits calls to 45 minutes on its free version. Other free solutions reduce video quality.

With paid solutions, the cost for a group subscription is often very reasonable when compared to the cost of losing even one customer.

Collaboration and sharing tools

When you can just pass files and papers across a desk, life is easy. But if you're miles away from your co-workers, contractors, and customers, how can you possibly collaborate effectively?

Many of the really good systems bundle in storage, video conferencing, Kanban boards and collaboration tools that help your teams act like teams rather than a collection of dispersed individuals.

Obviously, the big player here is Microsoft. But you can get excellent results with apps like Zoho Connect, Winio, and Wire. If you only really want chat capability, then look at Slack.

Take advantage of trials

What works for some people may not work for you and your company. But the good news is that pretty much every system mentioned here has some form of free trial.

The best advice is to take the developers up on their offer and test these solutions out. Get feedback from your employees and take into account how easy the apps are to use, the support available, and of course, the annual cost.

Don’t be swayed by attractive-sounding initial reductions. If the system is good, you’ll be using it for a long time. It is much more important to get the right features for you rather than buying something that isn't well-suited to the task because the developer was offering a half-price sale.
 

The Average Salary of an Architect

The average salary of an architect is $76,100 per year. Have you ever wondered how much an architect earns? Becoming an architect requires an investment of money and time, but pays off in the form of a rewarding career that comes … Continue reading →

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How to Be Confident but Not Arrogant

In 2007 I had my first baby. I was extraordinarily fortunate to spend a year at home with her. That year was a gift, full stop. But as I learned in 2008 when I returned to the workforce—new job, new company—taking a year off also drained my confidence tank.
 
Pre-baby, I knew what made me shine at work. Post-baby, I felt like I’d lost my mojo.
 
According to Psychology Today:
 
Confidence is a belief in oneself, the conviction that one has the ability to meet life's challenges and to succeed—and the willingness to act accordingly.
 
I knew how essential not only feeling but being able to display confidence was in my professional life. But after taking that year away, I wasn’t sure how to rediscover mine.
 
Previously I’d been a relationship-builder, a talent strategy advisor, and an analyzer of human capital data. Upon re-entry in 2008, I feared I’d lost my edge. And I was determined to show that fear who's boss. So I set my mind to making my mark, showing the world how smart and capable I was.

It was a total miscalculation on my part. And I got some serious feedback to prove it.

I did this by having something—actually, a lot of somethings—to say in every meeting. I was quick to offer solutions to problems. And when something needed to be done, I had it covered. No help needed. And that strategy went really well for me.
 
Kidding! It was a total miscalculation on my part. And I got some serious feedback to prove it. I’d been so focused on seeming confident that I’d shown up as arrogant. I will be forever grateful to the boss who gave me that feedback early and counseled me to course-correct.
 
I learned the hard way, but I learned a lot about what distinguishes confidence from arrogance. And today I share the biggest lessons. Here's the feedback my boss gave me, which I ran with. Thirteen years later, I'm delighted to pay it forward.

1. Know what you’re here to do

Arrogance happens when you over-index on you—how you’re showing up and being perceived. Confidence is focusing on the work—the outcomes you’re there to deliver.

The conviction that you have the ability to meet a challenge begins with being super clear about what challenge you’re there to meet.

Exuding confidence begins with experiencing confidence internally. The conviction that you have the ability to meet a challenge begins with being super clear about what challenge you’re there to meet.
 
Before an important interaction, ask yourself: What’s my role in this, and what am I expected to influence or deliver? Asking and answering those questions will center you. It will allow you to home in on where your voice has power, and where your silence or observation may add more value.
 
In 2008, I was so focused on seeming confident—which I somehow translated into a need for verbal diarrhea—that I lost sight of what I was there to do. I wasn’t hired to seem smart; I was hired to develop talent plans to fuel the business’s success.
 
Early feedback from that wonderful boss reminded me I didn’t need to offer a point of view at every turn. “Have the confidence not to speak up sometimes,” I remember her telling me. And having the poise to listen and observe when that's what's called for makes you seem all the more confident when you do offer an idea or point of view.

2. Listen like you mean it

Arrogance is pausing to give others a turn to speak. Confidence is truly hearing and absorbing what they have to say.

Ask probing questions to extract more meaning.

I was deeply guilty of pausing but not listening. Only when my boss called me out did I realize she was right. I was so focused on what I had to say next that I wasn’t taking in and reflecting on the value that others were bringing to the conversation. The pressure to seem smart led me to overuse my words and underuse my ears. And this backfired, positioning me as more arrogant than wise.
 
RELATED: Listen Up! Not Listening Is Holding Your Career Back
 
Again, that clarity of purpose should light the way. I was there to build a talent plan to help the business achieve its goals. So when the leader was talking about his goals and talent needs, that was my cue to listen. These were the moments that would provide meaningful insight and data to support my work.
 
Feedback from my boss helped me become an active listener. I wasn’t silent, but rather I was using my voice to restate what I had heard, or to ask probing questions to extract more meaning.

3. Let them see the sausage-making

Arrogance is believing the path from start to finish should be paved only with your ideas. Confidence is knowing you don’t know everything and having the humility to recognize that other people's good ideas won’t dull your shine.

Confidence is knowing you don’t know everything.

So as you’re working toward a deliverable, don’t wait for it to be fully baked or polished before you do the big reveal. (That works on HGTV, but not so much in real life.) As you move work along, build check-in points into your process. Let people watch as you make the sausage, and give your peers, your leader, your stakeholders a chance to influence the flavor before it’s fully cooked.
 
It does take confidence to pull back the curtain on an unfinished product. But it will better the outcome every time.

4. Say the bold thing

Arrogance encourages you to say what someone wants to hear. It will make you a hero just for today. Confidence allows you to say what they need to hear, and it will make you the hero in the long-term, where it really counts.

Arrogance encourages you to say what someone wants to hear; confidence allows you to say what they need to hear.

Fueled by feedback from my leader, I started finding moments of courage to push back on what my business client, George, believed was best. 
 
George was a salesman. His own climb up the corporate ladder was driven by his excellence in sales, and so he believed finding and growing great sales talent was the key to his business’s success. In our early days, as long as I showed George a plan designed to do just that, he’d praise my genius. 
 
But in time I came to realize this was a short-sighted play. We had great sales talent. The problem wasn’t finding more, but rather, finding ways to enhance collaboration between sales and client management. A stronger partnership between the teams would enhance the customer experience, in turn delivering bigger business results.
 
The first time I suggested this to George, there was no smile. But I'd done my research. I’d compared us with other companies doing the same, and ultimately, I won his support.
 
My recommendation delivered success in the long-run. But it took me time to find the confidence to say the thing he wasn’t ready to hear.
 
2008 was a painful year for me. And yet it delivered some of the most important lessons I’ve learned along the way about confidence. And as I pass these along to you, I realize there might be a fifth bonus insight: it takes a lot to share your own journey of failure (mine) in service of someone else’s success (yours). I choose to hope that’s a reflection of the confidence I’ve gained along the way.

The Average Salary of a Pilot

The job of an airline pilot has a certain glamour to it. However, unconventional working hours and plenty of time away from home can be a recipe for stress and burnout. This could be why airline and commercial pilots are … Continue reading →

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How to Use the 5 Apology Languages

We continue to live in unprecedented times—there's no playbook. We’re living and working differently than ever before, and we’re breaking some eggs as we go.

Whether it’s making a Zoom faux pas, accidentally bringing a political view into the workplace, or missing a deadline because you were distracted by homeschooling your kids during your workday, there's a whole lot of “I’m sorry” happening around us.

But the thing about apologies is that if they’re not done right, they can backfire. An “I’m sorry” that feels disingenuous or patronizing may leave the other person feeling resentful, mistrustful, or uninterested in working with you again.

So next time the moment arises—because it will—how can you deliver an apology that feels genuine?

What are the five apology languages?

For their book, When Sorry Isn't Enough, Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas researched the many ways in which we apologize. They discovered the five apology languages that are effective when it's time to step up and own a mistake.

So let’s talk about each and how you can make them work for you.

Apology Language #1: Express regret

When you realize you’ve done a thing that you just feel bad about, and "I feel bad about this" is the gist of what you want to say, this is the apology language you need.

Something as simple as “I’m sorry X happened” can achieve your goal.

When might you need this one? Imagine you’re hosting a Zoom call. One of your colleagues asks a question, and you dismiss it flippantly and move on.

Not unforgivable. But upon reflection, you feel bad that their question got passed over. Give them a call and put Language Number One to work. Offer a simple apology:

I realize you asked an important question during our call, and I’m sorry it didn’t receive the attention it deserved.

Be specific about what you’re sorry for, and then end your sentence. No "I'm sorry, but …". When you qualify your apology with a "but," you effectively cancel out the apology.

Apology Language #2: Accept responsibility

This second language may be seen as an extension of the first.

Let’s hang with the same situation. A Zoom meeting, a question posed, you moved on.

And now, upon further reflection, you realize that you not only regret what happened, but that you had a particular responsibility in it. You were running that meeting, and you had the power to pause and address your colleague’s question. You chose to plow ahead.

So, maybe take some responsibility. What might that one sound like?

I realize you asked an important question during our call, and it didn’t receive the attention it deserved. I should have paused the conversation to acknowledge your question. I'm sorry I didn't do that.

When the offense feels small—and that’s a subjective judgment—often, taking responsibility will be enough as long as that ownership is genuine.

Avoid shifting the weight of the offense back onto the other person by saying some version of, "I'm sorry you felt that way." That's deflection. And it's just not cool.

Apology Language #3: Make restitution

The third apology language is the one that pushes you from feeling regretful and responsible to knowing you need to make things right.

Let’s imagine a different scenario. A friend reaches out to let you know she’s applied for a job in your company. She has an interview scheduled and she’s asked if you’d be willing to put in a good word for her with the hiring leader. You know her work, and you say, “I’d be delighted to do that!”

She calls you again next week to say she’s just had her interview and it went … OK. When she asks if you managed to put in that good word, you realize you totally dropped the ball.

You know you owe her an apology. But that may not feel like enough. The stakes are high and you want to make things right.

This is your moment to show off your Apology Language #3 skills. You might say:

I am so sorry. I promised I would do that and I dropped the ball. I know how important this opportunity is for you. I’m going to speak to the hiring leader this afternoon—you have my word.

Putting in your recommendation for your friend after the interview has already happened may not be exactly the thing you promised. But if it leaves both you and your friend satisfied that all is right with the world, then you’ve made your apology work.

Apology Language #4: Genuine repentance

This brand of apology is about not only being sorry but taking accountability for preventing the same mistake from happening in the future. It’s about taking ownership and committing to behavior change.

In this case, let’s imagine you lead a customer service team for your company. A customer had a not-so-hot experience with one of your representatives and sent a complaint email to a customer service inbox. An inbox you’re supposed to check daily, but boy have you been busy!

A couple of days later, that same customer, having heard nothing from you, tweets something ugly about their experience with your company. And your boss is fuming.

You dropped the ball. You need to own it. But more importantly, you need to leave your boss feeling confident that this will never happen again.

Your apology might sound something like this.

I am so sorry this happened. I got overwhelmed and didn’t make time to check that inbox. But that’s no excuse—I could have asked for help. I take responsibility for this customer’s experience. And starting today I’ve put a twice-daily reminder on my calendar to check that inbox. And if I’m too busy to do it, I’ll ask someone on my team to check. This way, every customer concern or complaint will be seen in hours, not days.

I don’t know about you, but I’d feel pretty good hearing that apology. You’ve owned it and you’ve convinced me that you broke just one egg and it won’t become a dozen.

Apology Language #5: Request forgiveness

You’ve said what you came to say. The wounded party has given you the gift of their attention.

But now there’s something more you need from them—forgiveness. This part requires a level of vulnerability that can be hard to access because your request for forgiveness doesn’t require the other person's gift of it.

They may say no. They may need to think about it. They may say “We’ll see how things go over time.”

For some people, an apology won’t feel genuine until you’ve asked their forgiveness. So you may need to go out on a limb and ask, even knowing you may not receive it.  

Don't apologize when there's nothing to apologize for

Before I close the conversation on the five apology languages, I’d like to add my own note of caution. Apologies are important when they’re warranted—when you’ve done something wrong or let someone down.

But for many people—and more commonly for women than men—apologizing is something we do too often in moments that don’t warrant an “I’m sorry.”

Here are a few examples:

  • I'm sorry, but I have a question.
  • I'm sorry; I have a full plate and I can't take on that extra project.
  • I'm so sorry, but I have to pick up my kid so that 6 p.m. meeting is too late for me.

Please don't apologize for situations like these. Instead, say:

  • I have a question.
  • I have a full plate and can't take on that extra project.
  • That 6 p.m. meeting is too late for me.

You have the right to ask questions and set boundaries. I will never stop reminding you of that. Sorry, not sorry.