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The American Workplace has been going through some major changes as of late, many of which are long overdue. These changes must begin at the roots; as the person your employees look to for leadership and guidance, your behavior must create a safe and equal dynamic – lest a rotten workplace be the result of a poisonous tree.

The #metoo movement brought to the forefront what many women are all too familiar with in the workplace; a whopping 81 percent of women have been sexually harassed while at work. In a leadership role, you have these responsibilities: to treat all employees equally and with respect; to employ a code of conduct that is explained to all employees and regularly reviewed; to take all claims of sexual harassment seriously, investigate them thoroughly and without bias; and to fire those who have broken the code of conduct. As the leader, you set the tone and create the culture. It’s up to you to create a workplace that does not tolerate sexual misconduct of any kind.

Harassment is not the only issue that needs to be addressed while creating a positive work space. Women are, on average, paid about 39% less than men. The remedy is simple: pay the same wages for the same work. When you undercut an employee on pay, you’re not only showing your employees that you value men more than women – you’re actually undercutting your own credibility as an effective leader. It’s also a great way to create heavy turnover; employees always know when they are being underpaid. Be mindful when you review salary histories that women may have been previously held at a disadvantage. Don’t try to save a few bucks and alienate your workforce in the process.

In the same vein, women should be on the same track to promotion as men. A workplace with only men in positions of power is not representative, and it sends the message to both the men and the women in your workplace that women are not seen or valued the same way that men are.

A major characteristic of a great leader is that they listen. Listen to any and all ideas, whether they come from men or from women. Whether it’s a marketing pitch, a solution to a problem, or just a small concern about the workplace in general, all employees should have the same opportunity to be heard. Employ language that is consistent among all employees regardless of sex – call everyone by their name, not a nickname or term such as “young lady” or “young man.” These seemingly harmless words can carry condescending connotations and may make employees feel that they are not being heard as a respected part of the workforce.

At first glance, these may seem like tips for bettering a work environment for women, and they are; however, when you create an equal work environment, everyone wins. Productivity will rise, camaraderie will heighten, and respect for you as a leader will come naturally for everyone. Effective leadership is the key to an equal, healthy, successful workplace.

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In a world increasingly conditioned to expect advances in technology, it pays to keep up with the latest useful apps and gadgets in the office — and in your company’s product offerings, where applicable. From microchipping merchandise to helping employees take advantage of useful tech in the office, here are several ways you can make your office smarter, more comfortable and more useful.

Traits that May Define a Smart Office

The removal of boundaries between employees and clients, between people and technology will define the smart office of the future. This goes beyond placing helpful chatbots on websites to incorporating tech in the physical and digital worlds that define the modern workspace.

Here are just a few elements of a smart office:

  • Internet of things: IoT will help create smart lights, virtual reality cameras and speakers, thermostats, and other tools, all of which can help employees engage in and concentrate on work in the office or from a remote location.
  • Machine learning: Machine intelligence is already being utilized in knowledge management and leadership tools. As a result, the new workplace might feel a bit like the gym — but instead of physical fitness, the product of your effort is seamless integration of technologies that automate tedious office processes: file management, meeting setup, and contacting workers and clients. Imagine the time you could save by answering emails with a bulletproof voice-to-text tool built into your email system!
  • Interconnectivity and control: Smart devices for the physical environment, such as dimmers, relays, and smart switches, can control everything from lights to energy conservation. Sensors can read UV light, temperature, and light levels and use the data to adjust smart windows that filter out harmful radiation while maximizing relaxing, healthy natural light. Simultaneously, wearable tech can instantly cue an app like Slack to order coffee or snacks.

Tech and Accessibility for Employees

Narrowing down from the greater IoT infrastructure, certain trends and devices seem poised for ubiquity in the modern work environment. Here are some ways that technology is likely to redefine the workplace.

  • Self-driving vehiclesTesla Autopilot was a test case, but Volkswagen, the world’s biggest vehicle manufacturer, recently announced its own plans to roll out autonomous driving in all its vehicles. Look for the first versions to be taxis and delivery vehicles, which should reduce the cost of ridesharing and delivery services. This trend, unfortunately, will likely eliminate a lot of jobs and only create a few software or engineering jobs in exchange.
  • Wide open spaces: Modern offices are more collaborative and inviting than old-school ones — more space, more flexibility, more natural light. What’s the point of implementing next-gen technology if it’s used in the same old creativity-killing cubicles?
  • Smart desks:New desks by Humanscale use IoT and data that transform the sitting vs. standing experience. Sensors alert workers when it’s time to change positions, tracking data patterns across time. For companies, Humanscale has a program that gamifies the experience so groups can enter competitions for the healthiest scores.
  • Voice-rec tech: Many workers are accustomed to using neat gadgets at home, and would love to utilize the same interconnected and voice-recognizing techat work. This might include, for example, the Echo Dot, a compact speaker that ties into Alexa’s voice control capability and even takes calls.
  • Hands-free tools.These can not only make work more productive, but they can also prevent injuries inflicted by repetitive stress. This includes voice-activated devices, apps, and voice-to-text tools embedded in office applications such as email and word processing tools.
  • Digital admins:Imagine walking into a conference room and ordering its AI to connect you to your 10 a.m. video call with clients from across the country. All the systems would perform a diagnostic, report any known issues, and start up the necessary tools, connecting all participants and opening access to necessary files. A forerunner of this technology, Amazon’s Alexa for Business, will enable workers to multitask via calendars, tasks and data requests.

Reaching Customers Where They Live

Another of the main areas to benefit from innovative technology is customer and client interaction. The marketplace has been transformed in recent years by an emphasis on data collection, personalized recommendations, and enhanced methods of customer interaction and support.

  • Interconnectivity:Many different technologies will combine to simplify the traditional customer service and client interface processes. Chromecast and Apple TV already make it easy for guests to connect laptops to share their screens and run PowerPoint presentations. Zoom is one example of conference/video call technology that merely requires a 9-digit number or name to join.
  • Implanted information:In this sci-fi scenario come true, Three Square Market provides self-service mini-markets located in hotels, hospitals and company break rooms. Transactions are accomplished via microchips planted subcutaneously under customers’ (and some employees’) skin.
  • Radical personalization:In commodity terms, customer data is the new gold. Companies are increasingly using AI to track customers’ usage and purchase patterns on their sites and personalizing each step of the “customer journey” accordingly with products and services.

Smart office tech doesn’t have to be earth-shattering to make a big difference to those it touches. Unfortunately, some of the initial installations come with big price tags; that’s all the more reason to look beyond physical modifications. See what can be done virtually to expand or shatter the limitations of a physical office through incorporating apps and tools that seamlessly connect co-workers and clients. These technologies are enabling creative, collaborative, and commercial interactions among folks that are far-flung, whether they’re on safari in Africa or in an automated, smart penthouse in New York City.

By Laura Gayle, Business Woman Guide. Laura is a full-time blogger who is passionate about e-commerce and the ways technology is helping to rejuvenate the American dream. I created this guide to be a trusted resource for women trying to start or grow businesses on their own terms. For many of us, entrepreneurship is the key to true work-life balance.

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Regardless of what industry you work in, your communication skills are always going to be an important part of your success. You need to learn to argue your points persuasively and convincingly while also avoiding misstatements and keeping all your options open.

You might want to look to the negotiation skills of politicians to master effective communication when you’ve got an agenda to push. The following are four important things to keep in mind that will help you talk like a politician and have your way with your listeners through excellent negotiating skills.

Mastering your message through repetition

Politicians know that practice makes perfect when it comes to formulating one’s message and learning to express it with greatest possible effect each time. This means that practicing through proper negotiations training is important. It also means that maintaining consistency in your message and setting up frequent speaking engagements are important. This way, you’re regularly practicing your negotiating and you’re regularly reinforcing your message both in your own mind and in the minds of listeners.

Appealing to the emotions of listeners

The most successful politicians know how to be inspiring and know how to appeal to the emotions of those who are listening to them. Speaking like a politician often means focusing more on emotive appeal than on explaining facts and data in detail.

If you can evoke an emotional response in those who listen to you, you’re likely to succeed in all of your negotiations. The truth is that most people react more to emotional appeals than they do to dense and well researched presentations of data.

Whenever you negotiate, think about how you’re going to put your message across in such a way that it will appeal to emotions.

Aiming for universal appeal

Another thing politicians constantly do is construct messages that will appeal to as many people as possible. This means focusing on the things that everybody will readily agree upon and, when possible, glossing over the negatives of any particular proposed agreement.

When it comes to aiming for universal appeal, it’s important to know your listeners well and to be able to predict how they are going to respond to certain facts or messages. Achieving universal appeal is about negotiating with unbounded optimism.

When listeners hear you negotiate, they shouldn’t come away focusing on the problem but on the solution. They need to receive a positive message that will convince them to go along with your propositions without any worry or stress.

At the same time, you should be able to respond to any challenges and field questions about the potential drawbacks of your product, plan, or offering. As part of preparing, brainstorm potential points of contention and learn how to downplay them and explain them away.

Never alienating listeners

Charisma is always important for a politician. Politicians do best when they come across as attractive, appealing, and charming. Therefore, you always need to focus on charming your listeners and being likeable.

You can turn on the charm in your discourse by watching the language you’re using. You always want to be complimenting your listeners and never seem to be putting them down or criticizing them in any way.

Consider every negotiation proceeding as an opportunity to make your listeners like you in addition to agreeing with your standpoint on the issue at hand. Be relatable and learn a lot about your target listeners before each and every engagement. You need to familiarize yourself with who your listeners are and what they like. Then, you need to make it clear that you have common ground with them and you understand their needs.

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The power of one’s entrepreneurship depends on the integrity of the character. This is why the crucial aspect of growing a successful business is to grow yourself. While most people enjoy a bit of downtime after work which is completely unrelated to the set of skills they are using, entrepreneurs know better. Every aspect of their life, even when it is supposed to be fun, feeds into expanding their work-related skill tree. This absolutely goes for hobbies too. If you are building your own empire but you are also ready to take up a secondary activity that will keep things fresh, here are hobbies that will feed your entrepreneurial spirit.

Play chess

Chess is probably the ultimate hobby for enthusiastic entrepreneurs. It is a mind-stimulating game which has been around for millennia and engaging with it prompts you to hone numerous skills. You will need to learn patience, yet apply sharp spontaneity as well as a range of idiosyncratic planning strategies. However, it is also a game that teaches you the unpredictability of shifting circumstances. According to the arrangement of the figures on the board, you will have to adapt, change tactics and take risks while relentlessly moving forward.

Martial arts

Every self-respecting individual needs to keep their brain running at maximum capacity, and there is hardly a better way to achieve this than rigorous physical exercise. While regular jogging and hitting that gym at least three times a week is a good way to stay in physical and mental shape, learning a martial art takes this notion a step further. Martial art teaches you focus in a way that cannot quite be compared to any other activity. The challenges of your work will certainly fill you with stress, and while martial arts are a good outlet for your frustrations, they also teach you self-control.

Motor biking

Extreme sports are not only for careless daredevils. They can be beneficial for individuals that are looking for the method within madness. High risk means high reward, so taking up an extreme sport can really improve your entrepreneurial skills. If you take up motor biking, you will reap benefits across several cognitive fields. For starters, riding a bike will keep your motor functions on the edge, it will help you stay centered and offer you a range of possibilities when it comes to activities.

You don’t necessarily have to conquer the outback dirt roads, but what’s life without a little excitement? Covering different terrain will force you to activate your risk-assessing synapses and flex some of your muscles. In addition, your logical part of the brain will be engaged as you tinker with the finest extra motorcross parts as you prepare your adventure.

Play an instrument

Learning how to play an instrument has undeniable benefits. An activity that so obviously helps children develop their nervous system is something that should be attempted by anyone who wants to keep their mind flexible and adaptable. Furthermore, music has a calming and positive biological effect an all living things, including plants. In other words, playing an instrument is a perfect relaxing activity that also has an added benefit of improving your cognitive function.

Write

It can be a diary or a memoir. It does not matter if you are chronicling your business ventures or if you are putting your philosophies down on paper, it is all about the process. One of the most elegant aspects of writing is its flexibility. Pretty much anyone can write and you don’t have to be Goethe to partake in this activity. In fact, you should write as if nobody is watching because surprise, surprise, nobody really watches you.

There is a certain power to giving your thoughts a definitive, physical form. Writing is a transformative experience that can help you develop your business philosophies and give you an unprecedented insight into your own character. Just read a chunk of your writing after a year has passed and you will notice a lot of your flaws and shortcomings are seeping through the paper. Use this opportunity (and writing activity) to patch them up if you notice they are hurting your business.

Be a tutor

A master of a skill is an individual that shows the utmost efficiency in teaching that same skill. Tutoring will challenge you in similar ways as chess. You will need to bring your A-game to the proceedings and learn how to adapt to the changing circumstances due to sheer unpredictability of the human factor involved. However, tutoring has an additional level of challenge.

While chess and other engagements can be about rivalry, bestowing knowledge onto an inexperienced individual that resists requires a deft hand. This is not your enemy or your competition – it is someone you need to mold into a skillful person without becoming a toxic, overbearing parent figure. It is a balancing act for the ages, but once you are successful, the benefits for all parties involved are immeasurable.

Being an entrepreneur means never stopping. If this statement sounds too broad, that is exactly right! The businessperson who is in love with their mission and vision are perfectly focused individuals that tailor their life in accordance with the ultimate (but flexible) set of goals. Still, we are all humans and we all need to engage our minds with something different. Thankfully, most hobbies can actually go a long way in building your entrepreneurial synapses and making you a skillful individual.

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Being a good leader can feel a lot like juggling. You’re managing your day-to-day responsibilities, balancing the needs of the organization with the needs of the individuals on your team, and you’re working with people of all different personalities and backgrounds. Conflict and discontent can arise no matter how hard you work, and sometimes it can feel like an uphill battle to create an inclusive and harmonious office culture.

That’s the challenge of being a leader: making sure everyone feels respected and included while making sure the day-to-day operations run smoothly. As more people are asserting their own gender identities and culture in the workplace, there’s an opportunity for organizations to become an example of how to be inclusive. Getting to that point, however, takes strong leadership.

Wondering how you can inspire a more inclusive culture for people of all genders and cultures? Here’s how to get started.

Diversity and Inclusion is a Major Topic

In the workplace, people from different backgrounds work closely with one another. These differences can enhance an organization’s productivity, culture, and overall growth, but they can also lead to conflict. Without the right leadership, tools, and expectations, people in cultural or gender minorities can easily feel excluded, which can lead to poor morale, low engagement, and ultimately, turnover.

We’ve come a long way in the last few years in accepting people of all cultures and gender identities, but it’s a big topic because we still have a long way to go. Leaders have to take charge and understand that in order to promote an inclusive atmosphere, it’s essential to recognize and respect the differences each employee brings to the organization. 

Communication and Organizational Culture

At the root of most conflicts in the workplace is poor communication. Communication between any employees in the organization can have an impact on culture—especially negative communication like gossip—but communication from someone in a leadership position can have the biggest impact. This is because organizational leaders are seen as role models, embodying the values of the organization as a whole.

Leaders need to understand how their words may be perceived and continually strive to be better communicators. Even subtle misunderstandings in an email, memo, or chat can have a big impact on the perceptions of inclusion in the workplace. In order to achieve an inclusive organizational culture, leaders need to proactively understand their own biases and biased communication in order to work against them and prevent them from being a part of organizational communications.

Setting expectations in the office is also key. It’s important for employees to have guidelines and to understand what is and is not acceptable and why. An inclusive environment starts and ends with communication—or lack of it.

Benefits of Diverse Teams

The United States is becoming more diverse each year, and the companies that more accurately reflect the demographics of the population are the ones succeeding. Companies with high levels of diversity are more productive, innovative, and have lower turnover rates. So why is it so hard to create a truly diverse culture?

Millennials and members of Generation Z are more likely to embrace diversity but often face challenges in promoting a more inclusive culture. Established processes, attitudes from older members of the organization and inexperience in leadership roles are holding Millennials back from improving organizational culture.

Leaders can help overcome these challenges by encouraging and modeling behavior like promoting diverse ideas, training the next generation and choosing diverse protégés, and encouraging positive communication to make employees of all backgrounds to feel welcome and included.

How to Make an Impact and a Profit

As a leader, you have to balance the needs of the organization and the needs of your team. The good news is that it is absolutely possible to make a positive impact and a profit simultaneously. Social entrepreneurship is on the rise, and more startups than ever are incorporating their values and desire to solve the world’s problems while making a profit. Their revenue is impressive, too: 34% of social enterprises in the United States had an income of $1 million or more. These kinds of enterprises tend to attract a diverse workforce and are centered around the concept of inclusion.

Take some lessons from these organizations. If you are firmly-grounded in strong organizational values and you emphasize respect and communication on your team, you’re well on your way to creating an environment that’s inclusive for all cultures and gender identities. It’s not impossible—it’s just going to take some juggling.

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