Tough love – performance review

As a manager or business owner it's awkward having to give"constructive criticism."

Here are some tips for making the process easier.

  1. Take a "breather" – Think through what you’re going to say. Try not to be emotional.
  2. Choose a private location – free from interruptions and curious bystanders.
  3. Get to the point – quick and painless is always best.
  4. Let them respond – to prevent misunderstandings and to understand the problem.
  5. Listen to what they say – and make sure you’re having a two-way conversation. When you actively listen you can brainstorm a better solution.
  6. Create action items – and be clear about your expectations. Outline measurable objectives and put them in writing.
  7. Give them a chance – to prove themselves. Change doesn't happen overnight. Acknowledge improvements and provide coaching along the way.

Video Conference vs. Audio Conference

Conference call etiquette…who needs it? You do!  According to a survey conducted by Wainhouse Research, virtual meetings now outnumber in-person meetings. The study found that virtual meetings save time and money and improve productivity. It also mentioned that conference call technology is growing at a rate of 60% every year.

This is a growing technology so it is important that you understand basic conference call etiquette:

Here is a quick review

Video Conferences should be treated as in-person meetings and therefore you should dress accordingly. Avoid clothes with patterns (such as stripes or prints) because they can sometimes cause interference when the compressed video signal is distributed. You should speak clearly, look at the camera, and don’t leave the room unless you have to.

Audio conference calls have their own challenges. You should always introduce yourself when you speak so that other participants know who is talking. Avoid using a speakerphone and turn off (literally) background noise distractions.

Telecommuting = Work from Home

As you may have read, a San Fransico Bay Area bridge collapsed on Saturday. A gasoline truck caught on fire and caused the upper overpass to collapse on the highway below. Luckily nobody died.

The governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has declared the area a state of emergency. Authorities say that the crash is the worst disruption for commuters since the 1989 earthquake. Approximately 280,000 cars will be affected by this accident.

Citizens have been encouraged to start Telecommuting. Unfortunately, many people are not familiar with this technology and are not equipped to use it.

What is telecommuting and how do you get started?

Telecommuting (a.k.a. working from home) eliminates the daily commute. This is done by setting up a virtual office enabling you to access important office information without being at the office.  A virtual office lets you have access to your email and office network. Also, it enables your phone to ring at your home instead of your office. Recent technology now lets you take the office on-the-road.

AccuConference can assist with this telecommuting process. Our Accu800 service provides a toll-free phone number that can re-route to any location. You can use the same toll-free number regardless of what phone you are using or where you are at. You can participate in business meetings and conference calls from home, in your car, or at a local restaurant.

Click on the link if you want more information on telecommuting or Accu800

ALWAYS mute your speakerphones

Are your telephone conferences cutting out when you’re listening on your speaker phone?  It’s a common occurrence with a simple solution.
Many conference call systems use a feature that mutes everyone to eliminate background noise. But if you or your office uses a speakerphone, then it’s also important to press the mute button. If you don’t, the conference call will intermittently cut-out.
Click here to find out why
Here are some tips for speakerphone users:

    • Use the mute button on your speakerphone when you’re not talking
    • Test your speakerphone to make sure the volume sounds right.
    • Choose a quiet location. Shut door, turn of the cell phone etc.
    • Speak directly into the mic
    • Speak one person at a time

Love your inbox, and it will love you.

As Lisa writes, people procrastinate on processing the inbox. The unspoken dread factor allows it to slowly increase in volume, threatening to spill out and take over.

Why is it scary?

  • You don't know what's in it. (There is nothing worse than the fear of the unknown.)
  • It looks bigger than you.
  • You think you know what's in it, and it's not fun.

Here are some tips for making processing painless...

  • Integrate personal emails with your business emails so you have “treats” to look forward to.
  • Don’t sort the entire inbox at one time, just focus on one at a time.
  • Try to make it enjoyable. Brew a nice cup of coffee, listen to music and do it at a time when you’re typically relaxed.

Remember - the more organized you keep your inbox, the better you’ll feel. The better you feel, the better you’ll work.  

Corporate Paintball

We tried a fun activity on Saturday and we’re still feeling the effects today (literally)!  We had so much fun that we’re planning on doing it again next week.

Whether you need to blow off some stress or just want to have fun, nothing makes you feel closer to a co-worker then diving into the same trench while under fire.

Here are some pictures from our day:

Say thank you

By  Andrew Clogg

I was on the phone the other day with a customer. She was in a rush and I was more than happy to get her the information she needed quickly. The call only lasted about 30 seconds.

Halfway through our brief encounter I requested some account information from her and then said “Thank You.”

At that moment I heard her voice change. It was as though my “thank you” caught her by surprised.  She laughed and said “You’re welcome, but thank you!” It happened very quickly, but I’m sure she hung up with a smile on her face.

Case in point: People like it when you say thank you, and that little bit goes a long way.

Great Google Features

All Google engineers are encouraged to spend 20% of their work time (one day per week) on projects that interest them. Some of Google's newer services, such as Gmail, Google News, Orkut, and AdSense originated from these independent endeavors.  In a talk at Stanford University, Marissa Mayer, Google's vice president of search products and user experience, stated that her analysis showed that half of new product launches originated from the 20% independent project time.

It seems to have worked for them… perhaps your company should try it too!

Anyway, here are some cool features worth checking out:

Blog Search – Find blogs on topics that interest you.

Site Search – Type the word "site" followed by a colon will enable you to restrict your search to a specific site. To do this, use the syntax in the Google search box. For example, to find recording information from AccuConfernece enter [recording]

Package Tracking: Track your Fedex or UPS package just by entering the number in google.

Weather: Just type in the word “weather” followed by the region you live.

Movie Showtime’s: Type in the word showtimes and then enter your zip code to discover movies nearby.

“Crackberry” Outage of April 18, 2007

by Jim Black

Because the blackberry outage leaves millions without email, could this be the day that some break their crackberry habit?   I am not saying you will break the habitual email and net habit, I’m suggesting you make the move away from the Blackberry.  I am addicted to my PDA’s, but I don’t use a crackberry.

First lets put into perspective of how addicted I am. I carry a Motorola Q on Sprint AND an 8525 on ATT.  Why do I carry two devices?  Because I liked the voice plans on Cingular but the data is better on Sprint.  (I have now changed to voice on Sprint because the dropped calls got out of hand). I realize that I check my email and call page way too much, but I’m trying to cut back.

To be honest, I sometimes feel left out because I don’t have the cool games that other crackberry users have.  For example, all I have is bubble breaker and I don’t think it’s the same. That being said, I find Windows Mobile more reliable and it can be used with various Pocket PCs, Smartphones, and Portable Media Centers. In addition, Windows Mobile does not rely on a lone email provider like blackberry.

Given the recent outage, my questions are:

  • How much productivity will be lost on this business day?
  • Will this be the end of RIMM?
  • Will Motorola Q and the Samsung BlackJack be more popular now?
  • Will there be less accidents on the road today because people are not typing and driving?

For those of you who rely on their handheld device, this is a catastrophic event. I’m not saying kick the habit, but kick the crackberry -- problem solved!


Great companies lead the pack

Jim Collins, author of the book “Good to Great” mentions that truly great companies are innovators who know how to utilize technology.

Audio & Video conferencing, combined with online collaboration, will revolutionize the way the world does business. Will your company lead the pack, or be left in the dust?

Consider how technology has changed so far:

Computers = faster
Internet = reliable
Electronics = affordable
Phones = mobile

What do these have in common? Conference calling of course!

Conference calls make it easier to keep-up with today’s fast-paced global economy. Sharing documents over the internet and collaborating online will soon become common- place. So don’t just use a conference call provider - utilize one.