The 7-Minute Routine That Will Make Your Mornings Run Oh So Smoothly

It only takes seven minutes to change how you approach your day. Using the routine described below when you get to work will make a world of difference in your productivity, your attitude, your success, and your health. It’s like the approach you make to the tee on a golf course. You plan out how you will hit the shot, which is more important than the actual swing. Before you start your day, this routine will provide the right mindset. Will you follow it?

Note: I’m going to call this routine “The Seven,” as in, “Did you do your Seven this morning?” Feel free to borrow that term or send me ideas on a better name.


1. Before You Start: Prepare

First, you need to find a quiet place. Hint for those who work in a cubicle farm: This is not at your desk. And it’s not in the car, because there are too many distractions. At a busy startup, it might be a foyer or a balcony. You might have to arrive earlier in the morning to make this work. You’ll also need a journal. Make sure you have one, and that you have a pen. Also, wear a watch. You will want to time yourself and finish up within seven minutes.


2. Minute One: Clear Your Head

I won’t get into any religious issues or get preachy here, and I’m not even encouraging meditation, but every person on the planet who has to work for a living needs to follow this basic routine. You have to clear your head. That phone you use to check your messages constantly or that iPad that’s stuck to your hip? Get rid of them. They are not part of this morning routine. Clearing your head just means being present as you prepare for the day.


3. Minute Two: Breathe a Little

Again, you may have a different way of dealing with the stress you feel in life. However, breathing deeply creates a calming effect in your brain and helps you focus. Intentional breathing is important at all times of the day. For this routine to work, you have to stop and settle your thinking and get into the right frame of mind. Just sit quietly and breathe.


4. Minutes Three Through Six: Write Notes and Draw

You’ve heard all about journaling, but the process I use is not just journaling. I write in a journal all day, right after I get up in the morning and have coffee, at night before bed, and during meetings and at conferences. I’m not just talking about journaling. I’m talking about writing down the first few thoughts you have after you’ve arrived at work, but before you’ve started on the day’s tasks. Draw a picture or doodle an idea. It’s a way to figure out what is important and what is stressing you out. It is a record of your preparation and a way to help you look back and see, for these seven minutes, what was really important. Make sure you don’t get too focused on the writing and forget about the thinking.


5. Minute Seven: Debrief

After you write a few notes, keep track of the time and make sure you allow about one minute at the end to debrief. What does that mean? Just look over your notes a second time. Think about what you wrote and why, and make a brief plan—in only 30 seconds—to act on one of the items on your list. Just one. If you jotted down a note to deal with a conflict or to finish a report, decide to focus on that task and make sure you are intentional about addressing it.

That’s it. Seven minutes. I’m really interested to find out if you use this routine in the morning before you start working. Follow the plan for at least one week. Then, send me a note about what you learned and how it all worked out. I promise to respond.


By John Brandon of Inc.

What Do Personality Tests Really Reveal?


Over the course of the past century, psychology has been consumed with the search for a kind of magical instrument to determine personality. Hermann Rorschach proposed that great meaning lay in the way that people described inkblots. We’ve moved on considerably since then. But have we moved on too far?

The creators of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory believed in the revelatory power of true-false items such as “If the money were right, I would like to work for a circus or a carnival.” Annie Murphy Paul tells us in her fascinating book,Cult of Personality, that there are twenty-five hundred kinds of personality tests. Testing is a four-hundred-million-dollar-a-year industry. A hefty percentage of FTSE 250 companies use personality tests as part of the hiring and promotion process. The tests sometimes figure in custody battles and in sentencing and parole decisions. “Yet despite their prevalence—and the importance of the matters they are called upon to decide—personality tests have received surprisingly little scrutiny,” Paul writes. We can call in the psychologists. But will any of it help?

One of the most popular personality tests in the world is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (M.B.T.I.), a psychological-assessment system based on Carl Jung’s notion that people make sense of the world through a series of psychological frames. Some people are extroverts, some are introverts. Some process information through logical thought. Some are directed by their feelings. Some make sense of the world through intuitive leaps. Others collect data through their senses. To these three categories— (I)ntroversion/(E)xtroversion, i(N)tuition/(S)ensing, (T)hinking/(F)eeling—the Myers-Briggs test adds a fourth: (J)udging/(P)erceiving. Judgers “like to live in a planned, orderly way, seeking to regulate and manage their lives,” according to an M.B.T.I. guide, whereas Perceivers “like to live in a flexible, spontaneous way, seeking to experience and understand life, rather than control it.” The M.B.T.I. asks the test-taker to answer a series of “forced-choice” questions, where one choice identifies you as belonging to one of these paired traits. The basic test takes twenty minutes, and at the end you are presented with a precise, multidimensional summary of your personality-your type might be INTJ or ESFP, or some other combination. Three and a half million Americans a year take the Myers-Briggs. Eighty-nine companies out of the Fortune 100 make use of it, for things like hiring or training sessions to help employees “understand” themselves or their colleagues. Annie Murphy Paul says that at the eminent consulting firm McKinsey, ” ‘associates’ often know their colleagues’ four-letter M.B.T.I. types by heart,” the way they might know their own weight or (this being McKinsey) their S.A.T. scores.

Unfortunately, the notion of personality type is not nearly as straightforward as it appears. For example, the Myers-Briggs poses a series of items grouped around the issue of whether you—the test-taker—are someone who likes to plan your day or evening beforehand or someone who prefers to be spontaneous. The idea is obviously to determine whether you belong to the Judger or Perceiver camp, but the basic question here is surprisingly hard to answer. I think I’m someone who likes to be spontaneous. On the other hand, I have embarked on too many spontaneous evenings that ended up with my friends and me standing on the pavement, looking at each other and wondering what to do next. So I guess I’m a spontaneous person who recognizes that life usually goes more smoothly if I plan first, or, rather, I’m a person who prefers to be spontaneous only if there’s someone around me who isn’t. Does that make me spontaneous or not? I’m not sure. I suppose it means that I’m somewhere in the middle.

This is the first problem with the Myers-Briggs. It assumes that we are either one thing or another—Intuitive or Sensing, Introverted or Extroverted. But personality doesn’t fit into neat binary categories: we fall somewhere along a continuum.

Here’s another question: Would you rather work under a boss (or a teacher) who is good-natured but often inconsistent, or sharp-tongued but always logical?

On the Myers-Briggs, this is one of a series of questions intended to establish whether you are a Thinker or a Feeler. But I’m not sure I know how to answer this one, either. I once had a good-natured boss whose inconsistency bothered me, because he exerted a great deal of day-to-day control over my work. Then I had a boss who was quite consistent and very sharp-tongued—but at that point I was in a job where day-to-day dealings with my boss were minimal, so his sharp tongue didn’t matter that much. So what do I want in a boss? As far as I can tell, the only plausible answer is: It depends. The Myers-Briggs assumes that who we are is consistent from one situation to another. But surely what we want in a boss, and how we behave toward our boss, is affected by what kind of job we have.

This is the gist of the now famous critique that the psychologist Walter Mischel has made of personality testing. One of Mischel’s studies involved watching children interact with one another at a summer camp. Aggressiveness was among the traits that he was interested in, so he watched the children in five different situations: how they behaved when approached by a peer, when teased by a peer, when praised by an adult, when punished by an adult, and when warned by an adult. He found that how aggressively a child responded in one of those situations wasn’t a good predictor of how that same child responded in another situation. Just because a boy was aggressive in the face of being teased by another boy didn’t mean that he would be aggressive in the face of being warned by an adult. On the other hand, if a child responded aggressively to being teased by a peer one day, it was a pretty good indicator that he’d respond aggressively to being teased by a peer the next day. We have a personality in the sense that we have a consistent pattern of behavior. But that pattern is complex and that personality is contingent: it represents an interaction between our internal disposition and tendencies and the situations that we find ourselves in.

It’s not surprising, then, that the Myers-Briggs has a large problem with consistency: according to some studies, more than half of those who take the test a second time end up with a different score than when they took it the first time. Since personality is continuous, not dichotomous, clearly some people who are borderline Introverts or Feelers one week slide over to Extroversion or Thinking the next week. And since personality is contingent, not stable, how we answer is affected by which circumstances are foremost in our minds when we take the test. If I happen to remember my first boss, then I come out as a Thinker. If my mind is on my second boss, I come out as a Feeler. When I took the Myers-Briggs, I scored as an INTJ. But, if odds are that I’m going to be something else if I take the test again, what good is it?

We need to make careful use of personality tests, and take them with a large pinch of salt. Or perhaps we should be sending them out at every step of an interview process, and taking a sort of average, an interpretation based on the many different answers given? Or perhaps we shouldn’t be using them at all, and relying instead upon good old fashioned intuition. Or the intuition of a good headhunter…

Everyone knows the 5 star athletes

When the Ohio State Buckeyes start their recruiting campaigns after each season they know who all the 5-star athletes are across the country.  This may seem like an advantage, but it isn’t.  Today everyone knows who these athletes are and in fact most coaches and programs have known who they are for many years.  Recruiting is not about finding talent – everyone knows where the talent is.  Recruiting is all about securing the talent.  Another way to say securing is selling, and that’s exactly what Urban Myer, Nick Saben, and the rest of the top level coaches know how to do – sell themselves and their program!

Too often today Human Resource Managers and Hiring Managers believe that just knowing who the candidates are is enough, and that all they have to do is keep a list of these people handy and then when the time comes to fill a position just visit that list and make a couple calls to see who is available.

The “sell” is something that is lost on too many.  The fact is the “sell” is the only thing that can differentiate your company from anyone else – because today everyone knows who all the 5 star athletes are and they know how to find them!

If you are a manager and don’t have a solid pitch or someone who knows how to help you put together that pitch you better panic, or call a great recruiter who knows how, and understands the value in being able to have a “company sell” when talking to top level candidates.  The best recruiters know what these 5 star candidates are looking for and know where they may have some frustrations.  Therefore they can work to help customize the approach for each candidate.  After all each candidate does feel, deservedly so – that they are special.

That is how the best coaches land the best athletes – they go to the living room, they know the kids and the kids’ families and they make each and every athlete feel the love and make sure they know that they are truly special!  I you’re not recruiting like Nick Saben – ask yourself who are you emulating?

ERC survey projects 2015 raises in 3% range
Companies are taking a hard look at the latest wage and salary adjustment survey prepared by the Employers Resource Council in Highland Heights as they decide on next year’s pay raises in a still-challenging regional economy.The 145 organizations included in the survey are projecting base pay hikes next year that average 2.9%. The raises range from 2.7% for unionized production workers to 3% for supervisory, management and professional positions.The projections did not vary significantly for manufacturing and non-manufacturing firms, or for large and small companies measured by the number of employees.The annual ERC survey is used by its members to gauge the local labor market when it comes to employee compensation, although each company’s approach to compensation may be different depending on business factors, according to Margaret Brinich, ERC manager of surveys and research. ERC has 1,100 members.

“Companies can use the survey to be competitive in paying employees,” Brinich said. She said survey respondents are representative of the Northeast Ohio economy, which provides an advantage over national surveys.

In recent years, actual base pay increases have matched projections. Prior to the economic downturn, it was common for companies to raise pay by amounts that exceeded initial projections.

Actual increases this year averaged 2.9%, ERC reports. The survey deals only with base pay and does not include bonuses or merit pay.

Almost all of the organizations contacted said they would provide pay increases for at least some job categories next year. There are some organizations, however, that plan to freeze base pay for some employees. For example, 14% of those contacted said there would be no executive base pay increases in 2015. This is down from 16% in last year’s survey.

The pay projections are used as a general guide by leaders of diverse organizations, including Steve Peplin, CEO of metalworking company Talan Products Inc. in Cleveland, and Chuck Keiper, executive director of the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council.

Peplin said Talan’s compensation strategy is aimed at attracting motivated workers in a highly competitive metalworking industry that requires strict cost control. Talan does not have an automatic cost-of-living increase, but it calculates pay raises based on many factors. The company also has in place a profit-sharing plan, with payouts determined at the end of the year.

He said business at the 55-employee manufacturer is strong.

“We will be at the top end of the ERC survey,” Peplin said.

Keiper, of Solon-based NOPEC, said the seven-employee organization, which markets energy to consumers and negotiates fees with energy suppliers, is carefully studying the survey results. NOPEC has added four staff members in the last year or so, and Keiper said the organization’s business is on the upswing.

He said he must still strike a balance between a fair pay hike that will help him retain his staff while dealing with budget constraints and growing competition in his industry.

“It isn’t likely that the pay raises will exceed 2%,” Keiper said.


‘Slack’ economy constrains wages

Brinich said the survey is especially helpful during periods when the economy is improving or expanding, when retaining the best workers may require more competitive pay.However, national surveys this year have concluded that there is little upward pressure on wages, with the exception of the oil and gas industry. National surveys are projecting base pay hikes in 2015 at an average of 3%.Local economist Jack Kleinhenz has described the job market as patchy.“At the national level, some of the faster growing industries are energy and technology. We have some of both but not as concentrated as other regions,” Kleinhenz said. He added that “there is slack in the economy and thus modest wage growth.”

National experts point to 4% wage growth in oil and gas. But most of the gains tied to Ohio’s Utica shale development have so far been concentrated in the eight counties along the eastern border with Pennsylvania.

New York management consulting firm the Hay Group cites lower projected wage increases in the hospital industry. Hay Group projects 2% increases next year for hospital workers.

Heather Phillips, senior director of corporate communications for the Cleveland Clinic, Northeast Ohio’s largest employer, said, “We are currently in our budgeting process for 2015 and haven’t make any decisions regarding this yet.”

The tepid economic recovery cited by consultants such as the Hay Group is evident locally. Although the numbers have improved since the bottom of the business cycle, total private-sector employment in Cuyahoga County stood at 624,283 in the fourth quarter last year, down slightly from the 627,688 in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Spelling out what today’s bank leader must be

It’s a bigger job than ever

By  Alan J. Kaplan

The banking industry is operating in an environment that few could have anticipated, yet requires an increasingly complex mix of banking skills, leadership capabilities, and interpersonal qualities in its leaders. Having spent time recently speaking with hundreds of bank CEOs, board members, and senior executives, I find the requirements for success as a bank leader today have crystalized.

Each letter below represents a vital element of successful bank leadership:

B is for “Balance Sheet Savvy”

Today’s bank leaders must understand the risks inherent in the current interest rate environment, whether due to potential funding mismatches or the risks from declining securities values in a rising rate environment.

A stands for “Asset Quality”…

… and the ongoing need to remain vigilant regarding credit quality. There’s still no quicker way for a bank to falter than to suffer from a spate of bad loans. Regulators continue to focus on credit culture, policies, and procedures as well.

N is for “Non-Interest Income”

Everyone wants more, but how do we actually grow revenues?

Increasing fees on customers always carries some potential fallout. And, building lines of business such as wealth management, insurance, or other products involves a significant up-front investment and a longer-term return. There are few easy answers here.

K represents “Capital”

As everyone knows, this is the most critical ingredient that banks need today to survive and drive growth, whether organic or transactional. A lack of ample capital not only constrains strategic plans, but too often invites a call from your regulator. (Grant me a little artistic license on the interchangeability of “K” and “C.”

L stands for “Leadership.”

While great leadership remains an obvious prerequisite for success, the demands on bank leaders today are more strenuous and complex than at any time since the Great Depression.

Many bank boards struggle with the challenges of succession and developing that vital next generation. In addition, the mantle of leadership should extend much further into the organization than just the CEO’s office or C-Suite executives for an organization to truly succeed. While the CEO sets the tone, everyone should lead by example in their daily interactions with customers and colleagues.

E stands for “Emotional Intelligence”

This is the critical aspect of leadership in which you see your bank’s leaders communicating effectively, leading from the front rather than the rear, and following a “servant leader” mindset.

The emotionally intelligent leader knows that it truly is not about them, but rather the people on their team. When the team is successful, the leader succeeds as well.

A represents “Authenticity”

Authenticity occurs in the leader who means what is said, and does what’s promised. It’s the ability to create “follower-ship” through actions and a genuine approach to dealing with a bank’s varying constituents.

D is for “Digital Savvy”

Today’s community banks need an approach to the digital world that is timely, relevant, and real. Whether you like it or not, the technologies that are revolutionizing banking today are not just impacting the industry’s back office, but have become a vital channel for growth.

Banks must play offense here, not defense.

Our second E represents the “Employee”

Bank CEOs and directors regularly praise their employees for good work and great service. While these are the foundation upon which our institutions are built, it is simply not enough anymore.

If your bank is going to win against the competition, it must have the absolute strongest cadre of bankers possible—from the executive team to front-line lenders and managers, to the employees behind the scenes. Next to Capital, Talent—and its ability to execute your plan—is the only remaining differentiator in banking today.

R stands for “Regulatory”

In the current climate, the ability of bank leaders to forge a constructive working relationship with their regulators is vital.

Banks that take a combative tone with their examiners usually end up on the wrong side of their exam. While the regulatory climate may have overreached, it is what it is. High-performing bank leaders figure out how to operate successfully under this dynamic, and forge positive regulatory partnerships.

As Billy Beale, CEO of Richmond, Va.-based Union First Market Bank stated recently at the Bank Director “Acquire or be Acquired Conference”:  “Banking is not complicated, but it has gotten awfully complex.”

Today’s Bank Leader needs a plethora of banking skills, leadership competencies and personal attributes to be successful. Anything less than a full suite of these talents may not only impact your bank’s ability to win, but could ultimately put the institution itself at risk.