Topic Category: Labor

America is undergoing one of the greatest periods of transformation in history. Not unlike the powerful changes caused by the industrial revolution that shaped the 19th and 20th centuries, today, globalization is shaping the 21st century and the United States is leading the way.

Since economic globalization — the integration of national markets through international trade and investment — emerged in the 1980s, resources have shifted to sectors with competitive advantages, productivity has reached new highs, and innovation has flourished. In turn, globalization has become a vital factor in the economic growth of the United States and benefited working Americans in many ways.

Topic: Labor
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In today’s rapidly changing world, leadership is the key component to the maintenance of a viable and growing organization. In managing change, leaders set the tone and pave the way. They determine the rate at which the organization will be willing to change—not only in what the leaders say, but, more importantly, in what they do.

As aspects of the market changes, leaders must be facile in changing with them. This includes anticipating changes, as well as preparing themselves and their organizations in how to address them. One example is the shift to results-focused accountability. Leaders must now be able to demonstrate the results of their activities, not just the activity itself. This is a major shift in emphasis and focus, one which ripples throughout their organizations.

Topic: Labor
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It is evident that isolated, short-term thinking no longer works. I hear many leaders say "I will control the things that I can." While this is a tempting way to think in our increasingly complex and interdependent world, it does not serve the organizations and systems that we are a part of. Bigger systems thinking is required.

Within Your Organization

Organizations are learning that operating in silos suboptimizes outcomes. There are almost no projects or processes that can be accomplished solely within a silo. Interdependencies, those relationships necessary throughout your organization in order to get the work done and the goal accomplished, must be recognized. Collaboration requires that we include others, communicate our planned actions, and assess the impact of our decisions across the organization.

Topic: Labor
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This article is not only about expanding your business. It also is about expanding your thinking.

Leaders expanded thinking creates expanded possibilities for their businesses. It is critical to understand the latest trends and shifts in the world, and to postulate how they might impact your organization. It's also important to ask what the implications are for the people running these organization.

Topic: Labor
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The news media is not the only group with whom you need to communicate. You also need to keep employees and investors informed and in the loop. And, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that employees and investors should always be informed of decisions and announcements prior to the news media whenever possible. Nothing destroys a company’s credibility more quickly than when employees or investors, or even customers, learn about company news from an outside source.

Topic: Labor
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We are witnessing one of the greatest periods of transformation in history. The convergence of powerful technological, political, economic and cultural forces are shaping the 21st century. For many manufacturers and workers, adapting to this reality is proving difficult—but necessary.

Technological advances in microelectronics, computers, telecommunications, biotechnology and other fields are changing the way we live and work. The fall of Communism, which added one-third of humanity to the capitalistic ranks, is sharply boosting global competition and creating new markets.

Topic: Labor
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How’s the pace of your business? Most leaders would respond with the word "Accelerating." "Too much to do" is a universal complaint. Leaders find ourselves constantly trying to squeeze out slices of incremental work. So much to be accomplished.

Speed encourages leaders to move quickly along a midline path, to scramble to react to developing situations, to be available to people’s requests and needs, and to try to keep up with ever-deepening piles of work to be done. Technology also encourages this. We can be connected to work 24/7.

Topic: Labor
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We’re inundated with nutritional information for healthy eating in order to maintain well-flowing arteries, high-functioning organs and a generally healthy body. Most is common sense, things our parents taught us. Eat fruits and vegetables. OK, we didn’t know it was the lycopene in the tomatoes that made them so healthy, but we did know tomatoes were good for us. We are also highly informed on maintaining healthy hearts, bones and muscles with exercise, supplements and alternative therapies like acupuncture and massage.

While donating blood at the American Red Cross recently, it was viscerally clear to me that I am what I eat. The contents of that blood was a reflection of all the choices I had made about what to put into my body—the healthy food and the junk food, and the low-fat veggies and the fatty cheeses. It was also clear to me that the contents of that blood determines, in part, my health and vitality. So I choose every day how healthy and functional I want to be.

It also struck me that the same is true for my mind. I am what I think. The contents of my mind is a reflection of all the choices I make about what I put into it. And the contents of my mind determines my overall health and vitality. In this way too, I choose every day how healthy and functional I want to be. And so do you.

If an assessment was done on your mind today, what would the results be? Is your mind a vibrant picture of health—supple and pulsing with life and energy? Or is it atrophying in places from too much focus on one area of your life. Is it thriving or suffering? Possibly suffering from an over-focus on work, or thriving from a balance of work and leisure, from judgment and frustration with small daily events, or thriving with a focus on gratitude for all the blessings present to each one of us every day, or from an abundance of mental and verbal chatter, or thriving with time and space for solitude and silence?

Mind Nutrition Guideposts

As leaders, how do we maintain healthy minds (not brains, but minds, the seat of our consciousness)? Again, this is not new information—we already know it. The opportunity is in how we actually use and practice it, and build healthy mental habits.

Here are some tips:

  • Exercise your mind. Keep your mind facile and growing. Be curious. Let your interests guide your discovery and learning. Do not let your innate need to "know" or to "be right" get in the way of your learning. Challenge yourself to think beyond your current thinking. Tone your mind; no flabby thinking allowed.
  • Feed your mind positive thoughts. Are you listening to talk radio, for example? if so, stop. It is junk food for the mind.
  • Be intentional about what you feed your mind. Practice gratitude, being aware of and thankful for the many things you do have. When focused on what you don’t have, that is all you’ll see.
  • Focus on what you do have and you’ll ride a wave of peaceful gratitude into your day. It is very easy for the human mind to run amok, mired in the negative aspects of life. Don’t let it happen to you.
  • Keep it peaceful. Be a "non-anxious presence." In the face of others’ distress, do not absorb it. It has been said when your dog jumps down the well the least helpful thing you can do is jump down after him. You will be most healthy and most effective in any situation when you remain distinct from it, yet connected in a helpful way to it. So when the drama alarms go off in your office (you know the ones), don your oxygen mask first, breathe deeply of the clean pure air, and then step in to assist others. And find ways to remain peaceful in an anxious world.
  • Take daily booster vitamins. Spend a few minutes every morning super-charging your mind with clarity, intent for the day and a clear plan for how you will move through the day. Clarity boosts everything. Nourish your mind and your body. You will find your ability to reach your potential as a leader, and as a human being, richly enhanced.
Barbara Osterman, founder and owner of Human Solutions LLC, is a business leadership consultant and cultural catalyst. She can be reached at 585-586-1717 and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . This article appeared in Business Strategies Magazine, February 2004.
Topic: Labor
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Are you getting all the information and feedback you need to lead your organization effectively? Unless you work in an extraordinary organization, the answer is an emphatic "No."

In most organizations, there are the "undiscussables: the items that everyone knows exist, yet do not feel free to talk about in a way that they could actually provide a resolution. For example, the boss is erratic in his emotions, so people tiptoe around him and check in with his close associates to determine whether "today is a good day to approach him." Or, two of the department heads are engaged in a long-running feud, so we know not to bring an issue up with one in the other’s presence.

While teaching a graduate business school course in Ethics in Business, I discovered that these twenty-something students, working during the day and attending classes at night, could not see the possibility of raising difficult issues for discussion and resolution. In case study review after case study review, their proposed solutions to sticky ethical issues omitted forthright, straight-shooting conversations with the people involved. “Why are direct conversations not an option?” I finally asked them. Their reply floored me (then – now, after researching it further, I find it quite common). It was not considered team play to raise sticky issues. They did not want to be perceived as anything other than team players, which to them meant holding their tongues on any issue that might cause distress or embarrassment to themselves or others. They did not want to be perceived as heretics for speaking against the party line. Even if ethical lines were crossed, people were being treated unfairly, or they, themselves, suffered.

Do leaders know that the "team" definition has been bastardized in this way? They may not. There is a condition that Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, calls "CEO Disease," the information vacuum around a leader when people withhold important (and usually unpleasant) information. It may be for fear of the leader’s anger, or it may be fed by the instinct to please the person we report to.

So consider that you may be receiving only the positive feedback, and that the negative is withheld when information flows upward. When the feedback is about the leader’s own behavior and performance, the problem worsens.

What do you do to counteract this tendency? Robert Eckert, CEO of Mattel, instructs us, “As you go to work, your top responsibility should be to build trust.” As the leader, you set the tone of the organization, and you determine the culture through your actions and your values. It is up to you to make it safe for people to share their opinions and feedback to improve the organization, no matter what it is (when delivered respectfully).

What does a high-trust organization look like? It has these characteristics:

  • People talk straight and confront the real issues – there are no undiscussables
  • Accountability is high – trust grows when people are reliable and deliver what they commit to
  • People share credit abundantly
  • Innovation and creativity prevail
  • Mistakes are considered to be a means of learning
  • There is real communication and real collaboration
  • Energy levels are high and positive
  • Information is shared openly and frequently

Consider that, as a leader, it is one of your key roles to create this environment of trust and openness. Business results depend on it.

Jim, a driven, dedicated leader, has encountered poor performance throughout the organization he leads. His first attempts to address this focused solely on the work. Instinct drove him to try harder, control more and increase the volume of his voice and actions. He commanded, threatened and cajoled people to shape up. That had little to no impact. Jim, at the end of his rope, decided to try an entirely new approach, one that focused on the changes he himself needed to make in order to increase team performance. He shifted to an approach of collaboration and inquiry, while maintaining an unwavering focus on goals. He learned that culture has significant influence on people’ ability and desire to perform. He learned to make it safe for people to discuss the "undiscussables." He found that people became more engaged and felt more valued, and that their performance automatically increased, their attitudes improved and they contributed ideas and creativity at higher levels. Performance reached an all-time high and goals were met and exceeded.

Begin to discuss the "undiscussables." Your business results depend on it.

Barbara Osterman, founder and owner of Human Solutions LLC, is a business leadership consultant and cultural catalyst. She can be reached at 585-586-1717 and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . This article appeared in Business Strategies Magazine, February 2004.
Topic: Labor
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Outsourcing abroad of both manufactured goods and services has become very popular over the years. However, primarily due to the “jobless recovery,” this practice recently has received a great deal of negative attention. In an effort to gain an understanding of the impact of outsourcing, policymakers and others are asking a number of questions — many of which are answered here.

Topic: Labor
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