Start the New Year off Right

Okay, you’re probably back at work now and struggling to get back into the swing of it. Here are three ideas to make sure you swing rightly.

My parents had a book by Dale Carnegie called How to Win Friends and Influence People.  I read it and it was a great book. One of the things he said in it was: ‘There is no sweeter sound to a person’s ear than the sound of his own name.’

That’s the first way to start the New Year off right: Use people’s names (if you don’t already). It encourages them and builds good working relationships.

The Positivity Principle is the second way to start the New Year off right. Not only are people with a positive approach happier, healthier and live longer lives than gloomy people, but they are also more popular — most people would rather hang out with a positive person than an old party pooper. A positive approach makes your day and everyone else’s that much brighter.

The Boomerang Principle is the third way to start the New Year off right. You know that if you smile at someone, they smile back. Try giving a compliment to someone and watch what happens. No, you’re not fishing for a compliment yourself, although they’ll be more willing to compliment you. The point is, you’re building positive working relationships.

So there you have three quick and easy things to do to start the New Year off right!


How to make your New Year’s Resolution Succeed

Most New Year’s Resolutions go the way of the Dodo. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make one, though. When you schlumph along doing the same old, same old, you stagnate, which surely isn’t what you want. That just grinds you into a rut and the only difference between a rut and a grave is the dimensions (borrowed from Ellen Glasgow, that one).

So, to keep improving, commit to making some positive changes. Then, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said: Once you make a decision, the Universe conspires to make it happen.

Make your resolution powerful by writing it down. Research consistently shows that people who write down their goals are far more likely to achieve them that people who just think about what they’d like to achieve.

Write your resolution down in clear words and put it where you’ll see it. Go ahead — Stick it on the bathroom mirror or put it on your bedside table where you can see it before you fall asleep and when you wake up. The more you see it, the more it imbeds itself into your subconscious, which makes it easier for the Universe to conspire to help you make it happen. Plus, when events conspire against you, as they do, having your goal in sight means you won’t lose sight of it.

Make your resolution realistic. Not too easy or you won’t bother and not too hard so you don’t give up before you begin. Go for something you can achieve with a bit of effort. Make sure you have enough background information and knowledge to succeed at it and that you’re willing to pay the price to carry it out.


Make your resolution a doing resolution, not a being resolution. In other words, don’t resolve to be trim, taut and terrific but resolve to lift weights three times a week and go for a 40-minute walk every day before work. Then stick to your commitment.

Warning: You may run into sabotage from yourself or from your loved ones.

We’ve already agreed that you won’t make your resolution so easy you do it effortlessly and automatically. Building a new habit takes time and effort. Remind yourself of why you set your goal in the first place. Let someone you know and respect who has already achieved it be your inspiration. Turn your self-talk into your biggest motivator and make sure it’s encouraging and supportive. Messed up one day? One week? Don’t worry. Hop back into your newly-forming-but-still-fragile habits. Motivation gets you started. Habits keep you going. So let me say it again: Stick to your commitment.

When it’s others who seem determined to put you back in your box, remember that it’s much easier for them when you’re predictable. Your new habits might unbalance what they’ve come to expect and feel comfortable with. So don’t make them too uncomfortable by too big a change. You might want to tell them what you’re doing and why so lessen their resistance and maybe even garner their support. And make sure your resolution doesn’t require them to make any accommodations, adjustments or changes.

There you have it: The low-down on how to make your New Year’s Resolution succeed. Over to you — Go for it!


Christmas Down Under

Here’s a little wish for the last post of 2016: Let’s stop copying the Northern Hemisphere, particularly with our holidays and our seasons. And since it’s almost Christmas, let’s talk about how to have an Ossie Christmas.

A lot of us have already farewelled the hot turkey dinner and moved to a mixed grill on the barby on the beach or by the pool. Me, I like a cold buffet.

What about farewelling Father Christmas, too? Poor man must get heat stroke down here with all those heavy clothes. Let’s adopt the Swag Man. He can wear a brown Akubra, a blue singlet, long baggy shorts (pulled up high enough for modesty please) and thongs. He can spend the year under Uluru with his merry dingos until Christmas, when he sets off in his big four-wheel drive to deliver presents.

And what about farewelling some songs? I’m dreaming of a Brown Christmas doesn’t have the same ring to it as dreaming of a White Christmas, but what about Deck the Sheds and A True Blue Aussie Christmas, maybe sung to a traditional tune unless we can come up with our own tune, and I don’t see why we can’t.

I’ve had a bush Christmas tree for years, basically a dead branch that I spray paint white or gold and decorate. Last year I made a bush wreath for the front door, another dead branch sprayed white and hung upside down and decorated. One year, I picked some bright red kangaroo paws, popped them in a vase and put tinsel all over them. Beautiful, until the cats discovered it.

Happily, there is a growing selection of Australian Christmas tree decorations, too. I couldn’t resist a kookaburra wearing a swag hat with corks – corny but cute, and a kangaroo with a star to use as a tree topper, and a joey in a boot.

Really, now, why can’t we come up with a lot more of our own ways of doing things, eh?

‘Ave a bonza Chrissy everyone! Back in the New Year!


Five easy steps to a great Christmas

Are you winding down already for the silly season? Probably. Given that there are only 11 days until Christmas, I’ve got a five step plan you can begin with your next coffee break. It brings sound management planning into ‘the real world’ — work-life blending, as it were. Following the plan will keep you not only sane over this holiday season, but help you enjoy it to the utmost.

  1. Decide what you want to achieve, your Big Goal, your Guiding Vision. It might be, for example, To have a wonderful, relaxing, joyous Christmas season or To bring cheer wherever you go. Keep that in the back of your mind at all times and refer to it when you need to decide what to do next or how do do something, when you need to make a choice between alternatives, or even when you need to remember to bite your tongue. Write your Guiding Vision in the centre of a sheet of paper and draw a circle around it.
  2. Brainstorm the main areas you need to manage in order to achieve your vision, for example: Special Meals, Community or School involvement, ‘Me Time’, Family & Friends Time, Presents. Write each area you want to manage around your Guiding Vision.
  3. Now quickly jot down a To Do list underneath each main area. For Special Meals, it might be Menus and Shopping. You might subdivide Menus into Pre-preparation and Last Minute Preparation and Shopping into Buy Ahead, Pre-order and Buy Last Minute.
  4. Decide when you need to do each of these and diarise it electronically or draw up a weekly plan on a piece of paper.
  5. Follow your plan. Now you’re fully on top of everything and raring to go!

And here’s how to wish everyone a great Christmas in three languages:

  • American English: Merry Christmas
  • British English: Happy Christmas
  • Australian English: ‘Ave a bonza Chrissie, mate!

Impressive, isn’t it?

The Case for Quotas

Quotas or the merit principle? I’ve seen persuasive cases made for each. But some recent long term meta-research sways me towards the case for quotas.

Traditional measures to increase organisational diversity have failed. Mandatory diversity programs haven’t worked and may make matters worse (people learn the lines and ignore the sentiment behind them). Recruitment testing hasn’t worked (people can ignore the results). Performance ratings haven’t worked (women and people from minority groups tend to receiver poorer reviews whatever their performance). Robust grievance procedures haven’t worked (people don’t trust them and therefore use them only when they’re desperate; complaints drop and organisations conclude there is no problem).

What does work?  Increasing contact with disadvantaged groups works. ‘Gosh, they’re not so bad after all. Wonder what the fuss was about?’

Quotas are one way to increase contact with people from disadvantaged groups. So are formal mentoring and sponsoring programs aimed at people from minority groups. Cross training and job rotation work when they involve contact between different groups of people. High-level diversity task forces that examine the causes of low diversity and find ways to increase diversity work, too.

Compliance isn’t the answer. Steps to protect the organisation from complaints and litigation aren’t the answer. Stealth seems to be a more effective way to increase diversity.

If you want to read more about this study and these and other measures that increase diversity, check out Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev’s article, Why Diversity Programs Fail, in the July-August 2016 edition of Harvard Business Review.

How to prevent people from lying to you

People lie. Some people tell the odd white lie; some lie so they don’t have to tell a difficult truth (to themselves or someone else); some people lie habitually.

Most people don’t become habitual liars because telling a lie, at least for personal gain, causes the amygdala, which lies (no pun intended) deep in the brain, makes them feel bad about the lie. But the more lies a person tells, the more the ‘feel-bad-about-the-lie’ response fades. As that response fades, it becomes easier, and easier, and easier, to lie. And the bigger the lies become.

Lying is a slippery slope. Habitual liars become habitual liars because they lie a lot.

You may know an habitual liar. It might someone you work with, someone you negotiate with, someone you ‘meet’ on the Internet, a neighbour or even a friend.

You probably can’t do much to stop a chronic liar lying to you. But you may be able to head off other people’s lies.

Here are two easy ways:

  • Tell the truth yourself. Since people tend to respond in kind, truth-telling encourages truth-telling.
  • Get to know people, because people are less likely to lie to someone they know, like and trust than they are to a stranger.

Here are three slightly more complicated, but also effective, ways to ward off lies:

  • When you make an assumptive statement or ask an assumptive question, put a negative, or pessimistic, spin on it. When the spin goes against the interests of the other person, they’ll disagree with it. When it’s the truth, they’re like to agree with it rather than tell an outright lie by contradicting it.The reason this works is that people tend to agree with assumptions and assumptive questions, which means they’ll agree with an incorrect assumption when it’s in their interests to do so. But when the assumption is incorrect and goes against their interests, people are willing to disagree with it and set the record straight.
  • Don’t let spin and articulate avoidance fool you. Inarticulate honesty is always preferable to articulate lies and confuscations.
  • When you as a question or make an assumptive statement, make sure the question is answered and the assumption isn’t artfully avoided.Bamboozling people with eloquence and avoiding answering questions are two other ways people skirt the truth. To make sure that doesn’t happen to you, remember your assumptive comments and questions and make sure they’re addressed. Write them down if you need to and don’t move on until you have your answer.

Encouraging the truth isn’t only in your own best interests. It also helps others by making the slippery slope of lying harder to slip down.