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The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Give yourself a career reality check

By Sharon Aschaiek

It's often said nowadays that common sense isn't so common. And judging by the growing phenomenon of workers putting in longer and harder hours at the expense of their personal lives and well being, promoted by a management mentality that equates quality with quantity, it seems this statement isn't too far off the mark.
At last week's The Power Within -- Ignite the Spirit speaker conference, Jack Welch, former General Electric CEO, shares his views on management techniques.

Last Wednesday showed more and more people recognize the folly of this work style. About 5,000 careerists filled a meeting room in the South Building of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre for an earful of life wisdom at The Power Within -- Ignite the Spirit speaker conference, the creme de la creme of motivational speaker events.

The messages at the conference, which cost $329 per person, may have been familiar, but it's the way they were delivered, eloquently, passionately and concentrated into one day, and the almost palpable energy of open-mindedness in the room, that made this event meaningful for most.

"First impressions take two seconds," declared communications expert Nicholas Boothman. "When you like someone, you tend to see the best in them; when you don't, you see the worst."

Boothman, who has written How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less and How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds or Less, says first impressions and a good attitude are most critical when taking your product to market. And you can't help but believe a man whose sense of humour is as whimsical as his red shoes!

Remember these three things to make a favourable first impression:

1. Establish eye contact. You can nail this one by making sure to learn the eye colour of each person you meet.

2. Smile. Look in the mirror each morning and repeat the word "great" until, inevitably, you start to laugh. The next time you meet someone, mutter "great" under your breath first and it'll trigger that earlier mirth.
Stress expert Loretta LaRoche uses her trademark impersonations to stress the importance of living with good humour.

3. Have open body language. Make sure your heart is geared in the direction of person you are talking to -- this will create a more open climate for discussion.

Finally, Boothman says, train yourself to become an effective conversationalist.

"Questions are the sparkplugs of the conversations," he says, advising the audience to stick to queries that start with the five Ws -- Who, Where, Why, What and When -- for open-ended answers.

Onto work-life balance, which becomes ever more elusive as the pace of work continues to speed up.

"It's a myth to believe that working longer hours at a frantic pace makes you more productive," says Cheryl Richards, a renowned life coach and bestselling author of Take Time for Your Life, Life Makeovers and Stand Up for Your Life.

Richardson's 10 Workplace Rules for the 21st Century outline how to stop work from railroading your life and take control of your career. It includes tips such as establishing a working week of reasonable hours, taking lunch every day, scheduling "uninterrupted time" everyday where distractions such as e-mail and voice mail are put on hold, and creating and committing to an "Absolute Yes List" that includes your top five priorities at work.

"When you try to juggle 10 things, you don't do any one thing effectively," she says.

Two hours of serious discussion and copious note taking then dissolved into gut-wrenching giggles with Loretta LaRoche's hilarious take on stress management.

With her well-known irreverent sense of humour, the stress expert mocked people who go on and on about what they should be doing -- which she calls "shoulding on yourself." Better yet are those who complain about things they must get done -- an activity that provides no relief which she labels "musterbating."

LaRoche kept the audience fighting to hold back tears of laughter with her trademark impersonations of workplace stereotypes, including those who compete with each other on who has more work to do, and those approaching retirement and moan about having "just four years left."

"Fun takes practice, like riding a bicycle. We've forgotten how to have fun," she says. "We're all gonna die. Once we realize that, we should make sure we're having a damn good time!"

After the lunch break, Robin Sharma, author of The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari and his latest, The Saint, The Surfer and the CEO, addressed dealing with change, and how to prevent fear from holding you back at work and in life.

"I truly believe that everyone on the planet is destined for greatness," he sais solemnly. "There are no extra people on the planet."

He says that to be a good leader, you must avoid following the crowd and not be afraid to be original.

"What destroys business is fear," he said. "Visit the places that frighten you. Your fears are your gateways to growth."

He said you can also inject meaning into your life and get ahead by spending 15 minutes a day dreaming, reading great works 30 minutes a day, devoting yourself to a holy hour every day of yoga, meditating, etc., doing something difficult every two years such as skydiving or learning to cook, and thinking about your personal legacy.

W. Mitchell, author of the bestselling It's Not What Happens To You, It's What You Do About It, moved the crowd with his personal account of hardship and soul searching, first after a motorcycle accident left him with massive and disfiguring burns, and then after a plane crash left him paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair.

Yet embracing a life-loving attitude helped Mitchell overcome his situation to to co-found a metal-casting company that employs thousands, and now, to become one of the top keynote speakers in the world.

"Easy doesn't do it. People who take it easy are on the sidelines," he said. "What you focus on is what you get back."

The day closed with keynote speaker Jack Welch, renowned former CEO of General Electric, who, with Report on Business Television's The Bottom Line host Michael Vaughan moderating, told the crowd with characteristic feistiness how he managed to turn the bureaucratic giant into a dynamic, extremely profitable company.

He held up the management philosophy at GE as a paradigm for other companies, where 20% are the top producers, 70% hold the company together, and 10% are at the bottom. A good leader will let this bottom segment know where they stand, so they can improve. Otherwise, they must be dropped.

"If you lead people, and they don't know where they stand, you stink as a leader. It's your obligation (to let them know)," said Welch, whose 20-year experience at GE is detailed in his bestselling book, Straight from the Gut.

Free enterprise, he said, and governments that promote it, are what leads to the free flow of ideas -- and being the most innovative player in the market is what matters most.

"Winning is good and losing stinks," he said to rousing applause. "We need a society where people can dream and grow and enrich themselves and their families. We've seen those other systems, like socialism, and they don't work. This works."

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