Last week we talked about how employers can get some better brainstorming out of their employees. It's their job to make sure they're motivating employees to think differently and bring it all to the table, but does that mean you're off the hook?



You should be the one who wants to bring the best ideas to your team, so do a little reflecting on your brainstorming strategy. If it's not working, it could be better. Honestly, even if it's working, it could still be better.

Here are some places to start.

1) Question-storm

It's easy to pressure yourself to jump to a solution, a "final" idea, the answer to all of your problems. But rather than pushing your brainstorm to a "product," embrace the process. Kick start your brain by getting it warmed up. Instead of working on a list of solutions, work on a list of questions. Every question you could possibly imagine related to what you're brainstorming. Once you hit a wall, push past it and come up with more questions.

You know how sometimes when you're stuck on a problem, the solution comes to you while you're showering, or driving to work, or doing some other unrelated task? The point of avoiding the "solutions" right off the bat is to keep your brain from strolling down the usual, worn down path, and instead spreading out your thoughts, making new connections.

2) Figure out what works best for you.

No boss is going to be able to decipher what it means if you're silent during a brainstorming session. You could be deep in thought or contemplating that movie you saw over the weekend. Evaluate the success of these sessions afterwards – are you an effective brainstormer in a group, or do you need some time to yourself.

Chances are you need a little time to let the ideas simmer. We've all been gung-ho about an idea and then later wish we'd given it more serious thought, so why not spend some time up front evaluating your ideas?

Tell your boss what works for you, and you'll find they're happy to make their team as effective as possible at brainstorming. Who knows, maybe it'll help out other, less self-aware coworkers, at the same time.

3) Walk It Off

Are you noticing a theme? The key to a successful brainstorm is to give people (and brains) some time to themselves after being bombarded with other people's ideas.

After a regular session, go out on a solo walk for half an hour. Walking gets your blood pumping just enough for your brain to get a little oxygen but without exhausting yourself. Plus, the movement of walking is involuntary enough that you don't have to pay attention, but still keeps the main part of your brain occupied so the rest of it can wander.

How do these suggestions all sound to you? Give one a try!

Posted: 5/3/2017 9:45:05 AM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments

You hired your people for their brains. They have the ability to develop great ideas and the skills to execute and organize all the bits and pieces to bring that idea to fruition.So when the time comes for the team to brainstorm, as it inevitably does with each big project, why is it feeling a little forced? Maybe even a little stale?


Brain power is not a never-ending source, and if you're running a pretty high-octane ship, there's a good chance the traditional "brainstorming session" just isn't cutting it for your team any more. Lucky for you, it's already a fluid activity so trying something new can't hurt. Whatever you do will bring some fresh ideas to the table, but here are some places to start:

1) Split Into Groups

One of the biggest problems with typical group brainstorming is that success leans towards those who are outgoing. A situation like this doesn't lend itself to introverts providing input, as introverts tend to be more comfortable with observation rather than participation. Quieter people sit back, more confident people speak up. Simple as that.

Breaking into groups gives everyone a fighting chance to have their voice heard. Once solutions and ideas are discussed, one person from each group reports their decisions back to the whole team. It allows everyone to have more of a say rather than ceding the floor to the chatty people, and gives people some time to consider ideas rather than be bombarded with them.

2) Sleep On It

Never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep. Run a standard brainstorming session but rather than ending it there, send everyone home to sleep on it. Tell them to keep a notebook by their bed, and think a little bit as they're falling asleep. Any ideas they have when they wake up can be written down and shared with the group which reconvenes for a short time the next day. While traditional brainstorming sessions leave people feeling rushed about their decisions and wishing they had more time to spend on it, this method allows everyone sufficient time to wander their brainwaves.

3) Ambassador Method

This method turns "splitting into groups" on its head and gives it some more structure. Divide your entire team into two groups to meet for 10 to 15 minutes - one group will brainstorm silently, and the other will discuss aloud (people can choose whichever group they'd like to be in). Each team then spends 5 minutes organizing, refining, and clarifying their ideas as a group, and sends one member to the other team to present their ideas.

After presenting their ideas, the members return with the feedback, and the groups have another round of brainstorming. At this point, anyone can join either group– people may want to switch it up. This back and forth can go on as long as you'd like, but more than three times probably isn't going to get much more of a return.

It's important to have a change of pace or a change of scenery for brainstorming to be effective. So give your employees just that, and spice up your brainstorming style once in a while. You never know what might result!

Posted: 4/19/2017 2:37:19 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments

If you've ever been on an interview, you know the deal. There are standard questions that get asked and you feel like you've got your answers in the bag. You've heard these questions a thousand times, right?


Just because you're familiar with interview questions doesn't mean you should rifle through your mental filing cabinet and pull out the same answer you've given everyone. Some of these questions seem innocent but your answers speak volumes to the hiring managers. Don't mess them up by assuming these are just checkboxes on their question list. They're asking for a reason, so your answer had better be good enough.

Q1: What are your salary requirements?

It seems straightforward, but it can be tricky if you're asking for too much or too little. Nobody wants to be the first to throw out a number, especially early on in the process when you have yet to convince them that you are the perfect fit.  But here's the thing – you both have a number in mind and those numbers are probably (at least a little) different.

If they ask what your current salary is, you should be honest. If asked for the salary you're seeking, say that salary is important but you're really looking for the right role at the right company. If you're pushed to name a specific amount, say that you'll take all components of a compensation package into account (base pay, bonuses, stock, and paid time off), and give a range. Then you won't be nailed to a specific number, and neither side will feel like there isn't a possibility of compromise.

Q2: What will your references say about you?

All positive things. Do not bring up anything negative, even if you think a reference might be a little too honest. You should be calm, collected, and confident in an interview, and your reference probably would not have agreed if they had plans to portray you in a negative light.

Q3: Why do you want to work here? 

This answer needs to be a cornucopia of information and thoughts. Err too much on the "you guys seem like a great team" side and they'll think you're coasting, and spewing facts about the company will make them think you're trying too hard. Don't focus on the perks and salary. Go with an answer that speaks to the company's core values (you read those on their website, right?) – if the company is mission- or cause-based, tell them why you care about it. It doesn't hurt to refer to any past work or projects they've done, but don't go crazy with the details. They want you to fit into the company culture as much as they want you to care about the company, so keep your response as balanced as possible.

Posted: 4/6/2017 10:58:35 AM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments

Getting the interview is the first part. It's a foot in the door, a face-to-face, and Once They Meet You They'll LOVE You, right?! Well, hopefully. Forget about the other people they're interviewing and there's a chance that yes, this meeting will land you the position. Your resume got you a seat at the table, but the interview is still the best way to convey your excitement for the work, your enthusiasm for the company, and your ability to successfully perform the job and fit in with the team. No pressure.


But what do you do if the interviewer isn't lobbing a slew of easy questions at you (hint: this will never happen)? The hardball questions are the real testers, and if you aren't prepared they can throw you for a loop. We've gathered some of the most common "tricky" questions, and have some tips for how to throw back some answers that are sure to impress.

Q1: Why did you leave your last job? 

This one might have an unwanted story behind it, so keep it short, sweet and neutral. Try to avoid saying anything that could be interpreted in a negative way – leave out any comments on your old boss or management and don't mention if you're looking for more money (it's probably assumed that you are). It's fine to admit a company is going through layoffs, but no need to get into specifics. And even if you're looking to climb up the career ladder, saying so might make your prospective employer wonder why you're leaving that company to do so. Pivot the conversation to what excites you about this position and what you think you bring to the table and call this answer a slam dunk.

Q2: Which part of the job sounds the most challenging, and why? 

Lying about your skills will come back to bite you. You and the hiring manager both want you to succeed in this job, so let the employer figure out if your strengths and their biggest needs align. Be honest about what area you could use a little work in and emphasize that you are working to improve in those areas. It'll also let them know if some extra training in certain skills could help you from the get-go.

Q3: What is your biggest weakness?

Sorry, I think "working too hard" is off the table. We all know the answers to these questions are usually just reworded strengths. You're a perfectionist, you work too hard, we get it.

So, think about a way to be specific about, for example, being a perfectionist. Does this mean you are very focused on details when the big picture needs some attention? Maybe you spend a lot of time organizing processes and files during a project when that should happen afterwards. If you "work too hard," admit that your biggest weakness is checking email after you leave the office. We think a good rule of thumb is to avoid the phrase "too much" in your answer (a la "work too much," "pay too much attention to detail") – your version of "too much" and their version of "too much" might be different.

Posted: 4/3/2017 2:02:40 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments

Ever seen one of those movies where someone gets kidnapped and people find a note indicating that the kidnapper demands X amount of money in order for the person to be freed? Picture this: the things being kidnapped are every file, every photo, and every project on your computer. And you have to pay if you ever want to see them again.

It's called cyber-ransom, and it works a little differently than the suspicious typo- and link-ridden emails you know to look out for:


Ransomware is a type of malware that can be picked up from malicious links in emails or drive-by download attacks by visiting certain websites. Once it infects your computer, all of your personal files are hidden behind a virtually impenetrable wall of encryption. The only way to get access back? Pay them.

Cyber-ransom is a relatively new threat to Americans: previously, digital crimes like these were much more common in Russia or Europe, but tides and have turned and attention has veered towards the U.S. According to a report by Radware, 49% of businesses fell victim to cyber-ransom attacks in 2016.

More and more businesses are also at risk of what's known as DoS/DDoS extortion, where a company's website is overwhelmed by hackers bombarding the site with data requests, forcing the site to shut down. Companies have to pay a big fee if they want the attack to be stopped and the site up and running again. This doesn't just put companies at risk, but also consumers – the attack also includes data theft, meaning sensitive consumer information is also up for grabs.

Now, if you're part of the 40% of businesses who don't have a plan in place when a cyber ransom incident occurs, you might be wondering: what can we do?

1. Make sure software is up to date.
2. Plan ahead – would you be willing to pay if your system was attacked?
3. Be prepared to remove infected machines from your network.
4. Train staff on company practices for cyber security (don't open unknown links, etc.)
5. Backup data daily to off-network or off-site location.
6. Split up your network so an attack cannot affect the entire company.

Being aware of the problem is already a step ahead of many – keep a close eye on your network and you'll at least catch a problem early!


Posted: 3/29/2017 3:37:09 PM by Amanda Wahl | with 0 comments