Employee Recognition

You’re the boss. How would your employees rate you as a boss/supervisor in terms of praising them?

Now ask yourself: On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate yourself in praising and rewarding hard work and achievement? Are you in the negative numbers?

Employees can recognize, very easily, insincere praise from a superior or the ineffectiveness of those recognition programs instituted to foster performance. Do away with those programs and simply take control by following some of the steps below.

Just Do It!
Not only do employees like to hear that they have done something well, they NEED it. The longer you wait, the less value it has when you finally do mention it. It is never too soon to give them a big pat on the back.

When it comes to employee recognition, take the time to give them specific information about their achievement. Don’t just tell them that they did a good job; explain to them how important their role was and how the effort benefits not only thumbnut the company, as well. They will appreciate it and it also helps your employee learn exactly what to do the next time.

Don’t Cry Wolf
Don’t praise for the sake of praising. Employees can see right through you when you falsely give them attention, so stay in your office if that’s what you’re doing all the time. Constant false recognition fails because when you really say something that you mean it will have much less value to the employee.

Go Fishing
Don’t spend all your time looking for things that are wrong with your employees. This puts employees on the defensive and actually makes them fail. Spend some time catching them doing good things. This creates positive energy and makes them succeed.

Don’t Play Construction Worker
Constructive criticism has its place, but not while you are praising your employee. If you tell them “It was great that you did such and such, BUT next time…” They only hear the latter, what they should be doing next time and they walk away feeling like a failure, not appreciated. We all need improvement, but save those discussions for another time.

Praise Failure
You’re probably asking yourself: “Huh?”
Well, let’s say your employee(s) have spent days or weeks putting together a plan or working on a project that eventually results in a not-so-fruitful result. The effort that they spent should not go unrecognized. Make sure that everyone involved knows that you appreciate all the hard work that they put into it. Defeat brings everyone down and it’s your duty for the good of the company to bring their spirits back up.

Yeah, pizza lunches are great (not everyone wants pizza, though) and birthday parties can be fun (not everyone wants cake, either), but a personalized gift goes much further. However, a gift to a local coffee shop isn’t always best if the employee doesn’t drink coffee, so take the time to pick something meaningful to the employee. They will appreciate the unexpected token of recognition.

Don’t Play Favorites
The ones that work extra hard or struggle are the sometimes the ones that get ignored or often criticized. So balance your attention and praise everyone equally. Look harder to find good things in the less than stellar employees. A bit of praise could be all they need to skyrocket them to greater things.

Employees are naturally competitive and we all want that “promotion.” Create a situation where employees can share their achievements or knowledge. When employees praise each other they learn from one another. Sharing knowledge fosters grow and patience with one another and creates a better environment for everyone. As for the anti-social ones that are afraid and stay away from this or think they are too good for it… send them to therapy.

Understand Your Employee
Everyone is different. Remember what works for someone doesn’t work for the other. Some like public recognition while others are embarrassed by it. Understanding how to adjust individual recognition will produce the best results for each employee.

Worthy Praise
Be smart. Know who is truly responsible for the success of a goal, especially when there are several hands in play. Just because one person is the leader of a project does not mean they are the ones that deserve the most recognition. Some employees are afraid to say anything when they are cleaning up their leader’s “mess” and making sure that they look good. When there is a team involved make sure you know who did what and who did not. Praise accordingly.

Be Loyal
Loyalty to a company is hard for someone to have when a boss isn’t loyal to their employees. We all want to grow as a company and want our employees to stick around. When you are wishy-washy about your employees ie: being supportive one moment and critical the next, or even worse, terminating their employment without warning, creates instability and reduces loyalty to the company. Your employees just might wonder, “Wow, I could be next.”

An open door policy is always a plus. Some companies aren’t big enough to have an H.R. department, therefore, an employee should be able to speak up and be allowed to have a voice. An employee should not be afraid to ask for help or discuss something that needs “fixing.” Often employees will not speak up because they are afraid of possible repercussions to themselves. Instead, listen to them and work with them to resolve the situation. Be aware that the same matter may be affecting other members of your staff as well. Thank them for coming forward.

Finally, a lot of employers think that employee recognition and praising can be seen as a weakness and are afraid to to do it, but recognizing achievement and hard work is good for you as an employer and strengthens the work environment. When you do a better job at it your employees typically perform better. Your place of business will be one big happy family and everyone will want to work there.

The more you praise, the more your employees achieve and that gives you even more to praise.

Posted in Business, Education, Management, Uncategorized

14 years old and building a car

Meet Kathyrn, a 14 year old girl who lives in Mount Pleasant, Michigan

Meet Kathyrn, a 14 year old girl who lives in Mount Pleasant, Michigan

Kathyrn is working on a building her own sporty little car to just drive around. Who else do you know that is taking on such a project of this magnitude? By 16 years of age she plans on driving it out of her garage. With the help of the George Lucas Education Foundation and Edutopia, Kathryn is learning how to put together this car of hers. Learning what mechanics have done for years, like welding and machining as well as working with electrical systems she loves what she does and is applying what she learns to the problems she faces in school.

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“When I first started school, like all through elementary school really, I wasn’t very good at math at all. Like I had so many issues, like we’d do flashcards every night and I’d still just completely not understand it. And so like as I got older, it started to be a problem, you know, ’cause you can’t really pass school without knowing math,” says Kathyrn

“Then I started on this car, and I could take lessons I’d learned from the car and how I’d used it mathematically to do and solve the problems in the classroom.”

George Lucas asks “Why can’t school be engaging all of the time?”

“Traditional education can be extremely isolating — the curriculum is often abstract and not relevant to real life, teachers and students don’t usually connect with resources and experts outside of the classroom, and many schools operate as if they were separate from their communities.”

“Project-based learning, student teams working cooperatively, children connecting with passionate experts, and broader forms of assessment can dramatically improve student learning. New digital multimedia and telecommunications can support these practices and engage our students. And well-prepared educators are critical.”

Click the links to learn more about George Lucas and Edutopia.

Posted in Education, Schools, Uncategorized

Workout for free.

Free workout courtesy of Citibike program

Free workout courtesy of Citibike program.

When I visited Barcelona last August I loved that the city was filled with these red bicycles that was part of BICING, a bicycle sharing program. The program consists of more than 400 stations to lend and return 6,000 bicycles throughout the city. The program is for residents and they pay €30 Euros per year. The first 30 minutes are at no extra cost, but the cost is added per every additional 30 minutes at €.70 Euros. Bicing was started back in 2007.

So, introduced over Memorial Day weekend, May 27, 2013 is Citibike. A similar bike sharing program started in Manhattan and Brooklyn with 6,000 bikes and 330 docking stations. The program will expand to 10,000+ bicycles and into Queens. (Hey, what about the Bronx? Guess they figure people will just find a way to rig the docking stations to get them for free in the Bronx. Staten Island has been long forgotten for anything. Oh. well…)

The cost for the use of Citibike is 9.95 per every 30 minutes and $4 overcharge per 30-minutes during a 24-hour access and 7 day pass. If you wish to be a member it will cost you a whopping $95 dollars. At the member rate, the trips are unlimited 45-minute trips. (You can get all the details on the Citibike web site). The price is high for what it’s worth in my opinion, but I suppose if you want to save some cash and time during rush hour, it could prove to be cost effective if you’re considering a cab ride

My workout

So here is the best part about Citibike…

I haven’t been to a gym in ages and, in fact, avoid them because most of them are just stuffy, sweaty and, needless to say, quite boring, too. Something about them just smells. So I figure, why not use these citibikes for a free workout? I can get a free workout if I simply add rollers to the rear wheel of any of these Citibikes as they are not tied down to anything. The rear wheels spin freely. Forget the SPIN class and grab your iPods or even your iPad (there is a basket and strap that you can use at the front of the bike). Strap the iPad to the basket and watch your favorite NetFlix series. Breaking Bad is my current favorite.

So grab your rollers, some water, your technology of choice, maybe some friends and head down to your local free gym courtesy of Citibank. Even the latest issue of the New Yorker might be suggesting this workout

Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Posted in Uncategorized

What would a school look like if students designed it themselves?

The importance of education has always been an issue with parents. How to go about it and how do we ensure that our kids have an all around experience in learning? What would a school look like if students designed it themselves?

Sugata Mitra wants children to participate in self-organized learning. He wants kids to be in environments where they are given the space to explore their own curiosities along with peers and, therefore, teach each other.

Mitra makes a point and states that the outdated school system as it exists today was created 300 years ago in the British Empire. “It’s quite fashionable to say the education system is broken,” says Mitra. “It’s not, It’s wonderfully constructed — it’s just that we don’t need it anymore. It’s outdated.”

Sumatra Mitra won the 2013 TED Prize for his innovation in education.

In 2011, there preceded The Independent Project that showed this type of “self-education to be quite successful.

Initiated by Sam Levin a 12th grade student at Monument Mountain Regional High School, a public school in Massachusetts, the Principal, Marianne Young agreed to a pilot program that allowed students their own learning environment. Not only was it successful, it also enriched the students outside of the traditional learning environment we know today. Isn’t that what we want for our kids, to grow in all aspects of their lives? One student learned to play piano while others endeavored to become writers. The project is a demonstration of “effort, learning and a mastery of skills.”

Sergio, one of the students of the program says, “School has always been a big problem for me. If not for this program, I don’t know if i’d be graduating, I don’t know where’d I’d be. This has really been my savior and got me through the last two years of High School.”

After the first semester, an evaluation was undertaken and changes were made to the model. Now several schools in the country have their own Independent Project. Sam Levin is now a student at the University of Oxford.

Opposed by some and supported by others, watch how kids in The Independent Project are motivated to learn their own passions. If students designed their own school… it would look like this:

Read more at:
The Independent Project,
The Independent Project White Paper (PDF),
Sumatra  Mitra: A School in the cloud

Posted in Education, Music, Schools

Recycled Orchestra – Landfill Harmonic

As I get older, I realize that certain things aren’t as easy to learn as when I was a child. I started taking guitar lessons a few months ago alongside my two children. My son Christian, who was born with “perfect pitch” is a natural. Not only can he tell what note is played on a piano without looking, he can decipher which notes are being played in any given chord (three or more notes played together). Now that’s a gift! Christian can tune a guitar with the built-in tuner in his head. My daughter, Gabriela, is developing “relative pitch,” which means she will be able to play notes based on sound, but not be able to name them specifically. Pretty cool, huh?.

As for me, well that’s a different story. I learned to read music and played tenor saxophone when I was in Junior High School. My school, Angelo Patri, I.S. 137, was one of the few that was invited to perform at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. We played two pieces and I remember it being incredibly amazing. I like to consider that the highlight of my short-lived musical career.

At age 47 it’s hard for me to play chords on a guitar. I watch my kids do it with such ease and without much practice. Ah, to be young again. I wanted to learn when I was young, but always thought I didn’t have the ability. As it turns out, most people do have some sense of musical ability and coordination to learn to play an instrument. One of the challenges while growing up was being able to afford an instrument. That didn’t come easy since, growing up poor, my parents were doing their best to put food on the table and clothing on the backs of eight children. Needless to say, purchasing an instrument was a luxury that we could not afford, not to mention lessons.

Enter Landfill Harmonic and The Recycled Orchestra. Landfill Harmonic is an upcoming feature-length documentary about a remarkable musical orchestra in Paraguay, where the musicians play instruments made from trash.

Cateura, Paraguay is a town essentially built on top of a landfill. Garbage collectors browse the trash for sellable goods, and children are often at risk of getting involved with drugs and gangs. When music teacher Fabio set up a music program for the kids of Cateura, they soon have more students than they have instruments.

That changed when Szaran and Fabio were brought something they had never seen before: a violin made out of garbage. Today, there’s an entire orchestra of assembled instruments, now called The Recycled Orchestra.

The film, Landfill Harmonic, shows how trash and recycled materials can be transformed into beautiful sounding musical instruments, but more importantly, it brings witness to the transformation of precious human beings.

Growing up in the streets the South Bronx (hey… Al Pacino grew up there and so did Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor), there was plenty of trash in vacant lots (you can enjoy some of the history here). My first bicycle was made of found parts. I never thought I could make musical instruments from trash. To these kids a violin is said to cost more than the house they live in. The children in The Recycled Orchestra music program are certainly inspired by pure geniuses.

You can follow the progress and development of the documentary via their facebook page Landfillharmonicmovie

Posted in Music, Recycle

Easy Halloween Costumes.

Here it is, less than a week to Halloween and I am looking for quick and easy Halloween costumes. Usually I make my own, but with the limited time I may not be able to come up with anything. Sure, Google allows one to do a quick search and find real quick ideas that can be very amusing as well as effective. Several criteria come into play when developing a costume… For instance, if you have makeup left over from the prior years, that’s always a plus. Then there is the expense… you want it to be inexpensive. Then again, I can always wear khaki pants and either a red shirt and go as a Wendy’s employee or blue shirt for a Best Buy employee. HA! Easy huh?

Last night I took my kids out to dinner and so I asked them what they would suggest for me to be. My daughter has decided she will be a vampire this year. Why not? Vampires are always a hit. My son on the other hand was too busy doing homework while having his dinner to join in the conversation. Anyway, my daughter ordered a MYOP which stands for a Make Your Own Pizza. Those who have experienced this particular franchise that offers MYOP will know where we ate. As she made her pizza, she being the quick wit that she is, suddenly realized, “Hey dad, I have a quick and easy costume for you.” Cutting holes in the chef’s hat that she was given as part of her meal, the costume was done in less than a minute.

“Wala!! A Headless Chef.” Talk about easy Halloween costumes.

Total cost: $36 dollars… plus tip. LOL!!

Any other ideas? Feel free to make suggestions.

Posted in Fashion, Food, Holiday, Uncategorized

Flintstones style – Fliz No Pedals bike.

For many years I lived on my bike. As a messenger back in the 80′s I carried a big bag that contained all my deliveries, but with this Flintstone style – Fliz no pedal bike, I couldn’t have possibly carried any packages. I rode my bike into work from the Bronx to lower Manhattan and checked in with my dispatcher as I hit 125th Street to see if i can get a jump on any pickups. The more runs I made the more money I made. Carrying a messenger bag was a necessity.

No pedal Fliz (Flintstone) Bike

No pedal Fliz (Flintstone) Bike

Move forward in time to my racing years and this bike would prove to be a very unsuccessful racing machine. Imagine trying a sprint to the finish at 40+ miles per hour… Impossible! Just cannot happen. Not even the seasoned feet of Fred Flintstone and Barney rubble could power this thing at such speeds. And, what about the hills? Just doesn’t seem like a practical way to get around. With no pedals it means you are walking or running and letting the wheels help you coast the extra push that you give. Therefore, when going uphill you are relying on your own foot power to do the work. There is no low gear to help you make the top of the hill.

For me, living on a traditional bike was easy, but with this Fliz Flintstone no pedal bike, you’re strapped to it around the torso. Therefore, having a quick dinner or a bite to eat would be rather cumbersome.

Honey, can you pass the salt?

Honey, can you pass the salt?

The Fliz bike -- looks great but I wouldn't actually ride it

The Fliz bike -- looks great but I wouldn't actually ride it

As a piece of art I love it, despite the awkwardness. However, it makes me think back to when I was a kid when I used to give rides to the girls on the old-school banana seats. (Remember those?) My question would be, what kind of ride would they be getting with this? OUCH!

Speaking of “OUCH!” The video below demonstrates its use. You will immediately notice that not only are you strapped around the torso, but also your PRIVATES!!! NO WAY!! No thank you. I’ll stick to my pedals.

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Posted in Bicycle, Uncategorized, Vehicles

An eye (i) for an eye.

This morning I woke up and as i put my eyeglasses on I discovered an italic “i” on one of my lenses of my eyeglasses. Not very interesting to a lot of people, but to someone that deals with typography on a daily basis it’s rather fascinating. Pure coincidence or is someone trying to tell me something?

Now I need to try and figure out exactly what font that is. Anyone care to make a suggestion?

An italic "i" on the lens of my eyeglass

An italic "i" on the lens of my eyeglass

Posted in Typography

Smoking Cage – Frankfurt, Germany.

Smoking Cage, Frankfurt Airport, Germany

Smoking Cage, Frankfurt Airport, Germany

I remember back in the day going to clubs and bars and never thinking twice about the scene. Dancing the night away and drinking was the thing to do. Oh, let me not forget to mention the smokers. Most everywhere you went, there was smoke rising to the ceilings, filling the air-conditioning vents, permeating every orifice in the room. It was just something that was part of the nightlife in New York City and anywhere else in the world I suppose. I never really noticed the smell until I came home and started stripping off my clothes. As the shirt was pulled off the smell hit my nostrils and reminded me of the night. I couldn’t put it in the hamper with the rest of the laundry. Straight into the wash went the duds.

As the years went by it was decided that smoking was now a health issue. People died of lung, mouth and throat cancer. Even second hand smoke was shown to be a problem. Now, Commercials are aired to make people aware of the health crisis with smoking tobacco. Children are protected and used in these commercials with pathetic little faces that tell the world that they are being killed by their parents that smoke.

For a while U.S. government instructed establishments to provide separate smoking and smoke-free areas. Dining had become a bit more pleasurable, until the wind blew the smoke in the direction toward the smoke-free areas, that is. We didn’t have a choice at the time. It was now law and if we didn’t like it we could either ask that they not smoke or move, or even worse, not dine out at all. Some businesses suffered.

Eventually, smoking was banned altogether indoors. Now people are forced to smoke outside through bitter winters. Stamping their feet, these die-hard smokers continue their vice. I smoked a cigar here and there when I was younger but now when I walk out of a building where smokers are enjoying their cigarette the smoke is offensive. Somehow I feel that these smokers being restricted to being outside by the exit just isn’t enough. I am sure I am not the only one affected entering and exiting a building and experiencing the second hand smoke.

Perhaps what we need are more of what I saw on my trip overseas this past week. While en route to Barcelona, Spain, I had to transfer flights in Frankfurt, Germany. Walking through the long corridor from what seemed to be one end of the airport to the other, I saw several glass enclosures that separated the smokers from the rest of the crowd.

Desperately needing their fix, smokers walked into this “cage” to finally experience the taste of nicotine that they had missed during the long hours of their flight. Everyone stopped to watch this odd phenomenon. I guess I wasn’t the only one who had never seen such a structure before. A smoking cage… What a novel idea. Many took pictures. I took several to show as an example here.

Now, if we can only come up with a way to keep those crying kids that are always two rows behind you quiet. AAAAARGGGH!!! Hmmm… Light-bulb moment…

The “Bawler Retention And Transportation Silencer” (BRATS)”

The "Bawler Retention and Transportation Silencer" (BRATS)

The "Bawler Retention and Transportation Silencer" (BRATS)

Posted in Animals, Infrastructure, Urban Planning, Public Spaces, Parks, Vistas, Plazas, Uncategorized

The Ultimate Cat Bed.

In a world of excess, I occasionally discover that sometimes the simplest things are the best. Such is the story of the way I found the Ultimate Cat Bed for my cat, Merlin.

Merlin's Ultimate Cat Bed

Merlin's Ultimate Cat Bed.

As a kid in the Bronx, my friends and I played a street game called Kick-The-Can. It didn’t matter what kind of can it was as long as we could stand it on one end. For those who don’t know, Kick-The-Can involved one person who was “it” and protected a can in an open space, while the others hid behind trees, benches, or anything. When “it” found you, you would have to sit “caught” on a base near the can. Anyone not caught could run up and kick the can. When the can was kicked, everyone on base was allowed to scatter as now they were freed. At least that’s the way we played it.

The beauty of this game was that there was always a can available because they were easily found in the streets or in vacant lots. We played for hours and when the can was beaten up we just went and found another.

A while back I went out and bought a nice bed for my cat, Merlin.

For a few days I tried to get him to lay in his new cat bed and use it. He didn’t like it. Then I remembered that as a kitten he loved the crinkling sound of a Poland Spring box with the plastic still on it. He would crawl into the inside as if to say “you can’t find me and I am safe here.”

So I emptied out a box and placed it on the floor in place of the cushy cat bed. He immediately started playing in it just like when he was a kitten. Merlin learned to sleep and relax on this combination of plastic and cardboard. A piece of junk that most people would trash along with all the empty bottles of water after they are consumed. Who would have thought that this piece of trash would be a source of comfort for someone. He now has three in different sizes.

This is Merlin

This is Merlin.

Just like the can, it is easily replaced. I can simply buy a new batch of water or I can go to the corner store and get him a new bed for free. The other cushy bed that I bought for him sat there empty for weeks until I decided it was  time for it to be passed along.

So before you go out and get that fancy bed that you think you’ll spoil your cat with, remember that something as simple as a piece of junk could very well be the Ultimate Cat Bed.

Posted in Animals