The Satisfaction of Being Your Own Boss

With the advent of e-commerce and a recovering US economy, startups seem to be popping up everywhere. For those entrepreneurs, success is often measured in money generated or people employed, but which entrepreneurs are the ones happiest with their work? The Wall Street Journal dove in and figured out which factors most impact an entrepreneurs’ happiness:

  • Independence Doesn’t Guarantee Happiness: Just because you work for yourself doesn’t mean that you will find all of your work to be rewarding. One reason may be because your work may feel repetitive. To remedy that, you can break up your work by pursuing similar-yet-different opportunities or adding new tasks to the same job.
  • Higher Education Leads to Higher Expectations: Ivy League entrepreneurs are often less satisfied with work due to the high expectations for themselves. Be it a matter of personal performance or income, Ivy-Leaguers often expect high amounts of both which may lead them to feel disappointed in themselves.
  • Treat Every New Venture as Your First: Often times serial entrepreneurs who have had successful business believe they can repeat what they did for a previous venture and instantly be met with success. This is often not the case as markets are dynamic and as such will always be changing.
  • Why Did You Choose to be an Entrepreneur: Studies show that why you decided to become an entrepreneur will affect your happiness. Regardless of success, entrepreneurs that chose to start a business because they saw an opportunity were much happier than people that started a business out of necessity.

Starting a business can be the most exciting and life changing decision that someone can make. Being happy with your work means being more productive and leading a more fulfilling life. Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone, and is certainly not a fast track for happiness.

Read the full article here on The Wall Street Journal

C.E.O. Lori Dickerson Fouché on Recognizing Leadership


Lori Dickerson Fouché is the C.E.O. of Prudential Group Insurance and held the position after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City. Having taken leadership roles as a young black woman in America, Fouché has been successful in management positions since the age of 24 and continues as C.E.O. of a major insurance company at 47. Here are her highlights from the interview with Adam Bryant:

  • On lessons she learned early in her career: “One was learning how to prioritize. You simply can’t do everything.”
  • Assess your leaders by their results: “I expect my leaders to listen. I expect them to ask questions. I expect them to understand what’s going on.”
  • On Hiring:
    • Know that prospective hires have done their due diligence on the company
    • Ask what kind of cultures they like to work in, where do they excel, and how do they conduct themselves in the face of challenges
    • Look for resilience and perseverance
    • Ask how they would lead people

As graduation season comes to an end and young graduates enter the workforce, it is important that they find jobs that they really want to do and learn what they can from that experience. Lori Dickerson Fouché suggests that graduates find a company that is a good fit for what important to them and their personal values.

Read the full article here on The Newt York Times.

Social Media: a Tool for Relationships or Merely a Substitute?

As cell phones and social media continue to place themselves at the center of our social lives, we wonder what effect its importance has on the quality of our social life. Is the pressure to answer every tritone and whistle distracting us from meaningful human interaction? Or is maintaining contact with otherwise long-lost friends through Facebook leading to longer-lasting friendships?

Here are some of the arguments for and against social media as presented by The Wall Street Journal:

Social Media is Detrimental to Society:

  • We spend too much time on social media to build real connections: “We spend so much time maintaining superficial connections online that we aren’t dedicating enough time or effort to cultivating deeper real-life relationships.”
  • We are on our phones even when we’re not talking: “Worse, we don’t even need a beep or vibration to distract us anymore. In one study of more than 1,100 teens and adults, my fellow researchers and I found that the vast majority of smartphone users under 35 checked in with their electronic devices many times a day and mostly without receiving an external alert.”
  • Empathy is lost in emoticons: “In one study we found that while empathy can be dispensed in the virtual world, it is only one-sixth as effective in making the recipient feel socially supported compared with empathy proffered in the real world. A hug feels six times more supportive than an emoji.”

Social Media is a Tool We Use to Maintain Relationships:

We’re doing a good job of staying in touch: “Social ties that we once would have abandoned as we left high school, changed jobs and moved from one neighborhood to another now persist online.”

  • Seemingly trivial messages communicate much more than you think: “It is tempting to dismiss as trivial many messages exchanged online. But together, the small sips that come from the steady contact of social media can add up to a big gulp of information about the activities, interests and opinions of the people we connect with. They communicate mutual awareness and closeness along with information that we wouldn’t otherwise receive.”

Are we moving to an ever more interconnected society or one that will soon forget how to interact with one another? Is your social presence going to be more valuable than what you present in person? What is sure is that the way we relate to one another is changing and adapting to the way people now connect will be key to success in your business.

Click here for the full article on The Wall Street Journal

How to Approach Conflict in the Workplace


Conflict is a natural element to any functioning workplace, but dictating its course can be the difference between healthy discourse and petty ad hominem attacks resulting in lost productivity. What is the best approach to ensuring a conflict becomes constructive? Phyllis Korkki gauges conflict in directness and intensity in her article in The New York Times. Here are a few key points from her piece:

  • Opt for unambiguous conflict resulting in debate: “The preferred form of communication is high directness/low intensity … With this method, people tend not to focus on any personal stake they could have in their positions. They listen to others’ views and take them into account while working toward a positive outcome.”
  • Avoid high intensity conflict, as employees will become defensive: “When conflict is expressed with high intensity, whether directly or indirectly, the issue can start to feel personal to the parties involved…people may respond by attacking others or defending themselves. They are more likely to dig into their positions without listening to other viewpoints and processing new information, meaning that an effective resolution is less likely.”
  • Make healthy conflict resolution part of your office culture: “When more people understand what healthy communication looks like at work, and the more that people practice it, the more likely they will exhibit it themselves.”

As a manager, it is your responsibility to maintain a harmonious office conducive to productivity and free of negativity. You should keep these points in mind in order to foster a healthy work environment, resulting in happier employees who feel respected and valued.

For the full article on the New York Times click here.

Properly Extracting Value from Data


Is big data overrated? In a world ruled where metrics are king, raw data is being used to assess the quality of subjective things. We use big data to quantify the quality of teachers, students, and our fitness, but what insights are we drawing from that data?

In the mid-nineties, websites like Facebook were using human judgement to help discern quality insights over mindless data. Asking people how they felt about what was presented to them in their newsfeed granted them insight on what was an absent-minded click and what was an actual engagement.

Big data often fails to consider human factors that are often left unaccounted for. In the case of teachers, big data may determine that a certain teacher is doing poorly, but small data will tell us why that is. Conversely, it can tell us what a teacher is doing right to yield better results amongst children. Big data does a great job of explaining results, but a poor job of explaining how or why you got there. There is no replacement for human inspection and expertise, as much as companies try to avoid doing so.

As optimistic as we’d like to be about using big data to improve our lives and save us money, we can’t let it replace traditional decision making. Instead, we should use it as a tool to make more educated decisions.

To read the full article on The New York Times, click here.