Author Archives: Alisa Blum

How to Maintain a Positive Attitude While Unemployed

There’s no denying the devastating impact that losing a job can bring.  Besides the obvious financial stress, unemployment often impacts the way we feel about ourselves.  For many of us, the contributions we make from our work build our self-esteem. Work often provides us with a sense of purpose and a social support network.  It’s no wonder that people who are out of work find themselves feeling despondent and isolated.

Given all of this, maintaining a positive attitude can feel like an oxymoron. Staying positive is difficult, which is why keeping yourself uplifted during the job hunt needs to be a conscious effort.  

In my workbook, Maintaining a Positive Attitude While Unemployed: A Step by Step Guide to Staying Motivated During the Job Hunt, I address how to change negative self-talk to positive self-talk.  Some examples of negative self-talk might be:

  • “The employment situation is so bleak, I’ll never get a good job again.”
  • “I’ve been unemployed for 6 months.  I should have a job by now”.
  • “Everyone that I interview with is younger than me.  No one wants to hire anyone who is my age”.

To change your negative self-talk, you need to consciously develop a more positive response.  Here are suggestions for changing the statements above to more positive responses: 

  • Each day presents with new job opportunities.  My next job may be better than my last.
  • Because there are so many people looking for jobs, I need to be patient because it may take a while longer to find a job.  I am doing all I can every day to find a job.
  • I know I’m competing with people who are younger than me.  I have to show prospective employers what an advantage it can be to hire someone with my background and experience. 

The more you become aware of your negative self-talk and actively change these self-messages the more automatic the process will become.

For other techniques to stay motivated while job hunting, check out the workbook, Maintaining a Positive Attitude While Unemployed: a Step-by-Step Guide for Staying Motivated During the Job Hunt  at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

How to Do More with Less

Our current economic downturn has caused many businesses and organizations to downsize in order to survive.  This poses a number of challenges.  One of which is how to best fill the roles that are vacated.  In order to successfully manage this transition, it’s important to be strategic about how to maximize the talents of the employees that remain by matching your organization’s needs with the skills, motivations and aptitude of your employees.

Here are some strategies to help effectively fill the gaps left by downsizing:

  • Up skill across the organization.Your existing employees often have invaluable institutional knowledge and may have the aptitude for more varied responsibilities given the opportunity to learn new skills. For example, do you have employees that are natural leaders, who have great interpersonal skills but have not had management training?  Are there skills specific to your industry that your existing employees can learn, which would help fill some of your needs? Make sure you are having discussions with each of your employees about your organization’s needs and what new skills and experiences they desire.  These discussions will not only help you fill your gaps but will likely increase employee engagement because your employees will see that you care about their growth and development.
  • Ensure employees are playing to their strengths. Incorporating a strengths based approach can be a highly effective way to keep employees motivated and productive.  Rather than asking employees to pick up the slack by doing work that doesn’t play to their strengths, give them new opportunities to use their strengths.  The StrengthsFinder has become a quite popular and effective way to help people identify their strengths.  I have found that the implementation of the StrengthsFinder often falls short.  It is most frequently used to help employees better understand themselves and each other but is not used enough to tailor job responsibilities to match the strengths of the employees.  One way I have successfully used the StrengthsFinder is by helping organizations analyze the various strengths of their team members.  This can be particularly helpful when people are moved into new positions, as teams are more effective when comprised of people with complimentary strengths.
  • Use a psychometric assessment. In my work with clients I use the Prevue assessment to benchmark positions based on the skills, motivations and personality factors needed for a particular position.  Candidates take an assessment to see how their skills, motivations and personality match the needs identified in the benchmark.  This can be a very helpful way to fill the gaps left by downsizing with existing employees who could potentially meet the identified benchmarks.  And, using an assessment can help ensure the process of filling positions is not influenced by personal bias.

We are in the midst of very difficult times for many businesses and organizations.  In order to survive, it will be important to be strategic about how to maximize the talents of your employees.  If you are not strategic during these trying times, you are likely to face a workforce with increased burn out, decreased motivation and decreased productivity, which most businesses and organizations cannot afford.

Alisa Blum & Associates helps businesses & organizations select, develop and retain top employees.  To schedule a complimentary consultation, contact Alisa at (503) 481-7586 or

Six Ways to Support Employees During the COVID Crisis

Credit: CentrallTAlliance

The challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have been with us for a while now.  Stressors from social isolation, balancing work responsibilities while homeschooling, concerns about job security and health concerns can easily interfere with an employee’s job performance.
Here are 6 actions you can take to support your employees:

Provide open communication about employee well-being. Encourage conversations between managers and employees that go beyond discussing tasks that need to be accomplished.  Ask employees how they are doing and how they would like to be supported.  In team meetings, allow time for team members to provide support to each other.

Affirm the employee’s value to your organization. Since people are now having less contact with each other, there aren’t as many opportunities for employees to get feedback about their contributions.  Take time to communicate specific ways their contributions are impacting your organization’s success, and you will positively impact their motivation and self-esteem.

Consider virtual support groups. Explore whether your employees would find it useful to form a group with the purpose of helping each other cope with common stressors.

Offer mentoring.  Mentoring can offer tremendous benefits to enhance employee and organizational success.  With many organizations dealing with the impact of downsizing, a mentor can work with employees to help guide their career development within your new organizational structure.

Build resilience.  Although some people are naturally resilient, many of us need to learn how to be resilient.  One of the best ways to become more resilient is to increase social+emotional intelligence.  The assessment and coaching we provide can help build the resilience that we all need right now. Mindfulness has been found to be an excellent way to build resilience.  Check out our programs that incorporate mindfulness techniques to improve organizational health.

Use your EAP. During these difficult times, some of your employees may be experiencing a mental health crisis or problems with substance abuse.  Make sure your employees are aware of the resources your EAP provides.  If you don’t have an EAP, provide employees with appropriate avenues for help.

Being proactive by offering support and resources now, can prevent common stressors from taking a major toll on your employees well-being and their productivity.

Alisa Blum & Associates helps businesses & organizations select, develop and retain top employees.  To schedule a complimentary consultation, contact Alisa at (503) 481-7586 or


How to Create an Emotionally Intelligent Leadership Team

Imagine a leadership team in which everyone is committed to improving their social and emotional intelligence. In such a team, people feel supported, have clear communication, manage conflict well, and create a safe environment in which to take risks. A leadership team with these attributes will be more likely to experience high productivity, enhanced innovation and create an environment where employees thrive.

I recently had the opportunity to work with a leadership team that wanted to work on  developing their social and emotional intelligence. Each team member took the Social+Emotional Intelligence Profile (SEIP)® which measures 26 distinct social and emotional intelligence competencies. Team members received feedback about their individual strengths, with suggestions on ways to improve their own social and emotional intelligence. A team report was generated showing the various aspects of the team’s social and emotional intelligence. During the debrief of the team report, the team was given the opportunity to acknowledge their strengths and explore areas for improvement. Each team member left our debrief session motivated to develop specific strategies to increase the team’s effectiveness by improving specific aspects of their own social and emotional intelligence.

Team effectiveness will improve when each team member actively works to enhance their own development. The Social+Emotional Intelligence Profile gives teams a measurable way to assess their own team functioning and provides the opportunity for each team member to create concrete ways they can contribute to team effectiveness.

For more information about improving team effectiveness with the Social+Emotional Intelligence Profile (SEIP)®, contact Alisa Blum at (503) 481-7586 or

6 Keys to Better Communication That Really Work

What really works in communication will change from situation to situation, so that is why we start with….

1.  Know the purpose of the communication.  Is it to chat and be friendly?  Create warmth and rapport?  Or is it a task driven communication?  A bit of each?  If it is rapport driven, it will often take more time and seem unproductive in terms of task.  Of course, without trust and rapport, communication about tasks can quickly run into problems — and take longer.  That’s why it is tricky.   There is no magic answer; you have to pay attention.

2.  Learn to focus and give the other person full attention.  Notice not only what they say, but also how they say it.  This is the opposite of thinking about what you will be saying next, or wondering whom just texted you.  Be PRESENT!  A lot of issues with both rapport and productivity magically clear when you are fully present.  If this is an issue for you, look into skills and practices, which increase your mindfulness and presence.

3.  Let the other person talk, too.This may not be an issue for some, but if you tend to talk more than half the time (be honest), you lose your impact (and maybe your friends).  LISTEN! If the other person participates as much as you, then you both buy-in to conversation.  Problems get solved when both people have buy-in and are willing to cooperate. However, if you are a dump truck of words, only you are buying-in. 

4.  Notice the response you get.  If you really pay attention, you’ll know when you hit the right chord.  You won’t need to assume or guess — their face and posture will tell you.  

5.  Organize your thoughts when you are trying to be productive.  If you are just hanging out, enjoy the stream of consciousness. But if you want business to happen, get to the point.  What’s important?  Give the other person a context and wait until they agree to be on this topic.  (How many times do people launch into a topic without waiting for the other person’s acknowledgement of “go ahead”?)  

How can you relay the information succinctly?  This is one of the keys of credibility — don’t ramble, state.  An example can be enlightening — but make it an example, not a 5-minute story.  Stay on one topic and finish the conversation before sailing on to the second topic. Consider a summary if the explanation is long, and give the other person a change to restate and ask questions. 

6.  Be organized yourself.  Follow-up, remember personal details (start with names), thank people.  Occasionally follow-up with emails, and occasionally do it with paper — what an impact a written thank you makes!    

There is no perfect communication — it is a dance, and like a dance it will ebb and flow.  There is, however, ways to deceive ourselves into thinking we are communicating when we aren’t — we’re just talking or writing. Take one of these suggestions each day for a week and practice.  It’s the road to change and improvement.

Judith Sugg, Ph.D. is an associate at Alisa Blum & Associates and co-director of AIM for Organizational Health.  Contact us at to explore how we can help to improve communication in the workplace. Information about our services can be found at

Tools for Reducing Internal Conflict



When we think of a conflict, we most likely think about a disagreement with another person.  In actuality, for many people, the conflicts we have inside ourselves cause us the most distress.

Here are 3 ways to effectively deal with internal conflicts:

  1. Notice your early warning signals.

How does your body react when you are upset? Does your heart beat fast, do your hands get sweaty, do you clench your jaw, does your stomach tighten, do you talk to yourself in a nasty tone?  By paying attention to your early warning signals you can redirect and calm yourself.  Try a short meditation such as Judy Sugg’s 3-minute mindful pause.

  1. Be kind to yourself.

 Are you your own worst enemy? Do you find that you are more critical of yourself than others are of you?  The first step in becoming less self-critical is to become aware you are giving yourself negative messages and then, consciously substitute the negative self-messages with positive self-messages.  Treat yourself with the same kindness you would give a good friend.

  1. Give your worries a reality check.

You may find that fretting over what could go wrong keeps you from directly dealing with a conflict.  Often worries over what could go wrong are exaggerated.  Talk with someone you trust and who is familiar with the situation. You may find the reality of the situation is less toxic than your fears.

You can find more tools for conflict resolution in the book, “Transforming Conflict with Mindfulness” by Judith Sugg & Alisa Blum.  Information about our training programs for organizational health can be found at .







Are You Maximizing the Power of Your Holiday Events?

Successful business people celebrating with a high-five

As the holidays approach, think about the last time you attended a holiday gathering at work that felt meaningful?  How can you strategically use your upcoming holiday event to help your employees understand the unique contributions they each bring to the workplace?

Research has shown that recognition increases productivity, enhances employee engagement, improves team culture and increases retention. Your upcoming holiday gathering can be an opportune time to show employees the value they bring to your organization.  Make sure you are specific about how each employee has contributed to your organization’s success this year.  And follow up with frequent recognition throughout 2019.

If you would like assistance developing specific recognition strategies, we would love to help.  We can be reached at (503) 481-7586 or

4 Steps to Getting Over Stage Fright

It’s one of those problems we don’t talk about a lot.  Yet many business people suffer from a fear of speaking in public that’s severe enough to damage their career.  You can change!  Do these simple steps and it improvement will be rapid.

First, before a specific talk:

  1. Be prepared. This is the MOST important thing you can do.
  2. Practice the first 5 sentences at least ten times.Know them very well.  You can go on automatic at that point and get over the initial jitters.
  3. Practice the whole talk 1-3 times.
  4. Look good! Dress well, comfortably, loose waistbands, nothing fussy or worrisome.

Second, just before the talk:

  1. SING!!! Sing at the top of your voice in the car on the way.Sing scales.  Hum in the bathroom. (Loosen vocal cords, deepen breathing)
  2. Try tensing a hand, abdominals, jaw.Do it deliberately, then release.  The idea is to consciously give yourself control over tension and relaxation.  One public speaker says that isometric tension of abdominals is her key to preventing stage fright.
  3. Take a few deep breaths with a LONGER EXHALE to signal relaxation to your overwrought nervous system.

Third, just before you open your mouth:

  1. On the way to the chair or podium, sing in your head!Hear some music that makes you feel upbeat and powerful.
  2. Check the self-talk – switch from “I’m so scared” to things like:“I am prepared.” “I can HANDLE THIS!”  “I talk well.”  “I may actually enjoy this.”  “I’m the one they choose to talk.”  “I’m good at my job.”   (Self-talk is a large part of what is scaring you to death!  Say your new phrases with happily, with enthusiasm!)
  3. Pause and look at your audience. Get their attention. Breathe.

Four, here are strategies to have more fun as a speaker: 

  1. Go to Toastmasters or something like it. This will build your “speaking muscles.”
  2. Find ways to practice – groups, church, school, etc.
  3. Keep a journal of your public speaking – hopes, fears, successes, feedback.No failure, only feedback.
  4. When you feel a twinge of fear, practice diaphragmatic breathing – exhale 2 times before you inhale.Feel the belly rise and fall as you breath (this means clothes are loose enough).  Loosen your shoulders and jaw as you exhale.
  5. What’s your belief about fear?Some fear may be helpful – you just want to do a good job.  Some beliefs generate the fear.  Write them down and “dispute” them:

            No one else is scared.  Dispute: I know that stage fright is common.

            People will know I’m scared.  Dispute: True, so what? May not be true—my team says I sound just fine.

I’ll forget my part.  Dispute: Maybe, but I have my notes.

Fifth, visualize for better speeches.  Maybe you’ve rehearsed fear and failure in your head for a long time.  Try this instead!

  1. Imagine someone giving your talk successfully. See and hear them, hear the applause.
  2. Make any improvements to this scene.
  3. Now, step in and imagine yourself doing the same thing.See, hear and feel yourself successfully going through the talk as if you were there.  Hear the applause!  Hear yourself say “Good job!” “I did really well” to yourself.
  4. Write down anything you learned from this exercise that will help you. You can practice as much as you like.

Speaking in public can be rewarding and powerful for your career.  Take the next step.

Judith Sugg, Ph.D. is an author, teacher and consultant who helps people and organizations clarify their vision, improve their interactions, understand conflict, and thrive in their surroundings.  She partners with Alisa Blum at AIM for Organizational Health to raise Awareness, achieve Integration and enable Mastery of mindfulness tools to improve individual and organizational effectiveness.  Judy is the author of Six-Word Lessons for Fearless Presenting: 100 Lessons to Beat Anxiety and Give Stellar Presentations available on Amazon.





What is Your Employee Retention Strategy?

Successful business people celebrating with a high-five

Finding high quality candidates is a major concern for businesses these days.  Although we can’t change the fact that many Boomer employees are retiring or that people will leave their jobs for personal reasons, turnover can be significantly reduced by developing and implementing  employee retention strategies.

Gallup’s State of the American Workforce Report gives detailed information about the relationship between employee engagement and employee retention.  We have so much information about how to engage employees.  The hard part is taking action.

If your organization is being impacted by employee turnover and you are having a hard time filling your positions, it is essential to make engaging and retaining your employees a priority.  You can start by letting your employees know you value their contributions and gather their input as to what you can do to keep them long term.  You may also want to conduct a survey based on the engagement factors the Gallup Organization has identified as critical to employee retention.  Make sure your efforts to find out how to improve employee retention results in specific plans and actions.

When you make a plan to increase retention and take the steps necessary to implement this plan, you will see decreased turnover and, therefore, reduce the need to fill positions in this tight job market.

Alisa Blum & Associates helps businesses & organizations select, develop and retain top employees.  You may contact us for a complimentary consultation to discuss strategies  to retain your top talent at (503) 481-7586 or Information about our services can be found at

How Negative Stereotyping is Impacting Millennials


A recent report from Udemy, based on a survey of more than 1,000 Millennials across the U.S., found that 86 percent feel undermined by negative stereotypes in the workplace.

I’ve spent many years providing training to help employees work better across generations.  Here are some ways I’ve found helpful in understanding Millennials and reducing negative stereotyping:

  1. Younger generations historically are the victims of negative stereotyping. If you are a Boomer, think back to how employers felt about your generation of hippies entering the workforce.  If you are a Gen X’er, you probably remember your generation being called  “slackers” when you entered the workforce.  You proved that you were productive employees and you will find that many young employees, if they have appropriate support, are and will become productive employees.
  2. Millennials are labeled as being too demanding when they are vocal about expressing their needs in areas such as equity, positive feedback and flexibility. Productivity and retention improve when employees feel supported and perceive they are being treated in an equitable manner. Listen to your employees and try to meet their needs.  When you can’t meet their requests, discuss the business rationale for doing so.
  3. Entitlement” is often confused with ambition.Employees from this generation may want to get promoted faster than those in older generations.  Rather than labeling them as “entitled”, they need to be given guidance about the skills needed to move to higher levels in the organization.
  4. Appreciating the unique contributions each individual makes can lessen the tendency to stereotype and enhance engagement.  Get to know your employees and determine how to leverage each individual’s strengths.

What do you think are the business costs of negative stereotyping?  What is your organization doing to address this?

I am very interested in your input on this topic.  Please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with me at