Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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

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


How to Engage & Retain Millennials

Business and organizational leaders are becoming increasingly concerned about how to retain talented millennial employees, because they know that their organizations will only be sustainable with a cadre of employees committed for the long term.  Here’s a clip of a recent interview I gave to the MEECO Institute that addresses steps managers can take to increase the engagement and retention of millennial employees: 

Successful business people celebrating with a high-five

The Hazards of Mindlessness

I recently experienced the hazards of mindlessness. I was getting ready for a dinner party and couldn’t reach the plates I wanted, so I stood on a counter height chair to reach them. As I was getting the plates down, I was distracted by a news story on T.V. I lost my focus and tumbled to the ground. Fortunately, I was not hurt too badly, but the episode could have easily ended in disaster.

For the past 3 years, Judith Sugg and I have been providing training to organizations that want to integrate mindfulness techniques to improve individual and organizational effectiveness. Through this work and my own experiences integrating mindfulness practices into my own life, I have been able to see how mindfulness can decrease stress, improve communication and enhance productivity.

I am now acutely aware of the continuous attention and effort that is required to truly integrate mindfulness into our lives. My “mindlessness” incident made me think about all the times we create problems because we lack focus and intent. How many car accidents and falls occur because we are distracted?

And, how much miscommunication happens because we are not thinking about the impact of our words on others?

I ask you to consider how you and the people you work with are impacted by mindlessness. And think about how safety and workplace relationships can be improved when people become more mindful.


 Alisa Blum, MSW and Judith Sugg, PhD are principals at AIM for Organizational Health.   Information about their programs can be found at  They can be reached at or (503) 481-7586.

Can You Resolve Conflicts Mindfully?

By Judith Sugg, PhD and Alisa Blum, MSW

AIM for Organizational Health


How much time do you think a typical manager spends dealing with workplace conflicts? Would it surprise you to learn that managers typically spend 25-45% of their time dealing with workplace conflicts? Consider the consequences of unresolved conflict such as distraction from the work that needs to get done, employee turnover and harassment allegations. What are the potential business costs?

Our responses to conflict are hardwired into our brain. Some of us automatically engage (and may get verbally or physically aggressive when provoked) while others automatically withdraw.

Healthier engagement in conflict requires that we choose, rather than react. The seeds for developing a choice are found in self-awareness and mindfulness, both of which ameliorate our brain’s natural alarm response and provide that moment of re-evaluation.

So what is the opposite of destructive conflict? Perhaps it is curiosity and creativity — both products of focusing attention, opening our minds, and staying in the present. The powerful benefit of this shift is a real and true engagement, a real if uncomfortable connection, between two humans. In this engagement, the shift to problem-solving an issue, rather than judging a person is easier. Resolution uses reason and skill, and one can learn and become better at the engagement. The only way to become better at destructive conflict is to have a bigger bomb.

Fortunately, with practice and increased skill, we can all learn to resolve conflicts at work. Imagine how the workplace would change if managers are spending less time dealing with workplace conflicts and more time helping employees become more productive, enhancing innovation and creating a positive atmosphere.

 Tips to resolve conflict mindfully can be found in our book, “Transforming Conflict with Mindfulness: 100 Lessons for More Presence & Skill in Resolving Conflicts”.   Contact us for a free consultation at or (503) 524-3470.


Enhance Leadership Success by Building Trust








Stephen M.R, Covey, in his book, The Speed of Trust, says that when trust is developed and leveraged it is “that one thing that has the potential to create unparalleled success and prosperity.”  Our experience and research (Interaction Associates, 2013) tell us that teams that trust each other, and workers who trust their leaders, are simply more productive and effective. And probably happier.

Whether we are talking about family, or friends, or the workplace, the trust we feel is about predictability and reliability, as well as respect for the quality of the actions. Think about someone you trust — don’t they show skill in their actions, do what they say, and are consistent? When we feel trust towards someone, especially a leader or boss, we are willing to do more, sometimes risk more, learn something, and make the effort.

Certainly, we bring our individual history, beliefs, and values to a situation. Many of us have people in our past who didn’t deserve the trust we gave them. They didn’t do what they should have done in their position, they let us down, their words didn’t match their actions, and their values weren’t in tune with what we think is important.

It’s really not much different at work. A leader who inspires trust does what he/she says. They communicate clearly and fully. They see the best in their team and are ready for problems. They are open and self-aware. They have commitment to the goals of the team or organization, and they inspire us to commit also. When we are in their presence, they are really there. Some people might experience as safety. We feel known, and while no worker or leader is perfect, feeling trust inspires us to be better.

Trust is a sense or feeling. We have this feeling in our body, and often know whether or not we “should” trust a person. At some point, each of us decides that we have enough information or evidence to trust another person. However, most of us have flawed gauges. Maybe we trust too easily and get stepped on. Maybe we are biased and negatively evaluating someone because of their culture (or race, gender, culture, age, even clothes). Knowing our personal tendencies biases (and confronting them) is a strong step towards calibrating trustworthiness accurately.

If you are a leader, you may not have thought about your presence in terms of whether or not people trust. Now is a good time to reflect:

  • Trust is based on history and consistency: Is my behavior aligned with stated values and consistent?
  • Is there anyone I need to rebuild trust with?
  • Are there situations in which I can build trust and become more transparent by encouraging questions and answering honestly?

A good way to start enhancing trust is to pick one of these questions to discuss with your employees. Let them know you want honest and constructive feedback. See how this changes the relationship.

Judy Sugg, Ph.D. and Alisa Blum, MSW, provide leadership development that incorporates mindfulness techniques and skills to enhance emotional intelligence. We can be reached at (503) 481-7586 or

How to Integrate Mindfulness Practices Into the Work Day

by Judith Sugg, Ph.D.

Mediation, yoga, and breathing practices used to be confined to yoga studios and the like. Now these practices are cropping up everywhere, including big companies like Google and Intel.

But really, do they fit in our workday? The mountain of evidence to support these practices for improving health, training focus in our scattered world, and reducing stress is, well, striking. For the most part, the results of this research is wildly positive.

So why doesn’t everyone adopt these practices? One recent exploratory study* out of a business school looked at a particularly intense environment, health care, using self-selected professionals. Some professionals found they could integrate mindfulness into their workday, and some didn’t. The researchers now wondered: What’s the difference between these two groups? Why do some adopt these practices more readily?

Maybe the question really isn’t about “adopting” these practices. Maybe the word is choosing, in the moment, to use them. This is partly motivation, but mostly about habit. We are, of course, creatures of habit. Our mind chatter is particularly repetitive (and would be pretty boring if we had to read it), and it is difficult to break that habit of chatter.

Even after 30 years of practicing, when I get a grumpy email, my mind goes into a whirlwind. It takes a toned muscle of choice to get myself out of the whirlwind and into a more centered state. This muscle is the same muscle trained in meditation to bring your mind back to your focus (usually your breath). Inevitably, the mind wanders out into the ozone, makes up stories and conversations, gets emotional, and wanders off again. Without the muscle of choice being able to kick in, no fancy technique will get used.

And that is why practice, even a few minutes a day, is important as a simple and powerful reminder. Simple, brief practices for workplaces are a powerful step in the right direction because, ultimately, health in the workplace can mean something as simple as a breath done with great consciousness in a high stress moment.

Learn techniques to reduce stress and enhance productivity at our March 15th workshop.

* Lyddy, Schachter, Reyer, & Julliard. (2016). Transfer of Mindfulness Training to the Work Setting: A Qualitative Study in a Health Care System.

Judith Sugg, Ph.D. is co-director of AIM for Organizational Health, providing customized programs, facilitation, coaching and interactive training to raise Awareness, achieve Integration, and enable Mastery of mindfulness tools to improve individual and organizational effectiveness.  For more information about the programs we offer, please contact us at or (503) 481-7586.