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Cleaning Your Work Space
By : Joan Kulmala

Spring has sprung! Summer is just around the corner. Warmer temperatures and longer day light certainly has an effect on us. We tend to experience more energy and a need to get physical. After a long winter, most yards need to be raked and annual house-cleaning task are tackled. What about adding your work space to that list?

Recently I visited a doctor’s office. The bookshelves and desk in the office were covered with dust and the windows in the building were glazed over with layers of dirt. How could a place of wellness be so neglected? I questioned - was this a place that would seriously address my health issues? I think not! I also visited a large chain store where toilet tissue pieces lay over the washroom floor and the garbage cans were over flowing. I realized some of the blame lies with the careless patrons who could not or would not bend to pick up after themselves. It seems some individuals show no respect for others using this space. What would have been your first impression?


  • Have a plan – where and when to start
  • Set a time / day to clean
  • Need help? Delegate various tasks to others – be it staff, or hired professionals
  • If possible, open windows and doors to circulate fresh air (10 minutes each day)
  • Empty daily - All garbage cans, ashtrays
  • Coffee areas tidied and wash any dirty dishes.
  • Sweep all floors and vacuum rugs.
  • Clean bathrooms daily – floors, toilets, sinks, fixtures etc
  • Check all dispensaries such as soap and hand towels and replenish as per necessary.
  • Pick up stray items off the floors and isles (candy, paper wrappings, stray merchandise etc.).
  • Book shelves, tables, and work space should be organized and free from clutter.
  • Keep entrance areas free of obstructions.
  • Sweep sidewalk outside of premises and keep debris free.
  • Remove finger prints and grease spots from windows and doors.
  • Make sure your window dressings such as curtains or venetian blinds are cleaned when necessary.
  • Water and maintain live plants – pick off all dead leaves and flowers. For fake plants, dust and wash off when necessary.
  • Get rid of unwanted items such as old books, marketing materials and papers etc.

    NB* Organize filing cabinets, computer files and other office supplies – this is another job that would be separate from the actual janitorial type of cleaning. If cleaning is not your strong point budget in a janitorial service company to routinely keep up your premises. It is less stressful for you and your staff and you will also be able claim it as an expense.

    Maintaining a clean and organized environment is very important to one’s mental wellness, safety and image that others will have of you and your business. Not only will you feel more comfortable and productive working in that space, so will your clients/customers. I know one should not draw hasty conclusions…. But that’s life…gets use to it. Your customer’s first impression is instantaneous the moment they walk through your door.

    Joan Kulmala is an image coach and is president of Totally-U Image Communications in Thunder Bay, Ont. She can be reached at

    The Ultimate Interview – Golf!
    Does golfing style reflect work style?

    If I had my druthers (and in an ideal world), I wish that I could play a round of golf with every long-listed candidate before deciding whether or not they would make the short list.

    Alan Davis, RPR
    Alan Davis
    & Associates
    Of course it will never happen for many reasons - not the least of which is that it might be hard to prove its relevance to the job…or would it? What is it about a round of golf that would make it such an alluring screening tool? Let’s do some analysis.

    A round of golf would allow the interviewer to observe the candidate’s behaviour in the following ways: Group dynamics;Inter-personal skills; Social skills; Ability to handle pressure; Honesty;
    Ability to accept criticism / suggestions for improvement; Ability to follow the rules. etc.

    None of these parameters bear any relevance to playing ability. In fact, it would perhaps be more of a measure for the poorer player than the low handicap player, except that the low handicap player on a bad day can get very frustrated (again, depending on the individual).

    However, all of these parameters are directly relevant to the candidate’s ability to perform effectively at work. Also, they are the very same performance parameters that are so difficult to assess in the artificial setting of the job interview.

    Given that a significant proportion of the population has absolutely no interest in golf (go figure!) and that our climate would mean that hiring would only take place during the golf season, what other venues come to mind as being relevant and therefore justifiable for the purpose of adding value to the selection process? The most obvious one is the
    breakfast, lunch or dinner scenario. My favorite is dinner, even though you have to forfeit your evening for it to happen.
    So, you’ve arranged to have dinner with a top candidate…what specifically should you be looking out for? Clearly, if your candidate drinks too much and becomes loud and obnoxious, it should be your first clue that you might be making a hiring error (unless being loud and obnoxious is a bona fide occupational requirement!) I find it interesting to observe how hard a candidate works to keep the conversation going and I purposefully lapse into silence to see if the candidate will pick up the ball. I would argue that some of these social skills are just as important as specific knowledge and experience, again depending on the job.
    Over dinner is also an excellent opportunity for the employer and prospective employee to discuss their respective styles and their expectations of each other. I recently was told of a situation recently where a newly hired Sales Executive quit his job after two months; the reason being that in his mind he was being micro-managed. Had he and his boss discussed the issue at the interview stage, they may have worked out a suitable compromise, or another candidate who didn’t mind being micro managed might have been selected instead.
    Hiring decisions, like any business decisions, should be based on objective analysis and informed choice. While it is typical to see the business case to invest in things like equipment or property made in great detail (and with a wide variety of input) it is equally typical to see hiring decisions made after one interview. Even at that, the one interview is typically unstructured and conducted by a manager who has been provided with little or no training in the art.
    The more exhaustive and rigorous the process,
    the better the result.
    The higher the level of impact on the organization, the more exhaustive the selection process should be. The process
    should be end to end and should include:

  • Telephone screen
  • Initial face to face structured interview
  • Second interview with hiring manager and some peers
  • Psychometric evaluation (including simulation exercises)
  • Detailed reference check
  • A “social “ final interview to discuss mutual expectations
  • A round of golf (of course)

    Having made the argument that golf is an effective way to screen candidates, I have found that it is an equally effective way of observing how my clients behave in pressure situations - behaviors like tossing clubs after a bad shot and stomping off the course to find solace (a.k.a. a beer) in the field bar. I also played a round with a client who decided to no longer keep their score once he started to lose (yes, in spite of rumors to the contrary, I have been known to win on occasion).
    So it begs the question…. Should I exercise the same rigor in selecting my clients
    as I do in selecting candidates…and vice versa?

    Alan Davis is President of Alan Davis & Associates, an internationally-recognized leader in the recruitment and selection of executives, managers and highly-skilled specialists on behalf of quality-oriented customers both large and small.

    Dress for Success: Tailor-Made Volunteering
    By Gwen MacPherson,RPR, Halifax

    As long as I can remember, I have always been a strong proponent of volunteerism. There is so much need in the world for people to give a little of themselves in whatever way possible to make the lives of others and ultimately our own more fulfilling. Volunteering is also an invaluable tool to gain hands-on work experience. Over the years, I have been involved with a number of volunteer organizations, but when I heard of the organization Dress for Success, there was absolutely no hesitation in my mind that I needed to get involved.

    Gwen MacPherson
    RPR, Halifax
    Dress For Success (DFS) provides low-income women with interview appropriate clothing, confident boosts and career development. Each Dress for Success client receives one complete outfit when she has a job interview and a second complete outfit when she gets the job. Dress for Success provides much more than just an interview outfit, makeup and a haircut: these are tools for providing women with self-esteem.

    My life was already busy enough, but I signed on to volunteer a few hours a week to sort, suit clients, pick up deliveries etc. but I soon fell in love with the organization, the people involved, and the work it was doing. I also learned that my couple of hours a week wasn't enough. One day, when I was in the shop, I saw an ad posted seeking board members. As I was looking to gain more experience at being a decision-maker, I applied and subsequently accepted the role of Treasurer. The following year, I was elected President of Dress for Success Halifax (DFSH).

    Dress for Success is based on the principle that women in poverty want and deserve the opportunity to reclaim their destinies: they want to work, they just need the right tools and support. Dress for Success Halifax provides the community with the opportunity to embrace this principle, and engages donors of time, clothing and money in supporting women who need it most.

    As I look back on my working career, I know that being able to 'look the part' for a job at an interview provided me with the self-confidence required to be and to feel successful. I wanted to be involved with an organization that provided women with that same opportunity to take charge of their lives and make a tailored transition into the work force. The concept of Dress for Success is simple. First impressions are important. You do not need to explain to people what we do, they understand immediately.

    At Dress for Success Halifax, specially trained volunteer 'Personal Shoppers' provide clients with one-on-one support as they pick out and try on their outfit. The DFSH Professional Women's Group program then provides ongoing support to help each client build a successful career with educational seminars and networking opportunities. Women are referred to Dress for Success Halifax by a continually expanding array of 'Referral Agencies': not-for-profit and government agencies including homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, immigration services and job training programs.

    On a personal note, I would say that Dress for Success Halifax has been the most rewarding volunteer experience of my life. The positive impact on women is our most worthy accomplishment. Women who have come to DFSH leave feeling special, and capable of achieving their dreams. The Dress for Success Halifax volunteers have shed many tears as women leave with renewed self-esteem and hope for achieving goals and a better life for themselves and their families.

    Dress for Success is an international organization, with over 70 affiliates in four countries, including three locations in Canada (Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver). For more information you can reach Gwen at

    The Art of Shaking Hands: A New Cultural Norm
    By Peter Urs Bender, Toronto

    What's in a handshake? As a near-universal gesture of "accommodation" handshaking is a relatively new cultural behaviour. Its original purpose was to prove to others that you were coming "open-handed" and unarmed. It took off only a few hundred years ago. As far as I know, it was the English we have to give credit for it. The English of that time were world travelers, and the convention spread like wildfire. Right from the start some rules accompanied it. They weren't chiseled in stone, but they were general guides on how to conduct a handshake.
    There are three main conventions.

    1. The way you extend the hand
    2. The way you apply the pressure
    3. The length of time you shake the hand

    It must be made clear-and it may be confirmed by reading books on body language written by Dr. Desmond Morris, Sami Molcho and many others- that a handshake has nothing to do with the character of a person. It's not an inborn behaviour, but a learned one.

    1. The way you extend your hand:
    In the olden days it was always the most important person, or the strongest in the group, who had to extend the hand. That has changed; today, anybody at any place at anytime has the right to offer you his/her hand.

    However, whenever you extend your hand, there are three ways of doing it.

    A) Palm down (you are the one offering it).
    If you feel strong and think you "Hold the Whole World in your Hand" you automatically will offer your hand palm down. This will force the other person to offer palm up, and he or she can feel in a "underdog" position...not very pleasant.

    B) Palm vertical (let's work together). The most generous way to offer a handshake is palm vertical. It sends the signal of cooperation. "I want to work with you."

    C) Palm up (I am fully at your service). Salespeople often offer a handshake palm up. This is a subtle way of indicating the "at-your-service" aspect of doing business. It says that you are in charge.

    To further emphasize the "I'm at your service, and you, my customer, are truly in charge" aspect, extend your hand vertically, and slowly turn it till your hand is palm up, and the other's is palm down.

    Reading this, you may think Bender is full of it. But let me give you an example.

    I used to hold a public speaking contest for Grade 12 high-school students. First prize was $2,500, second, $1,500, and third $1,000. At one of these events one of my licensees took pictures of me handing out the prizes, then sent them to me by mail. When I saw them I nearly fell over. In all the pictures where I gave out the prizes, I had my hand extended palm down, the position of great authority. Consciously and normally, I never do that.

    2. The way you apply pressure.
    Has nothing to do with honesty, strong character, or anything else. In the western world, professionals encourage their children to give strong handshakes. The child himself won't do it automatically. It has to be taught.

    In other parts of the world, however, to apply pressure is regarded as impolite (It's about the same as if you would go into a business meeting, and somebody would suddenly hug you, because he/she likes you).

    If a North American woman, with a good firm handgrip goes to the Far East I have to warn her. Taking a man's hand and giving it a firm press signals to him that the woman has a sexual interest. So please do not be surprised, if the man reacts "strangely" to you!

    3. The length of time you shake the hand.
    This aspect of handshaking is both taught as well as somewhat intuitive. In Canada, in a normal situation, you shake about 4 times and hold the hand a few more seconds. The longer you keep holding the hand, the more powerful you look. However, doing the same in South America it is regarded as rude! You should pump about a dozen times, and hold forever!

    If you like someone, you increase the shaking. If you go to a job interview and the interview is over, count the pumps you get. More than four will indicate your interviewer liked you.

    Consumption of alcohol will also increase the pumps-about two per drink. Try it out. Go to a party. When you leave count the shakes. The more you and your host like each other the more likely you and he or she will pump the hand of the other.

    These observations are not a piece of formal academic research. They are what I have observed from my experience. Try it out yourself. You will find the principles of handshaking are now culturally well established, and the variations can be fascinating to observe.

    Peter Urs Bender is an international executive management consultant and is based in Toronto. Peter may be at

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