TIME psychology

A Successful Leader Has to Learn to Say No

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Shane Parrish writes Farnam Street

“The art of leadership is saying no, not yes. It’s very easy to say yes.” — Tony Blair

Tony Blair isn’t the only one who thinks that. So does Steve Jobs and Warren Buffett. Focus is everything.

One of the clearest signs of poor leadership is the inability to focus — it’s easy to say yes and it’s very hard to say no.

Seymour Schulich elaborates on this in Get Smarter: Life and Business Lessons:

This piece of wisdom was instilled in me many years ago by Joe Rotman, an entrepreneur who is the benefactor of the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto. Many years ago, prior to the philanthropic work that made him famous, I arranged for a meeting so that I could gather the insight of an astute businessman who’d built a fortune in the resource business, primarily through oil and gas production.

“Every successful businessperson has to learn how to say no,” he told me that day. If you spend your life in business, you will see dozens or perhaps hundreds of potential deals. A small number will be highly attractive; most will be average or below average. The path to superior results is to accept only the best ideas — indeed, no venture capitalist or merchant banker could survive for very long without saying no to 90 per cent (or more) of the pitches he sees.

You can be diplomatic, firm, or a combination of the two, but you must be comfortable with the idea of handing out rejection. Rotman’s lesson became rooted deeply in my consciousness and caused me to be much less wimpy about turning down venture capital deals, start-up companies, and charities.

It’s not so much what you do but rather what you don’t do that matters.

Follow your curiosity to eight ways to say no with grace and style.

This piece originally appeared on Farnam Street.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME China

Will the Communist Party Save China’s Volatile Stock Market?

An investor holds onto prayer beads as he watches a board showing stock prices at a brokerage office in Beijing
Kim Kyung Hoon—Reuters An investor holds onto prayer beads as he watches a board showing stock prices at a brokerage office in Beijing, China, July 6, 2015

China’s top brokerages have pledged almost $20 billion to arrest a calamitous slide

Rain, like the downpours that have inundated Shanghai in recent weeks, doesn’t buoy the spirits. But don’t despair, counseled the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, on Monday: “Rainbows always appear after rains.”

That upbeat message coursed through China’s state media on Monday, referring to the dismal performance of the nation’s bourses, including the Shanghai Composite Index, which has lost nearly 30% over the past three weeks.

The chief rainbowmaker is, no surprise, the ruling Communist Party. “The Chinese government unveiled an unprecedented string of emergency and supportive measures to stabilize market sentiment,” announced state news agency Xinhua on Monday, with the nation’s central bank called in to increase liquidity.

Over the weekend, China’s top brokerages, surely encouraged by officialdom, vowed to spend nearly $20 billion to shore up the stock market. By government fiat, new stock listings are being curtailed. Foreigners have been admonished not to sell China short — as if they were the ones chiefly responsible for the stock market’s nosedive. On July 5, Beijing police arrested a man they say spread rumors that a despondent punter jumped to his death because of the stock-market plunge.

The result so far of this massive government intervention: after an 8% surge in the morning, the Shanghai index ended up 2.4% on July 6, following a 12% loss the previous week. State-owned giants led the weak recovery. In meteorological news, the plum rains are forecast to last all week in China’s commercial capital. (At close on Monday, Shenzhen’s more erratic index was down 1.39%.)

The past three weeks have seen the market shed more than $2 trillion. Still, the percentage of the Chinese population that dabbles in the stock market is comparatively low. And as brutal as the summer sell-off has seemed, shares are still up this year, with the Shanghai Composite having expanded by nearly 80% compared with roughly a year ago.

Chinese social-media users have debated whether the central government’s efforts were enough to prevent a further market nosedive. There was less discussion, however, of whether the government should be doing battle in the first place — especially given that some of the recent market frenzy has derived from risky margin trades that may be testing banks. Critics have noted that this generation of Chinese leadership, in place since late 2012, has called for market forces to gain more power, not less. The government’s latest intervention runs counter to talk of reform.

“Fragile market sentiment will be reversed,” the People’s Daily has stated. That’s about as clear a signal of official policy as the ruling Communist Party can give. Beijing, which is already facing a slowing economy, is tying part of its legitimacy to returning confidence to the nation’s stock market. When will the rainbow appear?

TIME Markets

No More ‘Roar’ as Famed Trading Pits Come to an End

Virginia McGathey
Charles Rex Arbogast—AP Commodities broker Virginia McGathey talks about the demise of the agricultural-futures pits after trading ended for the day at the CME Group in Chicago on July 1, 2015

"If people came to your spot, you shoved them out of it"

(NEW YORK) — Pete Meegan had every intention of going back to college, but then he got a summer job in the Chicago trading pits and fell in love with the “roar” of the floor, the excitement of “4,000 people yelling, ‘Buy! Buy! Buy!'” and decided no more classroom for him.

That roar will soon go silent. On Monday, most futures pits in Chicago and New York, where frenzied buying and selling once helped set prices on cattle and corn, palladium and gold, and dozens of other commodities, are expected to close for good. Traders yelled and shoved and flashed hand signals, just as they did in the movie “Trading Places.” But now the computer — faster, cheaper and not nearly as noisy — has taken over.

It will be a sad day for Meegan, still in the pits 34 years after dropping out of college, donning a tradingjacket and mustering the courage to tell his dad.

“I thought he was gonna kill me, but he was like, ‘I don’t care if you pick up garbage or you’re a dog groomer. If you are happy doing what you are doing, you’re ahead of 99 percent of the people in the world,'” recalls Meegan, now 54.

The few dozen jobs that will be lost when the pits shut down is just part of it, veterans say. What’s also disappearing is a rich culture of brazen bets, flashy trading jackets and kids just out of high school getting a shot at making it big. The pits were a ruthless place, but they were also a proving ground where education and connections counted for nothing next to drive and, occasionally, muscle.

“If people came to your spot, you shoved them out of it. ‘This is my two-foot space … so get out of it,'” says Dan Sullivan, a broker who’s been working in the pits since 1981. The competition, he adds, also bred camaraderie. “These guys knew me better than my wife.”

Dan Grant, 53, traces his love affair with the pits to a $150-a-week job as a “runner” ferrying messages between clerks taking phone orders from customers and brokers executing them.

Six years into his career, on Oct. 19, 1987, stocks were plunging around the world and he was a clerk taking orders from the head traders at Chemical Bank and Drexel Burnham Lambert desperate to buy anything to protect themselves. Grant still marvels that, just 24 years old and with no college degree, he wielded such power in the crash, later known as Black Monday.

“They were buying Treasurys and currencies, and watching their stock portfolios go to zero,” he recalls. “It was a lot of fun.”

The pits that are closing deal in futures, or contracts to buy or sell something at a later date at a set price. They’re used by farmers to lock in prices for their crops before harvest, for instance, and investors as a way to bet that prices will go up or down.

Not all futures pits are going away. In its February announcement about the closings, the owner of the exchanges said the pits where Standard and Poor’s 500 stock futures and options on futures are tradedwill remain open. Floor trading of stocks on the New York Stock Exchange, which is owned by a different company, won’t end, either.

But the few remaining pits are a small, perhaps fleeting, victory for the dwindling number of traders who still use hand signals to buy and sell.

Where once futures on everything from pork bellies and wheat to Treasurys and Eurodollars were onlytraded in this “open outcry” system, now just 1 percent are. Where once thousands of futures traders stood shoulder to shoulder, now just a few dozen show up on a typical day.

“There were five (people) in the wheat pit today,” laments broker Virginia McGathey after the closing bell in Chicago last Wednesday. “Back in the day, there were 400.”

Scott Shellady, a broker standing nearby, worries that fewer humans could mean more violent swings in food prices. He fears turbulence could be triggered by an unusually large offer from a stranger in India or another far off place to buy or sell a futures contract.

“That pit, with 500 guys, you can’t have a flash crash because … there are 499 people that know he doesn’t normally trade that big,” says Shellady, who wears a black-and-white cow print jacket, a reminder of a time when brokers needed to stand out on the floor.

Since at least 1870, when the first octagonal pits were installed in Chicago, traders have been reading the “tone” of the crowd to sense where prices might be heading and feeling the “rush” when placing a big bet.

After more than 40 years of trading, George Gero knows all about the feel and thrill of the pits. But he is also familiar with wrenching change, and learning to adapt to it.

After fleeing from the Nazi’s in wartime Hungary, he came to New York, and found a home in the commodities pits downtown. And at 79, he’s still at it, marveling at how the computer allows him to find prices for gold and currencies around the world, no matter the time of day.

But Gero, a strategist at RBC Capital Markets, is not a complete fan of the new way. “It’s very cold … strictly numbers,” he says.

Grant, the runner turned clerk who now oversees his own trading firm, says he has embraced change, too. But he mourns the loss of the kind of entry-level positions that gave kids without much education a chance to prove themselves, just as he did.

“The customer doesn’t have to call anyone to execute a trade,” he says.

Sullivan, the broker, puts it bleakly.

“It’s kind of a slow death for people,” he says. “Maybe I am holding on to something that needs to go.”

TIME Business

New Bubble Wrap Has Bubbles You Can’t Pop

Bad news for people who find it cathartic to pop the stuff

The Wall Street Journal reports that Sealed Air, the original seller of bubble wrap, is rolling out new version of bubble wrap with bubbles that do not pop and that takes up less space in online retailers’ storage centers.

According to the article,Traditional Bubble Wrap ships in giant, pre-inflated rolls, taking up precious room in delivery trucks and on customers’ warehouse floors. One roll of the new iBubble Wrap uses roughly one-fiftieth as much space before it’s inflated.”

Talk about sucking the air out of a room, right?

 

TIME Business

This Is What It’s Like to Work in Silicon Valley as a Teen

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It can be socially isolating — and I've struggled with impostor syndrome

Answer by Alexandr Wang, Performance Engineer at Quora, on Quora.

I’ve been sitting in front of my laptop for a few hours writing an answer to this question. The short answer is that it’s not that different from being a 20-something-year-old working in Silicon Valley. Only a few years separate an 18-year-old and a 21-year-old, and in most respects, they’ll have a pretty similar experience working in tech. But, for this answer to be interesting and meaningful, I’ll mostly be focusing on the differences. Of course, I’ll mostly be speaking from my own experience, which could be very different from other teens working in Silicon Valley.

As with most things, it’s not easily describable with the adjectives taught in school. It’s exciting, interesting, challenging, rewarding, confusing, and 20 other words I could rattle off for you which all seem meaningful and meaningless at the same time. But, bear with me, and I promise it’ll all make sense.

First off, working in tech immediately out of high school was liberating and forced me to change my perspective on a number of things. All of a sudden, I gained a large amount of optionality by getting a full-time job in tech. I could afford to travel at my own discretion and make my own financial decisions, and in general I had much more freedom than I would at college. I was asking myself questions like “What would I gain out of college?” and “Do I need to attend college?”, when before it was obvious that I needed to go to college, at the very least for the sake of my career. It forced me to examine my motives more carefully and make much harder decisions than before, rather than just following the default path. (See my answer to Should I take a gap year from MIT? for an example)

Additionally, working in tech, and at Quora specifically, has given me the chance to have a pretty significant impact and scope, probably at least as much as any other opportunity I could’ve had at my age. And by impact, I mean both impact within the company and impact on the world in general (this might seem like a bold and somewhat nebulous claim, but Quora is becoming more and more ubiquitous in a way that I’m confident saying this). Coming out of high school, where I was doing things for the sake of doing things, it was pretty incredible to be working on something which actually has the potential to change the world. It’s both invigorating and frightening at times; on the one hand I’m basically helping to build the internet, on the other I’m inexperienced and young, and I have the ability to screw everything up.

One thing I’ve personally struggled with while working in Silicon Valley has been impostor syndrome. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s basically this feeling that you don’t really deserve what you’ve accomplished, and your achievements have only come as the result of luck. Before working in tech, I had essentially no experience in computer science other than competitive programming (at which I was good, but nowhere close to being the best). It was hard for me to believe that I actually deserved the offers and opportunities I was getting, especially compared to thousands of other applicants who certainly had more experience and knowledge than me. On the other hand, it was easy for me to believe that I simply got lucky on the interviews and was able to slip by, naiveté and inexperience undetected. Oftentimes people expect a young person who’s “succeeded” in tech to be haughty and pretentious, but we’re just teenagers, and we face the same internal struggles as our peers (MIT students, for example).

Unlike a college setting, though, tech can be pretty socially isolating as a teenager, especially when it’s not the summer. Essentially all of my coworkers are 21 or older, many of them married and some have children. Because of the age and maturity gap, it was difficult to relate to my coworkers initially, and even harder to socialize with them. Over time I was able to be more integrated within the company, but even then, it’s hard to build friendships as strong as those from high school or college. I initially tried to overcome this by spending time at Stanford or Berkeley, but it was sometimes equally difficult to relate with students because I was not also a student. I fit imperfectly between two worlds, making it near impossible to latch onto any social graph.

Closely related to impostor syndrome, it was sometimes frustrating to be an unproven teenager in a workplace of adults. You’re constantly fighting against the default and almost subconscious expectation your coworkers have of you, which is an inexperienced and risky teenage hire. You won’t have any ethos to begin with, and the only way to overcome the initial teenager stigma is to perform much better than people expect you to. Even then, if you make a mistake, it can hugely affect how coworkers perceive you because the implicit expectation is that you’re not as experienced or knowledgable as an employee with more schooling or experience. The magnitude of this effect varies between companies, and I’m thankful to say Quora doesn’t suffer much from this because many of the teenage hires have been really successful.

I’ll close with a few realizations I’ve had from working in Silicon Valley over the past year:

  • You (and I) are not special. Working in Silicon Valley as a teenager doesn’t make you special. It doesn’t matter if you were a wunderkind who managed to get offers at 12 companies and start a startup at 16, your age is only relevant to the headlines. Your success will be determined by what you accomplish, independent of your age. Being a teenager in Silicon Valley doesn’t entitle you to any special attention or treatment. The bottom line is you’re not too different from everybody else working in tech, unless you prove it through your actions and endeavors.
  • Tech isn’t Wonderland. After reading about Silicon Valley in the news, and maybe after one’s first few onsite interviews, one might think that Silicon Valley is this glamorous place where thousands of incredibly smart people come together to solve some of the most interesting problems humanity has ever faced. In some sense, this is true; Silicon Valley does have a lot of very smart people, and there are a lot of interesting problems being worked on. But, just like any industry, there are also incompetent people, arrogant people, and malicious people. Sometimes these people are even very successful. You should expect to encounter these people, and you should be prepared to realize that many companies and projects are not actually interesting, innovative, or revolutionary.

Overall, being a teenager in tech can be extremely rewarding or frustrating depending on the opportunities you have. I would not say that it is always glamorous or exciting as is sometimes portrayed, and one should be aware of the trade-offs and caveats of working in Silicon Valley as a teen.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What’s it like to be a teen working in Silicon Valley?

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

6 Tricky Interview Questions (and How to Answer Them)

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"What are your salary requirements?"

Have you ever walked into a job interview feeling totally prepared, only to be stumped by a tricky surprise question? You’re not alone.

Two recent Quora threads discussed the questions, “What is the toughest interview question thrown at you, and how did you answer it?” and “What are some examples of great interview questions?” To help you tackle your next interview with confidence, we pulled together some of the most surprising Qs being asked behind closed doors—as well as Quora users’ interpretations and real-life answers.

1. “Do you think you’re a lucky person?”

There are two things you want to avoid here: attributing all of your successes to luck and coming across as cynical. “I thought about this for a few seconds and came to the conclusion that they must be gauging whether I’m an optimist or a pessimist,” Quora user Philemon Onesias says. “I decided to show them I’m the former, but still quite realistic.”

2. “If you could relive the last 10 years of your life, what would you change?”

If you think this sounds like a spin on the classic “greatest weakness” question, you’re right. “Professionally, I answered, ‘I don’t think I’d change anything,’” Erin Millano says. “‘I’ve learned a lot in the past 10 years and [it’s] all helped me grow.’”

3. “What are your salary requirements—both short-term and long-term?”

Talking salary is tricky, but talking salary for both the present and future is even trickier. Kate Ross Myers took an open and honest approach with her answer: “I just truthfully said, ‘I did not expect this question.’ I guess it worked, because I’m still working for the same company.” Our take: Give a short-term range, and keep the rest vague. Something like, “I think starting in the range of X and Y is fair—and of course I’d expect an appropriate increase after my annual performance reviews.”

4. “Tell me about a time in your life when you actually failed at something.”

The best way to answer this toughie? ’Fess up about your failures. “After interviewing over a 100 people in my career, this is the question that literally separates contenders from pretenders,” James Hritz says. “It’s interesting how many candidates are loath to admit they have ever failed at anything!”

5. “What can you teach us?”

This question can be pretty illuminating for both the interviewer and interviewee: When Divya Prabhakar was asked, “What can you teach us?” in a job interview, she realized she actually wasn’t a great fit for the company. “It showed me the company valued an interactive and mutual working environment, and if I wanted to have a positive experience there, rather than feel inferior, I should be able to answer this question easily,” she says.

6. “Tell us the most effective approaches for managing you.”

What management style helps you work best? This question, from Quora user Branko Marusic, forces you into the shoes of your potential superiors. “The company wants to ensure that every new employee has the best chance of succeeding,” he explains.

This article originally appeared on Levo.com

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TIME Careers & Workplace

12 Steps to Go From Employee to Entrepreneur

One step at a time

If you’re fed up with your job, it may seem like there are only two steps to becoming an entrepreneur. The first is to quit your job, and the next step is to start a company. While it is possible to transition successfully from employee to entrepreneur, it’s a little more complex than that.

Here are the 12 steps you’ll need to take to become your own boss.

1. Determine what you’d like to do.

Some people call this finding your passion, but it’s more than that. Think about your skills, abilities and experience. Consider what you can realistically see yourself doing for hours each day, for weeks and years.

2. Think about what others will pay for.

A viable business is the intersection between what you’d like to do and what others will pay for. Remember the “Jump to Conclusions Mat” from the movie Office Space? Todd loved building it, but no one was going to buy it. It wasn’t a viable business opportunity.

3. Interview ideal customers.

Find a few people that you think would be your ideal clients. Ask them about their biggest needs, fears and aspirations related to the business idea you plan to pursue. Are the benefits of your product or service in line with their real needs? Also, make a note of the words they use, as they’ll eventually help make your marketing more authentic.

4. Design your marketing and business plans.

Today’s marketing involves content creation, social media, email outreach and more. Make sure you know how you’ll approach each of these alternatives to introduce your idea to customers. At the same time, lay out a business plan that details how you intend your business to function. It doesn’t need to be super formal, but it does need to cover your operating structure, product, delivery systems and expansion plans.

5. Set up your business on a small scale.

If you can, test your company idea by launching on a small scale on the side, while still working your day job. This gives you a no-risk opportunity to test your ideas, get your first clients and see if the business will hold up over time before you leave the security of your current position.

6. Assess feedback and adjust.

Running a small-scale operation will help you determine which parts of your idea are great and which ones need adjusting. Take customer feedback seriously and make any necessary changes before you begin scaling up.

7. Assemble a team.

If your idea seems viable, determine who you’ll want on your business leadership team when you eventually launch full time. Depending on your personal experience, you may need help in areas such as finance, marketing, customer service and production.

8. Secure financing.

For a small venture, this might mean saving up some money to get through the first few months or taking cash from your 401(k). If your aspirations are a bit larger, you may need to think about how to procure venture capital or other outside investment.

9. Set up the structure of your company.

At the same time, you’ll also want to decide what kind of company structure to register. Do you want to incorporate, form an LLC or create a partnership? Get this taken care of legally and carefully define the roles and investment of each of your leadership team members.

10. Leave your job.

When you’re ready, leave your day job. This may feel like an amazing relief after all the work you already put in, but trust me, more work awaits. Although it may be tempting, be sure not to burn any bridges as you leave — you never know when you’ll encounter former bosses and colleagues again, and you may need to work with them in the future.

11. Set up a working budget.

With your full-time schedule now devoted to your business, set up a company budget. This should include payments for marketing expenses, salaries and other important purchases. Just be sure not to waste money on frivolous expenses!

12. Scale up your business according to your marketing plan.

Finally, all that’s left to do is to work the plans you’ve carefully laid out for yourself. Of course, that plan may change over time as you encounter and overcome obstacles. But, this is it — you’re a full-fledged entrepreneur. Congratulations!

As you can see, becoming an entrepreneur requires a lot of work before you even consider quitting your day job. However, if you follow each of the steps listed above and your idea still seems viable, you can leave your life as an employee and become an entrepreneur instead.

There are still many challenges you’ll face, but for most entrepreneurs, the benefits of meaningful work and self-direction are much more important.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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TIME psychology

7 Ways to Be More Inclusive

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Stop saying 'Hey guys'

I believe in the power of women to build inspiring careers in all types of fields.

At least, that’s what I thought I believed. It’s what my conscious mind thinks, at least.

My unconscious mind, however, favors traditional Western gender roles: men focusing on careers while women focus on family.

I learned about this dichotomy from taking an implicit association test, a social psychology test designed to measure a person’s unconscious or automatic associations between types of people and specific concepts or ideas.

And I’m not alone: The results of more than one million tests suggest that most people have these unconscious associations.

So I thought I would search for a few ways I could begin to correct my implicit biases and bring my unconscious mind on board with what the rest of me believes.

The book Blindspot: The Hidden Biases of Good People (the authors are the inventors of the implicit association test) has a ton of fascinating science on this topic. One bit in particular stood out to me:

“Eric Kandel, a neuroscientist at Columbia University who received a Nobel Prize for his work on memory, was once pressed to say how much of the mind works unconsciously; he gave an estimate of 80 to 90 percent…

The actual number isn’t important or even possible to derive. The point is that experts agree that the ability to have conscious access to our minds is quite low.”

So it’s especially important to focus on inclusivity in our conscious minds, because our unconscious has already put most of us (me included!) in quite a deficit.

Though this list is by no means exhaustive, here are a few things I discovered that might help us to counteract our own unconscious and get closer to the people we truly want to be.

1. Use inclusive language

One thing we’ve been working on lately in Buffer’s virtual workplace, where most communication is written, is to be mindful of the language we use and make sure it’s as inclusive as possible.

For example, many of us have been cracking down on our use of the colloquial “hey guys” greeting as we address the team. It was, of course, never meant to exclude the women on the team and has always been intended as a general greeting.

But we value clarity in communication at Buffer, and this greeting, friendly though its intentions might be, can be easily misconstrued.

Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou rightly gave us a little nudge on this recently, and we really appreciate it:

It’s a great reminder to keep going on this improvement, and being aware of all our language choices. Plus we occasionally get to reference this awesome flowchart from Tech Lady Mafia.

group-of-women-flowchart
Tech Lady Mafia

2. Expose yourself to counterstereotyping imagery (as simple as a screensaver)

Even the creators of the implicit association tests still “fail” them.

Blindspot co-author Mahzarin Banaji came up a simple and unique solution to combat some of her own “mindbugs:”

“She created a screensaver for her computer that displays images of a diverse array of humanity. She assumes that these images may do little more than keep her alerted to the actual range of diversity in the world, as opposed to that of the more limited set of humans she encounters in her daily experience. She also favored images that represent counterstereotypes. Short bald men who are senior executives is one of her favorite counterstereotyping images. Another is a drawing from a New Yorker magazine cover, of a construction worker with hard hat on, breast-feeding her baby.”

3. Consider your office furnishings

If you have a physical office that you want to make more inclusive for both genders, this study might be of interest.

At the University of Washington, Sapna Cheryan demonstrated that adding more feminine decor to computer science classrooms strengthened women’s associations of female gender with the possibility of computer science careers.

By changing out the objects in a computer science classroom from things like a Star Trek poster and video games to objects not considered stereotypical of computer science like a nature poster, the experiment boosted female study participant’s interest in computer science to the level of their male peers.

The study concluded:

“Environments can act like gatekeepers by preventing people who do not feel they fit into those environments from ever considering membership in the associated groups.”

4. Empower mentors for underrepresented groups

The researcher Buju Dasgupta has lots of interesting studies going on about implicit prejudice and stereotypes. One I really like is the Stereotype Inoculation Model.

This is her theory that successful people in your group who look like you, like teachers and peers, can function as a “social vaccine” that inoculates you from some of the self-doubt or alienation you might otherwise face in such a situation.

So far she has found a strengthening of “female = leader” and “female = math” associations in women college students after they received sustained exposure via their college courses to women faculty members.

“Results from several lab and field studies revealed that exposure to female STEM professors and experts enhanced women’s positive implicit attitudes toward STEM, increased their identification with STEM, their confidence in STEM, and effort on tests and exams.”

This could means that having even a few visible members of underrepresented groups on your team could have a compounding effect, if your organization can encourage and support mentoring relationships.

5. Use social media to amplify new voices

Did you know, in its analytics section, Twitter will tell you the gender split of your followers?

I was a bit surprised to discover my followers are majority male (though there is a bit of uncertainty about how Twitter figures out those genders).

 

I was even more surprised by my results from Twee-Q, a tool that analyzes the gender of the voices you amplify through retweets. I have a lot of work to do in amplifying smart female voices!

Of the 107,966 Twitter accounts that have been input into Twee-Q, there’s an immense tendency to amplify men more often than women:

twee-q-totals
Buffer

After discovering that he followed a nearly equal ratio of women and men, but retweeted men three times as often as women, the blogger and entrepreneur Anil Dash tried an experiment.

For a year he attempted to amplify different kinds of voices than he normally would by retweeting women exclusively. He ended up enjoying the experiment and recommending it to others:

“If you’re inclined, try being mindful of whose voices you share, amplify, validate and promote to others… we spend so very much of our time on these social networks, and there’s so much we can do to right the wrongs we’ve seen in other media, through simple, small actions. This one’s been a delightful and fun place to start.”

6. Find members of underrepresented groups that you admire

This is a really fun and simple one. What if you could fight your brain’s unconscious bias simply by admiring others?

Another study from the very busy Dr. Buju Dasgupta found that when people are exposed to admired members of disadvantaged groups (African Americans, gays and lesbians, elderly, women), they express less implicit bias against these groups.

In this study of racial implicit bias, participants revealed less bias after being shown “black examplars”—pictures of famous and admired people like Martin Luther King Jr., Colin Powell, Michael Jordan and Denzel Washington.

This means one easy way to work on unconscious bias could be to simply seek out more admired members of underrepresented groups and focus on those people’s work more often.

7. Use your imagination: Counterprogram your brain

Possibly the simplest way of all to retrain your unconscious mind? Use your imagination.

At the University of Colorado, researcher Irene Blair discovered that simple imagination exercises were enough to weaken some implicit stereotypes.

She asked a mixed-gender group of college students to “take a few minutes to imagine what a strong woman is like, why she is considered strong, what she is capable of doing, and what kinds of hobbies and activities she enjoys.”

The participants came up with all sort of images, from bosses to athletes:

srtrong-woman-study
Irene Blair/University of Colorado

No matter what their image was, participants who engaged in the mental imagery exercise produced “substantially weaker implicit stereotypes” compared with participants who engaged in neutral mental imagery or no mental energy.

So if you happen to be challenged by a particular implicit bias, discovered either through taking a test or your own intuition, you can try counterprogramming your brain with some simple visual exercises like this one.

Over to you

Being empathetic and inclusive to those of all walks of life is a skill it seems that most of us could work on for a lifetime.

I’m looking forward to putting these strategies into practice to see if I can move my unconscious mind in the right direction.

This article originally appeared on Buffer

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

These Are the Most Underrated Skills That Many People Lack

Be reliable and keep track of yourself

Answer by Auren Hoffman, CEO of LiveRamp, on Quora.

Two skills are incredibly rare: (1) Doing what you say you will do (be reliable); (2) Keeping track of yourself

Doing what you tell people you will do

If you can teach your kids a useful skill that will always help them with their career: teach them to be reliable — to do what they say they will do. (It is harder than it sounds.)

If you consistently do what you say you will do, you will almost certainly be someone people desire to have on their teams. It is so rare that when you work with someone who is reliable, you never ever want to work with anyone else. You will do anything to keep that person on your team.

Doing what you say you are going to do starts with setting the right expectations. If you tell someone you will get them the deliverable by Tuesday, you need to understand that it can actually be delivered by Tuesday. If you are good, you are probably factoring in slack in case someone in corporate slows you down or your child gets sick.

And so if your boss wants something done Monday and you think it cannot be done until Wednesday, you need to be up-front. Because once a date is agreed to, you’re on the hook for accomplishing it.

On the less-skilled end of the job spectrum, many people cannot commit to showing up to work consistently and on time. There are many external factors in their life that make even these commitments hard to achieve.

So do everything you can to be reliable — because there are very few people that one can rely on.

Keep track of yourself

The corollary to being reliable is to make sure you manage yourself.

If you can manage all your tasks and deliverables without reminders, you will be treated like the golden child.

If your boss or colleagues never need to remind you about a project, deliverable, an answer to an email, etc., they will be able to take a load off their mind and be allowed to focus on other areas. And they will appreciate not having to have the uncomfortable conversation with you (“where is that item that was due yesterday?”).

This takes a lot of hard work and organization, but most people can do it. You don’t need a PhD (or even a college degree) to be on top of everything. You just need to be organized and prioritize its importance. Of course, while most people CAN do this, most people DON’T do this — so doing it will be a huge differentiator for you.

The underrated skills

If all you do is be reliable and keep track of yourself, you will be indispensable to any company.

This question originally appeared on Quora: From the perspective of a CEO, what are the most underrated skills most employees lack?

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Impress Anyone in 30 Seconds or Less

business-people-handshake
Getty Images

Be mindful of body language

Inc. logo

Some experts estimate that 85 percent of your financial success comes not from your skills or knowledge but from your ability to connect with other people and engender their trust and respect.

Within seconds, everyone you meet forms an impression that largely determines whether they’ll like, trust, and respect you.

Whether you’re job-hunting or fundraising or leading an organization, making a good impression is absolutely critical. (No pressure, right?)

So whether you are looking to raise money for your company, or you are managing your team or leading your business, connecting to people and making a great impression is very important.

Here are some tips to help you win hearts and minds in 30 seconds:

Neutralize the fight-or-flight response.

The first few seconds of a first encounter are driven by instinctive reactions. Each person makes unconscious immediate appraisals that center around how safe they feel. Be mindful of your immediate signals, and make sure they could never be perceived as threatening.

Respect boundaries.

Be mindful of personal space and respect the boundaries of others. If in doubt, follow the other person’s cues: if they lean in, you lean in; if they stand back, you do the same. Remember that concepts of appropriate personal space vary by culture.

Feed expectations.

In business, first impressions are frequently colored by expectations. We expect people to live up to the image we have created in our minds from their reputation, phone calls, emails, or texts. We expect consistency with that general image — and without it, we feel some degree of disappointment and confusion. It’s not the time to surprise others with a new side of your personality.

Be mindful of body language.

It accounts for more than half of what others respond to initially — so it literally does speak louder than words. Hold yourself in a way that signals attention and an open heart, and keep a facial expression that combines authority with approachability and eye contact.

Stay positive.

The language of the brain is pictures, sounds, feelings, and to a lesser extent, smells and tastes. It’s much more difficult to translate negatives into brain-friendly imagery than positives. Work to develop a positive explanatory style.

Keep control of your attitude.

The general energy you give off is one of the first unconscious things people respond to. If you’re frazzled, project calm. If you’re distracted and unenthusiastic, project positivity. (You’ll not only make a better impression, but you can influence your own mood.)

Manage your moods.

People are drawn to warmth, enthusiasm, and confidence more than anger, arrogance, and impatience. Whatever is going on around you, manage your responses to get the best response from others.

Synchronize.

Make sure your words, your tone of voice, and your body language are all saying the same thing. Mixed messages put off others, but consistency gives you clarity and credibility.

Use sensory language.

Activate people’s senses, and mix up your imagery to make sure you hit their strength. Whenever possible, use descriptions of visual images, sounds, textures, motion, and feelings to add meaning to what you’re saying.

Be curious, open-minded, and interested.

If you can get the other person talking and keep them talking, odds are they’ll be drawn to you. Be interested and open-minded; ask questions that spark their imagination and ignite conversation.

Dress for success.

Find a personal style that represents who you are and the message you want to send about yourself. Look at your dress and appearance as packaging a product.

Have a personal statement.

Have a personal statement prepared and memorized so you can tell others concisely and eloquently what you do, what it means to you, and why it makes a difference. Think of it not as a sales pitch but an engaging and artfully crafted mini-presentation.

Work through these points and you should have a great first impression all lined up.

One final tip as you get out there:

Treat every connection you make as if it’s the most important thing you’ve ever done. Because, frankly, you never know when it actually will be.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at Inc.com

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