May is the month of new beginnings. Just ask any recent graduate with a freshly minted diploma clasped tightly in hand.

They’ve slogged through the salt mines of advanced programming, navigated the carbon bonds of organic chemistry and agonized through weeklong problem sets in engineering. They’ve labored to understand the relevance of Cicero’s speeches to modern political rhetoric, and poured through thousands of pages of literature in search of an insight from Shakespeare or Thoreau that they could apply to the world they will inherit. And they are now at last, free — launched out into the exciting and very scary world of becoming contributing members of a society that is both characterized by its many flaws and heralded for its fine points.

In the course of pursuing a degree, however, these future leaders have spent much of their education learning about other people, other places and other things. The journey to truly understanding the legacy that they will compose and leave to others some 40 years from now is just getting underway. (read more…)

The Young Entrepreneur Council is an invite-only organization composed of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Read previous SmartBlogs posts by YEC.

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Q. What’s the most important consideration when deciding, among founders, who should take on which leadership role?

yec_Dustin Cavanaugh1. Play to your strengths

I have been involved in multiple partnerships at the founder level and have learned through experience it is always best to play to your strengths. While one person may have initially come up with the product or model, another may be more suited to lead the company as the CEO. Every role at the founder level is equally important, so assign them with the company’s best interest in mind. — Dustin Cavanaugh, RenewAge

yec_Luigi Wewege2. (read more…)

There are a lot of things that can contribute to a toxic work environment – poor leadership, bullies and gossip, a high stress culture or even excessive bureaucracy. If any of these situations sound familiar, do read on:

People

Leadership

Culture

Bullies

Backstabbers

Gossips

Users

Axe-grinders

Cynics/naysayers

Lack of vision

Unrealistic expectations

Poor communication

Yelling, shaming

Favoritism

Lack of empathy

No feedback

Only negative feedback

Long hours

Excessive overtime

Constant rushing

Scapegoating

Constant criticism

Cliquishness

Toxic work impacts

Increased employee absenteeism or illness

Low morale

High turnover/loss of talented staff

Decreased teamwork/team spirit

Whatever the reasons your workplace is leaving you drained, there are steps you can take to keep yourself going, at least until you have made your game plan or found your next opportunity. Take the situation as a learning opportunity and set yourself up for success, despite the circumstances.

DO own your own integrity

Nobody agrees on how offices should be designed. Let’s just start there. We don’t even agree on the merits of the American version of “The Office” versus the British original (my 2 cents: the American version is unintentionally darker because it leaves those people in dead-end job stasis for nine years).

But we can all agree that the office can be improved. That’s why a recent Fortune article caught my eye. It explores the idea of the “flexible” office from a few angles, including how a startup customizes its workspace to allow for concentrated work, as well as the history of and current trends in office furniture. Here’s the thesis:

Evidence is mixed on whether open plans actually foster collaboration, and studies have shown that open office plans decrease productivity and employee well-being while increasing the number of sick days workers take.

What went wrong? And, if an open plan isn’t the solution to the modern workplace, what comes next? (read more…)

Mental preparation is critical to success.

Too often the temptation is to prepare externally for a challenge while ignoring internal preparation. That is, executives go to great lengths in doing the work — doing research and marshaling resources — that they ignore their own mental state.

When adversity strikes you are at a disadvantage because you have not strengthened your inner self. You may buckle at the first sign of resistance.

One way to prepare is through the practice of mindfulness, which is the state of being fully present in the moment. You are aware of self and situation as well as what you can do or not do.

Meditation is one method for learning to become more mindful but not the only way. What is required for mindfulness is learning to take stock of yourself regularly as a means of gaining perspective on your performance and your interactions with others. (read more…)