Your tools to running a successful business.

On Leadership Stereotypes

Based on extensive studies in the United States and Great Britain, the folks at Roffley Park Management College in London, have challenged several assumptions about effective leadership. They came to the following conclusions:

Flexibility - Conventional beliefs maintain that leaders must be flexible. But in reality, effective leaders are flexible in operational terms but are rigid in their beliefs and values.

Order - Effective leaders do not always maintain order. Sometime inducing a little chaos when an organizational shakeup is necessary and good leaders know how to do it right.

Vision - While leaders require vision, it need not necessarily be their own. Effective leaders who are not visionaries surround themselves with people who are.

Articulators - Few good leaders are effective orators and communicators. The study found that leaders who communicate well at work often are ineffective speaking in public.

Get Off Your Butt and Think

Standing up makes you smarter, according to Dr. Max Vercruyssen of the University of Southern California. He concludes from his work that standing increases your brain's information processing 5 percent to 20 percent faster than if you were sitting.

The reasoning is that when you are standing, your heart beats about 10 extra times each minute. This sends more blood to the brain and boosts activity in the central nervous system.

The E-doctor Is In

The American Medical Association (AMA) has helped launch a new service that lets people consult with their doctors via e-mail. It is expected that doctors will charge around $25 per e-mail.

Most health plans probably won't pay for the e-mails, but Dr. Edward Fotsch, CEO of Medem, an online physician network, says he expects many patients will be willing to pay out of their own pockets for the convenience of being able to consult with their doctors this way. A virtual visit is easier and probably cheaper than taking time off from work and paying a typical $15 office visit co-payment, Fotsch explains. About 200 doctors already are offering the service.

Certainly, e-mail consultations are not meant for use in emergency situations. And some doctors warn it could take two or three days to reply to the e-mails. Still, Fotsch says, "That's better than waiting five weeks for an appointment." He is expecting about 40,000 doctors to sign up by 2004.

A poll by Harris Interactive found that 37 percent of patients would be willing to pay for the e-mail consultations, 39 percent would not and 24 percent weren't sure. Among those willing to pay, the average amount they would want to pay is $6.90 - a fair distance from that $25 figure the doctors want.

Spending Time with Employees

There is no rule of thumb to determine how much time to spend with subordinates. But the National Institute of Business Management points to certain symptoms that can help recognize when you enter the danger zones.

You may be spending too much time with your workers if:

* You frequently feel that problems or questions that are brought to you could be handled down the line. This is a clear sign that subordinates are too dependent. It also is a hint to analyze how much this is a result of your own behavior.

* You feel you know as much as your employees do about their jobs. Mastering every single detail of the tasks that occur is not a virtue. Your job is to supervise your employees, not to train as a potential replacement.

* People take your time for granted. If people just drop in even when you're visibly busy, they may be telling you something. Any such disrespect for the value of your time can indicate that you yourself aren't valuing it highly enough.

You may not be accessible enough to your employees if:

* You usually are the last to know when someone is in trouble. Many small problems can snowball if left unattended. The sooner you spot a problem, the easier it will be to deal with it.

* You often are startled to realize you haven't spoken with a particular employee in quite a while. Most managers make a point of regularly touching base with employees. If you find yourself too busy to do this, you might restudy your priorities - see what can be delegated to leave you more time for personal contact.

* People explain mistakes by saying, "I didn't want to bother you with this." When this happens infrequently, this merely indicates that an employee has bitten off more than he or she can chew. But, if it happens often, it may mean that you appear too remote to your employees.

Get the Facts Straight

Some myths that need to be busted:

* Footballs are not, and never were, made of pigskin.

* The Statue of Liberty is not that monument's name. Its correct name is "Liberty Enlightening the World."

* Despite their name, catgut tennis racket strings do not come from cats. Sheep usually are the source.

* The dog days of summer aren't so named because Fido can't take the heat. It's because Sirius, the dog star, rises in conjunction with the sun during part of the summer. The ancients thought that made the days hotter.

* There are only 46 states in the United States. Virginia, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Pennsylvania are commonwealths. Rhode Island, while indeed a state, actually is the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.

10 Commandments of Good Feedback

Excellent feedback preserves an individual's dignity and integrity while allowing for improvement in his or her behavior. In their book "The Gentle Art of Feedback," Bob Wood and Andrew Scott offer the following 10 suggestions for giving feedback.

* Offer feedback on observed behavior, not on perceived attitudes.

* Offer a description of what you saw and how you felt, rather than a judgement.

* Focus on behavior that can be changed.

* Choose those aspects of job performance that are most important and limit comments to those.

* Ask questions rather than make statements.

* Set all the ground rules in advance.

* Comment on the things that an employee did well, as well as areas for improvement.

* Relate all your feedback to specific items of behavior; don't make statements about general feelings or impressions.

* Observe personal limits; don't give too much feedback at once.

* Before offering any feedback, consider its value to the employee.