Check out this month's business management files.

Courtesy of Hustisford, Wis.

Wanton Wattage Wasters

These little-known facts about electricity use come from theWall Street Journal:

  • Rechargers for devices such as cell phones, camcorders and Palm Pilots use electricity whether they're charging or not.
  • Anything that can be powered by remote control - television, stereos, VCRs, etc. - consumes a certain amount of electricity even when not in use. To prevent it, the appliance must be unplugged, but then you might have to reprogram settings.
  • Incandescent and halogen bulbs, the most commonly used light sources in American homes, produce light as a byproduct of heat. They waste some 90 percent of the electricity they consume. Fluorescent bulbs are far more efficient.
  • Contrary to popular belief, it's cheaper to turn incandescent lights off and on than to leave them on for even just a few seconds.
  • Using disposable batteries to power electronic equipment is extremely expensive compared with using line power.
  • Empty refrigerators consume more energy than full ones because they have more air to cool.

Better Reference Gathering

Obtaining references on prospective employees has gotten more and more difficult in recent years, mostly the result of the many big-buck lawsuits that have been filed - and often won - because past employers told the truth about lousy former employees. So now, the best you get when you talk with references is name, rank and serial number. Personnel expert Dr. Pierre Mornell offers a simple and highly effective reference check that is both fast and legal.

Mornell recommends that you call references when you assume they'll be out of their offices; you want to reach an assistant or voice mail. Then leave this carefully worded message: "Jane Jones is a candidate for a position in our company. Your name has been given as a reference. Please call me back if the candidate was outstanding."

The results are immediate and revealing. If the candidate was outstanding, people will respond quickly and want to help. However, if the response is tepid, this message also is loud and clear. And yet - no derogatory information has been shared, no libelous statements have been made, and no confidences or laws have been broken.

Courtesy of Advanced Chiropractic Center

Sunsets a Little Earlier

This month's calendar note is a reminder that daylight-saving time ends Sunday, Oct. 28 at 2 a.m., when we revert back to standard time. It's a known fact that 43 percent of the people who forget to set their clocks back an hour discover their mistake shortly after getting that really great parking spot for "10 o'clock" church services.

Standard time in this country was started by the railroads in the 1880s in an effort to standardize schedules. Daylight-saving time was adopted during World War I to conserve energy and resources. Although some parts of the country observed daylight-saving time between the wars, it was not observed nationally again until World War II.

World War II is history; why do we still have daylight-saving time? Forget the old wives' tale about helping the farmers. They actually hate it. Farmers generally must wake with the sun regardless of what their watches say; it's no small inconvenience for them to have to rearrange their schedules to meet the needs of both their livestock and the marketplace.

Some people believe that if we have more daylight at the end of the day, there would be fewer accidents. This, however, also means less daylight in the morning. When daylight-saving time was tried year-round in 1973 (oil embargo), one reason it was repealed was because of an increase in school bus accidents. Also, after "spring forward" day, people hit the streets with a brain that's had an hour less of rest.

There's little argument that crime decreases with increased daylight in the evening. More activities are completed during daylight hours, reducing exposure to various crimes that are more commonly committed under the cover of darkness.

Time is money. Just ask the Barbecue Industry Association, which estimates that the extra hour of sunshine for a few weeks each year is worth $30 million each year in sales. And the candy companies desperately want daylight-saving time extended through October 31 (Halloween) for obvious reasons.

The Uniform Time Act of 1966 established the basic rules for alternating between standard time and daylight-saving time. But even though Congress enacted the law, it does not require that daylight-saving time be observed. It only states that if it is observed, it must be done uniformly. These days, that means setting the clock forward an hour on the first Sunday in April and setting it back an hour on the fourth Sunday in October. Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the eastern time zone in Indiana and most of Arizona (excluding the Navajo Indian Reservation) do not observe daylight-saving time.

Our friend Richard Holmes has an interesting theory about the whole thing. "Setting clocks back is easy; setting them forward is difficult," he explains. "Let's keep the fall ritual as it is. In the spring, however, instead of setting clocks one hour forward, let's set them 23 hours back. No loss of sleep and you basically get Saturday all over again. Of course, this means that our calendars would fall behind one day each year. So every fourth year, instead of adding a leap year day, we just subtract three days. Let these be Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, which, according to polls, are the least popular days."

University of Virgnina photo by Mike Montana

Workplace Coaching Strategies

Whether at the sports arena, in the boardroom, as part of a project team, or as a personal or professional counselor, all coaches use similar tenets and tools to help others excel. Coaches might implement these tools in different ways, but the common denominators present in most coaching relationships can have lasting effects on employees' performance, as well as on your own. That's food for thought from Jamie Walters, founder of InnoVision Communication, San Francisco.

Apply the following strategies, says Walter, and boost the effectiveness of your workplace coaching.

Have a game plan: A clear vision and action plan ensure that all "players" are focused on the same end-result. As the coach, this will help you more quickly see when the group is off-course and needs to re-calibrate its efforts. What happens if you lack a vision and action plan? Just imagine a football coach trying to coordinate each player's movements without a predetermined play.

Associate the game plan with the goals of individuals: A coach is only as effective as the team member is motivated. A coach can recommend approaches and tools until blue in the face, but if a person isn't genuinely focused on attaining the expressed goals, little change will be made.

Do drills: Isolate the key skills required to succeed, and develop exercises that hone those specific skills through practice.

Put people in roles that suit their aptitudes: Discuss natural propensities with your employees. Learn what they like to do and why. Suggest new or modified roles for individuals. Fill talent voids in your organization, as opposed to filling an open job title.

Use appropriate communication modes and content: The best coaches in any arena know how to mold their communication style and content to befit the person they are coaching - leading to greater understanding, better rapport and longer retention. This applies to word choice, voice tone, personal space boundaries, and the way you explain required actions and expectations.

Celebrate: Achieving goals and reaching milestones deserve credit. Celebrating these accomplishments underscores the value that each person brings to the table and confirms expected behaviors - all while serving as motivators for future learning.

Tips for Managing Your Time

We found this inWarriors' Words: A Dictionary of Military Quotations:

At the end of every day, British General Harold Alexander would put any correspondence remaining in his "in" tray into his "out" tray. When his assistant asked him why he did this, the general replied, "It saves time. You'd be surprised how little of it comes back."