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Four tips to cure your inner prima donna

Whether you’re a celebrity asked to speak at an event, or working with prima donnas with pushy requests, these four tips can keep anyone at any level in check.

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Dealing with prima donnas

I love my job, it truly is amazing and constantly engaging. Well, I love most of my job. There’s one part of my job in particular that I just hate – dealing with prima donnas.

While difficult egos exist in every field, people whose livelihood is either based on their own personal ‘brand’ or the brand of another individual seem to find their way into the land of ridiculousness far quicker.

Working with athletes, speakers, agents, and event planners can often mean a life of ego management. What’s most amazing? No one thinks they fall into this category. Every difficult request, rude response, and unrealistic expectation makes perfect sense at that moment to that person.

Case in point:

I’ve been working with a company (names will not be used) to get a well known celebrity to their event. The company has paid the money. The speaker has agreed to do the event. Everyone should be happy, right? Wrong.

Every single step in the process has been a nightmare. How long should the speaker stay on stage? Will the speaker do a Q&A? How many books will the speaker sign? What font should the speaker’s bio be written in? What type of car will be picking the speaker up from the airport? Not one of these questions has been answered without push back.

I have no control over the ridiculousness that is this particular situation, but I can use it to help make sure none of you become the person who is currently making my life a living hell. I know you don’t think it will happen to you, but no one ever does. Below are a few truths that we all should remember, particularly those who speak or entertain for a living.

1- You aren’t that important.

I mean no offense by it. I am sure your kids love you and the world you’ve created would come crashing down if for some reason you disappeared. Unfortunately, the rest of us don’t live in your world. We live in a world that houses over six billion others just like you. Nothing you are doing is that big of a deal.

While I know this news might cause a cataclysmic shift in the fabric of your universe, it’s actually very good news. How much energy do you spend worrying and fretting and yelling and losing sleep over things that are just not a big deal? You can stop. Everything is going to be okay… or not. Either way, you are not that important. Never forget this.

2- Be nice.

So this isn’t my actually my advice. It’s something I’ll never forget former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told me (prior to being Secretary of Defense). It was given in the context of him talking about what made President Bush (Sr.) so unique.

Dr. Gates talked about how in the 40 plus years of working in government, he saw all sorts of personalities, but that those who had the respect and admiration of everyone were always kind. In that kindness, they moved up. Not only that, they experienced the benefits of their kindness by having people go above and beyond for them.

If the President of the United States can be nice to everyone, from the security team to the janitor, so can you. Be nice.

3- Adopt the phrase “I’m easy” (except on dates).

I can’t name the number of times I told someone not to book a speaker because of their reputation for being difficult. You want to get more business? Be easy.

Stop asking for water from Maui, a specific type of projector, a different hotel than the rest of us use. Enough complaining that the event didn’t start on time, or that the person messed up the way you wanted to be introduced. Remember, you have a reputation.

4- Keep the situation situational.

Most of the frustrations I deal with relate to people having no perspective. I don’t mean to drum up the ‘there are starving kids in Africa’ cliché, but there are. Chances are, none of the things anyone who is reading this are struggling with related to any of the lower three levels of Maslow’s Heirarchy.

If the difference in a situation is five more minutes in a conversation with someone you don’t like, or even a missed flight, is it really worth ruining another person’s day?

Key takeaway: just be cool.

A close friend and weekly poker buddy named Holly is an executive at a Fortune 100 company. This is her life motto. In some ways, it’s the summary of everything else I’ve said, but I think it’s worth having it’s own point. How much better would life be if we all constantly had the phrase ‘Just be Cool’ running through our head?

The way we treat others and the words we use have amazing power over both the lives of those we touch but also our own. I know we can all look at others and think “why do you have to be so difficult?” At the end of the day, however, the only people I can ensure stop being so difficult is me. In doing that, perhaps I can help others along the path of a life that models the phrase of my dear friend Holly… just be cool, everyone.

Curt Steinhorst loves attention. More specifically, he loves understanding attention. How it works. Why it matters. How to get it. As someone who personally deals with ADD, he overcame the unique distractions that today’s technology creates to start a Communications Consultancy, The Promentum Group, and Speakers Bureau, Promentum Speakers, both of which he runs today. Curt’s expertise and communication style has led to more than 75 speaking engagements in the last year to organizations such as GM, Raytheon, Naval Academy, Cadillac, and World Presidents’ Organization.

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Opinion Editorials

DNA tests are cool, but are they worth it?

(OPINION EDITORIAL) DNA tests are all the rage currently but are they worth potentially having your genetic makeup sold and distributed?

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Over the last few years, DNA testing went mainstream. Companies like Ancestry.com and 23andMe have offered easy access to the insights of your genetics, including potential health risks and family heritage, through simple tests.

However, as a famously ageless actor once suggested in a dinosaur movie, don’t focus too much on if you can do this, without asking if you should do this.

When you look closely, you can find several reasons to wonder if sending your DNA to these companies is a wise choice.

These reasons mostly come down to privacy protection, and while most companies do have privacy policies in place, you will find some surprising loopholes in the fine print. For one, most of the big players don’t give you the option to not have your data sold.

These companies, like 23andMe and Ancestry.com, can always sell your data so long as your data is “anonymized,” thanks to the HIPPA Act of 1996. Anonymization involves separating key identifying features about a person from their medical or biological data.

These companies know that loophole well; Ancestry.com, for example, won’t even give customers an opt-out of having their DNA data sold.

Aside from how disconcerting it is that these companies will exploit this loophole for their gain at your expense, it’s also worth noting that standards for anonymizing data don’t work all that well.

In one incident, reportedly, “one MIT scientists was able to ID the people behind five supposedly anonymous genetic samples randomly selected from a public research database. It took him less than a day.”

There’s also the issue of the places where that data goes when it goes out. That report the MIT story comes from noted that 23andMe has sold data to at least 14 outside pharmaceutical firms.

Additionally, Ancestry.com has a formal data-sharing agreement with a biotech firm. That’s not good for you as the consumer, because you may not know how that firm will handle the data.

Some companies give data away to the public databases for free, but as we saw from the earlier example, those can be easy targets if you wanted to reverse engineer the data back to the person.

It would appear the only safe course of action is to have this data destroyed once your results are in. However, according to US federal regulation for laboratory compliance stipulates that US labs hold raw information for a minimum of 10 years before destruction.

Now, consider all that privacy concern in the context of what happens when your DNA data is compromised. For one, this kind of privacy breach is irreversible.

It’s not as simple as resetting all your passwords or freezing your credit.

If hackers don’t get it, the government certainly can; there’s even an instance of authorities successfully obtaining a warrant for DNA evidence from Ancestry.com in a murder trial.

Even if you’re not the criminal type who would worry about such a thing, the precedent is concerning.

Finally, if these companies are already selling data to entities in the biomedical field, how long until medical and life insurance providers get their hands on it?

I’ll be the first to admit that the slippery slope fallacy is strong here, but there are a few troubling patterns of behavior and incorrect assumptions already in play regarding the handling of your DNA evidence.

The best course of action is to take extra precaution.

Read the fine print carefully, especially what’s in between the lines. As less scrupulous companies look to cash in on the trend, be aware of entities who skimp on privacy details; DNA Explained chronicles a lot of questionable experiences with other testing companies.

Above all, really think about what you’re comfortable with before you send in those cheek swabs or tubes of spit. While the commercials make this look fun, it is a serious choice and should be treated like one.

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Opinion Editorials

How to deal with an abusive boss and keep your job, too

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Sometimes bosses can be the absolute worst, but also, you depend on them. Here’s how to deal with an abusive boss and, hopefully, not get fired.

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Nothing can ruin your work life like an abusive boss or supervisor. But when you’re dependent on your boss for assignments, promotions – heck, your paycheck – how can you respond to supervisor abuse in a way that doesn’t jeopardize your job or invite retaliation?

A new study to be published in the next Academy of Management Journal suggests an intriguing approach to responding to an abusive boss. As you might expect, their study shows that avoiding the abuser does little to change the dynamic.

But the study also found that confronting the abuser was equally ineffective.

Instead, the study suggests that workers in an abusive situation “flip the script” on their bosses, “shifting the balance of power.” But how?

The researchers tracked the relationship between “leader-follower dyads” at a real estate agency and a commercial bank. They found that, without any intervention, abuse tended to persist over time.

However, they also discovered two worker-initiated strategies that “can strategically influence supervisors to stop abuse and even motivate them to mend strained relationships.”

The first strategy is to make your boss more dependent on you. For example, one worker in the study found out that his boss wanted to develop a new analytic procedure.

The worker became an expert on the subject and also educated his fellow co-workers. When the boss realized how important the worker was to the new project, the abuse subsided.

In other words, find out what your boss’s goals are, and then make yourself indispensable.

In the second strategy, workers who were being abused formed coalitions with one another, or with other workers that had better relationships with the boss. The study found that “abusive behavior against isolated targets tends to stop once the supervisor realizes it can trigger opposition from an entire coalition.”

Workplace abuse is not cool, and it shouldn’t really be up to the worker to correct it. At times, the company will need to intervene to curb bad supervisor behavior. However, this study does suggest a few strategies that abused workers can use to try to the tip the balance in their favor.

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Opinion Editorials

Avoid the stack, conquer busy work as it comes

(PRODUCTIVITY) It’s easy overwhelmed with emails and a stack of real mail. But tackling as it comes may help to enhance organization and productivity.

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A few weeks ago, I was walking through my office (also known as my bedroom after 5 p.m.) and I noticed a stack of mail that I had tossed aside over the course of the last few months. While they were non-urgent, this collection of paperwork had been opened, read, and left unattended.

Now, this was a classic move of mine – leave a mess for Future Taylor to clean up. So, imagine my surprise when Present Taylor woke up and decided to put an end to “the stack.”

I sat down, went through everything, and took care of what needed to be done. Even though my wallet took a few hits, it felt great to have this cleared up and off my desk.

Right then and there, I made it a rule to let things only cross my desk once (unless there’s some extenuating circumstance in which it requires me to come back to it; i.e. my favorite sentence on this paperwork “This is not a final bill.”) There’s no point in drawing out the stress that “the stack” induce.

This led me to finally attacking something that’s been on my to-do list since I created my Gmail account in 2009 – create an organizational system.

I set aside some time to create folders (for individual projects, people I communicate with frequently, etc.)

While this is all stuff that you may have already implemented, my point is that this increase my productivity and lifted a weight off of my shoulders I didn’t acknowledge was there.

So, I encourage you to find one of those menial tasks that has been on your to-do list forever and tackle it.

This can include, organizing all of your electronic files into folders, updating your phone and email contacts, or going through all of your desk drawers to get rid of unneeded items. Organizing and freshening up your workspace can help increase your focus.

Once you’re organized and in gear, try the “let it cross your desk once” method. When an email comes in, respond to it or file it. When a bill comes in, pay it. You may be surprised at your rise in productivity.

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