Employees reflect the culture of their workplace. If you expect high performance from your employees, create a culture that inspires them to work to the best of their abilities. Start with these key principles:

Communication. Effectively communicating how activities and behaviors can affect profits and customer satisfaction helps employees know where they can improve.

Capability. Do employees have the knowledge and skills they need to do their jobs? Training in technical skills may be necessary, but don’t forget “soft” skills, such as communication and teamwork, which are just as important.

Resources. Tools and equipment are important resources, but don’t neglect the less obvious ones, such as workplace environment, culture and atmosphere, and the most vital resource—time.

Motivation. Money can be an important factor, but praise, recognition, and opportunities for development or advancement can be powerful motivators as well.

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Here’s one tip to remember when staying in a hotel: Beware of phone calls pretending to come from the front desk.

The AmoMama website reports on a scam in which someone calls to tell a traveler that the front desk has lost their credit card information, or that the card has been declined.

If that happens, don’t automatically read your credit card number to the caller. Instead, hang up and go down to the front desk. If it’s legitimate, you’ll know right away. Otherwise, you'll protect yourself from a credit card thief.

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Here are some random observations about life:
• The older I get, the earlier it gets late.
• It’s the start of a brand-new day, and I’m off—like a herd of turtles.
• I finally got eight hours of sleep. It took me three days.
• When you lose a sock in the dryer, it comes back as a Tupperware
lid that doesn’t fit any of your containers.

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As you embrace the start of the New Year, it’s important to give yourself room to grow. It’s also important to remember that growth is not always easy or obvious. I’m reminded of the following story, a valuable metaphor for embracing adversity:

A man found the cocoon of a butterfly. A small opening appeared. The man sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through the little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and could go no farther.

The man decided to help, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of cocoon. The butterfly then emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that at any moment the wings would expand, and the body would contract to the proper proportion.

Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around. It never was able to fly.

In his kindness and haste, the man had not understood something. A restricting cocoon and the struggle for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were nature's way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need to become stronger in character and determination. If nature allowed us to go through life without any obstacles, we would not learn how to be resilient and powerful. We might never fly!

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“Visit the Zoo Day” happens every year on December 27, dating all the way back to when the world’s oldest scientific zoo, the Zoological Society of London, opened their facility to the public as a fundraiser in 1847.

Beyond the traditional image of zoos as a place to spend the day observing wildlife, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums supports contemporary animal management, husbandry, and veterinary care; 160 facilities reported spending $20.5 million in 2020 on research alone.

Why not start a new family tradition and pay a visit to your local zoo and visit the animals this December? If the zoo isn’t open or you’re not able to get there, look for online options offered by many zoos around the country. Rawr!

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Podcasters Eric Eliasson and Lara Mitra asked 30 top business leaders what they’d learned on their path to success. The MIT Sloane School of Management website presents some of their insights:

1. Diversify your passions. Don’t limit yourself to just one area of interest. Look around and seek out new possibilities throughout your career.

2. Be open to changing views of success. “Success” can mean making lots of money, having power, earning the love of a family, or an infinite number of other things. As you learn and grow, your definition of success may shift and you may find that you have very different ideas of what’s valuable at different stages of your life.

3. You may have to adjust your plan as your circumstances and views change, but you’ll be in a better position to pivot if you have a firm foundation to stand on.Remember to plan. Set some goals early on and develop a plan for moving forward. 

4. Take action to build confidence. You may be unsure that you’re doing the right thing, but if you do nothing, you’ll never achieve any of your goals. Taking action can give you the confidence you need to keep moving forward.

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The December holidays are a time of joy, tradition, and food... a whole lot of food, which can make it hard to stick to a healthy diet. However, you don’t have to wait until New Year’s Day to renew your commitment to good nutritional habits, and you don’t have to practice complete denial, either. Follow this advice to maintain some balance:

1. Don’t skip meals. If you avoid lunch in order to offset a big family dinner, you’ll probably eat more because you’re extra hungry. Eat breakfast and lunch so you’re able to control your appetite when the platters are passed your way.

2. Exercise portion control. Don’t overload your plate. Take sensible portions of whatever comes your way, and you won’t feel compelled to consume every last bite in order to avoid wasting food.

3. Eat slowly. Your stomach can fill up before you’re aware of it, which means you may eat more than you really want or need to consume, leaving you stuffed and uncomfortable. Make an effort to put down your fork and chew thoroughly between bites, and drink plenty of water before and during your meal.

4. Sit with the right people. If possible, sit next to a companion whose eating habits mirror the example you want to follow. If your partner is an athlete with an enormous appetite, you’ll tend to eat a similar amount; but if you’re sitting next to someone who is watching his or her weight, chances are you’ll exercise the same self-control.

5. Focus on the holiday. Remember that holidays are about more than just eating. Make an effort to talk to people and enjoy the season itself, in the moment.

6. Get right back on track. If none of this advice works, then don’t waste time beating yourself up over it. Just remind yourself of the long-term benefits of healthy eating to motivate your return to good habits.

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This story uniquely captures how it can feel getting ready for the holidays.

During a winter hayride, a wagon pulled by a friendly mule slid on a patch of ice sending the back of the wagon into a steep snowbank. The farmer who was steering the cart, unhitched the mule to help guide the travelers out of the snow and said, “Come on Jasper, I’m going to need your help.”

He hitched the mule to the rear axle and shouted, “Come on Molly, pull!” The mule didn’t move.

The farmer then yelled, “Come on Gus, pull!” Again, the mule didn’t move.

Once more the farmer commanded, “Come on Francis, pull!” Nothing happened.

The farmer then said, “Come on Jasper, pull!” And the mule moved and dragged the wagon out from the pile of snow.

The passengers thanked the farmer, but being somewhat puzzled one of them said, “You called the mule three times by the wrong name. Why did you do that?”

The farmer laughed and said, “Oh, Jasper is a blind old mule, if he thought he was the only one pulling, he wouldn’t even try!”

Most people are busy this time of year and it often feels like we are the only one pushing and pulling to get everything done. Just a quick reminder that you are not alone and everything you are doing will be appreciated.

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If you’re planning your holiday shopping, you may have lots of competition at the mall and online. A Roku and Harris Poll survey on consumer shopping trends in 2021 found that spending could hit new records this season, as consumers expect to increase their spending for the holiday season.

The survey found that 72% of holiday shoppers feel confident the economy will improve in the next 12 months. Thirty-six percent of consumers expect to spend more this year, the highest number reported since 2018. Holiday spending is expected to reach a record $937 per person on holiday purchases - a 5% increase from 2020.

In-store shopping may be coming back as well. Forty-three percent of respondents said they plan to shop in person on Black Friday, an 11% increase from 2020, when concerns about COVID-19 kept many shoppers at home. However, online shopping isn’t going away— 57% of consumers say they plan to do most of their shopping online.

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Children are naturally creative and inventive because they don’t know what’s impossible. Try checking out these inventions created by kids across the years:

1. Trampoline. Sixteen-year-old George Nissen was captivated by the sight of trapeze artists dropping into nets at the finish of their shows in the 1930s. In his parents’ garage he developed the “bouncing rig,” a metal frame with canvas stretched over it. Years later he switched out the canvas for nylon and came up with a new name— a “trampoline,” adding the letter 'e' to the Spanish word for diving board.

2. Earmuffs. At age 15, Chester Greenwood’s ears grew painfully cold while ice skating. A scarf around his head didn’t help, so he went home, built a wire frame, and asked his grandmother to sew some beaver skin pads to it. Greenwood patented his earmuffs in 1877 and eventually sold them, and they were used by soldiers fighting in World War I.

3. Popsicle. One cold night in San Francisco in 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson mixed up a concoction of soda water powder and water and left it outside all night. In the morning he looked at the frozen mixture with the stirring stick still inside and realized it might be fun to eat. He began giving them out as treats, and as an adult, he patented the product with the name “Eppsicle,” later changing it to “Popsicle” - after his own children started calling it by that name.

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