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6 Critical Leadership Skills That Will Take Your Career To The Next Level

All these skills apply regardless of your current job status, role, title, or position. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting an entry-level position, a manager, or the Vice President of your company. All levels can benefit from these 6 leadership skills.

  1. Embracing Politics
    I know what you may be thinking… Yes, politics in an office can have a negative connotation associated with it, but it can be used for good too. At it’s core, it’s about building relationships with the people you work with. There are many different types of power and influence that exists in an organization, but there are three that stand out when talking about politics in an organization.

      1. Role Power
        This is also referred to as “legitimate power” and is very hard to change in a company. It refers to where you sit in an organizational chart. It asks the questions; who reports to you, who do you report to, and who does your yearly performance evaluation?
      2. Expertise Power
        This refers to who perceives you to be knowledgeable about a certain subject they care about. The key word here is, “perception.” You could be really knowledgeable about a subject but if people don’t perceive you to be knowledgeable in that subject, then you do not have “expertise power.” There may be times when you wonder why a certain individual received a promotion or how that person got into that position. This happens all too often. At some point, someone who had the “role power” to make that decision, perceived these people to be experts, even though they might not be. A lot of times this happens because the person had a relationship with the decision maker, which brings me to the third power,
      3. Relationship Power
        This is the most important power for you to develop, because it transcends the organizational chart. You can develop relationship power with anyone, at anytime. The first step to get them to follow you is to get them to like you. Take the time to get to know other people even outside your own department. Use the people you get to know, but don’t “use” them so that the relationship is one-sided. The relationship should be a reciprocal relationship. Think about yourself as being a service to others. The goal is to fundamentally lift them up to help them succeed. The energy you put out, will come back to you. When you adopt that kind of service mentality, that’s embracing the good kind of office politics.
  2. Picking Your Battles
    This skill goes hand-in-hand with office politics. You have to know when to hold them and when to fold them. You can gain political capital by building relationships, but you can just as easily blow it all by choosing to fight too many battles. Save the political capital up for the times that really matter and those times are when they directly contribute to advancing your priorities. Don’t sweat the small things, instead focus on the things that allow you to get you where you want to go.
  3. Crafting Your Vision
    Battles you choose to fight all depend on what you’re trying to achieve. Great leaders have a plan and need to establish a clear set of goals. It’s important to have a sense of purpose, know what it’s going to take and how to articulate it simply to your team. If you can’t articulate it correctly, they may not jump on board. Remember, just because it makes sense to you, doesn’t mean it will make sense to them. Be Bold. Leaders are meant to inspire people and if you accomplish that, they will be more likely to show up and do their best work.
  4. Build Alignment
    Great leaders bring other people along with them. Companies gain buy-in from different levels of people within the organization. That means communicating the big picture to everyone who needs to be involved. This ensures that everyone who wants to be involved has that chance to be included and anyone who doesn’t, can opt out. Include the reasoning behind your methods and really encourage questions. A lot of people are going to have a lot of ideas and make good points and so it’s important for you to remain open-minded. This is also a chance to look for opportunities to collaborate with them or refine your vision.
  5. Inspiring Execution
    At this point, you know where you’re going, you have your group of people, and now it’s time to see your vision through and to do that, you have to create a tactical execution plan that illustrates what’s expected from each person. Make sure to give feedback along the way and set the example through your own behavior.
  6. Learn To Give Up Control
    How you execute a vision or a plan is critical, but don’t mistake it for micro-managing. Leaders set goals and empower the people around them with the resources and support they need to get the job done. Even if you see them doing something different then what you would do, it doesn’t mean they’re doing it wrong and it doesn’t mean it won’t work. Don’t control them into doing it your way. Instead, ask questions and try to see it from their point of view.

If you don’t achieve your goal or see it through like you thought, you have the opportunity to learn from it and make improvements for the next time around. The only failure that really happens is the one we don’t learn from. Even if you let your people execute it the way they wanted, bring them along with you. They will learn something they didn’t know before. That’s going to set them up for future success. That, at the core, is what being a leader is really about.

Borysenko, Karlyn. “Human Strategies Podcast #11: Six Critical Leadership Skills That Will Take Your Career to the next Level.” Audio blog post. Zen Workplace. N.p., 3 Jan. 2016. Web. 9 Aug. 2016.

Negative Social Media Comments by Employees

Employers have a myriad of questions and concerns about employees use of Social Media, especially when it comes to limiting what an employee may say about the company. No employer wants negative comments about their product, or their employment policies and procedures, put out for the world to see. However, as our world has become more entrenched with social media, disgruntled employees are able to easily reach a wide audience through various avenues of not only their own posting, but their followers/friends then re-posting any thoughts that they may have.

It is important that employers know the rules regarding social media and their employees use of such, and there are plenty of laws that surround an employees rights when it comes to social media.

A recent blog post by Eric B. Meyer, on The Employer Handbook blog, discussed a concluding opinion of a NLRB Administrative Law Judge that addressed negative tweets about employment matters by an employee, and whether or not the Employer could make the employee delete the tweets. The answer is No. “Section 7 protects employees’ right to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of mutual aid or protection”….The tweets concerned wages and working conditions and are protected matters. The issues raised were not purely individual concerns, but  issues common to many employees. “Concerted activities include individual activity where “individual employees seek to initiate or to induce or to prepare for group action, as well as individual employees bringing truly group complaints to the attention of management.”

“How can employers avoid this problem? Look, employees are going to talk about work. Count on it. And a blanket ban on social media discussions about work would violate the National Labor Relations Act. But, you can — and should — encourage your employees to address work issues directly with co-workers, supervisors, HR, other decisionmakers. In most situations, this direct communication is a more effective way to address workplace issues and resolve problems, than venting on social media.”

Source: Can you force an employee to delete critical tweets about the company? NLRB says no.

Tuesday Tax Tip: Self Employment

If you are self-employed, you normally carry on a trade or business. Sole proprietors andindependent contractors are two types of self-employment. If this applies to you, there are a few basic things you should know about how your income affects your federal tax return. Here are six important tips from the IRS:

  • SE Income. Self-employment can include income you received for part-time work. This is in addition to income from your regular job.
  • Schedule C or C-EZ. You must file a Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, or Schedule C-EZ, Net Profit from Business, with your Form 1040. You may use Schedule C-EZ if you had expenses less than $5,000 and meet certain other conditions. See the form instructions to find out if you can use the form.
  • SE Tax. You may have to pay self-employment tax as well as income tax if you made a profit. Self-employment tax includes Social Security and Medicare taxes. Use Schedule SE, Self-Employment Tax, to figure the tax. If you owe this tax, attach the schedule to your federal tax return.
  • Estimated Tax. You may need to make estimated tax payments. Try IRS Direct Pay. People typically make these payments on income that is not subject to withholding. You usually pay estimated taxes in four annual installments. If you do not pay enough tax throughout the year, you may owe a penalty.
  • Allowable Deductions. You can deduct expenses you paid to run your business that are both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your industry. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and proper for your trade or business.
  • When to Deduct. In most cases, you can deduct expenses in the same year you paid, or incurred them. However, you must ‘capitalize’ some costs. This means you can deduct part of the cost over a number of years.

IRS Tax Tip 2016-23, February 19, 2016

Tuesday Tax Tip: Tax Scams

Each year, people fall prey to tax scams. That’s why the IRS sends a list of its annual “Dirty Dozen.” Stay safe and be informed – don’t become a victim.

If you get involved in illegal tax scams, you can lose money or face stiff penalties, interest and even criminal prosecution. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be on the lookout for these scams:

Identity theft. Identity theft, especially around tax time, is at the top of the “Dirty Dozen” list again this year. The IRS continues to aggressively pursue criminals who file fraudulent returns using someone else’s Social Security number. The IRS is making progress on this front. Remain vigilant to avoid becoming a victim.

Telephone scams. Threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain an ongoing threat. The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams in recent years as scam artists threaten taxpayers with police arrest, deportation, license revocation and more. These con artists often demand payment of back taxes on a prepaid debit card or by immediate wire transfer. Be alert to con artists impersonating IRS agents and demanding payment.

Phishing.  Phishing scams typically use unsolicited emails or fake websites that appear legitimate but are attempting to steal your personal information. The IRS will not send you an email about a bill or tax refund out of the blue. Don’t click on strange emails and websites that may be scams to steal your personal information.

Return Preparer Fraud. About 60 percent of taxpayers use tax professionals to prepare their returns. While most tax professionals provide honest, high-quality service, there are some dishonest ones who set up shop each filing season to perpetrate refund fraud, identity theft and other scams. Be on the lookout for unscrupulous tax return preparers. Choose your preparer wisely.

Offshore Tax Avoidance.  Hiding money and income offshore is a bad bet. If you have money in offshore banks, it’s best to contact the IRS to get your taxes in order. The IRS offers the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program to help you do that.

Inflated Refund Claims.  Be on the lookout for anyone promising inflated tax refunds. Also be wary of anyone who asks you to sign a blank return, promises a big refund before looking at your tax records or charges fees based on a percentage of the refund. Scam artists use flyers, advertisements, phony store fronts and word of mouth via trusted community groups to find victims.

Fake Charities. Be on guard against groups masquerading as charitable organizations to attract donations from unsuspecting contributors. If you are making a charitable contribution, you should take a few extra minutes to ensure your hard-earned money goes to legitimate and currently eligible charities. IRS.gov has the tools you need to check out the status of charitable organizations. Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally-known organizations.

Falsely Padding Deductions on Returns. Don’t give in to the temptation to inflate deductions or expenses on your tax return. Think twice before overstating deductions such as charitable contributions, inflating claimed business expenses or including credits that you are not entitled to receive, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit. Complete an accurate return.

Excessive Claims for Business Credits. Don’t make improper claims for fuel tax credits. The credit is generally limited to off-highway business use, including use in farming. It is generally not available to most taxpayers. Also avoid misuse of the research credit. If it doesn’t apply to your business and you don’t meet the criteria, don’t make the claim.

Falsifying Income to Claim Credits. Don’t invent income to erroneously claim tax credits. A scam artist may try to talk you into doing this. You should file the most accurate tax return possible because you are legally responsible for what is on your return. Falling prey to this scam may mean you have to pay back taxes, interest and penalties. In some cases, you may even face criminal prosecution.

Abusive Tax Shelters. Avoid using abusive tax structures to avoid paying taxes. The IRS is committed to stopping complex tax avoidance schemes and the people who create and sell them. Be on the lookout for people peddling tax shelters that sound too good to be true. When in doubt, seek an independent opinion regarding these complex situations or offers. Most taxpayers pay their fair share, and so should you.

Frivolous Tax Arguments.  Using frivolous tax arguments to avoid paying taxes can have serious financial consequences. Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying taxes. The law is crystal clear that people must pay their taxes. For decades, the federal courts have consistently upheld the tax laws. The penalty for filing a frivolous tax return is $5,000.

Tax scams can take many forms beyond the “Dirty Dozen.” The best defense is to remain alert. Additional information about tax scams is available on IRS social media sites, including YouTubeand Tumblr, where you can search “scam” to find all the scam-related posts.

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2016-03, February 22, 2016

Time Off To Vote

Though it is a primary election, which usually has a lower turnout than general elections, it is equally important that employers review and know the laws regarding an employee’s right to vote and laws regarding time off to do so. When it comes to giving time off to vote, there are no federal laws that require an employer to permit an employee time off to vote, however; a majority of the states have laws requiring employers give employees time off to vote. Yes, most states have enacted laws requiring employers to allow employees time off to vote, these statutes of course are subject to the individual’s hours of work and the times when the polls are open.

georgia voter

Voting is a right in the United States, and Georgia state law ensures that work doesn’t get in the way of that right.

Georgia Code §21-2-404

Time off to Vote Each employee in this state shall, upon reasonable notice to his or her employer, be permitted by his or her employer to take any necessary time off from his or her employment to vote in any municipal, county, state, or federal political party primary or election for which such employee is qualified and registered to vote on the day on which such primary or election is held; provided, however, that such necessary time off shall not exceed two hours; and provided, further, that, if the hours of work of such employee commence at least two hours after the opening of the polls or end at least two hours prior to the closing of the polls, then the time off for voting as provided for in this Code section shall not be available. The employer may specify the hours during which the employee may absent himself or herself as provided in this Code section.

Just as employers should encourage their employees to participate in their community in any way they can; HR Strategies encourages every employer to be aware of the voting laws in every state in which they operate, as time off to vote is dealt with on a state-by-state basis.

What You Need to Know about Taxable and Nontaxable Income

IRS Tax Tip 2016-20

All income is taxable unless a law specifically says it isn’t. Here are some basic rules you should know to help you file an accurate tax return:

  • Taxable income.  Taxable income includes money you earn, like wages and tips. It also includes bartering, an exchange of property or services. The fair market value of property or services received is normally taxable.

Some types of income are not taxable except under certain conditions, including:

  • Life insurance.  Proceeds paid to you upon the death of an insured person are usually not taxable. However, if you redeem a life insurance for cash, any amount you get that is more than the cost of the policy is taxable.
  • Qualified scholarship.  In most cases, income from a scholarship is not taxable. This includes amounts used for certain costs, such as tuition and required books. On the other hand, amounts you use for room and board are taxable.
  • Other income tax refunds.  State or local income tax refunds may be taxable. You should receive a Form 1099-G from the agency that paid you. They may have sent the form by mail or electronically. Contact them to find out how to get the form. Report any taxable refund you got even if you did not receive Form 1099-G.

Here are some items that are usually not taxable:

  • Gifts and inheritances
  • Child support payments
  • Welfare benefits
  • Damage awards for physical injury or sickness
  • Cash rebates from a dealer or manufacturer for an item you buy
  • Reimbursements for qualified adoption expenses

Source: What You Need to Know about Taxable and Nontaxable Income

Tax Payer Bill of Rights

It’s tax season and as many American individuals are busy filing their Tax Returns, some may need to contact the IRS with questions, and for help. Did you know there was such thing as a Taxpayer Bill of Rights?

Every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights. You should be aware of these rights when you interact with the Internal Revenue Service.

The “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” takes the many existing rights in the tax code and groups them into 10 broad categories. That makes them easier to find and to understand.

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights includes the following:

  1. The Right to Be Informed.
    Taxpayers have the right to know what they need to do to comply with the tax laws. They are entitled to clear explanations of the laws and IRS procedures in all tax forms, instructions, publications, notices and correspondence. They have the right to be informed of IRS decisions about their tax accounts and to receive clear explanations of the outcomes.
  2. The Right to Quality Service.
    Taxpayers have the right to receive prompt, courteous, and professional assistance in their dealings with the IRS, to be spoken to in a way they can easily understand, to receive clear and easily understandable communications from the IRS and to speak to a supervisor about inadequate service.
  3. The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax.
    Taxpayers have the right to pay only the amount of tax legally due, including interest and penalties, and to have the IRS apply all tax payments properly.
  4. The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard.
    Taxpayers have the right to raise objections and provide additional documentation in response to formal IRS actions or proposed actions, to expect that the IRS will consider their timely objections and documentation promptly and fairly, and to receive a response if the IRS does not agree with their position.
  5. The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum.
    Taxpayers are entitled to a fair and impartial administrative appeal of most IRS decisions, including many penalties, and have the right to receive a written response regarding the Office of Appeals’ decision. Taxpayers generally have the right to take their cases to court.
  6. The Right to Finality.
    Taxpayers have the right to know the maximum amount of time they have to challenge the IRS’s position as well as the maximum amount of time the IRS has to audit a particular tax year or collect a tax debt. Taxpayers have the right to know when the IRS has finished an audit.
  7. The Right to Privacy.
    Taxpayers have the right to expect that any IRS inquiry, examination, or enforcement action will comply with the law and be no more intrusive than necessary, and will respect all due process rights, including search and seizure protections, and will provide, where applicable, a collection due process hearing.
  8. The Right to Confidentiality.
    Taxpayers have the right to expect that any information they provide to the IRS will not be disclosed unless authorized by the taxpayer or by law. Taxpayers have the right to expect appropriate action will be taken against employees, return preparers, and others who wrongfully use or disclose taxpayer return information.
  9. The Right to Retain Representation.
    Taxpayers have the right to retain an authorized representative of their choice to represent them in their dealings with the IRS. Taxpayers have the right to seek assistance from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic if they cannot afford representation.
  10. The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System.
    Taxpayers have the right to expect the tax system to consider facts and circumstances that might affect their underlying liabilities, ability to pay, or ability to provide information timely. Taxpayers have the right to receive assistance from the Taxpayer Advocate Service if they are experiencing financial difficulty or if the IRS has not resolved their tax issues properly and timely through its normal channels.

 

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