How Your iPad May Be Hurting You Tuesday, Mar 27 2012 

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

Let me guess—you bought an iPad or another electronic tablet or received one as a gift, and now you feel pain in your neck and upper back.

There’s no doubt that tablet computers are fun and useful gadgets (in fact, around 70 million people bought them in 2011). But a new study shows that, depending on how you position one when you use it, you could be seriously straining your neck and upper back.

The study was coauthored by Jack T. Dennerlein, PhD, director of the Occupational Biomechanics and Ergonomics Laboratory and a senior lecturer on ergonomics and safety at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston. If you use a tablet, I think it’s important for you to know about his findings…


To study how head and neck postures vary when using a tablet, the researchers asked 15 experienced tablet users to use two different tablets—the Apple iPad2 and the Motorola Xoom—while they were seated in armless chairs and hooked up to an infrared motion analysis system that precisely measured their head and neck postures. They were given cases that allowed the tablets to be propped up at a variety of angles, and they were asked to perform typical tablet tasks such as browsing the Internet…reading newspaper articles…playing solitaire…reading and writing e-mail…and watching videos. Each user tried four different positions that are popular among tablet users out in the real world…

  • Lap-Hand: The tablet was held on the user’s lap without its case.
  • Lap-Case: The tablet was put in its case at its lowest angle setting and was held in the user’s lap.
  • Table-Case: A table was placed in front of the chair. The tablet was placed on the table in its case at its lowest angle setting.
  • Table-Movie: Again, a table was placed in front of the chair. The tablet was placed on the table in its case at its highest angle setting (what lots of tablet owners do when they watch movies or other videos.)


What the researchers found was that, except for when the tablet was in Table-Movie position, the users’ neck flexion (a measure of how much the chin points towards the chest) was quite large, about 15 to 25 degrees beyond a comfortable, looking-straight-ahead position. And this isn’t good! The concern, said Dr. Dennerlein, is that that level of neck flexion can strain the muscles in the back of the neck and the upper back, especially if a person uses the tablet in that position for more than just a few minutes at a time.

So how are you supposed to use your tablet without straining your neck?

  • If you’re watching a video…The best thing to do, said Dr. Dennerlein, is to put the tablet on a table or other surface in front of you in a case that lets you keep the tablet perpendicular or nearly perpendicular (at its high angle)—as if it were a laptop screen. That way, your head will stay in a more neutral position, putting less strain on your neck and back. If you don’t have a case, you can put the tablet on the surface and prop it up with whatever’s handy—a rolled-up coat, a purse, a backpack.
  • If you’re touching the screen…While sitting, instead of holding the laptop flat on your lap, try putting your bag or a few pillows on your lap and then putting the tablet on top of those things (ideally in its case at its low angle), said Dr. Dennerlein. That way, the tablet will be higher up so you don’t have to slump over as much to use it. While standing, try to hold the tablet like a clipboard, or rest it on a high counter if you can, as opposed to holding it horizontally at waist level.

But no matter which posture you choose, try to switch it up every 15 minutes if you can, said Dr. Dennerlein—that way you’ll vary which muscles you’re using and avoid straining one particular set.

For shoulder and neck stretches, read “Simple Stretches That Really Do Relieve Pain,”from our sister publication, Bottom Line Health.

Source: Jack T. Dennerlein, PhD, director, Occupational Biomechanics and Ergonomics Laboratory, senior lecturer on ergonomics and safety, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston.


Turning managers into leaders: 5 questions to ask Saturday, Mar 3 2012 

by  on FEBRUARY 6, 2012 12:00PM

by Mike Winstanley

We look in mirrors every day. They give us a reflection of ourselves. But what about our inner selves—our attitudes and thoughts? How often do we look there?

True leaders look inward every day and take stock of themselves. As simple as it sounds, it’s the step most overlooked by managers in their journey to becoming leaders. That’s why managers who aspire to be leaders (and, believe me, there is a difference) must constantly ask themselves five thought-provoking questions:

1. What does “it” look like? Many people struggle with their leadership abilities because they’ve never stepped back and thought about what it means to truly be a leader. So ask yourself: What are the characteristics embodied by leaders I admire?

Do this free-association exercise: Jot down all those words and phrases that come to mind when you think of the word “leader.” Think of supervisors from your current or past jobs, teachers, political leaders, mentors, etc. Leave nothing off the list. This first look in the mirror is critical; it begins to define the path you will eventually take to being a better leader.

2. How do I stack up? Now do an honest appraisal. Rate yourself on a scale of one to 10 as to how well you think you’re doing on each word/phrase on a daily basis. That will give you a ballpark idea where you’re at.

Then ask yourself what a “10” looks like for each item. Put it into specific behavioral terms. This will give you a beginning picture as to what you have to do (or stop doing) to become a better leader.

3. How’s my attitude? How do you feel about your job and employer? If managers think their working conditions stink, they’re underpaid and their boss hates them, they’ll pass this attitude on to their employees. Attitudes are contagious, and attitudes affect behavior and job performance. As a leader, you have to be conscious of your attitude’s impact. Then work to eliminate the negative behaviors that result from it.

4. What’s my real value? Managers must ask what value they bring to the organization. How do they affect the corporate bottom line? Remember, your company expects a return on its investment.

So managers should assess their true value and put it in terms of how the company profits from the things they do on a day-to-day basis.

Take this exercise to the next level and ask what else you could be doing to add value to the organization. This is part of what being visionary is all about.

5. Do I believe? Do you truly believe you can become a great leader? All these looks in the mirror are meaningless unless you think you can change. If you have doubts, analyze why. Do you blame your company or your boss for holding you back? Is it inside you? Fear of success? Fear of failure? Answer those questions honestly.

Don’t try to change everything at once. Work on one item at a time. Small steps make for an easier journey.

Finally, remember that this self-analysis is what successful leaders do all the time. It’s part of their daily schedule. So if you aspire to be a leader of people, it’s time to ask yourself the question: Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the greatest leader of all?

Mike Winstanley is president of winTrain Consulting LLC in Farmington Hills, MI, and a former psychology professor. Contact him at

Interviewing: The 10 most common manager mistakes Friday, Mar 2 2012 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

Conducting job interviews requires a tricky balance between politeness and assertive evaluation. One wrong word or action can drive an applicant away—or even trigger a lawsuit.

Pay extra attention to the following top 10 mistakes that managers make in interviews:

1. Talking too much

Don’t deliver monologues about the job, the company or your background. Resist the temptation to prattle on about your feelings about the company or its products. Aim for an 85/15 split, with 85% of your time spent listening. Don’t rush to break a silence. Give applicants plenty of time to respond.

2. Failing to prepare

Don’t quickly scan a résumé for the first time just before conducting an in­­ter­­view. Take time to review it beforehand and think about what you want in a new employee. Preparation will help you keep the interview on track and determine whether a candidate is qualified.

3. Asking questions off the cuff

A loose approach isn’t good for interviews. At best, it can be uninformative and, at worst, legally dangerous.

Prepare a list of questions and stick to them. You can go deeper into an employee’s background and achievements, but start with general questions about abilities and achievements.

4. Not knowing your legal limits

Interviews are a legal minefield. Make sure everyone involved in the interview process, including employees you bring in to meet the applicant, understand what they can and can’t ask legally. Avoid questions like:

  • Are you married? Divorced?
  • How old are you? (unless it’s a bona fide occupational qualification)
  • Do you have children or intend to?
  • What are your day care plans?
  • Do you own or rent your home?
  • Do you have any debts?
  • Do you suffer from an illness or disability?

Every question should revolve around one issue: How well could this person perform the job at hand?

5. Not being straightforward

Provide a realistic overview of the position, including its less appealing facets. This allows candidates who are hired to make a decision without later feeling they were duped. Downplaying a position’s unattractive aspects will result in employees who don’t like their jobs and look to leave.

6. Overselling the position

During the first interview, find out as much as possible about the applicant, rather than exhaustively detailing the open position. As mentioned earlier, listen more than you talk.

If you’re interested in the candidate, this first interview will give you insight on how to sell the person on the job. If you’re not interested, you won’t have wasted either person’s time.

Also, remember to note that your organization verifies claims on résumés.

7. Becoming blinded by personal preferences

Are you both baseball fans? Do you have kids at the same school? Avoid letting a common interest you have with the ap­­pli­­cant bias your feelings favorably, especi­­ally if the interest is irrelevant to the job. Just because you both run marathons doesn’t mean the person can keep up the pace at work.

8. Being impolite

Don’t start interviews late or end them abruptly without an explanation. Don’t cancel at the last second without an apology or read emails and take phone calls during interviews.

Candidates who value polite­­ness may wonder whether they will re­­ceive it on the job. Applicants may also question if the department is organized.

9. Not making top candidates feel wanted

The best applicants know their value. They have options and desire to go where they are wanted.

Don’t fawn over interviewees. But let top applicants know that they have valuable skills and will be considered highly. Of course, never allude to promises of employment. That could turn into a breach-of-contract lawsuit if the person is rejected.

10. Making snap judgments

Quick, negative judgments based on first impressions and “instinct” are often wrong.

Such reactions are subtly communicated and may turn off a top candidate. Be open-minded and friendly without signaling disapproval.

Trim the fat from your business writing Thursday, Mar 1 2012 

by  on FEBRUARY 16, 2012 12:00PM

In business writing, you don’t receive extra credit for slathering your sentences with fancy phrases, the way you did in college. Do that in a memo or email, and you can expect eyes to glaze over.

What you cut from your writing is often more important than what you add to it.

Trim the clutter from business writing with these 5 tips:

1. Cut the fat. For example:

Replace: on a daily basis
With: daily

Replace: until such time as
With: until

Replace: at the present time
With: now

Replace: for the purpose of
With: for

2. Avoid redundancy. For example:

Replace: close proximity
With: near

Replace: basic fundamentals
With: fundamentals

Replace: after the conclusion of
With: after

Replace: absolutely necessary
With: necessary

3. Shun “hedging” words. Either it is or it isn’t. Avoid phrases such as:

“It has been reported that”
“It is generally considered that”
“Contrary to many”

4. Delete phrases that don’t add substance. For example:

“I would like to take this opportunity”
“It has come to my attention that”
“It is interesting to note that”
“As a matter of fact”
“With all due respect”

5. Replace fancy-sounding words with familiar, simple ones that won’t make your readers stumble.

Replace: ascertain
With: find out

Replace: disseminate
With: send out

Replace: consummate
With: complete

Replace: precipitated
With: caused

Replace: nonfunctional
With: broken

One exec’s 4 extreme productivity tips Thursday, Mar 1 2012 

by  on FEBRUARY 23, 2012 12:00PM

How does a top executive like Bob Pozen get it all done? Pozen has been a top dog at Fidelity and MFS Investment Man­age­ment, as well as an attorney, law school professor, business school professor and author.

Here are the 4 tips he shared with Harvard Business Review on how to be extremely productive:

1. Know where you are essential. When you say, “Here are the top five priorities for the company. Who would be best at carrying them out?” don’t follow it up by proposing that you do all of them.

The right question is, “What functions can only I, as CEO, perform?”

Look for the intersection between your company’s area of weakness and your area of strength.

2. It’s about getting results, not logging hours. Too many of the ambitious equate late hours at the office with success. That’s a simplistic equation, in Pozen’s opinion.

When he had young children, he says, he had a firm commitment to be home for dinner with them every night by 7 p.m. It never impeded an ability to bring value to his company.

For example, in the 1980s, he was asked to head an intragovernmental task force. The meetings were supposed to be from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. several nights each week.

He said, “Well, I’m sorry, I won’t be able to do it” because of his commitment to family dinner. So they scheduled the meeting for 5 to 7 p.m.

3. Read with the goal in mind. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the volume of reading you need to do. The key is to be clear about why you’re reading something. Pozen says, for example, that if he’s reading the Financial Times after The Wall Street Journal, he’s looking for international issues not covered by the Journal.

4. Let others own their space. Pozen is “messianic” about viewing every employee in a large company as the owner of a small business.

A boss can lay out the general priorities, while direct reports offer specific ways of achieving those priorities, along with proposed metrics.

He cautions that going this route means tolerating mistakes. Sometimes direct reports will steer straight into a dead end, for example.

Making the same mistake repeatedly, however, shouldn’t be tolerated. One of his favorite sayings: “Let’s make a new mistake.”