Monthly Archives: September 2012

How’re Those New Years Resolutions Doing?

It’s the beginning of the fourth quarter.  I think of this as a “last chance” on my resolutions every year.  I look at them and see how I’m doing on each one.  I feel great about the ones that I’ve done well on and decide whether to dump the ones I haven’t or whether to re-commit to get them done.

The most common resolutions are about:

  • Losing weight
  • Spending more time with family
  • Getting more exercise
  • Doing better at work
  • Learning something new
  • Getting organized
  • Quitting smoking
  • Save money

Sound familiar?  Many of us have the same resolution year after year.  What is it that causes some people to actually deliver on their resolutions and most of the rest of us to keep wishing we will every January?  The difference is action.  Some people look at what they want to accomplish and take the first step.  And then the second.  And then the third. In order to really change, you have to take enough steps that you actually accomplish it.  There is absolutely no reason that you can’t do that.

Look at your resolutions for this year.  Or, make some third quarter resolutions.  Look at the one that is most important to you.  Pick just one for now.   What can you do TOMORROW that will get you closer to accomplishing it?  If you are a person who likes lists, then make a list of the first five things that you need to do to accomplish your goal.  If you are a person who hates lists, just figure out one action that will get you closer.  THEN DO IT!

If you want to lose weight, what will you do TOMORROW?  If you want to spend more time with your family, what will you do TOMORROW?  If you want to get out of debt, what will you do TOMORROW?

At the end of the first quarter, I wrote about who statistically succeeds at their resolutions.  Only 8% of us.  You still have a quarter to get it done.  Be among the 8%!

Leave a comment

Filed under Success

Avoid the Career Kiss of Death–Don’t Be A Commodity

Stand Out or Be Out

One of the worst things that can happen to you career-wise is for your employer (or potential employers) to see you as interchangable with other people with the same skill set.  If they think that they can get more where you came from, then they are not valuing you as an employee.  If your employer does not see you as unique, as someone who brings a value-add skill set to the table, then you will stall out at your organization.  Not only that, when you seek other employment after you’ve stalled out, you will not have an easy time getting a new job that pays as well as the last one or that has the potential to take you to the next level.  When people think that an accountant is an accountant is an accountant, then why would they choose you over anyone else?  What is it about you that makes your boss concerned about keeping you, nurturing you and developing you?  What is it about you that makes your resume stand out from the other 300 that the recruiter is looking through?

Of course you know that you are unique and special.  Think about how that is obvious to people who don’t know you well, though.  What is it about your resume or your experience or your skill set that makes you stand out?  If you don’t have a level of expertise or a special skill set that is obvious on paper and at the first meeting with you, then you risk being a commodity.  And that is not a place you want to be in this job market.  In this day of downsizing and outsourcing, you want it to be a no-brainer for the decision makers to keep you, regardless of the other decisions that they are making.

How Can You Tell?

Go online.  Look at the resumes of people who do what you do.    Notice the ones that stand out.  What is it that makes them stand out.  Imagine that you are looking to replace you in your job.  Who would you select from among the hundreds of similar resumes?  Why?  What makes the ones who stand out more interesting, more attractive, more valuable?  How do you stack up against those people?

Now, look at the job descriptions from employers of people in the job that you do.  What are they looking for?  Is there any subset of skills or additional abilities that they are consistently asking for?  What are the things that are listed in the “preferred” skill/education list?  Can you tell if they are looking for someone who is ‘good enough’ or someone who is extraordinary?  For those who are looking for someone who is extraordinary, how do you stack up against those job descriptions?  Would you hire you based on your current resume and skill set for those jobs?

Within your own organization, are there people who do what you do who stand out more than you do?  Why?  What do they have that you don’t have?  This is not the time to say, “He has a degree from Harvard, and I’ll never have one, so it is hopeless.”  If he has a degree from Harvard, is that really why he stands out?  Or is it how he acts, who he talks to or the work that he does?

If you are a commondity–a one-size-fits-all-employee–then you may continue to be employed (if you can figure out how to stand out among the hundreds of other equivalent one-size-fits-all-employees enough to get hired in the first place), but you will not have much of an upwardly bound career.

So What Do You Do?

Based on your observations of the resumes and job descriptions that you looked at, what is it you need to stand out?  Do you need more education or certifications?  Do you need more/different skills?  Is there something that you can do, like get Six Sigma or PMI certified for instance, that makes you a two-fer?  You are qualified at human resources or accounting or engineering, but you can also help with projects or re-engineering?  Can you take it to the next level through some kind of specialized experience?  Don’t underestimate the power of volunteering for things that get you different/more experience.

Understand your brand.  Learn to sell your brand.  Figure out how to get things done without the authorityKeep up with what’s new in your field and your industry.

3 Comments

Filed under Brand Yourself, Career Development, Derailment, Recession Proof, Success

Bosses Are People Too

You Think The Same As You Did Before

For those of you who are over the age of 25, you know how you feel the same no matter how old you are?  The outside may seem older, but to yourself—inside your mind—you feel the same age.  It’s really weird.  You would think that as you age, you would think differently, but if you do, you don’t notice it.

The same is true when you become a boss.  You think of yourself as the same.  You have different responsibilities and you have to do them differently than you did before you were a boss (you have more power and that helps get things done), but you think of yourself as being the same.  Again, when you become an executive, how other people think of you changes, but how you think of yourself stays much the same.  The problem is (in both cases–age and organization level) that other people see you differently.

Power Changes Things

When you are a boss, you have positional power over people–you have the ability and the right to decide their fate.  You can give them a good review, or put them on “a program.”  You decide how much raise they get (within parmeters established by the company) and therefore whether their quality of life goes up or down.  You give them assignments which can create visibility or push them beyond their ability to perform.  You believe in your own head that you are fair, that you make the right decisions on all of these things, and that you are a good and likeable person.  Right?

Just by virtue of having this power, however, you will frequently stop being given the benefit of the doubt.  Your motivations will not be seen as virtuous, your decisions will not be seen as fair (by everyone) and your subordinates will begin to feel a distance toward  you–even those who are your friends.  It is just the way it is.  If you are a boss, you need to be aware of this.  To do your job, you must exercise positional power.  You can counterbalance the negative side of positional power, however, by building your personal power.  Personal power is acquired through respect by others.  Personal power comes in several flavors:  referent power, information power, connection power.  When you have personal power, that benefit of the doubt comes back.  Personal power stays with you when you leave the specific job.  Personal power does not alienate people as much as positional power does.  Personal power helps others view you as “a people” too.

Treat Your Boss Like “A People”

Now, flip the switch.  Think about your own boss(es).  They have the same issues.  S/he sees herself as fair, virtuous, and trying to do the right thing.  S/he is puzzled about why her subordinates don’t see her that way.  Consider giving him/her the benefit of the doubt.  Try to overlook the positional power and treat him/her like “a people.”  You will stand out.  You will engender trust by trusting.  And that will begin to build your personal power with your boss.

2 Comments

Filed under Career Development, Executive Development, Reframe, Trust

Your Company Doesn’t Care

Sorry.  Despite what the Supreme Court thinks, your company is not a person.  It doesn’t care.  It doesn’t think.  It doesn’t want.  You can’t impress it.  Your company is made up of people–lots of them.  All kinds of people.  They DO care.  They are complicated and hard to figure out and hard to work with.  People can be influenced and impressed.  Focus on the people.  Build relationships.  Build relationships with people who think and speak “for” the company.  Make sure they know who you are.  Make sure they know what you do.  Make sure they think you add value to the company.  Make sure they care about you

1 Comment

Filed under Career Development, Networking

Get Better At Your Job. Now.

How Good Do You Want To Be?

What kind of employee do you want to be?  What kind of a manager?  What kind of a leader?  What kind of a boss? What kind of a sales person?  What kind of a General Manager?  What kind of an Executive?  This is a serious question (or I guess several serious questions).  Do you want to be “OK” at your job?  Do you want to be good at it?  Or do you want to be extraordinary?  What is your ideal performance?  Are you hitting it?

If you’re not hitting it, I’m not going to ask you why not.  That conversation is for another time.  I’m going to ask you what, precisely, would you be doing if you were performing at your ideal level?  Would you be spending more time at something?  Would you be finishing things (in a more timely manner)?  Would you be talking to people you aren’t talking to?  Would you be hustling harder?  Would you be less complacent? Would you be getting better results?  Would your boss be happier with you?

What Would It Take?

Write down the things that you would be delivering if you were hitting your ideal job performance.  Be precise.  Look at the list.  What do you have to do differently than you are doing now to get those results?  Would you be on the Internet as much as you are?  Would you be taking hour lunches?  Would you be wasting your time in hour long meetings that could get the same results in 15 minutes?  Would you be going along to get along?  Would you be delegating better?  Leading more? Would you be more focused on what you are doing–all the time?

Do you work like you want to be the best?  Or do you work like you want to be “OK?”  The difference is a change in attitude.  Get serious about what you’re doing.  Don’t treat it like a job–9 to 5–it’ll be here tomorrow if I don’t get it done.  Treat it like a dead-serious goal.  You’ve GOT to get it done.  You’ve GOT to increase your performance.  You’ve GOT to keep it moving.

Try changing your attitude–even for a day and notice the difference.  It is much more fun, interesting and fulfilling when you are ALL IN.

Leave a comment

Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, Personal Change, Reframe

Are You Making Mistakes On Purpose?

We all make mistakes.  Mistakes have consequences.  We learn from our mistakes and don’t make them again.  Or do we?  Sometimes, especially when you find yourself doing something over and over again—being late, forgetting to send something, leaving certain people off invitations, forgetting status reports, losing important information, doing things that make the boss mad—it isn’t just a mistake.  Sometimes it is self-sabotage.  Shooting yourself in the foot.  Failing on purpose (albeit sometimes unconsciously).  Proving that you aren’t ‘good enough,’ ‘ready for the position,’ ‘at the right level.’

Identity

Each of us has a self-image that pretty much dictates our identity.  I’m a mother, a daughter, an introvert, smart, good at math, an Executive, a business woman, etc., etc.  When something happens that challenges that identity, we have something called cognitive dissonance.  Cognitive dissonance is the experience of having two conflicting “cognitions”—ideas, thoughts, ‘mental models’—simultaneously.  This is so stressful to us that we take action to bring them into alignment.

For example, when I wrote “good at math” above (which I am not), I went back three different times to amend it.  I first put “(just kidding),” erased it and then put “not really,” erased that and then wrote “(wanna be)” in front of it.  I was so uncomfortable with writing something that is so much not a part of my identity that I had a really hard time leaving it unadorned while I wrote the rest of the paragraph.  If I have such a strong reaction to something so minuscule, imagine the difficulty I would have if something happened to challenge my “mother” or “business woman” or “Executive” identities.

This is why people who are laid off have such a hard time.  Most of us these days identify with what we do.  If we can’t do it anymore, then it is extremely painful.

Why Do We Self-Sabotage?

This is equally true of good things about our identity and bad things about it.  If we think badly about certain aspects of ourselves—that we aren’t good at math, or that we aren’t smart or that we shouldn’t be at an Executive-level, or that we aren’t likeable—then we will struggle to reconcile those two cognitions.  We will do things that prove, despite the fact that we just got promoted, or that we are being praised for a job well done, or that our boss likes us—that we don’t deserve the promotion, or being praised, or liked.  We will self-sabotage until we are back where we are most comfortable.  We will do things like miss important appointments, become unresponsive to assignments, or tell off our boss until we prove (to ourselves and others) that our self-image is right.

So How Do You Know If You’re Self-Sabotaging

Pay attention to what is going on.  Are there consistent patterns that keep you from getting to where (you think) you want?  Do you have the same experience in position after position, or in company after company, or in relationship after relationship?  Do you get uncomfortable when people praise you or when you are considered for/get a promotion?  Do you keep getting stuck at a certain level in organizations and not seem to be able to climb to the next rung, no matter what?  These can all be signs of self-sabotage.

Recognizing it is most of the battle.  If you see that you’re doing it, then you will have to do some really hard work to adjust your self-image.  If you never see it, however, you never have the opportunity to start changing.  Self-sabotage is related to your self-image.  Once you change your self-image, then stopping the self-sabotage is pretty easy.   You have already changed your self-image.  You don’t think the same of yourself as you did at 12 or 18 or 24 or . . .  You can change again, and again.  You just need to be more conscious, mindful and determined to create the self-image that you want.

1 Comment

Filed under Career Development, Derailment, Executive Development, Reframe, Success

How Do You Lead From the Middle?

Many people are frustrated by their managers.  We want our managers to live up to our expectations, our hopes, our projections.  We want them to be charismatic, thoughtful, insightful, inspirational, good communicators, etc., etc., etc.  Some managers are good, but few are perfect.  Some are far from even being good.  What if that is your manager?

Do you just stop?  Do you wait for that manager to get moved, fired, or retire?  Do you look for another job?  I vote that you do none of these things.  I vote that you start being a leader.  Get proactive.  Lead from where you are.

How Do You Lead From The Middle?

Figure Out What You Want To Accomplish

What is it that you think your manager should be doing but isn’t?  How can you accomplish that without your leader actually doing it?  Is it something that your manager’s manager has to agree to?  Or his peers?  If so, how can you persuade them?  How can you help them see the problem and the solution?  Maybe they can persuade your manager if his blessing is required.  Or maybe his blessing isn’t really required.  Think about it.  If his boss can bless it, then figure out how to make that happen.  If that is your goal, then you can get creative about how to do it.

What if no one really has to bless it?  What if you and your peers can do it if you are working together to do it.  How can you persuade your peers to do it?

Figure Out What Is In Your Way

So often it is our mind set about how the organization works that stands in our way of getting things done.  We think that the top has to tell the middle who has to tell the bottom to actually get things done.  That actually is not the best way for an organization to run.  Organizations are much more effective and well run if people step up and do what they can and leave the problems/the barriers/the white space to the upper levels.  In other words, your organization will be much better run if you actually step up and do what you know is right for the organization.

Obviously, some organizations don’t work this way.  Some managers get really threatened by this kind of behavior.  Don’t assume that is true of your organization, though, unless you test it out a bit.  I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.”  It certainly is more practical.  If you have to wait for someone to decide to focus on what you think needs to happen, to then be persuaded, and to then give permission, then you’ve just inserted significant delays into the process.  Take a long hard look at whether you’re deferring because you are conditioned to do that or because it really is not safe to go ahead without permission.

Being Proactive Is Really Career Enhancing

I’ve participated in hundreds of interviews over the course of my career.  When it is obvious that a candidate is likely to be proactive, to seek out ways to make things better without waiting to be told, then that candidate is much more likely to succeed in the process.  I’ve had people tell me that it is possible to tell whether someone has the education or the experience necessary to do the job, but very difficult to tell from the resume whether s/he is likely to be proactive.

Leading from the middle is simply being proactive.  See the problem.  Figure out how to fix it.  Fix it.  So much of it is attitude and confidence.  So next time you’re frustrated with your manager for not getting something done, ask yourself why you aren’t getting it done instead.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Communication, Executive Development, Leadership, Success