Monthly Archives: December 2012

Stick with Your New Year’s Resolutions: Find Your Gateway Habits

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Another Year, Another List

Do you make the same New Year’s Resolutions year after year?  Save money.  Lose weight. Get a new job. Get a promotion.  Spend more time with the family.  Do you ever get your resolutions done?  How about trying something new this year.

Look at your resolutions.  What is the one key thing that you could do that would make a difference on all of them?  What behavior could you change that would help you achieve your goals for the year?  For example, if this were your list of resolutions:

  • Lose weight
  • Start a blog
  • Spend more time with the kids

What behavior change could you make that would help achieve all of them?  What about if you increased your weekly and daily planning?  What about if each week–let’s say on Sunday–you planned your meals for the week, calendared exercise and writing and time with the kids-and then followed up each morning (or evening if that works better for you) with specifics re:  food you’re going to eat, review of what you have eaten, when/where you’re going to exercise and activities with the kids?  If you put weekly/daily planning into your life, then your success with your yearly goals is much more likely.  If you add a “gateway” habit into your life that serves your goals, then you are much more likely to be able to stick to achieving your goals.In this case, the weekly/daily planning would be a gateway habit.  If you want to increase your exercise, parking far from the door or walking up the stairs could be a gateway habit.   If you eliminate an existing gateway habit—eating in the car, starting your day with the Internet–then you can impact the follow on unconscious habits.

Gateway Habits

A gateway habit is a habit that leads to other behaviors and habits.  According to research done at Duke University, more than 40% of the actions people take each day are unconscious habits.  Autopilot.  We’re aren’t thinking about it.  We just do it.  Like what we eat for lunch.  Like the snacks we grab as we walk through the kitchen.  Like the TV in the background.    One of these unconscious habits leads to the next–drinking and smoking, watching TV and eating–and at the end of the year, we’ve made no progress.  The secret to making changes is to identify key gateway habits that will lead to other changes that get you to your goals.  Changing gateway habits helps make all the related habits conscious and puts us more in control.

For example, if you need to lose weight, you could cut out eating after 7 pm.  Make your eating after 7 a conscious no-no.  Once you’ve mastered that, all of your eating will be more conscious.  Then focus or what you eat for lunch, or decide to always eat breakfast.  This will make your eating much more conscious.  Before you know it, you are in control of your unconscious eating.  Losing weight is easier when you are focusing on specific eating-related habits, rather than all the deprivations of losing weight.  Add new habits as you succeed with changing and before you know it, you’ve succeeded.  You can have as much success through eliminating existing gateway habits.

Great books to help you with getting control of your unconscious and conscious behavior:

Try Something New This Year.  What Do You Have to Lose (or Gain)?

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Filed under Books, Career Goals, Executive Development, Goal Setting, Personal Change

Should Your Subordinates Like You?

Should you be liked OR respected?

iStock_000019473325XSmallThis post is a follow on to my last post, Underground Relationships.  One of my readers said that he had a boss tell him that people working for you shouldn’t like you, just respect you.  He asked what I thought about that.  I have heard people say this, and in fact I myself have said a variation of that.  I have said that you don’t have to be liked, but you should be respected.  Different, but maybe someone who heard me say that could interpret it the same way.  I think it’s a great question:  How important is it that your subordinates like you?  Should you work to be liked? Is it ok if they like you?

There is a reasonably good argument that if your people respect you, if you do the right things, if you are kind and thoughtful and a clear communicator, then your people will like you.  There are a lot of reasons, though, that this may not be true.  Some people just don’t like managers–no matter who they are or how they act.  Some people react badly to peers being promoted to be their manager.  (See Promoted to Manage Your Peers?  Awkward.)  Whatever the reason, there is no guarantee that subordinates will like their bosses.

So how hard should you work to get your subordinates to like you?

Let’s start with my reader’s boss’ statement: “the people working for you shouldn’t like you, just respect you.”  I have to say that I don’t agree with this statement.  In an ideal world, your subordinates should both respect you and like you.  The quality of work life is significantly better if there is both respect and a level of affection in both directions.  The important thing is to be very clear on where your responsibility as a manager lies.  You are an employee with a fiduciary duty to the organization to deliver strategic results.  As an employee of the organization, managers must do what the organization needs.  Sometimes those things don’t make subordinates happy.  Sometimes those things don’t make managers happy.  On the other hand, managers also have a responsibility to adhere to their own ethical standards.  Those standards include what they are willing to do for the organization and how they must treat employees and co-workers.

Now let’s look at the statement that I’ve made in the past: “you don’t have to be liked, but you should be respected.”  What I meant by this was that you should do the “right” things, things that make you respected, but you shouldn’t do things with a goal of being liked.  The question my reader posed has made me rethink this.  It is my experience that there are some people in management positions who have a really hard time doing things that will impact their likeability.  I believe that this is the wrong thing to use as a guideline when you are a manager.  Your responsibility is first–what is right for the organization, second–what is right for your people, and I don’t see a time when your likeability should be a factor.

Unfortunately, though, it isn’t as easy as that.  It’s really hard to find the lines that divide these things.  What is right for the organization may be bad for the people; what is right for some people may be wrong for others; what is right for your subordinates may be wrong for other parts of the organization.  Finding your way through these  mazes is easier if you have strong relationships with people at work.  If they trust you, and if you communicate clearly as to your reasons and the context, it is easier to find a balance between hard decisions that create unhappiness and sustaining organization performance and relationships.

So what do you do?

  • Get clear on what your personal ethical belief is about how people should be treated and how those decisions should get made
  • Get clear on what you believe is your responsibility to the organization as a boss
  • Find your personal balance between these (understand that whatever you decide here could cause you problems–with your boss, your organization or your subordinates–but you’ve got to live with your decisions/behavior)
  • Listen to HEAR what your people are thinking and going through
  • Communicate clearly with your subordinates about the context and reasons for why decisions have been made, acknowledging the costs to people who are affected–this is absolutely the most important action in being respected/liked
  • As long as you are comfortable with your personal decisions about how you navigate, live with the consequences

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Filed under Career Development, Communication, Executive Development, Leadership

Undercover Relationships

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Undercover Boss

One of my guilty pleasures is the TV show Undercover Boss.  I know it is probably orchestrated and you only get to see the powerful parts, but I love watching it.  I am constantly amazed at how amazed the bosses are at what goes on in their organization.  It is a regular reminder to me that if people just talk to each other, are “real” with each other, then truly awesome things can happen in organizations.  This is of course a two way street.  The bosses have to actually listen because there are TV cameras watching them listen.  The other side of it, however, is that the employees tell it straight–after all they are talking to a ‘nobody.’  If they knew they were talking to the boss, they wouldn’t tell the truth–or at least not all the truth.  They would be polite.  They would calculate what the boss wanted to hear, and then they would say it.  Even if they didn’t do that, they would be careful in their word choice and the real message wouldn’t necessarily get across.  It is the blend of the boss being put in a position where s/he sees what is happening at all levels of the organization, s/he has to listen and the employees telling it like it is that makes it happen.  Real change and effectiveness can happen with that blend. (And yeah, the bosses give the employees something at the end–but that is peripheral and entertaining, but not critical for making the changes happen.)

Applying the Lessons of Undercover Boss

If you are a manager, a leader, and/or an Executive, you need to:

  • Get to know what the people who work for you (and in the rest of your organization) do.  Repeatedly on  Undercover Boss the ‘old’ executive of the organization is challenged to keep up, to understand the process, to go fast enough.
  • Understand their challenges.  What are the impacts of your policies on how they do their work?  Again, repeatedly executives are confronted on Undercover Boss with the unintended consequences of their well-intentioned policy changes.  Bosses are confronted with the fact that employees have to cut short positive customer interactions to make productivity numbers or that a well-designed productivity tool is unusable by people who are color blind.  What have you done that has increased the difficulty of doing a job rather than improved both productivity and job quality?
  • How do they think of you and the other leaders in your organization.  How many times do people on the show talk about the “corporate clowns.”  Are you a clown or clueless in the eyes of your employees?  Rather than be defensive or mad about it, see it through their eyes.  What do you need to change that perception?
  • Know your people.  Over and over and over on the show, bosses ask personal questions of their employees and are touched and surprised by the answers.  I’m sure the show scripts some of the kinds of questions that the Executives ask, but in every show, the bosses are surprised at what their employees go through outside of work.  Many Executives resist, either consciously or unconscioulsy, getting close to their employees.  How can you make the “hard” decisions about what to do with people if you care about them?  Ask yourself the opposite question:  How do you motivate, inspire and lead people to higher performance if you don’t know and care about them?  If they don’t know and care about you? Work organizations are first and foremost human organizations.  Creating organizations where people care about each other, stand up for each other, and deliver or the whole, is the key to being a great Executive and boss.
  • Ideas come from all levels.  The most ridiculous idea that Executives develop over time is that they know better than others because they are at the top of the organization and have lots of experiences that got them there.  As the interactions on Undercover Boss show over and over, being at the top of an organization makes it more, rather than less, likely that you don’t know your market and customers well enough to have new ideas that can grow your organization.  Create channels for innovative ideas to move up and across the organization and fight to keep those channels open.
  • Being real gets you told.  It is extremely difficult to persuade employees to tell the truth about what they think and know about the organization.  Honest employees are doing you a favor.  Create situations that open and stimulate these conversations.  Be real.  Admit your own failings.  Appreciate feedback.  Show your employees that you will do something about what they tell you.  While the chosen employees on Undercover Boss get trips and vacations and scholarships, the biggest win is if the company creates a feedback loop between the employees and the leadership that identifies and addresses real issues for the company.  One of the best bosses I ever had regularly walked around the organization talking to people at all levels, but especially at the bottom.  He had relationships with people and they told him what they thought.  It didn’t happen day one, but over time we learned that not only was it safe to talk to him, but also that things got fixed when we did.

Build Undercover Relationships In Your Organization!

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Filed under Communication, Executive Development, Feedback, Leadership, Success

Dealing With Crisis At Work

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We go to work every day expecting the day to be like yesterday.  We’ll do the same kinds of things, have meetings with our colleagues, solve the same kinds of problems, finish our day by cleaning off our desk, putting on our coats and going home anticipating that tomorrow will be the same.

It Will Happen To You

All of us will at some time have to deal with a crisis at work.  It may be that our boss gets fired, or that a co-worker dies, or the company announces a layoff.  It is these crises that test us individually. This is the time that really counts.  You need to be there for your coworkers.  Forget rank.  Reach out and help your coworkers.  Understand that everyone is affected by whatever it is.  People react differently–they withdraw, they need to talk, they get angry–but everyone needs to know that they are supported.

I’ve been through a number of these kinds of experiences.  I had an employee who was in a locked-down building while a gunman was roaming the building.  She was on a business trip, stuck in an office hiding under a desk and she called me.  Once I made sure that everyone who should at my company knew, I talked to her–for hours.  That is all I could do, but I could do that.  I’ve been the manager of a large department in a company that was doing lay offs.  I’ve had a co-worker die.  I’ve had a beloved boss fired.  All of these were tests.  They were hard.  But the normal, act-as-usual rules didn’t apply.  People’s real souls show in these experiences.  People helped me with these crises and hopefully they would say that I helped them.

We have just witnessed a terrible tragedy happen at a workplace that spilled into a whole town.  The employees in that workplace did their jobs.  The first responders did their jobs. They were heroes.  Everyone stepped up.  The town has stepped up.

That is the way it should be.  Do your part if/when your workplace has a crisis.

What To Do

  • Stay calm
  • Focus on what is most important in the moment and act accordingly
  • Reach out to people who are affected and support them in whatever way you can
  • Understand that managing crises takes time.  Be patient for the “new normal” to get established.

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Recruiters Are Prejudiced

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Recruiters Are People

I know lots of recruiters.  I like lots of recruiters. In fact, maybe I like all the recruiters I know.  Recruiters are regular people.  And like regular people (yes, that means you too), recruiters are prejudiced.  We are all prejudiced.  We don’t necessarily know that we’re prejudiced.  We don’t think or believe that we’re prejudiced, but all humans are.  If this were a geometry problem, I would have just proved that recruiters are prejudiced, because recruiters are people and people are prejudiced.

If recruiters are prejudiced, then why should you care?  You should care because if you’re looking for a job, it has an impact on you. If the recruiter believes negative or positive things about people ‘like’ you–young, old, fat, African-American, Asian, Southern, Republican, Catholic–then it can affect whether they pass you along for a job. Worse, recruiters are frequently under instructions from someone with a different set of prejudices–maybe about education, skills or particular schools.  So you’re up against (or supported by) layered prejudices.

What Can You Do About It?

First of all don’t waste your energy railing against it.  I’m not saying it isn’t wrong or unfair, but sitting around complaining about it is not going to do any good.  Recognize it as a problem that you have to figure out how to overcome.  Just the same as if you need a certification to get a particular job or  you need to know how to use Access.  You HAVE to address it or look for other jobs with other recruiters.  How do you address it?

  • Don’t get paranoid.  I know, I know.  I just told you that recruiters’ prejudices may be keeping you from getting passed along for a job.  But look at it as a matter to be dealt with.  Be strategic.  Don’t take it personally.
  • Understand what may be triggering the prejudice.  Is it your age?  Are you ‘too’ young?  ‘Too’ old.  How can the recruiter see this?  Does your resume tell it?  How can you make it less obvious?  Take the dates off your education.  Leave/put as much work experience on as is necessary for the job.  Show adequate depth of experience, but don’t go overboard.  Don’t put personal things that aren’t necessary and that might be a hook for prejudice (sewing, cooking, gaming, sports).
  • Use the words that the recruiter used in the job description in your resume.  Mirror the job description as much as you can.  A lot of time and effort went into creating that job description.  The words mean something to the person who wrote it.  Use the words to describe your qualifications.
  • Check out your image.  Minimize the prejudice triggers to the extent that you can–dress older or younger, remove the multiple piercings, cover the tattoos, dye your hair, lose weight, dress professionally, stylishly.  (I can hear you objecting through the electrons that separate us.  I am not telling you to not be who you are.  I’m telling you to do things that get you around the things that are in your way.  I’ll bet big bucks that you dress differently when you go to church or to school or to work or camping. Put the foot forward that will help clear roadblocks out of the way.)
  • Form a relationship with the recruiter. Keep working at the relationship.   Humans think in terms of ‘them’ and ‘us.’  Humans like ‘us’ better.  People who we know and like become ‘us,’ even when the new ‘us’ has traits we are prejudiced against.  In other words, if I’m prejudiced against people ‘like’ you, but I like you, I think you are different and I’m not prejudiced against YOU, just those others.  I KNOW that sounds crazy, but go read some psychology research–you’ll find that this craziness is supported by the research.
  • Don’t ever give in and believe these prejudices.  Just because you are young or old or less educated, doesn’t mean that you aren’t capable.

Once You Have The Job

Examine your own hiring prejudices.  You have them.  Challenge yourself, remembering your recent experiences, to act against those prejudices and to hire people based on their individual abilities, not on stereotypes (even if stereotypes  are faster, as George Clooney said in “Up In The Air”).

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Filed under Career Development, Communication, Diversity, Job Hunt, New Job, Recruiters

Your Last Minute Isn’t Always Your Best Minute

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I’ll Stop Procrastinating.  Tomorrow.

I used to put things off to the last minute.  I told myself it was because I worked better under pressure.  That is what you would call a rationalization.  We frequently rationalize our negative behaviors.  I know I do.  I can’t exercise hard because my neck hurts.  I can’t run because it’s raining (haha and I go to the gym).  Back to the procrastination, though.  Some of us procrastinate infrequently, some of us procrastinate all the time, but almost all of us procrastinate some of the time.  I have a dear friend who procrastinates on everything.  She doesn’t get a lot of things done–she runs out of time.  And she suffers major consequences.  It’s painful to watch her put things off that really matter until it is too late.  Ironic as it is, procrastination is a form of being a control freak.  You’re in control in putting things off–I know–that makes no sense, but lots of things we do don’t make sense.

I’ve been told that procrastination isn’t a problem of time management.  I’ve been told that telling someone to start following a Franklin Covey plan is like telling a depressed person to cheer up.  It’s much more complicated than that.  There are some things that can help, though.

First, Figure Out What Kind of Procrastinator You Are

  • Are you a risk taker?  Do you get a thrill from having to scramble to get something done by the deadline?
  • Are you an avoider?  Are you avoiding doing something because you are afraid of failing?  Or afraid of succeeding?
  • Are you a decision procrastinator because you’re afraid/can’t make a decision?
  • Are you a rebeller?  Are you not doing something because someone wants you to and rather than stand up to the person, you avoid doing it?
  • Are you a perfectionist?  Do you put things off because you want/need to be perfect–and know that that is impossible–so it’s just easier to put it off?

Next, Look at HOW You Procrastinate

  • Do you distract yourself with trivia and less important things?  Are you an expert distractor?
  • Do you tell yourself that you’ll do it tomorrow (and believe that  things will be different tomorrow–until tomorrow and repeat?)
  • Do you find ’emergencies’ that need to be handled instead of the task at hand?
  • Do you put off specific tasks–or do you put off everything?
  • Do you underestimate how long something will take?  Or overestimate how much time you have left?
  • Do you exaggerate how bad/hard/tough the task will be?

Take Action

The easiest, best, most productive way to overcome procrastination is to START.  I know that seems awfully simplistic.  It works, though.  If you look at what kind of procrastinator you are and then look at how you procrastinate, set up a situation that reduces/eliminates the ‘ideal’ procrastination environment.  Eliminate your normal distractions.  Tell yourself that you’re going to experiment with taking more time to do something.  Tell yourself it doesn’t have to be perfect–just done. Give yourself a reward AFTER you’re done.  Think through doing the worst task of your day FIRST.  Then find one task that needs to be done.  And do it.  Start.

Pay attention to what it feels like to be working on something that you would normally put off.  Is it uncomfortable?  Does it make you happy?  Or satisfied?  Or stressed?  Do the next step.  Does it get better or worse.  Continue until the task(s) is done.  Do a ‘lessons learned.’  What worked?  What didn’t?  How can you apply these lessons learned to the next thing that you would normally procrastinate about?

Commit to ‘not’ procrastinating on a certain number of things–let’s say 3 or 5.  Promise yourself that you will do this many tasks without procrastinating and will do the lessons learned exercise.  Once you’ve met that commitment, decide whether it’s worth it to keep doing this, or whether you’d rather go back to procrastinating.

You may have a good (subconscious) reason for procrastinating, but it is a choice. You can choose whether you change it or not.

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Filed under Career Development, Executive Development, Goal Setting

Update Your LinkedIn Profile. Seriously.

linkedin profileWhy Do You Need To Fix Your Profile?

I had a friend ask me recently if I knew someone to fill three positions that he had open in his department.  I was sure that I did.  I knew a lot of people who did the kinds of jobs he was filling and I was sure it was just a matter of sending him links to my relevant contact’s LinkedIn profiles.  I was sure that he would take one look at the profiles and would reach out to my contacts, schedule an interview and hire them.  That was until I looked at the profiles.  Iwouldn’t have hired them based on their profiles and I knewthese people.  Profile after profile showed job title, dates, and THAT WAS IT!

LinkedIn is an incredible tool for finding jobs (whether you are unemployed or not), meeting people who can help you with your next career steps and knowing what is happening with your contacts’ careers.  Recruiters usually go there first when they’re looking for someone.  Companies frequently go there when they are looking for specific skill sets.  People who are unemployed go there.  Why wouldn’t you be using it to it’s full extent?  I hear people say that they want to keep their privacy on LinkedIn–so they block it so that peole can’t see their name or they don’t put their picture up.  Ok.  It’s your choice, but you’re leaving a lot on the table.  A lot of opportunity.

What Do You Need To Do?

Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is as complete and thorough as your resume.  Make sure that you have a skills summary and a headline.  Make sure you’ve got a professional picture.  Make sure you’ve got recommendations.   Understand the new Endorsement feature and use it appropriately.  Read my friend, Skip Pritchard’s blog on endorsements, Endorsing the Endorsing on LinkedIn.

I know I’m not the only person who has looked at LinkedIn profiles with the intention of finding someone for a better job.  I know I’m not the only one who has gone past your profile because it didn’t tell me enough about you to get me interested.

FIX YOUR PROFILE!

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Filed under Brand Yourself, Career Development, Communication