Category Archives: Books

Your ‘Tribes’ Are Important For Your Career Success

What Are Your Tribes?

Broncos, Seahawks.  Democrat, Republican.  Christian, Jew.  We belong to ‘Tribes.’  The correct definition of this is a social group that preceded the “state,” small in size.  The current use of the word is more of an ‘aligned’ group—somewhat informal with common interests and loyalty.  Some of these ‘tribes’ are ok to talk about at work.  Your sports team, unless it is the arch enemy of the prominent group’s team.  Your hobby group, unless it is politically incorrect.  Sometimes your tribe and your company are one—maybe Google is a tribe—but usually your tribes and your company are concentric circles with some overlap.  Sometimes your team/project/department is a tribe within your company.

It is an interesting question why we feel so strongly about the interests of our tribe.  This is probably one of the reasons that we don’t talk about some of this at work very often—religion, politics, gun control, abortion.  If I find out that you are not IN my tribe in one of these areas, it makes it harder for me to work with you.  Why is that?  You are the same person you were before I found out that you have a view that I completely disagree with (outside my tribe).  You are the same person.  If I liked you (or at least was neutral) before, why does knowing that you are in another ‘tribe’ change my opinion so much?

PPP_PRD_158_3D_people-_Business_Community_2

What Do You Do About It?

One of the most important things to acknowledge is that there are tribes and there are tribes.  Each of us has had the experience of thinking badly—ok, if you can’t admit that—not as highly of a group of people because of something.  We applied stereotypes to them.  And then you became close to a single member of that group.  You made that person an exception.  S/he was different from the rest of the group.  S/he was an exception to all the characteristics you didn’t like/objected to.  And so it was ok to like her.  It was ok to think highly of her—because all that stuff didn’t apply to her.  It’s as if we’re hard wired to think like this.

So, take advantage of the fact that we make exceptions when we get to know someone.  Create more tribes.  Create cross-tribe tribes that are based on something else—fun, work, teams, companies, hobbies, interests.  Get to know people.  Make them exceptions.  Get to know people you admire. I once went out of my way to meet the two women who wrote a book, Success and Betrayal, that changed my life.  Who do you admire?  Who do you want to learn from?  Who do you want to be like?  Inside and outside of work—seek them out.  Make them your tribe.

Eventually, you’ll see that the stereotypes you believe about certain groups are just that—stereotypes—not reality.  People are individuals.  They fall on a continuum.  They are like others in their tribes in some ways and not like them in others.  I’m talking about ALL kinds of tribes:  religious ones, political ones, gang ones, 1% ones, creative, etc.  It is insane to write off a person because they disagree with you on one continuum (or four).  Find something to agree with them on.  Get to know them.

Why?

We’ve moved past our caveman days.  We need to interact with all kinds of people.   If you want to have career success—I mean career SUCCESS then all kinds of people have to want you to succeed.  Success doesn’t just come from the quality of your work.  Sure, you have to have that, too, but someone has to want to move you up the organization.  Someone has to want to buy your product.  People have to help you succeed.  Your tribe.

Some great books about Tribes:

The Dark Side of Tribes

Tribes are the way we interact, but there are some tribes that can get in the way of effectiveness, and therefore get in the way of your career.  Be on the lookout for these.  Sometimes a department is a tribe—a silo—and it is in the way of optimizing the whole organization.  This can bring you down as well if you are too closely aligned with the silo.  You can be too closely aligned with the boss, or with the industry or with actions of a group.  You need to pay as much attention to that as to aligning with better tribes.

Understanding tribes and how you interact with them can give you a new set of tools to improve your career.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Career Development, Success, Teams

Do You Want To Start Your Own Business? Then Do It.

Stop Planning.  Start Doing.

I speak to a lot of people who want to start their own business.  I speak to lots of people who don’t start their own business.  There is only one difference between people who want to and people who have their own business.  The ones who have their own business actually DID it.  I know.  I spent six years “planning” my business.  I bought every book.  I thought I hadn’t put together enough money.  I didn’t know how to do all the things that I needed to know how to do.  I didn’t have enough contacts.  I didn’t have enough customers/clients.  Duh.  I didn’t have a business.  Why would there be clients/customers WITHOUT a business?  You just have to step out if faith.  I”m not saying do it with NO planning. You have to think out your opportunities.  You have to think out how you’re going to eat. And then you need to do it.

start

I can relate to not moving on it.   Was I more prepared after six years?  Yes.  I was not six years-worth more prepared, though.  So much of the learning that happens when you start your business happens when the rubber meets the road and you actually have to make it work.  There is nothing that does that except actually doing the work.

Do It Before You Leave Your ‘Real’ Job

What I didn’t do, which I should have, was start my business while I was still working my 9 to 5 job.  It really didn’t occur to me at the time, but I now know that this is a great solution to cushion the risk and to accelerate the learning while you still have an income.  With the current state of the economy and the likelihood that you will lose your job at some point in your work life, this approach of having an income on the side that you can ramp up if something happens makes a lot of sense.  There are a couple of new books that are great guides on how to do this.

Some Books That Might Help.

  • The Economy of You by Kimberly Palmer.  This book has lots of stories about people who actually DID it.  They started small and built their business while still employed.  The book describes when the business owners cut the cord and relied on their business for their income.  It is a great read and is quite motivational.  You don’t have to wait for perfection–step out and see what happens.
  • How to Work for Yourself by Bryan Cohen.  This is a book that addresses all the excuses you have about “no time.”  (That was what you were thinking when you started reading this post, right?)  Again, Cohen is quite motivational.  As I read the book I started noticing all the ways that I waste time.  (As I write this, this book is $0.00 on Kindle–that won’t last long–grab it!!!)

A slightly older, but more comprehensive book:

So . . . I’ve provided you some books to read if you want to put it off a little longer.  I’ve provided you books that can motivate you and challenge you if you REALLY want to do this.  Which ever–read these books.  Make this the year you DO it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Career Goals, Goal Setting, Recession Proof, Start a Business, Success

Small Decisions, Big Life

iStock_000017206184XSmall

Learning From Friends

I have a friend in his eighties who insists that he is here because his grandfather broke his leg when he was a child.  I know, I know, that’s hard to follow.  I don’t know why he is fixated on something that happened to his grandfather as a child as the pivotal event–he hasn’t ever really explained that clearly–but his point is valid.  Things happen that lead to other things that lead to other things and suddenly you realize that life has changed course.  I have another friend, Sharon Short, who has written a great book, One Square Inch of Alaska.  (It is a delightful read and I highly recommend it.)  Woven through her story is the idea that we all make small decisions, sometimes what seem to be inconsequential decisions, that lead to important life events.  Both of these are true.  Events and decisions lead to the the lives we lead.

We can plan and plan and plan our lives, and then decide to eat at one restaurant rather than another and meet someone who absolutely blows all those plans out of the water.  It’s really fun to think about it.  Look at your life.  What were those events and decisions that altered the course of your life?  Did someone say something to you?  Did you meet someone?  Did you try something, or not try something?  Did you go somewhere?  Did you take an opportunity?  Or not?

Does that mean that you shouldn’t plan?  No.  Planning and subsequent actions are good.  Being adaptive, however, is probably the most important skill that can help us with our serendipitous lives.

One Square Inch of Alaska

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Success

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

new years resolutions

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)?

Leave a comment

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

Brand Schmand. Defining Who You Are.

Branding

When you think of Coca Cola what comes to mind?  The iconic bottle?  The taste?  What about Apple?  Or Amazon?  Or Chanel?  If products are well-branded then when you think of them, you think of the product, the name, the logo, the product ecosystem–it’s interrelationship with everything in its environment (where it is sold, how it works, what it works with, its price point, its competition), the feelings you have about it and, probably most important, how and what you trust about the product.

Well-Known World Brand Logotypes

Why Should You Care About Your Brand

A brand makes you unique.  It sets you apart.  When people think of you, you want them to think about how you are different, how you are great, what you do well and why they should turn to you for certain things.  You want them to FEEL something and to TRUST you to be reliable in a certain way.  It is my experience that most people at work aren’t really good at this.  Maybe it is because people don’t actually try to brand themselves.  If you have a stand-out personal brand, then people think of you when they want to hire someone, when they want to promote someone, when they want someone for a special assignment.  You have a lot of control of how and what people think about you if you pay attention to developing your brand and therefore you have a lot of control of being the option of choice in a lot of situations.

What Do You Want People to Think of When They Think of  You?

If you could choose what people think of when they think of you, what would it be?

  • What is your image (how do you look?)
  • What strengths would they think of?
  • What abilities would they think of?
  • What personality traits?
  • What is your energy level?
  • What can you be trusted to do?
  • What can you be trusted not to do?

Now, How Does That Compare to How People Perceive You?

This is harder.  How we want to be, and be seen, is easier to identify than to really see how others see you.  Ask people.  Tell your friends and coworkers that you are trying to understand self-branding and ask them to describe your “brand” in 5 words or 10 words.  Compare how that fits with what you want.  What are the differences?  Are there patterns to the hits and misses?  Do they think you have the abilities that you want to be seen as having, but not the personality?  Or vice versa?

Do you look like your brand?  Don’t underestimate the importance of managing your image.  You’ve heard the adage, “look like the level you want to be.”  Take it a step further.  Look like who and what you want to be.

Who do you know who has the kind of “brand” that you want to have?  How did that person develop that brand?  If someone is seen as a highly skilled technical resource who is reliable with intense projects and deadlines, then what is it that has gone into the development of this “brand.”  How many years has this person been working on what kinds of efforts to develop this reputation?  What are his abilities and personality traits?  How has she demonstrated her reliability?  How has s/he been visible?  What FEELINGS are associated with this person?  How did those feelings get developed?

Look at the executives who you admire.  What are their brands?  How did they develop them?  Why are they the ‘go to’ person in their world?  What can you learn from how they have accomplished their brand?  How can you copy some of their actions?

Now Start Building the Brand You Want

Based on what you want your brand to be and how others perceive you, create an action plan that builds your brand.  Be very proactive about it.  Don’t just float through your career taking what you get.  Build your brand.  Pay careful attention to the ecosystem that surrounds your brand.  What kind of environment do you need to showcase your brand? What actions, “buzz,” results, visibility do you need?  How are you different from everyone else?  How are you going to stand out and be noticed?

Some Helpful Books

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Brand Yourself, Career Development, Communication, Executive Development

Get Your Business Started. What Are You Waiting On?

It’s Time to Put Up or Shut Up

So you want to start a business.  Someday.  Someday will come and go and where will your business  be?  What are you waiting on?  You want to get everything set up first? You want to do the business plan first?  You want to analyze the potential market first?  You want to find money first? You want to come up with the killer idea first?

Let’s Start At The Beginning

Why do you want to start your own business?  That’s the first question to answer.  The answer to this question can actually help you figure out what kind of business.

  • Do you want to work for yourself?  Get rid of bosses?  Feel an accomplishment that you built something? Control your destiny?
  • Do you want a work/life balance?  Be careful about this one.  Most small business owners work an awful lot—many more than their corporate employee colleagues.
  • Do you want to get rich?
  • Do you like the risk/reward of starting and running a business?
  • Do you want to work people of your choice—and not A$$ho@$?
  • Are you stalled out at your current organization?
  • Do you want to create a business out of something you are passionate about?
  • Do you think you can do it better?

Next Step—What Business do You Want To Start?

Do you have a plan or idea that you’ve been storing in the back of your mind for a long time?  Does it make it to your New Year’s Resolution list or you Life Goal list on a regular basis?  If you have such a plan/idea, look back at your answer to “Why Do You Want to Start Your Own Business?” above.  Does your plan/idea serve that reason?  For example, if you want to start a restaurant but your reason for starting your own business is work/life balance, then the back of your brain probably knows that those two don’t go together.  If you want/need security, than, again, you probably know that deep down inside and aren’t really willing to put that at risk by really starting your own business.

If your idea for a business  is perfectly suited to your reason for wanting to do this, then there is some other reason that it hasn’t happened yet.   Some possibilities:

  • Analysis paralysis.  This was mine.  I wanted to think out every possible ramification and pre-plan for each eventuality.  I bought and read every book I could get my hands on.  I went to seminars, talked to experts and still didn’t move forward.  The key issue here is that you can never be ready enough before you start because some of the most important things that make you ready to run and succeed at your business are the experiences you have in running your business.  Even if you’ve run several businesses before, you will not be able to pre-plan all the things that can happen.
  • Fear of failure. I guess it would be nice to be able to out plan failure.  It just isn’t realistic, though.  Depending on how you define failure:  not meeting expectations, not making enough money, not finding your market, not having enough cash flow, not growing as fast as expected, growing faster than expected (OK, maybe that one isn’t failure), going bankrupt–most start-ups fail.  You make adjustments, you try again, you try something else.  Fearing failure is a lot like a four year old fearing growing taller.  It is a necessary part of the process.
  • Lack of time. This may be the reality, but if you don’t make the time, then it won’t happen.  You CAN make time to do what is important.  Steven Covey taught us to do what was important.  To begin with the end in mind.  What does you business look like in your future?  What does it provide you? Money?  Joy? Autonomy? Isn’t it as important as the other things that you are doing?  Carve out one task a day or one task a week to work on.  After a couple of months, you will have made progress and you will be on your way.  Once your business starts to become REAL in your eyes, then it will be easier to put it at the head of the line, or at least in the line, of what you’re working on.
  • Not enough money.  Build a sufficient business plan to persuade someone to help with the money.  Ask friends, family, skilled colleagues who could help.  Figure it out.

Just Start

There is a great gook about this, Just Start by Leonard A. Schlesinger and Charles F. Kiefer.  Take the risk.  Learn from it.  Move closer to your dream.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Career Development, Goal Setting, Recession Proof, Start a Business, Success

Why Doesn’t Your Team Work?

All of us get to spend time on teams.  Some of us spend all of our time on teams. There are terrible teams, good teams and great teams.  Most of us rarely get to spend much time on great teams.  For one thing, it takes time to build a great team–more than a few months, usually.  Few of us know how to build a good team, though, even with enough time.

Let’s talk about what makes a great team.

Unlike the common assumptions, great teams are not made up of friends, or people who are the same.  The best teams have lots of different kinds of people, with different temperments and skills.   Meredith Belbin, a British researcher who focuses on teams, started his research with the assumption that if he created a team of the smartest people–”A” players–then it would be a high performance team.  What he found was that intelligence itself was not enough.  A high performing team needs team members with a variety of skills and perspectives.  He identified the following roles necessary for a high performance team:

  • Plant:  Someone who is creative and who brings ideas to the table. (For my non-British readers:  think of this as someone who is embedded in the team who is a source of ideas.)  Someone who looks at things differently and is the team problem solver.
  • Resource Investigator: Someone who is the networker of the group.  Someone who is ‘connected’ in a way that helps the team find the resources and/or sources for whatever they need to be able to deliver team results.
  • Chairman (called the  Coordinator after 1988): Someone who ensures a balance among the members of the team–making sure that they all contribute to discussions and decisions. Someone who makes the goals clear, and ensures that the roles and responsibilities are clear.
  • Shaper:   Someone who challenges team members and who pushes them to overcome barriers.  Someone who pushes for agreement and decisions.
  •  Monitor-Evaluator:  Someone who is able to point out the challenges to other people’s solutions.  Someone who sees all the options, asks questions, points out the issues.
  • Team Worker: Someone who focuses on the interpersonal relationships within the team.  Someone who is sensitive to the nuances among the interactions of the team members.  Someone who helps ensure the long-term cohesion among team members.  Someone who helps deal with conflict, the group mediator.
  • Company Worker ( Implementor after 1988):  Someone who can figure out how to create the systems and processes that get the team the results they want.  Someone who is practical and pragmatic.
  • Completer Finisher:   Someone who is detail-oriented.  Someone who sees the defects before anyone else.  Someone who is clear on where the team is in relationship to its deadlines.  Someone who focuses on completing tasks, finding errors, making deadlines and staying on schedule.
  • Specialist: Someone who brings specialized knowledge to the team, like someone who is the Finance expert, or the Supply Chain expert or the Contract specialist.

Remember, these are ROLES, not people.  One person can potentially fill more than one role, but ideally not more than two.  We are more naturally comfortable in some of these roles than others.  The Plant (the idea person) is usually not good at being a Monitor–figuring out all the problems with the ideas.  Many of these role-fillers drive others crazy.  They balance each other out and reduce the risks of rushing to decisions or dragging to decisions or running people off or being too focused on deadlines or too focused on people or too focused on details.  Belbin has written several books on his research on teams.

When team members are presented with Belbin’s Team Role Assessments® it is amazing how they stop being irritated with each other and start appreciating the traits that had previously driven them all nuts.

Let’s Talk About the Work of Being a High Performance Team

The “who” of a team is only half the battle, though.  The other part of a high performance team is the work that teams have to go through to become great.  There are two models that help describe that work.  The first is the Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing stages of Bruce Tuckman’s model of group development.  Most of us have heard of this one.  It is useful to acknowledge that group behavior goes through stages and movement through these stages is necessary to develop the trust and authentic interactions necessary to be a good team.

The other model is less well-known, but is the one that I’ve taught to my graduate management classes.  It is the Drexler-Sibbett Team Performance ™ Model.  The Drexler-Sibbett Model acknowledges that team development is dynamic.  Teams have set backs, add people, change goals, get new managers, have failures, traumas, successes and constantly need to back up and ‘re-do’  some stage in the team’s development.  It is this focus on dynamic/interactive progress and re-setting that seems to me to be extremely realistic.  The Drexler-Sibbett stages are:

  • Orientation:  Why am I here? (Note–it isn’t why are we here–if you don’t answer for each and every person why s/he is there, they won’t even begin to engage.)
  • Trust Building: Who are you? and you? and you?  (Most ‘team building’ activities are focused on this stage.
  • Goal Clarification: What are we doing here? Few teams get very clear on goals.  They rarely get past the goals of all the individuals to the team goal.  The person from finance is there to protect finance’s interests, the person from IT is there to protect IT’s interest.  It is only when the individual goals are replaced by the team goal that the team begins to move to high performance.
  • Commitment:  How are we going to do it?  This gets into the messy part of resources, who, when, how.  This is when the theory and planning turn into reality and the trouble really starts.
  • Implementation:   Who does what, when, where and how.  The real stuff.  Things start to be hard.  Things start to get delivered.  Things don’t work and have to get fixed.  Misunderstandings and mistakes are uncovered and dealt with.  The struggle and the payoff happen in this stage.
  • High Performance: This is where things really hum.  People cooperate and trust and do and finish things.
  • Renewal:  This is where it all starts again.

The important concept of this model is that teams move forward and backward as the situation warrants.  New people come in, the Orientation and Trust Building stages may need to be done again (sometimes in an abbreviated way).  If Implementation isn’t working, then Commitment may need a refresh.

A Powerful Career Tool

Getting teams to high performance is hard work.   It can’t be done through a team building exercise, or through the boss announcing what the goals are.  Learning to build great teams, however, can be enormously helpful in getting you to the next level of your career.  People who know the mechanics of building great teams can do it over and over and over.  They can do it in different organizations and they can  deliver different kinds of goals.  They can do it at all levels of the organization and in all sizes of organizations.  Well worth learning!

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Career Development, Career Goals, Diversity, Executive Development, Teams, Trust