Category Archives: Success

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Do You Take Initiative?

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Duh.  I Know To Take The Initiative.

You’ve heard that you should take initiative. Duh. But do you do it? Do you suggest ideas? Do you seek to improve the situation? Do you take action? Do you do it when it isn’t expected? The FREE Dictionary defines “take the initiative” as “to activate oneself to do something even if one has not been asked to do it.” That last part is the important part–even if one hasn’t been asked to do it.  Do you do things without being asked to do them? Do you surprise the people you work with by taking on things and getting them done?  So many of us wait around to be told to do stuff.  Do you see things that need to be done, problems that need to be solved, and do you take them on and get them done?

Taking the initiative can make the difference between getting noticed and not.  It can get you attention from the right people in your organization.  Part of the reason for that is that it is such a surprise when people actually step out of their ‘wait to be told’ role and think for themselves and take action.  You may think I’m crazy.  You may think that people take the initiative all the time.  But think about the last time someone actually surprised you by doing something that needed to get done that wasn’t clearly in his/her responsibility.

People who are good at their job are good at what their job is–not beyond that.  People who take initiative are beyond good at their job.  They are on their way to being good at the next level job and the one beyond that.  They are thinking (and acting) like their boss.  Whoa, you may say.  My boss won’t like that.  I’ll step on his/her toes.  There is a difference between ‘doing’ your boss’ job and taking iniative.  When you take initiative, you help your boss rather than step on his/her toes.  You lift some of the load.  Remember–SURPRISE is the key.

So How Do You Take Initiative?

We are well trained to do what we are told.  We learned it at home.  It was enforced at school.  (I once did a survey of middle school teachers of how they identified students who were leaders.  Many of them said the leaders were the ones who followed directions, were quiet and did what they were told!)  We learned to succeed at our entry level jobs by learning and following the rules quickly and well.  Our bosses expect us to do the things that are in our job.  They don’t expect much else.  And so we learn.  We modulate our brains and actions to fit without our roles.  We wait to be told to act beyond the day to day-ness of our jobs.

The key to taking the initiative is the way you think about it.  Do you see a problem?  Instead of just seeing it and walking by it, think about what could be done about it.  Think about what YOU could do about it.  Then DO it.  It takes some bravery.  It’s like visiting a new city without a map.  Make creating that surprise your goal.

The first time I did it, I did it by accident.  I created a report of my observations about something just because I was  too full of my own opinions to keep quiet about it.  It didn’t occur to me that anything would happen except that someone might read my report.  Then I just couldn’t stop with the opinions and made some suggestions at the end of the report.  I didn’t see it as taking the initiative.  I saw it as finding a way of expressing my opinions and ideas that were trying to push their way out of me.  Apparently this spontaneous creation of opinion and suggestion (on a problem that had been driving people nuts for a while) from someone at my level was completely unexpected.  It got attention.  It got me called into a meeting with people at the top of the organization to be questioned about my ideas.  It got me assigned to the group to implement some of the ideas (that got funded beyond my imagination).  It started my career on its way.  I recently found a copy of the report I wrote so long ago.  It wasn’t particularly well written.  Today I would know how to ‘sell’ the ideas and I would have pre-sold them to people to make the organization more receptive.  My reaction when I found that report, however, was–that is when my career hit a pivot point.  When someone read that report, he was surprised.  Maybe the surprise itself made him pay attention to the content.  I can see now:  I took the initiative.  That accident taught me the benefit of taking the initiative.

So What Do You Do?

  • Proactively look at problems.
  • Think about what it would take to SOLVE them.
  • Think about what you could do to get the ball rolling.
  • DO IT.

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Filed under Bosses, Career Development, Goal Setting, Success

Leaders Are Not Followers

I know.  I know.  There is a school of thought that leaders can/should be good followers.  I’m not saying that leaders can’t follow directions, or act appropriately within their hierarchy.  I don’t think leaders are followers.  I think leaders think for themselves.  Think. For. Themselves.

  • They challenge the status quo.
  • They think about what they would do if “it were my problem.”
  • They do not sit at the level in the organization and not speak up when something needs to be said.Leaders Aren't Followers
  • They step up.
  • They take responsibility.
  • They take risks.
  • They fail.
  • They pick themselves up and do it again.
  • And they teach their followers to do the same.

Leadership is about how you handle yourself. It is about how you think.  It is about how you act.  If you do these things, people will follow you–even if they are leaders too.

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Filed under Career Goals, Leadership, Success

Do You Need More Education To Grow Your Career?

Do You Need Education?How Do You Decide?

I recently have had a couple of folks let me know that they have completed the next level of their education.  One of them reminded me that I had responded to his “I’ll be x years old when I finish my PhD” by saying “You’ll be x years old anyway, you might as well have a PhD when that happens.”  That sounds like something I’d say.  And I stand by that.  I don’t believe that you’re ever too old to get more education, and I think education by itself is extremely valuable.  Given that, though, with the price of education today and the sacrifice it takes—away from family and aspects of work—I think it is worth asking whether or not you need more education to accelerate your career.

Let’s Start With What Are Your Career Goals

What do you want to do with your career?  What are your career goals?  What industry, company, level, function, job?  In what time frame?  I know, I know—you don’t know.  You don’t have to know precisely—you need to know generally.

  1.  What industry?

Industry is important.  Do you want to be in the same industry that you’re in now?  Do you want to be in a different industry?  Does your industry require a certain level of education for you to be credible?

If you industry requires a level of education to get to your career goal, or if you want to move into an industry that requires education then, YES, you need more education.

  1. What company?

What is the standard in your company?  Look at the Executives.  Do they all have advanced degrees?  Do most of them?  Are there classes of those with degrees—those who’ve been around for a long time don’t have degrees and those who are newer do have degrees.  When they recruit, what are they looking for?  (It’s important to do this analysis on a pretty regular basis and look at everything the company is recruiting for, not just education).  If your company has a record of promoting from within, and those who get promoted don’t necessarily have advanced degrees, then NO, you probably don’t need more education.

There are many ways to get your ticket punched.  Quite frankly, getting education is the easiest.  Degrees come with the assumption that you know what you need to do.  You can certainly know what you need to know without formal education.  It is just harder to prove to decision makers (including those who hold your career in their hands) that you know what you need to know without that degree or certification.  In fact, I am self-taught in my primary area of expertise—organizational change management and organizational effectiveness.  People who decide to hire me are generally looking for a degree in this area for confirmation of my abilities.  I have to show them experience and writing and references to overcome my deficiency of related formal education.  I’ve always managed to do it.

 

 

  1. What function?

 

Within companies and industries there are different education expectations within different functions.  Finance people may be expected to have an advanced degree in Finance or an MBA or be a CPA, while technical resources may be expected to have a first degree in computer technology, but experience or certifications in certain systems or languages are much more important than additional degrees.  On the other hand, portfolios may be more important than education or certifications for graphic artists.

The standard within the function within the company can help you decide whether you need more education.

*******Remember, however, that career portability is always a consideration.  Does the company you are using to make user decision follow the standards for the industry? *********

  1. What level?

 

What level do you want to reach?  CEO?  A recent U.S. News analysis of Fortune 500 CEOs indicated that of the 500 CEOs,  35 didn’t graduate from college.  Two hundred had M.B.A.’s and about 140 had other graduate degrees. So . . . do you have to have a degree to be a CEO?  Probably YES, you need an undergraduate degree, probably NO, you don’t need a graduate degree.  But then, it depends on the other factors—industry, company, experience, getting your ticket punched.

People could argue that some of the best CEOs (and then they could argue about ‘best’ too) of our times—Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Barry Diller—didn’t have undergraduate degrees—why do you need one.  You don’t.  Do you have a killer idea and the energy, stamina and luck to drive it to market and beyond?  If you don’t have a killer idea, then what skills do you have and how do you provide that you have them to the computers and people who are screening your resume and track record.  Do you get results (and can prove it)?  Then you are less likely to have to have additional education.

What about to be a mid-level manager or entry-level Executive?  An MBA or other business degree helps.  It helps because it provides you with an overview, with some depth, on how you run a business and how you get an organization to deliver results.  To be a mid-level manager or entry-level Executive, YES, probably you do need a formal education. (Again, it depends on the industry, company, function . . . but it does help get your foot in the door and provides you credibility that you know what you’re doing.)

 

  1. What job?

 

Obviously, if you want to be a medical doctor, you need a lot of formal education.  If you want to be a hospital administrator, it probably it isn’t a requirement.  If you work at an organization that requires all Executives to have degrees, then you do.

Even If You Don’t HAVE to Get a Degree/Certification, Should You?

 

Again, it depends:

  • How important is a Degree/Certification/More Education to YOU?

 

Many of us were raised to think that people with an education were “better.”  Our families valued degrees, and we were taught to have that as a goal.  Many of us think that we need a degree to be more valuable.  If this is a big deal—even if you went through the analysis above about whether your career goals require more education—you should consider getting that education.  Self-respect and pride are important for personal happiness and career success.

 

  • Do You Find Learning Fun?  Do You Do That More Easily In A More Formal Setting?

 

If you can afford it, and have the time, then by all means—get more education.  It can’t hurt (except in some cases, a PhD—I’ve seen hiring managers not hire PhDs because they thought they were too academic).

Can You Afford It?

Start with a ROI analysis.  What will it cost?  What will the return be?  It’s perfectly ok to  put intrinsic returns in—that’s what you’re evaluating when you decide to buy a big boat or a vacation home—but you do have to weigh the costs too.  The dollars spent for the education v. the dollars spent for a better school (which might help with being a more credible candidate for career acceleration –65 (13%) of Fortune 500 CEOs have degrees from Harvard) v time spent away from family v likely increase in income over your lifetime v how much better you’ll feel about yourself.  Just don’t do this assuming that it will automatically pay off in all the ways you think.  Investigate this carefully.

 

 

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, Goal Setting, Learning, Success

Are You Stuck?

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Have you noticed that you’re not moving up in your organization any more?  Have your last couple of job changes been laterals?  Have your last couple of reviews been ho-hum? Are you starting to get the message that you’re stuck in your career trajectory?  There are some common causes and, believe it or not, some things that YOU can do about it.

Are You Bored?

Do you find yourself finding other things to do (other than your job) at work?  Are you consistently late for work and early to leave? Do you think you can do your job in your sleep? Have you done it and done it and done it and don’t want to do it anymore? Do you remember when you were challenged by the tasks of your job, but that was a long time ago?  Boredom is a common cause of burnout and demotivation in a job.  And it shows.  You may be the most experienced, the one with the longest tenure, but if you aren’t engaged with your job, it shows.  People who aren’t engaged don’t get promoted.  People who are bored are obvious about being bored.  People who are bored don’t get promoted.

Are You Under-Performing?

Have you noticed that people are passing you up?  Are they getting promoted (or appreciated and recognized) when you sit there like chopped liver?  This is the time to be really honest with yourself.  Are you really performing as well as them?  I know you’ve been telling yourself that you are, but are you really?  Are you making deadlines?  Are you over-delivering?  Are you looking for ways to improve what you do?  Are you looking at what you boss (and her boss) needs and trying to figure out how to get that done in addition to what you’re supposed to work on?  If your peers are over-performing, then you aren’t making the cut if you are merely performing.

Do You Have an “Attitude”?  That Shows?

Are you pissed?  Are you aware that you’ve been treated unfairly, badly, been ‘wronged’?  If so it shows.  No matter how much you try to keep it under wraps, it shows.  If it shows, people back off from you.  They can ‘feel’ your anger.  They certainly don’t promote angry people-even people who are out-performing others.

Are You Falling Behind?

We are constantly barraged by new systems, new tools, new processes at work.  Are you up-to-date on all of them?  Even the ones that you don’t need to use very often?  These tools, systems and processes change the way our minds work.  If you’re not keeping up, then you mind is not in sync with your co-workers’ minds.  Or your bosses.  People who can’t do the latest systems and tools rationalize it–I can do the same thing–the old way.  That may be true.  For a while.  Then others can take it to the next level and then the level beyond that.  And you can’t go there with the old way.  You may not even know what you can’t do if you don’t understand the new way.  Think about the things that you don’t do.  Texting?  Excel Pivot tables? Macs? Photoshop? Prezi? Dropbox?  Get with it. Do it.  Keep up.

Are You Being Rigid?

This is somewhat related to the item above, but that is more about tools and systems.  This is more about the way you think.  Are you open to new ideas?  I do organizational change management for major organizational changes.  I do a lot of ‘readiness’ workshops.  I see the rigid ones.  They are hard to get to the sessions.  They sit in the back and glare.  They bring up all the ways/reasons/causes that this won’t work.  My personal favorite, “We tried this before.”  Everyone resists some changes–that is completely normal.  If you resist all changes, if you are the one who knows all the ways and reasons this won’t work, then you aren’t fun to have around.  You certainly aren’t likely to be promoted.

Are You Not A Good Fit For Your Organization Anymore?

Organizations change.  People change.  Just like with marriages, sometimes you’ve grown apart.  Sometimes it’s time to move on.  The hard part is knowing when.  I used to work for an organization that was fairly small when I started and very large when I left.  It was a midwestern company when I started and an European conglomerate when I left.  It had one kind of product when I started and lots of kinds of products when I left.  Over the course of time from when I started and when I left there was an ebb and flow to the ‘fit’ for me.  Some management changes made it worse and some made it better.  Some positions were good fits for me and some were lousy.  In the end, it was me who had changed the most.  It was me who figured out what I liked about the work I had done for this company and figured out that I could find more of that kind of work as a consultant than as an employee at that company. It was a gradual evolutionary change in the relationship.  It happens.  It takes considerable thought and analysis to figure out whether it is a normal ebb and flow in the relationship or time to move on.  When it is time, either for you or the organization, then it isn’t likely that you will keep moving up.

What Do You Do?

Even if you decide that the fit isn’t right, there are things you can do in the mean time.  You have to really be honest with yourself.

  • If you’re bored, figure out how you can start to out-perform your peers.
  • Figure out how you can over-deliver.  Figure out how, in addition to your normal responsibilities, how to deliver something that your boss really needs.
  • If you’re angry, get some professional help to understand where it is coming from and to decide what to do about it.
  • If you are behind on the technology or systems or processes in your organization, then dedicate yourself to catching up and becoming an expert.
  • If you’re rigid, start to experiment with loosening up.  If you find yourself having a negative reaction to an idea, explore–privately at first–what would actually be the worst thing that could happen if the event took place.  Little steps can take you a long way to letting go of your rigidity.  Once you’re comfortable with letting go a little, then start to be more vocal about that openness.
  • If you are not a good fit for your organization, figure out why not, what you need in an organization and then GO FIND IT.
  • Any and all of these will relieve your boredom.  When you are experimenting with new behavior and thinking, it is really hard to be bored.

When your boss and peers see changes in you, it is highly likely that your upward trajectory will restart.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Derailment, Personal Change, Success, Uncategorized

Reflections on Failure

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We Hate To Fail

There are all kinds of failures. Business failures. Job failures. Life failures. Design failures. Project failures. School failures. Sports failures. Relationship failures. When you look at the books on Amazon about failure (more than 6,000 paperbacks), many of them–maybe most of them–are about finding success through failure. I’ve even written about the importance of failure.

If failure is so good for you, how come we all try so hard not to fail?  How come so many of our decisions are made out of our fear of failure? It probably comes from some deep psychological cause.  When things are irrational–like fear of failure (usually) is–then it is hard to persuade someone out of it through the use of rational argument.  

My AhHa Moments This Week

I had a couple of ‘ah ha’ moments this week about failure, and thought I’d share them.

First of all, maybe we are too quick with the ‘FAILURE’ label.  Is a relationship a failure if you have 11 great years and 2 bad ones?  Is a project a failure because it doesn’t hit the initial guesses about time and budget, but it does actually delivered 80%+ of the desired results?   Is a design really a failure if you figure out what won’t work? Of if you learn something or decide something because of it that sets your life off on a new/better direction?  On this day when both Tiger and Kobe won, is losing for a period of time really failure if you’ve won more than just about anyone else? Maybe instead of seeing the fail, we should look for the success in every experience.

I made the second realization when I was thinking about how to teach people about organization change management and how it is critical to greasing the skids for bringing big projects in on time and with the stakeholders ready to take advantage of the tools and process changes and deliver the ROI.  It occurred to me that I know how and why Organization Change Management works so well because I’ve been on projects (prior to my tenure as an OCM practitioner) without OCM that failed.  By ‘failed,’ I mean that they didn’t deliver.  They got canceled.  I was on one that lasted three years once that delivered the requirements and got canceled!  I understand the value of OCM because I’ve seen projects without it, and they usually fail or don’t deliver in some very significant way.  I know that because I’ve had the experience of failure.  So when I present key decision makers with that information and with the statistics that support it, they frequently nod and seem to agree, but then when dollars get tight, they are ready to cut OCM first.  Why would they do that?  Because they haven’t had the experience of that failure.  They don’t really believe it because they haven’t internalized the kind of learning that I have.   They have to learn the lesson through their own failure.  Just like your kids have to learn from their own mistakes (they can’t learn from yours, no matter how much you wish they could). 

I’ll Say It Again

Haven’t the biggest lessons that you have learned come from failure or at least from significant adversity?  See, failure is a good thing.

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Filed under Derailment, Success