Tag 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?

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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

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)?

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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

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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!

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

The Way You Think Is Wrong

No Matter Who You Are

No matter who you are–black, white, Hispanic, French, Executive, Gen X, Retiree–the way you think is wrong.  Oh, I left out Democrat or Republican.  Our brains are truly wonderful things.  They are efficient processors of information.  There are a lot of tools that our brains us to make us more efficient and effective in our daily lives of being human.  I call all of these, generally, being on autopilot.  Being on autopilot is your enemy in terms of controlling your future.  Being on autopilot is also your friend in terms of making you more efficient at all the things you have to do in daily life.  The key is to learn the tricks your mind plays on you and to learn to turn these tools on and off to make better judgements when appropriate.

Let Me Be More Specific

Our brains use a number of tools or shortcuts that help us process information:

  • Halo Affect: assumption that because someone is good at doing one thing, s/he will be good at doing other things
  • Availability Heuristic:   assumption that because you think of something more frequently it is more likely to happen
  • Generalizations:  assumption that people, challenges, mistakes, organizations,  . . . pretty much everything . . . are just like the ones we have already experienced.  We tend to generalize trustworthiness, bad intentions, skills, incompetence, etc. based on other similarities.  Examples:  Asians are smart, Senior executives are bad, old people are degenerating,  Gen X’s are . . . (depending on your view).
  • Illusion of Understanding:  assumption that familiarity with something means you understand it
  • Hindsight bias: the tendency to view things as more predictable than they are
  • Motivated forgetting: re-remembering things to avoid blame
  • Overconfidence bias: the belief that your abilities are greater than they are–80% of drivers believe that they are in the top 30% of drivers
  • Recency bias:  giving more credibility to more recent data–the last presenter, the last candidate, the last answer
  • Clustering illusion:  seeing patterns where none exist

We All Do It

All of us use these tools.  They were developed back in the day when we lived in caves and hunted.  They are tools that help us make instant decisions without a lot of effort.  The problem is that they don’t work as well with today’s problems as when we were outrunning lions and tigers and bears.  The worst part about them is that we are generally unaware of them.  We value eyewitness testimony over other kinds of evidence, even though it is highly defective.  We choose candidates like us because we are generalizing and making assumptions at the subconscious level without really evaluating the basis for our assumptions.  We take risks based on shortcuts our brains make without even being aware of them.

What Can You Do?

The best thing to do is to educate yourself about these “tricks” that your mind plays.  There are several great books that can help:

Then Practice!

Learn to take control of the way you think by practicing.  Ask yourself, “Why do I think this?”  “How do I know this?”  “How can I think of this differently?”

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

What We Can Learn From the Olympics

People who make it to the Olympics are REALLY good at what they do.  Even people who finish LAST at the Olympics are way better than most of us.  How do they get there?  Well, the easy answer is that they work very hard.  It is way beyond that, though.  They start out good.  They are good enough that someone, someplace, gives them positive feedback that motivates to keep going, to keep getting better. They keep getting better.  They make steady (or better) progress.  At some point along the way, they get a coach.  The coach is not better at what they do (usually) than they eventually become, but the coach knows how to motivate them, how to guide them to better performance and how to critique them,  push them, and persuade them. They practice, practice, practice.  According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Outliers, the people who are the elite at what they do–sports, music, art, academics–have put in 10,000 hours of practice to get there.  They also have a lot of support–parents, teachers, coaches, other family who set up the environment and resources to help them get there. People in the Olympics understand the importance of visualization and they do it over and over.  Did you see the gymnasts, the divers, the runners, imagining their way through their performance?  You could tell that is what they were doing by the little jerky movements they did as they imagined themselves through the routine.  They didn’t just do it once.  They did it over and over till it was time to perform. They used powerful, positive (and effective) self-talk.  It is not a coincidence that the fastest man in the world says he is. The competitions were full of examples of athletes motivating themselves through positive self talk. The athletes in the Olympics won and lost, learned from it and did it again.  They put ALL of themselves into what they were doing.  They weren’t just sitting there thinking about what they were going to do this weekend or what was for dinner.  (Well, maybe they did think about what was for dinner–they were definitely burning a ton of calories.)  They were focused, though, while they were doing what they were doing.  And you could tell when they weren’t focused.

So, What Can We Learn?

  • Be motivated to be the best
  • Practice, practice, practice what you want to be good at
  • Get a coach
  • Get, use, create, and appreciate a support group
  • Use positive self-talk
  • Visualize
  • Focus

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Filed under Books, Career Development, Executive Development, Success

Fed Up With Looking For a Job?

Fed Up With Looking For A Job?

Have you been looking for a job for a while?  Have you sent out dozens of resumés and heard NOTHING back?  Have you talked to recruiters who told you that you weren’t qualified even though you had way more education, but you didn’t have an obscure certification that was listed in the job description?  Have you had one conversation with a recruiter or a company HR person who said they’d get right back to you and then NOTHING?  Are you getting mad about it?  Are you feeling discouraged?  Are you beginning to think that you’ll never find anything?

fed up with looking for a job?

All of the above?

The bad news —  you are not alone.  In fact, there are thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of others.  The good news–there are ways to crack the code of this.  The most important thing is to keep a positive attitude. The hardest thing, and most important,  is keeping up your energy, your determination and your commitment.  The hardest part is to ignore all the ‘NOTHING’s and treat each new attempt as if it is the first one.  It is hard, also, to keep learning from the negative experiences, while you keep approaching each application with as much optimism and energy as you did the first one.

The things that you tell yourself when you get discouraged–that YOU’LL never find something, that there is something wrong with YOU, that it’s hopeless–ARE NOT TRUE.

We have a very difficult confluence of a lot of things happening at once that are making this worse:

  • companies are not hiring
  • recruiters are able to find enough people without being mindful about how they treat people (and I’m really being diplomatic about that!)
  • companies use software to ‘weed’ out resumes that don’t have all the keywords–even when the keywords aren’t relevant
  • older people are not leaving the workforce because their retirement funds evaporated
  • so many jobs are moving around the globe
  • etc., etc., etc.

And so it’s easy not to be optimistic.  I get it.  It’s hard to keep trying.  It’s not fun.  It’s SO frustrating when you hear nothing back.  It’s SO frustrating when you find a job that is just right for you and you apply and NOTHING.  Even though there are people who find a job quickly, most don’t.  Almost everyone gets discouraged before they hit pay dirt.  The lucky ones, though, can get past being discouraged.

You have to figure out how to keep your energy, commitment, optimism, and determination up.  That is way more important than making sure your resumé is perfect.  Because if you have your optimism and your energy, then you can fix your resume over and over.  You can keep getting yourself out there to network. You can ignore how much you hate working with recruiters because of the stupid things they say and talk to THIS one as if she’ll be different.

How Do You Do That?

  • Find someone (or a few someones) to talk to.  You need someone who can pump you up on a regular basis.  When you talk to yourself in the vacuum of your own thoughts, you are not as objective as you need to be.  There are techniques that you need to use to find a job, and you need someone to remind you when you lose sight of them.  There are lessons, strategies and tactics to finding a job and you need to be reminded of them regularly.
  • Remember that the number of rejections that you get is irrelevant–the number of acceptances is what is important.  In order to get acceptances, you have to crack the code.  In order to crack the code, you have to keep learning and refining your tactics.  In order to do that, you have to keep applying.  In order to do that, you have to keep your energy and determination up.
  • Network.  Socializing (even for you introverts) helps you have a different perspective.  It gets you out of your head.  If you’re going to socialize, you might as well network.  I don’t mean going out to a networking event.  I mean going to a social event, or spending some time online on a social networking site, reconnecting/connecting and finding out what people are doing.  And telling people that you’re looking for a job.  And telling people what kind of a job you’re looking for.  And asking people if they know anyone they think would be good for you to approach for an informational interview.
  • Don’t take it personally.  Hard, I know.  It isn’t personal, though.  Chances are really good that your resumé never got in front of anyone who could make a decision about it.   Chances are that the selection software looking for keywords weeded you out, or the recruiter (who rarely understands the industry, company, job or requirements thoroughly) weeded you out, or your resume was #402 and they cut off at #400.  Any of those things are not about you.  You still have to surmount them, though.  You just shouldn’t take it personally, because it isn’t.
  • Think about it like a puzzle.  Is it the resumé?  Is it the cover letter?  Is it that you need to hit it as soon as the job is posted–yes, at 4:14 am?  Is it that you need to find someone in the company?  Is it that need to follow up better?  Keep trying things until you crack the code.

Some Good Books That Might Help:

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Filed under Books, Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, Goal Setting, Job Hunt, Recession Proof