Tag Archives: Reframe

What I Know Now That I Wish I Knew Then

I have a very clever friend, Deb Graham, founder of ACTStrategic.com, who recently wrote a great article.  She asked several women to tell her what they wish they had know at the beginning of their career, and then she synthesized it into an enlightening article.   You can read her finished paper here.

What a great question!

My Answer to “What I Wish I Had Known At the Beginning of My Career.”

iStock_000014937781_Medium

I started my ‘career’ in my late twenties.  Before that I had jobs that in no way could be considered a career.  When I started the job that became my career, I was young, smart and VERY opinionated.  I thought I knew everything.  The most important thing that I learned, and blessedly I learned it quickly, was that I didn’t know everything.  I learned to listen to others and to be open to possibilities.  One of the most important things that taught me that (and I’m ashamed that I had to learn this) was that I was forced to follow the recommendations of people who worked for me.  I couldn’t figure out any way NOT to follow their recommendations, so I took a deep breath and did what they suggested.  It worked.  It WORKED.  It so worked and it was so nothing that I would have ever thought of that it opened my eyes and my methodologies and changed my career and my life.  I cannot overstate this.  If I hadn’t had this accidental experience, I don’t believe that I would have gone on to manage large departments, nor would I have become VP of Organizational Effectiveness of a large company.

So . . . Lesson #1:  Be open to ideas from all levels of the organization and take chances with people and their ideas.

I had another powerful experience that forced me to understand that the way I look at things can be controlled by me.  I can choose to look at any situation from a completely different perspective–that of the person I’m disagreeing with, that of my boss, that of the customer–INSTANTLY.  I can “flip a switch” on my perspective and REFRAME the situation.  When I remember to do it, it always works.  I am able to see a solution that wasn’t obvious to me before, and I almost always am energized to solve the problem instead of being stuck.

So . . . Lesson #2:  Reframe.  Flip the switch to look at it differently.

What makes you happy?

Finally, the most important and the one that took the longest to figure out is to do the work that I love.  I know . . . people say that and it seems obvious, but it is hard to remember.   Figure out what motivates you and surround yourself with things that motivate—this is almost always work that you love, but could be position or money or recognition.  Whatever it is, create your life with motivation and fun and love.  CREATE. YOUR. LIFE.  Don’t waste your life doing stuff that makes you unhappy or demotivates you. Know what you love, what you want to do, what motivates you and create work and life around those things.

Leave a comment

Filed under Career Development, Executive Development, Learning, Personal Change

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

My Boss Is Young Enough To Be My Child!

Mental Model of Boss

Younger Bosses

It happens to all of us–no matter how successful we are–if you stay in the workforce long enough, you’re going to have a boss younger than you.  Why does this matter?  Why do you care?  Yeah, yeah, it shouldn’t, but to most of us it does.  I’ll go back to harping about mental models.  We have a mental model of what a boss is and that we need to look up to a boss and someone who is younger doesn’t deserve that.  So why does our mental model require that our boss be older than us?  Back in the day, when people entered the organization immediately after high school or college and then moved up the organization step by step, the bosses were 55-65 year old men who retired and made room for the next person  (Oh, by the way, back in those same days, women only had some non-boss roles –I very specifically remember when people (both men and women) had the same issues with women bosses–bosses were NOT supposed to be women!!).  I know there are lots of people who don’t remember those days.  Most of the people, though, who are struggling with younger bosses now do remember those days.  In fact they are mostly from those days.  Things are different now.  It’s time to change our mental models.

I certainly had the experience of working for bosses who were older than me who were not as smart, or knowledgeable or skilled at their job as me (I’m sure it was no one who reads this blog, though:-)).  Age didn’t have anything to do with this.  Neither did race or gender or even educational backgrounds.  You aren’t guaranteed good bosses.  Given that, though, good bosses come in all shapes, sizes, ages, genders and educational backgrounds.  There are people who are younger than you who have more knowledge than you about somethings.  There are people who have less education, less experience, or talent who can be good bosses for you.  Good bosses bring what the job and the team need AT THE TIME.  So change your mental model.  Start thinking about what you need in a boss and stop assuming that someone younger than you can’t bring it.  I know twenty-somethings who are better people managers than most of the middle managers that I know.  I know fifty-somethings who can explain technology better than tech professors.  One of the very best Executives I ever knew only had a high school education, but he sure knew how to gather information and make a quick and effective decision.  He had an instinct that I’ve never seen in anyone before or since.  I had a female boss, back in the days when that was rare, who focused so completely on the customer that she changed the culture (and the profits) of the organization.  She did it before it was “THE THING TO DO.”

Mental Model Actual Bosses

My point is that you’ve GOT to stop thinking about bosses as if they should be a certain gender, race, education or age.  Ask yourself what your boss brings to the table.  What does s/he bring that you don’t have?  How and what can you learn from him?  How can you improve the chemistry/relationship with her?  How can you earn his respect?  Unless you are knocking at retirement’s door, this is not the last boss you will have.  Bosses will come in more different versions as our world changes.  Get used to it.  Get good at it.  Especially if you want to be the boss.

1 Comment

Filed under Bosses, Career Development, Career Goals, Communication, Diversity, Inclusion

Are They Discriminating Against You? Probably.

iStock_000011070043XSmall

Discrimination

Not only is it likely that someone (or several someones) are discriminating against you, it is also likely that you are discriminating against someone (or several someones).  It is human nature that we like/trust/believe in/select those who are like us more than those who are different from us.  So . . . Europeans choose Europeans, Americans choose Americans, young people choose young people.  Then there is the problem of stereotypes.  We believe them–without even being aware of them for the most part.  We believe that ‘old’ people aren’t as capable as people our age. We believe that young people aren’t ambitious (at least the latest generation).  Asian people are smart at math.  Women aren’t ambitious because they’re going to go have babies. White men are more ambitious than black men.  And on and on and on.  These stereotypes cause us to discriminate, sometimes without our even being aware of it.  Stereotypes are as  wrong as they are right.  In fact, those of us who are the subject of the stereotypes usually believe they are wrong–period.  I say all of this to acknowledge that discrimination is alive and well in all of our behaviors.   I’m not in any way defending it, just acknowledging it.

So what?

There are laws against discrimination.  There are rules against discrimination.  There are lots of reasons for all of us to struggle against discrimination by others and ourselves.  There are people whose whole existence is focused on the struggle against discrimination.

Can you wait?  Can you wait until everyone stops discriminating against you?  I can’t.  I think it’s time to take the battle on directly.  I think it’s time to work around/through/over and under discrimination.  Just because the decision makers at your organization think you are too old or too young, that doesn’t mean that that is the case at other organizations.  You have a responsibility to yourself to find a place to work that values you for who you are and what you bring to the table.  You need to find a way to make a living that values who and what  you are.

I talk to people who are absolutely sure that they are being discriminated against.  That makes them feel like there is nothing that they can do about it.  They are the age they are.  They are born black or Hispanic or Asian or female, and nothing can change that. True.  There are places, organizations, friends, decision makers, and opportunities where it doesn’t matter.  Go find them.  You are not sentenced to the status quo.  You choose it.

Do something different.

You are not stuck.  When you graduated from high school you didn’t think about this the way you do now (unless, of course, you just graduated from high school).  Life and your experiences have made you believe that people are discriminating against you.  Wipe all that experience off your radar and ASSUME that someone out there can and will believe in you and what you can do.  Go FIND them!  Where are they?  Make people prove that they don’t believe in you instead of assuming that they don’t.  To be clear, I’m not saying they AREN’T discriminating.  I’m saying, don’t let that rule your life.  Go work someplace else.  Go work for a different boss.  Find a way to make a living (including working for yourself) that doesn’t let those who discriminate against you prevent you from doing/being/having what you deserve.  I know that it might be hard.  I know that it would be a lot easier for all of us if discrimination wasn’t a factor.  Don’t let it prevent you from living your life, making a living, being successful.

And then focus on your own discriminatory behavior.

1 Comment

Filed under Derailment, Diversity, Executive Development, Inclusion, Job Hunt, New Job

How Do You Know When You’re In Trouble With Your Boss?

I used to get feedback on 360° assessments that I was unreadable.  I didn’t do much about it because I really didn’t see it as a problem.  I knew what was going on inside my head and I wasn’t thinking anything bad about any of the people who found me difficult to read.  I knew that if something was wrong, I was crystal clear with the person who did whatever it was.  I’m a direct person and I was direct with those who made me unhappy.  If I wasn’t unhappy, then, despite the fact that I was “unreadable,” everything was OK.

Unfortunately, no one but me had access to what was in my head.  My employees created versions of what was going on in my head.  Most of those versions not only weren’t correct, they were really way off.  I know this because they told me later.  After I learned to be more obvious about what was going on in my head.  After I learned to be direct to people who were doing things right.  People stop being scared of what is going on in your head when they know that you’ll tell them.

BadBoss

This post is about signs that your boss really DOES have a problem with you.  How do you know what is going on in your bosses head when it isn’t obvious?  You have to look for the more subtle signs.  The first thing you have to do, though, is to give your boss the benefit of the doubt.  Assume that your boss is happy with your performance if you don’t see signs otherwise. Some signs to watch out for and to take seriously are:

  • If your boss doesn’t meet your eyes.  Unless your boss does this with everyone, it isn’t a good sign.
  • If your boss avoids you.  This one isn’t as straight-forward.  Sometimes bosses have cliques or favorites.  If s/he spends more time with others than with you, then that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although it’s not necessarily good boss behavior.  Pay attention to whether you are the only one on the out.  If not, give your boss the benefit of the doubt (we’ll talk another time about how to deal with bosses who have favorites).  Assume that things are ok, maybe could be better, but are ok.  If, however, your boss really obviously avoids you, then you have a problem. 
  • If your boss constantly finds fault.  Again, is it just you or is s/he this way with everyone?  If s/he is like this across the board, then I’d go get another boss, but it isn’t specifically bad for you.  If, however, the boss nit picks everything you do, you are in trouble.  This could be a style or a communication problem, but whatever it is, it is a problem.
  • If your boss gives you worse assignments than anyone else.  Sometimes you get harder assignments because your boss thinks you can tackle harder issues than others.  If, however, your boss is giving you easier assignments or impossible assignments, then try to figure out why.  Are you new at your job,or to the group?  Have you not lived up to expectations on previous assignments?  On the other hand, do you feel like the assignments that you’re getting are designed to make you fail?  The assignments you get should be at least as hard as those given to everyone else or harder if you’re more experienced or trying to get a promotion, but not impossible.
  • If your boss always takes someone else’s side.  You don’t have a problem if you boss occasionally takes someone else’s side (in fact, that is actually better than if s/he always takes your side).  If, however, you are always on the short end of the stick, then you’re got a problem.
  • If your boss doesn’t seem comfortable with you.  Try not to assume things that aren’t here, but if your boss seems uncomfortable in dealing with you, doesn’t have small social conversations with you, never  sits near you when the occasion arises, then you mayhave a problem.  (You’ll note that I’m not as clear about this one–bosses are regular people–they can be socially dysfunctional just like the rest of us.)

I hope that you’ve read this list and decided that despite appearances, your boss is just fine with you.  That is most likely the case.  If you recognize your situation here, then you need to do something about it.  Over time, I’ll write about what to do about each one of these situations.  If you have a specific situation that you’d like to have my suggestions on, let me know and I’ll give it a go.

Leave a comment

Filed under Career Development, Derailment, Personal Change, Recession Proof, Reframe

Bosses Are People Too

You Think The Same As You Did Before

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

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

Power Changes Things

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

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

Treat Your Boss Like “A People”

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

2 Comments

Filed under Career Development, Executive Development, Reframe, Trust

Get Better At Your Job. Now.

How Good Do You Want To Be?

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

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

What Would It Take?

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

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

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

Leave a comment

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