Tag Archives: Success

Undercover Relationships

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Undercover Boss

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

Applying the Lessons of Undercover Boss

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

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

Build Undercover Relationships In Your Organization!

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

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

Starting a New Job? Hit the Ground Successful!

First Steps to Success in Your New Job

The first thing to ask is why they hired you?

What do they need you to do? How does that compare with what your predecessor did? You can’t assume that you were hired to do what your predecessor did–frequently people are hired to do more or do it better or do it different.  Go back to the job description that was posted.  Look at it through new eyes–eyes that aren’t trying to figure out how to get all the keywords from it onto your resume.  What would it take to be really successful at that job?  Can you tell?  If not, ask the decision makers who chose you what would it take to be successful at the job.  Ask them why they chose you for the job–what did they see that gave them assurance you could do it.  Do this carefully.  You don’t want to come across as bewildered by their choice.  You want to validate their choice by being extremely focused on delivering successfully and reassuring them by asking questions that focus on what success would be through their eyes.

What does your boss need  you to accomplish?

Look at it through your boss’ eyes.  What does s/he need you to accomplish?  What does s/he need to have happen so s/he can be successful?  How can you help him/her achieve success in his/her job?  Take the time and energy to look at you and your deliverables in the context the organization and of your boss’ deliverables.

What is the power structure in your organization?

Who are the four or five most powerful people in your organization?  Where are you positioned in relation to them?  Where is your boss positioned?  When you look at yourself, your position, your department through the eyes of the power structure, what do they want you to accomplish?  How do you support their agenda with your deliverables.

What do successful people in the organization

  • Act like?
  • Look like?
  • Seem like?

What are your personal goals for your new job?

Why did you take this job?  What do you hope to get out of this job?  What do you want to learn? What do you want to be able to do next because you took this job?  What visibility do you want?  What improvements do you want to your reputation because of this job?

Next:  Make a Plan

Based on the answers to the questions above, come up with a plan that addresses them:

  • How are you going to make sure you accomplish the key deliverables
    • That they hired you for
    • That serve your boss’ needs
    • That gratify the power structure
    • That deliver your personal career goals
  • Who do you need to know?  Who do you need to partner with? Which people in the organization have access to the resources, skills, knowledge and systems that you need to deliver successfully?
    • How do you connect with these people?
    • How do you extend the relationship from acquaintance to partner?
    • What do you have to leverage these relationships.
    • What alliances can your create?
  • How do you manage your image?
    • Image is not WHO you are.  Image is the perception that other people have of you.  What do you need to do to create/improve the image you need in this organization?
  • Your plan should include:
    • What do you need to accomplish in what time frame (early, quick wins should happen within 30 days–first impressions are critically important.
    • For each thing that you need to accomplish, who do you need help from?
    • How are you going to cement the relationships you need to be successful?
    • What will you do to build the networks you need in the organization?
    • How will you manage your boss?
    • What will you deliver to help your boss?
    • How will you find a mentor to help you understand how to succeed in the organization?
    • How will you learn the unwritten rules in the organization?
    • How will you measure your success?
    • How often will you evaluate your progress?  (Weekly isn’t too often, monthly probably isn’t often enough.)

A new job is a tremendous opportunity to take control of your career and to begin to learn to master your own success.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, New Job, Success

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.

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

Avoid the Career Kiss of Death–Don’t Be A Commodity

Stand Out or Be Out

One of the worst things that can happen to you career-wise is for your employer (or potential employers) to see you as interchangable with other people with the same skill set.  If they think that they can get more where you came from, then they are not valuing you as an employee.  If your employer does not see you as unique, as someone who brings a value-add skill set to the table, then you will stall out at your organization.  Not only that, when you seek other employment after you’ve stalled out, you will not have an easy time getting a new job that pays as well as the last one or that has the potential to take you to the next level.  When people think that an accountant is an accountant is an accountant, then why would they choose you over anyone else?  What is it about you that makes your boss concerned about keeping you, nurturing you and developing you?  What is it about you that makes your resume stand out from the other 300 that the recruiter is looking through?

Of course you know that you are unique and special.  Think about how that is obvious to people who don’t know you well, though.  What is it about your resume or your experience or your skill set that makes you stand out?  If you don’t have a level of expertise or a special skill set that is obvious on paper and at the first meeting with you, then you risk being a commodity.  And that is not a place you want to be in this job market.  In this day of downsizing and outsourcing, you want it to be a no-brainer for the decision makers to keep you, regardless of the other decisions that they are making.

How Can You Tell?

Go online.  Look at the resumes of people who do what you do.    Notice the ones that stand out.  What is it that makes them stand out.  Imagine that you are looking to replace you in your job.  Who would you select from among the hundreds of similar resumes?  Why?  What makes the ones who stand out more interesting, more attractive, more valuable?  How do you stack up against those people?

Now, look at the job descriptions from employers of people in the job that you do.  What are they looking for?  Is there any subset of skills or additional abilities that they are consistently asking for?  What are the things that are listed in the “preferred” skill/education list?  Can you tell if they are looking for someone who is ‘good enough’ or someone who is extraordinary?  For those who are looking for someone who is extraordinary, how do you stack up against those job descriptions?  Would you hire you based on your current resume and skill set for those jobs?

Within your own organization, are there people who do what you do who stand out more than you do?  Why?  What do they have that you don’t have?  This is not the time to say, “He has a degree from Harvard, and I’ll never have one, so it is hopeless.”  If he has a degree from Harvard, is that really why he stands out?  Or is it how he acts, who he talks to or the work that he does?

If you are a commondity–a one-size-fits-all-employee–then you may continue to be employed (if you can figure out how to stand out among the hundreds of other equivalent one-size-fits-all-employees enough to get hired in the first place), but you will not have much of an upwardly bound career.

So What Do You Do?

Based on your observations of the resumes and job descriptions that you looked at, what is it you need to stand out?  Do you need more education or certifications?  Do you need more/different skills?  Is there something that you can do, like get Six Sigma or PMI certified for instance, that makes you a two-fer?  You are qualified at human resources or accounting or engineering, but you can also help with projects or re-engineering?  Can you take it to the next level through some kind of specialized experience?  Don’t underestimate the power of volunteering for things that get you different/more experience.

Understand your brand.  Learn to sell your brand.  Figure out how to get things done without the authorityKeep up with what’s new in your field and your industry.

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Filed under Brand Yourself, Career Development, Derailment, Recession Proof, Success

Your Company Doesn’t Care

Sorry.  Despite what the Supreme Court thinks, your company is not a person.  It doesn’t care.  It doesn’t think.  It doesn’t want.  You can’t impress it.  Your company is made up of people–lots of them.  All kinds of people.  They DO care.  They are complicated and hard to figure out and hard to work with.  People can be influenced and impressed.  Focus on the people.  Build relationships.  Build relationships with people who think and speak “for” the company.  Make sure they know who you are.  Make sure they know what you do.  Make sure they think you add value to the company.  Make sure they care about you

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Filed under Career Development, Networking

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.

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