Monday, July 25, 2016

The One Person Who Can Give You a Great Career



Over the weekend I watched several news hosts interview various people around the U.S. who explained why they planned to vote for a certain presidential candidate in November.

One thing that struck me was the number of people who were either unemployed or about to lose their jobs who decided to base their vote on the idea that a presidential candidate would bring back their jobs and defunct industries to their towns.

I really feel for these people. My own dad lost his job when he was 10 months from retirement. He received a piddly retirement package and spent the next 10 years working in a gas station. He had never done anything else other than work blue-collar jobs and only had a high school diploma.

Fast forward several decades and here I am, a college-educated journalist who has interviewed CEOs, U.S. presidents and lots of really cool people who aren't famous.

But for many years my industry has been changing, and there have been times it has been really scary. Several years ago, not sure what else to do, I decided to follow the advice of the job experts I interviewed over the years and began to invest in my career.

I began by doing things that were difficult (getting a book deal) and followed it up by getting outside of my comfort zone (attending bloggers conferences) and then I made sure I was challenging myself (educational fellowships). I will not pretend that I knew exactly what I was doing, but I found that it was really great advice to follow.

The reason is that I made new contacts in different industries, I showed that I was keeping my skills up-to-date while learning new ones and I gained a lot of confidence to help me branch out into new areas.

Sometimes you have to face the fact that your industry is dying. Or that it's changing. The same thing with your job -- you're being replaced by technology or overseas labor can do it cheaper.

Most of us put aside a bit of extra cash for a vacation or a car or the latest phone. Yet, we don't invest in the thing that is most valuable: our career.

It's your career that will pay for the vacation, the car and the phone. It's your career that will put a roof over your head, feed your kids and your cat and help you save for retirement. So why are you putting it on the back burner, doing a job in an industry that is threatened and may never return? Why aren't you being proactive and trying to learn a new skill or network in other industries or taking advantage of the information online to help further your education?

No presidential candidate is going to do that for you. No one is in a better place to invest in your career than you.

If you're not sure where to start, try the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which provides an occupational outlook on various industries here: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/

That should help you get an idea of the industries that are expected to flourish and those expected to hit some strong headwinds. It may help you see that it's time to put off buying that new flat screen TV and instead go back to school, learn a new trade or even launch your own business.





Thursday, July 21, 2016

Success is in the Little Details



What do dirty, worn sneakers have to do with turning around a business?
If you’re LEGOs, it means everything.
LEGO executives – who had been told countless times by experts that they were in trouble because future generations would lose interest in the building blocks – decided to pay an 11-year-old boy a visit in 2004.
The boy was not only an avid LEGO user, but was passionate about skateboarding. He told LEGO executives that his most prized possession was a pair of ratty Adidas shoes, showing the executives how the sneakers were worn in just the right areas. That was key, the boy said, because it proved that he was one of the best skateboarders in the whole city.
The light bulb went off for the LEGO executives. They saw immediately that this boy wasn’t only interested in things that were quick and provided instant gratification like computer games. Instead, it was the social currency among his peers that mattered most, and he was willing to put in the time and effort to achieve a high level at something.
As author Martin Lindstrom explains in his book, “Small Data: The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends,” LEGO’s decision making until that point was based entirely on “reams of big data.”
Small Data
But once they had the encounter with the boy and his beat-up sneakers, they began refocusing on their core product, moving away from the bigger LEGO bricks and going back to the original, smaller size. In fact, the company added even smaller bricks, more detail, and instructions that were more exacting. Overall, LEGO projects became more labor intensive.
LEGO executives had learned through their interaction with the boy that for users it was all about “the summons, the provocation, the mastery (read more here)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Why You Need to Fail to Have a Successful Career



Not many people get pay raises, promotions or great new jobs because they fail.

"Fail" is often a dirty word and can kill careers. Have the word "failure" follow you around for long, and you may even start to believe you are one.

But Baba Shiv, a professor of marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business, explains that it's how you approach failure that makes the biggest difference. If you see failure as learning opportunity, or what he calls the "aha!" moments, then you can be on the road to your next innovation.

If, however, you fear making mistakes and become afraid of risk, then your chances of becoming innovative greatly diminish. "You don't get off-the-charts results," he says.

I've interviewed other experts on this subject, and they agree with Shiv: We are adventurous when we are young, but start to lose that spirit as we age. Did anyone in your school ever get an award for being the biggest failure? Did you Mom put your F-minus test on the refrigerator for everyone to admire?

No. Just like your boss didn't give you a bonus for failing.

Shiv says that one way to get bosses and employees to change their thinking -- and embrace the idea that failure can lead to better ideas -- is to engage them in "rapid prototyping."

This means that new ideas as quickly brainstormed, perhaps physical mock-ups are put together to help people quickly move from the abstract idea to the concrete. Such a practice "lets them visualize the outcome of their ideas," he says. "It gives the brain richer inputs."

Shiv says his business school is teaching such an approach. Let's hope more companies and bosses get on board with the idea that failure can be the start of something great.





Wednesday, July 13, 2016

How to Ensure Collaborations Thrive



Innovation and business strategy experts are urging more companies to collaborate with outside partners to stay competitive, but research shows the risk can be great if the contribution level isn’t carefully considered.
While companies like Apple can thank outside collaborative partners for products such as the hugely successful iPhone, there are unfortunately many collaborative efforts that have failed. One of the most publicized was Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft that was grounded in 2013 because of several problems, including battery failures that caused fires.
“Some experts say Boeing’s Dreamliner ‘teething problems’ stemmed from mismanaged relationships with its outsourcing partners,” says Jason P. Davis, INSEAD Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise.
A recent study published in the Journal of Operations Management looked at project and senior managers who were in charge of 147 initiatives that relied significantly on the contributions of external partners in various industries. These projects averaged about eight months with budgets around $3 million. In addition, they operated with about 60 employees, which included both external and internal workers.
Researchers report that after collecting information on how the partnerships impacted market success and the revenue generated by the products, they found that outcomes can vary widely in such collaborations. Specifically, results ranged from a 50% plunge in income to a 90% boost.
The key to success – or the recipe for failure – depends on how partners are expected to contribute, researchers say. If there was very little or very high participation by partners, then the projects didn’t do as well. But those with a more balanced approach saw significant benefits, researchers say.
Further, the outcomes were better if partners were given specific jobs that let them intensify their contributions in certain areas, rather than trying to spread them more thinly throughout the process, the study says.
Davis of INSEAD, says that based on his extensive research of computer firms, the secret to ensuring outside collaborations thrive is to rotate leadership back and forth between the partners. However, those collaborations can come with even more challenges when there are three companies involved, bringing an “exponential increase in potential headaches,” he says.
After studying such a real-world scenario, Davis says that he’s determined that two (read more here)

Monday, July 11, 2016

Convey Confidence Without Words



Do you get a lack of respect at work? Do you feel like you're being passed over for promotions or opportunities that should have been yours?

If so, it could be because you're "telling" others to ignore you. You're "telling" others that you lack confidence to tackle the big jobs.

"Not so!" you may cry.

You may not be saying it with your words, but you may be telling others loud and clear with your body language that you're not strong enough to cope with a challenge. 

That's the assertion of Stanford Graduate School of Business Lecturer Richard Cox, who explains that the "language of power" comes from our nonverbal cues.

You may not even be aware of how many cues you're sending out every day, just by walking down the sidewalk or getting on the subway. Your language of power, he explains, is making itself know in determining who will get out of the way on the sidewalk, and what seat you may take on the subway.
It's your body cues -- and those of others -- that determine your level of power.

Let's say you're at a company event, and you see a group of people you don't know well. Do you:
a) approach the group and tap someone on the shoulder or b) stand quietly nearby, hoping someone will notice you and let you in the circle.

If you chose the first option, you are asserting your power in a nonverbal way. At the same time, the person who steps aside to allow you in the circle is also demonstrating his or her power within the group, Cox says.

"Any one person can change the dynamic," Cox says. "If you tap someone on the shoulder, you're asserting 'I'm here.'"

Cox explains that most people go throughout their days navigating the nonverbal world just fine (and trying to monitor your every move would be exhausting). But there are times when you need to ramp up your efforts to communicate through your body language and your voice.

For example, if you want to be more approachable, try tilting your head a bit, using more gestures and keeping your voice tone friendly. On the other hand, if you want to be seen as more thoughtful, deliberate and powerful, try keeping your body more still, limit your gestures, lower your voice and speak more slowly.

"You will be communicating to people with different social cues. Just by changing your gestures, you can change internally as well," he says. "You can find your power."

Finally, remember that you can use these strategies at home after a long day at work and a stressful commute. Before going through the door to your family or friends, he suggests doing a "reset."

"Take a breath. Put on a smile. When you walk through that door, be a different you," he says.





Thursday, July 7, 2016

Study: Why Rich Kids Grow Up to Be Bad Bosses



Like a lot of people, I read the "Nanny Diaries" and watched "The Devil Wears Prada."

What I took away from those experiences: Rich people are cra-cra.

OK, maybe not crazy, but they definitely operate in a different world. I had my first job at 15 (washing communion cups) and haven't stopped working since. My days are not filled with lavish parties or private jets or business meetings in Paris.

I may not have those experiences, but I have worked for bosses who have lived such lives. They were born wealthy. They attended boarding schools, went to Ivy League schools and got their first job with a big paycheck because "mummie and daddy" knew the CEO.

What was it like working for such people? I wouldn't say it was fun. It was interesting, however, just observing how they related to colleagues and subordinates.

That's why I found a recent study on wealthy bosses so interesting.

In a nutshell, here's what the researchers found:

"We found that parental income is significantly related to adult levels of narcissism, a trait characterized by grandiose self-views, impulsive tendencies, and low empathy. We also found that those levels of narcissism were associated with people’s engagement (or lack thereof) in important leadership behaviors and various measures of effectiveness," researchers say.

I'd say that's pretty straightforward: Rich kids can grow up to be narcissistic leaders who don't inspire loyalty and aren't seen as very effective.

Researchers say that growing up with (lots of) money can give someone the impression he or she is independent. While that may be correct, it also comes with a sense that he or she is more talented or special, so no one else's ideas are really needed -- or wanted. Other research shows that kids who grow up wealthy can have lower concern and compassion for others and have lower tendencies to help others.

While such narcissists may attract people in the beginning and their confidence appears to be a good leadership trait, that quickly fades once everyone gets to know this person better. In the workplace, that means that these narcissistic leaders get old real fast as they constantly put themselves ahead of others. 

For companies struggling to find good leaders that engage employees and propel good outcomes through a sense of teamwork, handing the baton to someone born with a silver spoon in his mouth might be worth reconsidering. As researchers say, "our findings suggest that people from humbler backgrounds often can succeed and perform just as well as people from greater wealth because they may not be prone to the same level of narcissistic tendencies."

As research on narcissism and leadership grows, this is a "cautionary" tale that companies would be wise to heed, researchers conclude.

"Companies should try to standardize formal practices that can mitigate narcissism, including highlighting and prioritizing compassion and care for others in the workplace and creating a culture that recognizes and rewards service to others," they write.

Makes sense, doesn't it?







Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Study: Positive Energy Boosts Productivity, Morale



It's always a little tough going back to work after a long holiday weekend, but a new study shows that your boss's attitude may make all the difference in your how you feel about work now and in the future.

A University of Michigan study finds that workers who have a leader who shows positive energy are more productive, have a greater commitment to their jobs and are absent less. This "relational energy" isn't charisma or personality -- it's simply the way people feel after interacting with the positive person, researchers explain.

"Managers spend so much time managing information and influence," says Kim Cameron, the William Russell Kelly Professor of Management and Organizations. "But relational energy trumps both of those by a factor of four as an outcome determiner."

Further, the payoff isn't just a better work life for employees, but a better home life as well. A related study finds that such positive leadership spills over into personal lives.

"When we interact with people, some buoy us up and others bring us down. When you're buoyed up you tend to bring that home," says Wayne Baker, the Robert P. Thome Professor of Management and Organizations and professor of sociology.

Researchers say they learned that many managers know that something is wrong at work, but can't seem to pinpoint the cause. They may try motivational gimmicks or other ways to boost loyalty, but seem to fall short. 

However, once they do a "relational energy survey" and look at the "bright" parts of the organization and the "black holes," they clearly can see where they need to make improvements.

Finally, it you're one of the "bright" spots in your organization, your attitude may help your career as managers come to understand your important contribution to the performance of a team.

"Do people get promoted or hired because they're a positive energizer? No, it's not even on the agenda," Cameron says. "So here's a resource that's been ignored but is a major predictor of performance."