Friday, April 26, 2013

Why Your Neurotic Colleague is So Valuable

There's lots of advice out there about how you have to develop an elevator pitch, use self branding to communicate your message and speak up in meetings to make sure the boss doesn't forget you.
But what about the introverts who quietly do their jobs every day, who keep companies humming along without saying much?
This story I did for Gannett/USA Today shows that managers would be remiss in not realizing their value....

Are you the type of person who works quickly, is open to new opportunities and plans for best-case scenarios?
Or are you the type who works slowly, strives for accuracy and feels anxious when things go wro

Your answers not only give insights into your strengths but also can help you — and your bosses — understand what best motivates you to achieve results. The topic is explored in a new book, Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence.
Authors Heidi Grant Halvorson and E. Tory Higgins say that the old carrot-and-stick approach of motivation doesn't work. The reason: Different people have different motivations. Using the wrong approach can backfire and lead to failure.
If you're someone comfortable taking chances but often without a Plan B, you're considered a promotion-based person. That means inspirational role models motivate you, and you become more engaged when you hear about a high-performing salesperson. You feel dejected when things go wrong.
On the other hand, those who have top-notch analytical and problem-solving skills, are stressed by short deadlines and are uncomfortable with praise are considered prevention-focused. Strong cautionary tales that show lessons learned after a wrong approach motivate them best.
People who are promotion-focused people often thrive in more creative careers, such as musicians, copywriters, inventors and consultants, Higgins says. They thrive in jobs where they are rewarded for being innovative, and practicality isn't a top priority.
"They are eager and enthusiastic and willing to take some chances," he says.
The prevention-focused often do better in more conventional jobs such as administrators, bookkeepers and technicians.

"It's more natural for them to be vigilant," he says.
The key for managers is employing both kinds of workers then playing to their strengths by using the right kind of motivation, Higgins says.
The best way managers can tell the kind of employee they are dealing with is by looking at whether the person seems to be an optimist or a worrier, Halvorson says.
"How do they respond to your suggestions when you suggest something new? Are they enthusiastic, or do they chime in with their own ideas? If so, that's promotion-focused. Do they seem uncomfortable and argue for the old way of doing things? Then that's prevention-focused," she says.
Halvorson says employees also can use their own predisposition to be more successful at work.
If you know you're a creative type who responds well when you feel like you're making progress, you can let the boss know that acknowledging small wins keeps you motivated. Or if you do better when you have more time to get things done correctly, let the boss know you like honest feedback.
"My experience with managers when leading seminars or consulting is that they reallywant this information," Halvorson says. "When you phrase it as 'This is what works best for me' rather than 'I need you to do this,' it can be a really productive exchange."
Halvorson and Higgins say they hope the research will help managers better understand what they need to do to motivate workers — and what workers can do to motivate themselves.
"Motivation is not one size fits all," Halvorson says. "Promotion- and prevention-focused people work very differently, but they can both be very successful when given tasks and feedback that fit with their motivational focus."

Friday, April 19, 2013

6 Ways to Ensure Meetings Don't Suck

I recently was asked if I would run for a community board position.
I declined with a polite, "No, thank you."
The reason? I know this particular board has meetings. Lots and lots of meetings. With people who don't know how to shut up and drag in everything but the kitchen sink once they get wound up.
There has to be a better way to conduct meetings, right?
Read this latest column I did for Gannett/USA Today....

"If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be'meetings.' "
— Dave Barry
Many people feel the same way as humorist Dave Barry.

The complaints heard most often about meetings are that they're often unnecessary, don't accomplish much and are too long.
Matt Eventoff, owner of Princeton Public Speaking, says that meetings are becoming less productive and more annoying with the availability of smartphones and other technology gadgets that participants are using while they meet.
"Text messages and emails are a constant distraction," he says. "People start reading and writing on their smartphones as they wait for their turn to speak — if it ever comes."
Clarizen survey finds that 57% of respondents admit to multi-tasking during meetings, and that could be because they envision the work piling up on their desks. Almost 1 in 5 workers in a Jive Software study say that meetings prevent them from getting work done.

To further add to the frustration for workers, the Clarizen survey finds that 59% say preparing for a status meeting often takes longer than the meeting itself.
Eventoff says that executives feel the pain, as well.
He says they tell him they often spend the majority of their workday in meetings with no break times to return phone calls — or even go to the bathroom.
"When I've asked them when they actually do their work, they say they get it done at night," he says.
So what's the solution to making meetings more effective? Eventoff advises:
• A call-to-action agenda. It's not enough to have a general agenda that gives the meeting time and who will attend.
It's critical that the purpose of the meeting be clearly stated and that you get participants thinking beforehand about what they need to do to be prepared.
• A determination of what success will look like. Is a decision needed? Does a document need to be written?
"Even if you don't achieve every objective, have clear objectives laid out, in writing, and discuss where you are with each before the meeting ends," Eventoff says.
• An assignment of responsibilities. Always state out loud during the meeting who will be responsible for things like follow-up or other specific actions.
"Articulate this out loud," Eventoff says. "Assumptions are a dangerous game."
• A 45-minute limit. Meetings that are scheduled for an hour don't give participants the time to take care of other business before the next meeting and lead to people walking in late to the next session.
That only causes distraction and frustration — then causes that meeting to run late. The problem will snowball as the day goes on, forcing people to work after hours to get their work done.
In addition, Parkinson's law, which states that work will expand to fill the time available for it's completion, will kick in if meetings are allowed to last for an entire hour. Limiting the time will help keep participants on topic and curtail the windbags.
• A trust in the team. Scheduling too many meetings for constant status updates, brainstorming sessions and general business prevents employees from taking the initiative in their work.
Eventoff suggests cutting back to two formal meetings a week to see what happens.
"Meetings oftentimes remove personal accountability because you're not letting the employees make any decisions for themselves," he says.
• Conciseness. Employees should be encouraged to keep their remarks short and to the point, and some companies have found asking everyone to stand during a session helps long-winded colleagues trim their comments as they begin to experience aching feet.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What the Titanic Can Teach You About Management

101 years ago today, the Titanic failed to reach its final destination. There are many lessons this disaster can teach us about project management, from understanding how “hull speed” may be better than “full steam ahead” to complete a project without incident. There’s also the lesson project managers have learned that the issues to completing a successful project don’t always lie above the surface, but like an iceberg, may loom much larger than what you can see on the horizon.
Just 29 days after the sinking of the Titanic, survivor Dorothy Gibson starred and co-wrote in a film about the disaster that claimed more than 1,500 lives. Although no copies of the film exist today, more than 20 other movies have been made about the Titanic, and more than a dozen television movies or episodes are devoted to the subject.
It’s clear that the fascination with the Titanic has remained strong in the last century, so it may be worth considering what simple, yet often overlooked, lessons this famous disaster can still offer, especially in terms of project management 101.
  • Learn to make adjustments. Titanic’s captain, Edward Smith, often receives the lion’s share of blame for the disaster, and his obstinate belief that the ship could not sink helped lead to it being at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.  When the ship’s crew was warned about icebergs, did it move to Plan B? Nope, it plowed ahead. When project managers spot trouble ahead, they’ve got to be flexible and get team members to chart a new course.  They can’t be so fixated on sticking to a timetable or a process that there are serious repercussions – such as failing to meet the goal or doing so with great losses.
  • Don’t fail to plan ahead. The Titanic was considered a luxury ship, outfitted with a gym, swimming pool, swanky cabins and top-notch service and food. What it didn’t have was enough lifeboats.
When working on a project, too many times the goals aren’t clearly (read the rest here)

Friday, April 12, 2013

How to Spring Clean Your Job Search

Spring cleaning isn't something I really look forward to, but when it's done I feel like I've accomplished something worthwhile. Read this latest column I did for Gannett/USA Today and see if your job search doesn't need the same....

If you have had a long winter of job searching with no luck, you may need to freshen up your job-hunting strategy, career experts say.
Just like spring cleaning, some of the most common mistakes in a job search can be fixed with a little elbow grease and initiative, they say, so you can boost your chances of landing a position by time warm temperatures are here to stay.

Many job seekers make the mistake of looking for jobs instead of focusing on employers, says Miriam Salpeter, career coach at Keppie Careers in Atlanta. She suggests focusing on five to 15 companies then honing in on people you need to meet at those companies.
"Spend time learning about organizations where you'd like to work. You want to know their biggest business concerns. What problems are they trying to solve?" she says. "Then make sure you make a case for why you are the right fit to solve those problems. When you take the research and networking route, you benefit from the opportunity to be referred for a job, which statistically improves your chances to win an interview."
Jane Trnka, career coach and executive director of Rollins College MBA Career Development Center in Winter Park, Fla., agrees that networking is critical to getting a job — even from those who previously may have turned you down for a job.
"Always follow up with a thank-you note even if you didn't get the position," Trnka says. "Tell them that while you regret not being selected, you want to stay in touch."
You usually can tell if you have "chemistry" with a prospective employer, and that should urge you to continue the connection, she says.
"If it's somewhere you really want to work, follow up every six months and let them know where you landed and your new contact information," Trnka says.
She adds that hiring managers and recruiters often know of other positions outside their organization or may be able to refer you to other contacts, so that makes them valuable contacts to have in your network.

"Just get up your nerve to do it. Learn to wipe out the person's title in your mind, and think of them as just another person to connect with," she says.
If you can't seem to stay on track and remain motivated during your job search, Career coach Phyllis Mufson in Sarasota, Fla., suggests that you "find an accountability partner or join a job search support group."
"These are great choices when you need a boost of encouragement, brainstorming, and someone to witness your commitment to action," she says, adding that a career coach can be a good option for those who feel stuck in their job-search efforts.
Trnka says those in a job search often feel they're on an emotional roller coaster, which is why you should step back and reassess your strategies. It's important to make sure you're not becoming mired in fruitless strategies or making mistakes that derail career plans.
To make sure you're ready to tackle your job search this spring, the career experts recommend you should:
• Review the basics. Avoid using a "laundry list" resume that notes your jobs and responsibilities but doesn't give the employer an insights "into what the employer wants and what you have to offer," Salpeter says.
"Evaluate job descriptions before writing your resume," she says. "Capture the key details from descriptions and choose the key words from them to include on your resume, and you'll have a better chance to make it through the first step of the selection process."
• Take some classes. Trnka suggests taking a look at course schedules at local colleges or checking into government financial assistance for job-related instruction.
Classes can enhance your skills or teach you new ones, provide a great chance to network "and also demonstrate to potential employers you are not sitting behind the computer all day and night," she says.
• Reach out for support. Mufson says it can be too easy to lapse into inaction as your job search drags on.
That's why you need people in your life who are willing to remind you of exciting opportunities that await you and all the wonderful, unique traits you have to offer.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How to Be Successful Even When Under Stress

Got stress?
If you’re like 75% of other Americans, you’ve experienced moderate to high levels of stress in the past month, and often lie awake at night because of it.
Trying to balance the demands of your work and family life can stretch even the strongest among us to the breaking point. But there is a way to be successful and productive even when under stress, says Sharon Melnick,  PhD and author of “Success Under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident, and Productive When the Pressure’s On.”
In her book she writes that stress is not necessarily the result of too much work or continual interruptions, but rather when the demands of your situation exceed your perceived ability to control them. Every challenge, she writes, can be divided into the 50% you can control and the 50% you cannot.
In this interview with Anita Bruzzese, Melnick offers strategies to cope:
In the book you address being “impeccable” for the 50% you can control when faced with a challenge. What do you mean by this? 
SM: We face so many stresses in our lives. The average business professional has 30 to 100 projects on their plate, gets interrupted on average seven times an hour and faces increased competition and rapid changes in their business. On top of that, 65 million of us are too wound up to sleep through the night so we walk around exhausted, and plenty of us have at least one person in our lives who drives us nuts!
The key to having success under stress is controlling what you CAN control.  You can practice this by dividing every challenge into two parts: the aspects of the situation that you can control, such ashow you communicate, and the aspects that you can’t control, such as other people’s reactions.  Then, make sure that you are effective in what you are doing before you ever allow yourself to lose time and focus in frustration over what is not in your control.

AB: Many people feel stress because they feel trapped in their situation, whether it’s a bad boss or a demanding schedule. You say there are ways to keep a positive outlook and be happy even when the situation is negative. Can you give a couple of tips on how to do this?
SM: 1. See if you can turn that situation on its head in order to make it work for you.  Look for a “what’s in it for me?” How can you “use the company” instead of feeling used by them?  You too can turn an obstacle into opportunity!
2. You may be stuck in a bad situation because you have not exercised the choices that you do have in the situation.  If you are trapped in a relationship situation at work or at home, have you used the most effective influencing techniques to persuade that person to support you, or have you just been hoping the other person will change?  Have you set up constraints that are of your own making? Could you use your same skills in a new industry or start a side business? For example, instead of just being another coach, I now coach thousands of people to be productive under stress.
3. Scientists estimate we have about 60,000 thoughts a day.  That self-talk you have all day long is like listening to a mental iPod.  What tunes are playing on your mental iPod (read the rest here)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Goodwill Offers Blue-Collar Workers a Way to Network

One of my first pieces of advice for anyone starting a career or job search is to get their profile on LinkedIn, then be vigilant about maintaining it throughout their career and adding connections.
But after doing this story for Gannett/USA Today, I realize that my advice is a bit short-sighted. I now understand that social networking online isn't always easy for everyone.....

When Henry Ligier, 59, lost his job late last year after 20 years as a safety director for a paperboard manufacturer in Philadelphia, he admits he knew nothing about online job boards or social networking.
"It used to be it was a handshake and a knock on the door that got you a job," he says. "Now everything is different."

Like many other job seekers who are older, entry- or mid-skill level, Ligier found a lot of resources aimed at professional, white-collar job seekers but few that addressed some of his unique challenges.
Ligier says he felt "stuck" in the face of a new job-seeking world of résumé keywords and online job sites that were nothing more than "junk."
"I needed something to get me out of the murk," he says.
That guiding light turned out to be a local Goodwill that not only provided him with some advice on writing a résumé but also directed him to its free website called GoodProspects.
Brad Turner-Little, the international director of mission strategy for Goodwill Industries, says the organization that has been helping people find jobs since 1902 knew it had to reach a segment of job seekers finding it difficult to find mentors and networking that fit their needs.
So far, the site launched two years ago has 14,600 registered users, who have access to information on specific career paths, discussion boards, mentors and virtual job fairs.
For job seekers like Ligier, it has been important to feel like he’s on the right road to finding a job.
"Everything these days is done incognito online. I have sent applications up the wazoo without ever knowing if anyone is looking at them," Ligier says. "I even got onto some websites that are now sending me lots of spam."

Those concerns are ones that Goodwill officials often hear, which is why this site tries to filter through the noise so job seekers who may not have much experience in the working world or in online participation might find it easier to network and educate themselves, Turner-Little says.
Ligier has joined an older workers’ group through Goodwill and says he’s asked specific questions during online interactions with mentors, and their answers have helped him feel more confident about his efforts.
"If you look at a lot of websites, they’re geared toward a higher level. They have their own boys’ club that’s hard to get into," he says. "I have a high-school education. As soon as I walk in the door, my education and age hurt me. This GoodProspects is a way to help me figure out ways I can use my experience to get a job."
The older workers’ group Ligier uses is just one that Goodwill fosters online to help job seekers find support in their community, Turner-Little says. For example, Latinos also have a community.
"Many of these people just lack knowledge about what types of jobs or career paths are available through different industries," Turner-Little says.
Ligier says he is learning that his safety and construction background can translate into jobs in other industries.
That’s exactly what Turner-Little says Goodwill tries to help all job seekers discover. Those who want a job in computers may need to explore not just programming but related positions such as computer repair or computer recycling.
"We’re helping them uncover many different possibilities," Turner-Little says.
The website also offers 20 mentors who volunteer their time and represent different industries such as business and education. These mentors may volunteer as much as they want for as long as they want, he says.
"They’ve been so helpful," Ligier says of GoodProspects. "I was a little apprehensive at first and nervous about how to go about finding a job. But this has made a real difference."

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Use Social Pressure to Get a Slacker Colleague Back on Track

I haven't posted on this blog in a while because I was taking some time off. I wasn't just slacking, I swear!  I was busy eating my way through New York City and visiting the M&M store on multiple occasions. You'll understand why I don't want you to think I was just being a typical slacker after you read this column I did for Gannett/USA Today.....

If you worked an additional four to six hours last week because a slacking colleague didn’t pull his weight, you’re not alone.
According to a new VitalSmarts study, slacking colleagues cause a quarter of workers to put in more time each week, and 4 of 5 employees report their work quality declines when they have to cover for a co-worker.

But before you heap scorn upon your boss for not dealing with a lazy colleague, you need to be aware that the problem isn’t necessarily the boss’s fault, says Joseph Grenny, cofounder of VitalSmarts corporate training.
He explains that bosses today often aren’t working physically alongside a team, so they may be unaware that someone is goofing off. The problem becomes worse when a productive worker doesn’t see the boss reprimanding a slacker colleague, so the hard-working employee may believe he also should keep his mouth shut.
The result of that silence about slacking "means nobody is being responsible, and over time it becomes collusion," Grenny says. "It becomes OK for the person to be a slacker."
But the long-term problem is that others begin to resent the slacking co-worker, and the slacker’s subpar performance begins to affect productivity and the bottom line. Still, no one says anything because the workers believe they are powerless to change the situation.
That’s the wrong assumption to make, Grenny says.
"People tend to believe that it’s power that can change a situation," he says. "But all it takes is social pressure. It can be enormously potent."
That’s why Grenny, a co-author of Crucial Conversations, encourages others not to put up with slacking colleagues but instead have a conversation about the issues.
"Our brains are geared to immediately latch onto threats and risks, so we may only focus on the bad things that can happen with such a conversation. But we need to think about what will happen if we don’t say anything," he says. "We will become an enabler of this person, or we’ll continue to be overworked."

Grenny offers several solutions for having a talk with a slacker:
Don’t be judgmental » "This person you consider a slacker may not even be aware of what is going on, so don’t assume the worst," he says.
When you’re angry about what you consider a colleague’s lazy work ethic, what you’re really mad about is not dealing with the situation, he says.
"You must approach the person with respect," Grenny says. "If you assume they’re going to care, the majority of the time they will."
Own up to the problem » Don’t try to push this off on your boss. Feedback needs to come from who is most affected by it: you.
"If you decide that you would rather do the work yourself and feel happy about it, then that’s mature," Grenny says. "But if you’re going to resent it, then you’re not taking ownership of your own decision."
Be factual » Don’t get hostile or use an accusatory tone.
Instead, tell the colleague your concerns and help him see the consequences of his actions. Be open to the co-worker’s response.
"People only get defensive in these situations not because of what you say but because of why they think you’re saying it," Grenny says. "They think you don’t care about them or are trying to attack them. By providing some reassurance, you restore their sense of safety."
Many times slackers are people the boss doesn’t want touching important projects or taking on critical tasks, says Andy Robinson, an executive coach with CRG Leadership Institute.

"Leaders tend to give the best projects to the person who always rises to the occasion," he says. "These are the people who have consistently demonstrated that they will get the job done, so as a consequence the boss continues to feed them more stuff."
Still, Robinson says most good leaders don’t want to burn out their talented workers and drive them away. So they would be open to hearing if workers are feeling overburdened.

While slackers are in every workplace, consider yourself someone the boss trusts and depends on if you’re given more work, he says.
As for slackers?
"The boss still needs them to get some stuff done," Robinson says. "But they’re going to get the really un-sexy stuff you don’t want."