Thursday, August 29, 2013

How to Have an Inspired Career

Years ago, Tama Kieves was a Harvard University graduate, working as a successful lawyer on the partnership track.
Big money and big success were on the horizon.
"I was miserable," she says.
As someone who dreamed of being a writer when she was in high school, Kieves certainly was good at laboring as a lawyer. But she says she felt as if the job were sucking the life out of her.
She was depressed and didn't feel like herself anymore.
"I think like so many people who are doing well professionally, they discover they just feel so empty," she says. "I felt haunted."
That's when a friend said something that got her thinking: If she was so good at something she didn't like, imagine the success she might have doing something she loved.
The message resonated with Kieves who decided to chuck her lawyer gig and begin writing. Twelve years after beginning a book about finding your life's inspiration and doing something you love, she decided to self-publish.
For months her labor of love garnered little attention. Then a senior executive at a major publishing house picked up the book because she, too, was going through a major career transition and trying to find her inspired work.
What followed next was an offer from the publisher for Kieves's book and even more offers of speaking and coaching.
Kieves says what she's learned from her experience is that she wasn't alone in feeling trapped in a job she didn't like. Now she believes that anyone can turn life's labor into inspired work.
Her message appears to have an audience: A Gallup survey finds that 70% of workers are not engaged or actively engaged at work.
But isn't that what we've come to expect with a struggling economy and challenging labor market? Aren't some workers destined to have jobs that they don't really like but that pay the mortgage?
Kieves hears that argument all the time but doesn't buy it.
"I think true passion is your greatest economic security," she says. "If you (read more here)

Monday, August 26, 2013

How to Have Better Meetings Right Now

Photo: Business News Daily

“No matter what time it is, wake me, even if it’s in the middle of a Cabinet meeting.” – Ronald Reagan
Meetings are an important part of our careers, and are necessary for progress, innovation and team work. But they’re also like crabgrass and psoriasis – they can really suck.
That sentiment was the driving force behind “Boring Meetings Suck,” by Jon Petz.
Anita Bruzzese recently interviewed him on how leaders can to improve meetings.
AB: What can leaders do to make meetings better?
JP: As a leader, your job is to prepare and facilitate so the attendees can engage, participate and take action. Your level of preparation is proportional to the quality of outcome.
Begin the meeting or set of meetings with discipline and high expectations. Take charge, but be adaptable.
  • Never allow the “What did I miss?” comments or tangent-takers to take control. It will lead to the downfall of all future meetings. (Try the “pass the pad” method shown here.
  • END early. It’s OK! Move through items quickly. If a decision is made, don’t keep talking around it and find ways to second guess yourself because the meeting has more time left.
AB: What are “suckification reduction devices” and why do leaders need to understand them?
JP: They are quick fixes that are easily understood and implemented. No lengthy discussion or teaching points – get in, get it done, get out.
Meetings make changes and changes are critical to move forward. So get out of the conference room and go make it happen.
AB: If you’re a leader and a meeting is running long, what should you do?
JP: STOP ignoring it. Often times we carry on as if nothing happened, which causes a ripple effect in the time continuum of meetings.
When you have less than 10 minutes to go:
  • Identify where you are in the agenda.
  • Decide immediately what decisions can be made on remaining items. Never leave major talking points at the end of the agenda.
  • Determine what can be forwarded for required reading and response.
  • Confirm the action items such as who, what and by when.
  • Do everything possible to not schedule another meeting on these same items.
  • END on time!
AB: How can you get the windbag in a meeting to shut up and also encourage the quieter members to speak up?
JP: It can be a challenge, but write a name next to each item on the agenda and set a time limit for speakers.  You can also use the “parking lot” technique shown in this video.
Make sure you don’t reject or put down the windbag, because this only leads to much bigger problems. Handle them diligently and with professional tact.  In extreme environments, use the “whoever has the stick talks” and don’t allow interruptions.
As a leader, if you’re not gaining an interactive response, than ask for it.  “What do you think about the change, Nancy?”  Actively call on different people throughout the session. It’s a sure-fire way to get people to speak up initially and help them learn they may be called upon anytime for feedback or ideas.
AB: How can leaders know if they’re the ones that are talking too much and how do they stop such a habit?
JP: This typically happens in “information sharing” meetings in which you (read more here)

- See more at:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Why Joining the Circus Could Help Your Career

As the summer winds to a close, many young people will have spent their time working at their first job or completing an internship.
But how many can say they joined the circus?
Natasha Shatzkin can. At nearly 16, Shatzkin attended her third American Youth Circus Organization festival recently, honing her juggling and tightrope skills.
While that may sound like fun, it hardly prepares her for the workplace, does it?
Shatzkin disagrees.
"The circus and the festival is a lot about networking," says Shatzkin, who won the youth leadership award this year. "I get to see and meet a lot of people I wouldn't otherwise."
The five-day festival had participants from 30 states, three countries and 50 circus communities, says Amy Cohen, executive director of the circus organization. Young people had more than 150 workshops to choose from, and the diversity is a big plus for developing future leaders.
"It's such a unifying experience," Cohen says. "Diversity and inclusion is what a circus is all about."
The camp's instructors, who donate their time, have professional circus experience and bring their unique perspectives to the young participants, Cohen says. The organization has been around for about 15 years and offers those ages 21 and younger instruction in contortion, clowning, puppetry and tumbling, to name a few skills.
"Circuses are a hybrid of art and sport," Cohen says. "Some of our instructors have a more artistic approach while others are more athletic. But what our young people learn is that it's all about developing a skill."
"Historically, if you ran away from home to join the circus, you would be welcome if you were willing to work hard," she says. "We still teach them about the importance of working hard to develop a skill."
Shatzkin agrees. As someone who not only participates but also takes the time to coach and teach younger participants, she finds that she is motivated to work hard at anything she takes on and is learning about coaching others.
"What I love about the circus is that no one asks me any of these questions about what I want to be when I grow up. I can just relax," Shatzkin says.
That's not to say the circus is always a barrel of laughs.
"Mostly, there is a great sense of community and collaboration, and you have to work with a lot of people," she said. "You may not always like them all, but you learn to find a way to work together. It's funny how many skills you get from the circus."
The circus helps the young people develop their self-esteem and provide a creative (read more here)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Study: Men More Likely to Get Requested Flextime

If you asked your boss for a more flexible work schedule, would your request be granted?
The answer, finds a new study, may depend on your gender and your position.
Researchers at the Yale School of Management, the University of Texas-Austin and Harvard Business School say that managers are more likely to give flextime to men in high-status jobs for career-advancement opportunities.
But women in similar positions aren't likely to be granted such a request, whether they make it for career reasons or for family demands, the study finds.
At the same time, results show that men in low-status jobs are very likely to get flextime granted if they cite family care demands, much more than women in similar jobs.
That surprised researcher Victoria Brescoll, who says it's women in low-status jobs who are often single mothers who need flexible arrangements more. (A recent Pew Research Center study finds that 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 are supported primarily or solely by mothers, compared with 11% in 1960.)
Brescoll says she was also taken aback by upper-tier women being stonewalled on any flextime request and upper-tier men being granted flextime only if it's seen as being for career reasons. She adds she does believe there is some "basic sexism" on the part of managers refusing flextime requests from women, and there needs to be awareness that women are being penalized.
Ken Matos, senior director of employment research and practice for the Families and Work Institute, says that he finds the results of the study fascinating because it shows the workplace is "very much about maintaining a certain status quo."
Matos says his organization's research shows that while higher status men are more likely to get access to flexibility, they were much less likely to ask for it.
Part of this may be because other research has shown men feel they won't be seen as taking their career seriously if they ask for flextime and may even slow their career trajectory if they take time off to help care for children, for example.
Studies on the "motherhood penalty" have shown that mothers are seen as being less competent and committed to their jobs, but men may be viewed even more negatively because they're seen as less masculine if they take time away to care for children.
In the Pew report, those social pressures were in evidence when just over half of respondents reported that children are better off if their moms stay home with the kids, while only 8% agree that children are better off if their fathers stay home.
Brescoll, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Yale, says that women may be underestimating the negative consequences (read more here)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Career Advice to Learn from Dunder Mifflin

For eight years the Dunder Mifflin gang from “The Office” made us laugh as characters like the annoying Dwight and the crabby Stanley and the inept Michael interacted and make us think about our own cast of characters in our office.
Still, despite their follies and fights, there are plenty of lessons to be learned from this fictional workplace that can be applied to our own careers, especially when it comes to collaboration.
A bad message is a bad message. No matter how many times you may repeat something you believe to be clever or insightful or funny, if members of the team don’t react positively to it, you need to move on. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to communicate with someone who is stuck on a message that doesn’t resonate. If you get the kind of reactions that these workers give Michael to “that’s what she said,” then that’s your first clue you need to become a better communicator. If colleagues tune you out, then you can bet they won’t be open to your ideas or input in the future.  Such lack of cooperation can lead to you missing out on promotions, big projects or even jeopardize your job.
Build rapport with integrity. Office politics are a reality of life, but too many people fall into the trap of believing that dishing the dirt is a way to build rapport. If you rely on insulting someone or portraying them in a less-than-flattering light as a way to “be part of the conversation” as Michael says in this clip, you’re way off base. Michael notes that he loves the way “eyes light up” when he shares juicy tidbits, and “it’s wonderful to be the center of attention.” But collaboration (read more here)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Are You Asking Your Team to Read Your Mind?

Bosses often tout the importance of everyone “singing from the same choir book” or a variation of that theme. The point, they stress, is that everyone needs to communicate constantly so that team efforts are being directed efficiently and productively toward the same goals.
Why is it then that many workers believe their bosses aren’t inclined to follow the same advice?
One of the most common complaints is that workers feel they don’t know exactly what the boss is thinking and key information is kept from them.  In such cases it’s not that workers believe that the boss is being deliberatively secretive, but more a matter of the boss for some reason or another is not giving them key information or important details.
The result is that workers become frustrated and disengaged, and the boss fails to meet strategic goals because workers are unable to coordinate their efforts.
Be repetitive and concrete
In his book, “Good Boss, Bad Boss,” Robert Sutton cites the case of the “miracle on the Hudson” when  Capt.  Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberg III landed a plane loaded full of passengers safely on the Hudson River. While the plane was failing, flight attendants repeatedly called to passengers to “Brace, brace, heads down, stay down.”
Sutton notes that such repetitive and concrete guidance “isn’t just effective during emergencies.”
“The things you say over and over have the most impact if they specify what to do and when to do it,” he writes. “As a boss, your job is to find the equivalent of ‘Brace, brace, heads down, stay down’ for your followers.”
Still, managers these days are scrambling to keep up with their duties, just like members of their team.  They feel they don’t have time to yell “brace, brace” every day and want workers to be more self-directed so that the managers can get other tasks done.
Is there a way to bridge this divide between what managers can realistically communicate every day and what workers need to know to get their jobs done?
Transparency leads to engagement
The key may be that the boss is the one who will pilot the plane to safety, but workers also have to be willing to do their part and follow critical directions. A team member who tries to go his or her own way will not only undermine the boss, but lead to hostility and dysfunction in a team.
So, here are some ways to ensure the team and the boss are on the same page:
  1. Use checklists. Sutton points out in his book that checklists were developed by pilots before World War II, and doctors and nurses find that using simple checklists with patients requiring intravenous lines in their veins decreases infections and deaths. Teams with checklists of basic procedures are less likely to forget a step and the boss can be assured he or she doesn’t have to monitor every aspect of a common process.
  2. Eliminate complexity.  Brain research shows that experts often are not the best teachers because their experience and knowledge allow them to automatically respond to issues that may boggle the mind of a beginner. That’s why communication among team members must be kept simple so that the novices aren’t left in the dust.  Bosses need (read the rest here)

Friday, August 2, 2013

How to Turn an Internship Into a Job Offer

Most summer interns are now about halfway through their stint, and the tension may be building for many who hope their hard work will pay off with a full-time job.
More companies are using internships to test drive recent graduates, says Yair Reimer, vice president of marketing for the CareerArc Group.
And his company's lists 75,000 to 80,000 active internship offers, a boost of 50% since last year, he says.
"Employers aren't posting these internships as a way to give back," he says. They are a way to see potential employees in real workplace situations before making an offer.
Sophia Lammers, a DePaul University student studying marketing and public relations, will return to the Chicago school in September after her internship but knows she has a lot to prove. She is working in the business development division for CareerBuilder, a joint venture among Gannett (GCI), Tribune and McClatchy (MNI).
She says she knows her success depends on going above and beyond what is asked of you and remembering to "always have a positive attitude and be thankful for the opportunity."
Those who want an internship to turn into a job offer should follow these steps, Reimer says:
• Ask questions. "If you don't ask, you don't get," he says.
By asking questions, you demonstrate to the employer that you're engaged in the work and want to understand where the business is headed.
• Keep your eyes wide open. "It's important that you informally network outside of your department," he says.
"Tell them you'd like to learn more about people in senior positions. People love talking about themselves," he says. "Ask the CEO if he or she has 10 minutes to tell you about he or she got started."
• Speak up. You may be working hard as an intern with the expectation that it will get you a job offer, but no one can read your mind.
If you want a full-time job, express your interest and let company officials know that you enjoy working there.
"It's the exception, not the norm, to have (read more here)