Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Why You're Off Base About How Others View You at Work

In the workplace, it can be tough to find that middle ground between being pushy and being a pushover.
But you figure you do a pretty good job, right? Just the right amount of assertiveness so that you’re not a jerk or a wimp?
You may want to reconsider your belief as a new study shows that the majority of us are off base when it comes to judging how others view us. In the study, Daniel Ames, professor of management at Columbia Business School and doctoral student Abbie Wazlawek, found that:
  •  57% of those seen as not assertive enough believe they show just the right amount of feistiness – or maybe even too much.
  • 56% of those believed to be too bold by others thought they had just the right amount of can-do attitude or might even lack some.
“Most people can think of someone who is a jerk or a pushover and largely clueless about how they’re seen,” said Ames. “Sadly, our results suggest that, often enough, that clueless jerk or pushover is us.”
If you want to ensure that you’re not coming across as too abrasive or a cream puff, then that means you’ve got to be more aware of how others see you. In a recent interview with Anita Bruzzese, Ames discusses the findings and provides some insight into how to make attitude adjustments to save your career.
AB: Did the findings about how people are clueless about how others perceive them come as a surprise to you?
DA: We were surprised to find that people who were seen as getting it right often thought they were getting it wrong. A good share of negotiators seen by counterparts as appropriately assertive mistakenly thought they had crossed the line in their counterpart’s eyes, an effect we called the “line crossing illusion.” In our studies, some 30 to 40% of negotiators seen as appropriately assertive showed this illusion, double or triple the rate of people making the opposite error (coming across as appropriately assertive but mistakenly thinking they were seen as under-assertive).
AB:  Can you explain more about the “line crossing illusion?”
DA: Our research tried to trace back the “line crossing illusion” to some of its causes. Why would so many people make this self-derogating error? There are probably several factors behind this, but one that we examined was something we called “strategic umbrage.”
This is when a negotiation counterpart puts on a little drama in reaction to a proposal we might make. They might let out an exaggerated gasp of horror, stagger backwards with their hand over their heart, or just respond with a look of anguish as if we had violated all norms of decency.
Sometimes that means our offer really is outrageous. But other times, that’s just a gambit, a game played because the other person wants us to pay them more or charge them less. We found that the more a negotiator shows strategic umbrage, the more likely their counterpart is to fall prey to the line-crossing illusion. It may be just a negotiation ploy to get a slightly better deal, but people on the receiving end of these displays sometimes take them as a referendum on their character.
AB: How would you suggest people gauge accurately how they’re seen by others? (read more here)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

3 Things to Consider When You've Been Demoted

Few events in your career are as difficult as being demoted.

It may be that you saw it coming – verbal and written warnings from the boss indicated you were not meeting expectations – or it may totally blindside you. Whatever the reason, being demoted is something no one wants to experience, and the pain is often so great some people will just quit rather than accept it.

Still, that’s not always the best move. For one, quitting means the paychecks stop, and that’s pretty devastating for someone who has car payments, school loans, a mortgage and kids to support. And two, quitting doesn’t accomplish anything other than putting you in the unemployment line and possibly facing the same consequences in the future. Because if you haven’t probed deeply the reasons behind your demotion, you may just be doomed to repeat it.

Specifically, once you get past the shock and hurt, it’s time to think about:

  • Sitting down with the boss and try to find out exactly why this happened. Let the boss know that you’re interested in focusing on the problems and fixing them. It could be the boss will tell you that it’s merely industry restructuring, and it’s happening throughout the company. In that case, you need to consider your future job security not only with your current employer, but within the industry.

  •  Considering your overall value. Do you need to think about training and additional schooling in another area? Maybe jobs in your industry are being sent overseas or phased out because of technology. In that case, you need to seriously look at how you can get training in areas that are expected to grow and prosper.

  • Setting new goals. With the boss's input, you should immediately establish some new goals to get you back on track. Get a professional mentor to help keep you focused and committed, and make sure you meet with the boss more frequently to ensure you're headed in the right direction.

All of this will be difficult, of course. It’s natural that you will be angry and upset, and going back to work after a demotion will be tough. Still, keep in mind that even if you want to quit, you’re still going to need a good recommendation and you’re still going to have to explain to another employer about why you left the job. So hanging onto that job is better in the short term until you figure out what you really want to do.

Of course, your decision may be that you need to look for another job. Maybe the job was never a good fit in the first place (you disliked your duties, hated the hours, etc.), and the demotion was something that resulted from your lack of full commitment to the job.

The point is that whether you decide to tough it out and earn back your old job (or an even better one), or leave the employer, take the time to make the demotion a learning experience. Was there anything you wish you had done differently?

Use what happened to do some soul-searching and find out how you can avoid tripping again in the future.

Monday, September 22, 2014

How a Virtual Assistant Can Save Your Sanity

Technology has helped us be so self-sufficient that it can feel old-fashioned or sort of elitist to think we need someone to help us keep our calendar, book a flight or research a new customer.
But as the number of hours American workers spend on work-related tasks increases, it’s becoming clear that no amount of technology is going to fix the problem.
We need help.  Human help.
Enter the virtual assistant.
A virtual assistant is someone you may or may not meet personally, but is trained to handle dozens of tasks that can bog down your day like scheduling meetings, posting on social media, getting bids or even scheduling your next vacation.
Even for control freaks
If you’re wondering if a virtual assistant is worth it, try keeping a log of what you do for a week. Think about how much you earn an hour, and whether making a restaurant reservation with a new client, for example, is worth that amount per hour. Would your time be better spent thinking of innovative processes, revenue-producing ideas or interacting with key customers?
Entrepreneur Cheryl Yeoh writes that she tried a virtual assistant for a week. She used Zirtual, which connected her with a virtual assistant for $197 a month. Under the plan she was allowed to delegate an unlimited number of tasks to her virtual assistant, up to 10 hours per month.
For example, her virtual assistant Alice helped her do preliminary research on a freelance project, and also chased down “a previous landlord who has owed me my apartment security deposit for the past five months,” she writes. “That’s a few thousand dollars in the bank!”
Jenny Blake, who also has written about using a virtual assistant, says it is “easily one of the best things I did for my life and business last year” even though she admits to being a “control freak.”
“For YEARS I had read all the books (4-hour Work Week chief among them), and knew the importance of delegating and not being a bottleneck. But each time I tried to move forward with hiring someone, I got overwhelmed, discouraged and gave up. Who to hire? US or overseas? What should I delegate? How do I do it efficiently? Can I trust them?” she writes.
How to make it pay off
Kellennne DeSimone is a virtual assistant to Veilsun Inc. executives. Before that, she was an on-site executive assistant for other employers.
She says that whether on site or virtual, she still does many of the same tasks that help keep busy people on target. The difference is that there is sometimes more of a learning curve for her virtual clients, who must learn “what they can let go of.”
“It happens a lot in the beginning that someone won’t let loose of something. But you begin to build trust over time so that I can then say to them, ‘Why are you doing that? Let me do it.’
If you’re considering using a virtual assistant, here are some suggestions on how to ensure it runs smoothly:
  • Get recommendations.  DeSimone was hired as a virtual assistant after former customers saw she was looking for work. Check with your network about stay-at-home moms, students and retirees who may have set up shop as virtual assistants. Or, check out the International Virtual Assistants Association. Sites such as oDesk warn that “you get what you pay for” so remember that a very low bid may not be the best hire for what you need.
  • Get your ducks in a row. A virtual assistant is not a mind reader. That means you need to be clear on what you need him or her to do and agree how best to communicate and how often. Remember that just like any other new employee, the virtual assistant needs time to learn what you need and how best to help you. Once virtual assistants have your workload in mind, they can help you set priorities and make course corrections.
  • Let them provide balance. DeSimone says not only can she help you research a new client, but she can schedule your haircuts, help you find day care for your children or schedule a moving van for your relocation. Yeoh says her virtual assistant Alice took up a dispute with the DMV and won, saving Yeoh from overcharges from her insurance company.
  • Don’t micromanage. It may be difficult to gauge when a virtual assistant is working, but that does not meet you need to harass him or her to check on the progress being made. If you’re worried about things getting done, simply ask for a daily progress report. This also can help keep your virtual assistant in the loop. DeSimone says she once worked for more than a week on a project, only to find out later the project had been canceled but she was never told.
The bottom line is that hiring a virtual assistant may be worth it as you strive to be more productive and innovative. If you’re feeling overwhelmed trying to keep up with your personal life and career, it may be time to consider a virtual assistant who can enable you to focus on the things that add meaning to your life – not hassles. (This post originally ran in the Fast Track blog.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to Get Your Big Idea Into the Marketplace

Scott Anthony refers to it as “the first mile” – that place where innovation moves from an idea on paper to the market.
It is often a treacherous first mile, full of obstacles of your own making and roadblocks thrown up by others. If you can’t make it through that first mile, says the international strategic adviser, then you may find that your great idea goes nowhere.
In a new book, appropriately called “The First Mile,” Anthony, managing partner of Innosight, provides a blueprint for how anyone can ensure that they don’t let themselves or others sabotage their innovation.
“What often happens is that people confuse a concept with a business or an idea,” he says. “They come up with something fun or interesting, but it gets screened out because it won’t drive value.”
For example, you may believe that you’ve got a really cool idea, but if it doesn’t drive a customer need consistently and reliably, then it won’t be profitable and will fail, he says.
“You have to go beyond the ‘what’ to the ‘why,’” he says. “Why should a customer or boss care? You’ve always got to understand what it is you’re selling.”
While this certainly makes sense, Anthony says it can often be difficult for the person infused with enthusiasm for an idea to see why the idea may not be just as appealing to others.
“Once we wrap our mind around our idea, then we reject what we don’t believe,” he says.  “That’s why the first mile is so important. You recognize that any idea is partially right and partially wrong, and the quicker you figure out the weak points, the quicker you can fix them.”
Among his suggestions is first doing the documentation  – simply writing down what you plan to do. He says that it’s often this most simple step that many innovators miss.
Once you’ve documented it, then it’s time to:
  • Evaluate:  This part of the process looks at the customer, the key stakeholders, the economics involved, how it will be commercialized, the team and the financing. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? He suggests one way to evaluate an idea is to role play. For example, let’s say you’ve come up with an idea for a device that will fly you to the grocery store. That means you need to play the role of the retailer who will sell it, the customer who will buy it (and the customer’s spouse) and even (read more here)
- See more at: http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2014/07/28/how-to-get-your-big-idea-into-the-marketplace/#sthash.cjybxNye.dpuf

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How to Turn Around Miserable Workers

Is it just me, or are American workers complaining more loudly than ever?

There are the protests by food workers demanding better wages, of course, but even in my local grocery store or doctor's office I hear a lot of complaining by workers.

It's not unusual to hear employees criticizing actions by a managers or bad-mouthing a co-worker. It just goes to show the level of their unhappiness that they would so vocally complain in front of outsiders, I think,

Many years ago I interviewed Patrick Lencioni about his book, "Three Signs of  Miserable Job." He says those signs are:

1. The people you work with don’t know you or care about you.
2. You don’t know how your job matters to others.
3. You can’t assess how you’re doing in your job.

Workers who are miserable are less productive, efficient, and more likely to have physical ailments that affect their professional and personal lives. With the increasing focus on remaining competitive in a global marketplace, Lencioni points out that managers should ask themselves what they can do to guard against workers becoming miserable in their jobs. As part of a self-assessment, he suggests managers ask themselves:

• Do I really know my people? Their interests? How they spend their spare time? Where they are in their lives?
• Do they know who their work impacts, and how?
• Do they know how to assess their own progress or success?

Finally, he says bosses should develop a plan to do a better job of getting to know and understand employees. He suggests one-on-one meetings, team sessions and clearly outlining what is trying to be achieved.

While this seems like a simple concept, Lencioni says that many companies and managers miss the boat. He also has a deeper message to impart to those in charge:

“By helping people find fulfillment in their work, and helping them succeed in whatever they’re doing, a manager can have a profound impact on the emotional, financial, physical, and spiritual health of workers and their families,” he says. “That is nothing short of a gift from God.”

Amen to that.

Friday, September 5, 2014

How Leaders Can Keep "No" From Being a Buzz Kill

How do you keep people engaged after telling them “no”?

That’s often a question with which leaders wrestle, knowing that saying “no” can be demoralizing, and even push employees to start looking for another position if it happens too often.
But leadership and engagement experts say that it’s critical that managers learn to handle such an issue. Without a solution, they may find that a team becomes uninterested in coming up with creative, innovative or workable solutions that are critical to business survival in today’s competitive environment.
“I do believe that within every ‘no’ is a portal to another ‘yes,’” says Rosa Say, a workplace culture coach and founder of Say Leadership Coaching. “We can think of that ‘no’ as ‘not now, maybe later’ and that ‘yes’ possibility as our next step instead, while our original thought gains more traction should it still prove itself useful, relevant or necessary later on.”
Phil Gerbyshak, CEO at Social Media Coach, says that the easiest way to keep a team engaged after turning them down on a project or idea is to “continue to add value to their lives.”
For example, you may be able to make a meaningful connection for them, share a good resource or ask if there “are other things you can do to help them,” he says. “As long as ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘never.’ That’s how I keep people engaged after telling them ‘no.’”
David Zinger, founder and host of Global Employee Engagement Network and president of David Zinger Associates, says that he believes “it is less about keeping people engaged and more about inviting engagement.”
“I would hope the employee was invited into the ‘no’ by being in the know. The ‘no’ is less about the content and more about the intent,” he says. “Is the ‘no’ final and fatal – or temporary feedback about a current state that can change? Do we help employees develop growth rather than fixed mindsets so that the ‘no’ is experienced as a step of growth rather than a pit of failure?”
Zinger explains that if an employee is not given a promotion, for example, then “hopefully there is an explanation combined with an invitation to what the employee can do in their future to achieve the ‘yes’ they are looking for. “
Part of the problem with employee engagement is that managers often find themselves saying ‘no’ to ideas because they aren’t directly related to a company’s strategy or culture. For example, a recent Accenture study finds that 85% of managers say that their workers’ ideas are targeting internal improvements instead of external improvements. But employees may not know that they’re on the wrong track if managers aren’t clearly giving them parameters about where they need to direct their energies.
That lack of communication may be behind only 20% (read more here)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Is Your Need to Be "Right" Hurting Your Career?

When you were in school, did your teacher instruct you to choose the “wrong” answer on a test?

What about at work? Does your boss now tell you to try and make "wrong" decisions?

From the time we are children, we are counseled to make the “right” choices, and how to look “right” and how to do the “right” thing. That often continues in the workplace, that need to always be "right."

And, the more “right” we are, the more likely we are to become rigid in our way of thinking. But here’s something to think about: By denying there is anything left to learn, we undermine ourselves and our companies.

Failing to acknowledge that other people may have the right answer can really affect an individual’s and an organization’s success. The most successful people, after all, often challenge others to come up with a better idea and then learn from that input.

Of course, letting go of being “right” all the time takes courage. It's not easy to admit that you don't have all the right answers, and embracing the ideas of others can be scary. But once you've made that initial move, keep thinking about how you view "right" and "wrong" answers.

You may find yourself letting go of a lot of stress when you can become more flexible in your thinking. As part of this process:

Define what winning looks like to you. Think about what you really want, how you feel about certain issues in your work and personal life and why certain outcomes are so important to you. Would a different outcome really be the end of the world?
Look at how often your need to be right really interferes with what you want. If you shut people down by interrupting them with your “right” solution, or they turn away because you have proven them “wrong,” note this interaction in a journal. Keep track of what happened, your reaction and any negative outcome. Did the interaction result in a less creative outcome or hurt a relationship with a co-worker?.
Ask questions. Instead of jumping in with the answer all the time, become more curious. Ask others what they think, and give them a chance to respond. Only then should you offer your opinion.
See the world in shades of gray. Consider how often your thinking is automatically “right versus wrong.” Try to look at all sides of the issue before making a decision.