Tuesday, December 30, 2014

What We Can Learn About Careers from Pope Francis

(Photo courtesy of MSNBC)

Recently, Pope Francis listed 15 "ailments" that he believed were infecting the Catholic Church. But I think we should also take this to heart in our workplace. Here are the unhealthy habits listed by the Pope that I believe we can also eliminate from our careers:

1) Feeling immortal, immune or indispensable.  The Pope advises to stay updated and continually seek improvement. Otherwise, Francis points out that those who don't are a "sick body."
2) Working too hard. "Rest for those who have done their work is necessary, good and should be taken seriously."
3) Becoming spiritually and mentally hardened. "It's dangerous to lose that human sensibility that lets you cry with those who are crying, and celebrate those who are joyful." The last several years have been brutal as companies laid off workers, and workers took on two to three times their usual amount of work. Let's not forget in this competitive environment, sometimes the best thing you can do is be a good listener for a struggling co-worker, or even offer to take a stressed manager out for coffee.
4) Planning too much. "Preparing things well is necessary, but don't fall into the temptation of trying to close or direct the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which is bigger and more generous than any human plan." Even if you don't consider yourself a religious person, you need to learn to relax and not fight so many internal battles.
5) Working without coordination, like an orchestra that produces noise. "When the foot tells the hand, 'I don't need you' or the hand tells the head 'I'm in charge.'" More companies are pushing workers to become more collaborative. If you don't, you may just find yourself dispensable.
6) Having 'spiritual Alzheimer's. "We see it in the people who have forgotten their encounter with the Lord ... in those who depend completely on their here and now, on their passions, whims and manias, in those who build walls around themselves and become enslaved to the idols that they have built with their own hands." Again, you may not follow a certain religious path, but the Pope makes a good point that there is more to life than possessions. Think about how you will keep yourself spiritually alive as you approach 2015.
7) Being rivals or boastful. "When one's appearance, the color of one's vestments or honorific titles become the primary objective of life." Put another way: stop bragging so much on social media about your latest project or job and instead keep the focus on how you can help others. That's better than a corner office.
8) Suffering from 'existential schizophrenia. "It's the sickness of those who live a double life, fruit of hypocrisy that is typical of mediocre and progressive spiritual emptiness that academic degrees cannot fill. It's a sickness that often affects those who, abandoning pastoral service, limit themselves to bureaucratic work, losing contact with reality and concrete people." If you're a manager, step out from behind your desk and get out in the real world with your workers. Don't make the mistake of letting your work quality slide just because you can.
9) Committing the 'terrorism of gossip. "It's the sickness of cowardly people who, not having the courage to speak directly, talk behind people's backs." Amen.
10) Glorifying one's bosses. "It's the sickness of those who court their superiors, hoping for their benevolence. They are victims of careerism and opportunism, they honor people who aren't God." This is sort of the Pope's way of saying that brown-nosers have got their priorities all screwed up.
11) Being indifferent to others. "When, out of jealousy or cunning, one finds joy in seeing another fall rather than helping him up and encouraging him." It's one thing to be competitive -- but it's something else entirely when you like to see people fail. Do you spend more energy putting people down rather than offering a helping hand?
12) Having a 'funereal face. "In reality, theatrical severity and sterile pessimism are often symptoms of fear and insecurity. The apostle must be polite, serene, enthusiastic and happy and transmit joy wherever he goes." It's amazing what a smile or pat on the back can do for someone else -- and for yourself.
13) Wanting more. "When the apostle tries to fill an existential emptiness in his heart by accumulating material goods, not because he needs them but because he'll feel more secure." Do you really need the latest tech gadget? Or might you find greater happiness in helping others?
14) Forming 'closed circles' that seek to be stronger than the whole. "This sickness always starts with good intentions but as time goes by, it enslaves its members by becoming a cancer that threatens the harmony of the body and causes so much bad — scandals — especially to our younger brothers." Cliques don't end when we leave high school, and they can be just as damaging in the workplace. Make it a point to ask someone you don't know well at work to lunch, or just take the time to chat with those outside your work area.
15) Seeking worldly profit and showing off. "It's the sickness of those who insatiably try to multiply their powers and to do so are capable of calumny, defamation and discrediting others, even in newspapers and magazines, naturally to show themselves as being more capable than others." If you're slamming others online, stop it. Stop hogging the limelight at work, and remember to give others credit if they helped you.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Do You Work With a Narcissist?

When you think of narcissists, names like Kim Kardashian and Lance Armstrong may come to mind with their constant focus on themselves and need for admiration.
But that’s the celebrity world, and it’s not so common for the average person to have such an inflated sense of self-importance (since most of us get that knocked out of us in our 20s).
Despite that, narcissism is a term that gets thrown around a lot, especially when you’re dealing with an annoying personality at work. But is that jerk at work really a narcissist?
The Mayo Clinic defines narcissism as a mental disorder “in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration.” Those with the disorder believe that “they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings,” the clinic states. “But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, says that narcissists often can be difficult to work with as their sense of entitlement, lack of empathy and focus on ““me, me, me” can impede work getting done.
One of the biggest problems is that narcissists often are very bright, and may cover their darker tendencies under the guise of having career ambition. They can turn on the charm when needed, and often are described as charismatic. They are driven – but can also be manipulative and self-centered and can seriously impact a team’s efficiency and productivity.
For example, say a sales meeting is called to discuss the upcoming quarter. But as the boss tries to get input from everyone, the narcissist constantly interrupts to talk about himself and his successes. Later, when there are informal gatherings of the sales staff to discuss strategies, the narcissist constantly interrupts to again direct the conversation to an area he or she wants to discuss.
“These people are always trying to shine the light on themselves. They always want the glory,” Whitbourne explains. “They like to derail things. They constantly have to be attended to. They can be very aggravating.”
So, the result is that a sales team may miss its projections because they can’t do effective planning with the narcissist’s interruptions, or may be so irked by the behavior they find it hard to concentrate and do their jobs.
The bottom line is that narcissists can really throw a wrench in the works when it comes to others doing their jobs effectively, Whitbourne says.
But, there are strategies to help you cope better with the narcissist at work. Whitbourne suggests:
  • Becoming educated. Before you label someone as a narcissist, take some time to really observe the behavior. “Vulnerable” narcissists may actually have low self-esteem (read more here)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

How to Get Workers in Any Organization to Help Drive Change

"Change agent” is no longer just a term for an outside consultant or someone in the C-suite who is charged with transforming an organization.
More organizations now realize they must have leaders and employees who are change agents, capable of looking at what they do in a different way and bringing about change in order to be competitive.
Allen Barclay, a management professor for Colorado State University, explains in his research that it makes sense that employers should turn to employees to be change agents, since in times of change “it is often up to the employees to make the change work.” In addition, tapping employees as change agents can be critical to truly transforming an organization or process as employees who provide input about making changes are more likely to support it and ensure it’s successful, he says.
“Within change, we are not normally changing the organization; we are changing the people in the organization. This reinforces the need to shift focus from the organization and management and instead target employees,” he says. “Employees should be charged with the ability to foster positive change by management, but more so, by themselves.”
To do that, Barclay suggests employees who are considering whether they would be good change agents should ask themselves:
  • Is there something I can do to make the organization a better place?
  • Is there something I personally need to change to make myself a better employee?
Employees who are willing to work to make the organization or themselves better not only demonstrate leadership potential, but begin to see change as less daunting and more a part of their everyday routine, he argues.
“If a true team member is continuously asking how they can improve, and they are the ones tied to the actual work, then this should lead to supportive buy-in, performance
- See more at: http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2014/12/01/how-to-identify-your-teams-best-change-agents/#sthash.kazWqN0H.dpuf

Monday, December 15, 2014

5 Things to Remember in a New Job

As the economy improves, many people are starting new jobs and learning how to work for a new company and a new boss.

But what many don't realize is that your first few days on the job can set the tone for your time in that position, Complain about something on Day 1, and you may forever be labeled a whiner. Gossip about your old job in the first week and you may be seen as immature.

To avoid such damaging labels, let's look at ways you can perform with grace and professionalism in your new position, so you don't get a bad reputation that can hold you back.

1. Never badmouth a former employer. It may be tempting to spill the dirt to new co-workers or a new boss, but it always makes you look petty and rude. In addition, you don't know enough about your new surroundings, and the ex-boss who you trash talk may just be related to a new colleague.

2. Listen, listen, listen. You're going to have lots of questions when you start a new job, but don't start asking them until you've thoroughly heard what the other person has to say. Take notes on instructions regarding procedures, company policies, names, etc. This will show others that you're eager to learn, and will keep you from seeking information that was already provided to you.

3. Arrive early, stay late. This shows the boss that you're enthusiastic and committed to your new job and company.

4. Write down your questions. As I mentioned before, you're going to have lots of questions. But don't ask them every time they pop into your head, as your colleagues will grow weary of having their work interrupted so often with your queries. Instead, write them down and then ask a colleague or the boss to answer them when they've got 15 minutes to spare. (Never let more than a handful of questions pile up before you seek answers.)

5. Toe the line. This isn't the time to stretch your lunch hour past the allotted time, begin dressing drastically different than others in the office or start a petition to get beer in the break room. Your focus should be on showing that you're a team player, with respect for the policies and culture of an organization.

Friday, December 12, 2014

How to Get Your Team on the Same Page

When you have a critical deadline approaching on a big project, as a manager you are hyper-focused on doing everything you can to ensure your team meets it.
Then it happens. Your worst nightmare.
You arrive for work one day expecting to get a status update that shows progress being made on systems and key details, but you instead discover:
After reaching for your jumbo-sized bottle of Maalox you keep in your desk drawer, it’s time to assess why your team can never seem to focus on what matters. Why do they always seem to be confused about what they’re supposed to be doing and why?
Haven’t you written them a million emails? Sat in meetings for hours outlining what’s to be done and when?
Well, yes, you probably have. But that may be part of the problem. It could be that your teamisn’t focused on what matters because you’re not presenting a compelling enough message and leaving them on auto-pilot for too long.
If you want to get your team better focused (and quit the Maalox habit), here’s what you need to do:
  • Change the way you deliver a message. Those “Zen” presentations where you present a metaphorical image with a few words? The photographs, bullet-point presentations and other messages you convey to your team via PowerPoint? Not as effective as good old whiteboard visuals, finds research by Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor Zakary Tormala. In an experiment, he found that participants were more engaged by a whiteboard presentation and retained more of the information later than other methods. An added bonus: the participants found the person giving the whiteboard presentation to be more credible than if the same person gave a PowerPoint or Zen presentation.
  • Craft a better narrative. While you may put a lot of thought into a big presentation to bosses or customers, you may just wing it when it comes to passing information to your team. After all, they’re paid to listen to you, so what more do they want? According to Zach Friend, a former spokesman for the Obama campaign and a communications expert, they need to feel an emotional connection to your message. In other words, while you’re presenting facts about a project (when it’s due, key components, etc.) you also need to frame it so that it strikes a chord with your team. For example, you may explain that your customer is a David versus Goliath story, and the team’s efforts will enable a small business to survive and help people keep their jobs.
To craft a good narrative, Friend, author of “On Message,” suggests:
  1. Grabbing your team’s attention with a challenge or compelling question.
  2. Giving your team an emotional experience by narrating the struggle to overcome that challenge or finding the answer to the opening question. In other words, allow each listener to put himself or herself at the center of the narrative.
  3. Galvanize your listeners’ response with a resolution that calls them to action. 
  • Touch base often.  Managers must remember that no matter how much they may wish it to be so, teams don’t operate on automatic pilot. Without frequent communications, they can quickly go off course, finds research by Alex “Sandy” Pentland, the director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory. 
Pentland explains that his research shows that in a typical team, about 12 communication exchanges per working hour may be about optimum, but more or less than that can cause the team performance to decline. In addition, everyone needs to be given a chance to talk, as dominant motor-mouth team members can l (read the rest here)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Why Everyone Needs to Become a Digital Master

When hearing the term “digital masters,” many business people think of Silicon Valley and the whiz kids running dominant IT companies like Google.
But a new book contends that it’s time other companies woke up to the reality that if they want to excel in the future – with their employees, with their customers and in running their operations – then they need to also embrace the idea of using technology to transform their business. They, too, must become digital masters.
In a study of more than 400 large mainstream organizations in every industry around the world, authors of “Leading Digital,” found that digital masters are those companies that use digital technologies to drive greater profits, productivity and performance. Specifically, research shows that those who do digital transformation well are on average 26% more profitable than industry peers.
George Westerman, a research scientist in the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy and one of the book’s authors, says the research also found that companies lagging behind in making a digital transformation were often worried about the cost, the lack of skills or regulatory concerns.
But the book debunks those worries, noting that making a digital transformation isn’t just about pouring money into IT and trying to woo talent away from Silicon Valley. Westerman explains, for example, that it’s also critical that a company have the leadership willing to drive that transformation throughout the culture. In addition, the employee talent for digital transformation doesn’t just come from tech backgrounds, he says.
“You don’t have to make yourself into Google,” he says. “Even if you’re making soap, there are things you can put into place that will give you an edge.”
If you don’t, Westerman warns, be prepared to be less productive, profitable and left behind as your competitors make the transformation.
Authors Westerman, Didier Bonnet and Andrew McAfee found that digital masters are those who use analytics, social media, mobile and embedded devices to understand customers better. These companies also implement technology to link customer-facing and (see more here)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

What the Big Bang Theory Really Teaches Us

“I am not crazy. My mother had me tested.”—Sheldon Cooper 
Devoted fans of the television show, “The Big Bang Theory,” rejoiced when the sitcom about a bunch of nerdy guys entered its eighth season this year, with some 18 million people tuning in for the season’s opener.
But even though it’s America’s most watched show, critics have not been as enthusiastic. One reviewer recently commented that he not only doesn’t watch the show, but he doesn’t know anyone who does.  The show consistently loses out on an Emmy, even though Jim Parsons has won four Emmy awards for playing Sheldon Cooper.
So what is it about this show that grabs the attention of so many people despite its lack of critical acclaim? Could it be that we love the fact that the nerd culture has gone mainstream? That for once instead of being stuffed inside a locker by a high school bully, the nerd is successful, has friends and is fun to be around?
One thing that cannot be denied by the constant presence of “Big Bang” (it runs in syndication all hours of the day and night), is that is has exposed many people to the true gifts of the geeks and nerds in this world. The show has made it clear that nerds are capable of more than just writing code or solving a complicated math problem – they are also creative, innovative and collaborative.
If managers are smart, they’ll take the show’s message to heart: It’s time to let nerds be nerds.
In other words, stop trying to make them fit in. They’ll never be like other employees – and that’s a good thing. If managers learn to embrace a geek’s geekiness, organizations can become more competitive, and learn to work smarter and more efficiently.
By giving nerds the freedom to be themselves, we all may learn valuable lessons and benefit from these brilliant minds. Here’s how:
Innovation never stops. While some workers may check work emails after hours, nerds are going to do much more than that. They’re going to think about what they’re working on even during their off hours, because they’re happiest when their brains are challenged. Managers shouldn’t watch the clock when they’ve got nerds on their team – these employees are always going to be seeking challenges and striving for solutions. Consider this clip of Howard working on his robot arm even when hanging out (read more here)
- See more at: http://quickbase.intuit.com/blog/2014/10/20/big-bang-theorys-biggest-lesson-let-nerds-be-nerds/#sthash.LnRsmoZ6.dpuf

Monday, December 1, 2014

25 Business Cliches to Never Say Again

I just got back from my sister's farm in Oklahoma, and it was a wonderful break. I spent a lot of time with family, and just enjoying the peace and quiet of rural America. (But I didn't enjoy it as much as my sister's new bull, who had a really fun time with the lady cows.)

It was so nice to just talk with friends and family who didn't constantly pepper their conversations with "at the end of the day," "win-win" or "low-hanging fruit" that is part of the business jargon that is so overused these days.

So, in honor of my sister's new bull, let's declare theses cliches as the real bullsh**, and stop using them -- or at least try to cut back!

Here's my list, but feel free to offer your own suggestions:
1. Give 110%
2. Synergy
3. Push the envelope
4. Anything that calls for 2.0 or 3.0
5. Paradigm shift
6. Bandwidth (unless you're actually talking about, you know, bandwidth)
7. In our wheelhouse
8. Ah-mazing
9. Pivot
10. Drill down
11. Monetize
12. No brainer
13. Reach out
14. Data point
15. Transparency
16. Stakeholders
17. Circle back
18. ROI
19. Boots on the ground
20, Silos
21. Best-of-breed
22. Loop in
23. It is what it is
24. Skin in the game
25. Thought leader