Thursday, December 31, 2015

How to Leave a Great "Out of Office" Response

In the past week, I've received a lot of "out of office" messages, which got me to thinking about what makes a really great "out of office" message.

I did a little research and found these examples of what NOT to do:

  • "I will be out of office starting 09/08/2007 and will not return until 23/08/2007."  America uses the month first, followed by the day and then the year, although Europe often switches it up. Many people will be confused by such a message as to exactly when you plan on returning.
  • "I am currently out of the office and probably out-of-my-mind drunk. Enjoy your workweek." You may be in desperate need of a vacation, but that doesn't mean you leave such an idiotic message. Don't be snarky or you may not have a job when you return.
  • "I'm out of my office until Jan. 12. At that time I plan to delete all the emails I received while I was away, so if you really want to talk to me you're going to have to try again." In other words, the world should bow to your schedule and your needs, and work twice as hard to reach you.
  • "I'm out of office so contact George at" That' not bad, until you discover that George also has an "out of office" reply that tells people he's away for a week. Make sure that if you're directing people to someone else in your office, that person will actually be there to cover for you

So, what should you leave on an auto responder message? As someone who receives many of them (and I know you do, too), be brief. Say when you will return and who is an emergency contact. If you will be checking messages, you might want to be honest about it such as this guy:

I am currently out of the office on vacation.
I know I’m supposed to say that I’ll have limited access to email and won’t be able to respond until I return — but that’s not true. My blackberry will be with me and I can respond if I need to. And I recognize that I’ll probably need to interrupt my vacation from time to time to deal with something urgent.
That said, I promised my wife that I am going to try to disconnect, get away and enjoy our vacation as much as possible. So, I’m going to experiment with something new. I’m going to leave the decision in your hands:
  • If your email truly is urgent and you need a response while I’m on vacation, please resend it to and I’ll try to respond to it promptly.
  • If you think someone else at First Round Capital might be able to help you, feel free to email my assistant, Fiona ( and she’ll try to point you in the right direction.
· Otherwise, I’ll respond when I return…
More people are truly trying to disconnect while on vacation, and I think that's great news.  Turn on your auto responder and hit the road or the beach or the ski slopes. We'll be here when you get back.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Use Subtraction to Add Happiness to Your Life

As the new year approaches, it's the time when many of us think about making our lives better.

We vow to run a marathon in 2016 (even though our new Nikes have been in the box for six months).

We promise to stop relying so much on social media to make connections, and instead will have more one-on-one conversations (even though we can't put down our phones long enough to do it).

We state emphatically that we will begin online classes (as soon as find the time to sign up).

The problem for many of us is that we're adding to our "to do" list without considering how much this will add to our stress. We know this doesn't make sense, which is why the Nikes look brand new and Facebook is the closest thing we have to a social life.

In Marshall Goldsmith's bestseller, "MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It and How to Get It Back if You Lose It," he talks about the importance of "subtracting" from life.

This may be a difficult pill for some people to swallow, especially since we have all these really cool apps that allow us to do a lot of cool stuff at one time. 

But Goldsmith points out that "the untapped power of subtraction is within your grasp."

"It's as easy as saying to yourself, My life might actually be better if I took away _______," he writes.

The answer is up to you, but don't be a wimp about it. Don't say, "I'm going to cut out carbs," or something like that. Try to think of what would really make a difference in your life. That annoying friend who only takes and never gives; the book club that you never enjoy; the fitness trainer who is a bully.

While we might all like to cut out a bad boss or obnoxious co-workers, that's not always something in our control. But there are many things we can determine about our lives in 2016, and one of them may be learning the power of subtraction.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

What Coders Need to Know for Career Success in 2016

Coding is the hot job of the near future, and the word is out. It's becoming more competitive and employers are raising the bar for jobs.
While there are thousands of job listings for programmers and coders on various job sites, the increasing number of people capable of filling those jobs means that those in the industry will have to up their game if they want to thrive in their careers in 2016.
First up: technical skills alone won't cut it any more.
Language skills — and we're not talking PYTHON — are crucial. For example, one employer looking for a coder has told headhunter David Klein to screen out resumes that are not written well, or ones that contain grammatical errors.
Klein, director of recruitment for KDS Staffing in New York, says that the employer is looking for coders and programmers who can “communicate well.”
Michael Choi, founder of Coding Dojo, says that employers “are doing more filtering,” (read more here)

photo: hccoders

Monday, December 21, 2015

4 Ways to Ask for Help From Your Network

Is it difficult for you to ask for help?

For many people it can be tough. While you may have no problem making a request on behalf of a colleague or a boss, when it comes to asking for assistance for yourself, you shut down.

It might be because you believe you will come off as weak if you ask for help. Or, maybe you're afraid you will be turned down.

But the problem is that you can really hurt you career by thinking you can go it alone. Ask successful people how they rose in the ranks and they will tell you they had someone -- or several people -- who helped them. Maybe someone vouched for their skills, or simply provided information. The bottom line is that going it alone will make career success much more difficult, if not impossible.

With the new year right around the corner, now is a good time to make more of an effort to reach out to others and make your needs known. Don't worry -- no one is going to think you're whiny or weak if you do this correctly. Instead, they'll see you as someone who truly wants to form a bond that can benefit all those involved.

Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Be honest. Don't try to manipulate or push someone into providing help. Be upfront with what you need, and if the person can't provide it, then thank him or her and move on.
2. Be clear. Write out what you need before contact the person. Be as specific as possible. Don't offer a vague, "I need someone who, like, you know, hires people like me."
3. Make a request, not a demand. "I'm looking for a new position in the industry, and thought you might know someone who could use my computer security skills." That's much better than, "I need you to give me the phone number of the hiring manager at XYZ Corp."
4. Offer something in return. "I have some people who I think would be interested in your leadership seminars. Can you give me some contact numbers and seminar information to send them?"

Remember, before you contact anyone, make sure you're clear about what you want. Making vague or confusing requests can shut down an opportunity. Even if the person can't help you at that moment, you always want to make a good impression so that your bond can develop.

What are some ways you ask for help from your network?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Is Your Success Killing Your Creativity?

Innovative companies often grow rapidly, dazzling customers with creative ideas. The bottom line begins to reflect that success, and the organization’s teams receive a jolt of confidence.
Then, it happens.
The creativity starts to wane. The profits are less robust.
What’s going wrong?
Surprisingly, a new study reveals the problem may be self-confidence and growth.
Specifically, when teams become successful, they have a tendency to hang onto ideas that have worked in the past, repeating the actions that they have seen bring about success. They don’t explore new ideas or methods or tap into creativity that might lead to more innovations or breakthroughs.
“When you’re highly self-confident, you don’t pay much attention to evidence to the contrary,” says Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor Emeritus James G. March, who did the study with Andrew W. Marshall and Mie Augier of the Naval Postgraduate School.
The subject of the study, RAND Corp., is cited as an innovative company that grew from 225 employees with a $3.5 million annual budget in 1948 to 1,100 employees with a more than $20 million annual budget in 1962. Over time, employees started hanging around only with people they knew. By not mingling freely, they weren’t exposed to new ideas, researchers say.
At the same time, the research finds that RAND – like many other big organizations — felll into the habit of hiring those who conform to their conventional methods and don’t (read more here)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

How to Manage an Unlikable Employee

A previous post focused on how to make yourself more likable at work, but what about when you manage such a person-- and he or she has no inclination to become more likable?

This is a common headache for managers, who often deal with it by ignoring it. This avoidance of the issue leads the "unlikable" employee to become even more obnoxious or more withdrawn. The workplace atmosphere becomes more unpleasant, and pretty soon people are dusting off their resumes and looking for a new job.

Clearly, ignoring the problem isn't an effective strategy, so what's a manager to do?

First, start by observing the person's behavior so that you can grasp what he or she is specifically doing that others find off-putting. Maybe the employee is so shy she can't make eye contact in a meeting, or won't contribute any ideas in a brain-storming session. Or, perhaps the worker is always interrupting others, or belittles those who stress about deadlines.

Once you've got some specifics, then:

1. Meet with the employee privately. It's important that you clear some time to speak face-to-face with a worker, and avoid any distractions. This will lead to a better coaching session where the employee can see your commitment to his development.
2. Be concise. Don't ramble on about how the employee's behavior isn't appreciated by others and is causing problems. Instead, offer something like, "When Mary asked your opinion in the meeting, you mumbled something and kept your eyes on the table."
3. Spell it out. "I need you to be more collaborative," is pretty vague and may make the worker even more withdrawn or selfish. Offer some ideas: "The next time you don't have anything to say, look at Mary and say you'd like to think about it and get back to her," or "I want you to let someone finish a sentence without interrupting and then summarize what the person said before answering."

Often, employees aren't aware of how poor behavior can affect their career. Point out that promotions and big projects aren't given to those who don't communicate well or are not collaborative.

If an employee sees your coaching as a career development opportunity, then he or she will be more open to working on the issues.

Finally, make sure that you continue to monitor the behavior and follow-up with what the employee needs to improve -- and when you see things headed in the right direction.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why Every Employee Must Understand Digital Transformation

When you’ve been involved in business operations for more than four decades, you’ve learned a thing or two about strategies and how to put them in place.  A veteran shares his wisdom and best practices for digital transformation that makes sense – even for those outside IT.
Eric Clemons, a professor of operations, information and decisions for The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, often begins any advice he offers on digital transformation by couching it in terms of history.
So, if he’s asked about his opinions on digital transformation, he will talk about how he’s been in computing since the 1960s, and all the developments in technology he’s seen since then. Or, he may reach even further back and question how a caveman would react 12,000 years ago if someone told the early human about agriculture.
Um, surprised? Confused?
“Exactly!” he says.
That’s how those outside IT may think when they hear about digital transformation, he says. They may not understand it and perhaps are even a little afraid of what it means. Further, just like a caveman hearing about agriculture for the first time, they may not really understand the huge impact it will have on their lives, he adds.
Clemons emphasizes that the digital transformation taking place today isn’t just happening in a couple of departments of a business, but is completely overhauling the structure and strategy of an entire business.  While that may be an overwhelming thought for some organizations, Clemons says it doesn’t have to be as long as it’s broken down to a series of “manageable” steps and leaders realize that it isn’t so much about technology as it is information.
“Digital transformation is really a different way of thinking,” he says. “It’s just enabled by technology.”
A recent Strategy&’s analysis finds that 16 bellwether sectors, such as aviation and utilities, must not just embrace new and unexpected forms for digitization and technological innovation, but must also use them to reform their current business models. Change is coming quickly, but many business leaders and their organizations are unprepared for them, the analysis finds.
One of the ways that companies can begin to adopt transformation — and help their employees embrace it — is by having each one understand what it means to have the “right” customer, Clemons says.
For example, in the late 1980s, Citibank wanted to become (read more here)

Monday, December 7, 2015

6 Ways to Become More Likable at Work

No matter what anyone says, it's difficult to go into work every day if you feel like no one likes you.

It could be that you're quiet, and so it's difficult for you to strike up conversations or participate in discussions at lunch. Or, it may be that you have the problem of sticking your foot in your mouth, always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

There are a variety of reasons why you may have trouble getting along with colleagues, but as I said before, it's difficult and often emotionally painful to be the one who everyone seems to avoid.

There is an additional problem, as well. Not getting along with co-workers can really impede your chances of getting ahead at work. If you're not liked -- or at least respected -- it can hamper your ability to work on great projects, get a promotion or form important networks.

So, think about some ways you can form a better bond with colleagues, such as:

1. Making a peace offering. If you know you've offended someone by saying the wrong thing, then simply say "I'm sorry." If you're too shy to do that, or afraid you'll mess it up, try sending an email. Even better, drop a small gift at the person's desk, such as an coffee mug labeled with the person's favorite sports team.

2. Doing the smell test. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this uncomfortable topic. Often, you're unaware you have bad breath or body odor that is offensive. Maybe you don't wash your hair often enough, or your clothes smell musty and unpleasant. All things that can drive away colleagues very quickly. Sometimes even your friends or family members won't be honest, so consider going to a nice hair salon where you can get an unbiased opinion. Talk to your doctor or dentist, who may discover you have a health issue that is causing an unpleasant odor.

3. Smiling. There's really nothing more effective or easier to do if you're trying to win over colleagues than to just smile. Look them in the eye when you pass in the hallway and think of something that makes you happy. That way the smile will be genuine and not some fake facsimile that will creep people out. Smile when you see them first thing in the morning, and let it be the last thing you do before leaving work every day.

4. Sharing. If you make great brownies, bring some to work to share and post with a note: "Hey everyone...enjoy!" (Make sure you sign your name.) Or, if a client sends you a box of fruit for the holidays, share with your colleagues. Share an interesting article on the industry or share information on where you recently found really cheap gas.

5. Asking questions. Colleagues often steer away from those who can't shut up, who have an opinion about EVERYTHING or who are NEVER wrong. Tell yourself that every day you are going to ask at least three questions. It can be something like, "What did you do this weekend?" to "What's the most challenging thing you find about working with that new software?" to "What was the best presentation on this subject you've ever heard?"

6. Offering compliments. Put five dimes in your left pocket. Every time you offer a compliment to a colleague, switch a coin to the right pocket. After a few days, try 10 dimes. By the end of two weeks, you should be easily switching those coins to your right pocket every day.

What other tips can someone use to get along better with colleagues?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What Some Girls Scouts Can Teach You About Careers

Yesterday, I received an email that I want to share:

My Girl Scouts and I just wanted to take the time write you a little thank you note about your wonderful page, because it's been such a major help. My Girl Scout Troop is having a program to help empower young women and build confidence within themselves. Your page taught them a lot!

As another small token of our appreciation, we thought it would be nice send along a helpful resource that we came across. It's and it has some great information on the importance of women in sports.

If you decided to add it to your resources, I'd love to show my troopers that their suggestion was up and running to help other aspiring women achieve their goals. It would also serve as an amazing motivator for the girls to keep reaching out to help others. We do our absolute best to follow the ever popular slogan of 'Do a good turn daily.' :)

I will certainly add this to my resources page, but more important, I want to say how inspired I am by these young girls and their resourcefulness.

Often, I am asked for career advice. Many times it is the most basic stuff, such as "How do I write a resume?" 

Really? With the thousands and thousands of resources out there -- online, in libraries, free local job services -- I have to wonder if those asking for such basic advice are ready to even hold a job. 

Today, employers want people who can think on their feet. They want those who can come up with creative suggestions, solve problems and collaborate with others. Those who are still stuck in the "Can-someone-tell-me-what-to-do-because-I'm-too-lazy-to-do-it-for-myself" mode aren't going to get very far.

Take a lesson from these Girl Scouts. Do your homework. Be resourceful. Network.

And, oh a good turn daily.

That's the best recipe I know for career success.

Monday, November 30, 2015

6 Rules for Giving Gifts at Work

With Cyber Monday in full swing, it's bound to dawn on you sooner or later that you need to consider what -- if any -- gifts you will give co-workers or your boss.

This can be a tricky road to navigate, and some people get it so wrong that it causes a rift in the office for months to come. But those who get it right can not only feel good about what they've done, but also garner some goodwill among the cubicles.

So here are some rules to follow to keep yourself out of trouble and in the good graces of your colleagues:

1. Go with tradition. If gifts have always been given in your office, don't be the one whining that it's a dumb tradition and should be stopped. You'll always end up sounding like Scrooge, and co-workers will consider your selfish ways when thinking about whether to include you in the next big project.

2. Be honest about your finances. If you're a single working parent and have four kids to support, it's OK to say that you would appreciate a dollar limit of $10 to $15. Or, you might suggest a secret Santa system so that you only have to buy one gift.

3. Be discreet. If you plan to give gifts to only a few people in your office, do it in private so no one's feelings get hurt. Ask them to keep the news of the gift to themselves, so no one feels left out.

4. Give appropriate gifts. If you're close to a colleague, then you know she would enjoy a Star War's poster. But if you're not sure, stick with gifts that won't be offensive: books, music and gift certificates to a local coffee house or the movies. (When selecting books and music, stay away from anything profane, religious, raunchy or political.)

5. Do a group gift to the boss. While the boss may give you a gift, you should only give him or her a gift if it's from the entire office. You'll be seen as a suck-up if you give the boss a personal gift, and it can cause real resentment if the gift is more expensive than others he or she may receive.

6. Don't forget your assistant. This is the person who stays late to help you with a spreadsheet, makes sure you get the last flight out of Chicago for an important conference and brings you hot tea when you have a cold. A gift of about $25 is fine, unless it's a long-time assistant and then you should spring for more. This is the one person that you should never leave off your holiday gift list.

Finally, remember that if you receive a gift, always send a thank-you note. It doesn't have to be elaborate, but do show your appreciation for the holiday thoughtfulness.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Ken Blanchard: Why Collaboration Begins With You

Ken Blanchard’s “One Minute Manager” has sold more than 13 million copies and been translated into 37 languages, but the author of more than 30 other bestselling books believes there’s a new message that organizations need to get if they want to survive in today’s competitive environment: learn to collaborate.
“People who are too insecure or rigid to engage in collaboration will find themselves left behind. Everyone needs to recognize that ‘none of us is as smart as all of us,’” Blanchard says.
His new book, “Collaboration Begins With You: Be a Silo Buster,” with Jane Ripley and Eunice Parisi-Carew, stresses that everyone in an organization – from assistants to senior leaders – must promote and maintain a collaborative environment. Without the buy-in from every employee, Blanchard says that companies will struggle to grow and be successful.
Still, some employees and teams are more accustomed to working on projects without the involvement of other teams or departments. Transitioning to such a collaborative style isn’t always easy, such as IT suddenly being asked to partner with marketing or sales.
“Techies, like everyone else, need to realize collaboration is a journey,” Blanchard says.
That journey should include an effort to better understand others in your organization, such as every individual making an effort to connect with someone in another area, he says. For example, he suggests those in technology need to reach out more, such as “having lunch (read more here)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Research: Internal Moves Smarter Than Job Hopping

Job hopping has become more prevalent, especially as workers look for better paychecks and opportunities. But could you be making a mistake by leaving your current job, one that will hurt you financially and professionally in the long run?

New research from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania finds that workers who take advantage of different opportunities in their organizations not only get a pay raise with these moves, but they also receive greater responsibilities. This includes doubling the number of people they supervise and receiving a more advanced title.
While workers who job-hop to another company often get a pay raise, they don't tend to also garner a bigger job title or more responsibility. Instead, the job is pretty much the same as their old job, and they are supervising about the same number of people.

Researchers say that while employees receive pay boosts with an internal job move, an external move may not have as much potential.

"[W]hen you move across firms, you get a pay raise — maybe 20%, or something like that. But what happens is, your time until the next promotion [is often delayed], so the trade-off there is a little more complicated. It does suggest that internal moves are quite important in moving ahead in your career," says Matthew Bidwell, a management professor and one of the researchers.

Still, Bidwell says no one should believe that this means they shouldn't accept a job at another company. You just need to be aware that while you'll get a bigger paycheck, a promotion may be slower in coming.

"I get a bit nervous when people tell me about their career plans: 'I’m going to go to this job. There’s not a lot of head room, but I’ll get great experience and I’ll use that experience to get hired into a higher-level job somewhere else.' That turns out to be quite a hard transition to make," he says. "So find a job where there is a room to grow inside the organization. You may not want to stay at that organization forever, but a least get a rung or two up the ladder, enabling you to move out to a higher rung elsewhere. That seems like a smarter career strategy."

Recent research shows that while 83% of millennials admit that job hopping may not look so great on a resume to potential employers, 86% agree it won't stop them from pursuing their professional or personal passions. 

Even baby boomers have about 11 job between age 18 and 48, no longer believing they can stick with an employer for 30 years and then collect a pension and gold watch.

But based on this new research, it may be a good idea to consider whether you've really plumbed the possibilities at your current company before making a leap.

"It is those internal moves that lead to advances in pay, rank and responsibility, and provide long-term gains in pay and satisfaction,” Bidwell says.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How to Help Your Company Spot the Next Big Thing

If only there was really such a thing as spidey-sense.
The ability of Spider-Man to sense things about to go terribly wrong would be of great benefit to many businesses today. Teams would know to stay away from innovations that no one wants. Leaders would know the projects that are about to implode.
Unfortunately, such a thing doesn’t exist in the real world. Instead, teams and leaders must develop other ways to figure out what will work, and what won’t. That ability in today’s super-competitive marketplace may be the difference in thriving – or going off the cliff.
David Schatsky, business and technology trends research and strategy advisor and senior manager at Deloitte LLP, says that teams in any industry can learn to be smarter about spotting trends so that they can make better decisions now and in the future. The key, he says, is that they have to spend time looking outside their own department (read more here)

Monday, November 16, 2015

How to Never Be a Victim Again

Remember what 2008 felt like? And 2009?

Pretty grim years. Thousands of people lost their jobs, and didn't have the foggiest idea of where to turn.

Now, with unemployment at its lowest level in seven years (5.4%), those memories may be fading for many people.

Big mistake.

No one should ever forget what that felt like. The panic. The sleepless nights. The internal scolding of "Why didn't I network more?" "Why didn't I look for a new job sooner?" "Why didn't I keep my skills/certifications up-to-date?"

It's never a good idea to lull yourself into thinking that your job is safe or secure, because it's not. No one is safe from a layoff or immune from an industry suddenly hitting the skids.

So, repeat after me: "I will never let myself be complacent about my career. I won't ever be a victim again."

How do you do that?

1. Once a week reach out to someone in your network, either through LinkedIn, a phone call or email. Catch up on what the person is doing, such as the current challenges. Ask how you can help.

2. Learn something new. Take a free online course, sign up for a community college class or attend a seminar. Promise yourself you'll spend as much time learning about a new technology, for example, as you do playing fantasy football or reading about the Kardashians.

3. Play "what if." If you were to get fired today, what would you do? Do you have a resume ready? Do you have at least a handful of connections you could ask to help you? Are your skills up to date? Do you have a Plan B, such a a new career path?

4. Keep up with industry news, and understand the financial health of your own company. Be vigilant about trends in the industry that may signal a downturn, or hints within your company that it's financially struggling. Don't wait for the hammer to fall -- be proactive about searching for other opportunities before you lose your job. It's much more difficult to find a job when you're unemployed.

5. Up your game. Look around within your organization or industry and determine who is in a job you would like to have within three to five years. Look at the person's skills, education, background and connections. Are you on track to have those same qualifications so you can move into this job in a few years? If not, determine what you need to do and immediately take the steps to get there.

What other mistakes should be avoided in a career?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Why You Need to Be Ready to Change -- Quickly

One of the biggest challenges for organizations today is being able to make changes when and where they need to in order to survive. If they’re about as agile as a 90-year-old with arthritis, they’re not going to be in business much longer, as many defunct companies can now attest.
But how do companies quickly identify opportunities for growth, avoid potential threats and take advantage of a changing marketplace, all while trying to sustain quality day-to-day operations?
Amanda Setili, author of “The Agility Advantage: How to Identify and Act on Opportunities in a Fast-Changing World,” has worked with companies such as AT&T, Georgia-Pacific and UPS. She says through those interactions she has learned the keys to capitalizing on opportunities being created in the marketplace, and how to move the organization in that direction.
For example, companies wanting to be more agile must give employees the flexibility to respond to changes that they see, instead of just requiring them to stay within their job descriptions. If employees are given more leeway, then they are much more likely to notice changes earlier and react sooner and faster, she says.
In addition, organizations must also be able to ditch parts of their business that don’t fit in with a new direction and not get caught up in the sentimentality of doing things the way they’ve always been done. They’ve got to be willing to make decisions quickly, she says.
“Companies often get bogged down in indecision for months when assessing a potential change in strategy because they’re busy dealing with stakeholder objects and fretting over risks,” she says.
Setili says that becoming more agile often involves setting aside fears and concerns, and instead developing a strategy for staying ahead of the competition by being able to:
  • See what the competition cannot. There’s a reason that Amazon seems to jump so quickly on trends: They pay great attention to what customers are saying. Since the early days of the company, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos regularly reads customer emails. The customer focus that comes from the top has led Amazon to spot trends before the competition and to implement dozens of customer ideas.
If you’re only focused on the competition, then you’re not looking at trends and what the customer wants next. Setili suggests that if you want to be the first to respond to customers, then you need to spend more time with them. Employees need to be given the opportunity to get away from their work stations and go out into the field with customers (read more here)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How Your Oversharing is Hurting Your Career

All you have to do these days to know some of the most intimate details of someone's life is to check out Twitter or Facebook or read the person's blog.

Some people like to share -- a lot. That's OK if that's what they want to do, but the rules are different in the workplace.

The "transparency" and "authenticity" that someone may adopt online doesn't need to also be translated to the workplace -- and doing so can hurt careers.

For example, how many times has a co-worker shared the details (and I mean DETAILS) about the birth of a recent child? Or a colleague regaled you with the exploits of his recent hook-up with a former college girlfriend?

Not only is this kind of sharing inappropriate in the workplace, but it puts the boss in a bad position. The boss may be aware that co-workers don't want to hear this personal information -- but it also serves as a distraction that can hurt productivity.

At the same time, it can be difficult for some people to know when to curb their desire to be "approachable" by sharing personal details. Aren't we always told to be more open with other team members and be more likable by showing our own vulnerabilities and likes/dislikes?

Yes, it can be tough to navigate how much to share, and when to do it. Let's consider a few things about sharing in the workplace:

  • Scan the area. Look at those sitting within six to 10 feet of you at work. Chances are that if you share something personal with your mom on the phone or your bestie in the next cubicle, others will overhear. You haven't just shared something with one person, you've shared it with several colleagues. Do you really want to announce the results of you colonoscopy with 10 of your co-workers? Put another way, do THEY want you to share it?
  • Stick to the headlines. If you want to share news of your daughter's first date, provide the headline: "She went to the latest James Bond movie with a boy from her chemistry class." Colleagues don't need to know that she then came home drunk, threw up in the azalea bushes and you called the police on the boy passed out on your front lawn.
  • The reflection on your professionalism. Of course it's cute that your daughter had her first date, but you must be a lousy parent if the kid came home drunk with a loser boyfriend, your colleagues (and boss) may be thinking. Maybe that makes you a lousy employee, as well? The rule of the jungle applies here: It's not a good idea to expose a weakness, or you could be tomorrow's lunch.
  • Mitigate the drama. When you're going through a rough patch in your personal life, co-workers can provide real support. A boss can ensure you're getting benefits or other professional assistance. But don't go overboard and think that gives you free rein to unload drama every day. Remember that your teammates care about you, but they also have their own problems and challenges. Be aware that taking advantage of their concern isn't fair and may limit their tolerance for your problems in the future.
Finally, sharing with colleagues isn't wrong or even unprofessional. But think about the lines you should not cross -- and then don't cross them if you want to keep your career on track.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Science of Motivation

Lindsay McGregor says she understands why many companies have turned their corporate backs on the idea of investing in cultural changes touted to drive better employee engagement, productivity, innovation and collaboration.
“They just didn’t have anyone who could prove to them it worked,” she says. “They couldn’t go to the boardroom and say that you get better bottom-line results by changing the culture.”
That may all change with a new bestseller, “Primed to Perform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation,” by McGregor and Neel Doshi. In the book, the authors use data and science to show how and why employee motivation drives better results. They make motivation measurable, torpedoing any notion that great workplace cultures are anomalies, or based on fuzzy thinking.
In other words, you don’t have to try to copy Amazon or Apple, but can instead create a culture that fits best with your organization and spurs employees to innovate, experiment and adapt. (Doshi and McGregor have designed a Total Motivation Survey that helps determine the motivations behind work, the same survey they have administered to thousands of employees at 50 major companies.)
The bottom line: Why people work determines how well they work.
Specifically, the most important “whys” are play, purpose and potential. When an employee works for these reasons, then their performance is stronger and they execute better. But, when they work for emotional or economic reasons, then their performance is weakened.
“We may believe that anyone would do jumping jacks for a long time for $10,000. But in the long term, that doesn’t inspire anyone to keep it up,” McGregor says.
Research by Doshi and McGregor shows the road to what works – and what does not – when it comes to motivating workers to achieve better results includes:
  • Play. If an employee enjoys the work, then the work itself is the reward. At the heart of play are curiosity and experimentation, and people intrinsically enjoy learning and adapting. While some companies may think installing a foosball table is a way for employees to play, the key is that the motive must be fueled by the work itself. It’s not supposed to be a distraction.
  • Purpose. This is when (read more here)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Learning the Art of Business Conversations

One of the great things about social media is that it allows you to connect with people from around the world, giving you a chance to interact with someone you might not otherwise get to know.

But one of the unfortunate things is that some people hide behind social media and use it as an excuse to avoid actual human interaction. You know, that thing where you talk to someone, maybe even -- gasp -- have a conversation face-to-face!

I think part of the problem is that we've become so accustomed to texting and emailing and communicating through social media that we've lost a bit of our confidence when it comes to interacting with another person face-to-face. Or, it could be having such a conversation is a skill you've never fully developed, and so you just avoid it.

If so, you need to break the habit of hiding behind your keyboard or your phone. If you cannot learn to communicate in person in the business world, your career is going to suffer. There will come a time when you must be able to hold an in-person conversation, and your career may depend on how well you pull it off.

Afraid you will say the wrong thing or commit some other faux pas? Never fear -- the Emily Post people are here to rescue you and give you the confidence you need to have an adult conversation with anyone, whether it's your CEO or a colleague.

In "The Etiquette Advantage in Business," the authors suggest:

1. Learning the art of small talk. This is opening part of a conversation where you talk about topics such as recent blog posts you've read, pop culture, sports or the weather. Try to stay away from controversial topics such as politics, religion and sex. Not everyone may hold the same view as you, and you risk offending the other person. In a business setting, don't ask probing questions about someone else's family or financial situation, and don't offer too much detail about your own.

2. Not killing someone with boredom: Once you get past the small talk (it usually takes about five minutes), then you may get into topics such as new technology at your company. Remember, it's supposed to be a conversation, not a monologue. Pause occasionally to ask the person, "What do you think so far?" While you want to make eye contact and turn your body towards the other person to show interest, don't hammer your listener with opinions so that they feel you're being aggressive or condescending and just start to tune you out.

3. End on a good note. As your conversation comes to an end, give a brief wrap-up of any decisions made during the conversation so that you ensure there are no misunderstandings. End your conversation on a "social note" to show the conversation is ending. "It's been great speaking with you. And, you're right -- it should be an interesting basketball season!"

What are some other ways to have better business conversations?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Is the Sound of Your Voice Hurting Your Career?

You may be surprised the first time you hear your own recorded voice.
Who is that person who sounds like Daffy Duck? Why didn’t anyone ever tell you that your voice makes you sound like a third-grader? Is your voice really so high-pitched it’s a wonder dogs aren’t howling for miles around?
While everyone is taken a bit by surprise to hear his or her own voice, most people just shrug it off – or try to convince themselves they don’t sound that bad.
The problem is that your voice makes an impression on others, just as the clothes you wear or your body language convey a message about you. If you’re working with a remote team, the impact of your voice is even greater as others can’t can observe your body language or see your facial expressions.
“In the workplace…the quality of your voice can be a deciding factor in your degree of success,” says Leonard Mlodinow, author of “Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior.” “The pitch, timbre, volume, speed, and cadence of your voice, the speed with which you speak, and even the way you modulate pitch and loudness, are all hugely influential factors in how convincing you are, and how people judge your state of mind, and character.”
That’s why you can’t brush off the impression your voice makes on others. So, just as you put time into your professional dress, conduct and presentation skills, you need to devote more energy into improving your voice.
“Studies show that, just as people signal the basic emotions through facial expression, we also do it through voice,” Mlodinow says.
Here are some tips from vocal coaches on how to improve the sound of your voice to make a better impression on your team:
  • Speaking faster is better. The University of Michigan finds in a study that those who speak at a rate of about 3.5 words per second were much more successful at getting people to agree than those who talk very fast or very slow. Researchers find that people are more distrustful of those who speak too quickly, while those who talk too slowly are perceived as not too bright.
  • Control your pitch. Those whose voice pitch rises and falls too often aren’t seen as animated, but rather as fake and trying too hard, the study finds. Lisa B. Marshall, author of “Smart Talk: The Public Speaker’s Guide to Success in Every Situation,” says it’s not easy to change the natural pitch of your voice, but you can keep it as low as possible by taking slow, full, deep breaths and trying to keep any nervousness under control.
  • Lower your voice. Just listen to movie trailers and you’ll hear how often deep voices are used to convey messages. The Michigan study found (read more here)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

This May Be the Reason Your Team Doesn't Have Enough Good Ideas

It’s much more fun – not to mention a heck of a lot less stressful – to get along with your colleagues at work.  It’s even better when you’re friends with co-workers, because who doesn’t want to work with friends, right?
Well, according to a recent study, your company’s bottom line may not like these workplace friendships. Specifically, a study by Ryerson University published in the European Management Journal finds that despite past beliefs that “group cohesion” can only help a team’s performance, it can have a downside: groupthink.
If you’re not familiar with the term, groupthink is a term coined by research psychologist Irving Janis, and is often tied to poor decisions that arise out of teams or groups. The idea is that when ideas aren’t challenged – just simply embraced without debate – then it leads to a less-desirable outcome.
Sean Wise, professor of entrepreneurship at Ryerson, conducted a study that analyzed email communications for 187 teams from one company. Using digital data collection and social network analysis software, Wise found that while social connections boosted a team’s performance at first, too much cohesion eventually led to a diminished performance.
Being so friendly, he found, eventually hurt the team’s performance.
Ben Dattner, an industrial and organizational psychologist and adjunct professor at New York University, says that leaders may find groupthink leads to decisions that can have disastrous outcomes.
For example, President Kennedy’s subordinates used groupthink to jump to the conclusion that the U.S. should invade Cuba in 1961, because they knew it was what he wanted. After the invasion failed, Kennedy tasked his younger brother, Robert, to vigorously vet any decisions that were being considered by the Executive Committee of the National Security Council.
How can organizations and leaders ensure that teams get along – but don’t lapse into groupthink? Here are some tips from experts:
  1. Plan for it. Art Petty, founder and principal of the Art Petty Group, says any risk plan should include a way to monitor and reduce emerging groupthink.  It doesn’t mean you think the group will fail – but that it’s preferable to tackle the problem head on rather than ignore it.
  2. Encourage debate. As Dattner mentions, Kennedy learned that getting his own way with no debate might feel good for a short time – but the end result can be terrible. Leaders need to speak up and let team members know why it’s so important that ideas and opinions be challenged. “Within businesses and governments, happy talk is common, but it can be countered with some version of, ‘Now tell me (read more here)

Illustration: Poponomics