Friday, January 30, 2015

Why It's Your Fault You're Out of the Loop at Work

Take a look at comments posted on workplace blogs or on social media sites, and it won’t be long before you find an employee complaining that they’re often left out of the loop regarding business decisions.
These employees complain that their boss doesn’t keep them informed of strategic business decisions, what’s in the pipeline for the next year or even how their work is part of the bigger picture. Senior leaders are even worse, they contend.
It’s a frustration Mike Figliuolo has heard before, and he has a simple response: “That’s crap.”
Figliuolo, managing director of thoughtLEADERSLLC, says that employees who complain that they don’t know what is going on within their company simply aren’t trying hard enough.
“If anything, it’s easier than ever,” he says. “Just look at your company’s organizational chart and find someone about two levels above you. Send that person an email and ask them to send you their department’s latest strategic plan.”
With that information, you’ll be able to see what’s going on and then be able to ask additional questions to determine how you or your department are affected by pending plans or possibly involved in a new initiative.
“It’s just pure laziness to sit back and say, ‘I’m not being included,’” he says. ““If you can’t take the initiative then sure, you’re going to sit at the kid’s table and eat chicken nuggets.”
An inclusive culture
Zappos is a company known for being transparent with workers. Employees not only receive detailed information about the company’s performance, but are encouraged to share information about the company. CEO Tony Hsieh often shares company news via Twitter and Facebook, even announcing the layoff of 124 workers in 2008 via Twitter.
Some employees may conclude that since they don’t work for a company like Zappos, they’re forever doomed to sit at the kid’s table because their company’s culture is different. But Figliuolo argues that many employees simply have never “reached out” to try and become better informed, and “they just expect management to spoon feed them.”
But if you’re an employee ready to become a strategic influence at your company, then Figliuolo suggests:
  • Stepping into someone else’s shoes. Instead of looking at an issue only from your perspective, try thinking of it from the position of someone in another department. For example, maybe you’re an expert on the minutia of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. But “that’s not going to get you invited to the table,” he says. The key is understanding how Sarbanes-Oxley is going to impact the CIO and plans for future development in that department. If you can explain that Sarbanes-Oxley is going to impede those plans, then (read more here)

Monday, January 26, 2015

How to Get Out of Work You Don't Want to Do

We all have tasks as work we'd rather avoid, but usually we just suck it up and get them over with as quickly as possible.

But is there a way to get out of doing work you really don't want to do? What if you always get stuck with jobs that don't stretch your skills or provide you any new opportunities? Or, you're always getting the drudge work because you're the youngest member of a team?

Is there a way to say "no" without killing your career?

The answer lies in how you approach your manager.

Instead of saying, for example, "You know, it's not fair that I get stuck doing these stupid reports every week that a monkey could do," you say something like, "I'd be happy to do the reports, but I'd also really like an opportunity to sit in on the next meeting with the marketing department so I can better grasp our new social media strategy."

Another way to get out of doing dreaded tasks is by networking more with other departments and colleagues so that you're not the last to know of new projects that could provide some new opportunities. If you learn of them early, you're ready to stick your hand up and volunteer, and even propose some new ideas. If you're busy with more strategically important work, it's less likely you're going to get saddled with mundane tasks.

Of course, you're going to have to tread carefully when you're trying to get out of hated tasks, because that means someone else will have to do them. While that person may not despise them as much as you, you don't want to be seen as someone who shoves off unwanted tasks to greedily grasp better assignments.

That's why it can pay off that when you're networking within your organization, make sure you reach out to senior members of a team who are well respected by others. If you're seen as someone who wants to learn -- and not just whine about the lack of opportunities -- then these senior workers are more likely to include you in helping with key projects or clients. It may start as nothing more than taking notes during a meeting or helping at a conference, but your hard work can impress them enough to get your on their radar for future opportunities.

Remember: The only way to grow in your job is to make a plan and then plot a strategy on how to reach your goal. Be willing to do your homework, reach out to key people -- and don't get discouraged if you get a few "no" responses. Your persistence and resilience in the face of rejection may impress others enough that you'll soon be saying goodbye to those hated tasks.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Real Reason You Aren't More Productive

Rory Vaden wants you to forget everything you know about time management, because it’s probably wrong.
He wants you to ignore the advice on doing the most difficult tasks first every day, or the rule about answering emails during certain time periods. Those kind of activities are simply muddying the waters when you’re searching for a way to be more productive with the time you have, he contends.
The key to truly focusing on what matters comes from understanding the emotions that get in our way and prevent us from maximizing our time, he says.
“There is no such thing as time management, there is only self-management,” he says. “Time continues on regardless of what we do, so all we can do is decide what we will be spending our time doing or not doing for that day.”
For example, guilt or fear may prompt us to tackle certain tasks or projects that really don’t help us be more productive. Even chronic overachieves can make poor decisions about how they use their time, participating in what Vaden calls “priority dilution.”
“While priority dilution has nothing to do with laziness, apathy or being disengaged (like traditional procrastination) it nets the same result: a delay of the day’s most important activities because your attention shifts to less important, but perhaps seemingly more urgent, tasks,” he explains. “You are trading your to-do list for emergencies.”
Vaden, author of “Procrastinate on Purpose” says that the most successful people, who he calls “multipliers,” have learned to manage the emotions often tied to how we use our time. The key, he explains, is that multipliers ask themselves: “What are the things that I could do today that would free up more time tomorrow?”
“They get outside of their to-do list of short-term priorities and they realize that the real key to creating more margin in their life isn’t about working faster, or somehow ‘prioritizing’ better; it’s about learning to think differently,” he says.
In his book, Vaden provides five “permissions” that he says will help you make better use of your time and become a multiplier:
1. Eliminate. Vaden notes that those wanting to achieve success will always look at what they need to add to their lives, but they actually need to ask themselves: “What are all the things that I can eliminate?” Start considering the significance of what you do, instead of the volume of tasks you complete. He notes that many people avoid eliminating anything because they’re emotionally unable to say “no.” But when you’re able to say “no,” then you will be able to spend more time with your family or working toward your dreams, he says.
2. Automate. Those who balk at automation of certain tasks (see more here)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

How to Stay Focused in an Open Office

There are a lot of complaints these days about open concept offices.
Workers complain there are too many distractions, they’re so loud you cannot hear yourself think and everyone is in everyone else’s business.
But organizations like the idea of workers being close enough to one another to collaborate easily or come together for quick brainstorming.
I’ve been working in open concept offices since the beginning of my career decades ago. Of course, then they were just called newsrooms. You often were packed so tightly into a space you could literally reach out and touch three other people. The police scanner was blasted out of the overhead sound system so that no one missed an important development. In addition, editors were known to throw objects (tennis balls, pens) at reporters across the room if they couldn’t get their attention by yelling at them.
People were on the phone all the time, and when they weren’t on the phone, they were clacking away on computers.
Noise? It was unbelievable. And I loved it.
That’s not to say that it was always easy to get work done. Sometimes I’d be deep in thought writing a story and the fire department scanner would start screaming with alarms as firefighters rushed to a fire. Or, a frustrated reporter would curse loudly and throw a phone after having difficulty with a source on the other end.
As I said, it wasn’t always easy but I didn’t know any other way of working.
Now, of course, many people face the same situation and find they’re frustrated and annoyed by such working conditions.
So, I’d like to share some tips on how to make such a workspace not only bearable, but something you might come to enjoy. Here are some things to think about:
  • Be honest. Here is the thing about journalists: They say what’s on their minds. They’re always on deadline, and don’t have time to dither around when there is an issue. So, when the reporter next to me brought in Chinese garlic chicken and ate it at his desk, I told him, “That smells terrible. Can you not eat that kind of thing in here anymore? I can’t write when my eyes are watering.” I didn’t complain when he ate a ham sandwich, so he knew I wasn’t being a prima donna – the garlic chicken was the problem, not him.
  • Stop blaming other people for distractions. You’re never going to get anything done if your head is doing a Linda Blair spin every time someone walks by your chair. If you’re constantly being distracted, sometimes it’s because you’re looking for that excuse. When you’re focused on your work, noise isn’t going to bother you because you’re in the zone. The more you practice it, the better you’ll get at it, I promise. I have been able to write an 800-word story in 25 minutes with two reporters passing a football back and forth over my head.
  • Find your hideout. As much as I loved the energy of a newsroom, I also knew there were times when I needed to quiet myself so that I could think of a creative way to write a story or interview a difficult source. I knew the quiet areas I could go within a newspaper building that I was within reach of my bosses, but also could find some quiet space. Conference rooms may work, but you’re also likely to be interrupted. I found that stairwells, a reception area outside human resources and even the office of someone on vacation worked well (always get permission first.)
  • Learn to laugh it off. We had a man in our newsroom who was losing his hearing, so when he talked on the phone you could hear him in the next county. But you know what? He was one of us. He was doing his job, so we all just sort of learned to laugh and forget about it. People talk too loudly on the phone. You probably talk too loudly on the phone and everyone is sick of hearing you talk to your mother or your boyfriend or your bookie. So the next time you get annoyed that someone is talking too loud, put on your headphones or learn to ignore it. Better yet, learn to laugh about our human foibles and go back to work – or intercept the football sailing over your head.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Key to Feeling Less Overwhelmed

One of the solutions being touted more and more as a solution to the emotional and physical overload many of us experience is mindfulness. But is mindfulness the answer? Or is it just the latest fad that you don’t have the time or inclination to try?
Scott Eblin, an executive coach and speaker, says he understands the skepticism many feel when they’re told they will be happier and less stressed if they’re more “mindful” in their lives. But as someone who has practiced mindfulness for 20 years and credits it with saving his life after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Eblin believes that mindfulness can help anyone improve their quality of life.
“Most people are very happy to learn that mindfulness is not nearly as complicated as they thought. You don’t have to meditate all day or do yoga every day,” he says.
Eblin says the need for mindfulness is greater than ever, as the declining economy several years ago put more pressure on workers to take on more work – and do it with less resources.
“We still seem to be in that crisis mode, even though things have improved,” Eblin says. “And whatever boundaries we’ve had have been erased by the smartphone.”
Enough, already
Let’s say your day started with your daughter forgetting her science project for school, forcing you to turn around and go get it. This caused you to be late to work and an important meeting, ticking off the boss. By 10 a.m. you had 200 emails in your inbox and three more meetings to attend.
If such a scenario sounds familiar, Eblin says the first thing you need to do is breathe.
In his book, “Overworked and Overwhelmed,” Eblin points out that there is scientific evidence that breathing deep from your belly can alleviate your stress and help you become more focused. That’s why he calls breathing “the killer app of mental routines.”
Focusing on your breathing, Eblin explains, is the simplest form of mindfulness. If a thought crosses your mind while focusing on your breathing (“I have to answer 200 emails!”) just acknowledge that thought and let it go while you again refocus on your breathing, he explains.
“Think of it like doing reps at a gym,” he explains. “Within reason, the more you do, the stronger you get. Mindful breathing is like a workout for your brain.”
In the book, Eblin offers several ways that you can use mental routines to overcome various sources of stress and become more productive with your thinking. He suggests you:
  • Focus on learning. Don’t let your thought processes get caught up in remorse or regret for mistakes you’ve made, or things you could have done differently. No one is perfect, and you will make mistakes and have regrets. Instead, ask yourself questions about what was supposed to happen, what actually happened and (read more here)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

How Successful People Overcome Failure

There are several things in your career that are fairly well guaranteed:  At some point you will work  for an idiot; you will be convinced human resources is populated by Death Eaters; and you will experience failure.
While an idiot boss and the followers of Lord Voldemort can be worrisome, it will be failure that will truly test your path toward greatness.
That’s why it can be helpful to look at how the truly successful view their failures and overcame them:
  • Learn from criticism. Best-selling author John Grisham had “The Firm” rejected by 28 publishers before being accepted by unknown publisher Wynwood Press, which printed 5,000 copies in 1989. The book later sat on top of the New York Times’ bestseller list for 47 weeks and was the bestselling novel of 1991. But to this day Grisham will often throw away many efforts when penning another book. “When my wife or my agent mark my stuff up, I want to punch them in the nose. But the problem is, usually they’re right,” Grisham said.
  • Keep hope alive. Musician Jewel lived in her car and went hungry while traveling around the country doing small gigs. “It was really hard for me to ever think that I was special when I was homeless,” she said. “But people helped me. They didn’t know me. They didn’t owe me anything. They would just give me food. They’d give me $5 for food. That not only helped feed me but it gave me hope.” Frank Winfield Woolworth, founder of the retail chain, was told by his dry-goods store manager that “he didn’t have enough common sense to serve customers.” Noted Woolworth: “Dreams never hurt anybody if he keeps working right behind the dream to make as much of it come real as he can.”
  • Never stop growing. Soichoro Honda was rejected as an engineer for Toyota Motor Corp. Without work, he started making scooters in his own (read more here)