Thursday, April 30, 2015

How to Hire More Innovative Thinkers

Edward D. Hess, author of “Learn or Die,” is interviewed by Anita Bruzzese about how individuals and organizations can change their attitudes and practices to embrace more critical and innovative thinking. He discusses a roadmap into how companies can use science to build leading-edge learning organizations.
AB: You note in the book that becoming a learner – whether it’s as an individual or an organization – is much more complicated than just learning to think better and make better decisions. Can you explain?
EH: Many people focus on learning just from a “thinking” viewpoint. The science of learning clearly shows that learning is both a cognitive and an emotional process. Our emotions are intertwined in every part of how we think.
For example, positive emotions broaden our thinking while negative emotions narrow our thinking. Being in a positive mood or feeling psychology safe in the learning environment increases the likelihood of learning. Business cultures of fear generally inhibit learning.
AB:  There’s been a lot of criticism that some employers will only hire those who exactly fit a job description and don’t hire for potential. Can you address how employers can hire those who, as you say, “love to learn” and the benefit of doing such a thing?
EH: There are two basic business models for growing a business organically – operational excellence and innovation. Both require learning. So, hiring people who have a predisposition to learning would seem like a good idea. Some questions to ask during an interview include:
What are you curious about?
What Internet sites do you like to visit? Why?
How do you feel about mistakes?
What do you want to learn in this job?
What was the biggest mistake you ever made? What did you learn?
AB: Let’s talk about current workers for a moment. What is the benefit of turning those with a “fixed learning mindset” into those with a “growth mindset”? And how difficult is that to do?
EH: What inhibits many is that they don’t really know how (read more here)

Monday, April 27, 2015

4 Pitfalls of Workplace Friendships -- and How to Fix Them

Most of us develop friendships at work, but sometimes these relationships go off the rails.

When that happens, it's often a slippery slope because having a disagreement with a friend at work can cause you professional problems, as well.

Andrea Bonior, a licensed psychologist, offers some potential friendship pitfalls and how to deal with them in her book, "Friendship Fix." Among her tips:

1. Your friend is using something in your personal life against you at work. "Privately convey to your 'friend' that you would appreciate it if she refrained from spreading around your personal business, and if push comes to shove, declare to whoever else is involved that you think the discussion to be inappropriate," Bonior suggests. At the same, be prepared to stand up for yourself and prove the colleague wrong by turning in a top-notch performance every day. "There's a good chance that your coworker might end up looking petty and untrustworthy if their information is irrelevant to your professional image," she adds.

2.  Your friend gets fired or laid off, and is now royally ticked at the company. This is certainly tricky because you still have a job and want to keep it, but you also want to be a supportive friend. "Keep in contact with him through lunches or phone calls outside of work, but try not to let his venom give you survivor's guilt: you can feel sorry for him as a friend, but you still need a paycheck," Bonior counsels. "Be patient listening to his woes without letting him force you to berate your company."

3. Your friend is trying to get you to join her crusade against something at work. The breakroom kitchen needs a new microwave! The boss is unfair and should be reported to HR! Whatever the cause, your friend is leading the charge and she wants you to get involved -- but you don't want to do it. Bonior advises you to gently tell your colleague/friend that you're not comfortable signing on, and "I know my unease with it would do more harm than good."

4. Your friend never met a charity she didn't like. It's a fact of life that you're going to get hit up for a charitable cause at work, but it can get to be a problem when it's your friend who is always coming to you for a contribution. Say "no, thank you," with a smile and a "graceful change of subject" as many times as necessary, Bonior says.

Any other colleague/friendship questions you've faced on the job?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How to Grow Your Business and Not Burn Out

Scaling a business can be thrilling and exhilarating – but it also can be exhausting.
It’s not unusual to hear those in the midst of growing a department, division or small business talk about how they’re working 60 to 80 hours a week, rarely seeing their friends or families. They may even admit they’re not sure they’ve brushed their teeth in the last week.
When reaching this point, alarms should begin to sound. Not just because no one can keep up such a pace, but because it means the person is actually hurting the business instead of helping it. Growth will actually stall instead of accelerating when one person is putting too much into scaling efforts, claim authors of a new book, “Scale: Seven Proven Principles to Grow Your Business and Get Your Life Back.
Authors Jeff Hoffman and David Finkel say that when one person is trying to do it all, then quality suffers.
“We kind of get into this mindset that no one could do this as well as I can,” Finkel explains. “So you end up partially doing a lot. But then you reach a point where you can’t give everything all of your attention and you start to take shortcuts.”
Another problem is that the manager or business owner who won’t let go of any of the work is seen as a micromanager, damaging the morale and productivity of other team members. Finkel adds that while you may believe you can add value to a particular scaling idea or process, the reality is that “your two cents worth might make the job 10% better, but you lose 50% of the buy-in from others.”
“We often overvalue our own ideas. Let other people do it their way. It may be different, it might not,” he says.
The authors also stress that a business owner or manager who is trying to scale a business alone will soon find it’s a formula for disaster. To illustrate the point, they say you should ask yourself this question: “If you were hit by a bus tomorrow (or otherwise incapacitated), what would happen to your business?”
They say that in a survey of more than 1,000 business owners over the last five years, they found the average business owner’s enterprise would fail in 30 days.
Of course, some people balk at even thinking about their own vulnerability, Finkel says. Then, they begin to worry that they must be indispensable or they will be replaced. Finkel explains that once they understand that creating a stable organization will protect their position, not eliminate it, they begin to see how the Lone Ranger attitude is harmful – to them and to others.

7 Principles of Scaling a Business without Working Long Hours

Hoffman, former CEO of the family of companies and Finkel, CEO of Maui Mastermind, have both successfully scaled their businesses. They say the way to scale a business without working longer hours means following seven principles:
  1. Build a business, not a job. Remember the “hit by a bus” lesson? If you want a life, you’ve got to reduce your business’s reliance on you (see more here)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

5 Ways That Bosses Drive Away Employees

A recent survey finds that about half of employees quit their jobs to get away from bad bosses.

Count me as one of them. I've quit two jobs in my career because I believed the bosses were actually hurting my ability to do my job. I don't think these bosses (one was a man, the other a woman) were horrible people -- they were just horrible managers.

In the Gallup survey, the 7,200 people polled wanted more communication from their managers. They wanted regular interactions with their bosses -- they wanted someone who cared about them as people with their own hopes and dreams. That kind of communication led to greater trust and engagement, the study found.

So what are some other things that make employees want to run from managers? Here's a short list -- feel free to chime in with your own suggestions.

Bad bosses:

1. Play favorites. There is no level playing field with bad managers. They don't have any impartial system in place for handing out promotions, big projects or even parking spaces.

2. Send emails at 2 a.m. Bosses who communicate this way make employees feel they're never away from the job and compel others to be just as obnoxious. Vacations?  Sick? No matter. You're going to get emails so that you always feel like you're being monitored.

3.Focus on weaknesses. Your performance review makes you feel angry or depressed. Your every flaw seems to be documented by the NSA, while the good things you've done barely rate a passing mention. A performance evaluation should be well-balanced and any feedback throughout the year should also point out what you're doing right.

4. Are secretive. Bosses who hide behind their desks and don't share industry news, company changes or the business strategy are being petty and selfish. While they certainly can't share some information, employees who feel they're working in the dark will soon seek the light -- and find another job.

5. Are inflexible. Employees are asked to work erratic hours to keep up with international demands or scheduling changes, yet these bosses balk any time a worker needs to work from home or leave early to take care of a family issue. Bosses who won't deal with workers and their needs individually are using a double standard that is unfair and short-sighted.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tell Your Boss Not to be Afraid of Failure

Success today often depends on being innovative and testing boundaries, but with that comes the risk of failure. While failure can certainly be an important part of the learning process, it also can bog down projects or processes.
But what if there was a roadmap that used best practices and research to show how to embrace failure better and faster? Would that be a key to competitive advantage?
A new book, “Fail Better,” by Anjali Sastry and Kara Penn aims to show organizations and leaders how to create the conditions, culture and habits to “systemically, ruthlessly, and quickly figure out what works.”
Penn says that the “fail better method” is “is the first repeatable approach that helps managers, team leaders, anyone really—design work to allow for the greatest level of experimentation, risk and learning.”
That is done, she explains, by focusing on three areas:
  1. Launch. The book points out that you don’t want to over plan and set things in stone at this stage. A project should be considered in context, while anticipating outcomes as tied to a series of logical assumptions. This is the time to pull together resources and look at the skills and capabilities each person on a team can bring to the table.
  2. Build and refine. As the project starts to move forward, don’t think of it as a huge beast headed toward a desired outcome. Instead, chunk the work “in such a way that actions elicit critical information that can inform next steps, and that allows for uncovering flaws in thinking and action early on in the process,” Penn says. “When actions are chunked for iteration, teams can build in more calculated risks – allowing for (read more here)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Emotion Can Spur Greater Team Performance

In a recent survey, 46% of employees report they’d prefer to do anything else than sit in a team meeting, with 17% reporting they would be willing to watch paint dry and 8% saying they’d be willing to endure a root canal.
That level of dislike is a wake-up call for managers who need teams to be engaged and positive when they’re together – not  grumpy, bored and frustrated.

But how do managers inspire the right kind of emotions in team members so that it drives high-level performances?
Jackie Barretta (pictured), author of “Primal Teams: Harnessing the Power of Emotions to Fuel Extraordinary Performance,” says research by neuroscientists on emotional systems shows that there are a number of ways that managers can jump start enthusiasm, innovation and productivity within teams.
For example, the opportunity to experience something new “jazzes people,” she explains.
Of course, that might be easy in a high-tech industry that offers continual challenges, but what about the warehouse worker who deals with the same widgets every day? In that case, Barrettasuggests periodically shifting responsibilities among workers. The forklift worker might switch with the shipping and receiving worker for a time, she explains.
Another way to maintain enthusiasm in a team involves using a “creative cycle” to organize work. She suggests that the movie industry provides a great example of how to do this as they come together to envision a blockbuster, then create it in about a year and disband when it’s done.
If you have teams that are getting bored by constantly meeting to make minor tweaks to a product, for example, you can try rotating new people in and out so that bored team members are exposed to more exciting work every once in a while. The new people brought into the team find the work novel, and that way employees stay more engaged because the leader is “looking at the work in terms of phases and cycles and adding variation to the equation,” she explains.
Another idea is incorporating play into a team’s routine. While workplaces such as Apple have been  playing games like office Nerfball since the 1970s and find the playful atmosphere sparks greater creativity, not all companies have successfully done the same. The problem, Barretta explains, is that leaders try to turn the work into play such as offering a week off to the person who first discovers a solution to a customer problem. That strategy (read more here)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Science Shows Us How to Perform Under Pressure

There is no shortage of inspiring messages about how you must learn to rise above the occasion and show your brilliance under pressure if you want to be successful.
When we think of people who epitomize such messages, those who come to mind are often sports superstars like Michael Jordan. How many times did he pull out a game-winner at the buzzer?
But whether the rest of us mere mortals can do the same when we’re under pressure is the subject of a new book, “Performing Under Pressure: The Science of Doing Your Best When it Matters Most,” by Hendrie Weisinger and J.P. Pawliw-Fry.
“The biggest fallacy about performing under pressure is that you have to try harder,” Weisinger says. “But Tom Brady doesn’t have to rise to the occasion.”
In other words, it’s just another day at the office for the New England Patriot’s quarterback when he plays in the Super Bowl. There’s no pressure for him because he’s just doing what he normally does after decades of practice. There’s no need for him to be nervous because he knows he is capable of performing in that situation, Weisinger says.
To translate that into the everyday worker’s life, someone moving into a new job shouldn’t think, “Oh, now I’ve got the job, so now I need to perform,” Weisinger says. “You’ve already proved yourself. Just continue to do what you’re doing.”
Weisinger points out that research reveals that “no one performs better under pressure” and pressure undermines performance even in elite athletes and executives.
The key, he says, is that we can learn to perform up to the level of our ability(read the rest here)

Monday, April 6, 2015

Never Forget That You're Always Expendable

The March unemployment report wasn't as rosy as was expected as employers only added 126,000 jobs.

But no one appears to be panicking, as the unemployment rate remains at 5.5%, and some economists dismiss the lackluster hiring as simply a result of bad winter weather.

Still, this is no time to get overconfident. Actually, you should never be overconfident where your job is concerned, If the last several years have taught us nothing else, it should be that we must manage our careers daily -- not just when the economy tanks and we fear a layoff.

Here's a list of things you should be doing:

1. Instead of just posting a story link or a picture of a dancing elephant on your social network, engage in conversations. Interact with key industry people via Twitter or Facebook, commenting on their links or asking their opinion. Having 12,000 Twitter follower does you little good if they don't see you as a real human being. When you need help finding a job, it's those personal connections that matter the most.

2. Add to your network with a phone call. Don't just rely on LinkedIn to add to your connections. Schedule a time to chat with an existing contact, or follow up with a phone call to someone you recently met at a conference or meeting. Keep the conversation short but memorable. For example, maybe you can pass on some information that the other person will find helpful or introduce them to another contact.

3. Continue to increase your knowledge by listening to podcasts, attending webinars or carving out time to read a new leadership book. Put money aside every month so that you can attend an industry conference, or approach your boss about getting some cross-training.

4. Look at your present position and plot where you would like to be in three to five years. Who now occupies that job? What do you lack in education or experience that could hold you back from that position? Think about how and when you can increase your skills and knowledge to be ready for that job in several years.

5. Take a hard look at your company and your industry. Will they survive the next five to 10 years? Are there enough doubts or warning signs that you need to go back to school immediately? Can you get some training in other jobs that are more likely to be around in a decade? Do you know the right people to help you if your job is eliminated for some reason?

While you may think you're too busy to take on any or all of these tasks, think of the alternative. Ask anyone who was out of a job in the last several years and they will tell you they wish they had taken the time to make more connections, build their skills or be aware their industry was headed for trouble.

Thursday, April 2, 2015