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?