Wednesday, January 27, 2016

CEO Says It's Important to Be Paranoid

Ever heard of Kronites?
Your first guess might be that they’re part of the new Star Wars movie. But if you’re dealing with employee management on a regular basis, you might know the right answer: Kronites are the people who keep Kronos, a worldwide workforce management cloud solution company, running.
At the helm of Kronos is Aron Ain, the CEO of the $1 billion enterprise that has tripled its profitability since 2005 and has 20 million to 35 million users every day. It has moved from zero cloud customers in 2005 to some 16,000 customers in 2015.
While it certainly sounds impressive, Ain says he keeps it in perspective by reminding himself that “we’re not working in the ER (emergency room).”
That’s a lesson he says he learned in his early days as CEO.
“Since I’d always reported to someone else, early on I looked for permission too often before moving forward with a decision. The lightbulb went off when I understood that there was no one to ask and that the decision lies with me to act and move the company forward,” he says. “None of the decisions were life or death.”
That doesn’t mean that Ain and his Kronites aren’t pushing the envelope. With customers in more than 100 countries, the company knows the competition is growing and it can’t afford to rest on its laurels.
For Ain, who has worked in nearly every functional department since he started in 1979, the toughest challenge comes “when it’s clear that something isn’t working,” he says.
He says that he’s learned that as a leader he must identify issues or programs “falling off the track fast” and then quickly rectify the problem.” You have to lead and take action as most problems do not work themselves out. Not doing something puts the company, its customers, and employees at risk, so as a CEO you have to be action-oriented. There’s really no other way,” he says.
Another key part of his job is making sure he’s got the right people in place who believe in the company and its mission, especially when it comes to driving change.
“You have to communicate in an open, clear, and transparent manner. Team members can tell when you are being straight with them,” he says, while admitting that it isn’t always easy to get everyone to adopt such transparency.
“It takes lots of reinforcement, leading by example, and encouraging the behaviors that support this kind of environment. When you get this right, the outcomes are magical and almost any challenge can be solved,” he says. “I love it when I see a leader (read more here)

Monday, January 25, 2016

6 Steps for Getting an Internship

When it's cold and miserable outside  and there are 80% off sales on Christmas decorations, it's often difficult to think about spring, let alone summer.

But if you want a summer internship this year, you need to get busy -- right now.

Companies often get the bulk of applications between February and April, so there is no time to waste if you want a chance to land an internship.

Here's what you need to do:

1. Do your homework. Research employers and industries that interest you. Look at the LinkedIn profiles of people with jobs you would love to have -- then look at the internships or jobs they've held. This will help you make a list of the skills, industries and companies that you believe will be a good fit. Otherwise, you'll be overwhelmed with the process and end up applying with less and less enthusiasm -- and employers can detect that a mile away.

2. Tap into available resources. There is no sense reinventing the wheel when your school's career center has counselors and information to help you fill out applications and provide advice. Don't pass up the opportunity to also tap into the school's alumni network.

3. Reinvent the wheel. OK, this may be confusing based on what I wrote above. But, those who show initiative and resourcefulness often will succeed. I know several college students who have stopped by a company and personally handed in their resumes or even cold called the internship coordinator. The result was that the coordinators saw potential, and rather than wade through hundreds of applications, they made the easy decision to hire the person who had the chutzpah to make a personal connection.

4. Be persistent. Let me clarify: Be persistent, not obnoxious. Don't call the recruiter every day and ask, "Have you made a decision yet?" But, you can contact the recruiter once a week with a message such as, "I just saw this amazing article on industry trends and thought you might find it interesting." That way, you distinguish yourself as someone who is thinking more about the company and the industry rather than the next kegger. You also can send updates (that are relevant) to the recruiter, such as writing an article for a campus journal on a subject of interest.

5. Prepare. Once you land an internship interview, it's time to do even more homework.  Read the company's website, learning the names of executives and key information. Learn the company's mission statement so you can use similar language with your interviewer. Then, prepare questions for the interviewer -- never sit there mutely or only ask about days off.

6. Follow up. After the interview, send a note thanking the interviewer for his or her time. Mention how you're enthusiastic about the job and look forward to the opportunity.

Remember that applying for an internship and going through the process is never a waste of time, even if you don't get it. All these steps will be important in your job search, and the more practice you have, the better you will do.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Is Your Phone Hurting Your Career?

Are you being held hostage by your phone? Is it preventing you from being successful in your career?

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review notes research findings that say Millennials become anxious when not around their smartphones. Personal experience tells me they're not alone -- I recently went on a cruise and people of all ages were having trouble being disconnected while at sea.

Why the anxiety?
"In my personal experience, mindlessly relying on my phone and computer has been a useful, albeit insidious, way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings," writes Charlotte Liebermana New York-based writer and editor in the HBR article.

I think she's onto something, and I want to explore this further as it relates to careers.

In my job as a journalist, I get to interview a lot of people about a variety of career and workplace issues, and one issue that keeps popping up is the lack of one-on-one connections. It's this lack of personal communications that prevents people from rising in the ranks, creating loyal, professional connections and even from landing big clients.

I know that phones are helpful for a variety of workplace issues, but let's look at when you need to avoid them on the job:

  • When you're unhappy. If you're having difficulty getting along with a colleague or you get nervous around the boss, don't reach for your phone as a way to erect a barrier. Think about what's really going wrong. If your colleague is taking all the credit for a project you helped to build, then that's something that you need to address face-to-face. If your boss makes you nervous, don't hide behind your phone to avoid talking with him or her. The only way that situation is going to improve is by working on your communication skills.
  • When you're talking to a client. Never have your phone in your hand or on your desk when you're with a client. You should only be looking at your phone if you need to schedule something with the client or look up information. Anytime you have a phone nearby, you're telling the client: "You're not important enough for me to abandon my phone and give you my full attention."
  • When you're bored. Don't rely on your phone to entertain you. If you're bored, use it as a time to think more deeply about work, come up with new ideas or help out on a project. Use the time to connect with others at work in a more meaningful way.
  • When you're procrastinating. Phones are a great way to avoid doing something you don't want to do. If you're using your phone to check the weather in Malibu, rant on Facebook or download a podcast on how to make your own wine, then you're using it as a crutch to avoid work. 

Think of it this way: A smartphone is fun and useful, but it's also expensive. How are you going to pay for it if you lose your job? Next time you want to reach for your phone at work -- don't. Give yourself five minutes to think about why you want that phone, and whether your career could benefit from leaving it alone.

Monday, January 18, 2016

How to Be More Productive When You're Crazy Busy

If you’re not able to self-regulate – to shift gears when necessary – then you may find yourself burned out and unproductive. A new book looks at how to find the right gear at the right time in order to thrive. 
Next time you don’t want to be interrupted while working, try posting a “5” on your office door or cubicle.
If your co-workers are familiar with the idea that this means you are in “fifth gear” and are totally immersed in what you’re doing and shouldn’t be distracted, then they will leave you alone.
Could it really be that simple to eliminate distractions at work and be more effective? According to a new book, “5 Gears: How to Be Present and Productive When There is Never Enough Time,” authors Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram say that if everyone would learn the various gears and what they mean, then they could operate in a communication shorthand and help everyone be more productive.
Much like the gears in a car, the authors say their gears are:
1st gear: This is your time to fully rest and recharge.
2nd gear: You take time to connect with family and friends without an agenda or pressure to work or be productive.
3rd gear: This is your time to socialize. While you may believe this isn’t important at work, Kubicek says that you must be “really, really good at it to be productive.” That’s because if you shut yourself away in your office and don’t interact with your team members, you can make the entire team more unproductive.
4th gear: You’ve now moved into the work gear. This means checking off your to-do list and often multitasking. Most people spend their day in this gear.
5th gear: As mentioned earlier, you’re in the zone and thinking strategically.
The reason it’s important for teams to learn these gears (read more here)

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How to Deal With Annoying People at Work

If you love your job but find some people at work have gotten on your last nerve, you're not alone.

There is the guy with the bad breath. The woman who is so negative she makes Debbie Downer look like an optimist. Or what about the motor mouth who won't shut up?

Yes, these are challenging things to deal with at work. But the important thing to remember is that these aren't bad people. These are people who do things you don't like.

One approach is just to sit and suffer in silence. Or, you gossip about the person via email with your colleagues at work. "Can you believe John? He hasn't stopped talking about his kids and his weekend since he got to work four hours ago! I'm going crazy!!" you write to your co-workers.

But what does this solve? At best, maybe you vent a bit so that you can focus on work. Still, it doesn't solve the issue and and only means it will continue to drive you crazy -- and possibly lead you to say something unkind and unprofessional to the person who is annoying. At worst, it makes you immature and a gossip.

Think about it this way: If you had bad breath, or others avoided you because you were so negative -- wouldn't you want to know about it? Wouldn't you want to try and correct any problem so that others wanted to include you on big projects or you were seen as someone others appreciated?

So, let's look at some common problems and how to deal with them:

  • Body odor or bad breath. When someone smells, colleagues often avoid working with the person. But what if you must work closely with this team member? Then it's time to address the issue in private. You can say something like, "Rob, this is difficult to bring up, but I know if it were me I would want to know. Your breath smells bad and I'm not sure you're aware of it. I hope you know that I'm bringing this up out of concern for you." While the person may be embarrassed, be supportive if the person brings up a possible medical problem causing the bad breath. "Yes, I'm sure your doctor or dentist can help you. I just want you to know it was not easy for me to bring up, but I would want someone to tell me if there was a problem I wasn't aware of."
  • Negativity.  Despite your efforts to stay positive, there is one team member who seems to take a negative view of whatever is being discussed. It doesn't matter if it's the weather or a new project, this colleague complains endlessly. Now, you're just sick of it and don't want to hear any more whining, so you decide to talk to the colleague. "Karen, it seems no matter what I'm talking about, you take such a negative viewpoint. I think you're a really smart and valuable co-worker and I know you want things to change, but such negativity doesn't help anything. I also want things to get better, but I need to stay positive. Can we just try and look at the bright side of things?"
  • Motormouth. Open office plans are being touted as a great way to improve collaboration, but ask anyone who has to labor in such an environment and they will say the constant noise drives them batty. Especially the incessant -- and often loud -- talker who doesn't seem to have an "off" switch. You can try beginning the discussion by saying something like, "Taylor, I'm finding it difficult to concentrate on my work. I'm not sure you realize how much you talk about private matters-- or how loudly. I know you're not doing this on purpose, and I really value our work conversations. Perhaps you could hold your personal conversations in our private spaces or lower your voice a bit? I don't want to hurt your feelings, and value you as a team member."
Remember, no one is perfect, so be prepared to get a response such as "Oh, yeah? Well I'm tired of your constant emails! No one wants to get all those messages from you!"

In all these cases, make sure you listen carefully and show respect for what the person has to say. As long as you don't fire back with angry responses, the conversation can be productive for all those involved.

Monday, January 4, 2016

How to Better Explain Complicated Information

No one doubts the intelligence of technical people, but that doesn’t mean they’re good at everything. One of the areas where many could use some improvement is communicating technical information to non-techies.
Techies often believe that communication is one of those skills that is nice to have, but not critical to their career. If they ever need it, they believe they’ll figure it out. How difficult can it be?
What they soon discover is that communicating effectively is challenging, and communicating technical information to non-techies can be a nightmare. They can’t seem to convey what they believe to be simple information to a non-tech audience, who fire back that these techies look down on them because they’re struggling to understand.
To make matters worse, senior leaders become increasingly frustrated with the poor communication, letting the techies know this shortcoming could hurt their careers.
If you’re in technology, it’s time you started giving more serious thought to how you will communicate, especially with non-techies. With some planning, non-technical audiences will begin to applaud your efforts and really learn what you’re trying to teach them, instead of becoming frustrated and complaining about your efforts to their bosses.
If you’re asked to explain technical information to a non-technical audience, here’s what you need to do:
Don’t assume anything. Don’t sabotage your efforts from the beginning by assuming that your audience has some basic tech knowledge. Try conducting a brief survey of attendees before the meeting to determine the skill level. Consider providing a “cheat sheet” of terms you plan to use repeatedly, along with definitions so that your audience (read more here)