Tuesday, May 31, 2016

3 Things to Avoid as a New Employee

By now, many recent graduates have hung up their bedazzled mortar boards and have begun their first days as new employees in a brand spanking new career.

When you're a new employee, you may be excited and scared, or a little or both. That's perfectly natural, and most of the other more experienced employees will understand and cut you a break.

Until they don't.

I wish I could consult my magic ball and tell you exactly when that might be, but every workplace is different. Some may be patient and give you six months to learn the ropes. Others may give you six weeks. Some really tough places may only give you six days.

This may make you nervous, or you may thrive on the challenge.

But I can tell you that no matter where you work,  there are some things that you should avoid to keep you from being labeled as "clueless," "worthless," "spoiled" and even "stupid" by your new colleagues.

Among them:

1. Always having a cellphone in your hand. Millennials have gotten a bad rap as self-centered and self-involved because they're always taking selfies ("Look at me crossing the street!") and easily distracted ("I love goat videos!"). So when you're constantly engaging with your phone, instead of your co-workers, you get an immediate strike against you. Keep your phone out of sight unless you are going to use it for work ("I can look up those measurements on my phone, if you'd like.") You may feel this is unfair since your coworkers seem to be constantly using their phones, but go easy in the early days. Let your colleagues see that you're interested in listening to what others have to say, not just passing the time playing "Flappy Golf."

2. Not taking notes. You're not in school anymore, but you still need to take notes. Always keep a note pad and pen handy, and take notes whenever someone is giving you directions. When you're done, quickly go over the highlights to ensure you recorded the information accurately. Nothing bugs coworkers more than to have to tell you something more than once simply because you didn't write it down to reference in the future. It's also seen as a sign of respect -- you respect your colleague enough to write down what they're telling you, and that again helps them avoid labeling you as a snotty new kid.

3. Failing to ask questions. Yes, it's important to listen, but it's also important to ask questions. You were hired because you were believed to be the best person for the job.  That means your employer has already invested in you (it costs thousands of dollars to recruit and hire every worker), so they want you to feel comfortable in the job. The time to ask lots of "dumb" questions is now -- not a year from now. Then, your colleagues are going to be a bit pissed to learn that you've never understood the billing system and have been bluffing your way through it. Throughout the day, write down your questions so you can ask them at one time and won't be a source of constant interruption. (Unless your question is something like: "Who do we call when the break room is on fire?")

Finally, remember to use your manners. Say "please" and "thank you" even if no one else does. Don't leave a mess for someone else to clean up. Don't interrupt when someone else is speaking. Don't check Facebook when in a meeting or text a friend when a colleague is giving  a presentation. Use your common sense and just think of how you'd like to be treated, and your first job will be a much more rewarding experience.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Why Your Charts Suck -- and How to Make Them Much Better

In today’s world, we often make decisions based on data, whether it’s how much to exercise or what product to buy.
But what you may not realize is how many decisions are made based on the charts used to visualize that data — and unfortunately some of those charts aren’t very good.
The result is that bad charts can lead to bad decisions as information isn’t conveyed correctly or leads to erroneous conclusions, says Scott Berinato, author of “Good Charts.
“Or, bad charts can lead to no decision because people become so paralyzed by the data in front of them,” he says.
Data visualization – or “dataviz” – is becoming more important as businesses seek ways to use data to grow their market share or be more competitive worldwide, Berinato explains.
“In a world governed by data, in knowledge economies where ideas are currency, visualization has emerged as our shared language,” he says.
Berinato says that charts need to be given more attention because businesses that present bad charts can lose their competitive edge to those who do a better job at designing charts. At the same time, individuals who design bad charts can lose out on promotions or important projects and customers may lose interest in a product or company that offers bad charts, he explains.
While many workers may believe they design perfectly fine charts, they may be deluding themselves. “Increasingly, when an executive sees a line chart that’s been spit out of Excel and pasted into a presentation, she wonders why it doesn’t look more like the simple, beautiful charts of her fitness-tracker app,” Berinato says.
One of the problems is that too many workers believe that the tools they use are the key to producing good charts, he says. Instead, they need to set aside the tool and spend more time thinking about the message they want to convey.  “In essence, when trying to convey an idea, there aren’t any tools yet that can intuit our context,” he says.
Much of Berinato’s book emphasizes that you need to think more about what you’re trying to accomplish and use “design thinking” to craft a narrative and a visual that will help you convey your message.
“It’s far more important to know who will see this, what do they want, what do they need, what idea do I want to convey, what could I show, what should I show (read more here)

Monday, May 23, 2016

How to Lead Digital Transformation Successfully

These days, it’s not a question of if – but when – your organization will digitally transform itself. The real unknown may be how it will take place.
If the transformation is done poorly, then a company’s very survival might be at risk. But if it’s done right, then the organization may evolve into an enterprise that is more agile, more competitive and more innovative.
Much of this, of course, depends on senior leadership. Those in the C-suite will be tasked with ensuring an organization is digitally on the right track and doesn’t squander the efforts or dollars put into its transformation.
One of the best ways for senior leaders to understand how to determine the organization’s needs, create the right culture and use its resources wisely can be found in a new white paper from Knowledge@Wharton and sponsored by HCL Technologies. In the paper, experts look at the best practices of several organizations that have made successful digital transformations and lessons learned by leaders.
Minimal disruption
The digital transformation goals for Novelis, a major U.S. industrial aluminum processor, were: virtualization, elimination of data center duplication; process improvements; and a roll up of business operations.
Kenneth Benson, global IT hosting director, says the company made significant investments in the effort, such as buying new hardware and third-party service provider contracts. It also made cuts, such as closing more than 20 data centers and moving to private cloud services.  This not only allowed Novelis to switch operations among data centers in an emergency, but saved $14 million in data center closings and fewer employees.
The change also has given business units greater transparency of the fees they pay for services and greater predictability in service availability. They can see more clearly where they can cut costs or be more efficient, and can predict problems with storage, servers and networking before they happen since they have real-time monitoring and performance data access.
Before the transformation, about half of the efforts by Benson’s team were focused on building the infrastructure necessary for the organization’s 40 to 50 projects a year. After the transformation, only about (read more here)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Why Technology Won't Solve All Your Productivity Problems -- and What Will

For a while now, you’ve noticed that you are falling more and more behind at work, even though you’re exhausted at the end of the day because you’ve been so busy. It’s not like you’re goofing off – you just have too much to do!
So, you figure maybe a couple of the new apps you’ve heard about will do the trick as they’re designed to make you more productive, organized and efficient.
But at the end of the week, you’re still not caught up at work – you think you might even be more behind. To top it off, you’re even more exhausted and stressed because you can’t seem to get a handle on your workload and balance it with your personal life.
It might help to realize you’re not alone, which is why there is such a surge in the popularity and number of productivity self-help books. One of those, “Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business” has landed author Charles Duhigg on the bestseller lists.
“I think we are living through a period of economic change on par with the Industrial Revolution,” says Duhigg, a Pulitzer-prize winning investigative reporter for The New York Times. “There is a certain amount of anxiety generated by such a big change. It’s exciting – but it’s not easy.”
What most of us have discovered, he says, is that while technology is wonderful, “it doesn’t solve all of our problems.”
That’s because we may believe that if we use technology to work longer days, to perform more tasks and to be more connected than ever before, we will find success and satisfaction. But the truth is that only when we use technology and data to meet our specific needs is it helpful.
“Sometimes the best thing you can do is slow down and make sense of the data coming at you – and not get overwhelmed by it,” Duhigg says.
In addition, leaders can help teams be more productive by allowing them to “interact” with data in ways that will help them retain the information better. For example, medical schools have the “see one, do one, teach one” philosophy because they know that allowing students to interact with patients is the way to help them best learn – and then further cement that information by teaching it to others, he says.
“It’s not always because you want to teach someone else, but it does help it (information or process) to sink in,” he says.
Further, technology can be helpful and improve your daily work only when you can see the data embedded in those decisions and then use it somehow to learn from it, he says.
In his research of how companies and individuals get more done, Duhigg finds:
  1. Speaking freely matters. Teams are more effective when members feel it’s safe to say what they think and everyone gets equal air time. It’s also important that team members are sensitive to the feelings of others. Leaders have to be careful that they don’t reward the loudest in the group or fail to answer questions. By showing (read more here)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Is Your Accent Holding You Back?

I was born and raised in Oklahoma, and although I moved away a long time ago, I still have a bit of that Okie twang.

The accent becomes stronger if I'm talking to a native Southerner. I become even more "Southern" when I get upset or excited. I start using  phrases like "I'm fixin' to..." or "ya'll."

Early in my career, I landed a big job in Washington, D.C. After several people immediately jumped on the fact that I had an accent, I worked hard to drop such phrases and get rid of the "Okie" or "Southern" in my speech.

I was young, but quickly picked up on the bias against my accent.

Now, I don't work to hide my accent, but I do try to avoid using phrases or terminology that non-Southerners might not understand. Sometimes when I interview someone on the phone, they'll end the conversation by saying "Where are you from? I detect an accent."

In a University of Chicago study, professors found that preconceptions about an accent are formed by children as young as age five. Northern accents are seen as smarter, while Southern accent are associated with "nice."

Researchers found that the biases grew stronger as the children got older. In fact, the children from Chicago selected those with Northern accents as "living around here" and being "American" while children from Tennessee didn't show any preferences, no matter their age.

Some explanations: Chicago children don't get many opportunities to hear Southern accents; more celebrities and those on television have Northern accents;  Southern children associate Northern accents with prestige because those in the media and celebrities have Northern accents.

These accent biases aren't just against those in America -- Italian is judged as sounding beautiful while German is judged as sounding ugly.

A couple of years ago, a nuclear lab in Tennessee canceled a "Southern accent reduction" class after workers objected because they saw it as insulting. While employees objected, it's not the first such class offered -- those from foreign countries are often put through such classes by their private employers. Even those with strong regional dialects such as Boston or Philadelphia may go through the process.

As college graduates enter the workforce, I think it's important that we all consider the biases we may hold (those spoiled Millennials!) but also against more subtle things like their accents. In fact, it's time we all thought about the unfair assumptions we make about people in the workplace based on the way they look or dress or speak.

Let's remember to treat others the way we want to be treated -- with respect.

Thanks, ya'll......

Image: workforce.com

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What Your Company Must Do to Succeed Digitally

A recent survey of 2,000 business and technology executives by PwC finds that that there is a direct link between digital investment and corporate performance.
Specifically, the report finds that digital leaders are twice as likely to achieve more rapid revenue and profit growth as the “laggards” in the study. These digital leaders are “more deliberate” in their digital strategy, the report finds, and also show a greater CEO commitment, a strategic clarity and a broad view when it comes to applying technology and identifying new sources of innovation.
It’s not that other companies don’t have a commitment to digital: 86% of CEOs are pushing digital technologies compared with 57% in 2013. In addition, 31% report their companies are investing more than 15% of revenue into technology investments that include all areas of the business, not just IT.
But the digital leaders are better at not only linking digital to real gains, but also are more adept at consistently measuring the value of their digital investments, the report says.
Based on its research, PwC identifies the 10 characteristics that will spur digital growth:
  1. The CEO champion. “The CEO is the natural leader as the focus on technology has shifted from operational efficiency to growth, and the stakeholders and conversations have changed,” the report says.
  2. Digital leaders set strategy. As CIOs and CDOs become more involved in setting the strategy, some organizations may have to change the way the organization is structured. For example, a global healthcare company uses a digital council that brings together CIOs and CMOs, who work together on both digital strategyand execution.
  3. The C-suite is on board. While the CIO and CMO may collaborate, research shows it’s often a weak relationship – only 54% rate it as strong compared to the CIO/CEO relationship that is rated at 70%. But getting all the C-suite players on the same page “means there’s greater (read more here)

Monday, May 9, 2016

5 Ways to Communicate Like a Visionary Leader

Is good communication an art or a science?

While most people have considered it an art,  Wharton People Analytics Initiative Co-Director Cade Massey says that Big Data may provide the most important clues about what makes a leader a great communicator.

Looking at verbal, voice and visual clues, researchers looked into what visionary communicators (people like Elon Musk, Franklin Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart) do differently than average communicators.

Here's what they found:

  • They talk about the present, not the future. "I think that people think if you're talking so much about the future, then it's going to be less credible," Massey says. "People aren't going to believe you as much. So, you really want to apply it to today."
  • They break complex information down into simple steps.
  • They are most concerned with getting their vision into the minds of their audience.
  • They use second-person pronouns.
  • They use a lot of perceptual language, talking about look, touch and feel. "It really brings the audience into the experience with you," Massey says, pointing to how Musk always talks about what it's like to drive a Tesla.
Massey explains that most bosses get a "You did great!" from their staff after a presentation, but using analytics can help bosses get an unbiased view of their communication skills.

"We can actually give them a lot of truth in the data — talk about how they are perceived, talk about how they can get better, and give them a very prescriptive plan to better impact their audiences and achieve their purposes," he says.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Why You Must Learn to Work With Other Departments

In the past, the only time the tech department and those in finance or business operations might have interacted was at the annual holiday party. But even then, the employees pretty much huddled with their own department, like Super Bowl teams plotting the next interception.
But it’s a different story these days, as more companies encourage – or even require – cross-functional collaboration. For example, a recent Robert Half Management Resources and Robert Half Technology survey finds that 51% of CFOs report they’re collaborating more frequently with their company’s CIO, compared to three years ago.
“Before, these functions were run as silos,” says Tim Hird, executive director for Robert Half Management Resources. “But business has become more complex and organizations continue to invest in technology to make strategic decisions. A few years ago it wasn’t necessary to work together – now it’s essential.”
This cross-functional collaboration will not only change how a company operates now, but also how it hires for the future, Hird says. Specifically, more organizations will seek those who can not only do their jobs – such as data collection – but are also able to communicate and collaborate with those in finance, sales or operations.
“Teams that make it a priority to focus on collaboration help pave the way for smoother integration of new systems and processes,” he says.
Still, it’s not always easy to achieve full cross-functional collaboration, especially since research shows that 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees. These employees who go the extra mile and become top collaborators can become real bottlenecks as work doesn’t move forward until they weigh in. Another problem is that these collaborators often don’t get credit for their contributions.
Currently, it’s easier to find examples of cross-functional teams that don’t work. Benham Tabrizi, who teaches transformational leadership at Stanford University’s Department of Management Science and Engineering, says his research finds that in a study of 95 teams in 25 leading corporations, 75% of cross-functional teams are dysfunctional.
“Cross-functional teams often fail because the organization lacks a systemic approach. Teams are hurt by unclear governance, by a lack of accountability, by goals that lack specificity, and by organizations’ failure to prioritize the success of cross-functional projects,” he says.
However, those teams that had support by a high-level executive leader who championed their efforts had a 76% success rate, he says.
In their research, Robert Half recommends that companies seeking to successfully boost collaboration among various departments must begin with a company-wide effort. They suggest, for example:
  • Providing greet and learn opportunities. Guest speakers from other departments can meet with employees or set up mentoring programs to help new and long-time employees stay current (read more here)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Does Your Boss Have an Entourage?

Let's say it's just been announced that you're getting a new boss because of a recent merger or downsizing.

The new boss gives a "It's going to be great!" speech and you sort of breathe a sigh of relief. She doesn't have a headful of snakes and doesn't eat puppies for breakfast. This you can live with!

You begin trying to impress your new boss (or at least stay our of her way).

But then you notice this other person hanging around the boss a lot. It's not really clear who this new person is, other than she came on board at the same time. When you ask about her, you get some vague answers about her being the new boss's "liason" or "right hand" or something like that.

Oh, well, not to worry! You are out to ensure your position is safe with the new boss, and don't have time to worry about the "liason."

But here's what no one has said out loud: The "liason" is really part of the boss's entourage. Think of her as Eric, Turtle and Johnny to your boss. She's not the brightest bulb in the pack, but she's always around to make sure the boss stays happy and she always has the boss's back.

This all means that it would be a huge mistake to ignore this "right hand" of the boss. This person is around the boss to make her feel secure in her new surroundings, to give her insight into the team (in other words, pass on the gossip) and to do the boss's bidding without question or delay. She may even be the one to bring down the hammer on under-performing employees, or tackle difficult administrative  jobs.

This person is powerful, and you ignore or underestimate her at your own peril.

So, when you get a new boss, set out to impress her. But also look around for the new "liason" that comes on board and seek to impress her as well. Help her out. Offer to introduce her to others. Make sure she understands the talents and skills you can use to make the boss successful.

If you prove yourself to be an ally of the liason instead of dismiss her as unimportant, you may just find that the "right hand" gives you a "helping hand" to bigger and better opportunities.

Photo: vulture