Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Why that Toxic A**Hole Gets to Keep His Job

When you hear the word "toxic," are you filled with the warm fuzzies?

Certainly not. When you hear the word, you think of poison. Maliciousness. Harm.

But guess what? If you're in the workplace, you're probably exposed to toxicity not through some chemicals or bad water -- but because of the person sitting in the next cubicle.

A new study released today by Fierce, Inc.  finds that there are toxic people in workplace, and they're causing a lot of harm. But instead of complaining about such people -- as we would if our drinking supply became toxic -- we are silent, the survey finds.

Specifically, the survey finds:

  • 53% of 1,000 respondents say they handle toxic colleagues by ignoring them
  • Only 24% of them confront these toxic co-workers
  • 18% complain to management
  • 41% of employees say that management does nothing about the situation once they are alerted
The fallout from these toxic employees, who are described at lazy, negative and unsatisfied with their jobs, is that that increase the stress of their colleagues. They hurt morale, decrease productivity and negatively impact the quality of the work. Women feel the effects even more than men and are more likely to leave a job because of toxic co-workers, the survey finds.

The survey also finds that less than one in five believe that a toxic colleague will change if confronted. However, that could change if more workers were trained to have better confrontation skills, says Stacey Engle, executive vice president at Fierce, Inc.

"A successful confrontation will leave both parties feeling like the relationship has been enriched and issues have been resolved. Without the skills to confront, it’s not surprising that employees don’t feel like the tactic is successful, and in turn are less likely to try to improve the situation. This cycle can be the downfall of a good team, or even organization if not addressed," Engle says.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Is Your Vocabulary Holding You Back?

It doesn't matter if you work remotely, in an open office or on a assembly line.The way you speak can have a big impact on your career.

Why? Because a limited vocabulary may prompt you to stay quiet in meetings. Or, you may not understand what others are saying and so miss information from your boss or other senior leaders. In addition, at a time when all workers must continually improve their skills, a poor vocabulary could cause you to fall behind if you're required to read new material.

Another problem may be that you're mispronouncing words. The other day on Twitter I saw someone refer to "intensive purposes." It's "intents and purposes." I've also heard other people say "upmost" instead of the correct "utmost" and "mee-mee" instead of "meme."

You may think this is no big deal, but if you want to get ahead in your career then you need to show that you're capable of addressing senior leaders or customers without embarrassing your boss. (Bosses often will avoid telling you that your language needs improvement because it can be a difficult conversation, so they will just avoid it by choosing someone else for an assignment who is a better communicator.)

If you think it's time to improve your language skills (and most people could use improvement), then try to:

1. Hold yourself accountable. If you hear the boss or someone in a meeting use a word you don't know, take the time to look it up on and learn it's meaning and how to say it. (Don't rely on someone else's pronunciation, because he or she may be saying it wrong.) Once you use it in a conversation naturally about three times, you can move onto another word. The website also offers words of the day, which can be a fun way to expand your vocabulary and increase your confidence.

2. Pay attention to key words. If your boss or other executives use words such as "acumen," "affinity," and "visceral," then you need to become comfortable using them. Such "power words" can help executives be more comfortable with you. Make sure you note the context in which they are used and try to replicate them in similar conversations.

3. Ease into it. While you're building your vocabulary, don't feel you have to incorporate every new word or phrase into your conversations right away. You may be more at ease trying new words at the rate of about one a week, or practicing them in front of the mirror. Or, try calling into a podcast and using your new skills -- sometimes that sort of format reduces the initial trepidation.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

How to Become One of the Boss's Favorites

I'm all for work/life balance and making sure that you're not headed for burnout by working too much.

But that doesn't mean you go to work and just warm a chair every day, doing just enough to make sure you keep your job.

A recent study shows why such an attitude can be dangerous to your job security -- and could hurt your career and earning power in the long run.

A study by VitalSmarts of 1,594 managers and employees shows that top-notch employees are seen as three times more valuable to the organization that the average employee. (Such top performers were ranked as 9 or 10 on a performance scale.)

Further, these productive employees are also responsible for 61 percent of the total work done in their departments. They are more likely to finish projects they start; less likely to let things fall through the cracks; don't miss deadlines; and less likely to have overflowing inboxes.

Well. You may think that's just fine and dandy. Let these top performers do most of the work, and you'll keep doing your job and finding enough time to check Facebook every hour or play "Word Cookies" on your phone.

But if that's your attitude, think back about 10 years. Remember the economic meltdown where thousands of people lost their jobs? Who do you think was let go first? The people who just warmed the chair every day or the top performers who did the most valuable work?

Also, consider that no boss promotes someone who isn't a 9 or 10, and such a worker certainly doesn't earn bonuses or garner significant annual pay raises. A so-so work performance is not only affecting you now, but could cut into the amount of money you earn over your career.

If you think it might be time to improve your work performance, here are some phrases that bosses use to describe top performers and average performers, according to the survey:

Communication Practices:
·         Top Performers: “Ask for help”, “Not afraid to ask questions”, “Know who to go to”, “Know when to ask” 
·         Average Performers: “Lack of communication”, “Slow to respond”, “Don’t listen”, “Complain” 
Productivity Practices: 
·         Top Performers: “Organized”, “Good time management”, “Attention to detail”, “To do lists”, “Keep track of”, “Block time on their calendar”, “Prioritize”, “Stay on top of their work” 
·         Average Performers: “Not enough time”, “Lack of attention”, “No follow through”, “Too busy”, “Late”, “Disorganized”, “Don’t meet deadlines”, “Not on task”

Researchers offer these productivity practices of top performers:
1.       Collect everything that owns your attention. Capture all commitments, tasks, ideas, and projects rather than keeping them in your head. Use just a few “capture tools” you keep with you all the time such as lists, apps, email, etc.
2.       Decide what your stuff means to you. Clarify if the items you’ve captured have an action or not. If they do, be very clear about what the VERY next action is and who should take it.
3.       Use the two-minute rule. If an action can be completed in two minutes or less, do it immediately. Don’t defer. The time you’ll waste letting these simple actions occupy your attention and to-do list is not worth it—two minutes becomes your efficiency cutoff.
4.       Do more of the right things by reflecting in the right moments. Rather than diving into your messy inbox first thing, take two minutes to review your calendar and your action lists. This reflection ensures you make the best decisions about how to use your time.
5.       Review weekly. Keep a sacred, non-negotiable meeting with yourself every week to re-sync, get current, and align your daily work and projects with your higher-level priorities.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Why You Can't Remember Stuff at Work -- and How to Get Better at It

I'll be the first to admit that my memory isn't what it was when I was 20-years-old, and I bet many of you would say the same even if you're only 25-years-old.

That can become a problem in the workplace, where you may have to recall a client's name you met two years ago or remember exactly why a project ran into manufacturing turbulence last quarter.

With so much information coming at us, it can be difficult to hang onto everything in our brains. Why, for example, can you remember the name of your third grade teacher but not the hotel you stayed at two nights ago?

Several studies suggest that you may be able to improve your memory by grouping multiple items into related groups. For example, when test subjects are given a list of words to recall in any order, they tend to remember them in similar groups, such as fruits or vegetables.

Memory experts believe that learning to cluster words speeds up recall responses and working memory capacity.

Try it with things you're trying to remember at work, as well as these other methods for improving memory:

  • Set up a routine. If you're always searching for your keys, make sure you designate a place at work and put them in the same place every day. Same thing with your unopened mail or items that need to be filed. 
  • Stop multitasking. I know, I know. You're one of those amazing people who is capable of writing an email, talking to a colleague on the phone and doing deep-knee bends. But your brain isn't functioning at it's best when you drag it in different directions, and studies have shown when you multi-task you are less likely to recall what you have learned. 
  • Get enough sleep. Successful people like Arianna Huffington are touting the benefits of getting more sleep, citing studies that show it's critical to your physical, mental and emotional well-being. No one has to know you went to bed at 10 p.m. if you feel like you're a wimp for getting more than four hours of sleep a night. Your improved memory and performance will be a big payoff for your career.
  • Pause. If you're having trouble recalling some information, take a quiet moment and try to place yourself back in the place where you originally heard the information. Think about the conference room where you and colleagues were discussing a new timeline for a project. How did the discussion begin? Who was present? What was the mood of the room? Recalling those aspects can help trigger your memory and enable you to remember more specific information.
What are some ways you keep your memory sharp?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Why You're Not as Influential as You Think

When Stacey Hanke begins working with leaders to boost their effectiveness, she knows that at least 95% of these people are going to overestimate their influence on others.
Hanke, a C-suite mentor and leadership trainer, says that even very smart and experienced people are fairly clueless when it comes to how much clout they really have with others, whether it’s peers, team members or customers.
“There are a couple of reasons this happens,” she explains. “First, they get fake feedback. Everything sounds like ‘good, nice job’ from everyone. The second is that they base their influence on how they feel about themselves, and that’s not influence. Influence is how others see you.”
Many of them face a jarring reality when Hanke reveals the perception others have of them, but she says she always adds that it’s possible for anyone to gain more influence if they’re willing to do the work.

Learning to adapt

No matter what industry you’re in, or your job title, Hanke says it’s critical you work on increasing your influence if you want to make a sale, talk your boss into new technology or make your team more effective.
“This isn’t about changing who you are, but rather figuring (read more here)

Monday, July 31, 2017

Survey: Unhappy Workers = Unhappy Customers

Companies like Zappos often are seen as the standard bearers of the top-notch customer experience, but some companies trying to emulate them may find they fall short because they are missing a key component: an equally top-notch worker experience.
The issue of worker satisfaction being tied to customer satisfaction is drawing enough attention that earlier this year Appirio commissioned Forrester Consulting to evaluate “the maturing of worker experience across industries.” What researchers found may have companies re-evaluating how they approach the worker and customer experience connection.
Among the findings:
  • Business leaders agree that giving workers a good employee experience engages them to provide a better customer experience, which ultimately impacts the bottom line.
  • Most organizations are in the early stages of improving the worker experience. Organizations acknowledge they don’t know where to put their efforts to improve the worker experience or how to measure them once they do.
  • When asked to name potential worker experience improvements, the majority of managers named getting workers to share knowledge with colleagues and business partners, along with leaders supporting workers who find a better way to do their jobs. However, the leaders also selected a variety of other initiatives as priorities, a scattershot approach that shows they struggle to identify the drivers of a good worker experience.

Defining “worker experience”

Researchers define the worker experience as building a corporate infrastructure that “fosters worker productivity, engagement and agility” to ensure workers “can design, deliver (read more here)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

5 Signs You're Ignoring That Show Your Job is in Jeopardy

You can't exactly put your finger on it, but somehow your job has started sucking the life force out of you.

Every day you feel a little more depressed, a little more like maybe you should just call in sick and sit home and binge watch "Friends."

Still, the thought of looking for another job is even more depressing. There's the business of writing the resume. You know you'll face rejections. You'll have to go on interviews, and that means you're going to have to iron something to wear. Ugh.

OK, maybe things aren't that bad at work, you think. Maybe you will somehow pull yourself out of this rut. After all, it's better to keep bringing home a paycheck than going through the hassle of a new job hunt. Who knows...the next job might be even worse.

Stop. It's time to listen to your gut and what you're trying to ignore: You need to look for another job because your current position is in trouble. 

How do you know your time is limited in your current job and you need to get your resume together? Consider these signs:

  • The paper trail. I'm always amazed when people don't understand that a case is being built against them whenever they start getting those snarky memos from managers, using words and phrases like "failed" and "falls short" and "not up to standards" and "missed deadlines."
  • The "whammo" performance evaluation. Sort of a Whack-a-Mole game for managers, where everything positive you bring up is slapped down. Another sign a case is being built against you.
  • You have tread marks on your back. Those are signs that others have been running you over on their way to promotions that should have been yours. Missing a couple of opportunities may not be a big deal, but more than that means you're on the fast track to doomed.
  • You repel money. Pay raises? Forget it. Your budget is reduced or put under the jurisdiction of someone else. You're not part of a project that is expected to bring in big money or spend big money. The office manager always seems to lose your request for new equipment.
  • Everyone is too busy for you. Your calls are not being returned, and your e-mails seem to suffer the same fate. You're not included in key meetings, and no one stops to shoot the breeze with you anymore. While you may think this is OK, it's really a sign that others perceive you as someone on the outs.

Finally, keep in mind it's much better to be looking for work on your terms. It's always easier to look for a job when you have a job. Don't wait until it's too late and you're forced to join the unemployed line.

This is an updated version of an earlier column.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Why Your Workers Think You're a Bad Boss

I don't think anyone sets out to be a bad boss.

Most managers I meet are really decent people. They work hard, try to help the people who work for them and really want to make a difference for their company and their team.

But somewhere along the way, bad bosses happen. Maybe they feel they have to be "tough" to get results and so bully their workers. Or, too many team members take advantage of them, and they become defensive and vow never to give anyone a break. Perhaps their bosses are a**holes, and they figure that's the way you lead.

BambooHR recently conducted a survey about bad boss behavior and notes that managers may simply be unaware that they're being jerks.

Among the worst boss behavior, according to the 1,000 people asked:

  • The boss takes credit for your work (63%)
  • The boss doesn't appear to trust or empower you (62%)
  • The boss doesn't appear to care if you're overworked (58%)
  • The boss doesn't advocate for you when it comes to monetary compensation (57%)
  • The boss hires and/or promotes the wrong people (56%)
  • The boss doesn't back you up when there's a dispute between you and one of your company's clients (55%)
  • The boss doesn't provide proper direction on assignments/roles (54%)
  • The boss micromanages you and doesn't allow you the freedom to work (53%)
  • The boss focuses more on your weaknesses than your strengths (53%)
  • The boss doesn't set clear expectations (52%)
When I look at these results, one thing comes to mind: A failure to communicate. 

While it may not be so in every case, I think many of these issues could be resolved if bosses had more conversations with their team members. These don't have to be hour-long discussions -- they can be more on-the-spot short chats that give the boss an opportunity to provide feedback that will help the employee be more productive and effective. 

For example, after a meeting a boss may pull a team member aside and say, "I thought you did a great job preparing a really compelling case for your idea, but you left out a critical element. No one -- not me or the senior leadership -- will approve such an idea until you give us the hard numbers on what it's going to take to launch such an initiative. If you can put that together, I'm happy to look over the numbers and then let you present it again in a month."

This is the kind of conversation that can help alleviate an employee's belief that a boss doesn't advocate for him or her, hogs the credit, doesn't set clear expectations, etc.

The solution isn't always so simple, and I know that many workplace cultures subtly support the bad bosses because they believe these kind of managers get results. 

I will agree with that belief. These jerk bosses do get results -- people walk out the door, trash the company online and make the organization less competitive and productive. Those aren't the kind of results any company seeks.

If you're a manager, it's time to pay attention to the above results. You have much more impact that you believe, and the solutions are simpler than you know.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

This is What You Have to Do to Be Invaluable

We often over-estimate our worth at work. Just look at the number of people who lose their jobs because of layoffs or downsizings or mergers, and you'll find a lot of them thought there was no way they would be let go. Maybe Slacker Suzy or Psycho Phil would be let go, but not them.
Then they find themselves out of work.
One of the keys to avoiding such a fate is to make sure that you're valuable to the boss and the company -- and never letting them forget it.
But such a strategy means more than just showing up for work on time and doing your job. The real way to show others that you're critical to the company's success is to:
  • Show you understand it's about the bottom line. Before you submit a proposal or an innovative idea, show that the time and the money will be worth it. Use data or other information to show how it helps the organization, such as improving the customer experience.
  • Look for ways to boost efficiency. Maybe you can’t figure out a way to generate extra money, but companies are always looking for ways to cut expenses. For example, with a little research you may discover ways to cut down on the air-conditioning bill.
  • Serving as quality control. While you want to make sure you’re doing work that is as error-free as possible, you can become a critical employee if you’re able to stop ineffective or defective work by others. If you view even one mistake as critical to the company’s bottom line, management will begin to depend on you more and more.
  • Hang on to customers. Even though you don't work with customers all the time, you come across one that is unhappy. Rather than passing her onto someone else, you find a way to give her a partial refund, which satisfies her and saves the company a full refund.
  • Know what you cost.  Experienced workers are more expensive. They not only earn more, but they often have accrued more vacation time or have higher healthcare costs. Your position can become more precarious when you take more from the bottom line, which is why it’s important to make sure you’re finding ways to pay for your position by either generating more business or finding cost savings.
  • Document it. Make sure you get credit for your contributions by sending e-mails or making reports that show when you made the suggestion. This not only helps your current job, but can be key proof for future employers that you can deliver what you promise on your abilities.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The 4 Questions That Could Make You Invaluable

Recently the New York Times staff protested  cuts to the copy editor staff, saying in a letter to management that they believed such a move would damage the quality of the product.

One senior reporter described the copy editors as "the immune system of this newspaper, the group that protects the institution from profoundly embarrassing errors, not to mention potentially actionable ones.”

This is so true. Any journalist will tell you they sleep better at night when they've gone several rounds with a copy editor. Despite our whining, writers want to be challenged. We want to be questioned. We want to know that when a copy editor is finished with our story, it's concise, free-from-errors and makes sense.

It's typical in a newsroom to hear copy editors questioning reporters, ensuring they thoroughly understand the story before letting it be released to the public. These editors are fearless in asking questions (some reporters can be a bit, er, argumentative) -- and that is a quality that may be missing today in many organizations. 

James E. Ryan, the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, points out  that organizations would be better served if leaders asked more questions. Just because you've been doing something a long time doesn't mean that you should stop being curious and creative, he says.

Ryan offers questions he believes are valuable for anyone in a position to lead or influence others:

1. "Wait, what?" Don't jump to conclusions -- ask for more detail to make sure you understand an issue completely.

2. "I wonder why....?" or "I wonder if...?" Is something being done because that's the way it's always been done? If so, is there a better way? This can help spark creativity and interest by others when you ask such questions.

3. "Couldn't we at least...?" This can help you get unstuck on an issue and help find a common ground when there are disagreements.

4. "How can I help?" Do you just jump into an issue, trying to save the day? By asking how you can help, you prompt the other person to think clearly about the problem to be solved and whether you can actually provide some assistance.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What's Worth the Effort in Job Searching -- and What's Not

It can be exhausting looking for a job. There's the old saying that "looking for a job is a job." In addition to writing a resume and cover letter, you're now supposed to monitor social media and look for ways to "brand" yourself to prospective employers.

But Illana Gershon, an Indiana University professor of anthropology and author of "Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find and (or Don't Find) Work Today," offers some good news for job seekers: you can cut back on some of your efforts because they are a waste of your time.

Specifically, Gershon says that no one on the hiring side cares about personal branding. She says that personal branding takes a lot of time, and simply isn't worth it.

What does work?

She says it's worth your time to:

  • Research potential employers. It's important to know about companies, their culture and the kind of work they offer. It doesn't make sense to seek an interview with a company that has a very conservative culture when you want to work in a place that lets you keep your blue hair and bring your pet guinea pig to work every day.
  • Stay active on LinkedIn. Many recruiters search LinkedIn profiles to see if they can find a good fit, so using the right keywords is important. 
  • Reach out to your strongest ties. Don't waste your time trying to find where the jobs may be -- seek information from people you know. "Having someone who knew you from a previous job and can talk about what you are like as a worker -- was very helpful for people," she says.

Monday, July 10, 2017

7 Tips That Will Make Your PowerPoint Better Than Ever Before

When was the last time you gave a PowerPoint presentation and no one turned to their phone to check email or play "Word Cookies"?

If the answer is never, it's time to rethink the details of your PowerPoint and learn ways to keep your audience focused on your presentation.

Research has shown that you can keep people interested in your PowerPoint by:

  • Ensuring that your type is at least 24 point, so even those in the back of the room can easily read the information. Also, don't get cute with the typefaces or headlines. You're trying to convey information, and you distract the audience when you switch things up.
  • Using the sans serif typeface instead of serif typeface when writing captions. Serif typeface (the one with the little feet) can become grouped together awkwardly and make reading difficult. Typefaces such as Alegerian also can be tough for your audience to read.
  • Only using white backgrounds on your PowerPoint if the room is going to be partially lit. You can give your audience eye strain if you use a white background in a dark room and cause them to see "after images" when they move their eyes.
  • Employing warmer colors for your text compared to what appears in the background. Warm colors such as red and yellow will appear to be in front of cool ones such as blue or green because of how light is focused in the eyes. Such a practice will allow your audience to automatically focus on the text instead of the background.
  • Making sure your title grabs attention by using a more eye-catching color. That way they focus on your key thought before jumping to other images or text.
  • Using a more eye-catching color for the title compared to the text so that audience members focus on the key thought first.
  • Avoiding any deep, heavily saturated blue color. The eye can’t focus on it properly and it will even appear blurred around the edges.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

4 Tips That Will Help You Influence Others

Communication seems to be a problem in the world today. It's not that we don't have plenty of ways to communicate, it's that we expect the tool (text, phone, email) to do the job for us. That's never going to work because good communication requires human effort.

Years ago I interviewed communications expert Ben Decker, and he provided some great suggestions on how you can become a better communicator -- and use it to help boost your influence at work. His suggestions:

1. Critique your performance. It's easy to judge reality television stars on everything from how many times they use "like" in a sentence to the hair-twirling conversations they have with friends and family. But you may not realize that you have many bad communication habits, Decker says. Set up a video camera or tape your voice so that you can critique your energy, friendliness or speech clarity.

2. Have more face-to-face communications. Keep tabs on how often you have in-person conversations at work. Do you text or email when you could take 10 steps and speak to someone in person?  Could you set up a coffee meeting instead of  playing telephone tag with a colleague or new contact? If you find yourself dodging in-person interactions, you need to rethink your strategy because it's those in-person conversations that can make a real difference in your career.

3. Smile more. If you're always serious, always zeroed in on only talking business, you alienate people. When having business conversations, try to mix in some relevant story-telling so that your audience feels more at ease. You should always make the effort to lighten the stress with your listeners -- they'll be more open to your ideas.

4. Take a breath. Don't use speech fillers such as "um," "uh," "like" or "actually." If someone asks you a question, don't begin your answer with "So..." These are verbal crutches that undermine your ability to communicate effectively. They can be distracting to your listeners, and make you seem unsure -- not a boost for your career. It's OK to simply take a breath if you don't know what to say, as you'll be seen as more thoughtful in your response.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Small Way to Be Innovative That Has a Big Impact

If you want to send shivers down the spines of many company leaders, all you have to do is say one name: Kodak.
The Eastman Kodak Co. has become the poster child for big, successful companies that failed in a spectacular way after missing opportunities that were critical for its evolution and survival. In Kodak’s case, it was digital photography, which it invented.
While Kodak emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2013, its failures – and the resulting thousands of lost jobs – have become the cautionary tale for company leaders who fear their businesses may suffer the same fate if they don’t embrace radical innovation.
But what is missing from this “disrupt or be disrupted” discussion is that Kodak’s tale if often repeated – but it is not the norm, says David Robertson, professor of practice at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
Instead, it’s stories like Gatorade’s that are more common, he says.
Specifically, Gatorade’s sales were stalled in 2007 after inventing the sports drink category in the 1960s. While it was pursuing some more radical, disruptive inventions (a chemical that would help the body process oxygen better that later turned out to be impractical for many reasons), it also began looking at innovation of its core product or “complementary” innovations.
Using market data, Gatorade knew that serious athletes were sticking with the brand despite cheaper competitors and so began developing products such as nutritious gels, bars, smoothies and shakes that were designed for before and after exercise.
This sort of innovating isn’t seen as ground breaking, but it is often underutilized by company leaders who feel they must begin with radical innovation before trying other options, Robertson says.
Robertson says research shows that revolutionary innovations have a 60% to 75% failure rate, while incremental improvements have a 25% to 40% rate of failure. But what Gatorade did is what he refers to as “The Third Way” in his book, “The Power of Little Ideas: A Low-Risk, High-Reward Approach to Innovation.” The approach worked for Gatorade because the products were diverse, they were targeted toward specific customers and they posed little strategic risk, he says.
While this third alternative is not a replacement for incremental improvements or disruptive innovations, it does provide another option that businesses need to understand and consider when faced with (read more here


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

How to Overcome Resistance to Your Ideas

Companies like Google and Amazon expect every employee to come up with new ideas, no matter how outrageous they may seem. But what if you don't work for such a company, and even your suggestion to try new paper towels in the break room is met with resistance?

There are ways to get your ideas heard and respected, but it takes a little planning. Here are some roadblocks you might come across and how to deal with them:

1.  We should stay with what is working. When a boss or colleague uses that argument, you should say something like, "Well, that's what Blockbuster and Kodak said. And they both crashed. While it's true that we're successful now, those who fail to be more agile and adapt become extinct."

2.  It's a waste of time. If your idea is attacked for not being important, don't give up.  Help the resistant person see that there are real people who suffer because of the problem you want to solve, and to them it is a very big deal.

4. It's too small. If someone argues that your idea doesn't go far enough, help them see that your idea is a way to get things started in the right direction and it's time to get started before someone else moves into that territory.

5. No one else is doing it. If you're questioned as to why someone else hasn't already implemented your good idea somewhere else, point out that "there really is a first time for everything, and we do have a unique opportunity." Drop the names Google, Amazon and Netflix -- and then point out how they've made ideas into reality.

6. It didn't work before. Shooting down your idea by saying it's been done before is a common tactic — whether it's true or not. Respond by saying that market conditions are changing rapidly and it takes persistence and tinkering to find the right combination. "What we propose probably isn't exactly what was tried before," you say.

7. Delay, delay, delay. You may be told that now isn't the "right" time for your idea, and it should be put off until something else happens, or changes. Don't be fooled by the person pretending to like your idea, only to try and kill it. Say something like, "The best time to take action is when people are excited and want to make things happen. That time is now."

8. It's too much work. That's a genuine concern because most people in the workplace today really are overworked and underpaid. To battle that argument, respond with "Taking on a challenge can be invigorating. A great new idea that we must tackle under time limits can inject new energy and motivate us to be more efficient with our time."

Monday, June 26, 2017

5 Ways to Make Better Career Decisions

When it comes to making a decision about our career -- such as whether to take a new job or jump into a new project -- we often are in a state of anxiety. We start to pick apart small things (the new job doesn't offer free parking) or feel compelled to accept the big project because all our friends seem to be involved in projects that make them happy. We feel anxious about whether it's the right move -- or whether we'll regret it in six months.

Several years ago I interview Dan Heath, who authored "Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions in Life and Work" with his brother, Chip. He offered some advice about making better decisions about a job:
• Do a 10/10/10 analysis. Think about how you would feel about your job choice 10 minutes from now, 10 months from now and 10 years from now.
"This is the best advice, especially if you're young. This will free you from the sense you need to pick the right job right now. No one will do that," he says. "Rather than agonize over it, why not just try it?"
• Use a vanishing options test. If you take away your current job offer, what would you do?
"When people imagine they cannot have the option, they move their mental spotlight," Dan Heath says. This exercise helps job seekers consider other options that might not otherwise have crossed their minds and come up with a more practical solution.
• Dip a toe in. If you're considering a big career or job shift, don't think that you have to jump in completely.
Maybe volunteering or moonlighting would give you a chance to try out a particular type of work, or you could shadow someone on the job for a few weeks, he suggests.
"Sometimes when you're dissatisfied with a job, every path looks like the yellow brick road," he says.
• Use multi-tracking. If you're house hunting and you only view one house, you may begin to rationalize away its faults.
But if you weigh several houses at one time, you will be more honest with yourself about the pros and cons, Dan Heath says. Job hunters should use the same strategy and look at multiple jobs at one time.
• Conduct a premortem. Envision what the job you're considering would be like six months from now and the worst-case scenario.
Is that something you're willing to risk? If not, you might want to move on.
Finally, Heath advises you to beware that you may have blinders on regarding other options.
"People are more likely to select information that supports their pre-existing attitudes, beliefs and actions," he says.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

5 Ways to Impress in a Text Interview

Imagine that you're standing in line at Starbucks, when you receive this text....

"Hello! We just received your resume and wanted to chat initially via text. Can you tell us why you feel you're qualified for this position?"

After a minute, you answer:

"I know this is a joke. Who is this? And why are you harassing me you a**hole?"

While you might think it's a friend playing a prank, the reality is that this can happen in today's job market where employers are looking for ways to speed up the hiring process, including an initial text interview.

So, now that you've called a potential employer an "a**hole" let's look at some ways you can make a better impression in the future when participating in a text interview.

1. Don't rush it. Your first inclination when hearing from an employer might be to toss off a few lines as you're ordering that latte, but don't do it. No employer is going to expect to hear from you within a few minutes, so take the time to form your thoughts.

2. Be prepared. Sometimes when an employer expresses interest, your brain can short-circuit for a moment, especially if this employer is one of your top picks or your job search has stalled. Be prepared with some standard answers to interview questions, such as "What makes you excited about your work?" or "How do you stay motivated?"

3. Be concise. Just as you would on the telephone or in a live interview, you need to respect the time of the hiring manager. Be concise with your answers, but don't be afraid to let your enthusiasm shine through.

4. Don't be sloppy. This is your first encounter with an employer, so be professional. Don't use text slang, don't abbreviate, make sure your auto correct doesn't make you sound like an idiot -- and always proof the text before sending. Forget the emoji -- there's too great of a chance it will come off as unprofessional and immature.

5. Show interest. Just as you would ask questions in an interview, don't be shy about asking questions of the hiring manager. Show your interest and knowledge by saying something like, "I just read online that the company is expanding into Asia. What an amazing opportunity -- do you know when operations will begin?"

Monday, June 19, 2017

Why Others May Not See You as Reliable


Everyone wants to work for someone who is reliable, and every boss wants an employee who is reliable.

This isn't an earth-shattering revelation, yet it's one that can fall by the wayside as you become busier in your career and in your life.

But a  research project known as CEO Genome shows that reliability is critical if you want to be successful and rise in the ranks. In fact, it's important that you be "relentlessly reliable" if you want to be a successful CEO one day.

While reliability seems to be "annoyingly  obvious" to success, research shows that it's also the kind of behavior that can be proven statistically to show results, especially when it comes to being hired, says Elena Lytkina Botelho, a consultant at ghSMART, a Chicago-based management consulting firm

What makes a CEO -- or anyone-- more reliable? Botelho says one of the most important tips is to make sure you get it right from the beginning.

"Reliability doesn’t start when you start executing. Reliability starts when you walk in and you understand what everybody expects of you, and you align your stakeholders towards expectations that are realistic given what the situation presents you with," she says.

It's clear that to become more reliable, you have to be honest with yourself and in your dealings with others. Here are some ways to be more reliable:

  • Follow through. I'm sure you've run into the situation where a colleague says he or she will help you get a project done -- and then turns up on deadline without it being done. The person may claim he or she was too busy, or simply forgot. Think about how you feel in that moment -- do you want others to think the same thing of you? If not, then don't take what I call the half-ass route. Do the job you promised and do it well and on time. If you can't, then give your colleague a heads-up ASAP.
  • Draw a line in the sand. People often get into trouble when they don't clearly define who they are as a person and as a team member. You don't have to declare it from the rooftops, but it does need to be known that you won't do anything unethical or unlawful, and  you won't help anyone else do something unethical or unlawful. You will be seen as much more reliable when people get a clear idea of your personal ethics and know that they can count on you to stand firm.
  • Embrace your imperfections. No one trusts someone who thinks he or she is perfect, or pretty close to it. Everyone makes mistakes, and you need to be ready to own up to your own mistakes and not have a meltdown if someone else makes a mistake. It may sound odd, but you'll actually be seen as more reliable if you are willing to admit you don't always get it right -- but are willing to learn and move on. People rely on those who are human -- not false images that claim to be without fault.

I took the online CEO Genome test and found that my reliability was better than the average, but I think it's something I need to work on. I know that I don't like to depend on those who are unreliable, and I should expect no less from myself.

In what ways do you try to show you are reliable?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Really Easy Ways to Save Your Small Business Money

Of all the challenges small businesses face, holding the line on costs while trying to expand or with a slow economy may be one of the toughest. When sales slow or expansion eats into your profits, don't panic – consider these 10 easy ways to cut costs instead.
1. Get free press
Can you recommend the latest fashions that are affordable on any budget? Explain how to keep mice out of the kitchen and spiders out of the basement? Pitch ideas to your local media and offer yourself as the expert. The free press can help trim your advertising costs and boost your business' visibility in the community. Win-win.
2. Be flexible
Real estate can be expensive for any small business – up to $100,000 for a 10-year lease. Instead, consider setting up shop in a temporary space that doesn't require a long lease and allows (read more here

Monday, June 12, 2017

How to Answer "Where Do You See Yourself in 5 Years?"

Job interviews can be stressful, but as I've said before, the more you prepare for them, the more stress you can eliminate.

Part of that preparation is understanding there are going to be standard interview questions and even a few weird ones. It also means that the hiring manager is trying to get a "feel" for you. Are you a slacker? A whiner? Ambitious?

One of the ways he or she will seek to do that is by asking "So, where do you see yourself in five years?"

Some people try to be funny when answering this question (don't -- it often backfires), while others answer with "I dunno" and a smile. (This also doesn't go over well.)

Let the interviewer know that you've give this some thought because any company wants to know that you're interested in more than just collecting a paycheck -- they want to see someone who has set goals and is mature enough to go after them.

Here are some thing to think about when you give your answer:

  • Relate it to the open position. If you're applying for an accounting job, don't say you hope to be living in Paris and working on your art in five years. Why should a company hire someone who is obviously passionate about something else and may jump ship as soon as he or she saves enough money for a one-way ticket to Paris?
  • Show some enthusiasm. While you may be passionate about a life in Paris, it's better to think about how the open position could be a way to build your career. "I think accounting will help better hone my financial skills. I know that understanding finances and how to handle money correctly is a critical part of any successful business, and I hope to learn even more about this aspect." You're going to need accounting to build your dream art career, aren't you? You're being honest about your goals -- just not shoving Paris into the immediate picture.
  • Talk about growing. Really, what the hiring manager is seeking is someone who is interested in learning and growing in the company, not someone who just wants to warm the chair and collect a salary. They're not pushing to have you become of the CEO of the company -- they just want to see if you're someone who will jump ship in six months. You can give a fairly general answer, such as: "I like to learn. I think that my goal is to just keep growing and learning. I've done my homework on this company, and I think this would be a really great company where I can keep growing and contribute in a meaningful way."
What other suggestions do you have for answering "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

Thursday, June 8, 2017

3 Ways to Deal With a Blame Shifter

Many workplace cultures encourage employees to make mistakes as a way to learn and push toward innovation.

Unfortunately, there are still many workplaces today that also have little tolerance of missteps and end up breeding employees who become very adept at shifting the blame.

If you're a teammate of someone who never accepts responsibility for an error and is willing to throw you under the bus, then it's time to take some steps to ensure it doesn't hurt your career.

Here are some ways to handle others who try to put the blame on your shoulders:

1. Communicate. Too many times we get angry with a co-worker and blow things out of proportion as our stress increases. "Rob is blaming me because he's just an incompetent jerk. Now I'm going to get in trouble with the boss and lose my chance at a promotion!" is the kind of thought that circles your head at 2 a.m. when you're tossing and turning and can't sleep. But in the more rational light of day, try talking to Rob. He may be frustrated or anxious about something that is the underlying reason he's so quick to blame someone else. Hold firm in your belief that this issue is not your fault, but also be willing to take responsibility if you in any way contributed to a problem. Just don't let Rob wiggle out of being accountable.

2. Be rational. Just as you toss and turn with anxiety in the middle of the night, so does Rob. But if you break down the issue and try to get Rob to look at it more rationally, he may see that it's an issue that can be resolved and there's no need to panic and start blaming others. "I think you did the right thing in contacting the customer right away about the delay, and of course you cannot control his reaction," you might say. "I think the problem is that we need a better alert system when there are problems in production so we make our customers aware of the potential delays." By being objective, you help Rob see that energy is better spent coming up with solutions, not casting blame.

3. Step back. In these cases, you must be careful that Rob doesn't start to see you as the person who will save him. He may indeed stop shifting the blame to you -- but he also may decide that you're going to do his work for him and keep him out of hot water. When he runs to you for help, ask what steps he's taking to resolve issues -- but don't take on his work. You don't want to move from being thrown under the bus to being Rob's personal driver.

Monday, June 5, 2017

How Gamification Leads to Business Success

Look at your keychain. See all those "reward" tags hanging from it?
Now, check out your wallet. Are there credit cards in there that offer frequent flier miles? What about your smartphone? Got apps that help you track what you've eaten today?
If any of these apply to you, then you are living proof of the power of gamification, or using game-like elements to encourage customer participation. You are connected to a specific company and its products in a way that you may not even think about.
Now, here's the really tough question: Why aren't you doing the same thing for your small business?
If you've ignored gamification because you believe it's something only a larger company can implement, then you're missing a golden opportunity to not only boost customer loyalty and sales, but also to better (read more here)