Thursday, December 28, 2017

How to Be Truly Innovative

Have you ever considered why you need water to mop a floor?
If so, you may have thought that the water doesn’t really help clean the floor – it just turns the dirt into mud. Mud that then must be cleaned from the mop.
That’s exactly what a small research design team realized when Proctor and Gamble directed them to explore how, when and why people mop their kitchen floors.
Not only did mopping floors with water mean more time was actually spent cleaning the mop than cleaning the floor – but better mops required even more mud cleaning from the implement.
That’s when the research team questioned P&G engineers: Isn’t there something better to clean up the dirt? Their answer: dry cleaning cloths that use electrostatic forces to pick up dust – no water necessary.
The Swiffer was born. The disposable pads and the tool to hold them have made the company billions of dollars.
“It was solving the right problem – a problem that P&G didn’t even know existed,” says Thomas Lockwood, who has a PhD in design management. The Swiffer development is one of the stories he explores with Edgar Pike in “Innovation By Design: How Any Organization Can Leverage Design Thinking to Produce Change, Drive New Ideas and Deliver Meaningful Solutions.
Solving the right problem, Lockwood explains, is the first tenet to design thinking. So is a deep understanding of the user through observation (read more here)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Are You Confused About Your Company's Identity?

Testing personal DNA has become quite popular, with many people trying to figure out exactly who they are – their country of origin, their race and even if what they’ve been told all their lives about their heritage is true.
Andy Cunningham says that companies need to do the same thing. Of course, an organization can’t send in a saliva sample for testing, but there are other ways to determine a company’s DNA.
That’s important, she says, because too many companies don’t have an accurate read on their DNA and so fail to correctly position themselves in the marketplace – and customersinstantly sniff out their lack of authenticity and turn away from it.
“It’s just like if you sometimes ask someone what they’re good at, they don’t really know,” Cunningham says. “Well, companies (read more here)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

4 Signs That You're A Toxic Boss

There has been much written lately about sexual assaults and sexual discrimination in the workplace, and many people have lost their jobs because of it.

But that doesn't mean abuse of workers has been stopped or that all bad bosses are going to be shown the door.

There are still plenty of bad bosses out there, doing their damage in workplaces both big and small. These bosses are the ones who belittle employees. They are snide, rude and often are very consumed with their own self-worth. They are emotionally immature and overconfident of their abilities. 

What this means is that they could care less about an employee who may be struggling with a personal problem or having difficulties with a work project. These bosses are so determined to succeed that they put any empathy on the back burner and instead focus on their own self worth. In fact, these bad bosses are probably not being held accountable for their despicable behavior because they are delivering results.

While there are signs that more companies are not willing to tolerate such toxic bosses, getting rid of them isn't going to happen overnight. But change is coming. So, if you're in a management role, it's time you assessed your own behavior to determine if you need to improve. 

Signs you may be a bad boss include:

·        Making someone feel small. “Good try,” or “I didn’t expect you to be able to handle that,” are not encouraging, but focus on weaknesses.
·        Remaining silent. By withholding information or feelings, it becomes impossible to have an open and meaningful relationship with others.
·       Making personal judgments.  If you judge the individual, and not the performance, then you make yourself look like a big shot, while making the other person seem worthless.
·        Trivializing. You forget to show up for an appointment with an employee, cut off a conversation with “that’s enough” or dismiss some important personal event in an employee’s life. That makes the person feel a keen lack of respect.

      Over the holiday break, take time to assess whether the behavior you show at work would be tolerated by your friends or family. If not, it could be time to make some changes so that your toxic behavior is left behind.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Top Supply Chain Trends for 2018

Remember a few years ago when you paid extra to have something delivered in two days?
That’s no longer the case, and now companies like Amazon offer same-day delivery on a wide variety of items.
This focus on making faster deliveries to the customer at no additional charge is changing the way that supply chains operate – and more changes are expected in 2018 as companies ramp up their focus on customers, says Brian Hodgson, executive vice president of business development at MP Objects.
“Retailers are transforming their supply chains in two ways: building stronger and more integrated relationships with suppliers; and changing their distribution network to be closer to their customers,” he says.
He explains the stronger relationships with suppliers provides the ability to offer a broader catalog without carrying the inventory. At the same time, more advanced integration can enable the retailer to decide whether the shipment is sent from the supplier or its warehouse based on inventory, consumer proximity and transportation costs, he says.
“With respect to the distribution network, in addition to leveraging suppliers, retailers are moving fulfillment close to the consumers, and often will leverage third-party logistics companies for this coverage,” he says.
He adds that retailers also will require a broader carrier mix to cover (read more here)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Doing This One Thing Will Give You a Professional Edge

When you were growing up, your teacher or your mom probably made you write thank-you notes. You hated it. You vowed when you grew up, you would never, never, never, never write another thank-you note.

So, you didn't. You didn't send a thank-you note when Aunt Nancy sent you a graduation gift. You didn't send a thank-you note when you got married and people gave you a bunch of cool stuff.

This "no thank-you note policy" may make sense to you. You might say "thank you" the next time you see Aunt Nancy (which is good enough), or you may believe that if the gift-giver really cares about the giving, then you shouldn't have to send a thank-you note.

You're not writing a thank-you note. Discussion over.

OK, I'll go along. You don't have to write a thank-you note in your private life if you don't want to -- even if I do believe you sound like a spoiled ingrate. That's your business.

When it comes to your professional life, however, I'm going to advise you to write thank-you notes. Here's the reason why:

  • It shows you're mature. 
  • It shows you have emotional intelligence.
  • It shows you're not an ingrate.
  • It makes a good impression.
Writing thank-you notes can be difficult for some people, but if you Google "how to write thank-you notes," more than 7 million results pop up. That means you can jot off a thank-you note in about five minutes and earn yourself a lot of goodwill from clients, colleagues, mentors and bosses.

Believe me, it makes a difference. People have become so lazy about writing thank-you notes that when you do, it will stand out. It will impress the boss. It will impress a hiring manager. It will impress a potential client.

The bottom line: Show more appreciation in your professional life, and more appreciation is likely to be shown for you.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Research Reveals New Insight About Workaholics

Many people have turned to mindfulness or meditation or yoga as a way to deal with the stresses of their careers. They believe that if they don't want to drop dead at their desks, then they need to figure out ways to let their workplace worries go. (Overwork, research shows, can lead to insomnia, anxiety, headaches, stomach ailments, etc.)

But there are also people who love what they do, and don't mind how many hours they spend doing it. Such people often are called workaholics, and friends and loved ones predict such people will, undoubtedly, drop dead doing their jobs.

Or will they?

New research is presented in a paper called "Beyond Nine to Five: Is Working to Excess Bad for Your Health?" has some interesting findings, such as:

  • Working long hours doesn't wreck your health. As researchers note, not all workaholics work long hours, and working long hours doesn't make you a workaholic. Some of those who work long hours, for example, can recharge after a good night's sleep and not risk becoming ill.
  • Being compulsive can hurt you. If you can't switch off work, you risk health problems. Tossing and turning all night as you think about your job means that your body isn't getting the rest that it needs and that can lead to physical problems.
  • Not all workaholics are created the same. If you're a workaholic and don't like your job, your risk of developing poor health increases. But if you're a workaholic that loves what you do, then you stay healthy.
  • Support helps. If you're a workaholic that really is engaged and passionate about what you do and you have support from a spouse, friend or colleague, then that's a real advantage. Such workaholics were found to have better communication skills and better time management and didn't ruin their health.
Researchers stress that there can be real long-term health consequences for those working long hours who don't like what they do and are not engaged or enthusiastic. They say that time for recovery is critical, as is finding balance and getting support.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

8 Ways to Create Greater Workplace Happiness

On a scale of one to 10, how happy are the employees in your organization?
If your answer is “seven” then you’re right in line with the answer given by most CEOs.
“Seven is an interesting number,” says Kris Boesch, an workplace culture expert. “It’s representative of ‘we’re doing okay, not great’ or ‘I really don’t know.’ You’re confident that no one is going to go postal. Overall you have a good group of people who get along well enough. There are some areas that could use improvement. It’s a ‘safe’ number.”
But Boesch says no one should be thrilled with such an assessment, because when employees are happier, the bottom line is healthier.
Further, don’t try to defend your culture to Boesch by claiming that your workers are “satisfied” or “engaged.”
“That’s a pretty low bar to try and hit. Would you be thrilled to say that your clients are ‘satisfied’? And what is engaged? I don’t really know (read more here)

Monday, December 4, 2017

5 Reasons to Attend the Office Holiday Party That You May Not Have Considered

Have you started plotting your excuse to get out of the holiday party yet?

You've got malaria.

Your dog ate all your clothes.

Your great-grandmother is expected to die on the day of the party. (Even though she died before you were born).

Some people truly dread the office holiday celebration, for a bunch of different reasons. I don't really care why you don't want to go (believe me, I've had my share of reasons), but it's important that you attend.

Since I know that you can come up with many reasons why you don't want to go and shouldn't have to, I'm going to give you the reasons you must attend:

1.  Everyone will talk about you if you don't go. And it won't be nice.

2. You will miss the boss wearing an ugly holiday sweater that his Nana made for him 10 years ago. It's not meant to be ironic, by the way.

3. You won't be in any photos that will be posted on Facebook talking about what a great time was had by everyone. While the enjoyment factor may not have truly been outstanding, your absence will be noted by senior managers. (This is not a good thing).

4. The elusive IT guy you've been trying to reach for three months to fix a bug in a key client's system is at the party, and feeling very open to conversation. You missed him reciting "Oh Captain! My Captain! near the dessert table, and also therefore failed to nab his cooperation to fix a big problem for you.

5. After your boss's boss led a conga line, she was in such a jovial mood that she revealed the next big project the company  is working on. This led to her setting up future appointments with those in her conga line so that she could discuss potential assignments more in-depth during the workweek. You failed to make the party, the conga line -- and a chance to get in on a big, new exciting project that could pay off for your career.

Instead of thinking up excuses of why you don't want to attend the holiday party, think of all the things you want to accomplish this next year, and how interactions at the holiday party could go a long way in helping you achieve them. New projects, better collaboration with other departments, boosting your reputation with senior leaders -- and getting to see the ugliest holiday sweater ever -- should spur you into attending.

Have fun!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Research Shows Why You May Make Bad Decisions

If you are under persistent, long-term stress, be aware that any decisions you make will tilt toward higher-risk options -- such as accepting a job that might be a mistake.

New research from MIT neuroscientists finds that riskier decisions are made when there are impairments of a specific brain circuit. 

The good news is that in tests on mice, scientists were able to bring back normal thinking patterns by manipulating this circuit. The hope is that someday something similar could help people with depression, addiction, anxiety or poor decision-making.

In the meantime, this is a something to be aware of when you're trying to make a decision about a new job or even a new work assignment and you've been under chronic stress.

Scientists say that when you're faced with options that have both positive and negative elements, you're more likely to opt for the riskier choice because the stress is affecting your brain's decision-making. You may, for example, ignore the high cost of the job (long hours) and choose the high reward (high salary) instead of the job that will offer you less pay but give you more time off.

Another cautionary note: Once the shift in thinking occurs, it can last for months.

There has been plenty written about the havoc that stress causes on your body. It can lead to physical ailments such as high blood pressure and stomach problems, not to mention sleepless nights. It can hurt your relationships on the job and at home. Now with this research, there's something else to consider about stress since it might impair your decision making.

While you're entering the sometimes frantic holiday season, thinking about whether it's time you took significant steps to reducing your stress, whether it's through exercise, taking up a fun hobby or even finding a therapist to talk about what's stressing you out. Your future career happiness may depend on it.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Why It's Time to Push Back Against Industry Norms

Since he was a university student in the Netherlands, it has bothered Freek Vermeulen that newspapers are printed in the broadsheet format, which he contends is awkward and flimsy to read.
When he became an assistant professor of strategic and international management at London Business School, he took the opportunity to question newspaper leaders about their format and discovered leaders didn’t really know why they used broadsheets – it had just always been done that way.
Vermeulen then turned a couple of research assistants loose to dig deeper into the reasoning. They found that the broadsheets were born after the English government in 1712 began taxing newspaper companies based on the number of pages that were printed. While printing the larger pages made sense at the time, the practice continued even after the tax law was abolished.
Vermeulen, now a full professor, says this is a great example of the trap many companies fall into – hanging onto things that don’t really make sense. It’s also why they fail to evolve and innovate.
“In principle, the world is Darwinian, including in business. Part of adaptation is dumping things that don’t work,” he says. “If you have bad habits, you may not survive.”
While some businesses may be able to continue bad habits for a “surprisingly long (read more here)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Why Today's Workplace Needs You to Be Fast on Your Feet

You know those picky and demanding customers who drive you nuts? Or, those employees who endlessly complain that things could be done better?
Instead of running away from those you may consider annoying, it’s time to start listening to them, says Amanda Setili, a strategy consultant who has worked with Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines and Home Depot.
That’s because those who complain – whether employees or customers – are doing so because they have ideas about how things can be done better. It’s just those idea, she says, that may keep a company afloat in a rapidly changing marketplace.
“When change is happening so fast, then whoever is fast on their feet will gain the advantage,” says Setili, author of “Fearless Growth: The New Rules to Stay Competitive, Foster Innovation and Dominate Your Markets.” “So, embrace the problem customers. Listen to the skeptical naysayers in your company because they can help you be fast and agile and innovative.”
Unfortunately, many companies do exactly the opposite and tune out diverse opinions. They hunker down in their uncertainty, blocking out dissenting views and embracing the status quo as a way to ride out the unknown.
But Setili, who has been an executive with two successful disruptive technology startups in the U.S. and Malaysia, says that companies need to learn to be adaptable and “ready for anything.” One way (read more here)

Monday, November 20, 2017

How to Handle Uncertainty and Be More Creative

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield says that the first nine minutes of a space mission account for at least 50% of a mission’s risk, which is why the crew spends so much time asking themselves how they will react if there’s an inadvertent engine shutdown or a loss of staging rockets.
“A nice way to keep reminding yourself is: ‘What’s the next thing that’s going to kill me?’” he says.
Or course, most company teams don’t face such dangers, but that willingness to consider what risks are around the corner and how to deal with them is the right mindset for innovating, says Luis Perez-Breva, a research scientist at MIT’s School of Engineering and originator and lead instructor of the MIT Innovation Teams Program.
“What this illustrates is that despite feeling some panic when thinking about the risks, these astronauts set that aside and continue on with getting prepared for anything they might be able to predict,” Perez-Breva says.
He explains that being “productivity wrong” – such as the astronauts trying to determine what can go wrong – can benefit companies. Instead of trying to find only one best answer, they can think about the obstacles that they can work around – and figuring out how ideas can be wrong can be a great learning tool. He says too many companies fail because they simply haven’t thought about the potential pitfalls of a product or service.
He wrote the book after failing to find materials for his students (read more here)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How the Holiday Season Can Help Your Career

The holiday season is beginning to ramp up, and your thoughts may be consumed by Black Friday deals or how to make your nana's pecan pie.

Amidst all these celebrations, however, it's time to also do a little career celebration. That's right -- it's time to give yourself the gift of new connections, better communications and making nice with teammates.

It's no secret that work often can be stressful. But if you do a few things now for your career as you are wrapping gifts and plotting leftover casseroles, you will find that it is a gift that gives for a long time.

For example, while you're reaching out to family and friends this holiday season, why not also reach out to new connections in your company or your industry? How about a "happy-holidays-and-I'd like- to-connect" message via LinkedIn? Or, send a friendly Facebook message to someone you met at a conference, wishing them a joyful Thanksgiving and a "let's-set-up-a-time-to-talk" message?

The point is, you will find people in a much more receptive mood during this celebration season, so why not see it as an opportunity to network?

Here are some other ways to "gift" your career during the holiday season:

  • Demonstrate your emotional intelligence. More companies are focusing on emotional intelligence when making new hires or offering promotions. While your hard skills may be just fine (Ruby on Rails is a breeze for you), others may see you as, ahem, less than friendly. So, find a calendar of a boss's favorite baseball team and offer it to him so he can feel cheered in 2018 every time he looks at it. Or, reach out to a teammate who has been struggling to learn a new program and offer to pick her up a cup of tea or coffee the next time you're going on a snack run. Bring it back with a small "hang in there" note to let her know you're cheering her on.
  • Listen. The holiday season offers numerous opportunities for office potlucks, gift exchanges or parties. This is a great opportunity to listen to people in a more relaxed atmosphere. They'll often share things that bring them joy: family, friends or hobbies. This helps you get to know them better and develop stronger, more personal ties that can also boost your professional bond.
  • Share. Just as your colleagues or bosses are willing to chat with you more about their lives, you should be willing to do the same. You don't have to overshare with the results of your latest colonoscopy, but you can talk about hobbies you enjoy, travels that have been exciting or what you like to binge watch on Netflix. Sharing a common love of "Stranger Things" can be the key, for example, that unlocks the door to a better relationship with a prickly colleague or a standoffish boss.
While the holiday season can be a bit crazy, take some time this week to think about ways you can gift yourself with career happiness in the coming year -- and enjoy doing it while eating some pumpkin pie!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Why "Nobodies" Are the Key to Innovation

Companies often are protective of the innovation process, taking steps to protect their ideas from “outsiders” and trying to ensure competitors don’t get even a whiff of what they’re thinking.
The problem is that such a mentality ends up shutting out so many people, even from inside the organization, that the ideas aren’t as innovative or as viable as they would be if more people were included.
Recent research backs up the idea that innovation needs to be open to more sources of inspiration, and innovation experts like Nilofer Merchant argue that companies are missing golden opportunities when they don’t invite all employees to suggest creative products or processes.
“What we must all realize is that there are a lot of people – like women or people of color – who have been dismissed, who are considered nobodies,” Merchant says. “But it’s the nobodies who are changing the world.”

The innovation pipeline

A new study on developing an innovation pipeline offers insights that surprise Dylan Minor, an assistant professor at the Kellogg School of Management, who analyzed (read more here)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

So, How Do You Feel About Meetings?

If you ever lack for conversational openings at a networking event, you can always ask "So, how do you feel about meetings?"

The other person is likely to respond with at least several minutes worth of opinion, from "there are too damn many" to "meetings are slowly killing me."

There have been many ideas over the years on how to either shorten meetings or eliminate them. There have been standing or walking meetings, which are supposed to a)shorten meetings because feet get tired from standing or walking and b)help you at least get some health benefits from the event you believe is slowly killing you. There is also the idea of making everyone put their cellphones in the middle of the table, with the idea this will keep participants from being distracted by their phones and lead to a more efficient meeting.

I've interviewed a number of experts over the years, and they all have various ideas about how to make meetings better. Most of them suggest it's critical that there be an agenda and only essential people be included in the sessions. But after that, the opinions sort of diverge. Some leaders put a time limit on meetings, and you better learn to say your ideas in a fast and concise way or you risk being cut off. There is also the opinion that you spend the first 10 minutes shooting the breeze, which gives the latecomers a chance to show up and actually makes things more efficient.

I don't profess to know the answer. Personally, I don't like meetings and I often hate them. But I know that they are necessary to getting things done, and without them I wouldn't have a chance to sit down with colleagues and focus on them face-to-face.

But is there a balance? Should some meetings be deemed as "action" meetings and require concise conversations that stick strictly to a specific agenda? If that's the case, then should meetings that are more free-wheeling be called "lazy-Susan" meetings where the conversation spins around the room as needed?

You know what? I think we need to call a meeting to discuss this.

Your thoughts?

Monday, November 6, 2017

If You Do Any Project Management, You Need to Know This

Great project managers often are described as good communicators, able to delegate tasks and be cool under pressure.
But as competition heats up in various industries and the marketplace becomes more globally connected, such qualities won’t be enough to ensure a successful project management career. Instead, those abilities – and others such as emotional intelligence and business savvy – will be demanded by companies looking to gain an edge.
“At this point in time, your technical savvy as a project manager is a threshold skill – it just gets you in the conversation.” says Cynthia Snyder Dionisio, author of “A Project Manager’s Book of Forms: A Companion to the PMBOK Guide,” (3rd edition). “If you want to advance in your career and keep your job, you’re going to have to be able to understand business speak.”
That means being able to grasp how to sub-optimize resources, figuring out what the competition is up to and determining how to get the best return on investment, she says. “Those are now the differentiating skills. But in five years? Those will be threshold skills for project managers,” she says.
Specifically, the Project Management Institute (PMI) reveals in its latest leadership research that 42% percent of survey respondents report that both technical and leadership skills are a high priority, a 3% boost over last year.
Snyder and other project management experts say that one of the best ways that project managers can remain viable is to understand the trends that are headed their way, so they can best develop key skills. Some of those trends include:

1. Emotional intelligence.

Project managers may believe their communication skills or organizational abilities are enough to ensure they’re effective in dealing with team members or those outside the organization. But as the consensus grows that emotional intelligence is more important than your IQ, project managers need to show they also have developed skills associated (read more here)

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Is Your Job Title Hurting Your Career?

When you decide to change jobs, you may have certain criteria in mind about what jobs you will take and the ones you will dismiss.

Some of your criteria may be based on salary, location, company culture or perks.

One area that often is overlooked is the job title. I think part of that is because people have gotten into some wacky titles such as "ninja salesperson." Or, they think the title doesn't really matter -- they just want a better salary and more vacation time.

But a recent study by Comparably shows you need to pay more attention to the title that comes with the new job. Specifically, in a look at tech jobs, it shows that "sales representative" and "sales engineer" garner bigger jumps in salary over time. The jump  in salary over a decade can be as high as 55.9% -- that is a much bigger increase than the 3% annual bump you might receive in other jobs.

While it's true that tech may have bigger jumps in salary than some other jobs, it's also a good reminder that in any industry you need to pay attention to job titles.  For example, if you're doing management work, then "manager" should be in the title and not just something like "team visionary." When you go looking for another job someday, another employer may not have a clue what a "team visionary" is and conclude you're not ready for an upper management job. While you may explain that you really were a manager, that employer may have doubts and move onto someone else.

The same thing should be top of mind when you're given promotions within your company. Make a case that you want a job title that matches your job duties. If not, then the company may be able to keep your salary lower than you deserve and prevent you from future career opportunities.

Take a look at your resume this week and try to determine if your job titles show a steady progression in the right direction. If not, it's time to rethink how your current job title can be improved -- and the next job title you want to reach.

Monday, October 30, 2017

If You Don't Learn to Delegate, Your Career Will Stagnate

Many people believe that only bosses get to delegate, but that's a belief that can hurt your career.

If you don't learn to delegate -- even in the early stages of your career -- then you're not using your abilities to the greatest advantage for you and for your employer.

You may believe that delegating isn't worth it. You would rather do the work yourself than go through the hassle of teaching someone else how to do it, or you believe the other person will screw it up so it's better if you just stick with it. Perhaps you've even had one or two bad experiences with delegating, so you vow never to do it again.

The problem is that delegating is a skill, and needs to be developed if you want to move up in the ranks at work. If you're not successful at delegating, then that means you're getting bogged down in tasks that can keep you from getting a big project or a promotion. Your career begins to stagnate under work that should be done by someone else, and soon you get a reputation as someone who is too afraid or to unskilled to take on new challenges.

When considering what you can delegate, make a list of your priorities for the week in order of importance to your boss. Then, make a list of what you need to get done in a week. When you compare the two lists, you'll note you have many more items on your list -- and those are the ones that you should think about delegating. If those jobs aren't important priorities for your boss, then you need to start re-thinking the time and effort you give to those tasks.

Now, this is when it gets tricky for people. How to delegate? Who should you ask?

Here are some things to consider:

1. Fit. When you need to delegate a task, why do you need to delegate it to that specific person? If it's because this colleague will stay until 10 p.m. to make sure it's done right, that's not a good enough reason. That's just you dumping work on someone. But if the task requires using an Excel spreadsheet -- and there's another employee who doesn't have much experience in that area -- then you're offering that colleague a chance to grow his or her skills.
2. Commitment. A lot of people don't realize that the reason their delegation attempts haven't worked in the past is because they are lousy delegators. They delegated the task and then just walked away after a brief explanation of the work. If you want delegating to be successful, you have to make the commitment to be clear with instructions (putting things in writing is always very helpful) and being available should questions arise. You're not there to hover over the work, but in the beginning you need to be available -- and welcoming -- of questions or concerns.
3. Enthusiasm. "Jerry, can you get these reports entered into the system? This is the suckiest job, but I really need to move onto something else," you say. Gee, who wouldn't want to jump in and help with such an exciting request? Instead, say something like, "Jerry, I know you've been trying to get more training time on this software, and I believe I've come up with something that can help both of us. I can help you become more fluent on this system if you can enter these numbers for me. I'll be right here if you have any questions, but this is certainly something that helped me become more confident using this system." This way, you're not overselling the task, but you're pointing out the advantage for your colleague -- a critical step in forming a positive delegating relationship.

As you progress through your career, you should always reassess what makes you the most effective and the best ways to use your skills. Learning to delegate -- for the right reasons -- is a critical ability that will make you more productive.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

How to Avoid Being Blindsided in Your Career

I've written before about how to know when your job is in trouble: The boss avoids you, there are meetings that you used to attend that are now excluding you and your job duties are being trimmed.

The story, "How to Know When You're on Thin Ice at Work," in today's Wall Street Journal covers much of this in its reporting, but I think more discussion is needed of how to avoid having your job yanked out from under you.

Specifically, "I have your back" colleagues.

You may already have these people in your career, although it's sort of unofficial. These are the people who let you know when something is happening that could affect your job or your boss. Or, they are from outside the organization, and meet you for coffee to discuss job strategy or are ready to congratulate you on a success at work.

These people are loyal to you  -- but they're also willing to let you know when they think you're going down the wrong path or aren't spotting signs you might be in trouble.

Let me give you an example: A young manager I know told me on three separate occasions about how his direct supervisor would always make snarky comments about this young manager's flexible work arrangement. The direct supervisor had approved the schedule (the young manager was training for a marathon), so the young manager just saw these snarky comments as "kidding around."

"The first time is 'kidding around,'" I told him. "Maybe even the second time. But a third time? He's taking a direct shot at you and you need to talk to him face-to-face about it."

The young manager procrastinated a bit, claiming each time I saw him that the supervisor was just "that kind of guy."

But then a big promotion opportunity came up, and the supervisor didn't back the young manager's quest for it.

The young manager was upset by the supervisor's lack of support. He finally decided he needed to sit down and chat with the supervisor.

It turns out that the supervisor was under increasing pressure from his boss. He was being asked to do more with less, and he saw the young manager as "clueless" and "not caring" that he was having to work more to make up for the young manager not being around on a fixed schedule.

The supervisor saw the young manager as disloyal, a bit lazy and self-centered.

Unfortunately, the young manager didn't react quickly enough to the signs from the supervisor that concerned me earlier, and he was basically forced out of that company within six months.

As the WSJ story points out, sometimes we think we're a bit too special. We think we're doing a great job and don't see the signs that others are becoming disillusioned with us.

That's why "I've got your back" people are so important. They're going to lift you up when you need it, and give you a swift kick in the "get a clue" area when you need it.

No matter where you are in your career, look for at least three to five people you can count on to be honest with you and have your best interests at heart. Be willing to fill that role for them, as well.

These people are you own personal board of directors. They do not have to be friends, although you will probably become friendly over time.

This board looks at the facts, considers the options and provides their best assessment of what they think is happening and how you should react. By having several people whom you respect on the board, you can form a better plan of how to make smarter career decisions -- and avoid skating on thin ice.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Why You Think You're Prepared to Job Hunt -- But You're Really Not

I recently was interviewed on a podcast, "Find Your Dream Job." You can find the full transcript here, but I'm including some of it now....

Mac Prichard:
Now our topic this week is about the importance of preparation in a job search. When you and I chatted before the program, you were saying this was the one thing people have to do in a job search. What do you mean by preparation, Anita? Why is it so important?
Anita Bruzzese:
Well, I think there’s a couple of scenarios. Sometimes, people are unexpectedly looking for a job. They get laid off or there’s a merger, or there’s something that happens. So in a panic, they just start sending out resumes right and left. Just whoever is online that they can find the address for. They send out resumes. The other thing is, they’re kind of wishy washy about their job search, and they’re not quite sure. Maybe they just want to see what’s out there, they’re not real enthusiastic about it. So those kind of things really set people up to fail because they’re job searching without giving it a lot of thought.
Mac Prichard:
So, what kind of difference can preparation make? Because let’s go back to that second scenario, someone who, they just want to test the water. Why is that a bad thing, Anita?
Anita Bruzzese:
Yeah. Well, I’ll give you an example. I sit on the board of a nonprofit and we were recently advertising for a position. This is not a nonprofit that’s run by Microsoft, it doesn’t have a lot of money. It was advertising for a position and we had resumes come in, and we had resumes from people three thousand miles away who didn’t really even have the qualifications. If you looked at the job, you could tell this was not a nonprofit with a lot of money to pay. I’m not really sure what these people thought they were doing. It wasn’t like we were going to be able to fly them in to interview them. We would not be able to pay any moving costs. They really didn’t have the qualifications to apply.
So that’s kind of what I’m saying. I’ve even talked to law firms where people have applied for the position of lawyer and they do not have a law degree. So that’s why I think a lot of times people just get into this mindset where they’re just going to cast this really wide net and just see what happens. That’s probably one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Because you’re going into it totally unprepared. If I called you from the law firm and said, “Alright, where did you get your law degree from?”, and you have no law degree, what are you going to say?
It’s a ridiculous waste of time and effort.
Mac Prichard:
What would you say to people, and I’m making a guess here, but I imagine people who send that resume from three thousand miles away and think, “Who knows? Maybe lightning will strike. I could do that job or I could learn how to do it. Why shouldn’t I apply?” What would you say to somebody like that, Anita?
Anita Bruzzese:
Because I think that job searches are draining. There’s a reason they say that a job search is a job in itself. It requires a lot of focus, it requires a lot of energy. If you’re going to do it, why not put a hundred percent of your effort into something that you really want, or that really interests you, or that you’re qualified for, instead of casting this wide net and just hoping lightning strikes, and you might get something. I think that you’ll get defeated really quickly.
So one reason or another, you start losing your enthusiasm, and you don’t put a lot of effort into your job search. Let me give you another example.
The other day I was talking to an executive with a healthcare company. He said he just got a cover letter, now keep in mind he’s with a healthcare company, but the person says, “I would really like to work for the port of New Orleans. I really like New Orleans.” Number one, the job was not in New Orleans. It was not with the port of New Orleans. But this person was obviously unfocused, not making a real effort in this job search.
Why do that to yourself and an employer? If you’re not enthusiastic about the job when you’re applying for it, you’re certainly not going to be enthusiastic when they call you for an interview, if you even get that far. So I think it’s a real waste of the energy that you’re going to need to conduct a successful job search.
Mac Prichard:
Well let’s talk about the preparation that people should do before...

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tips for Being Happier at Work

Are you happy with your job?

There have been times I've loved my job, but didn't like the company where I worked. Or I liked the job, but thought my boss was a lunatic.

I know people who thought they would love their job once they reached a certain job title, or got the big office or made a certain amount of money. In some cases, these people seemed content once they reached such goals. In other cases, I saw that people were still not happy in their jobs no matter how much money they made or how big the title.

I think part of the problem with our careers is that we often don't stop to think about what makes us happy at work. In our private lives, I think we spend more time considering what makes us happy, whether it's pursuing a hobby or being with our families.

I don't think my parents ever liked their jobs. They used to say "it's a job," meaning that it was a paycheck and a way to put food on the table and save for retirement.

While I think younger workers like to think they are choosing jobs that make them happy, I know from talking to many of them that they've taken jobs because it paid the rent or helped them pay off student loans. Are they happy? Or do they wish they were doing something else?

Does all this mean that no one ever gets a job that makes them happy? No. I have also spoken with people who can't wait to get to work every day, and say they would do the job for free (personally, I doubt this).

But I do believe that many people try to get jobs that are not going to make them happy. They get stuck in companies that they don't like. They find themselves doing work that they don't care about one bit.

The solution, I believe, is to do a more careful assessment of what can make you happy and then assessing the kinds of jobs and companies where you will find that joy. Here are some things to consider:

  • Make a difference. First, let me say that every job makes a difference. While you may believe that being a firefighter or a teacher or a zombie fighter are the only jobs that really matter to the world, you would be wrong. For example, let's take a janitor. Without the janitor helping maintain order and cleanliness in a company, people could be in danger. They could slip in bathrooms that have wet towels on the floor or lose critical information in a pile of trash. The key is that you should be able to identify how your job -- or your company -- makes a difference. That will help increase your sense of satisfaction and happiness. If the janitor works for a medical research company, for example, he's helping even more people because his diligence in keeping areas safe and clean and that will mean that medical researchers will be better able to do life-saving projects.
  • Find common bonds. When interviewing for a job, look around at the employees. Can you see that one worker obviously loves soccer (his cubicle is adorned with soccer memorabilia). If you love soccer, then already this is someone you can connect with on a level beyond just the job. Does the company do fundraisers for the local animal shelter? Is this something you care about? This would be another way to deepen the connections you feel at work. The point is that when you can form more personal connections at work -- even develop new friendships -- you will be happier. 
  • Look inside.  Are you possibly making yourself more miserable than is necessary? What I mean by this is that sometimes we decide we're unhappy in our job, so we start cutting ourselves off from others. We take lunch alone. We stay away from group gatherings. We only communicate when absolutely necessary. Those actions only serve to make you more unhappy, when if  you just opened up a little bit you could find support among your colleagues -- or even the boss who wants you to be more content and engaged.

What are some ways you have found to make yourself happier on the job?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Why Companies Must Foster "Constructive Conflict"

In today’s tumultuous world, many people will call themselves grateful if they have a peaceful, harmonious workplace.
But Jeff DeGraff, whose advice has been sought by business innovators such as Microsoft, General Electric and Pfizer, says the problem with a placid workplace is that it’s an innovation killer. Too many workers getting along because they all think alike – or don’t want to upset the status quo – isn’t the way to generate new processes and products.
“The death of innovation is apathy,” says DeGraff, a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. “One of the first signs is that people won’t engage in different ideas – they go along with the company line.”
That doesn’t mean that companies should encourage employees to go at one another tooth and nail. But it is important that teams have members with different personalities, cultures and ideas to keep creative juices flowing and prevent companies from getting in a rut.
The proof that such a strategy works is that there are “about 30 places on the planet that produce the most intellectual property and what they all have in common is an extremely diverse workforce,” he says.
DeGraff promotes the idea that it’s critical to stir the workplace pot, as evidenced from the title of his new book, “The Innovation code: The Creative Power of Constructive Conflict.” At the same time, he stresses that he doesn’t want chaos to be never-ending.
It’s “constructive conflict,” he says, that is the most valuable, an atmosphere (read more here)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Vocal Habits That Like, Hurt, Like, Your Career

Vocal fry. Upspeak. Like, you know, those things are so, like, annoying?

In recent comments about whether or not "vocal fry" hurts women in the workplace, readers weighed in on the story and said that yes, it does drive them crazy. (If you don't know what "vocal fry" is, think of Kim Kardashian and the way she sort of growls and gasps out the end of her sentences.)

But readers also went on to complain about upspeak (the voice rising at the end of a declarative sentence as if it's a question. "I went to work? And got a lot done?") and the overuse of the word "like."

"I, like, went to the mall? And, like, I couldn't, like, finding a parking space? And I'm like, so, like, frustrated?"

There was also some debate about whether these speaking habits hurt women more than men.  Are women judged more unfairly for such irritating speaking habits? Possibly -- even though I find such speaking habits annoying whether it's a man or a woman.

Here's what I do know: Communication in the workplace is a constant landmine and is probably one of the biggest causes of careers going off the rails. If you don't consistently communicate well, then all your other skills will not be as appreciated or utilized.

We always need to work to improve what we say, when we say it and how we say it. Upspeak makes you sound unsure, even if you're the CEO of a company. Vocal fry makes you sound like Valley Girl 2017, more suited for planning the prom than a big international project. Using "like" constantly makes it sound as if you're afraid to state your opinion or ideas and are hedging your bets by using "like" instead of being definitive.

You may not even realize you've developed some of these habits. I know that "like" has become part of my vocabulary, and I'm determined to eradicate it. It won't be easy, but I'm taking it one conversation at a time and trying to speak more deliberately until I can break the habit.

My advice is to record your own voice when speaking to others, to try and spot bad vocal habits. Ask friends or family if you say "um" or "you know" or "literally" too much. Learning to speak more clearly and concisely is a great investment in your career -- and can prevent your voice from getting fried.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Why You Cannot Neglect Emotional Intelligence if You Want to Be Successful

Anthony Mersino was 39-years-old and had already been a successful project manager for more than 17 years when a therapist asked him: “Do you have any idea how dangerous it is not to be in touch with your feelings?”
That was 16 years ago, and Mersino recalls that at the time he couldn’t fathom why it was dangerous not to make a connection with his emotions – but he soon learned and now spends time advising other professionals to do the same.
“The more I talk to people, the more I find others who grew up in ways that they didn’t learn to be in touch with their emotions as a child, or stuffed those feelings down,” he says.
The result, he says, is professionals such as project managers who alienate others with their lack of empathy or emotional awareness and end up hurting their careers and the bottom line of their companies.
Still, Mersino says developing emotional intelligence isn’t a quick fix, and he’s living proof.
“It’s still something I struggle with,” Mersino says. “Even this week I was feeling nervous about a meeting and for some reason I made a joke at someone else’s expense – someone I get along with.”
Mersino says that when the therapist began coaching him on emotional intelligence more than (read more here)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Why Companies Need to Address Loneliness

I don't know about you, but I've had jobs that made me leap out of bed every day, feeling so lucky to be going to work.

But I've had horrible jobs, too. You know those jobs that cause you on Sunday night to start dreading Monday? I've been there. In fact, I hated a couple of jobs so bad I started getting depressed on Saturday night.

I also remember the feeling of isolation I had in those jobs. I began to withdraw more and more from my colleagues, often eating my lunch alone in a park or keeping to myself when other people were chatting around the coffee pot.

I recently read a new study in Harvard Business Review that may explain why I hated those jobs so much. It wasn't just that I didn't really like what I was doing and the boss was a butthead. I think a large part of my problem was that I was lonely. I felt no connection to the boss or my colleagues, and it just made the situation worse for me.

Could I have become less miserable in these jobs if I had been less lonely? The study says "yes."

The study finds that just as you can "start an exercise regimen to lose weight, gain strength, or improve your health, you can combat loneliness through exercises that build emotional strength and resilience."

The study was based on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the "alarming" number or soldiers who returned home and had adverse outcomes, including suicide. Many soldiers, it was found, were struggling with loneliness.

In response, the U.S. Army developed a program focused on social resilience and social fitness, a strategy that paid off with soldiers reporting they were less lonely and simply felt better about life after receiving the training.

Researchers believe that workplaces can reap the same benefits. If workers are taught how to develop greater emotional strength and resilience, they can become less lonely and happier at work.

"It's time for managers to turn their focus from traditional structural inventions that are designed to reduce social isolation -- such as mandatory social activities at work or specialized workspace design efforts -- which studies have shown are less effective," researchers say.

Their recommendation for an entry-level social fitness class includes disconnecting online and connecting with someone in person; doing small favors for someone else; taking opportunities to work with others; and asking questions to engage others.

Finally, there is one step that each of us can take today to boost our well-being at work. Just say "hello" to a friend, colleague or a stranger.

"It"s a cliche, but it's true: We are social creatures," researchers say. "We have a social muscle. The more we exercise it, the healthier we'll all be."

Monday, October 2, 2017

4 Ways to Avoid Working With Jerks

The good news is that as the job market improves, more workers are able to leave jobs -- or bosses -- that make them miserable.

The bad news is that some are taking jobs that are going to make them just as miserable in a very short amount of time.

What happens is that many people believe that once they leave a jerk behind in their old workplace, things will be great. They'll work with people they like or they won't have to put up with a jerk boss.

It would be great if that were true. But even in the best companies, there are jerks and a**hole bosses. There might not be as many -- but you can bet they're lurking among the cubicles.

If you're looking for a new job -- or even thinking of jumping to a new department in your current company -- there are some ways you can figure out if you're about to take a job with another jerk and be just as miserable.

Here are some things you need to think about:

  • Your initial visit. When you interview with a company or department for the first time, are you treated with respect? For example, are you kept waiting for an hour and then no apology is offered as to why your interviewer was late? Does a receptionist or another employee smile at you, or ask if you need assistance in some way? Do other employees greet one another by name, smile at one another or walk like zombies through the hallways? The key is to see that employees seem comfortable with one another and are engaged enough to want to reach out and try to help someone else.
  • Body language. Do employees you speak with tense up when you start asking about the boss? Do they refuse to make eye contact when they talk about his or her management style? Does the interviewer quickly change the subject when discussing the boss? These are all caution flags that may indicate the boss isn't well liked or respected.
  • Ask questions. Interviews are not a one-way street. If you really want to see if a workplace is a good fit, don't ask questions like, "What do you do if someone is a bully?" The standard human resource line will be that such a person isn't tolerated, blah, blah, blah. What you really want to do is ask something like, "Let's say that a client makes a mistake in a delivery date, but blames one of your employees. The client says he will take his business elsewhere and really starts ranting against that employee. What would you do?" Listen carefully as to what will be done. If it turns out later that that the employee really did make the mistake -- what will happen? How does management handle mistakes by employees? How does management deal with such volatile situations? If the boss or the interviewer stammer around without a good answer, then that may be a clue they don't handle such situations well or at least not in a thoughtful, fair way.
  • Check social media. Potential employers use social media to check on you -- why not do the same? Look at what company employees post -- are they obviously unhappy people? Or, do they seem engaged in their work? Does the boss post thoughtful essays on LinkedIn or the company blog? What about podcasts? Was the boss interviewed so you can gain more insight into his or her thinking?
The point is that if you don't want to trade in one awful workplace for another, you need to take more responsibility for ensuring that you've done your due diligence in checking out the jerk factor.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Research Shows Learning Is an Antidote to Stress

There's a lot of stress at work these days, which are why things like yoga and mindfulness are such popular topics.

But new research finds that deep breathing and downward-facing dog aren't enough to really reduce worker stress -- it's on-the-job learning that may lead to better outcomes.

Specifically, the University of Michigan finds that workers felt better -- and exhibited less troublesome behavior -- when they were learning something new as opposed to using relaxation techniques.

“When an individual comes out of relaxation activities at work and realizes the stressful situation hasn’t changed, it may generate frustration and reverse the benefits of relaxation," says one researcher. 

While relaxation can help workers feel more refreshed and calmer, it doesn't do much to quell rude behavior, blabbing confidential company information or even taking company property, researchers say. Workers who were learning new things, however, exhibited much less of that kind of problem behavior, the study finds.

The lesson is that managers may want to incorporate learning into even the most routine jobs in order to lessen stress and promote better behavior in their teams. In addition, those who feel stressed by their workplaces may want to explore new learning on their own to help battle their anxiety.