Monday, February 27, 2017

3 Ways to Deal With a Distracted Boss

Everyone thinks they can multitask, which is why we have people texting on their phones when they're supposed to be engaged in a conversation with someone else at work.

Lots of people don't mind, because they see this as permission to do the same. (It's also sort of like yawning -- you see someone on a smartphone and you automatically start doing the same.) Pretty soon, everyone that is supposed to be talking to one another is instead staring avidly at their smartphone screens and doing a half-hearted job of communicating.

But there are a lot of people -- me included -- who think it's rude and disrespectful to turn your attention to your phone when you're holding a conversation with me. But unless you're a relative, I'm unlikely to say anything to you about it. If you're my boss, I'm definitely not going to say anything.

Because really, who calls out the boss when he or she is rude?

A boss who checks email or texts while you're having a conversation is rude. Period. But there's something more concerning: A boss who doesn't give you full time and attention is more likely to make a bad decision or fail to give you credit -- or attention -- when you propose a good idea.

So how do you get the boss's full attention without without doing a full body block of a computer or phone screen? You can try:

  • Sending up a flare. Bosses are hit with dozens of requests every day and they often feel they do nothing but deal with petty problems such solving parking space squabbles. When you want the boss's attention, you've got to break through to him by showing how an issue affects him. "I'm concerned that if we don't rework this schedule, you're going to be faced with that customer leaving -- and I don't want you to have to explain that to your boss," puts the issue right in his lap. Then, you say, "I've got a couple of options -- you tell me the one that works best for you." This moves into solving the problem -- or at least having the boss's full attention so it can be solved as quickly as possible.
  • Being more inquisitive. People love to hear themselves talk. If you've got questions prepared for the boss, then you can use them to drag her attention back to the issues you need to discuss. Don't let the conversation lag or she'll be tempted to check her phone. Keep you answers focused and your questions specific so the conversation doesn't wander -- along with your's boss's attention.
  • Leaving. If you can't get your boss's attention, you might as well leave. This is a waste of her time and of yours. "This clearly isn't a good time for you, so I'll come back later," you say. If the boss realizes she's being rude and needs to pay attention, she will. If not, then you weren't going to get anywhere while she checked Instagram or sent a couple of emails. It's better to not get upset at the way she's behaving and go do something else.
Don't deal with rudeness by being rude in return. Whether there's impolite behavior from a colleague or a boss, the best way to deal with it is to stick to behavior that you know will reveal the best in you. Such a tactic will not only let you maintain your self respect, but perhaps even teach others how to do the same.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

4 Ways to Manage Sideways Without Being an Idiot

On a daily basis, who do you interact most with at work? Chances are, it's the people sitting next to you, or those on your team.

If you're lucky, these are good relationships and you don't secretly wish the person harm (just a mild case of shingles, perhaps). Still, even the best relationships at work require some management, and that's why it's important to learn to "manage sideways."

Managing sideways isn't as easy as it sounds. First, your colleagues don't want to be "managed" by someone on the same level. Second, if you don't do some planning on where and when to do it, you'll end up damaging relationships that are critical to your success -- and you'll make people wish  you would get shingles.

It's also important to understand what managing sideways means. It means that you aren't pushing hated jobs off onto someone else on your team, or dodging your responsibilities. It means that you're trying to effectively manage your time and resources so that you're more valuable to your team and your company.

Here are some ways to manage sideways:
1. Communicate clearly. Don't be vague about what you need -- people won't trust your message if they believe you aren't being transparent. "I could really use some help on this project," doesn't state your needs clearly. "I need some help putting graphics together for this project because the client has moved up the deadline and I'm concerned I won't get them all done. I know you've had a lot of experience using this software program -- could help me complete a couple of charts?"

2. Be responsive. Once you get a colleague to help you, then don't just disappear into the ether. "I'll be on email all day if you need me, and will try to respond within 30 minutes if you've got a question," you say. "Or, don't hesitate to give me a call." No one wants to take on extra work while you go get a mani/pedi on your lunch hour.

3. Use your manners. Managing sideways means you need to take extra care to preserve a friendly relationship with the colleagues who help you. Always say "please" and "thank you" and be willing to share credit when they pull your butt out of the fire. If the boss gives you kudos for a job well done -- but a teammate helped -- say something like, "Thank you, but I really want to give Matt some of the credit since he helped me complete some of the graphics."

4. Be confident. If you act like you cannot believe that someone is willing to help you, the colleague is likely to waffle on the commitment just because you're behaving like he's an idiot for doing so. Or, if you come off as arrogant ("Of course anyone would be happy to help me!") then you're also going to have difficulty finding anyone to pitch in. Instead, think of it as asking someone you respect and trust to help you out, and that you appreciate such a helping hand. This will keep the relationship on a friendly basis and help avoid any awkwardness.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Why the Real High Potentials Often Get Ignored

When private companies begin using military jargon to describe their organizational challenges, then it’s clear that something has shifted in the business landscape.
Specifically, the term “VUCA,” is being heard in more private companies, a military term which stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. While it once may have been mostly confined to military operations and training, it’s now being bounced around businesses as more teams deal with a volatile and uncertain marketplace.
Three people who are very familiar with the term are Angie Morgan, Courtney Lynch and Sean Lynch, all former military personnel. They now coach companies that want to learn better ways to handle a VUCA landscape by modeling military leadership and organizational strategies.
“We’ve seen more and more companies using the term,” says Morgan, a former Marine. “I think many businesses were caught off guard by the disruption caused by technology and that’s what they’re seeing – VUCA situations.”
Companies also are seeing a change in worker attitudes with these disruptions. Workers are showing a willingness to step outside their comfort zones and embrace new skills that will help them do their jobs more efficiently.
A recent Accenture Strategy report of 10,527 employees in 10 countries finds that 85% of workers are ready to invest their free time in the next six months to learn new skills and 84% say they are optimistic about the impact of digital technology on their jobs. More than two-thirds think that technologies such as data analytics will help them be more efficient, learn new skills and improve the quality of their work.
While such initiative is important to business success, Accenture researchers say that organizations must help workers achieve such goals by investing more in technical and human skills involving creativity and judgment if they want to keep workers engaged and working to find solutions. Research by Gallup makes that case more urgent: only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs, meaning they’re interested enough in their work and their jobs to give 100%.
“The remaining 87% of employees are either not engaged or indifferent — or even worse, are actively disengaged and potentially hostile toward their organizations,” says Ed O’Boyle, Gallup’s global practice leader for workplace and marketplace consulting.
Angie Morgan, one of the authors of The New York Times bestseller “Spark: How to Lead Yourself and Others to Great Success,” agrees that organizations cannot afford to ignore those employees who are willing to take action and make their companies better.
“If by nature someone is initiative-oriented – but is micro-managed (read more here)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Why You Shouldn't Always Trust Your Gut

How much do you trust your gut instincts?

According to a new research, you may be relying on them too much.

While there is often a lot of data and analytics available to use in a hiring decision or a performance evaluation, for example, many employees still rely on their own intuition to make a decision, find researchers at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

"A lot of people just want to rely on their gut or go by the seat of their pants. They don’t want to rely on consistent, evidence-based rules — and they should," says Joseph Simmons, a professor in Wharton's department of operations, information and decisions.

Part of the problem is that once people see algorithms or computers make a mistake, then they don't want to use them anymore to make decisions, even though these methods are going to make smaller and fewer mistakes than human beings. The good news is that once people are given the choice to adjust the algorithms a bit, then they're more likely to use them, research shows.

"The downside to giving them control is they start degrading the algorithm. In most domains, they’re not as good as the model. The more of their opinion is in there, the worse it performs," says Cade Massey, also a professor of operations, information and decisions at Wharton.

Researchers found that giving people about 5% wiggle room satisfied them and didn't mess up the algorithms. 

"We can’t get people to use algorithms 100%, but we can get them to use algorithms 99%, and that massively improves their judgments," Simmons says.

Their best advice: Don't "impose" algorithms on people, but instead give them some discretion and there is less likely to be a major push back -- and better decisions will be made.

Monday, February 13, 2017

How Even Obnoxious Colleagues Can Help Your Career

When you're on the job, you often engage in idle chitchat with your colleagues. "What's your favorite hobby?" "Is is supposed to rain today?" or "Do you have big plans this weekend?" are some common topics. Nothing earth-shattering -- just a way to be pleasant to co-workers.

Many years ago, a new co-worker of mine asked me in the first 10 minutes of meeting her:

  • "How much money do you make?"
  • "Is that guy across the hall gay?"
  • "Do you always wear your hair that way?"
I was a little taken aback. OK, that may be putting it mildly. At first, I thought she might be kidding. Then, when I realized she was serious, I was annoyed.

First, I could easily have shut her down. "None of your damn business," would have sufficed. But then I started thinking: Is this the way I want to start a new relationship with a co-worker? Would my response make me feel better -- but embarrass and humiliate her?

While I could have made a snarky comeback at this new co-worker, I decided to take a deep breath and avoid making judgments about someone I just met. Instead of offering a cutting remark, I decided to keep listening.

"Why do you ask?" I said.

The new colleague got a little red in the face.

It's then that I realized this wasn't the beginning of a rude conversation, but a chance for me to take my career to the next level. This colleague had gotten off on the wrong foot -- and she knew it (or at least had an inkling). If I didn't overreact, I could not only save her from herself, but demonstrate the kind of skills that are necessary to reach the higher levels of any career. Namely:

  • By listening. The majority of worker (86%) believe that poor communication  is responsible for workplace failures. By taking the time to listen more to this new co-worker, I learned that she was very nervous about the new job, afraid she wouldn't get up to speed fast enough. So, that caused her to ask overly-personal questions since she thought learning as much about someone as fast as she could would help her "fit in" right away.
  • By providing feedback. There is a big push in the workplace today to provide feedback, whether it's manager to employee or employee to employee. The belief is that by being more open, workplace collaboration will be improved and outcomes will be more innovative. Those who are able to provide constructive feedback will be seen as critical to moving teams forward. I took the time to listen, then offered: "Our culture is really focused on being results-driven and being supportive of one another. You'll find that a lot of people would rather talk about their work rather than personal details that they may feel uncomfortable discussing. Let me show you how to access our company intranet, and that will really help bring you up to speed on what we're working on now and then you can talk to others about their contributions."
  • By being honest. When 99.1% say they would rather work somewhere that is honest and transparent, then it's clear that it's important. I didn't try to lie to the co-worker by making up a salary or trying to be evasive. I simply told the truth: The company culture is focused around positive contributions and commitment to innovation and quality. That goal isn't going to be met by sitting around gossiping about the guy across the hall or how much I hate my hair.
It turns out that this colleague turned out to be a real asset. She benefited from me saving her from further embarrassment, and I benefited from practicing the kind of soft skills that are critical for career advancement. We've both gone on to do different things, but I consider her a valuable member of my network.

Never doubt that every day provides an opportunity for you to learn and grow your career skills. While it's often easier to react from your gut, it's much smarter to think of how you can turn even negative situations into positive ones for your career.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

4 Ways to Get the Boss to Give You What You Want

If you're having difficulty getting what you want at work -- perhaps a promotion or a big project -- it's time to rethink your negotiating skills and learn from the best.

Chris Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, says one of the best strategies is learning from those who have made a living by making others feel comfortable, such as Oprah Winfrey.

Winfrey’s strategy of using a smile to ease tensions, employing subtle verbal and nonverbal language to signal empathy, slowing her speech pattern and focusing solely on the other person shows a “master practitioner at work,” who gets people to reveal their deepest thoughts and secrets, says Voss, author of “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It.”

Once you’ve slowed down the conversation and established a rapport, then your boss will be more open to hearing you and less likely to balk at your request, Voss says.

Next, don't try to force the boss into saying “you’re right” and instead work on getting him or her to say “that’s right.”

“What you want is the boss to confirm what you’re saying is accurate,” Voss explains. ‘You don’t want the boss to say, ‘you’re right.’ You watch any conversation, and someone says, ‘you’re right’ usually because they just want the other person to shut up.”

When asked how they would get the boss to do what they want in certain situations, here’s what negotiation professionals recommend when the boss says:

  • ·         “I can’t give you the raise you want.” Voss says the mistake many people make is being only focused on how much money they’re paid in a specific job. “If you’re only thinking about your salary, then you’re setting yourself up to fail,” he says. “You’re not really negotiating what success looks like.” In other words, your salary pays your bills, but doesn’t build your career. Negotiating for a better title or inclusion on a big project can be more beneficial to your career – and your salary – in the long run. “Once you get to sit in on strategic projects, then you raise your visibility with key people,” he says.
  • ·         “I don’t think you have the experience to take on this project.” Instead of responding with an “I do so!” or retreating in humiliation, get the boss to reveal what you need to do in order to get a coveted project or assignment. By asking “How do I get the required experience? “you steer the boss away from simply saying “no,” and instead start to learn critical information about necessary skills. “If the boss only sees you in a limited role, then you need to know that,” Voss says. “This can help you understand what you need to do to get ahead.”
  • ·         “You screwed up.” When you’re in trouble with the boss, “rake yourself over the coals before the boss has a chance to do it,” Voss says. “Overdo it a bit, and then the boss will say, ‘Now, don’t be so hard on yourself,’ and then the conversation will move into how things can get better. Most bosses find it refreshing to have an employee admit a mistake so they don’t have to yell at them,” he says.
  • ·         “No.” When this answer arrives via email – or you get no response at all – you are stuck and have no room to negotiate. But Voss says there’s one “ridiculously easy” way to get bosses to respond to your email: Ask a provocative question such as “Have you given up on this project?” This is the parental version of “I’m leaving now” and walking away from a recalcitrant child. The boss can’t help but respond, and the strategy is “as close to 1,000% successful as I’ve seen,” Voss says.

Monday, February 6, 2017

What Others Really Think About You

Were you the smartest kid in school? The funniest? The most athletic?

It's a little strange to think that we like to label people from an early age. What's even more strange is how some of us like to label ourselves -- to the detriment of our own happiness or career success.

One of the problems with seeing yourself in a certain way is that often it's not how others see you. For example, you may consider yourself a real problem-solver, able to jump in and find a solution to just about anything.

But other people view you as a know-it-all, someone who doesn't listen to others for different ideas.

So when a new project rolls around, you feel like you're the best choice for the new assignment and await word from your boss that you got the job. But the boss never talks to you. Why? Because she talked to your colleagues who told her they'd rather listen to fingernails on a chalkboard all day than sit through one meeting with you.

Now you have a label that isn't so flattering. You're no longer a problem-solver, but someone who can't collaborate. An obnoxious know-it-all.

Of course, the good news is that you get a clue that you need to work on establishing a much better professional reputation and immediately focus on listening and collaborating more.

For many people, however, they go through much of their professional lives not really understanding how others see them. They have no clue about their reputation among others, a severe oversight that can cause them to miss out on opportunities -- and earning potential.

If you're clueless about your professional reputation (and believe me, many people are), then it's time to think about what you're doing to ensure it stays positive. Consider:

  • In the last year, how many times did you learn something new? Were these moments that you learned from someone else? If so, it shows your willingness to listen -- a key trait among successful people.
  • How many times in the last two weeks have you gone out of your way to help someone else? If you never offer a helping hand, you could be garnering a reputation of being ungenerous and selfish.
  • Your pet peeves. If you're irked by tardiness, for example, have you made sarcastic or snide comments to the colleague who shows up late for work every day? Did you lose your temper when a team member was late turning in a report? In either of these cases, losing your temper or being snarky doesn't help a professional reputation, but discussing it in a clear manner will help you be seen as a good communicator who is able to resolve conflicts.
  • Showing respect. Do you interrupt people when they're talking? Do you answer emails on your smartphone in a meeting? Do you talk loudly to a colleague when a nearby team member is trying to have a phone conversation? These are just some of the ways that you tell others that you're not really interested in them and don't respect their time or work. 

Never forget that your reputation can take a nosedive if you're not careful. A reputation is critical for career success, and no one should just assume that others see them in a positive light. Start assessing your behavior today to see if it's time to make improvements.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

How to Consistently Come Up With Better Ideas

No matter how talented a team may be, sooner or later they may fall into a rut. Ideas seem stale. Solutions are the same old, same old. It’s not as if everyone has given up, but rather that approaches seem less inspired.
The challenge for leaders: finding a way to jump-start the team and then keep it from falling back into that rut. But how do you take such action quickly and effectively without jeopardizing customer satisfaction or a competitive edge?

Take Action

Bernhard Schroeder, director at the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center at San Diego State University, often challenges his students to come up with better solutions to problems. He’s also worked with companies like Amazon and Nike and mentored various startup founders.
Schroeder says to keep teams continually thinking up fresh ideas, company leaders must send a strong and consistent message to team members that their continuous growth is a priority. As part of that effort, team members must learn to “neutralize any weakness and make it a strength,” Schroeder says.
For example, Schroeder recalls a young man who had “superstar potential” but couldn’t communicate well.
“I told him, ‘I love you on the project management side, but your communications suck.’ I told him I was sending him to a six-week Dale Carnegie course and you know why? Because I wanted him to know that he was a potential superstar and he wasn’t done learning,” he says.
Nancy Andreasen, a neuroscientist and neuropsychiatrist, finds in her research that the most creative people are polymaths – people who have broad interests in many fields.  She’s also determined that “high IQs did not predict high levels of creative achievement later in life.” However, those with creative ideas do work much harder than the average people “and that’s usually because they love their work,” she says.
In her research, Andreasen explains that she was always curious about what made some people better at coming up with creative ideas or solutions and says she found that such people “are better at recognizing relationships, making associations and connections and seeing things in an original way – seeing things that others cannot see.”

Start With a “Growth Mindset”

Other research from the Harvard Business Review finds that creativity is 20% inherited inclination and 80% learned behavior.
Schroeder believes that any team can turn out better ideas, as long as the right techniques are put in place to spur them to greatness. The key: having team members with a “growth mindset.”
“We must believe that we can learn and grow our intelligence beyond what we were born with,” he says. “We need to assemble diverse teams of people who think different but all agree on the problem at hand and strive to solve it together.”
In a new book, “Simply Brilliant: Powerful Techniques to Unlock Your Creativity and Spark New ideas,” Schroeder suggests one of the biggest obstacles to teams churning out better ideas consistently is that they often don’t know what problem they’re trying to solve. Why not? Because teams simply fail to ask the right question (read more here)