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)

Thursday, June 1, 2017

How to Keep the Best Millennial Workers

Much has been written about workers born between 1980 and 2000, these Millennials who seem to require ping-pong tables, beer kegs and pajama Fridays in order to stick around a workplace. But research reveals what really appeals to this generation of tech-savvy, quick-learning employees, and it shows that even a small business can compete when it comes to attracting and keeping the best young talent.
Here are some things you can do to spur greater interest among Millennials at your small business:

1. Provide career development

A Millennial Branding survey finds that more than 60% of these young workers are interested in starting their own companies at some point. Small businesses often provide many more opportunities to young workers, which can hold great appeal to those who want to learn the ropes before striking (read more here)