Monday, August 31, 2020

Are You Overconfident?


More than a decade ago, I wrote about a 13-foot Burmese python that tried to eat a six-foot alligator in the Florida Everglades.

The python exploded.

At the time, I wrote this in an effort to demonstrate that while having too little confidence can hurt you career -- so can overconfidence.

Since that time, there seems to be an explosion of overconfidence. From the start up founder being investigated by law enforcement because he overinflated a company's financial condition to the ego-driven employee who lies about her accomplishments, there seems to be a lot unrealistic thinking these days.

Recently I was reading about Don Moore's new book, "Perfectly Confident: How to Calibrate Your Decisions Wisely." In that interview, Moore makes solid points about how it's great to be confident -- but being overconfident is asking for trouble.

Consider his points:

  • Confidence feels good. It's a feeling backed by facts (you've trained, studied, gained experience over the years). Overconfidence doesn't feel good because it comes from lying to yourself."When you realize you're overconfident, it feels like a mistake. You feel like a fool," he says.
  • There are real risks with "delusional overconfidence." For example, being confident that you're going to give a great presentation to the boss -- and then don't do any research or prep work to prepare that presentation -- can seriously hurt your career when you give a sub-par presentation.
  • Realistic expectations help you achieve success. You need to assess the risks and opportunities that lie ahead. Then, figure out the action to take to prepare yourself to take advantage of those opportunities.
  • You can't predict the future. The best you can do is make forecasts about the probables and how sure you are of them. Are you willing to bet on it? How likely is it to happen? Why might you be wrong? What might others know who believe differently than you? "That is very useful for helping us questions our assumptions and calibrate our confidence," he says.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Feeling Burned Out? What to Do Right Now

While working during the pandemic, 37 percent of American workers report they're putting in longer hours, with 40 percent saying they've experienced burnout during this time.

That's not good. Since 75 percent of us have experienced burnout in the past, we know how devastating it can be for us professionally and personally. Burnout isn't something you take a pill for and feel better in the morning. It saps you of energy, it robs you of creativity, it depletes any reserves you might have and you feel completely overwhelmed.

The stakes are high. For those who are trying to deal with the fallout from the pandemic (job at risk, educating children at home, isolation), experiencing burnout can be a blow that will be very difficult to deal with on top of everything else.

Right now, everyone is still trying to figure it all out. But the reality is that it's hard. Bosses are overwhelmed as they try to lead teams remotely. Workers are stressed as they worry about the next paycheck, caring for their family or feel the pain of ongoing isolation.

Never has self-care been more important. It may be difficult for a colleague or boss or friend to know that you're struggling when they can't see you in person. They may be unaware that you're not sleeping, that you're working on the weekends and at night and that you feel constantly overwhelmed but are afraid to say anything.

Right now, right this minute, make a commitment that things are going to be different. Say to yourself: "I have to make changes if I want to stay healthy so that when this pandemic is behind us, I can travel. I can visit friends and family. I can go for that walk on the beach. I can go back to working in an office and my kids can go back to school and I can actually go a party."

(Feel free to substitute anything that you're looking forward to doing -- going dancing, fishing, to a basketball game, etc.)

I can't urge you enough to make changes. Burnout can really sock a punch -- it can lead to lots of physical ailments from headaches to heart problems and can derail you for a long time.

Here's some ideas for making a change. You don't have to do all of them, but make a commitment to implement one and then move onto the next one until you have flipped your life in the right direction. Try to:

  • Set a schedule. It's easy to check email at 10 p.m. on your phone or prop your laptop on your bed to "catch up" if you can't sleep. Stop it. Decide on a quitting time, and stick to it. Put your laptop away, out of sight -- and definitely out of the bedroom. Turn off phone notifications. Let your colleagues and boss know that you've got a "quitting time" and are going to stick to it so that you'll be refreshed and ready to go the next day.
  • Have "hello" and "goodbye" rituals. When you worked away from home, you probably had your little habits -- stopped for a coffee at the shop near your work, listened to NPR on your commute. After work, your "goodbye" ritual was to call your Mom as you headed home and then when you got home, to have a beer while watching ESPN. While you may not want to exactly mimic those things now, try to establish such routines so you mentally click when work starts and ends each day.
  • Consult your bucket list. Maybe you always planned to travel more, which isn't possible right now. But you also always wanted to learn how to paint or cook better or even learn a new language. That's all possible with the wonders of the Internet, where there are free classes on just about anything. Schedule time for bucket-list pursuits, and then feel free to enjoy them.
  •  Exercise. It doesn't matter what you do, just get moving. Your body needs it, your mind needs it and it's important if you want to be healthy enough to do the things you love in the future. Like I said, it doesn't matter what you do -- dance to "Frozen" with your kids, walk in place while watching "Friends," ride a bike or train for a virtual marathon.
Believe me, you're not alone in what you're going through. We've all got to figure out what works for us and stick to it. I recently joined a Twitter book club and have really enjoyed getting to know a new group of people. Like most book clubs, we don't spend a lot of time talking about the book, but find that we laugh a lot and find comfort in knowing that others are feeling some of the same things.

Monday, August 17, 2020

4 Ways to Lead Better Through a Pandemic

These are certainly difficult times for employees, but it is also a very trying time for bosses.

After all, no MBA or management training programs are likely to have "how to be a boss during a pandemic."

Bosses are learning as they go -- and sometimes they've risen to the occasion and led a team through these troubled waters -- and sometimes they've not been as successful.

Recently, management gurus Hayagreeva Rao and Robert Sutton wrote for McKinsey & Co. about how to lead through difficult times. Some of their advice:

1. Don't ruminate. Whether it's layoffs or other cost-cutting measures, don't try and blame anyone else or dwell on what might have been done before the crisis hit. "Lousy leaders engage in useless rumination about what might have been and who is to blame, and invent excuses for delaying gut-wrenching but vital actions," they write. But good leaders try to move the team forward. For example, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's attitude throughout the pandemic has been "a dogged and optimistic focus on what his company can do and how his people can keep learning."

2. Be compassionate. "Skilled leaders demonstrate they care by expressing compassion for the harm and emotional distress inflicted by the crisis at hand and the actions they and their organization take in response," they write. Leaders need to understand that people are in different stages of the grieving process because of the pandemic, and support for them will make it easier for employees to focus on the greater good instead of just themselves.

3. Offer predictions. Research shows that "threats to well-being do less harm if reliable signals enable people to know when they are safe from the threat verses when it is imminent, fear is warranted, and it is time to take action to minimize risk," they write. For example, Stanford University mitigated some of the stress for employees by announcing that the university would pay all full-time employees their current rate through August.

4. Offer simple explanations. Leaders should rely on simple headlines and repetition, "because the anxiety provoked by crises can make it hard for people to process complex information," they say. 

5. Offer some control. When Airbnb's leaders needed to layoff workers, they did so in one-on-one meetings, offering as much compassion and control as possible. Workers were given a week to say goodbye to colleagues and received four months of career-services assistance.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Survey Reveals What Hiring Managers Want Now

It's always a good idea to know what's on the minds of hiring managers. That way, you can address the issues they think are important in your resume and cover letter, and speak knowledgeably about the issues that garner their interest.

Here's some research from Lever based on 700 talent and HR decision-makers in the U.S. and Canada:

  • Only 14% of companies are on a total hiring freeze as a result of COVID-19, and 40% believe they’ll emerge post-pandemic stronger, with better strategies and tools. Some industries are even more optimistic. Some 48% of respondents in the software industry believe they'll emerge stronger, followed by those in infrastructure (46%), finance (44%) and retail (43%).
  • Recruiters have kept busy: 37% spent time rethinking their recruiting processes, while 41% cleaned up their recruiting data during slower hiring times.
  •  84% of recruiters leaned more heavily on phone interviews as a result of the pandemic, while 85% of them leaned more heavily on video interviews.
  • 62% agree they will need to hire workers with skills that weren’t needed before; the top new skills required are adaptability (68%), communication (60%) and technology proficiency (55%).
  • 50% said diversity and inclusion initiatives will become more of a priority as companies proactively work to combat racism in the workplace.
What this information tells you is that if you're looking for work right now, chances are good that you're going to to need to practice more for phone or video interviews, and make sure you have quiet space to do the interview and the right connectivity.

  Another point to consider is that you need to have examples ready to demonstrate your adaptability, good communication skills and whatever tech skills you might have (if you don't have many, now is a good time to take some online tutorials or ask your nephew who is a tech wizard to teach you a few things).

In addition, be ready with some examples of how you've worked with diverse colleagues or customers -- no employer wants to hire someone who has shown intolerance or isn't willing to learn how to be more inclusive on the job.




Monday, August 3, 2020

How the Pandemic Can Help Your Grow in Your Career

During these months of quarantining, working from home, juggling new schedules and home situations and just trying to remember what day it is, it can be tough to think about anything good that can come from this pandemic.

I'm not going to try and sugarcoat that "every cloud has its silver lining," blah, blah, blah. I don't want to offer empty platitudes that might make you feel worse. Still, I have been thinking a lot about how this pandemic is changing the world of work, and what it might look like when we come out the other side.

One of the issues I have written about often is the need to develop emotional intelligence. Before the pandemic hit, and there was great competition for workers, companies were looking for those who didn't just have the right hard skills, but also the skills that ensured they could get along with others, could communicate effectively and could collaborate. These are often referred to as soft skills, and they have been growing in importance in the workplace.

That's because even if someone has great technical skills, for example, an inability to talk to someone else, to be empathetic or be a team player can have a real adverse impact on that team's effectiveness or even on a company's drive to be more innovative.

I think that the pandemic offers all of us a chance to really hone our soft skills. We have all been impacted in some way -- it's been difficult to watch the suffering on the nightly news, or read about a family losing a home because they can't pay their bills. But the emotions we feel as we go through this pandemic -- loss, grief, compassion, stress and depression -- can ultimately help us be better colleagues and bosses in the future.

Here are some ways to deal with the changes and grow emotionally for the future:
  • Pass out compliments. Years ago, I heard this advice from a manager and I never forgot it: Put 10 dimes in your left pocket every morning. Every time you give someone a compliment at work, shift a coin to your right pocket. By the end of the day, try to have shifted all 10 coins. Even if you're physically not in a workplace right now, try the dime trick from your home office. You can send a compliment via text or Slack or Google Hangouts. You can compliment a colleague on an online presentation via email, or even pick up the phone. Compliments don't have to be long-winded, just an acknowledgement from you to another person: "I saw that you handled that difficult customer first thing this morning. Well done! Not everyone would have wanted to tackle that."
  • Be respectful. Everyone is under a lot of pressure right now, and there's no shortage of online videos showing people being less than kind. That's exactly why it's so important that you take the time to be respectful of your colleagues or your staff. Don't send late night emails if it's not absolutely necessary, and the same goes for weekends. Always say "please" and "thank you." Don't be late to meetings (and apologize if you are) and don't monopolize someone's time with your complaints or gossip.
  • Be adaptable. I know there's not one person out there who has not had to adapt in some way during this pandemic. Still, you may resent some of the things you've had to do, so think of it this way: adaptability is one of the key soft skills that you can develop in the workplace. Your ability to adapt is seen as being cooperative, a team player, collaborative and in tune with others. Continue to try and adapt -- it will get easier as you do it more often, and will have a greater payoff to your career down the road.