Self-Awareness Matters

Organizations gain a lot more from leaders who take responsibility for what they know they don't know than from leaders who pretend to know everything.

Self Awareness Dog MirrorWhat recently occurred to me in an "aha" moment is this: self-awareness is one of the most valuable leadership competencies, yet it is one of the least discussed. In an effort to appear task-focused and "business-like," organizational feedback often gravitates toward hard skills and competencies that are more easily measurable. 

Have You Thought About This?

People who don't know their strengths and weaknesses actually tend to overestimate themselves. Research literature and my own coaching experiences have shown that poor self-awareness leads to poor performance and, frequently, termination. 

We live in a highly competitive culture. I've watched more than a few leaders and leader wannabes try to appear as if they know everything all the time. They believe that if they don't, people will question and even challenge their capability, undermining their leadership effectiveness. In fact, the opposite is true. Whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, those around you still see them. The result: trying to hide a weakness actually magnifies it, leading to a perceived lack of integrity and, ultimately, trust. 

Knowing yourself helps you use your strengths better, develop where you can, and avoid or compensate for areas where you are unskilled or just plain unsuited. 

The simple truth: People who know themselves better do better.

 

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Tell The Truth About Talent

If you want to be the person who offers real value in a Talent Management discussion, then be the person who demands the truth about performance.

Organizations are all about power and equilibrium. Over time, "conventional wisdom"  creates the list of high potential candidates. Then, at "developmental discussion" time the same names often keep popping up, unquestioned.

Seek TruthPreparing for a keynote at a healthcare conference, I interviewed some CEO clients and their direct reports. The question: "What would make a manager or HR director a leader in your eyes?" The answer: "Ask the hard questions when a name is proposed for promotion or a new assignment." 

The execs shared how easy it is to have someone perform well in one assignment, then have that single success create a "career aura." When it comes time for succession planning and development, no one really questions the totality of the individual's success.

The lesson for all of us: Ask for the evidence. Value rests with the one who helps uncover the truth about performance.

Your organization's future depends on it.

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Creative Talents, But What Kind?

Innovation and Creativity permeate the pages of business books and internet storytelling.

Unlike Project Management skills or Financial Analysis, Creative Talents aren't a homogeneous lump of artistic, business-oriented goo. (I haven't the slightest idea where that line came from. It just flowed at the end of the sentence. Must have something to do with my own hidden, artistic goo).

I know from my work with client companies that the cry for "Innovation!" and "Creative Solutions!" is a loud one. I'm not sure that everyone has the same definition or really understands the distinct subsets of Creativity that individuals can offer.

Here is a way to begin to distinguish among Three Unique Creative Talents:

Creativity_2

Creating. The inclination to form new associations among previously unrelated concepts, objects, or systems. These folks are continually experimenting with new ideas. You can observe this in any endeavor: office work, administration, sports, teaching, management...and, it doesn't necessarily require much knowledge of previously developed methods.

The gift here: creating something new out of what appeared to be unrelated, existing entities.

Imagining. Very different from creating and truly in the realm of the mind. Those of you with this innate talent will form new associations in your mind as a result of theorizing, philosophizing, daydreaming, and hypothesizing. This can extend to the development of story characters  and other entities that do not yet exist. In other words, the generation of something brand new.

I believe this is what many organizations claim they are looking for but then stop people from  "doing" it because it doesn't look like "work."

Inventing. This is a way to distinguish those whose tend to produce physical creativity from those who live in the world of ideas and concepts. Inventors--for classification purposes-- have a natural talent for developing new technical equipment and physical systems. One way to identify this kind of creative talent is to observe people who "act out" there ideas in tactile ways using substances such as wood, concrete, plastic, glass, etc.

Real-life story About "Creative" Differences

While doing consulting and coaching some years ago with executives at an energy company in Pennsylvania, I received a fascinating request: Would I meet with some of their almost-college-age children and do some "testing" to help the young people better understand their talents?

So, I asked: "Why do you really think that's important?" (Effective consultants, like effective counselors, never roll with the 'presenting' issue:-)

The real pain was not with the off-to-college crowd; it was with the parents. These adults were all highly educated, highly trained engineers who saw the "real world" as a very physical place. They were unbelievably creative in their problem-solving as well. However, the youngsters involved were making noise about majoring in Theater Arts, Fine Arts, and Music. To the executives involved, even if their kid sculpted the next "David," it wouldn't actually do anything.

From this brief description you could no doubt sit down with the parents and explain what was going on. However: these were engineer parents. So, I spent time doing talent assessments and interviews with the young people (thoroughly enjoyable) and then sat down with them and their folks. When the data were presented along with a list of actual talents and related careers--life at home became good again.

These were terrific parents who cared enough to do something about:

a. Changing some of the thinking of their children as a result of good information

b. Changing some of their own thinking as a result of good information

Thought for today: Begin to engineer your thinking about what it means to be creative. Take time to discern your own inclinations and those of your colleagues. When you begin to see that Creativity comes in different, useful forms, you'll start using more of it.Create, Imagine, Invent. . .

Create, Imagine, Invent. . .

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Get The Most From Assessments

How is your organization using professional assessments?

Self-assessments, 360 degree feedback, assessment centers, and other similar tools are widely used in the workplace. What's your experience with them?

A lot of information is generated during the assessment process. I was reviewing some feedback that was coming in for a client and realized that there are lots of good uses for it. And we may not always be taking the best advantage of the information and the potential process. So. . .

Would Some of These Help You and Your Organization?

Online-assessmentAssessment feedback, by definition, is given to the subject of the assessment. That person is often asked to reflect  and decide what, if anything, to do with it. That's fine. Making changes is a choice. But here are some other ways to get the most from the data. You may be doing some are all of them now. If not, here are some thoughts that I hope you will find helpful:

1. In the case of 360 feedback, encourage the recipient (I'll use the word "Manager") to get together with the group that generated the data. It's an opportunity, at minimum, to acknowledge the time and energy they put into the activity.

Suggest that the Manager share the themes and take-aways from the data. 360 activities have some of the same dynamics as surveys. Participants want to know what happened with their input--and what will change as a result. This is a chance to do just that. And, if the Manager has misinterpreted something, the group can add clarity.

Yes, I know that the feedback is anonymous, blah blah. However, the act of inviting the respondents to come together also invites a deeper level of candor. And the fact of the matter is: These are people with whom the Manager has to work. Sooner or later it will be time to increase the honesty of conversations. This is an ideal framework in which to do that.

2. A Good Reason For A Good Conversation with "The Boss."

If you're the Manager, make an appointment with your boss. Tell what you think you want to do differently. Ask if the boss sees the data and your intended changes in the same way. Or differently. Here's the principle: Giving straight feedback is difficult for a lot, if not most, people. Including the boss. If you provide the data and ask for suggestions, you've done the work that your boss my find tough. It may be the most meaningful conversation the two of you have ever had.

3. A Good Reason For a Good Conversation with Your Reports.

If it's a 360, some or all of those folks provided feedback. I wouldn't call a departmental meeting and declare "Let's share." I would do one of these two:

  • Make it a point to informally share what you learned and are working on with each person. Do it in the course of normal conversation.
  • If you have a full group meeting coming up soon, take 10 minutes to talk about the assessment, the process, what you learned, what you are working on, and what kind of support you need to do those things. The payoff? You get help. You set the model that getting feedback and doing assessments is a valuable activity.

4. Self Assessments. Any or all of the above will be helpful to validate your self perception. We have ways of deceiving ourselves on both scales: positive and negative. Have the conversations that will give you an accurate picture.

Let's assume that you--or whoever is being assessed--will use the info for development. Here's the payoff you don't want to miss: the data provide an "objective" reason to have a "subjective" conversation. When you rally around the information, you are in an arena that's focused on performance factors and not necessarily you as a person. (That may be a result. Why not find out while you still have time to make changes?).

Most of all: an assessment offers  a legitimate reason to have the kind of conversation you've been missing.

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Add Goals To Your Passion

Are you passionate about what you want to do but concerned about your progress?

No problem. You're part of a large club.

Reach For The StarsAbout 45% of us prefer to live our lives in a more "open-ended, hold-out-for-another-option" manner. That means that while we may wantsomething to happen, we're not real likely to makesomething happen as a result of a schedule or timetable.

We avoid goals and a high level of commitment to following through on them. And that may be what's stopping our progress. (But you already knew that if you are in the 45%)!

Start adding goals to your passion today because:

1. Goals give you laser-like focus. With no goals you tend to drift and get lost in activity not related  to your success.

2. Goals boost your productivity. And when you are more productive. . .

3. The results boost your sense of self and give you the momentum and confidence to continue.

Add some goals now. Watch your passion grow into the real thing.

What are you going to do today to make the right thing happen for you?

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Target The Right Audience For Your Talents

Hide not your talents, they for use were made. 
What's a sun-dial in the shade?
     --Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)

Everyone is talented at something. Everyone.

Where you decide to perform can build you up or whittle you down. That's what "best fit" is all about.

Audience-opening

So pick the venue that's a showcase, not a coffin.

1. If you want corporate life, find a corporation that's already doing the kinds of things you like to do the way you like to do them. Don't expect them to change for you, no matter how right you may be about something.

2. If you love being independent, then research the kinds of clients who will appreciate you and your approach. Seek them out and leave the rest alone, no matter how alluring the money. Bad client relationships leave you emotionally drained and without a testimonial for your marketing package.

3. If longevity and stability mean a lot, then pay attention to opportunities in government and education. Consistency and integrity are two talents that those of us who are served would greatly value.

4. You're an entertainer? Then entertain. At least try it out to see if you can earn a living. If you need a backup, fine. But don't leave this earth wondering whether you might have "made it" in some way. We're all looking for a good laugh or a song that we can destroy in the shower. Maybe you're just the one to help us.

Most of all, know that you've got talent. When you uncover it, put it where it will be most appreciated and most used.

Could life get much better than that?

photo source: i.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/ multimedia/archives

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Happiness At Work

I was checking the statistics here to discover the search engine queries that bring people to All Things Workplace. I figured that the keywords were going to be mostly about leadership or management.

I was wrong.

HappyCat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Job Satisfaction"..."Happiness at Work"..."Where Can I Find the Best Job?"..."Strengths and Weaknesses"..."How Can I Find A Job Where the Boss Listens to Me?"...those were the themes. Career issues--sometimes disguised as communications--turned out to be the number one driver.

Make no mistake. People are searching for how to feel good at work. We want to do well...and we want to feel good in the process.

Think about two variables

There's a relationship between how much you love your job and how well you perform. That's not a mystery. But there is a dynamic you need to know about in order to manage yourself and others:

1. Some people have to feel good about their job and their workplace before they can get busy and perform at their max.

2. Others have to have to first achieve super results in order to feel good about their jobs.

It's a "Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?" phenomenon. I picked up on this some years ago during a stretch where I was diagnosing "performance issues" for a client.

My conclusion: Managers hadn't caught onto the validity of the two approaches to performance. Naturally, the "feel good first" people were perceived as weenie-like non-performers. However, they actually had a huge commitment to doing well. They just needed something else to help them be able to get there.

What was it? They wanted the managers to understand who they were and what made them tick. That went along way to having the "right feeling" about the job.

The second category of people wanted a scorecard. They weren't about to "feel" good until they checked off their tasks and accomplishments.

Target yourself and your people

1. Which approach most naturally fits you? Figure out what that means to the way you work and the way your work is managed. Then talk with your manager about your desire to excel and how you might use this natural preference to make that happen.

2. Managers: The next time you're in a meeting (or one-on-one), have an informal conversation about the two approaches. Let people talk about what comes first for them. You'll learn a lot about how to manage each person; and they'll get more of what they need in order to hit the top of the job satisfaction/high performance curve.

Do you come onto the work scene each day with one of these in the front of your mind? How does that play out for your job satisfaction and performance?

__________________________________

This post first ran in June, 2008. Workplace Happiness is still thriving as an issue across the entire range of social media and professional publications, so I thought a little "re-visit" might be worthwhile.

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Thinking About Work-Life Balance?

The real issue of work-life balance is about what kind of a life you want to have. Work plays a part in life--it's not designed to be the other way around.

Decisions that you make about life determine how much work and what kind of work you do. Spending time getting clear about who you are and how you are talented is time well-spent. You may not even like the answer at first. It may conflict with expectations from you, your family, the community, and even society at large.

Balance

Real people searching for balance

A few years ago my wife and I were visited by a young married couple (I'll call them Phil and Ann) who wanted to talk about some choices they were confronting about their life together.  The real issue emerged when Ann said, "I think I will need professional fulfillment over the long run. We really want to have children soon, too. How do you achieve that kind of balance?"

It was at that moment that I realized that work and life were being viewed as slices of a pie that could somehow be sliced, with every piece equally tasty and available for consumption when desired.

And the reason they came to us is...

My wife, Barbara, was also my consulting partner for a number of years. She has a dual Ph.D. in Business and Counseling. (She'll analyze your financials, tell you you're going broke, then switch chairs and ask in the best Rogerian fashion, "How do you feel about that?"). Ann knew about Barb's background and the fact that we had a daughter (a teenager at that time). So her real question was "How do you have it all?"

The answer:  You don't have it "all"  at  the same moment in time.

(Intuition tells me that there is probably some law of physics that would bear that out. However, my party-life balance in college caused me to miss that class.)

Barb explained that we had made a choice together about raising our daughter. We had decided that it was important for her to come home to a parent each day. There was too much going on in our daughter's life to leave the development of her own decision process to chance or to others with values inconsistent with ours.  Yes, it would cut our income considerably. Yes, there were things that we wouldn't do as a result. No, she (Barb) didn't feel any "less of a woman" by not having a professional identity at that time. No, she didn't feel as if she had wasted her education ("Ann, try raising a teen-aged daughter without a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology!"). And so on.

Integration

A way to re-think this

Work-life balance is really a deceiving term. It has the impact ofseparating work and life. It then visually nudges you toward making decisions that fall into those two categories instead of integrating the elements of your life into a sensible whole.

Maybe that's the place to start. For those who work best with a label, perhaps "Life Integration" would offer a better working phrase than "Work-Life Balance". I believe you can do yourself a big favor by paying attention to a job that offers a "good fit" for who you are and what you do vs. trying to "balance" something that started off out of sync.

Fast Forward: Phil and Ann

Phil and Ann now have two children, 8 and 5. Ann is a volunteer leader in an organization where she can bring the 3 year-old along and it works. She does intend to continue her "professional" life in a couple of years and is exploring ways to do that. She told me that she likes her life, is happy with the decision, and doesn't think about "balance" any more. Instead, she and Phil look at where they are, where they want to be, what they value, and then make decisions accordingly.

They took the approach that life is, indeed, a journey; it's not a "have-it-all-at-this-moment-in-time-every-time" proposition.

What are your experiences? Are you working on a balancing act or best-fit decisions?

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Are You Strong Enough To Ask For Help?

Employee engagement, management engagement, leadership, passion in the workplace. . .

These rallying cries fill books, blogs, and backroom banter. The real issue: "How can we get done what needs to get done and create a sense of "we're in this together" at the same time?

It's actually quite simple:

To Get Something Done, Ask for Help

There is nothing that sparks the human spirit--and thus adds meaning to a task--than the satisfaction of providing help to someone who needs it.

Help-sign
Yet my experience--at least in many western cultures--is that it is somehow viewed as  "weak" to ask for help. After all, if I'm a guy who gets things done, I don't want people to think that I can't get things done.

I know you already see the fallacy in this. Most textbook definitions of management include some version of: "Management--getting things done through others."

Hmm. As a manager that means, by definition, I need your help.

What Actually Happens Vs. The Simplicity of Help

See if this isn't a little closer to the norm:

Manager: "Andrew, our sales goals are up by 8%. You supervise the customer service reps. You need to be able to support that. Make it happen."

Now, that 's not too bad a directive at all in the grand scheme of things. (For those who only respond to warm and fuzzy, it's probably not). It's fairly specific, understandable, and has an action attached. However, we've got an entire generation of management research that everyone has been exposed to through workshops and reading. The essence of that research is that people want to be respected,involved in solutions, and have a sense of meaning in what they do.

So, I suggest:

Manager: Andrew, our sales goals are up by 8%. I need help. (Shut up).

Note to managers: Really, you do need help. You're getting paid to make the 8% happen--through other people.

Andrew: How can I help?

Honestly, if the manager & Andrew have a decent relationship, "helping" is about as meaningful as life can get at that moment.

Manager: You supervise the customer service reps. We need to be able to support that 8% bump. How would you go about doing that with your people?

  • Statement one: Places next level of responsibility where it belongs.
  • Statement two: Specifies the  issue.
  • Statement  three:  Involvement and  more meaning. (In the event that Andrew struggles a bit, this is the "teachable moment" for coaching).

What will you do?

What someone does for a living is part of the working agreement. How they do it is why they--as individuals--were (hopefully) hired in the first place. When you allow someone to exercise the personalhow, you have created the intersection of individual meaning and engagement .

Are you strong enough to ask for help today?


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Career: Self-Leadership & 3 Key Variables

You, Your Boss, Your Organization

Shortly after my 27th birthday I landed the ideal job following graduate school: Director of PR for a college in New Jersey. I reported directly to the President, participated in the Board of Trustees meetings, and had lots of visibility in the media.

I felt dead inside at the end of the first year. But why? I had "made" it.

What Was I Trying To Change?

I wanted my boss--a good guy and a good President--to manage me a little differently. He didn't.

I wanted my initiatives to move through the organization faster. They didn't.

At the end of the second year I resigned on good terms and took an overseas assignment doing management training while living and working in the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Jetting from country to country, running workshops, developing managers, designing programs--almost every day was a peak experience.

Change Graphic_Good One
When I returned to the US two years later I was recruited by a Fortune 50 company. More responsibility. Broader organizational development assignments. Good salary.

But I wanted my boss to manage me a little differently. He didn't.

And I wanted my initiatives to move through the organization faster. They didn't.

So I left on good terms and started by own consulting, training, and speaking practice. I'm still at it.

What really changed?

Me. It's the only thing I had the power to change. I was forced to evaluate what I wanted, why I wanted it, who I was and, more importantly, who I wasn't. . .and then take a leap of faith that it would work. It did.  And  my  last employer became a client for nearly 20 years.

What are you trying to change?

If it's your boss or your organization--and you like both--it's worth investing in a conversation to see if you can change your circumstances.

But the one place where you are assured the most impact--and influence--is you.

Are you willing to do that today? It could transform the rest of your life.

____________________________________________________________________

Quote of the day, courtesy of the meteorologist at WNEP TV in Scranton, PA:

"Rain will begin at onset of precipitation." 

Duh.

 Thanks to our marketing Diva, Darlene Hill at GraphX Evolution for passing that along during our morning Skype conference.


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Some Advice on Advice at Work

Be careful when you give advice--somebody might take it." Anonymous.

Most of us enjoy giving advice. If you're a manager, it may even make you feel a lot more managerial. And let's be honest, advice is a lot more fun than criticism.

What Kind of Advice Is Desired?

Advice1 Counselors know that when someone arrives for a first visit, the story that unfolds is usually the "presenting" problem. It's not necessarily a matter of deception. We may not feel comfortable "putting it all out there" quite yet. Or, we may not even be clear about what the real issue is, which is why we want to talk it through in the first place.

Advice & The Workplace

If you can't tell what your employee or boss wants by how a subject is introduced, ask a few questions. Does the person want:

  • To hear critical information and facts?
  • To know your opinion on an issue?
  • To get help with generating alternatives to a situation?
  • To know how you went about doing something?
  • To check out his or her reasoning on a decision?

It's easy to fall into the instant response trap; we all want to be helpful. Sometimes that kind of help isn't helpful at all.

Ask specifically what the other person wants. It will save you both a lot of time and lead to more satisfying results.

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Developing Talent: Strengths + Weaknesses

Have you noticed people making excuses for poor performance or ugly behavior by invoking the "It's just who I am" defense?

Lets have a close look at this:

Research (and common sense) confirm that focusing on peoples' strengths has a positive affect on morale, engagement and the bottom line. 

But as with any approach (or new idea), focusing on strengths can go overboard in organizations, causing many negative side-effects. Some I've seen: 

Weight_Lifting_Hamster

1. Using the "strengths" research as an excuse for managers to avoid uncomfortable performance discussions with employees. ("Everyone knows that James is difficult to work with and shirks his responsibilities. No one wants to work with him and clients complain about him...but he's a really good analyst. Let's not rock the boat.")

2.  Hiding behind strengths as an excuse for bad behavior. For example, "I'm sorry that I snapped at you and called you a bumbling idiot. I have a short fuse. That's just how I am. Sensitivity is not my strength. You'll just have to accept that."

3.  Dumping mundane tasks (like paperwork, administration) on others because "it's not my strength." (For example, "Anne, you're so good at making the office coffee, cleaning out the pot and using the fax machine. Would you mind? I'm not good at that kind of stuff.") 

All jobs require doing some things we don't like, or aren't particularly good at...and most companies can't afford to give all of their employees an assistant to dump work on. Sometimes we just have to suck it up and do something, even though it's not our strength. All of that said, I'm still a huge believer in focusing on strengths. I just get alarmed when I see a good concept spin out of control and become destructive. 

What's Happening?

There are probably a number of reasons why, but I think there is a phenomenon that gets played out--at least in American business circles--whenever the latest and greatest thing hits the scene. It's this:

What is actually a principle is adopted as a rule. 

These are two actual representations of the 80/20 "concept":

8020 final.001 
Instead of really taking time to understand all that lies underneath a principle, the human condition tends to run with a catch phrase and treat it as "the way." A book title becomes a buzzword that gets tossed around in meetings as a mantra. It becomes problematic when that word isn't represented accurately or in context.  And that happens a lot. 

So it is with Strengths. It's a lot easier to say "It's all about strengths" than it is to live a life identifying and acknowledging our strengths; figuring out where we need to become at least adequate in some of our weaknesses; and respecting the people around us enough to behave unselfishly even when we "feel" like doing our own thing our own way.

When managers avoid uncomfortable performance discussions, they are showing disrespect for their employee. How can the person improve without hearing the truth, explore ways to change, and growing as a result?

When we hide behind Strengths as an excuse for bad behavior we're really saying, "I don't respect you enough to bother to honor you with good behavior."

And when mundane tasks are dumped on someone else because "I'm not good at it," then I better ask myself just how I'm using my position power. Is one of my less attractive "strengths" the inclination to take advantage of others' weakness?

What I find ironic as I write this is: we're talking about Strength, yet the insidious culprit is Laziness. 

What to do?

1. Take time to learn the "why?" behind the "what." When you can explain a concept accurately using everyday language, you've got it. If you or colleagues around you are still discussing things using buzzwords, stop and ask for an explanation of the meaning. That discussion could lead to shared meaning and deeper understanding.

2. When you hear a "performance excuse" disguised as a reason, follow up by asking: "What are you going to do about that? It's impacting other people and that's not acceptable." It's amazing how we'll make changes once we are called on our behavior and not allowed to explain it away.

3.  Make really bad coffee and jam the fax machine. 

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Who Will Influence You?

Every leader must also follow.

ElephantsThose who show no accountability to others--in business, non-profits, or government--may hold a position of leadership but won't hold on to it without some version of brute or "political" force, overt or covert. (If that kind of leadership appeals to you, you may want to check Craigslist for the "Dictators Wanted" ads).

Be selective about who you allow to influence your thinking, attitudes, decisions, and behavior. What are the values you hold most dear--the ones you would like others to adopt as a result of being influenced by you?

Please consider that question. Then, make sure the influences on your life mirror those values.

If you do, your life and your leadership will be reinforced and lifted up. If you don't, you put yourself in a position to be led away from your life's vision. Perhaps even worse, you'll lead others in the wrong direction.

Who are you choosing to follow?

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Can You Survive Your Brand?

A New York family bought a ranch out West where they intended to raise cattle. Friends visited and asked if the ranch had a name. "Well," said the would-be cattleman, "I wanted to name it the Bar-J. My wife favored Suzy-Q, one son liked the Flying-W, and the other wanted the Lazy-Y. So we're calling it the Bar-J-Suzy-Q-Flying-W-Lazy-Y." "But where are all your cattle?" the friends asked. "None survived the branding." --- D.A.C. News

Branding

How many different business cards do you carry? Do you need the entire height of the Sears Tower to complete your elevator speech? Have you learned not to answer the question, "What Do You Do?" but instead respond with, "Here's how we help people like you?"

The best line I've ever heard for the relationship between focus and success comes from comedian Bill Cosby: "I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody."

Branding ourselves is a bit of a misnomer. Other people brand us by how they experience who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

What do you do unbelievably well? Stick to it so you survive the branding.

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Building the Organizational Habit of Career Development

This guest blog post by Julie Winkle Giulioni celebrates the September 18 launch of her book with Beverly Kaye, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want.  Julie has spent the past 25 years improving performance through learning. She consults with organizations to develop and deploy innovative instructional designs and training worldwide. You can learn more about Julie’s consulting, speaking, and blog at juliewinklegiulioni.com.

Let’s be honest. Engaging in career conversations is not that hard. It’s inherently simple to talk with other people about what they’re good at, what they’re interested in, and where they see themselves going. It’s good for business to understand and leverage the capacity of all employees. It builds trust, loyalty, and engagement... which in turn deliver a range of bottom-line results.

Let’s be even more honest. If what’s most precious to a leader was hanging in the balance, he/she could likely engage in career conversations. Granted, some skill is involved; but just average interpersonal skills are enough for a leader to have a decent talk with an employee... if they are motivated to do so.

Let’s be painfully honest. Helping leaders actually conduct career conversations may not be a training issue. Additional tips and techniques aren’t necessarily the answer. What’s required, instead of building individual skill, is building organizational habit. Genuine, sustainable career development is present in organizations that cultivate a culture rich with conversation about careers. And it all comes down to new habits.

Organizational habits are built when two equally important dimensions are present:

  1. Sustained individual behavior change; and
  2. Relevant and reasonable accountability systems.

 Sustained Individual Behavior Change

 Learning new skills is the easy part. What’s more challenging is to put those behaviors, strategies, or techniques into practice on a regular enough basis so that they become automatic. As long as leaders have to think too hard about a task, it feels like an ‘extra’ that’s difficult to fit into an already full dance card. But, do it enough so that...

  • Career conversation cues in the workplace are on the radar screen of the sub-conscious
  • Insightful questions just slide off the tongue effortlessly
  • Seeing how to connect someone’s talents and interests to pressing business needs becomes an unconscious competency

 ...and you have behavior change that will last.

 Relevant and Reasonable Accountability Systems

Sustained behavior change is considerably more possible when leaders are motivated to pay attention long enough for key behaviors to become so comfortable. That’s the only way they become part of the leader’s natural repertoire. But attention in the short term is required. And nothing inspires attention more than accountability.

When organizations implement systems that draw attention to important skills or behaviors, leaders listen. Whether it involves setting expectations, instituting measures and metrics, targeted coaching, or elevating visibility in other ways, these systems support the focus and provide the reinforcement required for sustained behavior change.

The key is identifying systems that are relevant. They need to draw attention directly to the behavior, skill, or outcomes required. They also must be reasonable - not requiring new departments, another headcount, or superfluous activity streams. Most organizations already have more than enough systems in place; it’s just a matter of leveraging or piggybacking on what already exists.

 Don’t Kick - Rather Kindle - the Habit

So, if you’re serious about building a culture that’s rich with conversation about careers, kindle the organizational habit. Rather than more training, help leaders:

  • Activate the skills they already have
  • Support them in changing key behaviors over the long-haul
  • Implement (or leveraging) relevant and reasonable systems that draw attention and accountability to the behavior

Is it worth the effort? Absolutely! Since good habits are just as hard to break as bad ones, you’ll get to enjoy the fruits of your labor for some time to come. 

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A Helpful Way To Think About Talent

You don't pay much attention to what seems to come easily to you. And you should.

I just finished a mid-career assessment with Mike. He has a grouping of talents that would make any major construction or engineering firm drool with anticipation of hiring him as a project manager.

So when I pointed out his natural strengths, what was his response?

Talent

"Oh, of course, but that's just stuff that I've always liked to do."

Well, yeah! It just so happens that what he's always like to do--and is really, really good at--fits perfectly with outstanding project management. But he never saw himself as gifted in that area because it seemed easy. As a result, he spent years not promoting his career because he thought that if it was easy it must not be worth anything.

Are you doing the same thing?

Start paying attention to what you do really well and the underlying communication, relational, and functional talents that go with it. I use a proprietary assessment to zero in on the specifics with my clients. You can start by asking those around you to tell you how they see you in these three areas:

Communication                                                                    

    Interpersonal
    Presenting
    Facilitating group discussion

Relational
    Are you a large group, small group, or one-at-a time relator?

When you determine which fits you best, look at your career. Does your current job match your relational talent? If so, great. If not, find a situation that matches. This is a huge determiner of job success.

Functional

    Helping/Service orientation
    Managerial/Sole contributor orientation
    Good with lots of action or lots of thinking time?
    Do you excel in dealing with people or things?

That's a start. Then do this:

Recognize that what you do well--and what comes naturally--has great value.

Decide today to find the career match that brings out the best in you.

 

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Be Unique And Get With The Program

"We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to be like other people."
   --Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)

Teenagers are my favorite people to watch. Their crusade to be different leads them to dress alike, talk alike, and act alike. They are uniquely the same. It's also a survival

Aeropostale2_thumb


mechanism that leads to acceptance as well as the avoidance of getting whupped for standing out in a crowd and being too different.

I'm not sure that this phenomenon is any different in organizations. Let's face it: if expectations include cookie-cutter behavior, who wants to be the first to respond to a call for innovation, creativity, and risk-taking? In fact, it's probably difficult for people to believe that the request is even genuine.

How to Be Unique At Work--And Thrive

Your boss is looking for "better." Better methods, better revenue, better savings, better results, better quality. These give you two meaningful ways to show off your individuality:

1. What you produce that is different from anyone else's output (see "better" above).

2. How you go about doing it using your own methodology.

Once you're successful at those two, feel free to spike your hair, put rings in places they shouldn't be, and invite your boss to sing with you on company Karaoke night. We'll upload the photos here.

photo attribution: http://www.aeropostale.com/home

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Talent: Where You Decide to Perform Matters

Hide not your talents, they for use were made. 
What's a sun-dial in the shade?
     --Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)

Everyone is talented at something. Everyone.

Where you decide to perform can build you up or whittle you down. 

So pick the venue that's a showcase, not a coffin.

Talentwanted_21. If you want corporate life, find a corporation that's already doing the kinds of things you like to do the way you like to do them. Don't expect them to change for you, no matter how right you may be about something.

2. If you love being independent, then research the kinds of clients who will appreciate you and your approach. Seek them out and leave the rest alone, no matter how alluring the money. Bad client relationships leave you emotionally drained and without a testimonial for your marketing package.

3. If longevity and stability mean a lot, then pay attention to opportunities in government and education. Consistency and integrity are two talents that those of us who are served would greatly value.

4. You're an entertainer? Then entertain. At least try it out to see if you can earn a living. If you need a backup, fine. But don't leave this earth wondering whether you might have "made it" in some way. We're all looking for a good laugh or a song that we can destroy in the shower. Maybe you're just the one to help us.

Most of all, know that you've got talent. When you uncover it, put it where it will be most appreciated and most used.

Could life get much better than that?

 

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What Can't You Not Do?

Successful People and Their Struggles

Richard Branson, the Virgin brand mogul, gets bored easily. He channels this "problem" into a positive by "getting himself into numerous businesses that he can spread himself around in."

Charles Schwab was dyslexic and almost flunked out of Stanford, having failed English twice. In business, he overcame this reading problem by speaking from the heart (nixing the need for reading and writing long memos and speeches).

Cisco CEO John Chambers was also dyslexic, so he relies on memorized speeches and interacting personally with people as much as possible.

Each of these people found a way to succeed in the face of some weakness.

Cartoon-Animation

Strengths from Weakness and Natural Talent

I'd like to propose that you and I look at our lives in light of those two gifts. And they are both gifts, although the first one may be difficult to see at first.

Strengths from Weakness

This isn't happy talk or psycho-babble.

Each of us is faced with some struggle around which we have to make a choice. Either we succumb to the struggle or we see it through. What we label as "overcoming" is really the molding of our character through adversity. In that process, we discover and develop strengths that serve our natural talents and purpose in life. All of the examples above reflect that.

If you choose to acknowledge your struggle and see it through, you'll end up leading and mentoring others who are struggling with similar challenges.

Why?

You'll possess knowledge, wisdom, and empathy about the issue that others cannot gain from classroom study. It will become an area of passion and personal meaning. You'll become known for your insight and strength.

What You "Can't Not Do"

Your Natural Talent(s)

If you're reading this, you are probably committed to personal and professional development. So at some point, you ask yourself "What are my real talents?"

I do a lot of mid-career counseling with executives who also wrestle with that question. Every one has read about  Following Your Bliss, Pursuing Your Passion, and Discovering Your Strengths. They get the idea. But they find it difficult to separate skills that they've developed from the talents they possess.

During one session--in the midst of my own frustration--I blurted out, "What can't you not do?"

That proved to be a breakthrough question and has turned into a cornerstone of the career counseling part of my practice.

Look at your life. What can't you not do? No matter what your job title or job description, what do you find it impossible not to get involved with? What are you always getting in trouble for because you're not supposed to be doing it--or doing it that way?

Start paying attention to that and you'll start to identify your natural talent(s). And when you're using those talents, you won't even feel as if you are working. That's one of the reasons they can be hard to identify. We're so good at them, we don't recognize them for what they are. And we tend to place a low value on them because they don't "seem like work." Yet they are the part of you that makes you a star.

What to take away

1. When faced with a struggle, recognize that seeing it all the way through will present you with a new strength. You don't yet know what that is.

2. When you make that choice, it will become an area of your life where you will help, guide, and mentor others. Your burden will become one of your gifts.

3. If you are an HR person or manager who is interviewing candidates: Ask the candidate to describe a struggle that has led to a new talent, and how they use it. Pay attention to this. It will be a powerful part of their career potential

4. What can't you not do?

Stop not doing it.

___________________________

If what "you can't not do" leads you toward a solo gig, here is some fresh data about "independent workers." MBO Partners has just released survey results showing a trend toward a more independent workforce. Tip of the hat to Rachel Urman for ensuring that the info go to us.

 

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How Do You Really Help People Develop?

Start by seeing clearly who they really are

  • How many people at work know who you really are?
  • How many people do you see clearly for who they are?

I was thinking about the things an executive coach really does--or should be doing. One of the most important is this: Seeing people for who they are, realizing what they can be, and helping to take them there.

Person growing If that doesn't sound very "business-like," it may not be in the traditional sense of "business-like."

And therein lies the issue. Organizations of all kinds hire the best people they can find. Those folks look at the "people are our most important asset" blurbs in the corporate recruiting brochures. Then, they sign on with high hopes.

What happens later on that causes discontent, retention issues, and the need to search for "talent?" Weren't they talented when they were hired?

Here's what I see

I see highly motivated people getting performance appraisals that are designed to force rankings on a curve so they never accurately portray an individual's contribution and worth. I see employees at all levels  getting feedback on the gaps in their performance--and then receiving direction to "close the gaps." I see the same people then coming to workshops and seminars, hearing theoretical--but good--teaching, only to go back to work and say "what do I actually do with that?"

In nearly 30 years of managing, consulting, and coaching, I can count on one hand the number of people I've seen fired for technical incompetence. They get released for issues of character,  the inability to relate well with other people, or not being able to "close the gap."

Here are my thoughts as a result:

1. The character issue
 can be discerned during the hiring process. Discernment should be a highly valued talent possessed by those interviewing.  If not, get a coach to help with that element. Someone who sees others clearly and quickly for who they are.

2. Relating well with other people. You can send people to class to learn some skills. My question is this: does the day-to-day interaction at work model, support, and reward good relationships? A coach can impact that issue--or help the individual see that another role--maybe even in another organization--would be a better match. It's the coach's job to see those things clearly and to help the other person gain the same clarity.

3. Workshops and Education. Two things I enjoy with a passion. None has ever changed my own behavior very much. But I have learned a lot that has helped me think differently and more clearly. When do they work? When a manager or coach shows someone how to actually do what was taught--in the context of the organization's strategies and culture.

Manager As Coach

Before you get the idea that this is a treatise on why you should hire me, let me propose this: Managers can coach if they choose to see their people clearly by building relationships that let them know who their folks really are. If they don't have the time or inclination, then get some help to build the talent that seems, at times, to be hiding. It's probably not hiding. It might just be invisible to the naked eye.

And that brings us back to the opening:

If you want your talent to be valued, you've got to let people around you know who you really are. Make it impossible for them not to see you clearly.

If you are a manager, start thinking about intentionally "seeing clearly." And if it's tough, then get some help.

You and I wouldn't build a house in the dark. We need light to see in order to build. And unless your a truffle, you need a lot of light in order to grow and use your talent to perform.

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Got A Jerk In Your Work Life? Read This

I've worked with individual executives and groups for more than 25 years on "How To Deal With Difficult People". 

It sounds kind of grim but is really a lot of fun. Why?

Because everyone has someone who "bugs" them. And, when they think long and hard about it, what bothers people most is actually something they really don't like about themselves in the situation. There are lots of ways to have fun with this and learn a lot at the same time without navel-gazing.

What I like best about the approach we've developed is that it isn't about coping with jerks. Why settle for coping? It doesn't really change anything. 

Do You Want To Change Something?

Difficultpeople

Good. Then here's a little synopsis that I hope will help.

1. What drives your blood pressure north?

Identify the triggers that push your buttons by thinking about past experiences in which your "favorite"  person finally got to you. 

What did they do?  That’s different than why it bothered you. Simply identify their actual behavior.  Was it the way they approached you? Looked at you?  How did they look at you? Maybe it was a certain voice quality or tone of voice?

2. How did you react? 

Do you immediately blame them for how you feel?  Do you act distracted or quickly find a distraction? Disavow what’s really going on? When they do their "special" thing, what do you do in response?

3. What do you want from yourself?  


What’s the very best you can bring to the situation? Regardless of what they did, what would you do to be delighted with yourself after the interaction?

4.  What do you really want from them?  

Yeah, I know: "Stop that stuff!" 

Not going to happen. So, think about this relationship the way the Cheerios people do on their nutrition label. "What is the MDR (minimum daily requirement) of behavior you can hope for and accept? Then start expecting nothing more. (it's quite free-ing, really). 

5.  Has someone else learned a way to deal with this person?

 How do they do it?  Who might know how to do it?  Describe your situation in a way that combines "behavior-then-how-I-feel." No need to dump on the offender; besides, it makes you less attractive and less of a good candidate for help.

When you've reached a point where you have an approach, use it. We train our muscle memories to play tennis, golf, and other sports in ways that become unconscious.  You can train your nervous system in the same way. Think about this: if you do just one thing differently you may change the entire pattern.

Most importantly: Life is not what happens to us. It's how we respond to what happens to us.

And you are in charge of your responses.


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Workplace Danger: The "Invisible Assumed"

When 300 engineers at a major East Coast utility were told to re-apply for jobs in their department as part of a major reorganization, they were livid.


"I've been here 18 years."  (Longevity means immunity to change)

"I hired the idiot who's running this thing." (If I gave someone their job, they won't mess with mine)

"They already know what I can do." (I only have to prove myself once)

"No other utility has ever had to go through this." (This place isn't being run according to the norm)

"No one told me this could happen when I was hired." (This wasn't part of the deal)

"My wife and I have planned our retirement for 23 years." ('They' are responsible for my cradle-to-grave existence)

Iceberg


The Danger of The "Invisible Assumed"

When you signed on with your current employer you probably discussed:

Salary, benefits, corporate vision, the marketplace, performance expectations.

Chances are you won't  become really upset as a result of any of those items changing a bit. It's the ones you assumed to be true that will come back to haunt you.

You'll become disenchanted as a result of someone breaking the implicit contract.

The contract that you created in your own mind. Visible only to you.

In the real-life example above, the implicit contract had to do with the unspoken nature of Utilities:

Stable, Secure, Lifetime Employment, Methodical Career Progression...

No one ever said those things out loud. They were just "known."

Q: Do you and your spouse get upset about what you talked about before you got married or what youassumed would be true?

Tips for Employees and Employers

Employees:

1. Before you sign on the dotted line, check out your assumptions.

2. Make a written list.

3. Check out their validity with your prospective company or boss.

Employers:

1. Before introducing a change, take a look at the culture.

2. What is it that drew people to your company in the first place?

    Security? Action? International travel? Work close to home?

3. If one or more of those traditional characteristics (the unspoken attraction) will change, then help neutralize the impact by discussing it openly.

Tell what is going to happen and why. Explain the reality of implicit agreements and that you realize this might be one such example. You'll give people a mental model to understand what they are experiencing.

Finally: What happened to our  300  engineers?

a. They had been told before the process started that no one would lose a job with the company. They would hopefully be better matched as a result of the process. And, everyone did remain employed.

b. The department as a whole was more effective.

c.  About 10% chose to retire rather than  make the change.

What is your implicit contract?

If you have to act on it, will it equal the explicit reality?


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Who Do You Want To Become? It Matters

"Who do I want to become?" or "What do I want to be?"

Which question are you asking yourself? Your choice may determine the depth of your life, the wisdom in it, and the success of your career.

Growing.001 After watching a new CEO client begin his tenure at a global company I noticed his ease while listening, talking, giving direction, and saying, "I don't know. That sounds good to me. Go ahead and do it." (Whatever the "it" is).

What we’re really seeing here is a man who has, over a lifetime, decided to "become" the kind of person he wanted to be. I know for a fact that he didn't set out to be a CEO. In fact, he was invited into the role. The reason he received the invitation, I believe, rests in great part on who he is to the people around him.

Yet "who he is" was shaped by not ambitiously jumping into a position that was too far ahead of "who he was" at the moment. His career path shows a progression that was measured and steady, building solid relationships and new knowledge along the way.  And each step on the ladder reflected genuine accomplishment.

Now he has become a CEO; he doesn't have to play the role of CEO.

And that's the distinction between where the two questions above will lead you.

Who do you want to become?

Or, do you want to play a role?

Think about the difference. It will change your life.

 

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Learning How To Develop Others

"Developing Others" ranks dead last on just about every organizational skill level survey with which I've been involved or have read. 

It's not because people lack awareness of its importance; quite the contrary. It's because development takes time. It involves getting to know people and their capabilities at more than a surface level. To develop people, you have to follow a few fundamental steps.

Growth-1-300x227 Here's How To Begin

1. Start with an accurate picture of the person's strengths and weaknesses. They can't grow if they don't have good information about themselves. And managers can't help them develop without the same kind of clarity.

2. Get ongoing feedback from multiple sources. The key words here are ongoing and multiple

Ongoing: Performance improves with information that is provided as close to an event as possible. That way, the situation is still fresh and the details clear. If I get feedback in November about something that happened in February, what am I really supposed to do about it? And I have to ask myself: "If it's so important, why did you wait this long to tell me?"

Multiple sources: We all have bosses and peers; if we're managing, we also have direct reports. When I do 360s for clients, I always insist on feedback from people outside of the person's direct chain of command, even external customers if there is a lot of customer interaction. When someone is working across boundaries on a project, there's a wealth of information available about the ability to build relationships and influence outside of the "power" sphere. 

3. Give first-time tasks that progressively stretch people. In a series of leadership conferences we conducted between 2006-2009, participants told us that the single most valuable contributor to their leadership growth was a series of stretch assignments. No one grows from doing the same thing more and more. '

4. Build a learner mentality. Encourage your people to think of themselves as professional learners as well as (job title). In meetings and one-on-on one, ask:

  • What are you learning that's new or different?
  • Where have you seen yourself improve most in the past year?
  • What have you learned in one situation that you can now use in others?

5. Use coaching, mentoring, classroom, online, books, coursework, and stretch assignments to promote and reinforce learning and development.

One of the byproducts of developing your people: you gain satisfaction and stature as a result of their success. 

Who will you help today?

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The Value of Self-Awareness

Organizations gain a lot more from leaders who take responsibility for what they know they don't know than from leaders who pretend to know everything.

Dog-mirror1 What recently occurred to me in an "aha" moment is this: self-awareness is one of the most valuable leadership competencies, yet it is one of the least discussed. In an effort to appear task-focused and "business-like," organizational feedback often gravitates toward hard skills and competencies that are more easily measurable. 

Have You Thought About This?

People who don't know their strengths and weaknesses actually tend to overestimate themselves. Research literature and my own coaching experiences have shown that poor self-awareness leads to poor performance and, frequently, termination. 

We live in a highly competitive culture. I've watched more than a few leaders and leader wannabes try to appear as if they know everything all the time. They believe that if they don't, people will question and even challenge their capability, undermining their leadership effectiveness. In fact, the opposite is true. Whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, those around you still see them. The result: trying to hide a weakness actually magnifies it, leading to a perceived lack of integrity and, ultimately, trust. 

Knowing yourself helps you use your strengths better, develop where you can, and avoid or compensate for areas where you are unskilled or just plain unsuited. 

The simple truth: People who know themselves better do better.

Helpful resource: Chris Musselwhite was ruminating over similar issues back in 2007, and wrote a terrific article on Self Awareness in Inc. Check it out: http://tinyurl.com/yj2st6x

____________________________________________________________

A quick note on comments: Due to a heavy travel and speaking scheduling, plus the holidays, I've been remiss in responding to comments in a timely way. My apologies to all who have taken time to weigh in and add to the conversation. All Things Workplace has always been a forum for discussion. I'll be getting caught up this week and we'll get the conversation rolling again. Thanks to everyone who has added their expertise and thoughts in the comment section. 


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Do You Have A "Success" Agreement At Work?


Chartered Management Institute  study of 1,684 managers in the U.K. that explored the same question as the title of this post. Here's a snapshot of the results:

  • "Nearly half of the managers polled said they judged success by the extent to which they developed their teams, yet only slightly more than a third believed their organizations felt the same way.
  • 25% thought that 'achieving a flexible lifestyle' was an indicator of professional success. Only six per cent thought that their employers shared the same view.

Apple-and-orange

  • Just 13 per cent said they were concerned with 'ensuring the organization is market leader' – yet nearly two thirds thought their employers made this a priority.
  • A similarly small percentage – 16 per cent – of managers believed securing 'sustainability' was important, yet more than half felt their organizations perceived this as a priority.
  • Worryingly, fewer than half of the managers polled believed they had actually achieved their true potential.
  • More optimistically, many planned to take action to change this, with more than a third planning to undertake development or further education courses during the coming 12 months."

Finally, a quote from a marketing and corporate affairs director:

"Managers should voice professional needs so their definition of success is known while the organization needs to create a clear understanding of its corporate objectives to ensure employees and future employees feel an alignment to the corporate culture."

Let's Analyze This

1. The statements talk about what the managers think the gap is between them and their employers.

2. It would be helpful to know how the "employers" responded to the same questions. We have no way of knowing what the actual gap is.

3. Is it unusual for any living human being to believe that he or she has achieved one's potential? The very definition of potential points toward possibilities.

4. Will managers expressing their definitions of success change the purpose and goals of an organization?

5. Will "feeling" an alignment to the corporate culture change one's personal definition of success?

The very best that I can glean from this is that managers don't think there is a lot of alignment with their employers on issues of personal importance. Drawing any other conclusions would really be a stretch.

What can we do with this?

Senior executives who see this study could use it as a starting point for a real conversation with their managers about what's important to organizational success; what's important to the managers; and how they can achieve as much of both as possible.

What else are you seeing? 

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When Busyness Trumps Business

Recently I met with a corporate Executive VP in New York City. I'll call him Phil. Phil said his division was struggling. But instead of leading the charge to turn things around, he was being called into meetings regularly to make lengthy, detailed, Powerpoint presentations explaining what was wrong. He was too busy doing business to be doing the business. Interestingly, one of his recommendations was for the company to get out of some of its operations because they were draining money and other resources. He explained that his people were spending too much time on things that no longer yielded the kind of margins the company desired.

People-walking-fast-blurred

Does any of this sound remotely familiar to you? I realized while he was talking to me that I had gotten up at 5 a.m. to deal with emails from a European client; spent time on the cell phone in transit with a non-profit, pro bono client who needed to talk; and allowed myself to be sidetracked by hallway conversations with managers from the client group who I hadn't seen in a while. A similar schedule unraveled today.

What is there to learn?

1. If you do business globally in the electronic age, the expectation is that you are available on "their" time...or you should be. So choose carefully--you can't afford to be awake 24 hours a day.

2. Time management isn't really just about time. It's about clear priorities. Which means...

3. It's important to say "no." In fact, I think "no" is the solution to a lot of this craziness.

4. If you are in Phil's position, at some point you need to tell those above you that the very act of "over-reporting" is exacerbating the problem. Do it respectfully. Share the impact and consequences on your business and let them take responsibility for whether or not it makes sense to continue the external demands on your time.

How are you handling this in your life?

 

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Do You Really Know The Norms?

So, you've got a sense of the culture in your organization. Good.

It's time to go one level deeper and begin to see clearly the norms that come together to create that culture. If norms influence the culture, then you need to be aware of how to influence the norms.

Norms are rules that a group uses to define its appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. The catch: Those rules may be explicit or implicit. And those unspoken norms will bite you every time if you don't find out what they are.

Norms are so important that a failure to stick to the rules can result in severe punishment, the most feared of which is exclusion from the group. A common rule is that some norms must frequently be displayed; neutrality is seldom an option. Think about what "business casual" means in your company. Khakis and a golf shirt? Logo shirt? Jacket without a tie?

Rules

Your Norm Checklist

To help you and your colleagues identify norms, here are five very specific categories:

1. Explicit Norms are written or spoken openly.

2.  Personal Norms: Standards we hold regarding our own actions.

3. Injunctive Norms: Behaviors perceived as being approved of by other people.

4. Subjective Norms: Expectations that "valued others" hold as to how we will behave.

 5. Implicit Norms: Not stated openly; however, you'll find out quickly when you break one!

Norms can be conveyed  by non-verbal behavior such as silence or 'dirty looks' in response to an unspoken norm having been broken. They may also be passed along through stories, rituals and role-model behavior. In Japan, new employees are assigned a mentor who, over time, passes along the company's norms by sharing stories about people, situations, and the outcomes. No employee manual needed here; simply the storytelling of a more experienced employee.

What to Do

  • Identify the rules you put on other people  as a condition for being in your group. Are these productive or convenient?

 

  • What rules have the group put on you? Are they productive or convenient? Are there any which are particularly bothersome and unproductive?


What would happen if you made the implicit explicit? 

 

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Your Talents, Your Career, and Change

It's a win for everyone when you find the kind of organization in which your talents can flourish.

But we live in a working-world filled with changes:

1. A CEO may decide it's more profitable to become a manufacturing-focused company than a sales & marketing-driven organization.

2. Mergers and acquisitions create new cultures. New cultures lead to new values and priorities.

3. Customers change their technology, causing your company to change it's tech service response.

4. Downsizing. Fewer people, more responsibilities for those remaining.

Talent_show  What Happened to the Talent?

I've watched each of the above grow into a crisis of confidence for employees and employers:

Mysteriously, people may not feel as talented and capable as before. At the same time, the organization is wondering where it's talented people went.

Fact: no one suddenly got stupid!

Second fact: Something else will now need to change.

You or Them?

When you were hired it was a good fit because of how business was conducted. Now it doesn't seem that way. Here are some considerations when companies and employees find themselves in a talent mismatch as a result of changes:

1. Companies: Take time to assess the breadth of talent that exists in your employee base. You may not have been using the range of talents that individuals possess because you (naturally) hired on a given set of criteria.

Real-life example: In the past few years I've had the opportunity to assess three executives who were on the "We've changed, their role isn't needed, I guess they have to go even though they've been really effective" list. In two of the three cases a broader assessment showed that they were gifted in areas that hadn't been tapped before. Those two remain with their organizations in new roles and are contributing meaningfully and productively.

2. Individuals. Maybe it isn't such a good fit.The faster you figure out the reality of the situation the faster you can make a decision to stay or look elsewhere.

Bonus tip: The longer you hang out in a mismatch the more you will question your adequacy. So, knock it off! You are talented and you've been performing in a talented way. The situation changed, not you. Get yourself into another winning situation before you conclude that the problem is you.

A Final Thought

Our educational and career counseling entities need to become very deliberate in painting an accurate picture  of "careers."

My take is that the approach is still, "What will you do when you grow up?", the assumption being that one will "become something" and "do it at a company" for a lifetime. The reality is that a person needs to find out their range of talents and prepare for a series of long-term projects in multiple places vs. lifetime employment.

Building awareness of talents, project orientation, and transitions would go a long way in offering genuine help in accurately preparing young people for the future.

What do you think?

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Want to Influence? Know the Norms

Norms are rules that a group uses to define its appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. The catch: Those rules may be explicit or implicit. And those unspoken norms will bite you every time if you don't find out what they are.

Norms are so important that a failure to stick to the rules can result in severe punishment, the most feared of which is exclusion from the group. A common rule is that some norms must frequently be displayed; neutrality is seldom an option. Think about what "business casual" means in your company. Khakis and a golf shirt? Logo shirt? Jacket without a tie?

Conformity
 

Your Norm Checklist

To help you and your colleagues identify norms, here are five very specific categories:

1. Explicit Norms are written or spoken openly.

2. Personal Norms: Standards we hold regarding our own actions.

3. Injunctive Norms: Behaviors perceived as being approved of by other people.

4. Subjective Norms: Expectations that "valued others" hold as to how we will behave.

5. Implicit Norms: Not stated openly; however, you'll find out quickly when you break one!

Norms can be conveyed  by non-verbal behavior such as silence or 'dirty looks' in response to an unspoken norm having been broken. They may also be passed along through stories, rituals and role-model behavior. In Japan, new employees are assigned a mentor who, over time, passes along the company's norms by sharing stories about people, situations, and the outcomes. No employee manual needed here; simply the storytelling of a more experienced employee.

What to Do

a. Identify the rules you put on other people  as a condition for being in your group. Are these productive or convenient?

b. What rules have the group put on you? Are they productive or convenient? Are there any which are particularly bothersome and unproductive?

What would happen if you made the implicit explicit? 

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Meaning, Wholeness, and Change

“Meaning is a peculiarly individual and subjective thing. I wonder, if every worker pursued their own notion of meaning, how would that affect the corporate world?"

That question was posed a couple of years ago by my online friend and EQ expert extraordinnaire, the late Galba Bright. 

It's a question that is related to the success–-or failure–-of every change initiative. Whether it’s about a new benefits package, introducing new technology, or figuring out where the entire family will go on vacation, meaning is the core issue.

Why?

Because when we retain what is meaningful, we have a sense of wholeness. When we have a sense of wholeness, we can–-by definition–-bring our whole self to the game. Conversely, if meaning is subverted in some way, so are we. Our enthusiasm and commitment diminish; only part of us is left, and it’s not the part that is ready to add value to the situation.

A Helpful Way to Think About Meaning, Worklife, and Change

Corporations are in business to earn a profit. Without that, there wouldn’t be jobs or money for employees. Heck, there wouldn’t be employees, products, or services. Without high-performing employees, there wouldn’t be highly profitable corporations.

Change_dont be afraid of  Which means that both are giving and getting something out of the relationship. And that’s where I believe the frustration begins. The same people who would spend days, weeks, and months wining and dining a new love–-gazing longingly into the other’s eyes–-too often spend about 5 minutes sending out an email announcing a change that will impact work schedules, careers, income, and the well-being of families.

I’ve been involved in corporate life for more than 30 years. Most executives I know do acknowledge the personal difficulties inherent with change. But here’s where it gets icky: somehow, along the way, a particular defense mechanism has been allowed to serve as an acceptable “reason” for all kinds of behavior. And that is the phrase, “This is a business.”

When that is uttered, somehow everyone within earshot is supposed to nod knowingly, acknowledging that the business gods–wherever they are–deserve whatever sacrificial offering is required to keep them looking favorably upon that company’s shareholder value.

“This is a business.” Knock it off, we all know that. In fact, that’s why we’re all here!

We’re all here for another reason

"Business" allows us to fulfill some deeper sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. For some, it’s the work itself. For others, it may offer the means to buy a first home and start a much longed-for family. For still others, the location of the workplace may have meaning if one needs to care for elderly or suffering family members. And, yes, there are many who are working simply to have enough money to retire. They’ve decided that they’ll delay certain kinds of satisfaction so that they don’t need to worry during their later years.

They are all personal and all valid. 

What gives meaning to your work?

Tomorrow, I'll share a real-life example of a corporate change, how it was done, what transpired, and the outcome to-date.


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Be Unique But Get With The Program

"We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to be like other people."
   --Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)

Aeropostale2_thumbTeenagers are my favorite people to watch. Their crusade to be different leads them to dress alike, talk alike, and act alike. They are uniquely the same. It's also a survival mechanism that leads to acceptance as well as the avoidance of getting whupped for standing out in a crowd and being too different.

I'm not sure that this phenomenon is any different in organizations. Let's face it: if expectations include cookie-cutter behavior, who wants to be the first to respond to a call for innovation, creativity, and taking a risk? In fact, it's probably difficult for people to believe that the request is even genuine.

How to Be Unique At Work--And Thrive

Your boss is looking for "better." Better methods, better revenue, better savings, better results, better quality. These give you two meaningful ways to show off your individuality:

1. What you produce that is different from anyone else's output (see "better" above).

2. How you go about doing it using your own methodology.

Once you're successful at those two, feel free to spike your hair, put rings in places they shouldn't be, and invite your boss to sing with you on company Karaoke night. We'll upload the photos here.

photo attribution: http://www.aeropostale.com/home

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Talent: Smart Heart Or A Well-Bred Head?

We are enamored of intellect and expertise. Yet, when we look at those who are asked to leave organizations, it's often the people who are "brilliant."

The problem? 

That "light of brilliance" shines down on the individual but isn't reflected in a way that adds warmth to the system as a whole. When that happens, it's not life-sustaining.

Heart&Head  My experience is that such folks do get a lot of feedback from their bosses and others about being "more collaborative." No one really wants to see these people fail and lose their expertise as a result. However, some combination of unwillingness and inability to adapt to the needs of others ultimately becomes organizationally untenable. The person has to go. 

Talent Implications

Few would dispute the importance of learning in organizations, and that's what this is all about. So, here is a question:

Is your organization deliberate about identifying--up front--people who have the heart to learn about themselves and the humility to make changes accordingly?

There are plenty of college grads out there who have managed to absorb a particular body of knowledge. You want to land the ones who want to learn how to use that knowledge in the service of those around them. You want people with a "smart heart."

A well-bred head lights up a single office. A smart heart lights up the organization. 

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How Do You Define "Talent?"

We do a lot of executive assessment and coaching. 

As a result, I see people who are at mid-life and realizing that their inherent talents and interests don't match what they are doing. Most would like to stay with their current employer but need some helping getting a good hearing when it comes to using their giftedness elsewhere in the organization.

According to my friend, Dr. Ellen Weber:

"It's common knowledge that people use far less of their talent than they possess. It's also increasingly recognized that wasted, unused, or hidden talents can literally shrink a person's brain. But how can a person develop more talent given the complexity of the brain to recognize such hidden or unused talent, and the rigidity of some workplaces to value unique capabilities of its workers?"

Catpiano  Here Is The Question

How is your company addressing "talent management?"

I will confess that I sometimes struggle with what I see as an emphasis on a shopping list of competencies to define talent. It sounds rational and understandable to look at jobs, define behavioral competencies, and then try to ascertain who has those competencies. 

How it sometimes gets played out:

1. Frequently there are numerous--I've seen as many as thirty --competencies attached to a position. If God decided to offer up only ten commandments to successfully live a lifetime, thirty seems a bit much for a supply chain manager. 

2. Assessment centers, 360 feedback, and other tools are used to find out who has what competencies and to what degree. That's fine and they can be very accurate. Just tell me when you find someone who is competent at thirty of anything. 

3. The actual ideas of genuine "talent" and related passion and excitement often don't show up on the radar screen in discussions. It takes relationships, discernment, and deep conversation to get at the heart of a person's real talents and how best to use them organizationally. 

What's going on in your company?



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Pick The Right Audience For Your Talent

Hide not your talents, they for use were made.
What's a sun-dial in the shade?
     --Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790)

Everyone is talented at something. Everyone.

Where you decide to perform can build you up or whittle you down. That's what "best fit" is all about.

Audience-opening  So pick the venue that's a showcase, not a coffin.

1. If you want corporate life, find a corporation that's already doing the kinds of things you like to do the way you like to do them. Don't expect them to change for you, no matter how right you may be about something.

2. If you love being independent, then research the kinds of clients who will appreciate you and your approach. Seek them out and leave the rest alone, no matter how alluring the money. Bad client relationships leave you emotionally drained and without a testimonial for your marketing package.

3. If longevity and stability mean a lot, then pay attention to opportunities in government and education. Consistency and integrity are two talents that those of us who are served would greatly value.

4. You're an entertainer? Then entertain. At least try it out to see if you can earn a living. If you need a backup, fine. But don't leave this earth wondering whether you might have "made it" in some way. We're all looking for a good laugh or a song that we can destroy in the shower. Maybe you're just the one to help us.

Most of all, know that you've got talent. When you uncover it, put it where it will be most appreciated and most used.

Could life get much better than that?

photo source: i.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/ multimedia/archives

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Performance Feedback Through The Back Door

Are you getting any real feedback on your performance at work?

Faux Feedback Disguised as 360 Assessment

1. I was asked late last year to provide coaching for a middle manager. During the exploratory meeting, I asked his boss how he (the middle manager) responded to the performance feedback that led to the coaching solution. The boss responded in a very general way, shuffled a bit, and said, "I guess I should sit down with him again. But I think using some kind of 360 feedback tool would really be helpful."

2. January brought about another coaching request at the executive level. Similar initial conversation, similar response, same "360 feedback tool" suggestion.

3. Three weeks ago...yep, it happened again. Along with the "360 might be helpful..."

FrontDoor_BackDoor  These are three different companies in three different industries with three different cultures.

My intuitive take: 360 Tools are seen by some as a way to satisfy the known need for feedback but to avoid having to provide it directly.

If the object of feedback were only to provide raw data, maybe that wouldn't matter. However:

Employees at all levels want feedback and direction first and foremost from their boss. That's the relationship that employees look to when making decisions about what to do, how to do it, and how well it's going. (

Dealing With Back-Door Feedback Through Front-Door Coaching

If you're a coach, then I will assume you adhere to this principle: You don't give feedback to a coaching client that he or she hasn't received from their boss. Period.

What to do?

I explained to each boss that I couldn't continue until their person had gotten all of the "what" and "why" feedback from them. That the coaching would be viewed as sneaky and unethical. And, that without the boss's direct contribution, it probably wouldn't have any real meaning.

The result? Each one agreed. This wasn't about an evil empire. It was about people who needed some help themselves.

So the first coaching session was with the boss to create the specific feedback and practice giving it.

And yes, we still did the 360 feedback because it really was desired by the people being coached.

What to take away: Be on the lookout for back door feedback requests and, regardless of your role, point people toward the front door before proceeding.

Photo Source: www.spareroom.co.nz

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How Do You Measure Workplace Happiness?

I was checking the statistics here to discover the search engine queries that bring people to All Things Workplace. I figured that the keywords were going to be mostly about leadership or management.

I was wrong.

Smilekittenlarge_2

"Job Satisfaction"..."Happiness at Work"..."Where Can I Find the Best Job?"..."Strengths and Weaknesses"..."How Can I Find A Job Where the Boss Listens to Me?"...those were the themes. Career issues--sometimes disguised as communications--turned out to be the number one driver.

Make no mistake. People are searching for how to feel good at work. We want to do well...and we want to feel good in the process.

Think about two variables

There's a relationship between how much you love your job and how well you perform. That's not a mystery. But there is a dynamic you need to know about in order to manage yourself and others:

1. Some people have to feel good about their job and their workplace before they can get busy and perform at their max.

2. Others have to have to first achieve super results in order to feel good about their jobs.

It's a "Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?" phenomenon. I picked up on this some years ago during a stretch where I was diagnosing "performance issues" for a client.

My conclusion: Managers hadn't caught onto the validity of the two approaches to performance. Naturally, the "feel good first" people were perceived as weenie-like non-performers. However, they actually had a huge commitment to doing well. They just needed something else to help them be able to get there.

What was it? They wanted the managers to understand who they were and what made them tick. That went along way to having the "right feeling" about the job.

The second category of people wanted a scorecard. They weren't about to "feel" good until they checked off their tasks and accomplishments.

Target yourself and your people

1. Which approach most naturally fits you? Figure out what that means to the way you work and the way your work is managed. Then talk with your manager about your desire to excel and how you might use this natural preference to make that happen.

2. Managers: The next time you're in a meeting (or one-on-one), have an informal conversation about the two approaches. Let people talk about what comes first for them. You'll learn a lot about how to manage each person; and they'll get more of what they need in order to hit the top of the job satisfaction/high performance curve.

Do you come onto the work scene each day with one of these in the front of your mind? How does that play out for your job satisfaction and performance?

__________________________________

This post first ran in June, 2008. The issue of Workplace Happiness is still thriving across the entire range of social media and professional publications, so I thought a little "re-visit" might be worthwhile.

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Give Advice and Feedback That's Useful

"Asking for advice is how some people trap you into expressing an opinion
 they can disagree with." --Franklin P. Jones

Let's face it, most of us don't enjoy dishing out criticism; we do enjoy offering advice. The pinch comes in determining if "help" is really going to be helpful.

What Are Your Motives?

People give out advice or a variety of reasons: to flaunt their knowledge, boost their own egos, control someone else; or to be genuinely helpful with empathy, support, or good, timely information.

Note that some of these motives are noble while others are self-serving. Understanding your own motives at a given moment can help you decide whose interest you have at heart and whether it is really wise to serve up that "advice."

What Does The Other Person Really Want?

When people ask us for advice they aren't always clear about what they want. This doesn't mean they are being deceptive; after all, they're probably asking because they are a little confused about something. So it makes sense that the request may not be crystal clear. 

  • So, ask a few questions yourself. Does (s)he want to:
  • hear facts and critical information
  • know your opinion?
  • understand how you did something?
  • get some options to expand her thinking?
  • check his reasoning on an issue?
  • know what you've seen work successfully in similar situations?

Take time to ask some specific questions regarding what the other person really wants or needs. It'll save you time, avoid confusion, and generate a more helpful result.

Why-men-shouldnt-write-advice-columns
 

Put on Your Coaching Hat

Your most effective function may be to stimulate thought and options in a situation. Listen for missing data, tangents, fuzzy logic, and hidden dangers that the other person may not be "seeing."

Most of all, keep your friend or colleague's concerns in the forefront. When you listen using their interests as a filter, you're responses stand a much greater chance of being on target. 

__________________________________________

Speaking of good advice: I received some today in the form of a "Fix Your Factoid" email from keen-eyed Garrison Cox regarding  the homepage of www.steveroesler.com

There is a minor inconsistency in your "factoid" on your home page.  It begins:


Steve once made 59 speeches in 63 days while on a business speaking gig across the entirety of  South Africa. He fainted from exhaustion on speech #61 in front of an audience of 3,000.

But if you made only 59 speeches, you can't have been on "speech #61."  Maybe you meant "speech 59"?  At any rate, it has to be a number less than or equal to 59.

 

I'm an editor.  I can't help myself.  But it might help improve your credibility even further.

 

Regards,

Garrison

This was genuinely helpful and much appreciated. Who wants a mistake on their Home Page?! After a few email exchanges, I was equally smitten by how Garrison presents himself and his qualifications:

My "elevator pitch" is that I'm like the kid in The Sixth Sense who can see dead people:  I can see what people meant to say but did not, either by omission or commission.  Some clients pay me very well for that talent.

 For you, no charge.  But if you ever have a client with a technical piece of text that needs editing, I am a recovering lawyer with an MBA who can make anything simpler and clearer.  I also ghost write technical pieces for senior partners in Big Four accounting firms who want their names published but don't have time to write snappy articles in their areas of expertise.

 Best,

Garrison

Here's my take: After multiple online interactions with Garrison, he's the kind of guy I'd work with in a minute. He's quick-witted, sharp with the editing pen, and a very good synthesizer. If you're considering editing, tech ghost writing, or want a professional set of eyes, you can reach Garrison at garrison.cox@gmail.com

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Three Ways To Improve Your Next Presentation

One of the benefits of delivering a lot of speeches is the chance to watch others, and learn from them as well.

Here are three things that I've learned and used along the way. I hope they serve you well:

StatisticsGraphic  1. Don't Let "The Facts" Speak for Themselves

People can make facts and numbers mean almost anything. I think it was Mark Twain who noted, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." 

Facts need interpretation, so interpret yours. And, be prepared to cite the source and how those facts were determined. 

2. Use Two Kinds of Numbers

Exact numbers sound very credible: "The number of survey participants who said the company is communicating "very well" is 61.7 percent." The human mind processes that as "sounding exact" and, therefore, accurate.

Rounded numbers offer the appearance of an estimation. "Almost two-thirds" is easier to remember than 61.7 percent.

Which to use if you want the numbers to be credible and memorable?

Both. Use the exact number first and round it off later when you refer to it in examples.

3. Capitalize on the Legitimacy of the Printed Word.

For some--actually about 75%--having something on paper makes it official and "real." 

Think about this: Even small business owners (smart ones) print fees, prices, terms, and conditions on their official stationery. When you quote something verbally it makes it subject to negotiation. Whether you're selling a concept, a motorcycle, or a holiday cruise, put it in a written form--even if it's a picture--that someone can see, touch, and hold. 

Make it real.

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Manage Yourself, Manage Your Own Talent

Do you want your special talents to be noticed at work?

Of course you do. Me, too.

Then you'll probably have to identify what they are and use them to get recognized. By the "right people." (I know that you know who they are).

A Towers Perrin survey of CEO's and HR Execs that said:

  • Groups now considered to be "talent" included senior leadership, employees at mid-level with leadership potential, key contributors or technical experts and entry-level employees with leadership potential.
  • Together, these defined talent pools made up, on average, no more than 15 per cent of the total workforce, said Towers Perrin.

Thinking3  Become Part of the 15%

Does focusing on 15% make sense? 

Forget whether or not it makes sense, is fair, or is actually in the company's best interest. If someone in power thinks it is, then it is.

Three things you can do:

1. Self-assess. Use a combination of tools such as the StrengthsFinder, MBTI (Step II), and informal 360 feedback from trusted associates. Find those few areas where you are number one.

2. Ask yourself what you "can't not do." Pay attention to those things that you gravitate toward and that don't feel like work. That's where you are the Big Kareer Kahuna.

3. Ask your boss for a meeting. Share what you've found and ask for the opportunity to demonstrate those talents. Head up a project, a committee, an event. Something that will get you recognized and have your strengths acknowledged.

Here is a recent thought on self-management from a savvy All Things Workplace reader (who I follow on Twitter as well):

Greg Stroz says: Having just done this myself as an employee (having a discussion with my manager to discuss not only performance but how to align my development needs with the company's objectives), I can certainly say that taking more control of your destiny in this manner certainly helps to reduce stress. In the worst case, it reduces the uncertainty that can make your future path unclear, which in turn makes it harder to make career decisions."

You have to take charge of managing your personal talents in a way that will contribute to your employer and clearly show that you've got what it takes. (Whatever that may mean).

Talent Management is a program.Your talent is your life.

View it as the gift that it is and view yourself as the caretaker of that gift. No one is more qualified than you.

Don't ya think?

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Don't Let Halos and Horns Blur Your Expectations

What do your company's talent  conversations sound like?

If you've spent more than a few minutes managing, succession planning, or doing a performance review, you know that total talent conversations can morph into a bias founded upon a single experience. Here's what I mean.

The Halo Effect

The Halo Effect surfaces when someone has an outstanding characteristic and we allow our positive reaction to that singe characteristic to influence our total judgment of the individual. What follows is a high assessment on many traits because we believe the person is a star in one trait. We ascribe a range of related talents that simply may not now, nor ever will, exist.

AngelAndDevilAtWork We see this in the realms of celebrity and politics when a physically attractive person is presumed to have a host of other positive traits. We also see it in companies where "the smartest guy in the room" moves up the hierarchy until it's discovered that his "smartness" not only doesn't extend to other fundamental traits e.g., cooperation, teamwork, initiating communication--but the individual may actually get in the way of the flow of work.

The Horn Effect

This one, often called the "Devil Effect," is the flip side of the Halo Effect and doesn't get quite as much attention. I don't know why that is. Its organizational impact is equally profound. 

In this scenario, if a person seems particularly lacking in one key trait, then that person will often be assumed to be deficient in many other traits. A manager who is constantly overdue on  project delivery (possibly due to unreasonable work demands and a boss who won't renegotiate what makes realistic sense) is assumed to be uncommitted, perhaps a little lazy, and even negligent in their overall work life.

Expectations and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

We live up to our expectations. People who expect to be successful are more likely to succeed. People who expect failure are more likely to fail.

A manager's or supervisor's expectations about employees' performance will effect that performance. Period. Remember that performance evaluations and performance feedback will influence and mold future performance based upon the implicit and explicit expectations that managers convey.
(The same is true in families regarding the messages conveyed between spouses those between parents and children).

Today's thought: Be aware of how you might be contributing to self-fulfilling prophecies in your workplace and in your life. It's important, because you very often get what you expect. 

_______________________________

But that's not all! As we were hitting the "publish" key, The Leadership Carnival--Oscar Edition went online with more than top-notch articles on leadership by top-notch leadership writers. Be sure to add to your knowledge and check them out.

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Ten Online Resources for Job Seekers

The Internet can be a very useful tool when it comes to finding work. However, you may have to search hard and long for quality websites, since, as with most things online, there’s a lot of junk. The following are ten online resources with job search engines and other websites to help you find work fast.

1. Job Search Sites

Some of the better job search sites are, in no particular order: Indeed, LinkUp, Simply Hired, and Jobster .
Increasingly, employers are posting more and more ads on Craigslist , which is a great resource to find jobs in your immediate area.

If you’d like to take advantage of the connections that social networking affords, then check out Twitter Job Search .

2. Help with your resume

About.com offers a comprehensive guide to writing effective resumes and cover letters , with additional links to other websites.

Top10-logo-color 3. Interview tips

How To Nail an Interview offers twenty solid interview tips, as well as videos that demonstrate effective interviewing techniques.

4.  Information about prospective companies

Just as much as employers conduct research on potential candidates, through Google Search or other means, the job seeker should become informed about companies for which they’re wanting to work. Researching companies will help you during the interview process, in which interviewers often want to know how much you know about them in order to gauge your interest in the job.

But don’t just stop there. You may also want to find out how much you could potentially earn, or what the corporate culture is like in any given company. With GlassDoor , you can find out  the average salaries for different positions in different companies, and you can also read company reviews posted by current or former employees.

5. Tips on negotiating salary

Whether you’re in the process of getting a job, or you already have one, but feel that you deserve a raise, salaries are always negotiable. The State Department offers some good techniques in tactfully addressing salary after receiving a formal offer. Salary.com gives sound advice on broaching the topic of raising your salary once you’ve already been working for awhile.

6.Tips for using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking media to find employment.

LinkedIn can be especially helpful in finding a job. In a  recent blog post , Guy Kawasaki, a venture capitalist, offers some tips on using LinkedIn to do just that.

Also read Time Magazine’s article  about using social networking to find employment.

7. Career assessment tests

Whether you’re still in school, looking for your first job, or wanting a complete change of careers, you should take a career assessment test to find out the kind of work for which your skills are most useful. This site offers a comprehensive guide to the best career assessment tests online.

8. Tips on using a headhunter/recruiter/employment agency.

If you’d like to use an employment agency to help you find a job, but you don’t know where to start, then read About.com’s guide to finding and effectively using headhunters’ services .

9. Career fairs

Sometimes, job fairs are a great way to get valuable face time with prospective employers and to find out what opportunities are out there in your locality. National Career Fairs  offers a search engine to find career fairs near you.

10. Tips on Relocating

Does your dream job require you to move? Or are you already looking for a change of scenery? About.com offers some tips and resources for job seekers who must or simply want to relocate.

_________________________________________

This guest post is contributed by Katheryn Rivas, who writes on the topics of online universities accredited .  She welcomes your comments at her email Id: katherynrivas87@gmail.com .

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Want Better Results? Look For "Plays Well With Others"

"Collaboration is a key driver of overall performance of companies around the world. Its impact is twice as significant as a company’s aggressiveness in pursuing new market opportunities (strategic orientation) and five times as significant as the external market environment (market turbulence).

As a general rule, global companies that collaborate better, perform better. Those that collaborate less, do not perform as well. It’s just that simple.”

That's a pretty powerful claim. It comes from a research study I read a few years ago that was conducted through a collaborative effort of Frost & Sullivan, Microsoft, and Verizon. 

Collaboration The researchers created a collaboration index to measure a company’s relative “collaborativeness” based on two main factors:

 

An organization’s orientation and infrastructure to collaborate, including collaborative technologies such as audioconferencing, Web conferencing and instant messaging

 

The nature and extent of collaboration that allows people to work together as well as an organization’s culture and processes that encourage teamwork

Do You Play Well With Others?

This may seem like an abrupt switch from the serious tone, depth, and breadth of the study. But I needed that kind of data to help lead into an important career trait: playing well with others.

The study is right on target by highlighting the need for the right tools, systems, and culture. Yet it ultimately comes down to the individual. If you work in a global organization, you've got some extra challenges: time zone differences, language differences, cultural differences in what constitutes teamwork...(add your own experience by sending a comment!)

I recently spent three hours coaching a client who is now forced to deal with a highly intelligent, high-performing manager who isn't viewed as collaborative. By anyone. No one at any of their worldwide locations gave him decent feedback on teamwork and collaboration. And this has been happening over a matter of more than a few years. (He continues to achieve all of the goals set out for him and no one dislikes him personally.)

His side of the story

I sat down and spoke with the manager some months ago about these perceptions and what that might mean to his career. He understood that people didn't see him as collaborative. His take on it is that they are universally wrong. He communicates when he believes it's necessary. I told him that he had to simply initiate more, share more information--even if it didn't make sense to him--and mend some strained relationships with those who thought he was actually hiding something. He  listened, gave intellectual rebuttals for why that didn't make sense, and chose not to do anything differently.

What happened?

His management career is finished with the current employer. He'll probably have a shot at being an individual contributor in a specific discipline; but upward mobility is no longer a possibility.

Some people burn bridges. He never built them. We should take seriously the lessons we can learn from this real-life situation:

1. Organizations thrive because of collaboration. If you want to be seen as a player, then be one.

2. A high IQ doesn't compensate for low EQ. Your Emotional Quotient--your willingness and ability to relate and connect--is important to your company and your career.

3. Task results don't always matter if your behavior disrupts the rest of the system.

4. The study I cited noted the importance of processes, systems, and culture. This company's culture valued teamwork. That was one of their systems. Roesler's rule: Unless you have 51% of the vote, don't fight the system. The system always wins.

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What Happened to the Talent?

Changes and Changing Talents

It's a win for everyone when you find the kind of organization in which your talents can flourish.

But we live in a working-world filled with changes:

1. A CEO may decide it's more profitable to become a manufacturing-focused company than a sales & marketing-driven organization.

2. Mergers and acquisitions create new cultures. New cultures lead to new values and priorities.

3. Customers change their technology, causing your company to change its tech service response.

4. Downsizing. Fewer people, more responsibilities for those remaining.

Scratching_head Where Did The Talent Go?

I've watched each of the above grow into a crisis of confidence for employees and employers:

  • Mysteriously, you don't feel as talented and capable as before.
  • At the same time, the organization is wondering where it's talented people went.

Fact: no one suddenly got stupid!

Second fact: Something else will now need to change.

You or Them?

When you were hired it was a good fit because of how business was conducted. Now it doesn't seem that way. Here are some considerations when companies and employees find themselves in a talent mismatch as a result of changes:

1. Companies: Take time to assess the breadth of talent that exists in your employee base. You may not have been using the range of talents that individuals possess because you (naturally) hired on a given set of criteria.

Real-life example: In the past few years I've had the opportunity to assess three executives who were on the "We've changed, their role isn't needed, I guess they have to go even though they've been really effective" list. In two of the three cases a broader assessment showed that they were gifted in areas that hadn't been tapped before. Those two remain with their organizations in new roles and are contributing meaningfully and productively.

2. Individuals. Maybe it isn't such a good fit.The faster you figure out the reality of the situation the faster you can make a decision to stay or look elsewhere.

Bonus tip: The longer you hang out in a mismatch the more you will question your adequacy. So, knock it off! You are talented and you've been performing in a talented way. The situation changed, not you. Get yourself into another winning situation before you conclude that the problem is you.

A Final Thought

Our educational and career counseling entities need to become very deliberate in painting an accurate picture  of "careers."

My take is that the approach is still, "What will you do when you grow up?", the assumption being that one will "become something" and "do it at a company" for a lifetime. The reality is that a person needs to find out their range of talents and prepare for a series of long-term projects in multiple places vs. lifetime employment.

Building awareness of talents, project orientation, and transitions would go a long way in offering genuine help in accurately preparing young people for the future.

What do you think?

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Talent, Succession, & Understanding

Whenever I see something appear to be moving more slowly than it has to, it's fairly certain that something simple is being overlooked.

I was listening to an executive team talking about their impending Talent Management initiative in anticipation of a presentation that was to be delivered to them on the topic.  Here are some snippets of the informal chat:

  • "It's good that we're finally going to do succession planning in earnest."
  • "That's right. Our Board is nervous about what would happen in the case of a sudden death or serious illness."
  • "I need to know who my up-and-coming people are."
  • "We'll be able to look at a chart and see 'who's who' when it's time for an important move. "

Hmm. . .

Shortly before that, I was with line managers and HR people who were talking about the same initiative. Heres' what you would have heard:

  • "I think this is supposed to make it easier for me to have development discussions with my people."
  • "What software program are we going to use to track training and developmental assignments?"
  • "This is good. We're going to have more workshops and seminars."
  • "What are we going to include that will help with retention?"
  • "Does this mean that we'll have a defined career path?"

What's Going On?

The importance of self-interest comes into play here. Not selfish self-interest but the fact that when something new is introduced, we tend to define it from our personal perspective. That perspective emerges from a hope that something we need is going to be fulfilled.

The multiple conversations revealed an Aha!. While everyone across the organization was pretty excited about "Talent Management" as a way of life, they didn't have a simple, common understanding of what it meant. The top level folks were thinking, "Succession Planning." Everyone else had a variety of notions, depending upon one's role, needs, and hopes.

Sooo. . .trying to practice what I preach about Aha!. . .I put together a quick graphic for the person doing the executive presentation. The idea was to simplify what Talent Management is about while acknowledging the validity and distinction of Succession Planning as a part of it. The simplicity is also there to force the need to talk about the underlying elements and arrive at a common understanding:

TalentATW.001

If any of you are in the early stages of program development--or bumping into what appear to be honest misunderstandings--I hope this is helpful.

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Advice? Find Out What "They" Want

Be careful when you give advice--somebody might take it." Anonymous.

Most of us enjoy giving advice. If you're a manager, it may even make you feel a lot more managerial. And let's be honest, advice is a lot more fun than criticism.

What Kind of Advice Is Desired?

Advice1 Counselors know that when someone arrives for a first visit, the story that unfolds is usually the "presenting" problem. It's not necessarily a matter of deception. We may not feel comfortable "putting it all out there" quite yet. Or, we may not even be clear about what the real issue is, which is why we want to talk it through in the first place.

Advice & The Workplace

If you can't tell what your employee or boss wants by how a subject is introduced, ask a few questions. Does the person want:

  • To hear critical information and facts?
  • To know your opinion on an issue?
  • To get help with generating alternatives to a situation?
  • To know how you went about doing something?
  • To check out his or her reasoning on a decision?

It's easy to fall into the instant response trap; we all want to be helpful. Sometimes that kind of help isn't helpful at all.

Ask specifically what the other person wants. It will save you both a lot of time and lead to more satisfying results.

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Note: I've been traveling, speaking, and delivering leadership workshops since Talent: Strengths or Weaknesses?Yes. and  Are We Educating For The Right Jobs? I want to take some time this evening to read through the comments again and jump back into the conversation. Thanks to everyone for keeping it rolling. If you haven't yet joined in, have a look; some good thinking going on there.

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Are We Educating for the Right Jobs?

We Don't Need As Many College Grads As People Think

You've suspected this for a long time. Me, too.

Look around at the growth of technical specialties, professional 'assistant' roles, and retail employees. Then look at the charts below:

Bartonchart1_2

It's important to differentiate between media headlines and sound bites that scream, "Ten fastest growing occupations!" at some given moment in time. The consequences could be far-reaching: Do we really need to be sending Brittany, Madison, Monroe (and maybe even John Quincy) into Saturday SAT tutoring to bump up those scores from 1218 to 1241?

Caveat: Just in case you think I'm dumping on the advantages of a good education, I'm not. I've been a public school teacher and college administrator in an earlier life. Which is also where I first began looking more carefully at the relationship between "what is taught" with "what is needed." Thus, the use of the term "good education."

If you look at the top chart of the 10 occupations with the highest rate of growth, you'll see that six require either an associate or bachelor's degree while the other four require short to moderate OJT.

Seventy percent of the the top 10 with the largest growth don't require college; 30 percent do.

Here is another graphic to tweak your career/talent/education synapses:

Edlevels_2

Add up the actual percentage of jobs requiring a Bachelor's Degree or more--now and in 2014--and you might be surprised at the results.

The Education/Job Implications?

Here are just a few that come to mind:

1. Is there a realistic connection, beginning early in public schools, with what is really going to be helpful to job candidates and employers?

2. Same question for colleges and universities.

3. The biggest piece of the pie (OK, Bar Chart) belongs to On-The-Job-Training. Yet the figures I've seen published in ASTD and other sources show that large companies are cutting back; (medium and smaller companies are actually increasing their T&D investment).

4. Is the intense competition--and unbelievable tense high school prep--an unhealthy response to an overstated and misunderstood need?

I want to be clear that what I've presented so far is designed to take interested readers to a more complete and fully contextual article in The Carnegie Mellon Change Magazine. The synopsis above is from the article. Kudos to Paul E. Barton on his clear and easy-to-digest explanations of the facts, the evidence and some of the implications in How Many Çollege Graduates Does the U.S. Really Need? He also does a nice job of clarifying the distinctions between fast-growing and largest growth; two terms that are often tossed around without a closer look at what they are really saying.

When it comes to Talent and thinking systemically about it, we can't ignore the institutions who educate and supply the workforce. We can and should question whether the current system is designed to effectively produce what, and who, is needed. Although these figures represent the U.S., the readers here at All Things Workplace are totally global. What are you seeing that may reflect a mismatch between your education system and real-life workplace needs?
 


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Talent: Develop Strengths or Weaknesses? Yes.

Have you noticed people making excuses for poor performance or ugly behavior by invoking the "It's just who I am" defense?

Experienced training consultant, Phyllis Roteman, sent in a good take on this:

Research (and common sense) confirm that focusing on peoples' strengths has a positive affect on morale, engagement and the bottom line.

But as with any approach (or new idea), focusing on strengths can go overboard in organizations, causing many negative side-effects. Some I've seen: 

Weight_Lifting_Hamster 1. Using the "strengths" research as an excuse for managers to avoid uncomfortable performance discussions with employees. ("Everyone knows that James is difficult to work with and shirks his responsibilities. No one wants to work with him and clients complain about him...but he's a really good analyst. Let's not rock the boat."

2.  Hiding behind strengths as an excuse for bad behavior. For example, "I'm sorry that I snapped at you and called you a bumbling idiot. I have a short fuse. That's just how I am. Sensitivity is not my strength. You'll just have to accept that."

3.  Dumping mundane tasks (like paperwork, administration) on others because "it's not my strength." (For example, "Anne, you're so good at making the office coffee, cleaning out the pot and using the fax machine. Would you mind? I'm not good at that kind of stuff.")

All jobs require doing some things we don't like, or aren't particularly good at...and most companies can't afford to give all of their employees an assistant to dump work on. Sometimes we just have to suck it up and do something, even though it's not our strength. All of that said, I'm still a huge believer in focusing on strengths. I just get alarmed when I see a good concept spin out of control and become destructive.

What's Happening?

First of all, what's happening is what Phyllis says is happening. There are probably a number of reasons why, but I think there is a phenomenon that gets played out--at least in American business circles--whenever the latest and greatest thing hits the scene. And it's this:

What is actually a principle is adopted as a rule. 

These are two actual representations of the 80/20 "concept":

8020 final.001

Instead of really taking time to understand all that lies underneath a principle, the human condition tends to run with a catch phrase and treat it as "the way." A book title becomes a buzzword that gets tossed around in meetings as a mantra. It becomes problematic when that word isn't represented accurately or in context.  And that happens a lot.

So it is with Strengths. It's a lot easier to say "It's all about Strengths" than it is to live a life identifying and acknowledging our strengths; figuring out where we need to become at least adequate in some of our weaknesses; and respecting the people around us enough to behave unselfishly even when we "feel" like doing our own thing our own way.

When managers avoid uncomfortable performance discussions, they are showing disrespect for their employee. How can the person improve without hearing the truth, explore ways to change, and growing as a result?

When we hide behind Strengths as an excuse for bad behavior we're really saying, "I don't respect you enough to bother to honor you with good behavior."

And when mundane tasks are dumped on someone else because "I'm not good at it," then I better ask myself just how I'm using my position power. Is one of my less attractive "strengths" the inclination to take advantage of others' weakness?

What I find ironic as I write this is: we're talking about Strength, yet the insidious culprit is Laziness.

What to do?

1. Take time to learn the "why?" behind the "what." When you can explain a concept accurately using everyday language, you've got it. If you or colleagues around you are still discussing things using buzzwords, stop and ask for an explanation of the meaning. That discussion could lead to shared meaning and deeper understanding.

2. When you hear a "performance excuse" disguised as a reason, follow up by asking: "What are you going to do about that? It's impacting other people and that's not acceptable." It's amazing how we'll make changes once we are called on our behavior and not allowed to explain it away.

3.  Make really bad coffee and jam the fax machine.

What experiences  do you have with  the topic? Jump in with a comment below.


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Talent & The "Misunderstanding Maslow" Factor

Most of us have been exposed to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. In fact, I've read that it is the most-used model in management training. I think it's also one of the most mis-represented and misunderstood.

Just in case you stepped out of the meeting room that day for an oatmeal cookie and bottled water:

Psychologist Abraham Maslow synthesized the research available up to the year 1954 about what motivates people. He came up with a shopping list of needs that we all try to satisfy. Have a look at the graphic below for a reminder or if you are experiencing it for the first time:

Maslow 2.001

I've never seen much argument about the content of the list. But the hierarchical implication has been rendered invalid by later research. Yet managers are still told that this is a "ladder that people climb" and that employees must have one set of needs satisfied before they move onto the next.

That means there are still vast numbers of well-meaning managers thinking, "Oh, I really can't start working on high performance until we have all of our "group issues" sorted out.

Not so.

The fact of the matter is that we're constantly chasing satisfaction in all of these areas simultaneously to some degree.

For example: You may be working on becoming an accepted member of a team. But that doesn't stop you from spending a little time adjusting your 401k mix and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.

The only need that I've seen block the rest of the hierarchy is a seriously unmet Physiological need. If you're worried about your next meal, losing your home to foreclosure, or paying out-of-pocket for a major surgical procedure, the pressure at that level doesn't allow much freedom to focus on anything else.

How can organizations use this for meaningful impact?

Managers are the Mediators of Meaning

1. Physiological and Stability/Safety needs are met through corporate policies: adequate pay, benefits, and safety procedures. These are satisfied when organizations who claim "People Are Our Most Important Asset" back up the statement by ensuring that these needs are met as a matter of policy and philosophy.

2. The higher level needs can only be satisfied by assignments, development, and solid day-to-day management. This means that "Managers are the Mediators of Meaning" for their people. Surveys and research data consistently show that the immediate supervisor has the most impact on one's performance, productivity, and feelings about the workplace.

Every supervisor reading this can use the pyramid above as one more tool to start a discussion with employees about where they are and what they need to keep their batteries charged. But there has to be an ongoing conversation for something meaningful to happen.

If you take time to ask people what they're looking for, they will tell you. And that makes your job a whole lot easier.

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Three Tips To Help You Negotiate

Negotiations play a large role in our work lives.

We interview for and land a job, buy and sell services, and resolve conflicts. But  even as we do these again and again, they don't seem to become a lot easier. Here are a few thoughts that I hope you'll find useful:

Businessman-main_Full 1. Whenever possible, don't use the word "negotiate".

Really. When you think about it, it implies a winner and a loser.

For some it implies a compromise between two people who both walk away somewhat dissatisfied. Words go a long way toward framing the context of a conversation. This isn't an issue of political correctness. It's an issue of creating the best atmosphere for both parties.

So, try using phrases such as "arrive at a workable solution," "come to an agreement," or "work out a plan together." All imply cooperation.

2. Put your "stuff" out there sooner rather than later.

Ok, so you gamesmen gameswomen weasels won't like this and might be thinking, "What a wuss!" That's OK because you're just wrong. I recently watched an executive who was about to be hired lose a $300,000 job (plus benefits, stock options, and bonuses) because she decided to keep tacking on "Oh, and..." items to the employment contract. It didn't work.

Every time you hold back a key point and then plop it down later, the other person is likely to consider your tactics--and you--deceptive. Is that what you think will get you what you want?

Start off by putting your list of issues on the table. Avoid creating doubt about you and your intentions.

3. Focus on the other person first.

Demonstrate that it's about "you two" and not about you. Build trust by asking the other person what their needs and wants are, then listen. Ask questions to be sure you understand. Then, work at figuring out how to help them get what they want. Experience and observation show that this will, more often than not, enable them to help you get what you want.

________________________________________

I'll bet you've found your own tweaks to the whole "negotiation" thing. Add your favorites in a comment below. When we collect enough for another list I'll make them into a post with, of course, the appropriate attribution.

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The Steve Roesler Group
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