Archive for May, 2011

Career Skills for Today – Mindreading

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Recently a GovLoop forum asked: “What one skill do you wish you had?”  The very first response was “Mind Reading.” In my July 14, 2010  blog, I wrote on the career skill Trend Spotting, or Foresight. So I just have to respond.

Indeed Mind Reading seems to be a Competency all by itself. Not to be confused with “second guessing,” I would define it in our work settings as finely tuned perception and communication skills to draw out the other person; to make explicit the expectations, desired outcomes and emotions. It may also include deadlines, resources available, along with consequences for errors. Other definitions call into play all five senses.  We all learn at an early age to read others expressions to know if they are happy, sad, angry, etc. We then modify our own behavior based on their mood.  Scientists at Stanford have new data on Mind Reading: Comparing  brain images to the “maps” from the first set of participants, the researchers were able to predict with 85% accuracy the correct mental state of the second set of study participants.

We all communicate through our own filters. These filters are built on our previous experiences, fundamental values, emotions and motives.  We often project our feelings and values on to others thus attributing a motive to them that is really our own motive. If they hold the same motive, we feel like we are “on the same page.”  If it isn’t, then we often walk away from the conversation with different outcomes!  The big mistake here is to assume we know the other person’s motive. So the ‘Mind Reading’ challenge is to first, become aware of the motive and second, to verify it by asking clarifying questions.

Accurately reading facial expressions and body language is a core component of Mind Reading. But Mind Reading taps our sixth sense, intuition.  Just as “The Mentalist” isn’t psychic, he’s  highly observant.  A good Mind Reader is attuned to both the present and past situations. In observing the current facts, she will draw upon her previous encounters with the person or a similar situation and see if there are connections.  Other connections may be drawn from putting the current facts into a larger context – even projecting into the future.  For example, you’ve used your Mind Reading abilities when you hear your colleague boss take a stand on an issue and you know it is based on her desire for early retirement.

We can enhance our capacity for accurate Mind Reading by becoming more self-aware of our own emotions and motives as we draw on our observations, our memories, our powers of reason, and our deep pools of emotion to  make educated guesses about what another person is thinking and feeling. By being more attentive to the subtle and overt expressions of others, we get outside of ourselves and are able to help others express what they may not be able to say.  Mind Reading requires knowing when to probe and when to leave well enough alone, an old-fashioned virtue: discretion.

More Boomers Starting Own Biz

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Reuter’s Wealth Blogger, Mark Miller, shared the statistics of Entrepreneurs age 55 to 64 now represent a rising share of start-up activity, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, accounting for 23 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2010, up from 14.5 percent in 1996. As this age group experiences the early buyouts, early retirement and layoffs, many are looking to become their own bosses.  Some people have juggled part-time activities for years and now take the steps to expand those interests.

This trend seems to be a combination both internal motivation and business economics.  Boomers are having difficulty finding new jobs because employers need a new skill sets that many don’t have.  Labor cost containments mean lower salaries in many sectors. When a company has to cut costs, the layoff is the jump-start that we need to move from our comfort zone of a stalled job. I know it was the bungee jump for me!  It becomes the opportunity to  following one’s dreams. Having built confidence and skills from previous employment, this transition offers us time and motivation to learn entrepreneurial skills.

Whether you join the ranks of contingent work force, contract your knowledge and skills to an organization, or hang out your shingle in a brand new field, its a powerful feeling to be your own boss. There are plenty of free and low-cost resources to stimulate this critical part of our economy. Start with your local (county) small business association. Participate in local business functions, such as professional organizations and your local chamber of commerce.  Be the Leader you always knew you could be.

Change at Work – Bring a friend

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Its  so much easier to do something different or scary if someone else does it too.  We used to dare each other to do something “dangerous.” But it wasn’t so bad if someone else did it first. Courage comes in many forms. Even as adults we often prefer to go somewhere new when we take a friend to explore with us.

When it comes to Change in the workplace, we often feel like we are alone in our fears. Leaders can encourage people to bring a colleague to the informational meetings, the training, and other change related events. Team up people for the training. Provide fun incentives for enrolling their friends.  When the going gets rough, encourage them to help each other, not compete, so everyone can get up the hill. As they see each others’ successes, a wedge of success is created. We reduce resistance the change when we experience success together. As others begin to see the success, they will be less resistant and join their friends.

How else can we build success in our Change projects?

Change Success – Initiate more conversations

Monday, May 9th, 2011

When there is an organizational change, a systems upgrade or change in policy/procedures or leadership, a common mis-belief is that if we give people the facts, they can handle the change.  Facts are important to answer the “why” question.  But it doesn’t get to a personal level – and that’s where the change must be successful. We search to answer, “What’s in it for me?”

And people don’t always know what questions to ask. So we have a workplace that has a heavy silence with no one saying what’s on their mind.  Denial is abundant.

An effective leader will initiate more conversations, not less, to uncover the concerns and questions.  There are many levels to the “why” and “how” questions. Some can be answered, must many cannot until later. And many of the best solutions come from the people who will do the hands-on work to implement the change. So when people ask pointed questions or just glare at you, ask them, “What is your concern?” and “What do you think would make this work?” Incorporate some craziness into developing new solutions (and let off a little steam). Allow them to vent without repercussions.

Emotions – anger, frustration, disappointment – are all a part of dealing with the change.  Help people be resilient by listening, without judgment and without trying to “fix” their concerns. Ask what they have done in the past that helped them through similar stressful times.  Ask them to think how they want to feel a month after the change is implemented. Visualizing positive outcomes helps reduce the current negative conversations.

What helps you be resilient?