Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Your Personal Career BoD

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

Should I move to take the next step in my career? Is now the time for me to launch my own business? Why should I invest in a Ph.D?

A personal Board of Directors (BoD) can facilitate your career decisions. Many of us have our friends, relatives, former teachers, or mentors  that we go to for advice or to test ideas. This network is essential if you are feeling stuck or looking for your next move.

Why a BoD?

Tom Peters first coined the phrase, “You, Inc.” to illustrate the type of control we need to take for our own careers. When you adopt the mindset that you work for yourself, although full-time within one organization, your perspective shifts to greater collaboration and accountability. As an employee, your manager and organization are also partners in your career.

We need others’ expertise to help us explore and make informed decisions for both our career and life. Your BoD serves not only as counsel, but will broaden your perspective. They provide critical reality checks and they point you towards resources or in directions you wouldn’t find on your own. They help you formulate and realize your goals.

What do they do?

They tell you the truth. This means you create and nourish the relationships around trust: trust that you will listen to, work to understand and consider their advice, especially when you don’t agree. They can help you see blind spots of both strengths and skills. They will tell you how others may perceive you.

They share their own experience and professional advice. At times, they may pave the way or refer you for an opportunity.

Your BoD can guide you to resources and help with decisions around career opportunities, formal education or certifications and other major investments of time, effort and money. They will encourage, help problem-solve and hold you accountable for your career decisions.

Who do you need on your BoD?

You’ll want people who know your profession and aspirations. You’ll need professional expertise in the areas that support your aspirations. A BoD is  comprised of people from outside your employer to give you a bigger picture.

A corporate board includes expertise from finance, marketing, legal, tax and technology to name a few. Your BoD should include mentors with experience and expertise in all the areas of your life such as these. Many people include spiritual guidance as well. Your family/partner also play an obvious role and need to be included in your decisions.

What’s in it for them?

They share their expertise and experience with you because they want you to succeed. It is that simple. As a bonus, through you and others on your BoD, they expand their own network of professionals and friends. You can pay it forward by referring business or contacts to them, as appropriate.

How does this work?

Initially, convene your BoD with an invitation to share breakfast (you pay) to meet each other and set an initial agenda. Meet as a group one to three times a year as you need them for planning and discussion. (Don’t wait for emergencies!) Keep them informed as to your progress and questions with a quarterly e-check-in. Meet with individuals as needed.

Decide if you want to provide a stipend for your BoD members. Be clear if you want this to be pro-bono. Use the initial discussion to outline how you want to work together and expectations – yours and theirs.

Your Board wants to see you succeed and may be with you for many years. Some may rotate off.  Do stay in touch and be grateful for this valuable person in your life.

 

Career Conversations – 7 Tips for Managers

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

By definition, in most organizations managers are expected to develop people as well as get ‘the work’ done.

I can hear all the reasons why this is not a priority for you. The most common reason is lack of time; the urgency of the work takes precedent over long-term productivity. Do managers with high turn-over attract suspicion? I cringe when I hear,”I finally have my employees working like a well-oiled machine; I don’t want to mess with that?” Why do your employees have to “learn it the hard way, like I did?”

Or maybe you just don’t know how.

Career Conversations happen as you share your insights, offer constructive suggestions, helping people think about next steps in the project or work. Career Conversations don’t have to have formal time booked on your calendar. Some of the best ones occur walking between meetings, in the kitchen or an informal phone check-in if your team works virtually.

What’s in it for you to develop  your staff?

The investment of time and genuine interest in developing others pays off in both tangible and intangible ways. Staff development criteria may be a part of evaluating the managers’ performance. Is there an expectation (or even incentives) to provide well-trained talent to other parts of your organization?

Many managers talk about the pride they feel in seeing employees grow and be successful.

Bottom line: If you don’t offer development opportunities, your staff will find someone who will. That’s not the kind of turnover you want.

Here’s what you can do:

Check your assumptions. Do you want to be known as someone who grows and develops the best talent in your organization or someone who circles the wagons and fights to maintain turf (staff). Don’t get complacent with your staff.  Expect and encourage turn-over due to better job fit, new opportunities, etc. Everyone, not just Millennials, are hungry for training, career advancement and opportunities for growth. Keep your eye open for new talent and be ready to replace those that move on in their careers.

Help them connect the dots. Nothing is more important than doing work that matters. Rekindle the emotional connection [pride] that employees have with your company. Hold “trend” discussions to align individual goals with reality of your workplace, your profession and industry environment. Tell the stories about the people that make your business tick,. Remind them of the purpose your department serves. How does your organization make money or get funding? What deals are in the works? How are the economics of the organization evolving? Keep your team educated about ongoing business developments to directly improve their engagement and performance. The more resources you can give employees on how your company functions, the more loyal they’re likely to be.

Be a champion.  Develop your reputation as someone who offers opportunities rather than holding people back. Stay alert to opportunities where someone on your team could contribute or learn, and be willing to loan them out. They’ll return with valuable knowledge and relationships that can support your team. And if they move on, they will thank you. If you haven’t already, offer cross-training within your team to fill gaps.

Provide daily development opportunities. Use a micro-learning approach with employees’ everyday work. For example: Make mundane tasks into a game. Encourage and show them how to discover answers on their own and praise them when they do. Start or end your weekly meetings with anything they’ve learned to improve the task, their approach to it, about the impact of their work, relationships with others or developing competencies that your organization values.

Develop each person individually. Too many employees get trained on things they don’t need, and fail to get the skills that will actually make them more productive. Assess each persons’ needs and provide targeted, relevant content, instead of one-size-fits-all training. People learn in different ways, so offer hands-on (discovery) as well as ‘read the manual’ options.

Use a coaching style to develop their thinking skills and become smarter. When they come to you with a problem, help them think through the logic to discover the best solutions. This will show them how to approach similar problems in the future, hopefully saving time for you.

Be available, but don’t hover. Set expectations and boundaries, provide resources then get out of the way.

PS – You can have your own career conversations with your peers and boss. Let me know what works for you!

Career Conversations: Exploration and Visibility

Thursday, February 18th, 2016

In my last blog I wrote about creating a bridge to career conversations with your manager. Another bridge is for conversations with others in your organization or outside of your current profession.

A common reaction I hear is, “My boss will think that I”m being disloyal!”

In some organizations the silo walls between projects or functional areas are like a castle fortress. There are turfs and budgets to defend, as well as talent to keep. So you may need to tread carefully, but not silently. Let your manager know you are exploring to broaden your perspective to be more valuable to her. What you don’t want is for your manager to hear from someone else and think you are sneaking around behind her back. You will be having conversations that should enhance both your own and her value to the organization.

“How do I do that?”

There are lots of ways – create your strategy which may include:

  • Exploring how everything works and is related in your organization. Pay attention to which departments are key to your own department’s success. Take the initiative to ask for a short conversation to understand their perspectives.
  • Look at what’s working smoothly. Offer a sincere compliment and specific observation to start the conversation. Then ask about how this success has evolved.  From these conversations you can discern valuable  skills and abilities to develop.
  • Get a broader picture of your organization. Review an organization directory to identify key people. Attend open events/meetings to meet these people.
    1. Introduce yourself including where you work. In one sentence explain that you are interested in learning more about the organization.
    2. Ask for a brief description of their area and then how they see how your two departments or projects are interconnected.
    3. Ask what skills and talents are most helpful in their areas.
    4. Prepare to briefly explain how your role supports the project or organization. Share the skills and talents you most like to develop and use.
  • When attending an All Hands meeting, sit beside someone you don’t know and politely start a conversation to include as many of steps 1-4 as is appropriate.

These are just a few ways to jump start your thinking.  Most importantly, is to step out of your comfort zone and away from your computer. You don’t know if you don’t ask.

Coasting Through Your Career?

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Do you have more days at work when you are bored than engaged?  Are you counting the days until the next big thing will be over?  What have you done to jump-start your career lately?

Check your career map. Oh, you don’t have one?  What happened to that plan you drafted, the professional development plan that is languishing in the system or an unopened folder? Have you accomplished or lost interest in your goals? Update them. You can’t move forward in your career without a bigger road map.

What type of project or work would you like to be doing a year from now? What’s happening in other departments and divisions of your organization. What jobs are opening up as people get promoted or re-assigned? Could they use your expertise while you’re broadening your knowledge? Look at volunteer opportunities that will challenge and help you develop communication and leadership skills. Add these to your professional development plan and then your resume and LinkedIn profile!

Ask yourself which new responsibilities you’d like to have. Do you have the technical skills? Look at similar job postings and the technical skills required for your current and the next role you want. If there’s a skill that keeps showing up but you don’t have it, you can add it to your professional development plan. Don’t stagnate in your career because of a critical skill gap with a new tool or technology. Let go of a piece of your “expertise” when its time to learn a new way or process.

No one cares more about your career than you. Be sure to feed and nurture it.

 

 

Do You Deserve a Raise?

Friday, August 28th, 2015

Last October I posted Ask for a Raise the Right Way  with good tips and infographic.  dollar-sign

You absolutely must do your homework to effectively leverage your value to your employer.  Start with your accomplishments – the stand out things you did this year.  But go further. Update your inventory of the  knowledge and skills you use to accomplish your assignments. Then, add what you did that was different than others and made it successful, quicker, cheaper, sustainable. Add all quantifiable results. Do this for every task. Now, go back over the list and mark which skills or knowledge you’ve acquired in the last year.  Show in quantifiable detail how you’ve overcome extenuating circumstances to achieve measurable results. That is what you want to discuss for a raise – how you’ve increased your value to your employer.

Know your organization’s policy and process for giving raises. Yes, there are exceptions, but it helps to know the basics.

Have a reality check conversation with your mentor and two other knowledgeable people about the percentage increase you can ask for without being laughed at. What is your organization’s current business environment? What is this year’s average salary increase?

Have you noticed all of this is about the organization, not about your personal financial needs?

Discuss with your boss how your work contributes to the organization’s growth. Talk about how your work helps your boss attain her goals. Alignment is key. It helps you focus and work on the high priority things.

If your boss hasn’t already offered you the raise, ask for it.  Make no assumptions.  You don’t know if you don’t ask!

You just had a Career Conversation

Sunday, August 2nd, 2015

Were you paying attention?

Not all career conversations are directly about you and getting ahead.  Getting personal feedback is great, but it is only one aspect of career conversations. Career Conversations come from many sources, not just bosses and mentors. They may be hiding in meetings and other conversations.

If you just had a hallway conversation about someone leaving or moving to another position, THAT was a Career Conversation. Note where they went and what gap that leaves. If the role is already back-filled, note what skills and expertise was selected. Another Career Conversation could be your follow-up with the perspn who moved.

Did you just leave a meeting about a persistent problem your department or a customer is facing? Add that to your journal of career impact information. Do you see a trend developing? Do you see a skill that you can offer (or that you need to acquire) to be part of the solution? And THAT was a Career Conversation, too.

We need many different sources and views to continuously manage our careers. In addition to the daily and on-going work we do, we need to pay attention to the business of the organization and the public served via budgets, customer needs, regulations and issues such as hacking, climate and demographics that effect how and where we work.

These make for fascinating and on-going Career Conversations. You can discover new tracks and ways to do what matters most.

Career Conversations, part 4 – Raise Your Hand

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

handsOne of the most effective career conversation you can have is asking to do something for your boss.

When my boss was sharing some of the company’s plans for re-structuring, we could see that there was a big piece missing (aka “opportunity”) in managing the transition. Turf protection was high and we knew that getting support would be difficult. Often these discussions end with a shaking of the head and an “oh well” sense of defeat. My boss was already overloaded. Knowing it was a risky endeavor I asked, “Could I take a shot at it?”  Incredulously he asked, “Why?” I had nearly hit the top of my job level and thought this could be a way to break through. At worst, it could be a great story to share at future job interviews. And I truly had a deep desire to do it. With his support, I was able to quickly do the due diligence, build the business case, offer a solution to the President and Council and roll out a successful change management initiative.

Encourage your boss to delegate more of her projects or tasks. Ask to attend meetings in her place. Perhaps she will be willing to share you with other leaders in the organization for a few hours a week to work on a project or add your expertise.  These will help to develop your leadership capability, visibility and relationships. Remember the WWIFYB (What’s In It For Your Boss): It shows her ability to develop her staff, her teamwork and you can make her look good.

Does a planning meeting for another meeting sound dull? It is ripe with opportunity! Consider who will be attending the big meeting. If it is decision-makers and thought leaders, just being in the room is valuable.  Does a speaker need someone to advance the slides during the talk? Raise your hand. You’ll get a ring-side seat at the discussions, hear the questions and learn what’s is important and not important to these influencers.

If you don’t ask, others won’t know that you are interested.

5T Approach for Career Conversations

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

In my MAnneHullcarch blog, I gave you 9 tips for starting career conversations.  Some of the most important career enhancing conversations are about getting meaningful feedback – observations of the impact of what you’re doing both successfully and things that could be done better. Do others share the same opinion of you and your work with you? Do you come across to others as you intend?  A recent conversation with a client revealed that his intention of improving his team’s work was coming across as judgmental and critical. As much as that hurt to hear, he can now adjust his approach to reduce alienating team members.

You can get useful feedback by doing one simple thing: Ask for it. But if you just ask for generic feedback you’re sure to make eyes roll.  Try the 5T approach:

1) Tactical: Outline the areas you currently know you want or should improve based on your current work. You can use your job description to get started. Perhaps your boss has mentioned something. Many organizations and professions have competencies that provide a wealth of direction for these conversations.  Look to the people who are considered the leaders in your division, profession, organization. What is it about them that you and others respect? Repeat this list for the kind of work you want to do next. The result should be a list of specific knowledge or behavior that you want feedback to validate or improve.

2) Target: Consider people you trust and respect for their perspectives. Who observes your work or is the recipient of it and can give you specific tips on what’s working and what could be better? Ask the people who have a stake in your work how you could do it more economically, better, or faster. When asking for feedback from your boss, what aspects of your work are most important to her? Establish an informal agreement with colleagues, mentors or others with whom you work to provide ongoing specific feedback. But how?

3) Timing:  Immediately following an incident while its fresh in their mind, ask for a their take on how you came across, or what went well or what you could have done differently.  Use the time walking from the conference room to your office, or an IM after the teleconference. Grab a cup of coffee the morning after or chat on the train  delivering a project, completing a task….you get the picture.

4) Take it: Ask for 1-2 things you could learn, improve, start doing, or stop doing that would enhance your credibility or professional reputation. Then respect their perspective, especially if it is different from your own. That’s the point in asking for it.  Avoid justifying or excusing your actions to get them to change their mind.  Ask for specific ways to improve, resources and commit to using their feedback.

5) Thanks:  Express your gratitude for their candor. Many people are uneasy in being honest and your graciousness will be appreciated.

We build our careers by our good work and our relationships with others. You can enhance your chances of doing the work you really want to do, and make a difference by paying attention to doing your work well and being open to making adjustments along the way.

Career Management in 10 minutes or less

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

You can forge the direction of your career with short, strategic conversations. We often only think about our careers once a year as a new year resolution or a performance review.  Yet we know that frequent feedback, sharing information and asking for help are the keys to growing and developing our careers. If you keep a mindset of service to others its easier to find career help. While you may be looking for opportunities, you also are constantly creating how others see and remember you. Here are 8 ways to start a conversation that takes 10 minutes or less:

1) Ask your boss what you can help with to support her this week.

2) Attend a meeting of interest to you. Share your interest in the topic with at least 3 people, including the speaker.

3) Notice when a colleague is struggling and offer a shortcut that would save them some time.

4) Ask your friends, parents, siblings, or cousins to explain what they do at work and why its important. Explain what you do in a way they can relate to.

5) Chat with your boss about what’s going well and what you’re looking forward to doing.

6) Ask  about others’ interests, what resource or information they need and if you can help get it.

7) Notice the thought leaders in your organization.  Ask them about current trends and talk about the impact for your organization.

8) Ask your boss what skills or knowledge you could develop that would be helpful to your team.

9) Start a conversation by sending an article or website to your boss or colleague and request to discuss it for 10 minutes.

Did you notice that none of these involve sending your resume? That document is always handy to have up-to-date in case this 10 minute conversation leads to a chance to work on a committee, task force, project, etc. Getting to know and being known by others develops your relationships and [drum roll,please] your network.

I’m sure you can think of other ways to start career conversations and I’d love to hear them!

How do I Become an Expert?

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Organizations depend on people who have “deep smarts”—business-critical expertise, built up through years of experience, which helps them make wise, swift decisions about both strategy and tactics. These mavens may be technical wizards, risk managers, top salespeople or operations troubleshooters, but they are all the “go-to” people for a given type of knowledge in their organizations.

Most Experts don’t even recognize that they are the experts. Because they’ve built their expertise on years of experience, research and sometimes just plain repetitiveness, it now is just part of “who I am” and “what I do.” Its second nature to them and they may be surprised that others don’t have the same level of knowledge. This makes them a bit testy at times. Yet Experts are usually generous in giving advice.

Their knowledge isn’t easy to pass on. Several professions build apprenticeships into their training systems: Doctors, for instance, learn on the job as interns and residents, under the close guidance of attending physicians, before practicing on their own. But many other professions have no such path. You’re responsible for your own development. You must acquire the knowledge in a different way to become the “go to” person.

  • Pay attention to what your organization and profession value. What are the trends that are impacting your organization and profession?
  • Hone your questions. Are you asking good diagnostic questions to understand complex problems?
  • Ask about and take steps to find out what you don’t know. Don’t wait for a training program; Create your own unique advisors and resources rather than the standard curriculum.
  • Listen more than you speak. Keep a log; don’t just rely on your memory.
  • Recognized patterns from experience of both successful and failed applied solutions.
  • Create your reputation by your willingness to share what you are learning.  Speak up at meetings. Engage others in the conversations. Ask for others’ perspectives to understand and deepen your own knowledge.

And most importantly, observe how experts present themselves, not as know-it-alls, but as perpetual learners.