Posts Tagged ‘Trust’

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.


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.

Friends – What are you expecting?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

I’ve been hearing a theme from people and reading the advice columns of how often we are disappointed with our friends. It sounpupsds like this: “I always do [fill in the blank] for her, but she never reciprocates.”  “I was there for him, but now he’s too busy to help me.” Whether its remembering birthdays, helping with projects, initiating meet-ups, mutual griping, or asking for help there are many ways we depend on our friends. We are drawn to them because of the things we share in common and we like being around them.  When we’re in sync, everything is fine. Having strong social relationships at work and in life is fundamental to our happiness.

Have you noticed that you are the one that always initiates a lunch? What does that say to you? Unless you ask, its easy to assume that s/he doesn’t care as much. Or it could mean s/her knows you’ll do it and has fallen into the habit of waiting to hear from you.  The concept of reciprocation just doesn’t occur to them. But you really don’t know, unless you ask.

When you break your foot, your close friend is now too busy to help you get around.  It’s not convenient for her to pick you up. Should you break off the friendship? Or does it just redefine the boundaries?

In “Vital Friends,” Tom Rath takes a look at the roles our friendships have in our lives illustrating that not everyone can be the same kind of friend. This applies to our friends at work, family and others. Initially, I recoiled at categorizing my friendships into eight roles they play in my life. Then, it began to make sense that I expected to get from them the same thing I gave to them. Not everyone can do that. And I was often disappointed. For example, I found myself getting frustrated with a friend who took all the “air” time we had together and considered ending the friendship. When she told me how much my listening meant to her, I realized the friendship was my gift to her. What I got was knowing that I mead a difference in her life. Now I know to set my expectation of how to both give and get the most from our friendship. Friendships are rarely an even trade.

Friends take care of friends…sometimes.  Some people are just more attuned to what is needed in certain situations – a break-up, an illness, any loss, or opportunities for career advancement or fun. When you discover a friend didn’t include you on a project, you may hear, “I didn’t know you’d be interested.” Some don’t want to deal with the not-so-pretty side of the friendship. Many people really just don’t know what to do or say. Still others cannot be inconvenienced or don’t see anything in for them in the situation, so they avoid it.

If you didn’t get the plum assignment, let them know how you are feeling and how you’ll move forward. Especially in times of loss, its very helpful to let others know specifically what would comfort you: Let them know if you’ll need motivation to get some exercise – come take me for a walk or go to a class/gym. Bring cookies, but also stay and tell me what’s going on outside my painful universe. Get my list and pick up groceries.

Our friends reciprocate, just not in the same way.  Recognize the person who will keep a secret, but not necessarily give you guidance. Don’t ask for help in finding a new job from someone who doesn’t have a broad network. Share ideas with people who can broaden your perspective, not just agree with you. Be specific with easy-to-do requests to help others be a better friend to you. And let it be OK for them to say, ‘Sorry, I can’t do that.’

Check your assumptions about what others “should” know. We didn’t all learn the same lessons of courtesy nor know what’s unique for your happiness.

Aligning my expectations with what others are capable of bringing to the friendship helps me go to the right person for the friend I need. It also helps me be a better friend to others.

Why Didn’t Someone Tell Me?!

Monday, October 17th, 2011

I recently met a woman who needed to advance her role in the organization.  She was very technically intelligent; a go-to person for her group. She was checking all the career development boxes and fully expected this to put her on the path to promotion. Yet,  no work opportunities were opening up for her.  She didn’t know that others didn’t want to work with her.  You’ve met people like her, right?

We are often blind to our characteristics and behaviors that are obvious to others. They won’t tell you, but they will talk about it with others. It is easier to tell someone they have spinach in their teeth than to tell them they are obnoxious. And its easier to hear about the spinach than it is to be labeled obnoxious, or any other undesirable trait. When someone does have the courage, or is frustrated enough to blurt it out, too often we defensively respond with a retaliating, emotional remark and behavior or denial. Who wants to have to deal with, or live with that?

True, not everyone is skilled in these conversations. Perhaps, I’d rather not tell you than deal with the way you would respond.   There are two issues of trust here: (1) telling someone about something they can change – such as a behavior – because you want to see them succeed, and (2) receiving the information as it is intended, not as an attack.

If someone tells me I am obnoxious – I want to know what I’m doing and saying that I come across in an obnoxious manner.  Specific examples of what I said and did (behavior) are most helpful. I need to ask for details and specificity, not a judgment,  in order to know what to do differently and why. If I defend myself, I set up a barrier to any further candid conversations.

Other ways to we tend to respond in these uncomfortable conversations is to dismissg the feedback thinking that, “They haven’t seen me in any other context” or “They are seeing me through what they want me to be, not who I really am.” Consider the source, but also consider how this same aspect might be seen by others.

Often we blame others – “It’s not my fault…” Taking responsibility and ‘owning’ your strengths well as your limitations is the path to being trustworthy and accountable.

Another barrier is to rationalize or say something like, “Oh you don’t understand that I was just trying to…” then that defensive response will discourage any further honesty.  “Yes but…” It isn’t constructive to justify your behavior as an atypical response necessitated by a particular situation or series of events.

Arguing, or denial are all powerful negative emotions, making the conversation more challenging  than necessary. Telling the person why they’re feedback is wrong will not work.

Avoid interrupting or finishing the other person’s thoughts gives the impression that you don’t really want to hear what they have to say.

Don’t sulk or withdraw either.  This will not encourage the person to be honest with you in the future. They may even avoid you.

Chewing over feedback again and again will not make it clearer or easier to understand, particularly if the feedback is less than glowing. Avoid the temptation to re-enact the conversation to a friend as this only re-engages your emotions. Do talk about it with someone else, but make sure you’re emotionally detached first so you can determine actions to correct the offense.

So whether its a co-worker, significant other, or roommate, if they had the courage to tell you, then don’t punish them with your response.

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?

WIIFM? First, Listen

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

People are so overwhelmed by things changing in their lives and their work that we can count on them begin distracted while we are trying to communicate. Whether you are leading a training session or a meeting, over half the people are preoccupied with other thoughts.  Some are already gearing up to argue with you.

Our tendency is to talk more and to talk louder to get their attention. We need to deliver our message realizing they hear it through their “What’s In It For Me?” filter.  Anything that will touch my wallet will elicit an emotional response.  We need to talk just enough to deliver your message, and then stop talking so we can listen.

Listen for the concerns behind the blunt or badly phrased question.  Listen for what they fear behind the sarcastic tone in their voice. Respond first by ensuring that you heard their question by summarizing and asking them to confirm that your summary is correct.  Then offer the  clarification or additional information they requested.  If the answer is unknown, say so and ask for their help in finding the best solution. Too many of us launch into a rebuttal which may add further anxiety rather than address their concern.

It takes courage to listen when Change impacts our comfort zones.  We stand a greater chance of reducing the resistance when we communicate honestly and encourage the dialogue.

More on encouraging the conversations in the next blog.

What are your thoughts?

Change is tough – Stop being miserable.

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

One of my favorite bloggers has offered us this lovely gift of not only his wisdom but also his poetic talent. In this Seussical tale Kerry Patterson draws from his own experience (and all of us have similar ones!) to stop  perpetuating much of our own misery. You can download this story for yourself or your children:

“It’s Never Too Late to be Nice – A Parable from the Kingdom of Yabbit,” by Kerry Patterson

Random Promotions Increase Productivity

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Italian social scientist, Alessandro Pluchino of the University of Catania,  and colleagues won the Ig Nobel prize for mathematically demonstrating  that organizations can increase efficiency by giving people promotions at random.  This is how casinos stay in business.  We keep playing in hopes of the big payoff. We see it happen to others, so why not us?

What is it that makes getting promoted so important?  DUH! Its the money! It is also the status, around which many lives and family revolve.  It brings new and additional responsibilities for which many enjoy the challenges. Some use their new authority to lead their team to greater productivity, successes, engagement, etc.  Others abuse the position to plateau and do nothing, or crash and burn, while their staff suffer and muddle through while looking for a new place to work.

Promotions are often based on alliances and personality, or a reward for tenure (stamina) and for some, it is a retention device. Promotions are often a reward for meeting or exceeding a goal. It is seen as unfair and demotivate others, especially if the goal was achieved by the concerted efforts of many people.

People get promoted, when they don’t want it.  Too many organizations assume that everyone wants to be promoted.  It is  the only tool in their toolbox. Yet lots of people just like doing what they do, and do it well and want some appreciation and occasional recognition for their efforts.

I recently worked with a Name Brand organization that sets high value on promoting people based on how they demonstrate specific competencies and uphold the company’s values.  Executives talked about what they had done that resulted in various career path steps and promotions. Each one emphasized personal behavior and decisions made on a commonly held set of values. They weren’t just a sign on the wall. To be promoted, you and your manager build a business case that demonstrates what you have accomplished and your potential for adding value through leadership, problem-solving, etc.

Too many organizations have fuzzy criteria (if any) for promoting people.  How do people get promoted in yours?

Are Your Management Skills Up to Date?

Monday, June 28th, 2010

I’m not talking about knowing the latest ‘flavor’ of management or the buzzwords. “Retention” is the battle cry once again. Many organizations are now using engagement survey stats for managerial performance measures. Your management skills along with to your technical credibility keep you viewed as a valuable contributor, not just a place holder, by your peers and execs.

Here are 5 things that may give you a clue to your people-management success:
1) As your organizations upgrades its systems and processes, are you self-sufficient with your own technology? Can you create and print your own reports? Can you map drives to the printer from your laptop? Set up and run an effective teleconference? Do you use e-mail and IM productively? Can you create effective power point decks, graphs and other frequently used documents? Constantly asking for help can drive your staff nuts.

2) Do your meetings make good use of your staff’s time and talents? Do you share the information from your manager’s staff meeting that needs to trickle down? Does everyone know why they are in the meeting and what they are to contribute? Everyone should have a meaningful action item that moves your project along after each session. Hopefully you’ve shared a laugh and highlighted some successes (team building). Weekly meetings should be less than an hour, max.

3) Do you share your staff’s good work with your peers and manager, or take just credit for having “a good team?” If someone has been especially helpful or had a pivotal idea that has led to the project success, give them the credit. Don’t be worried about losing your talent. If you don’t share their talent, they’ll leave anyway. Some of the best corporate leaders are known for the talent they grow.

4. Are you proactively reducing or minimizing conflict? What are the issues that continually flare up? We often avoid issues, hoping they will evaporate. Lay a safe groundwork to resolve the issue, then get to the root to find common ground. Don’t jump to a solution until both parties have fully understood the other point of view. More productivity is lost through avoiding conflict, rather than effectively addressing it.

5. Does your staff punch your buttons? Personality style differences can be maddening, for both parties. Schedule time and get assistance so everyone understands individual preferences and expectations. Then help each other to communicate based on that knowledge. At minimum, give them a warning sign if you are in a bad mood.

These tips are based on a few of the items that keep bobbing to the surface in most engagement surveys. They cross all types of workplaces and generations. For each of these five areas there are specific skills you can develop to keep up to date with what your team needs from you.

What other management skills or Competencies for your organization have you seen that need to be updated?