Category Archives: Communication

Update Your LinkedIn Profile. Seriously.

linkedin profileWhy Do You Need To Fix Your Profile?

I had a friend ask me recently if I knew someone to fill three positions that he had open in his department.  I was sure that I did.  I knew a lot of people who did the kinds of jobs he was filling and I was sure it was just a matter of sending him links to my relevant contact’s LinkedIn profiles.  I was sure that he would take one look at the profiles and would reach out to my contacts, schedule an interview and hire them.  That was until I looked at the profiles.  Iwouldn’t have hired them based on their profiles and I knewthese people.  Profile after profile showed job title, dates, and THAT WAS IT!

LinkedIn is an incredible tool for finding jobs (whether you are unemployed or not), meeting people who can help you with your next career steps and knowing what is happening with your contacts’ careers.  Recruiters usually go there first when they’re looking for someone.  Companies frequently go there when they are looking for specific skill sets.  People who are unemployed go there.  Why wouldn’t you be using it to it’s full extent?  I hear people say that they want to keep their privacy on LinkedIn–so they block it so that peole can’t see their name or they don’t put their picture up.  Ok.  It’s your choice, but you’re leaving a lot on the table.  A lot of opportunity.

What Do You Need To Do?

Make sure that your LinkedIn profile is as complete and thorough as your resume.  Make sure that you have a skills summary and a headline.  Make sure you’ve got a professional picture.  Make sure you’ve got recommendations.   Understand the new Endorsement feature and use it appropriately.  Read my friend, Skip Pritchard’s blog on endorsements, Endorsing the Endorsing on LinkedIn.

I know I’m not the only person who has looked at LinkedIn profiles with the intention of finding someone for a better job.  I know I’m not the only one who has gone past your profile because it didn’t tell me enough about you to get me interested.

FIX YOUR PROFILE!

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Filed under Brand Yourself, Career Development, Communication

Are You Incompetent? Unreliable? Probably.

iStock_000019967780XSmall (1)

Competence and reliability and trustworthiness are in the eye of the beholder.  You know how hard you work.  You know how much you are stretched across many deliverables for many people.  You know that you’re doing the best you can (and it is pretty damn good! (if you do say so yourself)).  Others don’t know–or care.  They know and care about what you do (and don’t do) for them.  If you are regularly late for their meetings–or miss them altogether, then you are seen as disrespectful.  They know that you don’t give them feedback when asked.  They know whether you deliver what they are waiting for on time.

Whatever is in your head as an excuse (or a rationalization) about why you can’t make it to the lesser important meetings or deliver things for the priority 2 or 3 things on your list, IS IRRELEVANT to the people you are letting down.  You appear incompetent to them.  You are unreliable according to them.  You better hope that these people never need to make a choice about hiring you or promoting you or downsizing you, because their opinion is the one that will count then, not yours.

It is way better for your future career not to overcommit, to be clear that their program, project, deliverable will not get done because you are assigned to other priorities, than to overcommit.  We overcommit for a lot of reasons–to be liked, because we want to be involved in everything, because the person is a friend, or a former boss or an important person.  Knowing your capacity and respecting your limits, even if it is uncomfortable, will keep you out of trouble.  Learn to be clear about what you will do and what you won’t do.  Learn to say no–or if you can’t/won’t–say no to someone else.  No one gets rewards for all the things that they agree to do, only for what they actually get done.

The next time you are late or don’t deliver, see it through the eyes of the person you’re letting down.

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Brand Schmand. Defining Who You Are.

Branding

When you think of Coca Cola what comes to mind?  The iconic bottle?  The taste?  What about Apple?  Or Amazon?  Or Chanel?  If products are well-branded then when you think of them, you think of the product, the name, the logo, the product ecosystem–it’s interrelationship with everything in its environment (where it is sold, how it works, what it works with, its price point, its competition), the feelings you have about it and, probably most important, how and what you trust about the product.

Well-Known World Brand Logotypes

Why Should You Care About Your Brand

A brand makes you unique.  It sets you apart.  When people think of you, you want them to think about how you are different, how you are great, what you do well and why they should turn to you for certain things.  You want them to FEEL something and to TRUST you to be reliable in a certain way.  It is my experience that most people at work aren’t really good at this.  Maybe it is because people don’t actually try to brand themselves.  If you have a stand-out personal brand, then people think of you when they want to hire someone, when they want to promote someone, when they want someone for a special assignment.  You have a lot of control of how and what people think about you if you pay attention to developing your brand and therefore you have a lot of control of being the option of choice in a lot of situations.

What Do You Want People to Think of When They Think of  You?

If you could choose what people think of when they think of you, what would it be?

  • What is your image (how do you look?)
  • What strengths would they think of?
  • What abilities would they think of?
  • What personality traits?
  • What is your energy level?
  • What can you be trusted to do?
  • What can you be trusted not to do?

Now, How Does That Compare to How People Perceive You?

This is harder.  How we want to be, and be seen, is easier to identify than to really see how others see you.  Ask people.  Tell your friends and coworkers that you are trying to understand self-branding and ask them to describe your “brand” in 5 words or 10 words.  Compare how that fits with what you want.  What are the differences?  Are there patterns to the hits and misses?  Do they think you have the abilities that you want to be seen as having, but not the personality?  Or vice versa?

Do you look like your brand?  Don’t underestimate the importance of managing your image.  You’ve heard the adage, “look like the level you want to be.”  Take it a step further.  Look like who and what you want to be.

Who do you know who has the kind of “brand” that you want to have?  How did that person develop that brand?  If someone is seen as a highly skilled technical resource who is reliable with intense projects and deadlines, then what is it that has gone into the development of this “brand.”  How many years has this person been working on what kinds of efforts to develop this reputation?  What are his abilities and personality traits?  How has she demonstrated her reliability?  How has s/he been visible?  What FEELINGS are associated with this person?  How did those feelings get developed?

Look at the executives who you admire.  What are their brands?  How did they develop them?  Why are they the ‘go to’ person in their world?  What can you learn from how they have accomplished their brand?  How can you copy some of their actions?

Now Start Building the Brand You Want

Based on what you want your brand to be and how others perceive you, create an action plan that builds your brand.  Be very proactive about it.  Don’t just float through your career taking what you get.  Build your brand.  Pay careful attention to the ecosystem that surrounds your brand.  What kind of environment do you need to showcase your brand? What actions, “buzz,” results, visibility do you need?  How are you different from everyone else?  How are you going to stand out and be noticed?

Some Helpful Books

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How Do You Lead From the Middle?

Many people are frustrated by their managers.  We want our managers to live up to our expectations, our hopes, our projections.  We want them to be charismatic, thoughtful, insightful, inspirational, good communicators, etc., etc., etc.  Some managers are good, but few are perfect.  Some are far from even being good.  What if that is your manager?

Do you just stop?  Do you wait for that manager to get moved, fired, or retire?  Do you look for another job?  I vote that you do none of these things.  I vote that you start being a leader.  Get proactive.  Lead from where you are.

How Do You Lead From The Middle?

Figure Out What You Want To Accomplish

What is it that you think your manager should be doing but isn’t?  How can you accomplish that without your leader actually doing it?  Is it something that your manager’s manager has to agree to?  Or his peers?  If so, how can you persuade them?  How can you help them see the problem and the solution?  Maybe they can persuade your manager if his blessing is required.  Or maybe his blessing isn’t really required.  Think about it.  If his boss can bless it, then figure out how to make that happen.  If that is your goal, then you can get creative about how to do it.

What if no one really has to bless it?  What if you and your peers can do it if you are working together to do it.  How can you persuade your peers to do it?

Figure Out What Is In Your Way

So often it is our mind set about how the organization works that stands in our way of getting things done.  We think that the top has to tell the middle who has to tell the bottom to actually get things done.  That actually is not the best way for an organization to run.  Organizations are much more effective and well run if people step up and do what they can and leave the problems/the barriers/the white space to the upper levels.  In other words, your organization will be much better run if you actually step up and do what you know is right for the organization.

Obviously, some organizations don’t work this way.  Some managers get really threatened by this kind of behavior.  Don’t assume that is true of your organization, though, unless you test it out a bit.  I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.”  It certainly is more practical.  If you have to wait for someone to decide to focus on what you think needs to happen, to then be persuaded, and to then give permission, then you’ve just inserted significant delays into the process.  Take a long hard look at whether you’re deferring because you are conditioned to do that or because it really is not safe to go ahead without permission.

Being Proactive Is Really Career Enhancing

I’ve participated in hundreds of interviews over the course of my career.  When it is obvious that a candidate is likely to be proactive, to seek out ways to make things better without waiting to be told, then that candidate is much more likely to succeed in the process.  I’ve had people tell me that it is possible to tell whether someone has the education or the experience necessary to do the job, but very difficult to tell from the resume whether s/he is likely to be proactive.

Leading from the middle is simply being proactive.  See the problem.  Figure out how to fix it.  Fix it.  So much of it is attitude and confidence.  So next time you’re frustrated with your manager for not getting something done, ask yourself why you aren’t getting it done instead.

 

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Sorry. You Are Not Indispensible.

We all see ourselves as the hub of our own universe.  This is not a bad thing–and it is natural.  It does create blind spots, however. When we evaluate our importance to the organization it is through our own eyes.  We know what we do, did and frequently compare our performance against our peers (and even our managers).  The thing is, everyone is doing the same.  Let me try to be clearer.

My Perspective

When I work late to finish the report that is due tomorrow, I feel virtuous.  I gave up dinner with my friends to make sure the report got done.  I went to the extra effort to talk to all the affected departments and get their input (and that is what took so long and why I had to stay late to finish it before tomorrow).  I am aware that I went over and above, doing special research to make sure all my recommendations were right and would work.  I worked extra hard on the graphs and had to teach myself some new techniques in Excel and PowerPoint (again, that probably contributed to why I had to stay late to get it done).  My intent and goal is for this report to be perfect.  I don’t know exactly what it is to be used for, but whatever that is, I want whoever uses it to be blown away by how good it is.  This organization is very lucky to have someone who cares so much and works so hard.  What would they do without me?

My Boss’s Perspective

The report was on time.  It looked pretty thorough, but it was pretty detailed and there wasn’t a concise Executive summary.  It was a little off point of what I was looking for, but I can use it.

So What Causes This Kind of Disconnect?

What I Should Have Done:

  • Before even starting, I should have been VERY clear on what the purpose of the report was, who the audience was, what the report would be used for, and what its relative importance was.
  • It is completely fine to develop new skills (Excel, Powerpoint) in the process of creating work product, but that is on you–not on your organization, especially if the product of those new skills is not specifically necessary for the product you are creating.  The fact that it caused me to have to work late to create the report is not a reason for the organization to be happy with me.
  • Perfectionism can get you into more trouble than it is worth sometimes.  I should have made the report good enough to satisfy the goal, but I should not have spent a lot of extra time making it perfect–unless there was some reason (outside of my standards) for it to be perfect.
  • I need to appreciate the fact that my standards–working hard, working long hours, learning new skills, making sure I’ve talked to everyone and was inclusive, and that the report was perfect–do not (usually) translate into the organization’s view of my performance (or my indispensability).
  • I need to be understand that my boss is not aware of my intent, my hard work, my learning, or my extra effort unless someone tells him/her.  It is not inherently obvious from my work product.
  • Meeting the goal of the assignment precisely and specifically for the intended audience is WHAT COUNTS.

What My Boss Should Have Done

  • My boss should have been very clear about the goal, purpose and audience for the assignment.
  • My boss should have been clear about any expectations of over and above/extra effort.
  • My boss should have made efforts to understand how hard I worked to meet the goal.
  • My boss should have found ways to give me constructive feedback and to appreciate my effort in order to motivate me to continue to work toward getting better.

Next Time

The next time you notice that you are congratulating yourself on how hard you’re working, on how great your work is and on how indispensable you are, ASK YOURSELF if your boss sees it the same way.  Ask yourself if you DELIVERED what was needed, when it was needed, for the intended goal.  Because when you consistently deliver exactly what is needed, when it is needed, maybe you can become indispensable.

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Getting Things Done Without The Title

How Do You Get Things Done When You’re Not the Boss?

I deal all the time with people in organizations who are trying to get things done without the direct authority to ‘order’ people to do it.  These are people who sit in one organization who need the cooperation of people in another organization.  These are Senior Executives who need their peers’ cooperation to accomplish their own division’s goals.  These are Project Managers who need business leaders or other project leaders to do things before they can deliver their own project goals.  These are entry level people who need the collaboration of more senior people.  Back in the day when we all worked in purely hierarchical organizations, this is the way it worked:

Getting Things Done Through the Hierarchy

The person who needs something from another person in an organization asks his boss, who asks her boss, to asks his peer, who tells her subordinate, who tells his subordinate and it gets done, unless there is a dispute.  If there is a dispute, it reverses and goes back up and back down, then back up and down.  Usually many days, or even weeks have transpired before the original need gets fulfilled.  This is a pretty inefficient way of getting things done, unless everyone is completely committed to moving things fast.

Organizations today are less hierarchical, flatter and more networked.  In an ideal world, this is the way things would work:

Being able to get things done this way depends on RELATIONSHIPS, trust, communication, urgency, political savvy, persuasiveness, and understanding organizational economics.  Being able to do this can make the difference between being stellar standout and being stuck in your position.

RELATIONSHIPS

It is who you know, who knows you and how much they care about you.  You need to have relationships–friendly, bi-directional relationships that are mutually win-win.  It is not about rank and power so much as about knowledge and cooperation.  If you look at the picture above, if the people at the bottom of the organization know how to help you AND ARE WILLING, then you get as much done as if you boss’ boss talks to their boss’ boss.  People will generally do something for you if there is no skin off their nose AND if they see it as beneficial. They generally see it as beneficial if you have at some time in the past done something for them, or if they think that that is likely to happen in the future.  Do things for people throughout the organization without requiring return,and eventually, you will get significant return from it.

Trust

If people trust you, then they are likely to help you whether or not you have the authority to “make” them do something.  People don’t have to trust you with their life, but they have to trust you not to sabotage them in some way, to stand up for them if necessary (after all they may be technically breaking a rule by doing something without appropriate hierarchical authority), and to reciprocate if they need something. For more on creating trust, read Trust Me, Damn It!  Ironically, sometimes asking for something helps improve a relationship and builds trust.  Ask for what you need–don’t be afraid.

Communication

The best way to get help from people who aren’t in your organization is to explain WHY you need what you need.  If they can understand the context of your request, if you can make it real for them, then they are much more likely to go along–especially if there is little to no risk to them.  If there is risk to them–to their own deliverables, to the schedule they’re supposed to hit, to their relationship with their peers or their boss–then your communication needs to be much more compelling.  You need to be clear about what is in it for them to help you that overcomes those risks? 

Unless you have a well established relationship–and even then, think twice–do not make these requests via email.  Email is too easy to ignore, to hard to be clear and too hard to be persuasive.  Talk in person (preferable) or by phone.  It is better to have worked on these relationships before you need them, but even so, be friendly and interested BEFORE you make your request.

Urgency

If people believe that what is needed is needed quickly or else important things will be slowed down or blocked, they are more likely to do it than if they feel no urgency.  Creating a sense of urgency must be done carefully, lest you get a reputation of “crying wolf,” and lose your credibility.  Why do you need what you need quickly?  Be honest, but also believe what you’re saying.  Speak with urgency and you’ll likely convey urgency.

Political savvy

In order to successfully get things done in your organization, you need to understand the politics in the organization.  Who has the power?  What relationships exist across your organization.  What are the rivalries?  Who is the ‘core’ group in each organization that you work in and around?  In other words, who are the three or four people who make the decisions?  Who do they listen to? Who can help you get the decision/resources/help you need go your way?  Are there hidden agendas?  What are they?  How does what you need to do fit into those agendas?  Whose agenda is supported by what you’re trying to do?  Whose agenda isn’t?  Trying to get things done in an organization without understanding these things is like driving on a road you know nothing about–where it goes, whether it dead ends, how fast you can go, whether there are any gas stations along the way.

Persuasiveness

Being persuasive is a critical skill for getting things done in organizations.  There is no tool that is more valuable.  Being persuasive begins with understanding the other person’s issues with regard to your argument, and then finding a way to reduce or overcome them by helping the person see very clearly WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) about what your trying to get done.  Provide a context that helps the person be persuaded.  A great book to help you learn to be more persuasive is Robert Cialdini’s, Influence. the Art of Persuasion.

Secrets

One of the biggest secrets in organizations is that people at all levels of the organization can get things done across the organization.  The most important step is to Do It. Figure out who can help you.  Figure out what is important to them.  Figure out how to approach and persuade them. Then ask.  Don’t give up.  If one way doesn’t work, try another.  Keep taking routes till you find one that works.  Make positive relationships along the way and PAY PEOPLE BACK.  Go for it!

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Onboard Yourself

Onboarding

Onboarding is the process that organizations use to get their employees up to speed enough to do their jobs.  Another term for it is “organizational socialization.”  Organizations have informal and formal methods for the knowledge transfer or processes, tools, methods, culture and introductions that is sufficient for the employee to be effective in his/her new job.  I’ve seen really good onboarding and really horrible onboarding.

The best onboarding I ever experienced personally was as a consultant when I was going to work for a group of consultants.   The onboarding was a combination of providing me with detailed “playbooks” of how the organization did its work and of having me spend intense time with each team of consultants to see/understand how they put the playbook into action.  I traveled weekly for my onboarding and in three weeks’ time, I felt that I understood the whole and was fully able to go do it myself.  It was the combination of the intensity, the excellent documentation, and the seeing it all in action—including being given tasks I didn’t know how to do, but being surrounded by people who could/would help me.

I’ve had so many “worst” onboardings that it is hard to pick just one.  They range from putting me in a room with a year’s worth of reading and leaving me to read for two weeks to putting me at a desk and spending less than 10 minutes telling me what to do and walking away, never to return.  I think that I eventually did OK, even at the jobs with these onboardings, but the time it took to get me up to speed and to be productive was vastly different.

I finally decided that I needed to take responsibility for my own onboarding.  As a consultant, it is critical that I hit the ground running and know enough in a week to make a difference.  If I wait for people (who all have other jobs and many of whom are not sure they want me here, anyway) to tell me what/how/when/why in the organization, then I will fail.  These processes can apply for anyone, in any job, including people who have been in the job for a long time.

DIY Onboarding

Steps to Your Own Onboarding:

  • Make a Plan:  Identify what you want to accomplish and how fast.  You have a fairly short period of time before people get over you being new and expect you to “do” something.  They are very open to questions in the early days; they think you’re dumb if you’re still asking questions later (even then, you need to ask questions to learn—deal with what they think).  Who do you need to know?  What do you need to know?  What do you need to be able to do?  Ask people what they think you need to do to be successful.  Then put in place a plan that gets you there.  Fast.
  •  Meet People:  Meet people at every level.  Set up meetings.  Invite people to lunch or breakfast.  Accept all invitations.  Learn the power structures.  Learn the informal networks.  Learn the ‘go to’ people.  Learn the whiners.  Learn who to listen to and who to avoid.  The only way to do that is to throw yourself into meeting people.  (Even introverts need to do this)  Ask people to help you.  Ask people who you should meet.  Ask people who helped them when they started.  Target someone to be a mentor in this process and ask for his/her help.
  •  Figure Out the Tools:  Luckily, today most organizations use the same fundamental tools—the Microsoft Office suite plus SharePoint.  If the organization uses different/other tools, however, learn these as soon as possible.  Learn Oracle, Salesforce.com, EPDM, or whatever other tool your organization uses.  You need to understand it and be conversant in its strengths and weaknesses.  (Every tool you learn makes you more marketable—use the opportunity of being new to dive in and learn new tools).
  •  Understand the Culture:  Every organization has its own culture.  This is like the water the fish swim in—the people inside the organization are not very aware of it consciously, but it shapes all behavior unconsciously.  When you’re new is the only time you can actually “see” the culture.  Don’t make the mistake of assuming it is like the culture you just came from.  Just because engineers are the dominant players in the new culture as they were in the old, there will be huge differences.  Learn these differences with “new eyes.”  Learn what the organization thinks about what makes success, who are the people who seem to “get it.”  What are they like?  How much does the leader shape the organization?  Is the founder still there?  How long since the founder was there?  What are the left over influences from that?  (These are frequently the things that don’t seem to make sense because they started a long time ago but are still there).  Write down your observations of the culture.  Make a mind map.  How does the culture influence the way that you will get your work done?  How can you use the culture to be more effective?
  •  Learn the Product/Customers/Processes:  Become an expert.  Take all the classes you can.  (Organizations frequently have classes for new sales people that are available to others).  Ask people about the processes.  Become best friends with the Intranet.  What’s there and what can you learn from what’s there?  What do others outside the organization say?  What do people in the organization say in reaction?  Everyone in every part of the organization needs to thoroughly understand the Product and the Customers.  You need to at least understand the processes in your own organization and those that take product to market and get money to the bank.  Like I said, BECOME AN EXPERT.
  •  Take Actions:  You have a very short window before people start to see action.  Look for opportunities to take early action.  It is better to be right about these actions, so be careful—but not too careful.  Action is better than no action, even if you make mistakes.  Ask your boss and peers what kinds of actions they are expecting from you and deliver them as soon as possible.

 Good Books That Help With This:

The First 90 Days, Critical Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels  byMichael Watkins

The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan by George Bradt, Jamye Check, and Jorge Pedrassa

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Filed under Books, Career Development, Communication, Executive Development, Hi Po, Leadership, Networking, Recession Proof, Success, Time Management, Uncategorized