Category Archives: Executive Development

Mentor Me, Mentor You

Find a Mentor.  Use a Mentor. Be a Mentor.

I’m sure you’re always hearing the advice that you need a mentor.  In fact, you’ve even heard it from me.    Why do people keep giving that advice?   There is research that  supports the theory that people with mentors are more successful, get promoted faster and are happier on the job. It certainly has been my personal experience.   My mentors guided me over rough spots, taught me things that I needed to know, and told me things straight that no one else would.

What Do Mentors Do That Helps?

  • Provide One-On-One Support
  • Provide A Different Organizational Perspective (and Usually a Better One)
  • Provide Help With Organizational Politics
  • Provide a Power Boost to Your Network
  • Provide a Different Generational Perspective
  • Provide Some Problem or Task Specific Guidance
  • Hold You Accountable
  • Help Make the Unknown Knowable

Help and support signpost

Types Of Mentoring Relationships

  • Developmental– These mentors help you grow your abilities and skills.  They teach, model and guide.
  • Sponsorship–These mentors can open doors to you–help you get into a school or an organization.
  • Hierarchical–Most of us think of mentors/mentees as  a ‘Senior Person in Organization/Junior Person in  the Organization’ model.  This is probably the most standard kind of mentor relationship in career development.
  • Expertise–This relationship between an expert and a novice can be based on knowledge, skill or experience.  This mentor can help with specific or global learning.
  • Boss Mentors, Boss’ Boss Mentors, Boss’ Peer Mentors–Bosses can be good mentors, as can their peers or bosses.  These mentor relationships have to be handled with a little more care since there are potential negative ramifications if it doesn’t work out.
  • Career, Dream, Life–Mentors come in many flavors.  They can help your career trajectory.  They can also help you achieve your dream–start a business, write a book, learn to cook.  They can also help you with other aspects of a great life–being a good husband, father, golfer, healthy.
  • Generational Mentors–Most mentor relationships are between older mentors and younger mentees.  Consider getting a younger mentor–they definitely have a different perspective.  If you can get over thinking that your perspective is “right,” through a relationship with a younger mentor, then you will be far better off than you are now. Younger mentors know things that you don’t know and their mental models are different.  Sooner or later, you will work for someone younger than you.  Who better to help you get good at than than someone of the same generation.

How Do You Find A Mentor?

What Do You Want From A Mentor?

Get very clear about why you want a mentor.  ‘Just cause’ isn’t good enough.  When you think about your career, or your life, or your progress, what is missing.  How do you think a mentor can help you?  What are your goals?  What do you need to know?  What do you need to do?  Investigate whether your organization already has a  mentoring program that would help you.  Even if you aren’t eligible for some reason–find out how it works, how mentors/mentees are chosen.  You might want to model it for yourself.  Based on your goals and gaps, who could help you?

How Do You Pick?

  • Think of someone who is where you want to be.
  • Think of someone who you like.
  • Think of someone who knows how to do something that you need to know how to do.
  • Think of someone who is well-connected to people who could help you.
  • Think of someone who is a thought leader in your field.
  • Think outside your organization.  Is there someone in another organization (not a competitor) who can help you understand? (Try using LinkedIn’s Advanced Search)
  • Think virtual–your mentor doesn’t have to be physically present–not today.
  • Think more than one–I once worked with a very successful man who had three–two for different aspects of his business and one for balance.

How Do You Ask Someone to Be a Mentor?

First of all, don’t wait.  Mentors can be major accelerators for career performance.  Just the questions they ask can cause you to change your performance.  I know it is hard to approach someone, especially someone you don’t know well, and ask them to help you on something as personal and important as your career.  Push yourself to do it.

  • Start small.  Ask for some advice.  Reply to a blog post.  Go speak to the person after a presentation or speech.  Comment on a book.  Ask for an interview for an article, a blog, a presentation. Seek an introduction through LinkedIn.
  • Gauge the reaction to the first encounter.  How did it feel to interact with the person?  How open did the person seem.  Don’t give up after the first encounter.  Find another way to interact again.
  • Be proactive.  Get noticed.
  • Once noticed, ask.  Ask if the person would be willing to be your mentor.  Or ask if the person would be willing to have an occasional conversation about your career.  Ask if the person will advise you about how your project.  Or, based on her experience and career path, what she would suggest as next career steps for you.
  • Don’t get too formal too quickly.
  • Be clear and honest on who you are, what you need, what you can provide.  (In a recent LinkedIn survey on women mentors, most women said they had never been mentors because . . . wait for it . . . they had never been asked.

If your first or second encounter with the person doesn’t “feel” right, then don’t continue.  Mentor relationships are dependent on the chemistry between the two parties to work well.  You certainly can learn from people you don’t ‘click’ with, but a long-term, ongoing mentor relationship works best if there is a connection between the two.  It works best if both people genuinely care about each other and want to contribute to the success of the encounters and each person’s goals.  If the person you seek out declines, move on.  I know you hear it all the time, but IT ISN’T PERSONAL.  He is busy.  She feels uncomfortable at the idea of being a mentor.  He doesn’t want to run afoul of your boss.  She doesn’t believe bosses are good mentors.  Whatever his/her reason, articulated or not, move on.  Find someone else.  There are thousands of people (at least) out there who can be just as good a mentor as the one you just asked.

How Do You Get the Most Out Of A Mentor Relationship?

  • Straight Talk:   The most important thing in a mentor relationship is to create an environment where your mentor feels comfortable being straight with you.  It is an incredible gift to get clear and unencumbered feedback about yourself, you skills, the way others perceive you and WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT.  If you overreact, get emotional or aren’t straight yourself, you will have some nice conversations, but you will not have a powerful mentor relationship.
  • Work It, It’s Up To You:  The success of the relationship and the subsequent results are UP TO YOU.  You do the work.  It is your career or dream or life.  You get the answers, the feedback, the ideas and THEN YOU WORK IT.
  • Don’t Waste Their Time: Treat the relationship and its output like the gift that it is.  Be grateful.  Reciprocate.  Don’t think that because you are lower down the hierarchy or are younger or less educated that you don’t bring something to the table.  You bring a different perspective.  Anytime you (or your mentor) sees things differently, you become more powerful and more capable of better solutions.

Become A Mentor Yourself, And Get Even More Out Of It

If you think having a mentor is good, being a mentor is better.  Having to articulate your knowledge, perspective, theory of success or providing “how-to” knowledge makes you better.  It opens you up to new ideas and provides you with energy and motivation.  It is a really great experience.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, Mentor

Leaders Don’t Give Up

Don't give up

Leaders Come In All Flavors

I have recently had the opportunity to watch some really good leaders in action.  They were all different kinds of people.  They were different genders, ages, backgrounds and experience.  The thing that I noticed that they had in common was that they didn’t give up.  They were persistent.

They Don’t Give Up

One leader said, in the face of overwhelming frustration among his followers, “Let’s just muscle through this.”  His followers were definitely ready to throw in the towel–they just couldn’t figure any other way.  The task in front of them felt insurmountable.  I watched as the group collectively shrugged–without much hope–but with a willingness to follow.  The leader asked questions, got answers.  Others asked questions, got answers.  The energy of the group started to go up.  Suggestions started to fly.   These were countered by other suggestions.  Solutions were identified.  Action plans developed.  Schedules.  Commitments.  The group left with a plan and energy and hope.  And it started with a mere statement.  “Let’s just muscle through it.”

Another leader coached members of a group on how to start again when their jobs had gone away.  Her job had also gone away, but she was completely focused on helping the others to see the possibilities.  As I watched, the leader and her coachees devised a plan to start a business.  It was a brilliant idea and it bubbled out of the blended despair of the followers and the persistent support and hope of the leader.

Leaders provide hope. 

They provide clarity.  They provide direction, and pull more direction out of their followers.  They don’t accept the status quo.  Even when they can’t specifically see the way forward, they keep looking.  They don’t let others give up either.  They see that the solution might be just around the corner.  They keep looking and keep pushing.  If one direction is wrong, they turn and try another.

What about you?

Do you give up?

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Stick with Your New Year’s Resolutions: Find Your Gateway Habits

new years resolutions

Another Year, Another List

Do you make the same New Year’s Resolutions year after year?  Save money.  Lose weight. Get a new job. Get a promotion.  Spend more time with the family.  Do you ever get your resolutions done?  How about trying something new this year.

Look at your resolutions.  What is the one key thing that you could do that would make a difference on all of them?  What behavior could you change that would help you achieve your goals for the year?  For example, if this were your list of resolutions:

  • Lose weight
  • Start a blog
  • Spend more time with the kids

What behavior change could you make that would help achieve all of them?  What about if you increased your weekly and daily planning?  What about if each week–let’s say on Sunday–you planned your meals for the week, calendared exercise and writing and time with the kids-and then followed up each morning (or evening if that works better for you) with specifics re:  food you’re going to eat, review of what you have eaten, when/where you’re going to exercise and activities with the kids?  If you put weekly/daily planning into your life, then your success with your yearly goals is much more likely.  If you add a “gateway” habit into your life that serves your goals, then you are much more likely to be able to stick to achieving your goals.In this case, the weekly/daily planning would be a gateway habit.  If you want to increase your exercise, parking far from the door or walking up the stairs could be a gateway habit.   If you eliminate an existing gateway habit—eating in the car, starting your day with the Internet–then you can impact the follow on unconscious habits.

Gateway Habits

A gateway habit is a habit that leads to other behaviors and habits.  According to research done at Duke University, more than 40% of the actions people take each day are unconscious habits.  Autopilot.  We’re aren’t thinking about it.  We just do it.  Like what we eat for lunch.  Like the snacks we grab as we walk through the kitchen.  Like the TV in the background.    One of these unconscious habits leads to the next–drinking and smoking, watching TV and eating–and at the end of the year, we’ve made no progress.  The secret to making changes is to identify key gateway habits that will lead to other changes that get you to your goals.  Changing gateway habits helps make all the related habits conscious and puts us more in control.

For example, if you need to lose weight, you could cut out eating after 7 pm.  Make your eating after 7 a conscious no-no.  Once you’ve mastered that, all of your eating will be more conscious.  Then focus or what you eat for lunch, or decide to always eat breakfast.  This will make your eating much more conscious.  Before you know it, you are in control of your unconscious eating.  Losing weight is easier when you are focusing on specific eating-related habits, rather than all the deprivations of losing weight.  Add new habits as you succeed with changing and before you know it, you’ve succeeded.  You can have as much success through eliminating existing gateway habits.

Great books to help you with getting control of your unconscious and conscious behavior:

Try Something New This Year.  What Do You Have to Lose (or Gain)?

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Filed under Books, Career Goals, Executive Development, Goal Setting, Personal Change

Should Your Subordinates Like You?

Should you be liked OR respected?

iStock_000019473325XSmallThis post is a follow on to my last post, Underground Relationships.  One of my readers said that he had a boss tell him that people working for you shouldn’t like you, just respect you.  He asked what I thought about that.  I have heard people say this, and in fact I myself have said a variation of that.  I have said that you don’t have to be liked, but you should be respected.  Different, but maybe someone who heard me say that could interpret it the same way.  I think it’s a great question:  How important is it that your subordinates like you?  Should you work to be liked? Is it ok if they like you?

There is a reasonably good argument that if your people respect you, if you do the right things, if you are kind and thoughtful and a clear communicator, then your people will like you.  There are a lot of reasons, though, that this may not be true.  Some people just don’t like managers–no matter who they are or how they act.  Some people react badly to peers being promoted to be their manager.  (See Promoted to Manage Your Peers?  Awkward.)  Whatever the reason, there is no guarantee that subordinates will like their bosses.

So how hard should you work to get your subordinates to like you?

Let’s start with my reader’s boss’ statement: “the people working for you shouldn’t like you, just respect you.”  I have to say that I don’t agree with this statement.  In an ideal world, your subordinates should both respect you and like you.  The quality of work life is significantly better if there is both respect and a level of affection in both directions.  The important thing is to be very clear on where your responsibility as a manager lies.  You are an employee with a fiduciary duty to the organization to deliver strategic results.  As an employee of the organization, managers must do what the organization needs.  Sometimes those things don’t make subordinates happy.  Sometimes those things don’t make managers happy.  On the other hand, managers also have a responsibility to adhere to their own ethical standards.  Those standards include what they are willing to do for the organization and how they must treat employees and co-workers.

Now let’s look at the statement that I’ve made in the past: “you don’t have to be liked, but you should be respected.”  What I meant by this was that you should do the “right” things, things that make you respected, but you shouldn’t do things with a goal of being liked.  The question my reader posed has made me rethink this.  It is my experience that there are some people in management positions who have a really hard time doing things that will impact their likeability.  I believe that this is the wrong thing to use as a guideline when you are a manager.  Your responsibility is first–what is right for the organization, second–what is right for your people, and I don’t see a time when your likeability should be a factor.

Unfortunately, though, it isn’t as easy as that.  It’s really hard to find the lines that divide these things.  What is right for the organization may be bad for the people; what is right for some people may be wrong for others; what is right for your subordinates may be wrong for other parts of the organization.  Finding your way through these  mazes is easier if you have strong relationships with people at work.  If they trust you, and if you communicate clearly as to your reasons and the context, it is easier to find a balance between hard decisions that create unhappiness and sustaining organization performance and relationships.

So what do you do?

  • Get clear on what your personal ethical belief is about how people should be treated and how those decisions should get made
  • Get clear on what you believe is your responsibility to the organization as a boss
  • Find your personal balance between these (understand that whatever you decide here could cause you problems–with your boss, your organization or your subordinates–but you’ve got to live with your decisions/behavior)
  • Listen to HEAR what your people are thinking and going through
  • Communicate clearly with your subordinates about the context and reasons for why decisions have been made, acknowledging the costs to people who are affected–this is absolutely the most important action in being respected/liked
  • As long as you are comfortable with your personal decisions about how you navigate, live with the consequences

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Undercover Relationships

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Undercover Boss

One of my guilty pleasures is the TV show Undercover Boss.  I know it is probably orchestrated and you only get to see the powerful parts, but I love watching it.  I am constantly amazed at how amazed the bosses are at what goes on in their organization.  It is a regular reminder to me that if people just talk to each other, are “real” with each other, then truly awesome things can happen in organizations.  This is of course a two way street.  The bosses have to actually listen because there are TV cameras watching them listen.  The other side of it, however, is that the employees tell it straight–after all they are talking to a ‘nobody.’  If they knew they were talking to the boss, they wouldn’t tell the truth–or at least not all the truth.  They would be polite.  They would calculate what the boss wanted to hear, and then they would say it.  Even if they didn’t do that, they would be careful in their word choice and the real message wouldn’t necessarily get across.  It is the blend of the boss being put in a position where s/he sees what is happening at all levels of the organization, s/he has to listen and the employees telling it like it is that makes it happen.  Real change and effectiveness can happen with that blend. (And yeah, the bosses give the employees something at the end–but that is peripheral and entertaining, but not critical for making the changes happen.)

Applying the Lessons of Undercover Boss

If you are a manager, a leader, and/or an Executive, you need to:

  • Get to know what the people who work for you (and in the rest of your organization) do.  Repeatedly on  Undercover Boss the ‘old’ executive of the organization is challenged to keep up, to understand the process, to go fast enough.
  • Understand their challenges.  What are the impacts of your policies on how they do their work?  Again, repeatedly executives are confronted on Undercover Boss with the unintended consequences of their well-intentioned policy changes.  Bosses are confronted with the fact that employees have to cut short positive customer interactions to make productivity numbers or that a well-designed productivity tool is unusable by people who are color blind.  What have you done that has increased the difficulty of doing a job rather than improved both productivity and job quality?
  • How do they think of you and the other leaders in your organization.  How many times do people on the show talk about the “corporate clowns.”  Are you a clown or clueless in the eyes of your employees?  Rather than be defensive or mad about it, see it through their eyes.  What do you need to change that perception?
  • Know your people.  Over and over and over on the show, bosses ask personal questions of their employees and are touched and surprised by the answers.  I’m sure the show scripts some of the kinds of questions that the Executives ask, but in every show, the bosses are surprised at what their employees go through outside of work.  Many Executives resist, either consciously or unconscioulsy, getting close to their employees.  How can you make the “hard” decisions about what to do with people if you care about them?  Ask yourself the opposite question:  How do you motivate, inspire and lead people to higher performance if you don’t know and care about them?  If they don’t know and care about you? Work organizations are first and foremost human organizations.  Creating organizations where people care about each other, stand up for each other, and deliver or the whole, is the key to being a great Executive and boss.
  • Ideas come from all levels.  The most ridiculous idea that Executives develop over time is that they know better than others because they are at the top of the organization and have lots of experiences that got them there.  As the interactions on Undercover Boss show over and over, being at the top of an organization makes it more, rather than less, likely that you don’t know your market and customers well enough to have new ideas that can grow your organization.  Create channels for innovative ideas to move up and across the organization and fight to keep those channels open.
  • Being real gets you told.  It is extremely difficult to persuade employees to tell the truth about what they think and know about the organization.  Honest employees are doing you a favor.  Create situations that open and stimulate these conversations.  Be real.  Admit your own failings.  Appreciate feedback.  Show your employees that you will do something about what they tell you.  While the chosen employees on Undercover Boss get trips and vacations and scholarships, the biggest win is if the company creates a feedback loop between the employees and the leadership that identifies and addresses real issues for the company.  One of the best bosses I ever had regularly walked around the organization talking to people at all levels, but especially at the bottom.  He had relationships with people and they told him what they thought.  It didn’t happen day one, but over time we learned that not only was it safe to talk to him, but also that things got fixed when we did.

Build Undercover Relationships In Your Organization!

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Your Last Minute Isn’t Always Your Best Minute

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I’ll Stop Procrastinating.  Tomorrow.

I used to put things off to the last minute.  I told myself it was because I worked better under pressure.  That is what you would call a rationalization.  We frequently rationalize our negative behaviors.  I know I do.  I can’t exercise hard because my neck hurts.  I can’t run because it’s raining (haha and I go to the gym).  Back to the procrastination, though.  Some of us procrastinate infrequently, some of us procrastinate all the time, but almost all of us procrastinate some of the time.  I have a dear friend who procrastinates on everything.  She doesn’t get a lot of things done–she runs out of time.  And she suffers major consequences.  It’s painful to watch her put things off that really matter until it is too late.  Ironic as it is, procrastination is a form of being a control freak.  You’re in control in putting things off–I know–that makes no sense, but lots of things we do don’t make sense.

I’ve been told that procrastination isn’t a problem of time management.  I’ve been told that telling someone to start following a Franklin Covey plan is like telling a depressed person to cheer up.  It’s much more complicated than that.  There are some things that can help, though.

First, Figure Out What Kind of Procrastinator You Are

  • Are you a risk taker?  Do you get a thrill from having to scramble to get something done by the deadline?
  • Are you an avoider?  Are you avoiding doing something because you are afraid of failing?  Or afraid of succeeding?
  • Are you a decision procrastinator because you’re afraid/can’t make a decision?
  • Are you a rebeller?  Are you not doing something because someone wants you to and rather than stand up to the person, you avoid doing it?
  • Are you a perfectionist?  Do you put things off because you want/need to be perfect–and know that that is impossible–so it’s just easier to put it off?

Next, Look at HOW You Procrastinate

  • Do you distract yourself with trivia and less important things?  Are you an expert distractor?
  • Do you tell yourself that you’ll do it tomorrow (and believe that  things will be different tomorrow–until tomorrow and repeat?)
  • Do you find ’emergencies’ that need to be handled instead of the task at hand?
  • Do you put off specific tasks–or do you put off everything?
  • Do you underestimate how long something will take?  Or overestimate how much time you have left?
  • Do you exaggerate how bad/hard/tough the task will be?

Take Action

The easiest, best, most productive way to overcome procrastination is to START.  I know that seems awfully simplistic.  It works, though.  If you look at what kind of procrastinator you are and then look at how you procrastinate, set up a situation that reduces/eliminates the ‘ideal’ procrastination environment.  Eliminate your normal distractions.  Tell yourself that you’re going to experiment with taking more time to do something.  Tell yourself it doesn’t have to be perfect–just done. Give yourself a reward AFTER you’re done.  Think through doing the worst task of your day FIRST.  Then find one task that needs to be done.  And do it.  Start.

Pay attention to what it feels like to be working on something that you would normally put off.  Is it uncomfortable?  Does it make you happy?  Or satisfied?  Or stressed?  Do the next step.  Does it get better or worse.  Continue until the task(s) is done.  Do a ‘lessons learned.’  What worked?  What didn’t?  How can you apply these lessons learned to the next thing that you would normally procrastinate about?

Commit to ‘not’ procrastinating on a certain number of things–let’s say 3 or 5.  Promise yourself that you will do this many tasks without procrastinating and will do the lessons learned exercise.  Once you’ve met that commitment, decide whether it’s worth it to keep doing this, or whether you’d rather go back to procrastinating.

You may have a good (subconscious) reason for procrastinating, but it is a choice. You can choose whether you change it or not.

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Are You Incompetent? Unreliable? Probably.

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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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Filed under Books, Brand Yourself, Career Development, Communication, Executive Development

Wanna Be Happy At Work?

We spend an awful lot of time at work to spend our time there unhappy. So, if you’re unhappy at work, you need to do something about it.  Years spent unhappily at work are wasted.  There are four ways to get happier at work.

The first thing to do is to figure out WHY you aren’t happy?

  • Is it the job?  Do you not like doing what you do at work?  Are you not well suited for the tasks?
  • Is it the people?  Do you not get along with the people at work?
  • Is it that you don’t feel appreciated or rewarded?

Is it you, or the job?

Before you automatically say that it is the job, think about it harder.  Have you seen this same pattern of unhappiness at other jobs?  With other bosses?  With other co-workers?  If you have a similar pattern of unhappiness in other positions, there may be some way that you are thinking that is contributing to your unhappiness.

If it is the job, you have four choices:

  1. Change WHERE you’re working–go find a job doing the same thing somewhere else. If you really like what you do, but not where you’re doing it, this is your solution.  This applies to situations when your company culture or your co-workers are the problem.
  2. Change WHAT you’re doing–find a different job, doing something else.  You can do this at your current organization–change from marketing to product development, from project management to operations.  Sometimes it’s easier to change what you’re doing at you current company, then move on to another company once you’ve had some experience.  Sometimes it is time to go do your dream job–writing, selling, starting your business.
  3. Change HOW YOU VIEW work–realize that work is a means to an end–it is what you do to be able to afford what you love.  Or it is a way to get to what you want long-term.  When you’re focused on the future, the here and now is much more bearable.
  4. Change the WAY you work–so that you love the work that you have.  Create an environment that motivates you and inspires you to do your personal best.

Whatever you do, do something.  Don’t stay unhappy at work.  It isn’t worth it.  And it is your choice.

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Personal Change Management

Personal Change Management Is More Important Than OCM

“Organizational change management” is usually listed on job descriptions as a required skill for executives.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a critical job skill.  Personal change management is just much more important.  When you are good at personal change management, you can come across as a “can do” person, instead of a nay sayer.  You can help others with the change because you aren’t wrapped up in your own issues with the change.  In order to be good at personal change management:

  • You must understand the normal human reactions (including yours!) to change and learn how to manage yourself through those reactions while you help your team through them.
  • You must be able to recognize when you’re resisting and be able to ‘lead’ yourself through that resistance.
  • You must be able to recognize when you have hit your capacity to deal with change and find ways to expand that capacity or eliminate some of the stress that is filling it up.
  • You must be able to initiate personal change in your life in order to accomplish your goals through understanding the steps, incentives and processes that it takes to change the habits and mental models that are controlling your behavior.

As a leader, you have to be able to manage yourself through change while you’re helping others.  As an executive, you need to be able to initiate and control the personal change it takes to accomplish your personal and career goals.

Personal Change Reactions

People going through changes, good and bad, have some pretty standard reactions.  Not every person has all these reactions for all changes, but most people have most of these reactions for most (big) changes.  Think about when you found out you got a job or when you lost a job, when you found out you were having a baby, or you had a car accident–you had most of these reactions.  Change means you go from the status quo to some new state.  That shift requires some mental gymnastics to get you from one to the other.

In order to get good at dealing with personal change, it is critical that you become self-aware enough to recognize the reaction in yourself, and then learn how to move yourself through the change curve to exploration to acceptance to commitment.  There are two important things to remember in this process:

  • These reactions are completely normal.
  • You will get to the acceptance  and commitment stages, and it will feel like a ‘new normal.’  It will get better.

Personal Change Resistance

Again, resistance is a normal reaction to change.  One of my favorite change management gurus, Peter de Jager, says people don’t resist change, they resist being changed.  Unfortunately, we experience many of the changes at work as ‘being changed’ rather than choosing to change.  We resist change  because:
  • “I don’t know how” (An ability deficiency)
  • “I don’t want to” (A willingness deficiency)
  • “I just can’t” (A capacity deficiency)

When you notice resistance in yourself, ask yourself which kind of resistance is it?  How can you help yourself get past it?  What would it take for you to know to reduce your resistance?  Why don’t you want to?  How can you persuade yourself to try?  What can you change about the circumstances that make it better?  What about your capacity to change?  Can you do something to increase that?

Capacity to Change
EVERYONE hits a wall from time to time when it comes to change.  We all have a capacity to deal with change.  Some of us have a naturally high capacity or a naturally low capacity.  Then things start to happen.  Beginnings and endings–relationships, marriages, babies, jobs, deaths, illnesses, living arrangements, finances.  These things ebb and flow.  I have four kids and I used to say, as long as no more than two were off the tracks at once I could handle it–if another one had problems, then I had a hard time dealing with it over and above everything else.  If you add in big changes at work–new boss, reorganization, downsizing, job loss, then your capacity gets used up.  This overflow ebbs and flows too.  When you’re aware that your capacity is filled up, then you can reframe the situation, change the way you’re thinking about it.  You have control over managing your capacity.  This does NOT mean that you ignore or deny what is happening.  It means that you help yourself reframe what is happening so that you relieve some of the overflow and increase your capacity.
Initiating Personal Change
Organizations need Organizational Change Management because they are initiating strategic change–new processes, new systems, new organization structures–to achieve organizational goals.  Executives need to learn to initiate the same kind of personal strategic change and do personal change management through the process.  We all try to initiate personal change from time to time (New Year’s Resolutions, anyone?), but statistics say that few of us actually succeed at them.  It takes an accompanying personal change management approach to make those changes stick.  You must understand what behavior, motivation, incentive, learning, communication and metric changes it will take to make the change stick.  Then, treat it as if it were the same as making a change happen with your team.  Put the things in place that will incent, motivate, inspire and reward you to make the change.

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Filed under Career Development, Career Goals, Executive Development, Leadership, Personal Change, Success