Hate Networking? Four simple practices to do and feel good about yourself

December 24, 2012 § 6 Comments

networkingThe “N” word has a bad reputation.  Word associations I hear: “Using,” “Selling,” “Disingenuous,” “Manipulation,” “Taking.”  Frankly,  I don’t blame people for having this bias. I’m betting all of us have had the experience of getting the phone call or email from a former colleague or friend who’s been out of touch – and now they want a reference or a lead. They make the small talk – but you knowingly wait for the great sucking sound to commence.  At a business networking conference a few years ago, the keynote speaker asked the audience to raise hands if they were there to sell something.  Half raised their hands.  When asked if anyone was there to buy something.  No one raised a hand.

In today’s connected world, more than ever it’s who knows you, and how they know you that makes the difference in getting the next foothold on the climbing wall of your career. Your uniqueness – that thing that differentiates you from others who do what you do – is crucial and you need to care for it like you do your favorite plant.  You do not want to be seen as a commodity.

You already have a network. Here are 4 simple practices you can do – with integrity to distinguish yourself.  AND,  as you will see, make yourself feel good in the process of nurturing any relationships you want to grow.

  1. Give Positive Feedback.  It’s no coincidence that “feed” is part fbof the word.  People are starved for honest, real, specific, recognition feedback.  We live and work in a culture of “improvement upon our weaknesses.”  Tell people that you liked what you saw or experienced.  Focus on the behavior or product they produced, and how it positively impacted you and any others involved.  Were you impressed by their pitch at the project update meeting?  Why?
  2. Send Thanks You Notes.  Email is great, but vary it with thank youhandwritten notes. Remember the last time you got one and how it made you feel?  Can you recall a time when you shared info with someone, or gave a referral – and never heard anything afterwards?  How did that make you feel? And by the way, research out of Harvard correlates your personal level happiness to the amount of appreciation you communicate to others.
  3. People Have Lives, Remember Things About Them.  I have a client, a senior VP in sales, who keeps a card file on each of her sales people.  When she goes to a regional meeting, she crutchesreminds herself to ask whether a child got into Yale (the stretch school),  how their parent is recovering from surgery,  or  if they made the decision to buy the Audi or not.  Did their husband get the job?  They love her, because she shows that she cares about them by remembering things about their lives – not just her business objectives
  4. Reach out to others before they reach out to you – and don’t keep track!  Be the one to stay in touch. Say hi and tell them you were thinking about them and wondering how they are – without asking for anything.  Subscribe to BirthdayAlarm.com funny_birthday_card_little_horse-p137371226879641841en8cy_325to get auto reminders of birthdays.  It’s all digital and automatic. Just click on the digital card you want sent and add a personal thought.  I’ve been using it for years, and amazingly, people gush how impressed they are with my ability to keep track of their birthdays.

Hopefully, these 4 simple practices will move you off a negative bias preventing you from nurturing your network.  Make a list of people you want to stay in touch with. The more value you put into your network, the more your professional networth will increase.

Good luck!

Workforce Engagement – 2012. What does it mean for you as a manager?

December 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

workforceThe 2012  Kelly Global Workforce Index is out.  It surveys 168,000 multi-generational employees from 30 countries and points to changing attitudes related to job mobility, career progression, skill development, and beliefs about the job market.

According to the report,  less than 1/3 of employees believe that their career would benefit from staying with their current employer; and about ½ believe that a constant state of employment motion will help them achieve career growth and skills development.

While the notion of a career-for-life is fading, it is not completely dead.  Here’s some fun facts about our employees:

  • 49% are always on the lookout for new opportunities,
  • 54% believe they are in a position of high demand,
  • 69% think they can find a better, or at least similar position,
  • 53% prefer changing employers to advancing their career where they are.

Age-wise, here’s how many agreed that a ‘career-for-life’ with one employer is still relevant:

  • 32% of Millennials (age 19-30),
  • 29% of Gen Xers (31-48),
  • 28% of Boomers (49-66)

Globally, those that agreed that a work history with multiple employers would be an asset:

  • 65% in the Americas
  • 73%, in EMEA
  • 70% in APAC

Nearly ½ of those surveyed said they are looking at the job market for better opportunities. The break down by region:

  • 40% Amercias
  • 53% EMEA
  • 54% APAC

Of note was the finding that even in regions where economic and market conditions are the toughest,  individuals tended to be optimistic about the chance of finding similar or better positions. This attention to considering switching jobs – and succeeding at the attempt –  could be explained in part by the poor outlook employees see ahead of themselves if they stay in the same job:  Less than 1/3  surveyed believe they will progress in their careers, or get promoted in their current orginzation within the next year.

So as managers, what should we take from this?

Know that your direct reports are eager to advance (read: DEVELOP) in their careers and remain relevant. Especially the high performing ones. Pay attention to them, not just to the squeeky wheels in your unit.

  • Understand that the reality of career development as an ascent up a ladder (with fewer rungs) is outdated.
  • Provide opportunity for job renewal, personal growth, skill development and relevance WITHIN  every job.
  • Instead of a ladder, view career development as a lattice, or a climbing wall.  Lateral moves, moves down and to the side (to gain experience, or manage family issues), growth in place to develop new skills and gain exposure to changing markets and technology, taking on greater challenges and more scope in decision making, are all ways to help people develop, grow and foster engagement.
  • But most of all (and much research converges on this truth), be the manager you would want to work for, and demonstrate, in your own way, how much you care about each of your employees including the challenges and joys they experience in their lives at work and  home.

I can’t tell you home many times (at least 100) I’ve spoken to individuals who tell me that even though the holmespay, the team, the benefits and the work are all great, they are planning to leave because of the way they are treated by their manager.  In many a case, I know these managers, and they are not the kind of people who wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and say: “today I’m going to be a jerk.” They eat their Wheaties, get to work, and focus on getting goals and objectives met.  Not much else.

So, if you care about the engagement of your people, you need to think broader about the role you play as a manager in their lives.

Good luck!

Happy Companies – 2013

December 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

50Happiest2013This week,  CareerBliss published it’s list of the 50 Happiest Companies in America for 2013.  Some have moved up from last year, some have moved down. Two that I would have predicted to make it into the top 10 surprisingly didn’t (Google #18;  Apple #42).

The Top 10:

  1. Pfizer
  2. NASA
  3. U.S. Department of Defense
  4. KBR
  5. Cisco Systems
  6. Motorola
  7. Avaya
  8. General Electric
  9. Qualcomm
  10. Cognizant

CareerBliss, with over 600,000 company reviews, recognizes companies “that excel at providing happy work environments.”  The company also posts more than 3 million job listings making it a place taken notice by job seekers.

So, what differentiates happy companies from the norm?  According to CareerBliss, they are work places where “employees enjoy the people they work with and the support they get…….(and) in all of these companies (employees) have the freedom to use their knowledge, skills, and abilities to solve interesting problems…….(which) can be intrinsically motivating and leads to a happy workplace.”

Nice to see how this supports what Dan Pink wrote about in his 2011 Book “Drive,” where he points to reams of research that describes today’s workforce (especially those employees in roles that demand innovative, independent Drivethinking and problem solving) as motivated by the…

  • Need for autonomy to make decisions on what they do and how they do it,
  • The opportunity to continually get better at stuff (mastery), and
  • The setting where they can have a sense of meaning and purpose for what they do.

How different the world of work is from the days “management” was invented in the 1850’s as a technology to direct, organize and control humans hired to meet the needs of the industrial revolution. Then, it was about tools, tasks, carrots and sticks. Not so anymore.

Those of you looking to attract and retain key talent.  Take notice.

Do Women Make Better Leaders, and If So, Why?

December 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

Woman-leaderOver the past three years, research out of Pepperdine UniversityMIT, the Harvard Business School, and other research centers have pointed to a positive correlation between number of women in leadership to an organization’s performance.  True also in lab settings measuring team performance and team creativity. While caution is advised in overgeneralizing and stereotyping successful leadershjp behavior based on gender (not all women share these key values and traits, and there are many men who have them), Sharon Hadary and Laura Henderson (How Women Lead) have distilled the findings into key strengths common to great women leaders. Here are a few noteworthy ones from their book.  None of these traits are hard wired.  They are doable and are not beyond the reach of any of us:

  • Women are values-based:  Highly successful women leaders define their values and tend to use them as a lens to make decision. This tends to give women more moral courage when faced with difficult choices.
  • Women are holistic:  They have a multi-faceted perspective on the world.  They go beyond black and white facts and numbers, and include culture, relationships and values as key drivers in problem solving. In a sense, this give them the ability to ‘see around corners.’
  • Women are inclusive and collaborative:  They build strong relationships with vendors, customers and across organizational boundaries. They encourage contribution in meetings and tend to act more non-hierarchical in evaluation of ideas. They are less concerned about getting their idea approved, and more concerned about finding the best decision.
  • Women invest time in consultation: They are more likely to spend time with those who have to implement a decision, or be affected by it, resulting in more long lasting buy-in to change, and reduced time to implement it.
  • Women bring a commitment to a purpose greater than themselves: Going beyond their personal territorial goals, they help team members individually understand how they can contribute to larger organizational aspirations as well as meet personal career goals, thus generating more motivation and commitment.
  • Women generate trust from employees: They get to know their direct reports, and are more likely to be described as a boss who knows and cares about what’s going on in their direct reports’ lives. People tend to go the extra mile for those they believe care about them.

Just these few traits are worth paying attention to, especially in this millenium as the need for more How Women Leadinclusive leadership grows as an attractor & retainer to new employees.  The classic John Wayne type of command and control worked in the past, and still does in certain situations now, but it’s not the model most people want to follow now.

50% Chance Your Direct Reports Think You Aren’t Tough Enough

November 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

According to research posted this week in an HBR blog, 50% of managers don’t hold their people accountable.  While upper-level managers talk the talk of performance evaluation, follow-up, and follow-through, they don’t walk that talk.  At least half of them don’t.

Darren Overfield and Rob Kaiser’s database of more than 5,400 managers found that across all regions of the world, 46% of these managers were rated as below par on holding their people’s feet to the fire when it came to confronting their direct reports on what executive coach Alan Fine calls “SAY-DO-CO” behavior (say what you’ll do, do what you’ll say, communicate when there’s a problem). The ratings were from bosses, peers and direct reports. That’s right, 1/2 of direct reports say their managers are not tough enough.

Most of us view upper management as tough minded, goal focused players. Apparently this is not the case as much as we may believe, or want to believe.  Overfield and Kaiser hypothesize that too many managers have succombed and over-reacted to the pressures of the human relations movement and are too focused on their popularity which these managers believe increases when they don’t hold their people accountable. The researchers add that this trend has continued and perhaps intensified as the workforce has grown younger with the assumption that Gen Y’ers become indignant in the face of criticism, and the fear that as managers, they will lose the talent in their teams.

This indignant thing is not my experience, and I challenge you to think of your own experience.  In my work with hundreds of managers and direct reports every year, I see that people thrive when managers tell people what’s expected, help them get there, and then hold them accountable.  Just think of any sport. How would you like to play it if you never found out your score or whether you were qualifying or not? If your coach never had “the talk” with you?  The problem I do see is that too often, managers get fuzzy on expectations (goals and rules unclear), and then the accountability discussion, rightly so, gets contentious and  both managers and direct reports collude to avoid confrontation.

Take away:  Look yourself in the mirror and ask:

  • Would my team say I’m clear and upfront in my expectations of goals and behaviors?
  • Would they say I provide the right amount of support and tools to get there?

If the answers are yes, don’t be afraid to have the talk. Even if your direct reports feel uncomfortable, in the long run, they will respect you.

Great Global Leaders Study: 4 Myths, 2 Truths

September 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

Successfully managing a business, team or project across multiple, complex and diverse geographies would earn you the reputation of being a Great Global Leader.  As in situations where you are co-located with your stakeholders, being globally successful means reaching goals and maintaining relationships.  However, the root of the Global Leader challenge lies in the complexity of the global role.

According to a Corporate Executive Board’s recent study, compared to leaders co-located with their teams, Global Leaders, in general:

  •  Work with 17% more people they do not directly manage,
  •  Are 32% less likely to have accurate market information,
  •  Have a 74% broader span of responsibilities,
  •  Work with 160% more stakeholders.

4 Myths debunked by the study:

  1. Great Global Leaders do not need prior international experience. (more than ½ of the great ones are in their 1st international role).
  2. Local language fluency does not determine performance.
  3. Deep knowledge of the culture in their markets does not predict success (it’s important, but relying on a trusted peer or advisor is sufficient, if not better).
  4. Demographics (age, level, tenure) do not differentiate Great Global Leaders from other leaders.

2 Truths found by the study:

1.   Of the variety of  practices common to the role of leadership (Vision, Decision Making, Delegation, Creativity, Resource Allocation, Risk Taking, Remote Management, Complexity Management, Critical Thinking),  COMPETENCE IN ESSENTIAL INFLUENCING SKILLS was by far the most important personal asset determining global leadership success. Great Global Leaders know how to plan and use key influencing skills:

  • Bargaining (by practicing assertiveness with other leaders at same level)
  • Rational Persuasion (when outcomes can be measured)
  • Inspirational Appeal, (when there is limited, or no data),
  • Authority (most relevant to apply in lower organizational levels)

2.   Having a strong global peer and customer network, across silos, has greater positive impact on being a Great Global Leader than does speaking the local language or deep knowledge of local customs and culture.  The trusted network will help keep you on the right path.

TAKE-AWAY:  Spend less time worrying about whether you should kiss, bow or shake hands, and pay more attention to developing trusted relationships (over time); and on appropriately using some of your atrophied influence muscles (Inspirational Appeal? Authority? Assertiveness?).

The Appliject

September 12, 2012 § 3 Comments

Are ‘projects’ the New Job Interview?

In a 2011 Forbes Blog, George Bradt succinctly summarized what top recruiters say are the three true job interview questions:

  1. Can you do the job? (Strengths, & Assets)
  2. Will you love the job? (Motivation).
  3. Can we tolerate working with you? (Fit).

Most experienced HR professionals, hiring managers, and job candidates are pretty good at addressing the strengths question.  Behavioral interview questions presumably help the interviewee talk about prior experience that relates to the job they are seeking – and supposedly gives a fairly accurate picture of capabilities. But how do you get at Motivation and Fit?  How will the candidate go about influencing others?  Will she act as collaboratively as we need her to?  What aspects of a project will she dig into?  What will she avoid?  Will she thrive in our team’s climate, or once in, will she reject us?

Enter the “Appliject.”  A term used by Michael Schrage in his May, 2012 HBR Blog Network Post: Projects Are the New Job Interviews. In his words:

“…serious firms will increasingly ask serious candidates to do serious work in order to get a serious job offer.”

He calls this practice the Appliject to describe a better way to efficiently and effectively get the best answers to those “three true job interview questions.”

Used by some businesses already, the Appliject is a prolonged, on-the-job experience for a high potential candidate, applied prior to a hiring decision. That decision to hire is not made until the team and the manager has had prior experience with the job candidate as a freelancer, or now as a temporary worker hired for the purpose of screening them prior to any formal job offer.

For example, Schrage sites a software company that won’t hire a candidate until h/she has participated in at least two “code reviews.”  They do this to get a feel for the candidate’s critical thinking and collaboration skills. The point here isn’t about free or cheap labor, though that’s part of the reality.  The below-market rates paid to candidates can be a benefit for BOTH sides in the interview process, for two reasons:

  1. If chosen, the high-potential candidate’s experience now becomes part of the on-boarding process.
  2. It’s a value-add for the candidate because h/she actually gets to experience the company, the team and the boss – BEFORE they sign up, and regret a decision. Let’s not forget that any interview should be a two-way street.

The Appliject looks like a viable way to reduce the often misleading effects that result from iterative interviews that could be experienced as a form of Kabuki theatre, no matter how well structured.

According to Schrage, the Appliject will likely gain popularity in the design of business projects.  Incorporating job candidates into a project’s process will be a useful and interesting, if not challenging dynamic – especially when there is more than one job seeker on the team.