Posted on: July 27th, 2016 by
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How do you answer the question, “Do you work best as an individual or as a team player?” As you may have guessed, this is a trick question forcing you to choose between the two. The best answer is: “I’m a high contributing individual who works effectively within a team setting”. Nevertheless, you need to understand the characteristics of a true team player. Why do some teams succeed and others fail? How is a high performance team different? Some insights:


To be considered a team, you must have:

  • Clear performance expectations
  • Small numbers – from 6 to 10
  • Committed to a common approach
  • Team-developed strategies (not given to them by someone else)
  • Team-assigned tasks and time lines
  • Complementary skills between members – technical and functional
  • Problem solving and decision making ability
  • Highly developed interpersonal skills

All members need to be committed to a common purpose and performance goals. Team members must see the goals as achievable, with the freedom to perform and have control over their results. No one else should be accountable for your team results.


Some teams succeed while others fail. What’s the difference between the two? Failed teams:

  • Lack enthusiasm, purpose or identity
  • Don’t share information or fail to shift leadership depending upon the tasks
  • Have ineffective meetings and/or progress
  • Mistrust between members, bosses or support
  • Finger-point when they have short-falls


Many times there are forces that work against a successful team effort. It could be ingrained individualism that works against team success. At times the organization itself is hostile toward teams: Past history, practices, management comfort and style, leadership incongruity. There may be a lack of conviction, personal discomfort or risk aversion (on team members, senior management or the organization) or weak expectations for team performance.


How are high performance teams different? High performance teams are rare.

  • Each individual has a personal commitment to make it work
  • Success comes early and continuous
  • High performance teams emerge on their own – it can’t be forced or dictated
  • The “we” is more important than the “I”


Excellent examples are in the military: Special Forces, Delta, Navy Seals, Marine MARSOC. Each member is interdependent upon the other. Each life depends upon the other. They don’t leave a team member behind.


So how do you rate yourself as a team player? Management is always on the lookout for individuals who can’t work effectively as a team member. Their careers usually stall early.


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Posted on: July 19th, 2016 by
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It’s guaranteed that during the job interview, you’ll be asked these two questions:

  • “What is your current compensation?”
  • “What are your salary expectations for this position?”

How should you answer each question? What should you ask about compensation?

To best answer these questions you need to understand that compensation is based on three factors: The value of what you offer the hiring organization, the function and level you are to fill, and what your peers are paid. On the other hand, the hiring manager must answer the question, “What and how is this candidate going to contribute to my success short term and provide leadership longer term?” So you need to first understand what is expected of you in this job and secondly, how much value you contribute to the overall success of the department or business.


The hiring organization is asking, “What’s the result we must have from this function and how much do I have to pay to get it”. So if your skills meet or exceed what they’re looking for, and their need is great, your negotiating position is strong. If, on the other hand, these skills can be found with most other candidates and you’re not the main contributor, your negotiating position is weaker.


You might want to answer the second question about salary expectations, by saying, “The answer is predicated on what your expectations are for results in the first year.” This leads us to the questions of what you need to know from the hiring manager.


Questions you need to ask first – Every manager has a vision of what results he or she would like to achieve. By tapping into that vision, you’ll better understand the value of the position for which you are interviewing. Questions like:

  • “What are the objectives that I must achieve over the first 6 to 12 months?”
  • “What do you want for this function to achieve over the following 2 to 5 years?
  • How is compensation linked to performance?”

Few candidates ever ask these kinds of questions. These questions fix in the mind of the hiring manager your interest in helping to achieve the results he or she wants. You become the manager’s best friend. You’ll position yourself as dedicated to the organization’s goals.


Here’s why this strategy works: You’re establishing your value before proposing your pay. Once you discuss compensation you can ask clarifying questions, like:

  • ‘What’s the salary range for this position, the mid-point and where do you see my value?”
  • “How often are performance reviews? Can it be accelerated with outstanding performance?”
  • “How does the incentive compensation system work? Who is eligible for incentives? How are incentives formulated?”

Final note: Convince the hiring manager that you’re committed to the results he’s after. If you’re only seen as interested in the money, your toast!


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Posted on: July 12th, 2016 by
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No one has exactly the same career objective nor the same skill sets. So how do you accelerate your career? You’ll need to understand the major steps, design a personalized road map, and then apply an implementation strategy. Of course, the variables are extensive.


So, what’s the perfect model? Your model is to be the right person, with the right skills, in the right situation, at the right time. It’s like the story of an upper class family that is shipwrecked on a remote island along with their butler. It’s the butler who helps the family survive until they’re saved. He’s the right person, with the right skills, in the right situation, at the right time. Of course, when the family goes back to their home, the butler becomes the servant again. Different situations and environments determine different needs.

What are the steps to accelerate your career? Take these generalized steps, design and apply them to you, then develop an action strategy.


GOALS – I like the quote, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there!” You wouldn’t have much confidence in a leader who doesn’t know where they’re going.   What are your goals in 5 years? What do you have to do to prepare yourself to reach those goals? What skills do you need but don’t have yet? Who can help you get to your goals?


SPECIAL SKILLS – You not only need required skills, but you also need special skills: Those are the skills that few others have. They set you apart from all others and are in demand within the organization.   Special skills can be had with higher-level degrees, or learning from a master performer. Whatever those special skills are, you need them to set you apart from the crowd.


MENTORING – Individuals who have a mentor to show them the way have a tremendous advantage over those who don’t. Mentors will help pull you up the career ladder. Just as important is for you to be a mentor to those below you. They will help push you up the career ladder. This pull-push process of mentoring is critical to advance your career more quickly.

INFLUENCE – You need to be both a good leader and a good follower. Each is important. How do you shift from follower to leader? Get visibility, then credibility, and finally you get influence. If you don’t have the trust of the people around you, none of the other factors of leadership will work. It’s impossible to influence people who don’t trust you.


DETERMINATION – If you don’t want it bad enough, it’s not going to happen. Call it willpower, resolve, drive, perseverance, or grit. If you don’t have determination you’ll always come in second, or worse.


Those who know what they want build successful careers. They also have a plan to get there, with the willpower to make it happen. You can make it happen by following these 5 steps.


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Posted on: July 5th, 2016 by
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My grandfather had a very large glass jar filled with pennies and nickels. At age 7, he said I could keep all the pennies and nickels taken out of the jar in one grasp. I dipped my hand deeply into the jar to load up as many as possible… a treasure-trove. However, I found the neck of the jar was smaller than my full hand. In order to extract my hand, I had to lose most of the coins. My grandfather thought that was remarkably humorous. I, on the other hand, thought it wasn’t funny at all. That’s the memory I have of my grandfather, with a prank that defined him in my mind.


So it is with a favorite manager or a least favorite manager. You tend to remember with fondness those who helped you versus those who didn’t. I remember a small number of teachers, managers, and mentors who helped me grow and dramatically expand my world.

On the other hand, I remember some managers who gave me very little support or were an impediment. All the rest in the middle are a blur.


These are the things I remember most about my most outstanding supervisors. They:

  • Helped me believe in the mission, objectives and our ability to succeed
  • Encouraged me to perform at a higher level than I thought possible
  • Created an atmosphere of team effort, while expecting individual contributions
  • Kept things light but purposeful when the pressure built. No one was called out.
  • Shared success and celebrated our achievements together
  • Communicated effectively by working collaboratively for the good of the project
  • Shared the credit with all of us and took responsibility for missteps


These are the things I remember about my worst supervisors: They:

  • Always looked for someone to blame when things didn’t turn out well
  • Kept a wall between them and us, while seeking credit with upper management
  • Created a fear between and among the working group through criticism
  • Tried to lead through their title rather than through their contribution or value
  • Tended to manage through fiat rather than example or encouragement
  • Communicated in a “telling” way rather than an engaging or involving way
  • Played politics within the group or with higher ups to gain advantage


Throughout your career you leave a trail of memories and perceptions of how others remember you. What one word would co-workers or bosses use to describe you? Is it the word you want them to use?


The words you use on your resume and in your interview have the same effect. You can be seen as a goal directed, team oriented, resulted driven candidate or just the opposite depending upon how you position yourself in your job search strategy. It’s important to form a picture that you want in the mind of a hiring manager. Make sure you know how to do that.


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Posted on: June 28th, 2016 by
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Ever wonder if your skills and experience are in demand or in decline? There are no set rules, but there are some trends that come and go with the economy and other trends that are influenced by a function or technology that changes the marketplace dynamics. Here are some examples:


When the economy or a company is on the downslide or business is just bouncing along the bottom with revenue, then the cost cutters are in demand within the marketplace. This can take the form of cost accountants, performance improvement expertise, system analysts, controllers, project managers, waste reduction, process improvement, reengineering, value analysis and more. The focus is on the reduction of expenses, operating optimization and cost efficiencies.


When the economy or a company is on the upswing and business is beginning to show life after the cost cutting has been completed, then marketing and sales take the lead to generate revenue. Revenue can be accelerated by a new marketing approach, developing new products or services, upselling current customers, generating new customers, sales campaign or a whole host of other sales and marketing activities. In this way, new revenue will increase with a lower cost base, thereby expanding profit. Eventually the cost base must raise, but the spread between cost and revenue will advance and a healthy profit margin will fund future growth.


When the marketplace sees a new technology or a way to use a function in a different way, the same market dynamic makes that new application “hot”. Such is the case with “Big Data”. Organizations with access to mountains of information, either their own or purchased from others, there’s a need to sift through the data to find usable information from which to drive new business.


Big Data goes by different names and uses. Here are a few words to look for:


Data mining: Research large amounts of data for usable information

Forecasting: Estimate a future outcome, event or trend based on available information

Simulation: The imitation of an operation of a real-world process or system over time

Modeling: Creating new prototypes of a product or service based on new knowledge

Algorithm development: Specific method to create a mathematical process in solving problems

Deep machine learning: Algorithms to model high-level abstractions in data with complex layers

Data or Cloud Analysis: Integrating data sources that exist outside of the organization

Predictive or Advanced Analytics: The prediction of future probabilities and trends

Information Retrieval: Obtaining information resources relevant to an information need from a collection of information resources

Mapping: An association of a given set of information with one or more elements of a second set


If you have any experience, knowledge, certifications or even just courses in any of these areas, you’re a “hot” prospect. Hiring organizations are looking for various levels of experience in each of these areas. Make sure your resume focuses on these niche functions.


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