Posted on: June 19th, 2018 by
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Few if any professionals work their way up an organization alone, with no help from others.  Even if your family owns the company, you are still dependent upon them to guide you up to greater responsibilities.  Who are the supporters and allies you need?  Mentors, peers and subordinates.


Mentors are critically important.  If you find one or two really good mentors along your career, consider yourself lucky.  Most mentors are organizationally above you, but they can be family members, friends or advisors of some kind. The best mentors are those with whom you work, because they can help you understand the work to be done, develop a strategy to achieve results, and guide you to the outcomes that will win you praise from the organization.  Your supervisor should be your best mentor, but don’t count on it.  Find those who are interested in you, your progress and can accelerate your learning curve.


Find out who your supporters and allies are among your peers and subordinates.  These are the people who believe in you, your competence and want to be part of your circle of influence.  When things are terrific, everyone is your friend, supporter and ally.  On the other hand, experience has shown that supporters are hard to find when events turn sour.  It’s only when things turn ugly that you’ll know who are your true supporters.


Developing subordinates is also critically important, both from a performance perspective and also as a long-term strategy.  Over time, subordinates move to other organizations and can refer you to senior jobs when made available.  It’s nice to have an internal champion singing your praises to the hiring organization.


There are other reasons why you need to continually develop your relationships and skills of subordinates. When the economy bends downward, training is usually the first to be cut.  However, when the economy moves upward, organizations have to play catch-up to the training and development that should have taken place beforehand.  If the competition is more prepared than you, it will overtake your efforts.  So keep your subordinates trained.


Why then, should you create and develop a following?


  1. You want those above you to help pull you up the ladder of success
  2. You want those below you to push you up the same ladder
  3. Relationships you build can potentially provide a return-on-investment over your career
  4. Those that leave may see you as a top prospect in another organization at a higher level
  5. Those that stay will want to see you succeed. As you succeed they will succeed.
  6. If others see you as a mentor, they will want to become part of your circle of influence


An organization that is full of mentors tends to have high achieving workers, where relationships and results are primary. Organizations that lack mentors, that are highly political and competitive, tend to be places from which to stay away.


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Posted on: June 12th, 2018 by
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A famous line from a classic Clint Eastwood movie, “Ya gotta know your limitations”.  Over time we think we know what our limitations are, but that could be the problem.  Thinking you know your limitations could be the reason why you’re limited.  If you perceive you can’t reach a goal or achieve a result, the chances are you won’t.  It’s self-defeating.


As youngsters we mostly learn self-limitations through parental expectations and rules, laws, proper behavior, and policies/procedures to name a few.  Some of you remember strict guidelines at school or the constraints of authoritarian teachers/bosses.  Behavioral modification is all about rewarding the positive and punishing the negative.  Over time it works too well: “Because I believe it can’t be done, I can’t do it”. Has that been your mantra?


Ever hear the comment, “that’s the way we’ve always done it”, or “we tried it once and it didn’t work”, or “you’ll get in trouble if you do it differently”?  On the other hand, we keep hearing about “thinking outside the box”, or “in order to be competitive we need to find a better way”?  Talk about conflicting directions!  Each of us has to decide which philosophy we follow in life and our careers.  Which one will it be?  Is it the self-defeating, can’t-do-it, limited philosophy or the ability to stretch your self-imposed limits to seek the next level of achievement?  Some companies encourage experimentation, while others build in a fear of being wrong and discourage trying an innovation. Which company do you work for and is it compatible with your own self-worth value to contribute more?


One of the telltale signs of your company’s behavior is to look at those who are promoted.  Are the promotions given to those who are limited in their vision, that “tow the line” and seldom if ever test the limits of what’s possible?  Or are promotions given to those who successfully take a reasonable risk to improve their results and the organization?


Organizations begin to fall behind when they continue to replicate what has been successful in the past, repeat how things have always been done and prevent seeing how they could be done better.  When the external environment changes and new ways of managing are the answer, do we set up impediments where there are none, or do we create a new level of excellence?


If you see yourself as an agent of change wanting to improve performance, you’ll find some people agreeing with your direction, wanting to make the change years ago.  Others will be neutral to your thinking until they see which way the wind in shifting.  And still others will point out the reasons why it won’t work.  Only your own view of the possibilities or limitations will be your guide.


You’re only constrained by the sense of what’s possible and your ability to manage the steps toward your next level of accomplishment.


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Posted on: June 5th, 2018 by
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Becoming one of the finalists while interviewing for a desired position is exhilarating. Falling short is disappointing. Continually being the runner-up is very discouraging.  So what can you do about it?


You’re the best – You may be one of the best candidates but not get the job because of internal politics, favoritism, a change of mind or a number of other factors you can’t control.  When it happens, don’t get discouraged.  If it happens too frequently, read on.


There are some common mistakes that put you in second place that can be corrected.  These are the items that you can control.   Some of them are:


PREPARATION – I’m amazed with candidates who go into an interview cold or with minimal groundwork.  You want to know as much about them as they know about you. Research the company, products/services, history, and culture through reports, articles and periodicals. Research the names of your potential boss, plus past employee comments.


ATTITUDE – If you’re unsure, it will show up in your interview. Play the role as if you really want the job and are fully qualified, even if you have qualms. The more you interview the better and smoother you become.  If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.


TOO ANXIOUS AND TENSE– Try not to have your first interview for a job that you really want, as you’ll be less skilled and more apprehensive. Confidence comes with preparation, practice and attitude.  The more prepared and confident in your abilities, your nervousness with diminish. Practice with a mentor or friend who is at the same level as the hiring manager.  If you’re the right person for the job, the interviewer will also want you to be successful.


DISCONCERTING QUESTIONS –  Some interviewers purposely ask stressful questions.  Don’t be alarmed, but be prepared.  Try not to say, “I don’t know” but rather a neutral response like, “I’m not sure, but I’d check out assumptions and dig into alternative solutions”.  When asked if you’re a team player or an individual contributor, say “ I’m a team player that likes to contribute my unique skills as an individual to the group result”.


THE HIRING MANAGERS PERSPECTIVE – If you’re the interviewer, you’re looking for two opposite conclusions:  1- Are there any knockout factors that will diminish the candidate’s performance?  2- Can this candidate perform at a high enough level to solve my immediate problems, plus grow into more responsibilities?  The hiring manager will bring on board the candidate that will fit the group in place, can do the immediate job well, and can assume more responsibility as time goes on.


The hiringmanager does NOT want to hire a disruptive employee, who needs an unusual amount of training to do the current job, and is questionable to take on more tasks.


If it’s not a comfortable fit for you, move on. You don’t want to be on the market again.


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Posted on: May 29th, 2018 by
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You can’t control everything in your career (or life).  But you can find those areas where you have a degree of influence over situations or people that you can manage.  Part of the answer is to subdivide those things you can influence and those you can’t.  Figure out which issues are worth worrying about, those that you can directly or indirectly influence and the important things you have the most control over. No matter what the situation or environment, you always have a choice as to what you do and how you handle it.


For each and every decision point of your career (or life) there are three possibilities:  Those things that you can control; those things that you can influence; and those things that you have absolutely no control or influence over.  If you can learn to separate each from the other, and then develop a strategy for every item, your life will become a lot easier.


Here are a few questions to answer in helping you sort out alternatives:


Of those things that I can control:

  • To what degree can you control the outcome? Some?  Quite a bit?  Most?
  • Who are other potential control agents that you need to engage?
  • What’s the goal that I want to achieve?
  • What strategy is best employed to optimize my situation?
  • What’s my time frame?
  • What support will I need?
  • Who is the greatest ally for me to engage?


Of those things that I can influence:

  • What or who is the controlling factor that I need to influence?
  • What‘s the degree of my influence?
  • What’s the best approach?
  • What facts, ideas, alternatives or strategy have the most chance of success?
  • Who are my allies that can support my efforts?
  • What’s the most effective leverage for my position?


Of those things that I have no control or influence over:

  • Is there a way to convert the “no control” to at least some minor degree of influence?
  • How much impact does this control have over me?
  • What’s the best and worst-case scenario?
  • How do I prepare for each?
  • Is there a “silver lining”? If so, how do I optimize it?


Once you determine which category applies (control, influence, or neither), how you manage each of them may determine where and how your career moves.  There are three types of people:  Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and the vast majority of people who have no idea what’s happening.  Which one describes you?


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Posted on: May 22nd, 2018 by
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What’s your definition of success?  How do you achieve it?  Your answer becomes the pathway to your future.  Random plans will get you somewhere, but not necessarily where you want to go.


Some may define success as holding on to their current job; many see success only with a promotion, a higher title and a 30% salary increase; others may define success as a continuum of steps toward their long term goal.  No answer is the universal “right one”, but make sure it’s the right one for you.  I have known executives who were a huge success in their business career, while having three failed marriages, children who have problems with the law, and then retiring leaving behind an organization in disarray.


Success should be viewed in terms of time and context:  Time is your friend if you have the education and qualifications with 20 years ahead of you.  Time is not your friend if you are the junior assistant to the department head and have 10 years to retirement.


The context is wrong if you’re an accountant and want to be the President of a sales-driven company.  The same is true if you’re an intern in the mining industry in Utah and define success as a fashion designer in New York.  The context is illusive if you have no continuum of successful steps to reach your goal.


As a consultant I once met with a corporate president who had a number of major problems he wanted to solve.  When asked how he would define success, he said, “I want to be number one!” Number one in what? Return-on-investment?  Market share?  Revenue?  Profit? You can’t be number one in everything. The more definitive your success criteria the better able you are to develop the strategy, time line and benchmarks to move toward your ultimate goal.


Here is a simple set of questions to begin your quest for defining success:

  • If everything were perfect, what would success look like?
  • What do you see as the impediments to reaching success?
  • Are these impediments solvable? If the answer is yes, what’s the alternative solutions? If no, what’s your contingency plan?
  • Who do you learn from along the way? Who and where are your mentors?
  • What kind of support will you need along the way? How do you get that support?
  • Do you have enough time to reach your goal? How many steps are needed?
  • Do you have the education, certification, training, or experience to make the next move?
  • What do you see as your probability of success? If less than 50%, what your alternative?
  • What are your benchmark steps and timeline to know if you’re on the right path?


The great thing about defining your own success is you have the freedom to set it yourself.  It’s yours to achieve.  But you must have the plan and determination to see it through.  No one else can define or manage it for you.


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