Are You a Know It All or a Do It All?

As a new manager, you struggle with how to act.  You want to show competence and confidence, but at the same time, many of the things you are exposed to are different, more complex and confusing.  You typically choose one of the above ways to handle this new uncertainty- and both are dangerous to your career, reputation and team’s performance.

The Know It All wants everyone to know they are in control.  If you have a question, I have the answer.  That may be great if you are a world renowned expert in your field, but for the rest of us, that approach does not work.  Your team will find you standoffish, unapproachable, arrogant, and as a Me First leader.  They will find ways to avoid asking you questions, feeling the manner you deliver your advice is belittling to them.  You will miss important opportunities to learn from your team, your colleagues and your managers because you will give off the impression that you already know the best way.  Your fast track may stall due to your aurora of perceived greatness.

The Do It All has not learned the power of delegation.  You were promoted because of your professional proficiency, you know your job and your former co-workers’ jobs inside and out.  It is much faster to just do it yourself.  However, the dangers here are just as great as the Know It All.  Your team will begin do two things:  believe that you do not trust them and give you all of their work.   Your colleagues and managers will look at you as a typical burnout candidate- trying to do the job of your team and your job which cannot possibly be done well.  Without understanding that a team can achieve more than an individual, you are destined to post mediocre results and having your career stalled.

But you do not need to only have these two extreme positions as a new manager.  You can take a more balanced approach to managing.  You can offer a fresh take on things, while also learning the nuances of being a “boss”, the business, and the company.  You can teach your team how to do specific tasks without being an enabler.

How?  That part is easy, be yourself.  You received a merit based promotion.  You did not walk into your previous position as an expert.  You worked hard, asked questions, sought out advice, and eventually mastered your position.  Being a good leader takes those traits to the next level.  Becoming a great leader takes time, experience, and patience, all things your company will have with you if you start out just being yourself.

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When Passion Becomes Fanatical

As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I take great exception that our passionate fan base was voted most hated. A couple of isolated incidents by a few knuckleheads have stained our city for years. However, it did get me thinking about the difference between being passionate versus being fanatical- and how knowing the difference is key in navigating your career.

Without passion or an intense desire or enthusiasm for something, your work life would be boring. You need to stand for something- company pride, a special project, your co-workers- anything that will stir your emotions to motivate you to work hard every day. Passion helps you “love your job”, put in the extra hours to meet a deadline, work weekends for a trade show- all which are good for you, your company, and ultimately, your career.

However, when your enthusiasm starts to cloud your judgement, you are beginning to go down the fanaticism path. Using terms like “Falling on the Sword”, “Going Down with the Ship”, or quoting any Roman Empire era movie puts you squarely in the danger zone. You are moving from love to obsession. Before you get to Fatal Attraction or Single White Female crazy, you need to take a step back and look at the big picture.

You cannot lose your objectivity during that situation. Your fanaticism may cause the company and your career harm. No matter how hard you worked on a project, after you have said your piece and the company decides to move in a different direction, you need to decide if you want to this project to be your last. This is especially hard in personnel decisions. You can love your team, but…

As someone who made this mistake more than once, I know it puts you in an uncomfortable position. It is never easy when someone calls your baby ugly, but if your company cannot wait for the baby to bloom into a beautiful adult, then you may need to agree- or be ready to walk away.

Have More Effective Meetings

We have all been in one of these meetings, a marathon session with no clear end in sight. The topic is muddled, the players are guarded, and the dance lasts longer than a wedding reception. The organizer is just trying to push her agenda and there is no resolution coming.

This type of meeting happens countless times every day. Resources are wasted and nothing gets done. Today pledge not be one of those offenders. Today, you will be the leader of effective meetings. You are going to focus on clarity and transparency in every meeting.

When we talk about clarity, we mean the ability to be clear in your thoughts, ideas and direction. If you are running the meeting, make sure the topics and goals are stated at the start of the meeting. This enables the participants to stay focused and understand the meeting outcome. If you are participating in the meeting, make sure you are direct and constructive. Don’t stumble through and have to explain every point because no one can understand you. You are not being high level, just disorganized.

Transparency is also a key skill. Let’s face it, every person who attends a meeting wants to be seen in a good light. But by being guarded and overly measuring your words, you lose the ability for people to understand your end goal. Instead of listening to your comments, people are worried about your agenda. In some situations, this may be a good path. But in my experience, being open and honest in the meeting- even if you disagree- is the best path. There are ways to express your opinions and still be respectful. Letting people in on your vision is a powerful leadership tool.

Meetings are necessary to accomplish goals, achieve sales, and solve problems. They are not going away. However, if you focus on being clear and open, your meetings will be more productive. And leading more productive meetings will yield more impressive results for your projects and your career.

5 Ways to Avoid the Summer Brain Drain

School is out and suddenly your kids look and sound like Spongebob and Patrick. Gone are the sharp students that were bringing home A’s. Welcome to Summer Brain Drain! Studies show that kids fail to retain up to 1/3 of the material that they learned during the school year over the summer.

We don’t measure the adult brain drain loss during the summer, but we should. With the hot weather, you notice low workforce energy, a slower work pace, and a general decreased interest in working. Many companies blame this lackadaisical attitude on vacations, but you can take a proactive approach to combat Brain Drain.

You need to make sure you stay focused and continue to be a high producer. Some random tips to achieve this are:

  1. Stay hydrated. Lack of proper hydration during the hot weather months lead to brain fog, fatigue, and decreased motivation.
  2. Dress appropriately. Even in the summer, your office may be cool.  Make sure you dress for the right internal temperature- and for your company’s culture.  You may have really cute sandals, but if your company forbids open toed shoes, you need to follow their rules.
  3. Focus on your backlog. The slower pace should be a great time to clean out your backlog of emails, mail, projects, etc.  You want to be up to date when September rolls around.
  4. Get ahead. If you have been in your position for a while, you know what lies ahead in Q4.  Start getting prepared.  Contact internal and external customers, make your to do lists- anything that will give you the jump.
  5. Take your vacation. As I mentioned, paid time off is both for you and your employer. Recharge your batteries to be ready for the sprint to the holidays.

By following these tips, you will be able to keep up your pace, stay motivated, and focus on your end of the year goals. This should help your annual review, bonuses, and overall performance all grow. Please contact me to discuss.

Is Your Career Stuck in Gridlock Traffic?

There are two universal truths about commuting to work. One is that there will always be gridlock traffic on the main arteries and the other is that secondary roads will be jammed with people looking for better ways around the traffic.

Are you stuck in “career” gridlock traffic? You have been in the fast lane throughout your career, zooming past slower moving colleagues and competitors. Lately, though business is harder, leads, call backs, and closes take a lot more effort. The path that you had taken to success is now blocked with new people, technologies, companies, etc.

Ultimately, you needed to find a new route to success. Examine what made you successful then trail blaze a path using this skill set. Look at gaps in your skills and work to make these gaps alternate routes to success. Work to become a resident expert that both internal and external customers look to for answers.

How do you become an expert? Social media is an obvious answer for external customers. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others give most business people the opportunity to start becoming influential outside of their typical realms. Get more involved with trade associations, conventions, and other venues that needed presentations on industry issues. These techniques will help with external customers.

For internal customers, invest in your success partners- people or departments that determined your company and personal success. Visit each department every day you are in the office. Schedule monthly status meetings with each of those departments to learn how to work better together. Make it a point to eat lunch with the key people that you need to succeed. In a phrase- relationship build.

These techniques will enable you to become a better driver of your career. Use these side streets of business to avoid gridlock traffic and create your own open space to get your back in the fast lane.

Take a Vacation

As corporate Americans, we believe that we are invincible. We work from sun up to sunset everyday then constantly check email, etc. until we go to bed. In between, we go to the gym, balance family responsibilities and keep up friendships.

However, we are not machines. We need to listen to our bodies and take vacation time. Even if you cannot afford a 5 star vacation, getting away for the office is a necessary part of keeping up your job performance. From the earliest time, paid vacation was given not because the employers wanted to be generous, but rather they realized that by giving employees time off, they came back more productive.

This theory still rings true today. By taking your time off, you get a mental break that should:

  • Refresh: being away from work allows your body and brain time to recover from the stresses of daily life.  You get time to decompress and recharge your internal battery.  It also gives you time to look at projects in a different light when you return.
  • Refocus: when you start to weaken at work, your ability to concentrate on projects, issues, and tasks lessens.  It takes longer to accomplish things and your To Do list grows.  The time off allows your brain to resort and allows you to come back with renewed focus.
  • Reenergize: as you begin to suffer from work fatigue, you lose your zeal for your career.  Instead of being a beacon, you become an energy sapper.  Typically when you return to a position that you genuinely like, you come back and see things with new eyes.  Your appetite to perform comes back and you attack issues instead of dreading them.

It is frustrating knowing that for the next three months work stops because of vacations. But come September, you need to be ready to sprint until the end of the year. Don’t be running on fumes because you banked all of your vacation until you could afford to go away. A day here or there may be the difference in how well your body performs.

Your Voice: Your Most Important Business Tool

We communicate in a very impersonal way with each other; we text, email, tweet, share documents, etc. We answer with emoticons and shorthand lingo. You may wonder if interpersonal skills are even needed anymore.

How you verbalize your ideas is still the most important skill you can have as a businessperson. The way you verbally communicate with your boss, your subordinates, your customers, your peers, basically every person you meet is the key to your success.

Work hard to make sure you are providing face to face or phone communication:

  1. More Regularly. Look at your text to minute ratio.  If it is higher than 5 to 1, you need to call more frequently.  People want to know that you value them.  Talking to them is still the best way to do this.  It reduces misunderstandings and it shows you care.
  2. More Efficiently. Make a five minute conversation with you more impactful.  Be clear, concise, and cordial.  Ask pertinent questions that elicit the answers and responses that you need without “dragging it out”.
  3. More Casually. Especially with subordinates, every point of contact cannot be a directive starting with “I need…”  People want to feel like they are valued and cared about.  Call just to check in or give positive feedback.
  4. More Productively. Be aware when you call or pop in.  No one wants you to see you Friday at 4:30 pm.  Call when the call will be well received to maximize its impact.
  5. More Digestible. Try the sandwich approach for conversations.  Start with a simple question about a topic you know that person is into.  Sprinkle in your business point- be it a project, task, or request.  Finish with an input question like “How can I help you?”

The only way you will become a better communicator is with practice. Remember to be direct, but fair and to handle all situations with grace. What say and how you say it will ultimately lead to your success. Contact me to discuss further at 856-520-8655.

Have More Effective Meetings!

We have all been in one of these meetings, a marathon session with no clear end in sight. The topic is muddled, the players are guarded, and the dance lasts longer than a wedding reception. The organizer is just trying to push her agenda and there is no resolution coming.

This type of meeting happens countless times every day. Resources are wasted and nothing gets done. Today pledge not be one of those offenders. Today, you will be the leader of effective meetings. You are going to focus on clarity and transparency in every meeting.

When we talk about clarity, we mean the ability to be clear in your thoughts, ideas and direction. If you are running the meeting, make sure the topics and goals are stated at the start of the meeting. This enables the participants to stay focused and understand the meeting outcome. If you are participating in the meeting, make sure you are direct and constructive. Don’t stumble through and have to explain every point because no one can understand you. You are not being high level, just disorganized.

Transparency is also a key skill. Let’s face it, every person who attends a meeting wants to be seen in a good light. But by being guarded and overly measuring your words, you lose the ability for people to understand your end goal. Instead of listening to your comments, people are worried about your agenda. In some situations, this may be a good path. But in my experience, being open and honest in the meeting- even if you disagree- is the best path. There are ways to express your opinions and still be respectful. Letting people in on your vision is a powerful leadership tool.

Meetings are necessary to accomplish goals, achieve sales, and solve problems. They are not going away. However, if you focus on being clear and open, your meetings will be more productive. And leading more productive meetings will yield more impressive results for your projects and your career.

Five Ways to Cut Through Your Information Clutter

We are bombarded with consumable media, constantly getting texts, tweets, and emails, reading reports, posts, blogs, and websites, streaming movies, shows, and videos, and reading books, magazines and newspapers. It is understandable when we miss something important. It is impossible to properly filter the right information every time we receive it.

However if you are making poor filtering decisions at work, you are detrimentally affecting your career, your reputation, and your company.   Following these strategies may make filtering pertinent information easier.

  1. Limit the number of information sources that you are consuming at one time. If you are surfing the internet, listening to music, reading a report, and texting friends all at the same time, you are not able to perform all of those tasks well.  Focus on one or two tasks that are complementary that actually help you perform the work task better.  For instance, listening to familiar music has been shown to help your concentration levels when reading.
  2. Answer two questions when receiving the information. How does this help me at my job?” and “How does this help my company?” By asking yourself those questions while you are consuming information at work, you will be more likely to find the key points and less likely to let a group chat interrupt your day.
  3. Use the non-work activities as a reward for concentrating on key tasks. After you have made a dent in your To Do list, and if your work allows it, take a couple of minutes to refresh your brain by catching up on texts, posts, and videos.  By allowing yourself the time to recharge, you will actually be more productive throughout your day.
  4. Take Notes. Yes with old school pen and paper.  The best way to make sure you are comprehending the information you are receiving is if you can summarize it.  But instead of the old longhand style of noting taking, think in PowerPoint.  Short bursts and key words.
  5. Stay alert and active. Hydrate, stretch, stand at your desk, take short walks while reading, do whatever makes you alert and active during your information consumption.  I am a water drinking pacer when reading or on the phone.

It is important that you realize that you need to filter information accurately and efficiently. It helps with time management, preparedness for meetings, and your professional expertise. These simple steps help you cut through the information clutter and hopefully make you more productive.