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Archive for the ‘careers’ Category

In an article written by Tony Schwartz and published by Harvard Business Review, Schwartz addressed six “secrets” leaders need to know in order to create a culture of innovation. Schwartz points out that no company follows all six innovation secrets – and most aren’t able to even manage three of the six.

Wow!

You can read the article by clicking here.

The United States has been losing its innovation advantage for a couple of decades. Just look at the industries the U.S. once created and turned into multi-billion dollar businesses: automobiles, steel, medical devices, plastics…the list is long – but the staying power and leadership position the United States once held in these industries is gone. Why?

I believe much of the answer lies in Schwartz’s third and fourth secrets: Nurture Passion and Make the Work Matter.

In these two components to create a culture of innovation lies the secret sauce to most any successful organization: its people. But more than that, in nurturing passion and making the work matter, we see how critically important it is to not just employ bright, intelligent, hungry-for-success men and women, but to engage with them on a daily basis. When companies stop engaging with its people, de-valuing work, demanding more and more without adequate appreciation, recognition and, yes, compensation – its best and brightest people will exit the organization and find something better to do.

People want to feel engagement with the organization they work for and with sound engagement, your best people will do nearly anything to “get the job done” and exceed expectations at every turn.

So Mr. and Ms. Leader, it’s not enough to be engaged yourself. You must identify and prioritize how to engage with employees and create and maintain that passion for the work at hand. You must serve as the voice that explains to your people why the work matters — beyond the creation of shareholder value. Nurture passion. Create a connection to how and why the work matters. Every day.

If you manage to accomplish just two of the six secrets to creating a culture of innovation you’ll be a third of the way there. And, I predict, your team will help get the organization the rest of the way.

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Value proposition. I steer clear of words like this. Buzz words and phrases don’t excite me. But if you’re in front of leaders at an organization and want to make your mark — be noticed and memorable, or have an impact on the meeting itself — you have to think about the value you can lend to the conversation.

Being “on” in every meeting or hallway conversation seems daunting. Minds play tricks on us all the time. Distractions of work, mental to-do lists and issues at home all come in to play. So think of these four strategies to, at the very least, prepare yourself to contribute at work meetings — so you shine (even if for a moment) — and so your leaders remember just why they hired you.

  1. Thirty Second Reboot. I love my Mac because on those rare occasions that it needs to reboot, it takes all of 30 seconds. Humans can reboot their minds and moods in about the same amount of time. Try it before your next meeting starts. Before you step into the conference room or dial in to a conference call, clear your head. A few deep breaths, some positive self talk or even a quick walk will help you center yourself. I’ll frequently walk two or three flights of stairs to both clear my head and spark some adrenaline prior to the meeting.
  2. Identify The Meeting Objective. Every meeting has an objective. As the meeting begins, write down what you believe the objective of the meeting is all about. “To plan the annual employee summer picnic” or “Create activation strategies to engage with clients,” are two examples. With an objective staring back at you, you’ll stay focused on the intent of the meeting.
  3. Stay Engaged (No Matter How Boring The Subject). Posture at a meeting is one way to, through body language, tell everyone at the conference table that you’re a relevant part of the conversation. Sit up. Cross your arms in front of you on the table. Make eye contact with others when you speak. These tactics work on conference calls, too. (Instead of making eye contact, visualize each person when he or she speak and pencil out your thoughts before talking.)
  4. Say Thanks. When the meeting wraps up, thank the team for convening. Saying “Great to see you,” or telling the meeting host, “Thanks for including me,” serves as a reminder that you’re part of the group.

These basic strategies will help you stay focused and become known as a productive contributor. It’s part of your personal value proposition as a professional.

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In his book, “Good to Great,” Jim Collins writes:

…leaders channel their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company. It’s not that leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious – but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution, not themselves.

In short, put your organization ahead of your personal career ambitions if you want to contribute to the organization and become a success. This is especially true at organizations experiencing high growth. Furiously fast growth often keeps companies from making that good to great transition. Why?

Because leaders fail to recognize the importance of bringing the rest of the team along. They focus instead on their next high-priority project or – God forbid – their next career move, or ensuring they don’t blow their budget in the quarter, or making a revenue quota. Together, these might be important things that require attention from a leader. But the best leaders find ways to balance their to-do lists and remember what (rather who) is making that flywheel gain momentum.

Who is the growth engine behind any company? The rest of the team – the employees who the company invested in, trained, on-boarded, assimilated and who now drink the Kool-aid and make things happen in the trenches to become…great.

If leaders don’t bring employees with them on the journey, the best and brightest people will find a different place where they can both contribute and feel connected as a team.

Collins adds:

Those who build great companies [leaders] understand that the ultimate throttle on growth for any great company is not markets, or technology, or competition, or products. It is one thing above all others: the ability to get and keep enough of the right people.

So as a leader, I ask you: What have you done to enhance and motivate your people today? If the answer is, “nothing,” then be prepared…the brakes on the bus are about to be stomped.

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Job I Wouldn’t Want to Have

Assistant manager at a bowling alley. The shoes!

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A Day Like That

Most weekday mornings begin the same way. Alarm chimes from my mobile phone – followed by 10 to 20 minutes of snoozing. It’s harder to get out of bed this time of year – pulling the blanket and comforter back always results in goosebumps.

There’s not many better sounds than that of coffee percolating. I make just two large cup fulls. Freshly showered, shaved, dressed, and (partially) caffeinated and awake, I commute to work. Garage to parking ramp is 20 minutes.

My job is the type of job my dad would have hated – and not understood. I spend most of the day at a desk in front of a computer. Part of my role in PR is monitoring news for the company about the health care industry, including competitors and general local business and economic news. The other aspect of my role is talking to news journalists about various aspects of the medical device business and the role my company plays in the trillion dollar health care industry.

Today included two unusual events. First, a quarterly briefing from the CEO. With 38,000 employees worldwide, keeping everyone up to speed on the company’s successes and challenges is a challenge in itself. A live webcast reaches everyone’s desktop and is available for replay for those sleeping in Japan, China and Australia.  The main message today: It’s been a difficult quarter, but the company managed the adversity better than anyone expected. There’s still reason to feel optimistic for the rest of the fiscal year and several good initiatives in place that will enable the company to achieve its financial goals.

After a few phone calls, lunch, and a couple hours tweaking on a report I’ve been putting together for the past two weeks, I meet with my vice president – another irregular event, but welcomed. The VP who runs the comms department is a driven, 30-something, sharp-as-a-tack professional who knows how to get things done. She also values good people on her team and I’m fortunate to be one of those good people (there are many – in fact the halls of this company are filled with Rhodes Scholars, medical specialists and Ph.D-ed people, making me often wonder what I’m doing among these people with maximum brain power full on all the time).  Twenty minutes later I’m back at my desk. It’s now too late in the day to start anything new, so I fire off answers to a few e-mails and do one last check on breaking news sites to see if a certain Wall Street Journal opinion piece is posted online just yet. It’s not.

My role includes not just tracking news but helping journalists frame their stories and tell them – at the very least objectively. When lucky, we obtain a few quotes that convey the right messages we want to leave with the general public. It’s all about the message. The form of delivery and the way it’s received. On a good day, all questions are answered (there’s no such thing as “no comment” anymore), the positive stories outweigh the negative and there are no bad surprises.  Good surprises are always welcomed.

Time to go home.

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Your Superpower Should Be Manipulating Electricity

ElectroYou’re highly reactive, energetic, and super charged.

If the occasion calls for it, you can go from 0 to 60 in a split second. But you don’t harness your energy unless you truly need to.

And because of this, people are often surprised by what you are capable of.

Why you would be a good superhero: You have the stamina to fight enemies for days.

Your biggest problem as a superhero: As with your normal life, people would continue to underestimate you.

What’s your super power? 

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Work should never feel like work.

To pay my way through college, I labored long summer hours for a moving company owned by my next door neighbor. It was the dirtiest, hottest, most physically challenging work I’ve ever done (far more difficult than completing a sprint triathlon). For $6.25 an hour I worked 70 hour weeks during my summer breaks hauling pianos and boxes filled with books and sofa sleepers and, my favorite, the family deep freezer up basement stairs and into a moving van. That, my friends, is labor. I would wake up hating my work. Understandably.

Flash forward 20 years and my life’s work is quite the opposite. After obtaining that degree in corporate communications from Buena Vista University located in toney Storm Lake, Iowa, I have been practicing my first choice in a career field, public relations, ever sense. I love my work. But more than practicing a craft that I was well-educated and trained to do, I’ve found the place to do it where I really make a difference. Don’t jump to conclusions, I’m not changing how PR is done, because like most career options, there are very few original PR strategies. But I’m practicing a craft that I love for a company that, at the end of the day, does amazing things. The work I do ultimately impacts the lives of millions of people and that makes work not seem like work at all.

It’s cause to whistle…not while I’m working, but out of amazement to my fortune.

One’s life work can be filled with despair or boredom or a lack of direction. For me, though, I found my strengths early, honed those skills carefully and the result is in working for a company where what I do matters.

I don’t work. I don’t toil. I don’t labor.

I just do…happily.

Have a great Labor Day everyone!

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