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Archive for the ‘work’ Category

I’ve been a fan of the sitcom “Southpark” since shortly after it began to air – around 1998, I think. And while I’d never wish Cartman as a manager on anyone, we can use his “Respect My Authority,” quote as a lesson — in reverse — to all the people managers on the planet.

Managing people for more than a decade has taught me several valuable lessons. None more important than knowing your team deserves your respect – just as you expect the team to respect you.  For example, when your inbox overflows with emails and your phone won’t stop ringing on a busy day you might think it wise to tune out staff requests in order to focus on your own priorities.

This may serve as a manager’s fatal error. 

Instead, call a quick staff meeting and let those you supervise know you’re buried alive in work to-dos, and before you vanish for several hours you want to identify the work of the team that requires your attention. Presto. You’ve communicated your need to go heads down, but you’ve also told the team that what they do is equally important and you don’t want to hold up the work flow.

This little communication strategy helps you earn (and keep) the respect of the team. By connecting with them, and trusting they will understand your need to prioritize, the work that absolutely needs to get done will become clear and you’ll enable others to keep making positive contributions.

Congrats! You’re a great boss.  Today.

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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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Is your company safe from angsty former employees or the militant nut job who has a bone to pick with your products or services?

The recent hostage-taking-SWAT-team-shooting of James J. Lee at Discovery Channel headquarters in Silver Spring, Md. (see this article in the Washington Post), made me ask myself: How safe is any company from someone who really wants to cause harm.

At each of my most recent three employers, security appeared sound. Employees had to “badge in” and security officers sat at the guest and employee entrances. Signs proclaimed to everyone entering the building that “Guns Are Banned On The Premises.” Any person with sound mind gets the message loud and clear.

And that’s the problem. Not everyone is of sound mind. Clearly. People who have been laid off, fired or otherwise wronged by an employer don’t always process the events and move on in life. They harbor ill will against their boss. They find reason to admonish the company. They seek revenge. Some actually take revenge.

When my kids were young and in elementary school, when each school year started I reminded them to stay alert in the classroom. I’d talk to them about the importance of following instructions and if there was danger to use their instincts. When I was a kid back in the ’70s, we learned safety measures for when an atomic bomb was on its way to tiny-town Iowa. I don’t think schools teach kids what to do when Johnny walks in with his dad’s hand gun.

And I don’t think the average employee thinks about what he or she should do when fired former co-worker Bob returns to the office complex looking for his boss (and anyone else who happens to be in the cubical) to exact revenge with his 12-gauge.

Fortunately, in Silver Spring at Discovery Channel HQ, no innocent people were killed. Something went “right” in a terrible case of wrongness. A police sharpshooter’s skill was necessary and, to at least three people and their families, very appreciated.

Let’s hope other James J. Lees out there think twice before taking similar actions at corporations around the world. And for the rest of us in cubicles, let’s think of our own plans to get low and stay alive.

Don’t let the job kill you.

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Here is evidence of the life-saving abilities provided by implanted cardioverter defibrillators (ICD).

In the video (taken at a soccer match in Europe in early June), a player drops to the field with a heart arrhythmia. Watch closely as his body jolts when his implanted defibrillator shocks his heart back into a normal rhythm.

Truly amazing. Had it not been for this young man’s implanted device, he likely would have died on the soccer field.  Ninety-five percent of all people who suffer from a sudden cardiac arrest, and who don’t have an ICD, do die.

Companies like mine (Medtronic) get harpooned by the U.S. news media regularly as reporters focus on a handful of negative issues versus the life-saving therpies technology provides to people today. Fact is, medical device technologies made by Medtronic alone save or positively impact the lives of more than six million people every year.

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I sat through a lunch and learn meeting on social media yesterday. A co-worker launching a new social networking site – one of the first this company has ever considered – partnered up with a social media expert from another Fortune 500 company across town that leads the market in a number of food categories. This expert gets a six-month sabbatical from his organization to go uncover how other companies are approaching this new world of marketing/social networking (and I want that job!).

At first glance, the average outsider looking in might wonder what food has to do with medical technology. Answer: In the world of social media, it’s all frighteningly similar.

Our discussion during lunch wandered around from individual backgrounds and experience (e-marketing, corporate PR, engineering) to the rapid pace of change happening to the Internet, which has since its inception been traveling at the speed of carreraour CEO’s Porsche. Roughly six months in our everyday life equates to two full years on the Internet. And there is no speed limit on the information superhighway.

Just how do large, staid companies differentiate from those organizations in the world nimble to the ways of the ‘Net?  We cower in fear…at least at the onset.  The corporate board rooms filled with 50-something, graying men and women look quizzically at their marketing VPs talking about Twitter feeds and branded YouTube channels. They scoff at CEO blogs that actually INVITE customer feedback and potential criticism to the newly launched widget.

That is until their very own board members – other corporate leaders who are vying to stay relevant in the land of social media/networking start asking questions at the conference table.  This level of CEO-to-CXO peer pressure starts to drive the inevitable change big, fat, slow-moving companies must make. It’s not up for discussion and it’s not an if/then choice. It’s a “when” choice and the “when” was yesterday. Mr. or Ms. CEO, if you missed the boat, you’re going to do more than get your feet wet if you hope to catch up. There is no room for another mistake.

Given the macro-economic state of the world, a fever pitch now resides with all things social media/networking. Nothing is more “mission critical.” To message to customers – to actually sell product and generate revenue, compete and be legitimate – companies simply must open the door on this next phase of marketing.

And really, it’s just the sands of business paradigms shifting yet again – like they  always do. The landscape might feel new, but the level of risk and reward is the same as past transitions.

The ride, however, is vastly more interesting than anything I’ve ridden to date.

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My career in medical device technology began a scant three years ago. But since Feb. 2006, I feel I’ve learned more than I did in my first 18 years in the workforce. And the kicker is I’m learning from some of the smartest people on the planet.

When I joined The Company, I often drove home after a day in the office wondering how I buffaloed the hiring committee into offering me the position. In those early days, clearly, I was a full hat-size smaller than even the most recent college grad who served as Project Specialist I. But I had the job and I wasn’t about to let go of a good thing.

Now, 35 months into The Company, I’ve hit a good stride. I know not only the medical acronyms, but also what they stand for – quite impressive. I know certain details about how heart devices function. I can explain why health care costs have soared in the U.S. in a way most any Joe Six Pack might understand. I comprehend the importance of clinical trials as well as the need to meet regulatory challenges that prove the efficacy of an implantable device designed to save lives.

My career requires me to be a mile wide and an inch deep on hundreds of topics, but because I sit down frequently with people like our chief medical and technology officer (a former cardiologist who left Harvard to join this company and impact the lives of millions of people each year, not just a handful), I’m also able to go deep on the topics that interest me most about health care and medicine. And because I get the honor now and then to hear The Company’s founder speak – (and he happens to wear four or five implants that he played a role in innovating during his time here) – I find it easy to embrace his original mission to help those who face chronic diseases live a full life.

A constant learner with an open mind, this very average Iowa boy who graduated in the middle of his class knows a good thing when he sees it. And baby, I’m surrounded by a very good thing.

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Elitists feel they have outstanding personal abilities, intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or some other distinctive attributes, and therefore their views and ideas must be taken more seriously or carry more weight. In addition, they may assume special privileges and responsibilities and feel they have earned certain rights that others do not or should not have based on their level or position in society.

The proliferation of elitism has been underway since the dawn of human kind. What’s become worse in the past two decades is how many people automatically place themselves into this elitist category with no basis of reason. As populists in society strive toward breaking down the walls and barriers created by the elite (to ensure everyone has the same human rights and opportunities), elites attempt to further widen and deepen their moat protecting their belief that the privileged few have every right to make and enforce the rules.

What’s more, the new elites stem from recent generations of children who grew up expecting life to be handed to them in perfect order – further widening the gap between the haves and have nots. In fact, the common middle class that most of us grew up in, has now latched firmly on to the orbit of the elite.

The hard work our mothers and fathers once performed – the work that made our nation strong – has been tossed out with the bath water in the past 20 years. The yuppies, Gen-Xers and Millenials feel society owes them the vast rewards of life simply for waking up and putting on their socks.

And since elitism endorses the exclusion of large numbers of people from positions of privilege or power, this class in our society is essentially turning its collective head further and further away from its roots – away from the very parents or grandparents who worked two shifts so the family could enjoy a warm home, a reliable car and new shoes as the kids’ feet grew. Today, the 4,000-square-foot homes, Beemers, Audis and Mercedes are not the exception, they are the rule.

I’m sick and I’m tired of 20-somethings and younger walking around with their hands out – like baby birds waiting to be fed and chirping their beaks off until the mother Robin satiates their demands. These kids, our children, are clueless. They lack responsibility, respect and a fundamental concept of what labor is all about.

How are we suppose to begin fixing the recent economic malaise in the United States and globally, when our “most valuable asset,” our best and brightest, are entering the workforce with no concept of what work is all about? The learnings that once came with earning a decent wage for a decent day’s work are gone.

We’ve created the “gimme” culture of elitists and I’ve never been more personally disgusted and disappointed by a mind set than this one.

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