Archive for category Career Planning
Success isn’t single. We pride ourselves on our individual accomplishments. In reality, I can’t think of a thing I achieved completely on my own. Those who taught, coached, encouraged, collaborated, helped, or led all contributed to any accolades I received or joy I found in my work.
At work, as in life, these relationship tips never fail.
1. Opposites attract because they find something exciting in each other. Keep an open mind to the possibilities in every seemingly “half baked” idea you hear.
2. Two-way communication is key. And although technologists expect that all future communication will take place with thumbs typing on a mobile device, most young people entering the workforce today actually acknowledge the value in making a telephone call or stopping by someone’s office in person.
3. Show some appreciation. Everyone feels more motivated when the work they do is valued. And a valued co-worker is so much more likely to “pull out all the stops” when the team really needs it next time.
4. Accept shortcomings. We’re all human and come to work wired and programmed in unique ways. A failure is an opportunity for an enhancement; not a full blown system outage.
5. Leave room for growth. Most people want something more than what they are currently getting in their position at work. It may be increased challenges at work that puts the sparkle in someone’s eye or it may be opportunities to achieve better work life balance or it could be a combination of the two. Look for chances to make growth happen.
There isn’t only one path to success. There isn’t only one right way to achieve success. Your path to success is your own. But it won’t be travelled alone.
I recently completed a 3 year project which – according to client requirements – should have been done 2 years ago. Hey, I’d like to say that good things take time! But the truth is that sometimes life – and IT project execution – is just unpredictable. And painful. But – ever the optimist – throughout the three years, I tried to find the sunny spot in the gloom of our basement project room. And today I’m asking myself “what did I learn?”
You cannot deliver on something you do not know.
Seek out experts, get training for yourself and your team. Classroom training is not enough. For me, I learned the most from my network of connections I had built over the years through my engagement in a professional community – the Americas SAP Users Group (ASUG). Collaboration with others outside of my own usual comfort zone – across companies and within my own company – helps me to shift paradigms, and, in this case, helped me to question my own design and to rethink the possibilities.
Expectations are sneaky.
Expectation – noun – a belief that someone will or should achieve something. We IT people like things that are concrete – you know, “If x, then y, else z…”. As Project Managers and Business Analysts, we follow plans and processes, carefully sequenced and timed. We define scope and lock it down. What is impossible to manage are the expectations of a variety of stakeholders – each with different concerns. In my case, Legal wanted the solution delivered fast. Business areas didn’t want productivity disrupted. Administration wanted something that would require little manual intervention (add time to the project plan here!). Human Resources wanted a solution that employees would like (add more time to the project plan). IT, of course, wanted us to stay on time and within budget. I understood all these expectations. What we missed was how difficult it would be to keep those expectations from creeping back into the project even after we had all agreed some things would simply not be done within the parameters of this project. There’s only one way (in my humble opinion) to prevent being sidetracked by expectations: that is, have one single person as the ultimate decision maker.
“Failure is delay, not defeat.” – Denis Waitley.
Despite your best laid plans and past successes, sometimes you simply fail to meet everyone’s expectations, the timeline or the budget. But I refused to admit defeat. We missed the two scheduled release dates. We went over our original budget by a significant number. Despite the pressure from management on those two points, our team persevered in finding the right solutions. With my sense of integrity intact, I suggested a redesign of the solution – thereby removing many of the hurdles that were getting in the way of expectations — some of which were pretty important expectations. No one applauded or sent bonuses my way when we were done. But I have the satisfaction of knowing I did the very best I could and that what I delivered really did remove potential issues for our buisness.
Denis Waitly said “Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” I don’t think I can be accused of any of that. The entrepreneurial spirit in me still prefers to challenge the status quo, longs to innovate, and is okay with taking a calculated risk. I have raised two daughters who were at times scared to fail. And everyday, with every new decision they faced, I would say, “What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen if you try that?” I have never received an answer to that question from either one of them. And so now I am going to take a page from my daughter’s playbook at Blondes Have More Run and leave us all with the following.
Excuse me now, but i have to keep going!
I would like to introduce you to a colleague and friend of mine. Dr. Janice Presser is the architect of Teamability® – a technology which directly measures the way a person ‘connects’ to the needs of the team: not just to other people, but to the team itself as a living entity. I met Janice at an American SAP Users Group event where I had the good fortune to share dinner with her. What she had to say about how the most successful teams are built and how leaders thrive in our post-industrial, social media connected, global workforce was intriguing and really hit home for me. I hope you enjoy her thoughts as much as I do. The following blog was published previously on Dr. Janice Pressor’s WordPress Blog. I am privileged to share it with you here.
Not a Born Leader? So What!
By Dr. Janice Presser on February 20, 2014
I was not born a leader.
When I was born (and this was a very long time ago), there were serious defects in my leadership blueprint. First, I had two X chromosomes at a time when one Y was needed in order to be a leader. Actually, nobody knew what a chromosome was back then, so 42 Extra Long was the preferred measure, and I didn’t reach my full 5’2” until I was 25.
Although I had no choice in the matter, I also ended up with two loving parents, neither of whom was an entrepreneur or executive. It would seem hopeless.
Now, in 2013, diversity is desirable. My dear friends in executive search tell me that they are under the gun to produce diversity slates for the high level positions they are engaged to fill. A diversity slate, one told me with his typically charming sense of irony, is one that includes at least one woman and one non-white.
When pressed to explain, he went on to say that this configuration positioned the first runner up to be the feel-good candidate while there actually would be no danger of hiring a person other than someone who looked like the rest of the executive team.
I think we’re looking at the wrong kind of diversity.
What if, instead, we looked at people from the viewpoint of the organization? What if, instead, the organization (as a living thing itself) were to provide the want-list, instead of the typical laundry list of job specs written by HR? What if we actually treated organization’s needs with respect and consideration?
This would truly represent a revolutionary change in the way we look at leadership and organizational dynamics.
It turns out that organizations – small, medium, large, and Fortune list huge – all have similar fundamental needs. The people who fill those needs best are the ones who feel, deep inside, a connection to the specific organizational need they are serving. This is what gives a person the sense that they are making meaningful contributions, more so than anything else they could be doing.
People may do various kinds of work similar in focus and thoughtfulness, but they experience different kinds of work in different ways; each aligned with the specific need of the organization that they are filling. This has especially important relevance to leadership.
There are those who are drawn to create big visions, as an entirely new product, or service, or level of awareness. They start an organization as a way to draw other people in to make it happen. In the language of Teamability, they are Founders.
There are those who bond to the vision of the Founder and lead the strategic process of putting it on the road to realization. In the language of Teamability, they are Vision Movers.
There are those who take the drive and activity of the Vision Mover and shape and form it into a more elegant, efficient framework. This transforms the team as well as the project. In the language of Teamability, they are Vision Formers.
There are those who adapt big-picture strategies into action. They are the heroes of their teams as they lead them into the fray. In the language of Teamability, they are Action Movers.
And there are those who make sure that every detail is in place, been accomplished well, and that the project is not closed until everything is done. They are extraordinary project managers, no matter what the project. In the language of Teamability, they are Action Formers.
All are leaders. All are essential. If you want to lead, and you feel comfortable in leading, one of these Roles probably resonates with you.
But there are five more needs that organizations have, and without them the organization is incomplete and structurally flawed. If you fill one or the other Roles, you may not be automatically seen as a leader. However, that does not mean you can’t lead. It may very well be that your organization needs you for a special kind of leading that only you can do.
We’re all in this together, and all people were born to serve. Whether your leadership is recognized or not is less important than your desire to contribute. It is really a matter of finding the right niche.
Here are some tactics you can try along your way to becoming a leader:
- Start, or take a leadership position in, an organization that does something good for people. (I was involved in several parenting nonprofits and learned the good, the bad, the ugly, and the ‘well worth the trouble.’)
- People often make snap judgments based on how you look, and they’re often wrong. But, the more you tune into how they see you, the more you can influence their ideas about you. Ask a friend for feedback. (I will be eternally grateful to my BFF Margot for getting me to stop dressing like a mom, even at business meetings.)
- I have to give credit for this one to serial entrepreneur and investor, Vincent Schiavone. He told me his secret in two words: Get Famous! (I have been working on it ever since. Blogging is a good start!)
- Ask yourself why you want to lead. If your answer is to make more money, there are probably easier ways. If your answer is to change the world (or some part of it) start figuring out how you’re going to do that and, more important, who you’ll need to team with in order to get there.
- Finally: don’t give up. Remember that times change and you will change with them. What is impossible at 30 can be possible at 40, probable at 50, and inevitable at 60. (Just remember as you get older to stay young in your mind, your heart, and your body.)
Leadership is, after all, quite simple… and has nothing to do with being ‘born with it’. All you have to do is be the person other people want to follow!
For more of Dr. Janice Presser’s thoughts read @Dr Janice, Thoughts and Tweets on Leadership, Teamwork and Teamability and visit The Gabriel Institute online.
A marketing campaign from the 1970s is being credited today with aptly capturing the spirit of today’s social media. “You tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends and so on and so on…” I could not remember the name of the product the campaign advertised until I “Googled” it today – and that’s because it was the theme that resonated with me.
In everything we do personally or professionally, we build our reputation one brick at a time. The best university or the right degree might earn a “foot into the door.” Crowdfunding might provide the impetus to starting your own business. Having friends in the right places might kickstart a career. Credibility is what keeps you there.
Personally, I have been told “not to care so much” (about a project or other effort in which I might be engaged). Certainly, managing what you care about and when you care about it is an art. And there may be a fine line between knowing when to fan the fire and when to put it out. But I choose not to live in mediocrity.
Whatever we do should be done with passion. Passion is noticed. Passion can’t be ignored. Passion puts our own personal stamp on everything we do. Passion is memorable.
Today I have to refer to one of my favorite thought leaders: Seth Godin. Seth’s blog today is “Finding Your Peer Group.” I have to tell you that finding my peer group was pivotal to my success and to my level of satisfaction with and – yes – even passion about – my job.
Fourteen years ago I joined our company’s Information Technology (IT) project to deploy new Human Resources software from SAP. To say I couldn’t even spell “SAP” might be an exaggeration, but trust me, I knew nothing.
How I made it thru the project and onward to manage the support team has everything to do with the my peers: people I worked with on the project — the consultants who taught me what they knew, my office colleagues who patiently answered every one of my tedious questions about business processes and the countless other SAP users I met thru an organization called America’s SAP Users Group (ASUG).
What I learned thru my peer groups was that many people had the same questions I had. Others had questions that I could actually answer! My peer group encouraged me to talk about what I know, to write about what I know and to accept a nomination to the ASUG Board of Directors. My peer group agrees with me. And my peer group feels equally challenged to disagree with me. And – you know what? – I appreciate the honest, open feedback, good or bad.
Real business friends will tell you you’re wrong one minute and shake your hand or hug you the next minute.
In 1999 I had just been thru a divorce, was forced to move from part-time to full-time work, moved into a new home and was raising my daughters, ages six and nine, most of the time on my own. Did I mention I also started an entirely new job? . . . In Information Technology (IT)? . . . On a special project to implement SAP Software? If you have ever worked in IT on the implementation of new software, then you know how much effort, attention to detail and long, unexpected hours it can take.
I, on the other hand, had no idea. I was blissfully unaware.
My job on the IT project team was to translate the business I knew well (employee benefits) into something that would work in the new system (which I didn’t know at all). I sped through an introduction to SAP class; traveled to Boston for a week of intensive training on SAP benefits and then was placed in an office with a consultant to begin to build the system. In just three short months, I was told, I would present what we developed to management. (Even now I am laughing my head off at the prospect that was placed before me.)
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Was I scared? No. Terrified might be the better word.
The thing about the project is that no one else really knew what they were doing either. It was a great workplace leveler. All at once, all of us had exactly the same knowledge and experience: We didn’t know what we didn’t know. We were forced to rely on each other and our own wits to solve issues. We had to question everything. Gone were the days when we knew our jobs and knew (rather instinctively) what to do. Gone were the days of sitting in our own cublicles busily creating and solving issues independently. We needed each other.
I learned more in 1 year than I had in the past five years.
Mostly I learned that the workplace benefits the most when each of its contributors work together like connecting gears on a well-oiled machine. And when our employer benefits, we all benefit.
Icy streams of water slide from my hand down my raised arm and sizzle to my bare thigh as I take a long swallow from my sweat-coated glass of iced tea. AAHHHH…refreshed. A breeze runs it’s long steamy fingers through my should-length bob. I inhale the scent of crisp, salty ocean air, mixed with coconut scented sunblock and I curl my toes into the cool depths of the sand.
I wish I were at the beach. But I’m not.
I am actually sitting in my Pennsylvania home, inside my study surrounded by sea shells and ocean themed art. A ceiling fan rustles my hair. So – aren’t you wondering about the sand?
I really do have sand in my study — a recent gift from my 24-year-old daughter — who brings her inner child to her job as a Fresh Foods Manager at Wawa every day and makes sure that I keep the same spirit alive myself. Chelea has been found singing in the deli, handing out Cowtails candy to a coworker who made her day or playing practical jokes on others.
Your inner child is shorthand for your “authentic self”. The thing is, Chelsea gets up every day and brings her whole self to work. Her whole self prepares the food, makes the sandwiches, maintains the inventory, cares about her Wawa team, wants to be proud of the work she does, and wants to have fun while she’s doing it. Is there anything better than enjoying what you’re doing for 40+ hours a week?
Dress for success. First impressions count. Define your own personal “brand”. But the most important thing you can do for those with whom you work – and for whom you work – is to be authentic.
Keep it real. Stick your toes in the sand every once in a while.
When I get ready for work in the morning – or even Sunday night before my work week starts – I do a little bit of mental preparation about the day ahead. What’s on my calendar? Who will need what from me? Should I research or read anything before a particular meeting?
The point is to show up prepared — prepared to contribute your best to whatever activity in which you will engage.
As I know from my daughter (http://www.blondeshavemorerun.com/) – but certainly not from my own experience – runners prepare fastidiously for every event – often for months in advance. Runners don’t just show up.
Recently, a Frontier Airlines pilot (GMA 7/9/2014) did way more than anyone expected in terms of showing up. He bought pizza.
In a rare demonstration of passion and commitment to one’s job, Captain Gerhard Brandner took his own initiative to call Dominos and order pizza for the 160 passengers and crew onboard a flight that was already two hours delayed and had been sitting on the runway for over an hour.
The little things are sometimes the big things. And in all things, the people you work with and for are the most important.
The image of stilettos often conjures up the image of a femme fatale – a woman whose charms can ensnare others. I was not that woman. I ensnared no one. I was more like Gracie Hart, tough FBI agent, walking cooly down the street – only to trip over her own heels. Repeatedly.
To say I wasn’t prepared for the sudden change that left me managing everything almost overnight would be an understatement. Before we started our application maintenance program (aka “outsourcing”) I was a supervisor of nine system architects – mostly focused on our solutions in the Americas – and managing a team that all sat in the same country, the same time zone, the same office building and floor where I sat. Progress on issues or new solutions seemed – well – seamless. We could yell over our cubicle walls to each other for a quick answer or walk down the hall a bit for a more in-depth technical answer from the guys who managed our middleware. We learned constantly from each other. And we had reached a level of technical and functional comptence that allowed us to execute flawlessly and fairly quickly without the burden of layers of procesess and handoffs.
Post outsourcing, I was the manager of the global team – the one in charge of 27 countries, three remaining in-house team members and twelve outsourced staff members. Post outsourcing, we all had to move from being collaborative learners to effective teachers. Post outsourcing, we had to tune our ears to different accents, work to understand a different culture, and – with sensitivity and grace – make a team of outsourced workers feel at home with us — whether they would be working onshore in our U.S. offices or offshore in India.
Nothing could have prepared me for this adventure. Most days were fraught with fear of the unknown. We feared losing our own jobs next. We were uncertain how to execute without the individuals that we knew would know what to do. We were tired from stress and working longer hours to cover Europe and Asia.
In time, each of us – the four who remained — would all rise to the call of leadership. I know I “played by ear” many days – unsure what to do or how to handle things. I made mistakes. Lots of mistakes. At the end of the workday, I’d abandon my stilettos for bedroom slippers and pajamas – and continue working at home. If I just worked a little harder, a little longer, things would get better. And in many ways they did. It took a village. . . and the courage to be knocked off my stilettos more than once.