Improve one thing in your workplace to advance your career

improve-one-thingGood workplace communication doesn’t come naturally to a whole lot of us. We need to take the time to understand the do’s and don’ts in order to be successful in our place of work and to advance. Sometimes this means learning when to shut up and other times it can mean learning how to avoid getting emotionally overcome by difficult conversations. These are just a few of the problem areas.

A common irritant in office conversations is frankly when one party doesn’t know when to shut up. In “How To Determine When A Conversation Is Over”, the Accidental IT Leader blog says:

Just as knowing when a conversation with your boss has reached its end, so too is it important that you know how to communicate to your team that a conversation or IT team building session with you is now over. You can use all of the same techniques that your boss uses with you to wrap your own conversations up.

Another great way to place bounds on the conversations that you have with your team has to do with what you do at the start. Before the conversation starts, let everyone involved know that you have limited time. If you tell them when you need to start to work on something else, then you can wrap up the conversation when that time arrives.

Sometimes a more direct approach is called for. There will be times that the person that you are talking with is just not getting any of the “wrap it up” signals that you are sending to them. When this happens, you need to be forthright. You can say something like ‘‘I have really enjoyed the conversation, but I am sure we both have a lot we need to get done.’’ This is direct, to the point, and you’ll get your message across.

Another problem plaguing workplace conversations happens when one party loses control owing to a “hook”. In “Difficult Conversations: Nine Common Mistakes”, an article on Harvard Business Review says:

Mistake #6: We get “hooked.”
Everyone has a weak spot. And when someone finds ours – whether inadvertently, with a stray arrow, or because he is hoping to hurt us – it becomes even harder to stay out of the combat mentality. Maybe yours is tied to your job – you feel like your department doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Or maybe it’s more personal. But whatever it is, take the time to learn what hooks you. Just knowing where you’re vulnerable will help you stay in control when someone pokes you there.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer offers a list of 10 tips to improve your workplace communication for people interested in advancing their Seattle careers.

To better understand the best practices for workplace communication, a good resource is “Communication in the Workplace” on About.com

What you believe about starting your own business may be wrong

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In a new article, Monster Working collects insights from small business owners who share the “lies” and “misconceptions” people have about starting their own business. Here are three of the most common:

You’ll be your own boss
“Not only will you not be your own boss, but more people than ever will have a critical stake in your success, including customers, vendors and staff. If you think your boss makes unreasonable demands of you now, just wait until a good customer calls you to handle a major issue at 2 a.m. — and you have to be the one to resolve it.”

You control everything
“You don’t — your customers control everything you do. You will realize this when you see zero dollars in the bank account. That is the day you learn to listen and adjust to their demands. Remember that if customers don’t pay you, you can’t pay rent, staff, insurance, office supplies, etc. The customers are your bosses, and they control everything. ”

Most businesses fail
“I’m always hearing these statistics that show a huge number of businesses must be failing every day. But while I’ve seen plenty of companies evolve, change names, pivot or otherwise change, I don’t see that many entirely shut down. I love hearing these statistics so I can poke holes in them.”

Read the whole list of 9 here.

I would add a #10 as follows:

You need a lot of money to start

While certainly there are businesses that do require venture capital — a manufacturing company, for instance — or franchising fees, there are other businesses that require very little in the way of funding. You can get started in a business which doesn’t require a lot of money to get your feet wet if you aren’t sure that running your own business is right for you.

 

Is your career taking a major zig zag?

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Maybe you don’t have a career in conventional work. Maybe you have a “body of work.”

In “Blow up traditional careers in favor of bodies of work,” Pamela Slim explains her approach in helping frustrated employees break out of corporate jobs. She says:

What is your body of work?

Your body of work is everything you say, affect, create, contribute and impact.

Smiling at your neighbor every morning as you get the paper can contribute to your bigger desire to see more happiness and joy in the world.

Your jaunt in a legal career may be a very important part of your body of work contributing to the health of busy professionals through your yoga-based health and wellness practice (see Kelly Newsome’s story here and site here)

My passion for and commitment to seeing and stoking the fire of creation inside all human beings has led me from community development projects on the outskirts of Bogotá to non-profit education to teaching martial arts to corporate consulting to entrepreneur coaching and writing a book. And it will take me new directions in the future, without having to feel constrained by any one audience or business or job title.

A body of work is big and deep and complex. It allows you to experiment and play and change and test.

It supports creative freedom.

Read the whole post here.

Thinking about having a “body of work” rather than a “career” can be a useful way of reframing a major change of course, and helping you to stay grounded through a turbulent period of time. Not everyone’s work life fits the mold of a conventional career, but when you think in more flexible terms you can often find a unifying theme that helps you to make the most of what you do.

Thought provoking ideas about success

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I came across a handful of quotes about success recently that might be of interest to readers of my blog.

“I don’t know the key to success but the key to failure is to try to please everyone.” Bill Cosby

“A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” Bob Dylan

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives.” Albert Einstein

“The secret of success is constancy to purpose.” Benjamin Disraeli

“Success is the progressive realization of predetermined, worthwhile, personal goals.” Paul J. Meyer

Read the full article at Steve Roesler’s All Things Workplace blog. Best wishes for an inspired week!

Is there really such a thing as a dream job?

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Lucky people know what kind of work makes them happy, they find the job of their dreams, and indeed it makes them happy. But to create that kind of luck, most people have to work hard to know themselves and their authentic dreams, make realistic goals, and find the right fit in a complex job market.

Penelope Trunk is one of my favorite career bloggers, and it’s clear from reading anything she’s written that she really loves her job. But interestingly enough, being a career writer is not her dream job (or at least it wasn’t until she found a way to make it work). She writes:

I used to think I wanted to be a sex writer. My master’s thesis from graduate school was about my sex life. But when I tried to support myself writing about sex, when I started pitching stories to Cosmo, I found that no one wanted to hire me; magazines hire people to write about officially important sex research. I wanted to write about me.

So I looked for that magic intersection of things I’m good at and things I like to do and things people will pay me for. And I ended up being a career writer. Fortunately, though, I was able to be a career writer writing about me.

Which is probably what I wanted to do all along. So this is a great argument for the advice I give all the time which is to shut up about not having your dream job and just take any job so you can learn about what people will pay you to do that you might like to do.

You can read the whole piece by Penelope Trunk here.

Remember that phrase, the “magic intersection.” That’s the sweet spot where your abilities (things you’re good at), dreams (things you like to do), and the job market (things people will pay you for) overlap. Finding a dream job is less about being lucky than it is identifying the ways in which you can grow your skillfulness in melding these ingredients.

Bob Sutton: Great bosses are human shields

bob_sutton_topIn a story about Pixar’s early history so cute it might be apocryphal, the moral is that the best bosses serve as human shields for their employees, protecting them from anything that might be distracting them from success. Bub Sutton shares the tale:

Lucas had brought in a guy named Doug Norby as President to bring some discipline to Lucasfilm, and as part of his efforts, Norby was pressing Catmull and Smith to do some fairly deep layoffs. The two couldn’t bring themselves to do it. Instead, Catmull tried to make a financial case for keeping his group intact, arguing that layoffs would only reduce the value of a unit that Lucasfilm could profitably sell. (I am relating this story with Craig’s permission, and he double-checked its accuracy with Catmull.) But Norby was unmoved. As Craig tells it: “He was pestering Ed and Alvy for a list of names from the Computer Division to lay off, and Ed and Alvy kept blowing him off. Finally came the order: You will be in my office tomorrow morning at 9:00 with a list of names.”

So what did these two bosses do? “They showed up in his office at 9:00 and plunked down a list,” Craig told me. “It had two names on it: Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith.” …

[A] few months after this incident, Pixar was sold to a guy named Steve Jobs for 5 million bucks and, as they say, the rest is history. And some 25 years later, that brave shielding act still drives and inspires people at Pixar.

So think about whether the Shield metaphor might help you to better understand the role of bosses in your life. And if you’re the boss, what might you do to offer a stronger and firmer shield to the employees under your protection?