Taking Longer to Reach the Top Has Its Benefits

The rewards of patience.

Source: Taking Longer to Reach the Top Has Its Benefits

This is a great article on why taking some time to ascend in your career has  benefits.

The article lists many good reasons to take a measured approach to promotions including avoiding burnout and gaining the skills you’ll need to succeed.  And my favourite of all:

“Following a “deliberate” path may prevent the problem experienced by any number of hard-charging executives: getting to the top of the career ladder only to realize it’s leaning against the wrong wall.”

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People grow if you believe they can change

I’ve enjoyed reading through a book of commencement speeches this week called “Way More Than Luck”.  Most moving to me was the one given by Madeleine L’Engle to Wellesley College in 1991.

She recounted how she was placed in a school which valued sport participation and she wasn’t able to contribute due to having been born with legs of two different lengths.  For some reason, her home room teacher equated this with a lack of intellect and completely gave up on her.  Madeleine withdrew from her schoolwork and began to dedicate herself to her own writing in Grade three.  She eventually switched schools and ended up with a first-year teacher who considered it part of her role find and affirm in each person, that which is intrinsically valuable.  The teacher tasked her with writing a sequel to the Odyssey.

I liked this reminder that people can rise to challenges but that your attitude about whether you think they can is crucial.

A recent article from the Harvard Business Review, People won’t grow if you think they can’t change, elaborates the point drawing on the fixed mindset versus growth mindset work of Carol Dweck.   Not only is a growth mindset important to see the potential for people to grow, a fixed mindset may prevent you from seeing the progress an employee has made (and may also well prevent an employee from seeing the progress you are making) thus calcifying a difficult relationship.

What was also poignant about reading L’Engle’s commencement speech was that L’Engle’s teacher acted as a force multiplier for her by taking a task that she was willing to do on her own and asking her to stretch and build on it.  I dipped into a book called Multipliers earlier this year on this theme.  While “diminishers” are apt to believe that work can’t get done without the help of a manager are more likely to shut people down with sharp remarks, “multiplier” managers can get two times more work from their people if they can build on their employee’s existing talents – things they can do with minimal effort, things they do without being asked and things that they’d do readily without being paid.  What is perhaps most liberating about multipliers is that they generate pressure to create the best work (and create the space that this could occur) without creating stress.  They rather generate the belief that the impossible is possible.

L’Engle admits that her sequel to the Odyssey likely wasn’t that great but the suggestion to attempt it seemed to help plant the seed for her momentous career in writing.

 

Getting to ground with uncertainty, ambiguity and just plain vagueness or “you know everything I do”

Version 2

On some of my “I feel  like a bad manager” days, I’ve struggled mightily with needing to give vague instructions to advance a product and feeling discomfort if not resistance, resentment, anger and panic as employees work through the process.

With experience, I am now much more careful to share that I am not withholding information (“I know everything you know”) and I take care to erase the concern that I am delegating so quickly that I have skimmed over details that could support the iteration process.

I also now understand some of the reasons behind the negative emotions I see in these situations and it is helpful: I don’t want to waste time, I don’t want to look stupid, and I think this is pointless because your instructions are so vague that it is impossible for me to hit the mark.

And in fairness, as this recent piece from Fast Company outlines well, our formal training may well not prepare us to deal with ambiguity which is basically an opportunity to be creative or innovative and think about solutions that we may only discover through the process itself.

In bureaucratic settings we are not necessary advancing our skills to cope with ambiguity and uncertainty.  We are usually bounded by time, templates, page limits etc.

So how do we pull through when we know so little? The main thing is to advance something somehow so here are my tips:

  • I appreciate that the Fast Company piece focuses on the need to trust the effectiveness of your regular processes including your standard ways of researching problems and mining your existing networks for information.
  • Instead of focusing on the fact that limited boundaries could give rise to an infinite scope of products, focus on the fact that a good product can take many different forms.  If someone comes back with “I was thinking of a chart not a narrative actually” you can add that to your stash of useful information.
  • I’d suspect that vague iterations may especially painful for perfectionists.  This is a great moment to leave these tendencies at the door as best you can.  My best response to vague instructions is usually to jump in with a couple of iterations much earlier in the game than I would normally to figure out if I am even in the ballpark.  
  • I’d recommend to calibrate your normal reactions to feedback so that you are even less sensitive to anything negative or critical that comes your way in reaction to your iterations because you know that the instructions were vague.

Transitioning to meta-management

A piece with a lot of technical language (that I can’t entirely follow), that I think still has merit as it touches on a subject I’d like to see treated in greater depth – how to manage other managers.  In this case a specialist has moved up the ranks and is reflecting on when to wade into the fray of her roots as an engineer.  I like her prompts to ask herself: “What problems does my team need me to solve right now?”

“If I feel the itch to do engineering manager work, there have got to be good ways to do this that are absolutely not a) going to intrude on someone’s existing work, and b) not eliminating an opportunity for the manager who reports to you to learn.”

Source: Transitioning to meta-management

Six Questions You Should Ask Yourself When You Want To Quit

Is your job not right for you, or is it just a temporary rough patch? Have an honest conversation with yourself before you walk away.

Some good questions that could guide some useful reflection including:

  1. Are there more opportunities for growth?
  2. Would someone I respect stay?
  3. Am I taking criticism too seriously?

Source: Six Questions You Should Ask Yourself When You Want To Quit

7 Habits Of People Who Are Happy At Work | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

7 Habits Of People Who Are Happy At Work | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

A simple list but it works for me.

Things that make the grade:

– committing to improving as a lifetime goal

– not getting caught up in things beyond your control

–  helping others

– expressing gratitude

– managing emotions and having a sense of humour

8 Personality Traits Of People Who Don’t Let Job Hunting Crush Their Souls | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

8 Personality Traits Of People Who Don’t Let Job Hunting Crush Their Souls | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

Some good stuff in this article, including, off the top, the reminder that the job hunt can be soul destroying.  But, interviewing the overtly discouraged can be a difficult task so to avoid being that sad sack their suggestions:

  • Remember to accentuate the positive – and try to keep the letdowns in perspective – not getting the job doesn’t mean that you aren’t a good employee or even worse, a good person.
  • They “pressure-proof” themselves by seeing the job hunt as a process and not an event and don’t overblow mistakes that are beyond your control.
  • They network until the cows come home.
  • The aim to convey confidence and not arrogance.
  • They try to learn the lessons from the letdowns.  And I’d add that sometimes there are no lessons from the letdowns.  You’ve honestly done everything that you could to prepare for the interview and they already had someone in mind.  Or they made a wrong choice.  And the best thing to do is to move on to the next interview realizing that it wasn’t mean to be.

Behind every complaint…

(c) findyoursearch

Behind many complaints there is a request or a commitment.

I was reviewing some materials produced by the National Managers’ Community for a course I was hoping to take before I was felled by a bad cold.  No matter, as preparation, I got a chance to revisit some coaching techniques that I have learned before to bring them back to front of mind.  I realized that there is a certain magic to remembering that we have the power to reframe behaviours we find difficult in the workplace.  Taken from the guide available to all Coaching Practices for Managers, we can listen for both requests and commitments that are obscured behind complaints.

For example:

A complaint that someone has too many different files or doesn’t want to work on a certain file, may be a commitment to being a credible expert on the material.  It may also be a request to reframe expectations around handling multiple files.

A complaint that insufficient numbers of documents are getting vetted by key partners may be a request for commitment to adequate consultation.  It may also just be a request for an update on what consults were done and why.

A complaint against late meeting starts or rambling updates may be a commitment to protecting people’s time and ensuring that key agenda items get the air time they need.

More generally, this practice helped me remember that I can always ask “what else is going on here?” faced by a situation that I find challenging.  Instead of making assumptions about why something is occurring, I can ask “What is the unmet need that is prompting this request?” or  when I feel that my requests to my team/boss are going unmet, I can ask “What need of my own have I have failed to express to my team?”

The Coaching Practices booklet contains a few other practices which are worth a look as well.

The three business books that I’d ask you to read

(c) abee5

Seth Godin recently posed a suggested challenge: pick three books that changed your thinking and then buy them for three admired people and ask them to read them over the holidays to advance a conversation.

Though I won’t honour the challenge to the letter, I think that doing some reflection on books that changed my thinking is a great way to end the year on the blog. Here are three books that made a difference to my thinking as a manager for the better:

1) Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen

I own multiple copies if this one and use it to prepare for most difficult conversations. Of the three books I am recommending it’s the only one that I think has genuine utility in everyday life.

The book makes the point that each conversation is really three different conversations: the “what happened” conversation (where we tend to spend all of our time to our detriment), the “identity” conversation – what is the effect of the problem on each person’s identity? and the feelings conversation. The book also has a number of tools to support difficult conversations including to enter conversations as “learning” conversations.

The support the spirit of Seth Godin’s challenge, I will give a copy of this book to the first three people who email me saying that they’d like it.

2) Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee

This is a book about the power of emotional intelligence its links to leadership. The emotions of leaders are greatly magnified for better and for worse and they change the dynamic of teams quite powerfully. This book in combination with some of the more recent writing make the link between how your brain shuts down under stress – you go into fight flight mode and can actually go deaf – it is nearly impossible to work well under such conditions.  At the other end of the scale, positive emotions, generate powerful creativity.

As well, this was also the first book to convince me to abandon the idea that leadership is innate. Most powerfully, the belief that leadership can be learned, will set someone up to be empowered for success in truly difficult situations.

3) Drive: Daniel Pink’s bestseller on motivation – it comes down to three things: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

One the main findings – when you link monetary rewards to performance it only works well with rudimentary tasks.  Performance actually gets worse with pay incentives with tasks involving analytical skills.

Here are two videos which explain his main ideas for those of you not inclined to read the book:

Animated one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

TED talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrkrvAUbU9Y

13 Item Hit List That Will Make A Successful Artist | Chase Jarvis Blog

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The Hit List: 13 Things Crucial For Your Success [In Any Field]

A lovely list – I’ve excerpted the list and left the language “as is” but it’s not for the faint of heart.

Get shit done.  Yep I have written about this before.

“Over-thinking, pontificating, and wondering are tools for the slacker. People don’t care what almost happened, or what your problems are or why something wasn’t. “

Educate yourself.

“Think someone else is responsible for your education? Think again.”

Iterate.

“Nothing–and I’ll say it again, but louder–NOTHING will spring from your creative self fully formed. […] The summary of those iterations will aggregate into something special.”

 

Take a deep breath.

“Life, work, art can be hard. Anxiety – not to be confused with the positive stress of deadlines and forced production schedules – is counter productive. So when shit is getting hairy, take a breath. Everything is going to be okay.

Take delight.

“Your work should be fun. […] If you don’t take delight, your career will be short, either by choice or by fate.”

Find some quiet.

“Synthesis–the gluing together of your ideas–requires some sort of quiet, be it just a moment or bunch of moments. So carve out this time.”

via 13 Item Hit List That Will Make A Successful Artist | Chase Jarvis Blog.