Monday, February 28, 2011

Social Network Wins Oscar!

Yes, I know. "The King's Speech" won the Oscar for best picture. On the other hand, the Motion Picture Academy showed its love for social media through live streams on its web site, real-time blogs, and Twitter feeds during the Oscar ceremony. In a play to win a younger demographic, as noted by the youngest ever Oscar hosts, the Academy layered social network tools on the tried-and-true format.

Did it work? Many media critics and commentators on my Facebook page didn't think so. The consensus was that the effort came across as awkward and distracting rather than spontaneous and engaging.

What does this mean for how we use social media in our work? One lesson may be that adding new technology to old ideas will not create the desired excitement and freshness. Creative ideas for solving a problem or meeting a need come first. Technology must be an integral part of the solution, not a designer accessory flaunted on the Red Carpet.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Making Time for Networking

I just sent messages to five of the 383 people I am connected to on LinkedIn. The gist of the nearly identical messages was "how are you doing?" I have made a commitment to myself to reach out to most of my connections over the next several weeks. Why? Just to stay in touch.

Nurturing our professional networks usually does not get the effort it deserves. We all lead busy lives. We often don't think about networking unless we have a specific need - a job, a consulting assignment, and introduction. That's too late. The payoff in specific benefits won't be there unless we have made the investment in the relationship over time. It really makes a difference if we have been helpful to the other party in the past. We are more willing to be generous with our time and professional capital for someone who has been generous to us.

Try to put aside some time each day or week to build and maintain relationships with colleagues - past, present and future. An hour's investment may produce amazing dividends.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Good Job!" The Power of Positive Feedback

If you spend much time with the pre-school set, you often hear "Good Job!" said enthusiastically in response to signs of evolving self-management skills - drink all your milk, share your toys, stop hitting your little brother. The power of positive feedback doesn't end when we move from Dora, the Explorer to Seth Godin, marketing guru. It is still a force in our work lives.

As leaders and managers, we often stumble when we have to tell people they are not meeting expectations. We are advised to be direct and clear when giving feedback about shortfalls in performance. That is good advice. It is only one side of the story, however. People also need to be told what they are doing right.

Remember to say "Good Job!" to your colleagues and staff whenever they contribute to meeting your organization's goals. Don't wait for the big win or milestone. Each step forward is important in the process. With the power of positive feedback, people will push even harder to get the job done.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Being a Change Agent May Be Dangerous

You have been brought in by top management to shake things up in your area. Everyone seems to agree there is a need for real change to respond to a dynamic competitive environment. You have been a successful executive at your previous company. You are ready to take on this new challenge.

Less than 6 months later, you are forced out, with top management putting all the blame on you. This is the story of the chief executive of Time Inc., as reported in a recent article. Until we have the case study from Harvard Business School, we can only guess at what really happened. There are a few general lessons we can take away even now, though.

Expectations need to be clear on all sides. How much disruption (top staff defections, for example) is top management willing to tolerate during the difficult early transformative period? Culture counts. What worked in your former company may cause strong resistance and even hostility in a company with a much different culture. Your words will have great impact, for better or worse. Everyone will be listening closely; their futures are at stake, after all. A few impolitic words - perhaps said in jest - will come back to hurt you. All this does not mean you should not be bold as a transformative leader. Be smart, too. Keep in mind that there are many landmines in the new territory you are entering. Being a change agent may be dangerous to the health of your career.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What Google Knows About You

I just spent a fascinating few minutes reading about myself on Google. Not that I am so interesting, but the almost random selection of hits raised fascinating questions. Who is the "Eileen S. Winterble" portrayed on the world's most widely used search engine? (By the way, if I omit my middle initial, the hits are a bit different.) The entries ranged from my website and blog posts (good) to my times in 10K races I ran in Central Park years ago (not so good). There was also a newspaper article from 1988! Who digitized that piece of history?

While I can't control Google's mysterious algorithms, I do what I can to shape my presence on the Web. I expect people to Google me or to visit my website. I am on LinkedIn and Facebook. I keep my profiles up to date and try to separate business from personal matters although that is becoming increasingly difficult in our wired world.

Have you Googled yourself lately? Are you using social media to advance your career or build your business? Take the initiative in telling the world who you are and what you can do. Don't default to a set of algorithms.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Your Other Job as Caregiver

Many of us have taken multi-tasking to a whole new level. Our day job is to build our careers with all the hard work and stress that can bring. Our other job may be serving as caregiver to ageing parents or other loved ones. It is not surprising if you find this second position daunting. Even my colleague John Mills, a health care expert, struggled when he was a caregiver for his father, who suffered from Parkinson's Disease. John learned from the experience and decided to share that knowledge with others

With his life and business partner, Susan Baida, John founded eCare Diary, an interactive website designed to help individuals and families seeking and providing long-term care. The site offers comprehensive information, tools and resources to help navigate the complex long-term care system. A stand-out feature is Care Diary, a set of online tools to facilitate coordination of care and sharing of information among family members and other caregivers. The site is free.

Please take advantage of all the help that's out there as you strive to balance your many responsibilities. eCare Diary is a great resource.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Everybody Has a Boss

Everybody has a boss. CEO's are accountable to their boards. Boards of public companies are accountable to their shareholders. Nonprofit boards are accountable to their communities and contributors. Your boss has a boss. Do you know who it is and what results she is looking for? Understanding what drives your boss's boss is a key part of being successful in your career. It helps you put yourself in the big picture.

If your boss is an effective leader and communicator, you probably have a pretty good idea of where you fit in the big picture. The goals she sets for you are tied to the overall goals of your company or organization. What do you do, though, if the directions you get seem arbitrary or unclear?

You can begin by asking positive questions of your boss, mentors and other colleagues that show your desire to help get the job done. Make sure you stay informed about the competitive and financial forces affecting your organization. For example, pending cutbacks in government funding for health care programs are putting pressure on the health care delivery system. Armed with a clearer understanding of where the decision-makers in your organization want to go, you will be ready to adapt to changing priorities and to stand out as someone who exceeds expectations.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rocky & Adrian - Great Partners

Rocky & Adrian. Captain Kirk & Spock. Arianna Huffington & Kenneth Lerer. What do these duos have in common? They join people with dramatically different personalities to form a highly successful team. You know all about the first two pairs. The third matches the very public face of The Huffington Post with the man behind the scenes. Read this article to see how Huffington and Lerer melded their contrasting skills and expertise to take the blog from a small start to a $315 million payday.

Is there a lesson in this story for the rest of us? For me, it means moving out of the comfort zone of being with people like ourselves to find colleagues who bring different ideas and skills to the table. You may be put off at first by someone who comes on strong when you like to take your time getting to know people. It may take awhile to discover how to work effectively with someone who seems to be your opposite. I know from experience, though, that great results can come from these "odd couple" pairings. Together, you can be smarter, more creative, and more effective than either of you can be alone.

Keep in mind what Rocky said to Adrian: "I got gaps; you got gaps; we fill each other's gaps."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Never Say "It's Not Fair"

I often advise my women coaching clients to avoid statements such as "it's not fair" when making their case to a male superior or colleague. This is not a value judgment about the merits of the grievance in question. I am simply reflecting my assessment of the realities of the workplace. Talking about "fairness" and similar concepts often plays into the stereotypes of women as more emotional than rational, more subjective than objective. It just isn't helpful in advancing your career.

Now there is independent support for this advice. Shaunti Feldhan wrote an article in last Sunday's New York Times about her research into the way men think in the workplace. She described how men view personal feelings at work. Basically, they don't think personal feelings have any place. They tend to view people who seem to take criticism personally or have personality conflicts as being less business like or less experienced. Feldhan also found that men hold these negative percpetions more often about women than about men.

These perceptions may be totally inaccurate. The bottom line is that they can still get in your way as you build your career. Understanding how your words and actions may be interpreted by your male colleagues is one more skill to be mastered. Remember, you are responsible for your career.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I Am So Frustrated!

"I am so frustrated!" I have lost count of the number of times I have heard this sentence from coaching clients. The accompanying emotional content varies from anger to resignation to despair. As we dig into the deeper meaning of this cry for help, the translation is usually some form of "I am not in control." That is true. We can't control the unrealistic expectations of our bosses. We can't control the counterproductive behavior of the colleagues we rely on to get the job done.

Get over it. There is only one part of the vast universe where we have the slightest possibility of exercising control. That is the part we occupy ourselves. We can do a better job managing the way we respond to difficult people and situations. The basic model of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) offers a guide: self-awareness; self-management; social awareness; and social management.

This is a message of hope, not helplessness. You can develop the resiliency and emotional tools for dealing more effectively with your career challenges. The key is to remake yourself as a force for positive change. You can do it!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Becoming Seth Godin

I have a role model for my blogging efforts: Seth Godin. I have more hair than Seth does - possibly a plus - but he is much more prolific. Every day - 7 days a week, including national holidays - Seth sends out a wise and thought-provoking message to his many followers. His core themes repeat over time, but he gives a fresh twist to each topic. I am in awe of his blogger output - both quality and quantity.

Role models are good to have. They inspire us to stretch professionally and personally. They guide us along a career path. They show us how to handle challenge and change. But they are not us, and we are not them. To find lasting fulfillment, we must be in touch with what makes us special. We must find what works for us.

I will not shave my head, and I will not commit to posting blogs on Memorial Day or even Groundhog Day. I will try to find my own voice and my own rhythm. I hope to reach a few readers with helpful ideas. I will work on becoming a better me. I believe Seth would approve.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What's Worse Than Rejection?

What's worse than rejection? I can think of so many things: Being stuck in a dead-end job. Always feeling you missed a great opportunity. Seeing someone else get credit for an idea you had. Please feel free to add your favorite regrets and "second-guessing" situations to the list. I know you have them. We all do.

How do we get beyond our fear of rejection to take chances that could make all the difference in our careers? One strategy is to build a network of supportive people you trust and value. Call them your "validation" group. Test options and ideas with them; they will give you honest feedback. Then make your move in the larger world.

Not everyone you reach out to will return your call or email. Not everyone will embrace your creative initiative. When that happens, tell yourself that the people who really appreciate your talents are behind you. Keep trying. The next time you pick up the phone, you may find an eager collaborator at the other end of the line. You will never know unless you try. There are worse things than the momentary sting of rejection.