Thursday, March 31, 2011

Limitless - Not the Movie!

Was I turning into a wimp? In Chicago, I had braved wind chills of minus 87 degrees. In New York, I had stood on subway platforms that rivaled the blast furnaces of the Pittsburgh of yore. Now I was cancelling meetings and hunkering down as tornado warnings and severe storms raced across Central Florida. Ignoring pleas from TV meteorologists to stay in, I finally got in the car and drove about 10 minutes to the grocery store. Not exactly a profile in courage, but I did get out of the house.

Seth Godin, marketing guru, wrote about the false limits we often place on ourselves in a recent blog post. His insights and advice apply to marketing a product or service or marketing yourself in your career. Are you waiting to be asked to apply for that promotion? Are you in a comfortable but dead end job? Seth asks why aren't you putting in the time, putting in the effort, and overcoming the fear? Are the limits real or artificial barriers you have placed around your comfort zone?

A coach can help you break down those false limits. But the coach can't want change more than you do. Don't let false limits hold you back.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

There's Only One Way She Got That Job

When word got out that I was being appointed to head a major state agency, the phones began to ring. The question being asked: who was I having an affair with? Certainly, there must be a man pulling the levers of power to get me the job. I laughed it all off. The important fact for me was that I did get the job, which was a great opportunity for me. When I left about 5 years later, the consensus was that I had performed well.

That was more than 20 years ago. Women have made tremendous progress since then, right? Let me know what you think after reading this article on the efforts at M.I.T. to provide a level playing field for the recruitment and promotion of women in the School of Science. While the discussion may not involve sexual favors, there are allegations of preferential treatment for women faculty and students.

I see it another way. Removing bias and barriers allows women to rise to their full potential. When symphony orchestras began holding blind auditions (musicians playing behind a screen), the number of women selected rose significantly. So don't pay too much attention to people who cast doubt on your qualifications. Believe in yourself. Take the job, the promotion, or the award and do your absolute best. Your accomplishments will answer the only questions that count.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Do You Know What's Going On?

You are responsible for advancing your career - not your boss, not your mentor, not the HR department. An important ingredient in your career plan is information - lots of it. When is the last time you read the business section of a national newspaper, magazine or blog? You have so many options today for accessing information and insights. Print may still work for you. The Internet on your PC takes you to so many sources. Then there are all the apps on your smartphone and tablet.

Make sure you venture out of the circle of your immediate business and professional interests. You may find a useful bit of information in a profile on the CEO from a different industry. Leadership skills are almost always transferable. Stories about business meltdowns offer lessons in how smart people can make bad decisions. Opening your mind and broadening your information base will help you connect ideas and promote creativity. To think out of the box, read out of the box.

What may be missing in your information-gathering approach is old-fashioned discipline. Yes, you are busy meeting deadlines and dealing with office politics. Think of the time you spend reading about market trends, new technology, and financial developments as an investment in your career. The ROI will exceed your expectations.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Google's People Skills - Not an Oxymoron

Google usually brings to mind cutting-edge technology and complex algorithms - not old-fashioned people skills. Several years ago, Google recognized that good managers were critical to its success and began an evidence-based, statistical project to find out what differentiates really good managers from the rest of the pack. The answer turned out to be people skills, as described in a recent article in the New York Times.

This finding has been validated for me time and again as I help coaching clients move into leadership roles in their organizations. Their professional skills and technical expertise get them the opportunity to lead. Their success in their new roles depends, however, on their ability to think strategically; to work collaboratively with superiors and, peers; and to inspire and support the people they manage.

Effective leaders at every organization level are people who score high on emotional intelligence indicators, aka "people skills." Now Google has given us a full database of evidence to support this conclusion.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Down with Annual Performance Reviews!

This intriguing article argues that performance reviews have a negative impact on employee performance and offers another approach - based on shared goal-setting and collaboration - to get things done in the work place. While the immediate context is turmoil in the public employee union sector, the author's reasoning applies to all work environments.