Monday, September 29, 2014

8 Top Mistakes that could Derail your Career

You arrive on time.  You work hard.  You get your job done.  You are pleasant to co-workers.  You aren't being promoted.  You don't get it.

If you're looking for some answers to the 'why did they get promoted and I didn't' question, maybe it's time to focus less on what you are doing, and more on what you're not.  Mistakes can cost you.  Sure, failing to hit your targets over and over is a mistake that is fairly easy to catch, however there may be other mistakes you are making that you are overlooking.  

The following is a list of 8 Top Mistakes that could Derail your Career:
  1. Confusing Actions for Results.  Too many people make the mistake of measuring their worth by taking a look at how busy they are, rather than by the results they achieve.  Results have value.  Getting caught up in activities that don't move you or the organization forward may make you appear busy over the course of the day but they don't do much to help you get ahead.
  2. Only doing Your Job.  Show you are ready and interested in more by doing more.  Going beyond demonstrates to others that you have a capacity to take on more responsibility - which is much more likely to lead to them giving it to you than simply 'doing what you're paid to do' will.
  3. Not taking Advantage of Learning Opportunities.  Many organizations have internal training resources, online programs and libraries that few employees take advantage of.  However, if you are looking for the company to invest further in you, you should first demonstrate your willingness to invest in yourself.  Successful senior leaders are constantly upgrading their worth by investing in their knowledge-base.  Being 'too busy' to take advantage of learning opportunities available to you will tend to be seen as more of a lack of interest than as a lack of time... especially if you seem to be well versed on the latest installments of new TV shows.
  4. Not Networking.  It is important that you get to know others within the organization, not just those in your immediate vicinity.  Don't spend all your time at your desk; look for opportunities to create connections with others from other areas and disciplines.  Learn the business through them.  Keep up with your connections outside of the organization also, maintaining your insight into what and how other corporations are managing.
  5. Tying Yourself to the Wrong Kite.  Many people will attempt to align themselves closely to a high flyer, in the hopes of taking advantage of their growth and opportunities.  However, tie yourself to the wrong kite and their fall could also be yours.  Being supportive of everyone's growth, not just the superstar, speaks of professionalism and fairness, likely leading to greater longevity.
  6. Feeding the Gossip Mill.  Don't trash-talk others if you don't want the same in return.  Focus on promoting a positive work environment rather than feeding into the negativity.  It's a pretty simple call... if you wouldn't want someone saying it about you, then don't say it about someone else!  Professionalism gets promoted, not petty behaviour.
  7. Displaying an Addiction to Social Media/Cell Phone.  You need to demonstrate your commitment to your job and company, not staying in touch with friends.  No one believes that your constantly staring at your cell phone is all work related.  No one.  You will be viewed as wasting time and your 'busyness' will be seen as an outcome of that. 
  8. Maintain Professional Relationships.  You spend a lot of time at work, which means you may spend more time with many co-workers than you do some members of your family. However, this time can create a casualness in our relationships with coworkers that leads us to forget the environment we are in.  It's still business.  More careers have been derailed by slips in this area than any other.  It should go without saying that inappropriate and intimate relationships with others in the office, getting drunk at business functions, getting caught up in emotional drama at work or having a temper tantrum will all influence how others perceive you and your potential for growth.  Thinking you need to grow up is not likely to help you move up.
 It is all about perceived value.  If you are not viewed as adding value then you, in turn, will not be valued... or promoted.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

7 Ways to Become more Decisive

Not everyone is born decisive, able to make choices in life with little input of information or opinions from others.  Some...
  • agonize over the details
  • lose sleep over the potential impact of each alternative
  • get caught up in the analysis of the issues
and... lose time and energy to the process.  As a result, decisions get put off.  Sometimes this is a good thing while at other times it comes with a cost.

It's a fact that some habits come more easily to some of us than others.  We may find ourselves struggling to do something that seems to come naturally for others.  (those of you that can virtuously look at anything chocolate and say NO for instance!) However, there are ways and means for the rest of us to improve upon our more natural inclinations.  When it comes to Decisions, try using the following ideas to help you become more decisive in your life.
  1. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff.  We all have a limited amount of willpower each day.  Drawing upon yours for things that don't matter depletes it.  Over the course of the day, it can serve to exhaust your reservoirs, leaving you short for the bigger decisions that are sure to follow. Save your energy and focus on the bigger issues, reserving your mental resources for those. When we allow ourselves to get  distracted by the little things we tend to lose sight of what is truly important to us and then get completely immobilized by anything bigger that hits our plate. Learning to let the smaller stuff go leaves you better prepared to face those larger issues more quickly and decisively.
  2. Will this Matter a Year from Now?  Let's face it, it is going to be far easier to say don't sweat the small stuff than it is to actually let go of things.  To help you determine 'what' to let go of sooner ask yourself... Will this matter a year from now?  If it won't, let it go.  If it isn't something that is going to have a long-term impact on your life, then it isn't a decision that should be taking up a lot of your brain space.
  3. Know Your Values.  Be clear about what is important to you.  Decisions are easier to make when you have something to measure them against.  If you are clear about your values then you can evaluate your decisions by determining which choice best supports your values and choose it.  As Roy Disney once said... "When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier".
  4. Use your Back Burner.  Not all of our decisions require our full attention NOW!  Shift some of your decisions to your back burner, allowing your unconscious mind to begin putting together facts and data, forming your decision for you.  Not every decision is urgent and requires an immediate response.  When it is not critical that you decide right away, allow your back burner to work for you while you focus on those issues simmering away on the front burner of your brain.   
  5. Give your Gut some Credit.  Sometimes, when faced with indecision, you should just go with your gut.  Your unconscious mind speaks to you through your gut.  You may not know why you are feeling what you are but if it is a strong feeling, and you need to make a decision now, go with your gut and figure it out later.  Our unconscious mind often knows things before our conscious mind is able to make sense of it.  If you must make a decision before the conscious brain has figured things out - go with your gut.
  6. Use a Decision Matrix.  You can use a structured approach to some of your decisions, though I suggest pulling out the matrix for the big ones you face, not when trying to decide what you want for breakfast!  For this you evaluate your decision choices against key criteria you have pre-established.  The criteria should include anything that is important to you, but likely is a list containing all your top values, major goals, family, physical, spiritual, emotional impacts, etc. Assign a value from 1-10 for each criteria, for each decision option, indicating how well each option meets/fulfills that criteria, 1 being not at all and 10 being fully.  Add up the scores, for each decision option, across all the criteria you established.  Highest score typically indicates your best option.
  7. Flip a coin. Yes, some people make their decisions this way, allowing fate to decide for them. This is not what I am suggesting however.  To gain insight from the coin toss proceed as you would normally, assigning each option to either head or tails and then toss the coin in the air.  Pay attention to what you are hoping the outcome will be, before the coin lands.  Typically our thoughts, while the coin is in the air, will reveal to us what our preferred decision is.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Do We Need to Love What We Do?

We are often told that the greatest success comes to those that are doing what they love.  The
implication being of course that not loving what you do is somehow less, that you are never going to achieve success if the 'love' of your work escapes you.  This leads some to become demoralized about their work and still others to launch a lifelong quest to find that elusive 'thing' that they must love working at.  However, since many of us don't seem to be working at jobs that we love, it begs the question...

Do we Need to love what we do?

Even if you are currently working at something that you do love doing, there have likely been many jobs in the past that you were far less enthusiastic about.  Think about the first part-time job that you had as a teenager.  It likely wasn't work that you loved, but you probably loved having a job, having your own money to save or spend as you willed.  For me... working as a dishwasher in a pizza parlour was not my desired or ideal work, but having a part time job was the opportunity I was after.  I was excited to go to work not because I loved the work itself, but I loved the opportunity to prove myself, to develop my skills and... to get paid!

The message for those who are currently working in jobs they don't love (and you know who you are!) consider the following...

You don't have to love it.  Instead, learn to love the opportunity.

  • What new people are you getting the opportunity to meet.  One may become a friend for life. One may teach you something new.  Another may connect you to your next big opportunity. 
  • What new skills are you learning that can set you up for your next opportunity?  Don't overlook the value of developing your skills.  Push yourself to take full advantage of everything your current opportunity has to offer, never knowing exactly where and when you will need it, but knowing it is yet another skill in your personal toolkit.  It's portable.
  • What opportunities is this job providing for you outside of work?  Perhaps it's a means to an end.  This job is giving you the peace of mind and the income needed to enable you to pursue a hobby and passion that could perhaps represent your next opportunity.  Recognise and value your current job for what it provides.
  • What are you learning about yourself that helps build your confidence and open you to future opportunities?  Sometimes we need to build the base before we can start the climb.
  • What has this opportunity provided you and your family?  Not loving the job is not always necessary if you love its effect upon your life.  
Before you get discouraged, thinking that everyone but you is engaged in work that they love, remember that you just need to recognise and love the opportunity you have been given. Consider the following quote from the great Jim Rohn...

You might not like the stone you are on right now, but it's sure to be one of the stones that leads to great opportunities in the future.
It is not always finding work we love that leads us to success in life, but rather recognising the opportunities we have been given and taking full advantage of what we have.  Those open to learning from every opportunity are those that will grow, enjoying the journey as much as the destination.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Authenticity - More than a Buzzword

From 'Authentic' taste to 'Authentic' fit, the word Authentic is fast becoming overused hype.  Our cookies have authentic flavours, our clothing is described as authentic cotton, celebrities are touted to be authentic heroes, authentic athletes, actors and leaders.  The word authentic is quickly becoming so overused that it is in danger of losing all meaning or relevance.

However, as with all buzzwords, it has at its heart an important  message; that we have a desire, if not a need, for truth in our lives.  We're tired of being misled, of products being misrepresented and of people being photo-shopped beyond all reality.  We are looking for truth in advertising and truth in our relationships.  We want the people we interact with to be 'the real deal', to be what they portray.

How difficult can it be for us to be... well... us?

As it turns out, being Authentic is not easy.  We have spent an inordinate amount of our lives learning how to be what others want and expect of us.  Our personal truth does not work for all people and we therefore have learned to hide, hold back or massage our truth in an effort to fit better with the truth of others.  We have invested soheavily in trying to be all things to all people that we have lost touch with our authentic self, our personal truth.

In order to learn to be more Authentic, we must first give ourselves permission to be imperfect, to be vulnerable, to be courageous, to be worthy... just as we are. If learning to be our true selves is the goal, then we must start by believing that it is enough.  If others are not accepting of that then we need to acknowledge  the fault rests in them, not in our truth.  Our truth needn't grow to fit other's expectations of us but, rather, we need to grow enough to learn to fit our truth.

Being Authentic requires daily practice.  It requires us to be more mindful of US.  Who are we really?  What do we want?  What do we like?  What do we dislike?  What are our strengths, our weaknesses, our hopes, our dreams, our inspirations?  The more that we come to know ourselves, the more we can be ourselves.
"You must be the person you have never had the courage to be."  Paulo Coelho
In order to learn to be more authentic we need to try holding ourselves accountable to our truths.  When we find ourselves compromising on our truths we need to question 'why'.  Are we doing it on behalf of someone or something else?  How much do they/it matter to us in comparison to our truths?  If we are willing to compromise our personal truths - are they truly our truths or simply wannabe reflections of the person we think we should be, or want to be, not the true us?  Compromising our truths tells us a good deal about who we really are help us to gain greater clarity.  Sometimes, in practicing our authenticity, we gain greater insight concerning our authentic selves.

Although the word Authentic may be nothing more than a buzzword, taking the time to learn to be more authentic in our relationships and interactions with others may serve to reinforce just what made the concept so buzz-worthy in the first place.

Monday, September 1, 2014

To-Do or Anti-To-Do (Lists that is!)

We are all very familiar with the concept of the ubiquitous To-Do list.  This is a standard part of any work-day, the recording of those must-do items for the day.  Although its primary purpose is to keep us on track, to provide us with a constant reminder of what we hope to accomplish during the day, it also serves as a reinforcement tool.  That small rush of pleasure we receive when we cross an item off our list, the surge of joy we feel when we actually manage to complete everything before day's end all contribute to our feeling of productivity and accomplishment.

However, the reverse is also true.  When our day has finished long before our list is completed we can experience a sense of frustration and label the day unproductive.  Too many of those days can lead us to feeling as though we are unsuccessful, that we will never reach that big goal or fulfill that dream.  This is where the Anti-To-Do list steps in.  Unlike your To-Do list, which is built at the start of your day detailing all that you want/need/intend to accomplish, the Anti-To-Do list is built over the course of the day, serving as a record of everything that you DO accomplish.

The Anti-To-Do list is a tool used by the likes of Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape, Opsware, Ning and Andreessen Horowitz, a guy who knows how to get things done.  He uses the Anti-To-Do list to prevent his falling into the trap of not feeling productive at the end of the day.  The Anti-To-Do list reflects everything that he did manage to complete, even though it might not be everything that was on his To-Do list.
Most ambitious people tend to determine their success by measuring their progress towards the achievement of their goals.  Their daily To-Do list is a big part of this process, helping to outline steps that must be taken that day toward achieving those goals.  But, we do many things each day that are NOT on that list and that therefore get overlooked as a result.  Leaving things uncrossed by the end of the day can cause us to feel frustrated and demoralized, which can stall our forward momentum.  However, we can balance this off by then looking at our Anti-To-Do list, upon which we recorded anything useful that we did over the course of the day.  We are able to see that we actually accomplished many more things than we were previously giving ourselves credit for, helping us to see our capability and contribution.

The Anti-To-Do list can actually help us to feel more productive, by highlighting just how much we actually got done each day.  The more productive we feel the more productive we'll be.  There are some additional benefits to the Anti-To-Do list though, that may not be immediately apparent.  Maintaining a list of all the useful things you accomplish each day may also serve to point out where you consistently keep getting pulled off track from completing your To-Do list.  You may be helping others out, but if you are continuously completing tasks for someone else, you may find that they are the reason you are not getting more done on your list... you're busy crossing things off of theirs!

The To-Do list, though a helpful productivity tool, has become an unconsciously powerful measure of our success.  Using the Anti-To-Do list helps us to broaden our perspective on what constitutes progress toward the big goal of 'success', and is therefore a key factor in helping to build momentum toward its achievement. Mindset is everything; the more productive we feel, the more productive we will be.  Giving ourselves credit for everything we accomplish each day, not just what we have managed to cross off our To-Do list, may prove to be the motivational tool needed to get more crossed off our To-Do list!