Category Archives: Recommended
How visible are you at work? Chances are good that you’re making one of most common career mistakes there is — pouring a disproportionate about of effort into doing good work and not taking enough time to get to know other people.
I frequently give talks on careers and networking, and I’ve found many people fail to recognize one of the most powerful opportunities for networking that exists: networking within their own companies.
This is like wearing a cloak of invisibility.
Networking inside your company is some of the most important groundwork that you can do — and not just for yourself. Building a web of strong relationships up, down, and across your organization is invaluable for any projects and tasks that you could hope to accomplish, especially inside large organizations.
Alfred Sloan, when he ran General Motors in the 1920s and 1930s, would refuse to make a decision at a meeting if no one could argue a strong case against what was being proposed. He felt that if no one had any objections to what was being decided, it was because they had not thought long and hard enough about the question under consideration.
Alfred Sloan understood that the best ideas — along with the best decisions — are forged in the crucibles of healthy conflict. If there are no objections leading up to a decision, then either people just aren’t trying hard enough or your team isn’t working on hard enough problems. Clear thinking, innovation, and good decisions depend on diverse perspectives and opposing points of view.
Healthy conflict can be a tense arena. It takes bold leaders to create a safe space where everyone can be heard. And it takes confident followers to speak their mind even when they hold a minority point of view.
Working together is hard. Running an effective meeting can be even harder. One of the challenges is that everyone wants to be heard. To make it even more challenging, not everyone speaks up.
Setting a few ground rules is one of the surest ways to get everyone engaged while producing amazing results. Let it be known that you expect full engagement and everyone to be pulling in the same direction. My favorite set of ground rules comes out of the “New Games” movement from the 70’s. Their motto was Play Hard. Play Fair. Nobody Hurt. I can’t think of a better set of guiding principles for great meetings and vibrant teams.
Success can be finicky. For those who have made it big, the real reasons for their success are rarely the things they remember and write about. The building blocks of success are always much more subtle and nuanced.
This is where mentors come in.
In our quest for growth, progress, and success, we have this latent desire for someone who will take us under their wing and co-pilot our journey from the mailroom to the corner office. Or, more realistically, we imagine a relationship with a mentor who meets with us once or twice a month over a long period of time and imparts wisdom like a college professor working through a syllabus.
It doesn't work that way.
“We’re looking for someone who’s a good fit for our team.” Hiring managers say this all the time. But what is fit? What does fit look like?
Most of the time — especially when we are looking to hire someone — we put a lot of emphasis on finding a candidate who will fit.
We’ve got a round hole and we go looking for a round peg. We have this sense that fit is about matching a fixed set of character traits in the candidate with the culture of our team. We ask a candidate questions and surreptitiously listen for clues in search of a match between the candidate’s personality and our culture.
What if we got this whole ‘fit’ thing backwards? In other words, what if — instead of looking for fit — you start by articulating what fit looks like and then you look for people willing and able to adapt — to ‘fit in?’
“Continuous Improvement” is a mantra for just about all areas of our businesses and — if we’re ambitious — our lives. Companies make huge investments in everything from lean manufacturing to agile software development knowing that the best way to make things better is through steady and continual improvement. We reengineer our business processes to have feedback loops so we can learn from what we have done and build on those learnings.
Learn. Improve. Repeat.
It’s a no-brainer, right? The relentless pursuit of perfection, as Lexus would say. Everything is fair game. Nothing is exempt from the beneficent outcomes of continuous improvement…
Well, almost nothing.
When it comes to building great organizations, just about everyone would agree: culture is important. Culture is the heart and soul of an organization. When we hire people, we hire for “fit” into our culture. There are even companies who have Chief Culture Officers. And, of course, there’s the ever-popular trope that Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch.
But what is culture anyway? If it’s so doggone important, how do we know what we’re looking for? And how, perchance, might we shape and build the culture that we want?
So What IS Culture?
Too many people over-complicate this question. Culture is, quite simply, the “personality” of an group.
I love to hike. There is something deeply satisfying in loading a few provisions into a backpack and heading off into the hills. I have had the good fortune of hiking in the Colorado Rockies as well as the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.
Hiking is both an exhausting and exhilarating activity. The pack is heavy and rarely comfortable. The trail is often steep, the terrain rocky. There are times when each step is a slog. You make progress by keeping your head down and putting one foot in front of the other again and again. You find your stride.
Eventually, it’s time for a break. You reach a vista where you loosen your pack and refresh yourself with water. And then you look up. The view is amazing. Looking back, it’s hard to believe how far you’ve traveled. Looking ahead, you see the path clearly in front of you. You catch your breath, revel in your progress, affirm your course, and don the pack for another march.
The rhythm of productivity follows a similar path.