All In or Just Passing Go? Getting Good Pays Off | Seinfeld Says

“Ho hum.” That’s too often the mantra about our jobs.

We do our work routinely, passing go, like in the Monopoly game, collecting our weekly paychecks, hoping our mundane job will one day turn into a thrill ride.

The fact is: We get from our jobs what we expect…of ourselves. What we put in determines what comes out.

When it comes to creating a long, satisfying career, each of us is accountable.

It’s not about the boss who won’t promote you or the company that doesn’t provide training or the coworkers who are duds. It’s about you:

  • the goals you set,
  • the quality of work you do,
  • the effort you make to build skills,
  • the risks you’re willing to take–like saying “yes” to new assignments or switching companies

The truth is:

Getting good brings you to a love of your work.

Achieve that and the payoffs are yours.

All in?

You know who the serious careerists are at work. You see them knuckling down and pounding out the work. They know what they want to get good at because that’s where their strengths and interests are. So they keep testing themselves, making “can do” their mantra.

Employees who come to work only to pass go are a drag on the organization. They perpetuate the status quo when success requires growth. Ho hum locks you in place..

Getting good

Our strengths are the starting point for getting good. By focusing on strengths that motivate you consistently, you can set goals that keep inching you toward the career success you want.

Comedian, Jerry Seinfeld, from the TV series and mega-hit, Seinfeld, is a case in point.

He appeared on the Mike and Mike in the Morning program on ESPN (January 30, 2014) for the first time. Co-host Michael Greenberg asked Seinfeld questions that led to insightful (not funny) answers.

First, Greenburg wanted to know why Seinfeld was still doing standup and other projects since he didn’t need the money:

 Anybody who’s ever good at anything is doing it because they love it…it’s a way of life for me, it’s not about the money…it feels like you’re using what you have.

Seinfeld spoke openly about how he struggled to become a good comedian. Performing on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was his big moment: Succeed there or go up in flames. He had to be “all in” or else.

Seinfeld observed in successful baseball players that same commitment to being all in:

I admire anyone who is in love with their craft and their pursuit. People who kill themselves with the physical and prep side of the game…I want to see how they approach the game. The guys who put the mental work into the game.

Seinfeld recognizes that getting good means understanding how success is achieved:

Baseball is a beautiful model of how things happen…In football it’s hard for us to understand the formations and the play calls. In baseball we can see pretty easily what happened.

In our careers we need to see and understand what’s going on too–the politics of the workplace, the competitive environment, performance expectations, and the capabilities of our coworkers.

Being all in at work means being fully aware of what’s going on in our field of play.

Recommit.

Getting good is a commitment you build on for as long as you wish. Seinfeld recently launched a on-line video series, Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. It’s an unscripted conversation that takes his comedian guests, as he says, “out of their packaging.”

Seinfeld  wanted to learn “how things happen” around internet programming, being fascinated by the idea that he could shoot a segment and then: “I can immediately put a show in your pocket.”

Once you know what “all in” feels like, it can take you places you never imagined.

All of us aren’t Jerry Seinfeld, but we’re either all in or just passing go in our careers. Now’s a good time to raise the volume on your “can do” mantra and recommit.

Is Your Head Ready to Explode? 4 Ways to Keep It Together. | Simplifying

“Make it stop,” you say,  “–the noise, the confusion, the stupid mistakes, the wasted time.”

When our work days amount to one distraction and miscue after another, we feel caught in an endless squeeze, desperately trying to get our work done in spite of it.

If we could only find the cause and do something about it. Or if our boss would just stop contributing to or ignoring  the problems.

Alas, we’re left helpless and ultimately succumb to our new reality– frustrating disorder.

Disorder creeps up on us, our coworkers, and our boss. It grows microscopically in the folds of our daily tasks and gradually infects the way work gets done, relationships evolve, and organizations perform.

The symptoms are often in full view, but we’re too busy to notice them, until they stop us cold.

Early detection

Disorder is a work management issue. You know you’re mired in it when:

  • It’s unclear who’s responsible and accountable for specific work products.
  • Work stalls because someone in the process flow keeps dropping the ball.
  • The same errors are repeated by the same or different people.
  • Mistakes are made and no one notices for a long time.
  • Assignment specifics are changed mid-stream or shifted to different employees.
  • All direction is by e-mail: You miss one, you lose.

If you’re a supervisor reading this, you’re perfectly positioned to fix things. If you’re an employee feeling crushed by the weight, here’s your chance to showcase your value by stepping up, identifying the cause, and proposing a solution.

If no one does anything, the disorder will get worse and all you can do is wear a helmet to keep your head together.

Simplify

Lack of clarity around expectations and processes is most often the cause of disorder and confusion. The more employees and layers of management a company has, the more the internal working parts (roles, processes, and strategies) need to align.

When you feel like the air is being sucked out of you, it’s time to stop and look at what you’re doing and how. In most instances the fix is about simplifying–reducing complexity, getting back to basics, and realigning

Here are four ways to recalibrate the way you work and uncover fixes:

  1. Tune in: Listen to the voice that matters. Tune out the coworker noise around you. Your boss is the person whose expectations you need to meet. If you don’t understand his or her direction, then be a pest and keep asking until you do. Get clear and then get on with the work.
  2. Own it: Follow or create a process. Most work includes a process that, when executed effectively, delivers consistent output. You’re part of the work flow, so take ownership of your role. If there’s a snag, figure out where it is and suggest a way to alleviate it. Your fix adds value.
  3. Get it: Recognize boundaries. Organization charts supposedly reveal the hierarchy of roles and responsibilities in the company. When you  can’t tell who’s accountable for results by the org chart, you need to ask your boss. Knowing where the buck stops can absorb some of the pressure you’re feeling.
  4. Do it: Prepare and submit performance goals. Self-preservation is a motivator and having specific written goals that your boss has agreed to can be a career-saving initiative. Write goals whether your boss asks for them or not. If s/he gives you goal statements, edit them to make they’re measurable and observable. If your work changes, revisit your goals with your boss. This might make his or her head explode, but it will save yours.

Elegance

Simple is chic in fashion and at work. When leadership, processes, roles, and goals are aligned, outcomes take on both ease and elegance. You have more power to impact the way work is done then you think. Go ahead and seize it.

 

 

 

Supervising Employees Who Hate Their Jobs? Step In or Pay the Price.

hate job 3533132079_708cc8953a_mGrumbling  is one thing; hating quite another. Every job includes things we don’t like but hating is big.

Funny isn’t it, that when we start a new job, we’re so gung-ho. The work, the challenge, and the new relationships feel exciting and so promising.

So how do we go from all that eagerness to job hating?

Decline and fall.

Our jobs exist in a culture created by the leadership style of our supervisors who operate in a culture created by their managers and the leadership. It’s a chain.

Daily, we do our jobs along side coworkers who also perform within that same supervisor- created culture. So if we hate our jobs, it’s on our supervisor’s watch.

Alert supervisors pick up on the signs that we’re hating our jobs like:

  • lack of enthusiasm and energy
  • inattentiveness, slacking, and disinterest
  • flat performance levels and unwillingness to volunteer
  • whining, complaining, and fault-finding

More than likely, we don’t realize just how our job unhappiness is affecting us, showing on our faces, and becoming a detriment to our careers.

We should remember that our supervisors too may hate their jobs, creating an even more complex set of circumstances for them to handle.

No matter what, the failure of supervisors to intervene when employees are unhappy contributes to the decline and fall of all or part of any organization.

Step up with conviction.

Supervisor intervention around job hating is not about band-aiding: It’s about taking on the big issues that are turning employees off.

After seeing a study by Dale Carnegie Training that confirmed the extent of employee job hating, Ilya Pozin wrote an article for Huffington Post identifying the top ten reasons full-time employees hate their jobs .

Of the ten, these five, in my view, are ripe for immediate supervisor action. Taking them on and resolving them will contribute to healing the hating and bolstering leadership status. Pozin’s reasons are in bold italics below and my comments follow:

Their boss sucks. Supervisors need to lead so employees want to follow. So stop micro-managing, criticizing, keeping employees in the dark, and treating them like they’re either the enemy, game pieces to be pushed around, or stupid. Instead, listen to what they say and mean, ask for clarity, explain what you can and cannot do for them, and give them a chance to be creative.

They’re not being challenged.  Supervisors need to ensure that employees have diverse and interesting work to do, not just mundane, repetitive, and under-the-radar tasks. Give employees a chance to come up with a new approach, solve problems together, or switch off roles by ensuring cross-training.

There’s too much red tape.  Endless rules and hoops to jump through to complete essential work only frustrate employees who see that their ability to get things done is being hampered unnecessarily. Look for opportunities to increase decision-making authority for employees that reinforces your trust in them.

There’s no room for advancement. Feeling like you’re going nowhere in your job is debilitating. If there is no clear career path, there are always opportunities for supervisors to develop the capabilities of employees so they can cover for each other and for the supervisor. When employees feel they are growing and have added to their value, they see their jobs more positively.

Job insecurity. Employees routinely read the tea leaves about what’s going on in the company. It doesn’t take much to make them nervous about their employment. That’s why supervisors need to keep them informed about how the company is performing, address the rumor mill, and be transparent. Credible information goes a long way to liking your job.

 Avoid loss.

Good supervisors watch out for the well-being of their employees. Their ability to create and maintain a positive, high-performing work group is the true measure of a supervisor’s value.

When supervisors fall short, employees often leave or under-perform. Since both are avoidable, there should be a career price to pay by supervisors for letting that happen.

Photo by Adam Foster via Photoree

 

 

 

Ready to Tackle Drama, Change, Fear, and Accountability? Follow 5 Reality-Based Rules.

Wakeman 9781118413685_p0_v3_s260x420I love a straight-shooter, someone who cuts through the fluff and excuses to expose the unvarnished realities of the workplace. That’s what I discovered with Cy Wakeman when I was invited to blog about the insights in her new book, The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace. We may not like to see the sides of ourselves revealed in her pages, but the insights will makes us better, happier, and more successful.

A lot goes on around us at work. It’s easy to become oblivious to much of it until we get caught in the crossfire.

Too often our own naiveté about what our companies and bosses expect of us causes us to adopt attitudes and behaviors that are detrimental. To succeed we need to understand the realities that drive business and the often unspoken  rules that, when followed, will propel us in the right direction.

Face yourself.                                    

In her new book, The Reality-Based Rules of the Workplace, business consultant and speaker, Cy Wakeman, cuts to the chase on the behaviors that will make or break your success.

She gets it about why we are lured down the paths of wrong thinking and provides clear steps to get us back on track. She never deviates from the point that success is about how you and I choose to think and act.

Wakeman reminds us that:  cy wakeman b03fcc37bdbc0a7f02356f_L__V396196531_SX200_

When you feel vulnerable, even defensive, it’s all too easy to blame the economy, political leaders, your boss–everyone except the one person you can control: yourself.

…no one is born accountable, self-reliant, self-mastered, and resilient, yet these are the qualities that count, the ones that will fill you with confidence….

To become what she calls  “happy high-performers,” we need to take stock of ourselves. Through her self-rating checklists and strategies to increase your rating score, you can assess:

  • Your current performance
  • Your future potential
  • Your emotional expensiveness (the cost of being a high maintenance employee)

To assess emotional expensiveness she asks if:

  • “You are dramatic….
  • You come to work in a bad mood.
  • You share a lot of personal information with coworkers….
  • You complain a lot, or judge others.
  • You have an entitled or victim mind-set….”

With your answers in mind, she adds a positive perspective:

…good things come to those who are Emotionally Inexpensive. They are magnets for jobs, promotions, raises, and opportunities of all kinds.

Wakeman makes a strong point about the importance of determining where we stand in the context of our workplace, so we can build a career sustaining strategy.

She writes:

Meeting performance expectations is now the price of keeping your job. But it isn’t enough to guarantee you anything extra–recognition, benefits, or job security.

5 reality-based rules

It’s not uncommon for us to struggle to understand what’s really going on around us at work.

It’s also not uncommon to need help understanding the reality of our own behaviors: what’s driving us, who do we let influence our thinking, how do we overcome our fears, and what are we doing to enable our own happiness.

Wakeman’s five reality-based rules help you sort through the maze. Here are the rules and a peek at Wakeman’s insights about them:

1. Accountability determines happiness

You will get results when you stop…focusing on what is happening “to” you, and focus on…what you can do …to compete, to deliver, and to succeed.

2. Ditch the drama.

Without drama weighing you down , you will be free to make accountable choices, free of your stories and excuses, free of your and other people’s drama.

3. Action adds value.

If your motive is to stop the course of action or question a decision, change your focus from why it won’t work to how you can help make it work. Get willing, buy in, and use your expertise to mitigate the risks you see.

4. See change as opportunity.

Be ready for what’s next….Don’t let fear of failure stop you from trying.

5. Face extenuating circumstances and succeed anyway.

Confront conflicts early, calmly, and in a spirit of teamwork…Ask, ‘How can I help?’ Get clear on goals, roles, and procedures.

Aha moments

The road to career success is paved with aha moments and Wakeman provides a plethora of them in her book. You will find yourself, your boss, your coworkers, and many people outside of work there.

Understanding how your attitudes, behaviors, and self-deception can create toxicity is a powerful realization. Realizing and practicing a new and more savvy perspective enables you to see things with the clarity you need

Hungry for Leadership Success? Whip Up a Batch of Principles

Serve them to your employees. They’re as hungry for success as you are.

Employees know the drill: They’re expected to deliver specific results for which they’re compensated. The better they perform, the more likely their careers will advance. 

When they understand what matters to their bosses, they can perform with minimal uncertainty. Bosses who aren’t clear about what drives their leadership and who act inconsistently give their employees a stomachache. 

Use organic principles. 

There’s so much written about leadership (a lot of it really good) that it’s hard to get our practical heads around it all. 

Clearly, the higher up we go in the organization and the broader our accountabilities, the more complex and strategic our leadership requirements. The closer we are to work output, the more linear and tactical it is. 

No matter our level, leadership includes: 

  • Principles—our core beliefs about what good leaders do; the standards that drive us
  • Traits—the distinguishing features marking the way we lead, like courage or optimism
  • Behaviors—our conduct, specifically the actions we take to get results like building partnerships or making timely decisions 

Role models (family members, coaches, bosses) are often how we first learn about leadership. But those people aren’t us. We’re unique. What drives our way of leading is a reflection of what we value—our principles. 

The recipe 

Step 1: Get clear about the principles that underpin the way you lead. You can’t lead consistently when you’re confused about what you value. Your principles are your daily guide and are tested when you face tough decisions. 

Step 2: Write your principles down and share them with your employees. That includes talking to them about why each principle is important to you. Let employees ask questions and generate clarifying discussion, so that you understand each other. 

Hold yourself accountable. 

If we are true to our principles, we’re willing to go to the mat to protect them. Here are some examples and what they require of leaders who own them

Principle: I believe that all employees should be treated with respect, patience, and consideration. 

That means: 

  • I will intervene immediately where there may be bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
  • I will listen and consider all feedback from employees, including differences around performance appraisal, hiring/promotion decisions, and personal requests.
  • I will make time to meet with employees face-to-face, when requested, to hear ideas and provide information, providing actionable direction. 

Principle: I will assign accountability for results, delegate responsibility and authority, and support progress by removing obstacles as appropriate. 

That means: 

  • I will allow employees to succeed or fail in the assignments they own, not “rescuing” a faltering assignment, but offering support and direction.
  • I will not micro-manage delegated assignments.
  • I will treat employees as professionals by empowering them to manage their assignments, using my position to help them overcome obstacles as needed. 

Principles abound. You just need to focus on the ones you know will help you lead more effectively in the situation you and your employees share. 

You can write principles about: 

  • Vision and strategic direction
  • Employee engagement and group problem-solving
  • Achieving business and individual goals
  • Employee growth and development
  • Mistakes, code of conduct, ethics and integrity
  • Teamwork and trust
  • Can-do attitudes, collaboration, and sense of humor 

There is no leading without followers. You need to develop principles that motivate your employees to follow because they share your core beliefs and see the reward in them. 

Your principles let your employees know what they can expect of you, particularly when the chips are down. 

When you compromise your principles, you sully your relationship with your employees. Each time to stand by them, you strengthen it. 

Please take some time to whip up a batch of your principles. Then serve them up with a cold glass of milk! Enjoy. 

Photo from Matt McGee via Flickr

If You Can’t Execute, Job Knowledge Gets You Nowhere.

Knowing is easier than doing. It remains internal until we make it external by showcasing it, putting it into practice, and owning it. 

There are lots of reasons why we don’t immediately put new knowledge and untested skills into practice like: 

  • Not knowing how or when
  • Being afraid to goof up or look stupid
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Laziness or lack of commitment
  • Unwillingness to own the outcome 

Our careers go nowhere unless we deliver results, outcomes, and achievements where we work. Not doing matters, big time! 

Right action v. wrong 

Sadly, there are plenty of employees who side-step action when they can. I’m sure you know coworkers and/or managers who: 

  • Argue that there’s not enough data to make a decision—ever
  • Let problems fester and never intervene
  • Won’t act without approvals from higher-ups
  • Can’t/won’t put skills training into practice
  • Avoid connecting the dots 

The fallout from all this inaction is often, counter-intuitively, dead-end action. Everyone suddenly gets very busy. There are lots of meetings, emails, phone calls, texts, and scurrying about, all hours of the day and night. 

Most of this action is about pushing information around from one person to another, keeping everyone in a loop that likely takes them all nowhere. 

We are branded by the results we produce. It’s what differentiates us when we are candidates for a promotion or for a job with another company. Each career move is driven by what we’ve done so far with what we know.  That means we need to do plenty of the right stuff. 

Knowledge first 

Knowledge is the essential starting point. If it weren’t, then schooling wouldn’t be central to getting hired.

What we learn from trainers, coaches, book authors, bloggers (like me), and talking heads is mostly concepts and methods. The actionable part of what they teach is in their wheelhouse, not ours. 

It’s no easy trick to take new knowledge or skills and, by ourselves, figure out how to use them effectively. We’re usually flying blind. 

So our choices are to: 

  • Take a shot anyway, hoping we won’t make matters worse, or
  •  Crawl back into our cubicle, risking nothing 

Unless there is a compelling reason for us to stick our necks out, we’ll too often choose option two. 

Supported action second 

I’ve been through this as a manager and with clients as a coach/consultant. You can read all the books about how to monetize a blog, attend conferences about becoming a break-through leader, and participate in multiple training programs on effective supervision, but until you execute the concepts and practices, you haven’t created any new outcomes. Your brand remains as it was. 

It’s a rare person who can transfer knowledge into action on their own. It takes a lot of insight into the: 

  • way we work and lead
  • dynamics of our work situation
  • complexities of processes
  • cross-functional implications of decisions
  • work group’s tolerance for change 

We need trusted people who know how to operationalize the knowledge we’ve added to our toolkits to help us. 

The best thing you can do for your career is to seek help from a respected advisor who has a stake in your success. That may be your boss, a mentor, or even an outside coach (someone who has been in your shoes). 

Execute your plan. 

Plans keep you focused on action. Hold yourself accountable for getting results from the knowledge and skills you’re building: 

  • Write down the results that you will achieve for the balance of the year
  • List  the steps you’ll take
  • Name the support person you’ll turn to for advice 

The ultimate measure of your business fitness is your ability to make things happen for your company and yourself. Turn knowing into doing and reap the rewards. 

Photo from thievingjoker via Flickr

Baby-sitting Your Job or Owning It? A Career Differentiator

Jobs are precious these days. Most careers are made up of jobs we’ve loved and others that felt like a long trek across the desert with an empty canteen. 

It’s tempting to grouse when we see our jobs as: 

  • Boring and repetitive
  • Uncreative and confining
  • Unchallenging and limiting 

If we’re not complaining that the work isn’t exciting enough, we’re dissing on the boss who isn’t doing something about it. 

It’s our work. 

It would be wonderful to have a boss with the time, energy, and ability to tailor our jobs to fit what we most want to do. Truth is, no one’s doing that for our bosses either. 

Businesses run on the processes and tasks required to make their products and deliver services. They need us to produce results that create the revenue and profit needed to keep it going and us employed. 

This may not be a very sexy scenario but it’s the way it is. 

We are essential to the success of the business and the business is essential to ours. We’re in this together. 

Baby-sitter or owner? 

Baby-sitting for someone else’s kids is a big responsibility, but it’s not the same as being the parent. A baby-sitter spends a specific amount of time with the children, performs basic care duties, gets paid, and goes home. 

When we approach our jobs as just a string of tasks completed over a set period for which we get paid and then go home, we are a bit like a baby-sitter. Our perceived commitment to the lifetime success of the business would appear minimal at best.

 We differentiate ourselves at work in ways that get us noticed when it’s evident that we truly own our work, whether glamorous or mundane, out front or behind the scenes, challenging or simple.   

So, I’ll repeat: “It’s your job, so own it.” 

When you work your job with zeal like it’s your own business, you demonstrate its value, bring attention to it challenges, showcase your capabilities, win the regard of colleagues, and set a positive example. It gets you noticed. 

Your job—your business 

If you haven’t looked at your job from an entrepreneur’s perspective before, here are several business aspects that you own: 

Products and services: Your output (i.e., data, ideas, reports, transactions) is what you’re selling to your boss, coworkers, and perhaps customers. So the quality of your work product is a measure of your contribution to your main customer—your employer. The better is it, the more value you’re adding.

Customer relationships: Your internal customers (boss, coworkers, peers, other departments) make or break your ability to succeed. They either applaud your work or criticize it, contributing to either a positive or negative brand. You need positive relationships that become your loyal support foundation.

Marketing: Your work reflects on the company and you. Everything you do needs to reinforce the standards, quality, integrity, and principles that underpin the business and your personal brand. A good reputation is currency for your future growth.

Fiscal Responsibility: You have an impact on the company’s bottom line by the way you use resources, apply your time productively, adhere to rules, and protect company property. You don’t need to be spending budgeted dollars directly to affect the bottom line.

Administration: Every business has back office work (reports, filing, records, accounting) that ensures its efficiency and effectiveness. In your job you need to be known as someone who meets deadlines, is accurate, and careful about your paperwork. 

Freeing yourself 

When we own our jobs, we end up freeing ourselves from the idea that we are somehow under the thumb of the company. We recognize that the work we do is in our control, a reflection of our ability to get results though our own energies. 

When we own our jobs, the leadership sees a difference in us, in our ability to understand the business, and our part in it. It showcases our skills and abilities in unique ways. That can be the perfect formula for your next move—up! 

Photo from twodolla via Flickr