Need to Be Heard? Learn to Be Brief.

brief_Bookcover_play-03-231x300I love concise messages. So when offered the opportunity to read Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less by Joseph McCormack and then blog about it, I was all in. Writing a book about being brief showcases the author’s credibility from the first paragraph. McCormack’s Brief succeeds in all ways.

“That’s the way it goes,” we say when we don’t get:

  • Support for our ideas
  • An approval after our presentation
  • The sale
  • A job or promotion

There’s always reason (aka an excuse):

  • Bad timing
  • An off day
  • Competing factors
  • Favoritism or office politics

Actually, when things don’t go our way,  it’s usually about us–what we say and how we say it, attached to what we do and how we do it.

If we want better outcomes, we need to master brevity.

Learn to be brief.

Your career is driven by words:

  • Your boss explains the need for improved processes. You present new ideas and initiatives..
  • Your customers express their needs. You describe how your company’s products and services can meet them.
  • Your manager declares the desire to build talent. You define your capabilities.

Your biggest career challenge is cutting through the maddening clutter of noise, distractions, and interruptions, exacerbated by digital communications.

Joseph McCormack’s book, Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less, leads you out of McCormack bb16d5afeedd0ad8986cb9_L__V367807303_SX200_the morass and into some rarefied air.

He writes:

Brevity is a choice. When you want to get more, decide to say less.

Think about that for a second. Consider how much workplace air you fill with talk that grabs the undivided attention of others. For most of us, it’s not much.

Consider these statistics from McCormack:

People speak about 150 words per minute, yet have the approximate mental capacity to consume about five times that number, or 750 words per minute.

Unless you’ve quickly hooked your listener with compelling information or stories, s/he has lots of time to drift to other thoughts before you’ve made your point.

Think about the last time you listened to someone who captivated you with an idea or an observation–a time when you hung on every word. Do you communicate that effectively? If not, what would it take and what would your career payoffs be?

Brief gives you the insights and the tools.

Commit.

If brevity in communication were easy to do, you’d see a lot more of your coworkers doing it. If you master being brief, your career value will increase if not soar!.

McCormack writes:

To be brief doesn’t just mean being concise. Your responsibility is to balance how long it takes to convey a message well enough to cause a person to act on it.

Effective presentations are smooth. Creating them can be rough. You don’t get to the power of brevity without putting in the challenging mental work.

McCormack adds:

Brevity starts with deep expertise. Only with thorough knowledge can you accurately make a summary.

His book digs into the how to’s, providing clearly stated models and stories that remove the mystique so you can up your brevity.

He emphasizes:

To communicate effectively nowadays, you must be able to speak in headlines and grab someone’s attention right away.

He advocates this approach:

Map it. BRIEF Maps [his model]…used to condense and trim volumes of information

Tell it.  Narrative storytelling…to explain in a way that’s clear, concise, and compelling

Talk it. …turn monologues into controlled conversations

Show it. Visuals that attract attention and capture imagination

Digital screens, phone calls, meetings, email, and interruptions of every dimension compete with what you want others to hear. Being brief helps to deflect their potentially negative effects.

Brief branding

Like it or not, you already have a reputation around the way you communicate.  Do you know what it is? Are you a rambler, a dominator, a repeater, a windbag, an empty suit, or a clarifier?

If you want to boost your career, become known for being brief, bringing clarity, and cutting through the clutter, taking the pain out of getting work done.

If you want to get good at it, then consider reading Brief.

 

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.

As a Product of Your Choices, How Are You Doing? |The Behavior Gap

Our lives and our careers are products of our choices, the ones we make from reason ExpectationsRealityand those made emotionally. Sometimes we even make choices unconsciously.

No matter our method, the results become our property.

We generally make better choices when we’re well informed and free of fear. Bridging those two helps us master our behavior gap.

Who’s in your ear?

There’s a lot of noise out there. Much of it raises expectations. We want a good job that pays well so we can buy stuff, grow wealth, advance, run with the “right” crowd, and feel successful.

That noise influences our wants and pushes us in the direction of the crowd. Sometimes it drowns out our vision of  the career and life style we want. It can negate our dreams, convince us to replace them, and send us someplace that promises more than it delivers.

So choosing isn’t always easy, especially when we’re tempted to link the reasons for our choices to what experts, social media, and talking heads say is the way to go.

beharior gap 41vTID0CztL__SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Carl Richards makes this point when he introduces the concept of the behavior gap in his book, The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money. Richards is a certified financial planner, but his book, although focused on issues around financial decision-making, is about how we make choices.

As I see it, for every gaff we make with our money, we fall into similar traps with career, relationship, and self-management decisions. So as you read his book, it’s no stretch to take the insights well beyond the financial.

Today every “expert”  has a viewpoint and an outlet to express it. Advice about the best career strategy, the best way to manage your money, or how to live your best life is given and shared– and shared again and again–until it sounds like an absolute.

Richards writes:

“…the sheer quantity of information makes it virtually impossible to sift through all the noise…and find the stuff that actually matters. Worse, we’re losing our ability to distinguish between the two. What matters? What’s just noise?

Take control.

The struggle is fighting the fear of missing out (FOMO) and of being wrong. Listening to the noise doesn’t remedy either.

We are products of our choices. We can listen to all those voices and become paralyzed or reckless. Or we can listen to ourselves.

Richards cuts through the clutter with concepts about financial choice-making that zeros in on what we need to do:

“…make decisions that are in tune with reality, with your goals, and with your values.

He reminds us that we can only control what we can control. That does not include what’s going on in China or on Wall  Street or in the government. He reminds us that we all control two fundamental things: working hard to earn a living, saving as much as we can, and making wise decision about how we invest our money.

Richards writes:

Our deepest instincts (if we listen to them) will tell us that money doesn’t mean anything: it’s simply a tool to reach our goals…By goals I mean stuff that matters to you.

From my perspective, achieving your goals means developing your skills, adding value to your job, building positive workplace relationships, and taking advantage of the right opportunities for growth when they present themselves.

A good start is to get in touch with what you value as part of a good life and assess every career choice against it. Listen to your inner voice when faced with a choice and don’t ignore what you hear. Every time I did, I ended up burning myself with a wrong-footed choice.

The behavior gap

Your behavior is within your control, so you need to own it throughout your life and particularly as you steer your career. Reason and emotion are often at odds with each other, challenging your choice-making.

Whether the choices you face are about finances or career options, there is awareness, relief, and even comfort to be found in Richards’ book.

 

 

Learn Something Unrelated. Kick Your Career Up a Notch.

Learning something new gets our attention. It reminds us we have skills to build on,

By: Alan L

dormant interests ready for the light, and talents (latent or otherwise) screaming for an outlet.

It you want to build self-confidence and give your career trajectory a shot in the glutes, find something unrelated to your job and learn it.

Embrace the counterintuitive.

We’re told at work that we need to develop our skills and expand job knowledge. We’re scheduled for training classes, assigned reading, and sometimes told to find a mentor.

We do all that, work hard to master tasks, and wonder why we don’t feel like we’re really growing.

The sad fact is that most employee development programs aren’t geared to releasing our creative energies, raising self-awareness, or expanding the reach of our experiences.

Expansive growth comes from realizing more about ourselves by learning something new, with all the discovery and surprise it brings.

Learning opens gates of knowledge, skill, and awareness. It’s liberating. You decide and commit to what you want to learn, how, and when. Every piece of it reveals something important to you and about you:

  • Can I learn this new information or skill? Do have the aptitude?
  • Do I like doing what it takes to learn it?
  • Is it what I thought it was before I got started? Do I want to stick with it?
  • I never thought I could learn about or do this.
  • I wonder where this new knowledge might take me.
  • I’m meeting new and interesting people who share my interests.
  • I’m developing transferable skills and experiences, building self-confidence.

Each of us brings to our jobs creativity, insight, and connections that complement the performance skills our work requires. To enrich that, we need to keep learning and exposing ourselves to worlds outside of work.

Get started.

Learning is a forever part of our lives if we want it to be. If you’ve been a bit lax, there’s no time like the present to restart your learning engines.

It’s often easier to say, Just do it, than to act. We often feel awkward about committing to a direction when it’s not what our friends or family expect from us.

You can’t let the opinion of others get in your way. After all, learning is about exploring. It’s not like you’re quitting your job to join the circus. You’re just deciding to learn about or how to do something new, something you’re curious about, have always dreamed of trying, or something that takes you out of your comfort zone.

Hey, if you don’t like it, just move on to something else. The key is to pursue something that makes you feel like you’ve added a new component to all that is you.

Learning is about head and heart. It adds insight, experience, connections and even uniqueness. In terms of your career, you’re differentiating yourself, making yourself more interesting, revealing yourself as creative, adventuresome, inventive, and multidimensional.

If you’re still a bit fuzzy about the possibilities, here’s a wildly ranging list of new things to learn that might spark your imagination. Consider learning how to:

  • Play the accordion
  • Use power tools
  • Show cats/train dogs
  • Grow orchids
  • Fossil hunt
  • Write a memoir
  • Raise bees/make honey
  • Become a storyteller
  • Make sushi
  • Learn a foreign or computer language

Each one of these ideas is an opportunity to build one or more career-essential skill outside of your job like: attention to detail, dependability, communication, safety, technical know-how, process management, planning, organizing, and risk-taking. There’s nothing better than growing your skills doing something fun.

Stay committed. Keep reaching.

When I sign copies of my book, Business Fitness, this is my standard inscription: Stay committed. Keep reaching. That’s what your commitment to learning helps you do. Your career is a product of your efforts to expand  yourself and to capitalize on all that you bring to your job. Learning is a faithful friend. Partner up and enjoy the rewards.

 

 

 

 

Finding Yourself in Your Work or Losing Yourself in It? | Pursuing Growth

Work has a habit of revealing a lot about you.

Coworkers watch what you do and then draw conclusions like you:

  • Really know how to get stuff done the right way (or not)
  • Are someone who should be promoted (or never allowed to supervise)
  • Want to keep getting better (or only do enough to get by)

You assess yourself too each time you cross a work hurdle, discovering that you:

  • Take to new assignments with relative ease (or struggle with new expectations)
  • Collaborate easily with others (or create conflict)
  • See a future for yourself there (or can’t wait for a way out)

Our career stops can be either greenhouses or dark holes.

It’s your call.

Our careers are what we make them. They’re a product of the work we do.

Career problems arise when we forget that we’re doing the driving.

For lots of compelling reasons, we convince ourselves that the most important things are to:

  • Keep our jobs
  • Get promoted to anything
  • Work endless hours as though that’s a sign of our value
  • Acquire the trappings of success (titles, perks, access, and raises)

To avoid getting lost on a road to somewhere you don’t want to be, you need to keep asking yourself  no-nonsense questions like:

  • Why did I take this job?
  • What am I working toward and is that what I really want?
  • What are my options?
  • What’s my plan?

It’s tempting to set these questions aside when you think you’ve landed your dream job. But one day, you’ll wake up and realize there are other dreams you’re ready to chase.

Career growth is intrinsic compensation. It’s not the training programs your company offers. It’s what you seize when you’ve mastered your job, developed your skills, and engaged in new experiences.

I started my career teaching high school in an upscale school district. I was excited to be learning so much about how to do the job well, handling challenging students, and discovering how schools really worked.

In the mid-1970s I had relocated and was teaching in a suburban school at a time when teachers weren’t held in very high regard. There were strikes and I was becoming disillusioned. After 10 years in education, growth stalled for me. So I moved on.

Instead of growing in that career, I was starting to lose myself.

It happened again when I was a manager at a big corporation. The first 10 years were full of growth, discovery, and ever-increasing challenges, followed by five years honing that growth, and five more on a mammoth change project. When what lay ahead was more of the same, off I went.

Listen to your inner voice.

If you’ve read this far, you know whether or not you’re growing in your career or losing yourself in it.

You also likely have a sense of what the next couple of years will look like for you and what your job will give or take from you. Now’s the time to plan your next steps.

Mike Greenberg, ESPN radio and TV host, offered this advice on the Mike & Mike program (9/25/13):

You can’t wish for things as they used to be. Just go with the way things are.

Perhaps your job used to be what you always wanted, but it’s now changed and the company culture with it. The reality is that you won’t get the past back; you only have the way things are to build from. The sooner you have a plan, the happier you’ll be.

Commitment to your growth never needs to stop.

Former Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, now 87, was interviewed on the CBS Sunday Morning program (10/20/13) upon the release of his new book. When asked about retirement, he answered:

 I don’t know what it [retirement] means. Stop thinking?

When it comes to our careers, there is no reason to stop thinking…and growing.

 

Prepared for the Job Interview Finale? Getting Caught Off-guard Can Kill Your Chances.

It’ll get you every time. That last question in a job interview that catches you off guard.job interview 131426

Serious job candidates spend lots of time preparing what they’ll say to make a positive impression on the interviewer.

They work hard to:

  • Anticipate the questions to be asked and the experiences they’ll draw on to answer them
  • Master the behavioral interview process (those situation, steps taken, and results/outcomes responses)
  • Deliver concise and precise answers, clearly articulated
  • Conduct themselves in ways that respect the company’s culture; dress appropriately
  • Demonstrate a calm and comfortable demeanor, even though they’re nervous

You do this because at least 80% of the interview is about you presenting yourself as the candidate of choice.

And then, when you least expect it, there’s one more question. Your answer becomes the tag line of your interview.

Nail it and raise your value. Blow it and wonder.

Seize the moment

At the end of your interview, anticipate that the tables will turn. In a blink, the control will switch from the interviewer to you.

It happens when the interviewer poses this simple question to you:

Do you have any questions for me?

The second you have a deer in the headlights look, you’ve set yourself back. It will be plain that you haven’t given a thought to anything beyond the vacancy itself.

If you recover like a slingshot by asking about salary, benefits, time off, training, and promotional opportunities, you’re cooked. The interview isn’t the time for those questions. You ask them when you’ve been given an offer.

The interviewer’s question can feel like a kind of sucker punch. It quickly reveals whether or not you see the job only in the context of your personal needs or as an opportunity for you to  contribute to the success of the organization.

Consequently, the questions you ask the interviewer have the potential to differentiate you from other candidates in a big way. If your questions are lame, shallow, or vague, you   won’t learn much and the interview will end on a flat note.

The object of your questions is to demonstrate your interest and intelligence while getting valuable information about the company’s culture, competitive challenges, and/or role in the community.

The best questions will engage the interviewer in the kind of conversation s/he would likely have with a business colleague. In short order, s/he may forget you are a candidate and momentarily consider you a coworker. That may very well give you a serious leg up.

Nail it.

In order to nail that last question, you have to prepare for it by learning all that you can about the company before the interview.  Then come to the interview equipped with your questions.

Have them ready when you are asked. But if you are NOT asked at the end of the interview, pause and say, “I have a few questions for you. Do you have the time to answer them for me.”

If the interviewer’s answer is no, that tells you a lot about the company. If it’s yes, you’re gold.

Your questions should specifically fit the company and the opening. Here are a few to give you an idea of a direction to take:

  • I understand that the vision/mission of the company is XYZ. Are there specific organizational performance goals that have been established for this fiscal year that  you can share with me now?
  • What is required by your employees to achieve those goals?
  • In what way does this vacancy, when filled, help the company achieve one or more of  those goals?
  • In order to help the company grow, are there specific projects that would be a natural outgrowth of this job?

There is a sequential progression to these questions which demonstrates your intelligence, insight, and strategic awareness.

You may, in fact, catch your interviewer off guard with your questions more than likely, in a positive way.  When you’re given an opportunity to step up to the plate. take a big swing. Then go ahead and knock it out of the park.

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Fatal Distraction–When Your Resume Highlights Work You Don’t Want to Do

resume 14255685-hiring-and-job-search-concept-in-word-tag-cloud-on-white-backgroundResume panic–that unique feeling of crippling dread that overtakes you when facing the need to promote your skills and experiences to get a new job.

Needing a job is unnerving enough. You’re in transition, going from where you were to someplace new.

The competition for that new job starts with a resume that can get you an interview.

 

Ditch the panic.

Panic gets you nowhere. In fact, it puts you  at risk.

When athletes panic, they make crucial mistakes that cost them the game. The same is true of business leaders, investors, and trades people.

Panic is stress on steroids…and stress makes people stupid.

So if you want to land the right job for yourself, start by taking a deep breath and clearing your head.

Being between jobs gives you a chance to restart or refresh your career. You have the time and space to think about what you really like to do and what you’re good at.

The biggest mistake many job seekers make is writing resumes for jobs they think they can get, instead of ones they want.

 If the stresses of being a supervisor caused health problems, don’t extol your accomplishments running a call center. If you don’t like working directly with people, don’t promote the duties you had clerking at The Gap. If you do, your resume becomes the fatal attraction for a job you really don’t want.

Hit your reset button.

Before you start updating your resume, dedicate a good block of time to thinking about the best next job for you. Talk to people who know you and whose views you respect, consider talking to an experienced career coach or an expert on resumes.

Remember: Your resume is a marketing tool, so it needs to showcase the knowledge, skills, and experiences that you are eager to bring to the job where you will add real value.

If your resume is cluttered with everything you’ve ever done, it demonstrates that you have no real career focus–that you are, in fact, panicked.

To be sure your resume attracts jobs you want, avoid these two big mistakes:

Big Mistake #1: Listing all the duties, tasks, and responsibilities from your prior jobs.

If there’s work you don’t like or want to do, don’t tell the screener via your resume that you know how to do it and are even good at it. When you aren’t looking for that kind of work, it  just clutters up your resume. (Caution: the screener may have another opening full of all that stuff you hate to do and you’d be perfect for it. Ouch!)

You want to list the outcomes you achieved in your prior jobs that excited you.That’s       how your value is measured. Past behavior is a predictor of future behavior.

Big Mistake #2: Showing your entire work history, even down to high school jobs.

Your resume is a marketing tool not evidence in a jury trial designed to prove you’ve         worked hard all your life.

Use your resume space to present relevant work and/or academic experience, the           kind that aligns with the requirements of the job. The fact that you worked at McDonald’s   when you were in high school and as a coach’s assistant in college doesn’t market your    talent for strategic planning or app design.

If you’ve been in a professional role and want to stay there, only include your professional experience. If you’re just starting out, align the tasks you performed in those early jobs and internships to the kind of work you’re seeking.

Attract don’t distract.

Attract what you want. Your resume is the bait. The tastier it looks, the more likely you’ll get a bite.

The same is true for the jobs you’re seeking. They have to look yummy to you too. It’s not just a meal you’re after, it’s sustenance for a long time.

The best jobs come when both you and your employer have hungered for the same thing and found it on a shared plate. Let your resume be the appetizer.

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