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.

Employee Behavior Troubling You? Time to Intervene.

path 126441045_0121483a49_m“What you resist, persists.” Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist/psychotherapist, is credited with this powerful quote.

If more supervisors followed it, fewer problems would develop on their watch.  Sadly, most don’t.

 

Balancing acts.

Supervisors are busy. Some even overwhelmed.

They’re like the circus act where someone spins a plate on the end of a stick, puts it on his head, then takes two more sticks with plates and spins them in each hand.

No applause if the plates fall off…only sad sounding oohs from the crowd and maybe a boo from someone feeling mean.

Supervisors dread noise that doesn’t sound like attaboy or attagirl. Their job is to build a work group where employees keep lots of plates spinning, in spite of interruptions, faulty sticks, or a lapse in concentration.

Supervisors are continually on red alert for the material stuff that can disrupt performance:

  • Equipment needing repair
  • Technology flaws
  • Processes that break down
  • Cost overruns

They often see their job as running interference to avoid plates falling off sticks, when their most important job is to provide clear, consistent direction and behavioral standards to employees.

When employees know what is expected, they can do their best work. However, they don’t know if they’re meeting your expectations unless you tell them.

And you can’t tell them if you don’t pay attention to how they are working and acting. Or if plates 2333375431_5857d7e3f3_myou pull the covers over your head. (Crash go the plates!)

All behavior matters.

In general, supervisors don’t like to confront employees about problematic behavior, particularly when it seems incidental.

They chalk it up to:

  • A bad day or a slight misstep
  • A brain cramp
  • No big deal
  • Typical of “their” generation

Until, of course, you end up with a pattern, a full-blown employee problem that’s taking a toll. Your employees start looking at you with the unspoken question: “Why are you letting this happen?”

Crash go the plates!

Problematic employee behavior is a gift that keeps on giving if you don’t intervene early. Three typical categories are:

1. Testing the rules

  • Periodically arriving late to work for legitimate sounding reasons
  • Coming back “a little late” from lunch or breaks
  • Missing meetings here and there
  • Not reporting off as required

2. Reliability and dependability

  • Not completing/submitting work on time
  • Failing to communicate project status and/or needs
  • Finding reasons not to support coworkers
  • Making excuses

 3. Interpersonal conduct

  • Way of speaking to coworkers (harsh, demanding, critical)
  • Negative body language, one-on-one or in groups
  • Impatience, bullying, resistance
  • Gossiping, nay-saying, over-socializing

Signs of these behaviors usually surface within the first three months after a new employee joins the work group.

When a supervisor takes over a new group, those behaviors have already taken root.

Job one is to take inventory of how each employee is conducting him/herself, assess what is positive and what isn’t, and immediately have a sit down.

Persist.

The longer you wait to confront unwanted or problematic behavior, the worse it will become and the more misery it will bring to your job as supervisor. What you resist, persists!

The earlier you call attention to what you don’t want, the easier your employee discussions will go:

  • Employees will know what you see and don’t want. That may be enough for them to change without further action.
  • You obtain a commitment for behavior changes which will launch improvement.
  • A dialogue starts, so you and your employee can get in a helpful performance feedback loop together.
  • Employees will recognize your commitment to fairness and a positive culture.

Good supervisors are teachers. Their primary role is to let each employee know what it takes to be successful in his/her job and how to contribute to the work group’s success.

It’s a lot easier to keep the plates spinning when everyone holding the sticks operates in a constructive work environment where they feel confident, safe, and understood.

Early intervention when employees are out of sync with your expectations positions everyone for a winning performance.

Opening photo by Polpulox !!! via Photoree                   Plate Photo by fonso via Photoree

Pulling Your Weight? A Pro Always Knows.

Look around. Who do you and your coworkers depend on at work to always get things done right? Is that you?  Shouldn’t  it be?

It doesn’t matter whether we’re the boss, an individual contributor, or the owner. We each have real work to do that counts.

Sometimes that work involves solving problems using our heads and then mobilizing others to implement it. Other times it’s about rolling up our sleeves and putting muscle into a task that makes us sweat, literally or figuratively.

The way we work, not just our results, brands us.

Tap the pro in you.

Each of us brings our own set of personal work standards to our jobs. Our attitudes about work drive the way we perform, whether or not someone’s watching.

Our work ethic is cultivated throughout our lives and is tested in every new job and by every new boss.

We all know coworkers and supervisors who are:

  • slackers,  doing the minimum to keep their jobs
  • side-steppers, dodging work they don’t like
  • manipulators, taking credit for the work of others

We also know real professionals whose personal performance standards never waiver. There are the:

  • grinders who won’t abandon a job until it is completed to their satisfaction
  • risk-takers who are the first to step forward to tackle a difficult problem
  • innovators who are determined to always find a better way to get the work done

The pros “are” the work they produce. It becomes a reflection of who they are. Achieving to their own standard trumps recognition from anyone else. It’s personal.

Sometimes we get lost  in the drama, vagaries, and gear-shifting typical in offices. We need to cut through the clutter and distractions, so we can get our work done like the pros we are.

Revere the heavy lifting.

The “players” generally just participate in the game while the pros own it.

Every employee and supervisor needs to know what is expected of them. Then they need to commit to meeting or exceeding those expectations.

Recently, I contracted with ProFence to replace 1,270 feet of old four-board fence at my farm. A crew of four men between the ages of 22 and 34 did the job in three days.

This task required:

  • loading and hauling nearly a mile of fence boards and poles
  • transporting and operating heavy equipment
  • removing the old fence and taking it away
  • positioning and setting the poles
  • measuring, leveling, and nailing the  boards
  • hanging 10 gates

Setting poles

Each man was a trained professional in commercial trucking, heavy equipment operation, and/or fence construction. They worked as a team, clearly understanding their individual and often shifting role assignments, as well as standards of quality operation.

Setting boards

They  were:

  • crossed-trained in their jobs and work methods
  • focused on execution and problem solving
  • effective communicators with each other and me, always taking time to answer my questions patiently and with eye contact
  • committed to safety and respect for my property
  • good-humored, even in the scorching heat

The crew worked with its own unique rhythm perfectly aligned to the demands of the work. It was beautiful to watch them work and see the artistry behind the product they were creating.

Every man pulled his own weight, lightening the load for everyone else.

Pulling your weight

It doesn’t matter whether the jobs we have require us to work in the elements or at a desk. Work is work and our willingness to do what we know is our best job comes only from within.

Everyone knows when we aren’t pulling our weight and they often know why. We may   unable or unwilling, frustrated or afraid, resentful or discouraged.

That’s why it’s important to do what it takes to be a pro. Remember, it’s your job. While you have it, you own it, so treat it like a prized possession and give it your all. By fortifying your work ethic and capabilities, your job satisfaction and career will expand.

A job well done!

Thanks to Vern, Lester (the foreman), Josh, Gene, and Keith at ProFence for their fine example of what a pro knows and does.

Got a Problem? There’s a Career for That. | Taking Service to Heart

Real jobs are born out of need. They’re created to solve problems. Solve those problems and create a win-win situation: The business profits and the customer/client is satisfied.

The better we are at solving problems, the more career opportunities we create for ourselves.

Accidental discoveries

I had the misfortune last month of being hit broadside in my new car by a woman who ran the red light while I was turning left off a green arrow. I was not hurt (thanks to my Subaru Outback which deserves a pitch here) and, so far as I know, the other driver only minimally.

A car accident is a problem. In a flash people appear on the scene to help solve it. Others provide help later. Each of these people has a job and a career because car accidents occur frequently. They make a lasting difference when their caring shows. I learned a lot from them.

Police officer–He gathers information for the incident report and later the accident report. Part of his job is to be sensitive to the state of mind of the victims and to be as calming as possible.

Emergency Medical Technician–His/her role is to assess the condition of the crash victims,  provide medical treatment if required, and get a release if either party doesn’t want to go to the hospital. S/he too needs to be observant, patient, and positive.

Tow truck driver–Two tow trucks were required at the scene; my driver was a woman which made me smile. Her job was to get the wreckage off the road quickly and to let me know where the car was being taken. She too was pleasant, efficient, and professional.

Insurance adjuster–The adjuster is the insured’s representative with the other insurance company. His job is to record my account of the accident over the phone. He and the other driver’s adjuster make a determination of fault. The adjuster explains the process, advises on next steps, and also needs to be patient and calming.

Material Damage Adjuster/Appraiser–The appraiser determines what the insurance company will pay in damages. This job requires the ability to communicate these hard numbers with the claimant in a way that demonstrates the fairness of the final decision. Just like the adjuster, the ability to be both factual and caring is important.

Body Shop/Salvage Company Staff–Along the way, my car took a stop at a body shop for a more detailed damage assessment. Then it went to the salvage company that purchased it. The staff and owner were professional, sincerely commiserating with my misfortune.

Rental Car Manager–I got a rental from Enterprise where the young woman manager took the time to make conversation before explaining the terms. It turned out that she was eager to develop her leadership capabilities, so we chatted about that. (When I returned the car, I gave her a copy of my book and she waived the gas charge. Okay, I’d only used 1/8 tank over two weeks, but the gesture was lovely.) She treated me like I mattered as a person.

Car Salesman–I called the salesman who sold me the original Outback and left a voice mail that I’d need a new one. He called me at home to cheer me up. He immediately set aside a car for me. I knew I was in good hands.

For my accident case alone, there are nine jobs, representing nine different career paths, that had been created because people like me get in car accidents.

Each role exists to solve a piece of a big problem, helping accident victims deal with and recover from a scaring and costly experience.

Distinguishing yourself

What has struck me most about this experience was the seemingly effortless caring that each person demonstrated. Every person in my chain had a heart for service.

I know that not everyone with a service jobs “gets it” and I’m sure you have a horror story to tell. But, if anything, this accident demonstrated that when you’re in a job that solves a problem for people and you really care, your commitment to serve will motivate your best performance. Let that be you, okay?

Please remember: Stay off your phone while driving. No texting. Wear your seat belt. Be attentive! :-) Thanks.

Photo from @Doug88888 via Flickr

An Employee Funk Rescue Tactic–Watch ‘Em Work. | Tailored Motivation

Motivating employees should be high on a supervisor’s to-do list. Too often, though, what’s tried falls flat.

Not every employee needs or wants:

  • A go-team pep talk
  • Artery-clogging donuts at staff meetings
  • Certificates for weekly productivity achievements
  • Public praise for a job well done (Many dread this)
  • Brown bag lunches with the boss

That said, employees do want and need reasons to stay motivated.

No easy formula 

One-size-fits-all motivational techniques either don’t work or don’t last. They assume that each employee works based on the same drivers.

Motivation is a function of aspiration. If you don’t know what your employees want from their careers, then you can’t tailor motivators to fit them.

There are two ways to figure out how to motivate employees:

  • Ask them what gets them energized to do more
  • Watch how they work, taking note of what gets them going or stalls them

Once you know what motivates each employee, tailor your actions to their needs.

Take mental snapshots of your employees when they’re in gear and when they’re not. Think about what you can do to help and then take action like in these scenarios:

1. Mary is a staff engineer in a mostly male work group. She gets bogged down in the details when given repetitive assignments but becomes highly engaged when working on a team. That changes, though, when she gets the notion that her ideas aren’t being fully considered. If that happens, she disengages and becomes despondent. 

Watching Mary work offers a clue to what motivates her—work that provides her with visibility and recognition. When those aspects are absent, she loses energy and interest. One remedy is to schedule opportunities for Mary to showcase the results of her routine work and periodically assign her to be a team leader. 

2. Brian is a crackerjack IT troubleshooter, interacting with coworkers at every level, answering user questions, fixing glitches, and installing new software. He’s considered humorless and indifferent by some, cavalier and impatient by others, only when the workload gets overwhelming and coworkers are impatient.

Observations of Brian reveal changes in him when under stress. Instead of coming across as energized and enthusiastic about providing these expert services as usual, he comes across as resentful. Just like us, Brian has a stress threshold that, when reached, brings out negative reactions and attitudes. To keep Brian motivated, his supervisor needs to keep tabs on his workload and the conditions driving it. A weekly conversation with Brian on ways to manage his workload can become a strong motivator.

3. Martha, a physical therapist, was promoted to manager of a hospital-based exercise center. Her responsibilities include scheduling, recordkeeping, supervising professional staff, equipment maintenance and purchases. Her workday is full but not always fulfilling. She often stops to watch wistfully the client care being given.

Martha was promoted because of her technical capabilities and commitment. She’s wired to do an exceptional job no matter what. Although motivated to excel as manager, she misses those one-on-one caring interactions that she left behind and very likely is concerned that her skills will erode. Her manager can fix this by scheduling Martha to fill in for physical therapists when they’re out or by assigning a limited number of clients to her schedule and delegating some administrative duties. 

The price paid 

Poor motivation is contagious. Other employees catch it easily. When it becomes epidemic, productivity and quality suffer.

Low motivation among employees is a drag on the collective energy of the work group. It gives employees an excuse for not giving their best effort, fully participating in teamwork, delivering on their commitments, and believing that they have a future with the organization.

Remember the last time you felt unmotivated? Did your supervisor help pull you out of it? That’s a big part of a supervisor’s job. It’s important to pay attention to the motivational needs of your employees and give each one the unique support they need. Time to get motivated to motivate.

Photo from KaiChanVong via Flickr

Unleashing the Career Superstar in You—Ready?

Superstars aren’t just sports and entertainment icons. They’re also us. Every workplace and every career has its superstars. There’s no reason why you aren’t among them.

By definition superstars are individuals in prominence who attract attention. Look around: That’s lots of people you know.

We have to perform well and consistently to be considered a superstar in our line of work. On-the- job superstars are those indispensable coworkers and leaders who:

  • Solve our IT problems in the nick of time every time
  • Always exceed sales quotas to help keep the business profitable
  • Deliver projects on or before every deadline
  • Defuse unhappy customers and employees consistently with effective messages

There are superstars in every industry, company, department, and work unit. Everyone knows who they are and we can’t imagine work without them.

Clearly, we need all the superstars we can find in this struggling economy, so now’s the time for us to raise our bar.

What it takes 

Paul McCord, internationally recognized authority on sales, prolific author and blogger, wrote in his compelling book, SuperStar Selling:

“You don’t have to become a superstar overnight. It’s not one giant leap, it’s one step at a time.”

That’s true for attaining superstardom in every career. We need to keep our eye on the ball and dig deep to keep it in play.

To start we need to build and maintain a high-achievement mindset. It’s always our attitude and performance that stand out, get noticed, and ultimately create our prominence. No one gets to be a superstar without doing the work.

McCord makes this important point:

“Looking at the big picture is daunting. Looking at just what you need to accomplish on a daily and weekly basis is not such a hurdle to overcome.”

He adds that the three characteristics of a superstar are: desire, commitment, and belief. Do you have all three?

We live in a “what have you done for me lately” and a “what’s in it for me” world. That’s where the pressure to perform at a high level comes from.

This reality tests your desire to achieve, your commitment to stick with your goals, and your belief in your capabilities.

All success is a process. The twelve keys to becoming a sales superstar in McCord’s book apply to us too. Superstar sales professionals own their careers and operate with an entrepreneurial mindset.

We need to own our jobs/careers too and set goals for ourselves that demonstrate our value.

McCord spells out his twelve keys elegantly, providing fascinating case studies and powerful tools, particularly useful to salespeople. (If you’re in sales, you really must read this book.)

His keys are the underpinnings of every achiever, especially those who have become superstars in their line of work. Here’s my take on how the twelve keys can help you become a superstar in your career:

  1. Turn past experiences into learning and data that can move you forward
  2. Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses. Build on and fix what’s needed
  3. Invest in your career—time, learning, tools
  4. Figure out where you add value and position yourself there
  5. Showcase your strengths/value in the right way
  6. Set realistic goals that build on one another over time
  7. Develop and apply your capabilities systematically
  8. Stay visible and top of mind with those you impact
  9. Continuously develop and expand your skills
  10. Convert your big ideas into small steps to achieve them
  11. Seek help from advisors, mentors, and experts during uncertainty
  12. Adopt and maintain a positive mindset 

Sell yourself tall

Too often we set our sights too low. We think that it’s other people who become career superstars. Yes, we sell ourselves short, instead of tall.

McCord makes this powerful point:

“In essence, we are what we believe we are; we do what we believe we can do; we are who we believe we are.”

When we believe there’s a superstar in us, we make a huge leap. When we take action to unleash our inner superstar, we’re on our way to becoming one. Now go!

Photo from cletch via Flickr 

Don’t Stop Believin’. Embrace the Journey. | A Career Long-View

Are you in your dream job? A lucky few understand from an early age what they were born to do. Then there’s the rest of us who are always looking.

Our dream job search is often an “I’ll know it when I get it” journey. The typical outcome is captured in these lyrics in the hit song, “Don’t Stop Believin’,” by the American rock band, Journey: 

 

“Some will win, some will lose
Some were born to sing the blues
Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on”

This reality makes our career journey difficult, frustrating, and disquieting as we scramble to find a job that, at least, satisfies us.

Along the way, we work hard to meet expectations so we can advance. But, in the end, we still sense that the job isn’t what we’re supposed to be doing. Ugh!

 Know what’s in your way. 

Journey’s song, “Don’t Stop Believin,” became the top-selling catalog track in iTunes history and the band’s highest-charting U.S. hit for a reason. The message in the chorus is inspiring advice to everyone on a quest:

“Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to the feelin’”

A “dream job” doesn’t just appear in your path. You have get ready to receive it by first conquering the little things in your way. You may be the biggest of those little things. I certainly was.

As you know, I started out teaching high school. (In those days, career choices for girls were pretty much nursing, secretarial, and teaching.)

Teaching was not my dream job but I worked hard at it.  Deep down I knew that:

  • I had something else in me to do but I didn’t know what
  • I was committed to discovering what I was capable of doing
  • I was willing to take some career chances

My journey, perhaps like yours, was about self-discovery first, then job accomplishments, and then a bona fide career.

When I look back, I remember how smart I thought I was until I got smacked in the face with my own naiveté.

Here’s what I needed to focus on: (Follow the links for some amazing stories about what other “regular people” have done.) 

  • Overcoming my self-limiting beliefsI had to resist doubts about the wisdom of leaving a “safe” teaching job for the “big bad” corporation when so many people who loved me told me I was making a big mistake.
  • Increasing my capabilities and experiencesI had to learn about the energy industry and corporate management; then the horseracing industry and farm management; and finally small business ownership and home office management.
  • Getting more done and taking on new challengesI had to develop cross-functional leadership skills, political savvy, and the ability to manage change on a large scale.
  • Becoming comfortable being my authentic selfI had to sustain the courage to stand firm for what I believed was right and fair, consistently express my care and concern for the people around me, and allow my personality to show.
  • Finding my way through the obstaclesI had to learn to ask for help, develop trusted and collaborative relationships, and develop a nose for the “dirty tricks” that others might try to play 

Everyone’s journey ultimately lands them somewhere. In time I realized that my dream job was work that gave the freedom to call the shots, make the rules, pick my spots, and generate enough revenue to live quietly. That’s where I am today. But it took a while to get here.

Don’t stop believing’. 

You are the key to your success, not luck or your boss or your company. How you see yourself and believe in your ability to turn your capabilities into a career that makes a difference will determine the outcome.

At the very least you need to keep believin’ in yourself even when you don’t know if anyone else does.

When I sign books, I often write: Stay Committed. Keep Reaching. It’s what we all need to do. And it still applies to me.

Photo from h.koppdelaney via Flickr