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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Get What It Means to “Add Value”? Find Your Niche and Showcase It.

If you want to:value added 7656908818_75fecde8da_m

  • get that new job, then explain how you’ll add value
  • move up, then demonstrate how you’ll add value
  • get a better raise, then quantify how you’ve added value
  • keep your job, then showcase how you continue to add value

Sounds easy enough, right? Unless, of course, you don’t know what it means to add value where you work or how. Sadly, that’s a lot of employees.

You are money.                                                                                                

The concept of “value added” was first a business and economics term used in discussions around sale price, production cost, and profit formulas. Eventually it got defined as:

…extra feature(s) of an item of interest (product, service, person etc.) that go beyond the standard expectations and provide something ‘more’ while adding little or nothing to its cost. Value-added features give competitive edges to companies….

That’s where you, the employee, come in–adding value through talents and abilities unique to you. It’s how you demonstrate that what you do contributes to the success and profitability of the company.

Employees are a cost, often a big one, to a company. That means we need to produce work that contributes to the bottom line.

Unfortunately, we often don’t know or have a hard time seeing our connection with the company’s big picture. Our world is often just the task list and performance goals in front of us.

It doesn’t matter how far up or down you are on the company’s organization chart, you have to figure out and demonstrate what you do to add value. If you don’t, someone else may decided that you don’t add enough. The consequences follow.

It’s likely that you already add lots of value and either don’t see it or could add more.

Find your niche.

If you’re saying to yourself:

  • “I don’t do anything special at work. I just do my job.”
  • “I don’t have any unique talents or skills to offer.”

Please stop yourself. It’s time to adopt a new, more positive and generous self-view.

The value you add doesn’t have to  appear in lights. Small contributions can have significant impacts on the company, your work group, and your boss.

Finding your niche means looking at the skills and abilities you take pride in and then maximizing opportunities to brand yourself by them.

Your niche may be something like being known for:

  • Coming up with ways to make routine tasks more efficient
  • Boiling down a complicated issue into its key points
  • Writing meeting minutes that keep decisions in focus
  • Getting people at odds to talk with each other to resolve differences
  • Injecting a light comment or bit of humor to cut tension
  • Meeting deadlines, especially the tight ones
  • Catching errors, written and computational, by being detail-oriented
  • Defusing irate customers and preserving relationships
  • Reading between the lines to uncover the real issues
  • Anticipating the needs of others and preparing to meet them

It’s important to take the time to put together a 3-step value-added action plan:

  1. Write a clear statement that describe your niche (This can be a challenge when what you do comes automatically, so really commit to doing this.)
  2. Identify the real business value that results, creating a clear, strong context
  3. Take advantage of all opportunities to put your value-added behavior to work

On the surface you may not think that what you do has business value, but it does. Think about all the time and money saved each time work is done without interruption, colleagues work together without strain, and customers remain loyal. Consider what it means when work is accurate, quality high, and communication clear.

That’s what makes organizations successful. It’s what helps your career.

Don’t  be shy.

Your value added emerges from your knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviors on the job. You want your employer to look at you and feel gratified that you work there. When you add value, employers don’t want to see you go and wish what you do would rub off on others.

Your value needs to be seen routinely to be appreciated. So please don’t be shy about showcasing it.

Photo from memories-in-motion via Flickr

Want to Make It? Then Believe You Will…Without a Doubt.

“Why not me?” That’s the nagging question we often ask ourselves after we fail to:

David Ferrer

  • Get that promotion
  • Receive recognition or reward for our contributions
  • Land the job we wanted

Whether we’re an individual contributor, supervisor, manager, or executive, there will always be some career goal that keeps eluding us. So what’s the answer?

Know how to compete.

“Making it” is about competing. You want to progress in your career, and so do most of the people working with you. That means those coworkers are also attempting to stand out and showcase their value.

Unlike in sports, we don’t find ourselves pitted against each other in a specific contest each day, but we are continuously being compared to one  another by our supervisors and managers.

They assess our:

  • knowledge, skills, and experience
  • desire, motivation, and reliability
  • work ethic and integrity
  • ability to collaborate, engage others, and lead
  • mental toughness and focus in the face of adversity

We  compete, every day, by demonstrating our ability to get desired results. The more significant our contributions, the more value the company will assign to us.

Sadly, this isn’t always enough to “make it” in our terms.

Believe you will.

You aren’t the only one putting together your portfolio of value attributes. Others are doing it too.

Remember: You are all performing as best you can, differentiating yourselves, building relationships, and getting ready for that next big step.

You increase your chances of making that step when you really believe you will.

We all tell ourselves that we want to, are ready to, are prepared to, have worked to, and are entitled to that step. But that’s not the same as believing we will…with no doubt, no second-guessing, no probably. We must believe we WILL.

David Ferrer is a Spanish professional tennis player, currently World No. 5 in the ATP Rankings. He turned professional in 2000 and is known as a clay-court specialist, although he has also had success on hard courts.

He routinely faces current tennis greats Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer who have amassed numerous championship titles. They routinely beat Ferrer and are almost always between him and a championship title.

The fact is that Ferrer has all the skills and desire to win:

Ferrer is noted for being one of the more dogged, agile and fit players on the tour… Ferrer has won many matches through consistent baseline play along with great fitness, footspeed and determination. Although he does not possess powerful  groundstrokes like many of his contemporaries, his ability to keep the ball deep in play has allowed him to be successful on all surfaces, especially on clay and hard courts… Roger Federer regards Ferrer as the best returner in the men’s game.

So what’s the obstacle for Ferrer?

While I was watching the 2012 Internazionali BNL d’Italia tournament where Ferrer faced Nadal in the semi-final, one of the TV commentators offered his opinion that, as good as Ferrer was, it appeared he simply didn’t believe he could beat his higher ranked rivals.

Who can say for sure if that’s true for Ferrer, but what about in your case?

Do you believe?

So we come to another question…one only you can answer. It takes something deep inside to get us to really believe we can achieve our personal career goals. That believing is a mental discipline that we form through:

  • Constructive feedback consistently internalized from people we trust and respect
  • Absorbing the confidence shown by others–our fans, our supporters, our friends/family
  • Committing to prove something to ourselves
  • Wanting to share success with those who are invested in us and/or for a  cause
  • Realizing that our time will come, so we must remain ready

There is no predicting when we will move from where we are to really believing in ourselves and our ability to secure our brass ring. We need to teach ourselves to deny self-doubt any place in our thinking and replace it with the belief that, through our continued hard work and diligence, we will make it. You gotta believe, okay?

Photo from beelde.com 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