Are you too Smart for Your Own Good?

Young cute professor woman gesturing holding chalkA long time ago, people believed the sun revolved around the earth and that bloodletting was an effective way to treat a variety of ailments.  We now know none of those previous ‘truths’ are true.

Decisions are made based on what we know at the time.  Sometimes, poor decisions are made when all the facts or factors are not known. Sometimes, the opposite is true: For example:

  • When we know we’re not good enough or smart enough or rich enough or poor enough, we give up before we start.
  • Compassion dies and conflict flourishes when we use our knowledge to judge others who have chosen to live or act differently than what we know (believe) to be right.
  • When we know young people are lazy and old people have lost their usefulness, we lose the opportunity to see our world from a new perspective and perhaps, in the process, gain new insight and new ideas.

Many times, what we ‘know’ is nothing more than misconceptions, current societal expectations or even other’s truths we have taken on as our own. Just because something didn’t work once, doesn’t mean it will never work again. Just because it didn’t work for someone else, doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. It takes courage to put aside what we know and ask:

  • Is that really true?
  • Is there a better way?

Knowledge is fluid.  Recognize, value and respect the knowledge, experience and wisdom you have, but don’t stop pushing against boundaries of that knowledge.

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This is a revised version of a blog posted way back in 2013.  I am working with a group of very dedicated people and as we continue to grow and improve, all of us have, at times, had to be reminded to open our minds and be willing to put aside what we know.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

My daughter is on the hunt for a full-time job.  Amy plans on exploring this wonderful world of ours and for that, needs money!  Her job search is still fairly new but in one week, she has encountered the following:

A job posting that was clearly designed to lure candidates in.   For those of us familiar with the job market, we can spot those false, whitewashed want ads and steer clear.  You’ve all seen them. The ads that state no experience required, paid weekly, bonus incentives, no cold calling and the chance to make between $45,000 and $65,000 in your first year.  False, false, false!  It’s all sales, it’s all cold calling and very, very few of the people hired end up making that kind of money.  These ads are designed to appeal to the young, the inexperienced or the desperate.

My question to these companies is “Why can’t you be up front and honest in your recruitment ads?”  Yes, it may reduce the number of applicants that you get, but at least the ones that you do get know what they are applying for.  In my mind, it’s a matter of respect and not wasting the valuable time of the potential candidate or the employee who has to do the interviewing.

An interview that started late because the manager could not get there in time.   I get it. Things happen.   As a potential employer, if you are running late, have the courtesy to let the candidate know ahead of time.  Being late for an interview demonstrates a lack of respect for the candidate and for the candidate’s time.  Plus, I would venture to guess that if it was my daughter who was late for the interview, she would immediately be taken of the “possible hire” list.

In both of these instances, the potential employer demonstrated a lack of integrity and a lack of respect for the potential candidate.   It makes one wonder if they are any different with the people already working for them?

There are lots of young people, just like my daughter, who want to find work so that they can finance their dream, whether that dream is travel or advanced education.  Many of these young people will stay at an organization only until they have fulfilled their initial objective, which is to get enough money to take on their next challenge.

But while they are with you, they are a reflection of your company, so if you want the best, even if only for a short time, make sure you are sending a message that attracts the best.  Remember, it’s not just the candidate who has to make a positive first impression at the interview … so do you!

Positively Powerful

Mondays … the beginning of another week full of opportunities or five more days until the weekend?

Customers…distractions keeping us from getting our work done or the reason we get up and go to work?

How you choose to view life and the many situations that arise on a daily basis has a powerful impact on your life and those around you.  I believe that a positive attitude leads to success, both personally and professionally.

The one thing that we have 100% control over is how we choose to face the day.  My schedule has been absolutely crazy lately, so yesterday I got up early to get caught up on a variety of tasks that were piling up on my desk.  The wrong foot must have hit the floor first, because it seemed like the first half hour was filled with one annoyance after another; the light bulb burned out in the hallway; as I stumbled down the hall in the dark, I tripped over the cat; I dropped the bag of coffee; the laptop wasn’t plugged in and I was in full on clumsy mode and dropped the power cord at least three times while trying to plug it in!  I was getting growlier and growlier by the minute.

At that point, I made a conscious decision to stop the grumbling and have a good day and guess what, I did!  If I had instead chosen to keep grumbling, I’m pretty sure I would have gone to bed in the same bad mood I started out with.

A lot of times, that is exactly what it comes down to. We can choose to focus on little annoyances or we can choose to focus on the positives around us.  We cannot necessarily control what will happen to us, but we can absolutely choose how we will respond to it.

Choosing to focus on the positive makes you and those around you feel better. So go ahead, make your day, and someone else’s day, positive.

“One sings, all follow” – Chinese Proverb

Managing Negative Ned, Fearful Frieda and Other Personalities in the Workplace

Leading a team is not easy.  Teams are made up of unique individuals with their own wants, needs and personality types.  Leading and managing those different personality types is especially important when you are introducing a new challenge or changing a current process.  Some people just don’t like change and they have no problem letting you know!  Of course, how they do that depends on their personality type. Perhaps you recognize some of the following?

Resistant Rhoda won’t even let you finish your sentence when you bring up a suggestion or new procedure. Resistant Rhoda say things like “Stop right there.  I’m not changing how I do this.” and “But, we’ve always done it this way.”  Resistant Rhoda does not like change. One way to get Resistant Rhoda to consider change is to compare her way, the old way to the new way.   Walk through the process step by step, highlight areas that have not changed and clearly explain the why behind necessary changes.

Negative Ned doesn’t walk; he shuffles.  A black cloud of negativity follows him everywhere.  All suggestions for change are met with either of two phrases: “That’s not going to work.”or “That’s just stupid.”  When Negative Ned starts, ask him to explain to you why he thinks it won’t work. There is a good chance he won’t be able to come up with a good reason, in which case you need to explain the rationale behind the change request and if possible, show him examples of how it will work.

Analytical Art is a numbers kind of guy.  Analytical Art wants proof; he wants to see the numbers, the research and the rationale.  Show it to him. Make sure he clearly understands what outcomes are expected and why the change has been made.  If there are examples of other organizations or departments that successfully made the change and achieved the objectives, share that with him as well.

Watch out for Sabotage Sue.  Sabotage Sue will eagerly agree with anything you say as long as you’re around. As soon as you turn your back or leave the room, Sabotage Sue is whispering with other team members saying things like “I really don’t understand how that can possibly work.” or “Why are they making us do this?”  Try inviting Sabotage Sue into the planning process.  Ask for her advice on how to get the rest of the team to buy into the process and then have her help you introduce the changes to the team.  She will be less likely to sabotage the plan if she helped develop it.

Pushy Pete usually catches on to change quickly.  He jumps on board, takes on the challenge and then makes sure that everyone who doesn’t catch on as quickly knows it.  Pushy Pete takes every opportunity he can to point out others errors. One way to counteract this is to recognize Pushy Pete’s ability immediately and ask him to help you train others.  Coach him on how to do this effectively and then lead by example.

Fearful Frieda is just scared. She doesn’t like change, she is scared of making a mistake and she lets you and everyone around her know it.  Acknowledge Fearful Frieda’s concern, work with her closely or assign a mentor to help her.

The reality is that Fearful Frieda is being the most honest when she clearly expresses fear.  Chances are that Negative Ned, Resistant Rhoda, Pushy Pete, Analytical Art and Sabotage Sue are also scared of change but instead of admitting it, throw up different defence mechanisms to hide their fear.

As a leader, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge that change can generate fear.   When asking your team to take on a new challenge or change a process, clearly share the vision and the objectives, share the why, acknowledge the challenge and then invite them into the process.  You can’t change their personalities and you may never get all your team members to the point of eagerly embracing change, but with patience, you can gain their trust and help them overcome their resistance to change.

My Three C’s

We are very close to wrapping up another year and opening up a brand new one.   What an opportune time for reflection and contemplation.  I know, reflection and contemplation should be an on-going activity, not an annual event, but something about this definitive end and beginning invites the revisiting of old ideas, goals and challenges.

 I was recently asked the question “What is important to you from a career perspective?”   What an excellent contemplative question.  As I reflected on this question and my career journey to date, I identified three key areas of importance to me:  challenge, change and common values.

I gain a real sense of satisfaction when I take on a new challenge, learn something new, create change. “Same old, same old” is not for me.  That means that, for me, if a company is looking for someone to maintain the status quo, then I am not the right person for them.  I have been known to jump headlong into projects or tasks that I was not “qualified” for. There have been mistakes along the way and each one of those mistakes has provided a learning opportunity, some more painful than others, but all valuable.

From a corporate perspective, I believe that all companies, including my own, should demonstrate integrity, should respect and care for the local and global community and should not be satisfied with simply maintaining the status quo.   In the past, financial realities may have kept me in a setting longer than I would have liked, but in the end, I packed my bags and fled a job I enjoyed when the organization’s values were in direct contrast to my own.  Opportunities to work with or partner with organizations that share my values are exciting, rewarding and very important to me.

Taking the time to answer the question “What is important to you from a career perspective?” was extremely valuable to me and will help set the direction for me and my company in 2012.    I’d love to hear from you … “What is important to you from a career perspective?”