Monthly Archives: March 2012

Career Advice in 6 Words or Less

Recently, I read a great article on Fortune.com that posed the question, “If someone asked you to sum up in six words what you’ve learned so far about how to succeed in business, what would you say?”

The “study” definitely garnered a diverse smattering of answers ranging from how to work with your boss to how to deal with screw-ups.

Reading this article got me thinking. What would my 6 words or less be?… After much thought and consideration, I settled on one sentence that has a much bigger meaning behind it:

“Make it about the team”

Or said from another standpoint, Don’t make it about yourself.

It is natural to be self-centered, especially when it comes to your career. Nobody cares about your career as much as you do and nobody can do more to make or break your career journey than you can; however, the self-centeredness must end there.

On more occasions that I would like to admit I have made my efforts in a job all about me. I zeroed in on what would make me look good and I did whatever it took to appear better than anyone else. While this did lead to some accolades, I eventually was given a blessing…

I fell flat on my FACE! I was in a marketing position and had a peer that was doing a very similar job to mine. In the process of making myself look good and making her look bad, my boss noticed my tactics. I would not share with her key information and find ways to make my work look better than hers to others. When I was discovered this made me look stupid, and secondly it made it appear like I wasn’t a team player. It was after this that I decided to test out the flip side of the coin.

My plan was not to focus on what I did or how good I looked. Instead I focused on the task at hand and our desired end result. I made it my goal to help the rest of the team reach its goals. In doing this, something amazing happened.

I began to contribute and help others more. I became energized with the work I was doing and I felt a strong sense of responsibility for the goals the team was focused on. The even more rewarding part was that everyone around me took notice.

Others taking notice led to respect. This respect led to more responsibility. Increase responsibility led to more visibility up the chain of command to my boss’ boss’ boss (etc). Visibility then led to higher performance rating. Top ratings led to larger raises and faster promotions. All of this developed a personal brand of delivering results by serving others and focusing on the goals of the group (as opposed to my own singular goals).

All of this started because I didn’t make it about myself.  My advice is to make it about the team. Do your best and focus on what can make everyone successful. While it may not center you in the limelight, it will bring you positive results more often than it won’t.

BE AWESOME! 

-MR. BIZ

 

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The Golden Rules of Business Development

Here is a guest post I wrote for Brad Merrill. It’s about how to be successful at business development (an important skill even if you are not in a business development role). Take a look.

http://bradwmerrill.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/golden-rules-of-business-development/

 

BE AWESOME! 

-MR. BIZ

 

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Who is Your Customer?

Customer service is a big area of focus for any business.  Everyone has their own recipe from “the customer is always right,” to “treat your customer how you want to be treated,” to “make sure your customer is ‘very satisfied.'”

Ultimately the common notion, no matter what the doctrine, is that customer service is paramount to the success of any business. The same can be said for you and your “business.”  How you treat customers in your job is a direct reflection of the your career success. While these statements will garner a lot of nodding heads, what most people miss is the scope of who the customer is.

Most will consider the customer the person who pays for a product or service that the company you work for offers. While this is true in the literal sense, the customer concept permeates well beyond.  Many will think something along these lines, “well I am an analyst in the internal accounting department, so I don’t interface with customers directly.”

This mindset is completely incorrect.

No matter what job you have, you have a customer. Your primary customer is your boss. While your company technically pays you, your boss is the one that is the primary conduit to your future paycheck. Just like an external customer, if you boss isn’t happy then it made lead to the end of “revenue” from this customer (i.e. you get fired).

It is not uncommon to have multiple customers as well.  In taking a servant’s mindset (see Career advice in 6 words or less) your employees are also your customers. Therefore your customers could include: your boss, your direct reports and actual external customers.

In order to truly “delight” your customers there are three (fairly self-explanatory) steps to take:

  1. Figure out what is important to that customer– It is not about selling them on what “services” you have to offer (the tasks and skills you have) but instead on the things important to them
  2. Set the proper expectations with your customer– Don’t over-commit. In the case that your “customer” is your boss, let your boss know how long it will take for your to complete a project and make sure to turn it in on time.  This is the “talking the talk” of the equation.
  3. Deliver on what you promised– Tell a peer of yours that you will attend a meeting for them and then make sure to attend (and report back on what key points were discussed), the examples or endless, even when you are not focusing on someone who is not the traditional definition of an external “customer.” Just remember that it is all about follow through, aka “walking the walk.”

One key thing to remember is that it does not always take grandiose actions and well crafted plans to offer unique and exceptional customer service. One of the best example can be seen in the story of Johnny The Bagger.

Just remember the simple thing that Johnny did and the big difference it made to his customers.

BE AWESOME! 

-MR. BIZ

 

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More From the Movies

Continuing a post from a few weeks ago, here is the next set of business related movie quotes that offer some great lessons applicable to our careers.

The list of quotes originally came from a Forbes.com article.

  1. Coming to America: “I started out mopping the floor just like you guys. But now…now I’m washing lettuce. Soon I’ll be on fries; then the grill. And pretty soon, I’ll make assistant manager, and that’s when the big bucks start rolling in.” — Maurice (Louie Anderson) says to Prince Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and Semmi (Arsenio Hall). I am not sure I would be that ecstatic about making my way “up” to the grill, but there is a solid reminder here.  Said philosophically you want to savor the journey and not just reaching the end. Put more practically, value each experience you have and realize that it is a process.  There are times when you may skip a step or two, but ultimately it is good not to move up the chain too fast in your career. There are certain experiences that you want to get in lower level positions before the stakes get too high (mistakes are forgiven less when you are in higher up positions).
  2. Big Night: “I am a businessman. I am anything I need to be at any time.” — said Pascal (Ian Holm), owner of a competing restaurant. This quote brings to mind the concept of work/life integration. The term “work/life balance” doesn’t really apply anymore. It seems that our jobs take over so much of our time and focus and even at odd times. This means that we need to be “on” and must be able to adapt at any given moment (no matter the day or time). We have to carry around multiple hats and find a way to shift between work and play instead of partitioning them as separate.
  3. Up in the Air: “There’s nothing cheap about loyalty.” — Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) says to his traveling companion Alex Goran (Vera Farmiga). As time goes by loyalty diminishes more and more. In sports there used to be players that would stay with one team their entire career. Now most will have played with at least 2-3 teams by the time they retire. The same thing happened at work where some of our parents worked at one company for 40 years. Now staying with one for 4 is a long time. Loyalty is analogous to reputation. It takes a long time to craft your brand and it often takes sacrifice and hard work to build it right (hence it not being “cheap”).
  4. Thank You for Smoking: Kid #3: “My Mommy says smoking kills.” Naylor: “Oh, is your Mommy a doctor?” Kid #3: “No.” Naylor: “A scientific researcher of some kind?” Kid #3: “No.” Naylor: “Well, then she’s hardly a credible expert, is she?” — Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) said to a middle-school student during a career-day speech. Bosses will challenge you and you need to be able to back your viewpoints and recommendations with evidence. When your “evidence” comes from your gut (based on previous experience or your intuition about a situation) you have to be able verbalize it and support it.
  5. Goodfellas: “And when the cops, when they assigned a whole army to stop Jimmy, what’d he do? He made ’em partners.” — Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) said narrating. Sometimes in our careers we need to make partners out of enemies. The best thing to do is make sure to answer the question on your enemy/partner’s mind- WIIFM (what’s in it for me?). To turn an enemy to a partner ask their advice on something and then implement what they recommended, thanking them later. Or give them something they want. If you focus on helping them, there is a higher likelihood they will help you.

Among other things, patience, work/life integration, reputation building, supporting evidence and winning over your enemies will give you a turbo boost to make your way from washing lettuce to the grill and if you don’t make it all the way there, at least you can move up to fries.

BE AWESOME! 

-MR. BIZ

 

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5 Things To Do That Will Make You a Successful Young Manager

The idea of being a young manager can be an absolutely amazing thing (think about all the fun that Kevin had when his family went away in Home Alone).  Yet in reality being a manager is not all about telling everyone what to do and always getting our way. 

First off, no matter how many people we have working under us, we always have a boss too. Heck, even when you are CEO you have a boss (aka the Board of Directors). Then there also is all the paperwork, documentation and “cleaning up” behind your direct reports when they do not complete 100% of their jobs.

Regardless of the hassles, managing others can be a rewarding experience.  Moreover, as a young professional it can be a very valuable experience that will reap endless benefits as our career develops. I am of the belief that your ultimate success is business is not what you do but what you can get others to do, so managing people early in your career will put you leaps and bounds ahead of others as your climb the corporate ladder.

In my corporate experience I have managed a diverse cross section of people; some older, some younger, some the same age. No matter what the age of your employees, your business function (from accounting to sales and everything in between) or the size of your company and industry, there are some key things to keep in mind in order to be make your people forget that you are a young leader with little management experience and focus on the fact that you are just a leader that bring extraordinary value to the table.

Here are 5 important rules that when not followed can derail your ability to manage your team to its full potential:

  1. Look the part: As a young person you want to dress like you are a manager.  It is ok to dress up a little more than others in the office.  While most people in my office wore khakis and a dress shirt, I wore suit or sports coat (no tie). This communicates a sense of formality and will make people take you more seriously than if you were under-dressed.  Moreover, if you can change your hair or overall look to appear older it will help.  I can look fairly young for my age so I grew a goatee which made me look 7 years older.
  2. Don’t mention your age… at least not right away: It is not a good idea to go around broadcasting that you are young and inexperienced, especially when you are managing people.  Once someone knows your age, it tends to create resentment.  Employees older than you will think you don’t deserve to be a manager and those the same age will think that they can be your friend, eventually taking advantage of you to get special treatment. I made an effort not to let anyone know my age, however in one position my peer announced to the group a few days before I changed jobs that I didn’t have much experience and was a recent college grad. This ended up creating an obstacle I had to overcome in order to be seen as credible.  We don’t need to hide your age forever, though. In fact, once you have proven yourself and have a track record of doing amazing work, telling your age can be a good thing. Once you are accomplished people are impressed and admire you for getting so far at a young age.
  3. Make it seem like you are more experienced than you are: Talk abstractly about your experiences.  When speaking to my employees in my first management job right out of college I would refer to experiences I had at different companies through internships. I wouldn’t, however, explicitly say that I was an intern. I would say that in a “marketing position in a previous I did xyz…” I also played with vaguery even more, since I traveled for a few months between graduation and starting my job. So when my people asked if I came from right school to this job I mentioned that I did not,  instead saying that I traveled between school and work (I did not mention it was only for 6 months though). Don’t say you had this other position 2 years ago after your junior year, instead refer to the passing of time as “a few years ago.” The same is true for interacting with your boss or peers; it is generally best to keep your age to yourself. 
  4. Don’t talk about college all the time: I have seen many recent college grad colleagues consistently reference college experiences like they were yesterday. This is great to do when you are amongst other recent grads but it can lead co-workers older than you to look down on you or focus on your lack of experience.
  5. Help your people, don’t command them: As a young manager the most important piece of advice I can give is not to power trip.  Being boss does not mean your first job is to tell people what to do an exert your authority. Job #1 is to support your people and help them do their job better. If you view your role from the point of view of a servant then you will motivate your people to listen to you and support your vision.

It can be great to be the boss, especially when you are young because it forces you to teach others how to be successful in their jobs (and the old saying says that you retain the highest % of something when you are teaching someone else how to do it), i.e. teaching makes you learn.  But remember to “teach” (or coach) in the right way without committing any of the blunders above that will create a wall between you and your employees.

BE AWESOME! 

-MR. BIZ

 

Follow my blog by clicking the link at the bottom right of your screen.  I’d really appreciate it!

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