Monthly Archives: November 2012

One Sentence You Should Never Say at Work

Our jobs can be challenge amidst all the change that invariably is happening at our companies. Whether we are at a fast growing start-up, a huge corporation adapting to new market conditions and competitors or somewhere in between, odds are this is a reality of work.

No matter what your job, company or industry, there are certain principles we all should strive to uphold. From driving results to people fast learners, all have their own level of importance. One of these key categories is our attitudes. Not only will out attitudes affect the quality of our work, but it also will affect how others view us.

It makes sense to maintain a positive attitude. Besides motivating ourselves to push-on in adversity, it helps us look good amongst the team. While a negative attitude can manifest itself in many ways, from small comments like, “this new policy sucks!” to “there is no way we are going to solve this problem!” there is none worse than when you say (and think), it’s not my job.

When you have this 4-word mentality, you are a poison to your team. It shows you have the mentality that you have sectioned off your work and the value you bring to your company to a tiny box that is determined by your job description.

Here are 3 reasons you should never even think the words “it’s not my job”:

  • It limits you from career growth– If you are constantly concerned about how little you need to do to fulfill your job responsibilities or are only interesting in doing what you were initial hired and explicitly told what to do, then you will not inspire others to believe in you and your abilities. You won’t be given any new and exciting opportunities and later (if not sooner) your days will be relegated to mundane tasks that don’t matter as much to the future of your company.
  • You won’t learn anything new-If you have a “it’s not my job” mentality, your work days will not be exciting. You will most likely get caught in the routine things that you are comfortable with (truly successful people are willing to regularly step outside of their comfort zones).
  • You are being a selfish non-team player– If you are being asked to do something or see an opportunity to complete a project that may be outside of the scope of your job, odds are it is needed because there is no one doing it today. In almost every case it will help your team.

Note: This is especially true when you are working on a small team, in a new growing area of your business or are at a start-up. I once founded a start-up with a friend of mine. Routinely my business partners would say “it’s not my job.” Besides annoying me to no end, I was like, “there’s only two of us, so if it’s not your job then whose job is it?!?! Mine?”

When facing tasks that are outside of the scope of your job or that you are not familiar with, use the following 3 steps to help you contribute rock-star results:

  • Partner with someone– If there is a group that does have expertise in something you have been asked to work on, bring them into the fold. Not only will you get their expertise and buy-in, but you will learn more in the process and get the work done faster. Plus it will show good teaming, something all bosses like seeing.
  • Do your research– If you are asked to do something new and outside of the normal scope of your job, odds are the right way to do it won’t just come to you. Research ways to do the task and look for sources of the information you need to do a great job
  • Ask for help-If you aren’t able to find a partner who has the task you have been asked to do as part of their job and if you research efforts are fruitless, ask for help. Make sure to ask to the right person (preferably someone other than your boss), and show them the work you have done and how you think you should do the task instead of just blindly saying “tell me how to do this.”

Take ownership of the work you do and take new work that may be outside of the comfortable scope of your job as an opportunity to grow and learn. It will help you develop a solid personal brand.More than anything else, if you do say “Ok, I’m happy to help,” instead of “it’s not my job,” then people will take notice and before you know it you will be receiving new and exciting career opportunities.

What’s a something YOU think someone we should never say at work?




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One of the Biggest Mistakes Companies Make

Working for a large corporation I am accustomed to the same regular routine. If the previous year (or quarter or month) was a good one, then there is a brief period of celebration and recognition and then it’s on this year and how we need to “keep up the momentum” or make “this year the best year ever.” On the other hand, if last year was a bust then management finds a way to highlight a few bright spots but then focuses everyone on the new year/quarter/month, to forget about past failures.

Along with these transitions comes the announcement of the coming year/quarter’s goals and priorities. While the specifics vary for each industry or division, for any company they appear to be essentially the same. Let me break it down:

  1. Increase Revenue
  2. Lower Cost
  3. Improve Customer Satisfaction
  4. Develop our People

The order of the first three may vary but they are pretty straightforward. Every business is looking to increase top-line revenue and increase profits by cutting costs in the process. Customers fuel profits, so they are important and new measurements like Net Promoter Score help companies focus on creating customers that are “willing to recommend” new customers.

Then there’s number 4: “Develop our People”- i.e. improve the skills of company employees. This is always on the list, but interestingly enough it is always last; almost like an afterthought, I would presume. I call it an afterthought because despite good intentions it is the first thing that goes to the waste-side when priority numbers 1-3 are not being met. Plus it is very hard to measure.

I feel like developing employees is such an important thing for companies to focus on, but it consistently gets a disproportionally low amount of funding.

While there have been organizations that I have been a part of that truly do care and have gone to great lengths to develop me and other employees, this is not always the case. A couple years ago, I was at our division kick-off conference and our VP was presenting our priorities for the quarter to the managers. Guess what item was on the list, that’s right, “develop our people” Naturally, it was right where it always seems to be, at the very bottom of the priorities list.

That quarter I proceeded to watch as very little (if anything at all) was done to develop me or the people who worked for me. Our VP didn’t seem to care about his people. There was a hotshot cavalier attitude that permeated through the organization’s culture. It was all about results and no matter what we accomplished we were pushed to do more. I am all for stretch goals, but it is important to set your people up for success. While expectations of success was clear, we weren’t given training and resources that matched our goals.

When the next quarter came around, I remember laughing to myself as I saw the new priorities. “Developing our People” was on the list again, at the bottom, but this time I knew nothing was going to happen.

The question beckons, why even include it on the list at all? Is it because corporate leaders feel like they have to in order to appear to care about their people? Is it a habit? Do they do it in order to retain existing employees? When things play out like they did for me, it comes off as insulting to even include people on the list.

In light of this typical business practice, I have two recommendations to corporate leaders:

  1. Move “developing our people” up the priorities list– Developing employees as leaders empowers us and actually increases the other three typical priorities (revenue, cost reduction and customer satisfaction). This should be higher on the priorities list. Truly making this a priority also improves corporate culture as employees will want to come to work more and will be invested in their work if they know that management cares.
  2. Actually mean it– Corporate leaders shouldn’t just put developing employees on the priorities list, but should make a real effort to foster regular employee development. Create more mentoring and training programs. Better recognize accomplishments to encourage appropriate behavior and actively engage employees directly to see the best areas to focus on. It’s better to leave this priority off the list than to keep it at the bottom and do nothing to support it.

Corporate leaders need to remember that their people are the most important part of the equation that drives profits and happy customers. Developing employees shouldn’t be an after thought; it should be moved to the top of the priorities list.

What do YOU think?





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How to Speak to an Executive

Most of us have been asked the old cliché, scenario. “what would you say if you were in the elevator with the CEO of your company and you had to pitch him/her an idea but only had the time from when the elevator left the lobby to when it reached their floor?”

The ability to get your point across concisely and artfully to executives can mean the difference between moving up in your career or getting stalled where you are at. While oversimplified, the situation described above correctly characterizes the approach you should take when talking with an executive.

Despite the influence and responsibility they have, it is important to remember that often executives revert to almost being child-like when they reach that top level of corporations. Attention spans almost completely disappear and it is hard for them to focus on doing anything administrative without the help and support of an assistant. Every day they are bombarded with information and have to shift focus in the blink of an eye, as they have a number of areas of responsibility and lead organizations that working on many projects. When you have the opportunity to present a powerpoint deck to them or speak with them about an idea you have, you must consider their frame of mind.

That said, here are some keys things you must keep in mind in order to be successful speaking with top executives:

  • Be Brief– When speaking with an executive, get to the point. Don’t plan on going through a lot of detail on every little part of the process you went through to arrive at your recommendation. Work under the assumption that if they want to know, they will ask you. Think of it like a funnel. What you communicate to an exec is analogous of the small funnel opening. Only communicate what is essential and be able to have background information and logic on why you reached certain conclusions. The process of presenting is not about you sharing every detail, but is about you getting your main points across and getting their buy-in and support. Additionally, at meeting scheduled for 1 hour may end up being 15 minutes if the executive is late leaving another meeting and may have other commits that have come up last minute that cut the time even shorter. This happens regularly to me.
  • Be Insightful– Don’t tell an executive something they already know. Be unique and share something new. They don’t have the time to go over the same topic and details over and over. Teach them something new. When you consistently do this, then execs will know you are a go-to person and will come to you for guidance in the future. Using stories and analogies are good as well. I remember one presentation where I compared our companies operational complexities to ordering a steak at a restaurant but being expected to tell the waiter the internal temperature of the steak you wanted, the amount of salt, pepper and other spices you wanted along with the angle you wanted the grill lines to be at. It seemed to get the message across.
  • Be Prepared to Go Off-Track– I do not think I have ever talked through a presentation without being interrupted. More accurately, I don’t think I have ever gotten more than 30 seconds into a presentation without being stopped by an executive to ask a question, say on opinion or move ahead to a more specific part of my presentation. It happens. Be familiar with your presentation and able to start and stop anywhere while being able to seamlessly go back to important areas that were skipped as you follow-along the executive’s thought process. Executives see things in a unique way and may not learn a concept the same way you did.
  • Be Ready to Answer Questions– Be prepared to answer any question. While you want to keep presentations short and to the point, make sure to have a ton of back-up information. You will undoubtedly be asked something unique and need to have reference-able evidence to back-up what you are saying. Just as important, if you don’t know the answer, admit that you don’t, commit to finding an answer and then follow-up with the executive with the answer you find.
  • Be Sure to Follow-up– While it would be ideal to get a direct and clear answer from an executive after presenting, this is often not the case. Execs need time to process what you recommended and tie it in with the other dozen priorities they are juggling. Ensure that you follow-up to confirm buy-in and get approval on the best path forward. Often you will have to drive this because if you wait around for them to get back to you, you may be waiting forever.

I regularly present to executives at my company about new and exciting technologies and strategies to build revenue. While at first I was very concerned with getting my point the way I wanted to explain it, I soon learned that I had to build my analyze specifically for the executive I was reading out to, almost like I had to write in a different language I knew they understood. Being flexible is so important.

A good way to learn how to effectively communicate to executives is to treat all your interactions with co-workers like they are with an executive. They will appreciate how you value their time and you will get much better at getting your point across.

Now the next time you are in an elevator with an executive you know what to do: be brief, be insightful, be prepared to go off-track, be ready to answer questions and be sure to follow-up. And even if you are not limited to an elevator ride’s amount of time, take ownership of your communication and treat everyone with the respect that you would give an executive from your company. It will help you go far in your career, not matter what your chosen field is.


Does Anyone have any stories about interactions they have had with an executive or tips of their own?





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Introducing The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World

A couple weeks ago my book, The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World: Savvy Strategies to Get In, Get Ahead and Rise to the Top hit both online and traditional bookstores. (Check it out @ Amazon and Barnes & Noble)

In the time leading up to the publication and since the launch I have received great feedback. From friends to family, Amazon reviews to affirmation from fellow business book authors. For all of this,  I am grateful.

Since school doesn’t teach us how to be successful in the working world (there is no textbook that teaches us how to interact with a boss, and no course that teaches us how to position ourselves for a promotion or get buy-in for an idea from our colleagues), I feel this book was needed. It really fills a gap and offers both great anecdotes and concrete advice on what to do in your career.

For those interested, here is a brief breakdown of what the book is about and what makes it different than anything else out there:

What is the book about?

  • It offers advice to young professionals (and really any working professional) on how to be successful in your career.
  • In the book I talk about two archetypes, The STAR (someone who is Savvy, Tenacious, Adaptive and Resourceful) who we should strive to be like, and The DOPE (someone who Disses Opportunity Potential and Earnings) who we want to avoid
  • I discuss the 25 attributes of a successful young professional, as it relates to building the foundation for a successful career.
  • The book teaches you how to build a career blueprint and how to leverage mentoring to attain your career goals.

What makes this book different?

  • While I am a fan and reader of many business books, a number of them explain the same concept over and over to the reader. Instead, I get right to the point and only say something once, trusting that the reader can grasp what I am explaining.
  • For those with short attention spans (like me!) this book is great. Chapters are simple and easy to read (most only 4 or 5 pages) and have a clear format that tells you what you should expect to read in a chapter and recaps the lesson at the end.
  • Online integration– Many books that discuss this topic are a static document and don’t offer much online integration. Besides a community for peer mentoring (more to come on this), throughout the book I ask readers to go to various assessments, tools and worksheets on the book’s website to be act on the advice in the book.
  • By a millennial, for a millennial– Some books in this category are written by psychologists “studying” the millennial generation, and others are written by entrepreneurs who have no real corporate experience. In addition to being a millennial myself, I have worked in a number of different roles and functions (including managing people) at a Fortune 20 company, so I have real world experience that really shows through in the advice and tips I give.

Special thanks to my publisher Career Press, and my agent Zach Romano for making the publication process a smooth one.

For my readers, please share this with your friends and colleagues. Since we as millennials consume much of our information online and through social networks, anything you can do to spread the word would be really amazing in helping young professionals everyone learn how to build the foundation for a successful career.

I would love to hear anyone’s feedback on both the concept of the book (do you agree that it’s needed?) as well and specific feedback after you take a look at it.

I hope that you (and every young professional out there) get a chance to check it out!





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