Category Archives: Young Professionals

How to manage when you have no clue

“Wait, what’s a SORD order again?” I asked. “And where do we get the information I need for the account?”

“You get that from BOSS, but you can’t use BOSS-south only BOSS-north, otherwise you will get an error. But before you complete the SORD order you need to go into Telegence and process a request and send a confirmation through to the center,” my peer manager explained.

At the time, my response was probably just like yours is: “Huh?”

As a manager taking over a team, you will most likely face one of two scenarios. Either you will be managing a team where you used to do the job that your employees do (whether you are now managing the team you used to be on or a completely different team doing the same thing), or you will take on the role with little to no idea of exactly what your team’s day-to-day job is like.

Often you will know the main function of your new team or possibly the goal you need to accomplish while in the position, but the vernacular, systems and processes are a total mystery.

A STAR manager (someone who is Savvy, Tenacious, Adaptive and Resourceful) is able to come into situations with little to no previous experience and excel, while the DOPE (someone who Disses Opportunity Potential & Earnings) lets fear, doubt or the urge to take control prevent him from being successful. In my career, I had little to no idea of what my team did day-to-day going into each new management position I took on, but I was able to use a set of transferrable principles that work no matter what situation you must manage.

Here is what STAR managers do to be successful in situations where they have no idea what their team does:

  • Admit you don’t know: If you come into a management position as an outsider, your team will be especially critical of your value to them (since most employees want to know how you can help them do their jobs). A STAR manager doesn’t pretend that she knows it all. She acknowledges to her team that they are the experts and that she has much to learn. She does this in a balanced way so as to not lead her employees to think that she is clueless. Let them know that what you think they do is important and that you have much to learn from them.
  • Don’t command control: When entering new management roles, DOPE managers want to exert their control and power at all costs. While it is important that you portray yourself as an authority figure, realize that the team may do things differently than what you would naturally do. Over time it is a good idea to make improvements, but at first be cautious about making any sweeping changes because then not only will you be lost but so will your employees.
  • Uphold  the attributes of STARs: There are a number of STAR individual contributor traits that specifically apply when you are managing a team where you have no prior experience in a area. STAR managers are fast learners, picking up concepts quickly and understanding how they affect the team. STARs have perspective, being able to take a lesson from the new situation. They are coachable, looking to their employees to teach them what they need to know to be a successful advocate for the team. They are self-aware, conscious of what they know and don’t know and where their strengths and weaknesses lie. STAR managers are resourceful, using many channels to master their new job. They have a positive attitude and they see their employees as customers, searching for ways to support them.
  • Search for understanding: Remember that you don’t have to do the whole job that your employees do. You just need to understand it and know how to support them. STAR managers seek to understand how successful people do the job their people do and they find ways to remove the obstacles preventing peak performance.
  • Ask peers and your people for advice: Your peer managers are a wealth of information since they have more experience doing the job you were brought in to do. Take note of their best practices and learn from any mistakes they made. Your employees especially like the idea of you coming to them to be taught something, so leverage that when possible.
  • Show your cards: Give your employees glimpses that you know what they do and can do it (at least part of it). Particularly with managers who have no experience in their job function, they will attempt to get out of work or trick you into thinking something is harder to do than it really is. Showing these glimpses keeps them in check, wondering what you do and don’t know. Speak the right language and learn the reality of their jobs and not just what they tell you.
  • Look for where to make your mark: Find the levers that affect your new employees’ jobs and look for ways to change things for the better. As an outsider you are not bogged down by the typical process and existing way of doing things. You have fresh eyes and can find issues that others would not be able to see. Be careful not to jump into this too soon, but patiently look for the right things to change. This encourages your employees because they will see you as someone who wants to make positive change and help them succeed.

No matter what new language of acronyms and processes that have to be learned, the amount of prior experience or management style, a STAR manager brings in an open mindset and the methods outlined above to be successful with any team focused on any goals.

Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.
― George S. Patton Jr.

The STAR manager vs. The DOPE Manager

The DOPE manager… wants to make his team think that he knows what he is doing at all times. He is apprehensive about asking questions and develops a sense of mistrust with his team because he is not open and honest about not having all the answers.

The STAR manager… is honest with herself and her team when she is in uncharted territory. She utilizes her team and others to get advice and is a fast learner, picking up knowledge that will help her effectively manage her team.

BE AWESOME!

-MR. BIZ

 

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Millennials, here’s why it’s time to wake up!

Today I was on NPR sharing my perspective on millennials in the workplace.  Here is what I shared during the “Perspectives” segment:

Here is a link to the audio file

Here is the transcript:

Imagine how I felt, three weeks into my first job out of college and facing the thing that strikes fear into the hearts of employees across the nation. It was time for my performance review.

I wasn’t scared though, I was excited. I was expecting that my boss would give me a big raise and promotion. I was stunned when the first words out of her mouth were, “Aaron, you seem like a bright young man, but I am not sure if you even know how to do your job.” I was crushed. I thought I was doing well at work, but in reality had no idea what the working world was like.

In fact, my misguided expectations were way off. I had expected that it would be like everything else I had done in my life; that I would be given an opportunity and then rewarded for being a part of the team.

My fellow millennials, it’s time for us to wake up. The working world is not like our homes were growing up. Our bosses won’t accommodate for us like our parents did and we won’t be recognized just for showing up. It’s time for us to take action instead of just waiting to be given the careers of our dreams.

Older employees complain about our lack of engagement and inability to take on responsibility and follow-through at work. I for one hate having this stigma associated with me and know that we are better than this reputation. We are creative, enthusiastic and agile, with exciting ideas and new ways of thinking.

We need to take ownership of our careers. No one is going to hand it to us on a silver platter. We will have to earn it with consistent hard work and results. We must be coachable, willing to listen and learn from advice coming from all angles. We must be more self-aware, understanding our natural sense of entitlement and impatience that cause us to give up when we face adversity or skip around between opportunities because we will only settle for the ideal situation. Instead, we must have perspective and realize that the lessons we learn now will help us when we do find our passion.

Don’t just wait for someone to hand you the career you want. Go out there and take it.

With a Perspective, I’m Aaron McDaniel.

 

Does anyone have their own perspective that they want to share?

 

BE AWESOME!

-MR. BIZ

 

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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?

 

BE AWESOME!

-MR. BIZ

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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?

BE AWESOME!

-MR. BIZ

 

 

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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!

 

BE AWESOME!

-MR. BIZ

 

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

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