Category Archives: Lessons Learned

The Key to Your Organization’s Successful Future

With a number of the talks I have been giving at companies and universities, I recently reconnected with my alma mater. Feeling a bit nostalgic, I searched to see if some of the on-campus activities that I was involved in were still around.

Some extra curricular organizations I was involved in had been around for over 100 years prior to my joining, so it was no surprise that they were thriving as always. Yet what was more affirming was the success attained by a couple organizations that I was at the ground floor of.

One was the course I taught on Leadership through the undergraduate business school and the other was the Freshman Sophomore Business Club.

In both cases, I was not the official “founder” but was the second to have the top “executive” spot.  With the Freshman Sophomore Business Club, an organization only open to lower classmen (mostly “pre-business” majors), I was Treasurer my Freshman year and then was elected President the next. My executive team and I took on a club with 10 members (mainly officers) and grew it by over 1000%. My focus at the end of my year as President was to ensure that the next executive committee didn’t face the same problem I had; having to run a young organization with no guidance or mentoring (given that the organization’s founders left office, barely providing a thumb drive with documents they had made over the first year). I worked with my executive team to elect the next set of officers early, pair them with their predecessor and begin to operate the club with the outgoing officers actively present, providing advice and best practices.

The result has been amazing. Besides the growth of the organization, it has continued to operate even though there is almost complete turn over of officers and members every 1-2 years.

For the leadership course (that operated through a program that allows students to gain sponsorship for and teach courses to other students), I took the class as a student the first semester it was offered. One semester later when the course founder graduated, I was selected as someone to take over the course. When my graduation neared a couple years later, I enacted a plan to ensure the course would continue on long after I was gone.

Throughout the semesters I taught the course, I had other students serve as teaching assistants to me. During my 2nd to last semester in college I beefed up the number of teaching assistants and watched them closely, as I planned to choose my successor. Then finally, my last semester in college I selected a successor (who I closely mentored) and monitored how the class was doing to ensure that no issues arose. This was a recipe for success and the course is now the longest running special interest course in the entire undergraduate business school, having run continuously for the last 20+ semesters while most other courses of its kind dissolve when the creator graduates.

The reason I describe these experiences is to offer an example of why building a legacy is important to the future of an organization (or anything you are involved in), but also to point out it is something that takes focus and effort to see through.

In both cases, I made a concerted effort to look toward the future. Being a big believer that good leaders can foster success while they are present but great leaders foster success in those that follow long after they are gone, I didn’t look at the organization’s success within the context of the limited time I led it. I saw that there were certain things that needed to be done with the future in mind.

As managers, or individual contributors within any team or organization there are a number of things you can do to increase the likelihood of future success. Here are a few:

  • Share best practices, don’t hoard them. Don’t let the next cycle of leaders make the same mistakes you did. Share with them your failures, why they happened and how you would have done things differently if you could do it all over again. This will give future leaders perspective.
  • Allow the next generation of organization leaders to sink or swim, but provide a safety net. Don’t hand-hold your successors too much. Give them clear guidance but then let them run small parts of things to start. When they succeed it helps build confidence in them; when they fail, be there to help them learn how to do better. Your exit shouldn’t be an abrupt stop, it should be a gradual fading out.
  • Don’t make it about yourself, let the up-and-comers shine. Confident leaders know they don’t need to take all the credit to feel they have made a different. Let others around you (especially the future of the organization) share in the success and even be at the forefront of who gets the credit. This will inspire people to follow the lead you set while empowering them to strive to reach your vision.

It was really energizing and affirming to see that something I dedicated myself to years ago was still around and thriving. It also made me realize that the effort I put in before I exited stage-left from the organization was worth it.

Make something that is built to last; be purposeful in succession planning.





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“Expect Delays”

An early morning a couple weeks ago I was headed to a work conference. It ended up that this conference wasn’t at the typical convention center or hotel. Instead, it was located at a retreat out in the woods. While scenic, the road leading there was naturally winding and heavily wooded.

At one point, where the road narrowed to one lane in each direction, there was one of those electronic signs on the side of the road that typically flashes a multi-part message. In this case, there was only one part to the message displayed. It simply read, “Expect Delays.”

From my experience, these signs usually offer justification as to why there would be a delay. It might read “Road repair ahead.” And then “expect delays” following. But this time I did not. The sign just said “Expect Delays.” Normally I would have passed by this kind of sign paying little attention, but in this case (maybe due to the early hour or the peaceful surroundings) I found a deeper meaning in the message.

Time and time again (in our careers and lives in general) we make plans. We think through all the possibilities and details, catching as many variations as we can think of. Despite this analysis and planning, we are often wrong. Things don’t go as planned.

In my career (and life), I have found that many times when “things not going as planned” it involves something taking more time than I would have expected. I generally get impatient, expecting faster results. This often leads to me giving up, or at the very least not give my 100% in following up and seeing things through.

Unfortunately, this feeling (and response) is something that plagues many millennials like me. We are used to instant gratification and feedback. We are used to getting things when we want them, how we want them. Success in your career (and life) just doesn’t work this way.

It is important for us to be patient when we embark on a journey to accomplish a goal. Whether it is something big like starting a company or something as simple as completing a project at work, realize that things won’t go as planned. Delays will invariably creep in, and if we aren’t ready for them, then we run the risk of giving up before we ever reach our goal.

While it is key to understand and anticipate delays, it is important to go one step further. We must build resiliency. The moment we get knocked down, we must get back up. Every delay that comes our way is an opportunity for another lesson that will help us avoid obstacles in the future (or at the very least will help us get over them faster).

We must also actively look for solutions. To beat these “delays,” we have to find ways to overcome them. Whether it be testing out a new strategy or flat out asking for help, it is better to fight through obstacles and delays instead of letting them happen to us.

As you drive down the road of your career, make sure to keep an eye out for delays. Often times there won’t even be a sign that tells you when or why they are coming. Remember not to just let these delays happen to you. Use them to your advantage. Take away key lessons, they will help you be smarter and more successful further down the road.

Just because you expect delays doesn’t mean that you have to like it. Meet these delays head-on; overcome them and carve out new roads of your own to explore.

What do you think about the “delays” that you face?




This article was originally published in the Personal Branding Blog

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Is Taking It Easy a Good Thing?

As Ferris Bueller said in the 1986 movie, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” This was true then and is even more true now. Over the Labor Day weekend, I took it’s purpose to heart and did some thinking.

Our lives as professionals (or otherwise) are full of meetings and emails, commitments and distractions. For many, striking the balance between work and play can be a hard line to walk and something that is never quite mastered.

For me, this is especially true. Besides a full time corporate job, writing books, and managing my entrepreneurial ventures, I want to make sure to spend time with friends, travel and volunteer in the community. In the process of having to take care of a lot of business, the byproduct is generally busyness. With spouses, kids, aging parents and more, there is not much time left for anything else.

Recently I was cleaning out some files at home when I came across an article that my godmother had sent to me a couple years ago. It was a brief prose by Alexander Green called In Praise of Idleness.

This essay really made me think.

Looking back, I have seen how busyness has adversely affected both my concentration and decision making ability. A couple years ago, I was balancing a full time job and running two businesses, not to mention a number of other personal and community involvements. I found that my mind constantly jumped from one commitment to the next. Because of the shear number of things on my mind I found that I was looking for fires to fight. I would prioritize the most important thing with the nearest deadline and would focus on completing it as soon as I could to go on to the next thing. This was good in terms of getting many things done fast, but it affected the quality of my work. My judgment was clouded and I made some decisions that, in hindsight, were pretty stupid. They led to some failures in my businesses.

I needed to remember what Green states, “downtime is an energizing force.” He continues to reference how “idleness leads to contemplation, creativity, and inventiveness.” Taking this time creates clarity.

While it is something that I do still struggle with, I have been able to see the benefit. Whether it is setting aside 15 minutes in the middle of the day to take a walk (or at least get away from my desk) or if it is keeping one weeknight or weekend day free from commitments to have some downtime, I continue to see benefits from this. Create that time, maybe not a siesta or afternoon tea but a break at some point during the day

As Green references, there are many examples of how down time is a good thing. From Churchill’s “economy of effort” to Mark Twain, even these successful people understand the benefit.

The second step in the right direction (after setting time aside regularly) is to simplify. Think about why you are doing something, and don’t just take on commitments for the sake of being busy. Focus on what is important, and be excellent at fewer things. Steve Jobs made Apple amazingly successful through simplicity.

So remember, it’s ok to be a “loafer,” “slacker” or “bum” every once in a while. This idleness can create the clarity you need to be to reach your goals.


When do you think being “idle” is a good thing? (if at all)




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You Gotta Hit the Curveballs

As we reach the latter end of the dog days of summer, as a baseball fan, I think about the impending pennant races and excitement to come as the fall approaches.

Recently, I was at a baseball game and watched as one of the players from my home team (the San Francisco Giants) battled against the opposing team’s pitcher, fouling off 7 or 8 balls before getting a solid hit to left field. These types of at-bats happen all the time in the major leagues, but for some reason this one stuck with me.

I realized how the type of mentality this batter had was exactly the mentality of those who are successful in their careers (and I would venture to say, in their lives in general).

For those not familiar with baseball, hitting a moving ball thrown at you from a little over 60 feet away at speeds as fast at 100mph is not easy. In fact, it is considered by some to be one of the hardest things to do in all of sport. With something coming at you so quickly, it is important to anticipate.

Not all balls that pitchers throw are fastballs straight down the middle of the plate. Many are curveballs (that change directions on their way toward the batter) or are change-ups, that look like fastballs but are as much as 20mph slower than the same pitcher’s fastball. As a batter, if you use the same swing and believe that every ball thrown would be a fastball, then a large portion of the time you would be swinging and missing.

In our careers, things aren’t always straight forward (fastballs). Many times things quickly change (change-ups) or something unexpected happens that we have never experienced before (curveballs). To be successful, we can’t always assume that things will be straightforward. We can’t assume that we will always get the next promotion opportunity. We can’t assume that if we always consistently produce the best results that rewards will flow to us in-kind. To be successful, we must anticipate curveballs and expect the unexpected.

What good baseball players (and this particular batter from the game I recently watched) do is strategize and look for a specific pitch. Depending on the count (number of balls and strikes), the game situation and the pitcher, the batter will make a plan for the pitch he thinks will be thrown. He will prepare for a low or high ball, a ball thrown inside or outside. This is analogous to goals that we set and opportunities that we look for. Often, however, the pitch you guess is not the pitch thrown.

Good players not only make a strategy according to where they think the ball is going, but more importantly, they make sure that they have a way to make contact with the ball even when what they anticipate is wrong. In the game I watched, this batter defended against the unanticipated pitches by “fouling” them off (where he would make contact with the ball but would hit it off a sub-optimal part of the bat, making the ball land outside of the field area).

Pitch after pitch, he received balls that were either unexpected or not what he was looking for. Yet he kept his at-bat alive, waiting for the pitch he really wanted.

The career equivalent is patience and resiliency. We will all face adversity and obstacles (i.e. the unanticipated or undesirable pitches) and it is important that we are able to persevere and wait for the moments where we can be truly successful. Yet we must get through all the other obstacles before we are faced with the right opportunity. For this batter it took over 10 pitches for him to find the one he was looking for, and he still needed to foul-off the others to get to the right pitch.

Finally, the batter connected with the ball and got on base. Eventually the batter ended up scoring and represented the go-ahead run that won the game for his team.

Remember to strategize to determine the opportunities you want (the pitches you are looking for) and more importantly, be able to persevere and be patient through all the obstacles you face (the pitches that are hard to hit). Eventually if you keep your at-bat alive, you will find the pitch you are looking for and will get a hit that may very be the success that defines your career.

Do YOU think being able to hit the curve balls matters?



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5 Steps to Master Managing People Older Than You

Here is an article that was recently published on the Personal Branding Blog of which I am a contributor to…


It was the first day of my first job right out of college. Despite all the group projects and being president of different clubs, there was nothing that could have prepared me for what sat in front of me. Literally sitting in front of me were 15 customer service reps, all older than me, half of whom had worked at the company longer than I had been alive; and I was supposed to be their boss.

Over the next few months I labored to learn the best way to manage people with more experience and knowledge than I had.  Luckily, learning how to do this was not rocket science, it just involved incorporating a few simple rules that not only created a better working environment but led to consistent results.

Step 1: Understand the different stages of a career.  I still remember the first conversation I had with one of my new salespeople when I got promoted to regional sales manager 3 years ago.  Larry was in his mid 60’s, had grandkids and was pretty set in his ways (and was vocal about it!). In describing his goals for the future he crafted an interesting analogy.  “Here is the mountain,” he said, angling his arm in a sloping motion. “Here is you,” he explained, using his fingers to walk up the front side of the imaginary hill, “and here I am” he continued, jumping his walking fingers down the bottom of the back side of his fictitious mountain. “I will work hard, but I am on my way out. As long as you understand this analogy, things will work between us.” We enjoyed a good laugh in the moment, but I could see his point.  I was at the beginning of our career, looking for ways to get promoted and make an impact.  Larry, on the other hand, was just looking to spend time with his family and get a paycheck so he could travel and finish paying off the house he had bought 20 years before.  Naturally there are degrees in between our extremes, but remember the hill and where you are in relation to the older person you are managing.

Step 2: Never pull the “I’m the boss” card. It is a big mistake for you as a young manager to let authority go to your head.  Instead of looking for ways to enact your power, let your older direct reports know that you are there to help them, not boss them around.  Offer them assistance in fulfilling their job responsibilities better and faster, but always do so with a helpful spirit.  They will often help you more than you could ever help them.

Step 3: Get to know them personally, show them you care.  In a work environment, especially when you are responsible for a group of people, the personal side of things often gets lost in the fold.  It is important to get to know your people, as people not just as workers.  This is even truer for employees older than you. Learn about their families and what they like and dislike.  Odds are their passions will be much different than yours, but if you take interest in them, it will foster loyalty. I observed that most people expect that their manager will tell them they need something every time they interact.  I make a conscious effort to interact with my employees and not ask for anything. At first they will respond, “what do you want?” when you come speak to them individually, but they will be surprised when you don’t have an ulterior motive. This will make them realize you are different than other managers they had before.

Step 4: Adapt your communication. People of different generations communicate differently.  While we are comfortable with emailing someone, receiving a text message response and then calling to confirm things regarding a single issue, older workers often are not.  Make sure that you learn how your employees like to communicate and utilize that medium to converse with them.  Generally face-to-face communication is best (although our generation is used to leveraging technology more); however this is not always possible.

Step 5: Ask their opinion. This step is the most difficult and is constantly overlooked.  Generally, when an older employee has a younger manager they feel threatened (think of Dennis Quaid’s character in the movie In Good Company).  They have a desire to feel valued and that their opinion is important.  During performance discussions, as your employee what they think of your performance as a manager. You will get great feedback.  When it comes to decisions that affect the team, get their input and do what you can to implement ideas shared.  When it is not possible to get input, tell them. Also, any time you need to direct the team to do something, remember to tell them whySaying “because I said so” only works when you are a parent, not when you are a boss.

From my experience, after incorporating these 5 steps, the “age” thing was no longer an issue.  In reality, I encounter more problems with people around my age. An employee around the same age feels like he can get away with doing whatever he wants, so he pushes for us to be “friends” (to break down the responsibility I have as a manager).  The best solution is to meet the issue head-on and let him know what your role as a manager is. Make it clear that you are going to treat him the same as everyone else.

Whether older, younger or the same age, managing people can be a challenge. Perfecting this skill is important, however, because your ultimate success in business is not what you can do, but what you can get others to do.




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Sometimes A Great Brand Is Not Enough

Here is an article that was recently published on the Personal Branding Blogof which I am a contributor to…

As many of my fellow contributors have written, the personal brand you create is one of the most important determinants of your success both inside and outside of the workplace.

We have talked about how it takes time and many steps to build up a strong reputation (let alone the work that goes into maintaining it). There are many ways to get there, but ultimately it is a laborious (yet rewarding) task no matter what path you take.

Your brand can’t survive without results

All of this great advice aside, your personal brand is almost completely worthless without one thing; Results.

You may be very likable or have some unique skill or story that sets you apart from the rest, but without continual results to back up this “hype,” your brand isn’t all that valuable.

Anyone who has ever had a sales job before can relate to this. And for those that haven’t, sales is all about the business that you close. No matter how great your results were last year, last quarter or last month, it is all about the here and now.

You could be an incredible organizer, a keen communicator and a tenacious influencer, and it can be all for not without results.  Results is really the bridge between theoretical and practical. I have seen many sales people that have great sales skills. Being someone who understands (in theory) all the steps you need to close a sale, how to read your customer, and how to overcome obstacles does not always lead to getting the customer to sign on the dotted line. Getting results is about “walking the walk” (and not just “talking the talk”). In the realm of taking a picture, it is like setting up the perfect angle with the perfect shutter speed and lens, but producing a bad print. It is like creating a great set of ideas for your boss but then failing to present them well. It is about finishing the job and following through.

The key component is “continual”

In the workplace, there is a proliferation of the “what have you done for me lately” attitude. A job well done yesterday is forgotten in the midst of the deadlines and pressures of today.  While this can be hard to swallow at times, it is important for us to realize and adapt to this.

As I mentioned above, the key word in relating to driving results is “continual.” Getting results just once will rarely carry you forever. You need to show consistency.

The reason why continual strong results are so important is because of how fragile your brand is. We have all heard countless examples of people that were at the top of their games who crash and burn because of one mistake or because their ability to produce results dissipated. If you do well when you first get into a job or a role of leadership but the results taper off into terrible outcomes, then your brand will be tarnished. Moreover, as we have seen from the falls of the mighty, this negative mark always remains as a footnote (if not a headline) in the minds and records of others.

No matter how strong or well establish you are or how solid your brand is, I urge you to be mindful of the results you bring in. We are all allowed to have a bad day now and then, but if you let your focus and effort drop, you face a slippery slope. What begins as a little slip-up can cause significant reputation damage, causing you to have to rebuild what was once a strong personal brand all over again.




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The Key To Strong Personal Brand: Having No “Buts”

Here is an article that was recently published on the Personal Branding Blogof which I am a contributor to… 

About a year ago I received a promotion at work. The new position was an absolutely amazing opportunity and one that could teach me a lot and help me build many connections throughout my industry. It was also a position that I did not have all the ideal “qualifications” for. In other words, my boss took a bit of a risk in promoting me.

The key reason I was promoted

Through the interview process, I had to prove that I could handle the position by putting together analyses and conducting research on an area  that I was not well versed in. While I did impress my new boss at each interviewing stage, he later explained to me that there was one key thing that led him to pull the trigger in hiring me.

Before giving me the offer he did his homework. To this day I am not sure who all he spoke with, but he asked numerous people throughout my company, who I had worked for and with, about me as a candidate. He noted that typically in the process a “reference” would taut the great qualities of a candidate only to transition into a negative statement saying something like, “he is great, but sometimes he is not responsive we I contact him,” or “he always meets deadlines, but is very disorganized.”

In his investigation of me, my boss said there were no “buts.” He continued to explain that because of this he was convinced that the reputation I had built through multiple positions in various departments was a strong one. He had wanted someone who had branded themselves as a leader that worked hard and was able to collaborate with others and maintain strong relationships.

While I took this as quite a compliment, prior to hearing his rationale I had never really thought about the power (both positive and negative) of the brand that others build for you in their own mind and how it can directly affect your career.

“Buts” can work both ways

Having or not having “buts,” however, can work both ways.

I once had a salesperson who worked for me that was one of the top salespeople in the company.

She always found a way to be at the top of the stack rankings, even through org changes and new product launches

As time went on, she desperately wanted to move up to work with larger enterprise customers, but time after time she failed to get hired into these position. In the midst of her frustration, she couldn’t see why she was constantly passed over. Despite her stellar results, she had too many “buts.”

Her strategies for being the best came at the expense of her relationships with her co-workers. She schemed, finding ways to get involved in other people’s deals, only to look for ways to steal them away. She would then use fear by threatening to go to human resources, claiming foul play, for anyone who threatened her position at the top.

Unbeknownst to her, the true intentions behind her actions were transparent to everyone. When potential hiring managers asked about what she was like to manage, I was upfront about her shortcomings (since I had my own reputation to uphold and didn’t want to lie to get her off my team, only to have her new manager find out about things I withheld). Ultimately, the brand she created of being a consistently top performing salesperson was tarnished by her “buts.”

The lesson here is simple. While building your reputation, remember that the brand you create is not just based on the good things that you do. There is a whole other side to the coin. It is important to minimize the negative traits people attribute to us. Focus on building healthy relationships with bosses, peers and direct reports because you never know how their feedback and recommendations (either positive or negative) will affect your career in the future.

Don’t give anyone a reason not to want to work with you; make sure the personal brand you build has no “buts.”




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What Facebook’s IPO can teach us about how to make decisions

Here is an article that was recently published on the Personal Branding Blog of which I am a contributor to…

On May 18th, many of us expected Facebook stock to hit the public market with an explosion. There was a revival of hope reticent the first dot-com boom. Facebook’s valuation went up over the road show week and excitement was high as Mark Zuckerberg rang the NASDAQ opening bell.

I, like many other retail investors wanted to ride the opening wave and make some quick money before the stock settled back down near the IPO price (which it often seems to do). I had thought that many retail investors were going to be stupid and push the price of the stock up, so I would be able to profit and get out in time. Instead, I became one of the “stupid” retail investors that lost some money.

While this experience exposed the validity of many rules of good investing (which I will leave to the countless other articles circulating out there), it also illustrated some important rules of success in making business decisions.

Don’t get caught in the hype: A new trend will rise from time to time that gets everyone excited. In the context of Facebook it was social networking. Everyone gets caught up in it, but that does not mean it will be around forever; remember there was a time when MySpace was the king of social networking. Instead look below the layer of hype to what is really at play. If you have a career opportunity, don’t get caught by a flashy title you could get or some big name company- go with the right fit for you. Consider what your real day-to-day would be in the job and not just the glamour and sexiness of what you think you may be doing.

Get as much info as possible: By now many of us have read about how Facebook gave potential institutional investors nonpublic information about how they were lowering earnings estimates and not expecting as strong of a 2nd quarter financially. This information was not clearly provided to the public.  If I had seen this information I probably would not have invested (or at least not as much as I did). In the case of your career, gathering as much information as you can is key to your success. When making an important decision, researching, asking questions and using your resources to uncover vital information can mean the different between choosing one option over another. Take the time to get all the information so your decision is more educated.

Think in both the short and long term: When investing in Facebook I thought just about making a quick buck. While this short term outlook is one investment strategy, it is important to also consider the long term. When taking on a certain project or new job, or building a new business it is important to think about both what is around the corner and what is farther down the line. When you have this dual perspective it will help you build the right brand so you look good in the short term without making any mistakes that would jeopardize your long term reputation.

Don’t make choices based solely on what you like or are familiar with: Everyone is on Facebook, literally everyone. We are all familiar with the site and the way it enhances our lives, but that does not mean it is going to be a great investment. My mom loves the retail clothing chain Chicos. A few years ago she decided to buy stock in the company. She figured that there were locations popping up everywhere and she thought the clothes and accessories they sold matched her (and your friends’) style. The stock proceeded to grow before crashing down closer to its all-time low. Just because you know something and like it personally doesn’t mean it will be successful. Just because you like a certain executive at your company and align yourself with him or her to mentor you toward promotion does not mean that they are the right person to get support from. Just because you like them does not mean that they will be at the company to help you move up the corporate ladder.

Only time will tell what happens with Facebook. Most of the hype has passed, much more information has been disclosed, there will be a transition from the short to the long term, and the familiar Facebook we know today may change as they adapt to monetize their mobile platform that everyone is questioning them on. Remember that all these points apply to each of us, the brands create and the careers we build. Just like Mark Zuckerberg is for Facebook, we are majority shareholders in our own careers and we have the controlling interest to make important decisions on our own to follow the path we want to take.





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Choose the Boss, Not the Job

Without bastardising the quote too much, it has been said that people choose a position because of the job but then leave the position because of the boss.

A job description and even day-to-day work of the position may be amazing, but it is your boss who monitors and motivates you to fulfilling your objectives. If you boss’ style does not mesh well with yours then there is an exponentially higher likelihood that you will become frustrated with your day-to-day work.

If the statement at the top is true (which it is), then the question beckons, why it is more important to find a good job with a great boss over a perfect job with a horrible manager?

Here’s why…

Your boss is often the most important person in your career (except for you). Not only that, but your boss generally holds the purse strings, i.e. they determine your end of year performance ratings and the type of raise you will get. Even more than the dollars and cents side of things, generally your boss has to support you in any promotion you may be put up for and often is called upon by higher-ups to give feedback on how effective you are at your job.

Think about it in relation to the pay you get for a job. It is easy to run a sprint within your career (short periods of time at a company) where your salary and compensation drive you to do well and will give you a sense of self-worth (i.e. You are willing to put up with a bunch of crap because you are getting paid well). This feeling is fleeting, though.  Most people need a sense that they are contributing; ultimately money does not continually motivate workers for years and years. The same can be said of a boss. With a bad boss, all the other factors like pay, value of experience and impact your overall job satisfaction less than your boss does.

If having a good boss is so important, then how can you tell of whether a potential boss is good or bad? (so that we are including who your boss would be as an element to “choosing the right place to work”) First, you want to look for signs during your job interview process. Asking the hiring manager about his/her goals and management style during the interview process is a good start. Here you will find out what your potential boss is really like (the good and the bad) or you will find out they are completely delusional and not conscious of their management style at all. Realize how much of a micro-manager you can handle and make your decision on a job accordingly.  Next you want to check with references to understand what kind of experience others have had with your boss. These references will see what you can’t since they have a depth of experience while you only may have a couple of interactions with your potential boss.

All in all, the core message I am offering is that you should do everything you can to prevent yourself from taking on a job with a bad boss. Make sure to evaluate your boss in the job screening process (interviewing is a two-way street where you should be evaluating the job and not just being evaluated yourself). Finally, if you get stuck in a situation where your boss is less than ideal, focus on managing your boss by doing what you can to make them look good, then start searching for a new job that has a better boss (taking into consideration how you learned the hard way with your current job).

Beyond your boss, check out 15 other reasons that it may be time to find a new position.




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What to say when they ask your opinion

For some, it is the moment to shine while for others it is the most frightening.

Imagine you are at a staff meeting. Your boss just finished giving a long drawn out presentation about his future vision for the team. After a long pause, he turns and looks right at you as the follow statement pierces the silence, “what do you think of our new vision?”

It can be said that your opinions will make or break  your career, no matter how much hard work you put into your job. It is more than just what opinions you have, but how and when you communicate them.

Here are some tips on how to voice your opinion at work, and knowing when you should or shouldn’t let it be known. Let’s take a look in the context of few different scenarios:

  • When you have no clue: Whether it is because you dozed off during your boss’ lecture (like the scenario above) or because it is not one of your areas of expertise, when you don’t have a clue the first thing to do is admit it.  Your peers will hate if you completely BS an answer and there is a good chance that your boss will see right through it.  But don’t just leave it at a confession, offer an action plan to find the answer.  For example, say “that is a great question and I need a little time to research the topic. Give me 3 days and I will have an in depth analysis for you.”  Once you make this commitment it is paramount that you follow-up and followthrough. Provide your boss with status updates and ask for clarification if you aren’t sure.
  • When you hate the way things are: There are times when things don’t go our way. When given the opportunity to voice our opinion on a part of work that we don’t like it is important to be mindful of what we say. Don’t let your jaded side get the best of you. Remember that someone made things the way they are, and those people are pretty territorial about the projects they have worked on and the programs they implemented. While they are likely less than perfect executions of flawed plans, the people involved have some pride in the work they did. Be mindful of their egos and don’t openly slam something you hate. When you are asked your opinion, instead offer your suggestions to improve things and more importantly find little ways to change things (step-by-step without stepping on toes).
  • When you are passionate about how you feel: Just because you feel a certain way and you want to share it with the world does not mean everything feels the same way. Odds are someone out in your team won’t like it (often because it was not their idea).  It is important to do two things when you are passionate about the opinion you are sharing. (1) Get buy-in. Make sure to share the WIIFM with everyone (what’s in it for me) and get everyone to understand how they benefit from your opinion or idea. (2) Speak only for yourself. I have seen on an almost daily basis someone will complain about how “everyone” feels the way the way they do when in reality it is just them (or them and one other person). Take ownership of your opinion and the leave the floor open for others to agree or disagree instead of assuming where they stand for them.

Remember that your opinions are good things (that show your uniqueness and value to your organization) but should be shared in the right way and at the right time. Make sure to read your emotions and the situation, taking the three points above in mind and it is likely that you will respond in the right way when your opinion is asked.




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