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How to be successful as a manager: Removing Obstacles

This was originally posted as one of my entries for the Personal Branding Blog (

If we asked experts what the first job of an effective leader is, the conflicting answers would be plentiful: Some would say it’s to set a vision and goals. To others it would be to motivate the group being led. A few would even venture to single out something more clever like surrounding oneself with smarter people who fill in the leader’s gaps as the most important.

To avoid joining this debate, I venture to let others battle over what the correct first job is while asserting that the most important subsequent job of a leader is to remove obstacles.

My experience as a manager, leading teams of all generations in both the corporate world and in the community has led me to the conclusion that no matter how diverse, or high performing and regardless of the group’s goals are, the best way to increase results is to remove the things that are hindering the group and its individuals from reaching it’s full potential.

These obstacles, big and small, insignificant or substantial take away from your team’s ability to do their job and fulfill established goals. It demotivates and lowers morale. It even generates frustration within the most talented people you work with, causing them to leave for greener (or at least more frictionless) pastures.

Removing obstacles may take the form of creating a new elaborate process to streamline a legacy way to doing things. It may be conducting your own analysis and confronting a boss or peer whose actions are slowing down your team or it may be something simpler.

The easiest way to remove obstacles for others is to ask them what is preventing them from doing their best. For a team of unionized call center reps I managed a few years ago, the number of obstacles was substantial. After seeing that this played itself out in endless complaints and low morale, I tackled this issue through periodic “venting sessions” where I would collect lists of obstacles, seeking to understand the obstacles discussed as opposed to refuting them. I then worked hard to remove these obstacles, some of which I could and others that I couldn’t.

The results were amazing. Not only did the length and intensity of these “venting sessions” decrease, but morale and results improve dramatically.

Results skyrocketed not because of some analytical tool or special initiative; it occurred because of the effective use of an obstacle removing mindset.



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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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From peer to boss: How to manage a team you used to be a part of

Going from peer to manager can be a difficult process. It is a challenge for you, taking on a management role where you used to be an individual contributor, and it is challenging for your team members, as they have to take orders from someone who used to be their peer.

A STAR manager (someone who is Savvy, Tenacious, Adaptive and Resourceful… for those not familiar with the archetype discussed in my book)  is able to leverage the benefit of knowing what it takes to be successful at what her team does while being sensitive to the fact that it may be difficult for their old peers to see them an authority figure.

To start, STAR managers are conscious of the fact that this situation may happen, so they are sensitive about the reputation they create for themselves among their peers. It is much harder to get a team to believe in you as a manager if you were thought of as selfish, scheming or dishonest.

When transitioning from peer to manager, STARs do the following:

  • Transition relationships: STAR managers work with their close ex-peers to help them understand their new role and to ask for their support during the transition. The book The First Time Manager, by Loren Belker and Gary Topchik, characterizes the complexities of being promoted to manage your old team well when it notes that knowing employees too well can be an issue because a certain comfort level has already developed. They go on to note the importance of setting the right expectations, rules and regulations, fostering accountability.
  • Treat everyone equally: It is natural for people to like and get along with people at varying degrees when you are on their team. As a manager, however, you must make an effort to treat everyone equally. It is okay to have past peers/now employees that are friends who you socialize with outside of work, but you must not show them any favoritism or it will create a division within the team.
  • Show your authority: STAR managers treat this as carefully as walking across a frozen pond. As mentioned, you will be challenged by your team. Especially as an ex-peer they will use all kinds of logic to get you to relax as a manager and cut them slack. Ensure that you portray yourself as an authority figure. Discipline rule breaking and seize coaching opportunities. While it is important to exert that you are the boss and that people must follow your lead, be careful how you do this; otherwise your people will develop an “oh you have changed” mentality and not trust you as a manager. It is okay for them to think you have changed, but openly discuss with them why.
  • Find ways to show that you are their advocate: Make a concerted effort to show your team that you will stand up for them and support them. Find ways to make positive change. A great place to start is to take your new authority and find ways to remove obstacles that bothered you in the role before you became a manager.
  • Keep the right frame of mind: Don’t lose sight of the fact that you understand how to do the job your people are tasked with doing and the challenges they face. Keeping this perspective will help you in shaping the appropriate culture, vision and management style to use with the team.
  • Have fun and learn: Since you remember what it is like to be an employee on the team, further integrate what the individuals on the team would typically find fun and look for new learning experiences that are valuable.
  • Shift the culture: While there may be pressure to keep things the way they are, make sure to leverage a contingency approach and change the culture to better fit your management style. You may face some pushback from your team on this, but follow through if you believe the change is important.

When taking on a management role in these types of situations, be mindful of not only being tested by your new employees but also of any resentment that exists. In many cases, one of your other ex-peers interviewed for the position you received or possibly thinks they are more deserving of the position than you are. This may cause them to hold a grudge and act in certain ways to make you look like an incompetent leader. This can manifest itself in many ways, like them purposely making mistakes on things that you ask for their help on that they know you won’t catch because of a time crunch or because you trust them with it.

One way to deal with this resentment and animosity is to address the issue head on, speaking to individuals on your team and acknowledging how they feel . When doing this make sure not to come off as if you have an “I won and you didn’t” attitude.

Another way to handle this kind of situation is to be nice to these employees and show them that you value and support them in their own career progression. Specifically seek out their advice and find ways to make them look good. This will calm the resentment and focus them on reaching the team’s goals.

STAR managers see situations to manage where she used to be part of the team as a unique opportunity to help the team be even more successful. She successfully leverages her past experience to remove obstacles, empower her employees and create a culture that the entire team believes will help the team achieve even more.



No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.
-Abraham Lincoln

Every time I appoint someone to a vacant position, I make a hundred unhappy and one ungrateful.

– Louis XIV

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.




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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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The best question a manager can answer: “Why?”

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

Let me lay out a situation that most of those that work at almost any company are familiar with: Company management undergoes a reorganization and change is coming. The change can be vast including entire groups or functions going-away, leaving hundreds or thousands without a job) or could be something slight, like people have to work on an upcoming Saturday.

Corporate leaders are (rightfully so) worried about big things like, will this new strategy and organization structure cause the company to lose momentum? Or, will this change cause us to lose profit or become vulnerable to our competitors? Yet one thing that does not receive as much thought is how to “break the news” to all the employees. For most, it’s as cold and calculated as sending out a company announcement via email, and then letting the chips fall where they will. This lack of thought about communicating change can be disaster because (quite simply) people talk.

When people talk two things happen, (1) they get distracted and no longer focus on their work, and (2) they come up with some of the most creative conclusions as to why things changed and the rationale behind the new system. Most of the time these self-crafted answers are based on wrong assumptions or are just completely rationalized and made up by someone who is ill-informed.

In managing people, I have found that the best way to deal with change (and basically the changing of any policy or rule that is set) is to answer the question that is often disregarded by managers; the question “Why?”

Managers can wrongfully think, “I’m the boss and I know why I needed to make this change. My employees just need to focus on the new way we are doing things so we can reach the new goals I set for them.” Instead, effective managers don’t just tell their people that a change has been made, but they offer rationale behind why the change was made.

For example, a friend of mine’s company had an entire team that was focused on making products for and selling to a certain industry. One day, it was announced that the team would no longer be focused on this industry but instead would be targeting international customers. Along with the announcement, some people’s job would be eliminated and some would have to move to Europe and Asia. Unfortunately, that was the extent of the announcement. There was no why.

Left to their own devices people spent a great deal of time and energy speculating whether the change came because of something going on in the industry (which appeared to be growing) or a new opportunity that came about internationally, and beyond. The company did not share that this industry  focus was not profitable or that the cost of paying experienced people on the team was causing the company to lose market share in other product lines because there was less money for marketing. The reasoning could have been anything, but the bottom-line is that it was not shared.

The beauty about sharing why with your employees is because it allows them to move on. It’s like ripping off a band-aid. It may hurt, and they may disagree with the rationale that you used in making your decision, but at least they understand your reasoning.

Telling the why behind a decision allows people to feel like they are important and deserve to know. Instead of de-motivating them, it allows people to focus more on their work and can even empower them to work better and smarter because they will naturally look for new ways to support your rationale for making the decision in the first place. If you talk to the team about the purpose behind a cost cutting measure you are instating, they will begin to uncover additional ways to cut costs in other areas (often times without you even asking them to). They will work smarter and in a way that is mindful of why the decision was made, while you will get better results.

While it is important to use tact and put the right “spin” on the reasoning behind your decision, make sure to share the why with your people and not just what the change is. It can mean the difference between achieving the result that you are hoping the change would create and total failure and low morale. Remember the answer the question, “Why?” even if you aren’t directly asked.



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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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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 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.




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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.




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Quick Totally Awesome and Creative Business Ideas

Click the link below to check out my latest guest blog post.  You will find some great (FUN) management tips that you should use. 





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