Posts tagged: career

The Return on Investment of Reading

My summer reading pile. From top to bottom: "Rhode Island Notebook" - Gabe Gudding "Freakonomics" - Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner "How to be Alone" - Jonathan Frazen "A Handbook of ...

Why Should I Read Books?

In the age of Twitter (and I love Twitter), the time and energy for reading books is shrinking. Especially the kind of books that help us grow our businesses. Isn’t it easier to read ‘articles’, blog posts (yeah, like this one!) or your favorite business news source?

Here’s what goes on in my head…. Reading a book… ugh. It’ll take a long time. Not only do I not have a couple of hours to read a book, I don’t have the mental energy it takes to concentrate on a business book. My days are just too busy.

But often, the smartest person in the room, the one with a good perspective and ideas,  is the one who reads books. If you ask them what is the most recent business book they read, they’ll have a ready answer. We read books in school, but once we get out, we think it’s either not necessary or a luxury we can’t afford.

Skill Building

“In medical school, an ongoing lesson is that there will be ongoing lessons. You’re never done. Surgeons and internists are expected to keep studying for their entire career—in fact, it’s required to keep a license valid.” He continues, “knowledge workers, though, the people who” manage, market, and do accounting— “often act as if they’re fully baked, that more training and learning is not just unnecessary but a distraction. The average knowledge worker reads fewer than one business book a year.”  Seth Godin

When I read a book, one that requires me to actually think, as opposed to my favorite mysteries, I have to focus 100% on the page. It’s one of the few times during the day (or evening) that I do only one thing at a time. I get to concentrate on just one thing and I build skills, knowledge, and perspective.

Finding The “Right” Investment

One of the hardest things for me is to figure out is ‘what’ to read. There are so many books! A quick search indicates there are some 11,000 business books published every year. How in the world can I sift through all that noise to find something that will actually give me some return for my precious time?

Here’s how I try to figure out what to read. I think about:

  1. An author, is this someone who has written something that I learned from before?
  2. A general business book that brings a big picture into focus (as opposed to ‘marketing’ or ‘finance’ or some other sub topic.)
  3. Bigger ideas or technology trends… not just specific companies or individual technologies.
  4. Books where the author has done research. The research means that the author had a hypothesis and then tested it.

Some of My  Favorites

  1. Anything by Chris Anderson, Amy Cuddy, Brene Brown, Daniel Gilbert, Josh Bernoff, Charlene Li, Seth Godin.
  2. Traditional favorites like: Warren Bennis on Leadership, Michael Gerber on Entrepreneurship and my all time favorite – Peter Drucker on anything he ever wrote about.

I’d love to hear how you select what books you will read and who your favorite authors are. Thanks!

Photo Credit: Summer reading list

 

Job at Google? No Thanks.

Google, The Holy Grail of Employers

A lot has been written about interviewing and working at Google. William Poundstone has a book. Here’s an article from the NY Times, and there are probably hundreds more. My question is, what do you give up when you work at a big (50k + employees) company? (I worked 17 years at Eastman Kodak, 120K employees.)

Free food, dry cleaning,  onsite child care, convenient transportation, gyms etc.  The free sushi may flow, in some offices you can bring your dog and when you tell people you work at Google, they say wow, good for you. The list of benefits is long and generous. Only a company with huge margins could afford to offer all these.

Do Perks and Prestige Kill Innovation?

But my question is, what can you really accomplish (vs. working at a smaller company)? I know first hand the benefit of all the training and rubbing elbows with really bright people. I also know how much inertia a large corporation generates. The very thing that builds the company, is what holds it back.

Besides search, where has Google, with all it’s billions, really innovated? (I’ll give them Google Earth/Maps). They have tried in vain to create a Face Book competitor (think of Google Friend Connect, Google Wave, Google +, etc.) They have spent years trying to crack the way ‘people’ connect… and they haven’t succeeded yet.

What About YouTube?

One could make a case for YouTube. It brings people together to share, but I would suggest that YouTube’s ‘socialness’  is purely technical.

There have been almost no improvement in the interaction/social aspects of YouTube. Commenting is just as linear and lame as it’s always been. There’s no way to see comments in the context of the where it might be relevant in the video. Every time they come out with an “upgrade”, I think oh, good, they’re finally going to improve the viewers experience. But no, the upgrades make things easier for YouTube.

Look, if you want to work at Google, great. I wish you well and I know you’ll meet lots of smart, interesting people. If you want to really use all parts of your brain and general capacity… then I hope you aim for a smaller company. Let me know how it’s going, wherever you work.

Photo Credit: William Poundstone

Live Gently, Let Go Gracefully

Image result for eleanor roosevelt quotes happiness

 

Ugh, it’s hard to be gentle and graceful when the world makes me mad. And it’s especially hard to let go of things that I think I want or keep me comfortable.

Live Gently

  1.  For me, it means, walking and talking softly. I have a very loud voice. I talk fast and with enthusiasm. I overwhelm some people. So I work on slowing down, quieting down, think of my edges as being rounded not square.
  2. I try not to accumulate a lot of ‘stuff’; I prefer experiences.
  3. Reacting to other people’s perceptions of me is a waste of time. The core of who I am is (I hope) unassailable.

Let Go Gracefully

Really? This is not my strong suit. If you’ve come into the orbit of my life then I think it’s my job to help you. But many people come and go and don’t need anything from me. They need a smile, maybe a kind word.

  1. If I am struggling with something or someone, that’s because I have not accepted “it” as it is. I want to change it, shape it or fix it.
  2. I have had particular struggles letting go at work. When money is concerned, I tend to be rigid, fearful. This comes from growing up poor.
  3. Change is hard. If I can create the change, then it’s easier for me to accept (I’m more graceful?) But when it is imposed on me, my back goes up. Letting go of what I know or believe is like bleeding. I’m right; when in truth, I may be wrong.

In the search for serenity (note: as distinct from happiness), walking softly and letting go gracefully are key.

Image Credit: Buddha Quotes

Want to Be a Success, Be Nice

Dog Eat Dog

It may seem counter intuitive in this dog eat dog world, that being nice could help a person’s career. People think being cut throat and having a competitive fire is needed to get ahead — and to get ahead we must step on and over people.

There IS a place in business for a seriously competitive attitude. Specifically, when customers or products are involved, being better and stronger can benefit all. Imagine the world of personal computers, for instance, if there were no competition? Where would that industry be? Would our lives be better or worse?

Nice Guys Finish – First

Being kind, generous, thoughtful and interested in those around us takes effort. And that is largely the problem.

As we rush through our days, we get so focused on “doing”… that we forget to just “be.”

So, just for today, stop, breathe, see the person standing next to you and smile. Listen when they talk. You may be surprised at their reaction — and how you feel.

Photo credit: Jessica Hagy

Are You a Manager or a Leader?

Good Leader vs. Great Manager

Would you rather be a good leader or a great manager? There isn’t a ‘right’ answer. It’s all in what you value, probably the stage of your career and many other factors. Lots of people think they are both a good manager and a good leader. The reality is, that rarely are people really good at both.

Recognizing Your Natural Strengths

Years ago, I took a leadership and strategic planning course. The instructor insisted that people who weren’t ‘born’ leaders, including the ability to think strategically, could be trained to do so. I disagreed then and I disagree now.

I think each of us has a natural strength toward either leadership or “managership.” We can build leadership “skills,” which are very important, but the notion that we can ‘teach’ people to be great leaders is problematic.

Learning to be a good manager is hard and takes a long time. Good managers make the team feel positive and empowered.  Good managers take themselves out of the equation and focus on the task and the team.

Maybe I’m Wrong

But wait, most mothers (and a lot of dads) are the ultimate managers. They know how to get things done. They make it look easy to run a household, feed, clothe, educate, chauffeur, etc. At the same time, they lead each child to be their very best. Maybe classroom teachers learn both. Maybe master tradesmen, learn both.

Maybe if you practice every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, for 20 years; you learn both.

The Sweetest Sound: My Name

Some people make jokes about their terrible memories and their inability to remember people’s names. Like it’s a big joke. It’s not.

“Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound” Dale Carnegie

Recently I recounted a story about the CEO of a national company with 2,000 employees. When I visited his office, the walls were covered with photos of the company’s employees. Some had check marks next to them. The check marks indicated those employees that the CEO had met in their hometown (all over the country) and with whom he had spoken about their family. His goal was to know the face, name and family members of each employee no matter where he met them. Imagine the energy it took to work on this.

Why did this CEO think this was so important? Well, first of all it meant that he was focused on employees. Next, it gave him a way to connect to people who were not at ‘headquarters’ and a way to make them feel that he cared about them, which, he obviously did.

I work hard to remember people’s names. I learned a trick many years ago; when I meet someone new, I say their name as I shake their hand. Then I try to use it at least one more time before we part company. It’s a small thing but it leaves a positive impression. Check out these tips for remembering names.

Photo credit: Whisper

Job Interview Magic: I and We

I recently had an opportunity to do help graduate students work through mock job interviews. I had 4 international students, all with impeccable credentials. The first young man was charming and humble. A musician by avocation, he’s looking to help the world be a better place. He was a sharp contrast to one of my other interviewees.

When I asked this next young man what he wanted to accomplish from his ‘mock’ interview, he said that he needed direct feedback about how he could improve. I started by asking him about his strengths. He mentioned that he felt that working with people and getting things done were his strengths.

When he described how he led teams, he mentioned that when an employee did something wrong, he would tell them, “You made a mistake,” and then he would tell them how to fix it.

While I didn’t like how he described his supervisory style, I couldn’t argue with directness in employee coaching.

In giving him feedback, I pointed out that the way he spoke about subordinates was different than the way I would do it. That didn’t make it wrong but I wondered if he was being too direct, and perhaps it was cultural.

When I read this post, “The 2 Most Important Words in a Job Interview,” I realized that perhaps what I sensed was too much “I”  in the discussion of his success and not enough “we.”

The entire experience was, for me, uplifting, as is all my work with young people. I get the feeling that the world is going to be in good hands.

Swearing and Spelling

wonderful story, curious spelling

I find it surprising and disturbing that recruiters are still holding two things against job seekers in their social media posts:

Swearing and spelling.

Really?

In the infographic, “Watch What You Post on Social Media,”  when recruiters were asked, “what are the biggest red flags in job applicants’ social profiles?, the answer is, well, old fashioned … and perhaps not helpful to the potential employer.

In this survey, swearing and spelling have nearly the same negative impact as illegal drugs and sexual posts.

Really?

Look, I completely understand that we need standards and differentiators. But eliminating a candidate because they use an ‘F’ bomb vs. using drugs? This makes no sense. I am 100% for everyone paying attention to what they post. I am a well-known ‘hater’ of Face Book for many reasons (mainly they have continually shown open contempt for privacy), but I understand that it is an important part of many people’s daily lives. So just eliminating a candidate for a spelling error doesn’t make sense. In a tight job market, I can see why recruiters use any tool to distinguish between applicants. But spelling errors? We teach the whole language approach to reading and writing in school (vs. phonetics). When you look at the picture… at this kid’s notebook… you see “samwichis” and “lemminad” are early attempts to wrangle language.  When you realize kids today probably are not even learning cursive… perhaps it’s time to think of the ‘context.’

I realize hiring is complex and keeping up with trends in social media is difficult. But especially in the coming, ‘war for talent’ – it will be helpful to think broadly about the changing mores in social media and expression.

Photo Credit: Extra Credit  Woodleywonderworks

The Irreverent Resume

http://www.itcertificationmaster.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Everything-Else-in-Your-Resume.jpg

Yes to irreverent, NO to  idiotic.

When I saw this article, “Resume Blasphemy” I thought, how great! I love this idea.

Instead of listing… where you went to school and worked… the author suggests you write how you would do the job including:

  • “A clear picture of the business of the employer you want to work for.
  • Proof of your understanding of the problems and challenges the employer faces.
  • A plan describing how you would do the work the employer needs done.
  • An estimate of what/how much you think you could add to the bottom line.”

Imagine you are the hiring manager and instead of skimming boring resumes, you get to read through descriptions of various approaches to the advertised job. This is at the heart of behavioral interviews but it goes farther because it requires the applicant to do all the work.

My suggestion… whether you send the irreverent resume or not… write it! Imagine how prepared you will be for that interview.

Photo Credit: How to…

The Creative Journey… What About the Money?

“Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have. The more bullshit you will have to swallow. The less joy it will bring. Know this and plan accordingly.” Hugh MacLeod

This post is dedicated to my daughter, Jenna aka Jenna Marbles, the YouTuber. (If you know a girl between the ages of 13 and 20, they probably know her.)  Here’s a  NY Times article about her.

Jenna has always been a free spirit who found a way to cope with ‘regular’ life. She made some videos in high school, but she wasn’t a ‘theater kid’ and never had aspirations of ‘fame’ that I know of. So when her video, “How to Trick People Into Thinking You’re Good Looking” (warning language) got 5 million views in its first week, you could say she ‘stumbled’ into making videos for a living.

The fact that she single handedly writes, films, stars in, edits and uploads a new video every week (and has for 4+ year) is amazing. SHE HAS NEVER MISSED A WEEK — that’s 215 video in 215 weeks! 1.5 Billion views. Many people think what she does is easy. Try producing original content every week for 215 weeks. But there’s a story beyond that, that’s even more impressive (besides how much she cares about the people who support her.)

She understands who she is and what she wants. In the quote above, MacLeod talks about how money influences art. Jenna wants creative control and isn’t willing to let the bullshit run her life.

I am immensely proud of her for that.