Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Crazy To-Do List? Here’s What To Tackle First

Unfortunately, your to-do lists won't be down to zero until the day you die. So if you've been thinking that you'll only reach productivity nirvana when your lists are empty and your calendar is an open canvas, well, that's not likely to happen—at least as long as you have a job, a family, friends, and a life to manage.

If you're like most people, you have pretty chunky lists of things to do, along with a near-constant flood of new to-dos and an overwhelming feeling that it all needs to be done now.

Many people try to tackle their mountain of personal tasks by sorting them by priority, and starting at the top. Seems logical—but they've actually got it backward. In reality, before you think about priorities, there are three factors you need to consider, because they each actually limit your choices about what you should (and even can) do next.

So if you're feeling overwhelmed, and aren't sure where to start—set your "top priority" lists aside, consider these three factors, and make use of them to help you sort your excess of options into a more manageable set of choices.

Limitation #1: Context

If you're not in the right place, don't have the right tool, or are not in front of the right person required to take an action, you can't take that action. Think about it—ever been at work, in a meeting, and suddenly remember you need to buy shampoo? Unless you leave that meeting, "buy shampoo" isn't happening in that moment. It belongs on a list called "Errands" for when you're out and about. (Unless you're like my husband who thinks the life of shampoo can be extended eternally by shooting water into it and diluting it down when it's near empty.)

Context will always be your first limitation. You can certainly change your context, to get to the right place, tool, or person to take the action that just came to mind. But unless you do, your choices are limited by that factor first.

David Allen's Getting Things Done method suggests that you primarily sort your to-do list by context, such as @Computer, @Home, @Errands. This saves time by preventing you from slogging through choices you can't even make—because you are not in the right context.

Limitation #2: Time Available

The second factor that comes into play is how much time you have. If you've got a big project to work on, but you need to bounce to your next meeting or pick up your kids in 10 minutes, it's probably not a good use of your effort to start it. It might take you that long just to get into the rhythm of it before you have to unhook.

So when time is a factor, look for choices that match your time available. Maybe in those 10 minutes, the best thing isn't for you to go check your inbox and half-read a bunch of emails that you'll have to re-read anyway. Maybe instead, you'll benefit more from going outside and breathing some fresh air, or making that quick call where you know you'll get someone's voicemail.

Limitation #3: Resources

The third factor to consider is what your energy is like. I don't know about you, but Friday afternoon after a long, busy workweek is not the time to dive into anything that will take a lot of mental bandwidth. Instead, I make choices that match what my mental and physical energy is like. Not to say there aren't times I need to just "buck up" and get in there anyway, but I like to be conscious about what I'm choosing and match that to when I think I'll bring my best self, whenever I can.

Pulling in Priorities

We said at the beginning to set aside "priority"—but now, here's where it comes back. While context, time availability, and resources will limit your choices about which to-dos you should tackle next, they still aren't usually enough to help you decide which will bring you the most value. This is where priority shines—it becomes your strategy.

If you're thinking that to decide based on priority means you need to have your life and work "all figured out," I'll make it easier for you. You just need to know what you've committed to—completely. First, capture into lists everything you've made an agreement, would, could, or should about, personally and professionally, so that you trust you're making a decision against the full inventory of what you've committed to.

Then, ask these two simple priority questions:

  • What's the value in getting it done?
  • What's the risk if I don't?

Often, you'll realize that half of the projects and tasks you took on can't realistically get done in the time you have, nor is there value in taking them on now, or little risk to parking them out in the future. These kinds of things go on a "Someday Maybe" list for me. I haven't given up on the idea—I'm just saying, "not now."

Try asking those two questions on the next email you get that asks you to do something. Or the next book you tell yourself you should read. Or the next meeting you're asked to attend. It might just help you wade through your choices with more ease of mind, knowing you can only do so much, and that you're making the best choices you can.

Thanks to Kelly Forrister / TheDailyMuse / The Daily Muse


How To Manage Your Team Through Change Or Crisis

We've all seen it happen: Closed-door meetings. Executives walking around with clenched jaws. Team of two or three whispering among themselves about what might be going on.

When your company is going through a time of crisis, turmoil, or even just change—the uncertainty and gossip that ensues can derail productivity, torpedo motivation, and bring down morale at all levels. But as a manager, it's your job to keep your team happy and performing at their best. So, when the you-know-what is hitting the fan all around you, how can you keep calm and carry on?

No matter what's going on—whether it's a good change, bad news, or something totally unknown—here's how to address the chaos with your team, keep the gossip at bay, and get everyone back to work.

Crisis Level 1: A Change is Happening

Even if what's happening isn't a bad thing—say, your company is acquiring a smaller competitor or getting a new CEO—any sort of change tends to breed uncertainty, fear, and low morale. So, the best thing you can do in this case is to proactively discuss the situation with your team (at least, as much as you're permitted to), sharing all you know about what's happening.

More importantly, remain positive about it. For example, if your company is considering expanding into a new market, give positive support to that decision, or, if you have historical data or studies that show that it's worked for similar companies, share them. If a new CEO has come on board, don't focus on the organizational changes you're bound to face—instead share information about this person's stellar track record at other companies and what he or she might do for yours.

If you, the manager, stay positive and provide compelling reasons to get on board with the changes, it will be much harder for your employees to spread a negative attitude throughout the organization.

Crisis Level 2: The Unknown is Happening

Something major is happening—you just don't know what it is yet. (Or, you do know what it is—you just don't have all the details.)

In this case, remember that rumors start swirling when people are aware that something's going on, but no one addresses the issue head-on. So, to thwart the gossip, it's important to be upfront and discuss what you know with your team.

Even if you don't have all the details, that's OK. Try something like, "I know you may have been hearing rumors about a potential round of layoffs. I don't have a lot of information about what's going on, but I can tell you that sales have been down for three quarters straight, and the executive team is trying to figure out the Q4 budget." Or, if you are able to reassure your team about any negative news, do so.

Also, give them an anticipated timeline as to when more information will be public—or when you plan to update them again. By giving your staff some true facts, reassurance, and a timeframe for more open discussion, you mitigate the need to gossip for information. (And in the meantime, you can request that team members stop discussing the news until the public announcement and to come to you with any specific questions.)

You may also want to share your employees' concerns with your boss, let him or her know that rumors are flying, and suggest that upper management address these issues with the entire company (where appropriate). Even if the higher-ups can't give specific answers to every question, an open-door policy that goes beyond you will increase trust within the company as a whole.

Crisis Level 3: The Worst is Happening

Sometimes, you do know what's going on. Sometimes, the news really is that bad. And in these situations, pretty similar advice applies. When you know that a huge change is coming down the pipeline, particularly a negative one, you should be as open as possible about it with your staff. Even if the news is bad, it's usually better for those details to come from you, rather than through the office grapevine (and ideally, sooner rather than later).

I personally experienced the effects of negative company-wide news when I worked at a start-up as a fresh college graduate. For months, it seemed like things weren't going well. All of us were speculating about the company shutting down, which led to a total lack of engagement on our part. We were showing up late, slacking off, and trying to search for another job on the sly.

Finally, our manager came to us and candidly told us that yes, the company was shutting down. He gave us a 30-day notice, offered a strong reference on behalf of himself and the owner, and allowed us to use the office to send out resumes and hunt for a new job.

This is an extreme example, but the point is: Even though he had to confirm negative news, it was much better for us to know what was happening than to continue to speculate about it. Plus, we were much more motivated to get back to work and to wrap up outstanding projects during the remainder of our time there once we knew what was going on.

Managing in a time of change or crisis can be difficult, but it's important to address uncertainty and negativity as quickly, concisely, and truthfully as possible. By encouraging transparency among your team and throughout the organization, you can minimize the impact the situation has on your work.

Thanks to Ashley Faus / TheDailyMuse / The Daily Muse


3 Tips For Managing Employees During A Personal Crisis

As a manager, there are few things anyone can guarantee as part of your job description. But there's one thing I can pretty much promise: Whether you have one or 100 employees under your supervision, you'll eventually have to deal with someone having a personal crisis in the office.

At first glance, helping your employees through a difficult personal issue may seem simple. Be sympathetic and supportive, and make sure they know you're there for them, right? Actually, there's much more to it than that. And, as my experiences have shown me, if not handled properly, what started out as a personal crisis could morph into one of a professional nature.

Here are a few tips to help you guide your employee through a difficult personal issue while maintaining a professional relationship and helping everyone get the job done.

Tip #1: Remember You're the Boss, Not the Friend

I know this sounds harsh—and believe me, it's probably the hardest part of dealing with an employee in crisis. But, if you blur the line between manager and friend, you could find yourself in a much more difficult situation down the road.

4 Simple Ways To Make Your Employees Feel Valued

Imagine a job where your work isn't appreciated, your effort goes unnoticed, and you could be replaced in an instant.

Not exactly a place you'd want to stay for very long, is it?

As a manager, this isn't the type of environment you want to encourage—not if you want your employees to stick around, that is. So, one of your most important responsibilities is making your employees feel truly valued, letting them know that without them, your company, your department—and frankly, you—would be worse off.

But how do you do that on a daily basis, especially if you don't have the decision-making power or resources of a top-level executive? During my years as a manager, I've found that doing these four simple things can go a long way.

1. Be Intentional with Everyday Conversations

Employees and managers alike are often ingrained with the idea that "everyone is replaceable." But I've found that a big part of feeling valued occurs when employees are aware that they add something to the company that no one else can.

To effectively convey this, think about how you approach everyday conversations with your employees. When you assign a new task, for example, go beyond the basic "Here's the contact info for your next design client," and reiterate why you truly value someone's work: "You did a great job designing that website last week. We have a new client who seems pretty picky, and since your work is so detail-oriented, I think you're the only one for the job."

Or, as you start giving people more challenging work, clearly acknowledge what you're doing and why: "You really nailed your presentation during the team meeting last week, so I think you can handle a monthly client presentation with some of our big accounts." The more you recognize your employees' specific contributions to the team, the more irreplaceable they'll feel.

2. Show Them that Others Need Them, Too

While recognition can serve as a great motivator, it can also become a little routine when it always comes from a direct manager.

I'm not saying that you should ever hesitate to reward your employees for a job well done, of course. But, do remember that feedback from others can pack a little more punch—and show your team that they're not only appreciated by you, but also by clients, co-workers, and even executives.

So, pay attention when a client sends you an email to share the amazing experience she had with an employee or when someone from another department lets you know "Joy helped me find the number I need—she's great!" Then, share it. Whether you do it privately (via a one-on-one conversation or email) or in public (on a company message board or during a team meeting), you'll let your employees know that they're making an impact on clients and co-workers—and they'll be reminded just how important their work is.

3. Challenge Them

Every job comes with less-than-glamorous responsibilities. But it's important to balance out that grunt work with challenging assignments, too. When you only dole out repetitive tasks (or tasks beneath someone's skill level), you're conveying that you don't really need his or her specific, individual talents. (Come on, anyone could update a client information spreadsheet!)

On the other hand, when you assign an employee a challenging task and actually put your trust in him or her to see it through, what you're saying is, "I know you're capable of this, and I trust you to do a great job."

So, I've found that it's important to consistently find new ways to challenge my employees—whether that means developing new projects specifically for their talents or just being more aware of what each person does best and assigning tasks accordingly. I also carefully select employees for the task of training new hires—giving people this responsibility conveys that you not only think they're doing a good job in their everyday work, but that you want incoming employees to develop their same habits, skills, and attitude.

4. Recognize Them as Individuals

To boost team morale, it's great to do something for your entire team—like catering lunch or bringing in donuts. But if you're aiming to show your appreciation for an individual, it can easily get lost in these types of group celebrations. In one fell swoop, your top salesperson and newbie intern have just been rewarded with the same exact thing: a slice of pizza. Guess how valued your top employee is going to feel?

To truly make individual employees feel valued, it's OK to single them out and reward them according to their accomplishments—and with something that the rest of the team won't necessarily get. So, for example, if an employee's gone above and beyond developing an internship program for the summer, let him or her skip out on a day of work to attend a recruiting event at a nearby college. Or, pinpoint an employee to attend a conference on your behalf. I've found that even simple, small gestures go a long way: If I have an employee who's done something exceptional during the week, I'll pull her to the side and let her leave work an hour or two early on a Friday afternoon.

Of course, you don't want to ostracise the rest of your team—and you certainly don't want to play favorites—so, it's important to pay attention and actively look for opportunities to reward all the members of your team. But individually recognizing your employees for their specific achievements will spell it out, loud and clear: They really make a difference to you and the company.

Thanks to Avery Augustine / TheDailyMuse / The Daily Muse


Tears And Fears: Dealing With A Crying Colleague

Unless you're on the set of Days of Our Lives, crying is generally something we all try to avoid at work. But, try as we might, it happens, and when it does, it's pretty awkward—not only for the crier, but for everyone nearby.

As a manager, I was faced with the uncomfortable responsibility of calming a crying employee on several occasions, and while never would be too soon for me to want to do it again, I did pick up some valuable insight on handling an upset employee or colleague.

The Golden Rule

Now, as uncomfortable as you might be, the first and most important consideration when you're staring into the welling eyes of a colleague is empathy. I know, sounds obvious. But the first time one of my employees started to cry in front of me—and the entire team—my first reaction was nearly laughter. I was so surprised, not to mention completely unprepared to handle the situation, that all I could think to do was burst out laughing.

Of course, this would've been the absolute worst thing to do, and thankfully, I was able to compose myself by remembering what it felt like the last time I was caught crying. It's hard to know how any one of us will react when put in this awkward position, but remember the golden rule, and start thinking about how you'd want to be treated if the tables were turned. I guarantee being laughed at won't be involved.

Change the Scenery

Having an employee cry in front of the whole team isn't good for the group, and obviously, isn't good for the employee. So, at the first sign of trouble, it's a great idea to guide that person to a more private area. A spare office or conference room works great, but avoid the bathroom at all costs if you plan on having any sort of discussion with your employee. It's fine if she needs to compose herself, but save the talking for a more professional atmosphere that doesn't involve an echo and running water.

The change of scenery approach works even if you're already in a secluded place. I had the unfortunate duty of firing one of my employees several years ago, and when I gave him the bad news, he burst into tears. We were already about as far away from the rest of the team as we could get, so moving to a new room wasn't an option. So, instead, I grabbed some tissue, and asked him to stand up and walk over to the window with me so we could decompress a bit, hoping the movement would help calm his nerves. It worked, and I've used it every time I've encountered this since. Even if it means just turning your chairs around, the change in scenery can help change the emotional context just long enough for your employee to catch his or her breath, and hopefully, will keep the waterworks to a minimum.

Talk Through the Tears

As awkward as it may be—and trust me, it will be—sometimes the best thing to do for a crying colleague is just let her get it out of her system. Turns out, trying to put a lid on whatever emotions triggered the crying in the first place might just make it worse.

My first solo experience with a crying employee came not long after I started as her manager, and I was pretty focused on establishing myself as an authoritative figure. While I certainly wanted to make her feel better, professionally, it felt awkward to have a good old-fashioned chat to find out what was wrong. So, I pulled her into the hallway and gently asked her to take a few minutes to compose herself in a nearby conference room.

Turns out, that was the exact wrong thing to do. She completely fell apart right there in the hallway, and started crying uncontrollably. Horrified (for both of us), I took her to the conference room myself, and sat down with her and let my instincts take over. I asked her what was wrong, and amazingly, that's all it took for her to collect herself.

While the simple act of talking can help calm emotions, it also helps create a bond with your colleague. Although I never did get used to someone crying in the office, this particular employee felt comfortable enough to pull me aside in the future, to chat (and cry) things out away from the group, which made life a lot easier for both of us.

Business As Usual

Last but not least, there's the business of how to react once the tears have dried. Depending on the situation, your employee may be ready to return to his or her desk after regaining composure, and the rest of your team may be a little unsure of how to proceed. After all, while you and your colleague were away, your team was likely coming up with all sorts of conclusions as to what prompted the crying in the first place. Was someone fired? Did someone die? No doubt, inquiring minds will want to know.

Unfortunately for the curious ones, it's none of their business, and unless your employee specifically gives you permission to discuss something with the group, he or she needs to know what was shared with you stays that way. Which means, you need to get the team back to business.

In my experience, doing a quick walk-through, asking for status updates on everyone's projects, and reminding them of upcoming deadlines is a surefire way to get the team back on track. If necessary, find a way to hang around close by all day—nothing fizzles gossip like a manager on the floor.

We all cry for different reasons, so it makes sense that, regrettable as it may be, eventually it's going to happen in the office. So, if it happens to someone on your team, remember we're all human, and do your best to help both of you save a little face (and a few tears in the process).

Thanks to Jennifer Winter / TheDailyMuse / The Daily Muse

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Monday, July 15, 2013

3-Piece NLP Toolkit For Recruiters

I recently read an interesting article on how candidates can use Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP) techniques to build rapport with their interviewer in order to create a stronger impression and increase their chances of being identified as a suitable candidate. (In case, you weren't aware, at a high concept level, NLP is the science of modeling patterns of our behavior. In our context NLP is a powerful technique that can enable us to communicate with and influence others with extra-ordinary effectiveness.)

In light of this article, I thought it would be useful to set out several tips on how recruiters and employers can potentially use NLP to develop greater rapport with a candidate and better achieve the information gathering goals of the interview.

1. Matching the interviewee's tone volume and rate of speech (para-language)

Interviews can be naturally intimidating environments, which means that candidates can be tongue tied, guarded and defensive, making it hard for you to obtain the inside information you want. So, if you can build a rapport and get the candidate to trust you, the person will relax, barriers will drop and you may have a better exchange of information. A useful NLP technique (often used by hypnotists on resistant clients!) is called "matching" where you match your non verbal behavior to that of the candidate by matching the candidate's tone, volume and rate of speech (para-language). If the candidate speaks slowly and quietly, try slowing down your speech and speaking more quietly too. This can result in the candidate opening up more.

2. Matching the interviewee's body language

Another NLP approach to building rapport with a job candidate during your interview is matching kinesics or matching the candidate's body language, which includes things such as posture, gestures, movement of the body, position of arms, etc. So, where possible try and match the candidate's body language in a subtle and cautious way. This is to avoid mimicking the candidate which could be disquieting for the candidate – as this will help to relax the candidate and encourage the free flow of information.

Try and follow natural matching processes, such as when people are in a conversation and where they can often hold the same posture, such as both crossing their arms or both holding their chins in a quizzical manner. Another example could be that the candidate feels especially enthused and leans forward to press a point enthusiastically; you might mirror this behavior by leaning forward too. The candidate may then relax and adopt a more open posture by sitting back, and you might do the same.

With each successive change in the candidate's body language you match his/her behavior helping to build a greater rapport with the candidate and widen the door to information exchange. As I said, take it slowly, be subtle, don't overdo it and avoid mimicry.

3. Matching the interviewee's language

We all know that behavioral questions are tricky. It's important that we create the best possible setting for the candidate because it's no use to anybody if the candidate fails to answer the question. Why? Because the recruiter simply has no data. We don't know if the candidate is just incompetent or just flustered momentarily, which is why we want to develop an environment for behavioral questions to be answered well. NLP can help this.

For example, people recall and relay experiences according to either the visual (thinks in terms of pictures); auditory (hears sounds); kinesthetic (feels or experiences emotion); or representational system according to NLP.

You can identify the interviewee's data processing style by looking at "eye accessing cues." For example, those who look up when answering behavioral questions are trying to remember as a picture; those who look to the side are trying to hear the words being said and use these as a cue; and those looking down are using feelings or emotions as a cue.

If you can identify which type of recall system the candidates are using, you can help to prompt them more effectively if they get stuck on a question. For example, if you think they are auditory, you might ask, "What did the angry client say to you? Did they raise their voice?" And if they are feeling based you might ask, "How did you feel about the angry client and how did you manage any anger or frustration?" If they are visual, you might prompt them by saying, "Can you describe the scene in the meeting? Where was the angry client sat? Where were you sat? How far away were you? Show me?"

These are all just prompts to help you communicate with interviewees struggling with behavioral questions, in their preferred style to help information exchange.

I realize there is a lot to take in here and this is just meant to open you up to the idea of NLP in candidate interviewing and you can read more about it here.

Thanks to Kazim Ladimeji / Recruiter /, LLC.


3 Qualities Employers Are Looking For

As the job search continually grows more difficult in our current economic state, many wonder how they will ever land that "dream job." With fewer jobs to go around, being at the top of the totem pole is a must. The first step in reaching that top spot is by blowing away the interviewer and showing that you are the absolute best candidate for the job. According to Heather Mumma, a hiring manager for a small business in Illinois, the way to do this is not as complex as one might think.

Be Honest

When Heather interviews potential candidates, she said it's very easy to spot those who know what they are talking about versus those who pretend to know what they are talking about.

"It is not about how much one knows about everything, but rather about how much one knows about his or her particular field of expertise," said Heather.

For example, if a job candidate were applying for a sales position in Heather's company, she does not expect him or her to know all the ins and outs of the industry already. What she does expect however is that the candidate show her skills that would make that individual a good match for the job. These skills could include strong communication, willingness to work long hours, dedication, and an outgoing personality. No matter what the position, being honest and upfront about skills and talents is a must in the business world today.

Be Unique

Heather also explained how being interesting is a large part of landing the job. Heather stated, "I need someone who makes me remember them, stand out, be unique, and show me why you are the best candidate to fill a vacancy in my company."

Whether it be the fact that you recently ran a marathon or you volunteered to help at a cancer therapy benefit, let the interviewer know about it. It will make you stand out from the crowd and it will show dedication and desire outside of the workforce. Employers look for assets such as these to contribute to their companies.

Be Informed

Heather also stresses the importance of knowing about the company to which an individual is applying. "I cannot hire an individual who is unfamiliar with the company. How can someone sell a product or promote a brand if they know nothing about it?" she said.

Do not expect to land a job in a company if you do not know what they stand for, what their product or service is, and the name of the owner or general manager. Showing that you have gone out of your way to find out about the company goes a long way in interview.

In small businesses particularly it is crucial to understand how these companies interact with consumers and what makes them special. Unlike large corporations, small businesses do not have any "budge" room to lose potential clients, and therefore knowing the ins and outs is a must.

With a good personality, a positive outlook, and strong knowledge of the company you are applying for, landing the job of your dreams will be within your reach. If you do not land the first job you interview for don't give up! With time and determination the right job will come along. Always remember to be yourself and give the interview one hundred percent effort.

Thanks to Miriah Ludtke / Careerealism


Monday, July 8, 2013

What’s The Real Reason Preventing You From Getting Hired?

There are many reasons job seekers give for not getting into a new job quickly enough. "The economy is bad," is probably the biggest one. Another is, "I'm overqualified." But then I hear "I'm not qualified enough!" My personal favorite: "I'm working on getting my resume updated." Read, "I'm procrastinating."

I'm joking around here, but I've been there. I'm guilty of having said these things and more! Job searching is fraught with insecurities, anxieties, and self-defense mechanisms that can prevent you from getting the job you want.

What's the real thing that's preventing you from getting hired? In a very candid talk with a client last week, he confided he had really not been trying very hard in his search. When exploring this further, he told me some things that we agreed were true for many job seekers.

I've heard these reasons from other clients, and my client confirmed that he's not the only one among his friends who struggles with this. It got me thinking.

The following isn't a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination, but it's a place to start a frank discussion. If the economy, your qualifications, or your resume weren't issues at all, what would you be left with as the reason for not having your ideal job yet?

1. Marital Problems

This is such a delicate subject. But one that often needs to be addressed with job seekers. Ask yourself: Does your spouse or significant other support you emotionally in a way that facilitates your success? Or, are you so bogged down in discord that you don't have the energy to make this big of a change?

Some clients are expected to do extra chores or activities with the kids while being unemployed, sometimes so much that they don't have much time left for their search! Some realize that if their spouse becomes more independent with their own salary, they may not want to stay in their current relationship. They'll have the resources to leave, which is so scary that the job seeker sabotages his or her search.

There are a myriad of problems that can arise between you and your loved one during your job search. Career changes or financial hardships might bring about the need for therapy, or at least honest discussions in order to move a job search forward. Getting help for your marriage might be what you need to land that job.

2. Fear

So many emotions can surface in a job search, but this one can do the most damage. It can cause panic attacks or depression — very real health concerns. It can cause you to say or do things to overcompensate for your fears that end up damaging your reputation.

How does fear affect you in your job search? What is fear anyway? My mom told me this acronym when I was a kid (I don't know who invented it):





The only way to deal with fear is head on. Make a list of all the things you fear will or will not happen in your search, or in your interviews. What's the worst case scenario? What would you do if those things happened? What's the flipside to this? Do you have a back-up plan? Who really has the power in the situation? Most of the time, the fear really is false! Here's a simplistic example:

Worry: "I'll forget what I want to talk about in my interview."

Worst case scenario: "The interviewer will think I'm a loser and I'll feel like a fool."

Flipside: "They'll miss out on a chance to hire a great employee."

Back-up plan: "I'll bring notes so I can stay on track."

Power: "I have the power to prepare, present well, and offer my services to contribute to their company."

See how that "false evidence" can be turned around?

3. Dabbling

Are you taking your search seriously? Or, are you just playing around with it?

There are countless reasons why people don't put in the effort required of a successful job search. Number one and two above are reasons why people dabble, but sometimes people are really enjoying not having to work. Or, they can't manage the organization that's needed to be most effective in a search.

Regardless, dabbling is a job search killer. If you don't take yourself seriously, neither will an employer. Maybe you do need a little time to sort things out before you take this on. When you are ready, be committed. Experts vary on the estimates, but I've found that if my clients don't put in a good 20-30 hours into their search every week, either in online activities, in-person networking, or whatever, it takes a LONG time to make a change.

So, ask yourself, "What's the deal? Are there deeper reasons why I'm not making progress?" Does your marriage need help? Is the fear of your job change keeping you stuck? Are you taking this seriously?

Do what you must to get back on track. My client is dealing with his issues and has a newfound energy for his search. You can, too!

Thanks to Kristin Johnson / Careerealism


Saturday, July 6, 2013

When Is It Too Soon To Talk About Salary?

My clients ask such great questions! This is one I get a lot. I've decided to make my answer into a blog, so more can use this technique. Here is the question:

"I had an interview last week for a job I think I would love, but I think the salary and benefits will be too low. I'm wondering if there is a tactful way to get to the heart of what the salary and benefits would be sooner rather than later. They are a company of ten people and don't have an HR dept."

That is such a tricky situation! I have good news and bad news about it.

Bad News

When faced with the dilemma of deciding whether to talk about salary or not, it's best to NOT. Asking about money before the position is offered to you is too soon. It's the kiss of death in an interview.

If you do, you can count on not being offered anything. You will blow your chances of being hired. When it comes to salary negotiation, the first person to bring it up always loses. That's just the way the game is played. So, don't ask. (Not your interviewers, anyway…)

Good News

You can find out more info in a less direct way. You could talk to others who work there, not involved in the interviewing process, but since this company is so small, I wouldn't recommend that.

The alternative is to research folks who used to work at the company, using LinkedIn. Reach out to them, and ask them gently about salary. After building a bit of a relationship so that it's not rude, of course.

You might e-mail a contact something like this, "Hi Wanda, I see you used to work for XYZ organization. I am currently interviewing with them for a sales position. I am reaching out to you in the hopes that you might be able to help me learn more about what it's like to work there. Would you have 10 minutes for me to call you and ask you some quick questions?"

NO mention of salary. But, on the phone, after you ask some questions about company culture, day-to-day responsibilities, and so on, if things are going well, you can ask, "I know this is sensitive, but in your experience, is the salary competitive for the market here in Madison?"

If you go ahead and directly ask the salary question, you will be perceived as rude or jumping the gun. To use the dating analogy, it's akin to asking for sex too soon in the dating process. You just have to do your research covertly and see how things play out.

So, what do you do if it turns out that the salary isn't enough? You could consider withdrawing your application, but that might not reflect well on you professionally, either. It's probably best to complete the process, as if you don't have this concern at all. Go into the negotiations confidently, and deal with it as it comes if things start to fall through.

If the company can't meet your needs, you can always politely say that you've appreciated learning about their company and opportunity, but you've decided you want to pursue other options.

You could also just be honest about what your needs are. I like that route, because it opens the door for you to get ideas from the interviewer in continuing your job search. You might say, "I love the idea of working here. It fits my personal philosophy and the work would suit my strengths. I appreciate the offer, but I'm afraid that my salary needs are higher than this offer."

Take it a step beyond the talk about salary for an extra career boost: "Knowing what you know about me now, after this process, do you know of any other organizations in our field that might need a person with my talents? Who do you recommend I connect with next?"

Perhaps you know of someone who would be perfect for them, too, and can give them a lead. "You know, I have a co-worker who is considering a change. Now that I know so much about your company, I think she'd be a great fit. Would you like me to give her your contact information so she may apply for the position?"

Always be open to helping them out. It says something about a person when you can end an interviewing process having helped the company in some way, without seeking anything in return. It's a small world. They may remember you for that and come calling when they've got more money. You never know how things will work out.

Remember, interviews are just meetings with people. You're both just seeing if it's a good fit. If it turns out the situation isn't right for either party, for any reason, don't leave it there. Forget about the salary and see what more can be gained from the time you spent with them so that you can more effectively continue your search.

Thanks to Kristin Johnson / Careerealism


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA)

Implementing New Ideas in a Controlled Way, Also known as the PDCA Cycle, or Deming Cycle

Something needs to change: Something's wrong, and needs to be fixed, and you've worked hard to create a credible vision of where you want it to be in future. But are you 100% sure that you're right? And are you absolutely certain that your solution will work perfectly, in every way?

Where the consequences of getting things wrong are significant, it often makes sense to run a well-crafted pilot project. That way if the pilot doesn't deliver the results you expected, you get the chance to fix and improve things before you fully commit your reputation and resources.

So how do you make sure that you get this right, not just this time but every time? The solution is to have a process that you follow when you need to make a change or solve a problem; A process that will ensure you plan, test and incorporate feedback before you commit to implementation.

A popular tool for doing just this is the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle. This is often referred to as the Deming Cycle or the Deming Wheel after its proponent, W Edwards Deming. It is also sometimes called the Shewhart Cycle.

Deming is best known as a pioneer of the quality management approach and for introducing statistical process control techniques for manufacturing to the Japanese, who used them with great success. He believed that a key source of production quality lay in having clearly defined, repeatable processes. And so the PDCA Cycle as an approach to change and problem solving is very much at the heart of Deming's quality-driven philosophy.

The four phases in the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle involve:

  • Plan: Identifying and analyzing the problem.
  • Do: Developing and testing a potential solution.
  • Check: Measuring how effective the test solution was, and analyzing whether it could be improved in any way.
  • Act: Implementing the improved solution fully.

These are shown in Figure 1 below.

There can be any number of iterations of the "Do" and "Check" phases, as the solution is refined, retested, re-refined and retested again.

How to Use the Tool

The PDCA Cycle encourages you to be methodical in your approach to problem solving and implementing solutions. Follow the steps below every time to ensure you get the highest quality solution possible.

Step 1: Plan

First, identify exactly what your problem is. You may find it useful to use tools like Drill Down, Cause and Effect Diagrams, and the 5 Whys to help you really get to the root of it. Once you've done this, it may be appropriate for you to map the process that is at the root of the problem

Next, draw together any other information you need that will help you start sketching out solutions.

Step 2: Do

This phase involves several activities:

  • Generate possible solutions.
  • Select the best of these solutions, perhaps using techniques such as Impact Analysis to scrutinize them.
  • Implement a pilot project on a small-scale basis, with a small group, or in a limited geographical area, or using some other trial design appropriate to the nature of your problem, product, or initiative.

Our section on Creativity Tools includes several tools that can help you generate ideas and solutions. Our section on Decision Making includes a number of tools that will help you to choose in a scientific and dispassionate way between the various potential solutions you generate.

The phrase "Plan Do Check Act" or PDCA is easy to remember, but it's important you are quite clear exactly what "Do" means. ""Do" means "try" or "test". It does not mean "implement fully." Full implementation happens in the "Act" phase.
Step 3: Check

In this phase, you measure how effective the pilot solution has been, and gather together any learnings from it that could make it even better.

Depending on the success of the pilot, the number of areas for improvement you have identified, and the scope of the whole initiative, you may decide to repeat the "Do" and "Check" phases, incorporating your additional improvements.

Once you are finally satisfied that the costs would outweigh the benefits of repeating the Do-Check sub-cycle any more, you can move on to the final phase.

Step 4: Act

Now you implement your solution fully. However, your use of the PDCA Cycle doesn't necessarily stop there. If you are using the PDCA or Deming Wheel as part of a continuous improvement initiative, you need to loop back to the Plan Phase (Step 1), and seek out further areas for improvement.

When to use the Deming Cycle

The Deming Cycle provides a useful, controlled problem solving process. It is particularly effective for:

  • Helping implement Kaizen or Continuous Improvement approaches, when the cycle is repeated again and again as new areas for improvement are sought and solved.
  • Identifying new solutions and improvement to processes that are repeated frequently. In this situation, you will benefit from extra improvements built in to the process many times over once it is implemented.
  • Exploring a range of possible new solutions to problems, and trying them out and improving them in a controlled way before selecting one for full implementation.
  • Avoiding the large-scale wastage of resources that comes with full-scale implementation of a mediocre or poor solution.

Clearly, use of a Deming Cycle approach is slower and more measured than a straightforward "gung ho" implementation. In true emergency situations, this means that it may not be appropriate.

PDCA is closely related to the Spiral Development Approach which is popular in certain areas of software development, especially where the overall system develops incrementally. Spiral Development repeats loops of the PDCA cycle, as developers identify functionality needed, develop it, test it, implement it, and then go back to identify another sub-system of functionality.
Key Points:

The Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) Cycle provides a simple but effective approach for problem solving and managing change, ensuring that ideas are appropriately tested before committing to full implementation. It can be used in all sorts of environments from new product development through to marketing, or even politics.

It begins with a Planning phase in which the problem is clearly identified and understood. Potential solutions are then generated and tested on a small-scale in the "Do" phase, and the outcome of this testing is evaluated during the Check phase. "Do" and "Check" phases can be iterated as many times as is necessary before the full, polished solution is implemented in the "Act" phase.

Thanks to MindTools / Mind Tools Ltd