My Appearance On KING5 New Day Northwest

I was a guest on the KING5 New Day Northwest program on the topic of how to deal with difficult co-workers.

My 5 tips:

1) Consider first that you also might be perceived as “difficult”.

2) Don’t avoid the problem, deal with it (before running to the boss or HR to “solve the problem”).  Avoiding it leads to mounting frustration and resentment.  And going to the boss before trying to resolve it yourself makes you look bad.  Take the initiative to address the issue with your co-worker.

3) Identify what kind of relationship you want with your co-worker.  Identify your intention for the relationship and communicate this to the co-worker.

4) Identify and relay what your part is in the conflict.  “This is how I see I have contributed to our challenge…”

5) Identify and offer feedback to the co-worker about what behavior you have been experiencing from them that you deem is problematic.  De personalize it by describing their “behavior” not just saying they are “being rude” or “aren’t being a team player”.  Ask for what you want/need to make work life better.

 

Smarts Are No Longer Enough

At Google, GPA’s are no longer the gold standard for hiring. Laszo Bock (Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, went on record in a New York Times interview, “GPA’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring and test scores are worthless…we found that they don’t predict anything.”

This is a hiring paradigm shift that is true in many organizations today. Soft skills are at the the top of Google’s hiring attributes which include: leadership, humility, collaboration, adaptability and loving to learn. My coaching experience with many hiring managers across a wide variety of business, confirms these are important to most companies.

Most tech professionals face a big challenge when it comes to career success. Excelling in math, problem solving, computing and analytics are no longer enough, they must also demonstrate they have “soft skills”, team and leadership abilities and emotional intelligence. Consider this quote from Google Executive Eric Schmidt “The smartest people in the room sometimes can’t really communicate very well,” adding, “We select not just for intelligence but for the ability to communication with each other and as teams, nobody is a solo actor at Google any more.”

My coaching guidance around Google’s 5 Top Hiring Criteria:

1. Leadership. Google defines emergent leadership as the ability to step in and lead when faced with a problem, while also being able to step back and relinquish power as a team player. This is the dance of leadership–sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow. What matters is your assessment of which approach is the right solution for the team (and business) and your ability to influence, persuade and help others engage.
2. Humility. This is a big challenge for superstars. Hanging on to “ownership” and promoting ones work, idea, process and/or product is often a slippery slope —it can be tough to let go. Many tech professionals wrap their identities up with their ideas and view any debate or challenge to their work or credit as threatening. Most tech companies prefer open minds to creatively explore (with their team) the best way forward or the next “new thing.” They need smart people to do it but when their corresponding egos prove problematic to team and collaboration they can decide the smarts they are getting aren’t worth the pain. High achievers can fight too zealously when their skin is in the game (aka, “My idea, I’m the genius”) My tip: identify solutions without attachment. Granted, confidence and being able to persuade others to get on board is critical to influence. But its a fine line between communicating a point of view and allowing your ego run and bite you because others perceive you as arrogant or not a team player.
3. Collaboration. You know it already–there is no “I” in team but do you behave that way? You simply can’t succeed in business today without the ability to work effectively with peers–all kinds and styles of peers. Every 360 review I conduct validates this. Collaboration is a give and take equation—sharing information while demonstrating respect for the opinions and expertise of others. Creative exploration of best solutions to complex problems requires collaboration. If this is your challenge area, invest in my coaching to develop your skills or risk your advancement potential.
4. Adaptability. In our today’s business reality of continual and constant change, its no surprise that adaptability is at the top of the list. Hiring managers want to hire (and promote) people who are flexible –not rigid. Creatively problem solving requires intellectual flexibility. Bulldozing change won’t earn you a reputation for adaptability. During stressful times, demonstrate emotional adaptability (embracing change vs. fighting it).
5. Loving to learn. Demonstrating you are a continual learner is a HUGE career advantage. A wise university leader once told me, “Our objective is to teach our students to learn, to develop a life long love of learning.” This turns out to be smart hiring prep, Bock affirms Google wants people able to “process on the fly” to draw smart conclusions from independent information. Being curious with a passion for learning is essential to career success.

It’s no longer good enough to have technical skills or academic smarts to get hired or promoted. You need more, as it turns out, much more, to succeed. On the plus side, these 5 attributes can be developed. But I never said it would be easy – having a coach for this kind of work is the best investment you can make in your future success.

Be Known As A Team Player

Having collaborative skills and the ability to perform well on a team are critical in today’s workplace. In fact, many job descriptions today list “being a team player” as a prerequisite — it is key for success and advancement in many positions. Many companies today have zero tolerance for those who aren’t team players (I have numerous clients who have been told to either improve in this area or face termination). So, what does it mean to be a team player? Here are some Dos and Don’ts that I coach clients to develop:

Do:

  • Be collaborative. Be generous — share information and resources (think the Golden Rule). Foster collaboration by being genuinely helpful to your team members. Offering a resource or suggestion for a team member in a bind is practicing good career karma. In contrast, personal vendettas and ego-based agendas are generally bad for business, your team and your career (and by the way, no one is fooled; these agendas are typically far more visible and transparent to others than most realize).
  • Set realistic expectations, then deliver on your commitments. If you agree to take on an action step, do everything in your power to deliver results. Trust and credibility (which are huge to your career success) hinge on delivering what you say you will. It is far better to simply say no than to suggest you will and do not.
  • Build and nurture your team relationships. Share stories and find out who your colleagues are, where they have been and what motivates them. Relationship-building is key to being seen as a “team player.”
  • Identify your impact. How are you perceived by your colleagues? If you don’t know, ask. It can be an enlightening growth opportunity to find out (360 multirater review processes can help). Are you known for being supportive or hypercritical? Well-intentioned or arrogant? Raising smart points or mean-spirited? You can’t afford not to know.
  • Be a truth teller. Speak up and contribute. Share your ideas and suggestions — your team needs your unique brain and perspective to succeed. If you have an interpersonal challenge with a teammate, search for opportunities to understand why this has happened and what you might do to improve the relationship. Bad feelings left unaddressed tend to grow exponentially — and can lead to isolation and highly dysfunctional team behaviors (which won’t help you in your quest to be a team player). Instead of avoiding the conflict, see if there is a half-step toward the middle you can take.
  • Learn to be an active listener (vs. the one who sucks up all the air time). That includes being curious, intentional and focused on understanding others. We have two ears and one mouth. In most situations it’s appropriate to use them proportionately.
  • Be known as the “appreciative” one (and the one who gives credit to others) on your team. Find ways to say thank you and share credit.
  • Be your team’s clarity-seeking missile. If you aren’t clear about the team’s objective, member responsibilities or roles, others are likely confused, too. Express your concerns to the group and/or leader. Confusion and ambiguity on a team is a recipe for frustration and failure. Help your team develop a system to measure the team’s success.
  • Be open to influence. Those who insist on having their way aren’t seen as team players. Be flexible and consider the input of your teammates. Try it on and hear them out before you categorically dismiss it for your “better” plan.

Don’t:

  • Make excuses or blame others. Admitting mistakes can help build trust (no one expects you to be perfect). Individuals who are constantly blaming everyone else and never take responsibility for their actions (or inactions) will never build the trust required to be an effective team member.
  • Shoot the bad-news messenger or the one who challenges you or others to be accountable. Teams need to know the truth no matter how hard it may be to hear. Killing the messenger undermines truth, trust and accountability.
  • Be the constant naysayer, complainer, blamer or the toxic wet blanket. Attitude is everything. A bad apple can poison, or at the very least contaminate, the team. Be willing to get your hands dirty and pitch in when times get tough (remember your career karma). Team players don’t chant, “It’s not my job.” What goes around comes around. Create a reservoir of good will with your teammates. Be enthusiastic, energetic, appreciative and willing to chip in when necessary.

Re-frame Your Performance Review

The dreaded annual performance review. In addition to pay increases, reviews offer other opportunities, like securing flextime/extra vacation days or development resources, improving the relationship between you and your boss, identifying the path to your next promotion and getting feedback to help your career. How you take advantage of this time and process, where the focus is all about you, is up to you.

This week’s focus: How to maximize the opportunities your review presents.

The “self evaluation” part of your review process is your chance to demonstrate your value.

  • Provide documentation of your accomplishments, particularly any results/benefits to the team and company (keep a log/file throughout the year so you aren’t starting from scratch when you sit down to write your review).

Focus on numbers and concrete examples, such as appreciative e-mails.

  • Whatever form your company uses, note key successes and emphasize any outstanding contributions, challenges overcome, growth you have made and new responsibilities you have taken on.
  • If asked about your challenges or weaknesses, try to be objective. Resist the temptation to claim you have none. We all have areas for improvement and your boss is likely well aware of yours.

If the boss thinks you can’t see your own shortcomings, the boss becomes concerned that you are a) unaware, and therefore unable to grow, or b) aren’t being straightforward and honest. Neither of these serves you.

Tips for the review conversation (I deliberately use the word “conversation;” your performance review is your opportunity to have an important dialogue with your boss regarding your relationship and your career!):

  • If your boss isn’t clear about how you spend your day, enlighten him or her. Revisit your role, job expectations and what your boss views as your priorities.

Ask for clarification about anything that is confusing or unclear.

  • Find out what keeps your boss awake at night so you can figure out how to help and increase your likelihood for a raise or promotion next year.
  • Address any relationship issues, such as ongoing annoyances that frustrate either of you. For receptive bosses, offer feedback or requests on how the boss can better support you to be successful in the future (what you would like more, or less, of from them). Let your boss know what you need to do your job better, such as resource support during rush or busy periods, new software programs or any self/leadership improvement support like personal coaching, training or academics.
  • Looking ahead to 2009, negotiate goal setting. You should be comfortable that your targeted goals are reasonably “doable.” Try to get detail about what specific actions or behaviors your boss wants (i.e., projects completed, sales targets, units produced or customer complaints handled, etc).
  • At the end of your review, summarize what was said (and agreed to) and then submit a document that captures these.
  • If you want more money, ask for it (it surprises me how many workers fail to ask) and make a solid case. Base your request on what you have brought in.

Quantify your value and contributions. If you can’t get the money you want now, see if you can get your boss to agree to a bonus or increase based on hitting targeted goals along the way in ’09. If not, try for flextime, extra vacation days, etc.

  • Lastly, thank your boss for his or her time and consideration.

How to receive any critical feedback your boss may offer during your review:

  • Attitude matters. Don’t sit there glowering with your arms crossed. Your career advancement may depend on how you react to the information and what you do with it.
  • Listen to understand first before you go into automatic defend or deny mode. Ask clarification questions. Summarize what you hear to make sure you have it correct. Offer any rebuttals professionally.
  • Ask your boss what he or she wants you to do differently. Explain how you will keep a negative from happening again: “I understand how my actions might have been perceived that way. Next time, I will handle it by … .” Or, “I want to strengthen our team and improve.”

A reminder: feedback is information from someone else’s perspective. Receiving tough feedback is an opportunity to learn about yourself and how your behaviors or actions are interpreted by another. If it’s something you have been blind to (and that can hinder your career advancement) it may well be a gift because now you can do something about it. If you can’t find a shred of truth in any of it, check in with others to see if your boss’ perspective is shared. In the end, you have to decide what to do with it.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com

Change is coming — you need to change with it

How do you react to change? Your answer may affect your career — more than you might believe.

“Resilient” individuals are recognized for their ability to absorb change more effectively than their less resilient counterparts; they adapt to change positively, keeping their composure, without the change negatively affecting their emotional, mental or physical well-being — or of those around them. Less resilient individuals tend to react with fight (emotional outbursts, passive/aggressive behavior or sabotaging the change effort) or flight (“I hit the job boards the day I heard the news.”).

Ambiguity is everywhere. The workplace today is full of changes, uncertainty and complexity from changing work flow, processes and overlapping roles to reporting structures and new information/technology systems. The rules of how to succeed in the workplace are changing. Companies place a high value on employees who can adapt to all this change successfully. The winners will be those who are identifiable for their adaptability and resiliency — those seen as effective, optimistic, supportive and proactively seeking solutions. The losers will be those seen as being overwhelmed, putting up roadblocks to success, paralyzed, “stuck” and resentful.

Dr. Spencer Johnson illustrates the importance of anticipating and adapting to change in his simplistic parable “Who Moved My Cheese?” The book is full of cheese (change) nuggets:

  • “If you do not change, you can become extinct.”
  • “Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old.”
  • “Movement in a new direction helps you find new cheese.”

The cheese story reminds us to embrace change vs. becoming immobilized or traumatized by it. Simply put, change is coming — so get over and on with it!

Adaptability has become a workplace buzzword — and a key hiring standard. Staffing for all this change has become important. I counsel job candidates to prepare a story that demonstrates their “adaptability” for interviews. Employers equate the ability to deal with uncertain and unfamiliar situations as key to potential success in positions. Being seen as the one who “makes it work” may be the difference in getting the job or promotion.

While easier said than done, here are a few ways that employees and managers can increase the odds of adaptability and resiliency:

  • Self-awareness is essential. Be aware of your emotion to the change but “choose” your behavior in how you react to it. Extreme negative reactivity can — and will — hurt your career.
  • Communicate to management your desire to learn new coping and adaptability skills. Demonstrate you are willing to improve and change. Ask what training or coaching is available to you to become more valuable to the company.
  • Develop an open mind. Be curious — ask questions. Explore and consider vs. deciding quickly or rigidly planting your stake in the ground. Change often opens up better and new opportunities.
  • Be proactive. Take action given calculated risks and have a plan for problems. Remember — it’s not IF problems will come up — it’s how you deal with them that makes all the difference.
  • Remember Ben Franklin’s wisdom: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Be identified as one who challenges the status quo and provides solutions (you will stand out from those who hide behind, “It’s always been done that way.”).
  • Identify the positive opportunities and keep a big-picture perspective. Just because your company just got taken over doesn’t mean disaster — it may mean good riddance to processes that have been getting in your way of success.
  • Attitude is everything, and humor helps. Scream in your car (not your cubicle) and try viewing the change as another *#@*! growth opportunity!
  • Be compassionate. Empathy and understanding that change can be “scary” and uncomfortable can go a long way toward soothing ruffled employees. Back those willing to challenge the status quo (good leaders pave the way for their people to be successful).
  • Be “coachable” — professional coaches or supportive mentors can help.
  • Be a lifetime learner — stay current. Keep adding to your knowledge and skill base. Those that stagnate will not thrive in the new order of the workplace.
  • Accept it and embrace it. Change is coming — it’s inevitable.

Adaptability also means being creative to find solutions that work. Most organizations can’t afford to carry those who fight them tooth and nail over changes to improve the business. If you aren’t moving forward, someone else is passing you by.

Invest in yourself by hiring me as your coach! I can help you learn, develop and grow your leadership and emotional intelligence abilities.  I coach leaders all over the world via Skype.  Call me:  360 682 5807 or email: mmoriarty@pathtochange.com