November 2011

Listening to criticism

by Fabrice Calando on November 30, 2011

Listening to criticism

I’ve been thinking about criticism a lot recently. Whether you believe constructive criticism exists or not, feedback at work is more present than you think. The thing is, most of us don’t want to hear it. And that makes sense…it’s usually nothing we want to hear. We don’t want to hear we aren’t attentive to detail or not seeing big picture. We don’t want to hear we’re not team players or disorganized. I think most feedback isn’t official. it’s all over the place and you have to go hunting and looking for that information.

But here is the thing: feedback is vital to growth and improvement and in many ways directly related to getting promoted. Here are a few ideas on how to keep yourself open to feedback.

Listen in status meetings. Not all companies have broad vision statements that mean much. Status meetings tend to be horrible and one-on-one are rare, but make the most of them. Managers, Directors, VPs and CEOs often will talk about where they want the company to head or where the industry is heading. Ask yourself: “How is my day-to-day tasks and my personal objectives fitting in with that vision?”.

Talk to coworkers. Don’t get bogged down with day-to-day stuff, but reach out to top perfumers (top sales, top marketers, top analytics, top SEO, etc.) to see and learn how they’re doing. A-list employees often like to mentor and teach…see what you can learn yourself.

Read and learn. Sometimes looking outwards will challenge you to think differently about how you’re doing work. The reality is that upper management doesn’t always have a far enough foresight. It’s not their fault, they’re measured on the next quarter’s results, not where the division will be in five years. Here are some blog suggestions that might help you look beyond your day-to-day (they’re not all business blogs):

These are great for daily inspiration, but real value, I think, still come from books. They’re able to tell complete stories. Some suggestions (all affiliate links):

Think big. See bigger for yourself. Where do you want to go and where do you want to be and figure out how to get there.

Know thyself. It’s important to know who you are and what your strengths are. Focusing on your strengths, not your weaknesses, is the best way to move forward. If you’re just not detail oriented, then you’re not detail oriented. It’s just not efficient to spend all your time spending more attention to details — you’ll get bored and frustrated. What you want to do is use your strength and improve. So what if the criticism is in fact “you’re not attentive to detail enough”? The answer either is “you’re not doing the right thing” or “how can we get it done anyway”.

What’s your take? What could you add?

(Photo credit: Sanna Pudas)

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Employees have more clout than they think

by Fabrice Calando on November 25, 2011

Employees haver more clout than they think

It’s interesting how so many employees feel they need their company more than the company needs them. I should say one thing before we get started though. A fulfilling job and career should be a partnership and not a power struggle — those rarely lead to great results. If you feel you’re in a constant fight, the answer might just be this company’s just not the place for you. So why worry about power?

The reality is that large organizations come office politics, favourites and so on. It’s sad, but that’s just how it is. As an employee, I think it’s vital you recognize, accept and increase your value. As Seth Godin has argued, companies strive to make ordinary products for ordinary people. So they want ordinary employees. They’ll make you believe you need them more than they need you. So what about you?

I think Theodore Roosevelt’s saying fits here: “speak softly and carry a big stick“. Employees have already more power than they think and the internet has, once again, changed everything.

Some numbers

First let’s talk about numbers. It’s estimated that the cost of of turnover can be up to 150% of employees’ renumeration. The cost could even by higher for managerial and sales positions (200 to 250%). So think about it, if a company’s average salary is $50,000 per year, the cost of turnover would be $75,000 per departing employee. If you have 1,000 employees and a 10% annual turnover rate…that’s $7.5 million a year in costs! Do your math as it applies to you…

How to stand on equal ground

Assuming the numbers aren’t convincing enough or your boss doesn’t have them top-of-mind, here are some ideas on how you can gain leverage:

Do great work. I’ve already said I’m not a big fan of saying do great work. A vast majority of us go to work wanting to do great. I think what’s important here is to look beyond your job description. Look at where the industry is headed and help the company move in that direction. Change takes time, so figure how to move your company in small increments. For example, maybe your company still relies a lot on traditional advertising, if that’s the case offer to take a tiny percentage of the budget and try an AdWords campaign or start listening to what’s being said online.

Play the politics game. Let me start out by saying I’m NOT a fan of office politics and even less of playing politics. If I did, I’d be a politician. But you can’t ignore it and you have to play it. I there are two ways to play the game — the cheesy way and the non-cheesy way.

The cheesy way is probably what you see all the time…brown-nosing, lying, backstabbing, etc, and that always leeds to is subpar work, but quick profile raising. It’s not very sustainable, so you have to continue doing it, effectively doing no value-added work.

The non-cheesy way is slower to gain traction, but much more stustainable; as Chris Brogan and Julien Smith wrote in Trust Agents (affiliate link) — make your own game. Put the work first and the politics second. The politics part envolves grassroot work — get your coworkers to love you by being helpful. It also involoves targetting the right people to play politics with. Who has more influence at your company? Your direct boss, or his boss? Cheesy politiking looks at the immediate, non-cheesy looks beyond. Get noticed by higher executives and top performing employees. Don’t get caught up in the day-to-day office politics. Focus on the larger picture.

Be active online. Even if your passion isn’t what your comapny does or what your position is, social networks allow you to open new doors. For example, let’s say you love gardening and you have a blog about that. If you stick with it, you’ll increasingly be known as a gardening-person. At some point you’ll get noticed by companies in the field which could open-up some great opportunities. On the flip side, strong online presences can directly increase your influence within the company. Blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Facebook allow you to broaden your social sphere and brand yourself. Use that.

Who you know and what you know. Go out and meet people. The more people you know, the more you get exposure to great new opportunities. Go to local events in your field…and even better, go to events not directly related. It’s not only who you know, but what you know. Reading books and blogs on various topics allow you to expand your knowledge, figure out new ways to do things. That will lead to new and fresh ideas…stuff you can then try at your company.

Get bills and expenses under control. One the biggest leverages companies have is the salary they pay out. The more money we make, the more stuff we buy and debt we accumulate. Getting all that under control will, in essence, reduce your company’s importance over you. I’m not a financial planner, but there are somethings to look at:

  1. Reduce your debt (credit cards, lines of credit, financing, etc.);
  2. Increase revenue sources (you are your own company, look at getting other sources of income that can supplement your current income);
  3. Save up for the necessities (Save up a few months of rent/mortgage, food and heating so that you know you have a good cushion).

Again, a fulfilling career is based on trust and hard work, but it’s important to realize that you aren’t a disadvantage. It’s an equal partnership. It might seem the employer has all the power, but don’t let yourself believe that.

(Photo credit: JD Hancock)

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[Book review] End Malaria

November 23, 2011

“dreams are usually the first thing to get bumped from the to-do list when the day gets full.” This Domino Project book came out a little while ago. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s a collection of essays and the proceeds go to buying mosquito nets in Africa. For every book bought, 2 nets […]

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[Book review] Get Noticed by Marcus Taylor & Rob Lawrence

November 21, 2011

By taking courageous action, we always build confidence because we get a return on our investments that far exceeds our initial anxieties and fears. Marcus reached out to me a little while back to review his book Get Noticed. Getting noticed is increasingly difficult, but still as important as ever — if not more. The […]

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At which point is it too much?

November 18, 2011

If you work at a company, chances are you’ve already heard something along the lines of “what are we doing with […]” If you’re in HR it might be “What are we doing on BranchOut or on Monster?”. If you’re in marketing it’s probably something like “What are we doing on Facebook and Twitter?” Your […]

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The irony of limits

November 16, 2011

I’ve been thinking about limits lately. They’re liberating, but restricting at the same time. You can probably agree that setting limits is one of the best things you can do to move forwards and get closer to your goal. Limits allow you to know when to say no and focus your attention and energy on what’s […]

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Waiting for the boss to pick you

November 14, 2011

There’s a common misconception in the work environment that the boss is the one with control; the one who has the authority and all the decision power. While he technically does, he’s really just someone with a rubber stamp. As a matter of fact, I think a great boss is one who’s main job is […]

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The opportunity

November 9, 2011

I was watching  an interview with Wil.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas. It was generally interesting but a line that really stood out to me was when he said: Each tour is a once in a lifetime opportunity It’s great that he’s able to approach a fairly routine part of his life as “once in […]

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You are not a snowflake

November 7, 2011

Roughly 10 years ago, in a classroom filled with 300 or so undergrads, our Social Psychology Professor told us: You are not snowflakes! Sorry, but your mom was wrong, you are not a precious, individual little snowflake. Getting noticed at work (whatever you call work) isn’t an easy task in the best of circumstances. At […]

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