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Knowing What You Don’t Know?

People chronically misappraise the limits of their own knowledge. Knowing the edge of your circle of competence is one of the most difficult things for a human being to do. Knowing what you don’t know is much more useful in life and business than being brilliant.”  – Charles Munger

I don’t know everything! Some people have a hard time admitting that. We have all worked with, and for, the person who simply “knows everything.” The pressure we feel in our job and career to succeed puts a heavy burden on us. But the real truth is it’s better to admit you don’t know something, than to always say you do. I was recently reading an article where Charlie Munger from Berkshire Hathaway spoke about the “secret sauce” of his success. His words resonated with me. We don’t have to always be right or know the answer to find success in business. In fact, the opposite is true. Success begins with knowing your limits. We all have specific core competencies that make us who we are. The key to success is knowing what these competencies are, maximizing them, and acknowledging what competencies we don’t have. It does take a certain amount of courage to admit we don’t know something. I believe success begins there.

Until next time…

Jim

Perfection at Work?

The goal of this particular journey known as life is not to prove that we are perfect but to find some happiness, some joyful peace of mind in the reality of our own imperfection.” – Ernest Kurtz

I admit I’m a perfectionist. This has haunted me tremendously during my corporate career; I always strived for perfection. On the one hand, this can be good for corporations because in many cases perfectionist are high achievers. On the other hand, it creates a difficult situation for employee’s mental framework. Why is that you wonder? Well, perfectionism does not exist! It’s a false sense of reality. During my 15 years at PIMCO we had an unwritten rule that “good enough was not good enough.” That kind of thinking places a significant amount of stress on someone. I have now come to realize that we can not achieve perfection at work, or in life for that matter. The sooner one realizes this, the sooner you will find fulfillment in your work. Excellence is a better goal, not perfection. Striving for perfection leads to frustration, because we are not perfect. Striving for excellence is accepting and natural. In the workplace we all make mistakes and have disappointments. Realizing that you are not perfect provides you with an openness to make a mistake, and ultimately improvement and change. Tomorrrow is another day and another opportunity to do the best job you can and be the best you can be.

Until next time…

Jim

Personality & Organizational Fit?

What matters most is not ‘what’ you are, but ‘who’ you are.” – DaShanne Stokes, author of The Unfinished Dream

Personality plays a significant part in success or failure on the job. One of the paradoxes of being human is we have different sides to our personality. The ancient philosophers described this as the paradox between good and evil. I’m not sure I agree with that assessment, but personality is important to our personal development. In my coaching work, I have used the Hogan Personality Inventory (a psychometric tool) to help individuals better understand their own personality, particularly their individual strengths and weaknesses. The Hogan Assessment breaks down personality between the bright side and dark side. The bright side of personality are those personality characteristics considered strengths, tendencies when we are at our best. The dark side of personality are those characteristics which can cause us to derail and thereby underperform. These are tendencies when we are at our worst. During my career, I have seen many situations where a person with unlimited potential derail themselves because of their dark side, personality quirks. Bottom line, this is all about how we are wired. It is important to understand how we are wired to make the best career choice for ourselves and most importantly, determine the type of organization that fits our personality. For example, some organizations are very structured, hierarchical and process oriented. If you are more entrepreneurial and like a fast-pace results oriented type culture, this would not be the place for you. A person’s “fit” within a job or organization will largely determine their success or failure. Research shows that 7 in 10 new hires derail in the first year of employment because of bad fit (Hogan 2007). Something to think about, I think.

Until next time…

Jim

Career Choices?

We can change our lives. We can do, have and be exactly what we wish.” – Anthony Robbins

Career choices. Easy, right? Not so fast. Choosing which job to take is easy compared to choosing a career. We often see career choice as a life-long commitment and pursuit. As I have discussed before, in today’s world we often have a series of mini-careers over one’s lifetime. This would hopefully put less pressure on individuals as they think about what “to do for a living.” Unfortunately, pressure still exists. High school and college students today are faced with this important decision of what to do for a career, vocation or trade. Recently, I was reading a Wall Street Journal article about career choices. It reported that since the financial crises the kinds of jobs and career opportunities available were changing. Today, there is a renewed interest and premium placed on technical skills. Vocations requiring skill training were on the rise. Further, the article reported that fewer people were taking the path to college and thinking more about vocational training. This was welcome news as real careers are available to those individuals choosing a vocational or skilled trade path. I have always felt that following one’s passion and interest was the most important aspect of career choice. It does not matter what you choose as a career: doctor, lawyer, nurse, plumber, welder, teacher, etc. The important thing to know is we do have choices! Remember the adage, “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life.”

Until next time…

Jim

Goal Setting…

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” C.S. Lewis

We all have strengths and weaknesses. As professionals, part of our growth and development is expanding our strengths and continuously finding ways to improve upon our weaknesses. What is the best way to accomplish this? At any point we try to improve on a specific behavior, we must review where we are vis-à-vis that specific behavior. This is what setting a goal is all about. For example, suppose you want to improve your public speaking and presentation skills. That is your stated goal. The first step is identifying those actions you engage in that get in the way of this stated goal. I was recently reading the book Immunity to Change, by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey. They discuss their research on the concept of “competing commitments”, which are those actions, beliefs and behaviors that can get in the way of our stated goal. A competing commitment is often an unconscious thought which prevents us from accomplishing our stated goals. Using the above example of improving your presentation skills, a competing commitment may be an unconscious fear of public speaking, which may get in the way of your stated goal. This belief can and often becomes your reality. As you go through the process of setting goals and improving your skills and building your career tool box, think about what may be getting in the way making the appropriate change. Valuable insight can be gleaned from this process. Whatever you set out to do, i.e. improving your delegation skills, becoming a better project manager, etc. make sure you understand what your competing commitments are.

Until next time…

Jim

 

Career Planning…

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” –  Robert Burns

Career planning is a tricky business. While absolutely necessary to having a successful and long term career, career planning must be approaced with your eyes wide open. Most importantly, career planning should be done in concert with short and long term objective setting. Experts will tell you careers do not just happen; they are planned. From the time we plan for college, until the day we plan for retirement (re-directing as I like to refer to it), career planning is part of our everyday life. In thinking about career planning, I believe there are four essential components to approaching the subject in the right way. First, commitment is key. Whatever your chosen endeavor, commitment is paramount. You will never be successful at anything unless you are committed. Second, the willingness to take risks is important. In my coaching practice, I always encourage individuals to take a few calculated career risks. It’s all about getting out of your comfort zone. Third, flexibility is important to maintaining perspective. The ability to flex to a specific situation, organization and/or role is important. Lastly, the key to any form of career planning is to always have a back-up plan. Plan for the unexpected. When things don’t work out as you planned or thought, have “Plan B” in place ready to go. The important thing is not to get caught flatfooted without an exit strategy.

Until next time…

Jim

IQ vs. EQ?

My lack of education hasn’t hurt me at all. I can read the writing on the wall.”  Paul Simon

We all know organizations want to hire smart people, but being smart is not only about IQ. Daniel Goleman’s groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence, suggests there is a different way of being smart. Often overlooked in the hiring process is the importance of Emotional Intelligence, EQ. Having a high EQ quotient is an important compentency in the mix of predicting personal success or failure. What exactly is EQ? In simple terms, it’s all about how well we handle ourselves and others, or being socially aware. To be socially aware begins with self-awareness, as Socrates once said, “Know thyself”.  Social awareness involves sensing, understanding and responding to the emotions of others. From my 30 years of corporate experience, EQ plays a significant role in getting hired, staying hired and ultimately excelling on the job. First, to get hired you must have the requisite experience and skills. Employers want to hire individuals who are smart and articulate. To stay hired requires social competence, or social intelligence. Knowing how to work with others and more importantly, knowing how to get things done through others requires social intelligence. Finally, regardless of whatever field you choose to work in, to progress to more senior roles of responsibility, requires a high degree of EQ. The ability to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty is part of one’s EQ. Also, the ability to remain calm and objective despite challenging conditions. This is what EQ is all about.

Until next time…

Jim

What is Time?

Time is the only currency we have.” Graham Nash

As a fan of music, I read a lot of autobiographies, Graham Nash’s recent memoirs is an example. In the last several years, it seems all the aging rockers have penned one…Neil Young, Keith Richards, Rod Stewart, Steven Tyler, Pete Townshend, etc. The one common denominator in all these is their realization that time is precious. The one thing we can’t buy is more time. I’m sure that given the choice, and with all his known wealth, Warren Buffet would buy more time if he could. Interestingly, time is a important variable in all our work activities. For example, many  organizations offer “time management” training to aspiring managers. I was recently reading The Inner Game of Work by Tim Gallwey and appreciated his discussion about the concept of “time” and work. He makes the point that no one can effectively manage time. In effect, time manages us! Think about that for a minute. Further, he writes that the concept of “time management” is a complete misnomer. This really resonated with me. Time marches on…we can not change that reality. The key for us is to make better use of the time we have, not try and manage it. Gallwey defines this as becoming more “time aware.” How does one put this into practice to improve our hectic workday? One way is to make a list of the task you need to accomplish on any given day. Look at the list at the end of the day; how much time did it actually take you to accomplish each task? Keeping in mind there are only so many hours in your workday, note the gaps in the time-task relationship. This is how you become better at managing these task. It’s not about putting more hours in at the office; rather, it’s about learning to me more efficient with the time we have.

Until next time…

Jim

Failure…

Success in not final, failure in not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

We have all experienced failure in one way or another during our career. These experiences can either effect us in a positive or negative way, depending on our reactions to them. In my view, the important key learning from any type of failure is to take away something positive from the experience. During my career, I have worked with and for individuals who held the view that in business, they had never failed. To those individuals, I say “buyer beware.” Part of being self aware, which is an important leadership competency, is knowing that you are human and subject to failure. Even successful CEOs of large corporations will admit failure. Michael Jordan once said ” I’ve failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” Jill Abramson, the recently ousted NY Times Executive Editor was in the top job for only 3 years before being forced out by her boss, the owner/publisher. Just this week, she spoke to the graduating class at Wake Forest University and told students that “they will face personal and professional setbacks, but what matters is how they handle them.” When we experience failure, it is best to focus on self improvement.  A continuous effort to improve and get better is the right mental outlook. Pessimism breeds discontent and it will not help you move on to the next task, event or life experience. As Churchill said, “failure is not fatal.”  Most importantly, in a long career, we will have failures, but will also have many successes along the way as well.

Until next time…

Jim

 

Are You A “Natural” Manager?

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

For some of us, managing others in a natural process – one requiring little effort other than being yourself. I’m sure at some point in your career, you have worked for this type individual. Having responsibility for managing others is a significant responsibility and means you can influence their career in either a positive or negative way. Leading and managing others with ease is a natural gift for sure. However, as the saying goes “practice makes perfect”; so, there are things one can do to improve this particular skill. As a starting point, I believe that managing others requires one to be responsive to the needs of the employees who depend on them.  We all desire to work for someone capable of standing back from the action and looking at the big picture, someone with clarity of purpose, and the ability to clearly communicate their standards and vision. An empathetic and supportive style, willing to learn from others is also important. These are the traits of a natural manager. Do you have your own personal philosophy and belief system? Have you written it down and tried to implement this core principal? It’s helpful to think about those times you have seen a natural manager in action. What behaviors did they display? How did they communicate with their suboridantes? Make a list of these things. Remember, the action is in the doing.

Until next time…

Jim