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Archive for June, 2014

“It is nearly Impossible to achieve a straight heading north” from Career Compass by Douglas E. Welch

June 17th, 2014 Comments off

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Career Compass

It is nearly impossible to achieve a straight heading north in any career. One job will pull you to the East, another to the West. Sometimes, unfortunately, you will find yourself pointed deep to the South, moving away from all your professed goals and desires.

Career Compass
Finding Your Career North
by Douglas E. Welch

DouglasEWelch.com

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Companies and employees need to make better mistakes — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

June 17th, 2014 Comments off

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I had a very common experience with companies, their employees and mistakes this week. it made me think about ways that they could improve mistakes — which happen to everyone — and make them, at least, a tolerable experience for everyone involved. Making better mistakes could be be one of the best ways to improve customer service you have ever found.


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First, my situation. The Gas Company came to fix a leak on the gas line feeding into my house. This meant they had to dig a deep trench along one of my garden beds. In the process, they cut through the soaker hose that ran through that bed. Now, to be fair, I have put a shovel through soaker hoses more often than I care to admit. It happens because they are somewhat hidden in the bed and easily cut. This was inconvenient, as I would have to repair the hose, but not something that would make me angry. Unfortunately, the workmen decided to hide the fact that they cut the hose and I only discovered it the next day. This did make me angry — angrier than I might have been otherwise. If this hose was still using an automatic timer, it could have resulted in a lot of wasted water and some minor flooding.

As someone who works in customer service, I can see why they hid the damage, though. First, they were probably embarrassed they had cut it in the first place. Then, they probably would have been punished by their management if and when I called to report the damage. These are certainly two good reasons to hide it — for them — but they have the opposite effect really. When the damage is discovered, most people, like myself, will be angrier at the deception than the damage. In order to address these issues, I would like to suggest several policies that could make mistake less painful and make customers much happier.

First, each employee should have a monthly stipend that they can call upon to correct any small mistakes they might commit. I would guess that something like $50 would probably be a good place to start. Then, when they cut through a soaker hose — or commit some other mistake — they can immediately offer the customer funds for repair or replacement. They could offer this as a credit on the next month’s bill when the homeowner provides a receipt. This would go a long way towards reducing the embarrassment and fear they might feel upon committing the mistake and also help to prevent a mistake from becoming a bigger problem by hiding it. Give the power (and funds) to fix mistakes immediately and employees will be more proactive in fixing them.

As a freelancer, I have experienced many mistakes over my career. I have always found that the quickest way to move beyond the mistake is to fix it. This could mean spending extra time, replacing a component or — as if often the case with computer support — explaining from the outset that there is nothing you can do. Since I work for myself, I have the freedom to waive my fee if It thought that I hadn’t provided value to a customer. While you probably can’t provide this level of freedom to all your employees, establishing the mistake fund described above, can help to solve those little mistakes that commonly crop up by giving your employees the freedom, and initiative, to correct their own mistakes.

Next, management needs to realize that a certain number and type of mistakes are going to occur simply because of the nature of the work. In my experience with The Gas Company I can imagine that bird baths will get knocked over, hoses cut, driveway damaged, etc. Punishing employees for dealing with these mistakes is counterproductive. It would be much better to analyze these common mistakes and find ways of reducing their occurrence overall.

Help employees by developing methods to check for those most common mistakes BEFORE they occur so they don’t have to deal with the consequences after. Any recurring mistake is a clear sign that something needs to change. Don’t just make a policy about how things are to be done, though. Give your employees a checklist, a rubric, a guide to work though when they first arrive at a job, so they can check for, and avoid, these most common issues. Even better, get the employees to write these checklists themselves. After all, they have the most experience with what happens “out there in the field.” Draw on that deep knowledge to help everyone in your company.

Mistakes will always be there waiting to happen. You can’t account for all contingencies, but you can develops ways of making better mistakes. Give your employees the ability to correct their small mistakes and you will have to field far fewer complaint calls afterwards. Help them to find ways of reducing the occurrence of the most common mistakes so you don’t to have to fix them in the first place. You’ll never rid yourself of all your mistakes, but you can make the mistake experience better for everyone involved. Remove the embarrassment. Remove the fear of punishment. Get on with correcting the mistake and your customers will be much happier.

***

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Motivational art from Gapingvoid Art and Hugh MacLeod

June 16th, 2014 Comments off

I am not usually a great consumer of traditional motivation posters and such. Too much off it comes off as traditional and rather meaningless cheerleading at best and claptrap at its worst. Several years ago, though, i discovered Gapingvoid and Hugh MacLeod’s art and have been following him ever since. I am subscribed to his web site and his daily newsletter which brings  bit of the Gapingvoid magic into my world every day. Hugh has a sensibility about work and careers that closely matches my own and I easily find myself and my thoughts in his artwork. You should definitely check out Gapingvoid when you have a free moment. I think you will find some excellent material there, both visual and textual, that will make you think — which I consider one of the biggest gifts that any art can give.

Gapingvoid has a series of products available directly from their web site, but they also sell T-shirts directly via Amazon.com, where I am an affiliate. Why not bring a little joy and deep thought into both your life and the lives of those around you, by carrying a Gapingvoid message with you always. I hope you’ll find something here that resonates with you, as it does with me. A small portion of each Amazon sale goes directly towards supporting Career Opportunities.

Gapingvoid T-Shirts on Amazon.com

Gapingvoid tshirts

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Noted: Journaling at the End of the Day Could Increase Your Productivity via Lifehacker

June 15th, 2014 Comments off

Journaling at the End of the Day Could Increase Your Productivity via Lifehacker

Journaling

We’ve talked about the benefits of journaling in the past, but a recent study shows that 15 minutes of reflection at the end of the day leads to better productivity.

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“Noted” items are particularly good finds from my daily reading which I share via all my social media accounts.

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A reputation for clear thinking… from Cultivating Your Career Reputations

June 13th, 2014 Comments off

“A reputation for clear thinking has the ability to calm those around you. They look for some sense of stability”


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Archive: Letting go of control can open up new opportunities — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

June 13th, 2014 Comments off

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In business, and in life, we often seek to control everything we can. We try to control our jobs, our careers, our schedules and more. We seek to remove the accidental, the random and unfortunately, the serendipitous. Instead of trying to control everything about your life, you might want to “let go” every now and then and see what happens. In my own experience, wonderful things can often arise.

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Why keep control?

The fact is, I believe we try to control our lives because we are scared of surprises. We think that by managing every aspect of our lives, we will develop a perfect job and a perfect life with no bad surprises to send us off track. Of course, you already know what folly that is. Life throws us curveballs at every turn. For me, any sense of control is fleeting at best. There is always something that pops up and proves the quote, “The best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry (or astray).” Robert Burns certainly knew what he was talking about when he wrote that in his poem, To A Mouse.

Yet, we still try to control the world around us. I know this because, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a worrier. I always want to know where we are going, when we should arrive, where we will park, and in general what will happen? I try to suppress this as much as possible, but it often gets the better of me. Which is why I find it so amazing and energizing when great things happen out of the blue. In fact, I am actively seeking out these opportunities these days — and you should, too.

Why not Let Go

My most recent experiences with letting go has come from attending the local BarCampLA and related events here in Los Angeles. These un-conferences are typically organized only up to a point. The organizers find a date, a location and sponsors, but the conference itself is usually entirely ad hoc. Each attendee selects a topic to present and places their talk on a grid for the day. After a welcome and introductions, away we go.

My goodness is this an amazing concept, but it takes a certain amount of trust and willingness to let go to make it happen. You have to trust that others will have something interesting to say and that they will also want to hear your presentation. In my experience here in Los Angeles, this has been the case each time. I find it something like the magic that occurs opening night of a play or musical. (My degree is in theater, so I have some experience with this.) Whatever troubles might have plagued you during dress rehearsals suddenly melt away and the show comes together on opening night.

Fight the urge

Unfortunately, even in this rarified environment, you still have to beat back the grasping clutches of control. As I attend more of these events, I see organizers who, through fear or lack of trust, want to control every moment of the day. Instead of an ad hoc assembly of presentations, everything is timed out to the moment — turning it into more of a traditional conference than the unconference model they still use to describe it.

Somewhere along the way, the organizers seemed to have lost the trust that everything would work out. They have fallen victim to the belief that controlling the environment insures a great conference. Instead, they might be insuring that the conference never rises above the typical or the mundane. By lacking trust they bring about the very scenario they were hoping to avoid.

Letting go of control, and fighting the urge to control, can open up amazing worlds of creativity, if we let it. You have to trust both in yourself and others, though, that the magic will happen — the show will go on. As a “worrier” I know how hard it can be to let go of control, but experience has shown me just how powerful it can be — at the right time and in the right situations. If you want to give your career a boost, find some place where you can engage the random, the odd, the serendipitous. I can guarantee you will be surprised with the results.

***

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Video: Leadership and Corporations from “A Year of Leadership”

June 11th, 2014 Comments off

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From “A Year of Leadership” – Career Opportunities Podcast with Douglas E. Welch)

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Transcript:

One of my big issues with corporations — large corporations — is that, inherent in their organization is the ability for people to say, “Well, I’m not the one screwing over that person. I’m just a cog in the machine over here. That’s someone else. That’s the executives. That’s the ‘company’ screwing someone over” — like the company is an entity in itself. Now, frankly, legally, yes, corporations are entity, almost a human being and just like a human being, corporations can be — let us say — dysfunctional. It is up to the people in that corporation to sense that dysfunction and work against it. If you don’t — if you don’t stand up and take the leadership and act against that dysfunction — you are a huge part of the problem. Don’t believe me? Well, ask all the people at Enron. Ask all the people who have been involved in some great scandal or some great failure. Guess what? In their heart of hearts, I think all of them know that they were part of the problem. They, at some point, had the ability to stand up and say, “No! This is not right. This is not the way to do this,” and they didn’t do it. They didn’t exercise the leadership necessary to bring this to an end. Some people, in the case of Enron, did try. They ended up in a lot of trouble. It was very risky for them. It was very scary for them, but you know what? They were right. No matter what happened at Enron, it wasn’t their fault. They were right. They were calling out the issues that needed to be addressed. They were just being ignored. 

Douglas is writer and host of Career Opportunities, a long running column and podcast dedicated to “Helping to Build the Career You Deserve!” Career Opportunities began in 1997 as a magazine column and expanded to a podcast in 2004. Douglas is also a New Media Consultant, Technology and Career Consultant with over 30 years experience in high-tech. You can find all of Douglas’ work at DouglasEWelch.com.

Networking should be an integral part of your life… from the Career Opportunities Podcast

June 10th, 2014 Comments off

Networking quote

Networking, and other career-building efforts, should be an integral part of your life, not something you strap onto the side. Instead of worrying about numbers or specific people, learn to engage others, all others, in conversation. If you can do this with any regularity, you will find that the quantity and the quality of the people you meet will take care of itself.

 
Career Opportunities Podcast with Douglas E. Welch
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Noted: It’s not about you from Seth Godin

June 10th, 2014 Comments off

It’s not about you from Seth Godin

Seth godin

Right in the front row, not four feet from Christian McBride, was every performer’s bête noire. I don’t know why she came to the Blue Note, maybe it was to make her date happy. But she was yawning, checking her watch, looking around the room, fiddling with this and that, doing everything except being engaged in the music.

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“Noted” items are particularly good finds from my daily reading which I share via all my social media accounts.

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Respect yourself and those around you — from the Career Opportunities Podcast

June 10th, 2014 Comments off

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It can be the smallest things that effect the success of your career. My 16 year old son has reminded me of some of the behavioral basics that can mean the difference between being successful in your job and being fired. You might think these behaviors are small, but I can guarantee you, they can be be some of the biggest annoyances to those around you. If there is one thing you never want to be in your career, it is annoying, so take heed of the advice noted below.


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Respect the time of others

Adults should always respect the time of others. You shouldn’t make people wait on you, nor you on them. This is a waste of the person’s time and, I believe shows great disrespect. Any manager who is chronically late to meetings is showing very clearly what he thinks of his staff. His time (or hers) is obviously worth more than the staff. Staff will pick up on this clear indicator and begin to r esent it more and more. No one likes being disrespected and if a manager isn’t careful, they might find themselves out of a job entirely. You can’t expect staff to respect you or your initiatives if you constantly disrespect their time and efforts.

Similarly, if you deal directly with customers, you should respect their time, too. Answer calls and emails expediently. Don’t make them repeat information you should already have at hand. Don’t make them wait for hours for an appointment or, even worse, fail to so show up when you are scheduled. All of these send very clear signals to your customers — they don’t matter and you don’t care.

The clearest way to respect the time of others is to consider how you would feel if you were the staff member or customer. Would you feel disrespected? Would you feel your time was being wasted? I can guarantee you would. Your staff and customers feel exactly the same way.

Say what you’ll do and do what you say?

When you are delegated a task — at work or at home — you need to acknowledge that task and then actually do it. First, when given a task, take a direct action to note it down in front of the person who is delegating the task. In my career, I have found this to be one of the best behaviors to exhibit. When people see you make note in your journal, day planner or phone calendar, they feel that you have clearly heard the task and have agreed to accomplish it. A wave of the hand and a “Yeah, I’ll do that” fails to install any confidence in you or your actions. In fact, I have learned over the years that that behavior basically means you probably won’t ever do the task. This is not the signal you want to be sending if you want a successful career.

Next, once you have said you will actually so something — do it — in a timely manner. When you are delegated a task without a firm deadline, you should always assume that the task should be completed ASAP. It is I so frustrating for a manager — or a parent — to watch you do other, non-essential tasks when they have asked you to do something. Our patience can only be stretched so far before breaking. Again, such behavior shows a certain lack of respect and lack of understanding of the work that needs to be done.

It is deeply important to realize that, while a parent or spouse might “nag” you to get the task completed, your managers will not nag you — they will simply find someone else to do your job. If you constantly avoid doing what you say you will do, you eventually won’t have to worry about it at all. You will simply be out of a job.

In your work, and in your life, you need to show respect for those around you and also respect for yourself. Respect other’s time, take your work promises seriously and do them diligently. These basic behaviors will insure that your career has a solid foundation on which to build. Ignore them and you might not have a career to build at all.

***

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