You can always get back on the path


Life is full of missteps. A meeting we lead goes bad and then our next meeting goes worse and so on and so on. We get home after a bad day and we are short with our spouse. We play a hand of poker and get a bad beat and then stupidly make a big bet with bad cards in bad position. Yeah I am guilty of these but over the years have worked on learning to get back on the path quickly.

That path may differ for each of us but each of us has principles, interests, and relationships that guide us. Sometimes we do something at work or home that is against those principles, interests, and relationships and it will continue to bother us and inhibit us from the next thing and the next thing. We all make mistakes and when we do we have to remember that it is as simple as just getting back on the path for our principles, interests, and relationships.

That does not mean there will not be repercussions to our actions and everything goes away but we need to get over mistakes and correct them and continue forward. In order to get back on the path we need to do three things:

  1. Acknowledge: Whatever the misstep was we need to acknowledge it and if possible correct. If not able or does not make sense in context then that is alright also.
  2. Learn from: Identify ways you could have avoided it and put into practice in the future. If important enough you might want to get input from trusted persons on potential future actions.
  3. Let go: Let the misstep go emotionally. Don’t dwell on it or else it impacts your future action. This dwelling often gets many of us into future missteps and possibly bigger missteps.

By acknowledging, learning from, and letting go our missteps we can quickly get back on the path whatever that path may be.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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Become a personality savant


One thing most of us find most rewarding and challenging at work is the people. Part of excelling with people is understanding personalities. No matter if you work with front line customer service reps or CEO at a Fortune 100 company you are working with a person and each of us is made up of our experiences, emotions, education, habits and personalities. Personality is one thing that you are not going to change with individuals.

Understanding your colleagues’ personalities and how you can best interact with them and then taking action will make you much more successful. Ok that makes sense but how do you identify personalities you ask. Some companies actually have employees take one or more personality tests like DISC or Myers Briggs and then advertise the personalities as a badge of honor. But, most people do not work in such an environment so then it becomes really a three-part process:

  1. Educate yourself on personality types and find out what your personality is using a variety of methods (described more below).
  2. Understand your own personality type and how it influences how others engage you and you engage others.
  3. Observe and engage people and identify personality types.

Identifying personality types will take effort and will include asking questions as appropriate — e.g.” how do you prefer to communicate?” is a safe question and most people will be happy you asked. Determining personality types is something that may come naturally to you and already you are doing it and don’t know it. Or, it might be something that is a little more work but put in the time and do it. Practicing it will pay dividends in your career as you will be more successful working with people no matter what our position as an information worker.

Reminder to Employers, Managers, and Influencers: Take the opportunity to help drive the value of identifying personalities in the workplace and then training people on the value of personalities and how to be more successful working with different personalities. This takes some effort at first but will pay dividends in the long run and your employees will benefit from it and respect you more for it.

DISC Assessment: The DISC assessment is based on the work of psychologist William Marston and put into practice by psychologist Walter Clarke. It focuses on four different personality traits: 1) dominance; 2) inducement, 3) submission, and 4) compliance.

  • Dominance: Person places emphasis on accomplishing results, the bottom line, confidence
  • Influence: Person places emphasis on influencing or persuading others, openness, relationships.
  • Steadiness: Person places emphasis on cooperation, sincerity, dependability
  • Conscientiousness: Person places emphasis on quality and accuracy, expertise, competency

In total there are 8 different DISC personality types. People have a combination of two of the traits above with one generally being more dominant. Take the DISC test and learn more where you fit and then get an understanding how your DISC profile interacts with other profiles.

Learn more about DISC and/or purchase at: https://www.discprofile.com/what-is-disc/overview/

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): The MBTI is based on the personality theories of psychologist Carl Jung and expanded by Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers into the MBTI. The MBTI assessment measures psychological preferences on how takers perceive the world and make decisions.

The MBTI assigns takers four different characteristics and for each characteristic it is a choice of two options:

  • Extraversion or Introversion
  • Sensing or Intuition
  • Thinking or Feeling
  • Judging or Perceiving

Taking the MBTI will give you one of 16 different MBTI personality types. However, you will also be given an indicator of what percentage you align with each of the four characteristics that were dominant for you. Some characteristics will demonstrate a strong personality dominance while others will be nearly neutral. For example, I personally end up scoring fairly towards the center on 3 of the 4 characteristics and only extraversion tends to be the strong characteristic.

Note that while some MBTI types are more prevalent than others in society but none are more valuable than another. Take the MBTI and understand your MBTI type and then read more about how your type interacts best with other MBTI types.

Learn more about MBTI and/or purchase at: http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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Do you fear fear?


All of us have fears – so what makes you afraid? Public speaking, cancer, rejection, or failure. Most people spend to much time worrying about what might happen to us instead of opportunities that come from takings risks. We repeatedly hear the important trait of entrepreneurs taking on risk and conquering their fears but that applies to any profession and life in general.  Fear is a natural response that is not bad and makes us think twice before jumping off a 200-foot cliff — sorry cliff divers. But, fear is also the thing that holds people back in their professional and personal lives too often. Be honest to yourself and ask if you are the person that does not volunteer for that new high-profile project that is starting because you would have to learn a new skill as part of it and are worried you won’t be able to do so? Or, are you the person that has a lot of unspoken ideas because you are too afraid to speak up in front of the group because you are afraid that people will think your ideas are stupid?

Instead of giving into fear recognize it for what it is a basic chemical reaction and think about the upside versus the downside of fear when it creeps up. If you don’t take that project and as part of it learn a new skill you will not fail at it but if you take it and fail you have more skills and are looked at for taking initiative. If you do not speak up in the meeting or bring a new idea forward you will certainly avoid that slim chance that your idea would be discounted but it guarantees that your idea will not be considered. If you find a way to automate some part or all of your job think awesome you may will get to learn something else.

Remember that fear is natural and primeval and is part of our fight-or-flight response that is meant to keep us safe in a world where things would kill us. As information workers there are no bears or tigers in our office, conference room, or cubicle so use fear as a signal to motivate and act. Overcoming a fear can be one of the most rewarding things we experience. And, if we combine this rewarding experience with making us more successful in your job then it becomes a double bonus.

One thing I have found helpful is identify fears and pick something where a fear is holding me back and put together a plan to overcome it. This blog is partly motivated driven to overcome a fear and certainly feel good about doing it.

Next time you feel fear at work, fear the fear itself and then embrace the challenge and follow what it is really saying — it is time to act, volunteer, or speak!

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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“Positively” charge your career


We all know people that complain about everything whether it is the weather, boss, or colleagues and if you are like me you try to limit time with them. There are also those rare people that are always positive and just make you feel better being around them. Don’t confuse people with either glass half full perspective versus glass half empty perspective but instead talking about people and their general attitude of life and work. These positive people say hi to people in the morning and are genuinely happy coming to work. Ok, most of us don’t fall in this camp everyday but wouldn’t it be nice for you and for others around you if you are more like that positive person.

Being positive is rewarding to yourself and will make you more successful. People will want to be around you and will feel better when around you. What you do will be viewed in a better light. But, being truly a positive person takes effort and it is still something I keep on working towards.

Here are some tips that I have found helpful and heard from others also that are better at this me:

  1. Get up early and workout: Working out each morning prior to getting the day started gets your endorphins going which will make you feel more positive. You certainly do not have to run a marathon but getting on a bike for 20 min. or running a couple miles or lifting some weights will help your day start off right.
  2. Greet colleagues: Make a conscious effort to say hi to your colleagues each morning and doing it genuinely will make you and them feel better. People will be happier when you come up to them and not think that you are coming up to them just to ask for something.
  3. Do not complain: No day is perfect but make a conscious effort to not complain. Not complaining does not mean don’t analyze or critique but that is different than complaining.
  4. Do not gossip: Gossip is rooted out of negativity and not partaking will help you be positive and will at the same time help your reputation.
  5. Be grateful: As information workers we are fortunate that we are paid well and have intellectually interesting jobs in an environment that is safe and comfortable. Don’t fall into the trap of keeping up with the Jones’s and sure there may be people that make more money, have more perks, get more accolades, etc. but realize you are lucky! Yes lucky so be grateful and appreciate every day.

Increasing your positivity at work and in life generally will make it more enjoyable. So practice the steps above and your attitude about work and life will be better and your opportunities will increase.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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Always be a student, always keep learning


One of the most rewarding things being human is learning. After going to post-secondary school for 10 years and now working for 10 years my interest in learning is even greater. Being a rock star information worker requires a never ending thirst to learn.

Nowadays more than ever there are a variety of opportunities for us to keep learning. Some of these opportunities have had barriers lowered by free or near free learning opportunities. Some of the key avenues for you to continue learning include:

  1. In-Person Classes: No matter if it is undergraduate or graduate coursework or continuing education that best fits your current needs and interests take the opportunity if it makes sense. Something to always ask when taking expensive formal college courses is the return on investment and what other avenues are there. Often times employers will help contribute to your continued learning if it will benefit your employer. There are many community colleges that are doing specialized training that once required attendance at a formal four-year college and you will get the benefit of reduced tuition. There are also more schools that offer certificate options which is often times a good and cost-effective option when looking to make a career change. There are even a new breed of “bootcamp” training where you go for 8 to 12 weeks generally and learn some marketable skills like programming, data science, and design.
  2. Certifications: Many different industries have certifications available through different associations. These certifications are often achieved by one or more courses, tests, and industry tenure. Certifications are often times beneficial and well worth the time and money and many employers will help you with both of these and encourage you towards this path. If you are newer to an industry then it is good to get the opinion of others on the benefit of one certification over another. One thing to be careful about is going certification happy and sometimes you will see people get so many certifications and really the knowledge between the certifications does not vary and really you are just paying for additional letters without the value of learning and the continued return of each certification usually is greatly diminished.
  3. Online Classes: There are tons of online classes today and this can be from MOOCs (massive open online courses) or it can be through free or minimal cost online go at your own pace training. These opportunities let you learn everything from programming to history to chemistry to whatever. This can be a good way to just take a course that you had always wanted to but never did or to learn a new programming language to enhance your marketability.
  4. Online Portals: Previously if you wanted to read about a topic you would generally have to pick up a book and then you may have gotten lucky and a magazine or two started writing on your item of interest. Nowadays there are so many other avenues including: blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn groups, online forums, websites, and more. So pick your preference and engage. You will benefit most from these portals when you are a contributor along with a consumer. One line of advice here is to not drink from the fire hose and instead select a group of things where you can consume and from the higher quality sources. For example, there are dozens of blogs on nearly every topic so look at a variety of them and see what others say also and then pick a couple to read.
  5. User Groups/Professional Associations: User groups and professional associations are both good ways to not only continue your learning but also network which is also rewarding. When you are new to your career it is good to get input of others that you look up to and get advice on user groups and professional associations in your area that others find of value. Your goal should be to engage more highly in a couple of these groups or associations as this will allow you to build deeper connections with others in these groups and eventually take on leadership roles if that is of interest. At first try a number of these out until you settle on a couple associations or groups that fit your career or skill interests. Remember user groups and professional associations are also good avenue for those that are looking to make a career change.
  6. Conferences: There is nothing quite like a good conference to focus a lot of learning in a short period of time. There are a variety of conferences available and more than ever there are even free or near free conferences available for us to keep learning. Going to a conference and not just attending sessions but participating in other activities that may be available before or after normal conference sessions is also important as you are continuing your learning. Two of my favorite conferences are the BarCamp conferences and the Product Camp conferences and both of these occur in a number of cities across America and even the world.

In short, there are tons of opportunities for you to be a student and take advantage of this and your career and life will be more rewarding — an engaged mind is a happy mind.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

Links of Interest related to above:

  1. The Ultimate Guide to Coding Bootcamps: Really more than just coding for some of these bootcamps including things such as data science, user interface design, online marketing. http://www.skilledup.com/articles/the-ultimate-guide-to-coding-bootcamps-the-exhaustive-list/
  2. Coursera: Coursera is a MOOC and is simply awesome. It provides a great way to take classes from some of the most prestigious professors across the country and learn some cool things whether it is gamification, irrational behavior, or probabilistic models — all courses I in fact took and were great. Coursera does a great job in breaking lectures into small very consumable chunks with questions to check understanding. You can audit classes for free all the way to very inexpensive formal certifications. https://www.coursera.org/
  3. edX: Similar to Coursera in that it is a MOOC where colleges like Harvard, MIT, and Berkley have a number of courses on nearly everything. There are hundreds of courses available currently. https://www.edx.org/
  4. Khan Academy: Khan Academy is a site geared at teaching people of all ages nearly everything in easy to digest chuncks of information. https://www.khanacademy.org/
  5. Udemy: Udemy is a platform where people put together courses on nearly anything. Key here is to know that nearly anyone can sell their course on Udemy so ensure that the course is rated well and a number of people have purchased. I have had good luck on a couple Udemy courses but did my research beforehand. https://www.udemy.com/
  6. Lynda.com: Lynda.com has thousands of online courses taught by experienced professionals on technology, business, design and many more. http://www.lynda.com/
  7. ProductCamp: ProductCamp is an unconference geared at product management, product development and product marketing professionals. http://www.productcamp.org/
  8. BarCamp: BarCamps are an unconference geared at anyone working in technology space. These conferences are generally free and people speak on nearly anything and everything related to technology. http://barcamp.org/
  9. Meetup.com: Meetup.com has thousands of different Meetups occurring all over the world. Anyone can start a Meetup and some are more engaged than others. It is a great avenue to see what types of groups are meeting in your area.  http://www.meetup.com/
  10. Eventbrite: Eventbrite similar to Meetup is a forum for groups to host and advertise events. Another good forum to learn what type of events that may be of interest to you in your area.  https://www.eventbrite.com/

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Good habits go a long way


Good habits go a long way in moving your career and life forward. Those habits are not as hard to do as many people think and starting out with small things is the way to go. Important habits to ensure success include: 1) make lists; 2) start difficult; 3) don’t multitask; 4) prioritize; 5) get in early; and 6) never eat alone.

  1. Make Lists: Knowledge workers need to use lists because a lot of things are on our plate and lists help us organize things and free up mental space. Having a list of high priority items and low priority items is important. High priority items are items that either have high impact or have upcoming deadline. Low priority items are items that are everything else. Make sure you focus efforts on high priority items. Of course low priority items that take little effort are good to knock off the list. Review your lists at least weekly and if items should move from low priority to high priority or vice versa make sure to do so. Note your high priority lists should not have more than five things on it at a time and if it does so consistently then it is time to talk with your manager.
  2. Start Difficult: People start the day off with a full tank after a night’s rest and getting the difficult stuff done when you are on full just makes sense. Now there are some people that are rare where the best time for them to do difficult work is at night but this is rare. Key is no yourself and when your best mental time is and use this time to focus on the difficult tasks.
  3. Don’t Multitask: Difficult tasks deserve focus and should not be spent multitasking. This means when you are working on difficult tasks you might turn off instant messaging and block that time of day off on your calendar. Even logging out of your email is best and letting calls go to voicemail. Now of course how much of this you can do will depend a lot on your job but the general theme of not multitasking and putting focus on tough tasks is essential.
  4. Prioritize: Understand the priority of the work you are doing and focus on things with highest priority. This seems like an easy thing to do but many of us have so many different items on our plate that we lose sight of this and just do things that are convenient or we like to do at a given time when they do not have the highest priority. Further, if you are a manager make sure to clearly prioritize items for your team so that they can meet expectations.
  5. Get in Early: Getting in early is one of the things I consistently see of nearly all highly successful people. This goes in part to your tank is full discussion mentioned in (2) above and also not having others distracting you. Even if you don’t consider yourself a morning person, I recommend that you give a try for a month and see how you like it because I have seen people that never considered themselves morning people change their mind after they have given it a try.
  6. Never Eat Alone: Not only be successful in your day to day work but also making sure to build relationships with team members, colleagues, and others is important. The famous book “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz is a great read and I certainly believe in the thought of having as many coffees, lunches, and happy hours as you can fit in with other obligations is a great way to spend time. Doing this not only helps you get away from your desk and frees up your mind but it also helps further relationships that not only are rewarding as a human being but also often proves beneficial when trying to get work done or looking for that next opportunity.

Putting these good habits into practice will not only help you be more successful at work but work will also be more enjoyable. Let me know how these habits work for you and other key habits you practice to move your career and life forward.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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Customer first mentality is always the path to success


It seems cliché that the customer is always right but having that mentality will lead to success. No matter what your job is you have a customer or likely many customers and they can be internal, external, or both. When you have the opportunity to engage with your customer take this opportunity to treat the customer first.

Many information workers of the past may not have thought about the customer and really society in general used to have a more take-it-or-leave-it attitude. However, today’s information workers need to have strong customer focus in order to achieve success and you need to be able to:

  1. Empathize with your customer: Understanding your customer and empathizing with their situation is the first step in providing high customer service. Your boss as a customer has the pressure of a big meeting coming up and understanding that providing her not just the slides she asked for but also giving her some talking points and supporting research will make her job easier and help reduce stress. Putting yourself in the shoes of the customer will help you provide better customer service. How many times do we get an Excel doc with bad formatting or are using a website where there is little help and it is confusing and we say if only we were in charge of this or that. Well we are all in charge of what we do and while we may not be able to dictate processes and procedures most of us have influence and using that influence to think from our customer’s point of view and problems they are solving is the difference between an average employee and a rock star employee.
  2. Get satisfaction from your customer’s satisfaction: No matter your role if you ensure your customer is happy then you will be more successful. The thing to remember is your customer can be nearly anyone. Sometimes it might be auditors and the natural tendency is to view them as an adversary but that is not the best approach. Instead how can you help serve your customer the auditor better – maybe that means coming up with an improved report that provides more clarity that would benefit your auditor or instead of just satisfying the allotted response time you can provide quicker turnaround on requests. The key to remember is the more you get satisfaction from having a happy customer the more you will be motivated to provide good customer service.
  3. Leave your ego at home: There are situations where you will try to provide good customer service but you may fall short or you may not and your customer may have unrealistic expectations. However, leave your ego at home and instead appreciate your customer and apologize even. This does not mean you need to admit fault if there is no fault but you can still feel bad if your customer feels bad and it does not hurt to say something like “I am sorry for your frustration”. Taking this extra step and ensuring that your customer understands your empathy and that you do not always have to be right is required for truly exceptional customer service.

Apply these three key steps when either directly or indirectly interacting with customers and you will not only make your customer feel better but your boss will feel better and you will feel better.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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“Yes and” your life


Many of you may have seen shows like “Who’s Line is it Anyway” or gone to a local improv theater and we can all learn a lot from it. Rule number one of improv is “yes and”. “Yes and” means that whatever your fellow performer says — it is your reality. You don’t disagree, you don’t complain — you just take her reality and make it your own. So if she says: “the sky over there is white with black swirls” your response would not be: “no, it is red because it is raining blood” but instead something like “yes it is raining Dairy Queen twist ice cream and it is my favorite flavor”.

The power of “yes and” can help us all in our lives because often we are quick to disagree with people. Even when we know we are right it is best to be careful how you bring the truth forward. Bluntly disagreeing with people just creates a wall between you and them. Plus many times you may think you know something for sure but it is better to think how can you “yes and” this and trying to move things forward in direction you are seeking without shutting down other people.

Using the “yes and” philosophy is especially important when in meetings geared towards brainstorming. I insist that people do not use “no” in these meetings. Brainstorming does not have a wrong answer and the goal is to get ideas out there and move things forward. Not every idea is fantastic but ideas build off of other ideas. Soon eight ideas down you come to the game winner for your new software enhancement or process improvement.

Next time you feel that “no” coming along try the “yes and” and see how you help your family, colleagues, customers, and yourself.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

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