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How to do more with less

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Life is busy. This is especially true with work and has only gotten worse with the invention of the smartphone. There are a lot of books, courses, websites, and podcasts out there on how to be more productive. One recent book that came out that speaks on this subject is Procrastinate on Purpose by Rory Vaden. This really comes down to four things when looking at a task no matter if you are a stay-at-home dad, corporate overachiever, or entrepreneur: 1) eliminate, 2) automate, 3) delegate, and 4) procrastinate.

  1. Eliminate: Things are done often times for a variety of reasons. However, when you take a step back and ask yourself what will happen if I stop doing this task? If the answer is not much then the likely answer is this task should be eliminated. For example, you have weekly metrics that a former executive asked to receive years ago and three executives later you are still providing this status update. However, when you ask about it nobody seems to be reading it and it takes you four hours a week to prepare. Maybe it is better to eliminate this update and spend time on something that is going to bring more value.
  1. Automate: People are very good at putting processes together and getting people to execute on the process. We are not as good at taking a step back and looking at the process occasionally to determine if it can be made more efficient. Technology and needs change and often times people can automate things fairly simply that once required a team of people to perform. Sometimes this does not occur because people are concerned about what they will do if this is automated. Rewarding employees for bringing ideas to the table that can automate processes is essential to reward efforts here. I have always believed and stress to my employees that being the person that identifies the opportunity to automate something will lead to another opportunity and waiting for someone else to do so may not.
  1. Delegate: Understanding your strengths and weaknesses and others strengths and weaknesses is important to delegating well. However, new managers or high performing individuals often have trouble delegating because they believe they can do an item better than person they are delegating. Maybe that is the case, although often it is not, you are only one person and delegating tasks is a key skill of managerial or individual leadership. A team is not one person’s efforts but rather the efforts of all. Have the confidence in others and delegate — they will often amaze you.
  1. Procrastinate: Not everything needs to be done now. Some things better fit down the road and understanding that and letting it go for a later date is important. This determination may be based on revenue generation, risk mitigation, or a variety of other metrics depending on your situation. Key here is having a methodology to understand what should be delayed for another date and having a method to capture this so it is not lost.

Accordingly, your goal should be first to eliminate a task if not needed, automate a task if feasible, delegate a task if sensible, and procrastinate a task if warranted. Follow these four steps and you will do more with less and will be able to focus on the right things now.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

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

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Working in today’s global workplace

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Today’s workplace is a global environment where many of us will be working with people around the world. Often popular for information workers that means someone from India, China, Philippines, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and many others. Personally I have worked with all these countries along with many more.

Being able to work with offshore workers is a great opportunity and will be a challenging but rewarding and educational experience for you. But, it is important to start things off right and remember that people are people wherever they are. We each come with our own unique talents, challenges, and personalities. A few tips to supercharge your success while working in today’s global workplace include:

  • Get Culturally Literate: People are people but each culture has its own uniqueness and getting to understand societal and cultural norms of the people you will be working with is essential. Learn about the culture’s holidays, native sports and history — this will further your education but will also help you relate and endear yourself with your foreign country colleagues.
  • Meet Half Way: Just because you may be the person hiring someone or supervising them you need to know it is important to meet people half way. This can mean being flexible with meeting times understanding the drastic time difference. Or, it can mean slowing down your speech so they can better hear you.
  • Over Communicate: Communicate, communicate, and then communicate again. We all think that we said this or inferred that but often times our communication is not as effective as we think. This becomes especially more difficult when working with people with a different native language.
  • Treat as Equals: This should go without saying but treating colleagues no matter where they are as equals is essential. People are people and we all have lives, dreams, families and friends. At work we try to do a good job and bring value to our job and our lives. Being respectful of each other whether you are cube neighbors or international team mates is a must.

In a global environment successful information workers will not only competently work with colleagues across the world but they will thrive on doing so. Diverse workforces bring forth many opportunities and help ensure teams are able to satisfy a global customer base. Be part of the global workforce and buckle up it is going to be a fun ride. Enjoy learning about new people and cultures and start and keep a positive attitude when working with offshore workers.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

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

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Do’s and don’ts when working with auditors

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Auditors and regulators often make people cringe. Most people think of a person from the IRS showing up at your door asking for the last 20 years of tax returns and bringing out the fire hoses and German Shepherds. That seems like child’s play compared to auditors, regulators, and compliance for many organizations nowadays. Companies are being more closely scrutinized and rightfully so with often bad and sometimes criminal behavior. At the same time companies do a lot of good and are a fundamental part of society and part of what makes America great.

What do you do when you get that knock on the door by audit or the emailed information request or you are asked to speak with auditors regarding data, processes, etc.? The answer is simple and can be stated in three sentences:

  • Review and comprehend the information request: Make sure to understand what is being requested, when it is due, and what it is really seeking. Now some of these items you can clarify with the regulator or auditor what is really being asked but don’t be a person that needs positive affirmation or engagement with the regulators.
  • Research and process the information request: Regulatory requests sometimes take detective work with the rest being straightforward requests. Taking the time to quickly assess what type of request and the bandwidth needed to complete and currently available resources is essential to make sure things are completed timely.
  • Respond to the request concisely, timely, and accurately: Being concise helps you provide the information that is requested and respectful of her time. At same time being concise alleviates the potential misunderstanding that may occur with superfluous information. Understand when the request is due and do not wait until the last day to respond — if you have the response ready send it. Most of all you should be providing accurate information. Don’t mess up your reputation with taking shortcuts here.

While this post is meant for audit, regulators, and compliance in mind, these words of advice apply to many other instances such as requests from your boss, the CEO, or even your spouse. Thinking about these three easy steps and following them will help you be more successful in responses to audit, regulators, and compliance.

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Do not let perfection get in the way of progress

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There is always the quality versus quantity mantra we all hear. Almost every leader says they stress quality. But, quality does not mean perfection and most people get caught in this trap. Most highly successful people ensure that progress is being made and do not let perfection get in the way.

I know at this point you are going to say wait how about people like the late Steve Jobs and his relentless pursuit of perfect design at Apple. Certainly there is an argument that Steve Jobs would not tolerate anything but perfection but he also realized that progress mattered also. When Steve Jobs came back to Apple he quickly reduced the number of products to devote resources to ensure desired progress could be made.

Insisting on perfection for everything generally results in a bad return on your investment. In the past big brands would have expensive, perfection-focused marketing campaigns that were completely planned out prior to beginning. Nowadays there is a push on agile marketing for a better return on investment since it is an iterative approach that allows for progress and does not require perfection. Another example is people in the past would ensure that they have perfect emails or letters to communicate with their colleagues and this formality had a cost. Nowadays there is a push to use instant messaging or texting to communicate messages with a push towards making progress. Highly successful people are leaders in identifying what “level of perfection” each situation warrants with the eye towards progress.

Here are a few helpful tips to help you avoid the trap of letting perfection get in the way of progress trap:

  • Value: Understand the value of whatever you are doing. This is true whether it is customer facing or not. Not all emails are the same. Not all memos are the same. Not all processes are the same. Knowing what your objective is and what value it is going to provide. Of course when you are talking about releasing a end facing customer product this value is a lot different than putting together an internal memo on some run of the mill internal process change.
  • Perfect vs. good enough: Compare the cost and benefit of the perfect versus good enough. Progress is often ruled by the good enough. There is often a lot of value by implementing something and learning from it and then adjusting it. This is at the core of agile product development and concepts like the minimum viable product mentioned by people like Eric Ries in the Lean Startup.
  • Urgency: Many times there is urgency in getting something completed and by the very nature of spending more time to get perfect will result in the urgency of the item to be missed. Just think of a customer that has a critical problem with your product and they need a solution now. They do not need a perfect solution 4 weeks from now but instead want something now to get things moving again.

Most people want to do a good job and highly successful people want to ensure their brand is strong and they deliver a quality product. However, those same successful people understand that having everything perfect means you just don’t get what you need done. Understand where to put your resources and be alright with saying something is good enough.

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

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What is your brand?

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Everyone knows about Coca-Cola, Apple, and McDonald’s brand but if people described your brand what would they say? Will people unanimously answer vigorously that you are awesome to work with and deliver or will there be a lukewarm or maybe negative response. Today a person’s brand is more complicated and important than ever — we have a global marketplace where people have small attention spans.

Building a brand is not easy and takes work and is not done in isolation. You build your brand by your actions, words, company kept, organizations you are part of, and many more things. In today’s information age workers should consciously start building their brand by:

  • Be a person that delivers: I will always continue to hire a person that has a reputation of and is focused on delivering results. As a manager this is what you want because it reduces uncertainty. The key to being a person that delivers is understanding your capabilities and bandwidth. Don’t make promises you can’t deliver and always slightly over deliver. Help guide managers into developing expectations where you can consistently over deliver.
  • Be a problem solver: Good information workers must be good self-driven problem solvers. Often times you will get bogged down with projects and deadlines but investing some time in problem solving will help you, your team, your department, and your company. Invest the extra time here because it will pay off but make sure you take credit for it in a tactful way.
  • Be a person with integrity: A person driven on doing what is right and doing it with integrity will always have a solid brand. People will trust you, ask your opinion, and share information with you. It is important that you uphold this trust and be driven by what is right. Do not put yourself in a situation that would compromise this brand and if you realize you are in a situation then getting out of that situation is essential.
  • Be a thought leader: Thought leadership takes less than you think. Everyone can demonstrate this as an information worker. Pick an area that interests you and is relevant to your career whether it is denial of service attacks if you work in information security or Google search engine optimization for online retailers. There are many ways to do this especially in the virtual world like blogging on a subject, tweeting actively on a subject, or participating in online groups. There are also many good professional associations or physical journals where you can participate. Remember that becoming a thought leader requires investment in time and should be something that is a long horizon but rewards can happen pretty quickly. But more importantly, you should enjoy learning and educating others about your thought leadership if you are going to be successful.

These are key attributes that if you are lucky will define your brand but there are many things other things, positive and negative, that make up your brand. Understanding yourself and your brand and continually building that brand will make your career and life more successful. This self-brand understanding requires the input of trusted and honest friends and colleagues. Ask the hard questions and make sure your brand is increasing and course correct as needed based on feedback.

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

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Quitting is underrated

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Most of us have probably dreamed of some elaborate “I quit!” scenario whether it is a job we hate, a relationship that is dysfunctional, or a hobby or sport in which we just suck. At the same time most of us have also been raised with a “don’t quit” mentality. Our society has a negative connotation of quitting and this perseverance likely comes from America’s immigrant spirit. Famous people continue this message like Vince Lombardi who said “winners never quit and quitters never win.” Further, one of the most listed traits to be successful is having “grit”. However, there is also the success that people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg both had after quitting Harvard University or Steve Jobs had after quitting Reed College.

Quitting should not be the first choice but you need to be able to quit at the right time and stick it out at the right time. Many people have the tendency to either be quick quitters that rarely achieve and are not thinking big picture. Other people are the never quitters that will stick out about anything whether it be for loyalty or feeling of failure and results in other opportunities passing them by. Just like any big decision in life the key is to analyze it and come to a decision and once decision is made own that decision.

Ignore the naysayers – quitting is good and is an important option that should be used when appropriate. Things to consider when determining when to quit:

  1. Pros and Cons: Yes pro-and-con lists do work and are important and will repeated throughout different posts. However, when doing a pro-and-cons list make sure to do some weighting and things that are the big factors should count more than things that are minor factors. Do not list 100 pro and cons and instead focus on the key items and I try to never have more than 10 and generally it is 5 or less that are really the key pro and cons to focus on and weight.
  2. Get Perspective: Making any major decision means emotion plays a part. Having a group of trusted people that are people that you can rely on telling you that you are full of it.
  3. Why?: Are you quitting for better opportunity or just quitting because of a bad opportunity? In the job setting quitting because of a bad current opportunity often leads you to another bad opportunity — make sure you are leaving jobs for a good opportunity. Of course this factor does not apply the same for relationships and hobbies.:)

Information workers are fortunate people that get to do cool things and are talented and smart and should embrace quitting when it makes sense. So whenever you are quitting your job, relationship, or company’s softball team consider the pros and cons, get perspective, and ask why and if quitting is the right route then own it.

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

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You can always get back on the path

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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

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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?

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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

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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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