Browsing the blog archives for April, 2010.

That introversion thing again…

Broader role, Geek 5, Org savvy, Uncategorized

We’ve talked a lot about introversion and how it can impact the career of many geeks.  It is a key part of the Geek 5 risks as part of the resistance to a broader role.  There was also a post about Jennifer Kahnweiler’s book, The Introverted Leader

Dan McCarthy over at Great Leadership just did a nice post on introversion.  It is called “How to be a more approachable, sociable leader“.  He provides many useful tips on how to overcome some introverted tendencies.  I like that he focuses on small, achievable changes – such as setting a goal for how many people to approach on a daily basis.

Several of his suggestions match suggestions from this blog – such as smiling and listening more.  He also talks about the need to do more personal disclosure (appropriate disclosure) in order to build rapport.  Dan also suggests several books related to building relationships and charisma.  I’m not familiar with the books, but they’re probably worth a scan on Amazon.

Check out his post for another perspective and more advice about introversion.

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Six Steps for Active Career Bounce Back

Career Challenges, Geek 5, Org savvy

As discussed in the previous post, sometimes a mistake leads to damaging career situation. How you address the situation influences whether you successfully bounce back from the issue or not. In this case, we’re talking about how to react to an active career issue.  Something bad has happened (like you made a performance mistake) and you need to fix it.  Fast!

For Career Bounce Back, consider the following six steps:

1. Assess the damage – Figure out how serious the problem is. Does it impact key customers? Is the issue visible to key stakeholders? Does it derail important work?  This is an important step, so you understand the sense of urgency for correcting the problem. Also, you don’t want to overreact to something that is not actually a major issue.

2. Stabilize your emotions – Get your own emotions under control. Make sure that you are thinking clearly and that you won’t explode at a coworker or your boss.

3. Be humble – Accept responsibility for your mistakes. Don’t waste valuable time and energy trying to point fingers at others. Admit your role in the problem and then you can focus on fixing the issue. There will be time to debrief the cause of the problem later.

4. Fix what can be fixed – Pretty self-explanatory – correct as much of the issue as you can as quickly as possible. Over time, you’ll work through to the final fix to the problem and implement those changes.

5. Do a post-mortem – After the issue is corrected, sit down with any other involved folks and discuss what happened and why. Also discuss the reaction and the fix to the problem.

6. Prepare a prevention plan – Once you know what happened and why, you can put a plan in place to prevent similar problems in the future. This might be a process for double-checking work, getting additional training or many other things.

These six steps should get you through the immediate crisis. Later, you’ll need to work to re-build your damaged reputation.

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Career Bounce Back

Career Challenges, Geek 5, Org savvy

Sometimes work just sucks! Pardon my language, but you know it’s true. You try to do all of the right things, but a situation still gets out of control. Or you make an error and suffer the consequences. Or the political winds shift and you end up on the losing team. Or the company hit’s a rough spot and everyone feels it. You get the idea – sometimes work just sucks.

So what do you do when you hit a career setback?

We all hit career setbacks. The difference between success and failure after the setback is how you deal with it. To survive and thrive, you must be resilient. You need Career Bounce Back.  Career Bounce Back is related to the Geek 5 risk of Organizational Savvy.

Career Bounce Back involves finding and executing a strategy to fix a career setback. To develop a Career Bounce Back strategy, consider whether you a dealing with a passive issue or an active issue.

An active career issue is one that is caused by a specific, negative incident. Maybe you made a serious performance mistake or you made an influence or relationship mistake. In any case, you are dealing with a hot issue and need to do damage control.

A passive career issue is not necessarily related to a specific trigger event. Passive issues are likely to be related to under-political organizational savvy behavior. Being under political often leads to being underestimated, losing credit for work and having limited visibility. A passive career issue might develop over time, but eventually gets recognized as a career setback.

In the next few posts, we’ll cover how to orchestrate a Career Bounce Back from active and passive career issues.

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Geek Fun: Superheros & Statistics

Geek Fun, Uncategorized

Wired Magazine has an amusing article about Geek superheros.  For a laugh, check it out.

The same issue of the magazine has an insightful article about statistics.  The article is called, Clive Thompson on Why We Should Learn the Language of Data.  It does a nice job of explaining how people need to understand data and statistics in order to understand claims about topics like global warming and the economic recovery.

The article reinforces a truth I learned in graduate school – statistics and data can be manipulated to prove almost any point desired.  To have truth in data and science, it is important to choose valid and reliable measures, justify the ones being used and  interpret them objectively.  If a statistical study does not explain the source of the data and any assumptions made about the data, you should interpret the results with suspicion.  Manipulated data should not outweigh other evidence and common sense.

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Smack-down: Scientists versus practitioners

Random, SIOP, Uncategorized

Geeks are people with deep technical expertise.  So most geek fields have a strong research and intellectual foundation.  This often results in having two general categories of people working in the same area – scientists and practitioners. 

The scientists work to advance the field through research and analysis.  Sometimes they work in universities and sometimes in research labs and think tanks.  Practitioners work to apply the knowledge in order to impact people and business and the world.

For example, a medical researcher might seek the cure for cancer by doing research in a university, medical school lab.   The physician in a hospital uses that research to treat patients.

Seems like a healthy, practical and symbiotic relationship.  Both add value.  Both need each other to be effective.

But it does not always seem to work that way.

I recently attended the professional conference for my field, Industrial-Organizational Psychology.  SIOP is about 2/3 academic researchers and about 1/3 practitioners.  There always seems to be an unhealthy competition and disrespect between the scientists and practitioners.

The scientists think the practitioners are sell-outs for going into business and sometimes having to sacrifice theoretical purity for practical reality.  Practitioners see the scientists as focused on minutiae (like obscure statistical measurement) instead of researching practical applications.

SIOP has even been professing for years that all I/O Psychologists should be Scientist-Practitioners.  That would mean that everyone has a theoretical orientation with practical focus – learn to do both.

It has not seemed to evolve that way. 

Is there a scientist versus practitioner divide in your geek field?

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Advice from the Top: 3 easy steps for building relationships

Advice from the Top, Broader role, Managing people

I attended a meeting of my company’s PhD club the other day. That is not nearly as pretentious or high-brow as it sounds. Actually it is not even a club – after all, there are only two of us in the whole company. My fellow PhD, I’ll call him Sam, and I are friends and just go out to lunch every few months. We share the common bond of being PhDs in a business that does not really value PhDs or scientific thinking.

Sam and I don’t work directly together. I’m a psychologist in HR, and Sam is a technical expert who works in another area of the business. Sam is very specialized. His PhD is highly unique – only a handful of people in the country do what he does.

Sam and I both manage groups of people in addition to our technical, geek work. Like many geeks, Sam is naturally introverted and had to learn new skills to manage people. The Geek 5 risks include resistance to a broader role (often due to discomfort of being a leader) and also trouble managing people.

I asked Sam how he managed to be successful at being both a geek and a leader. He talked about how critical it is to overcome introverted tendencies and focus on building relationships in order to be perceived as a leader. He simplified that even further into three steps he does every day to build relationships:

1. Be intentional about your presence at work

2. Smile

3. Say hello to everyone

First, he clicks into an intentional, extrovert mindset every morning as he walks into the building. He is conscious of the fact that he needs to be “on” when he is at work and that everything he does is being watched. He’s careful about how he looks, what he does and general demeanor.

Second and third, he makes a point to smile and acknowledge everyone he meets in the building. He uses every opportunity outside his office to build relationships. People love being acknowledged and being greeted by the sweet sound of their own name. He even makes a point to greet people he does not know.

This seems like good advice and some actions that I need to start practicing. I’m a strong introvert. When I walk down the hall, I am often caught up in my own thoughts – making plans and solving problems. As a result, I’m more likely to be looking at the floor than the people.

Sam acknowledges that this is not easy to do. He psyches himself up for it every morning and it often has him exhausted by evening. But it is an effective way to build relationships and increase his visibility and credibility as a leader.

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Geek Fun: Video Games Gone Wild

Geek Fun

A geek friend sent me a link to a unreally funny short (2.5 minutes) movie.  It is called Pixels and is by Patrick Jean at One More Production.  It is hosted on Vimeo.com. 

If you grew up playing Atari video games like Pac Man and Space Invaders – you’ll get a kick out of this movie!  As a former Tetris addict, the Tetris building sequence was my favorite.  I laughed out loud!

Funny stuff – check it out at: http://vimeo.com/10829255

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Geek Power!

Org savvy

Last fall when I started this blog, there was a lot of press about the rise of geeks.  I linked to stories about geeks on TV and science geeks and more.  Since then, I have not seen as much until I came across a great article by Steve Tobak from the Corner Office at BNET.

It’s called Want to Get Ahead? Better Get your Geek On!  This article does a nice job of spelling out specific advantages to being a geek.  It covers 10 things you should know about geeks in the workplace – a perfect connection for this blog!

Like my definition of geek, he also says that not all geeks are techies.  He also discusses the ability of geeks to be very focused and opinionated.  That all ties into our discussions of organizational savvy.  Check out the Lego organizational savvy story – as Savvy Geek battles evil, sabotaging co-worker!

Tobak also says geeks are prone to believing conspiracy theories.  On that topic, I have no data or opinion.   No opinion at all…in case they are watching and listening, remember, I have no opinion at all…

Check out the article for a positive boost for the geek image!

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Calling all R&D geeks!

Broader role, Geek 5

Over at BNET Nancy Smith wrote an interesting article called R&D: Skilled, Well-educated Workers Wanted (and not just the science geeks)!   Research and development is one of the fields that will continue to grow over the next decade.   Companies need innovation in order to expand their revenue and to compete with up-and-coming businesses around the world.

The government is contributing to the increase in R&D as well.  The stimulus contributed $19B to R&D – and more is proposed for future budgets.

R&D applies to most technical areas – from engineering to medicine to technology to environmental sciences and more.  Making research happen requires a well-educated workforce with a focus on science, math and technology.

Check out the article.  It should make you feel confident that your geek skills will be even more strongly valued in the future.  Add some soft skills to the mix and overcome the Geek 5 risks (organizational savvy, leadership, management skills, business acumen and resistance to a broader role), and you’re on your way to having an unstoppable career.

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Off at the Psychology Geek SIOP Fest

SIOP, Uncategorized

As this posts, I am hobnobbing with other geeks at the 25 annual SIOP (Society of Industrial Organizational Psychology) conference in Atlanta.  About 2/3 of SIOP members are academics who focus on research and teaching.  So there will be a lot of intellectual discourse.  Then there are the intrepid practitioners like myself.  We work on applying all of that good research to real life problems in the workplace.

SIOP will include presentations and panels and papers about selection, assessments, research, leadership, training, employee development, coaching, test validation, work life balance and much more.

The topics should be interesting.  Mostly, I’m looking forward to connecting with some old friends.

Have a good weekend!

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