Browsing the archives for the Org savvy category.

Geek Fun: Lego Time!

Geek 5, Geek Fun, Org savvy

My family and I are big fans of Legos.  I even did a Lego post in which the savvy geek defeated the evil political co-worker!  Remember savvy geek with the sword of knowledge?

Lego savvy geek small

For some more geeky Lego fun, check out this story at PC World of “Our Favorite Geeky Lego Creations“.

Fun stuff!

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Are you a porpoise or a sunspot?

Geek 5, Managing people, Org savvy, Uncategorized

Are you a porpoise or a sunspot?

Hopefully you are not either one.  Hopefully, if you are a manager, your direct reports are not either.

In previous posts, I’ve described some clever phrases that have emerged from succession planning meetings such as the slime factor and the cringe factor.  Here are two more phrases coined by non-HR folks.:

The porpoise– an employee whose performance goes up and down.  He does not sustain performance improvements after coaching ends.  Once he thinks he isn’t being watched any more, he goes back to bad habits until a new problem re-starts the coaching cycle.

Sunspots – Similar to porpoises, sunspots do best when being watched, but for different reasons.  Sunspots like attention and are constantly seeking positive feedback.  They shine brightly when their work is getting attention.  They grow dim and performance slides backwards when the light is not shining on them.

Managers have to bring porpoises from poor to good and they have to bring sunspots from good to great.  Both porpoises and sunspots require too much energy from the manager – they are high maintenance.  The focus should be on getting them to perform well whether or not they are being watched. 

Descriptions of Gen Y employees indicates that this group will tend toward being sunspots who want accolades for performing normal job responsibilities.  As a manager, focus on delegation and independence to get them working independently.  Otherwise they’ll suck their energy needs out of you.

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Are You High Potential?

Geek 5, Leadership, Org savvy

In a previous post, we discussed the overall succession planning process and covered some basic definitions like “pipeline” and “bench chart”. Succession planning has dual importance to you as a leader. One important element is that you will participate in the process to rate and discuss and develop your direct reports. The other element is that you will be rated and discussed – it impacts your future success. For the Geek 5, succession planning relates to leadership and organizational savvy.

Typically during succession planning, each employee is given a rating by his or her direct manager. Specific language of the ratings varies across companies. Usually the ratings include an evaluation of the employee’s potential to move to bigger roles and they include a time frame.

For example:

A high potential employee is often defined as someone who has the potential to move up 1-2 levels in the organization in the next 2-3 years. Potential is based on having the skills and cognitive ability and interpersonal skills and organizational savvy to succeed in bigger roles.

Additional ratings could include:

  • Promotable – an employee with the potential to move up one level over time
  • Correctly Placed – an employee who is in the right role for now
  • Placement Issue – an employee who is not being successful in a current role
  • Emerging Talent – an employee who shows early signs of being high potential, but it is too early to know for sure

Some important things to note:

  • Ratings are fluid – an employee can be Correctly Placed one year and High Potential the next year. Ratings can also slip backwards.
  • When someone gets promoted, he or she generally moves to Correctly Placed until the new job is mastered.
  • Ratings are not a promise. Promotions are always a balance between the needs of the company and the developmental needs of the employee. The employee might be ready to move, but there might not be an opportunity available.
  • Ratings are used to highlight key employees and to build a bench chart. They are also used to target key development opportunities. High Potential employees are likely to get more specialized developmental opportunities than Correctly Placed employees. However, it is important to do basic development for everyone.
  • Succession planning will sometimes identify “blockers”. This is not usually an official rating, but it merits discussion. Blockers are employees in a critical role who have stalled out. They are often blocking high potential associates from moving up. Sometimes it is necessary to re-assign blockers.

A healthy organization has a mix of all of the ratings – with few or no Placement Issues. High Potentials are often about 5% of the population. That group should be limited and well-screened, so it can be given special attention. Correctly Placed employees are important players who get things done on a daily basis. Hopefully Placement Issues are small in number and can be re-assigned or moved out of the business.

Succession is one critical talent management process that is focused on the future. In a future post, we’ll discuss how current performance and future potential interact.

So how would you rate your direct reports?  How would you rate yourself?

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The Mysteries of Succession Planning

Leadership, Managing people, Org savvy, Talent Management

I find that succession planning is often perceived in organizations as a mysterious and unknowable and threatening process. Employees know that it impacts promotions and career decisions, but they are not sure exactly how. What magic happens in succession planning?

Over the next few posts, I’m going to pull back the curtain and reveal some truths about succession planning – what it is, how it typically works, what you might be expected to do as a leader of people and how you can position yourself positively for the process. This relates to the Geek 5 in terms of actions you may need to take as a leader and a manager. It also relates to your own organizational savvy and career growth.

Succession planning is a key talent management process – especially at larger organization. Each company executes it differently, but it usually follow some basic assumptions and goals.

Succession planning is intended to:

  • identify a pipeline of talent for key positions and create a bench chart
  • discuss the identification of high potentials, with a focus on development needs and possible actions
  • discuss the career potential, performance, and development needs of targeted individuals

Succession planning is about getting people ready for bigger and more critical roles in the organization. It is about risk management. The company needs to make sure that there are employees ready to fill in if a key person leaves or if there is growth and new roles open up. The company wants to have a group of employees who are well-trained and ready to take on expanded roles. Succession planning is about finding those people, setting plans to work on skills gaps, tracking them and getting them ready for when they are needed.

A pipeline of talent refers to the need to think about talent at all levels in the company. For instance, you can’t just focus on successors for one key role. Because if you move a successor into that role, then you need to backfill the old role. You need to know which employees are ready for that.

A bench chart is a document that actually lists positions and indicates who would be considered a successor for that role. Sometimes positions have multiple people listed on the bench chart as potential successors. Some of them might be “Ready Now” for the role and some might be ready in 1 or 2 or 3 years.

If a position comes open, the leadership team can use succession planning information like the bench chart and determine if there is a good internal candidate ready for the role. If so, it is a much easier and cheaper transition than hiring someone from the outside.

In the next post, we’ll talk about succession planning ratings (such as high potential) and explain the difference between performance and potential.

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Changing the Game

Career Challenges, Org savvy

We’ve been talking about the dark side of the workplace. What happens when you make a performance mistake or ruin a key relationship?

Your reaction to a career set back can be summarized into three actions:

1. Change your situation – This is the direction of the previous advice about steps for active career bounce back and passive career bounce back. It is taking action to get back to solid footing in your existing job.

2. Change you – Another option is to change yourself. This could mean making a dramatic change to your work style. If you are perceived as being too aggressive, you work to become more collaborative. Or if you are disorganized, you set up a new organizational system.  It is always useful to continue your personal development and to learn to adapt to your situation. However, it is really tough to make dramatic changes and to sustain them.

Another way to change yourself is to change your expectations. Suffering a career set back can cause you to go from being a star to being average or from being average to being perceived as a problem. Can you live with that? Can you accept your new standing – at least until you have time to bounce back? For many formerly successful people, this would mean separating their sense of self from their jobs. Don’t let your job define who you are – you are also a parent, souse, sibling, child, volunteer, athlete, etc.

3. Change the game – The final solution is to change the game. By this I mean moving on. Leaving the job to pursue success somewhere else. Sometimes this is the best way to go. If you have determined that your career mistake is fatal, it is time to move on. Some situations are not worth the effort of fighting against the negative perception. If you stay in your current job, you face an uphill battle every day. If you move on, you can start fresh. Just make sure you don’t make the same mistakes in your new job!

Career set backs happen to everyone. How you deal with them is up to you.

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When You Bounce Flat on Your Face

Career Challenges, Org savvy

As we’ve been discussing, everyone hits an occasional career set back. Some of these are active issues and some are passive ones. There are steps you can take to fix each of those and to improve your damaged reputation. The steps usually work. Usually. Most career set backs aren’t fatal, but some are.

How do you know when a set back is serious? So serious that you will not be able to get back into good standing or it might even cost you your job or worse.  Part of being organizationally savvy is understanding the difference between recoverable screw ups and career fatalities.

“The worse” happens when a career set back crosses legal and ethical lines. Think about some of the disgraced Enron and Wall Street leaders. They crossed lots of lines. They lost their jobs, ruined their careers and some even ended up in jail. That’s about as bad as it gets. You don’t bounce back from these situations – unless you completely reinvent yourself in a new area. Of course, the Wall Street folks are so rich that they probably still laugh themselves to sleep at night.

Some mistakes will cost you your job. You’ll get fired for violating a policy or making an expensive or embarrassing mistake. Sometimes, once the mistake is made, there is no recovery. What’s done is done and you pay the price. In those cases, you needed to proactively avoid the mistake.  Know the rules, pay attention, do good work.  That’s easier said than done, since hindsight is 20/20. If you get fired, you can hope for severance and try to exit gracefully. If you are fired over a serious performance issue, there is not much you can do to appeal.

Some mistakes propel you into a limbo state. You are still employed, but you are marginalized and treated like a lame duck. Here’s where it gets trickier to assess your situation. How do you determine what the best step is for your career. Here are a few thoughts:

1. Don’t quit – I always advise people to stick it out in a tough situation. You might feel angry and bitter, but you won’t get more than momentary satisfaction from a dramatic resignation. Hang on as long as you can while you figure out your next steps.

2. Consider your recovery probability – Ask yourself a few key questions about your situation and your company. Have you seen co-workers overcome similar mistakes? Do you have a champion elsewhere in the organization? Do you have a valued skill set? Is your boss likely to move on, so you can start fresh with a new boss? Would a big win help others forget about your mistake? If you think you have a chance at recovery and you like your job, then tough it out.

3. Look for a new job – If recovery seems unlikely, you should start job searching. It is a lot less stressful to look for a new job while you still have a paycheck. Also, companies still prefer to hire folks who are working versus those who are unemployed. It makes you seem more marketable.

Be honest with yourself as you assess your situation.  Continue to monitor it.  Be planful with your career or you could find yourself frustrated and unhappy in a dead-end job.

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First Aid for a Damaged Reputation

Career Challenges, Org savvy
Alright, you hit a rocky spot in your career. But you followed the steps for either active career bounce back or passive career bounce back. You have the situation stabilized. The immediate danger is over. You take a deep breath, look around and realize that the crisis is over but your reputation still has a black mark. What now?
Here are some steps to consider to give first aid to your damaged reputation. Some of them are similar to the bounce back advice. The difference is that these actions are not about crisis management, they are about fixing your ongoing reputation.
1. Accept responsibility – As with earlier advice, accept responsibility for what went wrong. If you run from the problem, your co-workers won’t trust you.

2. Be humble but don’t over apologize – Be humble and apologize where needed. But here is a warning – don’t over apologize. Don’t repeated apologize for the same issue or offer to “pay penance” over and over. Focus on moving into the future. If you constantly dwell on your past mistakes, it makes you look weak. Don’t let your mistake define you going forward.

3. Express commitment to doing things right – Make sure that coworkers whose work depends on your work know that you are committed to doing the right things. You’ve fixed the previous problem and have put structure or processes in place to prevent future occurrences. Don’t assume that everyone knows what you have done to fix the situation, make a point of telling them.

4. Do things right – This is key advice. You can’t just commit do doing things right, you have to follow through. You need to do your work well and do it consistently and ongoing. If you can’t sustain the initial improvement, then you might need to consider that the job is not a good fit for you.

5. Rebuild relationships – Don’t just fix the problem and the process. Pay attention to re-building relationships. Once lost, trust is hard to regain. Sustained improvement in your performance will help rebuild trust.

 

 

 

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5 Steps to Passive Career Bounce Back

Career Challenges, Geek 5, Org savvy

In the last post, we covered crisis management – responding to a specific, negative career event. There are also Career Bounce Back strategies for passive issues. In this case, a legacy of passive problems like having no visibility or being underestimated have added up to a career setback. Here are five steps for passive Career Bounce Back:

1. Accept where you are – Let the past go. Don’t waste a lot of time mourning the fact that you have arrived at a bad spot. Be honest with yourself and where you currently stand.

2. Diagnose what happened – Although you shouldn’t dwell on your state (see step 1), you do need to diagnose the behavior that got you to this point. What have you done or not done in the past? Think about specific actions and behaviors – you can change behaviors. For more tips about diagnosing the problem, check out previous posts about under-political behavior.

3. Seek input from key influencers – have a future focus not a blame focus. Ask co-workers and key stakeholders to give feedback on your strengths and opportunities. What could you have done differently to be more successful in the past? Don’t be defensive about the past, be open to feedback for the future.

4. Develop a plan – create a thoughtful approach to overcoming your career setback. Focus on behaviors that you can control. It may need to be a multi-step plan that plays out over time.

5. Be transparent about intentions – let your coworkers know that you are working on some changes to your style/ behavior. That warning will prepare them for changes. It will also put them in a good position to continue giving feedback and support.

Hopefully these five steps will get you back on track to a healthy career. Don’t expect to fix everything overnight. After all, it took you time to get here and it will take time for your Career Bounce Back.

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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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