Browsing the archives for the Uncategorized category.

WSJ Talks about Geeks as Leaders – sound familiar?

Geek 5, Leadership, Leadership Development, Outside Articles, Uncategorized

Geek careers are starting to get some notice!  Over at Wall Street Journal online, Robert Fulmer and Byron Hanson wrote an article called “Do Techies make Good Leaders?”.

It’s a great article and very consistent with the philosophy of Geeks Gone Pro.  It takes a different approach to looking at the same problem.  Geeks Gone Pro considers career and leadership development from the geek’s point of view.  We focus on the Geek 5 risks and how a geek can overcome them.  This blog is intended to help geeks develop the skills they need in order to advance in their careers and become leaders if they so desire.

The Fulmer and Hanson article considers the same issue from the organization’s perspective.  They discuss programs and perspectives that can help a company develop geeks into stronger leaders.  Some of their suggestions include:

  • Formalizing leadership development processes and programs
  • Using data to measureprogress and success in talent management.  After all, what is measured gets done.
  • Value leadership.
  • Engage the audience.
  • Encourage coaching.

I would add to their list that companies should ask geeks to take ownership for their own careers.  Using resources like Geeks Gone Pro can help geeks grow and develop into our future leaders.   Leaders with great technical skills and great leadership skills are unstoppable!

Check out the WSJ article!

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4 ways to drive your own career success

Self-driven Leadership Development, Uncategorized

The first step of the self-driven leadership development model is “own your future”.  As mentioned in the previous post, this is about taking charge of your own career development instead of waiting for your company to tap you on the should for a promotion.

Of course, that is easy to say and harder to do.  How do you translate that idea into action?

Here are four suggestions for driving your own career success:

 1.  Write down your career goals – Make sure you know what your goals are.  Where do you want to be in one year, five years, etc.  Writing your goals down makes you solidify your ideas and be clear.  Consider your career goals in relation with family needs and personal goals.  What makes sense in light of the other parts of your life?

2. Inform your boss – Once you decide on your own career goals, let your boss know.  Your boss can be a terrific advocate for you in finding developmental assignments or networking or for discussing your interests in succession planning.  Of course, this assumes that you are seeking another role or promotion within your current organization.  If your main career goal is to run away from your current employer, you probably should not share that with your boss.

3.  Create an IDP – An IDP is an Individual Development Plan.  An IDP helps you document the skills and behaviors that you need for future opportunities.  Items on an IDP can range from formal training like taking a financial acumen course or be on-the-job development like learning to stay on the agenda when running a meeting.  Your company might have a development process that involves creating an IDP.  Whether it does or does not, it is your responsibility to make sure you have one and that it is robust, useful and completed.

4.  Be an informal leader – If your goal is to break through barriers and become a formal leader, you may see leadership as something way off in the future.  Having a leadership position with a title and responsibility may be further off. But you can start acting like a leader now.  Every person in an organization has an opportunity to provide leadership.  This can range from volunteering to lead an internal committee to supporting co-workers who need assistance.  Find ways to showcase your leadership ability.

What other activities can you think of to prepare for a leadership role?

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Waiting for an engraved invitation to become a leader?

Leadership Development, Self-driven Leadership Development, Uncategorized

Are you waiting for someone at your company to recognize your brilliance?  And to tap you on the shoulder for a big promotion?  If you are, get comfortable with the status quo, because you’ll probably be waiting a long time.

A few lucky folks get labeled as high-potentials in succession planning and get more focused career attention.  The rest of us need to fend for ourselves.

In psychology, we talk about something called a “psychological contract” between an employer and an employee.  The psychological contract defines what an employer and an employee can expect from a working relationship.

Decades ago, the psychological contract for professionals was that a worker could graduate high school or college, join an organization, move up through the ranks and retire after 30 years with a gold watch and a pension. 

In the past few decades, the psychological contract has shifted.  Massive layoffs and re-structuring became common.  Skills became obsolete and employees were let go instead of re-trained.  Jobs were off-shored to cheaper international workers.

In the last two years, the shift has accelerated to light speed.  The recent recession changed some of the fundamental expectations of the economy and business.  Organizations cut staff and learned to be productive without those jobs.  Even as the economy slowly recovers, the jobs are not all coming back.  Employees are exhausted and frustrated with the extra workload.  Companies are struggling and looking for more cutbacks – employees are just another line item on the budget that can be cut.

So we find ourselves in a work world of no gold watches and no job security and no guarantees.

Depressing, huh?

Does that mean we should all quit? Of course not.  Most of us need to work to pay our bills.  Plus work can still be a fulfilling part of our lives.

Should we be victims and let ourselves be kicked while we’re down?  No – of course not.  That is not a good solution either.

The message here is that you need to wake up.  Develop enough organizational savvy to understand how companies run these days.

To be more secure and to be successful and have career advancement, you need to take charge of your own future.  You need to be smart and planful and aware.  You need to make things happen.

The self-driven leadership development model introduced in an earlier post highlights this need.  The title includes the phrase “self-driven” – meaning you actively make it happen.   The first step in the process is to “own your future”.

In today’s work world, the psychological contract is broken – you could say it is even annihilated.  You cannot sit back and wait to be taken care of – you have become an advocate for yourself.

If you are up for the challenge, my next post will discuss some things you can do to drive your career future.

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Happy Fourth of July!


I’m taking the day off as part of a camping trip into a cooler area.  Hope you have a happy and safe Independence Day!

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The dark side of conscientiousness

Career Challenges, Outside Articles, Random, Uncategorized

Conscientiousness is usually a good trait, but sometimes  it can be tough to be a highly conscientious person.  In this case, we’re discussing the impact of conscientiousness on unemployment and the job search.  

There is a lot of job search advice floating around out there. Check out Career Alltop to find some of it.  This blog does not normally talk about the job search, but I’m diverging for a moment.  In the last post, I made some suggestions for “mixing it up” during a job search to try and get out of a rut.

Anita Bruzzese at On The Job presents an interesting perspective in her post “Could being conscientious make unemployment worse?”.    She discusses how people with strong conscientiousness may have a harder time with unemployment.  They feel more guilt and shame about their circumstances and are more likely to attribute it to a personal failing.  Usually conscientiousness is a good trait.  It helps people get things done and be responsible.  In this case, it might be detrimental. 

In today’s economy a lot of good and talented people are out of work due to no fault of their own.  Conscientiousness might make some folks suffer more than needed due to circumstances out of their control. 

If you are one of those people, keep your head up, your spirits high and do some things to change your approach to finding a new job.

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The Insane Job Search

Random, Uncategorized

Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Job searching is not a normal part of this blog, but I feel compelled to comment on it.  I’ve got a dear friend who is out of work right now.  I try to be supportive in her search.  However, I find it increasingly frustrating that she is using traditional job hunting techniques over and over without having any success. 

She has been unemployed for a long stretch – going on 14 months.  She has always been successful in her career as a corporate executive.  She has changed jobs frequently and always moved up the ladder and made more money.  In the past, she has always found new jobs through head hunters and networking.  So that’s what she is trying now.  But she has been trying that approach for 14 months and not gotten an offer.  She waits for the phone to ring and watches television.

The world has changed.  Work and jobs have changed.  After 14 months, it is time for a new approach.

If you are job searching and stuck in a rut, here are some thoughts on different approaches:

1.   Re-set your expectations – you might have to step into a lower level and lower paying job to get in the door with a new company.  Once inside, you can focus on working back up.

2.  Get education or certifications to make your skill set broader and more marketable.

3.  Find consulting or contract jobs to keep yourself engaged and busy and bring in some income.  One of these might lead to a full-time gig.

4.  Do something with your unemployed time.  Volunteer or teach or focus on a hobby.  You need a good story to tell to explain what you’ve done with your time.

5.  Consider going in a whole new direction.  Maybe it is time for a new career direction.  Explore some options.

6.  Consider becoming an entrepreneur.  Start a business.  There are a lot of options online and other places that you could try.  They all take time and energy, but some of them can be done with a small monetary investment.

7.  Expand your networking.  Reach beyond people you already know.  Find new connections on social sites like Linked In or attend conferences in your industry to meet new people.

8. Become active on the discussion boards and blogs related to your field.  You can find these on Linked In and Facebook and and lots of other places.  Read blogs related to your field, leave comments and engage the blogger.  Better yet – start a blog and start establishing yourself as an expert.

In any case, do something.   Mix it up.  Try some new things.  Maybe you’ll get a different outcome.

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Don’t do team building to fix one person

Geek 5, Leadership, Managing people, Uncategorized

As a leader, one of your jobs is to build a strong team.  You need to hire the right people, train them, motivate them and keep them productive and happy.  As stated in the Geek 5, managing people is one of the toughest task that a leader faces.

So what do you do when someone is not performing well?

One poor suggestion is to do team building.  As an Industrial/ Organizational Psychologist working in the Organizational Development area, part of my job is to run team building sessions.  There are a lot of good reasons to do team building such as helping a new team get to know each other, working out process and communication challenges, building trust or getting focused on a big goal. 

When someone comes to me with a request to do team building in their area, I start by asking questions.  What are they hoping to accomplish? What behaviors should change after the session?  What would a successful session look like?

All too often, I get an answer such as “…let me tell you about Joe.”

The story about Joe is that he is not doing a good job.  His performance is poor or he annoys everyone or his behavior is out of control.   The manager and the rest of the team all know Joe is a problem.    The manager does not want to have a tough conversation with Joe, so she suggests team building.

She thinks that after team building Joe will see the error of his ways and shape up.  She wants to use team building to set expectations for the right behavior.

It is a cop out by the manager.  And it won’t work.

Most teams are savvy enough to know when the exercise is really about trying to straighten out Joe.  Plus, team building can’t be successful with a seriously dysfunctional team member.  It will just fragment the team more and cause morale problems with the other employees.

Joe’s manager need to do some good old-fashioned, tough-love feedback and deal with the problem directly.  Once Joe is fixed, the team will probably need a team building session to regain trust.

Don’t cop out.  Find the right solution to the problem.

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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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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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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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