Browsing the archives for the career advice tag.

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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4 critical steps to becoming a leader

Barriers to Leadership, Leadership Development, Self-driven Leadership Development

As I venture into new territory for this blog, I’m going to use a framework for self-driven leadership development.  Chalk it up to my PhD, but I like to have a conceptual model for the work that I do.  Once the model makes sense, I can layer on the practical information and suggested activities.

This model is intended to help someone (like you) move yourself up the career ladder towards or into a leadership role.  It starts with the need to be responsible for your own career then focuses on breaking down your personal career barriers then involves learning how to be a leader and finally involves applying your skills.

The four steps are:

  1. Own your future
  2. Break down barriers
  3. Learn critical leadership skills
  4. Apply your skills to your work

This picture shows the elements of the model. 

 barrier model

Over the next few posts, we’ll go into more detail about each step and elements of this model.  You’ll learn about the need to own your career future due to a change in the psychological contract at work.  You’ll get some concrete activities for how to drive your career.

We’ll also define what a barrier to leadership looks like – including the psychological under-pinnings.  More importantly, I’ll give you some practical suggestions for tearing down those barriers, so you can accomplish your personal career goals. 

I’ll introduce a leadership competency model that explores important skills for any corporate leader.  This competency model will guide future suggestions on developmental activities for you to try. 

Through out these discussions will focus on dual outcomes.  One outcome is to advance your career and get you to a desired leadership role.  Your personal future is important.  But being a leader also means impacting other people and your organization.  The second outcome is to have a positive impact on your organization.

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Ka-Boom! Blowing up this blog!

Overview, Random

Ok, Ok, maybe “blowing up” is a bit melodramatic, but at least I got your attention.  I am not exactly blowing up this blog, but I am going to reposition it a bit.  I mentioned awhile back that I was working on updating the Geek 5

I started with some simple changes in mind.  I ended up in a very different place.

So here are some changes that are coming to Geeks Gone Pro:

  • Re-framing the blog to be about self-driven leadership development.  This means giving advice to professionals who want to move their own careers into leadership roles.
  • Broadening the audience – Don’t worry, geeks – the blog will still apply to you!  The Geek 5 focused on barriers for geeks to become leaders.  Going forward, I’ll include some other groups such as women and minorities and some of the barriers they face to becoming leaders.  Some barriers are shared among groups and others are more unique.  This blog will now provide career and leadership advice for all professionals.
  • New competency model – We’ll also talk about the leadership skills/ competencies that any leader needs once he or she breaks through the barriers and reaches a leadership position.  The new model I’ll introduce has several elements from the Geek 5, but has some new concepts as well.  This model is intended to apply to any leader, regardless of what barriers they faced.

What’s not changing is the domain name and url.  For now I’m sticking with geeksgonepro.com.  As these new concepts gel, I’m hoping to come up with a new snazzy title and related domain name.  At that point I’ll move the site.

Over the next few weeks, the blog content will proceed more linearly.  I’ll introduce a few new frameworks and approaches for thinking about your leadership journey.  After that, we’ll get back to developmental suggestions related to the leadership competency model.

Ka-Boom!  Here we go!

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Re-thinking the Geek 5

Geek 5

The Geek 5 was introduced as this blog was launched in 2009.  The Geek 5 refers to five areas that can keep geeks (deeply technical people) from achieving career advancement and even success in a current role.   Geeks Gone Pro has been dedicated to helping geeks overcome these career risks and barriers in order to find success.  The Geek 5 include:

  1. Resistance to a broader role
  2. Organizational Savvy
  3. Managing People
  4. Leadership Skills
  5. Business Acumen

I’ve been using this as a framework to give career and personal development advice to geeks.  After doing this for awhile, I realize that the Geek 5 needs some tweaking.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll introduce a new Geek competency.  To keep the Geek 5 to five instead of being the Geek 6, I’ll also combine two of the existing ones.

In addition, I’ve started thinking about this topic in broader terms.  Soon we might start reaching beyond the geek world to some other neglected populations.

More to come.  Stay tuned!

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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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A Dash of Charisma

Broader role, Geek 5, Outside Articles

There is a theory of leadership that attributes leadership success to personality – it is called charismatic leadership.  It supposes that successful leaders influence others through the power of their personalities – through charm and attractiveness and force of will.  Charismatic leaders have exceptional personal qualities that can border on heroic or superuman.  With this theory, the competence of the leader is not as critical as the leader’s ability to influence people.

Charismatic leadership has been essentially disproven as an effective strategy.  Research shows that successful leaders must be competent and adaptable in addition to having personal influence.  Charisma is only one piece of the puzzle.  However, it is an important piece – especially as you move up the executive ladder.

Leaders are always being watched  and judged on their behavior and attitudes and decisions and personality.    Having personal charisma can make the leadership spotlight easier to bear.  When coworkers like you, they give the benefit of the doubt when a situation gets tense.

Geeks tend to focus on technical expertise versus leadership skills.  Furthermore, introversion and lack of perceiving themselves as leaders can result in a charisma deficit.  Geeks can be quiet versus outgoing, inward focused versus people focused and often don’t think much about physical impressions.

But don’t worry!  Charisma can be learned!

Over at BusinessWeek, Debra Benton wrote an article called “Get Yourself Some Executive Charisma“.  She talks about charisma being a skill, and one that everyone can learn and improve upon.  She equates it to golf and how golf skills can be continuously improved over a lifetime.

The really helpful part of her article is that she gives concrete and easy to follow advice on how to start enhancing your charisma.  She talks about posture and handshakes and more.

If you think you could benefit from an extra dash of charisma, check it out!

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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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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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