Browsing the archives for the geeks tag.

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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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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Geek Fun: Geeks versus Unicorns

Favorite posts, Geek Fun

OK, contrary to the title ot this post, it is not actually a smackdown of geeks versus unicorns.  This post is actually about geeks versus lawyers FIGHTING ABOUT unicorns.  Yes, as preposterous as it sounds, this is about geeks and unicorns and lawyers.  Sounds like the start to a bad joke…

It started as a joke – specifically as an April Fools Day prank.  But leave it to lawyers to squash the fun.

There is trouble brewing between the geeks at ThinkGeek.com and some legal eagles.   ThinkGeek is a great site full of off-beat products targeted at, you guessed it, geeks.  I’ve written about them on this blog, and I spend lotsa money with them.

On April Fools Day, ThinkGeek advertised a new product – unicorn meat.  This meat promised to be “an excellent source of sparkles”.  Supposedly dying unicorns were tended to in a hospice run by nuns and fed on candy corn and massaged with Guinness.  After death, they were turned into this delightful, spam-like product. 

But here’s where the trouble starts.  ThinkGeek also labeled this product as “The New White Meat”.  Call out the lawyers!  Sure enough, the National Pork Board sent an official trademark violation and cease and desist letter to ThinkGeek. 

Whew!  Thank goodness that those lawyers earned a lot of money to save us from trademark infringments and unicorn meat!

Check out the original unicorn meat ad and a copy of the legal cease and desist letter here.

On a side note, this story gave me an extra chuckle.  I happen to run another site focused on kid literature called unicornstuff.com (currently under revision).  This very rare, might I say magical,  intersection of geek news and unicorn news allows me to re-use a post.  Woo Hoo!  That is as rare as a lawyer with a sense of humor.

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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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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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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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