Monthly Archives: April 2012

Follow Your Nose, Your Gut, and Your Heart for Career Success

Another way of saying you trust your sniffer is “follow your gut/instinct.” That queasy, tingly feeling you get in the pit of your stomach exists to warn you when something isn’t right (danger, danger!) It’s known as the “fight or flight syndrome.” Trust your instincts, the saying goes. Well, it makes for great career success advice, too!
Others tell you to follow your heart. When you pursue your passions, you will never work a day in your life. How do you know when the decisions you choose are the RIGHT decisions? What do all 3 body-sensing warning systems (sniff-gut-heart) have in common? In these times of significant change and chaos, following your instincts will lead you to make all of the RIGHT decisions, when you are confronted with the dizzying array of choices you’re confronted with, to ensure your career success.
Instinctive decision-making is NOT impulsive decision-making. Instinctive decision-making is based on extrapolating a set of most likely options based on similar past experiences and a comparable decision-making approach. You may not have had an identical past experience to draw from, but you most likely WERE confronted with similar characteristics. Making decisions based on your instincts is like drawing on a deep reservoir of unique perspectives. It’s called having a hunch, or a vibe. According to Andrew Campbell and Jo Whitehead, “Our gut intuition accesses our accumulated experiences in a synthesized way, so that we can form judgments and take action without any logical, conscious consideration.” This can be helpful because it speeds up our ability to act. The challenge is to actually listen to that nagging voice in your head that says: “I smell a rat because…” “I feel like this is the right decision to make in my gut because…” “My heart tells meto do this because…”

Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink proves that making quick decisions often lead to better results than if you conducted significant research and analytical approaches. This begs the question: “Can we be taught how to make decisions in our life more effectively?”
Jim Suhr, the President of the Institute for Decision Innovationsemphasizes that all decisions be based on the importance of advantages” or as he puts it:”choosing by making advantages.” When you make decisions impulsively, you do so based on your mood in the moment on a whim without any past experiences to guide you. We often have certain mental blind spots called “scotomoas” that prevent us from seeing the entire “BIG” picture. What do these look like? They are the biases and the prejudices that we carry with us through life that came from our past experience and upbringing but are actually irrelevant to the decision we a faced with.

Think about some of the major decisions you made in your life:
* How did you choose your spouse?
* How did you decide where to go to school?
* How did you decide where to live?
* How did you select the school for your child/children?
* Think about the major investments you made.
Overcoming impulsive decision-making Ask your family and friends how they might approach a decision you have to make or get their reaction on a proposed decision you are thinking of making. It’s called crowd sourcing, or seeking the intelligence of the crowd.
Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and psychologist Gary Klein debated the power and perils of using one’s intuition to make decisions for senior executives in a September 2009 American Psychology article titled “Conditions for intuitive expertise: A failure to disagree.” Understanding HOW you reached conclusions to make decisions will help you apply stronger reasoning and logic. And that will help you to withstand the smell-gut-hearttest.

Career Counseling – If You Knew Then What You Know NowIf You Knew Then What You Know Now

“THEY” say…HINDSIGHT IS 20/20 VISION. But is it really?
If you had the ability to see into the future, would that cause you to change your behavior? Would you pursue the unknown with the same passion, if you knew in advance that you would be successful…or fall short of your goals? Well…we can’t! This is the type of thinking that leads people to spend their lives regretting the decisions made and things you chose NOT to pursue. It reminds me of the poem by Shel Silverstein that I used to read to my daughter: “All The Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas Layin’ In The Sun, Talkin’ ‘Bout The Things They Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Done… But All Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas All Ran Away And Hid From One Little Did.” Why do so many people find themselves saying: “I wish I could’ve done things differently?” It’s NEVER too late to pursue your dreams!

For example, have you always wanted to find your dream job, so you can pursue your life’s passions? There are so many resources available to you to make that dream a reality, from career coaches to self-assessment tools, the alumni network of the schools you attended, your social and professional networks. Was it your dream to start your own business? Now is the absolute PERFECT time to do that! From business consultants to city and state agencies, business incubators, micro-lenders, there is a HUGE support network for those who wish to start their own business. The cold hard truth is, the only REAL barrier preventing you from realizing the dreams you cast aside long ago in favor of more practical pursuits lie between your ears. It’s that little damaging voice in your head that repeats…” I CAN’T because…” Set aside all the practical reasons (EXCUSES) we tell ourselves for a moment: * I’m too old/too young * I don’t have enough money * I don’t have the right support network If you could overcome all those challenges, what’s really is preventing you from achieving your goals. Come on…SAY IT…

Could it be a FEAR OF FAILURE? Now we’re getting somewhere. So what if you reach for the stars and fall short. You still will reach the moon. All of those excuses we make empower us with a built-in rationale for NOT daring to fail. We live in TRANSFORMATIONAL times. Entire industries are being drastically reformed. Corporations with tens if not hundreds of thousands of employees deemed too big to fail ARE failing.
Global competition, constantly changing technology, the commercialization of the Internet have been changing the global balance of power between nations. ONLY THOSE PEOPLE WITH THE WILLINGNESS/ABILITY TO CHANGE BY REINVENTING THEMSELVES WILL SURVIVE in these changing times.
Toss aside all of the excuses that mire us in inertia. Do NOT accept that you cannot change. You deserve to give yourself the opportunity to achieve all of the goals that you wanted to achieve, but you let that voice of fear and self-doubt pull you away from your ambitions. You don’t need to have a crystal ball to imagine a life for yourself filled with hope and realizing all your dreams.
Here is a list of things you can and should be doing right now to begin this transformation: * Distance yourself from all those people who tell you you can’t:
* Set tangible 1 week, 1, 2 and 3-month, 6 month and 9-month tangible goals. Write them down! Revisit those goals WEEKLY to monitor progress.
* Create a TASK LIST of things you need to accomplish in order to achieve your goals. The list should include: – All required task items – Descriptions of what each task entails – Start and end dates for each – Who OWNS the task (it will be YOU most of the time) – Task contributors – those people that will help you achieve the task – Status: Open, in-progress, completed, planned, etc. – Contingencies: Anything that will prevent you from achieving the task
* 168 – you only have 168 hours in a week. dust off those time management skills to prioritize your work-life balance so you can accomplish those tasks
* Coach ’em up, coach: Get a coach! Ideally it would be …me. Seriously, go out and find yourself someone that comes personally recommended to you who can help you. they must have a personality and values that match your own,. they should “GET” you. They should know when to push/challenge you, and when you need them to support/nurture you. At all times, you should be making significant progress towards achieving tangible goals by knocking off those tasks. As we look back on our lives, the most PAINFUL thing we can ever say/think about our time on this earth is… “IF ONLY I HAD DONE…”

Business Transformation – Popeye, Quick Fixes and Stomach Stapling

The past few weeks I’ve been blogging about pork products. So, in an effort to move to the healthier side of things I bring you…
Spinach! Well, spinach as a metaphor for quick fixes thanks to the dwarfish sailor with huge forearms, Popeye. You remember…”I’m Popeye the sailor man…toot toot!!!”
When there were problems or he had to beat up Brutus Blutarski, to save Olive Oil, he’d chug a can of the leafy energy vegetable and WHAM! POW! He’d make things right.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how we humans love to take the easy way out like Popeye. Overweight? No problem…get your stomach stapled. Need 6-pack abs? Strap a vibrator across your chest. You can eat all the pork products you want. In no time at all, that vibrating belt will transform your mid-section from a spare tire to a ripped grill.
Do you have business problems that keep you up at night? No worries. Use the “EASY” button as your get-out-of-jail-free card. You get an automatic do-over, at least that’s what the commercials would have you believe.

Have a failing business? No problem. Fire some of your workers.
It won’t hurt at all. Right? You’ll achieve immediate short-term results. Who cares? After all, you might think most of your people are lazy, complain too much, watch the clock, waste precious time and productivity by searching the Internet, right?
Jack Welch said it was critical to get rid of the bottom third (“C” people) in your organization. Heck, you may be thinking it’s time to churn your staff, like pro football teams churn the bottoms of their rosters.
Don’t worry. You have your own personal can of business owner “spinach.” Its the employees you choose to keep. You can dump the terminated employees’ work on your remaining workers. They’ll be happy to kick in, work those extra hours, see their families less, even take a pay cut…right? They’re “thrilled” to help, just to still have a paycheck these days.

We are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel that these myopic, narrow-minded management decisions have had on America’s workforce. Four years of layoffs, down-sizing, right-sizing, re-engineering, and reductions in workforce have effectively beaten down the OVERWORKED, OVERSTRESSED, EMOTIONALLY DISENGAGED American workforce.
Those easy to implement short-term policies that were instilled in most American organizations have taken a huge negative toll on our workforce. I see it countless times in my work with job seekers. Many people who are still working are highly resentful of their employers. they are burned out, beaten up, and looking to leave. There isn’t an ocean of spinach large enough to fix the damage done, especially to the people who were out of work and have given up looking for jobs.
Workers are now even MORE motivated to leave and many are planning to do just that…quit your organization EVEN THOUGH the job market is so weak.

Now is the time for business owners, managers, and executives to start considering a path to implement really tough decisions to save their organizations.
NOW is the time to unleash their people’s full potential. The quick decisions that achieve drastic positive results are NOT going to be easy to make. For consideration, I present some strategies that I have been implementing with my clients:
* Treat your best clients like your employees: Ask them what you do that’s working for them. Ask them how you can improve. Take them to breakfast. Why not implement a “best customer” quarterly appreciation breakfast.
* Treat your employees like your best customers: It’s time to do what President Reagan said in his speech at Brandenburg gate in 1987: “Mr. Gorbachov, tear down these walls.” Remove the barriers that CONTROL your people. Let your employees determine your policies, procedures, systems and products.
* Ask your people to engage like never before: Ask your employees what you’re doing right and wrong! Let them design their workflows, schedules. Offer job-sharing, telecommuting. create a committee to develop an ongoing idea generation program to solicit the ideas from all of your people. Make their voices heard, and implement their suggestions.
* Fund a new business incubator program: Your best people are planning right now to leave you. Put aside money in your budget to fund their ideas, so they stay in your company and work on new products and services you can integrate into your offerings. Otherwise, they’re going to leave you to start their own business and do it themselves.
* Act like Mayor Ed Koch of New York City: He was famous for always asking: “How am I doing New York?” It’s time to have that conversation with your people. What do they like about you? What do they hate? What benefits do they want? Are you coaching, mentoring, rewarding, training, recognizing, and providing the resources they need?
* Make every goal a STRETCH goal: Every single employee goal should be a challenge. They should have to strive mightily towards achieving every goal. Meet with your people weekly to ensure they have what they need from you , in order to be a success. Celebrate failures where people take calculated risks to achieve tremendous results.
* Fail GREATLY: It’s not too late to change your business model, organizational structure, products and services, and your culture. There are no easy quick steps, or short-cuts in today’s global competitive climate. The quickest road to long-term success is to embrace failure as a learning endeavor.


Business Productivity, Pork Fried Rice, and Failing Greatly

In my last blog on the Hunger Games, I made a reference to “Business Bacon” as a metaphor for things businesses do (like eating bacon) that they know are bad for them but they do ANYWAY (it’s sooooooo good!)
In keeping with the whole pork product theme, this week I bring you – pork fried rice. Think of it as something we justify (eat) that is (supposedly) good for us (“Hey, its got eggs and vegetables in it!”) but we KNOW it’s bad for us.
What practices is your organization doing that it rationalizes is critical to success, when everyone knows better. Unproductive mandatory meetings? Forcing sales people to travel excessively to “maintain” accounts? Refusing to embrace non-traditional workplace best practices? The bigger question to ask is: “How does your small business gain consistently high levels of business productivity?”
For every bite of the pork fried rice that represents the prevailing hierarchical, corporate, structured SLOW decision-making, ask yourself “Why do we (continue to) do this?” Better yet, pose the million dollar question: “What if…?”
This is how great organizations go from good to great. They transform themselves. It’s a diet of calculated rationalizing avoidance. And a much healthier “diet” for your company’s future success.
Which leads me to the awesomely enlightening idea of FAILING GREATLY! Why do we fear failure so much? Why have we been taught ever since we were little that to fail is horrible and something we should always avoid?
Growing up under that cloud leads us to pursue safety at all costs. In today’s transformational times, avoiding risks in our personal and professional life offers us dire consequences such as:
* We avoid changing careers for fear of the unknown.
* We accept average goals for ourselves that that don’t force us to stretch.
* We tell ourselves we CAN’T start our own business.
When did we stop challenging ourselves. It’s why Jim Collins wrote: “Good is the enemy of great” in his book Good to Great.
I contend that when we accept that good is good enough, we set in motion powerful forces that lead us ultimately to failure.
Steve Jobs said: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.” Truer words have never been spoken. Why not demand greatness from yourself. If you reach for the stars and fall short, you still reach the moon.
John F. Kennedy said: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”
He also said: “There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”
Take your pick – either are words to LIVE by! That is how he led America to pursue a space program that got us to the moon. Still not buying this whole “FAIL GREAT” theme? Ask yourself this: “When did America stop trying to expand its space program?” I propose that a VERY strong correlation be made between America’s looking away from the heavens and our Nation’s perceived fall from (global power) greatness?
I went to the gym this morning after a VEEEEEERY long absence. Getting back into the swing of a fallen exercise regimen can be rationalized all sorts of ways…being overworked, having an impossible work-life balance, too many commitments to others, etc.
Look, I know the rationalization “song & dance” that we go through once our New Year’s resolutions are safely in the rear view mirror. It’s especially challenging for me to come up with new excuses. After all, MY gym (Club KO) is RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from my house.
So, my once easy 40 minute workout routine is now a real “HUFFER.” Sitting on the stationary bike I wondered…how many excuses have I made not to be here that I never let my clients get away with? How many times do we lie to ourselves as a coping mechanism? As we head into this gorgeous spring of ours, I’d like to pose the question: “When are you going to demand greatness from yourself, and…FOR YOURSELF!
Let’s rekindle the passion for greatness that we all share. Expect great things from yourself. A final thought:
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

Oh, the places you will go by Dr. Seuss