What Skill will you Develop this Year?

Your career development is solely your responsibility.  You get to develop the skills you want.  You get to apply for the roles that you can use those skills and develop more.  You get to seek out mentors and accountability partners who can help you achieve your goals.

Now, sometimes it may feel like our development is someone else’s responsibility.  There are influencers and decision-makers that are needed to get you that next role, title, promotion, or pay increase.  There are mentors and managers that will give you insight into areas of improvement or give you opportunities to stretch yourself.  But sometimes, we give all these other people too much power in our career development.  You do not need permission or an invitation to grow.  Remember they are team members in your development, you are the team lead on this! Build relationships in your career, learn from others, and get advice.  Work with your manager and HR team to see what’s available.  Some companies do tuition reimbursement, will send you to conferences and events, or have subscriptions to Harvard Business Review or Lynda.com.

What is the most important skill for you to develop this year? Here are some thought starters.

Leadership Skills: Who is a leader that you admire?  What leadership skills do they have that you want to emulate?  Think big and create an action plan to develop these skills!  Keep yourself in check.  At the end of each week, set aside 15 minutes for a reflection.  Celebrate the successes from the week and replay when you fell short.

Team/Relationship Skills: Most of us work in teams at work.  Even if you don’t work directly in teams, other people contribute to your success.  How can you improve your teamwork?  How are you currently perceived in team settings, and more importantly, how do you want to be perceived?

Technical Skills:  Is there a software you want to master?  Does your boss have a task that you don’t understand but want to learn?  As a business owner, do you wish you were better at P&Ls, insurance, or marketing?  What are some technical skills future-you needs?

If you are ready to commit to your career development, it may be time to hire a career coach!  Reach out to me for a free 15-minute introductory call to learn more about coaching.

Difficult isn’t a barometer you’re on the right path

I used to be motivated by the whole “no pain, no gain” and other strong quotes about how brilliance is on the other side of hard work. I don’t always buy it anymore. It doesn’t have to be difficult. And we shouldn’t use pain or difficulties as a barometer we’re on the right path. I’ve learned something greater – mindset. So let’s look at two ways difficult can be reframed to tell if you’re on the right track.

Do the work. Real work is awesome. When you set a goal, put the effort in, learn amazing skills, ideas, and philosophies along the way and you can find great success. I suppose real or hard work can be difficult but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t discount real work as being difficult or painful. Celebrate real work for what it is – helping you achieve your goals.

Other times our professional lives are difficult. Sometimes we’re in the wrong situation. And we are empowered to do something about it – we can make changes or we can leave. If you are waiting for changes to happen outside of your control, you’ll be sitting in a difficult, painful place indefinitely. Here are some questions to help you identify if you can change the situation.

Environment: Are you in an environment where people like you can be successful?
– Are there people around you that you can look to as a role model, mentor, or advocate? Have you put in the real work to find them and develop a relationship with them?
– Are you at an organization that is helping you develop or master the skills you want to use in your career? Can you articulate what those skills are and an action plan to achieve those skills?
– Are you at an organization that celebrates and leverages your uniqueness to contribute to the success of the organization? Have you had the conversations to validate your answer?

People: Are you in a difficult place because of the toxic people around you?
– Have you built the skills (technical, soft, leadership) that you need to earn a promotion but other people are holding you back? Who are the real decision makers and have you had the conversations with them about your inability to grow?
– Are your managers, peers, or executive team demotivating? If there are specific things happening, have you had the right conversations with the right people to initiate change?
– Are you unnecessarily competing with people when it’s not a competition? How can you change it from competition to collaboration?

It’s Just You: And maybe it’s you. Maybe you aren’t being true to the career life you want. Maybe you’re not on your right path, leveraging your best skills, or building your future skills? Maybe there’s something else out there that aligns with your work priorities. What’s holding you back from pursuing your dream career? Maybe it’s just you.

Take some time to think about if difficult parts of your professional life are:
1 – real work and you need to evoke your mindset.
2 – difficult because you’re not on the right path.

Communicating Decisions: We Fixed the Glitch

Making decisions can be complex, especially when it involves people. As managers, we put so much thought into the decisions we make that by the time the decision is made, our energy for that situation is spent. The decision-making group walks away and tackles the next situation. Leaders, however, know that if you stop there, you missed the most important piece – the people. Your decision will impact people and it’s essential to carefully craft a communication strategy and plan.

Working through this with a client, I was reminded of a great leadership lesson from Office Space. Don’t just fix the glitch, be a leader.  Here’s the clip.

Managers will execute for the business. They made the decision (Milton won’t work here anymore), they fixed the glitch (he won’t receive a paycheck), and they moved on/avoided potential conflict (“these things just work themselves out”).

Leaders balance the needs of the business with the needs of their people. They make the tough decisions (we are letting Milton go) AND have a communication strategy and plan to accompany major decisions.

Here are a few factors to consider when developing a communication strategy and plan.
1 – Who are the audiences? In this case, it may be:
– Directly Impacted: Milton, his manager, the employees taking on his work
– Indirectly Impacted: his peers, coworkers that sit near him, the office manager
– The Follow-Up: your boss, the management team

2 – What do they need to hear? Go audience by audience and consider: the decision, the why, and the plan forward.

3 – Who, how and when do they need to hear? Will it cascade from manager to manager? Will there be a company-wide or team-wide email? Does the plan happen quickly to reduce chatter and gossip?

4 – Execute. Once you have the plan, execute! If you tend to avoid conflict or don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, remember that it’s not about you. It’s about them and they need to know so they can move forward. Rip it off like a band-aid.

5 – Reflect. Look back at how it went. How are people feeling? Is everyone ready to move forward or do they need more? Did you miss a key message?

In the end, common sense always wins. Be a proactive, transparent leader. Empathize with each audience and think what you would want if you were in their shoes. When you continue to have a track record of transparency and warmth, you’ll develop a trusting culture where the team is set up to succeed.

I want you to success!

Early on in my career, I hit that first rut; I wasn’t excited to go to work and I didn’t know what was next.  I had a conversation with my then manager, Steve Smith, and he asked me what I needed.  I responded, I need you to appreciate me and want me to succeed.

After the conversation, Steve would often tell me, “I appreciate you and want you to succeed.”  Then one day I came into the office and saw this note on my desk, “I appreciate you and want you to success!”  It made me feel heard and made me laugh.  My manager, with his journalism degree, made this basic grammar mistake.  I kept it, thinking It would be great to have so I could make fun of him.

However, 10 years later, I learned the real lesson.  The responsibility of a people manager to is lead people, to get them to achieve beyond their skills and abilities, and help them grow.  I have since framed the note as motivation for me to be the best manager I can be.