Stress-Free Ways of Taking on a New Project at Work

The Origin of Stress

Stress is a state which developed during our early evolution to keep us alive.  When a situation presents a potential threat to our survival, we express the hormone cortisol (made in the adrenal cortex) which helps raise our blood sugar levels partly by suppressing the function of insulin, so that we are ready for action (fight or flight).

It prepares the way for the release of adrenaline if there is an actual emergency.  To maximize available energy, it also turns off our immune system, stops bone-growth, activates anti-inflammatory pathways, making us more vulnerable to disease.

Stress Free Ways of Taking on New Work Projects - Red writing_STRESS

Aren’t all these things bad, you ask?  Not for the brief period that they are meant to be activated, no, they’re just fine.

The problem arises when we are always stressed, constantly producing cortisol, because it makes us weaker and increases our tendency to get tired or sick more easily. Too much cortisol also results in proteolysis, or the breakdown of protein in our bodies (muscle mass), when we can’t keep our blood sugar elevated.

In our modern society, there is little need for stress anymore.  Most of us live relatively safe lives, not hunted by animals, with sufficient food, acceptable medical care, clean water, and proper sanitation.  Frequently unsatisfied with how good our lives are, we often create artificial stress for ourselves with deadlines and pressure.

We deal with stress in different ways.  Some thrive on it; others collapse under the weight; some forbid it.  We must step back for a moment and determine if our stress is making us sick; if it is burning us out; if it is robbing us of our quality of life.

Stress Free Ways of Taking on New Work Projects - Busy female employee at desk

Responsibility

If your boss hands you a new project and says, “Pick your team members and let’s get this show on the road!” you might be a bit nervous.  Before you become hypercritical of yourself, just stop and think for a moment about why you were chosen.

Does your boss want you to fail and then have to explain your failure to bosses higher up?  No.  The most probable answer is that your boss has confidence in you, likely based on previous work or some ability you’ve demonstrated, and fully expects you to succeed.  Stress factor: zero.

Pick Smart People

Maybe it’s a new area for you, and you’re worried about your ability.  Remember, you’re creating a team, so pick people that have the talents required for the project.

You’re not there to do all the work yourself; you are there to manage the team.  You must choose people with different skills than yours; create a talent-range, so all the bases are covered.  A wise person selects people with skills beyond their own because if they are less capable than you, you’ll never accomplish anything better than what you can do right now.  Stress factor: zero.

Pre-planning

You can eliminate most worries about a project by speaking to those involved before the project starts.  That includes the team members you’ve selected, of course, but it also includes the stakeholders.  Everyone has constraints, whether they are ability, availability, responsiveness, technique, integration, or something else entirely.

Find out who can do what, areas where individuals excel, who they work best with, and scheduling conflicts.  Identify tasks clearly and delegate appropriately, with milestones for each task.

Consistency and Support

Once a schedule is created, your people must understand the interdependencies, and although it is possible to adjust for slippage, the expectation is that all work will be completed on time.  Don’t forget to make it clear that your door is open, and if something is falling behind, you want to know about it right away.

Emphasize that help is available and you’re willing to commit resources to a problem to get it back on track.  You do not want to know one day before something is due that it’s going to be delayed by four days.  Make sure they understand that you are willing to pitch in if someone is in a tight spot.

Assuming an Existing Project

Being asked to take on a project that is already underway is a good indicator that you are a trusted team member.  It can also be a daunting experience because you’re faced with the task of taking on processes and policies which are already in place.

First of all, don’t jump in with both feet!  Take an hour or two to read through the details of the project.  Review the Project Calendar, Project Schedule, Gantt chart or whatever methodology has been selected, and understand the current status.  Write down questions you need to be answered as you are reviewing (so they’re not forgotten).

Call in someone from the team who is likely to have the answers you need.  Question them to fill in the blanks in your knowledge.  Perhaps speak to more than one person, if warranted.

After you are up-to-speed, consider having a stand-up meeting and invite people to tell you about their current status.  There is no need to issue orders at this point, to establish authority.  Take your time to get comfortable; people expect a certain margin of error before you are integrated.  The only person holding you to an exceptional mistake-free standard is you.  Stress factor: zero.

Stress Free Ways of Taking on New Work Projects - Group of professionals working at laptop

The Takeaway

Team members will support you if you support them.  It’s simply common sense: If you trust your people, they will trust you.

If your team is managing their responsibilities well, if they’re making their deliveries on time, or even early, reward them.  It can be individually, or collectively.  It might be something as simple as sending them and a spouse out for a fancy restaurant meal or letting them leave the office as soon as the work is done.

When people know you’re a “good boss” they will work harder for you; they’ll produce top quality material because they seek your approval and want to encourage you to continue to also be a “good boss”; they will want to keep working for you.  They’re being paid to accomplish tasks, not to sit at their desk until 5 pm, despite having completed all of their work.

Being a good boss leads to a stress-free existence because people will trust you to deal with problems.  They won’t be reluctant to tell you about something going awry.  That means you get a great deal of leeway to deal with problems when they are tiny and easy to fix.  And that makes it all worthwhile…  Stress factor: zero!

More from Stewart Cooper & CoonBoss Redefined: What Makes a Great Modern Business Leader

 

Fred Coon, CEO

Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with LinkedInSecrets.us. Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

For Better or Worse: How Being Impatient Affects Your Career

Patience is a virtue.” As most of us, you’ve likely heard this motto frequently throughout your life. Yet, while patience as a trait, is laudable, we are here to explore the various ways that this particular characteristic (and its polar opposite) can affect our career: for better or worse.

Alyse Kalish, writer and associate editor for The Muse, further researches this concept.

Effects of Impatience on Career - two people watching presentation

When Impatience Can Be Detrimental

Expecting results too quickly

An overly eager mindset can be detrimental if you’re expecting extreme results in a very short time-frame. Goals are important, but unrealistically high expectations can often result in disappointment. It’s important to remember that our most significant goals take time as well as a process of trial and error. Additionally, Kalish states that “[when] we’re impatient that something’s taking too long to get off the ground, or our careers are moving too [slowly], we never fully appreciate the small strides we make along the way”.

Reacting abruptly

When presenting coworkers and team leaders with information, it’s important to allow them enough time to process and respond accordingly. No one wants to be perceived as a “nag”, so be sure to wait a reasonable amount of time before following up.  As Kalish affirms, “In the day to day, being impatient in how you communicate will only lead people to ignore you or dislike working with you.”

Insisting on a promotion before you’re prepared

Kalish reminds employees that there are, unfortunately, certain realities of our careers that must be accepted. While we have all heard stories of a friend or colleague that received a promotion three to six months into a new job; remember this is the exception, not the norm. Kalish reiterates, “…for the most part, you shouldn’t expect a raise or promotion or some other big career opportunity before you’re truly ready for – and you’ve earned – it”.

When Impatience Can Be Helpful

You know a negative situation has dragged on too long

We are often acutely aware when something is taking much longer than it should. Perhaps you have addressed a less-than-ideal circumstance at work which was never properly resolved. Long-term issues that involve inefficiency, outdated systems or even unfair treatment will surely benefit from an increased sense of urgency. Kalish reminds readers that “…even if you can’t directly change them, you can often start productive conversations on ways to do things better”.

It leads you to take action and be helpful

If your impatience sparks you to get involved and proceed proactively, this can actually be a good thing. According to Kalish, “The people who spin their impatience into a positive thing do so by focusing on what they can do rather than what they need from others”. If you find yourself growing intolerant when a colleague seems to be lagging, consider what systems you can create — or what you can do on your own — that will help the job get done quicker.

You find ways of challenging yourself

Those who are willing to challenge to themselves are more likely to master their job duties and even take on more responsibilities at quicker rate. In this sense, as Kalish agrees, impatience can actually double as a sort of ambition. You may even find yourself learning new skills that allow you to resolve more issues on your own.

Effects-of-Impatience-on-Career-Employee-at-laptop-with-stopwatch-and-smartphone.jpeg

In Conclusion

When channeled properly, a healthy sense of impatience can drive employees toward a more rewarding and successful career. Just remember how and when to draw the line between motivation and intolerance.

 

Fred Coon, CEO 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

 

 

 

What Employees Should Know About Team Transfers

Whether voluntary or not, change in any capacity poses its challenges.  Nevertheless, alterations in our routine are certain to generate opportunities for development and expansion of knowledge.

In the workplace, we may choose to stay within our comfort zones; even preferring to trade a chance at professional growth for an existing sense of security.  However, quite commonly, we eventually reach a point where change is not only imminent, but necessary in order to begin the next chapter in our career. For those who are not quite ready to re-enter the job market, this next step may simply include transferring to a new team within their current organization. Thus, following some basic steps will make the shift significantly less taxing.

Team-Transfers-Male-Employee-at-desk-in-office.jpg

Author and career content writer, Ryan Galloway, cites the valuable advice of Stephanie Linker, member of the global investment management corporation, BlackRock. It is there she lead a team responsible for event and mobile technology and even launched the company’s first mobile app.  After several years in this role, Linker knew she was ready to take on more responsibility, which soon characterized the next stage of her career.

1.  Build a sense of familiarity.

Linker recommends making the effort to meet as many individuals on various teams within your organization. Building and/or fine-tuning your own personal brand, while asking the right questions and seeking mentorship when necessary, will help provide the foundation you need to enter the next phase in your career. Linker suggests workers aim to gain insight on a team’s most significant needs and challenges, as well as working and leadership styles.

2.  Clearly – but carefully – express your intentions.

Galloway quotes Linker who affirms, “Communication is key when considering an internal move. How you convey the message that you’d like to work on another team can mean the difference between a smooth transition and messy break-up”. Expand upon the formally scheduled meetings and performance reviews, but refrain from directly asking for a transfer right away. Rather, focus on communicating your interest in the team with which you’d like to work, as well as your eagerness to gain knowledge on a larger portion of the company. Once it’s time to make the shift, the process will seem more natural, creating less static during the process.

3.  Consider your choices.

Before entirely committing to their pursuit, employees must ask themselves some fundamental questions regarding their potential transfer. These questions should include 1) whether the role will offer a sufficient level of challenge, 2) if it will help you grow professionally, 3) how it will fit within your lifestyle, 4) whether you will be gaining new skills or maximizing current ones, and 5) what you will be giving up by transferring to another team.

4.  Never “burn your bridges”.

Remaining on good terms with former team members is always recommended, but unlike starting a brand new job, a transfer means that you are still basically maintaining the same group of colleagues and coworkers. While your direct daily connections will change, you may still be dealing with the members of your former team on some level. Showing that you continue to be a supportive part of the whole will ease any tension as you learn to define your new role with new team members.

Team-Transfers-Group-of-office-professionals.jpg

Conclusion

As a final word, Linker offers the following advice to employees pondering the option of a team transfer: “You’ve got to ask for what you want. If you see a place where you can add value, you’ve got to raise your hand. No one’s going to hand you your next opportunity.” And we couldn’t agree more.

 

Fred Coon, CEO

 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Informational Interviews: Understanding the Basics

What is an informational interview?

Also referred to as an “informational conversation”, an informational interview is a type of meeting where job seekers attempt to obtain guidance on their career of choice, industry, as well as the corporate culture of a potential future place of employment. Meanwhile, employers have the opportunity to learn more about a specific job seeker, ascertaining their possible value to the organization as well as their potential fit within the corporate culture, while also building upon their own pool of viable future hires.

Informational-Interview-Two-professional-men-at-meeting.jpg

In an informational interview, job seekers can be either active or passive candidates; meaning they may be true job seekers or employed professionals looking to gather knowledge about their field of choice. In either case, the candidate is gaining valuable leads, network contacts, and expertise.

How do informational interviews differ from typical job interviews?

In a traditional job interview, the conversation is centered upon hiring and a specific job to be filled; whereas an informational interview provides level ground for participants to learn about one another on a more equal basis. However, it’s important to note that even if a direct employment opportunity is not being discussed, professionalism is still top priority.

Coined by best-selling career author, Richard Nelson Bolles, an informational interview can either be initiated by a job seeker or by an employer seeking to construct an assemblage of candidates for possible future positions.

However, when a candidate initiates an informational interview, close attention must be paid to etiquette. Job seekers should remain heedful of the fact that the employer is taking time out of their schedule to meet with them. In this instance – much like a traditional job interview – educating one’s self about the company and industry is crucial. Also, be sure that the meeting does not markedly exceed the 15-minute mark.

How should one locate contacts for an informational interview?

Much like a traditional job search or candidate screening process, connections can be made through job boards, career and social networking sites, placement services, newspaper “want-ads”, professional meet-up and trade associations, company websites, teachers and professors, professional recruiters, and job search engines.

What are some tips for job seekers looking to conduct their own informational interview?

Executive/career coach, speaker, and author, Tad Mayer offers some helpful guidelines for candidates looking to organize an informational interview with a prospective employer or expert in their field.

1.  Set an agenda that will get you the answers you need.

Ask the other party for their “story”, background, and what led them to their current role or position. Follow this question by asking for any pertinent advice that the employer or field expert can offer. For purposes of reference, be sure to provide information about yourself as well. By explaining your “story” to the other individual, you are providing them with a more effective opportunity to offer their assistance. Once they can understand your unique perspective, they will be better able to properly tailor their responses and advice in a more helpful way.

2.  Reach out to the right people.

Assure that the individual with whom you choose to connect will be both helpful and reliable. In other words, search for contacts who not only possess valuable knowledge based on where you are in your career, but also those who are most likely to agree to the meeting. Mayer asserts that the latter criterion is essential, especially when you are starting out. The more informational interviews you are able to complete with willing individuals, the more practice you will have for those deeper in your network.

Informational-Interview-Woman-accessing-Social-Network.jpgThe Takeaway

The reasons for partaking in this often overlooked career resource can be limitless, and the benefits are often multi-faceted. Whether you walk away with a job offer, some future networking prospects, or even a new friendship; informational interviews are a win-win for everyone involved.

 

Fred Coon, CEO

Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with LinkedInSecrets.us. Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

Understanding Artificial Intelligence and its Effect on the Job Market

Earliest Signs

In the 15th Century in the Netherlands, if you were a weaver, it was a manual skill you learned from your mother, and she from hers.  It was a coarse-weave you created, but it was the only thing available.  At least, that was so until the steam or water-powered textile loom came along and took away a large part of your livelihood.

That technological behemoth could turn out high quality, finely woven cloth by the yard…by the mile!  That was “automation”—and its first big impact on human labor.

People have railed at automation in the past, and these weavers were said to have thrown their wooden shoes (sabot) into the machines in protest.  It may not be true, but it could possibly be where we get the word “sabotage”.

AI-Touch-Screen-Technology-Graphic.

There is a Difference

We need to make a distinction here.  Automated Manufacture (AM) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are two completely different concepts, and that must be perfectly clear.

Automation is not an intelligent process.  It does eliminate some jobs (usually very difficult ones), but also creates many others.  The machines must be maintained by someone, and usually more is produced, so it must be sold, shipped, and handled, requiring more people.

Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, is a simulation of human thought process by a program designed to take unregulated input, interpret it in a human-centric context, and respond as a human would.  For example:

A pair of empty paint cans come down twin conveyor belts, heading for two filling stations—one automated, the other controlled by AI.  On the AM side, the can comes to a stop under a spigot when it hits a solenoid switch.  The AM dispenses one gallon of paint, applies a lid, and presses it closed before sending it on to the labeling machine.

On the AI line, the conveyor is halted when a camera recognizes that a paint-can has arrived.  It follows it protocols, fills the can, puts a lid on it, and sends it off to the labeling machine.  The net effect is the same, however…

Let’s imagine that the cans fell over, or that they are upside down.  Now what happens?  The AM machine is going to pump a gallon of paint and make a mess.  The AI machine will not.

It has been trained to react to problems.  Maybe it has an air-powered piston that will kick the can into a “reject” container.  If it is really sophisticated, it may have a system to rotate a can under its scanner until it recognizes that the can is oriented properly before proceeding with the operation.  In either case, no paint was wasted, no mess was made, and the company saved money.

There are lots of examples of routine, middle-skilled jobs that involve relatively structured tasks, and those are the jobs that are being eliminated the fastest. Those kinds of jobs are easier for our friends in the artificial intelligence community to design robots to handle them. They could be software robots; they could be physical robots—Erik Brynjolfsson; American Academic, Professor /Director at MIT

AI Learning

As AI advances, it can be left on its own to experiment (either in reality or in simulations; it has no way to tell the difference).  It has massive speed and infinite patience so it can try every possible combination within the parameters given by its human teacher.

After thousands and thousands of tries, it learns to group certain actions together that lead to success, and eliminate strategies that always fail.  This is the way humans learn, too.

Advantages

A sufficiently indoctrinated AI is called an “Expert System”.  Consider an AI programmed with all the knowledge, techniques, and strategies of the top 20 Thoracic Surgeons in the entire world.  That would be great if the International Space Station had a remote Robotic Surgeon and an astronaut had appendicitis.  And that’s only 250 miles.  How about that same unit (dozens of copies) all over the world run from a central location, or each being discrete and autonomous?

That expertise can cover any field from auto mechanics to particle physics, but it can go a step further and freely combine the knowledge of one field with another in order to make new connections and extrapolations that humans might not make for years, centuries, or ever.  The fact is that a hacker doesn’t know what an electrician knows, who doesn’t know what a gardener knows, who doesn’t know what an electronics engineer knows, and so on…  Blending of knowledge could remove most of the impediments to our progress.

For example, we talk about esoteric materials—like Carbon Nanotubes—being necessary to build a “space elevator”.  We require a material strong enough to support its own weight from Geo-stationary Orbit all the way down to the surface of the Earth so that a ride into space would cost between $1-3.00 per kilogram, instead of our current price of up to $20,000 per kilogram via rocket.

That’s all very noble, but it is difficult to accomplish.  Scientists have been working on this for decades and still haven’t come up with an answer.  An AI might be able to solve the problem in weeks or months.  Maybe we already have the knowledge for anti-gravity, warp drive, or teleporters, but it is spread over dozens of fields and professions, and might never be discovered because there are so many barriers to understanding between disciplines.

Disadvantage—You’ll have to learn

Jobs like data entry and server maintenance have the potential for going the way of the dinosaur.  These are easy tasks for early and basic artificial intelligence programs.

If you want to go into the field of artificial intelligence yourself, it’s going to be necessary to study things like statistics, robotics, and algebra.  There are even courses of study arising in our educational institutions.  Do your research to make sure that they are not just pandering and are actually offering something of value.

If you want to stick to the more familiar things, then Data Science is probably a very good bet.  We’re still going to need human minds to figure out how to sort Big Data to get the most use out of it.  So make sure you understand things like Ruby, Python, Hadoop, SQL, Java, and JavaScript, of course.

Jobs will go, but new ones will arise

AI will displace workers—there is no doubt—but people already working in Tech will have a relatively easy time of upgrading their skills to remain relevant.  For people outside of tech, there are still opportunities.

The job of teaching AIs how to understand spoken English is falling to actual English teachers.  By simply expanding their skills a tiny bit in the computer field, they suddenly become a much-desired commodity in the world of computer AI development.

If you step back and look at technology from every era, it has displaced jobs but also created a lot of jobs—Ginni Rometty; American Businesswoman, President/CEO of IBM

It’s only going to get better

AI will eventually be able to spot a cyberattack in mere microseconds, and end it.  Right now, however, security is a great field to be working in.  Some employees still make poor judgments like open unexpected e-mail attachments, or follow links to unvetted websites.  And, as with anything new, IoT, or the Internet of Things, is exposing us to a brand new collection of vulnerabilities.

In the latter case, the camera which you have covering your inside front door so that you can see when the kids get home from school—it might be hackable and accessible to anyone in your neighborhood.  The same is true for that nanny-cam you keep in the children’s bedroom “just in case”.  If you can write code that delivers unhackable IoT devices so parents know that strangers aren’t watching their children, you’ll have a job for life.

AI-Professional-Woman-Action-Blurb-Graphic

The Takeaway

Knowing that change is coming, and is inevitable, is what will allow you to be prepared.  Don’t wait until the last moment.  If what you are doing now is likely to change substantially, start building your adaptation strategy immediately.  This is all the warning you are likely to get so take advantage of it!

More from Stewart Cooper & Coon:  Tech Employment Opportunities Still Ranked Near the Top in U.S.

Five Tips for Embracing Change in the Workplace

New policies, management alterations, technological modifications, shifts in company culture, and varied expectations are just a few of the common changes that can occur in the workplace at any given time. While adapting to new procedures is often challenging, an employee’s reluctance to adapt can certainly disrupt the direction of his or her career. Given this fact, there’s no denying that in today’s workplace, flexibility is the key to success.

Here, we review some practical advice on adapting to change in the workplace according to Bob Miglani, bestselling author of “Embrace the Chaos” which discusses moving forward in times of professional uncertainty.

Adapting-to-Change-in-the-Workplace-Clock-graphic_time-for-a-rethink

1.  Accept the new normal.

Most people tend to idealize the past, and often for good reason. However, holding on to the memory of how things once were is counterproductive when changes are present.  As Miglani states, “Let it all go. Let go of the old promises, the way we used to work, the people we used to work with, and the kind of workplace we originally signed up for. Let it go because it doesn’t exist anymore”. However, he continues, “It’s not doom and gloom… some of the best opportunities in life are presented to us when we open up to change”.

2.  Maintain a positive inner dialogue.

It’s quite easy to balk at a new procedure or shift in circumstances, especially when we didn’t find issue with the previous set of regulations or methods. Of course, accepting a new point of view is not something that happens overnight, but maintaining the ability to view any potential change with a positive attitude is certainly integral to one’s capacity to adjust to new situations. “What helps is to have a mentality where we think more about the possibility than impossibility”, says Miglani.

3.  Rework your goals and set out to achieve them.

It’s common for extreme or sudden workplace changes to leave us feeling somewhat directionless or even suspended in a state of limbo. Therefore, when our surroundings change, it’s to be expected that our plans and aspirations will also need to be adjusted. According to Miglani, “By setting a clear goal for ourselves, we can bring about a wonderful new mind shift that helps to direct our energy that is often wasted in so much workplace change”.

4.  Take charge of your own actions.

As in all aspects of life, there will always be factors within our careers which are not within our control. However, as Miglani reminds readers, a great portion of anxiety and stress can emerge from the uncertainty that occurs when we feel we have lost control of a previously manageable situation. This is why it’s important to own our actions, even in a changing workplace. “Allowing ourselves to be pulled into our work, focusing on specific tasks we can do gives us great happiness, fulfillment and meaning”, says Miglani. He continues, “Effort has the possibility to breathe fresh air into a stagnant life”.

5.  Avoid isolating yourself.

Sudden change can sometime cause an individual to feel a sharp reduction in their comfort zone. In fact, this is true of workers on all levels where unfamiliar “terrain”, so to speak, can easily result in the tendency to isolate one’s self. Unfortunately, however, this particular pattern is conducive to neither productivity nor success. Miglani advocates the importance of reaching out to others in both your professional and personal network during times of change. Not only will this help you remain plugged in to your evolving work environment, but it will also expose you to other perspectives, opinions, and even advice. Often, circumstances aren’t quite as dismal (or as unmanageable) as we envision them to be. “Speaking with others allows us to break the negative pattern in our head from all the confusing messages we get at our workplace, boosting our spirit, our resiliency tools, and our energy”, says Miglani.

Adapting-to-Change-in-the-Workplace-group-of-employees-in-office

To Conclude

The most important factor to keep in mind is that as our surroundings (professional and otherwise) are capable of change, so are we. The evolution of circumstances is not an exclusively external process, as human beings are capable of incredible feats, which includes the amazing internal ability to change, learn, and adapt at will.

More from Stewart Cooper & Coon:  6 Common Workplace Concerns and Solutions

 

Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

 

How to Stop Procrastinating at Work

Procrastination is a common facet of human behavior.  In fact, it is so universal that we wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised to find it evidenced in everyone from a farmer of the mesopotamian era to a corner cubicle of modern times. The basic fact of the matter is:  People have a tendency to get bored and distracted. In the course of your daily grind, you’ve probably experienced some form of monotony and agitation more times than you could easily count. Interestingly enough, this is likely regardless of your profession or income level.

At this point, we have to step back and acknowledge (from both a worker standpoint, as well as from a managerial perspective) that we’re dealing with a near-fundamental trait of human nature. Conversely, this is not to say that we should just throw our hands up, unfettered of any notion of improvement.

Procrastination-Male-employee_paperwork

Here, we try to gain a better understanding the ‘why’s’ and ‘how’s’ of procrastination so that we can get a more firm grip on it (and ourselves) for the overall benefit of not only our careers, but the workplace we occupy.

The Two Types of Procrastination

Overload

Becoming overwhelmed is a very common cause for what may appear to the outside observer as simple procrastination. When you are overwhelmed, the mind can tend to shut down a bit. Yet, this isn’t always a bad thing, since ‘shutting down’ serves the purpose of giving your reeling mind time to reassess, reevaluate, and figure out a new (hopefully more viable) approach to the problems being faced.

Boredom

A high percentage of disengaged procrastination very likely results from simple boredom (aside from, perhaps, one would hope: Nascar drivers and airline pilots). However, this is really no great surprise. The typical workday for the average mid-level office worker is a far enough cry from an action movie; but even if it weren’t, human beings have the capacity to turn just about anything into a humdrum habit once it’s been repeated enough.

The Solutions

It all comes down to you. To understand the problem and move to address it, you have to understand your own reasons for doing it. Potentially, the largest single aspect to all of this lies in the observation of your patterns, moods, and behavior; which is absolutely necessary before you can hope to enact any real change in them. After all, that is the entire point. You’re reading this piece in the hopes or interest of understanding how to address your (or admittedly, your employee’s) issues with procrastination. If you fall within the former category, then this piece should speak to you directly. If the latter, then it is not a huge leap to take the material and put together some quick in-office practices that may help.

Procrastination-Now-or-Later-Street-Sign

Here are a few tips and tricks to remember that can help you minimize excessive procrastination:

  • Acknowledge and identify what’s blocking you; whether it’s fear, financial concerns, tedium, etc.
  • Make yourself accountable, to yourself, first and foremost.
  • Set goals; keep them small and follow through with them, on a daily basis.
  • Actively and intentionally reward yourself for achievements, no matter how small.

Don’t let procrastination hold you back, from either excellence in your career or pursuit of growth in and for yourself.

 

Fred Coon, CEO 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

How to Let Your Interviewer Know You’re a Perfect Cultural Fit

Let’s say that you’re a top-flight programmer, but you’ve decided that you’re not going to work just anywhere.  After figuring out exactly what you wanted to do, you took the time to do additional research and figure out precisely where you wanted to do it.

The problem remains, however, that even after you know that a prospective employer has an employee gymnasium, quiet rooms where you can grab a quick nap during the day to refresh your mind, an espresso machine, an open-door policy for all executives, and a convivial atmosphere where everyone’s ideas are accepted openly, you still have to convince them that you fit their perceptions of a good employee.  How do you do that?

Cultural-Fit-Interview-Advice-Puzzle-Pieces_Blue-Graphic

Don’t Oversell Your Enthusiasm

The temptation may be to fawn over the company’s product line or services; to gush over the importance it has in your daily life. However, they already have customers who love their product; what they need is someone who is going to extend their product line, enhance the public’s perception, or improve their current offerings.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you use their products regularly; you must demonstrate that you not only desire to improve their offerings, but that you have the skill to do so, while fitting into their community structure.  According to a 2014 survey, HR people are now paying considerably more attention to that last category.

For example, while the CEO of AVON® is Sheri McCoy, 75% of the CxOs, 65% of the Board, and 60% of the Management Committee are male.  AVON’s male-focused product line is relatively small, so why are men overrepresented?  Simple—they persuaded someone at the hiring level that they could integrate with the company in a positive way, and make a difference.

An Emotional Connection

Being passionate about the company’s objectives, and then backing that up with a plan for how you are going to further them, is a key success factor.  If you can describe the challenges an employee is likely to face, and have a plan for dealing with them, you’re already one-step-up on the competition.  By showing them that you’re going to add value, and not require a great deal of handholding, you become a valuable asset.

Moreover, integration is not restricted to day-to-day business.  If part of the company culture involves donating laptops to under-financed schools or toward scholarships for kids to attend college, mention that you’re aware of it.  You can even outline some plans for your own ideas to enhance the effectiveness of their projects.  Make clear to the interviewer that you want to work for the company and further all of its goals.

Fit In

There aren’t many companies that value the lone-wolf approach (if that’s your style, and you found a company like that, congratulations).  Most companies prefer integration and teamwork, so when you’re talking about solving a problem, use the word “we” more frequently than you use the pronouns “I” or “me”.

Nevertheless, if a large part of your job is interacting with customers, make sure you emphasize that a happy customer is a valuable repeat customer.  Without them, “we” wouldn’t even be in business (yes, you slyly included yourself as part of the company team there, helping the interviewer to think of you that way, too).

Don’t be a Drone

You don’t have to toe the party line.  Interviewers, if they are sensible, are not looking for a new best friend.  If you’re in the right sort of cultural environment you are often appreciated if you have a different way of thinking about problems.  It can be a very attractive feature.

Different approaches to problem solving can be a huge benefit to a company.  Getting people to think about new approaches to problem-solving can banish longstanding hang-ups and bottlenecks; it can provide new “Eureka!” moments that could completely change the way a company does business.

Admittedly, it’s the job of the employee to conform to the corporate culture.  Expecting to stand it on its head and make it do your bidding is unrealistic.  But there’s little harm in being different, and often large benefits.

Cultural-Fit-Interview-Advice-Multiple-Office-Employees

The Takeaway

Cynics tell us “Sincerity is great; once you can fake that, you’ve got it made”, but the truth is, as Abraham Lincoln pointed out, “You can fool some of the people some of the time…”  Even if you succeed, you won’t be happy, won’t do a good job, and you’ll be looking for something new in very short order.

If you find the place where you belong—the place you truly want to be—treat it seriously and show them that you fit, and not just that you want the job.  Anything else is just self-sabotage.

More from Stewart Cooper & Coon:  Who’s Interviewing Whom: Valuable Tips for Job Interviews

 

Fred Coon, CEO 

Take your job search and LinkedIn profile to new levels and achieve your career goals with LinkedInSecrets.us. Leveraging LinkedIn for Job Search Success 2015 will transform how you use LinkedIn on a daily basis and create a profile that will WOW recruiters and hiring managers.

Examining the Humble Mindset in Terms of Professional Success

As complex and complicated as ethics are in the modern world – arguably more so than at any other age in human history – there are still defining virtues in life that seem truly timeless. Among these are the inarguable virtues of patience, good will, generosity, and courage; to name but a very few. Today, however, we consider a virtue that stands among them with no less stature but that comes with a degree of complexity under the modern lens: humility. Humility has been a laudable quality since time immemorial, noted as an aspect of both great people and great deeds. However, just as any other matter, there are extremes in play and overindulgences in anything can see it taken too far into a negative arena. And in no other case is this closer to the truth than in weaving the virtue of humility with the world of modern business.

Humble-Mindset-and-Success-Business-man-looking-down-at-desk

Make no mistake, being overly humble has the potential, if not assurance, of severely hindering your career. Culturally, a sense of confidence is the hallmark of our business leaders. While the word carries a certain negative connotation, arrogance is not far from the mark as well; and a certain degree of arrogance can do a great deal for moving professionals up the corporate ladder. That being said, let’s not make the mistake of a measured ‘arrogance’ being synonymous with egotism or excessive vanity. Just as before, the proper temperament is found in moderation and strategy.

As such, we’ll be taking a closer look into both the positive and negative effects of the humble approach in a professional environment.

The Bad

  • Promotion

Being a self-starter, taking the initiative, demonstrative leadership abilities; all of these attributes are congruent with those things executives keep an eye out for promotion and advancement. Preventing yourself from being able to step forward into the limelight when the opportunity arises can be a real issue. This is not about always working to be the center of attention, but rather recognizing when a challenge presents itself that you are confident in your abilities and expertise to handle. With an excessive sense of humbleness or shyness, you ensure that you’ll be overlooked.

  • Labels

Office culture forms in much the same manner as any other, with experience and interaction. Given that the intentional development of humility is not among the most common of pursuits in western culture, certain misunderstandings of your peers and colleagues may arise. For instance, reputations may develop along unfair lines: A humble person runs the risk of being considered unambitious, a follower, or one not to be trusted with managerial responsibilities.

The Good

All of that taken together allows an individual to walk a more careful path, avoiding the pitfalls of too much humility without compromising their integrity. Here are a few ways in which humility may set you apart and enable you to succeed:

  • Self-assurance – A humble person is less likely to accord blame or mistakes to themselves when they know it to not be the case.
  • A humble person generally has a greater sense of others, a compassion toward their peers and superiors that is independent of their status or recognition.
  • Building relationships and strong networks comes most easily to those who don’t have too much overt concern about getting themselves ahead before all else. A strong and viable network of people across the professional spectrum who know you for a genuinely good and caring person is, in a word, invaluable.

A powerful and mature sense of humility is ideal for maintaining an internal balance, not allowing the pressures and expectations of the professional world to wear you down.

Humble-Mindset-and-Success-Professional-Woman-Reading-Paper-in-Conference-Room

It all comes down to this: As with any virtue, humility is a personal matter of pursuit and growth. Take all things into accord and measure them against your personal morals and ethics. How you live your life and engage in your career is a decision you and no other will have to live with.

Further Reading:  What Business Leaders Can Learn From One Another

 

Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

 

Four Proactive Ways to Reflect on Your Workday

We all experience those days at work when we feel we could have reached an additional goal, made more efficient use of our time, or just generally performed better. While we would prefer that every day be a victory, there are always tactics that can help ensure a better tomorrow.  What is most important is that we are realistic with ourselves without being harshly critical. Even after a great day at work, it’s still a good idea to assess the day’s events to boost future learning.

So, how do successful people reflect following a long day at the office? Kat Boogaard is an author specializing in careers and self-development, as well as contributor to The Muse and Inc.com.  She suggests employees and professionals of all kinds identify four basic factors at the end of each work day.

Reflecting on Your Workday - Businessman smiling by window

1.  Recognize what went well for you.

Boogaard reminds workers that in the midst of our daily chaos and responsibilities, it’s easy to lose sight of the positive. This is why it’s crucial to take stock of even the minor wins you experienced which may have gone unnoticed at the time. According to Boogaard, “Not only will this give you that much-needed time to recognize your progress and achievements, but it will also put you in a much more positive and confident state of mind for the next workday”.

2.  Look for areas where you can improve.

Even the most incredibly productive and successful day at the office can be improved upon. Without being overly analytical of personal flaws, it is still a good idea to pinpoint any areas where you might have been able to improve your performance; and what better time to start than tomorrow?  Boogaard suggests, “Zone in on one – or even a few – areas where you’d like to step up your game the next day, and you’re sure to see constant progress in your productivity levels, work relationships, and overall outlook”.

3.  Plan your first task for the next day.

To avoid becoming overwhelmed, it’s most helpful to view your responsibilities not as one large mission, but rather as a list of basic tasks. “To get some much-needed clarity, think through your current workload and pick the one key thing that you want to work on when you get to the office in the morning”, says Boogaard. She continues, “That way, you can sit down at your desk with a clear head and a targeting plan in place”.

4.  Identify the best part of your day.

While it may be in our nature to focus more on the negative, it’s important to keep your thoughts positive even after a tumultuous day on the job. What’s more, a pessimistic mood can easily spill over into the next day. Boogaard recommends employees conclude by indentifying their favorite part of that particular day. She reiterates, “Whether you received a great compliment from a superior or got to indulge in a delicious piece of ice cream cake during a birthday celebration for a co-worker, thinking about something that makes you crack a smile will cap off your workday on a high note”.

business people group have meeting and working in modern bright office indoor

Further reading:   Five Pieces of Advice Prosperous People Don’t Ignore

 

Fred Coon, CEO

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200