Saturday, September 24, 2016

Demonstrate These 12 Soft Skills to Get Any Job You Want by Lou Adler

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Non-technical, Business and Leadership Skills Essential for Job Success
  1. Assertiveness in pushing the status quo.
  2. Courage in challenging bad ideas, bad decisions and bad processes.
  3. Influencing others who are not direct reports - especially peers and executives - to make difficult decisions.
  4. Making commitments and taking responsibility for doing what you said you would without making excuses.
  5. Collaborating, negotiating and reaching agreement with cross-functional teams on challenging and competing objectives.
  6. Problem-solving, creative and strategic thinking skills that not only uncover the root cause of any problem but also figure out the optimum solutions.
  7. Organizational and project management skills to ensure complex team tasks are completed successfully.
  8. Taking the initiative and doing more than required to meet expectations.
  9. Communications skills to present ideas clearly and distinctly to the required audiences.
  10. Adaptive customer service skills regardless of who the customer is.
  11. Cultural fit with the hiring manager’s style, the pace of the organization and the values of the company.
  12. Leadership skills to not only figure out the best course of action but also to marshal the resources to deliver the solution.
While these skills are obviously important for on-the-job success, most hiring managers aren’t too good at properly evaluating them. The following is our recommended approach, but candidates need to take control if they’re not being assessed properly.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Mastering Office Politics by Max Busch

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I’ve always hated office politics. It was hard for me. It felt slimy and selfish. And that was confirmed when a colleague told me, “C’mon May, it’s just a game you have to play.” Well, I didn’t want to “play games” to get ahead and resisted it with every fiber of my body. I was going to do things “straight up” and in an above board way.
I remember calling home after my first couple of years at work (it took a while before I even noticed that politics existed, that’s how far behind I was!). My father answered the phone, and the conversation went like this.
“Dad, I hate the office politics. I’m no good at it. I wish I had gone into academia like you where it’s about your ideas and knowledge, not how good you are at navigating the politics.”
I hear my Dad chuckling on the other end of the phone line as he says, “May, there are more politics in academia than there are in business. What you’re facing is nothing compared to that, so you’re in the right place.”
What do we mean by “politics” and why do we hate it?
As he went on to explain that politics is just about interpersonal relationships, my mother got on the line too and added, “Don’t worry May. Politics is just what happens whenever there are two or more people. It’s just normal.”
That definition of politics from my parents has stayed with me to this day: politics is about human relationships and it occurs naturally whenever there are two or more people involved. It’s present wherever people are involved, whether that’s in the office, at the highest levels of government, or on the school playground.
Yet we hate office politics. After all, human interactions are messy and hard to control. It takes time and effort to figure out the best way forward. And when we get it wrong, office politics can stop us from getting what we want.
Why it’s important
In reality, taking the time upfront to think through the politics of the situation vastly improves your chances of creating successful outcomes for yourself and everyone else involved.  
And it saves time in the long run because you’ll be more effective in accomplishing your goals, and you’ll have less “mopping up” to do after the fact.
Plus it helps you move ahead in your career, get your projects green lighted, and get you and your team promoted.
On the other hand, not learning to navigate the politics is like not looking both ways before you cross the street. You – or your ideas and initiatives – could get seriously hurt or even killed.
The good news is you can learn to be good at it.
You can master it
If even I could do this starting from square one, which is not realizing politics even existed, then you can too. So stop worrying, and keep going. You can do this.
In fact, like anything else you master, once you get the hang of it and practice it many, many times, it can become second nature to you. You will even start enjoying it because it is the way that clears the path for your ideas and proposals to blossom, and get the recognition, pay and promotion you deserve.
To make you feel even better about mastering this, I’ll bet you already have some experience and expertise to fall back on. Think back to your childhood or even your current family situation. Didn’t you know which parent or family member was easier on a particular issue than another? Or how to get your best friends to agree to something? Or how to either wind up your siblings or get them onside?
Well, it’s the same set of skills that most of us had as children, only the stakes are a little higher. 
Basic building blocks
Getting good at navigating the politics requires just a handful of basic skills, all of which you can develop.
Basic ingredients that are helpful
1.    Being observant. Noticing what’s going on in the human interactions around you, and being able to read peoples’ expressions and reactions to the situation.
2.    Being able to think and analyze. This means taking the data or information from you observations and being able to think critically about it so you can make sense of the situation and see the cleanest way forward.
3.    Being able to self-manage. When you’re in the midst of navigating the politics, this means not taking things personally, and not letting others upset you.
4.    Being end results oriented. Taking a pragmatic view of what needs to be done in order to achieve the end goal and not getting too hung up about how things “should” be and whether life is fair and equitable. Read more about other ways to be end results oriented here.
5.   Having positive intent. This is about using your powers of navigating the politics for good and not evil, and therefore an energizing skill to have. When you come into it with a positive intent, you are using your abilities to get good things done, not to put someone else down or get away with something.
Things that are harmful to navigating the politics
Just as there are helpful ingredients to have, there are also things that are harmful to your success.
1.    Being judgmental. Being judgmental means measuring others against your yardstick and criticizing them for falling short. But not everyone has the same worldview, and taking a judgmental stance hurts your effectiveness.
2.    Being isolated. It’s hard to be good at navigating the politics when you act completely on your own. It takes having a network of support and relationships to be successful.
3.    Taking things personally. This clouds your judgment and harms your ability to react effectively in the moment.
A career “superpower”
I think of navigating the politics as a career “superpower” that keeps you from stepping into minefields without realizing, and maximizes your chances of creating successful outcomes for everyone involved.
It is a skill worth developing. And by consistently applying the principles in the Building Blocks, you can help yourself get to the next level of your career faster and more easily. All you have to do is begin.

Leadership Lessons From Sully by Vikram Mansharamani

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It’s been almost eight years since Captain Chesley Sullenberger miraculously landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River. It began on a chilly day in January 2009 when his plane encountered a flock of geese upon departure from New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Both engines lost thrust, putting 150 passengers and 5 crew members at serious risk. Roughly four minutes later, Sully ditched the plane on the Hudson River. Every soul aboard survived. 
As one who thinks about navigating uncertainty, I was immediately struck by the decision prowess of the pilot. I wanted to find out what led Sully to flourish amidst such radical uncertainty and pressure. Sullenberger’s book, Highest Duty, and Sully, the new Clint Eastwood film about his triumph, helped me understand why he was the right person for the job.
Here are three things I learned from Sully’s story. 
Use checklists as tools, not rules. Checklists are an important tool in a pilot’s arsenal. And with good reason: they help to reduce human error in aviation, just as they do inmedicine. Sully himself is a checklist advocate. As he wrote in Highest Duty, his wife has to remind him: “Sully, life is not a checklist!”
Sully and his co-pilot Jeff Skiles made careful use of checklists when things began deteriorating. But the situation was unprecedented, making strict adherence to the checklist’s script a liability. As Sully wrote, “Not every situation can be foreseen or anticipated. There isn’t a checklist for everything.”
In the movie, we see investigators interrogating Sully and his co-pilot about the steps they took. They have to explain why they did not follow the standard emergency protocol, which, while useful in the abstract, was not appropriate for the situation at hand. So while the standard protocols checklists codify are useful, they are not rules that leaders must follow at all costs. As Sully eloquently summarizes: “Compliance alone is not sufficient. Judgment…is paramount.”
“There isn’t a checklist for everything.”—Chesley Sullenberger
Too often, we let our trusted advisors take the wheel
Models themselves are irreducibly human.
Keep advisors on tap, not on top. Soon after both engines fail, Sully and Skiles relay their status to an air traffic controller who offers an emergency landing at LaGuardia. Sully responds that the plane may not make it and might land on the Hudson. The pilot also proposes New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport, where the controller quickly secures him a runway. Throughout this conversation, Sully notes, the controller did not try to steer him in a particular direction: his “choice of phrasing was helpful to me. Rather than telling me what airport I had to aim for, he asked me what airport I wanted. His words let me know that he understood that these hard choices were mine to make, and it wasn’t going to help if he tried to dictate a plan to me.”
Twenty-two seconds after Sullenberger proposes Teterboro, he abandons the possible destination, quickly concluding a landing on the Hudson is likely to save the most lives. Even after Sully's decision, the controller keeps offering suggestions, unable to stomach the thought of a water landing.  Ditching a plane on water is a risky maneuver, one best avoided if possible.
At this point, Sullenberger tunes him out: “I knew that he had offered me all the assistance that he could, but at that point, I had to focus on the task at hand. I wouldn’t be answering him.” Too often, we let trusted advisors take the wheel, thereby abdicating our responsibility as leaders. Sullenberger succeeds in part because he knows how to leverage his advisor without ceding control.
Question assumptions. The drama of Sully revolves around the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation of the incident. Initially, investigators believe that the plane’s engine could have restarted and pilot error was to blame. And computer simulations suggest that Sullenberger could have made it to LaGuardia or Teterboro instead of landing on the water. To convince the NTSB that he made the right decision, Sully arranges for human-operated simulations of these scenarios to be streamed live at the hearings. When those don’t go his way, he argues—convincingly—that neither the computer nor human simulations are using realistic assumptions.
He asks how many times the pilots in the simulator had practiced. The answer, which is met with a great gasp: “17.” Sully and Skiles hadn’t practiced once. The lead investigator then asks for new human simulations under more realistic assumptions. This time, the pilots must wait 35 seconds after the bird strikes before turning back to LaGuardia or Teterboro. Under these more realistic conditions, they crash, vindicating Sully and Skiles.
Today, we are all too ready to trust the apparent conclusions of computer simulations or controlled social-scientific experiments without questioning how valid their application is to the real world. While Sully may have exaggerated the antagonism between the investigators and the pilots, the film is a useful parable about the creeping propensity to trust models over human testimony, despite the fact that the models themselves are irreducibly human as well. 
Sully is the quintessential leader. He is respectful of procedure while acknowledging its limits. He takes responsibility without being overconfident. And he tackles moments of radical uncertainty with composure and appropriate judgment. We can all learn from him. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

How do product managers earn engineers trust? by Suresh Krishna Madhuvarsu

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Whether you are a budding product manager or an experienced product leader, the challenge remains the same – How do you earn trust from your engineering team?. Combine this challenge with the fact that there is no formal authority on any one team in the organization, PMs are still expected to perform, deliver great products and revenue. Working with world class engineering teams and mentoring several product managers, I realized 5 common practices that help.
Be humble : Be humble and be yourself with the engineering teams. PM has a very important role in the organization and we got to be humble for the kind of impact we can make in the organization. Instead of thinking engineering teams as resources, coders, followers or competitors, view them as a team with complementing skills to bring in a great product. Learn to trust them on their judgment. If you feel there is a different way, be up front and ask them. When you are genuine and ask politely, usually no one is hurt. 
Bring in the product vision : A product is not just about features and functions. PM needs to bring in the future direction, expansion of the product and integrations with other products in the ecosystem. While engineering teams are interested to know what they need to build today, they are very much interested in what’s coming in tomorrow. Clearly, this helps them to know that there is a lot to build and also helps them to better architect and design.
Know the market and users : PM is the champion of the definition and understanding of the market and a specific group of users you are trying to solve the problem for. We may have broad category of users but there is always a targeted users set. This is very important piece of information that engineering teams appreciate PM’s input. As much as engineers like to build products, they want to build them for the right users and solve a problem. The last thing engineers want to know is that a particular feature or a product is scrapped because no one uses them.
Share sales and revenue numbers and models : While engineers are heads down in building the product features and looking at great technological advancements, they would love to understand or at least know how the sales are progressing and how the product is generating the revenue. Engineers are proud of the products they build but the real satisfaction is when the product sells and contributes to the bottom line of the company or making the waves in a new market place. So, celebrate the releases and sales deals with engineering teams.
Do your homework and reach out : Many technology products these days need PM to be aware of the technology, architecture and user experience. Don’t pretend that you know everything – do your research, read, familiarize and reach out to the experts from engineering teams to understand the concepts. This not only helps the PM to gain more knowledge and talk intelligently with customers, analysts and sales teams but also builds the trust with engineers. Reaching out  is not a sign of weakness but helps strengthening the relationships.
Engineering trust on PM is what makes or breaks the overall success of the product in the market place and differentiates a bad and good PM.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Secrets to highly engaged employees

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With the growing corporate culture, employee engagement statistics are troubling in one of the world's most populous, emerging markets: India. Gallup’s research indicates that India’s employee engagement challenge is more pronounced than other emerging markets, where only one in ten are engaged, while three in ten are actively disengaged. Human Resource focus over employee engagement has thus become an urgent matter.

The need to engage employees is certain. But the question is, can we really engage employees? Whatever the answer is, we must not leave a single stone unturned for results to be positive.

What is Engagement? It largely means happy and highly satisfied employees who are, involved, committed, passionate, and enthusiastic at the workplace. So is there a sure-shot employee engagement formula that covers all the above given aspects to engage employees? Probably not; the solution lies in integrating employee engagement at both macro and micro level of the overall company culture.
Strategic and careful planning can differentiate a good company from a great company. Great companies understand that their real capital lies in their workforce. And they know how to treat them. Treating your employees well involves empowering, valuing and inspiring them. This will ensure employee retention for longer than usual period with higher engagement levels.

Alongside, one of the most critical aspects for a company to actively engage its workforce is by helping them see a future for themselves with the growth of the company – an unparalleled competitive advantage.
Employee engagement at the Macro level
Employee engagement at the Micro level
Strategic steps to integrate positive emotions while managing the negative emotions at the workplace 
Fostering a positive work environment and building strong relationship between company and employees is how companies can integrate employee engagement at the macro level. Dwelling further on the process of macro-level integration, engaging employees for highest productivity can be achieved by meeting the four core needs of every employee:
1. Physical: Regular breaks and opportunities to recharge during working hours.
2. Mental: Feeling gripped on most important tasks.
3. Spiritual: By deriving meaning and significance of the work. Opportunities to do things that they do best and enjoy most, and feel connected to the vision of the company.
4. Emotional: One of the most critical factors – feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions. At this stage, companies can consider integrating micro-levelemployee engagement by taking an innovative approach to deal with employees’ emotions.
Every company expects its employees to love their workplace, believing that the employees’ belief in its company will impact how they will treat the company’s stakeholders; specifically its customers, who offer the necessary stability and business growth.
But what’s necessary is to deal with employees’ emotions at the workplace with innovative employee engagement. And the most important aspect of dealing with emotions is to manage the negative but enhance the positive emotions of employees. Some examples of positive and negative emotions that we see around at our workplace, are -
Positive emotions – elation, lively, pleasant, thrilled, compassion, safe, fascination, passionate, surprise, motivated, humorous…
Negative emotions – shouting, screaming, depressed, bored, sad, scared, disgusted, insecure, anger, annoyed, envious, panic, contempt, irritated…
  1. A top-down approach
    People tend to mimic their superior’s behaviour. Top leadership and “higher-ups” need to start with themselves. Lead by example – it can be a positive or a negative lead. Choosing compassion, transparency or motivation over indifference, compartmentalization or demotivation. The ball is in the leader’s court.
  2. Meaningful Work
    Most employees want more than a paycheck. They want to believe that their work has purpose. People are more engaged when they believe that it matters to the success of the company and executives are valuing it.
  3. Be Flexible
    Provide employees the freedom to alter their work schedules or location to better suit their needs. It has been statistically proven that workers with flexible working hours and locations are more productive, untroubled, and engaged than the ones in a cubicle from morning 9 to evening 5.
  4. Serve as a Mentor
    When an employee experiences disengagement, their manager should step-up, be a mentor, be empathetic and support the employee for higher engagement levels.
  5. Clarify Goals and Responsibilities
    Offering clarity on goals and responsibilities is one of the largest factors contributing to higher engagement levels.
One the key elements for a successful internal communication process is senior leadership participation. The steps to integrate positive emotions while managing the negative emotions internally at the workplace:
  • Communicating the vision and mission of the company to its employees innovatively.
  • Encourage innovative and interesting breaks during the working hours.
  • Create a unique environment at the workplace that offers thrill and excitement.
  • Roll-out sensitive company polices like ethics and compliance, preventing sexual harassment at the workplace using a human touch.
  • Organize sports, creative and art based team building activities.
  • Educate employees to help them grow financially, emotionally, socially and professionally.
  • Spread awareness using performing or visual arts on employee physical and mental health benefit programs.
  • Use digital media to make communication more accessible.
  • Eliminate stress by introducing spiritual upliftment programs.
  • Publicly acknowledge and appreciate employees for their work well done.
While consulting for culture development at the workplace, Be.artsy uses innovative and art based solutions for internal communication, yielding higher employee engagement.