#7: The Upside of a Management Shuffle

STAYING ON YOUR A-GAME:

Practical Quick Tips for Staying Productive at Work

flourishing_shuffle_lrg

The Upside of a Management Shuffle

By: Allan Vayman

You may have just received the news.  Your team is about to be the ‘casualty’ of a corporate shuffle that will find you under a new leader.  Not only is your current manager a mentor to you, but you have also developed a friendship that extends outside of work.  Your world feels like it’s about to turn upside down, as you feel like you’ve been finding your place at work under their tutelage.  Just relax and take a deep breath, the world is not coming to an end.

While you may not yet know who your new manager will be, and what to expect, there are some true benefits to such change if you consider them.  Here are a few:

1.  Leveling the playing field

If you have been a work in progress (i.e. not the highest seller, the most senior, or the most technically proficient member on the team) this change may be a blessing in disguise.  If you have been committed to upping your knowledge, proficiency and people skills you are prepared to introduce the best version of yourself to your new leader.  There is always a feeling out process on both sides in the beginning as trust is earned and established, however stay true to the committed person that you are and within the span of a few weeks your manager will gain confidence in you.  They will not have been around to see you in your developing stages where you may have lacked polish.  You will be entering their consciousness as the best you.

2.  Opportunity for greater accountabilities

If your manager is new to the company or department they will surely need support from their team as they become acclimated to their new environment.  You can make yourself the subject matter expert on the team for things like department culture, processes, and systems.  This is the perfect opportunity to quickly fill a void for your new leader and find a niche for yourself.  A new manager inundated with the ways of a new department will find it hard to say no to someone ready to step up to the plate and be of assistance.  Show a genuine care in making sure their transition into the department and team is as easy as possible by being accommodating and reliable.  Volunteering to take on accountabilities will help raise your status on the team and in your new leader’s eyes.

Note: It is possible, however, that in the midst of trying to be useful we can become ‘overly helpful’ and get in the way.  As such qualify your ideas and status updates to your manager to ensure they have value and are worth the interruption.

3.  Learning a different management style

All managers have had a journey that must be respected, as one day we may walk our own path to leadership.  Moving between a variety of leaders allows you to compare management styles and piece together your own montage of the person you would be in that role.  These experiences will help form the basis of your own leadership style.  Watching how they do things like: communicate under pressure; recognize and motivate the team; run their coaching sessions; demonstrate trust; compete against others; assert themselves; handle their scheduling and organization; and go to bat for their people, will help you visualize how you would conduct yourself if in their shoes.

4.  Learn from their experience

Life is too short to make all the mistakes.  Luckily each leader brings their own knowledge, experience and expertise with them.  There is much they can impart on you during your one-on-one coaching sessions.  Consider yourself fortunate to be able to learn from their past successes, and even mistakes, in the morsels they are willing to share with you and the team.  Observe how they conduct themselves in challenging situations you may likely encounter yourself in the future.  Round out your understanding of your industry through the crash courses they give you on other areas of the business.

5.  Rallying support

Developing a positive rapport with several members of the management team can go a long way in helping you make your next move.  With a few managers in your corner that can vouch for your work ethic your name will come up at the next leadership meeting for a new opening.  Always go 100% under any manager you work with, and gain a reputation for never dropping the ball (at least knowingly).  Doing this will effectively align the stars and put you in a good spot for career progression within your organization.

In chaos there is always opportunity.  A new leader can help round out your professional package.  Look at the bright side of change and be ready to pivot on the fly and embrace it.  When you find yourself in uncharted territory learn to land on your feet and keep moving.

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#6: Increasing the Value of your Name – Branding yourself like a BMW

STAYING ON YOUR A-GAME:

Practical Quick Tips for Staying Productive at Work

2013-bmw-m6-coupe-2-1

Increasing the Value of your Name:  

Branding yourself like a BMW

By: Allan Vayman

Today, in our economy, the value of everything is being reconsidered.  This is especially true within the corporate world.  As such those that are serious about career building must find ways to build increasing value around their name if they want a shot at progression.

If it wasn’t abundantly clear, the job market dictates the salary range for all of our skillsets.  For those feeling stuck and hoping to break that mold, it can require a radical shift in ones beliefs.  This article is written for those that find themselves regularly working with their eyes between the clock (waiting for the weekend to come), and their deposited paychecks (making sure their pay was right down to the penny).  I understand this mindset because it is one I used to share.  At some point, for sake of career progression, the bean counting must be moved aside to free our minds to putting in the uncompensated time necessary towards our own development.  For some, this shift in thinking may be so dramatic that based on their outlook today, it can seem… preposterous.   However, as with all new endeavors to change it all starts with baby steps.

As with all subjects I venture to write about, it is only in hindsight that I can say I am lucky enough to speak from experience.  There are many who feel overdue for a role change and an increase in pay shortly after stringing together a few solid quarters out of the fiscal year.  However, when they do not see any tangible return on their efforts their performance begins to wane.  They do enough to get by until they hear word of new job opening on the horizon, then turn-up their efforts once again.  When that opportunity happens to ‘slip through their fingers’ they once again disengage, and the pattern repeats itself.  The difficulty for someone that falls into this pattern of behaviour is that they are unaware of the setback it can cause their reputation.  Being hot and cold at work is counterproductive to establishing an exceptional brand within an organization, where predictable results are thrived on.  This track record of behaviour would likely give management reservations in co-signing such a person into a role that will be more challenging and self-sufficient (never mind an opportunity for higher compensation).  If gone unchecked, this pattern can very well confine a person to the seat they are sitting in indefinitely.

There are many metaphors I was considering using to illustrate what I wanted to speak on in this article. Finally I settled on a BMW, a brand whose legacy is synonymous with quality and consistency in performance.  An owner of a new BMW expects that if the spec sheet says it can go from 0-60mph in X amount of seconds that it will do so every day of the week, albeit seamlessly and with class.  No one that drives a BMW off the lot anticipates a few great road trips with it in the summer, then to have it begin to show signs of choking up and turning stubborn the following fall, breaking down and going into hibernation in the winter, only to wake up to a new day in the spring, getting back up to speed!!  Much like the BMW brand, if we want to gain an image of being in a certain ‘class’ our performance and engagement at work must become absolute.  “You can’t expect to make 80k a year with 40k habits” is a rough quote a colleague once shared with me that resonates.  Of course developing these kinds of habits is not an overnight process for anybody.

There are those in the workforce that have come to a point where they believe the only carrot that will ‘inspire’ them into sustaining a high level of performance and accountability at work is a pay increase.  However, in a competitive environment the person that carries a ‘compensation first’ mentality can rob themselves of significant development opportunities.  People of this mindset may have reservations about lateral moves, short-term contract roles, or other skill and rapport building activities that can increase their value to an organization.  They may believe they already possess a unique value proposition, but the job market has a blunt way of reminding us all just what salary range our current skills and experience fall into.   As a mental image, however, just imagine how much research and development, design refinement, test driving, marketing, and reputation behind the BMW brand went into the new M6 Coupe before someone came to the dealership and paid the asking price.

“One doesn’t have to wait to be assigned a value through a new title either, as we should build our value from where we stand today and let a title follow.”

People that hold a ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude (WIFM) operate on the pretense that if a nominal increase in pay was handed out that they would suddenly come into work a half hour early to get settled in; that they’d crack a smile and make friends; that they’d motivate the team and lead by example; that they’d catch a ball before it drops without looking around to see if anyone else will; that during unpredictably high volumes of work they’d give it gas and move from 0-60 on a dime; and that they’d come in and conquer the day, then close up shop and do it all over again tomorrow.  To offer all these benefits and be perceived as ‘luxury class’ to a business unit, we can’t be seen puttering around the office like a winter beater.  However, for many, their motivations aren’t properly set up for the corporate environment to enable these habits to develop, which can make a career path a gruelling and uphill battle.

If the shoe fits us, how can we begin to turn this all around and become the BMWs we believe ourselves to be?  The first step is no small step at all, as it is probably the most difficult, and it determines the course of our working lives at least in the short-term.  It requires us to confirm whether, overall, we still find passion in our line of work or industry.  Having passion is the key to blurring the line between our life inside and outside of work, and allows us to welcome developing and expanding our skillset on our own time.  It is this passion that can allow us to significantly condense our development time and begin pulling ahead.

If our passion has been confirmed, it’s time to hit the open road and leave the old non-committal version of ourselves far behind in the rear-view.  We must begin to see what we may be blind to today, and that is that in any given moment, in any given day of the year, whether inside or outside of work, whether being paid extra or not, there are opportunities to build up our value.  We must come to understand that there is a real and direct line between the person we are now, and the habits we must form to become that high performer of exceptional value.   One doesn’t have to wait to be assigned a value through a new title either, as we should build our value from where we stand today and let a title follow.

Here is a shortlist of things we can do in any given moment to increase our value:

  • turn our mood around
  • stay positive
  • motivate the team
  • gain trust in others to execute a task (teamwork)
  • share a win
  • get organized
  • take on a new task
  • practice a new selling technique
  • work on rapport building
  • forge a new relationship
  • strengthen an existing relationship
  • recognize someone
  • learn a new process
  • master a process
  • improve a process
  • practice working with numbers
  • identify a trend
  • share a trend
  • draft a report
  • vocalize an opinion
  • pitch an idea
  • assert ourselves
  • focus better and for longer
  • practice multitasking
  • get feedback
  • apply feedback
  • provide feedback
  • coach someone
  • work on our writing
  • plan and run a meeting
  • practice speaking to an audience
  • collaborate with another department
  • learn a new part of the business
  • decide on the next book to read
  • enroll in a certification program
  • apply a transferrable skill from outside work into work

The numbers of things we can do in any given moment are only limited by our curiosity and motivation for discovery.  If we have an extremely high willingness to learn, and can maximize our time throughout the day, just imagine were we can be in a year’s time.  It is these accumulated pieces of knowledge gained from experience that allow us to contribute insights of value.  It is this value one can bring to the table that would enable them to enter new and different spheres of influence within an organization, with ideas that might be applied cross functionally across departments.  The person possessing a WIFM attitude must shift it to recognize where there are opportunities to gain a rare combination of experiences, skills and relationships that can leverage them into a new ‘class’.

During an interview, the interviewers job is to ‘check under the hood’ to see if a resume (spec sheet) is a true reflection of what the candidate brings, and it is where they determine their value to the business unit.  Gone should be the days where we feel we have to stretch our experience to meet the requirements of a new role, tweaking our behavioural examples a few nights before, throwing on a suit, and calling that interview preparation.  If we think about it, interview preparation starts long before an interview or new job opening is ever on the horizon, as we are building up our value to meet a new opportunity as it presents itself.

The next time we are feeling a sense of entitlement we must ask ourselves why someone would pay XXXXX amount more for us, when they feel they can get someone similar for XXXXX amount less, with $0 down and 0% financing?  We are talking simple economics here.  If we have a strong counter argument to that question, then just maybe we have built up exceptional value to our name.

As a colleague, and always as a work in progress,

Allan Vayman

#5: The Power of Comparison

STAYING ON YOUR A-GAME: #5

Practical Quick Tips for Staying Productive at Work

The Power of Comparison

by: Allan Vayman

We all get the inclination to compare ourselves to others.  When it comes to the workplace we often compare ourselves to those that are able to accomplish remarkable things such as consistently exceeding quotas or maneuvering into increasingly higher positions.  If we happen to be in a dry spell in our careers we may find ourselves wondering what they are doing differently.  In the midst of these moments we must be sure to use comparison as a tool to challenge and inspire our minds to test our limitations and find better ways of doing things.

When we are able to observe the admirable skills and talents of others it can reveal techniques and nuances in execution that we previously had no awareness of.  By recognizing there are people around us that are more effective in certain areas then we are today, we become big enough to acknowledge there is room for improvement.  In fact we create that room for improvement within ourselves and from there we must find the motivation and burning desire to fill this space.

We can also find ways to approach matching the output of those in proximity to us by osmosis.  This happens through sheer determination and a sense of necessity to perform up to a new standard.  There are few rewards as gratifying as taking what is a weakness of ours today and hammering away at it until it becomes a certified strength on par with those of the company we want to keep.  This is surely a challenging feat and often a timely pursuit that requires daily commitment to progress.  However, it is a worthy truth to uncover that indeed changing ourselves for the better is within our reach.

Sometimes, however, when we have yet to find our individual formula for success there can be a tendency to become overly fixated on what others around us are doing.  While raising our level of productivity across the board is ideal, becoming bent on proving that we can outperform those around us in ALL areas will eventually lead to burn out.  This can also bring about its own negative social implications, closing the doors of opportunity that only other people can open.  Thinking about it, is that how we really want to feel day in and day out anyhow?  Chasing after a target we didn’t set for ourselves? Is this how we can continuously draw inspiration in our lives?

What we want to avoid in relating ourselves to other people is the ‘comparison trap’.  This is where we compare ourselves to others to the point where we dismiss nurturing our own special set of inherent qualities.  Sooner then later we should begin building on these qualities and design the only roadmap to the success that matters.  That is success achieved on our own terms.  We should take inventory of ourselves and direct in which areas we need to grow based on our career aspirations.  In this way we can choose to compare aspects of ourselves to others at times where it makes sense, using them as a benchmark for the level of proficiency we should be at.  All the while our roadmap to success will serve to anchor us to our own personal journey.

Now our colleague ‘John’ might get through his work at impressive speed, always leaving the office not a minute late, and this might get him to where he’s going quickly.  However, is where John is going, based on what he’s suited for, really where we want to end up?  Regardless of the type of worker that we are at our core, the key to demonstrating the best value we can provide is ultimately based on how we consistently follow through on our execution. This holds true whether we are an analytical workhorse, savvy sales person, customer centric solution provider or a speedy task checker offer.  Whatever our personality type we must be cognisant of when comparison to others holds merit.  For example:

     ‘Suzy’ is the highly analytical type.  Her approach to what has been a long-term operational problem is to thoroughly investigate it so that she can propose a solution where it does not reoccur down the road.  Now when Suzy sees John speed through this same issue and be the first to propose a solution it may be tempting for her to rethink her approach.  John may be a person of exceptional talent and confidence that thinks quickly on his feet, in which case there may be much for Suzy to learn from him.  However, how is Suzy to know that John gave sufficient attention to the problem and is not proposing a Band-Aid fix? 

The example above is oversimplified for effect and in reality both personality types can learn a great deal from each other.  The point being if we consistently allow ourselves to land in the ‘comparison trap’ we will consistently lose out on the chance to see our results manifest, and thus never build up the necessary belief and confidence in our line of thinking. This means we will rarely have an opportunity to be recognized for our best qualities, those that would show us to the doors of opportunity we are looking for.

If we are in a place where we feel there is no foreseeable opportunities of progression on the horizon it might be time for an honest self-assessment.  Having experienced a few failures our compass may be scrambled and we may find it difficult to even know where to begin on our roadmap, much less have one.  The gatekeepers around us may have rightfully grown comfortable in their perceptions of us as well, thus requiring a monumental push on our part to break through.  Indeed seeing others exceed while we are stuck in place should be the spark needed to create motion in our lives at any sacrifice.   It may feel like the incredible struggle of a space shuttle attempting to leave the ground against the forces of gravity, however watching others be great should serve to remind us that great things are possible.  (Here is where we learn about the benefits of momentum, to be discussed in another article)

The goal is to become acclimated to the idea that self-improvement will be a journey and not a destination in life.  Using comparison is an effective tool to kick-start self-improvement, particularly when we have yet to develop the keenness to direct it on our own.  It can ingrain the needed constructs in our minds to turn it into a perpetual mechanism of our own control.  Perhaps this lack of self-improvement has rendered us unable to strike a formula for higher success all along.  Once on our roadmap, self-improvement is a tool we can carry with us wherever we go, and wherever our journey may take us.

#4: Making Mountains out of Molehills

STAYING ON YOUR A-GAME: #4

Practical Quick Tips for Staying Productive at Work

Making Mountains out of Molehills

By: Allan Vayman

We all have those days where we feel like were about to hit a roadblock.  Where a task that must be done sits on the horizon looming over us.  Where our feeding into its complexity and enormity distracts us from our day, eating away at our productivity.  Just to take our minds off of it we may call for an early break, heading to Tim’s to clear our thoughts for a minute and recharge on coffee.  Finally we get back to our office and decide to clamp down.  When we finally sit down and work through the task we’ve built up to be a mountain, what we thought would take 3 hours to get done with some focus we complete in 45 minutes.  As we put our finishing touches on the task we look back in accomplishment feeling like we’ve defied odds.  As if we’ve won back time, turning the hour hand back.

The reality is that most things we must get done in our work seem more overwhelming from a distance.  When we jump into a task and simply focus on it without lamenting on time that is when the connections needed to solve the problem come to us.  It is my observation that most times these connections come much quicker than anticipated.  Sometimes parts of the task we thought would need most consideration prove to have no bearing at all.  Other parts of the task we thought would be most simple take a little bit longer than expected.  Other times unexpected elements of the task might also come into play and ultimately be the binding needed to complete it.  However, it is learned that by committing ourselves to the task at hand and moment we are in that these daily challenges are simply not what they seem.

It is after stringing a few of these experiences together that we come to realize just how much can be accomplished in a day with focus and commitment.  We become open to take on new projects and volunteer for more accountability that we can learn from.  We eventually believe that we can learn on the job and work our way through almost anything thrown at us and appreciate the challenge presented at the same time.  We believe that we will make the connections needed to solve the problem and get the job done. Why? Because we’ve done it time and time again.

It is this practice towards the mastery of attitude to problem solving that turns productive days into productive weeks, productive weeks into productive months, and productive months into a standout year.

#3: Breaking out of your Comfort Zone

STAYING ON YOUR A-GAME: #3

Practical Quick Tips for Staying Productive at Work

Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone

By: Allan Vayman

In order to grow it is crucial that we put ourselves in situations we are not accustomed to.   This is especially true when we find ourselves stuck in the same position year-over-year.  They say you cannot do the same thing over and over and expect different results.  By sticking to what we are good at that can suggest we will only ever be good at what we’re currently doing.  The reality is that to some degree the nature of our work (and the world around us) will eventually be affected by the forces of change.  Resistance to change within ourselves can serve to hold us back as the world seemingly moves on.

Head up enough presentations and you will develop boldness in the middle of large groups.  Force yourself to work with numbers long enough and soon you will be dissecting accounting queries without having to call on Accounting.  Face the most difficult transactions head-on and soon you will be the subject matter expert.  Sometimes stepping out of our comfort zones can even mean demonstrating the talents we already possess but keep hidden.

In order to stay growing it helps to be aware of where our comfort zone lies and test its boundaries regularly.  If you find yourself in a role where the required skillset can be easily found and you are yearning to show you are capable for more, it can pay dividends to take on the types of tasks or functions that others are unwilling to.  This can demonstrate the reach of your abilities and tolerance for taking on more accountability.

Confronting and pushing past our comfort zone builds character, expands our skillset, and gives us a new awareness of all that we are truly capable of.

#2: Not letting Work Catch you Off-Guard

STAYING ON YOUR A-GAME: #2

Practical Quick Tips for Staying Productive at Work

Not letting Work Catch you Off-Guard

By: Allan Vayman

On your drive to work envision how your day will unfold based on the prioritized tasks ahead of you.  Play some music that gets you motivated as you think these thoughts.  Envision the tactful interactions that must take place with management to move agendas forward.  Picture the emails in your inbox, how you will systematically reply to them one-by-one so that all stakeholders are aware of your status.  This kind of start to your day will help you hit the ground running, gaining you a reputation for being ‘on the ball’ with those whom you work.

If you find yourself storming into the office half the days of the week, late for meetings and ‘just missing’ deadlines, consider an alternative way to structure your morning.  Redesign your morning so that your morning works for you, sailing you into work as planned.

By now you’ve already witnessed the negative cascading effect running late can have on your schedule…  Now imagine strolling into the office at a leisurely pace, heart rate steady, feeling like you are in control of how your day will unfold.  What a difference this daily pattern can make not only to your outlook, but also your overall health and wellbeing.

#1: Thinking of Life as a Game

STAYING ON YOUR A-GAME: #1

Practical Quick Tips for Staying Productive at Work

SPACEINVADER

Thinking of Life as a Game 

By: Allan Vayman

Sometimes it helps to think of life, and thus life at work, as a game.  Consider it something that you are out to master.  A platform where you are trying to build up your skills and attributes to make it to the next stage.  Not something that you would approach with the reckless abandon of some videogame, knowing that you have an infinite amount of lives or failures to be made, but where every rejection or ‘no’ you encounter makes you come back stronger and more skilled.   In thinking of life as a game you are using the strengths intrinsic to your character to creatively find ways to reach a new top score, or in other words, a new level of achievement.  Shifting the way you think of life to that of a game you are committed to mastering can help you sustain a competitive and productive spirit at work.  It will also detach you from the weight with which the challenges in front of you can carry.