Accelerate your Career: 4-Eye’d Employee (pt 1)

The following is based on a presentation made to the UBCO (University of British Columbia Okanagan) female business students affiliated with the Sauder School of Business on January 28, 2011.    (Presenters, Meryle Corbett, CMA,FCMA, CFO at Kelowna Flightcraft Group of Companies; and Paulette Rennie, President of Valley First Credit Union)

What strategies will make YOU successful in business?   A group of C-suite executives agreed that the key to a rising business career includes four main characteristics.  They are described below in our series, “The 4-eyed employee” :
So what are we talking about?  The first “eye” or “I” attribute is the underlying foundation for business success:
1) Education will amplify your career potential
A degree, diploma or certification will give you the fundamental knowledge in your field to be successful.
Statistics show higher education leads to higher lifelong earnings.
My mother always told me “get a career so you never have to rely on a man” — maybe that comment dates me into that 70’s generation, but Mom’s advice has served me well over the past 30 years: I always know I bring a full contribution to the table, both at work and in my relationships.  When I feel my back is against the wall, I still have exit strategies and options.
2) Stay current in your field – this is your competitive edge
The pace of change in many industries is mind boggling.  Stay current in your skillsets to increase your employability elsewhere or further your career internally.   Resumes with current, relevant training always go to the top of the candidate “A” pile.
3) Broaden your experience early in your career – increase your long term opportunities
When you have opportunities to transfer across into other departments within your company (say, from accounting to marketing) TAKE IT!    The wider your experience is at lower levels, the more you will hone your “senior management” or “big picture” thinking.
Plus, it’s easier to move sideways at entry levels in business.  The higher you rise in an organization, the more difficult it will be to transfer sideways at the same pay level.  When C-suite opportunities come along, candidates with broader experience will have an advantage over those who came up the ranks through a traditional, one-stream path.

4) Practice “Lifelong Learning” to stay sharp and on your game

Throughout your career, the greatest success comes to employees who know how to innovate / think outside the box and those who stand out from the crowd.  One way to place yourself in this category and catch the attention of senior management is to work on continuous learning.
What to learn?  Whatever makes you curious or gives you passion!  Studies show that employees gravitate in their work to what they love to do (ask yourself what aspects of your job you love the most), and what better way to keep active but by finding ways to bring things you are passionate about into the workplace?   Some website links to start with:
7 questions to finding your true passion
100 useful web tools to help you find your passion calling or career

5) keep an open mind about new possibilities

Sometimes the best opportunities are where we least expect them.
I’ve seen several examples where employees were working in jobs that made them miserable, but with some patience and aptitude assessment, we were able to shift their career path and eventually move them to opportunities more suited to their capabilities and passions.
A founder of a very successful IT company once said, “If you get up more than three days in a row feeling miserable about your job, you need to DO SOMETHING.”   Sometimes that means addressing a problem situation at work, sometimes it means beginning a career change.
Maintain your education, continually feed your brain and you will keep your career options open over the long term.

Worklife Balance: 6 Tips to ease the workload

If you are one of those type “A” personalities that always has a dozen projects on the go, your spouse is on your case to reprioritize in favor of your family, here are some ways to “ease the load” and regain control:

Do you feel like the candle with both ends burned down to the core?

1) Set aside 1/2 hour at the beginning of each day to plan and prioritize.
This may mean getting up a half hour earlier, but make yourself a nice cup of coffee and give yourself the gift of “reflection time”.   This will allow you to plan and organize more efficiently, saving you stress the rest of the day.

2) Set up new habits that save you time or hassle:

– Use a crock pot and prepare meals ahead of time.
You will have one less task to compete with your other priorities at the end of the work day.
The internet has great ideas for pre-cooked meals that use cheap cuts of meat (save $$) for home-cooked dinners (“comfort food”).
-Assign more chores to your kids – ease your burden of doing it all
-Hire out or hire in support where you can afford it
-Use a cleaning lady, hire a neighbour kid to cut the grass
-use drycleaning pickup and delivery (many stores offer this service right to the workplace)
-consider on-line shopping and direct-to-door delivery (this is an increasing trend:  everything from groceries to all kinds of consumer items — on numerous websites)
3) Lose the time wasters in your life
– Learn to say “no” to requests that are not your passion or priority
– Trade chauffeuring of the kids with other parents – reduce driving time
– Trade babysitting one night a month with another family
– Volunteer selectively (cut back to meaningful events)
– Reduce time spent with “negative people” (eg gossip at work, nosy neighbours etc.) 

4)  Shift your schedule to put family time first at least 2 days / week
– Plan “guaranteed family time” on weekends – let your family choose the event
(trade this for extra help on weekday chores, leaving “fun time” on the weekend)
– Plan one slot per week for personal downtime (to recharge your batteries)
– Set up monthly “dates” for spouse & friends (i.e. first Wednesday each month)

Laura Stack, a productivity expert in Denver and author of SuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best says, “It helps to be proactive when scheduling.  When I go out with my girlfriends, we all whip out our cell phones and put another girls’ night out on the calendar for one month later.”
Stack also plans a specific activity with her family ahead of time:”We do this because if there’s nothing on the schedule, time tends to get frittered away and the weekend may end without us spending quality time together.

5) Adjust your hours and focus at work
– Go in to work 2 hours earlier, when you can accomplish high volume of work with zero interruptions
– Negotiate with your boss for flex time or early leave time – propose this as a “pilot” project to see how much more efficient you can be with more focused blocks of time
– Reduce email reviews to a couple of regular time slots (half hour maximum) per day.  This will reduce the chances of you getting caught in a “vortex” of unimportant items.

6) Feed your soul!
– Don’t forget to make yourself a priority for half hour each day (beginning or end of day usually works for busy parents)
– Exercise when and where you can – studies show that exercise will actually increase your energy, improve concentration and reduce stress
– Make a bucket list and then do one thing each week that moves you forward toward a goal on that list.  Perhaps you want to travel somewhere — set up a cookie jar fund and then fund it little by little;  review brochures and plan a getaway; organize and do some research on your destination’s history and landmarks.
– Add music to your life, by setting up an mp3 player with your favorite tunes for “tuning out” and relaxation
– Arrange time with friends you miss and haven’t seen in a while.
– Take small breaks and fill them with small joys in your life (take a bath, a walk, read a fun book, call a friend)

REMEMBER:  keep moving forward, even if you take only a few small steps at a time.  Better progress is made by small, steady steps than huge single leaps.  Enjoy!

For more ideas:

Supervisors: how to handle confidential leaks

whisper.jpgHave you ever had confidential information leak that reflected on you or your department?
One of the worst surprises for a supervisor is having confidential information repeated back from an inappropriate source. How could this have leaked? Who leaked it?
Tracing back information to the source may be easy or difficult.
– Sometimes there is a twist of the facts or misinterpretation embedded in the confidential feedback that makes traceability easy.
– Sometimes if you simply ask, you can trace back through the individuals participating in the gossip.
– Sometimes too many people were in on the original confidential meeting, making a successful trace extremely unlikely.
Dealing with a “leaker” employee (if you successfully trace them):
– Set up a one-on-one meeting to discuss the situation in private
– Note to the leaking employee how their action has a negative impact on the company
– Discuss consequences for continued leaking of information (varies from reprimand to cutoff future career opportunities to termination).

When you can’t find the source of the leak:
– Narrow down to a list of potential sources if possible
– Stay alert and keep all future information close at hand
– Disclose only parts of confidential information to individual employees at a time (if possible)
Eventually, a blabbermouth will blab again. Once an employee is known to be a “leaker”,  they are on my personal “do not disclose anything, except at your own peril” list.  And their career opportunities in my company would be limited.
It pays to keep confidences quiet!

Funny Office Stories: embarrassing email moments

We have all been there – sent an email you regret.  How do you handle the aftermath?

This happened about a year ago…..
I call it “Sorry, dialed the wrong number! “
It was very late on a Friday night,
in the middle of heated, nose-to-nose negotiations with a critical supplier who had threatened to withdraw services essential to our core business.
I was writing a strongly worded, very frank email to a board member discussing this supplier’s flawed approach, their (outrageous, in my view) proposal, our internal assessment of the situation and my counter-proposal and our internal “give-away” points in the negotiations.
My mistake?  Both the suppier and the board member have the same first name.  Guess who actually actually received the board member’s email ?  –the supplier! (yes, the auto-naming feature in Outlook outdid itself by grabbing the most recent firstname email in my history)
As the send button flickered, I realized my mistake (too late!). Now I had a situation: I had to immediately deal with the board member AND rectify a contentious email to the supplier.
First, I called the board member and told him what happened.  He’d find out sooner or later, and it’s always better to ‘fess up early.  At least I’d get some good advice in this lousy situation.  Turns out he felt the email was not such a bad thing at all — it was entirely factual, not nasty, and now the supplier (inadvertently) knew our entire honest opinion of the situation.   Bit of a machiavellian turn, even.
I then responded to the supplier, told him that he really received the email in error, but hoped he would take my frank words and frustration to heart so we could chat constructively on Monday and resolve the issues.
That email did help clear the air, we did resolve our situation after a few more iterations, and I still remain on good personal terms with this fellow since he left the supplier company.
Lesson learned:  stick to “just the facts” in emails, and always put recipient names in the email AFTER it is completed, taking care to type carefully!