Reboot Your Career Episode 3
In the third of our series, we look at the skills you need to reboot your career. You can also find a more detailed episode on each of the areas by clicking on the following.
Reboot Your Career Episode 2
In episode 1 of this series, I talked about if you should reboot your career and where to start. Before we do a skill audit, I want to think through how we see ourselves. If we don’t accurately assess ourselves, we will never get our skills gaps clear.
The books I talked about are:
I have started a new series of LiveStreams on rebooting your career. I will upload them to this page as we complete them. They can be found on Youtube too.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Have you heard the old joke about the difference between Heaven and Hell? In Heaven, it says: the French are the chefs, the Italians are the lovers, the British are the police, the Germans are the mechanics and the Swiss make everything run on time. In Hell: The British are the chefs, the Swiss are the lovers, the French are the mechanics, the Italians make everything run on time and the Germans are the police. Hell as we know, is not meant to be the perfect world.
In a perfect world we would all be perfect and nice to each other. We would get on well and everybody would be happy. Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world. It’s full of people who make your work life more difficult. Bad team members can be a cancer for both your team and its chances of achieving its objectives.
Here are the 5 types of people who exist in my work Hell and who I want off my teams.
“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” Red Adair, Firefighter
I have not been a great lover of the amateur in business, even an enthusiastic one. There is a sense that if you give someone long enough they will get the right answer. The problem I have is that they tend to go through a lot of wrong answers first. That is why Red Adair implies it’s expensive to hire an amateur. When the author Steven Pressfield talked about the habits of people he said, “The difference between an amateur and a professional is in their habits. An amateur has amateur habits. A professional has professional habits.”
So does this mean we should never hire someone without the right experience? Well, it depends what we mean by experience. Employees can bring many skills to the table and not all of them are necessarily related to the task. Additionally, we all have to keep learning and can not be ‘professionals’ at everything we do. When putting someone on a team, we need to be clear what they bring to the table, what we expect them to contribute and where they need to learn.
Our job at work is to meet our objectives in the best way we can, often in the shortest period of time possible. We can argue the need to train new members for the team but we should avoid being led by people who are ‘making it up as they go along.’
Over the years, the most commented on episode of The 3 Minute Mentor is the one on dealing with Passive Aggressive Behavior. Wikipedia describes Passive-Aggressive behavior as an “indirect expression of hostility, such as through procrastination, stubbornness, sullenness, or deliberate or repeated failure to accomplish requested tasks for which one is (often explicitly) responsible.” At work it is simpler to classify it as “saying ‘yes’ to avoid saying no, which is actually what you plan to do.”
If you believe in H-I-T (Honesty-Integrity-Transparency) in the workplace you owe it to the team and yourself to be honest about your intentions. The conflict this may cause is of course what people are trying to avoid, but that conflict may actually be helpful because you may be right. Avoiding the conflict and just saying “yes” is wrong, and may put the mission of the group at risk.
We can all fall into passive-aggressive behavior – to go-along-to-get-along – but in reality it’s a cancer that damages a high performing team. Either the behavior needs to be eliminated or the people will need to be!
What links Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Tyra Banks and Martha Stewart?
The answer is that you can find quotes where they call themselves perfectionists. Not being a psychologist, I can not tell you the value of being a perfectionist to artists and achievers like this. Maybe to reach the highest levels of achievement as an individual you need to think this way. You can also find quotes about working for these stars – they are often called obsessive and difficult.
Being part of a team requires some level of negotiation and agreement. There will always be something that you might want to do differently than the team but to complete the mission you agree to put your view aside. The Passive-Aggressive agrees to the ‘compromise’ but doesn’t act on it, but The Perfectionist will typically want it their way or not at all. In the end, this can stall a team and make achieving the mission impossible unless The Perfectionist is ignored. This will either lose them from the team or turn them into a passive-aggressive. If you want to know if you maybe a perfectionist, check out this page called “10 Ways To Tell If You Are A Perfectionist.” Are you guilty or not guilty?
Teams can be sensitive and delicate. Their success requires compromise and balance. We have seen how people like The Perfectionist can damage a team but there are others that are equally dangerous. While we all want the brightest and smartest on our teams, we should however avoid what Netflix CEO Reed Hastings calls the “brilliant jerk.”
It doesn’t matter how smart you are if no one wants to work with you. Worse, if you put a Brilliant Jerk on your team, because of how smart they are, no one will want to work with them.
There is a great article by Marty Fukuda, Chief Operating Officer of N2 Publishing on entrepeneur.com giving reasons not to hire The Brilliant Jerk but it comes down to chemistry. At the end of the day people do not want to work with ‘assholes’ regardless of how smart they are.
While we may create teams as ‘learning experiences’, typically at work we create teams to get something done. That means there will be actions, follow-ups and to-dos. Therefore, another person to avoid having on your team is The Shirker. Wikipedia defines a shirker as “one who shirks a duty or responsibility.”
In a team, we define The Shirker as the one “who never takes any actions.” Typically, they are the person that is happy to contribute and give other people work but never take it for themselves. Worse, they maybe the one that takes actions, often under peer pressure, but never achieves them. Not for the same reasons as The Passive Aggressive (who never intended to) but just because, oh well, many reasons. Starting with ‘the dog ate my homework.’
More dangerously the shirker can be one who tries to avoid being part of the decision making processes. They believe that by not being part of the decision, they will have ‘plausible deniability’ should the decision turn out to be a bad one. Of course this seldom works out that way but you will hear them say, “I never thought that was the right decision.” Trust me, it’s never too early for them to leave the team.
A team is only as strong as its members. If I have the power or the opportunity, these are the first people I get out of the way of getting work done.
Can you see these people in your work world? Maybe you have a type you would like to add to the list. Let me know.
In a recent post on LinkedIn I talked about the 5 People to kick off your team– NOW! The post talked about the five types of people who you probably don’t want on your team if the team is to reach its objectives. Each of the five, either reduced the effectiveness of the whole of derails the mission of the team. Hopefully you did not see yourself on this list. If you did, take time to fix those bad habits.
This time, I though we should look at the satiation from the other side. Taking a slightly more positive view: who are the five types of people we want on our team. Hopefully you will find yourself on this list and if not, that’s something to work towards.
If you look up the definition of the ‘gate-keeper’ you will see it talk about “a person in charge of a gate, usually to identify, count, supervise, etc., the traffic or flow through it.” On every good team you will find someone who is acting as the ‘gate-keeper.’ It is important to separate out this from from the Team Leader as they may not be the same person. But more on The Leader later.
Our gate-keeper is vital become they are the person on the team that keep the processes of the team moving forward. They ensure there are agendas for meetings, they can be counted on to get the people there on time and they help the meetings end of time. Often and sometimes more importantly, in a project with multiple deliverables on multiple dates, they help us get the right stuff done at the right times.
The skill of the gate keeper isn’t only managing the flow of work and people but doing it in an unobtrusive way. A good gate-keeper is neither bossy nor rude. The best are sometimes almost invisible. Sometimes they only get noticed at the end of a project when you look back and wonder how it all went so well.
If you worked on a project and it was successful, you probably need to thank the gate-keeper.
While history has a habit of crediting the Generals, most wars are won by the infantry or foot-soldiers. The brave men, and now women, who are the first line of defense are often the first line on offense in any battle. It is their victory and their loss, that most defines success or failure in war. In business the foot-soldier is as critical to an organizations success as the CEO.
This is true in our teams as well.
If we are to be more than just ‘talking shops’ then real work will need to get done. That real work requires people who are able and willing to do it. We need people to do the research, build the prototypes, test the hypothesis, to sell the solution and on and on. We all believe that “too many cooks spoil the broth” and in team, “too leaders get nothing done.” Without The Foot Soldiers there is no team work.
Understand who your foot-soldiers are and what skills they have is essential to any successful team. Not having people to do the work is an obvious failure, but just as bad can be giving the wrong job to the wrong person. Match the jobs to the people and work will progress much faster and with less errors.
We have all been in workshops or group break-outs where great, if not brilliant, ideas have been generated. We are all very impressed with our broad and strategic thinking. Around two minute before we have to the ‘read-back’ we stare at the empty flip-chart and say “who’s going to write something?” We are now about to risk all our good thinking being lost to our bad note taking.
I can never understand the people who volunteer to take the notes or be The Secretary of our clubs. I can not understand but I am always very grateful for them. With their good hand-writing and clear note-taking we get minutes and charts. A good Note-taker can do more that just capture the ideas.
When you take good and accurate notes, you often need to ask for clarifications. Our Note-takers will be heard say, “what did you mean by that?” While some might find that question aggressive and even painful it is often required to accurately record the idea. No point looking at the notes a week later and asking “what did we mean by that?” In this respect the Note-taker can often be a huge influence in helping to focus any discussion.
If the success of your team is to be judged on its output, then having something to submit will be critical. Where would we be without our Note-takers?
Confucius tell us that “life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” The opposite is often true of our projects. They can be very, very complicated. Multi-dimensional, multi-phased and multi-national.
Often we spend weeks working on a solution or project. We consider alternatives and debate options. Then despite our desire to explain intricate and subtle brilliance of our idea, we are given 5 minutes to explain it. This is when the Simplifier or Communicator is most needed. While they maybe two different people but both are vital and they often come in the same person.
Their skill is to take our ‘intricate and subtle brilliance’ and quickly explain it to someone else. Either through story telling or analogies they get the basic point across and sell our solution. The senior manager or ‘buyer’ can quickly get the idea and becomes engaged to find out more.
As team members we are often horrified that all our work over weeks or months can be so simply summed up into a few sentences but without their work, our ideas may go unsold and unimplemented.
Finally, I would like to talk about the role of the The Leader. Finally, because while every team needs a leader they don’t define the success of the team. In fact, the role of leader can become too important and their ego can get in the way.
The traditional view of a leader tends toward a Henry V type figure, waving his standard and shouting “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” Clearly there is a time and a place for that type of leader but it’s not always needed. Good leaders need to be flexible in their approach to building and running the team’s they lead.
Mostly, a good leader needs to be like a good manager: hire a great team and get out of the way!
When people ask me about my management style I often say, I think a good manager only really does three things. They make a team member think more broadly than the want to, move faster than they want to and helps them by moving obstacles out of the way. In our teams, a good team leader does the same for their team.
There is an old computer joke about the 6 phases of an IT project. It describes the last three of these as: search for the guilty, punishment of the innocent, and praise and honor for the nonparticipants. The last major role of the leader is to ensure this does not happen. They need to make sure the right people get the credit and rewards.
Teams need to made up of lots of different types of people with lots of different skills. While we tend to look for a to the leader, they will not guarantee success. As with like, diversity of people with diversity of skills we always a good idea.
Let me know what you think.