Tag Archives: Learning

Quote for Oct 23rd

Learning

I’m still learning, and that’s what life is about.
Cary Elwes

If you are interested in learning more about controlling project scope join me on October 30th at 7:00 pm CST for a free webinar.  Get more information and register here.  Webinar Oct 30th

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Filed under Personal Development, Quotes

Moving Beyond Technical Skills

Leap of FaithTo do any job you have to have the right technical skills.  This doesn’t mean you have to be a rocket scientist just that you have to have the skills needed to do the tasks of the job.  Typically you need technical skills to get hired.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that in most cases technical skills alone will not get you promoted very far.  To be successful in a career you need to have people skills. This is true because in almost every position you will be dealing with other people: bosses, co-workers, clients, customers, sub-ordinates and so on.

How do you develop these skills?  Here are seven tips to get you started:

  1. Leaders are Everywhere:  Even without a title of supervisor, manager or director you can be a leader.  Every work team has one person who is the unofficial leader the person people look to for help and guidance.  This person is a leader without the title.  It can be you.
  2. Focus on Others:  Being in a leadership position gives you the opportunity to help your organization move forward.  You need your team on board to make that happen.  If you put your emphasis on the success of your team, you will be successful.  If you put yourself first you will eventually fail because no one has your back.
  3. Recognize Diversity:  Keep in mind that everyone is different and this is a great thing.  Better ideas are generated and innovative solutions come from the open exploration of different viewpoints.  Look for the ways the people around you are different from you and each other.
  4. Identify Strengths:  As you uncover the differences in people, take a moment to their strengths.   This will help you see the positive in the differences and help you find ways to bring out their best.
  5. Listen First:  If you want to know how to work well with others, listen to what they have to say.  Ask open ended questions and then really focus your attention on their answers.  Don’t worry about your response, just listen and take in their ideas.  Then reflect back what you heard to make sure you got it right.  They will feel valued and will be more open to what you have to say when the time comes.
  6. Celebrate Positives:  Take the time to recognize and reward people who are doing well.  It doesn’t have to be big and fancy.  Sincere thanks and public acknowledgement goes a long way towards helping people feel valued.  Have a team lunch, do something fun together, give silly awards if appropriate, or hand write a thank you card for a job well done.
  7. Keep Learning:  This is a journey not a destination.  Get feedback on how you are doing and look for opportunities to learn how to grow your skills.  Take time to meet with people you admire to learn from their stories.  Find a mentor, take classes, read relevant information, and connect with others who are interested in growing their skills.

You can learn the soft skills if you are willing to take the time and effort to improve yourself.  These skills are critical to long-term career growth.  Having strong people skills is a key indicator of the ability to lead others and is one important factor companies use when deciding who to promote.

How are you developing your skills?

If you want to explore more about what you can do to advance your career visit Delta Consulting Group, LLC for more information.  Schedule a time for a complimentary strategy session to help move forward by clicking here.

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Filed under Leadership, Personal Development

Are You Really Ready?

reaching for ladder

You see a job posting that looks like it would be the perfect next step for you.  You decide to apply for the position so you go in to talk to your boss about the move as you need his approval to apply.  No problem right, he’s talked to you about where you want to go and he’s supported your development.  Surprisingly he tells you that you aren’t ready for that position, you just don’t have the right experience.  What’s going on?  Now what do you do?

First you have to set aside your disappointment and that may take some time.  When you can be calm and are ready to hear what your boss has to say, schedule time to talk to him about it.  You may be surprised by his answers.

To get to the root of the issue you need to be open to asking questions that may have tough answers.  Here are some suggestions of questions you can ask to learn more about the situation:

  • What about this position wasn’t a good fit for you?
  • Where there skills required for the position that you don’t have or haven’t fully developed yet?
  • Was there some specific business experience required that you haven’t had yet?

Once you get answers to those questions you can then start to explore what you can do to be better prepared for the next opportunity that comes along.   Ask what you can be doing to grow in the appropriate areas.  Are there classes you should take?  Is there a project you can be part of to gain experience?  Should you be connecting with people in another area?

You may also have discovered that the position would not have been a good move for your career goals.  Maybe it was interesting but would pull you in a direction that really is not where you want to go.  It can be so easy to get excited about a position based on the job description only to learn that it really is more repetitive or tied to a desk than the description might imply.

Another possibility may be lurking in the background.  One is that your boss knew they had identified someone for that position before it was even posted.  The posting was a formality and you would never have had a chance so he was saving you from getting false hope.

The other reason you may have been told you weren’t ready is that your boss may not be ready to let you go.  If you are doing a great job and are in a unique field it might be hard to replace you, so your boss is holding on to you for his own good.  This will be harder to spot because bosses rarely admit to this one.  Look for comments related to difficulty backfilling your current position.

No matter what the reason is behind the “you aren’t ready” you now have more information about what you need to do to be prepared to move.  If it’s related to skills or experience focus on developing the needed skills or getting the right experience.  If it’s because they had hand-picked someone work on getting to know people in the area where you want to go.  This will help you be someone they will consider because they know you now.  And if it was because your boss wants to keep you, you will need to find an ally outside your area who can help you grow and move forward.

It’s not always easy to hear that you weren’t right for a job, however it gives you the opportunity to prove what you can do and how you handle disappointments.  Focus on moving forward and stay positive.  That will prove you are ready when the time comes, and it will come sooner than you think.

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Filed under Coaching, Leadership

Quote for July 23rd

I don’t have a mentor in the strict definition. I take as much advice and inspiration as I can from the people I am close to.
Natalie Massenet

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Are You Learning?

Businessman sleeping at the presentationThis past weekend I attended an amazing seminar where there were several speakers.  I learned a lot from each one of them.  In all honesty there was one who really did not resonate with me at all.  He had great content but his delivery left me kind of cold, his style was not mine at all.  This on top of a conversation about can we learn from people we don’t respect rally got me thinking about how much information we can learn from people we don’t like.

As leaders it is important to keep learning about your organization, your industry, your customers and how to be a better leader.  This may mean taking the time to learn from people who are not in your current circle of friends and colleagues.  In fact, I would challenge you to take the time to learn from people you don’t like or are unsure if you would like.

Why learn from people who you don’t like or respect?  First they will have a very different view of the world which will broaden your view.  You may not ever agree with their ideas or opinions and that’s okay.  However, if you take the time to listen and understand their perspective it will give you information about how others see things and you might find new nuggets of information that help you move forward.  Additionally, by looking at things from a different perspective you may uncover new solutions or ideas on how to make your products better or more valuable to your customers.  Lastly, you may discover new uses or customers for your products or services.

If you only learn from people who are like you or who hold similar ideas and values you are missing out on new aspects of the world.  The wonderful thing about the current times is how small the world has become through technology.  Having the ability to connect and relate to others is now at our fingertips.  To make the most of these connections it is imperative that we take the time to listen to others and hopefully find common ground.  This allows us to develop deeper connections with others.  In a leadership role you will have many occasions where you will work with someone you really don’t like and yet you must find a way to work with them.  Learning to connect and find that common ground is a key to being successful.  This skill can be developed by looking around you and finding ways to learn from everyone who crosses your path.

You can learn from anyone and everyone.  It may be that you learn what not to do or how not to act.  It may be that you learn a new way of doing things or new behaviors.  Or it may be that you learn to see the world in new ways through new eyes.  All of these are valuable lessons and may come from people you like and respect or from people that are distasteful to you.  Any way you look at it, learning is the key to growth.  As leader make learning a part of your day, each and every day.

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Filed under Communication, Leadership

Who Will Be Your Successor?

key to leadershipHave you identified who you want to groom to take over your position?  It’s possible that you will not be able to move onto a new opportunity unless there is a clear candidate for your current position.  Also, when you work hard to create a high performing group you want to see it continue to succeed.  Additionally, you then have the chance to help someone else grow into their leadership potential.

It’s clear that in the next 5 to 10 years there will be a dramatic shift in the workforce, both from age demographics and work style.  As the Baby Boomers move into retirement and more Gen Y enter the workforce the dynamics of how business is done will be changing.  Are you preparing your organization for these changes?

The changes that will be developing with the changing of the guard are both in how work is done and in leadership styles.  The younger generations have different views on employee/boss relationships, communication styles, preferred work style, motivation, etc.  The Baby Boomers who make up the majority of leader roles today are the ones who need to prepare people and organizations for the shift.  To accomplish this will be a challenge to them because much of what will work in the future goes against their natural instincts.  And yet, they must step up to the challenge.

Here are a few points to keep in mind when working to develop leadership skills in Gen Y:

  • Collaboration:  Teamwork ranks higher than individual efforts
  • Technology:  This generation grew up with computers and technology
  • Diversity:  Celebrating and accepting the differences of people is natural
  • Confidence:  They believe they can do anything they put their minds to
  • Goal Oriented:  Willingness to focus and achieve goals
  • Feedback:  Looking for constant feedback on performance

As you work on developing the skills needed for young professionals in your organization to take over leadership roles creating a structure where they can play to their strengths will help them succeed.  One challenge will be to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.  Historically this is a skill learned through time and experience.  The speed of change in today’s business world makes this approach ineffective.  The ability to think critically and strategically must be actively approached and developed.

Some tips to help grow this vital skill are:

  • Seek Input:  Draw information out of everyone and leverage technology sources
  • Solicit Ideas:  Get ideas for solutions from everyone – regardless of experience level
  • Encourage Discussion:  Create an environment where solutions are explored and discussed from all viewpoints – constructive conflict is great
  • Provide Feedback:  Ask stakeholders for feedback on needs and desires
  • Embrace Risk:  Evaluate risks and allow opportunities for people to take risks without being penalized heavily for mistake

Creating an environment where each generation can learn from each other in an open and encouraging world will help the newer generations learn leadership skills.  Leadership styles will change over time, as they have in the past, so it is critical for today’s leaders to embrace the differences in styles so that tomorrow’s leaders will be set to skillfully lead.

What are you doing to develop your successors?

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Filed under Change Management, Leadership

Interesting Articles for January 2013

Young Woman Sitting Looking at Laptop Screen

I’ve listed some of the articles that I’ve found interesting over the past month.  I hope you enjoy them and find some new and useful information in them.

Let me know what you’ve read that has inspired you to reach new levels of leadership or productivity.  Have a fantastic week!

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Filed under Leadership, Time Management

Leaders Must Dare to Disagree

Conflicting Ways

There is almost always more than one way to accomplish a task, solve a problem or create a product.  Do you seek alternative ideas that disagree with your approach?  Do you dare to disagree with others?

Below is a link to a TED Talk by Margaret Heffernan on the ability to pull the best from those around us.  She uses the example of a woman doctor, Alice Stewart, in the 1950’s that discovered a link between x-rays of pregnant women and childhood cancer.  This was radical thinking for the time and was not welcomed or acted on for years.  Margaret goes on to show how Alice worked to prove she was right by having someone prove she was wrong.  Alice welcomed disagreement and actively sought it so that she would have confidence in her theory.

The idea of asking people to disagree is shocking and uncomfortable to most of us.  It’s conflict on a very personal level.  However, if everyone agrees then how do we minimize risk, reduce errors or find a better way to solve a problem.  When no one challenges decisions or ideas flaws become ingrained and are harder to eliminate later.  Disagreement can spark creative thinking and new solutions.  As leaders we should be asking those around us for ideas and suggestions about what can be done better/ differently.  Group think is mediocre at best but creative disagreement leads to superior results.

To get this going in your organization ask your team:

  • What could go wrong if we do this?
  • Do you see potential problems?
  • How can this be better?
  • What are the risks associated with this?
  • Do you see room for error / mistakes?
  • How would you do this differently?
  • What is unclear to you about this?
  • Can we make this easier or simpler to do?

These are just some of the possible questions that will help open the door to new ideas and improving projects and/or products.  Give your team the permission to disagree with you and each other.  The result will be better options and reduced risks.  Make sure that the environment for disagreement is professional and respectful of each person’s contribution so that everyone feels valued not judged.

Dare to disagree and see where it will take you and your team.

Margaret Heffernan – Dare to Disagree

How do you spark the creative process in your team?

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Filed under Leadership, Team Building

A Leadership Parable

This is an interesting leadership parable about the importance of being aware of what you cannot see and valuing different perspectives.  I’ve come across it in several places.  Hope you enjoy it and find it as thought provoking as I did.

The Wisdom of the Mountain

In ancient China, on top of Mount Ping, stood a temple where Hwan, the enlightened one, dwelled. Of his many disciples, we know only Lao-Li. For more than 20-years, Lao-Li studied and meditated under the great master. Although Lao-Li was one of the brightest and most determined disciples, he had yet to reach enlightenment. The wisdom of leadership was not his.

Lao-Li struggled with his lot for days, nights, months, even years. And then one day, the sight of a falling cherry blossom spoke to his heart. “I can no longer fight my destiny” he reflected. “Like the cherry blossom, I must gracefully resign myself to my ignorance.” At that moment, after more than 20-years of study, Lao-Li decided to climb down the mountain and give up his hope of enlightenment.

Lao-Li searched for Hwan to inform him of his decision. He found the master sitting before a white wall, deep in meditation. Reverently, Lao-Li approached Hwan. “Excuse me enlightened one,” he said. But, before Loa-Li could continue the master spoke. “Tomorrow I will join you on your journey down the mountain” he said. And Lao-Li left to pack his belongings.

The next morning, before the descent, the master looked out into the vastness that surrounded the mountain peak where they stood. “Tell me Lao-Li,” he said, “What is it that you see?”

“Master, I see the sun beginning to wake just below the horizon. I see hills and mountains that go on for miles. In the valley I see an old town and a lake.” Hwan listened to Lao-Li’s response. He smiled and then took the first steps to start the descent.

Hour after hour, as the sun rose and crossed the sky, they walked. As they approached the foot of the mountain, Hwan again asked Lao-Li to tell him what he saw.

“Great wise one, in the distance I see roosters running round the barns, cows asleep in the flowering meadows, old people resting and children playing in a brook.” The master stayed silent and walked to a large tree where he sat at the trunk.

“What did you learn today Loa-Li?”, he asked. Silence was Lao-Li’s response. At last Hwan continued – “The road to leadership is like the journey down the mountain.” It comes only to those who realize that what one sees at the top of the mountain is not what one sees at the bottom. Without this wisdom, we close our minds to all that we cannot view from our position and as a consequence limit our capacity to grow and improve. But with wisdom there comes an awakening. We recognize that alone one sees only so much – which, in truth is not much at all. This is the wisdom that opens our minds to improvement, knocks down prejudices and teaches us to respect what at first we cannot view. Never forget this last lesson Lao-Li – What you cannot see can be seen from a different part of the mountain.”

When the master stopped speaking, Lao-Li looked out at the horizon and as the sun set before him it seemed to rise in his heart.  Lao-LI turned to the master but the great on was gone.

Do you look beyond your horizons to see what others see?

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Re-evaluating Your Goals

From time to time it’s important to take some time to reflect upon where you’ve been, where you are and where you are going.  This gives you the opportunity to celebrate the successes you’ve had, the progress you’ve made and the lessons you’ve learned along the way.  When you take in all your personal growth you may find that your vision of the future is slightly different than it was a year ago.  This is why regular reviews are vital for your continued growth. 

Recognizing that the things you have learned may lead to new paths to explore is key to personal growth.  As well, making sure your goals are still the right ones for you will ensure that you are focusing on getting the right things done.  Progress towards an outdated goal is not really progress, it’s just movement. 

For me personally the goals I had in mind when I started this blog last January have evolved.  I was looking to get back into the training and development world in a full time position.  As I worked through a move to a new city and taking in everything that I’ve learned from my blogging I came to realize that really wasn’t the right role for me now.  I still have a deep and abiding passion for training, learning and development.  However, I discovered that instead of a full time job within a company I was happier working one-on-one with people and helping companies improve their training and development programs.  As a result, I am focusing my efforts on becoming a performance coach to help young professionals build a strong foundation for long-term career success.  I will still do training in the areas of time management, leadership and team building while I work with people one-on-one to reach their potential at work and to find their work-life balance.

I’ve been very fortunate to have supporters, mainly mu husband, who have pushed me to stop and figure out what I really want to do next.  They have encouraged me as well as pushed and prodded on occasion to get me moving in this new direction.  Without that support it wouldn’t be possible.  It’s been hard work, a bit stressful and it has its risks, however, by shifting my focus away from the goal of last year I find I am more hopeful and overall have more energy to get this off the ground.

When you are pursuing the things that really make you excited about getting up each morning it hardly feels like work.  As Confucius once said “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”   Aligning your actions with your goals and your goals with your passions will make the journey more enjoyable and well worth the effort.

As the year winds down take some time to re-evaluate your goals and make sure you are on the right track for you.

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Filed under Change Management, Coaching, Time Management