Archive for January, 2012

The opportunity to make breakfast

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

I was watching how my daughter was making her bed this morning. This is one of the new tasks she has at home by being a “big lady”. If it were for her, she would be preparing breakfast now. When I came back to check on her work, I must say it was not as I expected. She forgot to put her stuffed animals on top and they were all over the bedroom. I have to admit this is a miss on the parent’s side (O.K., mostly mine): we were not clear on telling her the steps she needed to follow in order to do this task well.  Having clear that there is a big difference between giving directions to a 6-year old and you, the reader, when you are working in your job you need to have a clarity on what the company wants from you.  However, once the goal setting stage is completed, you are entirely responsible for your performance and results. Therefore, I want to give you some insight on performance management from the employee point-of-view.

As I said, it is expected that once you have a clear view of what the company goals are, and your manager told you what is required from you to meet those goals, you are responsible to make that happen. Throughout my career I have seen people that expect to have everything in her hands in order to perform a job. I have heard comments like ” well, I was not able to meet the goals for this year because my manager did not tell me what I needed to do to reach the results he/she expected”. While I believe that a manager needs to be aware of the needs his/her team in order to provide guidance and coaching when needed, you as an employee are entirely responsible of your performance. This means that you have to demonstrate a good way to deal with problems in your job, to overcome obstacles according to the company’s standards and to raise your hand when you need someone with more power in your organization to come in and help you. Job Performance is what a single person does in the job. In other words, you are responsible for how you do things -both right and wrong.

Demonstrate to your manager that you are independent enough to look for solutions, to grow business scope and to generate a positive impact in the company. If you expect your manager to hand-hold you while you work, you will not go far. A manager has a responsibility with you, but also with many other people that work in his/her team. Do not expect that your manager will be telling how to do things because it is most likely he/she will not have the time for it -and nor the responsibility to do it.  When you demonstrate that you can do things on your own and that you have a good understanding of what the company needs from you to reach the business goals, you are in a good position to continue growing professionally. Do not forget that you were hired by your manager because of the skills you have and the results you had elsewhere. It is your responsibility to show your manager he/she was not wrong about giving you the opportunity to join the company.

My daughter is now asking if she is ready to make breakfast tomorrow; I prefer not to imagine how that would be. I told her she first needs to make her bed well (i.e. master the task) and then move up to the next level. As you also work on your master your tasks, demonstrate good business management and perform well, opportunities will knock on your door and you will also ready to take on the next level – or as I know call it: the opportunity to make breakfast.


Salary vs Benefits: who wins?

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

I recently was talking to a person I used to work with. She is a very dedicated employee:  she has great customer service skills, understanding of the business from the core out and has a great attitude towards everyone around her. This is the type of collaborator and partner you want in your team. She had the opportunity to move to a different role within the organization. Due to several circumstances – that I will not detail here – she was not feeling as passionate about her job as she used to. It is then when she started to think: “Am I making the right amount of money for the job that I do?”

As we were talking about it, I asked her to see the situation from a different point of view and analyze  the benefits she can get out of the job. It is true that you do not pay bills with the benefits your company gives you, but it is also true that money is not everything after all. So this brings me back to the subject of this note: who wins in the fight between Salary vs Benefits?

Every good negotiator will advise you to get the most out of any deal. If you are buying a house, try to make a deal to get kitchen furniture, or to get a discount for the change you will need to make to the bathroom tile; it is about the same with salary and benefits. Companies will have a very strict policy about monetary compensation, but then it is up to you to work on the benefits you can get.

With the right approach you can get your company to pay for phone bills, language courses, payments on college tuition, gas mileage, internet connection fees, etc.  At this point you may be thinking ” my company will never get that for me”. If this is the case, you have to challenge your creativity. Being creative is the first requirement when talking about negotiating with your boss about this topic; you need to make a compelling case about your requirements, the viability on your boss’ behalf to accept it and the “return on investment” he/she will get out of the negotiation. If your company does not have a strong benefits program, you have to accept that your  expectations on this field need to lower; start thinking about asking to work from home some days of the week, work permits associated with business goals achieved, obtaining work experience by being assigned to projects of your interest.

As I was mentioning above, when you are negotiating benefits with your boss you need to have a solid case that supports your request. You need to demonstrate that you are a valuable asset for your company, so they really listen to your demands:

  • Make sure your business results are always strong and with great positive impact for the company.
  • Demonstrate dedication to deliver excellence in your projects.
  • Innovate on your circle of influence.
  • Be ethical at all times; do not get in situations that pose a dilemma.

Now that you have done this and other actions to gain the right to negotiate, you can start sharing your views on what you would like to get from now on. Always keep in mind that you need to have a clear understanding of your boss’ likes and dislikes in order to get him/her in agreement with you.

My friend still has a long road ahead of her. Negotiating is never easy due to the different intentions the parties have. However, I am pretty sure she now understands that salary is just part of the equation and benefits are a great complement that gives very valuable options and the possibility of regaining the passion for the business she lost.

Failing is good after all

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment

A 32-yard field goal. Those that are experts in analyzing American Football may be discussing today how is it that a kicker missed such a “regular” play from this year’s AFC Championship game, between the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens . This may be true even more if we consider the situation in the game: you expect a professional football player to be ready for this type of plays.

I am not a football analyst for sure. I have played the game twice at the most. However, anyone who has been down in a hole can relate to how this football player probably felt about his miss. The big question on this is: how to overcome such a failure?

Some may say “you’ll have revenge in the future” or “don’t sweat it, this is not as important as other stuff in life”. It does not matter the many ways people tell you you can do better next time, the way you feel after failing so badly does not go easily; so let’s be realistic and accept it is hard to overcome these situations. Now that you are facing things the way they are, what is it left to do? Well, not much. You may consider that I am not being very optimistic here, but I am not going to write about something that is not real to me and that is not real to many of you. From where I see it, it is healthy to have our “blue time” and it is important to dwell on it.

I consider that failure is important to all of us. To me, failure is an emotion; a feeling of losing something you really wanted. This means that you cherished that something (a project, a goal, an objective) and it moved you to do things in order to achieve it, forgetting about the fact that you were not able to.

Failure is good because it makes us stronger. Whenever you fail, your drive and pride will make you try harder next time because you really want to prove yourself and others you can do it; feeling this bad now will certainly pay off later.

Billy Cundiff (the man under the loop this time) had a 51-yard field goal made earlier this year. His longest field goal ever made was for 56 yards, so this tells us he can do better next time. He is not going to have it easy for the next months, and it may be an all-time memory for the NFL.  This feeling will make him try to do it well the first time always, and this is what makes failure good after all. Thanks for teachable moment Billy.

3-7-0 Teamwork

January 20, 2012 Leave a comment

F. C. Barcelona . Everyone that likes and follows soccer would agree this is the best soccer team right now – and many would consider it the best soccer team of all times. The way they play the game fills up everyone’s eyes.

As I was watching the last match between Barcelona and Real Madrid for the Spanish Liga, I started to notice the formation Barcelona was using: 3-7-0. No one has ever seen this in professional soccer before. The surprise relied on the fact that anyone from the midfield and up was able to help on the offensive line. This was only possible by the way this team works together. For this reason I would like to use the example of F.C. Barcelona to talk about teamwork.

Teamwork is defined as the coordination of a group in the interest of a common goal. When a soccer team like Barcelona plays, it is extremely easy to see what is their goal; more than score 5 or 6 times, their interest is in playing with simplicity and effectiveness. These are the keys for their success.

In a team everyone cooperates and everyone makes sure the ultimate goal does not get overseen. The options to reach the goal increase as every team member understands the collective work is more important than the individual reward. Many work teams get blind-sighted by team members that believe their agenda is more important than the team’s; this is easily noticed when you have members that drive attention just to them without considering if their actions affect others in the group.

FC Barcelona has lost games, however you can have certainty that their chances of winning are always better than its rivals. Your work team may have losses as well, but you need to make sure the chances of succeeding are always high. How do you reach to that level? Well, you need to make sure the standards for the team, its rules and beliefs are understood by everyone in it. The culture of the team is the first base where the rest will be created. As you make everyone understand the way the team needs to work, it will be easier to work during the tough times the team will need to face.

As I keep analyzing this amazing team Barcelona has become, it is imperative to talk about the pieces that make it work: a head coach that understands the philosophy to make the players mentally strong and the leaders this team has. One scene that I do not forget about the clásico is the reaction Carles Puyol had when Real Madrid made the first goal with less than a minute from the start of the game. Immediately after the action, he started to push his teammates to keep up the spirit of fight, the will to win the game in spite of the situation, and the belief that they were better prepared than their opponents. This type of leaders are natural, however this does not mean you cannot nurture those with certain key characteristics: those that are good followers, those that are conscious about their mistakes and work towards improving them, those that demonstrate willingness to do things well.

Teamwork can be very fulfilling when goals are met; they also can be of great support when things do not go as expected. As the main lead of a group, make sure your team works just as the F.C. Barcelona plays: with simplicity and effectiveness.


January 13, 2012 Leave a comment

I look at everything I have

I think about stuff I want

I judge the different things I see

I am judged by everyone around me

I hear half of what I should.

But at the end I am grateful

because I can do everything

that I just told you.



Categories: Thoughts Tags: , , ,

Roses, Gardens, Projects

January 13, 2012 Leave a comment

My brother-in-law is starting his own business. He funded a landscaping company, taking advantage of  the great experience (more than 10 years) he has on the field. I decided to help him with the advertising of his services, so I began looking for catchy facts about gardens, plants and so on. As I was reading these facts it caught my attention when I read about roses: You need to make sure roses get an important amount of sunlight so the flowers blossom to their best. I also read that making your garden wider on the front and narrow on the back you make the illusion of having a very deep space.  The project of helping my in-law with his business made me think of the different aspects you need to consider and possess when you have a project of your own.

Here are just a few items you need to take into account when starting a project:
A) Acquire the necessary knowledge: Just as with someone whose project is to plant roses in the garden, you need to have the necessary knowledge to start your project. You need to understand the external factors around it (competitors, providers, vendors) without forgetting about the most important external factor: Your client. The same applies for internal factors ( the skills needed to create the product or service, the money you have to invest in it). Once again, you need to understand that the human talent you have in your project will be the most important internal factor for success.

B) Understand your limits and maximize your potential: We all are going to have some boundaries when working on our project. We can go from the economic limitations through time constraints. Regardless of what it is, you need to maximize every aspect at hand in order to minimize those roadblocks. Just as in the example of the illusion of the small garden, you need to be able to work with creativity and imagination.

C) Do not let it cool off: It is normal that when you just started with your project you will dedicate a lot of thinking to it. As time starts to pass by, you may start to lose some drive. The reasons will vary: you have less time for it, you have more roadblocks than expected or you just simply get back to a certain routine that puts you away from your idea. If this starts to happen, stop it! Do not let yourself lose the drive you once had. Find partners that help you stay focused and always try to look at your project as a diamond to be shaped.

As I continue to think of effective advertising techniques, I start to think about my in-law having to consider all these aspects in his start-up company. I am amazed by looking at him work with the passion and determination that just an all-time dream gives you. I hope you have that same drive when you get to start your own project.

Categories: Business Tags: , , ,


January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

It is not uncommon to hear that people are unmotivated. The reasons behind this feeling vary: Many find themselves stuck in their lives; others are missing a loved one and others are unhappy with what they do for a living. No matter what the situation is, every one of us has heard people complaining about their situation.

If you look up the word motivation in the dictionary it will explain that the term is related to the intention of maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain – including physical, psychological or emotional pain.

There are 2 main ways someone can get motivated. We have the option of looking for motivation within ourselves; think of the ultimate goal of having a fulfilling career for instance. We also find motivation from the exterior in the ways of being rewarded for something we do or having someone to demonstrate appreciation for an act we have.

As this is a term that it is many times related to an emotion it becomes highly complex to analyze and understand. The complexity of it relies on the fact that one has to have a clear understanding of what are those aspects that increase motivation. Such and increase would depend on the drivers that we have for it. As motivation is either external or internal, we need to have a bit of both to feel truly motivated.

When someone at work says “I do not have motivation to do what I am doing” we need to understand if this statement refers to internal motivation or external motivation. By identifying which one it is, it would be easier to set up actions to work on the overall feeling.

After we identify if lack of motivation comes from the interior or exterior, we should review our circles of influence in order to change it. The circles of influence refer to those parties to which you have control on. The influence can go from you having the hierarchical power to tell someone what to do until the persuasion of having someone convinced of doing something. With clear circles of influence we are ready to take on the next step: making the change.

It may sound so simple, but it is definitely the toughest step to make. To make the change implies the willingness and conviction of doing something different that what you are used to.

Let’s use an example: let’s imagine that I was able to identify that my motivation is low because I was recently competing for a promotion at work and I did not get it. At this point I feel someone is better than me and that I will not have another shot to reach a promotion in the short run.

From this situation we can identify that it is something external that lower my motivation (someone deciding I was not the person to be promoted). As I identify this, I can check what my circles of influence are to start changing that feeling; I can start a course that would prepare me for another opportunity within the same company I am working for or even looking for someone else to get me something similar to that promotion in another company. Of course that we can have many options in between and this would depend on how much thought and work you dedicate to your networking opportunities. However, the toughest step is to actually make the change. One thing is to say that you are going to start a new course that would help you get the necessary knowledge for a promotion and a totally different one if you are determined to make sacrifices (in time and money) to reach that goal. Moreover, are you really determined to step out of your company in order to look for your promotion? Do you think you would feel the same way you feel with your job at your current company?

If you analyze these questions, you would find a word I used several times on purpose: “determination”. If you are not determined to make the change, you will get stuck where you are right now. The drive you need to alter things has to be very powerful. Otherwise, your success will vanish very soon or it will not come at all.

So, make sure you analyze your current situation, set up actions to understand where you really are and make the change you need to make without any hesitation.