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The job you always dreamt of… or not?

March 1, 2012 Leave a comment

What do you do for a living? What is it that you are very good at? These two questions not necessarily have the same answer. In spite of this, there is an undeniable fact: In order to succeed at anything you do you need to give your very best at all times.

I was talking to a friend of mine that recently changed jobs. She was telling me that the new role did not pose much of a challenge as the previous one did. She did not feel disappointed about it. Instead she said the change was definitely going to teach her something. Not long after our quick chat she received a very important recognition for the service she was given to a client.

Another case is a  hostess in a diner. The diner has a 24/7 schedule.  My wife and I once got to talk to her and she told us she works 6 days a week and more than 8 hours per day.  We were amazed by the way she treats the customers and the difference her service makes on every contact does create a true welcome to the place -now even more knowing the conditions for the job. She also told us that not long ago she was the manager for another restaurant she worked for but it went bankrupt due to the owner’s wrong decisions with money. She needed to find something else to live on and the hostess job was a mere stage for something bigger to come; she knew that her actions in this job will take her further at the right time.

The examples clearly demonstrate the importance of giving your very best regardless of what you are doing. There is no small task or small job; you make it as big and important as you want to.

You need to demonstrate high responsibility, professionalism, and more importantly, high ethics in every job you have.  When you take on a job that you first consider it does not require your full potential, your interest should be pointed at how it can become a role that you can take advantage of. I remember an executive at the company I work that once said ” you need to find the sauce in it” . The same quote applies when you are on a job that at first does not give you everything you were expecting from it. Moreover, you need to consider that your respect for your role will portray respect to those working along with you.

It’s not easy to see the glass “half full” all the time. However, if you analyze your job in this way your creativity will start to help you find ways to create a career growth sooner rather than later. Your journey will always be to find the sauce in it and to enjoy it at its fullest.

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Categories: Business Tags: , , ,

The art of making things simple

February 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Think of the best communicator you have ever seen or heard. Now think of the best quality this communicator has. You may consider things such as the use of facts, the choice of vivid words, action verbs and the avoidance on unnecessary repetition.

All of these are quite important to deliver the intended message. However, when you consider who you are communicating to, you need to take into account that your audience has such a wide variety of backgrounds that your speech needs to be as adaptable as possible to stick in everyone’s mind.

It is for this reason that creating a simple message is the most important skill a communicator should have. As “simple” as it may sound, you will get to know that it is very difficult to simplify a speech once you are preparing it. When I think about this, I remember Dr. Butterfield: my speech teacher back in college. During the first class of the semester he requested that each one of us prepare a 1-minute persuasive speech. I remember that the class reaction was ” do you want something that easy? “. Well, we were completely wrong. As each classmate was presenting the speech, each and everyone one of us were failing at coming across our point because we did not have enough time for it.

When you are communicating anything some someone else, you need to make sure the idea you are presenting is clear from the get-go. If you include words that will not be understood by everyone, you are then failing at engaging your entire audience. Think of a stand-up comedian for example. Why is it that everyone likes stand up comedy? Because all of us can relate to what they are making fun of; you have either experienced those stories the comedian is telling or at least know someone who has, so they make it simple.

The message in a speech also needs to be honest. The reason for it is because when you are speaking honestly about something, you tend to come up with less words to explain it;  the ones that you are using are just enough to make your point.

Next time you need to deliver a message think of the simplicity it needs to have, and you will be amazed about the results you will get.

Categories: Business

Treat everyone as if they were the CEO

February 17, 2012 1 comment

The title of this note is a stolen quote I always hear from my wife – I’m not really sure if she stole it from somewhere else, but it is such a powerful quote that I find very interesting.

If you work in for any company, whether it is a small business or a big corporation, you are taught to identify who the big boss is so in the event of you having to talk to him/her, you can behave as much as possible and show utterly respect; if the big boss wants you to jump up, you just need to ask how high. This may be an extreme example, but it does explain the courtesy and dedication you are expected to show.

There is a reality show in which the CEO of a company goes undercover to find out where are the areas of improvement to make the business a better one. The CEO plays the role of a candidate for a position in the company, so he/she gets training from actual employees and while doing it the CEO gets to talk to them to see what they think of the business and how it impacts their lives. It is very interesting how many people care about what they are doing for the company and their interest in helping the candidate do their job well. Of course, there are others  that show their negative side and start to trash-talk about the business and how miserable they feel about what they do. At the end of the show, the CEO reveals his true identity and helps the trainers and their teams in different ways according to the feedback he/she got while undercover.

The CEO could have not had the opportunity to see the true image of the company from the inside out if everyone knew he/she was the CEO. Furthermore, it does happen that by idealizing and respecting one person that much, we tend to forget the rest of the people that work for us and that make probably a bigger impact in our jobs. The cleaning lady that comes to your office everyday to make sure you have a pristine working area, the mailman that always takes your documents where they need to be sent, the co-worker that helped you with a very difficult task while you are out sick, etc. Imagine what your work life would be if you did not have these people around you. They may be a key integral part that of your job.  You need to make sure they always feel respected by you and that you demonstrate how thankful you are of having them around.

What are the opportunities you have to demonstrate appreciation for someone else at your workplace? Find them out and have the privilege of treating others as if they were the CEO.

Categories: Business Tags: , , ,

A startup based on facts

February 10, 2012 Leave a comment

I was reading a book about good parenting last night. The chapter was talking about the parents being scared of wrong things. It went on explaining a case in which a couple of parents knew that the neighbor use to keep a gun in the house. For that reason, they did not let their 8-year-old daughter play at the neighbors’ home and instead they let the neighbor’s son come to play with their kid at their place. The parents own a home with a swimming pool in the backyard and they felt so good about making the decision of not letting their kid near their neighbor’s in an attempt to protect her. The chapter ended with such an incredible fact though: 550 kids under the age of 10 drown each year in swimming pools while 175 kids in the same age die from guns; this shows how deviated we can get when it comes to analyzing risk due to the limited knowledge we have about the real facts.

We need to make sure our decisions are supported by the right facts in the right moment. When the scenario is a start up business, these are some aspects to consider:

1)Is there really a market?: People can be very creative. Such creativity have made people sell rocks as pets and people actually taking care of them. However, such market is very small definitely short-ended. When starting up a business, the rule of thumb about analyzing a market is to identify where the market pain is and if you have what is takes to ease that pain. If I were to start a business in education, and specifically about high school topics, I would look for information related to the subjects that had the lowest grades in the past 5 years and the ways teachers give their classes. In that way I can come up with a solution that assures people will be coming my way to “get rid of the pain”

2) Who is your true competition?: Identify what is their business experience and determine what needs to be your competitive edge to compete with them. Do you have all the necessary tools to enter the business niche or it would be better to find a different one?

3) What is the financial solvency that your business needs? You need to analyze how much money is needed in order to break even and create a forecast of when your business will generate a profit. Then you need to determine if a bank loan or a venture capitalist is needed in order to make the finances work – find out what financial institution gives the best rates on loans.  It will also be important to get intel on how other similar business did financially during their first months. If after running this analysis you see that money will be a problem, think of alternatives to your requirements and lower expectations for the moment. The first 12 months of a business are the most critical ones financially speaking, so you need to have patience and a good sense of reality.

It was truly shocking to learn about the data the book was mentioning. This showed me how off people can be sometimes just because they were not well informed. In the case of your business idea, make sure you get all the facts straight in order to avoid negative surprises in the long run; you will be thankful you did.

Lessons learned from the Pats on decision-making

February 7, 2012 Leave a comment

For those part of the Patriots Nation, these are times of grief. It is true that any football team reaching the Superbowl  should feel proud of the accomplishment: only 2 teams out of 32 have the opportunity to do it each year. Now, those of us widely called “Pats Fans” had the feeling this year was going to be one for history. The opportunity to have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick  among the ones with more Superbowl wins would have been great for us. As with any situation in life, there comes a time where we need to see past the obvious and analyze further the decisions made. This time I would like to run the similarities in decision making between several decisions made by the Pats during the Superbowl and the decisions made in a business or company.

The first similarity I see is the importance of the decision to be made. Every simple decision a player makes playing at the Superbowl can define the course of the match. The slightest move can turn a play into a false start penalty, which can cause the important loss of yards for the team at fault. In the same way, every decision an employee makes while working will have a significant impact in the company’s results. If an employee decides to oversee a step in a process because s/he does not consider it adds any value without consulting previously, it can end up in having audit findings in the long run.

The second similarity I found is that no matter how much you can practice a sport (or become knowledgeable in a subject matter at work) there will be times in which you will make mistakes, and you need to learn from them. Tom Brady was flagged with intentional grounding and that cost the team 2 points; a play that impacted enormously the end result of the game.  Brady should have known better and made a different decision. Despite the fact that he is considered one of the best players in American Football he did not choose well. Similarly, when an employee in a company decides not to check a purchase order to ensure all products are included, or to bribe a contact in order to gain a competitive edge over a competitor – situations that are widely frowned upon in a company but yet, the pressure made them choose poorly.

The third and last similarity I want to comment on – and the one I consider most important – is the impact decisions have on the rest of the team. If a team player shakes and makes poor decisions, these actions can easily start to undermine the team.  I cannot assure completely that the mistakes made by Brady, Welker or Hernandez ( these last two by dropping balls at the end of fourth quarter) affected the team’s confidence to pursue a miraculous comeback, but they definitely made the team members more nervous at the moment of making key plays.  When a team member starts to make mistakes that affect a team in a company, people may start to see it as lack of teamwork from the one making the mistakes. In this scenario, some could easily start preparing their own agenda without thinking about the impact to the team. The pressure such mistakes cause in a team also affect team’s motivation, therefore affecting the team’s results.

Times of grief, times of sadness for those Pats fans.  Decisions were key in the game and thus everyone of us should learn from that experience and think thoroughly any decision we need to make in our business or company and the impact it may have on others.

The company’s goldmine: your responsibility

February 3, 2012 Leave a comment

Every company has the same goal: increasing its earnings per share, maintain good cash flow and generate profit in every activity the company has. And you cannot complain about it; having a profitable company implies that all layers of the organization benefit out of it. Therefore, for those in leadership positions particularly, it becomes rather important to have the teams reaching for their objectives.

As a leader starts to set the strategy on how those objectives will be achieved, he/she has to pay closer attention on the talent the team has. Talent management is one of the most important skills a leader must have in order to meet the company’s goals. As a leader you can set up a good strategy – and have it spread out correctly- but if the talent is not maximized, those goals will never be accomplished. When I say to maximize your  teams’ talent it does not mean to burn them with long hours of work or assigning them to projects they do not have the skills to work on. Maximizing you team’s skills mean to understand every single team member and find where he/she is good at and how they can contribute.

A manager or team leader can easily fall short if he/she does not understand the team. Understanding the team implies to know the members’ background; what they have worked on in the past, what academic experience is valuable in the job, what is the level of pressure they can handle individually so that the work quality meets the company standards.

Moreover, you need to identify what are those members that have an innate quality of doing so well at everything they do versus those that need to be taught how to accomplish certain tasks. Who does not like to work with a group of people that do things well all the time and that you can rely with confidence?.  Truth of the matter though is that such an utopia is hard to obtain. You will always have members that need more time from you and that need to be coached regularly in order to do a good job. A leader’s work will be reflected more in the latter group, and it is with this type of people where you need to put more energy day in and day out. You need to make sure the gap between these two types of personalities decreases in order to have a team that delivers more than what is expected.

Your company’s goldmine to better financial numbers and more success relies on the talent. You are in charge of managing such talent; how well you do it will dictate how good of a leader you are. Are you up for the challenge?

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.