Friday, March 17, 2017

The Power to Choose

When I was growing up, no one would have dared utter the words “I want to be happy in my job.” I can only imagine the scornful response from parents and teachers: “What are you talking about? A job’s a job’s a job. Shut up and do your homework.” That was then. 

I want to be happy in my job.


We  were  not expected to be happy at work. We just went out and got a job. These days, you can make a choice. Do you want to be happy at work? Or do you want to settle for a job that’s “good enough,” even though it’s not a good fit for you?

If you are unhappy at work, there’s a natural tendency to complain about your job and do nothing about it. If this is the case, you aren’t willing to do what it takes to change the situation. And that’s okay. But if you decide to do nothing, at least stop banging your head against the wall. Stop moaning about your job. And be aware that staying in a job you dislike, or working around people who constantly make you feel uncomfortable, can make your work suffer. You can waste years of your life not realizing the reputational damage that you’re doing to yourself on a daily basis. It just chips away until everyone can see that you’re totally disengaged.

THE POWER TO CHOOSE


You don’t have to live and work like that, though. You have the power to make a choice, and an infomercial can help. By looking at what’s revealed in your infomercial—what do you genuinely love to do, for instance, and how much of your capacity is being used—you’ll be forced to look in the mirror and come to terms with where you are at in your working life. Then you can choose to stay or to go. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Wrong Job Will Tempt You

You  are going to be tempted  to stray from your infomercial when a job comes along that’s partly right for you. Maybe it uses some of your skills but not all of them. Maybe the people in the organization are not exactly the kind you like to work with. But the job sounds good. It pays well. It comes with a nice title.

This is when you’ll be tempted to shelve your infomercial. Don’t. You can’t make it right. It will only be a partial fit. How happy do you think you’ll be?

Most people consider a job or an opportunity for all sorts of reasons, most of them wrong: it’s a promotion, which comes with more money, more prestige, or both. Some might be swayed by simple things. A feeling of “I deserve it,” of “It’s my turn,” of “I’ve been here a long time” or “I’m better than the person who’s currently doing it.” I’ve even known individuals who would rather get picked for the wrong job, just to have the option of turning it down.

Thoughts like these can easily pull people away from their true fit. The job looks good, so they grab it, if only to make sure the person next door doesn’t get it and move ahead. Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with pouncing on an opportunity. But it has got to be a true fit. Otherwise, you’re headed for a disaster that will waste your time and undermine your brand in the process.

Why do people find it so hard to resist the urge to compete for the wrong job? I think it’s because they’re afraid to stand up for themselves—for who they really are. I see this in my coaching practice almost every day. They are afraid that if they are themselves, and if they say who they are, they will miss opportunities. And they think that if they miss opportunities, they won’t get any more. No more jobs, no more clients, no more business offers.

That’s the fear I sense lurking under the surface when I ask my clients why they felt the need to take the wrong job or pick the wrong client. Does it make sense? Of course not! These people    are successful. But they’re still scared they’ll miss the boat unless they say yes. That’s why they are willing to try to turn themselves into someone else.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Your Capacity Utilization

Finally, it’s crucial to assess whether a potential employer wants all  of  your capabilities or  just some of them. How do you do this?

Depend on your infomercial to measure how close an opportunity comes to being a true fit. Use it to assess your current employment situation. Use it to identify an opportunity that’s worth pursuing further, a referral that’s right for you, or an industry sector you’ve never considered before. And use it to spot the red flags. Say no if you have to—and feel good about that decision. Capacity utilization tells us whether the job you’re considering accepting is going to utilize all of your capacity or just a little of it.

Consider the five-thousand- yard passing quarterback. He’s an excellent quarterback, but, ideally, he wants to be on a team that throws the ball 100 percent of the time. So what happens when he’s recruited to a team that wants him to execute a playbook that has the team running the ball? It’s a recipe for disaster. The coach isn’t going to be interested in his passing ability because he doesn’t care about that particular skill. In fact, the first time the quarterback throws  the ball, the coach says, “Hey, we don’t throw the ball. What are you trying to do?”

It doesn’t matter how good the quarterback is; his ability is not going to be reflected in what he is asked to do by this coach. As long as he remains on the team, he’ll feel inadequate. And, worse, he’ll be regarded as a failure because in the end, what he’s really good at isn’t needed or valued. The quarterback has to ask himself, “How much of my capacity, my strengths, and my abilities are being used by this team?”

Everyone’s level is different, depending on how high a priority they put on their own happiness. For me, it’s about 80 per- cent because I need to spend some of my time running the business instead of coaching. What’s your priority on your happiness?

Like the quarterback, you have tremendous skills to offer. And you may have presented a whole list of what you could do for an employer or a client. But if that company only needs 20 per- cent, in most cases they’ll take what they need and overlook the rest. They’re not looking at your capacity—they are looking at what they think they need right now. In fact, it’s quite possible

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Your Personal Bandwidth

Before you start looking for work, it’s important that you understand your personality bandwidth. Personality bandwidth is a little different from the “Who do you like to work with?” question we explored in the previous chapter. It measures your tolerance of different personalities. The range of personalities you can work with helps determine your personality bandwidth. If someone gets along with everyone and everyone loves them back, then they have a wide personality bandwidth. If someone is only comfortable with certain kinds of personalities, and only certain kinds of people are comfortable with them, then they have a narrow personality bandwidth.

I was interviewing an individual for a marketing job in Canada. He was anxious to get the job and told me all the reasons he would be suited to the role based on his CV and past experience. So I asked him, “What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said about you?” He replied without hesitation, “I don’t suffer fools very well. Most people piss me off.”

The candidate’s answer told me that he might have a very narrow personality bandwidth—and therefore be entirely unsuited for this particular job. Like others with a narrow personality band- width, he had strong sense of the personalities he wanted to be around and those he wanted   to avoid. This gave him an approach that could rub others the wrong way. It’s okay for him to be bespoken in this way, but he needed to under- stand how narrow his world was. He would work best in a place where his work spoke for itself and he didn’t have to interact a lot with people. As a marketer for products, he would have to work with every level in the organization; in this kind of sales-generation role, he’d be a disaster.

A broad personality bandwidth, on the other hand, is like being able to speak numerous lan- guages. Typically, people with a broad bandwidth have jobs in customer service, client relationships, and sales. They don’t care if someone is difficult or overbearing because by their very nature—their personality bandwidth—they get along with everyone. They can communicate with a wider variety of personalities; clients and friends are one and the same. They find it easy to be empathetic and can almost instantly connect on some level with everyone.

Those with broad personality bandwidths can tolerate a diverse range of personality types, and they see the best in all they meet. Those with narrow bandwidths have to choose their clients or employer more carefully. For that marketing job, I knew the company needed someone who loves everyone because that’s what makes for a great salesperson, not someone who finds most personalities difficult to deal with.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Your Target-Rich Environment

Let’s start with your target-rich environment. It’s where you should be looking for a job, given everything—your skills, experience, character, working style, and personality—you have to offer. All our lives, people say give me your CV, tell me where you worked before—because it’s all about “the job.”

But the concept that one’s skills are only applicable to a particular type of job, in a single industry or sector, is ridiculous. Once you’ve written your infomercial, you can find great opportunities in a lot of different places. A computer programmer who likes to sell doesn’t have to resign himself to days at the office looking at a screen. His target-rich environment could include sales, consumer testing, even teaching at a college.

You need to do your homework to figure out your target-rich environment. This takes some research online and talking with others to make sure. Keep asking yourself, “Am I looking in the right places?” Look again at the list you made of who you work best with. Where do people like that work? Is it in a quiet office or a rambunctious, wide- open space—or in a country house? What would work for you? That’s your target-rich environment.

It took my good friend Rick almost thirty years to realize that his target-rich environment was bigger than he thought. During high school, Rick played drums with a bunch of guys who ended up becoming the well-known rock band The Tragically Hip. Rick put his drums aside, pursued mining engineering, completed a master’s degree, and then worked in international mining companies. Even though he had landed in an industry that appeared to be the right fit for his qualifications, it didn’t feel right. “All those years, it was always about the job,” Rick told me. “It was never about who I am or about finding a place where I’d really fit in.”

Rick left mining and came to me. He was being recruited by Canadian banks, and he didn’t want to make the same mistake as before. Rick was finally ready to figure out where to find a true fit. It wasn’t easy; in fact, you’ll remember that he was the one who told me that the idea of finding the right fit initially scared him. “My God, I thought as I started to answer the four questions,” he recalled. “I should have continued to play drums in a rock and roll band.… It honestly freaked me out a bit.”

After his infomercial was complete, Rick knew that he needed to find a fit where he could more fully use his strengths in dealing with people and developing relationships. He made the choice to accept a job in investment banking. “I used to think I was a miner who happens to do investment banking; now I know I’m an investment banker who likes mining but is much happier at the relationship side of things. I love dealing with the clients and help- ing them out,” said Rick. “I’m telling you, I have never been happier in my life or more at peace with myself.”

Rick’s narrow view of who he was restricted his choices of where to look for job opportunities. It meant that he had ended up working as an engineer in the mining industry because that was his “title.” He admitted that he kept learning in his job to add value so he could get the next mining job. After Rick developed his infomercial, he finally understood his target-rich environment—which for him extended beyond mining. And now, working with people who understand him, Rick is happy and finally feels, after thirty years, that he fits in.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Case Study: A Personal Infomercial to Land the Right Job

One of my clients resisted for so long that I told her I would stop coaching her if she didn’t use her infomercial. Her name was Jane. We first met at a hedge funds conference, where I was part of the speakers panel. When I first explained how she needed to present herself with an infomercial, she told me I was crazy. But she was unemployed, so what started as a ten-minute conversation over coffee that day turned into several meetings where we worked together to develop her infomercial.

Jane was a pretty confident woman, with almost a decade of experience working on the trading floor and excellent skills in developing client relationships. But she’d always found herself in roles where she felt she was forced to adjust who she was in order to fit in. So we started with her perfect day. Almost immediately, she found that it helped her get rid of the clutter in her head.

Jane’s perfect day:
  • Being part of a team but remaining independent enough to focus on growing my own “little business” … my client book 
  • Spending time reading the news, organizing my day, figuring out client messaging 
  • Spending time with clients, lunches/ coffees 
  • Pitching business 
  • Closing a deal

Defining her perfect day helped her to finally focus on what mattered to her, what she wanted to do, and how best to present herself. Then she worked through the rest of the questions, listing what she did best and those she worked best with and defining her conflict-resolution style. Once she had completed all the steps, she felt ready to pitch herself in a very concise manner the next time there was an opportunity.

It wasn’t long before she had an opportunity to interview for a job as the new managing director at a financial institution. She called me up. Although Jane wasn’t sure the position was right for her, she decided that in a tough job market she should at least go through the process.

Jane would typically go into the room, let those around the hiring table spew, then ask a few ques- tions and walk away. She said that she would usu- ally gauge what those doing the hiring wanted her to say, and then give them what they wanted even if it didn’t sound like her. “After all,” she said, “it’s a job.” I told her to forget that crap. “You’ll just end up unemployed in a couple of years and have to start all over again.”

I explained a different approach. I asked her to think about the fact that she was there to interview the employer as well be interviewed by them. Instead of showing up for the meeting and waiting for the others in the room to say something, I told her, take charge of the meeting. First, thank those in the room and note that they already have your CV. But then say, “I thought before we begin it would be helpful if I gave you an idea of who I am and what you should pay me for.” I advised to have her infomercial ready but to not hand it out until she had finished presenting.

Jane agreed, even though she still felt a bit uncomfortable about presenting herself in this way. On the morning of the interview, she went into a public bathroom to practise a few times in front of the mirror. She figured if anyone walked in, they’d think she was a crazy person, but she didn’t care. She went through her notes several times.

The interview began and Jane took control. She suggested to the three people around the table that she first tell them a bit about herself, what she was looking for, and that then both parties could consider if it would be a good fit. After presenting her infomercial, Jane paused. She could tell by the looks on their faces that she was not what they needed or wanted.

“That’s when I knew that there was no chance that they were going to hire me,” she said. Within a couple of days she received an email that read “You’re not the person we’re looking for.” The outcome suited Jane. When I asked, “Did you get the job?” Jane replied, “No! And I’m so happy. I never felt so empowered in my life!” Not long afterwards, she learned from friends that the company was looking for someone they could mould. “That job was definitely not a fit for me,” she said, laughing.

A few months later, Jane applied for another job. “Again, my infomercial gave me a chance to present my true character,” she said. “It gave me that foundational confidence to stick with my story.” This time the experience was completely different. Both sides felt like it was a good fit, and what started out as an interview turned into more of a discussion. But it was during the final phase when Jane knew for sure it was going to work. One of the senior people on the hiring team sat down with her for a final conversation. “If you don’t mind me saying so, it seems to me that you’re a no-bullshit ind of girl, who’s tenacious and hungry for business.” “I felt so validated,” said Jane. “That was exactly how I had presented myself in my infomercial.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What Should Someone Pay Me For?

John had a long and successful career as a financial planner and then as a politician. He was a cabinet minister until 2011, when he lost his seat in a tight election. After being rejected by the voters, he had to figure out what to do.

John realized that the first hurdle was to come to terms with the loss. “No one wants to date someone who isn’t over his or her ‘ex,’” he joked. “I had to first ‘get over the girl.’” He also took some time off to figure out what he wanted to do next. “I knew what I had to do to be successful in business,” he said. “I knew what I had to do to be successful in politics. Now all of a sudden, I was on my own.”

Job offers came in, but none of them felt right. “People would come to me and say I’m a fit for their agenda,” he said. But it was their agenda, not his. “I remember telling my wife, I can do this as long as I turn myself into a pretzel that someone else wanted. But I’m not going to be successful and happy unless I’m doing something I enjoy doing.” Like most of my clients, John had to answer the universal question of life: “What should someone pay me for today?” What was his real value proposition to an employer or client? It would not be easy to answer that question, especially for a former politician.

The best way I know to figure out your true value proposition is to create what I call an infomercial. You might have seen them on The Shopping Channel—the infomercials hawking the wonder wallet, the fake jewellery, and the magic mop. Infomercials are corny and tacky, to be sure, but the great thing about the modern infomercial is that it explains the direct relationship between my dollar and what I get when I buy the item. It says exactly what is for sale. You either need it or you don’t. If you need it, you’ll likely buy it. If you don’t need it, you’ll pass.

The universal question of life: “What should someone pay me for today?”