Jobs

10 Time Tested Tips to Make You Unstoppable at Work

May 11, 2018 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“Where you will sit when you are old, shows where you stood in youth.” —African Proverb

Are you good at work? Notice I didn’t ask, are you good at your work? There is a difference between being a good financial advisor or whatever you do and being good at work. Work is sport. There are rules to follow and scores that are kept. Competition is sometimes fierce and teamwork can make all the difference. Some players stand out. Others fade into retirement or obscurity. Those whose names become synonymous with their sport work hard and reach the upper limits of their talent band. Yes, they have talent, but they also always have self-discipline, grit and resilience. The best players have a playbook for success and they follow it religiously.  The practices highlighted below are based on 30 years of leadership and management experience and a playbook for success at work.

Game on.

  1. Have a vision – you have to know where you are going in order to know how you’ll get there. Without a vision or a destination, you are just sitting in the traffic jam that is your career. The only way traffic is tolerable is when you know you’ve got a nice place to go. So, be sure you check the map each day and keep your ultimate destination in sight.
  2. Be relentless with your self-discipline – without self-discipline, success is impossible. Period. Done. End of story. Self-discipline is the variable that forces us to go the extra mile, to put in the extra hour, and the extra work that leads to success. Self-discipline breeds consistency, focus, and skill building. It is the engine behind the volume of work you need to produce to be ahead of the game. Without it, the game is lost.
  3. Build out your network – people need people. Your next job is likely coming through who you know rather than your education or work experience or polished resume. You need to connect with other and be vocal about your interests and build relationships with key people in your industry. You never know which relationship leads to the next opportunity so treat each one well and burn no bridges.
  4. Take on more work – taking on more work pushes you out of your comfort zone which is how you grow. Instead of looking busy and stressed out, look for busy and stressed out co-workers and lend them a hand. By doing this, you provide value and build relationship equity.
  5. Learn continuously – acquire new knowledge and continuously stay on top of trends or research relevant to your field. Become an expert so that you can be the first person people think of when there is a new project on the horizon. Read, research and talk to others who are experts themselves. Wear your curiosity on your sleeve.
  6. Make yourself visible – experience is important but so is exposure. If you are stuck in a cubicle in the back of an office and afraid to show yourself, you’ll be invisible to the world. No one will know about your talents and the value you can create for them. Seek opportunities to be in more meeting and gain access to more decision makers.
  7. Take initiative – don’t wait for the next assignment, create it. Be proactive in looking for tasks that are falling through the cracks and complete them. Your colleagues and your boss will appreciate the effort and you’ll be seen as a strong member of the team.
  8. Be self-directed – You know what managers appreciate most? Not having to be one. When you are self-directed, you relieve your manager of the burden of delegation and decision making. They can now concentrate on other more high leverage activities than figuring out how to keep you busy. Self-directedness conveys confidence and professionalism. It also maximized team productivity.
  9. Manage emotions effectively – there is nothing worse in the work place than being toxic. Negativity, gossip, back-stabbing, anger outbursts and the like simply don’t have a place in the world of work. Of course, we all have frustrations with our bosses and colleagues. We all feel from time to time that we treated unfairly, that we are not seen for our worth or our work. There is nothing wrong with emotions but being emotional about every single slight will take its toll. Learn to manage your emotions effectively so that people know exactly what they expect from you on a day-to-day basis.
  10. Persevere in the face of failure – in life and in work, there are inevitable failures and setbacks. Learn to use failure as a learning opportunity rather than a reason to self-flagellate and reinforce limiting beliefs. Perseverance is the mindset of champions. History is littered with examples of those that failed yet persevered their way to success. Struggle, setbacks and short-term failures don’t have to drain your motivation. It can be the opposite as long as you adopt the right mindset.

So, there you have it – your success playbook for whatever work you do, whatever environment you may be in, and wherever you may be on your career trajectory. To put these tips in motion, you will need passion, purpose, commitment and intentionality. Where ever you may be, start today. It’s not too late. You can still win the game.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

The most compelling reason I can think of is this: I believe what I write and I write what I believe. I see myself as an alchemist of ideas writing at the intersection of personal, professional, and organizational development to help readers be the most effective human being they can be in order to create lasting impact in the world. If we dig together, we’ll find the gold.

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

 

If You Want to Keep Your Employees, Kill Your Job Descriptions

February 23, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“I got to get on the good foot” ~ James Brown

James Brown released the track ‘Get on the Good Foot’ in 1972 as a two-part single on an album of the same name released in the same year. It was his first gold record. To me, this track is all about playing to your strengths – something we rarely do with our employees.

That process starts with job descriptions, which are almost always some ancient HR relic created for compensation.

Why Job Descriptions Suck

The obligatory job description that identifies an employee’s tasks and responsibilities is regarded as the critical building block of HR. But most are outdated, poorly structured, generic, bloated, overly complex word salads that hardly ever actually describe jobs. It is ironic that we even call them “job descriptions.” We should just call them what they really are: ‘let’s-hope-we-get-someone-really-good-wish lists.’

Perfect employees don’t exist. You are looking for a unicorn. That’s why no job description is going to be perfect, either. And that’s why you always end up slapping a horn on a horse.

Job descriptions do everything but deliver on their eponymous promise. So why not kill them? Or at least choke them a little.

What Research Says

This idea is not too farfetched when considering some recent studies. Working off the premise that many hiring practices today are poorly suited to the rapid changes confronting many businesses, UCL School of Management Assistant Professor Vaughn Tan examined whether or not people performed better when they were able to adapt their job descriptions to focus on their strengths and drop those components they felt were not beneficial. The result was a more satisfied and successful workforce.

Or take as evidence a recent study by Wharton’s Adam Grant and members of Facebook’s HR team. They looked at workers who were retained over time and those who quit their jobs despite the perks of working at the innovative social networking company. The study revealed that when managers tailored a job to a given employee’s passions, talents and priorities, rather than try to slot them into a preconceived role, they ended up with more satisfied and engaged workers who were retained longer.

The Minimalist Approach

If you only have a partial idea of who you need to hire and what those people need to do anyway, why not try a paradigm shift? Instead of packing a bowling ball into a marble bag, try building out only the skeleton of a job description and allowing candidates to co-design the fuller description with you in a way that speaks to their strengths and to your needs. Research shows that this approach works well for rapidly changing industries such as technology start-ups, advertising, and film production companies where predicting the future is more difficult. It is actually really easy to make your job descriptions speak to the candidate, describe their key objectives, and be open to possible alternative backgrounds.

A Final Word

If you want to keep your people — especially your stars — it’s time to pay more attention to how you design their work. Most companies design job descriptions and then slot people into them. But as they continue to compete for talented people, they will begin to create jobs around them. Keeping job descriptions minimal, instead of the current practice of covering all the bases, creates more possibilities and more opportunities. Unicorns don’t have to be real for people to believe in them. The same goes with the “perfect candidate.”So why not try something new and allow people to dance on their good foot.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The Future of Work is Here and Leaders Need to Adapt NOW!

January 25, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” ~ William Gibson

The world of work is changing fast. Through technology and demographic trends, we are witnessing a movement away from cubicle farms where the physical nature of work was emphasized to decentralized nodes and networks where the virtual reality of work is the new normal.

By 2020, Millennials will constitute 50 percent of the workforce while Baby Boomers continue to work into their 70s and 80s. Yes, the generation that has (wrongly) developed a reputation for too many tattoos, too many piercings and too much entitlement will wield major influence on how work gets done. In truth, they represent the first generation of digital natives and the generation most ready to adapt to the future of work.

Major trends in technology that make remote work increasingly possible and more affordable for companies coupled with a globalized economy will accelerate the movement towards virtual work that out of necessity will be more collaborative and knowledge based.

Simply put, workers will continue to have more choice in how, where, and when they do their work. Therefore, leaders would be smart to adapt now to this new reality by enabling system and networks across their organizations that accommodate the new normal. To prepare for the impact and capitalize on the opportunities introduced by the future of work, leaders must adjust their organizational cultures and models now.

We don’t need to look too far to see this new reality. It is all around us.

The Future is Freelance

Nearly 10 years ago, Daniel Pink foresaw this phenomenon in Free Agent Nation, where he documented perhaps the most significant transformation since Americans left the farm for the factory as he witnessed the abandonment   of the Industrial Revolution’s most enduring legacy, the job, in favor of freelance, independent work.

Technology, market demand, and generational differences have fueled the expansion of the freelance economy and so called ‘gig workers.’ So much so that a new NPR/Marist poll, which surveyed workers across all industries and at all professional levels, found that 1 in 5 jobs in the U.S. is held by a contract worker.

For freelancers, the appeal is obvious—unlimited vacation time, ability to earn more from anywhere, and overall freedom. But there’s also plenty of benefits on the company side, such as reduced costs in recruitment, training and orientation as well as performance management and liability.

 The Future is Autonomous

Take as evidence the rise of results-only work environments, or ROWEs. In a ROWE, employees are allowed to work whenever they want with no set schedules. Employees are also allowed to complete their work however they want, and wherever they want, as long as it gets finished.

ROWEs leverage the powerful innate human desire for autonomy by giving people the freedom to choose when and how they will meet their goals. While ROWEs are still relegated to a handful of Silicon Valley start ups like AirBnB who practice the model with great ehem, results, they are an inevitable wave and future trend in the world of work.

The Future is Flexible

People want and need flexibility. Flexibility signals trust in an employee. According to the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 84% of Millennial employees report some flexibility at their job:

·        69% have flexible start/end times

·        68% have flexibility or crossover in their role

·        64% have flexible working locations

If the work doesn’t require the employee to be in a physical location, why require it? Remote work is not the same as contract work, of course, but combined, the two definitely represent the future of work.

The Future is Growth and Learning

People want to grow, learn and continually develop. We know from the same Deloitte study cited above for example, that 44% of those employed plan to leave their current role within two years, with lack of professional development as one of the primary reasons. Companies must place a greater emphasis on nurturing and developing their people in order to keep them. At the same time, the learning and development field would do well to demonstrate the value and ROI of such programs to executives. Demonstrating business impact to leadership and ensuring the right metrics are being used is still the holy grail of employee training even though the field has matured tremendously over the years.  Proving value to learners is equally important but so is keeping up with the way learners are evolving at a quicker pace than the learning programs that support them.

The Future is Automated

We live in a digital economy. We also live in a market economy, where supply and demand will ultimately determine the level and type of employment. Technology will eliminate many middle-income jobs or push them down into lower categories but remain complementary to more high skilled knowledge workers. This trend is already happening. If you’re a truck driver concerned with self-driving technology taking your job, you should be. If you are a writer, concerned with artificial intelligence taking yours, you should be too. It already is.

That said, the key to job security in the age of AI isn’t competition, but collaboration. Including collaboration with robots. Most of the automation, will come down to human–machine combinations.

The Future is Collaborative

Digital technology is having a profound effect on the workplace. The days when the office was the hub of productivity are over.  Communication, collaboration and connectivity are being transformed by technology, which has enabled remote work but also collaboration across organizational and geographical boundaries. Traditional face-to-face meetings are becoming obsolete while collaboration software is becoming omni-present. This will change team dynamics as well as procedures and policies. Team productivity will receive even more attention than personal productivity and visual communications will take on an even more important role.

The Future is Designer

If you want to keep your people — especially your stars — it’s time to pay more attention to how you design their work. Most companies design job descriptions and then slot people into them. This trend will be reversed. Companies will continue to compete for talented people and when they find them, they will create jobs around them.

Take as evidence a recent study by Wharton’s Adam Grant and members of Facebook’s HR of workers who remained at the social networking company and those who quit their jobs despite the perks of working at FB. The study revealed that when managers tailored a job to a given employee’s passions, talents and priorities, rather than try to slot them into a preconceived role, they ended up with more satisfied engaged workers who they retained longer.

The Future is Purposeful

People want purpose. This is especially true of Millennials, who have a different set of expectations from their employment and are attracted to careers that give them a sense of purpose. Just last week Laurence D. Fink, founder and chief executive of the investment firm BlackRock sent a letter to business leaders that their companies need to do more than make profits — they need to contribute to society as well if they want to receive the support of BlackRock. This is a seismic shift in the business world.

A final Word

The bottom line is that work in the future will be more networked, more mobile, more team based, more project based, more de-centralized, more collaborative, more real time and more fluid. The new reality will require better and different structures, models, policies, and procedures to more effectively help people communicate, collaborate and network. Therefore, leaders must begin to think of themselves as network architects increasingly experiment and role model their openness and flexibility to the new ways of working. Done well, the future of work offers the most exciting revolution since the industrial age in how employees will be motivated and engaged to impact the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profits. Oh yes, and purpose. As the old expression goes: “When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: 1) Those who made it happen, 2) those who let it happen and 3) those who wonder what happened.”

Which kind are you?

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Why Positive Feedback Doesn’t Always Motivate Better Performance

January 10, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Negative feedback can make us bitter or better.” ~ Robin Sharma

In reviewing performance, we are erroneously obsessed with progress. But evidence suggests that commitment, not progress is the motivational driver. I recently covered this topic in another post titled How Your Brain Sabotages Your Goals

But here, I want to come at essentially the same topic from a different angle.

The Cult of Positivity

The zeitgeist would have us be positive 24/7. It’s all around us. We shun negative people like the plague. Naturally, this fetish for all things positive has crept its way into the workplace. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with positivity. I am all for it. What I am against is bifurcated thinking.

That is to say:

Positive = Good.

Negative = Bad.

You see, as much as our cognitive self would like to organize the world in this way, our emotional self puts up resistance.

Let me explain.

Positive Vs. Negative Feedback

We’ve all had this experience. You set a fitness goal. You go at it like a beast. After some time, you look in the mirror or stand on the scale and see the results you were after. That’s positive feedback. This should keep you motivated to stay with the program and work out like an Olympic champ. But you don’t. To the contrary, you decide to reward yourself. Instead of being the fuel for your motivation, the positive feedback gives you license to slack off, to attack that piece of chocolate cake you know you should avoid.

Conversely, you stand on the scale and notice you’ve gained weight rather than losing even an ounce. That’s negative feedback. Because it’s negative, it should discourage you, right? But instead, you get mad realizing that more effort is required to meet your goal. You decide to add another mile to your run instead. In this example, it is the negative feedback that is the motivational driver.

What’s happening here?

The scientific community is actually divided on whether it is positive or negative feedback that fuels motivation. As the example above demonstrates, positive feedback is not always motivating just as negative feedback is not always discouraging. Rather, it is the emotional response you have to the feedback you receive about your goal progress, determines how you behave in the future. This is the key.

 The Issue of Perception

It has been said that perception is reality.

You see, the real problem with feedback is not whether it is positive or negative but whether it is perceived as being positive or negative. When you focus purely on whether the feedback you received from your supervisor was ‘positive’ or ‘negative,’ you can help lose the motivational and informational value of that feedback.

In truth, both positive and negative feedback can be motivating. The deciding factor is your interpretation of the feedback received and how you make meaning of it. What I am saying here is that you do not have to be a victim of the feedback you receive. You have agency. You get to determine whether and how the feedback you receive is a motivating force or not.

All of this does not mean that managers should give up understanding how to give honest and constructive feedback. That’s a topic I’ve covered extensively here and here. I am suggesting however, that your ears should not just be tuned to the ‘positivity’ or ‘negativity’ of the message, but to the information contained in the message and how you, as an autonomous individual, choose to incorporate that information into your understanding and development of your future self.

Now, isn’t that a positive message?

Good luck.

 Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Conflict Resolution Is First Mindset Then Skill Set

December 12, 2017 • 8 minute read • by Saeed


“We must not seek happiness in peace, but in conflict.” ~ Paul Claudel

Competition in our society is presented as the norm. In our recent political environment, competition and conflict has even been used to divide us.

But our species actually relies more heavily on cooperation for survival and self-preservation.

Have you ever watched two children engaged in conflict over a toy? Then you may have observed them appealing to fairness and striving towards resolution and negotiation rather than stoking the fires of conflict.

If you’ve followed my writing for any time, you will know that I like to talk about the unity of mindset and mechanism.

When we humans witness pain and grief, we become sad ourselves; when we are in the company of someone positive, it brightens our day. These are neurological mechanisms that develop empathy for others, which builds trust, a prerequisite for cooperation.

New studies have found that in fact cooperation, not competition, is the normative mindset in nature. This is because it is more energy-efficient and because predators and their prey actually strive to maintain a kind of balanced coexistence. Nature’s bias is towards harmony and balance, not destruction and chaos.

But conflict is inevitable. No relationship is immune. It is a normal, and even healthy, part of relationships.

But when handled in an unhealthy manner, it can cause irreparable damage. In a work context, it can be disastrous.

To manage conflict effectively, first, we have to define it.

What Is Conflict?

Conflict is a disagreement over issues of substance and/or an emotional antagonism. Conflict arises from differences in values, motivations, perceptions, ideas, or desires. Managers and leaders spend a lot of time dealing with conflicts of various forms. In a work context, there are two basic forms of conflict:

  • Substantive Conflict – This involves disagreements over goals, resources, rewards, policies, procedures, and job assignments.
  • Emotional Conflict – This results from feelings of anger, distrust, dislike, fear, and resentment as well as from personality clashes.

Not all conflicts that arise are bad, but not are always good either.

What Causes Conflict?

  • Role Ambiguities – unclear job expectations and other task uncertainties increase the probability that some people will be working at cross purposes, at least some of the time.
  • Resource Scarcities – having to share resources with others and/or compete directly with them for resource allocations creates a potential situation conflict. You can imagine how in society, politicians exploit resource scarcities.
  • Task Dependencies – when individual or groups must depend on what others do to perform well themselves, conflicts often occur.
  • Competing Objectives – when objectives are poorly set or reward systems are poorly designed, individuals and groups may come into conflict by working to one another’s disadvantage.
  • Structural Differentiation – differences in organization structures and in the characteristics of the people staffing them may foster conflict because of incompatible approaches toward work.
  • Unresolved Prior Conflicts – unless a conflict is fully resolved, it may remain latent and later emerge as a basis for future conflicts over the same or related matters

Conflict Resolution Strategies for Leaders (Using Your IQ)

In workplace conflicts, differing needs are often at the heart of bitter disputes. When you can recognize the legitimacy of conflicting needs and become willing to examine them in the context of the larger environment, you can begin to solve conflicts strategically.  As an organizational leader, you can use various approaches to deal with conflicts between individuals or groups. These may include:

  • Appeal to Goals – You can focus the attention on one mutually desirable end state; i.e., shared goals. The appeal to higher-level shared goals offers all parties a common frame or reference against which to analyze differences and reconcile disagreements.
  • Change the People – Replacing or transferring one or more of the conflicting parties, conflicts caused by poor interpersonal relationships can be eliminated.
  • Change the Environment – Facilities, work space, or workflows can be rearranged to separate conflicting parties and reduce the opportunity for conflict to exist between the parties.
  • Change the Structure – Using liaison personnel, special task forces, cross-functional teams, and the matrix form of organizational management, can change interaction patterns and assist in conflict reduction.
  • Change Reward Systems – Creating systems that reward co-operation can encourage behaviors and attitudes and promote teamwork and reduce conflict.
  • Change Policies and Procedures – A change in policies and procedures can redirect behavior in ways that minimize the likelihood of known conflict-prone situations.
  • Train People – As a proactive measure, you can prepare people to communicate and work more effectively in situations where conflict is likely by training them in interpersonal skills.
  • Throw Resources at the Problem – You can use this strategy to resolve conflicts whose antecedents lie in the competition for scarce resources. Although it might be expensive, it removes all reasons for conflicts in the future.

Conflict Resolution Strategies for Individuals (Using Your EQ)

The ability to resolve conflicts positively is a key emotional intelligence skill. Conflict resolution is both mindset and skill set. Attitude towards the conflict and towards the relationship is a key mindset component while listening is a key skill set component. When you enter a conflict with a positive attitude and when you listen for where the pain points are for the other person, you are a quarter of the way towards resolving the conflict.

  • Self Awareness – As with most things, success in conflict resolution starts with self awareness. If you don’t know how you feel or why you feel that way, you won’t be able to communicate effectively or smooth over disagreements. If you are out of touch with your feelings or so stressed that you can only pay attention to a limited number of emotions, you won’t be able to understand your own needs. Your ability to handle conflict depends on being connected to your feelings and your values.
  • Social Awareness – The most important information exchanged during conflicts and arguments is often communicated nonverbally. You can avoid many confrontations and resolve arguments and disagreements through effective communication. When people are upset, the words they use rarely convey the issues and needs at the heart of the problem.  Listen carefully for what may be behind the words. Clarify. Restate. Reflect. Validate. Use empathy to develop your awareness of others.
  • Self-Management – One of the key components of conflict management is the ability to self-regulate. The capacity to remain relaxed and focused in tense situations is a vital aspect of conflict resolution. Try not to overreact to difficult situations. By remaining calm it will be more likely that others will consider your viewpoint.
  • Relationship Management – During conflict it’s easy to forget about the other person or to disregard the importance of the relationship. Rupture in relationships is to be expected. But when there is rupture, there should also be an attempt to repair. Sometimes the best way to fix conflict is to apologize. This requires putting others before yourself. Know when to let something go. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree. It takes two people to keep an argument going. If a conflict is going nowhere, you can choose to disengage and move on.

 A Final Word…

To be truly effective at conflict resolution, you have to make the relationship your priority. Maintaining and strengthening the relationship, rather than “winning” the argument, should always be your first priority. Focus on the present. Listen. Pick your battles. Conflicts can be draining, so it’s important to consider whether the issue is really worthy of your time and energy. Be willing to forgive. Resolving conflict is impossible if you’re unwilling or unable to forgive. Resolution lies in releasing the urge to punish, which can never compensate for your losses and only adds to your injury by further depleting and draining you of vital resources. It may mean that you lose the argument. It may mean that you give up being right. It may also mean that you end up a happier human being.

Don’t fight it. Just trust me.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…a simple call to action…

I really appreciate that you are reading my content. I am thrilled to share my time, expertise and knowledge with you and to know it’s of value. Please likecomment, and share the article. I consider that my ‘tip jar’ that lets me know I’m providing value to you. Also, feel free to post it on your blog or email it to whomever you believe would benefit from reading it (with the proper credit of course).

Last thing…

If you find this content helpful and if it helps you think a little more deeply about topics of interest, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or on Medium or on my Blog.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal, professional, and organizational development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. I also just love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Best,

Saeed

©2017— All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The Workplace is Broken (and 3 Radical Ways to Fix It)

December 5, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Revolution is not an apple that falls when it is ripe. You have to make it fall.” ~ Ernesto Che Guevara

Workplace culture has a voracious appetite for command and control structures – an insipid left-over of the industrial revolution and Taylorized bureaucratic systems. In collusion, our K–12 system still adheres to this century-old, industrial-age mindset designed to help people survive a day at the factory not cope with the fast-paced mode of the modern day workplace or the even faster speed of living.

The modern day workplace is broken and we need radical change to fix it.

Stress at work…

For U.S. workers, the 40-hour, five-day work week became the standard in 1938. A recent Pew survey found that 35 percent of adults say the Internet, email and mobile phones have increased their hours worked. For office workers, the number rises to 47 percent. Consequently, nearly half of workers today say they routinely put in more than 50 hours on the job each week. As a result, job stress is far and away the major source of stress-related illness for American adults.

More work does not lead to more productivity…

The irony is that more work does not lead to more productivity. Research that attempts to quantify the relationship between hours worked and productivity has found that employee output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week, and falls off a cliff after 55 hours—so much so that someone who puts in 70 hours produces nothing more with those extra 15 hours, according to a study published last year by John Pencavel of Stanford University.

We are not engaged and we are not happy at work…

According to Gallup, the percentage of U.S. workers who are engaged at work is a low 33% (29% if you are a Millennial) and worldwide that number is an even more paltry 15%. That means the majority of the workforce (more than 70%) is checked out!

Moreover, only 21% of workers feel they are managed in a motivating way and only half know what’s expected of them on a daily basis. Nearly three-fourths of American workers are actively hunting for a new job, and the vast majority don’t feel like they get enough recognition from their company. Skyrocketing stress, a lack of recognition, promotion opportunities, and collegial support were cited as some of the reasons.

The myth of work-life balance…

The concept of a work-leisure dichotomy first surfaced in the mid-1800s while the more modern expression ‘work–life balance,’ was first used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s and in the United States in the mid 1980s. In recent studies, The American Institute of Stress found that 80% of workers feel stress on the job but only 20% cited the juggling of work/personal lives as the reason for their stress. The majority cited workload (46%) and people issues (28%) as the source of their stress.

Meanwhile, workplace policies are taking a schizophrenic turn. When in 2013 Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer took away employees’ work from home option, most saw the decision as regressive. After all, not far from the Yahoo campus, a Stanford study had reported that work from home policies boost worker productivity by as much as 13 percent. According to Gallup, 43 percent of U.S. employees work remotely all or some of the time. But Mayer was focused on another batch of studies that showed the opposite and was facing a sinking corporate ship.

If we were to listen to Carlos Slim, one of the world’s richest business tycoons, we would shift to a three-day work week, put in 11-hour work days and retire at 75. But ironically, a 2008 survey of workers by the Families and Work Institute found that 46% of those offered the option of a compressed week declined it most of the time.

The bottom line is that for the knowledge economy and jobs that mainly require interactions with clients (consultant, sales etc.) or don’t require much interaction at all (columnist), the office has little to offer besides interruption.

We need radical humanization of the workplace…

So what’s the solution to all this malaise?

1.      Radical Leadership: change starts at the top. We need ‘change leadership’ and if your specific workplace is broken because of poor management practices, you may need a change in leadership. People, after all, don’t leave jobs, they leave supervisors.  Some of us work for micromanagers. Some of us work for toxic bosses. Some of us work in chaos.  The deleterious costs of dysfunctional workplaces and dysfunctional management are high. They include low employee morale, high staff turnover, and reduction of productivity. Many managers are promoted into their roles without the requisite training needed to be able to coach and develop their employees into success. It’s time to significantly raise the bar on leadership requirements. If you are satisfied with mediocre performance and having 70% of your people checked out, then don’t invest in your leaders and once in a while remind yourself of the classic definition of crazy.

2.      Radical Culture: for the most part, organizational culture is set at the top.  It is the culture that shapes employee interaction, productivity, and loyalty to the company. Generally speaking, a positive work culture means greater productivity and a negative work culture is counterproductive or even toxic. People are values driven. Values are directly related to success and failure and directly related to culture. Values are in the DNA of your workplace culture. People are attracted to organizations where the culture is the same as their values. They gravitate towards others who share their values. This is why organizations become more homogeneous over time. That’s also why values can drive prejudice in a workplace or in society. So when a workplace is not values driven, engagement and retention tend to be weak. Instead of describing your workplace values, try prescribing them. By doing so you’ll bend your culture towards more pro-social behaviors creating an organizational environment that conveys positive emotions to all those within it and allowing positive feelings to emerge in turn.

3.      Radical Autonomy: Study after study has shown that work environments that are more autonomous in nature simply have higher levels of productivity, creativity, engagement and overall job satisfaction. This desire and drive towards autonomy and independence is innate in us as humans. Restrictions on our autonomy lie at the heart of a great deal of our unhappiness. That’s why prison, the ultimate punishment in our society, is an extreme form of restricting our freedom. Studies with physicians have shown that sources of dissatisfaction for that profession do not stem from having to deal with insurance companies or paperwork but rather from lack of control over their daily schedules. I would argue that the same is true for all workers. This explains the rise of results-only work environments, or ROWEs. In a ROWE, employees are allowed to work whenever they want with no set schedules. Employees are also allowed to complete their work however they want, and wherever they want, as long as it gets finished. Guess what? Employees in these workplaces are more engaged and more productive.

One Final Word…

The key to a productive business is investing time and effort in understanding what makes people happy and engaged at work. Workers are the greatest asset any organization has. And while competitive pay and benefits are important, how we treat employees and how we manage work getting done are far more important factors that contribute to productivity. The best places are those that foster a healthy atmosphere and workplace culture and trust their employees to do and be their best. The best places are those in which people can flourish by flexing their creative muscles and believing they have the freedom and independence to be their best selves. This is how you develop the power of synergy, empathy and good will. And these synergies generated on a daily basis are unstoppable.

Now, is that a radical idea?

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

What is Your Emotional Footprint At Work?

November 7, 2017 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“People will forget what you said and what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou

We churn and create products all day long, be it code, spreadsheets, reports, charts, and whatever else we were hired to do.

But what amounts to our success and reputation at work, is less about the products we create, and more about the interactions we have with clients, colleagues, and customers.

Every interaction we have at work, from the first to the last, makes an impression, leaving an emotional footprint in our wake. Put another way, each and every one of those interactions leaves a trace – either building or eroding trust, empowering or disenfranchising someone, engaging or distancing us from each other.

The cumulative effect of these interactions has a major impact on what people think of us, what we think of ourselves, and how fulfilled we truly feel on the job.

You see, the issues that cause significant concern for leaders and supervisors are the people relationship issues and not the subject matter or the content of the work itself. Workplace conflicts, communication, stress management, and daily interactions amongst colleagues can make or break a product launch, a new business venture or the start of a new initiative. That’s why teambuilding is such a big industry.

We know for example that the impact of a toxic boss or a micromanaging one can be so intense that it is labeled among the top three reasons why employees resign.

In other words, affect trumps talent. You can be a genius, but if you are a toxic one, you are of little use to the team. In fact, you may be holding productivity back and impacting the team’s morale.

Of course it is practically impossible to disprove that talent, skills or hard work don’t count. They do. I am by no means suggesting they don’t.

But consider this: reputations built up over years of hard work, applied skill and talent, can be lost in a single moment when we lose control over our emotions. Showing up every day to bring your best skills and technical chops to work is important but showing up every day with a good attitude is crucial.

Some people seem to react to their emotions, unaware of how they feel, responding with whatever thought is running through their mind at the moment. Others seem to be aware of their emotions and how those emotions impact their thoughts. These individuals are conscious of how they are feeling and use these emotions to appropriately respond to the situation at hand.

Voilà! Therein you have the difference between people that apply Emotional intelligence to their world and those that stumble through it unconsciously.

So, the next time you find yourself in a difficult situation pay attention to your emotions. Own those emotions and don’t let them own you. Connect with others by sharing your emotions in a constructive and thoughtful manner. Practice being aware, name your emotions, and observe how this awareness impacts your thoughts, comments, and behavior.

You don’t have to be like the bosses you had who were blind to the impacts of their lack of emotional awareness. Remember them? Be an emotionally intelligent leader and turn challenging situations into rewarding ones. As someone once said, if you walk in the footprints of others, you won’t make any of your own.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

People Don’t Leave Jobs, They Leave Supervisors

November 3, 2017 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” ~Unknown

There is a well known management axiom that says people don’t leave jobs, they leave their supervisors. You may be a new boss or just a bad one or a well intentioned one that just doesn’t recognize the impact of your actions.

Which ever one you are, this post is for you.

If you are in charge of a person or team, and you are struggling with productivity and satisfaction, there are several classic ways that you may be jeopardizing and undercutting your team’s development. You may have been promoted into the role without the proper training and coaching. It may be that you just don’t know how to lead and interact effectively with people. It happens to all us. You can overcome this but you’ll have to immediately stop certain behaviors:

  • You won’t let go of problems or mistakes. You return to discuss negative events continually and look for faults in your employees.
  • You won’t accept constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement. You can’t deal with disagreement from employees who have their own opinions about work-related issues.
  • You break promises. You make up stories when you don’t know the answer to an employee’s question instead of finding out and communicating out appropriately.
  • You cause dissension among staff members (either intentionally or unconsciously) by your actions and words.
  • You fail to communicate, and lack clear expectations, timelines, and goals. You change your mind frequently leaving employees off-balance. You change expectations and deadlines frequently. Employees have trouble knowing where they stand and whether they’re meeting expectations. You forget that employees fail to feel a sense of accomplishment when expectations don’t exist or are not consitent.
  • You use disciplinary measures inappropriately when simple, positive communication would correct the problem. You ignore employees until there is a problem, then pounce. You seek out the guilty when all you need to do is correct a problem with a well thought out solution.
  • You take credit for successes and positive accomplishments of your team members. You are equally as quick to blame employees when something goes wrong. You throw employees under the bus. You criticize publicly. You praise disingenuously.
  • You micromanage and by doing so, you lower productivity and job satisfaction.
  • In the worst cases, you discriminate against employees.

Here’s how to avoid these mistakes:

  • Learn – take a class on supervision and management and learn how to provide feedback, how to coach, how to conduct performance reviews and how to empower your employees.
  • Let go – You can’t do everything and your team won’t learn if you don’t delegate and share decision making as much as possible.
  • Get out of the weeds – Operate at your level – set a vision, be strategic, understand and articulate the big picture. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself doing the work of someone a level below you, focusing on minutiae, and micromanaging.
  • Teach and coach – Development is an active job. You have to spend time with your team members, be accessible, share your knowledge and experience, and offer guidance and feedback. You can’t do that if you are constantly in meetings or behind closed doors. Consistent teaching and coaching is essential for team development.
  • Trust and empower – You don’t have all the answers and no one expects you to. Trust that your team can come up with some pretty good solutions too and encourage them to give input, take risks, and share their opinions regularly.
  • Acknowledge – Part of your job is being a great advocate for your team. If you’re not willing to share the spotlight when things go well or take the blame when things go wrong, then team development will suffer.

If you’re frustrated by your poor-performing team, it may be time to stop focusing on what they’re doing wrong and think about what you may be doing wrong. Chances are you’ll discover that the barrier to their success is you.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Curiosity and Enthusiasm: The Secret Ingredients to Job Interview Success

October 9, 2017 •  5 minute read • by Saeed


You did your homework. You researched the organization.

You got your elevator pitch down about why you are the ideal candidate.

You selected your best business attire and made sure you “look” the part.

You fine tuned your responses to common behavioral interview questions.

You made a good first impression.

But you didn’t get a call back. Why?

One of the most common reasons is that you failed to show your curiosity and enthusiasm for the job, the people, and the company.

Most interviews have time reserved at the end for you to ask questions. This is your 15 minutes of fame moment. This is where you show off your research skills, your engagement skills, your critical thinking skills, and, perhaps most importantly, your emotional intelligence skills.

As far as knowledge and technical expertise are concerned, you are probably qualified enough for the job. Why would you apply otherwise? And the same logic applies to your competition. If you made it this far, it’s because you’re being considered in a pool of other qualified candidates.

So at this stage, they are not only evaluating you to see if your qualifications are a match and that you are a good fit, they are evaluating you to see if you really want the job. If you are allowing yourself to be grilled for 45 minutes and then freezing when it’s your 15 minute window of opportunity to demonstrate your curiosity and enthusiasm, you will disappoint.

What should your approach be instead?

You have to think of an interview as a two-way dialogue than a one-way dissection of your resume. There are several distinct advantages to this approach.

By flipping your perspective, you can actually use an interview as an opportunity to learn more about the role you are applying for and if it would be an good fit for you.

Asking thoughtful questions will signal to the interviewer your preparedness and interest in the position. It will also demonstrate that you are not just there to take any job. You want to be successful so you are evaluating the position accordingly. It signals that you value yourself and that therefore, you are of value.

Carefully think about questions that help clarify or shed more light on the actual role for which you are applying. Think through questions that you cannot readily find the answer to through public sources like company profile pages.

Then, make sure you do the following:

  1. Engage them in an authentic dialogue. It’s really important to leverage your natural curiosity to identify questions that can help facilitate a dialogue. Write down the questions you have – interviewers notice when candidates have taken the time to research the company and come prepared with some thoughtful questions. Have five or six questions ready to ask and don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions – it’s a more natural way to engage in conversation.
  2. Ask what you really want to know. There are questions everyone wants to ask that may feel “risky” or too controversial so if you are going there, carefully phrase the question so it’s less negative and more constructive. For instance, if you really want to know how much travel the role will involve, you could frame it as something along the lines of: “I realize there is some travel involved with this role, but I was curious if you had a perspective about work-life fit at your company overall.”
  3. Get to the heart of the matter. Pose your questions in such a way that you can gain some level of insight from them. Remember that answers are providing you more detail to consider as you weigh the pros and cons of starting your new job. To do this, you must know the job description well and learn to read between the bullet points.
  4. Make sure you tailor your questions to your interviewer. Don’t ask senior leaders questions about what their first year was like. Ask instead about growth in his or her particular area or ask about learning and development opportunities. Save the first year question for the less senior team members who interview you.
  5. Use your social and emotional intelligence. Be cognizant of verbal or body language that communicates to you that the interview is wrapping up or concluding.

Interviews are conversations. Conversations that can help you learn more about the company and the role for which you are applying. By taking time to develop thoughtful questions, you can advance your knowledge and gain insight about the organization, while also helping you stand out in the interview process.

Good luck.

©2017 – All Content and Photography by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

How To Nail Your Next Job Interview

August 9, 2017 •   4 minute read • by Saeed


“Be so good they can’t ignore you.” ~ Steve Martin

Over the span of my career, I have interviewed hundreds of job candidates and have been interviewed countless of times myself. I am always amazed at the poor performance on both sides of the table.

I assume you are reading this because you have an upcoming interview.

I also assume you know the basics:

  • Dress for the part;
  • Arrive a few minutes early;
  • Shake hands, don’t hug (really, I’ve had that happen);
  • Have an extra copy of your resume and cover letter on hand;
  • Don’t respond with canned answers;
  • Prepare examples;
  • Research the company and prepare three questions to ask;
  • Don’t go off on a rant about how technology is destroying us if you are applying for a job at a Apple or how wall street is fleecing us if you are applying for a job at Goldman Sachs and so on;
  • Send a hand-written thank you letter.

Lastly, I assume you know that an impression is formed within the first 60 seconds of meeting you. Actually, the research says 1/10 of a second but who’s counting.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s focus on how to actually answer questions. One of the biggest turn-offs in interviews is when people ramble on. To avoid being a babbling brook, use the STAR technique. This is an especially useful technique for answering interview questions in which you must answer with an anecdote. There are four key steps: situation, task, action, and results. Here is how it works:

(S) Situation. Describe the situation in which the event took place.

(T) Task. Describe the task you were asked to complete. If there was a particular problem or issue you were trying to solve, describe that here.

(A) Action. Explain what action you took to complete the task or solve the problem.

(R) Results. Explain the result of your actions. For example, if your actions resulted in completing a task, resolving a conflict, improving your company’s sales record, etc., explain this. Try to focus on how your actions resulted in a success for the company

Now that you have your technique down, let me give you the big secret to job interviews: People want to hire people they can see themselves working with on a daily basis. In other words, it has to be a good fit regardless of your qualifications or experience. Otherwise, both sides will be stuck in a perennial state of unhappiness. So remember, if you don’t get the job maybe it’s because it wasn’t meant to be.

Good Luck.

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

4 Fundamental Reasons Why People Procrastinate (and what to do about it)

This CEO Would Leave His Family Behind In Disneyland For His Job!

The Best Leaders Hire For Emotional Intelligence, Not Just Technical Skills

3 Reasons Why You Should Think (Really) Big!

Trust is the Cornerstone of All Relationships

15 Traits That Demonstrate Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

3 Most Important Deposits for Your Career Bank Account

Why You Never Follow Through (And How To Fix It)

Ready To Quit Your Job And Be A Consultant? Read This Before You Jump!

6 Essential Skills to Master the Art of Negotiation

Your Bad Boss is Bad for Your Heart (and everything else)

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like an Entrepreneur

Why Your Meetings Suck and How to Improve Them

6 Secret Weapons to Supervise Like a Superhero

10 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Intelligence and Motivate Your People

Top 10 Tips To 10x Your Productivity And Take Back Your Creativity

3 Things Babies Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement

12 Reasons Why You Should Work Like A Consultant