Tag Archives: Business

What are you listening to?

what are you listening to

Tom Godber via Flickr

I’m really into podcasts right now.  I listen while I’m alone cooking dinner or folding clothes (the pseudo-downtime of a Mom).  On days I don’t seem to have time to read, these help keep my brain happy:

The Fizzle Show
A “podcast for creative entrepreneurs and honest business builders”, this is basically three smart dudes shooting the shit for an hour.  It may not seem like it at first, but there is a lot of great business information packed into each episode.  This Q&A episode has good insights into making the most of your job early on.

Being Boss
This newish podcast from two Lady Bosses is also targeted at creative entrepreneurs.  I like the conversational style and insight into how these business owners get it all done.  This episode offers some nice perspective on being a working Mom.

Books on the Nightstand
This weekly podcast is a great source of print and audiobook recommendations, as well as “a behind-the-scenes look at the world of books, bookstores and publishing”.  I usually add at least one book to my reading list after each episode.  This episode is particularly interesting if you’re curious about a career in publishing.

The Portfolio Life
This is “the show that helps you pursue work that matters, make a difference with your art and discover your true voice.”  Primarily focused on writing, this podcast explores how we shift from having a single career to creating body of work.  This interview with Seth Godin is good.

How about you? What are you listening to these days?

 


P.S. Here are three Books on the Nightstand recommendations that I’ve read recently and thought were excellent:

     


P.P.S. Are we Twitter friends yet? Find me @TheMgmtMaven

 

This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.

Photo by Tom Godber via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.

 

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Fiction with a business bent.

library

Patrik Goethe via Unsplash

Are you a business book junkie?  I am.  And over the past few years, I’ve seen my reading list become more and more weighted towards non-fiction.  With limited reading time, it just feels like I get more intellectual bang for my buck with fact-based works.

So Rohit Bhargava’s thoughts on why reading fiction is better for your business were a nice reminder for me: taking time for a wider range of reading material enhances your creativity, stimulates your intellectual curiosity and changes your perspective.

Following Bhargava’s lead, here are my own recommendations for powerful fiction with a bit of a business bent.

 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – This literary classic is a must-read story of greed, money and ambition in the 1920’s. Gatsby is the iconic American entrepreneur, a self-made man blinded by love and the pursuit of wealth.

 

 

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates – The tragic portrait of a couple unable to reconcile their real lives with the lives of their dreams. Trapped in jobs they never particularly wanted – The Housewife, The Company Man – they struggle against their suburban and corporate conformity. Not exactly light reading, this.

 

 

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho – On a brighter note, this allegorical story of a young shepherd’s search for his Personal Legend presents the value of being open to learning, to trying new experiences and to finding meaningful work.

 

 

 

And I’ve said before that AMC’s Mad Men has a wealth of business insights mixed in with all the drama, so here are three fun Mad Men related titles that I’m putting on my Christmas list.

         

 

(This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.)

 

How to stand-out on a cross-functional team (and leverage that experience to grow your career).

Odd duck by Don Graham

Most of us build our careers as specialists.  We get really good in one area and then we get promoted to managing other people in that area.  But at some point, growing as a manager requires a shift from being a functional specialist to a organizational generalist – from being a subject-matter expert to a leader who can understand how the business functions as a whole.

Early in your career, being assigned to a cross-functional project team can put you on the fast-track to management.  It introduces you to new people, sets you up as the go-to person in your department and increases your visibility within the organization.  It is also a great way to start making the shift from specialist to generalist.

Here’s how to make the most of the experience:

Do good work.  This should be the foundation of all career advice and directly applies here as well.  Make sure you’re contributing to the success of the project.  Meet deadlines.  Do more than required.  You’re representing your functional area and will be the go-to person, so always deliver.

Learn from other team members.  Respect that the other people on your project team are the experts in their own areas.  Defer to their knowledge.  Ask questions.  Dig into what their jobs are really like and how they impact the company.  Use the opportunity to learn their metrics, process flows and problem areas.

Don’t complain (but be sympathetic when others do).  You’re using this project to build your career capital, so you should see extra work as an investment.  But others on your project team may not feel the same way.  Show them that you understand how busy they are.  Commiserate, and then use your new cross-functional knowledge to alleviate their pain points.

Be a meeting rock star.  Knowing how to manage a meeting is key to a successful project outcome.  Be attentive, take notes and ask smart questions.  Most importantly, don’t get bogged down in the details of your specific task.  Understand the higher level problem the team is trying to solve and stay focused on the company-wide impact.

Project confidence but stay humble.  You want to be seen as smart, capable and well-rounded.  But no one likes a know-it-all.  And no matter how good you are at your job, being liked is important.  You’re building relationships that you will draw on as you move up in the organization, so build them wisely.

 

How about you?  Has working on a project team helped you grow as a manager?

 

(Photo by Don Graham via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

A few thoughts on organizational culture.

Culture

Culture is the way we create solutions to shared problems.

Consider how human groups have evolved over the millennia.  Bands of individuals find themselves repeatedly faced with common problems – how to communicate, how to divide labor, how to show respect for one another.  Each group chooses to solve these problems in its own way.  And these unique combinations of beliefs and behaviors become the defining elements of human cultures.

At the organizational level, we can view culture in a similar way.  Organizational culture evolves as its members find solutions to everyday problems.  How do we interact with one another?  How do we best serve our customers?   How do we prioritize our time?

Your organization has a culture, whether you’re conscious of it or not.

Your people have been asking and answering these kinds of questions since day one, and in doing so, have established what is expected and accepted within your organization.

The big question, then, is how is this culture driving behavior that serves your mission?

Is it making your organization more effective or is it dragging you down?

 

Revised from original post – June 22, 2013

 

What is your management philosophy?

Week 1 of 52 2010 by F Delventhal

How many pennies would it take to fill this room?

Have you ever had an interview question like this?  Did it stop you in your tracks?

Employers use these seemingly crazy questions to see how well you can think on your feet and whether you can reason through a tough problem.  Here’s a more common, but equally tough, question that can stump both new and seasoned managers alike:

What is your management philosophy?

This one can be difficult if 1) you’re not sure what the interviewer is looking for or 2) you’re not used to articulating your core beliefs as a manager.

First, as with the penny question, the employer wants to know you can provide an organized and reasoned response.  They also want to know if your management style will fit with their organizational culture and whether you understand how your leadership impacts overall performance.

Second, it’s important to distinguish between management actions (what you do) and management philosophy (what you believe and why).  Rather than listing tasks, think about how your management style creates a more effective and efficient organization, and focus on the results of your approach.

Stuck on where to start?

Consider working around the 4 basic management functions: planning, organizing, leading and controlling. (Remember those from business class??)

Planning
• How do individual and team goals correlate to organizational goals?
• What’s your decision making style?

Organizing
• Do you have a preferred team structure?  Why?
• What’s your foundation for distributing authority?

Leading
• What do you believe drives individual motivation?
• What are major sources of conflict within a team and how do you address them?

Controlling
• How does evaluation relate to performance?
• What are your options when individual or team results are not in line with expectations?

 

How about you?  Have you ever been asked about your management philosophy in an interview?  How did you respond?

 

For more thoughts on the interview process, try these posts:

To Hire, or Not To Hire: Evaluating Sales Skills

To Hire, or Not To Hire: Evaluating Cultural Fit

To Hire, or Not To Hire: Evaluating Locus of Control

 

(Photo by F Delventhal via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons)

 

Revised from original post – July 4, 2013

Advice for the new manager.

advice for new manager

Over the weekend, I helped throw a baby shower for a good friend, and as I watched folks gather to offer their support and congratulations, it occurred to me:

Wouldn’t it be great if we threw a shower for a new manager?

Like parents-to-be, new managers are embarking on a new stage of their lives. They’re taking on unfamiliar tasks and new (terrifying) responsibilities.  Wouldn’t it be nice to shower them with gifts and good wishes?  Shouldn’t we come together to give them the tools and support (and cupcakes) they need to embark on the management journey?

While fun to imagine, it’s probably not going to happen.  But one element of the baby shower that did stick with me was the opportunity for guests to share a piece of advice for the new parents.

“Sleep when the baby sleeps”         “Always carry two of everything”

As I wrote down my words of baby wisdom, I considered what I would write if I could only give one piece of advice to a new manager.  Here’s what I came up with:

It’s okay to admit you don’t know everything.  Your team knows you’re new to this.  Be confident in your abilities but ask for help when you need it.  Your team will respect you for it.

How about you?  What singular piece of advice would you give to a new manager?

 

Read This Book: Predictable Success

“Any group of people can reach a state where they will consistently (and with relative ease) achieve their common goals – a state that I call “Predictable Success.”                               Les McKeown

Whether you’re a seasoned leader or just starting out in your career, you need to be able to analyze the business dynamics playing out around you.  This book will help you do that.

Drawing on a deep understanding of organizational behavior, Les McKeown describes the seven stages he considers common to all businesses.  He then provides a step-by-step guide for leading your organization into Predictable Success and offers a practical blueprint for achieving sustainable growth.

 

Visit the Reading List for more book recommendations.

 

This post contains affiliate links to Powell’s Books.