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Monday, October 29, 2012

Your Horizon Part 2: Match Yourself

Last week,  I talked about the first step in discovering your career horizon: Know Yourself.   The next step is matching yourself with jobs that fit align with your talents, passions and values.  In considering your matches, you also have to consider the job market where you live or where your willing to relocate.

1.  Take assessments that match yourself to jobs that fit you: 

For free tools, check out O*NET's Career Exploration Tools.  Some of these assessments require you to print out an manually score the assessment while others let you download the application to your computer.  The easiest tool to use is the Career Interest Profiler that can be found at  which will provide you with a list of careers that match you based on your assessment results and how much education and training you have or are willing to pursue.

If you are willing to pay a little for an assessment, you can take some more comprehensive tools found at:

Self Directed Search
Strong Interest Inventory  This includes an in-person or over the phone interpretation from me.

2.  Learn more about your matches:

First, explore online to learn more about your matches.  I like to use   You can enter occupations in the search field in the top right-hand corner of the screen and watch a career video about the job, learn more about what's needed to be successful on the job, daily tasks and activities of the job as well as salary and job growth data. 

Speaking of job growth data,  You can't be a marine biologist in the middle of Nebraska......

This is where it is important to consider the horizon of the job market as to whether or not you can get a job that aligns with your talents, passions and values in the area where you live or where you are willing to live. 

Finally,  talk to people who are in the occupations that interest you.  This Job Shadowing Questionnaire may help. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Leadership How-Tos

I recently finished teaching two sessions of a two-day leadership training class.   As always, I asked for feedback at the end of the course to find out what would make the instruction and content better.   In one class,  many participants noted the need for more "how-tos", meaning they wanted more ways to apply what they had learned on the job.

I thought a list of how-tos might be helpful to share not only with them, but those of you who read this blog.  While this blog is always an effort to provide leadership how-tos, I'll have several installments of "how-tos" over the next few weeks related to topics from this particular course.

The purpose of any training, and the way to measure if it was effective, is to see if behaviors change on the job.  Here are some behavioral-based "how-tos" based on the topics of this particular course.

Leaders' roles of planning, organizing, directing, and monitoring: 

Planning how-to:  "Reverse-engineer". One of the class participants came up with this phrase and I love it!    It really emphasizes that you can't plan without knowing where you want to be; you have to know your end or desired state to plan for it.

Sit down with your team and have a planning session.  If you can do it off-site away from distractions, that is great.    Review the company mission and vision and any other strategic planning information.  Then "reverse engineer" your way into plans that meet those strategic objectives that your team is responsible for doing. This can be done on a smaller scale, say for example sitting down each week to plan for how your team is going to meet the production goal for the week.  Put the plan in writing and in a place where everyone can refer to it.

Organizing how-to:  Get some type of organizing mechanism (planner, computer based calendar tool and/or task list, white board in your office, etc.) and use it consistently to record work schedules of all of your team, meetings, dates goals needs to be reached, etc.  Use one tool, not ten and make it public.  Find a mechanism where everyone can assess this information.  I like google calendar as well as google's other tools for sharing documents and information.

 Kill two birds with one stone! Direct and Monitor with one how-to!  Schedule a time to manage by walking around.  You monitor more effectively if you do it regularly, but not at the same time each week.  People will come to know the boss walks around and monitors every Tuesday at 2:00 pm and they will definitely be working hard if you know that's when you are making rounds!

Walk your work area speaking to team members, talking about what they are working on, how things are going and asking if they need help with anything.  You may only have to observe what they are doing; it depends on the type of environment you work in. This will help you monitor what they are doing, and direct them if help is needed.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Your Horizon Part 1: Know Yourself

We're looking forward to beginning a project with a high school and their local partner in education to provide career coaching for all of the seniors at the school.   In addition to that, I'll be speaking at a job club on the topic of "Should I consider a career change?" next week.  Even with two completely different audiences, high school students and adults in career transition, we use the same model to help people make wise career decisions.

Here's how the first step works.

Know Yourself

1. Talents- We examine what you're good at.  This is done in a variety of ways (there are many instruments out there), but here are some questions that you can reflect on quickly in this area:

  • What do other people frequently ask you for help with? 
  • What tasks to do you find that come easy to you that seem difficult for others? 
2. Passions- We examine what cranks your tractor.   Again, there are a variety of instruments out there to assess interests or passions, but here are some things to consider on your own: 
  • What do you loose track of time doing you enjoy it so much? 
  • Are you engrossed with people, things or ideas? 
  • If you were standing in front of a magazine rack, what magazine would you pick up first to read? 
3. Values- We examine your personal values in the context of work environment.  This doesn't deal with moral values, such as integrity, instead it focuses on what environment is best for you and what you value most from work.  We typically use a card sorter activity that forces you to priorities what you value in work.  Here are some things to consider in this category:
  • Where do you want to live? Big city, small town, close to the ocean, in the mountains, close to family or far far away from them? (Yes, I have actually had people tell me it doesn't matter where they work as long as family isn't close by.  They obviously don't have a toddler!) 
  • Do you prefer to work with others or independently?
  • What is important to you in terms of work?  Is it flexibility, variety, status, autonomy, stability, etc? 
These areas, as seen in the diagram above, should overlap.  Most people are good at what they love to do and vis versa and most people gravitate toward jobs that provide alignment with their work and personal values.   Knowing yourself before considering different career fields or considering a change in career fields is vital to success. 

Next week,  I'll discuss the next step- Match Yourself- which gives a clearer picture of your horizon in the context of the job market. 

Let us know your answers to some of the questions above for this week's feedback! 

I'll give you one of mine... Passions- I loose track of time writing about and putting together presentations/trainings and individual plans for career and leadership development!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lessons Learned on Learning

Last week,  I talked about the best leadership lesson I took away from the book Now You See It by Cathy Davidson.   Here are some other key points I took away from the book: 
  1. Many of our educational and business institutions are still geared towards creating and maintaining a type of worker (the industrial, assembly line worker) we by and large no longer need.  Teaching to the (standardized) test and forcing routine, in-the-box tasks does us no good.
  2. Learning should be fun, make it a game.
  3. Learning should synthesize knowledge.
  4. The brain is geared towards multitasking, work with it, don't fight it.
  5. Technology does help us be more productive; we by and large cause distractions ourselves.   Read the book to find out what the head honcho of Firefox does to limit distractions that our digital world helps create. 
  6. There are so many things to pay attention to, team up!  You count the balls I'll watch for the gorilla....
  7. Unlearning is just as important as learning.
  8.  Avoid categorizing people as "normal" "not normal". Someone's "disability" could be your greatest asset as an employee.  Read the book to learn more about how autistic individuals are the best computer code testers.
  9. Learning, relearning and unlearning keep us young! 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Are You a LEGO leader?

I just finished the book, Now You See It, by Cathy Davidson that describes how the digital age can and should be transforming our schools and businesses of the 21st Century.   There are many things that captured my attention in this book concerning the world of work, learning, and leadership which I will talk about over the next few weeks.  

One thing that stood out to me as the most powerful leadership principle was when she discussed LEGO leaders.  Lego leaders are really the same things as servant leaders.  She used the example of Shane Battier, a standout basketball player  who was described by sports writer Michael Lewis as one who had the remarkable ability to lead his team to victory, not by his own "prowess" in scoring, rebounding, and assists, but by his ability to "arrange a situation in which each participant plays to his very best ability in relationship to the opponents." It's a "remarkably modest form of leadership that lets others shine and at the same time empowers others to take responsibility and change."*

Shane's nickname on the court was "LEGO" because he made all the pieces fit together when he was playing. 

This ability to humbly lead by making others succeed was also the first on the list of "What Science Says About Successful Bosses"  where research showed that the first thing that distinguishes successful from unsuccessful bosses according to years of extensive research is that they are humble rather than arrogant and put others development first.   

Here are some questions to ask yourself to discern whether you're being a LEGO leader: 

1.  What do you spend the most time doing? Is it taking the time to develop the people who work for you?  Do you feel that developing others is your first and most important responsibility? 
2.  Can you name the key strengths of each of the people you lead and do you give them assignments that cater to those strengths? 
3.  Do members of your team enjoy coming to work and are they motivated to succeed? 
4.  Do you get out of peoples' way and let them do their job instead of micromanaging over their shoulders?
5.  Does your presence make the pieces fit together for a more cohesive whole or does your presence stress those who work for you out? 
6.  Do you talk about yourself more than your team? Count the number of times you say "I" versus "we" in a day.  If "I" is even close to being said as many times as "we" or naming someone who works for you, then you may need to reexamine your focus.

Tell us about someone you know that is a LEGO leader?  What do they do to put the pieces together? 

*Now You See It, page 225