How to move out of your comfort zone

4. desember 2009

Við birtum einstaka sinnum greinar á ensku, þessi er héðan – eftir Paul Sloane

Most people and most organisations operate in a comfortable rut that limits their possibilities, their thinking and their achievements. If you want a more interesting life then you have to take some risks. If you want to be more adventurous in your thinking then you should be more adventurous in your activities. Deliberately push yourself out of your routine. Try things that you do not normally try. Do things that you have never done before. Do things that scare you.

Here are some ideas for pushing yourself out of your personal rut.

  • Take salsa dancing lessons
  • Try a new sport.
  • Drive a different route to work every day for a month.
  • Learn to knit.
  • Read some special interest magazines that you have never read before.
  • Perform in a karaoke bar.
  • Go to an art gallery.
  • Go on a flower arranging course.
  • Learn a foreign language.
  • Join an amateur dramatic society and act a minor part in a play.
  • Help in a charity shop.
  • Become a prison visitor.
  • Talk to somebody new every day. Listen to them carefully.

The same philosophy applies to your business. We tend to hide behind old mottos like:

  • Stick to the knitting.
  • Focus on your strengths.
  • Don’t try to be all things to all men.

These can be excuses for staying within our corporate comfort zone. It is by trying new activities that we gain new experiences and skills. If we keep doing the same things we learn very little.

Nokia was originally a small Finnish wood pulp company; it has diversified many times. It has tried all sorts of different things. At one time Nokia made rubber boots. Now it is are one of the world’s leading providers of mobile phones and is admired as a leader in innovation.

Virgin group started as a record label. Richard Branson has led countless diversifications. Many experiments have failed but they have established businesses in areas such as trains, airlines, books, cola, etc.

If we as individuals need a good push to get us out of our comfort zones then unwieldy organisations need a mighty shove. It takes guts and determination to try new business initiatives in areas outside our core competence. This is what Lou Gerstner did when he turned around IBM. Gerstner was brought in as CEO to halt the slide as the giant corporation lumbered towards irrelevance and oblivion. He took many deliberate and highly symbolic steps to change the company’s culture and to turn it away from a dependence on products to become a leader in computer services.

If you want to succeed at a personal or organisational level then you need to continually challenge yourself. Keep trying something new.

Seven Great Questions to Ask at a Job Interview

6. nóvember 2009

Við birtum einstaka sinnum greinar á ensku, þessi er héðan – eftir Paul Sloane

If you are going for an interview as a prospective employee then you should do some research.  Read the job description and requirements carefully.  Browse the web site to see how the organization presents itself.  Search for news items and comments about the company on news sites and blogs.

For the interview itself you should dress smartly and appropriately.  It is important to have some questions prepared and here are a few that could really help:

1.  What exactly would my day-to-day responsibilities be? It is essential that you clearly understand your role and the tasks that you would be expected to undertake.  It is easy to make assumptions and get the wrong impression of what the work would be so it is vital for both sides that there is clarity in what is expected of you.  If the interviewer cannot give a clear answer then this is a worrying sign, so politely follow up with more questions.  Some people even ask to see exactly where they will sit.

2.  What are the opportunities for training and career advancement? This question serves two purposes.  It helps you to understand where the job might lead and what skills you might acquire.  It also signals that you are ambitious and thinking ahead.

3.  What is the biggest challenge facing the organization today? This sort of question takes the interview away from the detail and towards strategic issues.  It allows to you see and discuss the bigger picture.  It proves that you are interested in more than just the 9 to 5 aspects of the job.  It can lead to interesting discussions that can show you in a good light – especially if you have done some intelligent preparation.  If appropriate you can follow up this question with some questions about the objectives of the department and the manager who is interviewing you.

4.  When did you join? After the interviewer has asked a number of questions about you it can make a good change to ask a gentle question about them.  People often like talking about themselves and if you can get them talking about their progress in the company you can learn useful and interesting things.

5.  What are the criteria that you are looking for in the successful candidate for this position? The job advertisement may have listed what was wanted in a candidate but it is very useful to hear the criteria directly from the interviewer.  The more that you can discover about what they want and how they will make the decision the better placed you are to influence that decision.

6.  How do you feel that I measure up to your requirements for this position? This follows on naturally from the previous questions.  It may seem a little pushy but it is a perfectly fair thing to ask.  In sales parlance this is a ‘trial close’.  If they say that you are a good fit then you can ask whether there is any reason you might not be offered the job.  If they say that you are lacking in some key skill or attribute then you can move into objection handling mode and point out some relevant experience or a countervailing strength.

7.  Would you like to hear what I could do to really help your department? If you want the job then this is a great question to ask at the end of the interview.  Most interviewers will reply, ‘Yes.’  Drawing on what you have learnt in the conversation, you can give a short sales pitch on why you fit the criteria and why your strengths and ideas will siginficantly assist the boss to meet their objectives.  Make it short, direct and clear with the emphasis on the benefits for them of having you in the team.  At the end ask something like, ‘how does that sound?’

Many candidates take a passive role at the interview.  They competently answer the questions that are put to them but they never take the initiative by asking intelligent questions that steer the interview in a helpful direction.  If you are a proactive candidate who asks the sorts of questions given above then you will be seen as more dynamic and you will significantly increase your chances of being offered the job.

How to get promoted

4. september 2009

Við birtum einstaka sinnum greinar á ensku, þessi er héðan – eftir Paul Sloane

If you work in a large organization and are ambitious for career progression then here are a number of things that you can do to assist your journey.

1.  Do your job well. I know that this is stating the obvious but it is the starting point.   For promotion it is a necessary but not a sufficient requirement that you perform your current duties diligently.  Many people think that this is all they need to do and that the rewards, recognition and promotion will follow.  Corporate life is not ‘fair’ in this sense.  Many people do great work and are passed over.  You need to excel in your current role and do much more to climb the ladder.

2. Get noticed. One of the best ways to be promoted is if a senior manager in another department wants you.  But this can only happen if they are aware of you.  So you have to find ways to get in front of other people, particularly senior people, in a way that displays your good qualities and makes you memorable.

3. Volunteer. If someone is needed to present a proposal on behalf of your department, volunteer.  If members are needed for a cross-departmental task force, volunteer.  If the social committee want someone to help organize the staff barbecue, volunteer.  Take on additional responsibilities both inside and outside your department.  This shows that you are willing to get involved and it gets you noticed.

4.  Discuss your ambitions with your manager. Make sure that your boss and your boss’s boss know that you are keen to be promoted.  You can do this in a quiet professional way.  Do not threaten or demand.  Have a discussion where you ask the question, ‘What do I have to do to get promoted?’    Develop a plan.  Senior managers understand ambition and there is nothing wrong with being ambitious so make sure that they understand your goals.

5.  Work well with people. Many people who are technically proficient and excellent at task management do not get promoted because they lack people skills.  Be aware of how you are perceived.  Ask for feedback.  It is not a question of popularity; it is more about communication, trust and dependability.   Try not to make enemies.  Find ways to work effectively with other people and you are more likely to be seen as ‘management material’.

6.  Contribute ideas. Make positive, constructive suggestions for how things could be done better.  Most managers (though not all) welcome this and it will signal that you are someone who can think about bigger issues.  It shows that you welcome rather than fear change.

7.  If you cannot move up, move across. Look for ways to broaden your experience.  It you cannot move up in your area then consider moving across into a different area of the business at the same level so that you can learn new skills and make new contacts.

8.  Have a plan. Set yourself goals for advancement and measure progress against them.   If you need to acquire certain skills or experiences then plan to do so.  If you are turned down for promotion, ask why.  If you cannot meet your plan in your current organization or if you can make no more progress or if you no longer enjoy the work then look elsewhere.  There are plenty of opportunities for ambitious people who work hard and are keen to learn.