Olympic Lessons – Stay Out of Riptides

Posted by Richard Moran.

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No piling on intended here. It’s just that lessons come out of the headlines every day that can be instructive when it comes to work. Of late, some Olympic athletes are a case in point. In the midst of all the commotion and TV interviews what can we learn?

From most athletes we learn that years of hard work can pay off and provide a route to medals and glory. What joy we share when an athlete realizes that a lifelong dream is being fulfilled. It can be a lesson for us non-athletes to rededicate ourselves to our profession, our family, our commitment to making the world better in the hopes we might realize some sliver of that same joy.

From others, we can learn what not to do. A few illustrative cases…

  • From some swimmers we can learn that when it’s time for an excuse, the phrase “alcohol was involved” is not a good opener. Not much good happens after that introduction.
  • We can learn too that video cameras are everywhere – at service stations, at work, in parking lots, even in places where you might not suspect cameras. And this phenomenon is true in all countries. Assume that there is video footage capturing what you do wherever you go and the video footage doesn’t lie. In short, you will get caught.
  • Last lesson from the headlines: the more well known you are, or the higher you are in the organization, the more likely it is that you will get caught. If you are one who brings attention to yourself through flamboyant dress or hair, you will get caught faster.

It’s a shame. Careers and reputations can take years to build, but only a few moments to destroy. Re-do’s are not an option. Once a reputation takes a hit, it is possible to resurrect it but it is difficult task and takes a lot of effort. Think about that before the last drink at the company picnic or holiday party. Lessons are everywhere that can help us be more successful and not waste time on “wish I hadn’t done that”. Be careful out there!

Annoyed at Work? All the Little Things Matter

Posted by Richard Moran.

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Forget the “size matters” thing. Big things don’t happen every day. What matters are the millions of little, sometimes very little things, that are in our every day world and how we deal (or not) with them.

A colleague came to the office daily with a piece of fruit that she just brought from the grocery store. And every day she struggled to remove the little tag that was on the fruit. We all know those little tag can be a bear to remove and every day she cursed the tag and let it annoy her to the point of ruining her first hour on the job. Co-workers learned to stay away from her until she recovered from the fruit tag incident. It’s not that big of a deal, especially if you buy fruit every day. Maybe she should switch to bananas.

But many of us deal with tags on fruit metaphorically speaking. Instead of approaching the day with vigor, something small things can set us off and set a tone of gloom and resignation. And the worst thing is, we get used to the thing that bugs us and we don’t realize that it is affecting our work. Don’t believe me? Take the test to see if you are working while slightly annoyed.

  • When you flip on the switch is there one light bulb that flickers and buzzes all day? You are annoyed when you turn it on and get used to it.
  • Is there a broken arm on your work chair or is your chair always out of adjustment and uncomfortable?
  • Is your printer not working right and blinking at you to just annoy you further?
  • Does the bad smell of reheated burritos in the company microwave make you want to vomit?
  • Are you in the cue waiting for someone from IT to fix something? And you keep getting bumped on the list?
  • Do yellow stickies magically appear on your computer screen when you are not at your workspace? Do they all say, “See me ASAP”.
  • Are you always the person who deals with the empty coffee pot or get to the bathroom when there is no toilet paper?
  • Do you always get to use the whiteboard right after someone wrote with non-erasable marker? Or when there is a “Do Not Erase” message on it?
  • Is there always a box of half eaten pizza around? And it looks sort of appealing?
  • Does the guy in the workspace next to you play his music too loud even though he is on headphones?
  • Is there one co-worker with whom you have a nagging and annoying relationship that you cannot resolve?

The list can go on and on and on. Call them hygiene factors or call them the daily nuisances that detract from the job you should like. The little things can add up and be like a mosquito flying around in the bedroom at night. For most annoyances, there is a solution.

Fix the arm on the chair, change the light bulb, talk to your co-worker and resolve the differences, throw the pizza away, get a new printer and move on.

Sure, not everything can be fixed – just deal with the label on the fruit. But eliminating the little things that bug you can make a world of difference in how you approach a job that you might actually like.

What’s on your list?

Advice That Sticks: Get Out There in Traffic!

Posted by Richard Moran.

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When my mother told my brothers and me to “Get out there and play in the traffic!” the implication was that she was so annoyed with us that she wanted us to play among the cars and trucks in the hopes that we would get run over. We never did run around among the cars and trucks and we think she was kidding, but her advice made our behavior change. The advice, or in this case, the admonition, stuck. Get out there in traffic is advice I give today, and it is not about cars.

Traffic, with a capital T, is now what careers and work are all about. When talking about traffic it’s not about being stuck in traffic, it’s about driving traffic and being out and about, networking.

Driving traffic is one measure of your competency and a measure of your “platform”. Your platform is what you have created about yourself, your brand, based on the traffic you generate. The more traffic, the bigger the platform and the more potential employers may notice you as an expert in something or have something to say besides what you had for dinner. The ability to drive traffic can lead to that job you want. So, as Mom said, “Go play in the traffic” and if there is no traffic, you need to generate some.

Being “out in traffic” can lead to new opportunities, new colleagues, new learning…all the things you may want but can’t quite find. In short, never miss a chance to network, to have lunch, to buy a coffee, to build a new relationship so that people know you are competent and cool.

One guy I know frequented the deli downstairs and every day ordered a turkey sandwich on wheat. He then went back to his cubicle and continued to work, all the time thinking he would get ahead by not wasting time on lunch. The guy in the cubicle next to the turkey sandwich guy went out to lunch every day with colleagues and co-workers and was promoted faster. You have to be out in traffic to learn more about the industry, your job, the market and the new kinds of sushi.

Traffic doesn’t come to you, it takes some effort to get out there. And the merge into it in the beginning may not be easy. One thing is certain though, if you are not out in traffic, you are being left behind.

My Mom’s advice stuck. It’s just the meaning has changed. I now tell people to “Get out there and play in the traffic!”