The 2007 at Work Holiday Gift Guide

Posted by Richard Moran.

10 Simple Rules
It’s time for that annual set of nagging questions about holiday gifts at work…

If I give my boss a gift, will he or she think I am brown-nosing? How much should I spend? Should I leave the gift on the chair at night or ask the boss out for a holiday drink? Will my co-workers give a gift to me? What if they give me deodorant or foot powder? Should I wait to give any gifts until I am sure I am getting some gifts? Are the people who work for me expecting a gift more than a performance review? What is The Company policy on gifts? Should I ignore it? What if I give a gift to my boss but no gift comes from that direction? The list could go on and on.

Gift-giving during the holidays is hard enough when it is just for the family. When co-workers are added to the list it only adds to the complexity. I know some teenage boys who break up with their girlfriends every year in early December just to avoid the panic of having to buy a Christmas gift. Don’t quit your job just to avoid holiday giving at work.

In the spirit of taking some stress out of the holidays, the following ten simple bullets are sent your way.

· Companies will rarely execute a lay-off during the holidays. If you think your job will be eliminated in January, make it easy and don’t bother with gifts. The gift exception could be the consultant who is doing the plan on who stays and who goes.

· A lot of people today work in a virtual environment which means they don’t know or see co-workers or the boss. Virtual friends should be sent a virtual gift.

· Sending an email or text message doesn’t count as a gift.

· Be generous in giving. If your boss cut you breaks during the year or your team worked their butts off, get them something that reflects your appreciation. Take the risk and let people know you appreciated something. It matters.

· The list of acceptable gifts is short. The list includes books, candy, wine (usually), restaurant gift certificates and tasteful office items like expensive pens or notebooks.

· The list of unacceptable items is long. Don’t give shoes, jewelry or tire chains. Any gift with Victoria Secret in the name is probably not good. Anything personal is not good unless your spouse works with you.

· Among subordinates, include everyone and give everyone the same gift, even that guy in the next cube who talks to his mother all day while clipping his finger nails.

· Follow the company policy on gift giving. No exceptions.

· Never pass along a gift that someone else gave to you. The recipient always knows. It’s like reading a newspaper someone else already read. The exception is fruit cakes, which are like chain letters.

· If there are year-end Christmas cash bonuses expected, there are no substitutes in the form of gifts. A check is always better than a frozen turkey. If there is no check, no need to bother with the turkey.

Of course, there are variations on all of these themes. For example, if you are a hedge fund manager about to make twenty million at the end of the year even though the fund lost money, buy a Lamborghini for your right-out-of-school analyst. Most importantly, use the potential for holiday gift giving to develop friends and improve your relationships at work. It makes work more fun and maybe you’ll even get a raise out of it.

Fifth in the Series

Posted by Richard Moran.

On Getting Ahead, Getting a Job and/or Getting Funded

Advice Too Simple Not to Know

Sell. Even Though You Think You Can’t or that You Don’t Need To

I have over heard real estate agents being asked, “Are you still selling real estate?” I have overheard life insurance agents being asked, “Are you still selling life insurance?” I, too, have asked a Procter and Gamble management trainee, “Have you grown tired of selling Pringles?”
No one asks a brain surgeon, “Are you still a brain surgeon?” No one asks a management consultant, “Are you still consulting?” I have learned the lesson that to those who choose careers in real estate or life insurance or any profession, “Are you still…?” It is insulting and implies that they could do better if they only tried.

As I have thought about it though, the question “Are you still…?” is almost always asked of those in some sort of sales role. As in, sales is the dirty part of the job and try to do something that doesn’t involve sales. Wake up, because sales is a part of every career that I know of and it is not something to run away from. Developing sales skills will make you more successful, regardless of your career.

Every entrepreneur, no matter how geeky, no matter how technical will have to sell their idea in order to raise money. Every candidate for every job will have to sell skills and potential to get hired. I cannot think of any role in any profession that does not require sales skills. In consulting I often heard, “I don’t want to become a Partner because I don’t want to sell.” Come on, no matter the level, there is selling so get with the program and learn how to sell and sell well.

Are you in the services business? Are you a CEO? Are you a dog catcher? Are you raising money? Are you sitting next to someone on an airplane who can hire you? Are you going into graduate school? Are you a novelist? Are you trying to convince your daughter not to get that tattoo down there? Are you dealing with a gate agent for that upgrade? You Are Selling.

There are plenty of books out there that will tell you how to sell in 300 pages. The advice will include know your customer, know your product and ask for the sale. All good advice. In typical bulleted fashion, here are a few pearls of wisdom that might help you capture a sale or two.

Use the phrases, “unabashed self promotion or unabashed sales try”. People know when they are being sold to anyway so be blatant about it. Awkward as that might be, it cuts to the chase and you know an answer one way or the other. Don’t ever be embarrassed about selling.

If it is something you really, really want to sell, be very, very persistent. I once hired someone just so I would no longer have to deal with their constant barrage of how much they wanted the job. Anyone who wants it that bad, must be pretty goal-driven.

If what you are selling isn’t selling, sell the next best thing while you have some attention. In other words, if the interviewer is obviously not interested in your analytical ability as demonstrated by checking the blackberry; start selling the hardships you endured while your Dad was in prison. If the venture capitalists are clearly not interested in your business model, make sure you let them know that it is a work in process and you are considering that could lead to bigger profits.
There is no getting around it. We are all selling. We all can be good at selling in our own way. Know what that way is and get better at selling.

Fourth in the Series…

Posted by Richard Moran.

On Getting Ahead, Getting a Job and/or Getting Funded

Advice too Simple Not to Know

Be Billable

When I was a Partner at Accenture people knew that if I saw them take a newspaper into the bathroom it would show up on their “permanent record” – at least in my mind. Newspaper in the bathroom seems to be a guy thing but there was no gender discrimination here. Let the record show (and what I always declared in public) that my intent was not to inhibit fantasy football player picks. Newspapers and bathrooms are all about time, not discrimination. My message was very clear:

Treat your time like someone is paying for it – someone is.

Much has been written about the tyranny of a billable time environment. Stanford Professor Jeff Pfeffer’s research suggests that working in a billable time environment can wreak havoc in one’s personal and professional life. But there is one element of filling out time sheets that is useful. That is the notion that someone is paying for your time so you should be productive and fulfill your responsibilities.

In some professions the concept of time and billing is obvious: consulting, law, prostitution, automobile repair, accounting, and services in general. Although the rates by-the-hour or by-the-day will vary considerably, the concept is the same: someone pays for a service rendered based on the time it takes to perform that service. Not a bad concept in general but as Pfeffer points out, when the demands to be “billable” are too onerous, that’s when pressure builds and bad things can happen.

On the other side of the ledger are many other professions and workers who have forgotten that someone is paying for their time. In all those millions of jobs where the concept of billable time is not a key to success, remember that time and productivity/results are still important.

Just thinking about billable time conjures up lots of variables that can lead to fairness questions. Like, “Why am I getting billed-out at $200/hr. but I only get paid $40/hr.?” If you think you can make $200/hr on your own, you should quit that job and do it. Chances are, you cannot.

How can you tell if someone you are working with is a billable person?

Constant watch gazing and incomprehensible scratches on note paper
Endless discussions comparing 6 to 15 minute increments
Irritable behavior toward office gossips, because if you listen, you have to subtract; if you ignore them, you lose out on all the good stuff
No perceivable lunch hour; either you can scarf a sandwich in less than a minute, or you graze on the sandwich for hours.
Multi-tasking pros and speakerphone addicts; and Bluetooth headset as you wander the office.
Billing time may be tedious and lead to strange behavior but it does make one think about the most important thing to do in that hour or day or week because someone has to pay for it. That billable time mentality may help you meet deadlines, finish projects, hit goals and all the other behaviors that will help you get the job or the deal. It’s not a bad approach.