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Getting Your Ideas Off the Ground

A recent Harvard Business Review online article covered the “Five Powers that Get Ideas off the Ground.” This is an area that I find a lot of people, including myself, struggle with at times. Quite often an idea is vague or is complicated by a great deal of unknowns. As humans, we like to work off of certainties so that we know what direction we’re going. At work I try to get people moving by baking in step of “figure out where we’re going” into project plans. This gives the opportunity to further flesh out plan details while you go, while signalling to others reading the WBS that turn-by-turn directions will be spelled out once detailed planning is complete.

Kanter’s article points out a step that I overlooked above and one that is absolutely essential – showing up. She refines that as being physical presence, rather than the more nebulous approach of just being present in mind. She says:

There’s a well-known saying that 90% of success in life comes from just showing up. It’s a cliché because it’s true. Digital and other remote communications are efficient and helpful, but there’s much to be said for being there, face-to-face with other.

This is very true and something that I have personally experienced and subscribe to. Many people, myself included, enjoy working from home. But I do it sparingly. I don’t struggle with productivity, depression, or any of the other commonly cited reasons for not telecommuting; rather, I find that because I work on a team I get more done when with that team. It’s a true form of synergy. When people show up and speak up (two of the five powers), clarity begins to be added to the situation and actionable items begin to take shape. It may not be the whole road map, but at least next actions can be defined and worked on.

I highly recommend that you read the Five Powers that Get Ideas off the Ground to help you get your next idea off the ground.

Giving Good Feedback

One area I am attempting to become better at is giving feedback to both my peers, those whose work I supervise, and those I work for. I am a very analytical person and I have come to realize that I tend to observe a pattern and then try to digest it rather than simply expose that pattern. In other words, I’m looking for the answer. So I am working to simply give timely feedback to people rather than give them the answer.

Obviously there is much more to feedback than this small example. A recent article called “The art (and science) of giving good feedback” outlines a few rules for making feedback useful. To do this, it has to not only be timely and specific, but also not demotivating to the person receiving it. One surprising anecdote in rule #3 says to “praise the actions, not the individual.” This seemed somewhat strange, but in fact reinforces the things that made the person successful, thus giving some reference point to look back to when trouble is encountered.

The article has several other great rules and advice. Check it out: The art (and science) of giving good feedback

Don’t Tell Me Your Goals – Just Work Toward Them

Maybe that is harsh advice. I don’t know. There are some theories that exist that say sharing your goals makes you more likely to meet them. The theory is that people will check in with you and hold you accountable to meeting them. I think the truth is that unless it is someone with a vested stake in you (e.g. your boss, your spouse, your parents), they are likely to feel uncomfortable holding you accountable and will actually console you when you don’t take steps to reach your goal. “Oh, but you had so many other things going on it’s understandable you didn’t accomplish x.”

I recently read of a study that observed individual behavior in this area and measured the outcome of success based on whether they shared their intentions. It found that in “Four different tests of 63 people, those who kept their intentions private were more likely to achieve them than those who made them public and were acknowledged by others.” People feel good about creating their sense of self and are thus less motivated to actually take the steps to actualize that sense.

With that said – I have a few big things on the horizon and I literally have told 2 people. And they only needed to know because they would be impacted by them. I’ll be sure to share once they are accomplished. 

Stay tuned! But read more in the mean time: Shut up! Announcing your plans makes you less motivated to accomplish them

Right Size Your Resume in a Tough Job Market

With all of the “right-sizing” going on in corporate America, a lot of IT folks are looking for their next gig in the job market. Many of us in IT have experience in a lot of areas and can quickly get the label “overqualified” when applying for particular jobs. An article written back in 2005 by Bob Weinstein called Too Good? sheds light on a technique that job seekers should seriously consider -> toning down the resume. 

Common wisdom in the job hunt has always been to tailor the resume to the job offering. This rings true in today’s job market – especially for those of us with a lot of experience in a lot of different technologies, tools and platforms. Rather than submit the same 5 page resume to every employer, job seekers really should highlight their skills that the employer mentioned in the job requirements.

Why would you want to do this? I have been screening and hiring candidates for the past several years and have seen these bloated resumes and here are the thoughts that enter my mind. My two primary concerns are that the candidate will want too much money, or will become bored after a few months on the job. Either way, they are likely to leave once the market improves. Candidates who present their relevant skills and only a few value-adds that complement those will be much better positioned to make it through those filters and at least score a phone screen.

Read More: Too Good?

Exercise Alone Won’t Make You Thin

I have lost over 65 pounds over the past 7 years. Most of that was lost in the first year or two. This was accomplished by burning more calories than what I put in my mouth. One assertion that I hear repeatedly is that you need to do lots of weight lifting to build muscle mass because muscle burns more calories than fat. A recent Time magazine online article called Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin sheds light on the mental rub that I had against that assertion in my mind. The article says “after you work out hard enough to convert, say, 10 lb. of fat to muscle—a major achievement—you would be able to eat only an extra 40 calories per day, about the amount in a teaspoon of butter, before beginning to gain weight.”

Another piece of the article also says   

The basic problem is that while it’s true that exercise burns calories and that you must burn calories to lose weight, exercise has another effect: it can stimulate hunger. That causes us to eat more, which in turn can negate the weight-loss benefits we just accrued. Exercise, in other words, isn’t necessarily helping us lose weight. It may even be making it harder.

This anecdote rings fairly true. Even on weekends where I train for 6 hours, riding 70+ miles and running 15+ miles I still have the tendency to take in more calories than I burned. My trick, and maybe this will work for you, is to eat my meals more slowly so that I feel fuller quicker. The other half of this trick is that I eat a small snack (e.g. an apple) about 30 minutes before a main meal – this gives me a head start on getting full.

Read More: Why Exercise Won’t Make You Thin