The barbell strategy

July 27, 2015

By Jessica Stillman via   Article

Why You Should Treat Your Career Like an Investment Portfolio

“… borrow the wisdom of best-selling author and investor Nicholas Nassim Taleb and diversify your career portfolio from the outset using the ‘barbell strategy.’

‘Taleb advises putting about 90 percent of one’s money into extremely safe options and getting adventurous with the rest. That way, investors can benefit from the big potential wins and forward-looking options afforded by diversification, without risking too much,’ he explains. ‘Play only on the extremes of safe and speculative; avoid anything in between. Hence, the resemblance to a barbell, where the weights are at both ends, with nothing in the middle.’

The barbell career

Translated into a career strategy that means taking at least one safe gig and one that’s high risk and high reward (a type of job which Falco terms ‘specbell’). ‘Depending on your situation, viable Specbells might include online courses, charity work, a part-time business, or even spending a few hours a week working in a different department of your company. You can follow your passions, even the non-paying ones, without overhauling your lifestyle,’ he writes.

Rather than try to strike a balance between work and home, risk and reward, and always finding yourself torn and dissatisfied with middling compromises, this strategy promises to both make you happier and more comfortable in an uncertain world. Not only does it help you sharpen your skills and avoid getting in a career rut, but ‘the barbell strategy lets people engage in trial and error, to tinker and to make small ‘right’ mistakes that help them learn and improve empirically, but do not break them,’ Falco concludes.”


Did you win?

July 27, 2015

By Seth Godin via   Article

Seth Godin“A far better question to ask (the student, the athlete, the salesperson, the programmer…) is, ‘did you learn?’

Learning compounds. Usually more reliably than winning does.”


The No. 1 skill gap

July 27, 2015

Via   Article

Influence: Learn early, pratice often

“You need to sell ideas and motivate others. Sometimes, you make the case for your own ideas. Other times, you pitch the ideas of others on your team or the decisions made by higher-ups. Always, you need to influence.

… In one CCL analysis of 360-degree feedback of first-time managers, influence was the No. 1 skill gap, according to the bosses and peers of these first-time managers (highly important skill needed to be successful, yet managers were rather ineffective at doing it).

To develop the ability to influence others, pay attention to how you currently try to persuade. And watch how effective leaders around you manage to get people nodding their heads and rolling up their sleeves to help out. … Here are the four core tactics that are used most and work best …

Rational Persuasion. You use logical arguments and factual evidence to persuade the other person that a proposal or request is viable and likely to result in the attainment of task objectives.

Inspirational Appeals. You make a request or proposal that arouses the other person’s enthusiasm by appealing to his or her values, ideals and aspirations, or by increasing the person’s self-confidence.

Consultation. You seek the other person’s participation in planning a strategy, activity or change for which the person’s support and assistance are desired. You may also modify a proposal to deal with that person’s concerns and suggestions.

Collaboration. You provide assistance or necessary resources if the other person will carry out a request or approve a proposed change.”


July 27, 2015

By Tom Fishburne via   Article 

Focus group of one

“It’s tempting for marketers to assume we intuitively know what consumers want. After all, we’re consumers too. But listening to the focus group of one inside our heads can lead us astray. Trying to extrapolate our personal experience to how an audience will respond is risky. Many leaders don’t recognize this blind spot.

This is particularly common in hierarchical organizations that defer to the decision of the most senior person in the room. Google has a maxim to beware of the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion). There’s a classic quote from Jim Barksdale from his time as Netscape CEO: ‘If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.'”

Stakes are high, emotions run strong, and opinions differ

July 20, 2015

By Travis Bradberry via   Article

 5 Secrets to Mastering Conflict

“Conflict typically boils down to crucial conversations–moments when the stakes are high, emotions run strong, and opinions differ. … There are five common mistakes you must avoid, and five alternative strategies you can follow that will take you down the right path.

Mistake 1: Being brutally honest.

… Many people think the content of the conversation is what makes people defensive, so they assume it’s best to just go for it and be brutally honest. It isn’t. People don’t get defensive because of the content–they get defensive because of the intent they perceive behind it. It isn’t the truth that hurts–it’s the malice used to deliver the truth.

Mistake 2: Robotically sharing your feelings.

… To maximize cognitive efficiency, our minds store feelings and conclusions, but not the facts that created them. That’s why, when you give your colleague negative feedback and he asks for an example, you often hem and haw. You truly can’t remember. So you repeat your feelings or conclusions, but offer few helpful facts. Gathering the facts beforehand is the homework required to master crucial conversations. …

Mistake 3: Defending your position.

… A great way to inoculate yourself against defensiveness is to develop a healthy doubt about your own certainty. Then, enter the conversation with intense curiosity about the other person’s world. … As former Secretary of State Dean Rusk said, ‘The best way to persuade others is with your ears, by listening.’ When others feel deeply understood, they become far more open to hearing you.

Mistake 4: Blaming others for your situation.

… You cannot master conflict until you recognize the role you’ve played in creating your circumstances. Your boss may have passed you over, but she did so for a reason. Half your pain is the result of her betrayal; the other half is due to your disappointment over not performing well enough to win the promotion.

Mistake 5: Worrying about the risks of speaking up.

VitalSmarts‘ research shows that those who consistently speak up aren’t necessarily more courageous; they’re simply more accurate. First, they scrupulously review what is likely to happen if they fail to speak up. Second, they ponder what might happen if they speak up and things go well. And finally (the order is important) they consider what may happen if the conversation goes poorly. Once they have an accurate understanding of the possibilities, saying something is their typical choice.”

(Unprofessional) ways to get ahead

July 20, 2015

By  via   Article

Three (Unprofessional) Ways to Get Ahead at Work

“The world is filled with advice about how to do things at work better or differently so that you’ll get noticed, and in faster-than-due time, get ahead. Much of such advice is excellent. Lord knows, I’ve offered up my fair share of it. Don’t deliver, over-deliver. Volunteer for hard assignments. Stay tech-current. Avoid office politics. All professional stuff, right?

So how about some unprofessional advice for a change? That is, how about some advice about what you can do when you’re not at work to improve your chances of advancement? Because in my experience, three techniques – all conducted off the clock — can be very powerful career boosters as well.

First, read a book about a time or a culture that confounds you.

… When you dive into the deep with a mystery, and you then somehow wrangle that mystery into the light of understanding, it can blow open your mind to new ways of seeing people and the world. It can soften you and sharpen you. …

Second, write thank you notes.

The best manager I’ve ever known used to keep a small piece of paper taped to her desk. ‘Gratitude,’ it read. And gratitude she did indeed display, to each member of the team, with an authenticity and warmth that inspired nothing short of devotion from us all. …

Finally, get your hands dirty volunteering. Literally.

I often recommend that young professionals get involved in one or two small non-profit organizations that might give them a shot at becoming a board member. Governance is a great learning experience.

But with this final point I’m recommending something more gritty. Like walking dogs at a rescue, or serving meals at a homeless shelter. The reason is simple: almost nothing builds character like giving away your precious time, time you could be catching up on Game of Thrones, say, or playing tennis, especially when you’re giving it away when it ‘doesn’t count.’

But guess what? Character matters. It matters a ton. People may tell you promotions are all about the numbers you hit. But in any good company, character is the intangible ‘X factor’ that managers agonize over when they’re behind closed doors, trying to decide who will get promoted.”

No time to be nice

July 20, 2015

Thanks to Eben Johnson for highlighting this article.

By Christine Porath via   Article

No Time to Be Nice at Work

“Bosses produce demoralized employees through a string of actions: walking away from a conversation because they lose interest; answering calls in the middle of meetings without leaving the room; openly mocking people by pointing out their flaws or personality quirks in front of others; reminding their subordinates of their ‘role’ in the organization and ‘title’; taking credit for wins, but pointing the finger at others when problems arise. Employees who are harmed by this behavior, instead of sharing ideas or asking for help, hold back. …

In one study, the experimenter belittled the peer group of the participants, who then performed 33 percent worse on anagram word puzzles and came up with 39 percent fewer creative ideas during a brainstorming task focused on how they might use a brick. In our second study, a stranger — a ‘busy professor’ encountered en route to the experiment — was rude to participants by admonishing them for bothering her. Their performance was 61 percent worse on word puzzles, and they produced 58 percent fewer ideas in the brick task than those who had not been treated rudely. We found the same pattern for those who merely witnessed incivility: They performed 22 percent worse on word puzzles and produced 28 percent fewer ideas in the brainstorming task. …

Many are skeptical about the returns of civility. A quarter believe that they will be less leader-like, and nearly 40 percent are afraid that they’ll be taken advantage of if they are nice at work. Nearly half think that it is better to flex one’s muscles to garner power. They are jockeying for position in a competitive workplace and don’t want to put themselves at a disadvantage.”