Back on the Line

I have hit my 6 month anniversary of being back at work. I feel like the last year and half is a distant memory. I look back on my time out of work as a time of inner reflection about who I am and what I want from my career and life. While I don’t have all the answers I know a little more about myself – as corny as that may sound.

The good news is some of my friends that have been out of work have landed. The bad news is others are still in the search. Some have even recently lost their jobs. The economy is still not back to normal – whatever normal means today. Firms are still cautious about recruiting especially senior executives.

My advice to those still searching–keep a positive attitude. Don’t lose hope! Use your time to indulge in the things you wanted to try but never could. Most of all enjoy the time with your family.

To those that have recently lost your job -the road will be difficult. There will be times when you will feel depressed. You will be rejected over and over again in your search. Understand it is not you but the job market. Talk to family and peers about how you are feeling. Have a routine in your job search but do not let it consume your entire day. Stay positive and keep networking.

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7 Steps To Succeeding I Learned From Golf

Playing golf has helped me develop a higher standard for myself (or at least brought them to the fore front).

Here are 7 steps that I apply not only to my golf game but also to my life and career.

  1. Analyze yourself. Where in your game (career/life) are you not succeeding? Think about the areas in your game (career/life) that you are not satisfied with and figure out how to make a change.
  2. Set realistic goals. I don’t want to be Tiger Woods. So why set that as a goal? My goal this season was to break 90 in my golf score. Where do you want to be in your game (career/life)? What will it take to get to that level – training, practice, etc? What are the steps that will lead you there?
  3. Create a game plan. Develop a game (career/life) plan with detailed steps of how you will get there. Set incremental milestones for yourself. My plan is to play more and practice when I could.
  4. Change your thinking. To be successful, you must believe in yourself. Beliefs are what control our behavior. Think through the beliefs that limit your game (career/life) and replace them with positive thinking.
  5. Reward yourself. Focus on small accomplishments and reward yourself for them. For example, I shot my first 90 this season, so I rewarded myself by buying a new set of irons. Once you start making progress in your game (career/life), you will continue to build momentum.
  6. Take action every day. Your effort will accumulate if you try to take appropriate actions toward your goals every day. If I cannot hit the driving range or course, I try to watch a video or read an article on how to improve my golf game at least once a day. The same philosophy can be applied to your career and life.
  7. Surround yourself with people who have higher standards than yours. Find who has already succeeded at the game and play with them. I find playing with better golfers elevates my game also. Playing with A players elevates your game (career/life) to an A level.

Toxicity @ Work

We have all been there at some point in our careers. Maybe you are there now but have no choice. Jobs are tight and making a move right now does not make sense. But you go in and put your eight hours in.

You work in a toxic environment.

Big or small, the workplace is many times not a place of happiness. It can be a pile of daily frustrations, conflicts, hostilities, addictions, and egos. Sometimes it isn’t just one person or two; it is the whole place that is toxic. It is so infested with politics you cannot do your work. You may be working in a sick corporate environment.

How should you get through your day?

  • Stay away from negative corporate cliques. In the workplace it is easy to find them. You know the group-the ones that get together at every chance just to gossip.  Don’t get involved.
  • Establish boundaries and maintain them. While it maybe difficult to not socialize with co-workers, the less contact outside of business the better.
  • Keep your personal life private. This simply keeps life simple, the workplace simple, and protects you and your family from being subjected to gossip. Consider this a form of privacy protection.
  • Don’t feed into the negativity of the workplace. Don’t complain to others about the environment. If you cannot change it then you have to deal with it.

Remember work is work. Keep it all business. Yes it can be stressful but if you need to pay your bills then you will have to deal with it.

Learning From Failure

From success to failure is one step; from failure to success is a long road. -Yiddish Proverb

One of the most difficult things that I’ve had to learn over the years was how to embrace failure. Failure is the thing most of us spend the most amount of energy trying to avoid. It is hard to accept, and we don’t look forward failing. However, when you remove the emotional aspect from failure, failure is only feedback. As executives we can and should learn from our failures, by understanding what does not work, and by continuing to adjust our strategies until we find out what does work.

Most of us think that failing is bad. But is it really? As children, we were very familiar with “failure” when we were learning how to walk. We made countless attempts trying to find out what to do so we could walk without constantly falling down. Failure’s role in our lives and careers is to teach us. It is a method of learning; learning to change and adapt. With every failure we have, we learn one more way that does not work and we can focus in the correct ways.

Any new task we strive to accomplish there is always the risk of failure. In fact, we might fail many times before succeeding. It is only by risking failure will we ever be able to grow. If you are failing, at least you are trying something new. Woody Allen once said, “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.”

When you fail, ask yourself this question, “What could be positive in this situation?” This allows you to obtain feedback from the experience and to learn from it. Remember, we often achieve our greatest successes right after we have experienced our worst failures.

Politico-CIO

Corporate politics is the bane of many executives. It is everywhere in a company. There is no escaping from it. Because of the level the CIO reaches in an organization it is a fact that he/she will be dealing with political issues daily. So if you cannot run from it, it is best to play with in it and win.

Most executives are horrible at politics. Most think they are good at but in truth they are not. It is not their fault. There really is no school to go and learn how to deal with politics. You learn how to deal with politics from the street.

Politics in general has a bad reputation, however, there is also a good side. The good of politics is figuring out how to shape your agenda so it fits in a way that is positive for everyone affected.

A CIO that regurgitates tech jargon and buzz words will not get ahead in the game of politics. Politics is about selling. People make decisions emotionally and use their intellect to rationalize these emotional decisions. If you want to accomplish anything you will need to sell to the decision-makers. That means understanding the decision-makers background and thought process. Like governmental politics it means figuring out who will be on your side, who will fight for you, and who can be persuaded and how.

Now the dark side of politics can be more vicious. Let’s face reality; it is also the most interesting. Backstabbing happens to all of us at some time in our careers. It is the nature of the beast. All you can do is figure who the person is and how they are trying to do it, and plan your moves to counter them. It is a game of chess.

To win, you must always remember that corporate politics is a game with high stakes. Never forget that being a CIO means being a politician first and foremost.

Further reading about corporate politics:

Corporate Politics-The Elephant in the Room by Mark Beckford

Winning At Organizational Politics Without Losing Your Soul by Dan King

My Friday Post: Career Advice from Entourage’s Ari Gold

EntourageHBO’s Entourage is one of the best shows on television. Well written, well produced, and well acted. Kudos to HBO for putting quality entertainment on for us.

This Sunday’s episode #69, “One Car, Two, Red Car, Blue Car” was another great episode. In this episode, superagent Ari Gold stood out for giving advice to the Entourage boys. He seemed almost fatherly dispensing wisdom. Unlike his usual obnoxious, abrasive self. Are we seeing a change in Ari Gold? Let’s hope not. 🙂

In one particular scene, Ari gives Turtle some career advice. Short and to the point in typical Ari fashion. No b##s## here.

Here are some great lines from Ari and how it can be applied to real life:

“Do you know what it takes to make something of yourself?”  [TRANSLATION: Do you know who you are and how to get there? Only you can answer that question.]

“That is what he is willing to put in for his own success. He is paying his dues.” [TRANSLATION: Success comes only with hard work and determination.]

“Great Ideas are one thing, can you execute it?” [TRANSLATION: Having an idea is 20% of the process, executing is 80% of the process. Can you successfully execute?]

“In this life, no one is going to invest because you think you can. Do you have a business plan?” [TRANSLATION: You have to have a plan. It is that simple.]

“At what point, can your investors see some profit?” [TRANSLATION: Life is all about ROI. What is the point of doing it if there is no benefit?]

Let’s see this Sunday what other words of wisdom we can get from the boys of Entourage… 😉

Qualify Your Professional Network

There was a recent discussion on LinkedIn regarding tight versus broad networks (LinkedIn Strategies – Tight vs Broad Network). Is it more effective in a  job search to build a network of close connections or instead, build a network with a broad reach, but weak connections?

This is an interesting discussion. Recently I have been trying to qualify my network. I have been building my network for a little over a year now. At first, I thought it should be a numbers game. How many people can I connect with? I immediately saw diminishing returns.

To put things in perspective, I currently have:

  • 277 contacts on LinkedIn.
  • 180 following/156 followers on Twitter.
  • 20 people actively following my blog daily and commenting
  • 150 non-family contacts in my contact database

Of all the above contacts I consider maybe 10 contacts can help me find a new position or are people that remain in touch with me. What does this mean? Have I failed in networking? Should I have a tighter network or a better network? These are questions I ask myself everyday.

Here is what I do know.

  • Maintaining a network takes time and effort on your part.
  • If you are seeing no responses from your network then you should not put the effort in networking with that person. I know this seems harsh. But lets face facts, if you email and call someone and they do not respond then it is clear they are not interested in maintaining a link with you.
  • Move on and find others that will return your emails and telephone calls. Even if they do not have a position, they are just checking in with you to maintain a link.
  • Maintain a network that brings value to you.

I have started to be more discriminating in whom I add to LinkedIn and follow on Twitter. I want to have contacts that I can help and that can help me both in the short and long-term. It is not a numbers game anymore for me. It is about quality relationships with people.

What do you think about maintaining a network? What are your thoughts on how to maintain a network?