Posts from ‘Work’
At last, the final installment in my management trilogy on gifts, talents and skills. Today, all I want to talk about is gifts. ‘Cause in the end, that’s the one thing that really matters.
Remember a gift is something you are stupidly amazing at without even trying. It’s something you were born with and something that comes naturally to you. What you’ll notice about gifts is that when you use or share them, you actually gain energy, you don’t lose it. You’ll have all sorts of passion for it. It kind of defies physics which is what makes it so magical. You’ll find that your day flies by when you are in a role that allows you to utilize and share your gifts. You’ll find your work, and your life, so much satisfying when you’re aware of your gift and you use it. And you’ll very likely be recognized for it. People notice when you get to do what you are best at every day. And with recognition often comes success. Seems obvious, doesn’t it?
Here’s where a lot of people get stuck though. They don’t value their gifts because they come so easy. And they often make the mistake of believing that what they do is easy for everyone because it comes easy to them. Not the case! There’s this stupid underlying assumption that only the things you work hard at are fulfilling and rewarding. That’s total bullshit too. The bottom line is that if you deny your gifts, you are denying a deep part of who you are. You might perceive someone else’s gifts as more rewarding or worthy, but that’s only because you are an idiot. You might think you’d prefer that gift because it will make you more successful. Well, that other person you are envying is probably using their gift which is what is fueling the success. It’s not the gift itself. It’s the awareness and utilization of the gift. Seems obvious, doesn’t it?
Don’t make the mistake of undervaluing your gift. Know it. Embrace it. Share it. Realize how important your unique gift is to the world.
In my last post, I shared my personal definitions of gifts, talents and skills. In this post, I want to dig deeper into these 3 wonderful things and figure out why we often get tripped up when we are trying to figure out how they are different from each other. Here’s what I think is the crux of the confusion: One person’s gift might be another person’s skill. Let’s look at a few examples.
I have a few friends who are gifted when it comes to analytics. It just comes naturally to them. It’s just how they think. They are often graphing things, trying to understand the true value of something and wondering about what the trend is over a certain period of time. My one friend, in particular, sits by a window at work where a number of trains go by every day. I told him how I love trains, how they make me feel and what they remind me of. He told me he wonders what the average number of train cars on a train is and often thinks about tracking it on a spreadsheet to better understand the pattern. Interesting … but not to me. Another guy (ahem, my father the economist), carpools with a number of oil & gas guys to work in Houston every day. He told me about how him and his 3 carpool buddies track their fuel mileage on different routes over a period of time to determine what the most economical route to work is. Bruce (my husband) nearly died. He was like, “who cares and what’s a spreadsheet?!” I was impressed that this is how they willingly spend their time. It makes sense because neither Bruce nor I are analysts or economists at heart. Another analytical friend of mine spent the last hour of his work day with me last week teaching me algebra. I was keen to learn, and he was pretty excited to share it. He was sharing a gift and I was developing a skill.
Another great example is with my colleagues who are writers. I find writers tend to be very aware of their gift. I remember my friend Tara of Versus Boredom telling me that everyone can write, but not everyone’s a writer. It’s so cut and dry with this one. Almost anyone can develop the skill to write correctly (for some it takes more work than others), but not everyone is gifted at communicating with words.
What’s the difference between a talent and a skill? This one can get a little murky. Talents are sometimes just things that we can pick up easily. Like my mom. She’s amazing at cooking. It’s easy for her and she just seems to have a way of turning an empty fridge into a gourmet meal. She’s not gifted at it though. And she never really learned it. My mom’s gift is helping people figure out what their gifts are! Then there’s someone like Leanne from Healthful Pursuit. Now that’s not talent in the kitchen, that’s a pure gift! She’s driven, passionate and totally comes to life when she talks about healthy food. And her recipes are works of art. It just comes naturally to her. It’s who she is. But, here’s where it can get confusing. Sometimes talents are clues about undiscovered gifts. When you pursue the talent, you find you had some gifts that were lying dormant waiting to be awakened. That’s why it’s so incredibly important to explore your talents. You might find a gift, or you might just find something that you can pick up easily. Either way, you’re in luck!
So here’s a few questions you can ask yourself to get a little clearer on this whole thing: Are you aware of your gifts? Do you have any talents that need some attention? And what skills would help you do your job or live your life better? Now do something with this knowledge!
As a manager of people, I often think about what my peeps are passionate about, what they’re good at and what they can learn. My thinking on this often ends up with me trying to discern what the difference is between a gift, a talent and a skill. We managers use these words interchangeably, but I genuinely believe these are different things. And consequently, as a manager, it’s important to understand which is which in your peeps. Why? Because it determines how you help them grow.
Gifts are something you are just born with
These are things that you are inexplicably good at. Gifts come naturally. They are something you don’t even think about doing, you just do it and you do it well. Often times people marvel at your gifts because they don’t have the same gift. To them, it’s mind boggling how you can just do this thing you do with such ease.
If you have someone who is in a role where they don’t get to use or at least share their gifts, you aren’t getting the most out of them and they aren’t giving everything they’ve got. I think it’s a manager’s role to help their people discover their gifts, use them, share them and honour them. Here’s the tricky thing. People often don’t value their gifts because they come so easily to them. You have to point out that these gifts are unique to them. That what they do naturally doesn’t come naturally to their peers. And you have to balance their utilization of their gifts with the development of talents and skills, otherwise they might not grow in new and important ways doing what they do naturally every day. A little bit of discomfort and chaos is good for people – a little.
Talents are something you have a propensity for
You have a knack for it. With just a bit of coaching, teaching and training, you can pick it up with relative ease. You may not love it and you may not be the best at it, but it comes somewhat easily. And you do it well.
If you’ve got someone who is showing a propensity for something, give them little side projects to exercise untapped talents. Help them cultivate their talents by offering them ways to use them on smaller projects. Encourage them to learn more about it; see if they discover a new passion. If they find out that a talent is in fact a gift, you might want to see if their role can include this new talent or whether there is a better role for them (in or out of the organization) that will enable them to utilize this gift. I once worked with a guy who was a very talented designer. What we found through a little side project that he was incredibly gifted at product design. Within a year of discovering this gift, he changed roles and moved into the product design group. Had we not experimented a bit, we might not have tripped over this hidden gift.
Skills are something you develop with hard work, years of experience and training
These are things you’ve learned on the job or in life after having had to develop them to do your job or get through your life. They aren’t necessarily things you love doing or are astoundingly great at, but you can do it.
A lot of people don’t want to learn the skills that will in fact make their jobs easier, because that’s not what they are passionate about to begin with. For example, I’m in marketing. I need to use Excel to understand how my programs are faring – are they making money, are they not, are they meeting expectations, are they not? I don’t love Excel, I’m not super great at it, but it’s a means to an end. It helps me understand how I’m doing and ultimately do my job better. Over the years, I’ve gleaned a bit about Excel from my analyst friends who use it like it’s another function of their body. And it’s made my work better. So while your people may not enjoy the actual skill itself, it might be worth suggesting a day or two of training if you (and they) believe it will make their jobs easier or more efficient. This is not about developing a passion or a talent, this is about helping them do what they do better and faster.
Next time you are at work, stop and think about what you are doing. Is it a gift, a talent or a skill?
I’ve been spending a lot of time combing through resumes over the last few months. Like, hundreds. And I’ve had the fortune of sitting beside A-class recruiters while they are looking at resumes and hearing their feedback in real-time. Wow, it’s super enlightening to hear what they look for. I thought I’d share a few tips on what catches a hiring manager and recruiter’s eye and what makes us shake our heads.
- Don’t apply for jobs that you aren’t actually interested in or qualified for. It’s a waste of time for you and a waste of time for us. You will be spending at least eight hours a day at this place. Pick a place and a job you actually want to do. Even better, pick something you are good at and would love to do. Instead of spamming the world with a generic resume, hold off, wait for the job that calls you and go in with a sharp and single strike. Your chances of getting an interview will be so much higher and, even better, you won’t have to contend with a bunch of unnecessary rejection which will just bring you down when you actually need to be at your most confident and comfortable.
- Use the job ad description to focus your cover letter and resume. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a generic resume. Show me you actually took time to understand the role, the company and what we might be looking for. Your resume is the first conversation you will have with your potential manager, so talk to them. If I asked for someone who lives and breathes online, someone who has experience with online campaigns and someone who has international experience, show it to me. And show it to me in the first paragraph of your cover letter or first bullet list on your resume. I can’t believe how many applications I get that highlight qualifications that have nothing to do with the job. For example, I was reading a recent application for a marketing manager job. The applicant talked about their ISO certifications and project management skills. WTF? That’s not what I asked for.
- Make your letter/resume scannable and do something different (if it fits with the company culture). I can’t tell you how many long and meandering paragraphs I just gloss right over. I don’t have time to read an epic novel about you. Use the same principles of web writing: bullets, bold and font size. Help the reader pick out the most important information. And feel free to take a chance. I recently saw a one-page resume with a creative timeline attached to the back that showed the development of the applicant’s career peppered with personal facts. It was memorable. It was creative. And it was visual and easy to consume. And he got an interview.
- If you’ve been asked to provide your salary expectation, provide it and don’t beat around the bush. We are asking so we can judge whether you are in range and to understand whether you have a true sense of your value. You don’t have to put a single number. Put a range. And say whether you are flexible based on benefits.
- Keep your LinkedIn profile up to date and feel free to use it as your resume. That’s one of the beauties of LinkedIn. I’m shocked at how many people apply for jobs at online companies and don’t have spiffy LinkedIn profiles. If you are applying for a few jobs at the same time and they aren’t necessarily in the same field, then keep your LinkedIn profile more generic and consider creating custom resumes for each role. But if you have a specialty or specific skills and are applying for the same role across a bunch of companies (like if you are a developer or designer or something), feel free just to create a kick-ass LinkedIn profile that’s descriptive enough of what you did at each job and just PDF it and attach it to your cover letter. I’m not sure how other hiring managers feel about this, but I see this as smart, efficient and savvy. If you don’t know how to create a great LinkedIn profile, this article by John Heaney on The Job Shopper is awesome.
- Speak the company’s language. Scan their website, see how formal or informal they are. Try to speak to them with the same level of formality their brand conveys. I work at a very casual and creative place. I can’t believe how many uber-formal resumes I’ve received. None of them make it to my shortlist because it tells me they haven’t understood that fit is just as important as skill.
Bottom line: make sure you know the job, you know the company brand and you know yourself. And then show it.
Below you’ll find an example of a cover letter I put together to demonstrate what the above looks like in practice. Don’t rip it off. It might not get you the job you want or need. Get to know yourself and create something that’s true to you.
We often talk about “the company.” Especially when we are looking for someone to blame.
The company doesn’t know what it’s doing.
The company doesn’t get it.
The company doesn’t care.
The company needs to make a decision.
Have you ever asked yourself who the company is? Here’s an obvious realization: It’s the leaders in the business. It’s your manager, your manager’s manager, the directors, the board, the shareholders, the executive, the management team, the senior managers, the people making decisions. It’s people. It’s people with power and influence.
Next time you are tempted to blame the company, ask yourself who you are really talking about.
Background on the “Obvious realization” series: This is a series of posts dedicated to my friend Angela who thinks it’s cute that every now and then I have an “obvious realization” that totally changes my life. Here’s the other posts in this series.
You hear people say it all the time. She’s super smart. He’s a really smart guy. And that’s supposed to mean something. But it doesn’t. It just means that person has knowledge, information or skills. So what? Lots of people are smart.
It’s what you do with your smarts that matters.
- Do you apply your knowledge at the right times and in the right places (something I’m tempted to call “Contextual Intelligence”)?
- Do you offer your knowledge, skills and information to help others grow?
- Do you share your smarts for a cause bigger than yourself?
- Do you apply your skills in surprising and unconventional ways?
- Do you take what you know and use it to learn more about what you don’t know?
- Do you ask intelligent questions? Of others, and more importantly, yourself?
- Do you take risks and put yourself in situations where you don’t know what you’re doing?
- Do you have anything to show for your smarts? Have you created anything with them?
Too many times I’ve heard someone talk about a boss, co-worker or unlikeable individual and say, “yeah, he’s not that great of a person, but he’s smart.” So fucking what? There’s too many bloody smart people out there actually doing something of value.
Being smart is good for the one. Sharing it, applying it and challenging it is good for the many.
Recently, I had the pleasure of being a guest blogger on Laurel Vespi’s site, Stone Circle Coaching. My guest blog, called Being bold: the executive who unleashed his girl cells, is all about taking risks in business. Not your typical risks, but the personal kind that can truly change the way you approach your work and co-workers.
About Stone Circle Coaching
Stone Circle Coaching is Laurel’s coaching business and Loving the Chaos is her blog. She’s bright, she’s funny and she’s unorthodox. I loved reading her small but mighty book, Spontaneous Combustion, and I love reading her short and sharp blog posts centred around living the best life you can live. Check out her site, you might find a few nuggets of wisdom that nudge you in a new and different direction.
Have you ever wondered what your Meeting Personality (MP) is?
The all-new Meeting Personality Test (MPT)
Which Meeting Personality are you? Read the descriptions below and tell us which one best describes your style in the comments section. Or, if you think that your Meeting Personality is missing, add it in the comments. Please note that it is 100% okay to evaluate others on their behalf since most of us see other people more clearly than they see themselves anyways.
The Meeting Dominator (Type: MD)
- Shows up to meetings with big, powerful and overbearing energy
- Starts talking without even getting into the swing of the conversation
- Speaks for three reasons and three reasons only: 1) To hear the sound of their own voice; 2) To validate how smart they think they are; 3) To re-iterate what others say using different words so they can claim good or popular ideas as their own
- Runs other peoples’ meetings for them
- Hijacks the agenda with their own agenda (usually for one of the three reasons above)
- Assigns take-away tasks to everyone but themselves
The Meeting Meanderer (Type: MM)
- Saunters into a meeting, early or late or on time, but often with low energy
- Doesn’t contribute to the agenda items but does contribute to the side conversations and asides quite well
- Doesn’t run their own meetings, but lets others run them for them (often defers to the Meeting Dominator)
- Gets lost when discussions go off topic and doesn’t know how to re-focus the group
- Gets engaged with Meeting Distractors and Meeting Socialites without even realizing it
- Isn’t offensive, but isn’t really adding a whole lot of value either
The Meeting Distractor: (Type: MD2)
- Can be equivalent to the class clown, often jokey
- Contributes a large proportion of tangential and/or off-topic comments that can be entertaining but aren’t related to the topic being discussed
- Brings up unrelated issues that appear related, but really aren’t, and is known to use these as reasons to justify why work shouldn’t get done on the task at hand
- Offers up long-winded comments that get less and less relevant as the meeting goes on
- Distracts other meeting types, most notably Meeting Meanderers and Meeting Socialites
The Meeting Socialite (Type: MS)
- Uses meetings as a way to catch up with everyone attending
- Often shares too much information about their personal lives in meetings (and sometimes too much information about the personal lives of others)
- Uses meetings to develop personal relationships
- Is busy commenting on how much they like your haircut or your new sweater
- Can often be found on their Blackberry or iPhone chatting, texting or emailing with their spouse or work BFFs
The Meeting Multi-tasker (Type: MM2)
- Brings their laptop to every meeting they attend
- Uses ineffective or poorly run meetings to get other work done
- Does the tasks that are assigned to them in the meeting itself
- Often found on their Blackberry or iPhone getting other, unrelated work done
The Meeting Master (Type: MM3)
- Sets an agenda, communicates it and sticks to the time slot for the meeting
- Facilitates discussion and ideas, when appropriate
- Acknowledges when there are digressions and effectively parks issues that don’t belong in the meeting forum
- Keeps all meeting participants engaged and dismisses participants if they are no longer needed
- Encourages discussion from less participative attendees
- Introduces themselves to people in a meeting they’ve never met before
- Respects people’s time
- Stays friendly and personable without making that the meat of the meeting
The Meeting Militant (Type: MM4)
- Sets the agenda, sticks to the agenda, but won’t let discussions digress even for a moment and even if it’s valuable
- Over-controls the discussion, not letting everyone participate fully
- Is ruthless and unforgiving when it comes to meeting tardiness
- Is always all business
Which MP are you? Is your MP missing? Be sure to add it in the comments!
*In case you didn’t get the sarcasm in my post, I want you to know that I just created this personality test today in about 30 minutes. I also made a bunch of acronyms and capitalized a lot of the types and the name of the test to make this personality test more official and palatable for corporate types (whoops, more sarcasm!). But in all seriousness, I LOVE personality tests and am horribly guilty of being corporate-y, so I decided to poke a bunch of fun at myself today.
Think about it for a moment.
Many of us fear commitment because it means we are promising ourselves to one person, one company, one idea, one act, one whatever. We fear that by committing, we are shutting down the possibility for better opportunities, growth, change or something new that might just show up in some fuzzy future. We also fear that we if we commit, we may have to admit, at some point in the future, that we were wrong.
But here’s the truth.
When you leave a door open and only invest half of yourself, you never get to experience the fullness of that person or thing you are committing to. You also don’t get to experience the fullness of yourself because you are only half there. You just don’t go to the depths where the treasures of intimacy, love, vulnerability and mutual growth lay. You deprive yourself and the other of possibility. And if you do end up walking away from a half-baked relationship, you will question yourself. You will wonder if you truly did everything you could. You will ask what it could have been. That’s the shit that builds regret and self-loathing.
So here’s what I think.
Don’t leave a safety hatch open so you can escape when things get hard or something shinier shows up. Give someone or something your everything. Time-box it if you have to. Trade in a breadth of opportunities for the depth of one. Do it because you are creating the possibility of experiencing more of yourself and more of the other person. Do it because you could be transformed. Do it because you can walk away with a clear conscience. Do it so you won’t have regrets. Do it. Go deep. Try it.
Commit. Because that’s where the real opportunities lie.
You might already know this, but today was my last day of work at NEOVIA Financial. Giving notice a few weeks ago was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in the last four-and-a-half years, and I didn’t do it lightly, or without tears.
In the last 10 years, I’ve been lucky enough to have two teachers in my life who have taught me a lot about recognizing when it’s time to leave your job (or relationship, or friendship, or whatever). Here’s the wisdom they shared with me: