Kick-Start Your Work Day

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I start most days with YouTube.

That may seem odd to you — but it works for me. Today, Gregg Allman, George Harrison, Green Day, and The Verve are my colleagues. My partners in crime. My morning coffee mates.

Yesterday, it was Aretha. Tomorrow it might be Chopin. I’m not sure. I’m completely open.

We often forget that we must leave ourselves the room to be our best. (Certainly our brains require this.) When pushed to the limit and working on only fumes, we’re likely to fail.

I’m not sure what works for you, as the seeds of creativity are quite different for each and every one of us. That’s the beauty of the workplace. We are individuals. So are the required roots of creativity.

So start your day with what works for you. Take the time to identify this. Then become brutal in its application. Take that morning walk — or listen to that audio book — or queue up Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga.

Start your day with the proper foundation.

Then push “start”.

What powers you though your day? Share your strategies here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and coach. She is the Director of Thought Leadership at Kilberry Leadership Advisors, Toronto.

Considering Success

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Do you consider yourself to be successful?

Yes — I’m aware that’s a loaded question. In this case, I’m speaking of workplace success. But I’m certain that by the end of this post, other elements of our lives will come into play. Work life success is a complicated construct. It has to be…simply because we’re people…and people are complicated. But, this query seems to come up quite a bit during the course of our career lives. As I coach clients (both individuals and teams), I’ve realized this question often looms central.

Unfortunately career growth is not always reflected in the numbers. When career growth doesn’t jibe with outside measures of success (such as money, power and title) — we have doubts and question our path. We tend to place great emphasis on metrics in business. What you’ve sold. What you’ve earned. How many employees you might supervise. On some level the numbers work on other levels, not nearly as well. Numbers don’t tell the entire story. They never have. Never will.

Sometimes the numbers lull us into a false sense of security. In other cases, they really don’t reflect or keep up with the progress we should really claim. I see this too. (I’ve left one or two “cushy” jobs with great salaries to pursue goals.) Think of all the organizations that have misread the cues. They may have thought they were at the top of their game — and for a time, the numbers stated that they were. However, the success was fleeting in some part, because their metrics were essentially flawed.

When we are in transition career-wise, the numbers almost never reflect the depth and breadth of what’s happening. (We may have changed paths in exchange for a lower title, for example. We may have opted to re-train. Our goals or focus may have evolved.) But, we still wait for that outside confirmation that we are doing the right thing. I’ve done this. I’m sure you have.

The important point here it to find the guideposts that work for you. These may not be anything like the metrics we are accustomed to — but will offer the information you require.

Here are a few alternative measures of success to consider:

  • You are developing a voice. We’ve all held roles where our expertise or opinions were lost or ignored. No amount of money can make up for this problem. A voice matters. Always. When you can operate at a level that let’s you know you’ve earned your turn to contribute in a meaningful way, that is priceless.
  • Mastering something new. You don’t need to leave your current work life to master something new. It’s a commitment, I know — but worth the trouble, as the rewards are certainly there.
  • You’ve found a challenge. There are “seasons” of our work lives where a new challenge is the last thing that we need. But, when there isn’t enough challenge, this too, can be suffocating. With challenge comes hard work — but also a tremendous feeling of satisfaction.
  • The chance to create something. We’ve all held jobs where our role was to sustain something — a practice, a policy, a program. But, to have the opportunity to create something new (a post, a new product, a business), is an experience that cannot be measured with traditional metrics.

There are so many other elements success that I’m sure I’ve overlooked. Please share your story here.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and speaker. The Office Blend, has been recognized by Forbes as one of their “Top 100 Websites for Your Career” in both 2012 and 2013.

Why We Should Still Practice the “70-20-10” Rule

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We all need a viable strategy to stretch ourselves and hopefully, reach our potential. However, it’s unlikely that we’ve committed to a firm strategy to do so. Implementing a guiding philosophy to remain on the “cutting edge” could help us. This might allow us to see the innovative paths that could exist in our own work lives.

Personally, I find it difficult to spark change (and follow through) in my work life. (Old habits die hard, don’t they?) I make promises to spend more time exploring new work life territory — but it seems that without fail, I miss that mark. That’s something many of need to address.

I needed a concrete plan to sustain momentum toward that goal. I hoped that with measured practice, changing things up would become second nature.

But why reinvent the wheel?

To that end, I am all for borrowing established (and successful) strategies that can provide structure — “tried and true” methods that can be adapted to our own careers. That’s exactly why I chose the 70-20-10 rule, made popular by Google.  The 70-20-10 rule is simple, yet remarkably powerful. It prescribes that you spend 70% of your time in the core areas of your work, 20% of your time on tasks related to your core and 10% devoted to tasks that are completely “off-road”. (The “secret sauce”.)

The rule can be readily applied to many, many types of roles and functions, including those that focus on sales and process improvement. Try it on for size and see what it does for your work.

A couple of ways to apply it:

  • Staffing a team. The larger part of the team (70%) should include those directly related to the work at hand at hand. However, 20% could be in areas or functions related to the issue or project at hand, and 10% of team members could be composed of those in unrelated functions — those that could offer an entirely fresh perspective.
  • Sales efforts. If you sell for a living, take another look at your potential customers. Of course, your core target group would include potential clients with a profile very similar to your current clients. However, go the extra mile and identify 20% that are somewhat different, but still may find a fit or use for your products. The other 10%? These are customers that may require you to develop an innovative product application or service packages to win their business. Explore this path, as there is no telling what will be discovered.
  • Networking. We all have a tendency to gravitate towards the familiar — however this can limit us. Make a concerted effort to build relationships with people in new functional areas, that are still tangentially related to your core. (For example, if I exclusively networked with other psychologists, I wouldn’t learn nearly as much about HR tech.) You may not have the language mastered in these “off-road” functions, but you can certainly develop a working vocabulary. You may also happen upon a very worthwhile collaboration.

Here are a just a few reasons to try the method:

  • Ideas don’t develop themselves. If we don’t designate time to explore new paths, our thoughts cannot “cross-pollinate” — an innovation basic. Many interesting developments seem to develop through “serendipity”. Serendipity doesn’t occur in a vacuum.
  • Our brains need a change of pace. Have you read The Eureka Phenomena? Asimov’s classic article, helps us understand that the brain works on more than one level. Changing gears for a period of time, can actually help your mind “settle” and solve problems.
  • We all need real challenge. The 70-20-10 can help “gamify” work, and make it novel.  I place the “off road” 10% in that category. That somehow works for me.

Have you applied the 70-20-10 in your line of work? Tell us how.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. You can also find her on Twitter and Linkedin.