Tag Archives: Work-Life


Career “Planning” = Career “Improvisation”

Kathleen Eisenhardt

Kathleen Eisenhardt

Planning is most suited to relatively certain circumstances in which processes and decisions are typically linear, argued Stanford’s Kathleen Eisenhardt and Behnam Tabrizi in their analysis of global computer product innovation.

In contrast, frequently-changing or uncertain conditions with many iterative modifications require improvisation coupled with frequent testing.

Behnam Tabrizi

In “VUCA world,” described by the U.S. Army War College as volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous environments, current career “planning” occurs under rapidly-shifting conditions more appropriate for an agile strategy.
As a result, it is increasingly difficult to meaningfully respond to the frequently-asked interview question: “What are your career plans for the next five years?

Iterative exploration, rapid prototyping/experimentation, and testing characteristic of agile development and design thinking are more suited for rapid changes in economic, political, and technology changes that affect known career paths.

Alison Maitland

University of London’s Alison Maitland and Peter Thomson forecast Future Work: How Businesses Can Adapt and Thrive In the New World of Work,
and related books by Deloitte’s Cathy BenkoMolly Anderson, with Anne Weisberg of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP considerThe Corporate Lattice: Achieving High Performance in the Changing World of Workand Mass Career Customization: Aligning the Workplace with Today’s Nontraditional Workforce.

-*When have you found it more useful to “improvise” instead of “plan” your career?
-*What are the benefits and drawbacks of career “improvisation”?

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Developing Executive Self Awareness to Enhance Leadership Impact

Vicki Swisher

Lack of self-awareness among organizational leaders is pervasive and costly, according to Korn Ferry’s Vicky Swisher and Evelyn Orr.
They studied executives using the FYI: For Your Insight assessment tool, based on research from FYI for Insight: 21 Leadership Characteristics for Success and 5 That Will Get You Fired.

Evelyn Orr

Evelyn Orr

Executives’ most significant blind spots were:

• Making tough people calls,
• Demonstrating personal flexibility, adapting approaches to new circumstances.

Similarly,  the top leadership problems were:
• Not inspiring employees, not building talent,
• “Too narrow”, relying on deep expertise without broadening perspective.

Leaders vastly underestimated their effectiveness in “managing up”, suggesting that they focused more on their next promotion, rather than on developing their employees.

Joe Luft

Joe Luft

Lack of self-awareness can be reduced by using a “Reality Check” including:

o Feedback from others to provide “early warning” of difficulty.
However, this requires that evaluators are willing to provide candid observations, despite widespread discomfort in providing corrective feedback.

o Self-reflection concerning effective and ineffective behaviors, documented in a personal journal for review.

Harry Ingham

Harry Ingham

Executives learned most to enhance leadership skills and self-reflection from on-the-job experiences, distantly followed by learning from other people.
Structured trainings are least effective and most costly approaches to enhance leadership cognitive, emotional, motivational, self-awareness, and learning agility capabilities.

These leadership development processes reduce individual blind spots, portrayed by San Francisco State University’s Joe Luft and Harry Ingham of National Training Labs in The JoHari Windowjohari-window

Korn Ferry’s Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger provided additional executive development recommendations based on research in FYI: For your Improvement, A Development and Coaching Guide(3rd Edition).

-*How do you increase your self-awareness at work and reduce your “blind spots” about yourself and others?

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Conducting “Due Diligence” by Interviewing the Hiring Manager

Have you ever had the fleeting thought “Did I make a mistake in accepting this role?” after finding that the work, manager, team, culture, expectations were not “as advertised”?

Julie Jansen

Julie Jansen

If so, next time you interview for a new role, consider Julie Jansen’s suggested questions to evaluate “fit” with the prospective manager, outlined in her book, I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gratifying Work

Questions to ask any (and every) Prospective Manager 

  •  What deliverables, accomplishments, behaviors do you expect of the person hired for this role during the first three months?
  • First six months?
  • First year?
  • How will you measure success in this role after a year?
  • What challenges the previous incumbent encounter in the role?
  • What do you see as the role’s current challenges?
  • What are the three top priorities for this role in the next year?
  • How do these priorities align with the organization’s strategy?
  • How can the person selected for this role help you manage your highest-concern challenges?
  • How do you mentor, coach, and develop your direct reports?
  • What was the next career move for the role’s previous incumbent?
  • What did the previous incumbent accomplish in the role?
  • How do you prefer to communicate with your direct reports?
  • How do you prefer to receive information from your direct reports?
  • In person, email, telephone, text message, other?
  • How frequently do team members work remotely?
  • How frequently do you want updates from your direct reports?
  • How do you and your team integrate work and life priorities toward “work-life balance”?
  • How would you describe your work style?
  • Your management style?
  • Your leadership style?
  • Your decision style?
  • How do you manage conflict within the team?
  • With other organizations?
  • What are your three most important values?
  • How do your direct reports describe your management style?
  • What are the characteristics of the best manager you’ve worked with?
  • How are you and your team perceived in the organization?

Questions to ask the prospective manager’s direct reports (peers to target role)

  • What are the manager’s job priorities?
  • How does the manager develop, coach, and mentor direct reports?
  • How frequently does the manager provide feedback?
  • What work and person characteristics does the manager value?
  • How would you describe the manager’s work style?
  • What is the manager’s decision process?
  • How does the manager deal with conflict?
  • To what extent does the manager involve you and your peers in decisions?
  • To what extent does the manager support work-life balance?
  • What are the manager’s strengths?
  • What are the manager’s development areas?
  • What are the manager’s “hot buttons” or “pet peeves”?
  • How does the manager prefer to communicate with you and your team?
  • How does the manager prefer to receive information?
  • How is the manager viewed in the organization?
  • With what roles and organizations are manager allied?
  • Who are the manager’s mentors in the organization?
  • What advice would you give to the person selected for this role to ensure a positive working relationship with the manager?

These queries can’t guard against managers who leave the role a few days after you start, or re-organizations and restructurings that leave you reporting to a new manager in a new role in a new group, but they may provide additional guidance to potential “warning signs” of job mismatch or “misemployment.”

-*What questions have you found most effective in assessing work style “fit” and compatibility with a potential manager?

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2012 Top Companies for Work-Life Balance

Glassdoor.com synthesized employee ratings for the past 12 months to produce a list of companies in which is it possible to both make a living and live a life.

Silicon Valley companies include Agilent Technologies (#3), LinkedIn (#8), and Hitachi Data Systems (#20), but not Google, Facebook, Synopsis, or Intuit.

-*How do you assess a potential employer’s organizational culture for balancing work priorities with life priorities?

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10 Ways to Build Resilience

A key factor in “psychological resilience”, or the process of adapting to unexpected adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or stress, is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family, according to research by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Other factors include:

• Making realistic plans and executing them
• Positive view of self
• Confidence in your strengths and abilities
• Skills in communication and problem solving
• Managing strong feelings and impulses

APA outlines actions that increase personal resilience

• Make connections with family members, friends, or others to request and accept support. Civic groups, faith-based organizations, or volunteering to help others can make meaningful connections

• Consider crises as solvable problems. You can change how you interpret and respond to these events.

• Recognize that change occurs with increasing frequency. You can balance thoughtful acceptance of a situation with acting to change it.

• Move toward your goals, with regular small accomplishments

• Take decisive actions

• Look for opportunities for self-discovery and learning “life lessons” that may benefit others

• Develop confidence that you can address the issues. Others in the social support network may assist.

• Keep things in perspective, in relation to the great challenges faced by others

• Visualize your goals and aspirations

  • Cultivate an optimistic outlook, and consider hope as essential as oxygen

• Take care of yourself with exercise, relaxation, balanced diet and lifestyle, medical attention

Additional strategies may assist: the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress

-*What are your most effective strategies for building personal resilience in the face of challenges?

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How Gaming Can Help You Live Better and Longer

Jane McGonigal

Jane McGonigal

Game designer Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk that gaming fulfills the basic human wishes expressed by dying hospice patients:

• Work less hard
• Stay in touch with friends
• Let myself be happier
• Have the courage to express my true self
• Live a life true to my dreams

She discussed a practical game, Superbetter, she developed following her own experience of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), which left her bedridden, in persistent pain, and suicidal for more than a year.

Based on her love of “Special Missions and Secret Objectives”, she developed four research-based challenges to increase her resilience and capabilities:

• Physical
• Mental
• Emotional
• Social

She asserts that these tasks help players strengthen abilities to remain motivated and optimistic even in the face of difficulty challenge, and boost physical and emotional well-being.
McGonigal links these capabilities to strengthening social support, increasing stamina and willpower.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that McGonigal’s twin sister and fellow Ph.D., Kelly McGonigal, conducts research at Stanford University on methods to increase willpower and compassion, and to reduce stress and pain.

Her recent book is The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It

Jane McGonigal seems to triumph in this Jane vs. Colbert face-off …though he may have tried to distract her by mentioning that she is “a girl, and an attractive one at that…with that Big Hair…”

Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert

Six-time Stephen Colbert guest, Hayden Planetarium astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s commented that “you’re lucky to come away with your skin when you appear on Colbert’s show.”  Jane seemed to come away with her skin intact.

-*How have you seen gaming improve lives?
-*To what extent do you concur with the hospice patients’ wishes – and implied advice to younger people?

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Finding Work You Love, Measuring Your Life

Clayton Christensen

Clayton Christensen

Clayton Christensen is a Harvard Business School professor, acclaimed for his ground-breaking work on innovation.
His recent book, How Will You Measure Your Life links his years of research in business strategy and innovation, to identifying values and priorities in work-life.

Although this new focus may seem unexpected, Christensen may have pointed to a source of inspiration when he revealed in 2010 that he had been diagnosed with follicular lymphoma and had suffered an ischemic stroke.
In addition, he has been highly visible in his decades of service to The Church of Latter Day Saints.

He reviews “powerful anomalies” in popular conceptions of workforce motivation and incentives designed to drive performance.

He notes that “some of the hardest working people on the planet are employed in charitable organizations. They work in the most difficult conditions imaginable; they earn a fraction of what they would if they were in the private sector. Yet it’s rare to hear of managers of nonprofits complaining about getting their staff motivated. The same goes for the military.”

He points out that incentives are not the same as motivation, and that true motivation involves moving people to do something because they want to.
Hertzberg’s classic article in the Harvard Business Review, introduced the distinction between hygiene factors (if not done right, will cause us to be dissatisfied) and motivation factors (challenging work, recognition, responsibility, and personal growth).

Frederick Herzberg

Frederick Herzberg

Christensen concludes that Herzberg’sHerzberg theory of motivation suggests such questions as:

• Is this work meaningful to me?
• Will I have an opportunity for recognition and achievement?
• Am I going to learn new things?

Evaluating the place of personal motivation factors in relation to the priority of hygiene factors is the foundation of career and life satisfaction.

-*What elements of your “work contract” are motivating?-*What helps you determine value and meaning in your work life and personal life?

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Blog: – Kathryn Welds | Curated Research and Commentary

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