Friday, March 25, 2011

I Asked for it ASAP, so How Come it’s Not Done Yet?

“I need it ASAP.”

ASAP. Everyone knows this means “as soon as possible”. But not everyone interprets this to mean the same thing.

In my world, the term ASAP usually means “I need it now,” or, “As quickly as you can,” and sometimes even, “Drop everything you’re doing and do this right now.”

But if I’m asking someone to complete a task via e-mail, instant messaging, or a post-it note, the urgency behind my “ASAP” can’t be heard.

I’ve worked with colleagues who have interpreted ASAP to mean “By the end of the day.” Still others key in on the term “possible” and interpret my request as “Whenever you have time,” or, “When you have nothing else to do,” or even, “If you feel like it.”

So how do we avoid the confusion? By adding clarity to the request. If you need it within an hour, then simply say so.

What does the term ASAP mean to you?

Friday, March 18, 2011

It Only Takes One “Yes”

stop go signImage by Joelk75 via FlickrNo’s come in many forms:

“You didn’t get the job.”

“We’re not interested in your proposal.”

A grade of D (or in some circles anything less than an A) on a test.

“It’s not you, it’s me…”

A loss in a sporting match.

“You’re fired.”

And sometimes the “no” comes in the form of no feedback at all: a company that never responds after your interview, a blog post that receives no comments, a phone call never returned.

If we judged ourselves only by the times that we heard a “no” we’d all be colossal failures.

But it only takes one job offer, one proposal to be accepted, one completion of a goal, for you to move forward.

It only takes one “yes” to be a success.

The poet Wallace Stevens wrote in his poem The Well Dressed Man With a Beard:

After the final no there comes a yes, and on that yes the future world depends.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Galleon Trial: The “I Was Just Doing My Job” Defense

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08:  Billionaire Galleon ...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeThe long-awaited trial of Raj Rajaratnam, Galleon Founder, began last week in New York. Charged with insider trading in the fall of 2009, Rajaratnam appears to have been the mastermind in what is being called the largest-ever insider trading ring.

At least fifteen high profile executives have already pleaded guilty in the Galleon case, and our understanding of the reach of Rajaratnam’s network continues to grow as more indictments are handed down. Some are already serving jail sentences. Some are cooperating with the prosecution.

The first week of the trial was mostly a matter of picking a jury and hearing opening statements. The jury also heard the first three of the secretly taped phone conversations, which after much debate are indeed being allowed as evidence.

The defense is arguing that Rajaratnam was just doing his job – that it was his job to dig, and research, and he did it exceedingly well. According to NY Times Dealbook, defense attorney Dowd said Rajaratnam “Assembled a mosaic of information and did his own calculations.”

Was it illegal?

Rajaratnam’s defense strikes me a bit like “the dog ate my homework”. Despite the fact that his business was knowledge, he doesn’t claim responsibility for knowing that the information he was assembling included confidential information. Despite the evidence that Rajaratnam paid almost $2 million to one cooperating witness (Anil Kumar) in exchange for confidential information about his McKinsey clients, Rajaratnam appears to claiming that he didn’t know the information was obtained illegally.

Mr. Rajaratnam and his lawyers appear to have a complex plan for the trial, as Rajaratnam did for his business. It also appears that he expects to talk his way out of a guilty sentence, just like he talked his way into (allegedly) making millions trading on insider information.

Friday, March 11, 2011

What Happens When You Poke the Box?

Poke the BoxSeth Godin released his latest manifesto, Poke the Box, last week. In the book, Godin encourages his readers to challenge the status quo.

Godin encourages us to be initiators – to start something – every day.

The concept of poking the box is bigger than thinking outside the box. It’s about re-shaping the box, or even creating the box from scratch. Thinking outside the box assumes there is an established right way. Poking the box is about creating something new, doing something entirely different, or entirely differently.

With the release of the book, Godin poked the box himself. He created the manifesto in a short period of time, released it without an agent or publisher, and made it available on Amazon for a limited time for $0.99 – all unconventional moves. He didn’t ask for permission or anyone’s blessing. He just did it.

But while Godin may be very happy to see you poke the box, not everyone will. There will be bosses, colleagues, family members, and others trying to hold you back, convincing you that it’s better not to rock the boat, or that you can’t challenge the status quo. Often they will win.

During my career in Corporate America I was a poker. I was first drawn to jobs where something new was being created, and later to jobs where we didn’t even know what the thing to be created was until after we started. It’s scary to be in that position, but it’s a whole lot more satisfying that simply implementing something someone else has created.

But poking didn’t always fare well for me. Not all of the projects I took on succeeded (to be expected according to Godin). When times were tough I found myself in a position where my job was at risk, and where employees under me lost their jobs. Those employees were some of the best initiators.

While I could deal with the failures, over time I was less willing to work within a system that didn’t recognize the inherent success within those failures. My solution was to decide to poke elsewhere.

Have you poked the box? What’s your story?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Want the Job? Get a Sponsor

Corporate ladderImage by Myxi via FlickrFor the past two decades we’ve heard a lot about mentoring. Having a mentor – someone to guide you in your career and provide critical advice – is one of the keys to career success.

And we’ve heard a lot about networking. We have been taught that most jobs are found through networking. While estimates vary from 60% to 80%, it is a compelling data point that has made us think differently about working relationships.

Now there’s a new player everyone is talking about – the sponsor.

If you want to get ahead – and specifically if you want to get the job, your chances are dramatically increased if you have a sponsor.

What is a sponsor? And how is a sponsor different from a mentor?

A mentor is a trusted advisor who can help you work through issues, clarify what you want, act as a sounding board, and give you advice. A sponsor takes it one step further – they are connected within the organization you work (or are seeking work) and actively advocate for you to get the job (or promotion or opportunity). Usually an established leader in a high position, a sponsor throws your name in the hat and lobbies to move your name to the top of the list.

It makes sense. Being qualified for the job isn’t enough – there are lots of qualified candidates. What can distinguish you? Someone on the inside pulling for you.

Pulling strings? Yes. Does it work? Yes, it does.

According to an article titled Friends in High Places in the most recent issue of Working Mother magazine, lack of sponsorship is one of the key reasons why women are not advancing as quickly as their male peers. The article points out that while men embrace the notion of sponsorship, some women shy away from the idea of sponsorship – preferring to rely on mentors alone.

During my corporate career I was at times a sponsor, and at times I was sponsored for key jobs. I also lost out on some key opportunities when I didn’t have a sponsor. I know first-hand that when a senior executive calls asking you to give their candidate a shot at a job, that it is hard not to do so.

Do you have a sponsor? Has a sponsor helped you get a job?