Archive for category Careers

Do You Embrace Constructive Feedback?

Direction for Improvement

Direction for Improvement



Do You Embrace Constructive Feedback?

I’ve read a number of articles recently that profess that constructive feedback fails to improve people’s performance the vast majority of time.  And others even say that all constructive feedback is destructive and an oxymoron.  Really?  I could not disagree more.

Consider this quote from a past article by Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ. Employees need a lot more feedback about their performance. According to a new study by Leadership IQ, 51% of employees don’t know whether their performance is where it should be. That’s pretty shocking, so I’ll say it again: We asked 3,611 workers across 291 companies to respond to a series of survey questions, including the question “I know whether my job performance is where it should be.” The results? 51% Disagreed while only 21% Agreed (27% were in the middle).

Successful people not only want constructive feedback on their performance, they embrace it.  They know constructive feedback will help them repeat good performance, identify areas for improvement, and help them grow and reach their career goals.  When your performance consistently improves, so does your future.

Now don’t get me wrong. Constructive feedback can be delivered poorly and have the opposite impact than was intended.  When this happens usually the person giving the feedback tries to ease into areas for improvement by sugarcoating the feedback or starting with a positive feedback that finishes with a “but” and an area for improvement.  That’s why I always encourage people to do an honest self-assessment before any formal feedback session.  Then concentrate only on positive items or areas for improvement that were significantly different from your self-assessment.

All of us should embrace constructive feedback.  And if you are responsible for giving constructive feedback, learn how to properly deliver feedback and give it frequently.

Update May 18:  Even Bill Gates agrees –



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Is Your Attitude Squashing You?

Attitude Squashing You?

Attitude Squashing You?



Is YOUR Attitude Squashing YOU?


Do people frequently attribute any of these sayings to describe you at home and/or work – reactive, pessimistic, downer, cynical, defeatist, or grumpy?  If so, your attitude IS squashing you!

Simply put by Coach Lou Holtz – “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”

A person’s attitude is their affinity or inclination to respond in positive or negative ways to events, ideas, objects, people, organizations, etc.  A person’s attitude influences their choice of action, and responses to other people, opportunities, challenges, consequences, rewards, and situations.  The key is YOU get to choose your attitude – it does not choose you!

In my experience people exhibit/choose 3 basic attitudes:


  1. Explorer – People with an Explorer attitude are proactive participants in life and work, and thrive on opportunities brought on by change.  They take calculated risks and over deliver on their commitments.  They are consistently enthusiastic and energetic people, and their attitude is contagious to other Explorers and some Followers. Explorers look at the ‘glass as half full’, and have what Stephen Covey calls an ‘abundance mentality’.
  2. Follower – People with a Follower attitude are the reactive spectators of life and work, and are usually reluctant to adapt to change. They rarely take risks and are uncomfortable making commitments, instead relying on others to make major decisions and commitments.  Followers need motivating to deliver on commitments, otherwise they tend to coast. Followers see Explorers as successful and may seek them out, and want to work with them.  They also can be negatively motivated by Cynics.
  3. Cynic – People with Cynic attitudes are the victims and carpers of life and work and are annoyed by change.  They are sarcastic and pessimistic people that can drain the energy out of other people, teams or organizations.  They believe risks and commitments are forced on them by others.  And when difficulties arise, they enjoy being ‘told you so’ critics and finding fault, after the fact, in efforts, results and people.  Cynics many times resent the success of others and have what Stephen Covey calls a ‘scarcity mentality’.

Most people demonstrate some of all three attitudes and choose different attitudes based on varying situations and events, but one attitude tends to dominate in each of us.  So if your attitude is squashing you, even occasionally, what can you do?

  1. Reflect On Your Attitude and Honestly Assess It
    1. Self-assessment
    2. Trusted colleagues, friends and family assessment
    3. Admit Your Barriers, and Drivers.
      1. Dominant attitude
      2. Situational attitudes
      3. Barriers to a better attitude
      4. Drivers to a better attitude
      5. Determine Probable Root Causes of Your Barriers
        1. Causes you control
        2. Situational causes
        3. Physical and mental causes
        4. Commit To Make Changes In Your Attitude
          1. Reduce or eliminate cynics in your life
          2. Set short-term goals
          3. Measure goal achievement
          4. Set new short-term goals
          5. Seek outside help, if needed
          6. Put Some Gratitude in Your Attitude

Remember, you choose your attitude – it does not choose you.


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Habits for a Successful Career – Habit #7

Develop Your People Skills

Develop Your People Skills


Habits For a Successful Career

Habit #7 – Develop Your People Skills

Is one of your top career goals to become an executive, owner or partner in a business venture, or a university president?  Then Habit #7 is a primary concern.  Is one of your near term career goals to become a team leader, project leader, supervisor or manager?  Then Habit #7 is a primary concern.  Whether your career goals shoot for the stars or are more modest, people with successful careers have people skills that are above expectations because 60%+ of their role and responsibility involves People, not human assets or resources, PEOPLE.  You lead people, and manage things.  Habit #7 has seven people skills to be developed, improved, and possibly mastered including:

Order of Importance

  1. Listening to Understand (Covey)This is the most important people skill because it sets up success for the other six skills.  Most people, like many politicians, listen to ‘respond’, not understand.  True listening means asking clarifying questions, restating what you heard and empathizing with others to really understand what they are communicating.
  2. Communicating: Speaking, Writing, Presenting – Once you have mastered listening, then improve your communication skills in conversations, writing for business and making small and large group      presentations.
  3. Selling – Many people do not think selling is an important people or career skill unless they are in ‘sales’,      but people sell ideas and actions every day with colleagues at work, and with family and friends outside of work.
  4. Negotiating – Negotiating skills are the flip side of selling skills, and are very important if you aspire to be in a leadership position in any capacity.  In addition, improving your selling and negotiation skills are prerequisites to the next skill – resolving conflicts.
  5. Resolving Conflicts – All organizations, i.e. people, have conflicts – some small and some large.  The worse thing a successful person or a person in a leadership position can do is ignore or hide from      conflicts.  Improving your skills in this area will help remediate larger conflicts and resolve other without  destroying relationships.  In fact, it can help build trust and credibility.
  6. Motivating/Energizing – As hard as some people try to improve their people skills, many of us cannot ‘master’ all seven skills.  But they cannot be ignored!  For example, as an executive, I never ‘mastered’ the art of motivating and energizing people via public speaking.  To compensate, I brought in speakers that had a great motivating and energizing presence and then I would reiterate their points and lead by example to energize people in my organization.
  7. Mentoring/Coaching – Mentoring is a skill and quality seen in the most successful people and careers.  It is not only valuable to the person being mentored, but in many ways is as valuable to the mentor.  Put some gratitude in your attitude and help others develop their skills by mentoring and coaching them.

How many people skills are you proficient or a ‘master’?













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Habits for a Successful Career – Habit #6

Understand the Business

Understand the Business










Habits of a Successful Career

Habit #6 – Understand the ‘Business’

In understanding how things operate, you need to know what makes them tick – their ‘gears’.  This analogy is the same for all organizations and business ventures.  Most people’s careers are associated with business ventures: small, medium, or large.  These ventures can be for-profit, non-profit, or public service.  No matter what your position/career, consistently successful people must have, at a minimum, a good working knowledge of the breadth and depth of their business venture.  Of course, they have a greater depth of knowledge in their chosen professional/career area, but they also know all of the business ‘gears’, and interactions with each other.  Go for breadth of knowledge, then depth, of the ‘gears’ outside of your area.  Habit #4, Passion for Learning, complements Habit #6.  Continually learn and expand your knowledge in the business areas including, but not limited to:

  • Industry and Competitors
  • Business Model and Business Units
  • Economics and Key Performance Indicators
  • Products and/or Services
  • Business Processes
  • Technology and Systems
  • Accounting, Budgeting (capital and operating), and Financials
  • Sales and Customers
  • Critical Projects and Initiatives
  • Organization Chart and Key Leaders


This knowledge will make you more valuable inside and outside of your company.





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Habits for a Successful Career – Habit #5

Put Gratitude in Your Attitude

Put Gratitude in Your Attitude


Habits of a Successful Career

Habit #5 – Put Some Gratitude in Your Attitude

Successful people are consistently enthusiastic and energetic, and their attitude is contagious.  Others seek out, and want to work with people with this attitude. Pessimistic people can drain the entire energy out of a team or organization.  Pick the people you are close with cautiously, and cultivate others showing gratitude in their attitude as team members, colleagues, mentors, coaches, etc.

People with this attitude also look at the ‘glass as half full’, and have what Stephen Covey called an ‘abundance mentality’.  Some companies, like Southwest Airlines, boast that they ‘hire for attitude and train for skills’.

Remember no matter how much success a person achieves: (1) never take yourself too seriously; (2) be a team player; (3) have fun; and (4) celebrate other’s successes.


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Habits For a Successful Career – Habit #4

Passion for Learning

Passion for Learning


Habits for a Successful Career

Habit #4 – Develop a Passion for Learning

After enduring four or more years of college, most people are ecstatic to get out in the ‘real world’ – and stop studying.  Does this sound familiar?  If so, you are in for a HUGE surprise.  A successful career requires people to recognize that learning is a journey, not a destination.  A passion for learning is a prerequisite for Habit #2 – Be Proactive and Adapt to Change and Habit #3 – Build Trust and Credibility.  Continue improving/mastering knowledge and skills in a variety of areas including:


  • Current Events
  • Technology
  • Selling and Negotiation
  • Business/Industry
  • Project Management
  • Management
  • Communication
  • Leadership


Update your goals annually with at least two areas for focused, continued learning and education.  In addition, teaching others is a part of the learning experience.

Current update for Habit #4:  Great article on “The Best Investment You Can Make” -



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Habits for a Successful Career – Habit #3


Trust and Credibility


Habits for a Successful Career

Habit #3 – Build Trust and Credibility

“I don’t trust him/her as far as I can throw him/her”.  Everyone has heard or said that phrase.  So how important is TRUST and CREDIBILITY in a successful career?  Consider this. “With high trust, success comes faster, better and at a lower cost” says David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airlines.  What professional does not want to be successful – faster, better, and fairly compensated?

I have worked in all environments – low, moderate and high trust.  When I became an C-Level executive, I knew I needed to build and cultivate trust and credibility with my people, peers and other executives.  But how does one go about building trust and establishing it as a Habit? In the 90’s I was introduced to the writings and teachings of the late Stephen R. Covey and his son Stephen R.M. Covey.  Both have written, taught and consulted on the topic of trust.  I have used their concepts and adapted them to my Life Success and Career Success Values with much success.  Many of my thoughts below are elaborations and adaptations of their writings.

Trust is not just a touchy, feely concept.  Consider this definition of trust from the Covey’s:

TRUST = One’s Character + Ones’ Competency

Trust between people is a combination of a person’s:

Character – What you say/do, How you say/do, and  Why you say/do

Competency -  What you can do, What you do and What results you get

So why is competency required to build trust?  Don’t you just need to be a ‘good person’ – high character?  Let’s look at a doctor/patient relationship.  As a patient needing open heart surgery, would you trust a doctor that had good bed side manners and high personal integrity, but was in their first year as a cardiologist, and had never performed open heart surgery?  Wouldn’t you trust a doctor more experienced/accomplished to do the surgery?  Of course!

People build trust and credibility by building ‘wealth’ in what the Covey’s call an ‘Emotional Bank Account’, EBA.  As with any bank account one can add to the account with deposits and reduce the account with withdrawals.  Here are just a few examples of deposits and withdrawals people can make.


Deposits – Thinks Straight, Talks Straight; Listens to Understand; Manages Expectations; Works to Right Wrongs; Puts Employees First, Then Customers, Then Stockholders; Promotes Win/Win Decisions

Withdrawals -  Shows Disrespect; Listens to Respond; Does Not Trust Others; Talks Behind People’s Backs; Avoids Conflict; Talks the Talk, Does Not Walk the Walk; Shows Intolerance/Inflexibility


Deposits – Is Experienced/Accomplished; Keeps Commitments; Delivers Results; Manages Risks; Solves Root Cause of Problems; Promotes Continuous Improvements; Admits When Wrong or Does Not Know; Demonstrates Leadership

Withdrawals – Does Not Hold People Accountable; Makes Excuses; Blames Others; Does Not Take Responsibility; Sells Poor Ideas; Does Not Understand the Business; Does Not Measure Success; Is Reactive versus Proactive; Does Not Align with Business

So how can you objectively measure your EBA with colleagues? I use the Trust Quotient, TQ:

TQ = EBA Deposits / (EBA Withdrawals * 2.75)

That’s right – withdrawals are more expensive than a single deposit.  So you need almost 3 deposits to make up for a single withdrawal.


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