April 23, 2008
News & Opinion: Excerpt from Job Spa
"What follows is a twelve-week guide to build professional skills, get refreshed, and explore new paths. Read one chapter per week. Each week has a theme. There will be specific goals to accomplish, skills to practice, and questions to ponder."You may remember the Sindells from their previous book, Sink or Swim. If you've been following what we do for awhile now, you may even remember them guest-posting on our daily blog in May and June of 2006 when that book was released. If you liked that book as much as we did, you'll love their sophomore effort as well. "Hi, my name is Charlie. I have been with my current employer for almost four years. During this time I have changed jobs a couple of times, and luckily these changes have worked out. The first change was the result of a new company initiative that my manager led. The second change was the result of a reorganization of the company. That was a pretty nerve-racking time. We knew changes were going to take place, including layoffs. The whole department went into this strange mood. Luckily when the dust finally settled I still had a job--albeit a different one. "If someone asked me how I see myself and my career, the word that pops up is 'passive.' I do my job--it's fine, but that's it. At the same time I find myself bored. I want to be excited. I want to be interested in my job. I don't think my company gets that I have a lot to offer. Admittedly, I haven't taken extra initiative either because I am still not clear on what is in it for me." Welcome to Week One!
Job Spa is your opportunity to review, refresh, and get focused on what you want and need to do in order to triumph at work. Over the next twelve weeks, give yourself an opportunity that few people allow themselves. Focus on yourself and your success at work. The great thing about Job Spa is that your spa experience takes place on the job as part of your job. Why take a Job Spa? Let's think about the stats. You spend eight hours a day at work (if not more). That means you spend at least a third of your adult lifetime working. That's a significant amount of time. Why not make the most of it? Starting in the 1950s, research and variations of this initial research on the meaning of work posed the question: "Would you stop working if you won the lottery or inherited a substantial amount of money?" Over the course of time and even during shifts of social influences, more than 70 percent of people still state that they would continue working (R. Snir and I. Harpaz. "To Work or Not to Work: Non-Financial Employment Commitment and the Social Desirability Bias," Journal of Social Psychology, 2002, pp. 635-644). Surprisingly, according to a 2004 Gallup poll, more than 70 percent of people are disengaged from their job. This disconnect between data underlies the tension that most of us have between the desire to draw fulfillment from our jobs and the challenges to achieving that fulfillment. Despite the significance that our jobs play in our lives, most people spend their professional lives meandering from job to job, experience one or multiple careers, and, if they are lucky, end up someplace they want to be. The rewards are too great and the consequences too dire to leave professional fulfillment to luck. Moving from luck to taking action requires choosing to commit to your success. Committing to your success will help you get re-energized about existing work and help you see the potential in yet-to-be identified opportunities. This is your chance to significantly change how you perceive your job and future. How to Use This Book
Job Spa follows a week-by-week process for taking the right actions, developing skills, and getting what you want from your job. The skills that you will focus on deploying are universal to professional success. You may believe you already know and do these skills. Whether you are new to your career or a veteran, we challenge you to further improve your skills. Let's be honest, you may know these skills, but do you do them, do them well, and do them consistently? Read one chapter each week, and practice and apply what you are learning on the job as part of your job. At the end of each section are Job Spa Bonus Challenges to help you apply what you are reading. Friendly word of advice: If you are not ready to commit to your success, then you will need to reschedule your Job Spa. Like any important decision, getting the most from your Job Spa requires making the commitment and sticking to it. Are you are ready at this time to commit to your success? This commitment will be the foundation for your perspective, attitude, and behaviors over the next twelve weeks. Job Spa will support and guide you to practice new skills and behaviors that will take you on the path to professional renewal.
The first step is to make the choice and set the goal to get engaged with your job. Here's our challenge to you: For the next twelve weeks, test out a new perspective. This might be easy or challenging, depending on your work environment, history, or outlook. Whatever the case, in order to make the most of your Job Spa, you will need to let go of what might be holding you back and take on a new angle. This is your time and opportunity for change. To make the most of this opportunity, you will need to be completely present, open-minded, and focused on your success. Engagement means you will walk down the corporate hallways with the following attitude: “I am 100 percent committed to my success. When you make this attitude shift, you start to see your work differently and the opportunities within it. You are intentionally crossing a threshold by making this commitment. Here's what this means:
The right attitude is the foundation for the right behaviors. Now that your old attitude has been exfoliated revealing a fresh commitment, let's make sure your behaviors reinforce your new glow. Over the next twelve weeks, try the following set of behaviors on for size: Giving 100 percent to your job means that you are committed to giving as much as you can to your job. The behaviors that embody giving 100 percent can take many forms: making your current projects an even bigger success, taking extra initiative, reaching out to coworkers, looking for opportunities to improve your performance, or initiating new projects. Discover what giving 100 percent means to you. Taking 100 percent from your job requires that you are clear on what you need in return for what you give. Beyond a paycheck and benefits, define what you need in return for your hard work. This might include building skills, establishing greater work/life balance, or perhaps a promotion. What kinds of projects would you like to work on? What kind of relationships do you want to have with coworkers? What opportunities would be fun and stimulating if you were to partner with another function in your company? Do you need more flexible work hours? Discover what taking 100 percent means to you. Listed in the following chart are examples of giving and taking from your job. Consider how much you currently give and what you currently take. Determine what you need to do to create equity.
Coinciding with your 100 Percent Commitment, it is helpful to consider the big picture: What is the professional legacy you want to build? A professional legacy is the combination of intentional impact that you want to create in each of your jobs and the experience you want to take with you. Your professional legacy can take many forms such as the creation of a new program, mentoring or teaching others, or finding and implementing a better way of doing something. Understanding the professional legacy you want to create will help strengthen your commitment and clarify your Job Spa goals. Knowing the legacy that you want to create in your company provides focus and motivation. Your work has a fundamentally deeper meaning because you are clear on how it relates to what you want to create. Define and create your professional legacy to reflect what is unique about who you are, what you know, what you want to be known for, and how you want to be remembered. Write down your 100 Percent Commitment Equation for what you want to give and what you want to take. Gleaning as much as you can from your Job Spa requires that you take a closer look at how you currently exercise your time skills. Most important, the next twelve weeks will require that you make time for your success. Clear the distractions and make way for the new you. Time Is on Your Side
Your Job Spa program requires focus. Effectively manage your time so you can focus. In order to support your 100 Percent Commitment, take an inventory of your at-work and outside-work activities. Boot those that no longer support your trajectory. While success starts with the right attitude, it can be easily thwarted when there are too many distractions. Purge excess distractions or put them aside while you are going through your Job Spa. We only have so much time and capacity. In your time away from work, consider spending less time watching homemade stunt videos on the Web, searching obscure blogs on lint collection techniques, and even ending the psychology experiment called "being friends with your ex." Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep. Maintain that exercise regime. Eat foods that will give you nourishment and energy. Give yourself every opportunity to stay focused in the next twelve weeks on your career success. Or not. You may find yourself destitute on a dirty, windswept street corner scratching your unwashed scalp and wishing you had taken that Job Spa book more seriously. Do you really want to risk it? We didn't think so. On the job, identify activities that waste your time (aside from all those staff and project meetings that keep showing up on your calendar) and actions that can maximize your time. You're probably thinking, "But it's all a waste of time." Now, now, we've all been there before: contemplating the meaning of fingernails as John and Sharon from accounting regale you with their Sarbanes-Oxley compliance triumphs on a three-hour conference call. Think about how much time you can maximize by taking the initiative to create meeting agendas, sticking to the agenda and time frame, prioritizing what work needs to get done immediately, and staying focused. Beginning in this first week, create and maintain a strict calendar and task list. If you already do this, fantastic! Prioritize your existing work and manage your calendar with the discipline of a nun. Seriously, you will want to make sure that you are making time to not only read this book but also work through the various activities that go along with achieving Job Spa success. The things you will be doing as part of your Job Spa experience should already be part of your job. Only now, you are doing these things because they have more significance. They directly support your 100 Percent Commitment. Name the one thing that you will do to create more time for your Job Spa success. As mentioned, half of the commitment you will make as part of your Job Spa is defining what you want to contribute to your job. Committing to your success requires more than good intentions. It requires understanding the skills, knowledge, perspectives, and experiences you contribute to your team and company. In order to give 100 percent to your job, you must know what you are capable of giving. Me, Me, Me
It's all about you! However, your coworkers seem to miss this very important point. Do they know what you can and do contribute? If they don't (because you are not one to boast), here's your opportunity to get clear on why you are amazing. The first step to making your contribution is defining your knowledge, skills, and perspective. Think of your knowledge as your set of corporate fingerprints. No matter your age, education, or years in your profession, you have a combination of knowledge and perspective that is unique. Most of us take for granted the plethora of information that resides in our heads. It is easy to be unaware of what you know. It is time to look at what is really going on in that great big brain of yours. Start by reviewing the following five questions: 1. Skills: What am I good at? 2. Knowledge: What do I know (education, training, experience, etc.)? 3. Resource: When and why do people come to me for information? 4. Perspective: What makes my perspective unique from others? 5. Personality: What are my unique personality traits that differentiate me (amiable, responsible, small ego, etc.)? Ask yourself these questions, and let them marinate for a while. Some answers may come quickly, and others will take more time. Even if you are relatively new to your profession, you still have a unique perspective that sets you apart from everyone else. Understand the knowledge and skills you have to effectively give and take 100 percent. Create a personal knowledge list based on the five questions. Team player ... so you've heard the term a million times. It might even be posted on the conference room walls, put in your evaluation, or even on your security access badge. It's often talked about and rarely witnessed. The elusive team player is a difficult species to track. Every corporate handbook talks about how important it is to be a team player. In reality the team player ethos rarely manifests itself in a consistent manner. Luckily with the help of your Job Spa, you are going to change all that. You are going to become a world-class team player. Before you roll your eyes and begin to feel woozy, consider the following: Being a team player is a perfect expression of your 100 Percent Commitment: to give as much as you can and take as much as you can. Being a team player is actually quite easy; just think collaboration, make group or project objectives a priority, and look for ways to help your coworkers. Don't worry, there is no need to carry a set of pom-poms and recite the company cheer at the start of every meeting. Being a team player is quite simply an attitude and set of behaviors that make collaboration a reality. Your team player attitude also forms the basis for whether someone wants to work with you. The laws of reciprocity state that if you are not a team player, you will not likely encounter other team players. You can't make the most of your job by being a pariah. Wouldn't it be great if your reputation as a team player spread throughout the company? Imagine being so popular and in demand that you could cherry-pick your projects. Team Player Skills in Action
Let's say at your next staff meeting big Bob gives a project status report. You observe that Bob is missing some data that you just so happen to have. Which one of the following do you do? 1. Lean back, smile to yourself, and think, "How could Bob miss such obvious information?" (Tempting, but not team player-esque.) 2. Ask Bob a question that highlights the fact that he missed this data. (Sure, if you wanted to practice your grilling techniques and watch big Bob sweat.) 3. Let Bob know that you think you have some information that can help his project. (Yes, put aside your sadistic musings and throw Bob a bone. You'll feel happy, he'll appreciate your help, and your coworkers will think you're not such a jerk after all.) If you picked number 3, you are well on your way! There are two main components of being a team player: collaboration and coaching. Collaboration entails working well with others, understanding shared needs and objectives, and working to ensure that everyone succeeds. Coaching involves helping others by providing your specific knowledge, insight, or expertise. Later chapters present more information and instructions on how and when to practice these skills. In the meantime, notice where there are opportunities to step up. If you're not willing to contribute and lend a helping hand, you are not committed to your own success. Remember the laws of reciprocity, if your team succeeds, you succeed. Identify your favorite team experience and what you learned. Welcome to your first visit to your Image Salon. Before deciding between aromatherapy, shiatsu, or psychotically deep-tissue massage from Olga the weightlifter, you will probably consider the location and level of your aches and pains. Similarly, start your Job Spa by diagnosing specific areas of professional aches and pains. Effective diagnosis involves gathering observations from your manager and a few trusted coworkers. Reality: It's Not Just for Breakfast Anymore
Let's end this ongoing debate about reality versus perception once and for all. It doesn't matter if it's just someone else's perception. For that person, that perception is their reality. To support the shifts you want to make as part of your Job Spa, ask, "How do others really experience me?" As part of committing to your success, we asked you to gauge your own perception of how you give and take 100 percent. Now it's time to compare your perception with those of others. To ensure you are on the right track to success, it is important to determine how much of your perception is aligned with that of your manager and coworkers. It's easy to go through the motions of work without realizing how others perceive you. You will not be able to make the most of your workplace if your perception is out of whack. Professional fulfillment will be elusive if you think you have expert communication skills, get your work done early, and deliver quality results, when others think that you don't communicate clearly, hand in your work late, and leave out important details in your projects and assignments. As you set your sights on success, confirm with others that your self-perception matches theirs. The best way to ascertain this information is to ask for feedback. Let Me Give You Some Feedback
Like a dunk into the cold pool after sitting in a steamy sauna, feedback can be quite a rush. No matter how you feel about receiving and giving feedback, this information is critical to your development and long-term success. Feedback is also imperative to starting and making the most of your Job Spa experience. Keep in mind that asking for feedback does not need to be like formal psychological analysis. You are not asking for information from your coworkers on why they think your mom stopped mashing your carrots when you were three years old or what they think of your moth collection. Your objective is to shine the light on your workplace reality and identify the opportunities to align how you want to be perceived with how others perceive you. Keep it professional, workplace focused, and constructive. Who and What to Ask
Center your query on two key audiences: Your boss and two or three trusted colleagues. Focus your inquiry on the following areas: your 100 Percent Commitment and your Job Spa skills. Gather your feedback either in person or over the phone. You will want the opportunity to ask for clarification or explore additional questions. Use these questions to start your conversation or create your own: 100 PERCENT COMMITMENT QUESITONS: 1. Attitude: What is your experience of my attitude at work? 2. Give: How am I currently contributing to the team and company? How do you think I can contribute more to the team or company? 3. Take: Am I making the most of the opportunities around me? Is there anything I should speak up and ask for that I have not articulated? JOB SPA SKILL QUESTIONS: 1. Goals: Do I set effective and realistic goals? 2. Time: Do I deliver my projects on time? Effectively manage my time? 3. Knowledge: Do I effectively contribute what I know? Am I open to learning? 4. Team Player: Do others like to collaborate with me? Am I helpful to others? 5. Image: What is my reputation in the department? Do I effectively communicate? Am I seen as professional? Ask these questions, and get straight answers. This information is critical to building a foundation for your success in the land of reality. If people ask why you are gathering this information, let them know you are starting a book called Job Spa that is helping you get professionally refreshed. Gathering their input is part of the beginning steps. Feedback from Your Manager
Aside from the fact that your manager is your world-of-work higher power, he or she has probably been watching you. Your manager can provide beneficial insight on your performance and what you can do to improve your game. Even if your manager has not been amazingly attentive, she still holds the keys to your success come review time. Asking your manager for feedback communicates that you take your job and career seriously. Getting feedback does not have to be a big scary process. Your standing meeting with your manager is the perfect setting in which to gather this information. If you don't have regularly scheduled meetings, set up some time for the conversation. This meeting is important to start your Job Spa off on the right foot. Make it a priority. Keep the conversation as informal as needed. This is not your annual review conversation. You can simply say that you have been thinking about your job and you are interested in making sure that you are doing everything that you can to be successful in your role. Or you can say you started reading a book called Job Spa that is helping strengthen your professional skills. "This is my first week in the book, so I'd like to make sure that I am meeting your expectations and that I understand any opportunities to improve" (or something to that effect). We can hear you thinking, "What if my boss is vague and tells me I'm doing fine?" While it's better to hear that you are doing "fine" versus "not good," it does not necessarily help you to determine your strengths or opportunities for development. If you are unclear on what doing "fine" entails, probe a little bit more and ask what exactly she thinks is going well. What skills do you contribute to the group, and where can you utilize those skills on other projects down the road? In addition, ask if there is anything she recommends you do differently. Don't push it if she comes back with another vague answer. If you press too much, you may start to look insecure. Ask the question once, and see what you get. Use the feedback your manager provides to confirm what you do well and identify opportunities for further development. In future, ask for feedback regularly. At first, you may feel a little funny and a bit vulnerable asking someone to comment on how she or he thinks you are doing. After a few times, it will feel like a normal part of your job. Don't be a mushroom, live in darkness, and hope that what you think matches up with reality. Confirm your hopes by shining some light on your assumptions, and get yourself some well-deserved feedback. Record the highlights (strengths and areas for development) of what you hear. Keep these items on your radar screen as you work through your Job Spa. Feedback from Your Teammates
Your teammates are a great source of information. Identify a few individuals with whom you are comfortable. Schedule a few minutes with them to review your feedback questions. Let them know you are working through this Job Spa book, and their feedback is really important to you. Don't be surprised if the feedback you get back is more general than your manager's feedback. This may include, "You’re doing great," or "Everyone seems to like you." Follow up with clarifying questions or get some examples. For instance, a follow up to "you’re doing great" would be, "Is there something specific in what I'm doing that's great? I want to make sure to keep doing that." Similarly, a response to "I guess things are okay for the most part" would be, "What things could be better so that things are consistently okay or even great?" If You Really Must Know ...
The most important thing about asking for feedback from teammates is to ensure that there isn't some glaring behavior that you are missing that is annoying people to death. Although it might be a challenge to hear how your habit of scratching your head is making the team absolutely crazy (and it turns out that your nickname is "itchy"), it is more important to live in reality. Conclude by thanking the person for giving you feedback. Feedback can be tough to provide but imagine the sense of relief you’ll feel when you know you're doing something well or know how to be more effective. How to Ask
When requesting feedback, keep in mind these three rules: 1. Ask about a specific event or behavior. For example, "Bruce, how do you think I am doing regarding meeting our project deadlines? Are there any improvements or changes that I could make to be more effective?" 2. Do not argue with the person giving feedback. Instead, ask for specific examples of behaviors you displayed, others' reactions, as well as recommendations for what you can do differently in the future. For example, "I really appreciate your feedback Bruce. I want to make sure that I understand the specific things that I can change. Will you give me an example of how I could have done a better job of setting expectations for completing my work?" 3. Say thank-you. Giving feedback is not easy for others. It can be perceived as risky for those who are concerned about upsetting you or sparking retaliation. Since we're discussing the rules for asking for feedback, here are things to keep in mind if and when you are asked for feedback: 1. Get permission: Make sure you have permission to share. If you are taking the initiative to provide feedback without being prompted, asking permission is important to determine if this is a good time to share your observations. This puts the other person in control of the discussion and reduces defensiveness. For example, "I've been noticing something I want to share ..." When there’s explicit agreement to provide feedback, you will increase the person's ability to listen and learn from your feedback. 2. Make your motives clear: Be clear about why you are giving feedback. Do not push your own agenda. Be explicit that you are giving feedback based on good intent. Adopt a caring attitude. Your language and words will follow. For example, "I'm sharing this because I think it will be helpful ..." 3. Be specific: Describe the person's behavior, actions, and words precisely and accurately. Compare these comments: "Jane, you clearly don't like how I run our meetings. You don't make any suggestions at all. You are always distracted and not engaged.” It's easy to see how this statement (while possibly true) would make Jane defensive and angry. Instead, be more specific: "Jane, I noticed in the meeting that you offered one comment and on a few occasions checked your e-mail. I'm wondering if everything's okay." This is a more accurate statement about someone's behavior. The statement in no way judges Jane but simply describes your observations and asks her for her insights instead of drawing a conclusion about her intent. 4. Be timely: The closer the feedback occurs to the actual event, the easier it will be for people to remember what they did and adjust their behavior in the future. 5. Regularity: Establish a track record of providing feedback. This gives you more credibility when the going gets really tough and you have to deliver feedback that's not easy on the ears or ego. Energy in Motion
Is it enough to just collect information from your manager and coworkers? Of course not! Getting the information is only the first step. It's time to review and act upon what you have learned. As part of your commitment to your success, challenge yourself to take what you hear and set a goal of improving two to three things. Seriously consider any information you received regarding people's perception of your attitude toward work, the company, and the team. Demonstrate to the people around you that you are serious about your Job Spa success. In addition to your manager, name two to three coworkers from whom you will ask for feedback. Put It All Together Wow! What an amazing first week with Job Spa. This was intensely rejuvenating and even a cleansing experience. You are off to a great start! You got clear on what it means to be committed to your success, and darn it, you are committed! Now it is time to put ideas into action. The best way to learn is by doing. Go through your week with your newfound attitude. See how your work world looks different through your new commitment lens. Reconnect with coworkers. This is your opportunity to practice your feedback skills. Get valuable information from coworkers about what you bring to the table and what you can do to be even more effective on the job. Here is your calendar for the week. Plug in what you need to do to get rejuvenated and committed to your success! Before you get ready for a well-deserved weekend, think back on this week. What went well? What did you learn? What do you want to work on or accomplish next week? Congratulations on completing your first Job Spa week! Take yourself to lunch at your favorite spot.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.