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Blog Career strategy Job performance

How to deal with office politics and emerge as a true leader

Office politics is everywhere: a big company, medium-sized company, or a small company. And this is to across industries and geographies.

You can’t ignore office politics

Companies are made up of human beings. And where there are human beings, there will always be politics. Will the future world of AI and robots have zero politics? That would be a rich discussion for another time.

You can choose to participate in office politics or you can choose to stay away from it. But one thing you cannot do is ignore it.

Therefore, office politics is here to stay. Here is how can you deal with office politics and address politics in a very professional way and emerge as a leader.

Show leadership by keeping yourself above politics

By staying above the office politics area, you can demonstrate that you are really about leading rather than following.

  • You absolutely should demonstrate that you are an objective leader
  • If people around you are speaking negatively about a person or a project or a team, stay away from it
  • If the conversation is turning negative, figure out how to move it in a positive direction

Political issues = controversial, thorny issues

In spite of taking the high road, there will likely be controversial and thorny. And these areas can’t be sidestepped, they have to be addressed.

Here are some ways to bring objectivity and leadership when you are dealing with political topics in the office.

#1 Approach it from a customer’s lens

Here’s the approach that you can use to help you and your team to figure the right thing to do” what is the customer perspective on this topic? The customer’s always right. Customers are the reason your company is in business.

Having a customer’s perspective and getting an understanding of how this topic affects customers is a great way to get above office politics.

#2 Data is your friend

A great way to be objective and clear about a controversial topic is to make data and facts your friend. So, whenever you’re dealing with politics, whenever you’re dealing with gossip, whenever you’re dealing with posturing from other people, think about how can you make your communication clear and fact-based. Because making data and fact part of your DNA will really help you get above office politics and put yourself above hearsay, put yourself above gossip.

Always ask yourself, “What’s the right thing to do given these datapoints and facts?”

#3 Take the “whole company” perspective

Now that you’ve taken the customer perspective, now take the whole company perspective and see what’s the right thing to do for the entire company

Many times, leaders might be optimizing a decision to better suit a specific function within a company. That might come at the expense of another function in the company which destroys value.

Customer first, then it’s company, and then it’s your immediate function or your immediate team. But by having the most data and the most facts with you, you can rise above office politics and you can rise above all of the gossip and the innuendo that goes on by communicating facts.

Building your personal brand above office politics

Here’s the thing that will emerge as you move out of office politics and you emerge as the fact-based, objective leader: you will be creating a great personal brand. Your personal brand will get a lot of steroids the more you rely on data, the more you rely on facts.

That’s the way you can start positioning yourself to the next level as well. So, you’re doing a double whammy here. Number one is you are removing yourself from office politics, which, in itself, is a great thing, but then you’re starting to build your personal branding, which will help your trajectory and your organization.

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Blog Career hacks Career strategy Job performance

Take your job performance to the next level with these four steps (+bonus material) to

The average job performance review process creates more negativity than a positive work environment. There are multiple reasons for that and mismatch in expectations is one of them.

But you are here to be a CareerTiger, not just another ordinary clock-punching employee.

So here four steps to take your job performance to the next level. Plus a bonus step. Yes, there is a free prize inside.

Fundamental issues with job performance and what can we learn from them

The issue with job performance, or lower job performance, is because many people do not understand what’s expected of them in their job. In other words, many people who are in their jobs, they don’t know what their manager or their organization is expecting from them in that job. If you don’t know what that expectation is, then you won’t be able to perform according to that expectation. So, if you are not performing to that expectation, guess what? According to your manager and the rest of your organization, you are performing below par.

Therefore, it’s critical to understand what the right expectation is for your job and for your role. To do that and to exceed performance in your job, here are the four steps (+bonus) that I would recommend for you to go through.

#1 Understand expectations of your job role

The first step is to understand. Write down on a piece of paper … Don’t type, don’t whiteboard, just write down on a piece of paper what is expected of you in this role. What are your responsibilities? How will you be measured in this job? Having that information on a single sheet of paper is probably the most important thing you could do. So, again, the first step is to take a sheet of paper and understand your role in the organization, which is what are your responsibilities, and how will you be measured? That’s the first understanding step that you ever take. Write it down on a piece of paper.

#2 Review job expectations with your manager

The next one is … It’s likely difficult, but it’s doable. Once you understand the expectations of your role, the next step is for you to go to your boss and say, “You know, I’ve been in this role for some time. I would like to make sure I understand these expectations really clearly,” and you sit down with your manager and you go through your understanding of the role. You might actually be surprised that there might be differences between what you think your role is and what your manager thinks your role is, and maybe your peers or other execs in the company think your role is.

Therefore, it’s really important to align with your manager on expectations of your role

  • Sit down with your manager
  • Review the expectations of your role
  • Know how you’re going to be measured

Having a hard conversation about expectations is a thousand times better than years of mismatched expectations and poor job performance reviews.

#3 Reset expectations

Here’s the interesting part: you absolutely can reset some of those expectations.

Do your homework about your responsibilities for the role, and reset some of those expectations with your boss. Why is that important? Because your boss, your manager, the rest of the organization may not know enough details about your role versus others’ roles, and they may be thinking you are responsible for all of these things. So, this is a good opportunity for you to reset their expectations.

This could be a challenging or painful conversation. But having this conversation is a thousand times better than years of mismatched expectations and poor job performance reviews.

#4 Amp up your performance

Once you know the expectations of your role and you’ve reset those expectations and be on the same page with your manager and the rest of the organization, it is time for your performance to shine.

There is no question about that. There is no shortcut to hard work. You have to perform. But here’s the deal, as you perform, you will do much better now than prior years or prior months or prior time because you understand what’s expected of you; you understand what are your metrics, how are you going to be measured in the organization.

#5 (Bonus) Exceeding expectations

So, now you know what’s expected, and now you’re going to perform and exceed those expectations, which is the next part: exceeding those expectations. You know what’s expected and you continue to exceed those expectations. That’s how you go from a mediocre performer in the company because you do not know what’s expected of you, and now you go to an outstanding performer in the company because you know what’s expected of you, you perform, and you exceed. Let me give you an example of salespeople. You may have met many, many salespeople in your life, but the best salespeople in the business always meet or exceed their sales goal. You know why that is? That is because they have negotiated the sales number that they are responsible for, and they always exceed that number by performance.

As you outperform in this role, the bonus step for you as follows. Now you’re showing inward that you are performing at the next level. Step number five is to show outward that you are really performing at the next level. Show it in your body language and the way you come across. So, for example, as you’re outperforming, you need to make sure your body language is reflecting your performance. I.e., sit up straight, pay attention, have a presence in your interactions with your peers, with your teams, with your upper management.

Summary: Understand expectations, reset them with your boss, perform; there is no shortcut to hard work. You have to perform. And as you perform, you’ll perform much better because now you know how are you going to be measured, what’s expected of you, and you exceed those expectations.

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Blog Skills

Five great reasons why becoming a parent helps you to become a better leader

Parenting is a significant milestone for everyone. Becoming a parent is such a special time in your life. When you become a parent, it’s a major milestone event.

And for some us, it might even create a break in career. Many times, it’s more challenging for women, rather than men.

At the same time, it creates many advantages. Becoming a parent can be helpful from a career perspective. Let me explain why.

#1 Parental leave provides an opportunity for introspection

Number on is, it helps you take stock of your career. When you just become a parent, you’re taking some time off from work; you get a chance to do some introspection and become more self-aware. Do a check-in with yourself, regarding what are you doing with your career? Whether you like your trajectory or not? Whether you like the work or not? Do you want to explore other things in your job?

#2 You (automatically) become a coach

Even if you’ve passed that milestone, and you are in parenting mode. Because, for example, you start to understand how to become a coach and a teacher. What does that mean regarding career?

Hey look, in our jobs, a lot of times, whether it’s your team, or other teams, a lot of times, you are providing coaching, and you are teaching other people. There is an art to doing that. That art, you can learn, when you have kids. Because when you’re taking care of your kids, you are providing them coaching, you are providing them some teaching.

#3 Building empathy and EQ

Working with kids, also helps you to build empathy and emotional quotient. So you start to understand things from a different perspective, and you begin to relate to that, and you start to understand how they may be thinking this way. That’s a very important thing, as you work in different areas, to build that empathy, especially in customer service. If you’re directly talking to customers or stakeholders, it’s helpful to have that empathy and EQ.

#4 Managing your time

We sure do become better managing time. When you’re taking care of your kids, there’s a lot of time, and attention that goes into that. Therefore, you have to figure out how to manage your time with the rest of things that you need to get done. This time management practice forces you to become more effective. That’s one of the perks of being a parent; you start to manage your time better.

#5 You learn how to negotiate 🙂

Then, last, but not the least, you learn how to negotiate. Kids are tough negotiators. So if you want to understand, and build that muscle of negotiation, this is an excellent opportunity for you to exercise that negotiating muscle.

Although, I must admit, many of the times, I struggle to negotiate successfully with my kids. But that’s another topic, for another day.

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Career strategy Blog

How to manage your manager: 7 unwritten rules to managing your boss

“What? I have to manage my manager?!!!”

I know managing your own manager sounds ridiculous. Even scary.

But it is very helpful for your career trajectory. Let me break it down for you.

Why should you manage your Manager?

One of the most important relationships at a job, is your relationship with your manager. In fact, a lot of times, when people quit a job, it’s usually because something went wrong in their relationship with their manager. Managing upward and managing your manager is extremely important.

One of the questions you might have is, “What do you mean managing your manager? My manager manages me. I don’t manage my manager. In fact, I can’t manage my manager!”.The fact is that that you both manage each other. That is why it is super important for you to manage your manager.

Wave Hello GIF

Let me share 7 rules that will show you how can you manage your boss better.

#1 Understanding and managing expectations

first, I would share with you, is around understanding expectations. Understanding what your manager is expecting from you, in your role, is extremely important. Because your manager is always measuring you, understanding you. Whenever you are having an interaction with your manager, she has a certain expectation of you, in your job, in your role, she is always measuring you against that.

So make sure you understand that really clearly in terms of

  • What is your manager’s opinion about your role in the team?
  • What are the key responsibilities and accountabilities?
  • What is expectation re: the performance of your role?
  • What is the expectation around your work deliverables and work products?

#2 What is your manager’s work style?

Also, understand your manager’s work style. What is her style of working? For example, does she like a lot of detail, or does not like detail? Does she like a lot of verbal communication versus written communication?

Understanding your manager’s work DNA is essential to manage your manager better.

#3 Establishing a trusted relationship with your Manager

One of the most important things for managers is to have a trusted relationship with his or her direct report. Establishing that trust-based relationship is extremely important. The way you build trust is by continuing to deliver things that are on time or before time, things that are exceeding expectations, exceeding quality that your manger is expecting from your work. That’s how you establish credibility and establish that trust with your manager.

Once you have that trusted relationship, it just becomes better for managing your manager and managing your manager’s expectations.

And that trust usually comes from putting in the work to drive the right results and showing good judgment.

#4 Minimize surprises

One of the pieces of managing that trust with your manager is also making sure there are no surprises. Most managers have this unwritten rule with their team, which is, “Please do not surprise me.”

Surprised Wait What GIF by Saturday Night Live

If you come up with unexpected situations, make sure you are providing your manager enough of a heads-up and informing her upfront, so that there are no surprises.

If you at some point in time, unfortunately, create a surprise for your manager then it is time to manage it proactively. It means it is time for you to do ‘damage control’ and make sure that this doesn’t happen again.  If an issue happens, it is always good to get ahead of it and talk to your manager directly rather than hide it. Sooner or later she will find out and at that time, it might be an ugly surprise. Better to avoid it and be upfront about it.

#5 Clarify

It really helps to ask clarifying questions. Whether it’s about your project, or maybe a task, or what have you. Sometimes, those questions even help your manager. Look,  managers are not supposed to know everything and every single detail. So when you’re doing work, make sure you are identifying your assumptions and you’re clarifying those assumptions, by asking those clarifying questions.

#6 Look over the horizon in your manager’s best interest

One of the important things about managing your manager is also to help her see over the horizon. Give your boss a 360-degree view, based on what you see.

It is extremely important for your manager to understand that the whole picture that they may not be aware of. By providing her that complete view, it makes will make her even more successful.

Which brings me to my next point, which is look out for your manager. Help her see around corners. Help her to identify issues and opportunities in the organization. Make it crystal clear to her that you are there to make her even more successful.

Look, your manager has gotten till here because she has been successful, right?

Now, your job is to make them even more successful. Look out for your manager and she will look out for you.

That’s the way it works, it’s a two-way street. Make your manager successful, your manager will make you successful.

#7 Ask your boss for help

Then, last, but not the least, ask your manager for help. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help from your manager.

In fact, many times, it helps to establish a great working relationship with your manager.

Asking for help is actually a sign of strength, that you feel comfortable in a trust-based relationship with your boss to ask for that help.

Summary

These 7 rules are recommended to create an amazing work relationship with your manager.

Managing your manager requires you to be proactive and take care of these unwritten rules. You have to make sure you understand expectations, understand the work style of the manager, make sure there are no surprises, continue to deliver great, and look out for your her, and make your manager even more successful.

What do you think? What are some of the unwritten rules that you follow to manage your boss?

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Blog Career hacks Career strategy

How to hack your commute to get ahead in your career

Commute sucks: it eats up energy, focus and most importantly, time which leaves us with less opportunity to be productive and successful at work.

Commute also comes with variables that add to the drama. Traffic snarls. Train delays. Bad weather. Ugh.

via GIPHY

Time: our most valuable and non-renewable resource

If you work from home, hallelujah brother! Zero commute for you.

If not, then how far you from work. Everyone’s commuting these days has increased drastically: on a daily basis it might be an hour, two hours, or even God forbid three hours!

If we are spending all that time commuting, how can we take advantage of that time?

Because as you know, time is our number one non-renewable resource.

If you spend money, you can always make more money later. Buy if you spend the time, you will never ever get that time back even if you pay someone a ton of money.

Let’s look at 5 great ways to hack our commute times and invest in career building.

#1 Upgrade your knowledge

You can upgrade your knowledge during your car commute using podcasts and audiobooks.

  • Podcasts: Podcasts are generally free, you can go to iTunes or your favorite podcast location, download podcast. Some of my favorite podcasts are with Tim Ferriss who writes about productivity and business. There’s a lot of podcasts you can sample and increase your knowledge and upgrade your knowledge. Basically, you’re listening to it and you can actually take advantage of it while you’re driving, just listen to your podcast.
  • Audiobooks: you can download thousands of audiobooks on your favorite device through Audible.
  • Free audiobooks: If you’re looking for free audiobooks I would highly recommend to check out Overdrive. Overdrive connects to your local library and you can download audiobooks or even Kindle books

That’s how you can continue to enrich your knowledge and upgrade your skill set even when you are commuting.

#2 Nurture your network

This is kind of goes back to the topic about building great professional networks. When you’re driving or commuting, you can absolutely make phone calls. Picture this: you’re in the car, or at the airport and you’ve got 30+ minutes to kill.

via GIPHY

Make a phone call or two to your former colleague, someone in your network, maybe a former client of yours just to say hi, keep in touch. What a great way to take advantage of your commute while you’re keeping your network active and building your network.

#3 Make audio notes

Let’s say you’re driving, you think of a great idea. Just put an audio recording on your phone and just think through and put your ideas down in an audio note. Then, you can use that audio note later to transcribe and take down detailed notes. You capture your idea right then and there as you’re driving and you take advantage of your commute.

#4 Productivity and creativity with public transport, Uber etc

In some instances, many of you might be taking public transport where you’re not driving. Which means someone else is driving. Take advantage of that is to maybe do something on your computer: respond and clear out the email pile or create that pending presentation.

Another way would be to write detailed notes about a topic that interests you so that you can take advantage of it.

One of my favorite things to do when I’m commuting and not driving is to just open a regular notebook and write down my thoughts.

There’s something magical and special about physically writing down plans, concepts, and thoughts. That allows me to think outside of the box and get my ideas on paper. And then I can take pictures to put in my OneNote folder.

For me, that’s the best to come up with ideas and concepts for a future implementation.

#5 Hack the commute and get your exercise

Complementing or replacing the regular commute by walking is a great way to get your exercise. And you could keep listening to audiobooks or podcasts while you are walking to taking the stairs.

Getting exercise is key to getting more focus and energy at work.

So there you have it: five great ways to hack your commute and turn it into a career-transforming practice. Would you like to add some more ways to this list? I’d love to hear from you!

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Career strategy Blog

Here is how to build a great professional network in 10 easy steps; Bonus: activate and Nurture your network

How can you grow your professional network? First, do you think a professional network is important?

Let me reference one of my favorite quotes: your network drives your net worth. Let me repeat that. Your network drives your net worth.

Your network drives your net worth

As you grow in your career, your network is going to drive your career and your compensation. It will open doors to new opportunities and help you to create value for others. Therefore, having an active and healthy professional network is in your best interest.

#1 Build your network before you need it

You should build your network before you need it. For example, if you’re job hunting, that may not be the best time to build your network. You wish you could tap into a network that you built over time.

The best time to build a network was yesterday. The next best time is now. Let’s talk about how can you build your network now so that you can take advantage of your network down the line in your business and your career.

Concept: Automatic network building.

Automatic network building means two things: being genuine and be helpful. In other words, don’t fake yourself, just being a real friend and connect with other people. Being helpful all the time to other people. If you can do that, automatically you will grow your network. People will come to you for help or just to know you and engage with you. Automatic network building is the easiest and most sustainable way to build your network. As you help more people, your network grows.

#2 Over a period of time, perseverance matters more than personality to build a great network

Does personality matter to build your network?” For example, if I’m an extrovert or an introvert or I’m a type, this type, that type, does it matter to build a great network? The answer is no, it does not matter what kind of personality you have to build your network. We are all unique in our own way and we’ve got unique things, unique personalities, unique let’s just say advantages and disadvantages. Use your personality type the way you are, be genuine. Your personality type doesn’t really come in the way of building your network.

Yes, for some extroverts building a network in the initial comes a little bit easy. But over the long run, any person with any kind of personality can build a network.

#3 Go outside of your usual homies

via GIPHY

Another tip for building your network getting outside of your normal social circles. Get outside your comfort zone and connect with people outside your immediate circle. That allows you to get a much more diverse set of people in your network and helps you to get to know people from different backgrounds. Great way to build a more diverse and stronger network.

#4 Contribute to your network

A pretty easy and pretty simple way to build your network. Think about what is the gift that you can give others, whether it’s resources, whether it’s … You can offer to introduce someone to that person or whatever help that you can provide to that person without being asked for that help, that’s a great way to becoming a mensch, becoming someone who can really be helpful to others and that’s important.

#5 Leverage social media

As you are building this network I highly encourage you to add people to your LinkedIn. You know, and I’ve mentioned this before, I used to think that social networks are only for people that I know closely and those are the only people that should be my social network. I was wrong. The more people that are in your social network online the better off you are and the better engagement you can drive with your network and your community so every single person that you meet should be in your LinkedIn. In other words, whenever you’re meeting new people make sure you add them to your LinkedIn first and maybe Facebook and other apps later. LinkedIn is super important as you build your professional network.

#6 Community work = great friendships

Another idea about how to build your network for your career or for your business is by doing more social activities. For example, you could volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to connect with people who are on the same wavelength as you. They are there to contribute to the society and the community and that way as you’re volunteering you meet people that are more, I would say, have a similar bend of mind. They may come from different areas but they have something in common to you so volunteering is a great way to do that.

#7 Conferences and networking events

The other one is to attend conferences and networking events. In person. And you can take that to the next level by participating or speaking at one of the networking events. Public speaking is a great way to build your network, that would be another way to get involved and build your network.

#8 Tap into alumni networks

Your school or company alumni could be a *phenomenal* great source of building a network. Don’t skip any opportunity where your old compadres are getting together. It’s a time to explore future opportunities in addition to reminiscing about good old times.

Your college network, which will likely be on your college alumni website or your company’s alumni website, that’s a great way to not only build that initial network but also continue that network almost throughout your entire life. Those are the people that know you personally and will be with you for a long period of time.

#9 Extend your network with referrals

Another one is to ask for referrals from your current network. Let’s say you want to meet a prospective customer or client or just someone that you think should be in your network. Ask for a referral from your current network and create a customized introduction so that you are able to connect to that person and you’re able to, hopefully, give something before being asked and you can actually add that person to your network. That’s a way to get referrals in your network to work for you.

#10 Activating and nurturing your network

Even a small but active network is 10x more valuable than a large but inactive network.

Here are some ways to activate and nurture your network

  • Social apps
  • Texts
  • Calls
  • Good old catch up in-person

Another way to keep your network always active is to share send information or send things of value. It’s Karma: the more you can share and contribute, the more you will get in return from your network. It could be as simple as articles and updates. Or holiday cards and the occasional bottle of wine.

There you have it: ten easy ways of building a great network. Use them on a daily and weekly basis. Combine this work with a healthy dose of patience, your network will start driving your net worth higher.

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Blog Career strategy

How to become a highly paid professional

Success in the workplace is frequently determined by through terms like influence, credibility, gravitas as well as hard data like title, compensation.

Every one of us is interested in becoming a professional who’d be in demand in the industry and also, by effect, the highest paid professional in an area, domain or company.

If we were to consider just compensation as a metric, let’s look at Bloomberg’s chart that shows professions with high incomes.

Well, that’s rad.

But the question remains: how can you become the most highly paid and most in-demand professional in your area?

Let’s consider a framework to answer this question.

Professionals that are successful are often in two broad categories: athletes and experts.

Let me explain.

Top professionals athletes and experts

Athletes

An athlete is someone that is on top of the game regardless of any project or work. Usually, you can identify these people pretty quickly: these folks are successfully running projects even though they may not be close to the subject matter of the project itself. That is an interesting situation. Because here we have a strong individual contributor or manager, but at the same time, this person may not be the most knowledgeable in the team.

But an athlete can figure out how to engage with the others, create energy and drive towards results.

Athletes are in-demand because they produce results: they drive, engage, execute and create results.

Experts

Becoming a subject matter expert is another way of getting to the numero uno professional status in your area. A subject matter expert is simply a person that has deep expertise in specific areas or domains. This person is totally in command of the area, knows all the details and is supremely knowledgeable to the point where that person can be called a guru.

An expert can be highly paid and in-demand because of their authority and competency in the subject matter. Especially if that subject matter is in great demand, then compensation can really go up.

But wait, there is another category. Drumroll please…

Expert Athletes!

However, there is a third category of professionals that could be the most highly paid and the most in-demand.

This category is a combination of expert and subject matter expert; these professionals are not only great athletes on top of their game, they also have expertise in specific areas.

This creates an unbeatable combination for any company: these people deliver business results and are natural leaders.

Of all the three professional categories, Expert Athletes are the most highly paid and in-demand.

How can you become the highest paid and most in-demand professional?

The path to becoming the most highly paid professional is usually not a straight line.

You might start out as an athlete or an expert….or in many cases, neither. But by working your way towards any of these areas, you can keep learning from your environment. This learning helps you to shape yourself as an Athlete or an Expert with opportunities to demonstrate behavior in both forms.

Some folks start out as athletes, and some honestly start out with expertise. But regardless of the starting point, you have three options for becoming the highest paid and most in-demand professional: Athlete, Expert or Expert Athlete.

What is your current trajectory? Where would you like to be?