Lack of Customer Awareness

A high level of customer awareness is critical in all situations. Here are some scenarios to avoid:

  • Driving a Hertz rental car to a meeting with an Avis custom- er. (You might also want to hide your Kia in the parking lot, if your meeting is with Ford.)
  • Ordering a Pepsi for lunch with a client from Coca-Cola. (Although, it’s likely that the Coca-Cola people wouldn’t eat lunch in a restaurant that served Pepsi.)
  • Sending a FedEx package to your customers at UPS.
  • Wearing a Burberry scarf to a presentation at L.L. Bean.

While it may seem implausible, these scenarios happen often, especially to new professionals who haven’t yet developed their customer awareness.

From Chapter 6: Sales and Negotiation Skills

KNOW THE PLAYERS

Every organization is the sum total of its people. I cannot emphasize this enough. To know the people in your organization is to understand the organization. Know the players within your organization and your industry. These people will directly and in- directly influence your career. Study them. Connect with them. Learn from them.

Adapted from Career-ology: The Art and Science of a Successful Career, Chapter 7, Organizational Awareness

WHAT ARE THE VALUES AND CULTURE OF THE ORGANIZATION?

Discovering the values and culture of an organization is more challenging than researching its history. Values and culture are difficult to pinpoint exactly. Time spent exploring this facet of organizational awareness is well worth it. The values and culture of an organization can impact your long-term satisfaction. You are likely to be more satisfied if your organization’s values and culture are compatible with your own.

Adapted from Career-ology: The Art and Science of a Successful Career, Chapter 7, Organizational Awareness

What is your organization’s history?

Part of understanding your organization is to understand its his- tory, culture, and values. Researching the history of your organization is usually straightforward. Private organizations may have been covered by the print or online media, so look to those sources for historical information. Check public records for historical information about public companies with financial reporting requirements, government agencies, or other public entities. Research the organization itself and its leadership. e history of an organization is created every day, so pay particular attention to major events in the history of your organization such as a merger, buyout, bankruptcy, a scandal, legal action, natural disaster, or other major event (i.e., September 11, 2001). What impact, positive and negative, did the event have on the values and culture of the organization?

Look for trends, themes, and discrepancies between the organization’s history and its current operations. Is the organization maturing or is it stuck in the past? While the history of an organization is informative, it does not predict the future direction with 100 percent certainty.

Adapted from Career-ology: The Art and Science of a Successful Career, Chapter 7, Organizational Awareness

Which does your organization resemble?

Which does your organizaiton resemble? (source: Bonker's World)

It is critically important to understand how your own organization functions. Do you think that an Apple employee will have a different experience than one from Oracle, for example.

Does your organization have no discernible structure as implied by the diagram of Facebook?  Is there a very neat and tidy hierarchy like Amazon or a very complex, multi-connection structure like Google?  Or do you work in a “dog-eat-dog” organization where business units are pitted against one another for resources, customers and revenue?

As an employee, working in each of these organizations is vastly different experience.  You’d better understand the playing field– organizational intelligence is the key.

Teamwork – There is no “I”

In November of 2012, I wrote a blog post about the culture associated with Tough Mudder– the obstacle courses designed by British Special Forces to test your all around strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie (see A Muddy Corporate Culture). I also discussed the need to understand the culture of your organization.

This past November, I participated in my first GORUCK Light. Fellow Georgetown alumnus, Jason McCarthy is a Special Forces veteran and launched GORUCK events to prove the quality and durability of the rucksacks he was selling. The story of how Jason built this company is very interesting, especially for entrepreneurs (or entrepreneur-in-training). Read more

Best Advice from Leading Executives

Business Insider compiled a list of “best advice” from 22 top executives. I’ve pulled the top 10 bits of advice that apply to new professionals and summarized it here.  The full Business Insider post will provide the context for each quote and reveal who the wise sage is behind each pearl of wisdom.

  1. There’s a finite amount of time you’re going to be doing this. Do this really, really well. – Terry J. Lundgren, CEO, Macy’s
  2. Never to look back in regret but to move on to the next thing. – Richard Branson, founder and chairman, Virgin Group
  3. I see a bunch of good choices, and there’s the one that you pick and make great. – Marissa Mayer, VP, Google
  4. First, it’s good to solicit your people’s opinions before you give them yours. And second, your people will be very influenced by how you carry yourself under stress. – Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs
  5. You’ve gotta learn to listen!” – Maureen Chiquet, Global CEO, Chanel
  6. Follow my instincts and take the risk. I wanted to create a new way of looking at retail – Tory Burch, co-founder and creative director, Tory Burch
  7. Never forget Warren, you can tell a guy to go to hell tomorrow — you don’t give up the right. So just keep your mouth shut today, and see if you feel the same way tomorrow. – Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway
  8. Just remember, it’s a small business and a long life. You’re going to see all these people again. – Richard Parsons, former chairman, Citigroup
  9. Always have the courage of your convictions. Always state what’s on your mind. Follow your gut. And observe what other people are doing around you. – Joe Uva, former CEO, Univision
  10. Remember—you’ve got to make your deposits before you can make a withdrawal! – Steve Schwartzman, chairman and CEO, Blackstone Group

15 Things Successful Professionals Do: Part 3 of 3

And here’s the final installment of the 15 point list. . .

11) Persevere – You will encounter many challenges in your career.  Your response to those challenges will say more about you than your successes.

Try not.  Do, or do not.  There is no try. ~YODA, Jedi Grand Master

12) Communicate with confidence – Communication via the spoken and written word are one way to demonstrate your professional abilities.  Practice public speaking and perfect your writing skills, until you far surpass your peers—the bar is usually not that high.

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. ~Mark Twain

13) Display humility – Demonstrate humility and personal accountability in your career and you’ll never go wrong.

There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self. ~Ernest Hemingway, Author

14) Be flexible – As a recent graduate or new professional, be flexible in your career path.  Build career skills that transcend your current function, role and industry make you invaluable in the marketplace and provide more opportunities.

Change is the only constant. ~Heraclitus, Greek Philosopher

15) Make connections – Networking is a key professional skill.  If you focus on what you can do for others, networking won’t feel like a chore.  Your efforts will be rewarded in what you’ve given and what you will receive.

Dig the well before you are thirsty. ~Chinese Proverb

Four Destructive Myths Most Companies Still Live By

Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything, identifies four myths found in many organizations:

  • Myth #1: Multitasking is critical in a world of infinite demand.
  • Myth #2: A little bit of anxiety helps us perform better.
  • Myth #3: Creativity is genetically inherited, and it’s impossible to teach.
  • Myth #4: The best way to get more work done is to work longer hours.

Are these myths present in your organization?  It is easy to adopt the practices and habits of the organization in which you work– is this how you want to work?

Read the full post.

Discovering Your Organization’s Culture

Last week, we discussed the importance of understanding your organization’s culture.  In this post, we are going to provide some specific tactics for discovering the culture of an organization:

  1. What is the history of the organization?  Is it at start-up or a long-established company?  Learn how the organization began and the path it followed to get to where it is today.
  2. What significant events impacted the organization such as a merger, bankruptcy or initial public offering?  Was there a scandal involving a leader of the organization?  What about a major world event such as 9/11?  These significant events may shape or even change the culture of an organization. Read more