May 8, 2013, 1:35 pm
In some of the career-development workshops I offer, I ask attendees to give me their business cards. I choose one card randomly and ask the owner to raise his or her hand. Then I walk over, look the person in the eye, and say, “It’s 2:30 in the morning and I’m returning from a hiking trip in the Grand Canyon. I’m 100 miles from Tucson and my car has just broken down. I really need a ride home. Can you come and get me?”
The typical role-playing response involves significant squirming and a string of excuses. I hear about sleeping children, spouses that wouldn’t understand, challenges with night vision and suggestions that involve calling AAA. Some participants even point out that they don’t really know me. “But I have your card,” I say. “When we met, you said that I should call you anytime, and I really need you.” I end the exchange by expressing profound disappointment at the broken …
April 29, 2013, 3:18 pm
Two recognition episodes last week prompted me to consider the factors that influence who gets awards and why. The first occurred during our annual staff-awards ceremony, when the M.C. read a nomination letter for a man described as making considerable but quiet contributions in his department.
“We might call him the strong and silent type, because he doesn’t draw attention to his work,” the M.C. said. “As a result, he tends not to get the recognition he deserves.” I was happy to see that he had received such public attention and hoped he felt appreciated before the awards event.
I headed home after that ceremony and was greeted by my daughter, who proudly presented an award she had received that day. It was not a trophy, check, or certificate, but rather a yellow rubber duck that fit into the palm of her hand. She had received it as part of a high-school social-norming activity…
April 17, 2013, 1:14 pm
In the last month or so, I have observed three tragic career train wrecks. In each case, I looked on in horror and what seemed like slow motion as otherwise smart people demonstrated profound naÃ¯vetÃ© about how to navigate their careers.
As I watched the events unfold, I found myself wanting to shout, “No, no. Don’t do it!” But in each case I arrived too late to be helpful. I was able to diagnose what had caused the derailment, but I was too late to the scene to prevent the damage.
Case 1 was a situation in which a very talented person was encouraged to apply for a job she didn’t want in order to use it as leverage to increase her salary. When she succeeded in getting an offer, she turned to her current department and said, basically, “I’ve received this great new offer. What will you offer to keep me?” The response in this case was, “It would be wrong to hold you back; best of…
April 4, 2013, 1:31 pm
Chronicle readers have such interesting lives, and when one of them wrote to me recently with a subject line that read, “Ethical Dilemma! Can You Help?,” I couldn’t wait to hear more.
The short version of the story went like this: “We have found a perfect candidate. Her qualifications far exceeded any of the competition. Her job talk was riveting. We had her meet with stakeholders all over campus, and after almost every encounter, people wrote notes or whispered various forms of, ‘Where did you find her?,’ and ‘She is clearly the one.‘ There is only one problem; several of us will feel terribly guilty if she comes. Our department is a snake pit, and this woman will come to hate it as much as we do. We need her, but it would be cruel to encourage her to come.”
That is an ethical dilemma. So, what to do?
As we all know, nasty organizations are usually made better only when the…
March 25, 2013, 12:14 pm
I was very excited about attending a professional meeting recently, as one of the key attractions was to be a session with a big-name guy who is notable, prominent, and controversial. My colleagues were similarly eager to hear him speak, and on the morning of his talk everyone paid close attention as the meeting chair announced, “I am very pleased to introduce. … ”
The introduction began with an overview of big-name guy’s most recent and controversial accomplishments. After about a minute and a half, his educational background and activities were detailed. This information was followed by a list of additional professional accomplishments that had occurred during the course of his career. Next, we were treated to a list of big-name guy’s many awards, which were, of course, extensive. Important information about the big-name guy’s family members and their remarkable achievements was…
March 14, 2013, 1:21 pm
I love Tucson in March for many reasons, chief among them the annual Tucson Festival of Books that our campus hosts each year. It’s an extraordinary community event attended by more than 450 authors and 100,000 readers, and even the parking is free! With just a couple of days and hundreds of authors, the annual literary smorgasbord forces difficult choices, but leaves us all feeling inspired and “in the know.” It isn’t every day that we get to hang out with people we read about in Kirkus Reviews and The New York Times Book Review.
Much of the festival is organized into hour blocks in which authors talk about their work. They also answer questions about their lives and the process they use to move from concept to publication. I always appreciate authors’ willingness to speak honestly and frankly, and this year I was particularly struck by the theme of “rejected rejection” expressed by …
March 6, 2013, 1:07 pm
Inspiration for career advice can emerge from the most unusual places. This week it comes from Rome, where cardinals from around the world have convened to select the next pope.
The centuries-old selection process begins once the cardinals are locked inside the Sistine Chapel and ends with a plume of white smoke, the signal that a new pope has been chosen. Each cardinal disguises his handwriting as he writes the name of a colleague on a ballot. He folds it, carries it to the altar, and places it on a plate, which is then tipped so that the ballot falls into a large chalice. Votes from the chalice are counted and announced, and the process continues over and over again until one candidate receives two thirds of the votes. While no rule forbids a cardinal from lobbying for votes or even writing down his own name, the sin of pride makes such actions unseemly.
We might want to remember…
February 28, 2013, 1:19 pm
Last week I cited a management book that gave me some helpful perspectives on the insidious and even unintentional ways leaders can undermine organizational effectiveness. Knowing that academic audiences often discount items from the popular press, I expected a little electronic eye-rolling and was not disappointed. Words such as “psychobabble” and “common sense” made their way into the comment boxes, just as I knew they would. The ire of some readers was apparently increased by The Chronicle’s decision to insert a screen shot of the book’s cover, which seemed to suggest that I was reviewing the readingâ€”or, worse, promoting itâ€”which I most certainly was not.
The negative reactions were interesting but not surprising, and the comments prompted me to reflect on why many of us hold such disdain for books that fly off the shelves at Barnes & Noble. Do we believe that only academics…
February 21, 2013, 1:30 pm
Are you full of big ideas and grand visions? Do you believe it is strategic to focus your time only on people who report directly to you because they are the ones who can get things done? Do you deliberately create a little instability, believing people perform best when they are slightly on edge? Can others count on you to jump in to rescue them when it looks as if they might fail?
If you answered “yes” to those questions, you and your organization may be in trouble, according to Liz Wiseman and Greg McKeown, the authors of Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.
Wiseman and McKeown differentiate between “multipliers,” who make people feel and behave brilliantly, and “diminishers,” who are basically workplace vampires that suck the life and vitality out of good people. Multipliers have high standards, expect people to succeed, and are continually rewarded with…
February 13, 2013, 11:52 am
I made some unusual New Year’s resolutions this year, and chief among them was to get more sleep. Three weeks into my new bedtime routine, I received validation in the form of a Wall Street Journal article that reported that 30 percent of American workers fail to get enough sleep, and that sleep deprivation costs American organizations billions in lost productivity. It felt good to have The Wall Street Journal tell me that I should push my snooze button. Then, a week later I happened upon a TED talk in which Arianna Huffington suggested that getting more sleep could revolutionize our economic and political systems. She encouraged us all to sleep our way to topâ€”literally.
Now that I’m about six weeks into my new sleeping routine and have established a regular pattern, I’m feeling pretty excited about the results. I’m more focused, finding it easier to make decisions, and less likely …