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Nurture positive perceptions February 9, 2009

Posted by Darth Sidious in Career Management.
3 comments

Perceptions are everything…


There is no reality, it’s only what people perceive. Perceptions are formed by what people see and hear (vs. researching the raw data). Even data is easily manipulated to manage perceptions (e.g. squishing a line chart horizontally makes the peaks and valleys look more drastic). One study showed that those who work in the office vs. telecommuter counter parts were often paid more or promoted more often because the face time affected perceptions (vs. the actual results).


That’s how Anakin Skywalker came to the dark side. The Jedi Council wouldn’t promote him to a Jedi Master, even though he was given considerable responsibility and skill wise he was in the top 5% of those on the Council itself. Although the Council’s intentions were good, Anakin perceived this as disrespect (which then made it easy for me to milk that perception and get him to wipe them all out).


So… here’s the thing. It takes months of hard work to form a positive perception, and it takes only a day to destroy it (via one bad event, e.g. missing a deadline). So once you there, you need to maintain it. This includes your perception with your teammates, boss, customers, etc…


Darth Sidious

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Improve you work efficiency by staying focused August 29, 2008

Posted by Darth Sidious in Career Management, General.
3 comments

We live in an information overloaded society. I know you earthlings have your MSN/Live Messenger, AIM, Yahoo Messenger, IRC, Twitter, FaceBook, E-Mail, BlackBerry’s, iPhones, you name it…

In the Empire we have similar technologies such as our E-Mail (short for Empire-Mail), VaderSoft Outlook, etc… It’s good to stay connected, but it makes it challenging to stay focused on large tasks and push them through.

Here’s some things you can do:

  • Put on headphones and listen to music. It communicates to others that you’re focusing on something, and it blocks out the office chatter that subconsciously a part of your brain is dedicating power on.
  • Do other things to indicate that you’re busy… Close the door to your office, shut off the lights in your office, put a message on your desk saying “Coding in Progress”, etc….
  • Block out chunks of time in your calendar so that you have large continuous blocks dedicated towards work and prevent people from slicing up your time into small fragments.
  • Turn off instant messengers, email, IRC, etc… anything that could draw your attention. Send a note to those who may want to contact you that you’re going off the grid for a period of time.

Though I’m curious to know of any other techniques you’ve found useful, considering most of you lack the powers of the force you’re limited to more conventional means.

    Lead, Follow, Or get out of the way October 31, 2007

    Posted by Darth Sidious in Career Management.
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    You’ve heard the saying, but what does it mean? From a management perspective you either are helping lead (the Mission, Vision, and Goals), or you’re supporting it (as a follower).

    It’s the last part you need to take a few moment to think about. If you’re not a follower, and you’re not leading anything, what are you doing? Do you think you’re the lone freedom fighter of sanity in the Galactic Empire (or a corporation you work for?). Do you feel you’re the only one that’s truly doing the right thing, and if all those other lemmings you call co-workers go down the wrong path, too bad for them? Perhaps you think you’re like a special agent doing your own things – because it’s the right thing to do?

    You think about it.

    Because if you’re any of the latter, you’re in the way of progress. It doesn’t matter if you think Management is wrong –  there’s a time when you can voice concerns when things are being evaluated. But once the decision is made, you’re either help mobilize progress, or you stand in the way of it.

    Career wise, you put yourself in great jeopardy if you’re one of those obstacles to progress; because the headcount you tie up would be better spent if Management replaced you with someone who can help them achieve the goals they’ve set forth.

    Your salary is an investment in you; and like any investment, you want a return on it (ROI). If you aren’t providing that value, then you’re a loss. So if you had an investment that continued to loose money, what’s the logical next step?

    Darth Sidious

    Surviving a Merger or Acquisition October 2, 2007

    Posted by Darth Sidious in Career Management.
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    When being acquired by another company the first things you’ll hear is that you’ve been acquired because the company believes in the great talents of its people, and that the acquiring company has no intent to disrupt the culture or structure that has made it so successful. Because why would they want to mess a good thing up?

    That’s said merely to keep the masses calm and at bay, and to keep their guard down. But the next thing you’ll hear is that they want to create “stronger synergies” between the companies, tighten the bond to allow for greater sharing and collaboration, and standardize technology for economies of scale.

    What this translates to is that they want to trim off the fat (e.g. duplication, starting with the marketing, HR, and finance teams), and migrate your technology platform over to theirs.

    When a company acquires another, it’s rarely for its people. What they’re interested in is controlling the product (either because they don’t have one similar, or they do have one similar and your product competes with theirs and is hurting their sales), and/or to buy customers and thus market share.

    Similarly in the Galactic Empire, when we use the Dark Side of the Force to take over a planet we don’t care about its citizens. We want its natural resources and technology.

    So how does one survive a merger or being taking over by the Empire?

    Through value.

    Similar to the post on not being difficult to manage, providing exceptional value to the acquiring company will ensure your continued tenure. Employees will have a natural instinct to resist the acquiring company, and make it difficult for them to execute the merging of the companies.

    But if one thing holds true in the universe, it’s that change is inevitable. And just like we wrote on being difficult to manage, if you stand in the way of change, you will be removed as obstacle.

    However, if you embrace that it is happening and support it as best you can you will earn a reputation as one who provides value through your services.

    To your former colleagues you will be seen as selling out – but that is just short sightedness on their part. If they choose to be fed to the Panna Monster, that is their choice. But management needs people that can execute tasks reliably and support the goals of the corporation.

    And the reality is that the selling out has already occurred long ago by top level staff – YOUR executive management allowed this to happen in the first place, so who really are you trying to support by resisting the acquiring company?

    The acquiring company is going to have talented people such as yourself, and although you may have specific Subject Matter Expertise (SME) and be a Single Point of Knowledge (SPOK) for certain things… no one is irreplaceable.

    You’re the new kid on the block now; your previous time means nothing. You have to earn your reputation all over again. Suck it up and accept it. Do what it takes to survive and win.

    Become invaluable to the acquiring company.

    Darth Sidious

    Don’t be difficult to manage September 25, 2007

    Posted by Darth Sidious in Career Management.
    5 comments

    Your relationship with your Sith Lord/Manager is a major part of your strategy to advance your career. Many people once they become comfortable in position begin losing site of this as the company becomes dependent on them.

    A classic SPOK (Single Point of Knowledge) situation – they feel invulnerable or shielded as a result of the company’s dependency on them.

    Always think about your Sith Lord/Manager’s perspective. His/Her mission is to help the team and company or Galactic Empire succeed. They get results through their people.

    So from their perspective there are 2 types of staff they have; those that are helping them achieve their mission, and those that are getting in the way. Which side are you on?

    Some people, especially technical folk, love to “fight the man”. They love to stir up dissent, controversy, and point out fires. They feel joy in making things difficult for management by trying to “teach them a lesson” for being so bureaucratic.

    Those people, or you, may even feel that you’re fighting for justice, or the lone warrior in the battle against insanity. So you may even be well intentioned; but the reality of business is that you can’t make everyone happy. You have limited resources in order to accomplish the mission which requires balancing those resources in the best way possible, which may not be something you agree with.

    But to fight it, who are you helping? No one, not even yourself.

    The biggest mistake you can do as an employee is earn the reputation as being difficult to manage. Once you get into that territory you may still be valuable to the organization, but you’ll find yourself without anyone supporting you or watching your back.

    Once tagged as difficult to manage your options to transfer to different departments become limited as other managers will not want you. And you can guarantee that your Manager is actively working on phasing you out.

    As well, it’s almost impossible to undo that reputation, as once bitten twice shy… Management will never forget the trouble you caused.

    Manager’s not only want, but NEED staff that are on their side. There’s no time to be fighting and convincing everyone under them of the direction they want to go.

    Now I’m not suggesting being a mindless drone. Definitely be an advisor, provide your Manager or Sith Lord with actionable information that helps form a solid decision, and present objective cases as to why the decision being presented may not be the right one.

    Once the decision has been made, that is the direction that the team/department/company is going to go with. Your choices are to help in the success of that decision or stand in the way.

    Remember one thing, you were hired to support your Manager. Be his/her right hand man.
    Darth Sidious

    Effective Interviewing – Comparing Apples to Apples September 4, 2007

    Posted by Darth Sidious in Interviewing, Managing Employees.
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    Below are some guidelines to keep your interview effective and productive, and the key to that is to minimize freestyling. The interview will go in various directions depending on the candidate, but the more you apply a consistent structure the easier it becomes to compare candidate vs candidate.

    So not only is it important to make each interview effective, but you want to be able to compare each candidate equally.

    To do this, create a set of 15 to 30 questions comprising of the following areas that all candidates will be asked. Then at the end you can compare how candidates answered these same set of questions.

    Problem Solving/Analytical

  • This is the easiest way to compare candidate vs candidate as it factors out specific experiences and skills
  • Go online and look up brain teasers. The point of this is not to see if they can get the answer right, but it gives you a glimpse into their thought process, how they break a problem down, and how their mind works to solve it.
  • E.g: You are at a river with a chicken, seeds, and a fox. You need to get all three across, but can only transport one at a time. If you leave the chicken with the seeds, the chicken will eat it. If you leave the fox with the chicken, the fox will eat the chicken. How do you get all 3 across?
  • Bonus Points: Someone who is extremely proactive and a strategic thinker will anticipate this, and go on Google and try to see what comes back for searches like “interview brain teasers questions”. If their response to your teasers are immediate you know they already knew the answer (or are a NASA level genius). You can also ask theoretical questions: Suppose you were leading a project, and you have a budget short fall, what would you do to complete the project, etc…

    Skills

  • This is the technical portion of the interview.
  • Have questions prepared that allow you to evaluate how strong the candidate is in the skills that you identified as needing in the job requirements.
  • “What guiding principles do you employ when managing a project?”, “What are the essentials of project management?”, “How would you go about engineering a process?”, etc…
  • What’s the best approach to managing scope creep/change?
  • How do you plan your day/week/etc…?
  • For a Tech Writer: what’s grammatically wrong with the following sentence, and what would be the correct way of writing it?
  • For a Developer: How would you sort an array?

    Experience

  • This is where the interview is specific per candidate
  • Looking at the resume, prepare questions specific to their experience.
      “At XYZ Corp, it shows that you managed a $2.5M project… how did you manage resource allocation, and time line? What were the challenges of the project? Did you deliver on time, if you did what factors contributed to your success? If you didn’t, what could you have done different if you could do it again?”

    Psychological

  • There are psychological questions… But you can gather a lot just from observation alone.
  • Does the candidate freely express themselves, or take the lead of the interview (indicates a proactive person).
  • Or are they passive and just answer in as short form as possible (indicates a reactionary person).
  • Do they shift around or sway in their chair a lot, fidgety, etc… Indicates nervousness/confidence factor.
  • Most people of course groom themselves to the max for an interview, but there are some signs that give you insight into their ‘real’ life.
    • E.g look at their fingernails. Someone who takes care of themselves and their life will have them fairly well maintained. It’s a tiny clue, but a clue nonetheless.
    • Did they bring materials to show their work, and look at how they prepared those materials. Is it one big blob of paper, or is it organized into folders, etc…
  • When the candidate walks in, observe the initial mental and emotional state immediately. It can tell you a lot about how they relate to new people, how they handle themselves in introductions, what their own self-concept is, etc…
  • A lot of people try to put the candidate at ease immediately. That’s a bit of mistake, because you’re not able to see how they perform under pressure. If they’re cool calm and collective from the get go, you know they’re confident. Offer the drink and that stuff later once you’ve done this evaluation.
  • Cliché Questions: What are your goals in 5 years, what are your strengths and weaknesses. Although they’re always ask you may think they’re cliché. But actually they’re not. Here’s the beauty! EVERYONE knows this question is always asked; so someone who is prepared will have an answer ready to go. Someone who lacks organization and planning, and isn’t proactive will simply just react to those questions (even though they know full well it’s going to be asked) and freestyle it.
  • *BUT* there’s a bit of an exception. Someone who can pull off an impressive freestyle also demonstrates a different kind of quality. E.g they respond well under pressure, strong communication skills, etc…
  • Darth Sidious

    Work Life Balance – Work is life July 26, 2007

    Posted by Darth Sidious in Career Management.
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    Many people believe there’s a solid line that splits work and life apart. They see it as two opposing forces that compete for that fixed 24 hours in a day.

    This may be true for jobs like Cashiers, Storm Troopers, and Bank Tellers. However when it comes to careers what sets the highly ambitious and most successful people apart is they don’t see that line.

    A career is a COMPONENT of your life, not something that is diametrically opposed to life. It’s not ever at odds with your life, because it is part of your life. Just like your arm is a part of your body.

    A career is something you train for all your life… You don’t spent 11+ yrs in school getting educated to be a janitor on a Star Destroyer. And once in a career, the education never ends; either through on the job experience or additional training as you go along.

    A job is for the paycheck. A career is something more. Nobody is a convenience store clerk because it’s what they dreamed of doing. A career is based on a personal interest, probably something you care about. In fact, some take a pay cut to pursue a career (e.g. to work in non-profit, or to shift careers).

    I personally care about bringing peace to the galaxy by way of the dark side of the force. That’s my life, so that is my career. So the more I contribute to my career, the more I contribute to my life. As much as I help the Sith, as well as my staff, I also do for the community of the Empire.

    E.g. teaching the ways of the dark side is something I do always – both in and out of the office. I could have said something I do this both at work and outside – but that would imply there is a distinction, which is that line that separates the two… This line doesn’t exist; it’s a fabrication by those who lack passion for what they do to justify their lack of commitment.

    Not to say that there aren’t different facets to life. Whether it’s racing tie-fighters on the weekend, to spending time with family. But when you believe in something you’re doing, you don’t view it as work. You view it as life.

    Less passionate beings may try to convince you otherwise; their own insecurities and failures are comforted when they know others share their position. They lack direction and purpose in their life, and won’t think twice to mislead.

    Work hard. Play hard. It’s all the same. It’s life.
    Darth Sidious

    Use a whiteboard when being interviewed July 23, 2007

    Posted by Darth Sidious in Interviewing.
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    An interview with the Sith is quite rigorous, and usually entails using the dark side of the force to survive life or death situations.

    However in the lower ranks we employ more conventional means – but if you’re interviewing you need keep in mind the mindset of the interviewer.

    Each organization will have their own interview style; some are very narrow minded and only care to see if you can answer very cut and dry questions, and don’t care to actually hear about your experience.

    Usually organizations do care about your experience, as anyone can look up reference manuals to find out the answer to something, but its how you sell your experience that will give them insight into how they can leverage your skills and the advantages you bring to the table.

    You are up against others that are going to be asked the same questions, so think about ways that sets you apart. If everyone answers the same technical questions the same, it’ll be the non-technical that gives one an advantage.

    One way to achieve that is to use hologram board (aka a white board). The goal of interviewing is to try asking enough questions to get insight into who you are and if what you have to offer is the right match – and the easier you make that for them, the more they’ll like you.

    For example use a whiteboard to diagram anything about your work/projects such as how you simplified a workflow, or architected a system. The reality is that people are easily impressed by circles and squares, and the lines that join them together. It makes them think you REALLY know what you’re talking about.

    Or use the whiteboard to jot down key bullet points regarding a complex question and its answer (such as strategy or process highlights). People are very visually oriented, and there’s only so much raw text that they can absorb both verbally or visually, so breaking it down into a summarized easy to read format makes your content all the more memorable.

    This will give you a huge edge of the competition as they’re unlikely to do this. It’ll give the organization a feeling of confidence that you’re the right candidate as you’ve demonstrated high levels of written and oral communications, as well as being planned, methodical, and process oriented.
    Darth Sidious

    Take a vacation before a performance review July 9, 2007

    Posted by Tariq Ahmed in Career Management.
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    Do you sometimes feel like Anakin did when the Jedi Council denied him the title of Master Jedi, even though he was a member of the council? That is, you’re already doing the work, functioning in a capacity that is beyond you current title, and yet your deptartment masters still won’t validate your true value.

    In such a case, take a vacation shortly before an annual or quarterly performance review. Although The Empire Inc. doesn’t offer paid vacations, it may be worth it to take an unpaid vacation to generate some negotiation leverage.

    If you are as valuable as you think you are, being away for a good two weeks will cause your organization to be in rough shape, and clearly identify how your contributions and job functions enable the organization to function smoothly and effectively.

    Now when you come back to your performance appraisal, your management will fully know what kind of pain they will be in if you leave – but more importantly appreciate the value you provide while you’re around.

     If you don’t get the promotion you were hoping for automatically, you’ll have negotiation leverage by using challenging events that occured while you were out. Having a fresh experience for the world of hurt your manager will be in if you suddenly left will bias them towards doing what it takes to meet your demands.

    Darth Sidious

    Prepare your own Replacement July 8, 2007

    Posted by Tariq Ahmed in Career Management.
    1 comment so far

    As you’ve noticed with the Emperor and myself, the Sith operate in pairs, with a master and an apprentice. If something happens to the master, the apprentice can take over. In the business world, it’s equally important to always have your replacement in training and ready to take over.

    For most managers, training their replacement is intimidating, but it is essential if you want to move up in the organization. If you’re irreplaceable in your current position, you may be passed up for promotion. If management feels a subordinate could take over, you then are capable of moving up the corporate ladder.

    This advice is not only valid for managers, but also for any menial position. From laser cannon operator to Emperor, someone should be your apprentice, so when the opportunity arises, you can reach for the stars.

    darthvader.jpg