Career advancement – The politically incorrect (but effective) way

Great tips to really move the needle on your career from Brendan Reid from his book “How to Steal the Corner Office”.
No it is not working your tail off or producing outstanding work.
Nor is it about finding your passion, have you ever read a book on career advancement that does not have the usual bromides on discovering your inner passion.

To advance your career you need to make career advancement your number one goal and keep your mind on it every day.
This is easier said than done as it so easy to get sucked into the details of work and lose sight of everything else.

1) Don’t be a passion player. Instead get perceived as being objective, analytical and a big picture thinker.
Too often we get carried away with our ideas and try to force it on others.
Instead present options and drive the team in coming to a conclusion.
This shows you as being a leader who works collaboratively and objectively to arrive at a solution that is good for the company and not one which you happen to like.
A decision making framework could be used which contains:

- decision context
- decision constraints
- options
Score each option against the constraints using team inputs.
The highest total score would help identify the best option.

2) Promote your projects/work instead of myopically focusing on the doing
You should ideally spend 40% of the time promoting your project and 60% on executing it.
Promote before, during and after.
Promote the concept with key influencers.
Promote the details with those who have the power to derail your project.

3) Be open to change and don’t fight it. Don’t let your emotions get in your way.

4) Don’t get obsessed with results. Instead focus on skills expansion.
Spend at least 30 minutes daily on developing skills.
Develop skills in related areas instead of going deeper into your existing skill.

5) Don’t stay with the herd. Network vertically and with your peers.

6) Reliability will only provide you job security. To advance your career focus on big wins over consistency.
The big projects fall into two types, tranformational and crisis resolution.
Transformational projects are risky, instead of being the driver you could be a participant and still benefit from its success.
For crisis resolution don’t put blame on the offending party, what is the point in creating bad blood?

7) Don’t enforce accountability instead offer to help others overcome their failures. Becoming perceived as someone who helps his peers puts you above them and into a leadership role.

How To Live More Intentionally

Intentional living is hard.

And is about the only thing that separates us from animals… and from our own animal instincts.

What is intentional living

Intentional living is:

- In the words of Abraham Lincoln “…adding life to our years and not years to our life”.  It is about not wasting our most precious gift, time.

- Is more than mindless goal setting and busyness. It is about focusing on the really important things in our life instead of the urgent. It is about attaining a deep and gratifying sense of fulfillment instead of a numbing emptiness and the “is this all there is to to life” feeling.

- Becoming more secure in yourself because you are growing in the real sense every day.

- Being authentic. Trying to be someone else is draining and renders you ineffective and less powerful in your interpersonal relations.

- Courage of conviction. No matter the odds, no matter the criticism.

British philosopher Colin Wilson’s ladder of selves is a great way to visualize our levels of consciousness and their impact on us.

How to live more intentionally

1) We are made of three brains: our lizard brain, our mammalian or emotional brain and our newest the pre frontal cortex or PFC.

Scientists have established that the PFC is the seat of all our higher level functions from planning and goal setting to motivation, from emotional management to self  discipline.

Strengthening our PFC will raise our consciousness from animal to human faculty.

We can strengthen our PFC through meditation.

2) Goal setting. This can be a terrific tool for intentional living if you can get it right. When I was a kid some of my goals included getting to the movies on time, hardly a life shaking goal.  Here is a great time management template I follow up from Stephen Covey’s book “First Things First”.

3) The ‘B Alert’ mnemonic. Authors Jack Canfield and Les Hewitt describe a great technique to wake up and live intentionally in their book “The Power of Focus”.

B – Blueprint. Start the day with a plan.

A – Concentrate on the most important activities first.

L – Learn. Expand your knowledge through reading, listening, observing, etc.

E – Exercise. For at least 30 minutes.

R – Relax. Eliminate daily stress.

T – Think. Take time to reflect on the day.


Steve Jobs

You heard these before.

Old maxims such as following your passion, having faith in yourself, surrounding yourself with the best.

In Steve Job’s story you see all these in action.

His story is inspiring not only because of the scale of what he achieved but because he faithfully applied the above success fundamentals.

Continue reading →

How To Make Smart Decisions

Some moments in our life matter more than others. The choices we make at such pivotal moments have far reaching consequences.

We have different ways of coping with the pressing need to make the right decisions. Some revert to relying on gut feelings, some look to the advice of people they trust such as mentors, some leave it to fate and not take a conscious decision at all.

Jim Collins the author of the book “Great By Choice” list empirical validation and the speed of decision making as the critical factors in decision making.

The ‘fire bullets and cannonball’ approach

This is the empirical validation approach. Firing bullets refers to initiatives taken on a small scale. They involve less effort and cost us less in money and resources should they fail. It is about testing the waters before you take the plunge. When you fire bullets you set various events in motion that go on to produce results. We study the results to see if this is what we want. When we like what we see, we fire more bullets and validate the results further.

Finally when we have substantial evidence that these work we amass all our resources into firing a cannonball.

Firing a cannonball this way means we reduce the risk of losing our shirt on a speculative bet.

When Intel was upstaged by cheap Japanese imports of memory chips it made a dramatic move into microprocessors and out of the memory chip business. What seemed a risky move was actually based on the proven results of a decade long experiment in microprocessors.

They had fired a bullet (microprocessors) long before they fired the cannonball (quitting the memory chip business and committing all their resources to microprocessors).

Regarding the speed of decision making. Take decisions slowly when you can and fast when you have to and develop the wisdom to understand the difference.

Take away

Try something without expending much effort. Check the results.Go full throttle only after you like what you get.

How To Think Creatively … Whether You Feel Like It Or Not. 3 Tips.

A story on The Wall Street Journal drove home the importance of innovation. The story profiled Milliken a textiles company based in South Carolina, USA.

Like several other textiles companies in the US its prospects became very bad when cheap textile imports started ravaging the industry. Many factories had to close down. Yet Milliken not only survived while its traditional textile competitors long since ceased but also thrived.


It moved up the value chain.

Today Milliken makes the fabric that reinforces duct tape, additives that make refrigerator food containers clear and children’s art markers washable,countertops anti microbial and so on and on.

It pays to think creatively and innovate.

But how do you think creatively and innovate?

Do you lean back in chair, stare out into the space and force your mind to come up with ideas.

How does that work out for you?

Todd Henry in his book ‘Accidental Creative’ suggests a few practices that can bring about major insights in your daily work.

Your daily work need not be in advertising to benefit from these practices.

Check your assumptions

This has been a personal bane for me.

So insidious and stealthy they can be at times that you would be completely oblivious to them.

For e.g. I once woke up on a winter morning saw snow on the driveway and stayed put for the snow plower that never came. When I called him he said it was just a light dusting that did not needed him to come.

Drifter, driver and developer.

Are you a drifter, driver or a developer?

It was only after I came across Todd Henry’s book  that I discovered a weakness of mine, a weakness that I was all but unaware until I read about the three types of mindsets we bring to our problems.

Ok not wanting to be a drifter is a no brainer. But most of us still do it. I for one. We drift when instead of focusing on our work we check our emails, surf the web etc. It speaks to our attention deficit culture. We are fixated on mental snacking.

Also, a drifter is one who moves from problem to problem without consciously choosing which problem to focus on.

A driver on the other hand is one who is very clear about his objectives and is very focused on it. There is a single minded focus on attaining the objective in every step and in his every act.

I used to think this was the ideal mindset to have.

I was wrong.

Turns out there is an even better mindset that of the developer mindset.

A person with a developer mindset understands his objective and is focused on it. But…and this is important he or she is also open to realizing other opportunities and possibilities along the way.

This is a great way to develop ideas and think more creatively.

For instance with the old driver mindset I used to go shopping and pick up only what I needed immediately. With the developer mindset when I visited a store to pick up medicines for my son I paused long enough to pick up other items. Items that would not have been on my top of the mind recall normally.

Chunk your tasks

Brian Tracy suggests this consistently as a great productivity booster.

Until now I did not grasp that this could also be used to ramp up your thinking.

You chunk tasks that require similar thought patterns together.

I am a project manager. So for e.g. this would mean that when I perform planning tasks I do it for all the projects I am responsible for.

Likewise when I do strategic thinking I do so for all the projects I am responsible for.

Since you do this across several different projects you tend to see patterns and synergies that you would otherwise not.