“I Didn’t Read the Article, But…”

badmanproduction | Thinkstock

badmanproduction | Thinkstock

There goes another one.

You see them all the time. Outraged opinions spewed all over social media, based on the headline only. Most don’t bother to open with the “I didn’t read this” line, but you can kind of always tell.

I’ve run across this in the company Facebook pages I handle, though fortunately not to the pile-on extent that other pages have, such as Jezebel and the ubiquitous George Takei. Of course, not all such comments are negative, but there’s a reason why there’s a brisk business in the “I’m just here for the comments” memes.

These comments can be entertaining, but if you’re the one trying to get a point across, frustrating, too. Especially when the outrage, condescension, and inevitable ad hominem attacks could so easily have never happened at all, had the person taken just a second to, you know, read beyond the headline.

As Heather Vaughn says, “It goes back to how the way you behave on Facebook (or whatever social platform you’re on) should be no different than how you interact in the real world: Would you jump into a conversation without at least SOME context?”

So I’m curious: What makes someone (you, me, any someone) feel qualified to comment without actually clicking the clickbait?

Meme found here. I love Gene Wilder.

The Most Valuable Work Skill You Need in 2015

DragonImages | Thinkstock

DragonImages | Thinkstock

Innovative. Empathetic. Creative. Personable.

Almost any career-related infographic or article today includes these and other so-called soft skill traits you desperately need for 2015’s dynamic workplace.

I’m not saying they’re wrong; far from it! And I certainly don’t want to add more to your already-overloaded checklist.

But there’s one trait that tends to go missing, whether you’re in a client-facing position or work solely with internal folks.

And that’s accountability.

What exactly does accountability in the workplace mean?

Showing up for work each day and on time is part of it, yes. But the concept goes far beyond that.

Here are a few examples from TimeWellScheduled:

  • Completing any tasks that have been assigned to you
  • Being responsible for the specific duties that go along with your job
  • Being consistent in doing the right thing in all aspects pertaining to your job
  • Working together towards a common goal for the business

Here’s one I’d add:

  • Recognizing that sometimes, you have to be the one to step up and get things done, even if it’s not in your job description.

And none of this might be intuitive, because…

yuriyzhuravov | Thinkstock

yuriyzhuravov | Thinkstock

Accountability isn’t a natural state to be

I will forever be grateful to the boss that told me, “Don’t be afraid to fail.”

It’s not something you tend to hear a lot, especially when you’re handed your pack of goals for the year. It also wasn’t something I heard, ever, during my first couple years in the workforce.

What did seem to come easily was feeling uncomfortable when something went wrong, and finding what seemed to me to be very valid reasons for why.

Yet those very valid reasons weren’t doing me any favors.

Why? Because what it comes down to is ownership. I wasn’t owning my decisions. I needed that realization that it’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you a) learn from them, and b) do something about them.

If you don’t have a sense of ownership yet, or don’t think you can get it, keep reading.

alphaspirit | Thinkstock

alphaspirit | Thinkstock

Three ways to get accountability

1. Drop “somebody should” from your vocabulary.

Here’s what I mean: I worked with someone who was great at coming up with ideas and overflowed with enthusiasm for them. Every chance meeting turned into an idea brainstorm. You really believed in this woman’s passion and drive and couldn’t wait to hear what she’d come up with next.

Yet one thing she didn’t excel at was the doing part—getting all these ideas done—even when they fell within her own job description.

The key phrase she uttered over and over again? “Somebody should.”

“I just thought of Idea X to help us promote Campaign Y! Somebody should do A and B to make this happen.”

By the end of the year, she had a whole list of great ideas she’d come up with, but couldn’t mark any of them as complete. That’s not a good legacy to look back on.

>>What you can do instead: If you’re an idea person, keep the ideas coming—but get selective. Pick out the top three ideas you’d like to focus on for the year. You can add or subtract ideas; you know your own workload best.

Then really look into what it will take to make your ideas come alive. Is this something you can do on your own? Do you need a team? What other duties or projects may be impacted?

The point is to set clear priorities so you aren’t always moving on to the next idea before the first one is even fully hatched, and so you don’t risk letting important tasks drop.

2. Stop the excuses.

It can be tempting to deflect the “What went wrong?” and “How did this happen?” questions with all the great reasons you can find. And these reasons may be valid ones, including things that were out of your control, and things that could happen to anybody.

The thing is, what people want to see is how you handle it if something goes wrong. They want to hear what you’re going to do to fix the problem, or better yet, see what you’ve already done. They may also may want to hear a sincere apology.

Fairly or not, without these factors in play, all they’re going to hear from you is a bunch of excuses. And down goes your credibility and their trust in you.

>>What you can do about it: Along with being responsible for getting things done, being accountable means learning to recognize early on when you might need help or when things aren’t going as planned. It all goes back to that point about ownership.

When you are able to take an more objective view, you can also start to look for solutions to help improve the process.

3. Realize it really is up to you, even when mistakes happen.

Being accountable and taking ownership of things may seem like daunting tasks, but when you break it all down into parts, you’ll find it’s way easier to manage, even when you run into problems.

>>How to break down the roadblock: Linda Galindo has a great set of four questions to ask yourself in her No Excuses: Being Accountable For Your Own Success article.

When something goes awry, ask: “What is the problem?” “What am I doing—or not doing—to contribute to the problem?” “What will I do differently to help solve the problem?” and “How will I be accountable for the result?”

Purestock | Thinkstock

Purestock | Thinkstock

Come on! Can this really work for me?

If you’re sitting there looking at this post and saying, “But taking up this level of accountability in my toxic, dog-eat-dog environment is opening myself to doom and dismay” (bonus points if you’re using these exact words), take just one more moment to consider this:

“You can create the type of environment you want to work in, but it starts with you,” says Robert D. Rettmann. “Saying otherwise is really not taking accountability for the part you might have played in helping to keep that toxic work culture alive.”

See what he did there? It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that starts and ends with you, your behavior, and how you approach things.

So take this with you into your next chapter: Once you’ve owned up to the role you played, and share that revelation with others, they too might find YOU as an inspiration.

How have you made yourself more accountable at work?

I owe the inspiration for this post to www.webucator.com, which provides a wealth of instructor-led, technical and business training. Since they’re all about teaching essential skills and finding ways to help you improve yourself and become more successful in your career, this month’s campaign is to help you figure out what skills new and seasoned employees alike should sharpen for the workforce. Thanks, Bob Clary, for inviting me to participate! Here’s their blog: www.webucator.com/blog.

Also read: Who Me? How to Build Accountability In the Workplace.

Why You Should Go To the Holiday Office Party

office holiday party

It’s that time of year again: The holiday office party. You’re already stuck with these people all day. Why should you give up your “you” time for mandatory fun?

Even if you truly enjoy being with your co-workers, you don’t always want to spend your off-the-clock time with them, too. But if you’re thinking of skipping the office or department party, take a moment to think of it this way:

This party can help you in your job and overall career. 

Having a more personal connection with your coworkers can enhance your professional relationships with them, and an office party is a great opportunity to get to know people in a more relaxed setting.

Not sure how? Consider these suggestions:

  • Go with a vision. I know. Just hear me out. Even if you can’t change anything else about the party, from having to go in the first place to having to do the planned activities, you can change one thing: Your attitude. If you set up the expectation for yourself that you’ll have a good time, or at least not a wholly unpleasant time, that puts some of the control of the situation back on you. With control, you get confidence, and that confidence will show on the outside.
  • Don’t just hang out in a corner with people you already know. It’s tempting. I do it myself. But this is a prime time to talk with someone you don’t know well or at all. You never know who may help you later, whether in this job or something else down the road. That said…
  • It’s okay to have a wingperson go around with you when approaching new-to-you people. You’ll be more relaxed and you’ll have someone else who can jump in to talk while you take a much-needed few moments.
  • Speaking of talking, have no idea what to say and hate small talk? Get the other person to talk instead. You don’t have to stick to work or holiday-related chat, either. This Master List of Icebreaker Questions by Liz Williams starts you off with 74 conversational ideas, including “Piece of art that moved you deeply?” and “What always makes you laugh?”
  • Don’t forget the bigwigs. Have 2 or 3 key influencers you want to connect with, but keep it casual: Get on their radar, don’t jam it.
  • Even if you know everyone and are completely comfortable, you can still use this time to brush up on your networking skills. Remember: At its most basic, networking is really just having a conversation.

Holiday parties can be a great opportunity to celebrate company milestones, boost morale, and do a little team-building before the new year starts. You might as well use the time to boost your own skills and connections, too.

What are your holiday office party dos and don’ts?

Adapted from this #careerchat session.

Pic from Ulrik Tofte / Thinkstock.

3 Things NOT to Assume After Getting Fired

bummed out jobseeker

When you’re unceremoniously booted out of a job, you can feel anything from anger and hurt to bewilderment and depression. This is normal; after all, you just went from a known thing to a lot of unknowns.

But while you’re working through your feelings and figuring out your next steps, try to avoid some common pitfalls so you can get on with making your transition easier.

Three Things NOT to Assume After Getting Fired

(Without more than circumstantial evidence, that is.)

1) That your old boss is out to get you.

Has your ex-boss remained cordial? Accepted or offered lunch invitations or other get-togethers? Introduced you to key people in your industry?

If so, your boss is willing to help you, not out to get you. Think of it this way: Just because your previous job didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean your boss doesn’t recognize your valuable, viable skills. You just need to find the right fit for them. And if your boss is willing to actively advocate for you, that’s well-nigh priceless stuff right there.

You do still have to do most of the work yourself. Instead of daydreaming about being sabotaged, follow up on those key people. Work on your resume and online presence. Keep making connections. And be sure to thank that old boss of yours when something they started for you works out.

2) That it was the company’s fault.

It’s not the most pleasant of thoughts that you could have done yourself out of a job. And it can be very true that you were in a toxic environment with a toxic manager (if so, avail yourself of the AskaManager blog for help and support before, during, and after).

But if there’s a pattern in your job history of being let go instead of walking out on your own two feet, it’s worth it to take a closer look at the common denominator: You.

The hard part about this is we all have our own perceptions of ourselves, and when they don’t mesh with how others perceive us, we have a tendency to think the problem is on their side. And yes, sometimes it is.

When it comes to holding down a job, however, you may not literally be able to afford this kind of attitude. It doesn’t mean you aren’t the fabulous person you are. You just need to make sure some parts shine through more than others.

What can you do about it? Everything! Remember, you still have all the skills, knowledge, and experience you had when you had that job. Those things don’t go away.

What you need to do now is think honestly about your past work history. Then think about the skills employers love for you to have, such as accountability: Did you promise a lot of cool things but failed to deliver? Did you come up with great ideas but always left the actual execution for “somebody” to finish?

I’d even recommend looking at past reviews. If you thought you were doing well, but your performance reviews said you weren’t, did you try to improve or did you brush it off?

Armed with these new tools, you can work on your most important asset: Yourself.

The last thing you shouldn’t assume is…

3) That you’re alone.

You aren’t. Friends, family, former co-workers, people at networking events, that guy walking down the block, that person headed off to lunch–it’s a fair chance that everyone has been out of a job at some point. They know what it feels like. So with that in mind, approach people with your head up and don’t be afraid to ask for help–even if you aren’t always sure of the reception.

Just don’t: Ask them to “get” you a job. That’s a no-no!

What have you done to get back on your feet after being let go?

“Bullying will never go away!” Why I believe it can

I find I just can’t let statements such as “Bullying will NEVER go away” rest easy.

Insert any issue you like, but take a moment before you believe it as it stands.

Why? Because there are so many things that have changed throughout history that people claimed would never change. So many things we use today that people said would never work. So many things that, if you don’t know your history (or anyone else’s), you take for granted as being perennial. Large or small,

And there are so many people that have turned those “nevers” into “Yes it can,” or “Yes, I can.” But they aren’t always loud about it, and they aren’t always noticed. And with most things, even as it starts with one person, it takes a community to change.

That’s why, as it’s coming up to National Bullying Prevention Month (October), I wrote this post here to herald the #31bullying campaign. I hope you check it out. We’ll cover 31 difference makers in the world of bullying, and 31 resources to help you do more than just sit around and say “never” like an ill-fated raven.

I get that human nature is perhaps the hardest thing to change, so it’ll take time and more than time, but I take heart at the people and the things I’ve seen that work to prevent, manage, and dispel some of these never-changes.

Seeing “This will never change” isn’t being part of the solution. But if it sparks people to do something instead of sitting around with a bunch of nevers, then I am glad for that.

What do you think?

How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager

how-to-get-a-jobWhat’s this? Just a shout-out to a MASSIVE DISCOUNT just spotted on the eBook, “How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager,” by Alison Green.

I’m an avid reader of Alison’s Ask a Manager blog, where you get awesome advice (and opinions) free of charge that help keep you on your career path, so I have no compunction wholeheartedly endorsing this eBook.

Click here to read more and get your copy.

Death by depression

Faced with the shocking and saddening news about Robin Williams, one of my dear friends, Bob Rettmann, wrote a poignant piece that I truly feel needs to be shared among the other heartfelt posts I have seen this week.

While I won’t pretend to understand all that depression can do to somebody, I do understand the message said here and elsewhere: Suicide is but a symptom. It’s depression that kills.

What can we do about it? For starters, get some empathy. It doesn’t matter if it’s someone you work with or someone you live with, someone you know or someone you see on the screen. Depression, like so many other diseases, doesn’t play favorites.

I’ll let him tell the rest in his own words, and please do respond in the comments (here or there) with posts and resources that have helped you as well.

Let’s Call It What It Is: Death by Depression.


Image from ninerfans.com.


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