Why do we work – when organizations care about careers

In the last post on Career Stages, I described a few key attributes for evaluating career progression that organizations and/or individuals need to take care of if they want to effectively manage the career, esp. of their senior employees. Low engagement level, ‘through others’ contribution mode, and # of real working hours are key points an organization need to care about if they want their senior employees to contribute significantly.

The definition of ‘senior’ is vague, and will vary from company to company. However, most companies know their ‘senior’ employees, and most ‘senior’ employees know they are ‘senior’, and so we don’t need a precise definition for now! J

So what can an organization do?

  1. Upgrade recognition and project assignment systems: Most senior people (by above vague definition of ‘senior’!) are asset to the company. They have contributed a lot to the organization in the past and have gained immense domain knowledge that they are always eager to share and give back to the organization. As they meet their basic needs from the job (personal security, financial stability, health and well-being, etc.), Continue reading

Why do we work – career stages and attributes

In my previous post on ‘Why do we work‘, I talked about 4 levels of employees from the perspective of career and motivational stages: Entry Level Employees, Senior employees/frontline managers, Middle Managers, and executives. They differ in terms of how they manage their career and what motivates them to give their best to the organization. I also talked about the fact that motivations flow from basic human needs (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). In this and next 2 posts, I will focus on first 3 and discuss their career perspectives and what can be done to improve the situation.

Here is a look at some key career attributes for early and late stages of career. Please note that this description applies to cases when individuals let the organizations drive their career plans. Also, there will be many more attributes than just these when you analyze your own career journey, these are the ones I found repeating across the people I talked to and have worked with in the past. Continue reading

Why do we work – Career vs. Needs Hierarchy

I have been talking to many working professionals over past few weeks about their need to work and what they seek from work. This post (and the next one) summarizes my observations and theory around what I hear.

From a career and motivation perspective, there are 4 levels of employees in an organization:

  • Entry Level employees (Level 1): These are employees who are still figuring out how their career will proceed. Typically these are employees with 0-5 yrs of experience. They need a secure job that can fulfill their basic needs and they are willing to be very flexible around what roles they take up to achieve this. They are mostly unclear of their career goals and rely on their manager for all career guidance. Continue reading

Happiness and Career Success

It is obviously true that success will bring happiness, any kind of success will. However, is the reverse true – will happiness bring success? There is lots of research available that suggest that happiness indeed brings success. Here are a few references:

  1. Happiness brings success, not the other way round‘ (the paper) – Scientists reviewed 225 studies involving 275,000 people and found that chronically happy people are in general more successful in their personal and professional lives. Happy people are more likely than their less happy peers to have fulfilling marriages and relationships, high incomes, superior work performance, community involvement, robust health and even a long life.
  2. Happiness leads to Career Success‘ talks about the book (The Happiness Advantage) from Shawn Achor that suggest that when we are happy our brain works better and we end up working harder which then leads to success.
  3. People who are unhappy in life are unlikely to find satisfaction at work
  4. Wall Street Journal (‘Is Happiness Overrated’) distinguishes between ‘hedonic well-being’ (immediate pleasure) and ‘eudemonic well-being’ (long term sense of fulfillment) and suggests that latter type of happiness brings the benefits of happiness (health and longevity).
  5. Happiness Lengthens life‘ suggests that ‘Happiness does not heal, but happiness protects against falling ill. As a result, happy people live longer. The size of the effect on longevity is comparable to that of smoking or not’.

If this is true, why have I found so many unhappy people at workplace? Continue reading

Effective 1-1s – Fostering trust and creating no-harm zone

Effective 1-1 is the cornerstone of a successful management career, and acquiring necessary competencies in order to have a great 1-1 with your reports is a great career enhancement technique.

I have referred to this topic many times in my posts and have couple of posts devoted to this topic (see Managing 1-1s and Effective 1-1s). Those posts talk about tips for making 1-1s effective and efficient.

One of the basic premises for a successful one on one is to be able to build the trust and openness that can let communications happen. This is what one of ex-boss called ‘no-harm zone’. This is the place and time when participants can be open, truthful, critical, candid and emotional, and still can rely on the other party to keep all this in confidence. Notice that I am not saying that only one party (your report if you are a manager) has to feel and act that way; both parties have to feel and act the same. Continue reading

Change Initiatives – Managing self-fulfilling prophecy

In a previous post on taking initiatives to advance your career, I had discussed about handling peers when you take initiatives because they may cause your initiatives to fail. Here I want to talk about another phenomenon that one needs to be aware of. Here is the term I use to describe it: self-fulfilling prophecy.

Wikipedia describes it this way:

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.

In organizations, this is seen most commonly as resistance to change (in process, strategy, technology, etc.). All changes are hard, and organization-wide changes are very hard. Successful changes require 100% commitment and support from 100% of team members and leaders, which is obviously very hard to achieve. This means that every change initiative will have a set of dissenters. Here are typical behaviors dissenters show: Continue reading

Managing conflict at workplace – II

In the previous post, I described the scenario of two smart people in conflict in an organization and why they need to engage in a deep conversation.

Here are some of the aspects of such a conversation that A and B need to keep in mind:

  1. Create shared goals: Without such a goal, no conversation or work relationship can happen. Assuming A and B feel they want to belong to this organization; they have a good place to start creating a shared goal. If they want to contribute significantly to the organization, this is another shared goal to use. A and B need to have at least this conversation before other kinds of conversation can take place.
  2. Empathize: Putting yourself in other person’s shoes is critical to understand why the other person is behaving the way he is. If you can truly see things from other’s perspective (and hold off your own biases), results are sometimes very surprising and insightful. Both A and B need to try it.
  3. Be charitable: Both A and B need to be willing to give the benefit of doubt to the other, and assume they have good reasons to behave the way they are behaving. Just changing to this perspective can make each of them understand the other better. Ask the question “Why would a rational and smart person behave/say the way they did in all these examples?”. Continue reading

Career Path for engineers – Management Track vs. Individual Contributor Track

I read the article “Indian IT firms redefine career path for engineers” on www.livemint.com with interest:

“Indian information technology (IT) service providers such as Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Infosys Technologies Ltd and Wipro Ltd are following multinational firms such as International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) in building a technical career path for senior engineers opting out of managerial roles.

This is a shift from their traditional focus on promoting employees for managerial roles as they seek more complex projects from customers that need highly skilled people to execute them.

Now, employees can opt to be a designer or an architect and climb the ladder conceiving or building large projects.”

Having worked in product development companies in India (2000-2006), I can attest to the need to develop strong individual contributor (IC) track of growth; we struggled a lot to get our bright ICs to stay IC and not opt for management career path. Continue reading

Effective one on ones

In my experience in working with so many employees and helping grow some of the leads and managers, I have found that one-on-ones is a useful framework for all managers who wish to manage people well. I think this is the case because 1-1s impact some core tenets of being a good people manager:

  • Inform, Involve and Inspire the team
  • Foster trust and transparency
  • Maximize individual’s results by aligning skills to job assignments
  • Actively develop leaders and managers within the team

To be effective in doing all these, a manager has to understand his/her employees, their motivations and aspirations, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes (sounds like knowing your family :-)). All of this can be done by creating an effective communication channel with the employee, one that is based on trust and transparency, and mutual respect. 1-1s, if done well, achieve exactly this effect.

So how does a manager create an effective communication channel via 1-1s?

Continue reading