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Your First 90 Days Is Critical

September 25, 2011 Leave a comment

The challenge of a new chapter in your career!

Book Review: “The First 90 Days” by Michael Watkins

The President of the Philippines gets his first 100 days to prove himself.  This is like a dipstick of how the incumbent president will run the country for the rest of his 6 year-term.  Hence, many look forward to his report on his first 100 and has always been controversial.  Well, every one of us have the first few days in any new chapter in our life.  As for our profession, we normally are given 3 to 6 months to perform for our bosses to see how we will make it or break it.  The book “The First 90 Days” by Michael Watkins captures attention among us who would be entering a new phase in our career.  As you browse over the table of contents, you will feel that this book somewhat can help you get ideas, maybe new or maybe the same old ones we must be reminded about.  When I picked up this book more than a year ago, I was not starting a new job but was curious what was on it that I can still learn from. I definitely learned lessons from the book that I could apply when I step to a new role or assignment.  However, some principles can also be applied when dealing with my job in different settings after the first 100 days and beyond.

First of all, in entering a new role or job, there will always be a “first time” and you can never be enough expert of everything. And of course I do not only refer to the specific profession or industry, but to the specific products or services offered by the company or maybe even some practices that are peculiar to the company that may even be a “best practice” in the industry.  Watkins emphasized the seriousness of planning strategically to ensure victory in the new responsibility.  As such, you can never overdo anything in understanding your new role, learning company products and services, getting along with the team and the “practices”.

Two of the key challenges that Watkins offer that I find very enlightening are:

1.  Match strategy with the situation- several company circumstances were listed down as there never really is one style to handle an organization or a team. The four type of business situations identified were: start-up, turnaround, realignment and sustaining success which was aptly called STaRS for short.  Indeed these situations demand unique directions or there will be  disharmony and even confusion on what the team understands to be the path and where it is really going.  For example, in a company there cannot be too much emphasis on processes when the company is trying to make up for losses. This is like applying a “sustaining success” which is to improve further on what the company does not have, when it is not earning enough revenue due to poor sales effort for young company (in a turnaround situation).

2. Negotiate success- how is performance going to be measured? Is it based on sales increase? Is it based on customer or employee satisfaction? Never assume everything is the same with your previous job and your new one. Unless there is an agreement between you and your superior of what is expected in spite of the real challenge, you might end up not aligning to the expectations.

The book teaches us to really make a 90-day plan and make it a burning fire that rolls around the organization or team. This will ensure it will make an impact on you and your team’s performance.  And it can only be gauged how this is felt on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis.  This book is a masterpiece that will guide leaders in tackling the test of his first days in a new career.  This will also prepare young managers and professionals in handling their jobs at whatever level they are in because they will understand how leadership’s direction is going, and for their own use, how they can find the road to success within the organization.

I find that the book is one of those that presents practical tools to help you in your new endeavor.  Good luck !

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Categories: Management, Success Tools

Earn A "Degree" in Soft Skills

September 18, 2011 2 comments

Having a title attached to your name is indeed impressive and somewhat makes a lot of difference in one’s professional journey. Hence it is undeniable that earning a title, a degree, or a diploma brings with it some fancy in one’s curriculum vitae. Admit it, we are all hungry for some recognition or credits that somehow we will be able to use to our advantage. We call this skill set- the hard skills that we often have taken out of formal training that gives us a credible recognition. These are more tangible and quantifiable set of skills that we can easily demonstrate. For example, if you are a business degree holder, you can easily prove that with your diploma, and further support that with your grades from college. However, as you go along your journey in professional life, this does not seem to be enough. We will find out soon enough that we need these intangible and hard to quantify assets known as soft skills in order to ensure we have a certain degree of stability in the job we are to undertake. These skills generally relate to one’s emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), defined in Wikipedia as “ the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language , personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people”. In the end soft and hard skills complement each other.

What are these soft skills? Do we have issues that we need to resolve in this area? To give one a clearer idea of what these are, I have scanned through the net to see which are the common soft skills that are required at work or in most environments but also remember that they are also needed in one’s personal life:

  1. Leadership
  2. Personal Interaction
  3. Public Speaking
  4. Assertiveness

It is a good question to ask ourselves: how much time have I spent learning the soft skills vs the hard skills. Oftentimes, the hard skills are easy to get because they are tangible and most trainings are geared towards this objective. Soft skills are hard to obtain because for one, we do not just get them by merely attending a training session or reading a book. All the “How-to’s” relating to soft skills lying around the internet will not necessarily answer your deficiencies. Perhaps they could give you a solution on what to do but until you make the step to do them and practice, you will never receive your “diploma” of achievement. Your achievement will only be demonstrated by personal confidence and happiness, better performance at work, harmonious relationship at work or home or being able to encourage teamwork within a group.

Ultimately, soft skills can only be achieved through harder work. Let me share with you what I am trying to do in getting to this path of self-improvement:

  1. Identify your key concerns that relate to soft sills.
  2. Establish a very specific goal of what you want to achieve: develop self-confidence in public speaking; be a better leader to your team; be more sensitive to the needs of others; learning how to listen rather than always speaking.  These are just examples but always remember the SMART rule: Keep it Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-framed.
  3. Find time to always review your goal on a daily, weekly and monthly basis- depending on the nature of your goal.

What are you waiting for? Enroll now for a “degree” in soft skills.

Categories: Management, Success Tools
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