Back in the saddle…

back in saddleEveryone hits a lull or loses focus on things they care about. For me, the blog has gone on virtual hiatus since I took a new role as Assistant Dean of MBA Programs at the Carlson School. I’ve had a weekly goal to get something posted every week for two years. And got a grand total of 4 posts up last year. That’s the same number I posted my last year at 3M when I ran a global business, we had our 3rd child and both my parents died. So not an impressive showing. It’s a great example of competing priorities, loss of momentum and a variety of other themes.

In the last few months a few things have changed. My partner and I agreed to shut down our start up, my job while crazy has become more “predictable” in year 3 and as I’ve reflected in my planning for the year I really miss the time, thought and feedback I get when I’m writing. I’m also a big new year’s resolution guy. So this year, my plan is to post 2x per month with something original. We’ll see how it goes.

As always, if you have any post ideas please send them along or post a comment. Also, if you have ideas for “renovations” to the site, please also offer them. Looking forward to 2015!

North Loop Careers Launch

North Loop Careers - Final-01So as I’ve puttered for years on career topics and worked with students and employers through the prism of a business school, it became clear to me how poorly served many, many undergraduates are in today’s higher ed world. I am privileged to work at an institution that does a fantastic job. But the majority of kids do not have access to the quality or consistency of career advising that’s required in today’s rapidly evolving and globally competitive world. Continue reading

Learning Through Failure

paper trailI think in life, it’s important to try to do things you might “fail” at. Whether it be trying a new personal skill (for me lately skiing) or a new idea at work.

I was reminded of this and how our culture doesn’t necessarily strike the right tone on this recently as my two boys debated a t-shirt.

My son Teddy (5th grader) was recently wearing a t-shirt with the caption “helping kids fail since 1998”. His 3rd grade brother Sammy tenderly observed how “stupid” that t-shirt was. A very sophisticated exchange ensued. Sam’s basic point was “I don’t fail” and “Why would you brag about failing?” Teddy got very animated in explaining the irony of the caption and how science works, but Sam was not going to be moved.

Setting aside the brotherly “love” involved, the boys were arguing a fundamental point both about how we view and run our lives and also how we work and lead. Continue reading

Steve Jobs on Following Your Passion

As I’m sure the whole world knows by this time, Steve Jobs lost his battle with cancer this week. In reading through retrospectives and reflections, I saw this quote of his from his much discussed Stanford commencement address in 2005. I wanted to share it because I completely agree and think too few people follow it.

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be  truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do  great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.  Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.  And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years  roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

Too true. Be at peace.

Student Job Search: Bridget Blazer’s “Off Road” Search

This is post 4 of 4 on student job searches. You can see the earlier posts here:

Student Job Searches / Amy Achiever’s Traditional Search / Steve Striver’s Traditional Search

Holy (obnoxiously) long post Phil! This has been a tortured delivery for me. Off-road searches are so much more divergent than traditional ones. That’s also why they can be more exciting if that’s where your interests lay. Let’s walk Bridget Blazer (BB) through the process of identifying an exciting opportunity somewhere well off the beaten path.

A brief reminder of my definition of “off-road”; I use the term to describe less conventional searches. Here there is less of (or no) “blazed trail”. The path is usually much less clear, there aren’t easy comparisons and few alumni mentors or career center references to call on. Think of a Traditional search as really mining everything “inside the box” of your program and an Off-road search as figuring out what’s “outside the box” that might be appealing. You have to engage in some significantly different activities than traditional position searchers. Remember the definition is relative to your situation. So liberal arts major getting a “traditional” business job could be off-road.

So off-road we go… Let’s walk Bridget Blazer through a representative search. Continue reading

Congratulations to the Class of 2011!

I was particularly struck this year by two recent accidents affecting students of mine. Neither accident resulted in serious injuries but one was very scary and the students were fortunate to escape without serious, life changing injuries. We are all grateful for their health and safety.

In chatting after graduation yesterday, one of the students reflected on what went through her mind as their car sped out of control with an incapacited driver. It was a bit of “life flashing before your eyes”. She then went on to say how grateful she was to still have her whole, bright future in front of her.

I’d encourage us all to remember how short life is. No one is guaranteed a tomorrow. So be grateful for what you do have and live every day fully. You don’t need to nearly lose everything to appreciate what you have.

I love graduations and other formal ceremonies because they mark formal ends and beginnings. Passages through stages and onto new adventures. So don’t forget to savor as many moments as you can along the way.

And now my more formal well wishes… Continue reading

Keys to Success: Never Underestimate the Value of Sheer Effort

The value of sustained commitment and focused effort is incredibly powerful. I think it is also underestimated.  

 The Changing Nature of Effort

 “Work smarter, not harder” is an oft repeated and overemphasized axiom that lies at the core of the misunderstanding. It would be better stated as “Work smarter” and left at that.  I say this because working “smarter” generally depends on working harder. At least at first.  You always have to work hard if you want success. The nature of that work will change as you get “smarter” and develop knowledge and experience in a given field.   Continue reading

Managing Your Success: How Big is Big Enough?

Your local restaurant is great. Then they open a second location and things seem steady, but little things start to suffer, service isn’t quite as good. By the 15th location, it’s just not the same place and you move on to new favorites.

So how big is big enough? How much is enough?

This is an important question to wrestle with, both as an entrepreneur, manager and professional with a career.

My wife has made me wrestle with this management question for longer than most because it’s a foundational principle in my wife’s limited arsenal of core business beliefs.

Michele, it turns out, was born a mature business person.

Early in our marriage I was a fancy MBA student and she was an “English” major working in “PR” for god’s sake! (What could she contribute to the discussion?) She had an important question: Why do so many businesses wreck themselves by growing too large?

My MBA-ish answer involved “share-holder value”, “retaining and rewarding high potential employees” and a number of other b-school staples. Continue reading

Driving Results: Managing Stakeholders Effectively

It doesn’t matter that you’re right if no one cares what you have to say. I can’t emphasize this enough.

So often what is emphasized in school and management/professional training focuses on analytical clarity, technical skills and how to be “persuasive” in the context of presenting and telling your story clearly (and even this last part doesn’t get enough attention).

These are all valuable skills, worthy of developing. But if you want to consistently be successful in getting buy-in to your efforts, they aren’t enough.

You need to effectively manage relationships with relevant “stakeholders” if you expect consistently good outcomes.

A stakeholder is anyone who can affect or is affected by the decision you are trying to reach. So if you are trying to re-organize a business unit, stakeholders might include customers, staff, management, corporate officers etc.

Why should I care?

It’s simple. Do want to get things done? Here are few practical reasons why you need to bring people into your process (as appropriate). Continue reading

Planning for Success: Starting Your New Job Strong

One of the most important things you can do as you enter any new role is get off to a strong start. Initial impressions stick with us and can be surprisingly persistent.

Think about it from your own experience. When you’ve decided somebody is capable and something they do is odd, don’t you tend to give them the benefit of the doubt? Conversely we tend to kill people when things go wrong if we have a neutral or negative impression of them.

Whether your goal is to be CEO or to have really interesting work with relative autonomy, you need to earn the right to that role. Some people also just seem to be well thought of and get those kinds of opportunities.

So how do you start off on the right track to be in the favored crowd? Continue reading