Friday Fast Tip: Optimize your time

We are all busy and seem to only be getting busier. Optimizing your time and energy is critical. A few ideas on how to do so:

  • Make time! This seems counter-intuitive or too obvious, but the truth is we often don’t make the proper time for things. We get caught up trying to do too many things at once and don’t accomplish as much as we could. So set aside time for specific tasks.
  • Be realistic: Sometimes you have to say no, you can’t take on everything. You need to have a good understanding of your capacity and commitments before taking on anything new. Set expectations in advance and don’t promise what is impossible to deliver.
  • Take a break: Again, you might be thinking, how can stopping make me more productive? We all need time to recover and re-energize. By taking strategic breaks we can renew and refocus.

Want some more ideas? Here are six tips from Jason Brick

What I’m reading now: Leadership styles

The research indicates that leaders with the best results do not rely on only one leadership style; they use most of them in a given week—seamlessly and in different measure—depending on the business situation. Imagine the styles, then, as the array of clubs in a golf pro’s bag. Over the course of a game, the pro picks and chooses clubs based on the demands of the shot. Sometimes he has to ponder his selection, but usually it is automatic. The pro senses the challenge ahead, swiftly pulls out the right tool, and elegantly puts it to work. That’s how high-impact leaders operate, too.

Ready, Set, Innovate

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed that many of my tweets last week focused on innovation and creativity. I am passionate about inspiring creativity and innovation among the practitioners in our organization, and I believe that fostering this type of environment keeps our community engaged and excited.

In fact, the winner of MIT’s 2013 Richard Beckham Memorial Prize, given to pioneers in the organizational development field, was an essay titled “Creating Employee Networks That Deliver Open Innovation”. The essay contends that executives and leaders should utilize their organizations’ innovation brokers, idea scouts, and idea connectors to improve the organization and convert “external knowledge into innovative outcomes.”

Given all of the recent conversation about innovation, creativity and employee engagement, it was perfect timing that we held our third Innovation Day over the weekend. Innovation Day is an opportunity for our consultants to come together as an organization to develop our skills and create innovative solutions for our clients and organization. Here are some of my take aways from holding these events.

  • Innovation can’t be planned, but it can be enabled – You can plan time dedicated to innovation, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. Innovation is not a switch we turn and off. It is not inaccessible during our normal day to day and then suddenly available to us the moment we say so. That’s why these events aren’t about all of us sitting in a room together brainstorming. Instead, they are about enabling innovation. Enabling by providing people the skills to think about their work or themselves differently. Enabling by providing time devoted to doing and learning things you never seem to have time for. Enabling by bringing new people together to talk about their experiences and learn from each other. Sure, we could sit in a room all day to “innovate,” but without a foundation, without experience, what could we hope to come away with?
  • Great things happen when you come face to face – There are many wonderful collaborative tools out there, some like Connections, we use to broadcast our training courses to our employees across the country. However, if you have the opportunity to come together in person, take it. In a world where we are so often talking to each other from behind computer screens or working from different locations from our coworkers, the chance to come together, meet new people, reconnect with old ones, share stories, and build relationships is priceless.  Saturday was a great day for me to hear first-hand our client experiences and hear from our consultants what is working and what is not and to be energized by the enthusiasm around personal and professional development.
  • Innovative ideas are spurred through challenge and discomfort – It is through challenging ourselves, experiencing difficulties and failures that we grow. The same is true of innovation. If the world was perfect, there would be no need to innovate. Often we look at challenges as frustrating or demotivating, but really, they are an opportunity to create something better. It is ok to make mistakes. It is ok to not be satisfied. This is what inspires us. Those questions you find yourself asking over and over, “Why can’t it be this way?” or “Why didn’t it work?” – those are the questions that drive us to find answers and do more.

I would encourage you all not just to make time to innovate, but to make time to learn, collaborate with your colleagues, and challenge yourself and your colleagues and clients. It is through action that innovation happens.

Friday Fast Tip: Public Speaking

Tomorrow we will hold our third “Innovation Day” – a day where our employees come together to innovate, learn, and network. We are lucky to work with so many experts and thought leaders who will be presenting to their colleagues, and though they are all pros at public speaking, it reminds me that at some point we all have experienced nerves before speaking. So with that, here are a few tips from Jenn Godbout on Open Forum if you find yourself nervous before a presentation. One last one I have to add – Just be yourself!

Getting Your Career Off to the Right Start

Every year, around this time, we get a new class of bright, eager IBMers who have just graduated from undergraduate studies and are ready to start their new careers. They are excited about their futures and want to know what they need to do to succeed in this new environment.

In so many ways, these IBMers are no different from any of us who are starting a new career, moving to a new position, or faced with a new challenge. We all want to know how to hit the ground running and demonstrate that we are capable of being successful. And sometimes, the new position seems daunting because, above all else, we do not want to fail. There have been many articles on the subject recently (I like this one from Business Insider), and I wanted to add what has worked well for me in the past.

Find a mentor: Most mentorships develop organically, without the formal “Will you be my mentor?” ask. Instead, look for people who can be influential and inform the career decisions you need to make. Surround yourself with people who are insightful; people who think differently than you or who have been successful in their environment can have advice that you would not have considered. These people can be peers, subordinates, or leaders in other areas. The most important thing is for your mentors to be willing to be candid and helpful. Eventually, your mentors may even become your strongest advocates as you progress through your career. But don’t forget, mentorship is a two way street and you must bring as much to the relationship as your mentor does.

Get involved and get to know your leadership: Attend town hall meetings, networking events, and other activities that will allow you to interact with leaders. Within the first month or two, try to have sit-down, informational interviews with all of the mid-level leaders in your area. These interviews need only be fifteen minutes, but they are excellent opportunities to find more information about the opportunities that exist and the career paths that are available. Ask the leaders about their passions and if they are involved in any special projects or initiatives in the organization. Most leaders will also want to know more about you, in return.  Knowing your leadership is beneficial to both parties; your leadership can volunteer you for projects that meet your interests, and you can continue to get involved in the organization.

Be open: Be willing to go outside of your comfort zone. Try new projects, build new skills, and be open to opportunities that you have never tried. Ask questions and share your informed opinion. You have a seat at the table for a reason, use it! Being open also means accepting feedback and constructive criticism.  Being open can be one of the scariest things in a new career, especially when we do not want to fail. Instead, look at these opportunities as ways to grow and develop.

I think it benefits all of us, whether we have been in our careers for two months or 20 years, to reflect periodically on the things I mentioned above.  I would love to read the best career advice you have received, so please share your thoughts in the Comments.

What I’m reading now: Your Journey to Executive

Below are a few key insights from IBM Women Executives from the 2012-2013 Advancing Women at IBM Executive Research Study, in which 639 IBM women executives participated.

  • Be Visible: “It isn’t about getting people to perform better; it is about visibility of those performing well.”
  • Plan Your Career: “Find what you’re passionate about, develop a game plan and execute that plan with confidence.”
  • Integrate Work & Life: “Flexible work arrangements are options that enable employees to meet their personal needs and also permit the company to deliver on its commitments to clients and the business.”

Are you a female executive? What insights do you have? Share them in the comments below.