Category Archives: Career Management

My Biggest Proposal Mistake

We are supposed to learn from our mistakes. I usually learn from mine. Sometimes that learning process can be painfully embarrassing. I will discuss one that was so embarrassing, I have made sure to never repeat it.

An Internal Project

Several years ago, I was working for a consulting firm that was very good about training and development when consultants were on the bench between projects. This firm had a handful of consultants in that situation and initiated an internal project.

We ran it like a real project. Although we generally executed projects in an agile approach, there was some waterfall approach involved. We defined the full scope up front in order to provide an estimate for the total cost.

The CEO of the firm was going to play the role of the product owner. We met with him several times with business analysts to gather the requirements he had for an application.

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Practicing Compassion in Consulting

We are experiencing a phenomenon that none of us has experienced in our lifetimes. It is not just a once in a lifetime thing. It is a once in three lifetimes thing. When I was a young kid in the 1970s, we talked about an energy crisis. We had to save energy by turning down our thermostats and driving less.

I have only heard and read about the sacrifices we made domestically during World War II. Citizens were required to ration everything from food, to rubber to fuel for the war effort.

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4 Predictions for Post-COVID-19

At the time of this writing, many of us are still in the midst of a quarantine that could last, in some form, for several months. There still are more questions than answers. And that could be the situation for quite some time to come.

With such uncertainty, I wanted to make some key predictions on how our world will look when we come out on the other end.

Quarantine’s end will be gradual – and jagged.

Depending on where you live, you may be under some form of quarantine or work from home order. I have heard many say things like, “When this is all over…” or “When we come out of this…”

We talk about it like there will be a definitive end. And that makes sense, considering that most of the government orders have been for some specific time period. In Illinois, where I live, it started for a 2-week period. It was then extended to the end of May. Some states have opened up, with some form of restriction. There has been much debate throughout the world regarding when and how to lift the strict regulations. Many worry that opening things up completely will result in another, larger wave of COVID-19 cases.

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The Lost Art of Hallway Conversations

The work from home trend has taken off. According to CNN Money, the number of people telecommuting has increased 115% in the last decade.

A number of indicators show that that will only increase. Organizations have moved on from the trust issue and realized just how much hosting a worker on their own real estate costs.

Additionally, the nature of many jobs doesn’t require people to be face to face for many – if any – of their responsibilities. I worked in a large corporate environment just last year. It was on a campus of about a dozen buildings. When we scheduled meetings, we would usually include a call in number for any remote folks. Invariably, we would get one or two people in a large conference room, with everyone else calling in. Some worked at home. Some were in the next building and didn’t want to walk over. Some were seated adjacent to the conference room but simply wanted to multi-task at their desk.
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Quantitative Measurements and Gaming the System

I had a friend start a new job. Once he got acclimated with his surroundings, he developed a daily routine once he got to work. He would always be there by the required 8:30 am. He would hang up his coat, stop at the restroom, grab his coffee cup, and get some coffee in the breakroom.

If someone he knew was in the breakroom, he might spend a few minutes chatting.  He would then go to his desk and power up his laptop and get to work.  His routine was very similar to that of his coworkers. He even noticed that his peers usually spent more time chatting than he did.

After he had been there a couple of months, he was called to his boss’s office. She asked him why he was habitually late to work.

“I’m here by 8:30 every morning.” He replied.

His boss gave him a look of disbelief. “I have a report here that says you don’t log in until after 8:40 on a consistent basis.”
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Ethics of Personal Branding

In marketing, how you brand your product is the most important aspect you consider. Virtually everything you do affects your product’s branding. The brand is essentially, how the public views the product. The packaging, where it is sold, its price, advertising: everything affects the product’s brand.

The same is true in your personal branding. Everything you do can affect it. How you dress, how you act in public, what you post on social media, and how you perform. They are all inputs that make up your personal brand.

Truth in advertising

The point of branding a product is essentially to put it in the best light for the optimal number of people in the market in which you’re selling. If you’re branding toothpaste, you want the most people with teeth to think your toothpaste is the best.


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In marketing, how you brand your product is the most important aspect you consider. Virtually everything you do affects your product’s branding. The brand is essentially, how the public views the product. The packaging, where it is sold, its price, advertising: everything affects the product’s brand.

The same is true in your personal branding. Everything you do can affect it. How you dress, how you act in public, what you post on social media, and how you perform. They are all inputs that make up your personal brand.

Truth in advertising

The point of branding a product is essentially to put it in the best light for the optimal number of people in the market in which you’re selling. If you’re branding toothpaste, you want the most people with teeth to think your toothpaste is the best.


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Do your orders create confusion?

I had a boss once who was incredibly smart. He started his career in technology as a developer. He worked his way up to team lead, manager, director, and eventually VP.

While he maintained his technical knowledge, he also developed a deep level of business acumen. The combination of the two led to a fast-tracked career for him. He was well known and admired throughout the company. He advanced quickly.

Despite his esteemed reputation, he had one serious flaw. When he gave direction, people often didn’t know what he wanted. I would sit in meetings with him and he would ask someone in the room to follow up on something. After he left, the person he spoke to would ask the room, “Do you know what he wants me to do?”

I would empathize with them. Because I had been in the same situation. He would ask me to do something and glaze over the details. He didn’t describe the outcome he was looking for. He might as well have told me, “Talk to that guy about the thing we discussed in that one meeting.”

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Take Time for Leadership

I once worked on an engagement where the president of the company flew in for the monthly steering committee meeting. He would schmooze the client, take them out to lunch, and assure them of their importance to the firm.

And that was true. This was one of the largest engagements we had in the firm. This was a very important client.

We had many consultants on the project. While some were offshore, more than half of them were in the same building in which the steering committee took place.

The first couple of times, we convinced the president to meet with the team. We felt it was important for the president of the company to give them some of his time and say thank you in person. They worked hard and we thought it would be a good morale boost.

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A Personal Weakness Assessment

I remember the performance evaluation I received after the first year of my career. My boss was a great guy. I liked him personally. But he was a bit non-confrontational.

The review was outstanding. Anyone reading it who didn’t know me would think I was going to be CEO in just a couple of years. I was great at everything.

But I knew that wasn’t the case. I had one year of a professional career under my belt. I felt like I did well. But I had a lot of things to learn. I walked out of his office with a nice feeling. But more than anything, I felt a little empty.
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Do you copy the right people?

Most of us get more emails in a day than we would like to admit. Most of us have at least two email accounts: work and personal. As a consultant, I have an account for my firm, my client, and two personal accounts.

I have a daily routine of going through and killing all of the junk items. I unsubscribe when appropriate.

Then I have to go through all of the remaining emails that may or may not apply to me. Some I have to act on. Some are just sent to me as an FYI. Many of them I look at and wonder why I was included. This can be more annoying when it becomes an on-going thread.

On the other hand, I learn in meetings and side conversations that an email thread was sent around to a group that I should have known about, but I wasn’t included.

Removing people from an email thread

Often, an email is sent to a large group of people because the sender is unsure who can resolve an issue. As the thread evolves, it develops into a conversation with only a few critical participants.

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