12 Books To Kickstart Your Leadership Skills

Looking for books to read this fall? Here are some highlights from my 2016 reading. Please take a look and enjoy! You’ll find insight on networking, how to learn valuable super skills, become more productive and find biographies of highly successful leaders.

How Do You Read So Many Books?

Reading books is a priority for me so I make time for it on a daily basis. My minimum is 30 minutes of book reading per day. My connection with books goes way back. In fact, I had a part time job in a public library as a teenager. If learning, growth (and yes, entertainment) interest you, then find a way to make time for books.

1. The Education of Millionaires: Everything You Won’t Learn in College About How to Be Successful by Michael Ellsberg

The-Education-of-Millionaires

After listening to this book twice on Audible, I bought to read in Kindle format. It’s an excellent book. The book presents two arguments. First, that higher education in the U.S. (and to some degree elsewhere) is dysfunctional and overpriced and no longer the only path to living the good life. The second argument, forming the majority of the book, is an explanation of key business success skills: sales, marketing, networking and more.

Rating: 5/5

 

 

2. The Last Safe Investment: Spending Now to Increase Your True Wealth Forever by Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsberg

The Last Safe Investment

This ambitious book seeks to take on the financial industry and describe a better way. In some ways, the book is structurally similar to “The Education of Millionaires.” The authors start by describing a large scale system they describe as broken (i.e. the financial services industry) and then propose solutions. There are interesting concepts here such as the Happiness Exchange Rate and Super Skills. In some cases, I found that there was no quite enough examples and evidence to back up the book’s points. There is still much to be gained from reading this book.

Rating: 4/5

3. The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey

The Productivity Project

What strategies and techniques actually work in productivity? That’s the premise of Bailey’s book. It’s an excellent book that covers both tactical points and big picture issues (e.g. taking care of your mind and body make a big impact). The author’s website is also an excellent resource of articles that combine serious and playful explorations of productivity (e.g. 5 huge lessons I learned binge-watching Netflix for a month and 10 huge productivity lessons I learned working 90-hour weeks last month).

Rating: 5/5

Tip: Curious to learn more about this book? Read my book review of The Productivity Project.

 

4. Networking with the Affluent Paperback by Thomas Stanley

Networking With The Affluent

Networking is one of the most powerful skills to develop, yet many people struggle with it. Ever heard the tip to “give value to your network” and wondered what exactly that means? In this book, Stanley gives you plenty of practical examples. For example, write to elected officials to support causes that people in your network care about (assuming you have a similar position). Even better, refer customers to people in your network.

Note: the book is aimed at sales professionals and professional services providers (e.g. imagine you are an accountant looking to building your practice with affluent clients). With a bit of creative thought and reflection, you can apply much of the book’s insights to your career even if you are not in sales.

Tip: Readers ask me how to make the most of conferences. Check out this resource: “How To Get The Most Value From Conferences In 6 Steps

Rating: 4.5 / 5 (The book’s dated examples are sometimes tiresome. Don’t let that stop you from obtaining valuable insights!)

5. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam M. Grant

adam-grant-give-and-take-book-cover

Earlier in 2016, I had the opportunity to see Grant speak at the Rotman School of Management in Toronto. Grant’s work shows why being a giver in life and business improves productivity and performance. Grant’s dedication to field research sets this book apart from many books written by professors. The final section of the book covers how to apply the book’s insights.

Rating: 5/5

 

 

6. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

Originals Adam Grant

What does it mean to make an original contribution? Grant shows that novelty and logic is not enough to bring a new idea to life. Sometimes you have to take an indirect approach. As I grow my platform and see more of the world, creativity is a growing concern for me. It was well worth it to read this book. Oh, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote the forward.

Bonus: Check out Grant’s TED talk The surprising habits of original thinkers.

Rating: 5/5

 

 

7. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries

The Lean Startup

What does it take to create a successful product and business with a minimum of wasted time and money? That’s the question that Ries explores in the book. I like that he refers to his own startup experience in developing the book. If you are interested in finding out more about tech startups and their approach to innovation, this is the book for you.

Rating: 4/5 (I found some of the book’s concepts difficult to apply. However, there is a community of fans and consultants who can help you apply the book’s concepts!)

 

 

8. Eleanor Roosevelt Vol 1 & 2 by Blanche Wiesen Cook

Eleanor Roosevelt Vol 1

I picked up theses books after I saw that Ryan Holiday recommended them. Wow! What an interesting life – full of change, activity and overcoming disappointments. Did you know that some insiders encouraged ER to run for President in 1940? ER did not hold public office yet she wielded tremendous influence through her network, publishing and activism. These books took weeks to read – it was well worth the effort.

My favourite Roosevelt biography remains The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris. His boundless energy, work ethic and accomplishments remind me to keep working away at my goals.

Note: Volume 3 in the series, covering 1939-1962, is expected for release later in 2016. I may well read on my end of year vacation.

Rating: 5/5

9. The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Michael D. Watkins

The First 90 Days

Executives and managers starting a new job face special challenges to get up to speed. In this book, you will learn how to make the most of your early days in a new role. Watkins emphasizes the importance of listening and learning before you start to make changes. You can read this book in a weekend: short, to the point and helpful.

Rating: 5/5 (Project Managers: think about applying this book’s concepts when you start a new project especially if you are working with a new team).

 

 

10. Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do by Chris Guillebeau

Born For This Book Cover

I have followed Guillebeau’s work for years with great interest. In some ways, he is an inspiration for the work I do on this website (see: 279 Days to Overnight Success which inspires me to continue my work). In this book, Guillebeau explores how to find a career that suits you. To get you started, there are some helpful resources on the Born For This book website such as how to start a side hustle.

Rating: 4/5 (I think his earlier book “The $100 Startup” was stronger. If you’re looking for tips on how to make it big in the Fortune 500, this is not the book for you.)

Tip: Curious about Guillebeau’s annual conference, “The World Domination Summit”? Read my article Field Report from the World Domination Summit.

11. Becoming The Boss : New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders by Lindsey Pollak

Becoming The Boss Book Cover

You’ve been promoted! Now what? That’s some of what you’ll learn in Pollak’s book. I like that she targeted her approach to the Millennial generation though much of the book will apply to others. Most career management books for this generation focus on the first job, so it is great to see this broader perspective.

Rating: 4/5

 

 

 

12. The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier

The Coaching Habit

The best leaders develop their staff. You can’t accomplish that if you never listen and treat your staff like a pair of hands. In his timely new book, you will learn the fundamental coaching skills. Want the ultra-brief version? “Listen more and ask more questions.”

Rating: 4/5

Hat Tip: Today’s post is inspired by James Clear’s book article: Book Summaries: Popular Books Summarized in 3 Sentences or Less.

 

 

Question For The Comments:

What book have you read this year to grow your leadership skills?

Escape From Shallow Work with “Deep Work” (Book Review)

Deep Work by Cal Newport Book Cover

I finished reading Cal Newport‘s new book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World a few days ago. It has adjusted my thinking on productivity. The classic productivity books like Getting Things Done by David Allen (want to know more? read this: Leading Yourself With Getting Things Done) are often interpreted as a ‘task management system.’ Newport’s book argues that raw task accomplishment is not enough. We need to focus our energy on high value activities or or what he calls “deep work.”

Two Ways To Think About Your Work

Through book, Newport regularly compares and contrasts shallow and deep work. Let’s clarify with his definitions:

Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.

Shallow Work: Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.

The degree to which the work is demanding on your capabilities is a key point. Newport also makes an economic distinction. With few exceptions, deep work tends to produce greater value and rewards. Why? Deep work tends to lead to mastery, new insights and improved skills. If deep work is so great, why don’t we practice it already? It comes down to distraction.

Why You You’re So Distracted: The Impact of Habit Forming Products

What comes to mind when you read the phrase ‘habit forming products’? Tobacco? For many of us, that’s not the challenge. Instead, the challenge is how and when to use what Newport calls “network tools.” In that broad category, he includes Facebook, email, social media, smart phones and more. It’s no accident these products and services are constantly grabbing your attention. A recent book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products delves into the psychology and methods to create this distracting (addictive?) products. If you find it difficult to focus, it’s not entirely your fault. There’s an industry of designers, engineers and consultants who are working at making these services difficult to resist.

At this point, you might be thinking, “Ok, so what can I do about this?” Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Keep reading!

Identify The High Value Activities For Your Profession

Doing the right work is underappreciated. Usually, there are a few activities truly matter. For research professors seeking tenure, publishing articles in highly respected publications is the most important activity. For sales professionals, time spent interacting with qualified prospects is the most important activity. I’m keen on this principle. Yet, I’m struggling with how to apply it to analyst roles or project management jobs. “Deliver the project” seems too broad. Perhaps the application is to aggressive manage the most important person (i.e. your boss, the client or the sponsor) because neglected clients will tend to get upset even if the project metrics look good.

Read: “The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan.

Use Fixed Schedule Productivity

In the productivity world, there’s an ongoing debate between focusing on your schedule versus focusing on your task list. Clearly both matter; it is a question of priority. I like to use the “3 big tasks” each day strategy where each of the tasks connects to my annual goals (i.e. write and promoting this blog post connects to my goal to grow my email list – you can sign up here: Sign Up For the ProjectManagementHacks Email Newsletter). Newport makes the case for using a schedule approach.

Read the following article for a detailed explanation of this approach: How I Accomplish a Large Amount of Work in a Small Number of Work Hours

Improve Your Email Habits

Handling email is a major source of shallow work for all professionals – especially those who work in project management. Let’s take a look at some of Newport’s suggestions to cut back on email. Remember, the point of cutting back on email is to free up time to work on deep work activity.

Tip #1: Make People Who Send You E-mail Do More Work

Newport uses his practice of discouraging email correspondents with this example:

If you want to reach me, I offer only a special-purpose e-mail address that comes with conditions and a lowered expectation that I’ll respond: If you have an offer, opportunity, or introduction that might make my life more interesting, e-mail me at interesting [at] calnewport.com. For the reasons stated above, I’ll only respond to those proposals that are a good match for my schedule and interests.

Evaluation: I love the principle but it will likely be very difficult to adopt if you are an employee. If you have a way in mind to implement this idea, please share by writing a comment below.

Tip #2: Do More Work When You Send or Reply to E-mails

It’s easy to dash off a quick response simply to “get it off your plate.” Newport points out this frantic approach often generate even more email because others need clarification. How do you improve? Newport’s solution is to use templates and a process approach to improve email.

The process-centric approach to e-mail can significantly mitigate the impact of this technology on your time and attention. There are two reasons for this effect. First, it reduces the number of e-mails in your inbox—sometimes significantly (something as simple as scheduling a coffee meeting can easily spiral into half a dozen or more messages over a period of many days, if you’re not careful about your replies).

Example: You need to arrange a meeting time with a coworker.

Bad Approach: “Let’s meet sometime”

Better Approach: “Let’s meet at the following dates and times (3 options).”

Evaluation: Yes, this is a fantastic principle!

Tip #3: Don’t Respond

Could silence be the best solution to never ending email? Here is Newport’s explanation:

As a graduate student at MIT, I had the opportunity to interact with famous academics. In doing so, I noticed that many shared a fascinating and somewhat rare approach to e-mail: Their default behavior when receiving an e-mail message is to not respond. Over time, I learned the philosophy driving this behavior: When it comes to e-mail, they believed, it’s the sender’s responsibility to convince the receiver that a reply is worthwhile.

Evaluation: An interesting approach! It reminds me of email strategy that Tim Ferriss advocates in The 4 Hour Workweek.

Question For The Comment Section:

How do you improve your focus on high value deep work activities?

JP Morgan Chase & Co Project Manager Profile: Paul Rezaie

Paul Rezaie
Paul Rezaie, PMP

Modern banks offer a wide variety of products and services: commercial banking, loans, credit cards, investment services and more. How do project managers contribute to banking success? In this article, Paul Rezaie, Project Manager at JPMorgan Chase & Co, shares his career journey including what’s he learned working at JP Morgan Chase & Co.

Company Profile: JP Morgan Chase & Co

  • Established in 1799 (The History of JPMorgan Chase & Co)
  • Services and Products: retail banking, investment banking, asset management and commercial banking are the company’s main offerings. In this interview, Paul focuses on the company’s payments products.
  • Global Operations: the bank has operations in over 100 countries.
  • Staff: The global bank has over 230,000 employees.
  • 2015 Revenue: $95 billion (net income $24 billion)

Introduction

1. What did you study in school? What were your favorite areas?

I studied Information Technology at York University, I went to school to learn about technology and I fell in love with philosophy when I took an ethics course. Looking back, my favorite philosophers were Aristotle and Socrates.

2. What was an early project that ignited your interest in the field?

I met the CEO of Loony Host, a web hosting company, and he asked me to create a project to boost his business. In 2005, I worked on improving the business. He gave me free range: I hired sales representatives, technical staff, wrote sales scripts, schedules, product sheets, support documents, and made sales. The project brought in $100,000 in revenue. After running this project, I was hooked on project management.

3. Thinking back to one of your first projects, what was a mistake you made that you have learned from?

I would do a lot of small projects for small businesses and on a couple projects, there were signs that the client wouldn’t be able to pay, but I still moved forward on the project in good faith. I would deliver the project but wouldn’t get paid. I encountered these challenges when I worked with new companies and single person companies. After those experiences, I decided to change my focus and work with large, established firms instead.

4. What is a personal habit you practice to maintain your productivity? 

I have two regular habits to boost my productivity.

First, I use the brainHQ.com website. It’s a cognitive enhancement website that is created by neurologists. After 6 months of practice, I felt like I have a whole new mind. I’ve noticed that I have improved decision making abilities, better memory and improved focus. Second, I have a daily exercise habit where I work out in the morning and in the evening.

Current Role

4. How did you get hired to your current role? What was the process?

I regularly made small talk with project managers in the PMO department at JP Morgan Chase. It turns out that there is little attrition in the department – they haven’t hired anyone in 8 years. But I got my break! I heard there was an opening, I prepared my resume, regularly checked the job board and when It got posted, I was the first to apply. I got an interview, I played my strong suite and then a second interview and got offered the job. My industry experience and the fact that I had a PMP were important factors in landing the job.

5. What is a project you worked on or managed that you’re proud of and why?

I am currently managing the release of a payment product.

Getting the business ready for Debit MasterCard has been a great experience. I worked with a team across North America. I am proud of this project because I got to see all the moving parts involved in payments. For example, I have learned about payment terminals, point of sale payments, credit cards, contactless payments, bank issuers and payments technology.  I feel proud to have brought to market a unique form of payment that will be around for a long time to come

6. What industry trends are important to your work? 

How people spend their money is important to my work. It’s also interesting to notice the rising popularity of credit card and contactless card payments over cash. My work is also impacted by payment terminal upgrades and company budget issues.

7. What is something special about the company’s culture that few people know about?

JPMorgan is a unique company in that the former CEO David Rockefeller paved the way for the financial industry that touches the lives of every person that comes into contact with the monetary system. The company has a huge art collection, and archives that has the first every printed dollar bill in the US. The heritage here goes deep…. 200 years deep and the company proudly displays and shares reminders of the accomplishments and successes. I’m proud of Jamie Dimon, CEO of the company since 2005, for the amazing work he does. Thanks to him, we were one of the few major banks to earn a during the 2008 recession.

Professional Development

8. What was the most valuable professional development activity you’ve completed?

In July 2015, I earned the PMP certification. It has been highly valuable: every company recognizes it and it has a positive impact on compensation.

9. If you could give two books to someone else to help them achieve career success, what would they be?

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. A key lesson from Carnegie’s book: Don’t criticize people.

Getting to Yes with Yourself: And Other Worthy Opponents by William Ury. A key lesson from this book: “You are your biggest opponent” in negotiations.

10. What is your approach to building and maintaining your network? 

I attend Meetup.com events such as Toronto Babel and found it a good way to meet new people. I have also found it worthwhile to attend conferences such as IBM’s Outthink conference about IBM Watson. When I get to know people at events and conferences, I follow up by adding them as a connection on LinkedIn.

Conclusion

11. Any parting words of advice to reader?

Seek help, talk to professionals that can help you better understand yourself and your strengths and weaknesses. From this point you can work on your weakness and market your strengths.

It’s also to work for a company you believe in. The philosophy of JPMorgan has encouraged me to be a better person, a stronger member of my community and more financially savvy.

12. What’s the best way for readers to get in touch with you?

Add me as a connection on LinkedIn.

FedEx Project Manager Profile: Leigh Espy

Leigh Photo
Leigh Espy, FedEx Project Manager

What is like to work as a project manager? The easy answer is “it depends.” That’s true but it doesn’t really tell us much. In today’s article, you will hear directly from Leigh Espy about her journey into project management success at FedEx.

FedEx Profile

  • Established in 1971.
  • Services and Products: global delivery of letters, parcels and packages to over 200 countries and territories. In 2013, the company delivered 1.5 million items on Mother’s Day.
  • 2015 Revenue: over $47 billion U.S. ($2.57 billion net income)

1. What did you study in school?

I studied political science for my undergraduate degree and went on to earn a master’s degree in sociology. This led me to a project coordinator position in local government early in my career. Through many discussions with my husband – who works in software development – I discovered an interest in the technology field.

2. What was an early project that ignited your interest in the field?

In 2003, I managed a project to set up a new customer at my company’s data center. The customer needed a delivery date that was unrealistic and would not be possible the way it was laid out. It was a growth experience for me because it involved coming together with the customer to identify creative solutions to meet their needs. I had to be comfortable with transparency and being honest about what was realistic, and still demonstrate a willingness to find a way to make it work for everyone. We settled on a staged delivery, and first delivered the most critical components within the customer’s required timeline, yet were able to deliver some components afterward. The project was successful and the customer was happy.

3. Thinking back to one of your first projects, what was a mistake you made that you have learned from?

Omitting impacted parties during planning was an early mistake I learned from. I recall a project where we were close to going live. There was one team that would be impacted and we had not communicated with them. As a result, a key question I ask today on every project is: “Who else is going to be impacted?” I don’t want surprises at toward the end of a project.

4. What is a personal habit you practice to maintain productivity each day?

There are two habits that give me a foundation to perform. Sleep: without a proper amount of sleep each night, my performance suffers noticeably. Watching what I eat matters as well – some foods make me feel tired and I avoid these. There are other productivity habits I layer on top of these, but these are two foundation behaviors that I consider non-negotiable for myself.

5. How did you get hired to your current job at FedEx?

I was hired as a project manager at FexEx in Memphis, Tennessee by applying to an online posting. I knew from others who work there that FedEx is a great company. I sent out a query to find out if they knew of any positions available. Fortunately, I had a friend there who told me about an an opening on his team. I applied and got the job, and now I know first-hand how fantastic the company is.

6. What is a project you worked on or managed that you’re proud of and why?

I led an effort to develop a risk-based software development process. We developed the process with input from the user community, including business partners as well. It had global impact so it gave us a great opportunity to reach out and make contacts around the world. It was a process change that had real impact to the use community, to make their work easier while still maintaining the quality and compliance requirements we must meet as a publicly traded company.

7. What industry trends are important to your work?

My team has adopted the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) in the last two years. It’s been fun to learn new approaches after having followed waterfall methodology for so many years. I realize that Agile is not the right fit for every project, but I’ve enjoyed adding a new approach to my skillset.

8. What is something special about Federal Express’s culture?

FedEx is well known for the expression: people, service, profit. When we take care of employees, profits and other business results will follow. Staff are well supported here through learning and development, employee recognition and support for philanthropic efforts.

In the community service area, FedEx has a lot to offer. For example, some staff volunteer to build homes with Habitat for Humanity. The company is also involved in emergency relief efforts by offering planes and other infrastructure.

FedEx has repeatedly been recognized as a top employer in several publications including Fortune Magazine’s 2013 Best Companies To Work For List.

9. What was the most valuable professional development activity (e.g. seminar, course, conference) you’ve attended and why?

I took two courses with Rita Mulcahy early in my career: a PMP exam preparation course and an introduction to project management. These courses gave me a more solid foundation and added confidence as I transitioned into IT project management. This move impacted the trajectory of my career.

  • Editor’s Note: Rita Mulcahy passed away in 2010. Her company, RMC Learning Solutions, continues to provide a variety of project management books and training resources.

10. If you could give two books to someone else to help them achieve career success, what would they be?

Ryan Holiday’s book, “The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph.” Drawing on Stoic philosophy, this book shows how and why to view challenges as opportunities for growth. Further, Holiday reminds us that challenges will always be with us.

Steven Kotler’s book, “The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance.” This book emphasizes the importance of a flow state in achieving productivity in our work and activities.

11. What is your approach to building and maintaining your network?

My networking philosophy is to reach out and offer value to other people. To succeed in networking, you need to be intentional and proactive. One way to add value is to share good resources with your network by posting on Twitter and LinkedIn. I’m a fan of promoting the great work of others to support their success. It’s easy to do, and can have a positive outcome – either for the producer of the work, or for someone it touches.

  • Editor’s Note: Leigh first introduced herself to me by commenting on a blog post and then joined my email list.

12. Any parting words of advice to reader?

Get comfortable with discomfort! Look for stretch opportunities because that is where you are likely to grow your skills.

  • Editor’s Note: Do you want to get promoted? Author Donald Asher points out that taking on stretch assignments is vital to getting ahead.

13. What’s the best way for readers to get in touch with you?

Readers are welcome to visit my blog, Project Bliss, and contact me by email: leigh AT espy.net.

How To Ace Job Interviews: 5 Secrets Backed By Research

Image Source: Shutterstock
Image Source: Shutterstock

It’s the moment of truth in any career change: the job interview. You sweat. You prepare and hope for the best. But it usually feels like a black box.

That’s going to change with this article. Based on the excellent research from, “Pedigree: how elite students get elite jobs,” by Lauren A. Rivera, we’re going to break down job interviews.

During her PhD research at Harvard University, Rivera “went undercover” to find out how elite firms (high end law firms, consulting firms and financial firms) hire new staff from America’s top universities.

Do these insights apply to all hiring situations? I would say yes based on my personal experience and research. Of course, there are some nuances specific to the firms Rivera studied (e.g. the case interview in the management consulting industry).

Reporting From The Front Lines Of The Elite Job Market

In her excellent book, Rivera reports on how individuals at elite companies actually think and behave in hiring and recruiting. How? Rivera interviewed numerous profiessionals and personally worked in these firms during recruiting season. This book is the most detailed and robust explanation of how job interviews and hiring work in the wild I have ever seen.

Rivera describes the job interview as a four act process:

  1. Icebreaking chitchat
  2. Autobiographical Narrative
  3. Technical Tests
  4. A Question and Answer Period

You will learn how each step works in this article because knowing is half the battle!

Secret 1: Your Interviewer Probably Has No Training

Hiring decisions matter, especially in professional services firms that sell high priced labor. So you would expect plenty of time and attention would be applied to training interviewers? Rivera’s research on professionals at top firms finds the opposite:

Sociological accounts of hiring often portray hiring decisions – including interview evaluations – as being conducted by professionalized HR staff who have in-depth knowledge of interviewing techniques…However, in the firms that I studied, interviews were conducted almost exclusively by full-time revenue generating professionals who balanced recruitment responsibilities with full-time client responsibilities. Interviewing was a secondary responsibility for them… Because firms gave evaluators little guidance regarding what merit is and how they should measure it, identifying talent was largely up to each interviewer’s judgement.

That means that if you and friend both interview at the same company, you can expect quite different results. How so? Rivera founds that some interviewers rated candidates highly on “fit” if they happen to share the same hobbies (e.g. SCUBA diving or Varsity athletics).

Secret 2: Icebreaking Chitchat Matters More Than You Think In Job Interviews

As you walk down the hallway with the interviewer, the job interview is underway. How you talk about the news, the weather and more all factor into the impression you make. Here is how Rivera reports on this phase of the job interview:

The interviewers I spoke with often began by asking job candidates which they liked to do in their spare time. Yet this conversation was not “cheap talk”, tangential to the the evaluation process. It was the primary basis on which interviewers judged the key criterion of cultural fit… Firms, in essence, sought surface-level demographic diversity in applicant pools but deep-level cultural homogeneity in new hires.

Surprisingly, certain hobbies and interests were considered more “worthy” than others in this process. Having time and resources to indulge in fun is not always possible. Rivera points out: “Concerted cultivation of leisure is a hallmark of the more economically privileged social ranks.” The types of activities that evaluators participated in and valued were also those most commonly associated with white, upper-middle class culture.” If you leisure activities are expensive (e.g. golf), that is more likely to earn your bonus points. However, good leisure activities are not the only factor; your personal story matters as well.

Secret 3: Telling Your Story Is More Than “Just The Facts”

What comes to mind when someone asks you the typical job interview question, “Tell me about yourself.”

At first glance, this appears to be a highly personal question that could be answered in many different ways. In fact, there is right way to answer and a wrong way to answer. Rivera observes the key elements in crafting and delivering an effective autobiographical narrative in job interviews:

A strong narrative had two distinct but interrelated components: the applicant’s past experiences and his or her future trajectory. Interviewers used stories of the past to assess a candidate’s level of “drive,” an evaluative criterion that combined ambition and a strong work ethic. They used stories of the future to assess a candidates level of “interest” in a career with their firms.

Simply thinking about your relevant past experiences and plans for the future is a starting point but not enough. However, Rivera reports that HOW that narrative is delivered makes a big difference.

Not all candidates’ stories were equally successful in eliciting high marks on drive from evaluators. This is not surprising but it is problematic. It means that artful storytelling about one’s experiences is awarded greater weight than one’s actual experiences (enumerated on resumes) in job interviews.

What are the key elements of a successful story in a job interview?

  • A series of decisions in a coherent, linear account
  • an emotionally, exciting narrative
  • a portrait of experiences similar to the interviewer OR a dramatic/unique story line.

Rivera goes on to point out that many job applicants struggle to excel with these expectations. For example, what if your choices reflected surprise opportunities, unexpected tragedies or other limitations? Based on my reading, it looks like candidates are likely to be rejected if their narrative contains anything other than a series of heroic triumphs.

Secret 4: Getting It Right On Technical Tests Still Matters

In some job interviews, you will be tested on technical skills. Years ago, I remember completing a series of tests (including written essays!) for a position in Canada’s civil service. I passed all the tests but did not succeed in the French language test. That level of evaluation in technical skills appears rare for the firms that Rivera studied.

Why?

There are two reasons for this lack of concern about technical skills. First, recruiters assume that elite colleges and universities, by virtue of their challenging admissions processes, have already selected highly intelligent students. Second, elite professional services firms are noted for their extensive training programs (i.e. you are not expected to be economically productive right away) so new hires are not expected to have job skills.

Let’s take an example from the consulting job interviews which stress the importance of case interviews:

Although case interviews incorporate the most systematic tests of job-relevant skills across the industries that I studied, their purpose was not to screen for previously acquired job-specific knowledge but rather to identify candidates who displayed a generalized knack for problem solving.

The discussion goes on to provide commentary on how interviewers perceived case interview answers. An effective answer has an explicit structure (e.g. 3-5 bullet points summarizing the main issues was considered ideal). One unexpected surprise? Candidates were sometimes rated favorably in this section based on structure and logic, even if there were errors in the detail of the analysis. In contrast, less organized answers – even with perfect math – often led to lower ratings.

Secret 5: Navigating The Question And Answer Period

Demonstrating interest in a company and profession help in job interviews. Rivera’s research found the following about asking questions during job interviews:

Like other acts of the interview, the Q&A was a ritualized interaction and good performance within it followed a particular script. First, the interviewee has to ask the interviewer something… Interviewers interpreted having questions about the firm or the job as evidence of genuine interests in the firm and an absence of queries as a sign that the candidate didn’t really want the job.

Asking questions in a job interview serves two purposes: obtaining information AND demonstrating your interest in the role. However, some questions are better than others. Here are some of Rivera’s further observations on that front:

A wrong question, though, probed the time commitments entailed by these jobs. For example, asking too many questions about travel demands or working hours made interviewers question applicants’ commitment to the job or the firm and their underlying personal character… Several female evaluators, mostly lawyers, reported having particularly negative reactions to applicants – primarily other women – who asked about work-life balance or family leave policies during the interview.

There’s nothing wrong with being curious about hours, travel and related points. These questions to be discovered through networking rather than a job interview. Ultimately, the Q&A portion is helpful but it does not overcome other parts of the interview. The one exception? Asking “bad” questions (e.g. about hours, benefits, pay) during a job interview tends to produce a negative reaction.

Question of The Day (Write Your Answer In A Comment!)

What have you learned to improve your job interview skills over time?

Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru: Interview With Joe Berlinger

Tony Robbins I Am Not Your Guru Poster

Tony Robbins is a larger than life figure who has been leading seminars around the world for decades. Some people remember Robbins from his TV infomercials. Others know about him through books like “Money: Master The Game” and “Awaken The Giant Within.” Outside of his business and writing, Robbins is also an active in charities through his foundation – the Basket Brigade has provided assistance to millions of people over the past few decades.

I had the opportunity to see “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru” film at the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto earlier in 2016. I have read two of his books (mentioned above) and found them useful. I’ve never attended one of his seminars, so Joe’s film gave an inside look at Robbins and his approach to delivering seminars which was interesting.

What can we learn about Robbins from Berlinger’s film? In the social media age, the film underscores the tremendous value of participating in live events in order to achieve personal and professional growth. Second, I was impressed by the event management skills Robbins brings to bear (notwithstanding the controversy over the recent Dallas event: Tony Robbins event attendees burned after walking on hot coals ) on these events. It is no small feat to engage and inspire several thousand people during a multi-day event yet Robbins has done it over and over again.

Q&A Interview With Director Joe Berlinger

1. Why did you decide to make this documentary?

In 2012, I met Tony Robbins at a social event. He invited me to attend one of his events as his guest. I was not deeply familiar with his work prior to attending. I found it to be a powerful emotional experience that had a cinematic quality.

In 2014, I started the process of seeking permission to make a film. Robbins had some questions related to maintaining a high quality experience for attendees and some other points.

Ultimately, I was able to convince him of my approach through persistence and demonstrating my approach. After viewing my previous documentaries, Robbins understood that I could thoughtfully present complex topics in documentary form. I was eventually able to persuade him through persistence and my track record.

[Note: Previously, Berlinger’s body of work includes documentaries concerning FBI corruption [Whitey: United States of America V. James J. Bulger], oil politics [Crude] and economic issues ([We The Economy: The Street].]

2. Which event did you film?

In 2014, we filmed the “Date with Destiny” seminar in Florida. It is a six day event that covers a variety of topics.

[Note: The Tony Robbins website describes the event in these terms: “At Date With Destiny you won’t simply discover who you are — you will decide and create your own life-changing experience. Connect with your ultimate purpose and ignite your passion to achieve the ultimate vision of your life, career, finances, health and relationships. ”

3. In addition to the seminar, the film shows Tony Robbins going through his daily routine. What are some of the insights you observed?

I noticed that Robbins takes physical health and exercise very seriously. It is a key reason that he is able to deliver multi-hour seminar experiences day after day. Beyond exercise, Robbins also practices daily meditation.

4. Our society is interested in gurus and thought leaders. Yet, the sub-title to the film is “I Am Not Your Guru.” What does that mean?

Early on, I heard Tony himself say, “I am not your guru.” Instead, his approach is to give you a set of tools understand what you want and then go for it. That could be business success, improving a relationship or health. Ultimately, the best approach is to use his teaching to lead the life you want.

5. Several individuals are profiled in the film who received interventions and other assistance from Tony Robbins and the event generally. What was the outcome?

Robbins asked me to follow up with the individuals highlighted in the event a year after filming. That was easy to do because film production takes considerable time. The outcomes look great so far. Several people have transformed their careers and moved into the coaching field. Another person had the opportunity to reconnect with a parent. A couple profiled in the film had an improved relationship.

6. What was the film concept you took with this film?

I wanted to use a concert film concept here. Previously, I made a documentary about Metallica (Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster) so I had some experience with that approach. The individual stories of transformation had a cinematic quality. I was also struck by the spirit of camaraderie among the attendees.

7. How do you compare Tony Robbins to others in his industry?

I did not take a comparative approach in this film. I don’t go to many seminars so it is difficult to comment on this point. Overall, I think Tony Robbins is the real deal and he’s on a mission to help people. There are some people that regard Tony Robbins fans as cult members – I disagree with that view.

8. Where can readers go for more information about the film?

The film is now available via Netflix. For additional information including photos and trailers, please visit the Joe Berlinger Films website.

Reviews and Article About Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru

Curious to know what other reviewers thought about the film? I have collected several reviews below for your reading pleasure.

Question Of The Day

What was the most helpful seminar or conference you have attended and why?

Master Ego Depletion To Keep Out of Trouble At Work

Tired Person

In project management, you are used to managing resources. You probably look at your calendar and project schedule dozens of times each day.

You may also have a fine tuned approach to managing your project’s financials. Monitoring and controlling these resources is fundamental to keeping your project running smoothly. What about your own mental energy?

If you fail to manage your mental resources effectively, you are likely to make dumb mistakes and erode your credibility.

What Is Ego Depletion?

Reading, “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman was the inspiration for this article. I was fascinated to learn about psychological research that explores the human ability to exert deliberate thinking. As Kahneman explains:

“Baumeister’s group has repeatedly found that an effort of will or self-control is tiring; if you have had to force yourself to do something, you are less willing or less able to exert self-control when the next challenge comes around. The phenomenon has been named ego depletion.”

I think of self-control as a finite, renewable resource. Over the course of a day, there is a certain amount of mental energy available and various activities reduce it (e.g. resisting chocolate, suppressing negative comments, or staying calm under pressure). Result? The typical person in a 9-5 work schedule will be less effective at 4pm compared to 10am due to ego depletion.

How To Keep Out Of Trouble At Work With Ego Depletion

Working with people, navigating complexity and developing creative solutions will tend to drain your energy. Here are a few ways that individuals and managers can avoid disaster by managing their mental energy.

Know Thy Energy

Many people have their best mental energy level in the first few hours after they wake up. Not sure if that pattern fits you? Track your energy levels over a few days. Proxy measures for mental energy include: time to solve problems (i.e. you will generally take longer if you are tired) and patterns for negative outbursts (i.e. if you are consistently yelling at people after 4pm but never before 12pm, then you have a pattern on your hands).

Resource: Read The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal By Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz for more on energy management.

Play To Your Energy Strengths

Once you understand your energy strengths, arrange your work accordingly. In my experience, creative work and problem solving are much more difficult when I’m tired. That’s why I aim to get those activities done earlier in the day. Of course, few people have 100% control over that work schedule – I’m not telling you to ignore the VP’s urgent request. Instead, manage what you can and think carefully about when you plan your own work.

Resource: Horstman’s Noon Rule of Scheduling. A great podcast that explains the value of completing high value tasks in the morning.

Use Energy Restoration Strategies

What about those situations when you need to perform even though your energy is low? What can you do in those situations? Kahneman describes an experiment where people consumed glucose (sugar) and found that it can help. The sugar strategy does provide a short term boost with a longer term cost. What are alternatives to boost your energy?

  • 20-30 Minute Nap. A number of companies provide nap rooms and facilities so staff can recharge. If available, look into this option. For more insight, check out this Scientific America article: Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime.
  • Remind yourself of the why. Working through the details matters. When your energy and motivation decline, it’s time for a different approach. In those cases, I suggest looking into the big picture why. For example, if the project is focused on cost savings remind yourself why that matters (e.g. “If we achieve $1 million in cost savings with this project through process improvement, then we can avoid layoffs). For more on this topic, read Start With Why by Simon Sinek.

Use A “Brain Dead List” For Low Energy Moments

I heard about this concept via one of David Allen’s staff. He once mentioned that one of his staff keeps a specialized to-do list called “brain dead.” This task list has activities that he can easily perform even when he has low energy and motivation. Sure, we all like to scan that Facebook newsfeed (or email inbox) over and over again but perhaps you could do something else instead? Examples of brain dead tasks vary depending on your strengths. It could be organizing email or cleaning up your work space. It’s any task that comes easily to you and takes little time to accomplish.

Avoid Big Decisions Right Before Lunch: A Cautionary Tale For Managers and Leaders

Do you manage people? Take note of the experience of a group of Israeli judges and their decision making patterns. The implication is important. Even highly trained and experienced professionals, who are handling life changing decisions each day, appear to be significantly influenced by breaks and meals. Here is the Economist’s take on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study, “I think it’s time we broke for lunch…“:

The team found that, at the start of the day, the judges granted around two-thirds of the applications before them. As the hours passed, that number fell sharply (see chart), eventually reaching zero. But clemency returned after each of two daily breaks, during which the judges retired for food. The approval rate shot back up to near its original value, before falling again as the day wore on… In truth, these results, though disturbing, are unsurprising. Judges may be trained to confine themselves to the legally relevant facts before them. But they are also human, and thus subject to all sorts of cognitive biases which can muddy their judgment.

Rationality is important. We also need to remember that reason and logic occur in a human context. If you’re hungry, tired or drained from difficult work, your reasoning capabilities will underperform.

Question of the Day:

What strategies do you use boost mental energy when you have to complete an urgent project?

Insider Perspectives on Recruiting With Ronald Yoon

Ronald Yoon Photo

How does recruiting work? What do recruiters want?

These are some of the thoughts that prompted me to interview Ronald Yoon, Technical Recruiter at EXPERIS ManpowerGroup. I met Ronald earlier this year at a Project Management Institute committee here in Toronto. If you like this article, please write a comment. I have plans for similar interview articles in the future.

Introduction

1. How did you get into the recruiting field?

Early in life, I lived in a variety of places – Montreal, Vancouver and Korea. By regularly moving to new places, I found myself regularly enjoying the process of meeting new people. In university, I studied economics and employment relations at the University of Toronto. During my studies there, I had the opportunity to work for one of the  major recruiting firm. My early interest in meeting a variety of people, my university studies and witnessing potential at the major recruiting firm have led me to the industry.

2. What are some of the misconceptions that people have about recruiters?

Some people have had negative experiences with recruiters. Those unfortunate incidents lead some people to stereotype all recruiters in a negative way. Like any profession, there are good and bad professionals.

3. What does a typical day at the office look like for you?

The details of each day vary. Generally, certain activities occur each day. There are conversations with clients in Finance, Telecom, health sector, Government, IT and engineering. I meet with candidates in person and by phone. I also put time into sourcing and research to find new candidates. I read articles that is related to new technologies and better project management methodologies.  I also put some time into participating in professional organizations like the Southern Ontario Chapter of the Project Management Institute.

The Recruiting Job Market

4. What are your observations on market demand for permanent full time vs contract roles in 2016?

In the Greater Toronto Area, I have noticed an increase in the number of permanent roles in 2016 compared to a year ago. However, there are company specific dynamics to consider. Some companies focus their recruiting on contract roles while others have a preference for full time roles.

5. Where have you seen the greatest increase in talent over the past 12 months for staff?

With my area of work, I see a few areas of increased demand. Candidates who are knowledgeable in DevOps, agile (both developers and project managers) and big data are in demand. There is also steady demand for project managers in a variety of roles. Over time, I have also observed certain seasonal patterns. For example, summer and Christmas time tend to be slow periods in recruiting. I have also found that some clients tend to recruit more project managers at the start of their fiscal years when new projects are funded.

6. Where have you seen the greatest decline in demand for talent over the past 12 months?

Technological change is a major factor.  It is easy to notice which areas and technologies are in demand because there are more requests about it. In contrast, noticing a decline is more difficult. In general, older technologies naturally gain less attention in the IT market and Finance which means declining in demand.

7. Do you see contract roles convert to full time roles?

I have seen some cases of contract roles converting to full time roles. There is no clear pattern to it though. Employers and candidates both have to consider cultural fit in these decisions.

Specific issues for candidates to consider in cultural fit include: management style (i.e. how much are you supported), attitudes to innovation (i.e. is innovation a priority for company) and communication style.

For example, companies have preference on different personalities whether it’s an introverted professional or an extroverted professionals. It really depends on the type of business they are in. Also, it will depend on the timing of the project (i.e. planning, execution, project conclusion) and what they are being asked to accomplish. 

What Candidates Need To Know

8. What do clients need to know about résumés? What oversights do you see on a recurring basis?

The most common mistake I see on résumé concerns dates. Many candidates do not provide full date information – month and year are needed for each item listed in your work history. If you have a gap in your work history, address it. Leaving an unexplained gap in your work history means hiring managers will be unclear so might have to come back to you for the explanation or have a question mark in their decision to bring you in for an interview. Any gap longer than 3 months should be explained.

Some candidates omit critical details about their work accomplishments because they are trying to be brief. For project managers, I would like to see details on the project: how many project team members did you manage, what was the budget, what technology was involved and related points. These details are needed for managers to understand your capabilities.

9. How do you suggest candidates build an effective win/win relationship with you and your peers?

Readers are welcome to contact me by email at ronald.yoon@experis.com In addition, I’m an active volunteer at the Southern Ontario Chapter of the Project Management Institute. I welcome having conversations with candidates even if they are not searching for a new role. It’s enjoyable to learn about people and their careers.

10. What is your evaluation of the certifications and certificates? When do these add value?

In project management, the PMP is the most important certification. Other popular certifications of value include the ITIL and Scrum Master certifications. Many clients like project managers with a technical background because it suggests the ability to communicate well with developers.

11. How can candidates best respond to recruiter questions about salary and compensation expectations?

Have a firm number and stick to it. Constantly changing your expectations in this area creates frustration for you in the long run since your rates are over-exposed in the market. On the other hand, there are situations where you can make the case for higher compensation. If you have recently acquired new skills by completing a challenging project or earning a certification, you can build a case.

My observation is that hourly rates for project managers range from  $50 per hour to $120 per hour, sometimes even higher. The level of responsibility and work experience are factors in play.

12. Any other tips you would like to share with candidates?

The project management job market is alive and well. As long as you keep learning and stay confident, you are likely to find a role. I think some professionals fail to appreciate the importance of confidence.

Your confidence has to convince  a company to give you a large budget, a challenge to achieve and support. Know what type of management style each company prefers. Research companies by talking to your network to study what type of projects you are going into and understand the hiring manager’s career. Finally, always have detailed project examples to share.

 

30 Networking Resources To Grow Your Career

Networking Coffee Meetings

The art of networking is something that readers ask me about all the time. Usually, the question comes in the form of “how do I network to find a job?” That’s just one aspect of networking. In this article, you will find a wealth of material to aid you in building networking skills.

Networking Books

Get started with these networking books. I have read (or I’m working through!) all of these titles and have learned from all of them.

1. Networking With the Affluent by Thomas Stanley

After seeing this book recommended by several authors, I started to read it. It is excellent even though it was published in the 1990s. The book is directed at sales and marketing professionals yet it can be used by others if you apply some imagination. This book’s unique insight is to propose ways to add value to your network. One example  – enhance revenue! Before trying to sell someone, first provide introductions to customers for them. What an excellent idea.

2. Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi and Tahl Raz

If you are only willing to read one book on networking, it has to be this book. Informed by Ferrazi’s experience at Deloitte, Starwood Hotels and other research, there is much to be learned here. A great insight from the book is to develop a relationship action plan in order to meet your goals. I have read the book in print and listened to it twice via Audible.com. It’s that good.

3. Who’s Got Your Back: The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep, Trusting Relationships That Create Success–and Won’t Let You Fail by Keith Ferrazi

Do you have a small group of friends who can give you advice, support and accountability? That’s the central premise of this book. The book goes into practical suggestions on how to organize such a group and make it work effectively. After you start to master the basics of networking, “Who’s Got Your Back” will take you to the next level.

4. Little Black Book of Connections: 6.5 Assets for Networking Your Way to Rich Relationships by Jeffrey Gitomer 

Aimed at sales professionals, this short book is a fun approach to networking. There are lists, bullet points and other devices to make the book for easy reading. If you are looking for a quick introduction to networking, this is helpful. If you are not involved in sales, you will have more work to translate this book to your context.

5. How to Work a Room, 25th Anniversary Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Making Lasting Connections–In Person and Online by Susan RoAne

I discovered this book a few months ago when the author appeared on a podcast interview. What a great find. Making connections in person at events is one of the best ways to build your network. This book is filled with encouragement and great tips. You will find tips on questions to ask, conversation ideas and examples showing the power of events.

Networking Articles: Scripts, Cold Emails and Success Stories

Use the following articles to address specific networking problems. In some cases, all you need is a script. These resources will point you in the right direction.

6. All You Need to Know About High Level Networking: An Interview With Geoff Woods

Published earlier this year, Geoff Woods has reinvented his career from medical device sales to entrepreneurship. How? He changed his peer group, he went to the right conferences and started a podcast. What’s the key lesson I learned from him? Check out the answer to question 5.

7. Ramit’s definitive guide to building your network (with scripts)

Author of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich,” Ramit Sethi offers actual scripts you can use in networking. Not sure what to write in an email to that impressive person? Start with these scripts. A key insight from this material? If you receive a piece of advice from a mentor or VIP, put it into action! Then send the person a follow up message describing your experience. That’s what Ramit calls “closing the loop.” Michael Ellsberg advocates for a similar practice in his book “The Education of Millionaires.”

8. 6 Steps to Writing Great Cold Emails

Cold calls have a bad reputation. Are “cold emails” any better? It all depends on your approach including your research and how much you think about the other person. In this article, entrepreneur Noah Kagan describes a cold email that he received that worked on him. Key insight here: “make it easy to say yes.” Ask a simple question or make a basic request – that’s how you start the connection.

9. How to Get Busy Influencers to Share Your Stuff

Some people are more influential than others. That’s why so many authors used to work hard to get onto Oprah’s TV show. Getting an endorsement from one influential person is a powerful way to advance your career or your company. How do you actually do that? In this article, author Tim Ferriss deconstructs a successful email pitch he received. Similar to the Noah Kagan article above, a key practice is to make it easy. If you want people to write a Tweet about you? Provide example Tweets to them so they can copy and paste. The article includes links to other helpful resources.

10. How I Hustled to Get the Perfect Job: From Tradecraft to Zumper

I read this article a few weeks ago and WOW. Ina Herlihy has dedication and gives you the details on how her job hunt. What’s her secret? Keep trying! Want to work at a company? Ask multiple people! Go to an event where you will see people from the company. Ina Herlihy also invested in herself by participating in an educational program called Tradecraft. Even if you’re not in Silicon Valley (I’m not), there is plenty of insight and inspiration to be drawn from this article.

11. Why You Need to Take 50 Coffee Meetings

When I interviewed Donald Asher last year, he encouraged readers to “take the call and take the meeting.” That’s an important attitude if you want to win in networking. In this article, Mark Suster shares his experience on networking broadly. Mark Suster has built several successful companies so there is much we can learn from him.

  • The math on this approach is compelling. My standard order at Starbucks – a tall medium – comes to $2 in Canada. If I implemented this strategy, the cost would be around $200 per year (assuming I pay for the other person and they have a similar order). That’s an incredible value to be earned on a small investment.

12. How Do You Get a Job Doing Marketing for a Start up?

Many people will tell you that applying to a job posting is one of the most difficult ways to get a great job. So what should you do instead? Brandon Croke offers his perspective on breaking into marketing. There is great tactical advice here such as the importance of learning high demand skills like copywriting. How Brandon Croke add to the conversation? He points out there is a big difference between a marketer who says “I can write write” and one who states “My copy delivers results because of this revenue (or this analytics data).

13. 4 Things Networking Can Help You Do (Besides Get a Job)

Many people think the only purpose of networking is to find jobs. That’s just not true. Lily Zhang shows four our “use cases” where it makes sense to network. For example, gathering intelligence on an industry (I would add that it makes sense to start with some reading of your own first so that you can ask good questions) and learning from mistakes others have made. Want more examples? Click through and read the article.

14. 5 Email Templates That Make Following Up With Anyone Way Less Awkward

Staying in touch with your network matters. Just think of how many people you met at events last year – how many of them are you still in touch with today? This article includes scripts that you copy and paste into your email service.

15. 7 Networking Mistakes Even Harvard MBAs Make

Learning what NOT to do is also helpful. Joel Comm’s advice includes going to events (online networking helps but it is not the whole game).

Networking Podcasts, Videos & Courses

I love to read and make it a daily practice. What if you prefer to learn from other types of media? I’ve got you covered with this section.

16. How to Connect with Powerful and Influential People

In this video, author Michael Ellsberg explains his approach to connecting with people. He brings a member of the audience on stage to demonstrate his approach. For more on Ellsberg’s approach, read his book “The Education of Millionaires.”

17. Susan Cain: Networking For Introverts

Most of the time, I see myself as an introvert (i.e. I recharge through alone time). If you see yourself as introvert, the benefits of networking are still available to you. In this interview, author Susan Cain offers advice for introverts seeking to connect.

18. How to Build a World-Class Network in Record Time

In this episode of the Tim Ferriss show, you will learn about Tim’s approach to networking. Before he became an entrepreneur and best selling author, Ferriss built his networks by volunteering at associations, focused networking at conferences and other means. This resource is most helpful to those seeking to maximize the value of participating in a conference.

19. Staying In Touch – Examples

An excellent Manager Tools podcast that provides templates you can use to stay in touch. Meeting new people is important. Yet, the “fortune is in the follow up.” Use this resource to maintain and grow your relationships.

20. How To Use The Holidays As A Networking Opportunity

In this Fast Company article, you will learn the mindset and tactics needed to achieve success during the holidays. I’m writing this entry right before the Canada Day holiday so the topic is on my mind. A key insight from the article:  “Ever look at a business card and think, “How the heck do I know him?”.. Consider doing what [Dorie] Clark does: “Don’t forget to write identifying notes on the back of people’s business cards, or enter their information into your database as soon as possible,” she suggests. “Because if you leave it until the new year, you’re likely to forget who was who.”

21. Your #1 Relationship Building Strategy

In this episode of the Mentee Podcast, Geoff Woods shares his strategy for conferences. Based on Geoff’s teaching, I have made two key changes in my approach to events and conferences. I aim to sit near the front and I work to ask a good question. How? I have a notebook with me during the presentation and write down a few possible questions. By being one of the few people to ask a question to the presenter, everyone in the room notices you and you have the opportunity to connect with the speaker after the session.

22. Productive Networking Dinners with Dorie Clark

Serving as the host of an event is one of the best ways to build your network of relationships. How do you put that idea into action? Listen to this podcast where author and consultant Dorie Clark shares her approach to networking dinners. Read “Mastermind Dinners: Build Lifelong Relationships by Connecting Experts, Influencers, and Linchpins” by Jayson Gaignard for additional insight including step by step directions if you are interested in pursuing this strategy.

23. How to Build a Millionaire’s Network with Keith Ferrazzi

Another resource with Keith Ferrazi? Yes! I’m enthused about sharing his material with readers because he has achieved outstanding results in networking in several industries. The podcast has some great material on developing relationships with mentors.

24. How To Grow Your Business With Associations: 5 Benefits You Need To Know

I wrote this article last year to promote the value of associations. Taking an active role in associations, often through writing and serving as a volunteer, is one the best networking strategies. The best point of leverage is to become a leader in the association. Becoming a leader often takes time yet it is worth it.

25. A Complete Guide to Building Your Network by Keith Ferrazzi

In this Udemy video course, Keith presents short video lessons on various aspects of networking. Much of the material is based on “Never Eat Alone.” Is it worth it to buy the course if you have the book? I would say yes for two reasons. First, you may find video easier to use than books. Second, the course includes files and templates that assist you in networking activities.

Networking Tools

The right tool for the job makes a major difference. Use these tools to support your networking efforts.

26. LinkedIn

An essential resource that needs to be part of your toolkit. Here are two tips to get you started: add a professional head shot to your profile and participate in groups related to your interests. There is much more to be said on LinkedIn as a career research tool. Perhaps I will do another article exploring LinkedIn in greater depth.

27. Meetup.com

Conferences are excellent network events yet they have some drawbacks. Travel costs alone make conferences difficult for many people. What’s the alternative if you are interested in live events? Meetup.com is a helpful service that I have used over the past few years. If your first experience at a given Meetup disappoints, suspend your judgement until you have attended two or three more events.  In my experience, technology related interests are well represented on Meetup. If you are interested in technology or entrepreneurship, Meetup is likely to be a great resource for you.

28. Use Cards & Stamps

Buy blank cards and stamps! Use them to send thank you notes. Or postcards. In a digital world, sending a traditional letter is one way to stand out. That said, the possibility of a Canada Post strike in 2016 does pose challenges. That’s why the “tools” section of this article has multiple tools.

29. Contactually

At a certain point, you may realize that managing your network is difficult or overwhelming. In that case, consider using a “CRM” (customer relationship management) tool to keep track. I have not used this resource myself but it does come recommended by networking expert John Corcoran.

30. FollowUp.cc

Relationships take time to develop. You may want to meet for coffee tomorrow but your friend is busy. Will you remember to stay in touch? This tool helps to solve that problem.

Book Review: Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Ego Is The Enemy

Is ego your enemy?

That’s a key question that author and strategist Ryan Holiday explores in his new book, “Ego Is The Enemy.” He shows how ego – irrational or delusional self-belief – has long been linked with success and striving for goals yet this same drive has a dark side. It’s an interesting challenge to navigate in the age of personal branding and social media. I love the expression Holiday references for managing one’s ego: it is like sweeping the floor. It’s an activity that needs to be done over and over again to maintain order.

One of the book’s chapters is “Work Work Work.” It’s a great admonishment to continue honing our craft and working even after we achieve success. The book’s style – sharing examples from history and then analyzing them – reminds me of Robert Greene’s books “48 Laws of Power” and “Mastery.” Given Holiday once worked for Greene, that makes sense. As a student of history, it is an excellent approach to counter our culture’s tendency to live in the present.

In the rest of this review, I will explore a few chapters and show they apply to career growth.

The Canvas Strategy

“The person who clears the path ultimately controls its direction, just as the canvas shapes the painting.”

Would you consider serving as an assistant, intern or aide to a successful person? Our popular culture is conflicted on this point. On the one hand, we have “The Devil Wears Prada” which suggests the opportunity aspect of working as an assistant. In contrast, we have the novel “The Assistants” by Camille Perri which emphasizes the stress and disappointment associated with this role. There is little glory in serving as an assistant. Yet, that lack of glory and attention presents an opportunity.

Drawing on Benjamin Franklin’s early career and Roman history, Holiday shows how these relationships have provided benefits for the supposed underling for many years. As an apprentice, intern or simply a new person to the organization, serving and clearing the way for those in charge yields benefits. First, this strategy encourages you to slow down and observe how the organization works and what it values (e.g. risk management may be prized over innovation). Second, there is reduced personal risk in a support role so you have the opportunity to make mistakes as you learn. Finally, the canvas strategy helps to proactively avoid charges of egotism.

Career Application: If you are new graduate or new hire, this strategy will equip you to focus on opportunity and learning rather than complaining about limitations. If you are established in your career, look for ways to serve those in higher levels.

Always Stay A Student

“It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.” – Epictetus, Stoic philosopher

For years, I have pursued continuing education for professional and personal growth. Holiday shows that a student mindset goes a long way toward managing ego and avoiding disaster. Taking a page from history, he argues that the attitude to learn and adapt is a key reason for the success of the Mongol empire. Holiday’s perspective is especially important if you are thinking about career change, starting your career or simply looking to avoid the pain of ego. Continuing to focus on learning is easy when you acknowledge the world’s complexity.

Career Application: There are many ways to stay a student. Observe your reactions to performance extremes (i.e. “What did that person do to become this company’s youngest executive?” or “What led to that division bearing the brunt of layoffs last year?”). Analyze somebody who has achieved success in your field using a different approach (e.g. if you became a successful project manager by mastering the details, observe how another project manager achieved success by focusing on leadership skills). Finally, take up the challenge to read in a different field – use Alltop to explore topics quickly.

Managing Yourself Like Eisenhower, Not DeLorean

How far does genius, skill and inspiration take you? And what is the role of discipline and organization for high performance people? Holiday contrasts U.S. President Eisenhower’s focus on prioritization and delegation (see: the Eisenhower box) with the apparently unfocused approach of DeLorean. As a fan of the Back To The Future movies, I had only heard of DeLorean cars in those movies (see: DeLorean time machine) – I had no idea about the company’s troubled history and leadership.

In Holiday’s analysis, DeLorean comes up as a brilliant player in the automotive industry who is frustrated by the restrictions at General Motors He leaves to start his own company where he can pursue his own vision. So far, this story fits perfectly into our culture’s fascination with maverick entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, DeLorean’s poor management translated into major operational problems: “Cost per unit was massively over budget. They hadn’t secured enough dealers. They couldn’t deliver cars to the ones they had. The launch was a disaster. DeLorean Motor Company never recovered.” Genius alone was not enough. A genius inventor or designer needs leadership skills to lead a company.

Career Application: As you climb the ladder of success, develop new skills. As Holiday writes, “As you become more successful in your own field, your responsibilities may begin to change. Days become less and less about doing and more and more about making decisions… It requires a certain humility to put aside some of the more enjoyable or satisfying aspects parts of your previous job.” Shifting from an individual contributor (e.g. a software developer) to a management role (e.g. a project manager) is one of the most challenging shifts in our careers. That promotion is like entering high school or college – you’re starting at the bottom of a new ladder.

Maintain Your Own Scorecard

How you measure your success matters. If you exclusively use external measures (e.g. dollars earned, pageviews and awards), you are unlikely to be happy. Why? An exclusive scorecard ultimately depends on other people and factors that you cannot control. Instead, Holiday encourages readers to build our own scorecard.

Warren Buffet, the billionaire investor, is noted for his commitment to this approach: How Warren Buffett defines success. Of course, there ought to be some link between between inner measures and outer results. If your scorecard simply tracks minutes per day spent watching paint dry, boosting that score is unlikely to lead to interesting results.

Career Application: Take note of Holiday’s observation – “A person who judges himself based on his own standards doesn’t crave the spotlight the same way as someone who lets applause dictate success.” In the context of traditional employment, that means setting your own goals and standards apart from what an employer asks.

Question For The Comments

How do you manage ego? What approaches have proven most helpful?