How to Make Work Suck Less

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When I was a kid, every 6 weeks I was required to present my report card to my dad to review and discuss.  In 5th grade, I came home with a report card that only had A’s and B’s on it. He saw the number of B’s and determined that it was excessive and that I was to be grounded.  My dad was always creative in grounding me.  This time we went to K-Mart where he purchased different colored pocket t-shirts.  He informed me that during the coming 6 weeks, I would strictly be wearing these pocket t-shirts and my hair gel would be taken away.  Needless to say, I can’t wear a pocket t-shirt to this day since it is still associated with punishment.

According to the Gallup Organization, looking at grades this way is not unusual.  Here’s what their studies found:

“We presented parents with this scenario: Say your child returns home with the following grades: an A in English, an A in social studies, a C in biology, and an F in algebra. Which of these grades would you spend the most time discussing with your son or daughter? Seventy-seven percent of parents chose to focus on the F in algebra, only six percent on the A in English, and an even more minuscule number, one percent, on the A in social studies. Obviously, the algebra grade requires some attention because to progress in school and secure a place at a college or university, the child cannot afford to fail a subject.” (emphasis mine)

How would life be different for you and those around you, though, if you looked at maximizing your strengths and managing around your weaknesses?  First, it’s important to recognize that a strength is an activity that you are good at AND fulfills you.  It must meet both of those requirements or else it’s not a strength.  On the other hand, a weakness is an activity that you may or may not be good at, but leaves you drained, bored, or in essence, weak, after completing it.

When a person has their strengths (as defined above) engaged, they find that they have greater energy, are more engaged and are more productive.  A study by Marcus Buckingham shows these results in large corporations.  Strengths becomes even more powerful when a company (hat tip to Rackspace) or organization makes an effort to have everyone play to their strengths together.  If you’re interested in your personal development, Buckingham’s book Go Put Your Strengths to Work can help.  Would you like more details on how this works for you or your company?  Drop me a line, I can help you better understand how applying strengths can raise the performance of you and your team.

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No One Cares About You – Personal Branding

Personal branding and when no one cares about you.

Who has two thumbs and...ah, nobody cares.
Who has two thumbs and...ah, nobody cares.

We live in a “me” centered society where people don’t care about you.  You might even have trouble getting your family to read what you’ve written!  You may be lacking in defining a personal brand for yourself.  Not to worry, here are a few tips on what you can do to firm up your personal brand.

1.  Start with your Strengths.  We all know that there are inherent desires and passions within us that gravitate towards different subjects.  You’ve known this since you were a kid.  What are some of those passions that you have where you have endless levels of energy to read, research and grow?  According to Marcus Buckingham, Strengths have SIGNs.

Success – You have been successful in developing this area of your life.
Instinct – There’s a natural desire in your life to do that activity.
Growth – When you do the activity, you get better than the last time.
Needs – You have a desire to do the activity again.

Once you’ve framed your Strengths, you can use that as your basis for your personal branding.  What’s exciting about it is that you have a natural drive to learn more and share more about those subjects.  For me, I love business and consumer level technology, so you’ll notice that that’s what I talk about.  What can you hang your hat on?

2.  To drive your personal branding you need two basic prongs – content and channels.  The content includes the blog posts you write, the tweets you send out, the comments you leave for others, the updates you provide on social networks.  What people sometimes forget is that content spans audio and video.  Your personal brand becomes even richer when you provide photos, video and audio.  These forms of communication should drive forward your brand that you’ve developed from your strengths.

3. Channels are the places where your content can be found.  Are you on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo, YouTube, 12seconds, etc?  You don’t have to be everywhere, you just should be where the eyeballs are and where you can be effective.  Pick those places, then bundle them all together with websites like Google Profiles, FriendFeed, and PeoplePond.  These sites let you consolidate your online presence and some will even let you send your updates to your other sites.  When you update from one to the others, you should be careful – use this sparingly, as your followers can get annoyed from too many updates.  The bonus, however, is that the Google and the other search engines love this stuff and it will make you even easier to find, especially if you use a consistent name or brand.

The bottom line is that you need to do personal branding for yourself regarding topics that you’re passionate about.  Once you’ve determined those strengths, pump your content through your channels.  *Thanks to Dan Schawbel’s comment, I realized I wasn’t explicit about mentioning that your personal brand is not all about you.  People care when the content you provide fulfills their needs versus having a platform for self promotion.  Now GO!

What are some tips and tricks that I have left out?  I’d love to get your input!