Managing Your Career

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The Most Underrated Skill in Management

Few questions in business are more powerful than “What problem are you trying to solve?” Leaders who can formulate clear problem statements get more done with less effort and move more rapidly than their less-focused counterparts. But stopping to ask this question doesn’t come naturally — managers must put conscious effort into learning a structured approach.

The Corporate Implications of Longer Lives

People are living longer and working longer — but few organizations have come to grips with the opportunities and challenges that greater longevity brings. Across the world, people are becoming more conscious of their lengthening working lives — but frustrated by their working context. The authors’ research suggests that while people know they will have to restructure their lives and careers, corporations are unprepared.

The Heavy Toll of ‘Always On’ Technology

Our electronic devices and expectations for immediate responses to communications are degrading our attention, with implications not just for productivity but also for mental health and stress levels in the workplace. That’s according to the 2016 book The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World. In an interview, coauthor Larry D. Rosen says that research now shows that “the impact from so many interruptions on our mental and emotional functioning is vast, and it needs to be addressed.”

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From the Archives: Establish a Personal Advisory Board

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Here’s a new year’s resolution to consider: Build a personal advisory board that meets your current needs. “A person’s developmental network can’t be static but needs to evolve over time,” noted the authors of a 2015 article in MIT Sloan Management Review. Yan Shen, Richard D. Cotton, and Kathy E. Kram make the case that a professional mentor is just one element of a fully formed personal board of advisers, which might also include a personal guide and a career adviser, among others.

Please Go Away (and Spend More Time Somewhere Else)

Rapid changes at all levels of society and technology are upon us. Seemingly stable business and social environments aren’t immune. Whether it’s technology, policy, or broader socioeconomic forces, the transformation of your organization and your role in it are all but inevitable. One suggestion for responding: Get outside your standard routine and engage with the changes.

Executive Assistants for Everyone

Smartphones and cloud technology work in tandem to provide a prized perk to managers lower on the corporate ladder: The ability to pass repetitive, tedious scheduling tasks off to someone (or in this case, something) else. As digital agents become ubiquitous, their input will greatly enhance collaboration.

The Three New Skills Managers Need

As digital technologies evolve, managers and employees will need to learn three important skills: partnering with new digital “colleagues,” creating a mindful relationship with omnipresent digital technologies, and developing empathy for the varying technology preferences of their human coworkers. Organizations, for their part, will need to design processes to support these efforts, and managers will need to be both flexible and thoughtful in how they respond.

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Stop Jumping to Solutions!

When presented with complex decisions, many executives turn to the tried-and-true decision matrix, spelling out the pros and cons of various options. One flaw in this method, however, is that executives don’t take the time to thoroughly frame the decision and explore the full scope of options. But the matrix’s real value is when it is also used as a process tool that helps executives expand their set of options and criteria.

The Lost Art of Thinking in Large Organizations

Making the transition from management to leadership requires managers to exercise skills in strategic thinking — skills they don’t often get to practice in the action-oriented environment they know best. Managers moving into senior leadership must learn to embrace ambiguity and uncertainty and learn the importance of taking time to think things through.

What Makes Work Meaningful — Or Meaningless

When employees find their work meaningful, there are myriad benefits for their productivity — and for their employers. Managers who support meaningful work are more likely to attract, retain, and motivate the talent they need to ensure future growth. But can companies ensure this experience for their employees? A groundbreaking study identifies five factors that support meaningful work — and the seven management sins that can destroy it.

Leading by the Numbers

It can be difficult for finance professionals to transition to broader leadership roles. Leadership development, it turns out, is different for people from finance backgrounds. But five changes in how they approach their job can help them succeed when taking on broader roles in an organization. Those changes include transitioning from being the expert to being someone who leverages expertise, and being able to unleash their thinking to see that a problem can have multiple plausible solutions.

How to Reconnect for Maximum Impact

Reconnecting with people from previous chapters of one’s life (such as former colleagues, old friends, and other associates) is as valuable, if not more so, than connecting with currently active ties. But some reconnections are more beneficial than others. The challenge: selecting the best ones. The most valuable reconnections often turn out to be people who provide novelty, which can mean reaching out to reconnect with higher-status people or to people you didn’t know very well to begin with.

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What Companies Should Learn About Social Media From American Politics

The race for the U.S. presidential nomination is highlighting the increased fragmentation and polarization in American public life. An unprecedented number of candidates continue to stay in the race despite single-digit poll numbers. One reason may be that social media is giving candidates and their supporters an unrealistically optimistic perception of their chances of success — a situation with important implications for business.

Has Your Office Become a Lonely Place?

With increasing amounts of work getting done outside the traditional corporate office — for example, through employees working at home — those left in the office may face a lonelier, and even less productive, office environment. In fact, working remotely may be contagious, because if many people on a team aren’t in the office much, coming into the office has less benefit for the remaining employees. “Once a certain number of individuals are working offsite, everyone is isolated,” write researchers.

Assembling Your Personal Board of Advisors

The notion that one mentor can meet all of an individual’s developmental needs is increasingly outdated. Instead, many people now draw from a “personal board of advisors,” which can encompass a range of individuals, from friends or family who provide emotional support to role models the person may not personally know. The authors identify six types of personal advisors who, together, provide a broad combination of psychosocial support and career support.

The New World of Work

Advanced digital technologies are swiftly changing the kinds of skills that jobs require. Researchers Frank MacCrory, George Westerman and Erik Brynjolfsson from the MIT Sloan School of Management and Yousef Alhammadi of the Masdar Institute studied the changes in skill requirements over the 2006-2014 time period. While demand has clearly grown for computer skills, it has grown for interpersonal skills, too. The authors advise people in all lines of work to be flexible about acquiring new talents.

Image courtesy of Flickr user chris riebschlager. https://www.flickr.com/photos/riebschlager/343600611

Beware the Winning Streak

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How well do people factor past performance into their expectations for the future? Not very. In one study, for instance, students playing darts who did well in the first round bet that they would beat the improvement goals of those who did worse. They generally were wrong: the better the participants’ score in the first round, the less likely they were to improve as much as other participants in the second.

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