In the News

July 29th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in News | No Comments »

11BP_LinkedIn_2I’d like to extend a big congratulations to LinkedIn’s Global Technology Solutions team. LinkedIn ranked #1 in Computerworld’s 2014 Best Places to Work in IT Survey.

I have partnered with the GTS leadership team for almost a year now as their business and executive coach. Their focused efforts to create and sustain a strong culture, build a breakaway strategy to excel at scale, and heavily emphasize professional development have paid off in creating an exceptional place to work.

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2014 Relationship Building Challenge

July 24th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Relationship Challenge | No Comments »

coffeeoutsideOn January 3, I recommended making one small change per month this year (http://jenniferselbylong.com/?p=729) to dramatically improve your skill and confidence in building relationships. If you’ve been participating, pat yourself on the back. If not, it’s not too late catch up. Just jump in and join us!

Here’s your challenge for July, if you are willing to accept it:

“Think of your Treasured Ten beyond the main environment in which you know them. For example, does one of them have a child who’s starting to look into colleges that provide the best education for a particular major? Ask friends in your network who hire in that profession which schools they would recommend and why. Share the information, but only share names and contact information with permission.”

Let me know how it’s going, share your thoughts, and ask your questions any time.

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The Wolf Pack

July 10th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Communication | 4 Comments »

wolvesI recently caught up with a client who has very successfully created and implemented large-scale, transformative change in three very different companies. He used a simile so spot-on that I’d like to share it with you. While it might seem a little cold at first, try to be open to the idea. It’s practical and useful.

A team is like a pack of wolves.

It’s very hard to break away from the pack. Only the strongest members can break away and assert themselves with new behaviors, in setting or following a new direction. To introduce change, you must identify the 2 – 3 strongest wolves and begin with them.

When the strongest wolves begin to change their behavior and strike out in a new direction, at first the others will turn against them, and try to bring them back to the established pack norms. If the strong wolves persist and have a few early successes, the remaining members of the pack will, for the most part, begin to follow them. Those who still don’t want to change will move on.

When entering a new organization, this client observes his team very closely and sizes up which of the managers are strong enough to break from the pack. If he doesn’t have a critical mass of strong wolves, he hires 2 – 3 people who have the strength to break away from the pack and set a new direction. He brings in the strongest wolves he can find, because he knows that lots of managers can manage a function, but few are strong enough to lead transformative change.

He and I have found the same pattern at all levels – if you have only one wolf strong enough to break from the pack, it’s not enough. Eventually, he or she will tire of trying to get peers to change their perspectives, of being on the receiving end of jealousy from teammates not quite confident or strong enough to transform, and of being the lone person taking a chance on a big change. Worst of all, the strongest wolves are independent. They’ll leave, and you’ll have to start all over again.

That’s one of the reasons it’s important to size up how strong each individual wolf is, and also ask, “How strong is the pull of this pack?” If you want to create transformative change, and you don’t have critical mass, go find it quickly. Without a few strong wolves, the best process, tools, influence, and communication just won’t be enough. The pull of the pack will win.

How can you spot your strongest wolves? In my experience, there’s rarely a direct correlation between performance and strength. Surprised? There are often several truly outstanding performers who always get results, but who stay solidly in the middle of pack when it comes to transformative change. Performance isn’t where you should look to size up the strength of a wolf.

There is, however, a connection between potential and strength. Nearly all of the strong wolves have potential to step up one or two levels in the breadth of their responsibilities. There are several factors, a mix of traits and experiences, that contribute to their potential.

First and foremost, they form their own opinions and naturally influence the opinions of others. They are often widely read and well informed on everything from their industry or profession to world politics and cultural trends.

They are not necessarily alphas in the way that we think of a wolf pack having an alpha at the top. Some are, but many are neither leader nor follower in any pure sense. They form their own opinions and choose what to lead and whom to follow based on these opinions. Likewise, their choices aren’t driven by a desire to compete and win against the rest of the pack. They really do want everyone to transform and have a shared win.

Regardless of whether they have any training or education on strategic thinking, they instinctively look at the big picture and make connections between day-to-day activities and long-term goals. With them, executive coaching is less about building a strategic mindset and more about simply improving what’s already there by adding discipline, structure, tools, and processes.

I nearly always find that they have done something quite unusual compared to their peers, and this experience has shaped a willingness to take chances and a much higher tolerance for personal risk. A cursory look at some of the strong wolves I’ve worked with turns up the following:

One strong wolf owned and operated a restaurant in Argentina and continued to co-own it and stay involved in major financial decisions after moving to the US, where he held a fulltime job transforming an organization born through an uneasy acquisition. If you’ve ever seen the statistics for restaurant failures, you know the risk involved in opening one. It made a difficult integration look like a walk in the park.

Another strong wolf built hospitals in Afghanistan through a non-profit organization he had co-founded with his wife, both before and after his stint introducing large-scale change for a mid-sized corporation.

A third strong wolf left home as a teenager, lived in his car, twice went broke and came back from it, and taught part-time in public colleges throughout most of his executive career as a way of giving back to the education system that pulled him out of poverty.

As you can imagine, the strongest wolves are often more difficult for the typical employee to relate to, or even to understand. They are simultaneously immersed in the organization and somewhat distant from it.

When you’re working on their professional development, it’s not uncommon to have to remind them to reach out to their peers more frequently. Excellent situational awareness is key to their success, and sometimes it needs to be developed because they don’t always understand that they are different and need to be sensitive to the emotions and motivations of others.

It’s also not uncommon to have to earn their respect (which isn’t easy), before they will give serious attention to your ideas for their development.

It’s worth it, though. You can never, ever, ever lead transformative, large-scale change alone. You simply can’t. You need your whole team, and that starts with the strongest wolves.

What are your thoughts about this wolf pack simile? Am I on target or do you howl in protest? Let me know in the comments below.

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2014 Relationship Building Challenge

May 27th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Relationship Challenge | No Comments »

coffeeoutsideOn January 3, I recommended making one small change per month this year (http://jenniferselbylong.com/?p=729) to dramatically improve your skill and confidence in building relationships. If you participated in January and February, pat yourself on the back. If not, it’s not too late catch up. Just jump in and join us!

The challenge for April was to “Take at least one action to help out each person. If you’re unsure if something you have in mind would be welcome, ask. It can be an action that only takes 5 – 10 minutes, or maybe it’s something bigger. Great relationship-builders create a huge “bank balance” of goodwill long before they ask for anything in exchange. If you have issues with over-helping, this will be a tougher one to manage, but you must master this, because generosity and selflessness are hallmarks of successful people. They are not stingy with their help. They don’t hold it close to the vest. They worry very little about getting screwed, because they know that for every one person who will take advantage, there are 100 who won’t, and the 100 are well worth the rotten experience of the one jerk.”

How did you do? Pop over to the 2014 Relationship Building Challenge blog post (http://jenniferselbylong.com/?p=729) and let me know how it went.

Here’s your challenge for May, if you are willing to accept it:

Introduce your Treasured Ten to people who can help them, or have a mutual interest, or ideally, complementary needs. You’ll need to develop the habit of always asking yourself who might like to meet whom in order to catch the best opportunities for your Treasured Ten.”

Let me know how it’s going, share your thoughts, and ask your questions any time at http://jenniferselbylong.com/?p=729.

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How to Handle an Ineffective Boss

May 22nd, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Communication | No Comments »

bigthumbSpeaking of publishing on the new platform, I am stoked to report that one of my articles went viral and then was featured on a newsfeed on the LinkedIn site. Over 37,000 members have viewed it and over 2100 members have shared it.

Did I strike a nerve with How to Handle an Ineffective Boss, or was it just the picture that did it? Haven’t we all worked for this guy at some point in our careers? I suspect that in my first supervisory role, I was the guy in the picture. Yikes.

At the moment, I post 1 – 2 articles per week. To read the articles, please visit https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/JenniferSelbyLong. To receive a polite email ping each time a new article is posted, just click on the Follow button in the upper right hand corner.

And please rest assured that the more in-depth monthly articles in this very eZine will never go on LinkedIn before they appear here. You will always get a sneak peak before anyone else, and more often than not, you’ll get a level of depth that I don’t post on the site.

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Why Your LinkedIn Network is No Good

May 8th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Communication | No Comments »

manbitinghandsIf you’re underwhelmed, even feeling a little anxious, by the quality and quantity of your network on LinkedIn, today’s article is for you. Even if your network is already decent, I guarantee that by following these tips, you’ll kick it into high gear. Ready? Here we go….

Stop Being So Conservative About Inviting People to Connect

I am simply floored when I talk with leaders who are aggressive in going after business, but wimpy in building their networks. Your network is not only for people with whom you worked for years and your three best friends. You have to make your own judgment call about this, but I find that most professionals are much too shy and cautious about reaching out to connect with others.

Granted, I may be more open than you want to be. I’ve invited people with whom I’ve volunteered, even briefly. I’ve invited people I met through Impact Hub Oakland, where I occasionally work, just because I found our conversations to be so fascinating that I didn’t want to lose touch. I’ve invited people who worked at the same mid-sized business unit I was in 20 years ago, even though our paths had mostly crossed at company events and during training programs we participated in together.

I’ve never regretted it. Although some of these people are not very active on LinkedIn, those who are active post interesting and useful articles and updates, my learning is enriched by their contributions, and I have an amazing group of people to ask for advice on everything from a global marketing strategy to how to get democracy into totalitarian countries. Not that I plan to do that any time soon, but I’m happy to know I’m connected to someone who’s one of the best in the world at that very task, just in case.

Sometimes I’m asked, “Yeah, but what if somebody asks you to provide an introduction to someone else in your network, but you don’t know that person well?” That’s simple. I gently say no. I’m not going to miss out on enriching my knowledge and staying in touch with interesting, helpful businesspeople just because I will sometimes have to let someone down.

Stop Sending Generic Invitations That You Don’t Write Yourself

Take the time to write a short personal note to refresh the person’s memory about where you met, how you know each other, or your mutual friends and colleagues. It’s often the difference between Accept and Ignore. For example, when contacting someone you recognize from way-back-when, try writing “I don’t know if you remember me from XYZ company. I worked for Joe Schmoe on ABC team….”

Because I’ve done so much work in groups, I will sometimes come across a person I recognize, but honestly can’t remember which of the many group activities that connected us. In that case, I just admit it, and nearly everyone accepts.

Every now and then, you’ll hit the Invite button and then realize you didn’t add a note. That’s o.k. Just don’t make a habit of it.

Set a Slightly Broader Standard for Invitations You’ll Accept From Others

I generally don’t accept invitations from people I don’t recognize, with whom I’ve never worked, who haven’t written a personal note, or with whom I have no shared groups or connections. Everyone else gets seriously considered. I may not accept them all, but I do accept many.

You need to be honest with yourself about your comfort level on this and then stretch yourself beyond that comfort zone – at least a little a bit. For example, for a long time I didn’t accept any invitations from people I didn’t know, but now I sometimes accept an invitation if the person has a particularly interesting profile, or has commented on my posts more than once. In the first case, I can learn a lot, and in the second case, the person has been building a relationship with me on line and doesn’t seem like a complete stranger anymore.

Share Content

Offer up value to your network by sharing content, and while you’re at it, comment on content others share.

I don’t keep a regular schedule for sharing content. I just always keep an eye out for content my network might find interesting or helpful, and when I come across it, I share it. Sometimes I add my own comments and sometimes I don’t. You don’t have to make this a big deal at all. It doesn’t have to be burdensome. Just read stuff and share the stuff you like.

Now that I’ve really gotten into this, I track the number of views, likes, and comments for everything I post and I can tell you what my network loves, and what doesn’t interest them much at all. By knowing this, I now skip posting things that just don’t float their boats. I figured this out by posting lots of stuff that interested me, over a long period of time, so please don’t overthink it. Just do it!

For those who are curious, my network loves it when I post a link to an article on my own blog, but not to other blogs. They also love it when I share a cartoon or very simple graph that they can scan in a heartbeat.

They have no interest in some of the articles I find most important and interesting, such as an economist’s analysis of the structural problems in the labor market. I nearly fell off the sofa laughing when I saw how badly every complex, serious, systems-level article did when I posted it. Truly, for my network, those articles are dogs with fleas. I am a true nerd, I guess, even wonkier than my network. And I confess, I might still post the occasional wonky article for all 19 of you who read them, whoever you are.

Turbo-Charger: Upgrade Your Account

Let me say first of all, no, I am not being paid to write this!

When I went from a free account to the most basic of the paid accounts, I found that I could more easily find and reach out to quite a few terrific people I’d known from companies and projects several years back. We had lost touch in the “pre-LinkedIn” era. It’s been great getting back in touch with them.

I couldn’t begin to advise as to which account is right for you. Luckily, that’s what LinkedIn’s marketing team is for. To see your options, click on Upgrade in the upper right hand corner of your home page.

Super-Mega-Turbo-Charger: Write and Post Your Own Content on the Platform

Since I started posting my own writing directly to the platform, I have been tickled pink by the people who reach out to connect with me. They’re interesting people who are in challenging leadership roles all over the globe, and in a wide variety of industries. Engaging with them broadens my perspective in a way that my mostly American network alone can’t do.

Take a look on your home page, and if you see a little pencil icon next to your update balloon, you can publish now. Not all members have it at this point, and it’s going to take a while to roll it out. I applied for early admission by submitting two samples of my best work on this form: http://specialedition.linkedin.com/publishing/. Do this, and the screening team will review your best work. If they like it (and come on, you know they’ll love it), soon you’ll see a balloon pop up on your home page inviting you to publish on LinkedIn.

The publishing tool is crazy-easy to use. When you publish, also be sure to include a picture with each article. It would be a shame to put all that effort into writing your article only to find that few people read it. People open articles with pictures.

Also be sure you have the rights to use the image. I purchase pix from shutterstock.com to be on the safe side.

Your LinkedIn network can be an incredible source of knowledge, perspective, relationships, and opportunities to both help and be helped. Spend a little time this month implementing at least one of these strategies and you’ll be on your way to building a network that expands your world and blows your mind.

Is your LinkedIn network no good? What are your thoughts about expanding and improving your network on LinkedIn? Let me know in the comments.

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Jennifer Recommends

April 27th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Jennifer Recommends | No Comments »

thecircleIf you work in social media, or have an interest in the privacy issues raised by social media, this month’s recommendation is for you. I usually recommend non-fiction, but fiction can paint a thought-provoking picture that is hard to beat, and Pulitzer Prize nominee Dave Eggers is just the author to do it.

Set in the not-too-distant future, The Circle portrays the life of a new hire at a company whose superior products have annihilated Google, Facebook, Twitter, and several subsequent companies. The Circle now dominates all social media and has an astounding amount of data on nearly everyone. The novel quickly becomes a thriller of sorts, as we follow Meg on her increasingly troubled journey into a world in which privacy is a dirty word.

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2014 Relationship Building Challenge

April 20th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Relationship Challenge | No Comments »

coffeeoutsideOn January 3, I recommended making one small change per month this year (http://jenniferselbylong.com/?p=729) to dramatically improve your skill and confidence in building relationships. If you participated in January and February, pat yourself on the back. If not, it’s not too late catch up. Just jump in and join us!

The challenge for March was to “Arrange to see each of your Treasured Ten in person, preferably over coffee or a meal. That’s right, I want you to kick it old school and see your Treasured Ten face-to-face. If you are not in the same geography and don’t expect to travel soon, set up a Skype call. Learn what challenges they’re facing, what they’re excited about, and what they need. Share your own challenges and what you’re excited about, too. Be sure to use open-ended questions, which are questions that can’t be answered in one word.”

How did you do? Pop over to the 2014 Relationship Building Challenge blog post (http://jenniferselbylong.com/?p=729) and let me know how it went.

Here’s your challenge for April, if you are willing to accept it:

“Take at least one action to help out each person. If you’re unsure if something you have in mind would be welcome, ask. It can be an action that only takes 5 – 10 minutes, or maybe it’s something bigger. Great relationship-builders create a huge “bank balance” of goodwill long before they ask for anything in exchange. If you have issues with over-helping, this will be a tougher one to manage, but you must master this, because generosity and selflessness are hallmarks of successful people. They are not stingy with their help. They don’t hold it close to the vest. They worry very little about getting screwed, because they know that for every one person who will take advantage, there are 100 who won’t, and the 100 are well worth the rotten experience of the one jerk.”

Let me know how it’s going, share your thoughts, and ask your questions any time at http://jenniferselbylong.com/?p=729.

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Five Steps to a Better Off-Site

April 3rd, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Communication, Professional Development | 2 Comments »

0347Getting your leadership team out of the office for focused discussion, debate, and planning is one of the best tools to build your organization’s competency and improve performance.

But far too often, inexperienced leaders try to copy what someone else did in a different organization, and when they return to the office – if they are honest – they have to admit that they didn’t get much of an outcome at all.

There’s a lot involved in getting an off-site right. Here are five steps that are often overlooked, and that can make the difference between success and failure.

  1. Define the exact outcome that you want. Note that I didn’t say “outcomes.” This is intentionally singular, because one outcome must dominate over all others.Think about the one thing you must achieve at this off-site, above all else. That determines what you have to do at the off-site, and everything else must be categorized as nice to do.This lack of willingness to put a stake in the ground and hold firm leads to more mediocre off-sites than all other issues combined. That’s how you wind up with an off-site that crams in too much, with no depth to any of it, and delivers no value to the organization. At that point, the value actually turns negative, since the organization has just invested money in the off-site along with the very high value of a management team’s time. We’ve all attended off-sites like this. Don’t be the guy or gal who leads off-sites like this.
  2. Require non-negotiable pre-work for everyone. If your outcome is a cross-functional plan to execute your roadmaps, it is a massive, wasteful time suck to ask each business owner to present a short deck of his or her roadmap, followed by Q&A. Yet, time and again, leaders tee this up as their off-site design.If they’ve all created roadmaps, they’re all perfectly capable of reading and critiquing one another’s roadmaps on their own. Require everyone to share in advance what they most want help with on their roadmaps and who their key stakeholders are. Then require them to read all of the roadmaps and prepare their questions, criticisms, and any gaps, overlaps, or misalignments they see between the roadmaps.This way, everyone comes prepared to get to work, which leads me to the next step…
  3. Get to work fast, and don’t let up. I’m not saying to skip icebreakers or warm-up activities. In fact, you should start with one. However, continuing with our example, if your off-site outcome is going to be a cross-functional execution plan, you need to split quickly into interdependent work groups and dive into each plan, using the pre-work as the jumping off point.
  4. From time to time, remind everyone of the outcome. Everything else is gravy, but many people like gravy more than potatoes, so expect them to veer in the direction of spending too much time on secondary outcomes. It’s probably the first time they’ve all been together in six months, so it’s easy to start discussing things that have little to do with the outcome you want to achieve.If you’ve set your scope properly, though, you will need most or all of the off-site time to achieve your outcome. Until you feel very confident that you’ll hit that target, you need to keep them focused on it. After that, sure, give them space to tackle secondary outcomes.
  5. I admit this is a little soft, but do not let the off-site end without doing something blatantly celebratory. I bring little statues that look like Oscars, and my clients decide what to award them for. We make a big deal out of it, with a ceremony and pictures. Unless your business is circling the drain, I’d also strongly advise you to take everyone out for dinner on the company’s dime, and make that event celebratory, too.

And because I can’t resist0393 adding a bonus tip, here it is: Use the 30-second check-in technique at the end of each day. Sounds corny, but it’s actually very serious. Stand in a circle. Tell everyone they have 30 seconds to share anything at all with the whole group.

Your facilitator should keep track of the time and interrupt with a polite, “thank you!” if anyone is still talking at his or her 30-second mark. This activity must stay on time.

Use what people say to help make any adjustments or even substantial changes to your Day 2 agenda and your post-off-site follow-up plan.

What are your thoughts about improving off-sites? Let me know at www.jenniferselbylong.com.

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Extraverts and Introverts: You CAN Work Together Without Going Nuts

March 24th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Psychological Type | No Comments »

It’s an age-old annoyance – that co-worker whose style is irritating. You know it shouldn’t bug you, but it does.

welcomeThere are plenty of sources of irritation. This week, let’s look at one of the most frequent, a fundamental difference between people – where they get their energy.

We all essentially fall into one of two camps, and I bet you can identify which one you are in without the help of a therapist or a sophisticated assessment: extraverts get most of their energy from the outer world of people, while introverts get it from the inner world.

doorbellI once heard a fantastic analogy for this very fundamental difference. It’s so good, I’m passing it on to you. Imagine that you have 20 coins in your pocket at the beginning of the day. Each coin equals one unit of energy. For the extravert, every interaction with another person adds one more coin in the pocket. That’s great for me. I’m an extravert.

But for the introvert, well, he or she has to give up a coin for each interaction. An interaction between an introvert and an extravert is like an ATM machine of energy. It goes out of the introvert and in to the extravert, never to return.

How does this play out at work? This difference can lead to huge leaping conclusions about a co-worker’s intentions. I recently saw this dynamic with one of my client groups.

The extraverts called meetings, but rarely sent an objective or agenda or preparatory materials in advance. The introverts showed up (if they absolutely had to) already feeling shanghaied because they had no opportunity to think about the topic in private.

Repeated requests for materials in advance fell on deaf ears, because the extraverts rarely sat by themselves and read materials in advance of a meeting, so they saw no real value in it.

In the meetings, the extraverts wanted to make decisions and commitments, because they unconsciously trusted what was decided in a group environment more than a private one.

Now the introverts were really feeling fed up. From their perspective, the decision was rushed, and it would be unethical to make an important commitment without taking some private time to reflect on it and critique it. So the day after the meeting, they would start meeting one-on-one with key decision-makers to delay or change the decision that the extraverts had thought was final in the meeting.

End result: the extraverts thought the introverts were political slime and the introverts thought the extraverts were the same.

Here’s how to bridge the divide in meetings:

  1. Whether you’re an extravert or an introvert, send an agenda and materials for preparation in advance. Not an hour in advance – at least a day!
  2. All other things being equal, if you want a sounding board for your ideas before a meeting, ask an extravert, who’s more likely to accommodate your request.
  3. Allow for some interruptions rather than having a firm “no interruptions allowed” rule because extraverts tend to interrupt when they are interested in what someone is saying, and the more excited the extravert gets, the more likely he or she is to interrupt.
  4. Likewise, don’t hesitate to politely but firmly cut off someone who’s talking too long or combining too many points at once.
  5. Don’t go around the room trying to get everyone to participate equally. Introverts will speak up if they feel no one is saying what needs to be said.
  6. In the first meeting on a brand new topic, don’t push for a decision. Ask if people are ready to make a decision or prefer a little time to reflect. If they want the time, give them the time. If you try to deny this, your decision will be undone by introverts doing their ethical duty days after the meeting.
  7. Maintain a little flexibility around process. We think our trusted way of doing things is the best, but really it’s just one of several approaches that will get us to the destination on time.

Always remember this: Introverts think to talk. Extraverts talk to think. Plan accordingly and you may even find you like each other.

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