Category: Skills

The Joy of Risk

Filed under: Big Ideas & Innovation, Finance and Banking, Risk, Skills

One American military leader, already having lost most of his many battles, persisted in driving his troops to attack in situations that everyone else regarded as lost causes. A leader destined to go down in history as a failure? Hardly. It was George Washington.

Business leaders today could take a lesson in risk management from General Washington, but it’s not the one you might think. Washington was never reckless. He studied risks carefully, running unapologetically from battles likely to lead to catastrophic defeat, while throwing himself and his troops into battles that he saw could prove decisive and were more winnable than others assumed, as when he crossed the freezing Delaware to attack–and defeat–the British in a blizzard.

Managers sometimes mistakenly think their job is to avoid or eliminate risk. That’s easy to do: Just veer away from all undertakings that aren’t sure things, or that you don’t understand well. I can absolutely guarantee you the result of that strategy will be mediocre performance, at very best. Innovation, speed, and bold action are all associated with risk–so if you’re avoiding risk, you’re avoiding some of the very qualities your organization needs to excel or perhaps even just survive.

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Can You Hear Me?

Filed under: Communication, Good Habits, Quick Tips, Skills

I was speechless. Untypically so.

Laryngitis left me with no voice. And the timing was horrible as I was in the middle of an important week of meetings with key customers and influencers. Try as I did, my feeble voice couldn’t break through.

With no choice but to shut up, it was time to be schooled in active listening. With no time spent worrying about what to say next, what clever quip to interject, I was able to soak up the conversation of others—to luxuriate in listening.

Too often in business, conversation becomes a race to get all of our points in before someone else can. Trampling over others to make sure our voice is loudest, our words last to be lasting.

Unfortunately, and too often, the art of listening gets lost when you need it most – when faced with bad news or too many distractions. My pet peeve is the lost opportunity of a sales call, mine included!) Maybe you’ve been here too: “We want to understand all about you, but first, a brief introduction about ourselves.” Fifty minutes later they’re still waxing on about their offerings. And then with ten minutes left, they turn to you saying, “But we need to hear from you.” You try to beat the clock, speaking faster than any human can comprehend. Connection lost, opportunities missed.

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There Are So Many Ways To Be Smart

Filed under: Career Advice, Personality, Professional Development, Skills

During a continuing ed course when I was an equity analyst at Merrill Lynch, the instructor observed, “You’re really good at math.”

For those of you that know anything about equity research, you’d expect that I wittily riposted with something like, “Darn straight, I am. I eat financial models for breakfast, spit out stock calls at lunch.”

Instead, after graciously (I hope!) saying thank you, my internal conversation went more like “Really? Could he be right? Could it be true that I’m good at math?” Because I can pinpoint the moment I started to believe I was bad at math. This script, so to speak, began in fifth grade, when math involved word problems. In sixth grade, when my teacher told me to stop asking questions and just figure the question out on my own, and I thought I couldn’t, I finalized the script. It read: “I’m bad at math.”

The “I’m bad at math” script wouldn’t be so problematic except that girls and women in the United States have a tendency to believe they are bad at math. Comparatively, boys and men don’t appear to be as intimidated by math. Meanwhile, we live in a society
whose systems and social structures value math skills. The script was especially problematic for me, specifically, because it wasn’t entirely true.

But I digress.

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Personal SWOT Analysis

Filed under: Insights, Interviews, Job Search, Skills, Your Career

“Chance favors the prepared mind.”
– Louis Pasteur

You are most likely to succeed in life if you use your talents to their fullest extent. Similarly, you’ll suffer fewer problems if you know what your weaknesses are, and if you manage these weaknesses so that they don’t matter in the work you do.

So how you go about identifying these strengths and weaknesses, and analyzing the opportunities and threats that flow from them? SWOT Analysis is a useful technique that helps you do this.

What makes SWOT especially powerful is that, with a little thought, it can help you uncover opportunities that you would not otherwise have spotted. And by understanding your weaknesses, you can manage and eliminate threats that might otherwise hurt your ability to move forward.

If you look at yourself using the SWOT framework, you can start to separate yourself from your peers, and further develop the specialized talents and abilities you need to advance your career.

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Enhance Existing Skills With A MOOC

Filed under: MOOCs, Professional Development, Skills

MOOCs, massive open online courses, have gained tremendous popularity in the last year and it looks like they are on track to continue along that path for the foreseeable future. These types of courses can be a great way for job seekers to enhance existing skills or learn new skills during the job search process. They can also provide a worthwhile diversion from searching and applying for positions, which can become a monotonous task after several hours.

What’s A MOOC?

MOOCs are online classes that are readily available to anyone who has an electronic device with an Internet connection and some available time. In most cases, these classes are free or available for a nominal charge. Because the courses often have hundreds of participants, there’s not a need to charge tuition rates like those at local colleges and universities. The curriculum is almost always solely online, so there aren’t additional fees for textbooks and other course materials.

MOOCs generally aren’t eligible for college credit, but they are an excellent low cost and low risk way to learn new skills or freshen up existing skills to make yourself more marketable as a job candidate.

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