What are your strengths?

For most people, you might think your strengths are those things co-workers, family and friends mention when they say your name.  “Oh, I love Kevin. He’s so smart.”  You probably know what your strengths are and just never took a moment to admit them out loud.  But, play along. What would you say are your top three strengths when it comes to work?

Maybe you’re extremely organized and punctual. 

Maybe you’re an excellent speaker or a great note-taker during meetings.

Maybe you work brilliantly alone and consider yourself quite independent. 

I bet you’re a leader and can gather people together easily and get them to work on a project flawlessly, under budget and on-time.

Whatever your strengths are, consider this:  our strengths tend to also be our weaknesses.

I know!  Mind. Blown!

In my experience, it tends to be true.  Maybe not 100% of the time, but more likely than not. If you think about it, it makes sense.  If you’re someone who is organized and punctual, you may not be as comfortable working in a crazed unorganized environment.  Being extremely organized can be a great thing, but when things aren’t in regular order, you may not fare as well. Chaos is not your friend. 

The more we understand what we’re good at and embrace what we’re not so great at, the easier it is to facilitate our work environments and also our lives to have a better chance at succeeding.  If we can embrace our strengths and acknowledge our weaknesses, we can only do better as individuals because we have more information and understand ourselves better.  Information is power, especially when it’s information about our own selves.

More importantly, if we notice that our co-workers (and all people in our lives for that matter) have strengths as well as faults, we may be more apt to deal with situations that occur far better. For example, if we know someone is not a great leader, then we won’t set them up to fail by putting them in positions that require them to lead. We acknowledge that their strength is working and getting things done skillfully in a group supportive setting instead of harping on the fact that they don’t do well as the person in charge.

Whether you’re the boss, receptionist, executive, mail room clerk, or whomever, no one is perfect at everything.  We all have strengths and weaknesses and acknowledging that alone will change your whole perspective on how you treat yourself and just as important, how you treat others.

So, look at your strengths again. Now name your top three weaknesses. Is there a connection?

Let’s start with the basics – a great manager knows how to manage!

The  definition of the word manage:

  1. Be in charge, administer; run. A person who directs a team…

The reality is a little more complicated. The best way to think of being in charge of anything is to consider what you would need in a similar circumstance if you were part of the team and not in charge. From an employee’s perspective, in order to succeed, a manager is the person to “go to” for structure, guidance and information, among other things…so, to start, BE that expert with the information.

Manage anime

Let’s break it down:

Provide Structure: As a manager you have the template for what’s about to happen. You know the boundaries and how everyone should work. You have a plan. Structure implies that you are organized, have a plan, and know how the task at hand will be implemented from point A to Z. Be able to explain it clearly with no equivocation. You’re in charge, this is the schedule, timing, day due, etc.

Provide Guidance: A manager knows the answers to the questions or how to get the answers.  If a decision needs to be made, the person in charge (manager) will make decision or be the deciding vote.  The guidance provided by the person in charge is basically the weaver of focus for the group. You keep people on track. If the team is going down the wrong path, the manager gets them back on course.  You’re open to all possibilities to get the job done,  but always walking the team through down the right course of action to get everything done on time and on-point.  You’ve calculated the risks, you know all the outcomes and you make choices to empower the group but never sway from the goals.  The definition of guidance: The direction provided by a guide.

Provide Information: You have the knowledge and facts to decide what is appropriate and what is not.  Because you’re in charge, employees will always defer to you when unsure or if a question arises during the project. Information that quantifies your decision is all a staff member needs to move forward.

Among other things….

Managers have people work for them or with them.  Providing structure, guidance and information to get the job is what a manager does.  But what makes someone a great manager?

A great manager, among other things, is someone who’s also considered a leader.  There’s a difference. A manager heads a group of people towards an outcome. People work for the manager.

A leader is someone people want to follow whether they work for them or not.

What are the three things you need to know to make you a LEADER?  We’ll cover that in our next post.

There are many benefits to working from home – I don’t need to list them all here, but some common favorite reasons to work remotely are: 

No commute.Desk Home

Working in your pajamas.

Creating your own schedule.

No one looking over your shoulder.

A lot of companies are trending more towards remote positions whenever possible and some people are having a tough time adjusting.

One of the most common calls I get is from new “remote” employees who are struggling to stay on deadline and are finding it difficult to get things done. Here are some basic Do’s and Don’ts, in no particular order, that I’m sharing with some of my clients who need help becoming better remote, working-from-home, telecommuting, e-Worker, etc., employees:

  • Keep a schedule. Everyone says they’re going to do this, but they never do – at first. Why? Because it’s hard! There’s a freedom to getting up, having your coffee, and not having to jump in your car and sit in traffic.  So, maybe you flip on the TV. Something catches your ear – maybe a text, or it’s an old episode from a show you streamed, or you just get fixated on something on Twitter and all of a sudden what started with good intentions at 8am has now passed and it’s 3pm and you’ve done absolutely NOTHING.

The fix:  Treat your workday just as if you were working in a brick and mortar office.  Create a schedule and stick to it.  If you’re going to work from 8am – 3pm Monday through Friday, then stick to that schedule no matter what – at least until you get the hang of this newfound freedom.

Do not stay in your pajamas. I know, people hate this one the most.  But I’m telling you, if you roll over in bed, turn on your laptop to work, and stay in your pajamas, you will inevitably end up being distracted or worse, fall back asleep! If you don’t treat your work professionally as you did when you went INTO the office, then you won’t produce “professional” work because you won’t be in that “professional” state of mind. This is the same for creatives.  You need to be in that head-space in order to create – and again, when starting out working from home, you should mimic some of those basic behaviors that you had working in a brick and mortar office to begin with…ease your way into working remotely efficiently by treating it professionally.

The fix: Get up, get dressed, keeping to your schedule. Change out of your pjs, brush your hair, brush your teeth, and throw on sweats or lounge wear or workout clothes if you want, but do something to transition yourself from one activity (sleeping) to another (working). This helps not only get you out of your slumber of sleep, but also gets you in the right frame of mind.  Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

Do not share with your friends and family that you “work from home”. What you’ll notice when you start working remotely is that everyone will now contact you at all hours to talk about whatever drama is going on because they know you’re home. Your neighbors will knock on your door if they need help and you’ll be happy to help – you have the time, right? Since you work from home now.  One neighbor asked me to watch her 6 year old for a few minutes and came back a few hours later!?!?! Well, with just a few haphazard moments like that, you’ll get behind in your workload and you’ll start to feel overwhelmed by everyone who is “bothering” you. It happens.

The fix: So, when it comes to your family and friends, tell them you work remotely, and you have “meetings” all day long, from 8am – 3pm or whatever your schedule is. But you’re happy to fit them in.  Grab your calendar and schedule them in for AFTER your workday or project. Because you’re keeping a schedule now, remember?    

Have a secondary place to work – Without fail there will always be a problem you can’t control in your regular workspace.  Maybe the electricity goes out, or there’s street construction and you can’t hear yourself think. My neighbor once had about 15 people visiting – at least that’s what it sounded like and I couldn’t concentrate because it was just so noisey. So, make sure you always have a plan B so you never miss a deadline, a conference call, meeting, etc.

The fix:  The local library, a coffee shop, a shared workspace rental like WeWork, etc. Be prepared to sit in your car and take a conference call or meeting if your plan A situation gets too loud and you can’t easily reschedule.  Always have a plan B!

Schedule a “lunch” hour every day – I’ve already touched a bit on this earlier, but one of the other problems with people working from home is the other extreme:  working too much and forgetting that you ONLY need to work 40 hours a week (or whatever your agreed upon part-time job is).  Most people, once they get the hang of it,  become so much more efficient that they actually get a lot more work done.  But therein lies the problem. People forget to take breaks, to eat right, to take the weekends off — they easily make their lives all about work – which, by the way, defeats the whole purpose of working from home.

The fix:  Schedule a lunch time every day into your calendar. And at the very least: GO. OUTSIDE. FOR. A. WALK.  Honor your cut-off times too. When your work-day is done, it’s DONE. Period.

Keep track of your workday. If your company is not using a project management software program like Asana.com, Trello.com, Monday.com or Basecamp.com just to name a few, then make sure you’re keeping track of your work and what you’re doing.  One problem I’ve encountered with companies making this transition is that management will ask what people are doing when they’re working from home. Some of this is also their new-ness to having an employee work from home, but it can also be a default reaction when a project goes badly.  I’ve also experienced employees who were so stressed out that they don’t think their boss or supervisor believed they’d been working.  As the employee, take control of this aspect. You know what you’re doing every day.  So, be ready with answers of what you did for for that entire project in case someone asks. It will also help with a sense of accomplishment when you see how much you’ve done in a day, a week, etc. Keep track however it easily works for you.

The fix: Some of these project management tools can be used individually but could be costly and unnecessary. You can easily keep track of your calls and daily work in your calendar – when you finish a project for that day, just jot it down. How many hours you worked and remember to detail any calls you made and such. Remember this is also great just for YOU to keep track. It helps you with organization and keeping tracks of TO DO lists. Win-win. (Note to companies:  if you have employees working from home, you should consider a project management tool or create a system in place to help employees and yourself feel good about the work you’ve accomplished).

Understand that you’ll need to socialize more on your own – When people go from working in an office environment to working remotely, what they realize rather quickly is that it can get a little lonely.  You may have no distractions and are probably working more efficiently, but that one-on-one interaction with fellow co-workers, or that “meeting-up for a drink after work”, may no longer apply especially if you’re out-of-state. It can start to feel a bit isolating.

The Fix: Make sure you find other ways to socialize.  Interacting with people at meet-up groups that may be work-related could be a great way to fill that gap.  It’ll also allow you to continue generating new ideas, keep yourself fresh on all things going on in your industry and more importantly, keep you from being alone.

Be kind to yourself. If you’re new to working from home, know that it takes a little time to get used to it. Working remotely is a wonderful experience and can be a great benefit to both employees and business owners.  But understanding that it does have its pitfalls is a good first step in getting it right. The data is still being calculated on all the pros and cons.  It’s still a pretty new thing for a lot of folk – so yes, it can be devastatingly lonely and jarring when you realize you’ve been home all day working and no one stopped by to say “hello”.  There’s no “water-cooler” or staff kitchen to hang out in.  No ordering lunch together and no “grabbing a drink after this meeting” type of event.  Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are just NOT the same thing – and not what you’re used too. It takes time to adjust to a new way of working.  So be kind to yourself.

The fix: If you need help, just ask. Any company working remotely is aware of what some newer employees may go through. You’re definitely NOT the only person who may need some tips during the adjustment period. So, if you have a question, just ask. Personally I’ve been helping companies make the transition and/or setting up new organizations and individuals into their new cloud-based remote lives for many years. It’s just one part of what I get paid to do. Happy to help.