A Day at the Museum

I’ve been doing some virtual museum visits. One of the things I miss during this pandemic is finding the solace in staring at great works of art. As I’ve “strolled” through the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery, MOMA, and the Met, I’ve been wondering how these masterpieces might be interpreted in today’s environment. Lots of these were inspired by wars, depressions, and other life altering events. These take on a new and possibly different relevance today.

American Gothic

American Gothic – Grant Wood

I lost my job. I haven’t worked in weeks. We’re stuck together sheltering in place. Neither one of us is happy.

 

 

 

 

 

NighthawksNighthawks – Edward Hopper

I lost my job today and I don’t know how I can go home and face my family. I’ve been sitting in this café since noon.

 

Card PlayersThe Card Players – Paul Cezanne

None of us has any work. We sit, smoke, play cards and pray for the time to pass.

 

 

Sunday Afternoon

 

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte – George Seurat

The theatres are closed, the restaurants are closed, our jobs are closed. All we can do is take another walk in the park. Seems like every day is Sunday.

 

Crying GirlCrying Girl – Roy Lichtenstein

I can’t believe I got Riffed.

 

 

 

 

The GleanersThe Gleaners – Jean Francois Millet

I’ve got an MBA and I’m doing this?!?

 

 

 

 

Woman Writing LetterWoman Writing a Letter – Ter Borch

I’m never going to finish this resume. Do I need a cover letter?

 

 

 

 

 

the-screamThe Scream – Edvard Munch

No explanation necessary.

No Lone Rangers

lonely officeI started this piece before we were all sheltering in place. Working alone, in isolation, has taken on an entirely new meaning. Yet the need for collaboration, the need to connect with others may have become even more acute. We’ve found new ways to create the connections and work together to create the teams in which we’re able to accomplish more than any one person can do alone. 

 

 

Human beings weren’t meant to work in isolation. Not today.

Humans are meant to collaborate. None of got to where we are in our careers on our own, we all had help. No one gets there alone.

When you fall on hard times, you didn’t get there alone either. Something happened. Economic downturn, corporate restructuring, the boss’s nephew needed a job.

Lots of times organizations “go in different directions.” Reorganize, reengineer, restructure, redirect, reduce redundancies. It seems that no word that starts with “re” means something good for employees. But remember that “reward” starts with those letters. So does recognition. Nothing is black and white anymore. There are two sides to every coin, and it seems the coin is spinning on a razor’s edge and there’s nothing you can do to make sure it comes up heads. But the more people you know, the more people you have on your side increases the likelihood that you’re going to come out alright. It’s called building your network.

Your network is something you have to pay attention to only when you need it.
And you always need it.

You can’t wait until your job is at risk, or you have a problem to tap into your network. That’s too late. You need to tend your network all the time because you never know when you’re going to need it. If your job is at risk because of some corporate “re” word then the more people you have in your network who know you and the good work you do increases the likelihood that the RIF winds will pass you by. You didn’t get to some lofty position on your own, you had help. And you didn’t find yourself on the brink of elimination on your own. Someone else had something to do with that as well.

It won’t be your knowledge, your skills, or your talent that will save you. All the people in the organization have those to some degree. It’s going to be the people you know, the people who like you, trust you, and want to work with you, your collaborative skills, your network that will keep the building pass on your phone and your 401k accruing interest.

No one gets there alone.

Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto.The-Lone-Ranger-and-Tonto

 

Try Something

david-full-frontYour first job will not be your last job, or very likely your last career. You’re going to try lots of things in your work life and as they say in Silicon Valley, fail fast. Get the false starts out of the way early. This will help you to figure out your true path. Don’t stay with a mistake just because you’ve invested months, or even years in doing it.

Take what I call the “Michelangelo approach” to your career. Allegedly, when a visitor saw the finished David sculpture they asked him, “How do you look at a block of marble and see the David?” Michelangelo was reputed to be a very snarky fellow, as many artists are, and replied, “You just chip away everything that’s not David.” Start chipping away everything that’s not you. But the only way you’ll know is if you try. So, try something. It’s better to try something and fail than to try nothing and succeed. Don’t be afraid it won’t be perfect, be afraid of being in the same indecisive place you are today a year from now.

Sam Levene said, “Learn from the mistakes of others, you don’t have time to make them all yourself.” Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, no one got where they are without help. No one does it alone. But at some point, you’re going to have to take responsibility for what you produce. Like the people who created the Declaration of Independence, make sure you create something that you’re proud to sign your name to. And remember, 56 people created and signed the Declaration of Independence. No one gets there alone.

declaration of independence

Fast. Cheap. Good.


handshake

Used to be that when you started a new job, you’d get training, advice, a “break-in” period of three, four, maybe even six months.

Not anymore. You’re expected to hit the ground running, and fast. Start producing. You’ll be expected to deliver something sooner than you might expect or have thought. So, remember this:Done is Better Than Perfect.”

Deliver. Something.

You’ll be afforded the opportunity to fix it and fix it you will. I’m not suggesting that you settle or lower your standards, but focus on what’s important to the company. Your new company may be a very agile and nimble organization. Speed may be more important than perfect. Get something out there and fix it later.

And remember Stephen Covey’s fifth habit of highly effective people when trying to determine where to focus your efforts. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Listen first and completely before responding. Listening may be the greatest skill you’ll use in your first weeks on the new job. This will help to focus so you can deliver.

I coached someone who started a new job. They were singularly focused on fast and needed to focus on best. They became successful when they focused on doing their best within the time parameters. As you figure out how and where to put in your best effort on the new job, remember this: Fast, Cheap, Good — pick any two. You can’t have all three.

Except pizza. Pizza is the only thing that is all three.pizza

Needle in a Haystack

haystack I keep hearing this radio ad for a recruiting service that compares staffing to looking for a needle in a haystack. Y’know, with a rake and a really strong magnet, that really isn’t so hard. You want to know what’s hard? Looking for a needle in a sewing store. That’s the challenge in staffing today. Imagine going into a sewing store (if such a thing even exists today) and looking for a needle. But not just any needle, just the right needle. The exact one you want and need. That’s staffing today.

Because when you post that job looking for a needle, you’re not going get applications from a lot of hay. You’re going to get applications from a lot of needles. Needles of different lengths, different thicknesses,  and different degrees of pointy-ness. Needles for hand-sewing and needles for machines. The choices are endless. That’s staffing today. You’re going to get hundreds of applicants, all needles. Unless you’ve taken the time before you posted that job to clearly define exactly what you need, you’ve just made your job a whole lot tougher.

Too many people complain about the difficulty in finding the right candidates. Especially now when the unemployment rate is low. Doing the hard job of defining your needs before you post that job is the key to cutting through all that hay to find the needle. Or marching into a sewing store and picking up just the right needle from all the ones inside.

Cause finding a needle in a haystack really isn’t that hard. See if you can find this one.

Needle haystack

What are you waiting for?

I saw something really curious yesterday. Something that wouldn’t have looked out place 30 or 40 or maybe even 10 years ago, but it looked alien to me. I saw people standing in line in a bank waiting to see a teller.

teller line

I can’t remember the last time I went to a teller in a bank branch. I thought, “Don’t these people have phones? Or computers? What on earth could they be doing?”  I mean I’ve been in a branch to use the ATM or talk to one of the account representatives about their products, but stand on line to make a deposit or withdrawal or cash a check? Can’t remember the last time.

I wondered what else people are waiting for. If you’re searching for a job, have you applied online and now you’re waiting for someone to get back to you? Don’t hold your breath.

Are you toiling away at a job, crunching numbers, writing memos, and putting out fires and waiting for someone above you to notice and recognize and reward you? Not likely.

Trying to figure out how to reinvent yourself, strike out on a new career and waiting for a bolt of lightning-like inspiration? Inspiration is for amateurs as the painter Chuck Close succinctly put it.

If you want something to happen, make it happen. Get out of line.

If you’re searching for a job, get off-line and start networking. Newsflash, no one’s going to hire you just because you’ve got 1000+ connections on LinkedIn. They’ve got to meet you face to face and in the flesh. “But I hate networking!” Get over it. You’re going to have to do it so start now.

You want recognition? Make people notice you. Don’t wait to be noticed, get in management’s face. While you’re building a better mousetrap someone else, who probably doesn’t do as much good work as you, is cozying up to the boss. I know a woman who complained that her husband never bought her flowers. (Full disclosure, it was my wife.) A friend asked her, “Does he know you’d like to get flowers every now and then?” She looked stunned for a moment and that night let me know that she would. She gets them often now.

Want a new career? Doing what? You don’t know? How do you plan to find one? Are you talking to people, taking webinars, asking people if they like their jobs? Have you thought about shadowing someone in a career you think you might like?

If you want something, this is no time to be polite. Don’t waste time waiting, in line or anywhere else. It’s time to make it happen.

What are you looking at?

cell-phones

 

You walk slower when you’re looking at your phone. It’s a fact. Walking the streets of Manhattan. Trying to get across a crowded subway platform or train station. Walking down the hall in the office. You walk slower when you’re looking at your phone.

So what are you looking at? Is it really that important? And what are you missing? Who’s way are you in and who are you blocking? Who’s behind you desperately trying to get by as you meander along? FYI, I refer to people walking while staring at their phones as “meanderthals.”

Now besides slowing me down, you’re slowing yourself down as well and you’re the one missing everything going on around you. You’re not just depriving me of my cardio New York speed walk but you’re depriving yourself. But this is not just a rant about people walking while talking on their phones though I’m sure there are plenty of you who’ll chime in with your own complaints. (I’m guessing I may get more comments on this post than many others.)

Whatever’s happening on your phone (cat videos?) is probably less important than something else you can be doing. What other distractions are you looking at when you need to be focusing on the really important people or things? Don’t let yourself get slowed down by staring at the unimportant things in life. Put down your “phone,” whatever that is, and look at the sky, the beautiful buildings and where you’re going. Because you’re going to get there a lot faster if you’re not looking at all the shiny things, screens, squirrels and countless distractions today’s world throws in your path.

What are you looking at?sunsetbridge-view

stone-street

What Else Can You Do?

post-itsThis phrase has been rattling around in my brain lately. What else can you do? It may be my mantra for this year. It seems applicable to almost every situation.

You’re unhappy in your job. What else can you do? Do you need to mend relations with a manager or co-worker? What’s making you so miserable? Is it the work you do or where you do it? If you need a change, what else can you do?

If you’re a manager frustrated by the performance of a staff member, what else can you do? What have you tried to get the person to do their job better? What’s worked in the past? Can the person be trained? Do they need to be replaced? What else can you do?

You want to lose weight and every fad diet or cleanse hasn’t worked. What else can you do? Unfortunately the answer might be eating less and exercising more but I’m sure there are those who will read that and think, what else can I do?

You worry about your children, young ones or grown. What else can you do? Because take it from me, worrying doesn’t work. It doesn’t prevent the bad or create some good. It generally just gets in the way of actually coming up with a new idea. So instead of worrying, ask what else can I do? Reach out, open the lines of communication, support them and unburden yourself. Because I’ve often found that while I’m being wracked by worry about my kids they’re out having a good time.

What else can you do is the phrase that frees you from repeating the mistakes of the past. In virtually every situation above and in countless others, doing nothing is a poor or unacceptable alternative. What else can you do is the first step toward trying something else and hopefully doing something better. What else can you do reminds us that there’s always something else you can do, something else you can try. You aren’t helpless and the situation isn’t hopeless. What else can you do is saying that there is something else I can do, I just haven’t figured it out yet. But there’s something. Everything turns out okay in the end, and if it isn’t okay, it isn’t the end.

What else can you do?

If not now

 

No More Pointer

pointerIn my last post I shared that in December I injured my right index finger and it’ll be out of commission for a couple of months. Don’t ask how, it’s embarrassing. A neighbor’s six year old asked me how it happened and I told him, “Fighting a wombat.” His eyes got real big and he asked if there were wombats in our building. I told him, “Not any more.” But I digress.

Losing the use of your most important finger on your dominant hand causes one to have to find new ways to do almost everything. I rely on my right hand for a lot and my index finger more than I do the other fingers. Sort of like the manager who relies too much on one staff member and doesn’t develop the rest of the team.  I’ve had to learn how to do things with my left hand and the other fingers on my right. It’s been an annoyance and an education.

Now what about that manager who relies too much on one staff member? What happens when that person becomes injured from overwork or gets frustrated and quits? This is more than an annoyance or an inconvenience. The manager who relies too much on one superstar performer, no matter how good he or she is, and neglects developing the skills and abilities of the other fingers, I mean staff, is doing the organization a major disservice. My left hand has gotten a crash course in lifting, washing, buttoning button and many other ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living). If there are typos in this post, blame my left hand.

Leaders need to ensure that every staff person is ready to step up and do the job. Waiting until you lose your most valuable performer to start training back-ups is no way to run a business. Take it from me, Ron “Lefty” Katz.

hands

Oh, Snap!

Finger splint

Usually in December I get my wife some shiny adornment for her hand, neck or ears. This year I was the one who added a shiny new accessory. The finger splint you see above that I started wearing after I snapped the extensor tendon in my right index finger. This isn’t something I recommend under any circumstances but especially not when the windchill is about to plummet to negative numbers and the splint, besides getting very cold, prevents one from wearing gloves.

But being an optimist, I look on the bright side. I had to slow down. I was forced to rethink how I did just about everything. I’m right-hand dominant to an extreme. The only thing my left hand is good for is to keep my watch from slipping off my wrist. So I really had to think through just about everything I do. Hold a pen, type, eat, wash, all simple stuff until you try to do these things either one-handed or with a hand that’s not used to doing them. And I really had to consider what I was doing and only do that which is really important.

I’m going to be in some kind of splint for about two months at least, and that’s assuming this heals and doesn’t require surgery. It’s sometimes frustrating to not be able to do everything I want, but it’s also freeing. I’ve been doing more reading. I’ve thought more about some things I want to write and while typing is difficult, dictating is not. Technology can be a blessing in a situation like this. There’s all kinds of workarounds in life, sometimes we just need our bodies to remind us to look for them.

Focus on what’s really important and take care of yourself in 2018. You never know when something’s about to snap.