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Work-life Lesson 8: Trust

in collaboration with Ira Fialkow and Ivy Remoreras

Building trust is vastly different from trying to establish who is right. It is about committing to, and working to achieve outcomes that people are willing to stand behind.

Never put yourself in a position that could lead others to question your character, your trustworthiness, or your integrity.

Think about jobs you have had or you currently have. When you trust the people you work with—your boss or the company leadership, for example—not only are you highly engaged but you also enjoy what you are doing; and you do everything you can to bring success to the organization. More importantly, when people trust each other, they take ownership of their environment and hold themselves and others accountable. On the other hand, when someone’s integrity, character or trustworthiness is put into question, the whole organization is negatively affected.

“Hearts and Minds” or “Renting Labor”—Why Trust Is Critical in a Healthy Organization

This lesson is about building trust, keeping trust and (occasionally) having to gain back trust. Trust is the groundwork of all relationships, especially of good functioning teams. It is critical for effective communication and employee engagement. It is a major factor of employee retention, and employee motivation and contributes to discretionary energy, which causes employees to go “above and beyond”. When trust exists in the workplace, everything else is easier to achieve. You can cultivate a culture in which people think performance, quality, and exceptional service—but there’s a big difference between these efforts resulting from the basis of trust; or from simple compliance. Results coming from a “trustworthy” organization resonate better with the market or with external entities. People want to patronize your products and do business with you if they trust you.

Once trust is broken, it’s said that it can never be regained. When this happens in the workplace, the relationship can take a very long time to mend. Productivity and efficiency is affected because the parties involved become guarded and suspect “hidden agendas”. However, honest mistakes will happen and these experiences also produce valuable lessons. Because trust is a core foundation value, never put yourself in a position that could lead other people to question your character, trustworthiness, or integrity. The process of building trust, character and relationship takes time, but can be destroyed in an instant.

In the workplace, there should be certain people we are able to trust without reservation: one of them is our manager. Managers build that trust by fulfilling accountability. This includes accountability to create a better and safer workplace; to have the best processes and tools to run the business and enjoy competitive advantage; and to expand opportunities for employees. We shouldn’t have to doubt the motivation behind managers’ decisions because there should be no motivation other than doing what is in the best interest of the company—based on company values and objectives.

However, in a workplace environment it is unavoidable that perceptions of unfair actions, inequities in various forms, and conflicts of interest may arise. In these situations, building trust is not easy. Successful trust-building in the work place hinges on three elements: clarity of purpose, open communication and a win-win attitude.

1. Clarity of purpose is represented by the company’s vision and purpose.

It is the structure of any organization. It is what keeps it moving forward with direction. It provides meaning to the day-to-day challenges. Building trust is vastly different from trying to establish who is right. It is about committing to, and working to achieve outcomes that people are willing to stand behind.

2. Open Communication is important in any relationship building.

It is also important in maintaining trust. How effective communication is in the work place is key. This is particularly important when implementing difficult decisions—for example, reorganizations, which potentially (and naturally) creates a certain level of distrust between leaders and employees. In order to address this distrust, leaders need to show their employees that the reorganization is for the good of the company (and its employees).

3. A win-win attitude approaches work as a collaborative endeavor, not a competitive one.

This attitude creates trust as both parties seek mutual benefits in interactions. Win-win means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying. A person or organization that approaches conflicts with a win-win attitude develops vital character traits and strengths such as integrity, trustworthiness and collaboration.

Work-life Lesson 8 Takeaways:

  • The best way to maintain trustworthiness is to keep away from breaking trust in the first place.
  • Successful trust-building in the work place hinges on three elements: clarity of purpose, open communication and a win-win attitude.
  • Building trust is vastly different from trying to establish who is right. It is about committing to, and working to achieve outcomes that people are willing to stand behind.

About the collaborators:

Ira Fialkow  is the SVP of Member Services at Peeriosity. Prior to this, Ira was EVP of Shared Services at CEMEX and Rinker Group (acquired by CEMEX is 2007) from 1990 through joining Peeriosity in October 2010. Rinker Group was the initial recipient of the Best Mature Shared Services Award in 2003. Ira lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and has been the champion of his fantasy football league in three of the past five years.

Ivy Remoreras is a marketing professional with eight years of extensive experience, particularly in product management, communications and promotions as a manager, university instructor and consultant. She believes in constant learning and has a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA). Having resided in Europe, Asia and North America, she speaks four languages.

Photo courtesy of Renjith Krishnan

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Work-life Lessons 7: Choose a good attitude

in collaboration with Ira Fialkow and Ivy Remoreras

 If there is only one thing you can work on that will change you and your working environment, it is your attitude.

Have you ever noticed that a positive attitude is infectious? Having employees with pleasant attitude could mean the difference between a positive and supportive working environment and a workplace full of destructive conflict and negativity. You’ll go an extra mile for someone with a good attitude who’s pleasant to be around. Regardless of the circumstances of the company, you can create an environment where people genuinely care. If there is only one thing you can work on that will change you and your working environment, it is your attitude.

This article will discuss the importance of developing a pleasant attitude as well as give you some tips on how you can develop it.

Developing a good attitude in the work place creates a win-win situation. As an employee, a pleasant and positive attitude is indispensable to creating relationships with peers that will help you succeed in your professional endeavors. Your work attitude determines how high you can climb the corporate ladder. Your attitude determines how other people in your working environment perceive you. If you decide to have a cheerful, outgoing attitude, people will be drawn to you and you will be easy to collaborate with. You have total control. Your attitude determines whether you are open and proactive or closed and reactive, positive or defensive, advance ideas or bury them; and by our own attitude, we and we alone actually decide whether to succeed or fail.

For the workplace or organization, the right attitude translates to productivity. The single most efficient way to increase your productivity is to have a positive attitude at work. There is no other magic formula that increases productivity other than really, really enjoying your work.

Pick One Simple Pleasant Attitude (at a time) and Start Working On It

As a fair warning, working on one’s attitude is simple in concept but hard to do. It would be best to work with someone, a mentor for example, that you can collaborate with and with whom you can review feedback. Ask for frank feedback from your co-workers or your supervisor. There are countless work attitudes to choose from:

  • Courtesy and Humility – This is about being courteous and respectful of people in the office no matter what their rank and designation. Courtesy shows politeness in one’s attitude and behavior toward others. Basic courtesy is polite speech or action. Use words like “please” and “thank you”.   Another pleasant trait is humility, which simply means being humble when conducting yourself in the office. Humility is about having a healthy self-concept and being confident that you’re fulfilling your plan and purpose with integrity.
  • Punctuality and Preparation – This means two things: first, punctuality is the act of being on-time in your appointments, which means showing respect to others; second, it is about being prepared to engage and the ability to complete a required task before or at a designated or committed time. Cultural differences make this attitude a little more difficult to traverse, but being on time and prepared are universal signs of respect.
  • Pleasant – You can go an extra mile for someone with a good attitude. Unpleasant attitudes are restrictive and counter-productive. An example of an unpleasant attitude is giving non-constructive feedback. Upon receiving this feedback, people tend to become more reserved and keep things to themselves so as not to be criticized or blamed. Another simple tip is to wear a smile. Smiles are disarming and opening. Smile often even when the going gets tough. I know it is difficult. Try getting into the habit of smiling even when stressed. You will soon notice less knotted facial muscle and people will work better with you.

People with pleasant attitudes are a lot more fun to be around and consequently have better relations at work. This translates into better teamwork with peers; better working relations if you are a manager; more satisfied customers if you are in a service job, etc. Taking control of your attitude in the workplace and making it a habit to be courteous, humble, punctual, prepared and pleasant requires personal accountability. This means taking ownership of improving your attitude and understanding what you need to do to achieve it. You can do it one small step at a time by taking personal ownership. Bear in mind that it is a continuous process.

Work-life Lesson 7 Takeaways:

  • Having employees with pleasant attitudes means the difference between a positive and productive work environment or a workplace full of problems and negativity.
  • Your attitude determines how other people in your working environment perceive you. If you decide to have a cheerful, outgoing attitude, people will be drawn to you and you will be easy to collaborate with.
  • When working on improving attitude in the workplace, it would be best to work with a mentor whom you can collaborate with. You can ask for frank feedback from your co-workers or have a discussion with your supervisor.
  • Make it a habit to be courteous, humble, punctual, prepared and pleasant. You can do it one small step at a time by taking personal ownership.

Photo by KROMKRATHOG.

Work-life Lessons 6: Paralysis of Analysis

in collaboration with Ira Fialkow and Ivy Remoreras

It is better to do something and learn from mistakes than live the inertia of paralysis of analysis. – Ira Fialkow

It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to do a series of extensive analyses before making a decision. You forget to directionally see the action that you want to take because you are too focused on the analysis. Others are just afraid of making mistakes and face the embarrassment that may come with it. Some simply over-analyze because they aspire things to be perfect and expect to do everything right.

Let’s start this lesson with a very simple premise— Mistakes are not only the result of simply not thinking before doing or doing things by impulse, but are also often the byproduct of serious analytic thinking about the right course of action.  Yes, logically you would reduce the likelihood of mistakes or failure if you subject your idea to a series of analyses. That is perfectly fine and most of the time—if you want to make not only the right decision but also better decisions, you have to use analytics; it is what is expected and proper in the business environment to mitigate risk. However, you have to also caution yourself from going into “paralysis of analysis.” You could end up doing nothing. We live in a fast-paced and ultra competitive world. Sometimes, when you are a step slower in making things happen, opportunity passes you by. Over-analysis is a common cause that slows people down when it comes to making things happen or taking actions. In some extreme cases, it confines them to a cycle of continuous analysis and internal debates about the assumptions used in the analysis. This results in the actual output of the analysis being the focus rather than the action to be taken certainly, doing the right amount of analysis is important, but balancing it with action guarantees results.

Enjoy the Fun of Failure

Most people have used those little self-stick notepapers more commonly known as Post-it notes. But few know that this very successful 3M product was not a planned innovation. It did not come from a group who researched, got the idea, and followed an organized process of product development. Spencer Silver from 3M was trying to develop a strong adhesive in the 3M research laboratories in the 1970s. Silver successfully developed a new adhesive but it was weaker than what 3M already had in the market. The adhesive was weak; it stuck to objects, but could easily be lifted off. From the point of view of product development given the original specifications, the exercise was a failure; but Silver did not discard it. Four years later, Arthur Fry (another 3M employee) was using paper as a bookmarker, but it kept falling out. Fry remembered Silver’s adhesive and he used it to coat the markers. With the weak adhesive, the markers stayed in place, yet lifted off without damaging the pages. Today, these sticky notes are one of the most popular office products available.

The Post-it case exemplifies a culture in 3M that encourages employees to create new products and take action without fear of failure. Spencer Silver failed to develop the product he originally intended. This failure or unexpected outcome created a better opportunity for the right kind of invention that happened years later. You want people to be willing to take action. It’s better to “do something” and learn from mistakes than live in the inertia of paralysis of analysis. “Doing something” means start making something happen. “Just Do It”, as the famous Nike brand tagline advocates. Failure doesn’t always lead to success, like in the case of the invention of Post-it — but you can’t succeed if you are not willing to fail.

Increasing Innovation Speed

Speed is an attribute that companies need in today’s competitive business environment. A company’s ability to innovate is a direct driver of its capability to increase revenue and economic value. Leaders can increase innovation speed by changing the culture associated with making mistakes. Companies have to create an organizational culture whereby mistakes are seen as an inevitable part of innovation and learning. Increasing innovation speed means faster product development — to be in the marketplace first with the goods and services customers want as well as to constantly innovate with new services and features that give the customers what they desire. Another kind of speed is the speed of processing everything through the organization. This means having end-to-end processes superior than those of competitors that translate to excellent customer services. Google exemplifies this today by allowing employees to spend up to 20% of their work time in personal projects related to the company’s business. Several of Google’s successful services were created by employees in their personal project work time—Gmail and Adsense for example. If you are going to innovate, you have to be willing to listen, make mistakes, and try new things. Innovation speed is the kind of speed that can only be achieved by making things happen with a bias to action, not by being afraid of failure.

Work-life Lesson 6 Takeaways:

  • Mistakes are not only the result of simply not thinking before doing, but are also often the byproduct of serious analytic thinking about the right course of action.
  • Failure doesn’t always lead to success, such as the invention of Post-it — but you can’t succeed if you are not willing to fail.
  • Companies have to create an organizational culture where making mistakes is seen as an inevitable part of innovation and learning.
  • Innovation speed is the kind of speed which can only be achieved by making things happen with a bias to action, not by being afraid of failure.

Link to Previous Lesson:  Understand the Skills and Abilities that Differentiate You From everyone Else. Whenever You Have an Opportunity, Use Them.

Photo by Maple

 

 

 

Work-life Lesson 5: Understand the Skills and Abilities that Differentiate You From everyone Else. Whenever You Have an Opportunity, Use Them.

by Glenn Remoreras, in collaboration with Ira Fialkow and Ivy Remoreras

It is common in business that companies conduct SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to assess themselves in the current environment. However, it’s rarely that you see individuals regularly pursue similar SWOT analysis to assess their own skills, talents and opportunities. Uncertainties created by ever changing economic conditions and shifting technology  means companies must continually adjust to meet the needs of their markets and insure they have the skilled resources to innovate and deliver more value than their competitors or risk extinction..  It thus becomes imperative for you to know the skills and abilities that set you above the rest.  Not only does it help place you above your competition but it also enables you to know what other skill sets you can fall back on if and when necessary.

When creating your personal SWOT analysis, be sure to include all your skills and talents. This means even those that may not be directly related to your current job description. This lesson is actually the flip side of Lesson 3 – “Be your own toughest critic”.  You can’t forget the areas where you already excel.  You need to use those skills often, develop them and create an outlet for them.  At the same time, you need to be able to develop new skills.  This is especially true for dynamic fields that are impacted daily by changing technology.  The technology (and the skills related to it) available when you were in university could be years away from today’s technology.  If you didn’t keep abreast of current trends and skills, you would be obsolete.

It is especially critical for yourself and your organization to avoid a scarcity mentality, where you tend to protect the skills and talents you have in an effort to “stay employed”.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of rationalizing “I have been doing it this way for twenty years, we’ve been successful and it works; so why change?”  They will soon have a rude awakening when they find themselves and their skills obsolete, and possibly their entire organization.

A healthy innovative perspective is that of an abundance mentality, where the thinking is – “We need to share our skills; there’s more for everybody because when we collaborate we are creating something new and different, something better.”  Think of shareware and how people not only learn from one another but also build on each other’s work, knowledge, and experience.  The end product is as Ira used to say “ideas that build on each other” which is always better and more useful than the original product ever can be…and the collaboration brought a sense of ownership and pride to all involved. Which then leads to another benefit; the pride of ownership and the culture of caring that comes along with it. 

Take advantage of skills you are good at but not necessarily expected of you

For example, while you may think organizing community events has nothing to do with your job as an administrative assistant, you are wrong. Skills do not always have to be work-related. As long as your skills are beneficial to the company and to your group in some way, it becomes advantageous to you.  However, it is not enough that you know what you’re capable of. You need to let other people, most especially upper management, know about your other skills and how they can add value. What’s the best way to do this? Just like extracurricular activities in school were important, so it is at work.  If there are opportunities for you to use or exhibit your talents, then volunteer. For example, if you are naturally community minded, offer to be part of the committee for the company’s annual food bank drive for the local church or volunteer to organize a fun and healthy community benefiting activity like the March of Dimes Walk-a-thon.

Some people consider joining committees or groups outside of their job description as a waste of time.  Instead, think of it as an opportunity to showcase and develop your other skills.  This helps management get a broader sense of who you are and what you are capable of.  In addition, these committees or groups help you connect and work with other people in the company you would otherwise not be able to. This is especially true of large projects where you tend to get more exposure.

Part of accountability is continuous self-improvement.  Not only do you look at what you’re already good at but also what else you can develop. For example, if you have an affinity for languages, why not learn a new language (especially one relevant to your company).  I know of some friends whose careers opened up because they could speak a third (and even fourth) language. You should always seek to develop new skills. In this way, you and your skills will always be relevant and up-to-date.

As a manager, encourage your people to use and develop their skills

If you want your company to take advantage of your people’s talents and abilities, you need to develop a company culture allows people to leverage their skills and benefit the company.  This means getting to know the people you work with – beyond job descriptions.  It makes sense to find out what your employees enjoy doing in their spare time. Are they involved in community projects? What sort of activities or hobbies do they enjoy? You need to learn what people’s talents are and help develop them.  People need to feel comfortable in speaking up about their talents and creating opportunities to develop them.  If the boss is not open to seeing his subordinates beyond job descriptions, many talents and skills that could be beneficial to the company will go to waste.

Work-life Lesson 5 Takeaways: 

  • Do not forget things you’re already good at – use it, develop it and find an outlet for it. It is important not only to know your strengths but also to create opportunities to use and expose them.
  • Develop an abundance mentality versus scarcity mentality.  Skills can become obsolete so you need to learn how to adapt and develop new and more relevant skills.
  • Take advantage of the skills you are good at but not necessarily part of your current job description.
  • As a manager, you need to develop a holistic approach to a person. There needs to be a company culture where the people are encouraged to hone and develop their skills.

Link to Previous Lesson: Business Lesson 4: Learn how to give first-rate presentations so that the message you’re trying to deliver is the same one the audience receives


About the collaborators:

Ira Fialkow is the SVP of Member Services at Peeriosity. Peeriosity is a confidential network of leading companies from across the world committed to collaborating openly with each other in a completely secure environment with interactions free of consultants and vendors. Prior to Peeriosity, Ira was EVP of Shared Services at CEMEX and Rinker Group (acquired by CEMEX is 2007) from 1990 through joining Peeriosity in October 2010. Rinker Group was the initial recipient of the Best Mature Shared Services Award in 2003. Ira lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and has been the champion of his fantasy football league in three of the past five years.

Glenn Remoreras is an IT Manager at CEMEX. He brings over 12 years of experience as an IT director, business processes manager, project leader, and consultant. He has focused on enabling business solutions through the use of IT capabilities. Glenn has been involved with various international post merger integration projects.

Ivy Remoreras is a marketing professional with eight years of extensive experience, particularly in product management, communications and promotions as a manager, university instructor and consultant. She believes in constant learning and has a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA). Having resided in Europe, Asia and North America, she speaks four languages.

Photos courtesy of Vlado and Master Isolated Images.

Work-life Lesson 4: Learn how to give first-rate presentations so that the message you’re trying to deliver is the same one the audience receives

By: Glenn Remoreras, in collaboration with Ira Fialkow and Ivy Remoreras

No matter how insightful, or powerful, innovative or fantastic your solution or idea is, if  your target audience doesn’t “get it”, then none of it matters. 

Is there a secret formula for success in business – and in your career?  Probably not. But I believe it makes sense to learn from the people I respect and who have been successful themselves. 

Case in point: Ira Fialkow was the Executive Vice President for Shared Services at CEMEX, until recently. His career spans 25 years and he is a highly respected leader in his field. This series marks the culmination of 25 business lessons documented and developed by Ira over the past 25 years of his career. Ira used to distribute these lessons to the team every year. In this series, I will endeavor to share the 25 business lessons that I’ve learned from Ira and our shared services team. 

This is part four of the series: 25 Lessons for Work (and Life!) – 3-Minute Coaching Sessions 

Nowadays, having good presentation skills seem to be a no-brainer.  In fact, there is plenty of information out there about how to give good presentations – for example, how to be a good speaker, which gestures to use, correct posture, how to capture your audience’s attention, etc.  However, I think it is just as important that the message of each presentation is delivered concisely and effectively.

First of all, if your audience doesn’t get your message, then you didn’t deliver it.  This is part of accountability – a common theme in all these 25 work-life lessons. The audience must be considered first.  It is your responsibility to ensure that the message your audience receives is exactly the same as what you intended to deliver. Secondly, if you are not able to deliver your idea or solution, then there is no innovation – the second repeating theme on these work-life lessons. No matter how insightful, or powerful, innovative or fantastic your solution or idea is, if  your target audience doesn’t “get it”, then none of it matters.

Make sure your message is the one they receive

Before you even create your presentation start with the end in mind by asking yourself: With what message do I want the audience to leave?  Business leaders that develop exceptional presentation skills do it by analyzing both their audience and their purpose for presenting. This message needs to be the exact message the audience receives.  To do this, you will need to consider  how your audience best processes information. For instance, will a story that relates to the solution you are offering going to engage your audience, or will it make them impatient?

In discussing this with Ira, he mentioned that whenever it came to issues related to change management, he would always try to engage the audience with a story that they can relate to. The story should be relevant to the current situation and help explain the “Why behind the what?” For people to engage in change, they first need to understand the need for the change. Without that understanding, there will be no desire to hear the message.

In giving a presentation to executives, usually they know the “why” and are primarily interested in the “what”, “who” “how much” and “by when”. However brief the presentation is, that too  needs to have a good story flow, but delivered in a much more summarized manner.

The success of your presentation is best measured by how well the audience understands or appreciates the subject matter after you finish speaking. Naturally, presentations will be very different depending on the target audience and the message being delivered. Your presentation should have a logical sequence and the message should tell a story that can be readily retold by the audience.  

Be brief. Be bright. Be gone.

A 2009 report on American consumers, published by the Global Information Industry Center of  the University of California – San Diego, stated that the average American receives about 33.80GB or more than 100,000 words of information per day. (Bohn & Short, 2009)  That’s a lot of information to process! If you want your message to be heard and understood, keep it short and relevant. Studies show that the average adult’s “undivided attention span” is roughly 30 seconds. So even if you have the most interesting topic or are the most exceptional presenter, you still can’t keep the audience’s undivided attention for so long. That’s why our advice in this lesson is, “be brief be bright, be gone.” The story or message needs to be brief and focused — compelling and worth retelling for it to stick. Everybody is busy and you have to be able to cut through the clutter.  You need to be able to present your idea concisely. We call it the “elevator speech” – a 30-second presentation you would give to your audience (such as your CEO) if you found yourself alone in an elevator with them (and you have their undivided attention).

Secondly, your message needs to be memorable. This is what “be bright” means. Your presentation needs to be impressive enough to cut through all of the other information that your audience receives. And finally, after you have delivered your message concisely and memorably, finish your presentation, and “be gone”. There’s nothing worse than having a drawn out presentation. For this, you need to assess your audience and determine if the message has been received or if more information is required. Remember that the closing part of the presentation is what the audience will remember the most. Repeat your purpose statement. By doing so, you deliver your key messages one final time.

Work-life Lesson 4 Takeaways: 

  • Know your audience. Each presentation must be tailor-made for the audience.
  • No matter how insightful, or powerful, innovative or fantastic your solution or idea is, if  your target audience doesn’t “get it”, then none of it matters.
  • Make sure that your message is the one they receive.  Your message should tell a story and it should be one worth retelling.
  • “Be brief, be bright, be gone”. It is important that you deliver your message concisely and memorably.

Link to Previous Lesson: Set your performance standards high and never give in to “good enough”. Be your own toughest critic.


About the collaborators:

Ira Fialkow is the SVP of Member Services at Peeriosity. Peeriosity is a confidential network of leading companies from across the world committed to collaborating openly with each other in a completely secure environment with interactions free of consultants and vendors. Prior to Peeriosity, Ira was EVP of Shared Services at CEMEX and Rinker Group (acquired by CEMEX is 2007) from 1990 through joining Peeriosity in October 2010. Rinker Group was the initial recipient of the Best Mature Shared Services Award in 2003. Ira lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and has been the champion of his fantasy football league in three of the past five years.

Glenn Remoreras is an IT Manager at CEMEX. He brings over 12 years of experience as an IT director, business processes manager, project leader, and consultant. He has focused on enabling business solutions through the use of IT capabilities. Glenn has been involved with various international post merger integration projects.

Ivy Remoreras is a marketing professional with eight years of extensive experience, particularly in product management, communications and promotions as a manager, university instructor and consultant. She believes in constant learning and has a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA). Having resided in Europe, Asia and North America, she speaks four languages.

Photos courtesy of Jscreationzs and Pixomar.

Work-life Lesson 3: Set your performance standards high and never give in to “good enough”. Be your own toughest critic.

By: Glenn Remoreras, in collaboration with Ira Fialkow and Ivy Remoreras 

Is there a secret formula for success in business – and in your career?  Probably not. But I believe it makes sense to learn from the people I respect and who have been successful themselves.

Case in point: Ira Fialkow was the Executive Vice President for Shared Services at CEMEX, until recently. His career spans 25 years and he is a highly respected leader in his field. This series marks the culmination of 25 business lessons documented and developed by Ira over the past 25 years of his career. Ira used to distribute these lessons to the team every year. In this series, I will endeavor to share the 25 business lessons that I’ve learned from Ira and our shared services team.

This is part three of the series: 25 Lessons for Work (and Life!) – 3-Minute Coaching Sessions

Set your performance standards high and never give in to “good enough”. Be your own toughest critic.

Success in your work and personal life is directly related to your productivity, commitment and performance. Therefore, setting performance standards for oneself is taking responsibility for one’s own career and life. Today, performance standards and goal setting in companies is routine and frequently performed in contexts as diverse as every level of the organization. In an individual’s life, setting one’s own standards can touch one’s personal and family life so as to significantly alter social, economic and personal well-being. As such, lesson three teaches us that setting high performance standards can beat mediocrity and achieve highflying goals.

Ira explained why this lesson made the list. He said, “I think one of my biggest frustrations as a manager is seeing someone with unlimited potential give in to ‘good enough’. On the other hand, it’s always a pleasure when someone takes accountability for their own career and always looks for an opportunity to improve things and themselves in the process.”

Personally, Ira had this epiphany when he was passed over for a promotion early in his career. He was upset, went to his manager and pointed out that he “had done everything expected and that had been asked of me.”  His manager simply answered, “Exactly. That’s why you have a job.”  The promotion was given to someone who wanted a career – someone who did things above and beyond what was expected.  He got the message.

This message is best articulated in Jim Collins’ book, “Good to Great”.  According to Collins, “Good is the enemy of Great”. Nothing is more true. We are driven to change when we hit bottom or get bad results – but nothing kills the energy and drive to being better than being “good”. We have to take personal accountability to ensure that we are always our own toughest critic and never give in to “good enough”.

Set your own goals first and set it with a high performance standard

Setting performance standards should start as a personal endeavor. Set performance standards high and don’t settle for mediocrity. If you are serious with achieving success in your career, regularly conducting self-assessment and goal setting is very important. Goal setting is a powerful process that not only ensures your performance standards support your goals, but also motivates you to turn your vision into reality. This necessitates setting high performance standards — not only for your team or organization — but more importantly, for yourself. You cannot expect high performance from others if you yourself cannot perform at the same or higher level.

In addition, setting your own high standards and goals prepare you better for commitment to work objectives expected of you. Self-assessment helps you determine your own capabilities and limitations. If you did your own self-assessment, you are in a better position to set performance standards and goals with others. Knowing your own skills and shortcomings allows you to determine if the performance standard expected of you (by your boss, for example) is reachable or not. And if not, you will be able to ask for the resources you need in order to be successful. Constant self-assessment is critical. You cannot expect nor wait for other people to critique your work. It is in your best interests to do it yourself, especially after every work objective (such as a project or implementation) is achieved (or not, as the case may be).  The basic questions to ask would be: Am I a good boss or co-worker? How could this have gone better? What can we learn out of this?

The process of setting high performance standards keeps you motivated. It increases the chances of success. If you have mediocre goals then you miss them, you totally fail. If you have high performance standards, it helps you go much further in your work and in life. By knowing precisely what you want to achieve, you know where you need to concentrate your efforts. You’ll also quickly spot the distractions that can, so easily, lead you astray. Make sure you get agreement on how the performance will be monitored and how frequently. In order for the process to go forward, you need to monitor your own performance.

There are many formal methodologies for setting high performance standards. One method I like to use is “SMART” goals. SMART means they are: specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented and time-bound. The technique in controlling your productivity and success is knowing the extent of what you can achieve. Know your safe, reach and stretch targets. Safe targets are attainable goals. Your reach targets are goals that you can achieve with complete control and influence. Stretch targets are attainable but with certain conditions beyond your control. It should be attainable but if it isn’t, you should know the reasons why it is not.

I know Ira is a big fan of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In fact, for a few years, Ira had some of our team members become certified 7 Habits trainers and teach courses to their peers in shared services as a supplement to TQM training.  There are a number of methods for setting high performance standards; the key is to find something that works for you!

Why Your Inner Critic Is Your Best Friend

If you want to be the best you must always view your work with contempt and reservation. Not because you hate what you do but because you want to have the best result. Always critique your own work thoroughly and have a high standard. Come to think of it, you’d be in big trouble without an Inner Critic. Critics are actually a very important part of your performance, productivity and creative process. Since you can’t expect others to always criticize and challenge you, you can begin by making yourself your toughest critic. Your Inner Critic is your first level of assessing the quality of your performance and without it; you could end up with mediocre results. With yourself as your toughest critic, you will also raise your self-confidence, as you recognize your own ability and competence in achieving the goals that you’ve set.

Work-life Lesson 3 Takeaways: 

  • Your personal success in your work and life is directly related to your attitude, productivity, commitment and performance. Setting performance standards for oneself is taking responsibility of one’s own career and life.
  • Setting performance standards should start as a personal endeavor. Set performance standards high and don’t settle for mediocrity.
  • Critics are actually a very important part of your performance, productivity and creative process. Since you can’t expect others to always criticize and challenge you, you can begin by making yourself your toughest critic.
  • The enemy of great is good. Never give in to ‘good enough’.

Link to Previous Lesson: If Your Don’t Know, Say “I Don’t Know”


About the collaborators:

Ira Fialkow is the SVP of Member Services at Peeriosity. Peeriosity is a confidential network of leading companies from across the world committed to collaborating openly with each other in a completely secure environment with interactions free of consultants and vendors. Prior to Peeriosity, Ira was EVP of Shared Services at CEMEX and Rinker Group (acquired by CEMEX is 2007) from 1990 through joining Peeriosity in October 2010. Rinker Group was the initial recipient of the Best Mature Shared Services Award in 2003. Ira lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and has been the champion of his fantasy football league in three of the past five years.

Glenn Remoreras is an IT Manager at CEMEX. He brings over 12 years of experience as an IT director, business processes manager, project leader, and consultant. He has focused on enabling business solutions through the use of IT capabilities. Glenn has been involved with various international post merger integration projects.

Ivy Remoreras is a marketing professional with eight years of extensive experience, particularly in product management, communications and promotions as a manager, university instructor and consultant. She believes in constant learning and has a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA). Having resided in Europe, Asia and North America, she speaks four languages.

Photos courtesy of Renjith Krishnan and Simon Howden

Business Lesson 2: If You Don’t Know, Say “I Don’t Know”

February 22, 2011 7 comments

in collaboration with Ira Fialkow and Ivy Remoreras

Is there a secret formula for success in business – and in your career?  Probably not. But I believe it makes sense to learn from the people I respect and who have been successful themselves.

Case in point: Ira Fialkow was the Executive Vice President for Shared Services at CEMEX, until recently. His career spans 25 years and he is a highly respected leader in his field. This series marks the culmination of 25 business lessons documented and developed by Ira over the past 25 years of his career. Ira used to distribute these lessons to the team every year. In this series, I will endeavor to share the 25 business lessons that I’ve learned from Ira and our shared services team.

This is part two of the series: 25 Lessons for Work (and Life!) – 3-Minute Coaching Sessions

Business Lesson 2: If You Don’t Know, Say “I Don’t Know”.

Ira once told me, “This isn’t a school test where, if you don’t know the correct answer, you take a guess based on what you think is the best answer. If you don’t know the answer, then simply say ‘I don’t know.’ The worst thing that can happen is that decisions will be made and actions taken based on wrong or incomplete information.” Admitting that you don’t know something is taking responsibility and having accountability. 

This second lesson is about attitude. I once overheard Ira telling someone, “You’re lucky you KNOW that you don’t know. You now have an open mind and the opportunity to learn something new and find a real solution!”  This is simple and yet so difficult for many people to practice. In this article, we will look at two perspectives of this essential lesson – (a) learning to say “I don’t know” per se; and (b) openness to learning through the humble attitude of genuinely “not-knowing.”

Saying, “I Don’t Know”

The fact of the matter is, it is so difficult for people to say, “I don’t know.” Of course, it’s normal that you would always want to project yourself as knowledgeable to others; showing that you know (all the time!) is one of the best ways to look good. Most of us don’t like it when we ask subordinates at work to explain what went wrong, and instead of getting facts we are met with three little words: “I don’t know.” It’s frustrating, isn’t it? It’s worse, though, when you get “answers” composed of hardly verified truths and opinions. What happens when you take what you are told as fact and respond accordingly – for example, a customer complaint – and later find out that something completely different happened? By then, conflict has been created and it has further complicated the problem.

Of course, you can’t expect somebody to know everything. Here are two simple ways to say “I don’t know” and still be accountable:

  • The obvious – say: “I don’t know.” You can include an action or commitment, though, so say “I don’t know, but I’ll take responsibility to find the facts, or answers, for you and I’ll suggest a solution.”
  • If you have some knowledge to begin with, but you need to verify it, you may say, “I’m not as informed as I would like to be but this is what I think, based on the information I have. I will look into this further and get back to you right away.” Here you are being honest about the fact that what you think you know may not necessarily be accurate. So, if you are asked to speak out, your audience knows that it’s an opinion.

We grow up afraid of our own ignorance and terrified that it may show. I admire people who have the ability to admit, “I don’t know.” There are many ways to say this, but the most important thing is to be honest, concise and responsible about what you say.

“Not Knowing” as a Powerful Openness to Learn

Think about going to a meeting, seminar or training with the arrogant attitude that there is absolutely nothing new to be learned. Surely, you will arrive disinterested and full of your own perception of the subject matter. Chances are, you won’t learn anything new. The advantage of not knowing is the opportunity to experience learning. Genuine “not-knowing” is a sign of humility and openness that precedes the leap into finding true meaning. We question not only whether we’ll find answers to questions, but also how to learn new things. How many times have you gone to similar work sessions or training programs but learned something new every time? Maybe it’s from hearing someone else’s perspective and how they applied the knowledge. Maybe it’s an insight that helps you link multiple ideas together and come up with a new way of applying the knowledge to a problem. Or maybe it’s an open attitude that allowed you to listen in a new way.

Being open to new ideas shows a willingness to transcend what you know, to look beyond the conventional and obvious view, and to come up with new insights and use these to find solutions.

When people talk about innovation – this is what they are talking about!

Business Lesson 2 Takeaways:

  • Acknowledging that you don’t know something is akin to taking responsibility and having accountability.
  • People should not be discouraged from saying “I don’t know” in a company.
  • There are many ways to say, “I don’t know,” but the most important thing is to be honest, concise and responsible about what you say.
  • The positive side of not knowing is the opportunity it provides to experience learning, gain insights, and come up with a better solution.  
  • Genuine not-knowing is a sign of humility and openness that can lead to expanding one’s knowledge.

Link to Lesson 1: Have a mentor (even if they don’t know it). Be a mentor (someone is watching you).


About the collaborators:

Ira Fialkow is the SVP of Member Services at Peeriosity. Peeriosity is a confidential network of leading companies from across the world committed to collaborating openly with each other in a completely secure environment with interactions free of consultants and vendors. Prior to Peeriosity, Ira was EVP of Shared Services at CEMEX and Rinker Group (acquired by CEMEX is 2007) from 1990 through joining Peeriosity in October 2010. Rinker Group was the initial recipient of the Best Mature Shared Services Award in 2003. Ira lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and has been the champion of his fantasy football league in three of the past five years.

Glenn Remoreras is an IT Manager at CEMEX. He brings over 12 years of experience as an IT director, business processes manager, project leader, and consultant. He has focused on enabling business solutions through the use of IT capabilities. Glenn has been involved with various post merger integration projects. 
 
Ivy Remoreras is a marketing professional with eight years of extensive experience, particularly in product management, communications and promotions as a manager, university instructor and consultant. She believes in constant learning and has a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA). Having resided in Europe, Asia and North America, she speaks four languages.

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