On-boarding – Key to a Great First Impression

You really can’t overemphasize that first day at work experience. When I arrived at my first professional job, my new manger eventually came to meet me. The next words as we walked on were: “now, where am I going to put you”. I realized that he hadn’t thought about me after the interview and had done nothing in anticipation of my arrival. I definitely didn’t feel welcomed or that I was part of a team. I’ve never forgotten that first impression.

As a hiring manager you can make sure a new team member is expected and welcomed. After all, they have just gone through a grueling job search process and chose you over another job somewhere else. Have a clean desk with all the equipment they will need and introduce them to everyone, even if they previously interviewed with everyone. Have an on-boarding agenda that lets the new person spend time with each team member and start them immediately on a first project. Arrange for lunch on the first day and make sure they find their way around. Introduce them outside of the immediate team and with other people whom they will work with. Consider an after-hours team meetup with the new person before their actual start date. Do all of this is in addition to HR’s on-boarding process.

“Life is not a dress rehearsal.”
~Rose Tremain

The Power of the Monthly Report

The Monthly Report is a lost art. We may have been too quick to abandon this artifact or, possibly, it was never a part of your company culture or personal habit.

Consider the positive returns gained from a small investment of time in creating a monthly report. As a checklist-driven person I see obvious benefits of documenting where you’ve been, even if you are the sole reader of your very own monthly report.

Benefits:
A monthly report is a report card to yourself, your management or to your company. After all, if you believe in what you are doing and that you are doing a good job at it, why wouldn’t you want to share that? By periodically looking back you can track your progress and trajectory. Are you heading in the right direction? Are you meeting goals, deadlines, and any required administrative check-offs?

People love recognition. If you can recognize the achievements of others it has a powerful effect on future performance. Recognition, especially in writing, is an awesome productivity tool in itself. The Monthly Report is a great place to regularly share team successes.

A summary of monthly reports automatically yields quarterly and annual reports. Collectively these reports are irrefutable personal leverage at performance review meetings.

And – possibly most important – monthly reports are key to updating your resume.

Format:
Keep the report format simple. A monthly report can be as simple as a list of dated entries in a journal. If the report is to be shared/upward you might establish a consistent format, with meaningful metrics and results. If monthly reporting is too frequent, consider keeping notes and creating a summary every few months.

“I’m trying to free your mind but I can only show you the door.”
~Morpheus, The Matrix

Maintaining Technical Currency

It’s essential to stay current in your career, especially if it centers on technology. The #1 way to stay up-to-date is to become and remain a practitioner – learn by actually working with specific technologies “hands on”. Second – continuously track state-of-the-art changes. And third – expose yourself to as much information as possible about specific technologies, related businesses, and information from people who are driving change in technology.

Here are some ideas and resources to consider in maintaining technical currency: Continue reading

Whose Generation

Every generation is labeled. Each generation is a product of their culture, disciplines, education and shared experiences, just like every generation before. The current generation always gets a bad rap. Let’s not condemn it if we don’t seek to understand it. Here are some of the comments I’m hearing:

  • Time has more consideration than money
  • Some are uncertain of the American work-ethic after parent’s corporate experience
  • Instant communication is a given – so are instant decisions
  • Email is one of the slowest forms of communication
  • An abundance of knowledge and entertainment, 24 x 7
  • The current generation actually do multitask
  • Typing is learned along the way – not a class you take
  • Being digital is just normal
  • Most processes are born digital – not automated after-the-fact
  • Some question the corporate employment model; 1 in 3 U.S. workers now freelance (2014 stat)
  • Work -> Save -> Retire is no longer an option
  • Quality of life has value over quantity of stuff

“Being rich is not about having a lot of money, being rich is about having lots of options.”
~Chris Rock

Ground Hog’s Day 2.0

The hallmark of a true professional is the ability to treat each person and situation with the same enthusiasm and interest as you did the very first time. This means that you will repeat yourself any number of times on the same or similar topics with the same or new clients. This is especially difficult for developers, who are trained to get to end point as efficiently as possible and, specifically, don’t repeat yourself (DRY principle).

I’ve recently put myself in someone else’s shoes – practicing patience and empathy. All I asked was that they do their job at the same quality level that I do my job. Is that too much to ask? It may in fact be too much to ask if the other person is put into an untenable situation, with no support from the company they represent. Imagine if you lacked the wherewithal to make a difference and had no control over your time or schedule and did not have the tools and resources to get things done. This person is responsible for delivery and installation of expensive equipment. However, the very company that stands to lose from a bad customer experience almost guarantees failure upon final delivery. Why so much emphasis on selling instead of delivery and service?

If you don’t support your team all the way to delivery of the end product you may in fact have a broken process. What kind of feedback loop do you have in place to find out what the customer experience is really like? I highly recommend that you follow your service or product to the end delivery point to see the results from your customers perspective. If you use 3rd-party sales, delivery or service reps then it is even more important to monitor final delivery results and follow up after the sale and delivery. A “Voice of the Customer” survey is not nearly enough to ensure customer satisfaction and good word-of-mouth referrals.

Repeating a broken process on a daily basis will not eventually fix the process.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
~Sir Winston Churchill

Ask, Don’t Tell

Another interesting “active listening” technique that I’ve learned by observation is: reframing a statement as a question. in other words, Ask, Don’t Tell. For example: if you “ask” someone when something should be completed, instead of “telling” them when it’s due, you will get a much more thoughtful/active response. You also don’t take ownership away from the other person. (You do want them to take ownership and not come to you with every problem or question, right?) Continue reading

WAIT – Why am I Talking

I learned a new acronym last year that may help me become a better listener and better interviewer. WAIT means “Why am I Talking”. In other words, ask yourself if you should be listening instead of talking. It’s an important part of our jobs as web design, developers, and managers (or any job really) to deliver a solution that both meets the client’s needs and our own self-expectations. We can’t interpret our client’s needs if we don’t listen, repeat what we heard, and narrow the scope down to the essential parts crucial to success. Continue reading