Last week we started training with a walk/run program to run a 5K on May 8th. It's still early in the program, you can still join in. The running group is virtual -- you're running along with us wherever you live by running on the same schedule and sharing through the comments. Here's that post if you missed week 1, followed by the plan for this week.
Here's the plan for this week:
Sunday (yesterday) was a Rest day.
Monday (today) we're scheduled to Run 4 mins/ Walk 2 mins, 4X, for a total of 24 minutes. Not bad, we can do this.
Tuesday: rest or cross train
Wednesday: we're going to Run 5 mins/ walk 2 mins, 4X, for a total of 28 minutes
Thursday: rest or cross train
Friday: Walk 30 mins
Saturday: Run 4 mins/walk 1 min, 5X, for a total of 25 minutes
Follow me on Twitter at @StephKinHR
This weekend I participated in my first Adventure Race. As a newbie racing team, my teammate and I learned several lessons, and as I thought about it after the race, those lessons are good advice for managing your career strategically. Stick with me here.
What is an adventure race?
Adventure races combine a number of different sports and activities into one race. They vary from 4-6 hour “sprints”, to off-road triathalons, to 7- to 10-day excursions in places like Tibet. This one was a beginner to intermediate sprint – still awaiting our results, but last year’s winners completed it in 4 hours, finishers completed as much as they could in 6. It involved orienteering, mountain biking, running, rowing, climbing/ropes, and surprise elements.
In our race, the winner would be based on the teams with the most checkpoints, followed by time completed. So a team completing 30 checkpoints in 6 hours would win over a team who finished the race in 4 hours with 29 checkpoints. Checkpoints could be completed in any order with a few exceptions, and almost all of the checkpoints were optional.
Lessons from the race:
1. Have a goal, agreed by the team
One of my favorite quotes on strategic planning is the one from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, when Alice was asked something along the lines of, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” For the race, our team’s goal was to finish it, preferably not in last place, and enjoy it. Many teams don’t finish for a variety of reasons, so we decided ahead of time that we’d consider ourselves successful to just finish, and to still get along afterwards.
The second part of this lesson is that adventure racing is a team sport. I learned from the orienteering clinic I had attended that a lot of teams get into issues because they don’t have the same goals. One person wants to just finish the race no matter how many checkpoints they get, the other wants to get as many checkpoints as they can.
Our goal was tested along the way. At the high ropes course, we encountered a line of other racers ahead of us. Completing the checkpoint would take up a lot of time and was worth only 1 point out of 30, but we really wanted to do the ropes – to build our skills, to fully participate in the adventure aspect of the race, and because it looked fun. Reflecting back to our goal, we spent a lot of time at the ropes course with no regrets. Our goal was tested again at close to the end of the race, we figured we had 20 minutes remaining to collect one more checkpoint. We picked one, biked about 7 minutes and stopped our bikes to go into the woods. This meant that with the 13 minutes left, we’d need at least 7 to get back to the finish line, leaving us only 6 minutes to find and punch the checkpoint, and no room for error. If you arrive at the finish after the race ends, your results are DNF – Did Not Finish. Reminding ourselves that our goal was to finish, we skipped the checkpoint and crossed the finish line with a few minutes to spare.
Lessons for your career:
Have a goal. The best way to get to where you want to be, is to know where you’re heading. People with the clearest career goals have an easier time making their decisions about what to do, even when they are tough decisions. I work with a guy who is a great example of that – he knows exactly what skills he has gained, and exactly where he wants to build new skills or improve. He has an actual checklist of skills and experiences that he has created for himself. Using that as his compass, he can make his career moves based on the type of work that will get him closer to his goal. And smart career strategists will focus on their skills they’re building, not just the job they’ll be in. Even if the job you’re in isn’t the one that you ultimately want, focus on how you can use that job to build more of the skills and relationships you need to get to your next goal.
It’s a team sport. Careers, like adventure racing, are often a team sport. Your career decisions are best made when considering the needs of the whole team and getting agreement, or at least alignment, about what the goal is for your team. Even when it means making tough decisions. No matter if you’re a dual-career couple w/ kids like me, single parent, single person, sandwich generation, recent grad, empty-nester, world traveler, etc, etc., be sure you know who you need to factor into your decisions (your “team”) and make your decisions with your whole “team” in mind. This doesn’t mean every team member gets everything they want at all times, there are always compromises along the way. It’s not easy, but your overall satisfaction will be higher if you remember that it’s a team sport.
2. Have a plan on how you’ll meet the goal, and adjust when needed
One of the unique things about HP is how work gets done in a global, and often virtual, environment. I’ve worked in international companies my whole career, but working in a “global” company is unique, and the people have a skill-set that is really pretty leading-edge as a result.
What’s the difference between “international” and “global”?
A lot of companies are what I’d consider “international” – they’re in a lot of countries, but the company operates independently in each country. Employees have general awareness about the other locations, but the international nature really doesn’t have anything to do with their regular day-to-day work.
Conversely, “global” companies act as one company operating around the world. Those companies look to get the most benefit possible of having operations integrated across countries. How does this play out on a day-to-day basis? Often times:
· Work teams are made up of people in more than one country, often many countries.
· When you’re implementing a project, you’re thinking about global implementation and global impact. It may take a little longer to get to the best global solution, compared to doing what works in just one country, but you’re coming up with a solution once which will work globally, rather than people separately re-creating a solution over and over within every country that needs to do the same thing.
· Managers have employees that don’t work in the same location as they do. They have to know how to manage teams that live and work somewhere different than them.
· You’re working with people from different cultures, different languages, different backgrounds, sometimes on a daily basis, and you need to know how to work differently as a result.
· You develop the skill of not being US- (or whatever country you’re in) centric in your solutions, communications and ideas.
· You can work with someone for years and never meet them in person. You find other ways to get to know teammates and build teams. You recognize voices and could pick your colleagues out of a crowd based on voice alone.
The role of technology
Successful global and virtual workplaces have a good handle on using technology to get work done. Every time I’ve gone to an HP office somewhere else in the world, I’ve had a pretty easy time plugging in and starting my work day just as easily as if I were at my own office. (In a future post, I’ll cover the office-based part of HP, which is the other way work gets done; for this post I’ll focus more on the virtual world.) Meetings via conference call and web are common. Executive presentations are often made via webcast, which is nice if you’re not in the same location as the speaker, or you’re on vacation, or if the time zone of the meeting doesn’t work for where you’re located, because you can catch them via a replay if you need to. If you participate live, you have the technology that lets you ask questions during the presentation, no matter where in the world you are. I juggle my schedule to accommodate global meetings and others’ time zones, and it’s nice to be able to have some flexibility on how and where that work gets done.
On the really cool end of the spectrum, HP’s Halo conference rooms allow for life-like video conferencing. There was a woman we interviewed in Atlanta for a role on my previous team, and she interviewed with HP execs in via Halo. She commented that it was just like being in the room with them, in fact, she said she found that she leaned back when the other person leaned forward, just as you would when someone was sitting across the table from you. And, she got the job, which is a great example of the technology enabling “face to face” interaction. You can read more about Halo in the Halo resource library, check out the Dreamworks case study and the videos.
The days of the remote employee in a company being disconnected are quickly ending. When your team is located around the world, you use the technology to bridge any gaps of not being in the same location. In fact, I’d argue that you can solve problems even faster in virtual environments. To understand this better, think of this as an analogy: technical forums. You have a problem, can’t figure out a solution, so you post it online on a targeted forum. Before you know it, someone else somewhere in the world has the solution to your problem. You apply the solution, and move on with your life. OK, I know there is a whole generation that has known only that world, but for the rest of us, it’s really remarkable. If you were trying to do this in a conventional workplace, you have access to a much smaller pool of knowledge and information. Another real life example – your manager is in a meeting and has a question, s/he pings you the question via IM, you do a group chat to ask a teammate or two in another country who worked on the project, they answer you right back, and manager has the answer in about 5 mins, to share real-time in the meeting.
The main benefit of being global and virtual
The world of work is becoming more global and more virtual for more companies, which I would argue is a very good thing for companies and employees. Can you imagine the talent companies will have access to, when location becomes a non-issue?
Jack Welch recently made news when he told an audience of Human Resources professionals at the annual professional conference that “There’s no such thing” as work-life balance. There’s a pretty interesting debate on the statement over at WSJ.com’s blog on “The Juggle”.
Here’s where Jack is right: work-life balance is full of choices and consequences.
Here’s where he’s wrong: work-life balance does exist, as evidenced by working parents balancing work and life every day.
What is work-life balance anyway? Here’s my definition: when you’ve got a good work-life balance, you feel relatively satisfied that you’ve got a good focus on work and a good focus on home, and that you’re working it in a way that works for you.
Dr. Ellen Kossek and Dr. Brenda Lautsch wrote an excellent book which goes into depth on how to weigh the tradeoffs and make the adjustments you need to make work/life work for you. "CEO of Me: Creating a Life that Works in the Flexible Job Age” has helped shaped my thinking about work-life, I highly recommend it for people who are struggling with the question of whether work-life balance exists. The book also acknowledges that companies have room for improvement, and I’d encourage CEOs like Jack to give it a read, to better understand the changing expectations of their workforce.
As a working mom, do I feel I have work-life balance overall? Yes. Every single day? No way. Some days feel like they are held together with scotch tape. My summer schedule for my two young daughters is a highly refined matrix of camp, now that they’ve reached an age where day care in the summer is not their idea of a good time, and my husband and I balance the drop off and pick up on a daily basis, and manage the household. When school and sports start up again, we’ll adjust the schedules, fit in the kids’ activities, and balance it all over again. Life consists of fitting in physical exercise, which I need for my sanity, and a new puppy, which I finally caved in on, thanks to having an 11-year old future veterinarian on my hands, taking care of aging parents and dealing with all sorts of family issues, and finding time for friends and fun.
The work side of the equation includes having senior level positions where I’m leading a team of people who have been located all around the world, making sure I’m focused on their high performance and helping them develop in their careers. High performance is a priority for me, I’m not a person who can slack off about work. So we’re talking about a consistent focus on my own high achievement at work, which for me, is a really important part of the balance puzzle. I’ve balanced international and domestic travel, though personally find the balance the least difficult when I keep the travel below a certain threshold, or at least well-balanced with my husband’s career and travel.
So how do I make work-life balance work for me? I look for ways to blend. In addition to giving it my all at work, I wanted to give back to the community by volunteering, so when a local organization needed some HR expertise on their board of directors, I found balance there, since the organization runs a camp that my kids attend. To give back to the grad school I went to, I volunteer on occasion by speaking to their students about careers. To give back to the company, I started this blog. These have all been great ways to combine professional and personal goals.
One thing that you learn from the book is that it’s an individual balance. I have working mom friends who are in high-travel sales jobs, attorneys who work part time, single moms, dual career couples, stay at home dads, and friends in small companies and big companies, schools and hospitals. The common theme amongst all of us is that we work the balance issues almost daily, we make trade-offs, and some days it all works beautifully, some days it’s a disaster, but on balance, it’s do-able. We like the rewards of having good careers and we like being able to raise families. We thank the pioneering women before us, and we hope that our work-life methods will pave the way for the next generations, and that eventually we’ll put to rest the debate about whether work-life balance exists.
Now that we've gotten several of the basics out of the way, we can move on to other topics. Today's post is to start the dialogue on choosing the best employer based on what is a good fit for a person as an individual.
One of my kids was at summer day camp recently and she brought home a freshly tie-dyed t-shirt, which was still dripping wet with bright colors. The shirt needed to be washed and ready to wear the next day and I was busy getting ready for important meetings at work the next day. I grabbed the shirt to throw it in the washing machine and ended up with deep blue and green dye all over my hand, and it wasn't washing off! I had a fleeting thought about the impression this would make at work, realized it wasn't an issue, and this got me thinking about making sure you select an employer where you can be yourself.
I mentioned in my first post that I joined HP through an acquisition. It was several years ago, but the most impactful impression that still stays with me is that people at HP bring their "whole self" to work. In my early career experiences, pre-HP, people would separate their work and life completely; personally I think this is where the work/life balance term was invented. You'd be one persona (the "life" side) in the morning getting ready for work, another persona all day at work, then back to the home persona after work. Whatever people had in their home lives stayed at home. And as a working mom, I had planned on separating work and family.
I was, and still am, impressed that HP had found a better way. Through managing by results, HP expects high performance and at the same time has an environment where I don't have to leave that part of me at home. I can be high achieving and I can be a mom, and I have a remarkable number of role models at HP.
Here are some interview questions that you can use to find out whether an employer is a good fit for your "whole self":
Do you have affinity or network groups that I can join? (i.e. Women at Work, Black Employee Network, Young Employee Network, etc.)
Describe the culture of your company - what are the best and worst attributes?
What are the critical success factors of someone in this position? What types of people are successful at this company?
By exploring the company's fit for you, you're more likely to find an employer where you'll be most successful and will find a place you'll want to stay.
Are there any other interview questions you would suggest to others who are looking for the best fit?