28th March 2024

Their problems > your problems

My 3 interesting things for you this month…

1. Make faster career progress by solving these 3 types of problem

In most jobs, and very much in finance, I believe there are 3 types of problems you can solve – each one has a different outcome and can advance your career in different ways.

Type 1: Things you think are a problem.

You see a problem and you solve it. Great work! The 2 things you get from solving type 1 problems are hopefully job satisfaction and personal development.

Type 2: Things your manager thinks are a problem.

Note: not things that you observe as a problem, but things that your manager would say in their words are a problem. Very important distinction!

When you solve these problems, the outcome is some level of better annual review, maybe a bigger bonus. A promotion – only if your manager is solely responsible for this decision.

Type 3: Things your leadership team (think your bosses’ boss) or business partners think are a problem.

When you solve these people’s problems, something interesting happens. You make your boss look good as well as you.

This makes it easier for your boss to promote you and give you better work. Solving type 3 problems correlates most with faster career progression.

How are you mixing up solving these 3 types of problems?If you want help applying this framework to your career, get in touch!

2. Amazing conversations 101: Make other people smarter instead of showing how smart you are…

Being a great business partner is built on one key thing: good relationships.

But how do we build good relationships? Excellent conversations.

Here are my top 3 tips for having great conversations with new people:

1. Make it about them

Instead of going in to pitch yourself or your agenda, try to make it about them.

In fact, your goal is generally to do less than 20% of the talking.

In a 30 min meeting, that’s 6 minutes. So with a 3 minute intro and small talk, that only leaves 3 minutes for questions and active listening. Make those questions count!

2. Focus on their challenges and opportunities rather than yours.

If possible, figure out their challenges before you meet, and ask them lots of open questions about them. Or ask them about their goals/objectives this year, and what are the key challenges in achieving them.

3. To make a real impact, try and make a tiny amount of progress against one of their issues.

(Be careful to consider if they are ok with you doing that!) It can be as little as sharing some research or some ideas, or even going as far as trying to solve some of the problem.

Why is all this so powerful?

People love talking about themselves, and they love talking about their problems even more.

Even more than this, people LOVE getting smarter about how to solve their problems.

So next time you’re meeting someone – focus on how to make them smarter, rather than showing how smart you are!

3. Managers, how hard should you let your employees work?

If you’re a manager or leader who really prides yourself on making sure your team always works sensible hours and discouraging any overtime at all, this bit’s for you.

I came across this really interesting piece of research highlighted by Simon Sinek – the leadership author/speaker, whose excellent 17 minute Ted Talk on Leadership is one of the most watched of all time.

This chart shows that people who have some of their evenings and holidays interrupted by work are less likely to resign than people who don’t at all, or do a lot.

So why is this?!

The simple answer is because these people care.

They care enough about their work to actively want to go the extra mile. Discouraging them from doing so is counterproductive and actually makes them less engaged.

So is my advice to make your team work harder and longer? No!

Instead, enable and support your top performers to work when and how they want to do their best work.

And perhaps most importantly, show gratitude for their effort rather than limiting it.

As Simon says:

“Even if well-intentioned, I can’t enforce my idea of what work-life balance should look like. If my best people want to do some work in the evening or on a weekend, and it makes them feel good to do so, then instead of telling them to stop, I have to show appreciation for their extra effort. Making someone feel good for the extra work they do does more to boost morale and goodwill than trying to force people to stop doing any work during their spare time.”

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Oliver Deacon

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