Ask the Boss!

Question: My yearly review is approaching. Aside from evaluating my job performance what else should I be prepared to discuss?

Leo Hindery, former CEO YES Network
Leo Hindery, Former President YES Network:

Ask with sincerity how you are perceived by your peers, your subordinates and others in management. One always wants his or her career to be ‘pushed up from the bottom,’ rather than ‘pulled up from the top,’ and the sooner one knows what is truly happening, the quicker one can make adjustments in conduct and behavior. One’s boss at any point in time is never one’s boss forever, and the construct of and the impetus behind one’s career are what really matter.

Richard Tait, CEO Cranium
Richard Tait, CEO Cranium:

First and foremost: Are you having fun, are you passionate about what you do? It’s so easy to forget, but if you are not having fun and pursuing the dream with everything you have neither of us are getting the most out of our time together. What would you like to see change not only to make this role even better or bigger, but more fun?

I want to understand what is going on in your life. Without really knowing and understanding what’s going on outside of work I wont be able to help with the right challenges, environment and motivations inside of work. Are you training for something special? Trying to buy a house? Planning a big trip? Caring for a loved one?

At Cranium the best idea wins; we thrive on innovation, so I would love to hear a big idea that is on your mind. If you had my job, what would you do or what would you change? We love to change the rules. What should be different about our approach, what new businesses should we be thinking about or what technology/trend should we be responding to? There are so many great ideas within our company, but you have to learn how to ask and how to listen and be ready to take action. The best idea wins.

Question: I know it is important to build positive relations at work. Do you have any rules of thumb on maintaining the right balance without being too introverted or too extroverted?

Hindery: Seek out and gain the support of your peers and your subordinates. Having such at any point in time is the finest possible commentary on one’s career.

Tait: The real balance is between like and respect. Is it more important that someone likes you or respects you? I would suggest focusing on respect first. You have to demonstrate your abilities, work with others to show you can add value to the team, help them achieve their goals, and prove why in the future they should help you achieve yours. But they have to like you or you will end up alienating yourself, so be collaborative, be fun, but most importantly be true to yourself. At the end of the day you want to be liked and respected for being YOU.

Question: What are your secrets to success?

Hindery: One of my secrets certainly has been recognizing that serendipity is a great influencer of careers, and thus I have always tried to acknowledge and be humbled by the ‘gift’ and sense of privilege implicit in my career, my own hard work and skills notwithstanding. My entire career has been about the combination of not disappointing either myself or others, trying to be the ‘best ever,’ and sharing my ‘gift.’

Tait: Recognizing that business is a team sport, and it's the team with the best combination of skills that wins. Hire people for how they think and not what they know, and create a culture where the best idea wins. Be very selective about who gets to join the mission, and give people the opportunities, resources and support to show the world the best they can be. Give others the chance to make history and they will. Every day remind yourself what you have to bring to the party. For me it’s passion, speed and a sense of discovery. Above all else, never forget that your customers are your sales force. Build their trust through great experiences and fantastic service, and they will become passionate advocates for your brand.

Question: What are the lessons you learned along the way you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?

Hindery: When I left graduate school I had the finest mentor possible as my first boss. Perhaps I didn’t always fully listen to him, but any mistakes I made early on or later in my career could have been avoided if I had, since he told (and showed) me everything I needed to know.

Tait: Create a mission that is inspirational, meaningful, and something that your people can dedicate their lives to and pursue with passion. How do you expect them to deliver extraordinary results if they don't believe or understand why they are there? Oh and make the mission statement short, clear and memorable. Does it fit on a T-Shirt?

The leader with the strongest team wins. Learn how to be an amazing recruiter; it is one of the most important skills you can learn. Can you find the right people to help bring the dream to life? Can you find people who compliment your weakness rather than amplify your strengths?

Question: Who is the best mentor?

Hindery: A man or woman who is comfortable with their own success, comfortable in their self esteem and anxious to share and give back some of that success. The very best thing one can do in the early stages of one’s career is to find and hold on to that mentor.

Question: What is the best thing to do in my downtime to make me most effective on the job?

Hindery: Find three releases: one intellectual, one philanthropic or political, and one physical.

Tait: Do something that you are really passionate about, whether it is outdoors, indoors, alone or with friends. Make sure that you love what you are doing and then bring the passion and enthusiasm to work the next day.

Connect with friends or family and spend quality time. Use the off button. Turn off your phone, turn off your blackberry, give yourself permission to spend quality uninterrupted time. We are all so beholden to our devices that we have become more connected to work than to our families. Allow yourself to reenergize by spending time with the ones you love.

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