Advancing Your Career Through Collaboration, with Kare Anderson

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Transcript

Mac Prichard: 

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host, and publisher of Mac’s List. Our show is brought to you by Mac’s List and by our book, “Land Your Dream Job in Portland (and Beyond).” To learn more about the book and the new edition that we’re publishing February 1, please visit macslist.org/ebook.

Whatever career you choose, you’ll find competitors, no matter how small or crowed your field may be, some people always stand out in your profession. Education, experience and other advantages play a part in these people’s success, but how you lead your work life can make a huge difference, too. This week on Find Your Dream Job, we’re talking about how you can advance your career by combining your strengths with the complementary skills of others. Our guest expert this week is Kare Anderson. She and I will talk about specific steps you can take in your professional life to break out of the pack.

Ben Forstag has several online tools you can use to improve your teamwork skills, and Cecilia Bianco tackles the question that comes up in every workplace: Should you hire family and friends? We’re in the Mac’s List studio, and I’m here with Cecilia and Ben. First of all, Ben, welcome back from your paternity leave.

Ben Forstag:  

Thank you.

Mac Prichard: 

Congratulations on the new son.

Ben Forstag: 

Thank you. Little Fox, as we call him, is doing very well.

Mac Prichard:   

I love that acronym.

Well, it’s a pleasure to have you back. Now, when you two think about peers you’ve had, either at school or in the workplace or elsewhere, who’ve stood out, what have you seen them do?

Cecilia Bianco:

I think the biggest thing that stands out to me is how engaged someone is in their field. If someone’s really focused on attending events, workshops, and joining the right groups for their career, I think that goes a long way to making them stand out.

Ben Forstag:   

One thing that I’ve seen that I really like is people who maintain active and high quality blogs. I think this is so important because it shows a dedication. This is something you do weekly or on a regular basis. It positions you as a subject matter expert regardless of how big or small that subject is. It’s quite notable when you are the subject matter expert on it. Third, it is a showcase for good quality writing. I think those things are so important, and it’s just a great way to position yourself with employers and other professional prospects.

Mac Prichard:   

I think the common denominator that runs through both of the examples that you two have shared, and they’re great examples, is a topic that our guest is going to talk about this week, which is the importance of giving to others. She has a book that we’ll talk about, “Mutuality,” but the idea is this that by helping others and being part of a community, whether it’s by writing a blog or participating in professional groups and/or going to events, you’re giving of yourself, and you’re thinking about the needs of others and how you can help. First, let’s turn to you, Ben. I know you have a resource for our listeners this week. What have you found?

Ben Forstag:    

This week I want to share three blog posts all about the importance of teamwork. When I say that word I know some people are rolling their eyes, and other people are getting great big smiles. Teamwork is one of these clichéd words that really divides people. What do you think Cecilia? Are you a teamwork person, or a work alone person?

Cecilia Bianco:

I’m more of a teamwork person. I think, as you said, it’s become really important in today’s work market. Almost all of our listings have that listed as a qualification: How do you work on a team?

Mac Prichard:  

I enjoy teamwork, too. I have to say when I was in graduate school, I got a lot out of that experience. One of the most important gifts I got was they had us work in study groups, and I had not done that as an undergraduate. That gave me the experience to work with others and helping others in the group, and I found I got a lot more out of my education as a result.

Ben Forstag: 

I’m of two minds when it comes to teamwork. Part of me really sees the value in it. It’s undeniable that this is a skill that employers are looking for. I would guess that ninety-five percent of every job description that we get here at Mac’s List includes teamwork as one of the things they’re looking for. At the same time, when I was in graduate school, team projects were always those projects where I thought, “Oh man, now I’ve got to do extra work to cover up for other people.” It’s something that I’m always working on, and I know I can improve on. That’s why I thought this was an interesting topic. It also feeds into what we talked about earlier about working with others and giving to others in a team environment.

The first post I want to share comes from the Lifehack blog, and it’s called the “10 Things Good Team Players Do Differently.” As Cecilia mentioned terms like teamwork and team player are often used so much they lose all of their meaning. I really liked this post because it outlines some basic behaviors that make someone a good team participant. Here are the ten attributes of team players according to the blog: They’re reliable. They’re unafraid of failure. They share information. They say what they think. They don’t dominate meetings. They stay positive. They understand and respect team dynamics. They know when to say “no.” They are adept at problem solving. They go the extra mile.

This all sounds great, Mac, right? This is exactly the kind of person you want to hire.

Mac Prichard:  

Right.

Ben Forstag:   

If I had any criticism of this blog piece, it might be that this sounds like the ideal person. A good team player is a just a great listener, does everything right. I do like it because they are concrete things to think about, and how you behave in the office, and how you work with your colleagues. Just things to keep in the back of your mind about how you could improve your relations and your productivity with others.

If you heard that list and you thought that doesn’t sound like me at all, my next resource is for you. This is a post entitled, “The Introvert’s Guide to Surviving Teamwork, and it comes from the Psychology Today blog. As I mentioned earlier, I actually consider myself something of an introvert, and I know how difficult it can be to assert yourself in a group setting. I like this post because it outlines some mindsets and skill sets and deliberative practices you can use to become an effective team leader.

The general idea here is that introverts play an essentially role in effective teams. You’re needed for the team to be effective, and the role you play as an introvert is being the level-headed listener, the aggregator of good ideas, and the implementer of group decisions. I love this quote from the blog. The author writes, “Extroverts love to talk, but are much less enthused about having to walk away and do the work. This is the introvert’s chance to shine. You can be the one who puts your hand up and to work on a project offline.” I think that’s an important thing to keep in mind because teamwork requires different kinds of people. If it’s just a bunch of talkers, nothing is going to get done.

Lastly I want to share a blog for how you can talk about your teamwork skills with a prospective employer. As I was thinking about this subject yesterday, it really struck me that what a challenge it is to illustrate your skills as a team player in the interview process, because in most of the things we’re doing in an interview is trying to show how great … like you’re the number one guy, you’re the expert in everything, you have all the answers, and teamwork is not one of these skills where being the guy with all the answers is an asset. That’s often a liability.

This post had some interesting answers on how you can answer behavioral questions related to teamwork. It comes from the biginterview.com blog. I’ll have the URLs for all these blog posts in the show notes. It’s a very long post, but it includes some sample interview questions around teamwork, discusses why employers are asking these questions, and provides some strategies on how you can best answer these questions in a way that shows the skills you have as a team player without bragging, without going over the top, and really presenting yourself as an ideal candidate for their needs.

Cecilia Bianco:

Your point about focusing on behavioral interview questions I think is really important because if you’re trying to act like a team player in an interview, the best way to do that is through examples, so being prepared with examples that show you’re a team player is a great way to go.

Mac Prichard:   

I think your point, too, Ben, about how in interviews there’s a tendency to try to please the prospective employer by saying I can do everything and I’m a star in everything. I think smart employers know they’re not going to get a hundred percent of everything that’s in a job description, and a candidate can’t do everything. I think it’s important for candidates to remember that, because if they are hired, they will be part of a team. They will have strengths that they can bring to that group, but they can’t do everything. If they’re managers themselves or they become managers one day, they’re going to recognize the value of being able to identify strengths in others, and draw people out in those strengths, and give them opportunities to display them.

Ben Forstag:      

Really, that’s the value of teamwork essentially. It’s a way to maximize people’s strengths and cover up their weaknesses by combining compatible strengths and collaborating that way. Before I leave I just want to share this one awesome quote that I came across. It’s about the value of teamwork, and this comes from Bill Gates. He said, “Creativity is less of an individual characteristic than it is an emergent property that surfaces when people convene around a problem.” I think that kind of gets at the heart of why most employers nowadays want you to be a good team player because it helps you come up with unique, good solutions to problems that individuals by themselves can’t figure out.

Mac Prichard: 

I think together a team is stronger and an organization is better for it. Well, thank you Ben. Ben is always looking for suggestions, and he’s always thrilled when he hears from people who have ideas for him, so please write him. You can reach him at ben@macslist.org. Now let’s turn to you, our listeners. It’s time to hear from Cecilia Bianco, our community manager. She’s going to reach deep and far into the mailbag, and pull out this week’s question. Cecilia, what do you have for us this week?

Cecilia Bianco:

Actually our question this week came from Twitter, not the mailbag, and it’s, “Is it a bad idea to accept a job working for or with family members or friends? What should I consider before accepting?” I personally worked at a family business, and I know it can definitely create tension among other employees. There’s a lot to consider and talk about before you accept the job. The most important thing you can get do is set boundaries with the family member or friend before you actually take the job. Ben, I know you’ve worked with family before, too. What ground rules did you have in place to make it a successful experience?

Ben Forstag:  

A few years ago I was working at a nonprofit, and my father actually got hired by the nonprofit as a consultant to do some sales work for them. It was a tense situation, but we made it work, and mostly because we had a couple informal rules. One of them was when he started I made it clear that I had no managerial authority over him, and he had no managerial authority over me. We worked in two separate departments and had two separate people that we reported to, which helped.

I also removed myself from pretty much any decision that had to do with what he was doing. You’re not always able to do this in an organization. Fortunately in the organization I was with there were enough other people that could pick up the slack, and I could step out of some conversations simply because I just didn’t want to be involved with that piece.

Then the third one, and I think this is the most important, is I made a deal with my father. We weren’t going to talk about work when we weren’t at work. I think it’s important to have a work life and a private life. If your private life turns into a second work life because all the same people are in both camps, you lose that area to decompress and to relax. Off hours we didn’t talk about work. If he had a complaint about work or I had a complaint about work, we didn’t talk about it to each other. We just pretended that that didn’t exist. It was a unique situation, and we made it work. I think it really depends on your own specific circumstances, though, of whether it’s a viable option.

Cecilia Bianco:

Those are all great suggestions. I think the most important main thing to consider is if you’re confident that you and the family member or friend in question can treat each other as you would any other coworker or boss. Knowing everything you know about them, as I’m sure you know your father very well, are you going to be able to put aside that knowledge and treat them unbiasedly? Especially once office conflict comes up or any situations arise, you want to be able to treat them like you would a coworker that you haven’t known your whole life. Mac, have you ever worked with a family member?

Mac Prichard:  

I have. My dad had rental properties from many years. He would hire my brother and I and I think my sisters as well to paint apartments, move tenants and put up wallpaper. I wasn’t good at any of those things. My sister, Katie, is a star at wallpaper, and she is still papering walls decades later. We all had jobs, but we tended to … After a stint with my dad, I worked in restaurants or in other places.

Cecilia Bianco:

Was it a good experience or a bad?

Mac Prichard: 

It was a good experience. He was basically a small business owner, running his rental properties. Being part of that, going with him, watching him work with tenants, deal with leases, purchase properties, work with realtors, he brought us all along, and we got to watch that firsthand and participate in it. I think we learned some valuable lessons as a result.

Cecilia Bianco:

In that situation it sounds like it was beneficial because you were probably given a little bit more opportunity to learn since it was your father who was the boss rather than maybe another boss.

Mac Prichard:   

Yeah. I certainly learned from my other jobs in high school and college, but I think a family member is always going to take more of an interest in a relative, a child or other relative. Many families, I think, want to see their kid succeed in that business as well, and so they want to make that happen.

Cecilia Bianco:

That makes sense. Two different situations but the same answer. It’s okay to accept a job from a family member. Our main point of advice is just to sit down, and get those ground rules in place, and make sure you’re on the same page about how you want the work relationship to go.

Mac Prichard: 

Well, thanks Cecilia. If you’ve got a question for Cecilia, you can send it to her via Twitter and also by email. Her email address is cecilia@macslist.org. Cecilia, for the benefit for our listeners who on Twitter, how can they reach you via your Twitter handle?

Cecilia Bianco:

They can tweet @Macs_list, or they can tweet me personally @Ceciliamfbianco.

Mac Prichard:   

These segments by Ben and Cecilia are sponsored by the 2016 edition of our book, “Land Your Dream Job in Portland (and Beyond).” We’re taking a complete Mac’s List guide and making it even better. We’re adding new content, and we’re publishing the book on multiple eReader platforms. There’s a new version of the book coming in February of this year, February 1 actually. For the first time you’ll be able to access “Land Your Dream Job in Portland (and Beyond)” on your Kindle, your Nook, your iPad and other digital devices. Up till now it’s just been available as a PDF. Now for the first time you’ll be able to get a paperback edition. Whatever the format, our goal is the same, to give you the tools and tips you need to get meaningful work. To learn more, go to our website. Visit macslist.org/ebook, and you can sign up for our eBook newsletter. We sending out publication updates now, and we’re sharing exclusive book content. We’re also providing pre-sale prices that are available right now.

Let’s turn to this week’s guest expert. Kare Anderson is a public speaker, author of “Mutuality Matters” and other books, and an Emmy award-winning, NBC and Wall Street Journal reporter who now writes for Forbes and Huffington Post. Kare’s TED talk called The Web of Humanity: Becoming an Opportunity Maker has attracted more than 1.7 million views. Her diverse set of clients includes Salesforce, Novartis and Skoll Foundation. Kare, thanks for joining us.

Kare Anderson:

I’m honored. We share an interest in making our work serve the greater good.

Mac Prichard:   

I appreciate having that bond with you. I’ve been very impressed reading your blog over the years about your writing about the importance of human connection, and how much it matters to us all, and what a difference it can make in our careers. One of the topics that you’ve addressed is how people can stand out in their job search, at work, or in their career by making the most of their social connections. Tell us more about that Kare.

Kare Anderson:   

I believe it not only makes your life more nourishing, but you stand out when you cultivate relationships with people who have adjacent talents to yours and when you cite and praise the thought leaders and the people in your line of work, your profession, your industry or company. Whenever you shine a spotlight specifically praising people for actions they took, especially in front of people who matter to them, you shine too. I think people notice you. It’s always nice to have people offer you a job before you’re looking for it even if you don’t want it, and that’s one way to do that.

Mac Prichard: 

I think many people will hope that will happen, that someone will approach them and offer them a job. That might happen by posting a resume or a profile on LinkedIn, or getting in touch with an executive recruiter. They just have to sit back and wait for that call, but in your writing you have a different perspective. You say that you can make that happen but there are steps that people have to take. Can you tell us more about that?

Kare Anderson:  

One of them is I believe in clarity and specificity. The more you’re clear and specific on your talents, and the flip side where you’re not, the more you might see situations, markets that people are trying to serve, new markets they might be entering, what’s missing in their company that might leverage more value or visibility to their current customers and prospects. Then when you do that writing about those situations, if you’re prone to writing, is helpful or citing them.

When you’re talking to customers say, “Just as so and so does this and this company does this, we fill in the gap in between, and we think we want to meet the high standard they do,” specifically citing the benefits of companies that you might want to be in or how [to serve 00:19:30] situations makes people more aware of you. I think it’s good to also be proactive and be on the lookout for leaders of companies that you admire and say, “That’s a company I like. I like what they’re doing. I like the way they do that. I wonder if there’s a way my talents could serve them.” So there are ways to be proactive, but also, of course, ways to be clear and concrete and specific when you’re being interviewed.

Mac Prichard:   

Tell us more about examples of that. If someone goes to a professional association, they see people who are those kinds of leaders you described a moment ago, and they think they can be of help to them, or they’re not sure how they can be of help. Let’s break that into two parts. First of all, they know they want to be of service to someone. How can they figure out how they could be beneficial to them, and then how might they do that?

Kare Anderson:  

First of all, learn a little bit about … that person does well or something where you think there’s a gap for them, and when you’re at a conference or a social gathering say, “I’ve long admired your capacity to do this. I wonder if we could talk a bit about it because I have a shared interest in serving that market or in that situation, and I want to give you some suggestions and see what you thought of them. I’d love your candid advice frankly.” What if …? If they say that, say, “What about this? What if we did that?”

Recently I’m a big fan of analytics [geeks 00:20:56] for example. I think there’s certain occupations where there’s growth, and they’re certainly one of them. If they say “I notice you have a great product. I notice that you get a lot of good testimonials. That shows that you’re doing a lot of things right. Would you be interested in exploring how to understand more deeply the profile of the kind of customer you serve, the traits they have in common both as it relates to your product but also in other parts of their life?”

For example, I found out a team I work with of analytics geeks that surgeons happen to like fine wine and male surgeons especially. They also like certain lines of clothing when they’re out of the hospital. So when the analytics said we’ve found this out about the profile of the customers you’re serving, these surgeons, can we propose that we join with your marketing people to find efficient ways to reach them in other unexpected places and to perhaps partner with some of the organizations that reach them in those situations so you can stand out more? So they were coming at it differently.

Or thinking about a nursery. I’m working with a nursery. There’s five outlets. I suggested to them stand out, not only sell plants but offer three options to keep your business growing. Offer to sell the service of people who will plant the plants for them, whether it’s for an individual organization or to create a landscape design that can go with the plants and/or provide regular maintenance plus suggestions of when to add what kinds of plants to their business landscaping or their home. That way the person offering that, they may be a landscaper, they may be someone who’s just seeking more work at a basic level planting plants. I admire the people saying, “Let me help you differentiate your product by what I can do to help you. So that was just two examples.

Mac Prichard:   

Those are great examples. What I like about those as you were talking is that you’re thinking about the needs of the person you want to help.

Kare Anderson: 

Yes.

Mac Prichard:   

You have the services they might require. Whether it’s you’re running a business and you’re trying to identify the needs of potential or current clients and how you might need them, or you’re looking for work and you want connect with a potential employer, it all comes back to the needs of the person you want to have that relationship with, and how you can help meet them.

Kare Anderson: 

That’s very well put. I call it triangling, triangle talk. First referring to you, say, “Is this an interest of yours?” or “I noticed you’re doing this. Am I on target? May we talk about something a way I think …? I know a person who could help you or I could.” So it’s you, me and then us, which is increasingly rare in our culture by the way.

Mac Prichard:  

I think making those connections with others and being a kind of broker can make a huge difference. You’ve written about the work of Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, about the value of giving to others without any expectation of getting something in return. You’ve talked about that in your book, “Mutuality.” Can you tell us more about the book, the main idea? I know you’ve got some practical steps in that book that you share with readers about how they can act on that idea.

Kare Anderson:    

I’d be glad to. One of the things that’s important about Adam is he said givers are among the least and most successful, so it’s how you give. Because one of my hot buttons, which I’m trying to work on, are people who are unhelpful givers. They give something that clearly demonstrates they don’t really know you, and so you try to act genial back. But in “Mutuality Matters” I believe the future in our increasingly connected world is to cultivate relationships with people of complementary talents around sweet spots of mutual interests. The more you do that you’ll have more lenses on a situation. You can innovate faster. You can see an opportunity or solve a problem better.

In that attitude you don’t do it just when there’s a crisis. You do it ahead of time. You can, in effect, becomes what Joe Calloway calls a ‘category of one,’ where you’re the only person that combines a strength, that’s somewhat unique, with a network of people where you can call on them, and they will call on you. It’s not quid pro quo, but it’s an ebb and flow of mutuality over time. Thus you can stand out wherever you are at any level of a large company or small one.

That’s why I like intranets, by the way, for companies because an intranet is a internet within a company. A lot of them … badly designed so it looks like more work, but when it’s done right, and this just makes my heart sing, when you can ask for help internally from each other, you see who keeps asking for help but doesn’t ever get asked for help, and you see who’s the most helpful. Again going back to Adam, he said it’s not leaders we should look for in an organization, but who offers the most helpful assist most often. They provide the assistance that people want. They add the missing link. They help become the glue that holds groups together. That, I think, is increasingly what individuals need and organizations need to stay agile.

Doing that is in your enlightened self-interest. I also think it makes for less conflict and more conviviality when you’re speaking to a part of someone saying, “You can do this.” Like I’m a fast thinker. My business partner’s a slow thinker. Doesn’t mean one’s smart and dumb. I’m an extrovert. In some situation he’s an introvert. We’re now realizing the reverse may true. But we can do and see things that the other person can’t and vice versa. That’s my wordy way of saying why I like mutuality. It also makes it fun because you say, “Oh my gosh, I never would have thought of that.

Mac Prichard: 

Our skills and our weaknesses can complement others when we’re part of a team. I wanted to get back to your book. You had talked about specific ways in the book that people can promote mutuality. Can you tell us more about some of those steps?

Kare Anderson: 

I think the first thing in promoting mutuality is to speak to the side of someone you most like and admire, especially when they’re not demonstrating it, because it’s not how people feel about us when they first meet us. It’s how they feel about themselves. I think [citing 00:27:47] to two or three other people, one of my favorites, a thing that three unexpected allies could do together around a sweet spot means they often will like the experience they have on one action, and they’ll like you for making it happen. Those are two ways to spur mutuality and where they’re more likely to be pulled toward you and think of you. If you give enough other people what they need in their life, you often get what you need, even before you know you need it, from people you sometimes didn’t think could provide it. I think that makes for a productive and satisfying life [in 00:28:20] mutuality.

Mac Prichard:   

I think that’s well said. Well, we’ll include links to your book and to the two authors you mentioned as well. Thank you for joining us today, Kare.

Kare Anderson:   

I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I love your notion online of work backwards. I call it reverse engineering. Have that end goal in mind for you and your team.

Mac Prichard:  

Well, thank you. You can find Kare online at her blog, Moving From Me To We and at her website sayitbetter.com. We’ll include links to both of these sites in the show notes. Thank you again for joining us today, Kare.

Kare Anderson:   

I was honored Mac. Thank you and thank the team.

Mac Prichard:  

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio with Ben and Cecilia. What do you two think? What are some of the important points you heard Kare make?

Ben Forstag: 

I really liked the idea that she put out there that there’s a huge professional value to networks, and not just for advancing your own career but as a service in and of themselves. One of the key ideas here is that your unique skills and your ability to bring in other people with their own unique and complementary skill sets, that’s a huge asset for a professional for solving problems on the fly. It’s something, frankly, we don’t think about our networks like that very often, but we should.

Mac Prichard: 

I agree with you Ben. I think each of us is a kind of impresario or broker person who knows lots of people with skills and can bring folks together to solve problems. When we do that, it does create opportunities for us.

Ben Forstag:   

And there’s a value-added for being that person who can bring everyone else together.

Mac Prichard:  

Right.

Cecilia Bianco:

Your last point, that’s what I took away from the most, thinking about who’s the most helpful around you. If you are that person that’s providing the most value and help, then you really stand out and are someone people are always thinking about.

Ben Forstag:  

I liked her point also about … she called it intranets, and a lot of organizations have those, but there’s also a lot of communications tools out there. One is called Slack. It’s like a chat tool that organizations use so their teams can collaborate openly. The idea that when you put it out there into your network that, “I need help with problem X” and other folks jump and address that problem for you, that mutuality there, that give and take of each person contributing their unique skills, that’s where the magic happens. The more we can facilitate that process through technology and through our own willingness to embrace that, the better results we’re going to have both professional, personally and for our organizations.

Cecilia Bianco:

I agree. As Kare said, it definitely makes your work life a little bit more fun.

Mac Prichard:  

Well, thank you both, and thank you our listeners. We’ll be back next week with more tools and tips you can use to find that dream job. In the meantime visit us at macslist.org where you can sign up for our free newsletter. It comes out every Tuesday, and there are more than a hundred new jobs every week. If you like what you hear on the show, please let us know by taking a moment to visit iTunes and leave a rating and review. The benefit of that is that it helps us help others because the more ratings and reviews we receive, the higher we rise in the iTunes charts, and the more people learn about the show. Thank you for listening.

One of the best ways to stand out in your field and in your career is through creative collaboration.

Embracing mutuality–sharing of your strengths, acknowledging your weaknesses and partnering with others with complementary skill sets–strengthens your professional credentials in an increasingly interconnected economy. And people who can facilitate collaboration are best positioned to solve employers’ most pressing challenges.

This week’s guest, Kare Anderson, is an expert on the power of collaboration and the author of Moving from Me to We. Kare believes that collaborative problem solving is the key to a dynamic, engaging and impactful career. She shares her thoughts on how to improve mutuality and the value of team collaboration.

This Week’s Guest

Kare Anderson is a public speaker, author of Moving from Me to We and other books, and an Emmy award-winning reporter who now writes for Forbes and Huffington Post. Kare’s TED talk called The Web of Humanity: Becoming an Opportunity Maker has attracted more than 1.7 million views. Though her company, Say it Better, she serves a diverse set of clients, including Salesforce, Novartis and Skoll Foundation.

Resources from this Episode