Don’t Just Work Hard, Work Smart! – Part 2

My Conversations with Muyiwa Ayodele

The law of trade by barter that defines the marketplace is based on the principles of exchange of goods and services. In simple terms, you are remunerated for the value you deliver. The smart approach to work being discussed in this series is focused on maximizing the value your deliver in the market place while giving you more time to focus on other things. Smart workers are generally known to experience better career advancement (in terms of remunerations, promotions, etc) than their peers.

#5.       Be visible

Another smart strategy to increase your efficiency is to seek the spotlight for your work and accomplishments. Just like advertisement is an integral component of advance a company’s financial and public standing, you need to promote your own work while carefully walking the fine line of not appearing as a “shameless”, limelight-seeking, self-aggrandising person! Being visible involves promoting your expertise in order to create opportunities for collaboration and networking. Your work/, no matter how good, can go unnoticed leading to career stunting and lack of opportunities. It was Joseph’s promotion of his expertise through interaction with Pharaoh’s officials (Chief Butler and Chief Baker) in the Prison that landed him before the king. Explore opportunities to promote your expertise, advertise your business, and showcase your projects both online and in person. Leverage existing and emerging technology platforms (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, professional websites, etc) to promote your work, and explore opportunities for growth. Also, don’t shy away from work-related social functions, team retreats, and other networking events where you can show case your expertise. In our discussion, we both realized that our attempts to be humble with our successes (by shying away from the limelight) has shut somes doors of opportunity again us. In Muyiwa Ayodele’s words, “…this is not humility but ignorance!….” If you don’t blow your own trumpet, nobody will!

 

#6.       Don’t re-invent the wheel

Smart professionals are not necessarily the most technically gifted folks. But they are known to recognize their strengths while leveraging the knowledge/expertise of others to get the job done. No man or woman is an island of knowledge or expertise. Someone out there has probably solved the problem or done something relevant to the project you are trying to tackle. Even in a new/emerging field, there is a relevant body of knowledge that you can leverage to fast-track your completion of your project. In this era of information deluge, develop a smart strategy for searching and sieving information relevant to your career advancement. Endeavor to keep abreast of the emerging expertise, information, and trends in your field. Be smart to leverage or adapt methods/strategies/frameworks developed by others to solve projects, but be quick to give credit where credit is due (avoid plagiarism!).

 

#7. Pay attention to your physical and mental well-being

Scientific research has now linked physical and mental wellness to increased work productivity and creativity. Stress and ill-health are two major inhibitors of increased productivity and creativity. Devise strategies to improve your physical and mental well-being and see your level of productivity rise. For example, Muyiwa and I brainstormed and identified relevant activities to improve our physical and mental health such as regular annual physical exams, more regular exercises (we’ve both added extra pounds that we needed to shed), spending more time with family, regular annual personal retreats, family vacations, listening to inspiring podcasts, fostering new relationships with people of like minds, our spiritual growth, more sleep, and so on. We have, since, noticed increased levels of productivity in our careers. While these strategies have worked for us, you need to figure out what works for you. Recognize stress-inducing situations that may inhibit your creativity/productivity within and outside the marketplace and devise appropriate strategies to avoid/minimize these issues.

 

#8. Explore opportunities for flexible work hours with your manager

Employers and organizations are increasing embracing flexible work culture to improve employee productivity. As an employee, explore opportunities for flexible work arrangements with your boss. This might include earlier or later resumption at work, working from home, teleconference opportunities rather than in-person meetings. While it’s often thought that entrepreneurs and business owners tend to have more flexibility in choosing their own hours, I find that running your own business even confers a high level of responsibility, leading to long hours of work to keep the business going. Business owners need to take a disciplined approach to create flexible work situations for themselves.

 

#9. Prioritize your work responsibilities

Your productivity and creativity is strongly linked to your ability to effectively manage your time and resources. Creativity can be hampered by “legitimate distractions” in the marketplace that may hinder your productivity. Regardless of your field of endeavor, make a list of your professional responsibilities and rank them in order of importance (“importance” here can be defined based on your manager’s expectations, company expectations, or your career goals). Reserve dedicated time to focus on high priority tasks, while making room for impromptu tasks.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> To be Continued <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Muyiwa Ayodele is a United Kingdom-based Information Technology (IT) professional, consultant, and entrepreneur with over 14 years of cross-industry experience consulting for government, financial, and energy industries (https://www.linkedin.com/in/olu-sola-ayodele-77491730/)

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Don’t Just Work Hard, Work Smart!

My Conversations with Muyiwa Ayodele

Few years ago, I was on my way to United Kingdom (UK) to give a talk at a Health Data Science conference. After going through the security and seeing that I have about an hour before boarding, I decided to sit near the boarding gate for my flight to catch on my emails before boarding the flight. Just before opening my computer, I noticed a convenience kiosk near the boarding with few books on display, some of which are series of papers on emotional intelligence quotient (emotional IQ) published in Harvard Business Review. Rather than check emails, I spent the hour checking out these books and finally decided to buy a couple of them for myself and my dear friend Muyiwa Ayodele who I had planned to visit while in the UK. As you would expect, I read and pored over the entire series on my 9-hour flight to Heathrow. One recurring theme throughout over 200 pages of material I read is the evolution of work from the laborious “hard” work to smart work where you use your emotional IQ to advance your career, regardless of the business/organization culture/operation. Smart work approach to career development focuses on optimizing value delivery to your employers or clients. On arriving in the UK, this theme dominated my discussions with Muyiwa. Below are some of the excerpts from this enriching and insightful conversation with my friend.

 

#1. Hard work does not always lead to prosperity. Smart work does!

Contrary to culturally held notions that “hard” and laborious efforts leads to success, career progress is not a function of how much laborious effort you put in. Smart work seeks to optimize your productivity with respect to time, resources, goals. Religious folks may be quick to point out that a “hard working” individual will stand before kings and not mere men. But a closer look at the scriptural text did not indicate hard work but diligence. One of the shocking discoveries is that it is easy to put in long hours, acquire almost all possible technical skills, and still has little to show for it in terms of productivity. Don’t just work hard, focus on how to optimize your output in a timely and efficient manner.

 

#2.       Identify your North Star

The wise men who came to see baby Jesus found him by following the guiding star. Working smart can mean different things to different individuals, depending on your purpose in the market place. Your purpose is the north star that will determine your personalized strategies that can optimize your productivity/effort ratio. For some, working smart might mean more flexibility to pursue side projects that lead to their own business at some point down the line. For others, it might mean pursuing additional professional/technical certifications in order to rise through the organization structure.

 

#3.       The Relationship Currency

Your career progress lies in the strength of your relationship with others. The increasingly collaborative nature of the marketplace has contributed to the evolution of work and redefinition of success. Professionals who work efficiently are great collaborators who through interaction with others leverage the skills, expertise, experience, and knowledge of others to improve their own work while giving credit where due. Technical competence is no longer solely enough to achieve success. Your connections and interaction with people of like minds and those with complementary skills will deliver that quantum leap you’ve been waiting for. How connected are you?

#4. Acquire relevant soft skills

Knowledge is power. Learning how to increase your output is an integral part of smart work. Don’t just work hard, seek out ways to improve your productivity through online or in-person training on relevant topics such as project management, meeting management, scientific writing, CV development, the art of delegation, principles of collaboration, effective leadership, and so on. Acquiring such skills will improve your ability to work smart and accomplish a lot within a short time.

 

Muyiwa Ayodele is a United Kingdom-based Information Technology (IT) professional, consultant, and entrepreneur with over 14 years of cross-industry experience consulting for government, financial, and energy industries.

 

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Define your Objective; but Remember to Focus on it

by Dr Oyedele Ola

When you give a lot of attention to a particular thing, a subject of interest or a person, you are said to be focused. To “focus” also means to concentrate or to centre your interest on something. One of the factors for landing a successful career is to have a distinct and clear career objective and to maintain an unwavering focus on it. It is not enough to formulate a big career objective, ambition or dream. The dreamer also has to focus diligently on the end-in-view in order to actualize the objective. In the game of table tennis (or ping pong), you must concentrate on the ball as it goes back and forth on the table. Failure to focus on the ball could result in a miss. Focussing on the ball is important for the player to be able to correctly hit the ball with the racket and get it to the desired destination on the opponent’s side of the table. In fact most games involving opponent individuals or teams require focussing to significant degrees, in order to gain advantage and limit the opponent’s options. In a similar way, focussing on the expected end makes the difference between success and failure in various aspects of life.

A lot of Christian professionals “wish” or “expect” success in their careers, but lack focus on any definite objective. Perhaps, they think that prayer and acts of Christian service alone can substitute for the principles that govern career success. Yes, God really does bless the works of our hands and He is interested in giving us career prosperity. However, we need to position ourselves for his blessings by showing diligence, hardwork and commitment to our course. Being a Christian should not, in any way, relegate anyone that professes to be so called to being a mediocre or to accepting little or no progress as fate. One of the greatest problems I have found with many educated individuals, especially fresh university graduates, is that, while a limited few pursue their career objective/ambition diligently, majority simply accept any job that comes their way, whether by chance or by luck. This is mostly common in many of the third-world countries, where the struggle for survival outweighs the desire for excellence and self-actualization. In my personal opinion, a satisfying and successful career would require a diligent and dogged focus on a definite career objective.

Permit me to share my personal career experience with you. Several years ago after I have decided to complete a bachelor’s program in engineering physics, I needed to decide on a career path. I was just in the second year of my undergraduate degree program at that time. I decided to seek and understand the various career options available to someone with a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics. In my search for useful information, I discovered that most of my undergraduate courses would focus on materials science and engineering. In addition, I got to know that several graduates of the program were at the fore front of ground-breaking materials engineering careers in different parts of the world. I was also constantly in contact with senior colleagues and professors with significant experience in the application of materials engineering principles. Before my graduation, I had already decided for a career in materials engineering, with the objective of acquiring practical knowledge and training that would enable me to take a frontline position in materials engineering research. Since that time, I have been directing (focusing) the best of my resources and ability toward fulfilling my career objective. Sustaining my interest by focussing on the objective assisted me to ascend to leadership as a research engineer in the field of materials engineering.

Among the career problems being faced by several individuals, the problem of lack of focus is just one. However, in my attempt to classify individuals according to their disposition to “focus”, I realized that there are actually four different categories of people. The first category is those who lack focus. These individuals don’t usually have any career objective. Therefore, there is nothing to focus on. They just accept life as it comes. Those who lack focus usually settle for the least. They have no drive for achieving more, as long as they have enough to get life going. They just watch everything as it all happens around them. In most cases, they go to school because others are in school. Their approach to life is simplistic and does not demand them to contribute anything significant to personal or community development.

The second category of people is those who lost focus. These individuals actually had career ambitions, but lost focus on their objective before they could be realized. Several people start out with an objective for their career. Unfortunately, the objective could not be realized due to distractions, loss of interest, unforeseen circumstances or the unachievable nature of the objective. For some, it is just a matter of settling for less because it may actually cost more to fulfil their career objective than it will cost to settle for less.

The third category of people is those with “dilly-dally focuses”. Individuals with dilly-dally focuses don’t actually focus on anything. Their career objective, hence career focus, changes per opportunity. They are moved only by what is “selling” out there. Yesterday they were bankers, today they are engineers and tomorrow they may be plumbers. They can be called “jack of all trades, master of none”. I have personally had the opportunity to review resumes of several job-seekers. I noticed that many of the resumes did not indicate any career focus or objective. This is always a problem for many employers as they are unable to rightfully place the skills and experience of the applicant and are somewhat confused as to whether they are primarily skilled in what they have applied for or are more skilled in something else. Those with dilly-dally focusses end up achieving nothing and, in most cases, don’t have much to show for several years of hard labour.

The fourth category of people and, of course, the last is those who have focus. These people centre their interest in certain objectives and do not waver from achieving what they have determined to pursue. Those who have focus usually understand their own strengths and weaknesses and are usually able to overcome obstacles. They are tenacious, diligent, unrelenting, hardworking, dedicated and are willing to pay the price for achieving a worthwhile course.

In conclusion, if you desire great success in your career, then you may have to dream a worthwhile and achievable dream. But…………, remember to diligently focus on the expected end.

(c) 2013. Oyedele Ola PhD

About the Author:

Oyedele completed his undergraduate degree in Engineering Physics from Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria and his graduate degrees in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Manitoba, Canada. Oyedele currently works as a research engineer with the Center for Aerospace Technology and Training at the Red River College in Winnipeg, Canada. He enjoys traveling, making friends and public speaking. During personal quiet periods, he enjoys bible study.

 

 

Posted in July 2013 | Leave a comment

Wisdom Tips for Career Sucess: Musings from the Book of Proverbs

David, the greatest King of Israel, once advised his son to pursue Wisdom above everything else. He claimed “Wisdom is the principal thing, in all thy getting’s, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7). While we often equate wisdom with educational achievement, the continuous evolution of the dynamics in the work place has shown that professional success is increasing de-emphasizing on educational degrees or technical skills. Instead, there is more emphasis on soft skills, such as people management, goal setting, and problem-solving attributes. Today, I want to point your attention to a wisdom arsenal for Christian professionals. The book of Proverbs is full of several instructions for success for many of us. Here are some relevant wisdom nuggets for career success!

1.  Your imagination is key to your success….guard it with all diligence!

Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts (Proverbs 4:22)

 

 2.  Your marriage is your biggest asset on your way up….don’t take it for granted!

Enjoy the wife you married as a young man! Lovely as an angel, beautiful as a rose— don’t ever quit taking delight in her body. Never take her love for granted! Why would you trade enduring intimacies for cheap thrills with a whore? (Proverbs 5: 18 – 20)

3.  Associate with wise and resourceful people

Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces (Proverbs 13: 20).

4.  Avoid distractions…….stay focused on your vision!

Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step, and the road will stretch out smooth before you (Proverbs 4: 24 – 27)

 

  5.  Don’t entertain laziness…..it has destroyed countless promising careers

So how long are you going to laze around doing nothing? How long before you get out of bed? A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there, sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next? Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life, poverty your permanent houseguest! (Proverbs 6: 9- 11)

 

6.  Think well before signing that contract……your word is your bond!

Dear friend, if you’ve gone into hock with your neighbor or locked yourself into a deal with a stranger, If you’ve impulsively promised the shirt off your back and now find yourself shivering out in the cold, Friend, don’t waste a minute, get yourself out of that mess. You’re in that man’s clutches! Go, put on a long face; act desperate. Don’t procrastinate— there’s no time to lose (Proverbs 6: 1-3)

 

7.  Trust the Lord with your decisions……..He will surely guide you into the right path

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track (Proverbs 3: 5)

 

8. Your mouth sets the course of your life………..choose your words wisely

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose (Proverbs 18:21).

  

9. Your integrity speaks volume about you……..every employer searches for this attribute!

Leaders who know their business and care keep a sharp eye out for the shoddy and cheap. For who among us can be trusted to be always diligent and honest? (Proverb 20: 8 – 9)

God bless you all. 

Posted in July 2013 | 2 Comments

The Tale of Two Prostitutes and their Babies

One of my favorite sections of the old testament is the history of the kings of Israel.  In the past few weeks, I have had to revisit the story of King Solomon, the wisest king in Israel. As I meditated on his life, his wisdom, and kingdom, I could not but focus on the saga between two prostitutes who came to king Solomon for judgement. The story can be found in 1Kings 3: 16-21. Even though this story demonstrated God’s wisdom in Solomon, I believe there is a lesson here for every Christian professional to learn. As I read through this story, it became very clear to me that both women were fond of sleeping. One slept so much till she rolled over her baby and killed him. The other woman was too deep in her sleep that she did not know when her baby was stolen. One outstandingly critical issue here for both women is carelessness. While sleep is good and refreshing, a night of carelessness through deep sleep destroyed a future (baby died), scattered a friendship, and made a fool of both of them nationally!. As I ruminated on some of the common pitfalls that has trapped and destroyed great careers, I realized that carelessness is the common problem underlying many of these problems. History and the media are littered with several examples of great individuals with great careers, but were brought down by a moment of carelessness and indiscretion. Several years of hard work, faithfulness, and sacrifice have been wasted through short moments of carelessness and lack of proper management of some habits. For these women, one night of carelessness ruined the travails of the 9 months of pregnancy and labor pain during delivery. For you, it might be that incessant problem with punctuality , poor time management, a little moment of angry outburst on that nagging colleague, procrastination, lack attention to details, a short flirt with that colleague, backbiting, financial recklessness, garrulousness, congeniality, excessive internet surfing (FB inclusive!), unprofessional text messaging in professional meetings, and many more. Even though these destiny-damaging habits might appear insignificant or harmless, they can wreck your career and future. As a matter of fact, human resource professionals are increasingly placing more emphasis on behavioral attributes and other soft skills rather than technical skills. A recent report in one of the American dailies suggested that employers are increasingly mining data from social media (e.g., Facebook) to understand behavioral tendencies about potential employees (lesson: don’t be careless on social   media!). It is important for you to pay close attention to those little habits and attitudes that may affect your future.

The woman whose baby was stolen is equally as guilty of carelessness as the woman who stole the baby. Success or failure in life is not always about your decisions or actions, but sometimes about our indecisions or inactions. Even though this second woman succeeded in getting her child back (thanks to God’s Wisdom in Solomon!), her life illustrated the consequences of carelessness. Had it been she was consciously guarding her baby, the other woman would not have succeeded in giving her a dead child. She would have avoided all the arguments that ensued afterwards, ranging from arguments in her neighborhood, to the appeal court in her province, till her case gained national attention and was brought to the King. One night of carelessness in not guarding what God’s gift caused her untold handrdships, striving, tears, and many other challenges. Even though your career is not blossoming yet, guard it with all diligence. Even though, no one appreciates you for the job well done, guard your integrity with all diligence. Guard your marriage, your faith, your children, your ministry, talent, and everything the Lord has committed into your hands. A moment of carelessness can destroy everything you have worked for in life. Dear friends, I urge you to be on guard and deal with these little attitudes and habits today. If possible, seek professional and spiritual help to deal with them. God bless you.

Posted in July 2013 | Leave a comment