In Pursuit of Profession: Think like an entrepreneur, act like a CEO


Summer is here and while the kids might be singing, “No more teachers! No more books!” many adults typically use this time to catch up on their reading. Back on April 24, we discussed the top 20 career reads for this summer as compiled by Jody Michael, CEO and founder of Jody Michael Associates, a career and executive coaching company. While I hope that you were able to check out some of those reads, I’ve got a couple more stands out to help you fill up your beach bag. We’ll get to the first one this week and save the second one for next week’s column.

Fifty tips of Jones

Over the last four decades, executive coach Beverly Jones MBA, JD, PCC, has helped professionals in all walks of life to survive and thrive. Over those 40 years, she has come up with 50 indispensable tips to help workers stay afloat, bounce back, and get ahead in their workplace. She used those tips as the backbone for her new book, Think like an Entrepreneur, Act like a CEO. I recently sat down with Jones for a little Q & A about the book:

Mark Fadden (MF): “It seems like in every industry and every job, there’s always something new to learn. Whether it’s mastering social media, rapid changes in the competition, or technology fundamentally changing the business we’re in. Is the pace of change truly increasing or just our perception of it? And how do you advise people to keep on top of it without feeling overwhelmed?”

Beverly Jones (BJ): “The pace of change actually is increasing, and it all relates to the rapid spread of information as a result of new communication technologies. First, understand that the pace of change isn’t personal, and it’s not about you. Everybody is facing the same challenges. Second, one key for surviving a tumultuous environment is to routinely look for opportunities to learn something new. Even if a learning topic is only tangentially related to your job, your new understanding may help you to better see the big picture and to notice trends and connections that will lead to new ideas. Third, if the pace at work seems relentless, look for ways to create calm and stability in other parts of your life. Fourth, change can be exhausting, but you will be better able to cope if you commit yourself to staying in good physical shape.”

MF: “Is there any risk that applying an entrepreneurial approach on the job will lead to bosses and senior leadership viewing a worker as unsuited to working for someone else?”

BJ: “Not really, because thinking like an entrepreneur doesn’t mean going off on your own direction. Rather, it means staying focused on what your “customers” – including your bosses – need from you, and constantly asking yourself how to better solve their problems and find new ways to contribute toward organizational goals.”

MF: “Speaking of bosses, sometimes people end up with a boss that just won’t listen to their ideas, their feedback, or won’t accept the employee might know more about something than the boss. What can someone in that situation do?”

BJ: “If your boss doesn’t listen to you, it’s probably time to change the way you communicate. If your messages don’t get through, maybe the problem is the way you deliver them, more than what you say. Notice the boss’s own communication style and how she works with her closest colleagues. Does she prefer tightly worded emails, or does she like open-ended chats in which she does most of the talking? Recognize that your boss is busy, and be succinct. Plan ahead before you meet and concentrate on making just two or three key points. Be clear about your primary goal when you meet. Sometimes you have to choose between having your say and having your way. Instead of wasting time on unproductive venting, use your meeting time to focus on a few positive proposals.”

MF: “Let’s talk about the first day on a new job. What advice do you offer people to set the right tone? Is there a different approach depending on how experienced the worker is?”

BJ: “Go to work on that first day with a plan in mind, no matter whether this your first job or the latest in a long line of good moves. Even if your new employer has a great on-boarding program, you need to have your own goals. In the early days, be prepared to work hard to understand what your boss expects and needs from you. Get to know your colleagues and customers, particularly anyone who has a stake or interest in the work you perform. When professionals stumble in a new job it’s typically not because they don’t have the technical skills, but rather because they don’t understand the culture or don’t establish relationships with critical people. Show up to all meetings on time, and do everything you say you will no matter how small the commitment.”

MF: “There’s a lot of talk about developing a personal brand. How can an employee brand themselves as a leader even before their leadership potential is recognized?”

BJ: “You can act like a leader even if you are just starting out. Behaving like a leader means taking responsibility for spotting problems and offering to help – it might be something as small as a spilled cup of coffee. And you’ll come across as a leader if you consistently project a positive attitude, even on the rougher days.”

MF: “A theme that pops up throughout the book is that listening is a vital career strategy. Everyone likes to think they know how to listen, but that’s not really the case, is it?”

BJ: “People tend to be too busy and overly distracted by phones, email and the constant worried voice inside their own heads. They actually may devote only a small portion of their attention to what another person is saying. But if they can quiet that inner voice (“I’m late,” “he’s an idiot,” or “what’s for dinner?”) and concentrate on the person who is speaking, that can be like exercising a career super power. At some level a speaker always recognizes when you are truly listening to what they are saying, and may quickly feel a connection with you. By listening carefully you can calm a speaker’s anger or anxiety, come across as confident, and pick up important information.”