Being friends with us writer types can be amusing most times. We almost always have at least one story to tell that’s worth a drink, if not a dinner. Here’s the problem: One of these days, the story will be about you. Dollars to doughnuts, make friends with a writer and you’ll eventually be blog fodder.

So let me tell you about a friend of mine. He got promoted. Instead of celebrating, he started looking for a new job. Since he knows that I hang out with HR types, he began with my LinkedIn contacts page. Smart boy. But why the heck did the promotion prompt him to want to schmooze my contacts?

He never liked his job much anyway. And the promotion felt like the sliding slam of yet another deadbolt on the door to a more fulfilling future. Instead of pondering a sweetened paycheck, he started pondering an escape plan. (read more…)

Congratulations, you’re now the boss! Welcome to the deep end of the pool — now it’s time to learn to swim.

Managing your first direct reports is one of the most challenging transitions a leader will ever have to navigate. If I were to sit down over a beer or cup coffee and mentor a new first-time boss, here’s what I’d have to say (over a series of meetings, not all at once):

1. Be prepared.
Granted, while in many cases it may be too late to prepare, it shouldn’t have been. There are lots of things an aspiring leader can do to get ready to be a manager, including on-the-job experiences, reading, taking courses and learning from others. If you get offered a promotion and you’re not prepared, you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself.

2. Recognize that it’s a new job.
Even though you were most likely promoted within a function where you were the best engineer, you are no longer an engineer — you’re a manager. (read more…)

Most people think of planning as an annual exercise, and many see planning as developing financial plans and budgets. But planning isn’t just about numbers; the real test is the ability of the organization to actually execute it and drive measurable results. Done well, a plan aligns, unites and mobilizes.

A successful plan is a living document that allows you to outline clear milestones and goals so you and your organization know what success looks like. It becomes that living document by asking and answering three fundamental questions.

  1. Where are we today?
  2. Where do we want to be?
  3. How are we going to get there?

Thinking through these questions allows you to set goals, build strategies and develop action plans for one, two or five years from today.

Where are you?

Getting a clear picture of where you are involves 3 key steps:

  1. Collect, sort and analyze your customer information.

You may not realize just how much data you have. (read more…)

SmartBrief is partnering with Big Think to create a weekly video spotlight in SmartBrief on Leadership called “VIP Corner: Video Insights Powered by Big Think.” This week, we’re featuring John Seely Brown, independent co-chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge and adviser to the provost and visiting scholar at the University of Southern California.

Due to the nature of the online game, high-level players of World of Warcraft make better employees than those who have an MBA from Harvard, John Seely Brown, independent co-chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge and adviser to the provost and visiting scholar at the University of Southern California, says. He points out that in order to become a high-level player of the game, one has to have both the ability and the drive to adapt to thousands of new ideas, work in groups and constantly measure his or her own performance.

On any given night one might play World of Warcraft, Seely Brown says there will be about 15,000 new strategic ideas that are created around the world. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 170,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each Tuesday in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: How frequently do you seek out coaches and mentors to help team members improve?

  • All the time: 10.5%
  • Often: 29.89%
  • Sometimes: 32.38%
  • Rarely: 19.57%
  • Never: 7.65%

Another set of eyes. Coaches and mentors can be a great resource for your team members (and you). The 30% of you not seeking those opportunities out are likely missing a chance to improve your people and your team. A coach or mentor (and it doesn’t have to be an externally hired one) can be a confidant and help your team member through issues they’re not comfortable bringing to you or to the members of their teams. Be ready and willing to give your people the resources they need to succeed including helping them find a coach or mentor to work through difficult issues with. (read more…)