Are you a 40 year old mediocre?

Let me describe you a friend of mine. He is 40 years old. He works as a senior finance manager in a respectable company, earning a normal salary. He’s not very passionate about his job as his learning curve slowed down and his next promotion is years away in a seniority driven corporate. When he started his career, he was bright and full of energy. Over the years, he somehow lost a bit of this personality. did-not-wake-up-feel-mediocre-life-daily-quotes-sayings-pictures He always wanted to be a CFO at his current age but sort of toned down his ambition after sending out resumes to few headhunters and getting no positive response. He justified it due to the recessionary economy and his need to choose stability to provide for his family, instead of challenging his current employer or actively seeking another job.

At home, he has a loving wife and 2 young kids. He lives in a nice apartment on Continue reading

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How to get promoted? (fast)

Have you ever worked very hard for a promotion and got passed over? Was it delayed by indefinite duration of time like months or years? Or worse, you were told in a vague way that the company doesn’t intend to promote you? At the same time, you might have experienced one of the following cases: The networking guy who is less experienced than you got a promotion because he happens to know all department heads. Or your lazy colleague got a bigger raise and recognition because she is leading the CEO’s pet project. Your manager is a jerk and he doesn’t care about your promotion, therefore you have no idea about your chances. And here’s a famous one: because of recession, the position that you intend to take is cancelled although you were the only candidate. how to get promoted (2)

If one of these things happened to you,  I’m really sorry for you. It happened to me as well. I feel you. If you think this happened because of some outside factor (i.e. recession) or bad luck (i.e. bad boss), I strongly recommend you to read till the end, because I have some good and bad news for you: First, the bad news: It’s all your fault. But hold on, here are the good news. You can do something about it. Let me explain. Continue reading

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How to teach yourself to be smart?

We all think we are smart. We think intelligence is inborn and the world is divided among smart people (like us), not so smart people (others) and geniuses (above us). We find false sense of comfort in the fact that we are smarter than the average (based on what we have achieved so far) and we don’t have to worry about those geniuses who are far above us because their intelligence is already god-given, so why bother comparing.

But once in a while, an occasion hits us. We attend a meeting where someone makes a
brainremarkably smart comment that turns heads and makes us think ”I wish I said that first”. Or one of our schoolmates who was ”not so smart”  ends up in a publication with a cocky smile on his face because he just happened to come up with that golden goose start up idea. Or worst case, we make a silly mistake at work that hurts our self esteem and maybe reputation. Whatever the reason, these are the moments that we doubt our own intelligence. We ask ourselves the following question: “Am I really smart?” Continue reading

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How to unlock the potential of your people?

If you’re reading this post, chances are, you have a team (big or small) reporting to you and you are wondering how to make them perform better. The subject is quite generic so let me be upfront on explaining why I believe that this approach works: It’s based on the presumption that ”everyone comes to work to succeed”. But somehow, people start facing barriers along the way and start to become mediocre. They lose their motivation, inspiration or lack a meaningful challenge. Sometimes, they have all the motivation but they lack the necessary skill growth to make a leap. Sadly, very few people get honest feedback to shed light on their mediocre performance.
In any case,  your job as a leader is to challenge them personally and change the story for them. Once they change their mind (not easy) to go on a self improvement journey, your next step is to guide them and keep them in balance towards a new state of high performance. Continue reading

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How to turn around any business?

So you just got your promotion to the manager or director level, or moved to another company with bigger scope and higher salary. You are supposed to turnaround the notoriously declining business and all the eyes are on you. Yet, as you enter the business, you understand the problems are everywhere. Your brand is losing market share, profitability is down, latest innovation is not working, your organization is demotivated and management’s only smart move was to bring you in, as your predecessor was shown the door. Be it taking over a declining brand, under-performing division or total company, one thing I can say for sure is that it’s very easy to underestimate the challenge and overestimate yourself by directly jumping into problems as they occur and expect fast turnaround. Your team reacts like they buy-into your solutions, pretend to go along with you, yet you somehow sense that there is something wrong. As you tend work more overtime and even make some changes in your team, nothing improves significantly and soon enough your management gets impatient with your results. By the time you recognize you are on the wrong way, it’s already late. Your team abandoned you and started questioning the plan as they have less to fear now. If you paid attention, you’ll hear comments such as, “That was not the real problem, we knew it wasn’t going to work etc.” Sounds familiar? How to turnaround any business

I faced this problem over and over in my career and learned to step back and start by identifying the problems first. While it sounds simple, it’s not easy. What follows are some practical tips to achieve real, sustainable turnaround in a declining business, proven by experience.

  1. Start with your customers, not with your employees. Everyday, your Continue reading
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A new generation of Russians changing the workplace

You must have noticed them if you take the subway: Aged between 20-30, white earphones on, boys with ruffled hair stylishly laid over forehead with occasional stubble, or well-groomed girls with multi-color nail polish on each finger wearing work-like outfit New generatbut standing out with an accessory, backpack or a hairpin. From outside you wouldn’t even understand that they are going to work, however these young people make up the new generation that is changing the Russian business world as we know it.

Who are they? The new generation of Russians. Those who were born after the 1980’s, are now filling up the desks, not shy to put a personal mark to workplace with their individuality. Even though they are more friendly than their committed and serious parents, unfortunately hard work is not always a virtue for them. Continue reading

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How to lead Russian organizations to peak performance

The Russian business is made up of complete mosaic with its short history of only 20 years. A new generation of promising young Russians are joining an older workforce whose adult working life was marked by the fall of communism. In addition to this, Russia continues to attract foreign investment due to its huge economy, growing consumer markets and highly trained work force. As a result, many foreign executives (expats) are still flocking to the country. Here is a questionperformance that many of them struggle with: How can I lead the Russian organizations to peak performance? It is no secret that it is often a challenge for expats to adapt to Russian business and organizational culture, even in multi-national companies. So is it possible to rally a Russian organization to success, despite being an expat? After 8 years of working with Russian people, my answer is a definitive “Yes”. However, to accomplish this, one must understand the values of Russians that were shaped by their unique history.

Many people generalize the challenge of understanding the Russian business culture to the outlasting effects of communism. While this is not untrue, it is an overly simplified explanation and offers no insights to the solution.  Continue reading

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Why do Russians buy luxury?

Russia is among the biggest markets in terms of luxury consumption. Explaining this phenomenon with the number of billionaires would be an oversimplification. Although it appeared with capitalism, one needs to study the history of Russia to understand the reasons.

Luxury consumption actually started in Soviet Union (SU). While everyone had to buy the same products, a limited group of people, connected to the communist party (nomenclature) who were “more even” than the others, could access luxury products. While the norm was to be modest and avoid show-off, this minority wore expensive fur  coats, jewelry and drove expensive cars. In contrast, furaverage citizens were struggling with the deficit on one-type consumer products, due to centrally run economy. In 1991, with the collapse of the SU and the wild transition to capitalism, income inequality, number of ultra rich and poor exploded, while the western products flooded the country. After years of deficit, the rich and the ultra rich, who emerged out of privatization chaos, heavily spent on luxury to differentiate themselves from the others. The country, where the modesty was a national virtue, turned into motherland of show-off culture. Continue reading

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How to win with the Russian consumers?

Despite its 1.86 Trillion dollar GDP and 9th ranking in world economy, Russian market continues to be a challenge for many brands. Russia caught the hyper growth after 2000 thanks to political stability and increasing oil prices. As a result, consumers, rewarded the first Western brands such as McDonalds, Nike, Microsoft, after years of limited choice. Despite the fact that the economy slowed down after 2008, Russian market still continues to offer big opportunities for brands. Here are some recommendations for Expat Brand Managers who want to win in Russia:

Do not forget the fact that Russians are extremely sophisticated: Russians, of whose population’s 60% are university graduates, yearned for even the simplest consumer products before 2001’s when the BRIC terminology came into agenda.  However, fast entrance of the multinational companies in the past 20 years, have closed this gap. Today, being a brand is “necessary” yet not “sufficient” condition. Brand managers have to do extensive research to understand the fast changing Russian consumers and find out the most important aspects of their brands to convince them. Continue reading

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How to lead experts when you are not one?

So you’ve got the dream Brand Manager role or just been assigned to lead the coolest multi-functional marketing project. It is high profile and rich in resource, be it funding or manpower. But there is one problem. You have to work with the most notorious sales guy involved in this project. He is also Leading expertsinvolved because this is his area of expertise thanks to his long years in the company. And…. let’s say he is not the biggest fan of your type: marketing hotshot in mid twenties. How will you lead him to achieve outstanding results? In other words, how will you lead the experts when you are not one of them?

The situation is common for most of us who go through the ranks of brand management, who are expected display leadership early on in their career. To cope with these responsibilities, Brand Managers are chosen among high profile marketing talent and put through a competitive and meritocratic system to develop in “up or out” career systems. Yet, not all departments have the same fast track and junior leader – senior functional partner tension is almost unavoidable. Moreover, it is seen as a test by top management for Brand Managers to overcome these barriers, so learning them early in your career is key. Here are few tips to lead experts, when you are not one of them:       

Don’t be intimidated by experts: Respect the expertise Continue reading

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