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All of us have been there at some point

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  • 1. All of us have been there at some point. Out of necessity, you are stuck in a job that isunbearable – and as a result, you hate life. This is all-too-common in the U.S., whereworkers are often treated as commodities and liabilities, and get almost no real respect.Unfortunately, under current conditions few have the luxury of simply quitting, so hereare several strategies for coping in a job you just cant stomach.Set Goals and Objectives: If there is a bright side to your situation, its easier to get ajob if you already have one. This means that if you are in a job you hate, youre in abetter position to get something better. Set a goal every week for sending out x numberof resumes and attending a networking event or job fair. Such actions will help you tosee a light at the end of the tunnel (which wont be New Jersey).Time for Ones Self: If you are overscheduled and harassed, youll be making a badthing worse. It is vital to set some time aside each day, particularly before heading intowork. Its also helpful to engage in some activity that brings a smile to your face,whether its reading the latest Facebook posts, treating yourself to a favorite snack, orplaying your favorite music on the stereo.Create Diversions: If possible, fill your workspace and/or your day with smalldiversions. For example, a inside salesrepresentative who sometimes dislikes making"cold calls" to prospective clients might bring a joke book to work and make it a point toread something funny before picking up the phone. It made a great deal of differencewhen it came to talk to people.Learn New Tricks: If you dont have the job you want, it may be due to a lack of skillsand/or knowledge. Fortunately, this is highly curable. Its never too late to learnsomething new that may make you more marketable when a new and better opportunitycomes along. Are $$$s in short supply? Is free better? The Internet has a treasure-trove of free seminars and webinars to help you build your education. Also, make use ofyour local library. Many carry new how-to DVDs relative to improving your personal andprofessional skills (i.e. coaching yourself to success, dealing with management issues,and time management).Decompression: Failing to "blow off steam" and letting frustrations build up can bedangerous not only to yourself but to others as well. Continuous physical exercise is agreat tension reliever, obviously, but also dont overlook fun activities such as softball,bowling, and dancing. Or, a leisure walk at a local park can go a long way towardsdepressurizing and maintaining a positive outlook.Keep on Keepin On: Anything worth doing at all is worth doing well – even if itssomething you hate. Not only will this give you a sense of accomplishment and pride inyourself, it can also help you down the road should you need a reference.Te
  • 2. This interview with John Donovan, chief technology officer at AT&T, was conductedand condensed by Adam Bryant.Q. What were some early leadership lessons for you?A. There are certain characteristics that give people a start — and for me, I rememberstarting to use them when I was named captain of my hockey team. I think after that itbecomes practice. I think those characteristics are the ability to set a framework thatmakes sense to people, and being articulate. You can look at the landscape,characterize it and set a framework for action, then be able to articulate it clearly. Youhave to have antennas for picking out whats really important.So you have to have those basic skills and be a good pattern recognizer. I was alwaysgood at those problems where you go "two, four, six, eight, whats next?" And you startto put those skills together and then, like anything else, you get better with practice.That said, if theres a situation where someone else needs to lead, and its working, thatis A-O.K. I dont feel a burning need to be in charge, and I dont feel that its a bad thingto follow when the right things are getting done. So in some respects, I dont have theinnate drive that certain people have about control and ownership and leadership. WhenI left Silicon Valley, a lot of people bet me that I wouldnt last at AT&T. They figured thatbecause Id been a C.E.O. before, I couldnt go work at a big company where you havebosses, and you dont control everything.It really isnt even a consideration for me. I just derive great satisfaction from a well-played plan. As a matter of fact, I have an aversion to situations where credit isshowered upon leaders. Those dont sit easily with me. Maybe thats because I was oneof 11 kids in our family. I love engaging, but I dont like the compliments, with somebodysaying, "Hey, great job."Q. Other lessons?A. The first thing I noticed very quickly early on was that hard work is central to whatyou do, and thats not any magic orscience. I said, "Well, if I start today, and I outworkeverybody, then the only question is the starting point." So I figured that if I work reallyhard I can be in the top 5 percent in any field. It just gave me some comfort to say, O.K.,Im going to do fine financially, so I shouldnt make decisions based on money. Myobjective should be to gain the broadest set of experiences I can, and just try to drilldeep everywhere I can. And so I played the game for breadth. Early in my career, Ibought businesses, fixed them and sold them. Some went well; some didnt. I did somehome development. I was in sales. I went back to business school.A lot of people work hard to get ahead, and I recognized early on that its adifferentiator. I just figured that there was a certain amount of this thats just rawtonnage.
  • 3. Q. What else?A. I worked at Deloitte, and became a partner there. Thats probably where a lot of mydevelopment occurred as a leader. There were simple things around teams. I developedteam skills because I started to engage in deliberate deflection of credit in anenvironment where it was all about credits. What I started realizing is that peopleappreciated when you played for the result, and not for your role on the team. So Ilearned there that giving credit away, deflecting credit, was an effective thing to do. Ithink I learned a lot of subtleties about teams and how you assemble teams.Q. Can you share some more insights on that?A. If you figure theres a karma pool out there floating around for credits, you have tostop playing for credits. I remember the day I realized that, and that I probably neveragain needed to involve scorekeeping in anything that I did.Q. What are some questions you ask when youre interviewing job candidates?A. I always ask questions about what words people would want on their tombstone. SoIll ask, "If your professional colleagues were going to put three words on yourtombstone — I mean literally three — what would those three words be?" And then thefollow-up question is always the one that surprises people. I will then ask, "Instead ofthree, whats the one word?"Ive tried to assemble teams with people who were grounded enough, and comfortableenough, to be able to have these kinds of conversations. When you find people whohave that sort of grounding, then it can be about the problem youre working to solvetogether, and not about the person.The leadership part for me now is so much more about game planning than about therole that I play in the game plan. I love the opportunity to take a role that I had and giveit away to another team member, and the team result is as good or better. I sort of seemyself over time as needing to play the game less, but Im becoming better at gettingeven better results by that combination of the right framework and the right people in theright positions.Q. Back to your tombstone question. Whats the one word for you?A. When I was young, the one word for me was "smart." I wanted it to be "leadership." Iwanted it to be "inspirational." But it was smart, and smart is an individual, lonely thing.When you get it on a tombstone, it feels like an island. Id like to say that its "wise"today, but I dont feel that Ive accomplished that yet.Q. The other two words?
  • 4. A. I do think they would be "inspirational," and "leader." Im proud that I can inspirepeople. I think there are a lot of people Ive worked with who have burned extra oil, but Idont think at the end of the day that inspiration is measured in terms of me getting morefrom them. I think its about a better result that we can all share in.Q. How did you make the transition to a big company like AT&T?A. So when I came to AT&T, I was standing on the shoulders of giants in the industry. Iwas going in to lead a group that, frankly, I wouldnt have been qualified enough to joinas a junior person.But let me start with the process I went through. I went to my direct reports and I said Iwant the 16 smartest people in the technology organization. Its not about titles. I dontwant any diplomats. I dont want any process people. And I called them the TechCouncil. I still have it today, almost four years later. I rotate people in and out. I gavethem several hours a month. Rules of the road are that youre not allowed to report backto anybody you work for — what is said in this room stays in this room.We then started with a list of all the things that were broken, stupid, idiotic, whats killinginnovation, from 16 really bright people who were willing and able to tell you the truth.And if you look at some of the things that weve done in our innovation program, a lot ofthe seeds were born in that room. And so we built a profile that started with the uglytruth, and thats kind of where we had to start from.When I came in, I was led to believe that we would have an innovation problem. And Ilearned very quickly that we did have an innovation problem, but we didnt have aninvention problem — and thats important.Q. Can you elaborate?A. If youre going to build a car and you have no blueprint, and you have no factory,thats a different place to start than if you go in your garage and you turn the lights onand theres everything that you need to build a Ferrari. It just isnt assembled. Thats avery different world. So I very quickly started to tell people that were close. We haveinventions. Most companies dont have that.So I realized that this was going to be much simpler than I originally thought walking in.You have all these brilliant people inventing. So I started just by telling folks thats animportant distinction. We have invention.Q. Parse the distinction for me a bit more.A. I would describe innovation as invention with a customer at the other end. When itbecomes a relationship thats consummated with a commercial transaction, then thatsan innovation. That adoption part of it was where we were not good. But the inventionwas there.
  • 5. So I did a diagnosis. The 16 folks who were with me gave me a million reasons toexplain why we couldnt innovate, its just simply impossible. So then we spent hoursand hours just breaking the problem down. Then we said, lets start an innovationprogram in this room. And we started our "crowdsourcing" plan in that room.Q. Tell me more about that.A. It starts with the fact that were too kind of an organization, so no one stands up andsays, "Your ideas are lousy." So we have this culture of really nice people, and itsnurturing. And theres a convenient place to blame if I dont want to tell you your ideaisnt any good — I just blame it on the people upstairs, and I say that they dont like it.So I said, lets start with some tabletop exercises. Each of us brought six ideas into theroom. So we had 96 ideas. Everybody presents their ideas, and then we voted on them,and chose the top two that were going to get funded. And then we knocked down everyhurdle to get those two ideas into their final form and into a funding process.Today, that idea has been expanded to an online site, with 104,000 people who are onthe innovation pipeline, as we call it. It generates thousands of ideas. Then people voteon them, like in social media — thumbs-up, thumbs-down — and its invisible whovoted. Why? Because, culturally, people dont want to call other people out. So then youmove to the collaboration phase, where you need comments, and comments are notwithout attribution. We thought about it, and decided that you have to be accountablewhen you use words.And so it doesnt feel like a big company anymore. Somebody might say that an idea isimpractical because it would be really expensive, but then someone says, wait a minute,what about trying this? So the group comes together and they solve the problem.What happens in that second phase is that you earn a certain amount of currency, fakecurrency, for playing the game. If you vote up and vote down, and youre pretty good —meaning that your down votes are on stuff that went down, and your up votes are onstuff that went up — you can earn more. Then you earn points for being a goodcollaborator.Then, at the end of every quarter, people "invest" in these ideas, and theres a stockvalue thats placed on them. Theyre placed on the potential leader board. And then onthe leader board, people invest in them and the ideas get voted up to the top. The top10 move on to the next phase for potential funding. People then pitch the ideas to anangel committee — we only give them 20 minutes — and then on the spot we decide tofund it or not. But this time its real money.So weve had more than 15,000 ideas generated. We have 45 of them we funded, withtens of millions of dollars that have been invested. Products are now hitting themarketplace. Its become so popular that executives are throwing problems out to the
  • 6. crowd, like instead of spending $1 million with a professional branding firm, theyll offera trip for two to Hawaii to the person who comes up with the best idea.If you look at this process, its designed around the idea of venture capital, because Ihad the experience coming out of that world on how things get funded. It also usessocial media to solve this perceived problem that theres some corporate machinery thatkills ideas. Now its your peers, and good ideas ultimately get funded with real money.At the end of every quarter there are prizes — real money — for the people who havemade the most contributions. You get a bonus for this, and you get a bonus for that. Wealready have about 50 patents that have come out of it. Its an amazing environment,and it was built by those 16 people in that room. It started as a paper exercise, and allwe did is we digitally removed real cultural barriers by thinking through how we can usetechnology to solve that problem.