What to do if People know your Strategy

You’ve put together a great strategy, and it has worked multiple times. Eventually, people start to figure out what you are doing and try to stop it. What should you do then? Well, a lot of it depends on the type of game, but below are some general strategies. They aren’t in order, so it is a bulleted list, instead of a numbered list.

  • Think through what you would do to combat your strategy, then figure out how to stop that
  • Don’t gloat over your victories
  • Change up your strategy
  • Change games

Beating yourself

Think carefully about your strategy. Where are its weak points? How would you go about beating it? Once you figure that out, you can expect your opponents to figure it out too. So, how do you beat that strategy?

This could be an infinitely iterative process as you and he keep figuring out how to beat the next strategy, but that is part of the fun. Unless there is a strictly dominant strategy, there is always something else you can try.

monster-chasing-shark

Victory Dances

When I was home from college with my siblings, I got into the bad habit of singing a victory song after I won. It would change, but it was usually something from Star Wars or Super Smash Bros

This was really annoying. I apologize if you had to live through those days. I received payback for this when we played Pit. Everyone kept trading me the bear and holding onto cards I needed. When you are a bad winner, it comes back to haunt you. (Side note, the only strategy you can do when it gets like this, is to let people cool down. It just takes time.)

Change up your Strategy

Another method that can help is to adjust your strategy. You may love to play the same way each time, but if you change up just a little, it can keep people from figuring out exactly what you are going to do.

Change Games

Often, it helps to just change games. Playing different games will also help you so that people don’t get tired of playing games with you. I often like to play people’s favorite games, that way, they have fun and I get to match wits in the game they are most competent at.

What else have you done that helps when people figure out your strategy?

Career Strategy 6: Effective Interviewing

Great Job! Your Job Search Strategy is paying off. You’ve been invited for an in-person interview. Now, here is where you have to really shine. At this point, they want you. The job is there for the taking. To successfully cross this finish line, you need a strategy. Here is what I recommend:

  1. Prepare sufficiently beforehand
  2. Show confidence
  3. Be your best self
  4. Maintain honesty
  5. Tell great, short stories
  6. Ask real questions
  7. Show your interest
  8. Determine cultural fit

Preparation

The recruiter will often send you a list of who you will be meeting with. Take the time to do research on the people, the company, and the position. When you spoke with the recruiter previously, you should have received a solid understanding of how the position fits in the company. You can learn about the company through the website, the news, or by reaching out directly to people within the company. You can find information about the people on LinkedIn.

I like to write up specific questions for each of those people and say their names over and over in my head so that when I meet them, I am ready to have engaging conversations.

Additionally, you should have a great answer prepared for all the standard interview questions. They may try to surprise you with something unexpected, but most questions follow the standard list.

Confidence

There is a difference between confidence and cockiness. You don’t want to be the guy who assumes he has the job and speaks down to people he meets with. You do want to be the person who smiles, shakes hands, and carries on an intelligent conversation without stumbling over his words.

Stand up straight, look people in the eye, and smile.

Be your Best Self

You need to be yourself, but you want to be your best self. Let your personality shine through, but if you have traits that rub people the wrong way, do what you can to keep those in check. Ask a friend or family member what you do that can irritate people, and they will be happy to share it with you.

Honesty

Don’t make up stories or lie about your qualifications. I know managers whose number one criterion for hiring people is whether they can be trusted. People can tell if you are making things up, and it will get you a pass right out the door.

Tell great, short stories

Some questions lead you to tell a great true story. We as humans love stories. Take your answers to the above standard questions and add in a story when you overcame hardships, were successful at your job, or helped someone out.

Keep it short, but try to get them to feel something; success, overcoming odds, compassion. These are all great elements for a good story.

Ask Real Questions

In your planning beforehand, write out questions that you want to understand before you join the company. Here are some good ones:

  1. I like what I have seen so far about the team, what is your vision for where it is going?
  2. How does this job fit into the bigger picture for the company?
  3. How can I be successful quickly at this job? What types of people have succeeded here?
  4. Is there anything you wish you knew before you started here that would have helped you?

Tailor it to the interviewer. Bring up things from earlier in the conversation and try to dig a little deeper into it. (EX: I like your vision. How does my role fit into it?)

You don’t have to wait until the end of the interview to ask questions. It should feel like a natural discussion where you are going back and forth and building rapport. (Some companies require a canned list of interview questions so you may have to hold your questions.)

Show Genuine Interest

Throughout the interview, show interest in the position. Interviewing is like dating. The hiring manager doesn’t want to commit to you if they feel like you aren’t even interested in the position. Say “Wow, this looks like a great position. I’m really excited about this opportunity.”

As the interview ends, you can even say, “I would love working here, and I feel like I’m a great fit. I look forward to continuing the conversation.”

Determine your Cultural Fit

When you leave the interview, think back on your time with them.

  • Did you like the people you spoke with?
  • Would you be able to work well with these people?
  • Does the position seem like it has growth potential?
  • Does your manager care about the success of their team?

The role may not have everything you want, and that is ok. You want to go into the role with full knowledge of what to expect.

Good luck on your interviewing! Let me know how it goes.

Why We Play Games

On my first date with my wife, we played games together. It was just me and her, and the competition was fierce. Afterward, I went back to my roommates and told them how awesome the date was and how I really wanted to take her out again. Mallory went back to her roommates and said, “Well, we didn’t really talk very much.”

According to the American Psychological Association, there are three intrinsic needs that drive behavior; Competency, Autonomy, and Relatedness. People play games because games meet these needs in multiple ways. Here are my thoughts, please share if you have others.

Competency

  1. To develop our minds
  2. To learn new things
  3. To feel a sense of accomplishment

Autonomy

  1. To make choices without lasting consequences
  2. To feel a sense of ownership
  3. To participate in creating.

Relatedness

  1. To build relationships
  2. To establish dominance
  3. To match wits

And lastly, FOR FUN!

Competency

All of us have a need to feel like we are competent in something. Games are a very quick way to feel competence. When I play games, I can engage my mind in something that is interesting to think about. I’m able to draw connections between things that I hadn’t seen before.

I learn things while I play, and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I finish that last route or get rid of my last card. Think about the game you like best. Does it give you a sense of accomplishment, or develop your mind?

Autonomy

You have the capacity to accomplish great things. Your choices have lasting consequences, for good or ill. Playing games gives you a place where you can try things out, make choices, with immediate consequences. You are the only person that gets to make the choice, but if it doesn’t go well, it isn’t permanent; you are able to try again, immediately.

Games give you a sense of ownership. You become the character in your game, or you feel ownership of the properties and things that you build. In Carcassonne, you lay your tile and place your guy in the city, and you own it. It is yours to do with as you wish. This is also the reason why people get so mad when you sneak into their city.

Some games, (eg: Blokus) allow you to create. You feel empowered as you lay your pieces and create your world. This is also why Lego’s are so successful. You are creating something new that no one else has created before.

Relatedness

The last intrinsic need that games meet is the desire to feel connections with other people. Psychologists call this relatedness. Games are great for building relationships. You feel closer to people when you spend time doing fun things together.

The fun part of competition is matching wits with like-minded people. Losing and winning, make me feel closer to the other people. If I won every time, I wouldn’t feel like I was being challenged, and would try to play with someone who can match wits with me. (That is one reason why my wife is so great. She beats me all the time.)

 

In the end, playing games is fun. How have games helped you to meet your intrinsic needs?

Career Strategy 5: Protecting your Personal Brand

Businesses often talk about protecting their brand. If you ask someone at Apple, they are very aware of how their company is perceived. There are entire teams focused solely on making their online presence clean, clear, and awesome.

I want to talk about your personal brand. If someone mentions you within your company, what comes to people’s minds? How are you perceived by your peers in your job? How does your manager, and other managers throughout the company, see you?

This is your brand; this is who you are to others.

How to create and manage your brand:

  1. Decide how you want to be perceived
  2. Develop and sell your brand
  3. Monitor your brand within your company
  4. Be willing to adapt your brand as you change and grow

Personal Perception

How do you want people to see you? I posted earlier about how to decide who you want to be. As part of the exercise, you listed the things you like and are good at. This is a good start for what you want your brand to be. You get to decide in part how others perceive you, so figure out what that is. This could also be your elevator pitch.

I’ll give you mine as an example:

“I am an expert in modeling and simulation of complex systems. My supply chain experience and technical capabilities help me to understand analytical jargon, but my confidence and understanding nature aid me in communicating complex technical problems to leaders in a way that is easy to understand. I am the go-to person for any modeling or data questions in my organization.”

Ok, I may sound a little geeky from the description. I did throw in the confidence and understanding nature to show that I have a softer side. It doesn’t take away the geekiness, but that is part of my brand. I wouldn’t be me without it.

Develop and Sell your Brand

Now that you know who you are, how do you communicate that to other people? Start with doing great work. If you want people to know you as the person they can always count on to complete your tasks quickly, do just that. People form perceptions about you quickly, but you can guide them to perceive you the way you want to be seen.

While using your actions to create your brand you can smooth things along by planting thoughts through quick conversations and one-liners. Say things like:

  • “That is what I’m best at.”
  • “Thanks for the opportunity, this is really interesting work.”
  • “Wow, how did you know that I was the right person to talk to about this.”

You can and should have a conversation with your manager to see how you are perceived and to tell them the things you are best at. People will ask them about you; they can be your best brand protector, or a fatal brand destroyer, use them for the former.

Build relationships with your peers, and leverage them to communicate your brand. If the people closest to you believe your brand, others will too.

Monitoring your Brand

Now that you have started communicating and proving your brand, you have to be aware of it at all times. Meet with people often, especially those outside your immediate team.

Once you are comfortable with people, you can ask them how you are perceived. Ask questions about what they think are your strengths and weaknesses. Most people will soften their feedback, but you can tell based on how they talk about you what their feelings are.

If it isn’t great, or it isn’t the message you want to hear, it is your job to change it. This can be difficult, but you can say something like, “That is great feedback. I’m really working on developing my (fill in the blank with the skill you are trying to communicate). Do you have any advice on how to go about it?” This does two things: first, it gets them thinking about you in terms of that skill; second, it may lead to opportunities for you to prove yourself.

Make sure to thank people for their time. It is also customary to buy people lunch or coffee when you have these conversations.

Be willing to Adapt

If you consistently hear from people that your best skill is something that isn’t in your brand. Take a deep breath and look at yourself from their perspective. Maybe you should add that skill to your brand. If it isn’t something that you like, focus your efforts at work on the areas you do want to shine through.

You may be the best note taker in the company, but if you don’t want to be stuck as the note taker, branch out and work to prove your other skills.

You have many awesome skills. Do what needs to be done to be seen.

 

What other ideas have you tried to build your brand?

 

Rock, Paper, Scissors Strategy

Rock, Scissors, Paper feels like a simple game of luck. This is great, because most of your opponents will feel the same way. Although you can’t always win, there is a way to increase your chances of winning. It is all about Psychology.

When I was younger I often lost the first play. It was frustrating because my winning probabilities were way worse than 50%. So, I started watching what people did. Here is what I found.

  1. Plant suggestions in their mind
  2. Randomize if you win
  3. Choose the odd one if you lose

Psychology of first play

Growing up, I called this game, “Rock, Scissors, Paper” but most people call it “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. When I didn’t have time to think about what to play, I would play paper, and they would play scissors.

What was happening here? Our brains have two parts, the thinking part and the feeling part. When you use logic and reason, the thinking part is active and we logically choose what to do. This is much more slow and methodological. The thinking brain needs time to process.

That is why we have a feeling brain. The feeling brain reacts quickly to stimuli and makes quick decisions or knee-jerk reactions.

In Rock, Scissors, Paper you can trigger the feeling brain by doing the following.

  • Say to your opponent, “What do you call this game?”
  • They will say “Rock, Paper, Scissors”
  • You then quickly start the game.
  • They will automatically play Scissors because that is what their feeling brain is thinking.
  • You should play rock.

This strategy works more than 80% of the time! (unless they read this blog, then they will be expecting it, then you have to go back to random play)

Randomize when you win

Some Cornell researchers found that people often play the same thing if they win, and play the next down the line if they lose. (if they lose with Rock, they play Paper, Lose with Paper, play Scissors, etc).

So if you win with Rock, play Paper more often, but don’t get predictable. Randomization is key because if you follow a pattern, they will figure it out.

Switch if you lose

If the other player isn’t following this blog, then they will tend to play the winning strategy again. In that case you should  play the odd one. (the one no one played last time.)  But, if they are following the recommended strategy above. You will often tie.

Once again, randomizing is key.

 

Or, if you are like this guy. Always play rock.

picture-to-win-rps

Try it out and let me know how it works!

Career Strategy 4: How to Get a Job at …

Every year the list of top companies to work for comes out. You may read about their benefits or their culture, and think to yourself, “I would be a great fit for that company.” You go and research. The more you learn, the more you want to work there.

How do you actually get a job at one of those companies? Well, let me tell you.

  1. Gather information
  2. Prepare for success
  3. Reach out to many people in a positive way
  4. Take employees to lunch
  5. Land the job
  6. Make the leap of faith

Gather information

Do as much research as you can about the company, the culture, and the employees. You already know what your skills are, so look through the company’s job site and find jobs that you would fit into. Make a list of all possible positions. It could take you some time to map the structure of the organization.

Write down any questions you have, and come up with ideas to improve the company in the areas that you are targeting.

Prepare for Success

Look at the roles that you would be the best fit for. Do you have the right skills? If there are huge gaps on your resume, you need to fill those gaps. Working in your dream job at your dream company will take some work, but is worth it. Work with your current manager to add requirements to your job that will give you those skills.

Reach Out

As you work on those skills, go onto LinkedIn and find people who have that role, or are on similar teams to that role. Reach out to them, but not in a generic way. People working at these companies get emails all of the time asking to connect. They only respond if the request comes in a way that is relatable, personal, and applicable.

Reach out with a specific purpose in mind that isn’t, “can you give me a job.” They know that you want a job, but you need to prove to them that you are the person that they want in their organization. You do this by spending time with people. They are much more likely to respond to an offer to take them to lunch than a blind resume blast. (I actually wouldn’t send my resume until they specifically ask for it or at least until the dialogue has progressed)

Your note could look something like this. “Hi Brandon, I am impressed by your background in Supply Chain, particularly how your analytics skillset has helped you in your career. I’m going to be in Portland in September. Can I take you out to lunch for an hour on Tuesday, September 25th? I’d like your advice on how to leverage my engineering expertise in the supply chain world”

Employee Lunch

When you do actually meet, do what you said you would do (ask about engineering in supply chain, end the lunch after the hour, etc). You are still in the relationship building and information gathering stage. You could figure out what skills they value in their employees, or what are pain points that the company has and is trying to fix. This will all help you to understand the company and to help brand yourself for their needs.

As the meeting is ending ask them if there is anyone else that they think would be valuable for you to talk to. Specifically, if there are any questions that they didn’t know the answer to, use that as a way to connect to someone else.

If you won’t be in the area, try to set up a call. If you go this route, send them the questions you are trying to answer beforehand so that they know you have thought about it, and it won’t waste their time.

Landing a Job

As a follow-up, thank them for their time. If you do have the skills, you are a good fit, and you have built some rapport, then find the specific job and say something like: “Thank you for taking the time to meet with me again…I was looking at your job search site and found a role that I feel I would be a great fit for. Would you be willing to direct me to the right person to apply for this position?”

They may not help you, but if you proved yourself in the conversation they will at least pass your resume along. If they really like you, they will go out of their way to help you get into the company.

If it doesn’t work with this person, don’t give up. Keep connecting with people until you find someone that you connect well with. (I have a friend who reached out to 20 people in the company before finding someone who really wanted to help them. It may have taken those 19 people for him to brand himself well enough for that 20th person).

Once the interview process starts, follow the advice found everywhere on effective interviews.

Making the Leap

In the end, I’m hoping you get an offer. It may not always be your dream job, but be willing to take a leap of faith to get into the company. Most of these top 100 places to work companies got to that position because they help their people to do the things they like to do. Once you are in, you can work your way over to your dream job.

Even if this takes years of work, you will be happier for doing it, and the journey itself will develop you as a person.

Good luck out there!

 

Risk Strategy

Aww, the game of Risk. The perfect game for teenagers to gather together, roll some dice, and conquer the world. Unfortunately, if you don’t play it right, you could be out sleeping on the couch.

My dad had the youth from church over to play this game one night, and the first person out did just that. My siblings and I were a little younger, so we went and got a bunch of toys, (picture My Little Ponies) and carefully laid them out on the boy, trying not to wake him up. We were successful and ended up with some great pictures.

If you don’t want to be out in the cold, follow the strategies below.

  1. Capture a continent and control it early
  2. Always take one country to collect cards
  3. Hold onto cards as long as possible
  4. Form alliances with specific conditions and terminations
  5. Eliminate the weak to collect their cards
  6. Don’t spread thin, unless you can eliminate someone
  7. Don’t play the game again until people have forgotten your victory

Capturing a Continent

Early in the game, you need to control a continent to gather your troops. The easiest to control in order are; Australia, South America, and Africa. Those should be your early targets. Australia is good, but you can get stuck there. Africa is great, but you really need an alliance to protect your backside.

“Never get involved in a land war in Asia..”land-war-in-asia

Card Collection

Every single turn, you must take a country. The cards are so powerful in this game. Early on, your whole purpose is to survive and gather armies until the cards become more powerful.

This also means that you want to hold onto your cards as long as possible. Every time someone else plays cards, the value of the cards increases. Sometimes you are forced to play, but unless you can really do some damage, you want to wait and build up your armies.

Alliances

Alliances are key to winning here. Unless you want to create ill will by backstabbing your buddies, (only works once) you need to set up specific conditions for your treaties. For example. You could say, “I promise I won’t attack you in South America this turn, if you promise not to attack me in Africa on your turn.”

Most people won’t back out of a treaty like this because it will kill their in game credibility. You can almost guarantee that your back will be covered. If they do back out, you can use it as leverage to get someone else to work with you to eliminate them.

This is also to your advantage because you aren’t breaking any treaties yourself.

Eliminate the Weak

Use your alliances to eliminate the weak. Often, you can get someone else to help you to eliminate someone. You may have to let them do the finishing moves to get the cards, but you may be able to negotiate for it.

Keep your Armies Strong

Be careful about spreading thin early on. Sometimes it is worth the risk to eliminate someone, (this is a great time to make a one turn alliance) to get their cards, but try to cover your back as much as you can. This can be taken to the extreme. If you get trapped in Australia, you won’t be the first out, but you won’t end up winning the game in the end.

Take the Victory, and Run

Once you win, don’t play Risk again for awhile. Everyone remembers that you won, and they will make sure you pay for it the next time you play.

After everything you can control, sometimes they just get lucky, and you have to live with it.

Anyone have any other advice? I feel like this game isn’t played as much anymore, but it used to be a regular at many tables.