Sunday, August 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Superpowers workers wish they had in the office

Getting ahead – or just getting by – in business is tough. In the Gotham that is Corporate America, evildoers run rampant and nice people with good ideas get beaten down all the time. Feeling besieged and powerless, the good workers of America start to do what’s only natural yet not at all productive: fantasize about having superpowers. At least, a select few did when prompted. Their chosen superpowers – the kind they imagined would help them succeed in business – ranged from funny to philosophical.

Some chose superpowers straight out of Marvel or DC Comics. Self-propelled flight would free up weary commuters and business travels from traffic jams and TSA lines. Invisibility would allow them to spy on the competition.

Mindreading in various forms – from a B.S. detector to a thought balloon generator – was a popular choice. “I believe my job is to help people get what they need and want, but sometimes they don’t communicate all that well or can’t verbalize exactly what they need,” says Peg Newman, a managing partner in the Salt Lake City office of Sanford Rose Associates, a global executive search firm. “If I could read minds, they would get exactly what they want every time.”

Because change and adaptability are important for long-term success in business, Michael E. Echols, executive vice president of Bellevue University’s Human Capital Lab in Nebraska, says he’d like a clear indicator when people aren’t receptive to change: “New ideas are often sabotaged by old beliefs. My superpower would be to be able to see, in a bubble above each person’s head, their true belief about the change initiatives under discussion.”

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  • Others wanted to read hearts as well as minds. “I’m naturally a giver and always look for the best in other people. While that has served me extremely well in business and in life, I sometimes get burned,” says Jillian Koeneman, founder of Freshlime digital marketing firm in Goshen, Ind. “I’d love the supernatural ability to look into a business colleague’s heart to know what their true intentions or motivations for doing something are. Granted, I may not like what I see, but at least I would be well-informed and could maneuver around it.”

    Negotiation expert Jim Camp says he wants not just for himself but for all of his Camp Negotiation Institute graduates to have an “instant slate cleaner for the brain” to turn off all the assumptions about the other party in a negotiation and to clear the mind of all emotion, including hope. “This superpower would enable the negotiator to gain the advantage,” he explains, “because while we are asking questions, learning everything we can about the other party and gaining valuable information we can use to show the other party that we offer the best solution to their problem, the other party is feeling overconfident and spilling the beans, and perhaps feeling superior or cagey. The party ruled by emotions and assumptions always loses.”

    Speaking of losses, wouldn’t it be handy in business and life to identify a losing proposition? Life and business strategist Lorin Beller wants to equip her fellow entrepreneurs with a superpower that tells them whether to keep pushing to reach a goal or let it go. “This is always a personal decision that only we can make, but if we had a superpower that allowed us to know that our efforts will pay off, or not, this would change everything,” she says.

    Taking a practical approach, Chris Szypryngel rejects the idea of drawing on superpowers when there are so many real powers available to the average worker looking to get ahead or address a specific problem. “Invisibility” to management is not a superpower but a real career hindrance for some employees, Szypryngel points out, but they can make management take notice simply by exploiting the power of perception available to us all. “How people perceive your performance can be very different from your actual work. If you arrive to work before your supervisor does and always stay after he or she leaves, the perception may be that you are a go-getter or hard worker, even if your performance is sub-par,” says Szypryngel, academic program manager of business and co-director of undergraduate business at Post University’s Malcolm Baldrige School of Business in Waterbury, Conn. “Hey, you’re getting noticed, and that’s usually a good thing. However, these perceptions can fade over time. The good news is that these perceptions can also buy you time” to do what it takes to develop your skills and improve your performance so perception matches reality.

    © CTW Features

    Dawn Klingensmith CTW Features