Archive for the 'Leadership Strategy' Category

Mind Your Assumptions

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

I just returned from a very educational and interesting trip to Eastern Europe during which we had local guides explain each stop along a river cruise. We were taught about the history, culture, and current conditions of each locality.

During one presentation, our guide told us something that really struck me as it relates to my work as a leadership development consultant. He told us that often visitors think of the citizens as unfriendly and impolite because they will not be willing to give directions or will be unresponsive to a comment or question. In fact, we were told, they are embarrassed about their poor English. In another lecture, we were informed that what would appear to be conniving or manipulative behavior is the adaptation many people have made after years of Communist occupation during which survival skills and distrust took precedence over grace and openness.

How often do we, at work or in our communities interpret and make judgments about our colleagues or neighbors based on our own assumptions and interpretations about behaviors? A direct report is late to meetings? Well you surmise that he is disrespectful of others’ time or is disorganized. A colleague never takes you up on going out after work for a drink? She must be unfriendly..or not like you. That new guy down the hall never shakes hands? He must be a snob or have no manners.

Well, maybe the late person is overscheduled and a perfectionist who needs to prepare for meetings, or does not realize that lateness is not acceptable in your company culture. Maybe the unsociable employee has a sick relative or new baby at home. And maybe the unfriendly new employee has a health or religious reason not to shake hands.

International travel is a great reminder of how we need to be more sensitive and mindful at home: Not everyone thinks like we do!

Your Career Board of Directors

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

As you begin to take a more focused, strategic and planned and life-long contact development and management approach, you will want to build a Board of Directors in the same way you would if you were a business entity. The idea of a Board of Directors is intended to expand your thinking beyond contacting people only for the purpose of learning about openings and to move beyond resume roulette (described in “Leave Happy”). Your Board is an ongoing and vital entity involving “giving and getting” support and ideas so that you build mutual interest and loyalty, and maintain visibility and connection during your work life.

There are several ways to organize your contacts so that you can have direct and meaningful conversations. Here is a starter for your planning and thinking.

Mentors: People who are interested in your career and may have an investment in your success. These may be former bosses or professors or even family members who can guide, advise or direct you as you think through your options. They can often give you feedback on your style or goals.

Connectors: People who know others in your field that you would want to tap into either to be known in general or who can help you get to people whom you want to know. This group often is comprised of consultants, service providers such as accountants, attorneys, educators, financial advisors, real estate salespeople, doctors who may not know of or have a position, but may know others who may. Or they may be able to lead you to helpful informants (below)

Informants: People who can help you research, will lead you to interesting people or ideas, who are savvy about your field. Informants like to get information as well as share it. Social media can expand your database of informants. Industry leaders are often among the best informants…articles, blogs, Linkedin groups and Twitter.

Colleagues: People with whom you you currently work or have worked can be wonderful sources for career advice and leads internally or externally, as they know your value and sometimes have been tapped for positions or have heard of an opening.

Job sources: employer staffing professionals, search professionals, social media groups, company/organization web sites have names of people you may want to note and cultivate through your networking.

Potential business partners/future clients: You may want to consider project work or becoming a free lancer/consultant during your career, or even start your own organization. So including entrepreneurs, funding sources, business leaders, service buyers.

Note: Strategy, persistence and record keeping and follow up are critical to a strong contact management process. These categories will help you think about how you want to approach and nurture your relationships.

Please write to me through my website if you would like to receive a contact management spread sheet.

Buried by Career Anachronisms?

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Have you ever, in the process of doing a mundane task, gotten a sudden blast of insight?

The other day I decided to clean out the draw in my night table. It had become a catch all for anything I thought I might need in the middle of the night, anything I didn’t know what to do with, and a repository for anything I needed to tidy up in the face of company.

I found 6 bookmarks.

I read my tablet almost exclusively now. No more heavy, dust collecting, guilt producing magazines and books piled high on my night stand and desk. I used to love books. Still do, but in a different form. Don’t need bookmarks though!

Got me thinking: What else am I hanging on to that no longer has a use? What notions, activities or belongings am I hanging on to?

And then I started thinking about how that relates to my practice as a career management consultant. My clients are weighed down by expectations and disappointments based on career “bookmarks”. We are still holding on to a belief that if we just do more of what used to work, we will succeed as in the past. Not true!

Here are just a few changes :

• Career ladders and five year plans replaced by flexible, opportunistic, synchronistic, risky moves, portfolio careers, and detours
• Standard resumes produced on heavy stock, sent to recruiters and focused on past achievements now are trumped by a compelling on line identity, crisp branding and a relevant unique narrative
• A multitude of face to face, long lunch information meetings converting to quick connections in Twitter and LinkedIn, IM’s, emails and Skype calls.
• A career path of progressive positions and secure employment giving way to entrepreneurial thinking
• Waiting for the “right opportunity” to be presented versus creating your next gig based on marketplace needs

If you are burdened by a career challenge and keep looking in that drawer full of outdated, outmoded and useless tools, replace them with some of these up to date alternatives.

Transitional Life

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

The “jobs report” is optimistic. Career Coaches are experiencing a surge in optimism about the “market” and suddenly clients who were inactive, are focusing on networking, reinventing themselves and seeking out opportunities. Focus on career seems to ebb and flow for most. Episodic endeavors responding to external forces generally result in dissatisfying outcomes.
From my perspective, we are all, always in transition. Believing that there is such a thing as career security is an ideal now proven groundless. Most people tend to focus on doing their work rather than designing their careers….until there is a disappointment, an unexpected or unplanned change or they are in trouble. As a career management professional, I see a great opportunity to assist others in being resilient, prepared for and excited about transition whether planned or thrust upon them. It is not so much the terminology (change, transition, downsized, re-sized, retired, resigned) as it is one’s attitude about career shifts.
If you, as many, like to feel a sense of professional control and purpose, begin to focus on the habit of creating and nurturing contacts, being aware of your field beyond your current job, contributing and creating visibility for your expertise and investigating what organizations and people are doing ground breaking, interesting, exciting things. Those who transition by choice and with a goal tend to be more positive in communicating and acting. So, creating options, seeing possibilities, expressing sincere interest in what’s next are what make transitions exciting.

Unexpected Benefits

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Recently, due to a Blackberry glitch, my contacts in my Outlook database started to duplicate….then the duplicates duplicated.  Of course, my handheld device shut down and had to be replaced.  In the course of repairing the damage, I had to manually go through and delete all the duplications.  A daunting and very annoying task!

As I got into a rhythm, however, I realized how much I was enjoying seeing all those names of people with whom I have had a relationship over the years.  Each entry brought back memories of intimacies shared, problems solved, relationships built and nurtured.  I found myself reminiscing about experiences long forgotten.  And, of course, I found myself reaching out and re-acquainting with people whom I had lost track of.

Occurring at year’s end, my technological snafu became a gift.  I end 2011 with the recognition of being connected to wonderful people, having contributed to others’ lives in meaningful ways, and having a support system of caring and interesting friends and relatives.

Wishing you a loving, peaceful and purposeful 2012

Feedback Follow Up

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

For many years I have been enchanted by the reactions my clients have when receiving employee survey or 360 Degree Leadership Survey or Interview results. And what really impresses me is that, once aware of the small things they do that make a big difference in terms of how they are perceived and how those perceptions affect business results, they take a very mature, focused and intense approach to fixing what does not work and building on what does.

Almost every feedback discussion focuses on that catch-all phrase: communication style. This is such an unexplored and undefined area that it is no wonder that executives and leaders are often blindsided when they learn how they are misunderstood, how much time is wasted in chatter, confusion and complaints. Once they pay attention to the impact of how and what they say, and then become as strategic in communicating to staff and colleagues as they are to customers, amazing things happen. Formally frustrated, resistant or confused folks are engaged, aligned and ready to perform. It all starts with understanding your most important audience: your people.

The best way to begin is for you to get some critical information that underlies the feedback you have received. You can use the data or themes of your recent evaluations as a basis for one-on-one conversations as follows:

  1. Schedule individual meetings in a neutral and private place.
  2. Clarify that the purpose of the meeting is for you to better understand more specifically what is going well and what can improve based on the feedback you have received.
  3. Make sure the individual with whom you are meeting understands that this meeting is intended to benefit the whole organization and you are speaking with a number of people.
  4. Ask open ended questions, focusing on “what” and “how” rather than “why” and “who”.
  5. Relax and listen. If you disagree, stay open and focused on what you are being told…even if it makes you uncomfortable or defensive. Paraphrase and confirm and expand what you hear…seek to understand not argue.
  6. Ask for examples to clarify broad generalizations. “Tell me more” can expand the conversation.
  7. Express your appreciation and indicate that there will be follow up.
  8. Then, create and execute an action plan. Verify it with those with whom you meet to make sure you are on track and enlist their support.
  9. Plan to follow up at three month intervals to assure continued attention to the plan and to enlist additional information that will enhance your progress and instill trust in your attention to development.

Being Prepared

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Hurricane Irene has been like a personality style test:

• Some avoided thinking about it
• Some prepared and organized way in advance
• Some evacuated; some stayed put
• Some worried themselves into paralysis
• Some reached out to others offering a place to sleep, volunteering in shelters, checking on neighbors
• Some led solutions
• Some dug into work
• Some left the office early
• Some watched the news constantly
• Some wrote on Face Book
• Some planned a “hurrica-tion”

Consider the saying: “ how you do one thing is how you do everything.”

What can you learn from your reaction? Faced with something totally beyond your control, how do you respond? Is your personal style and your professional style the same? Do certain circumstances put you at your best? At your worse? Were you a leader or a follower?

In Sunday’s “Corner Office” article in the NY Times,, Andy Lansing, president and chief executive of Levy Restaurants defines a leader as the person you would go to when all hell breaks loose. He also looks for a quality he calls “nice” in hiring and evaluating his organization. In an era when it is all about results, innovation and productivity, we can often look to how influential we can be not just day to day, but when leaders are really needed to marshal optimism, collective action and civility.

So, taking these insights back to your workplace, what can you surmise  from what you saw and did over the weekend?

Make it a great day!

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Today in my email box I received three small thank you notes from clients, and two from professional colleagues.

It made my day!

Got me thinking as well: How rare and the gracious a written “thank you” has become today.

When you take a few minutes to write your appreciation for a meeting, a meal, a piece of advice, or a favor you are increasing your endorphins and those of the recipient. And, you probably encourage more help, caring and attention in the future. A thank you note really does not take much time but it does require attention and discipline to execute. The more specific you can be about what was appreciated, the more effective your communication becomes.

Our hectic days can become overpowered by annoyances, little jabs to our sense of wellbeing, rushing, pressures and uncivil interactions.

What do you focus on?

If you look for opportunities to show gratitude, you will increase your perception of generosity, caring and friendship.

During a typical busy day, do you note others’ kindness?

Start a “showing appreciation” project. You may be surprised at how it makes your day!

New Job….New Boss

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Well, you have done it: landed that terrific new position. And here is where the work begins!

A wonderful career writer, Tom Jackson, said: “ A job is something you do, not something you get.” Your job search may be over, and your on-boarding is just beginning.

And, with it, all of your self-management, relationship nurturing, thoughtful messaging and marketing skills that you honed during the interview process will be called upon even more. Just as you mapped out a search campaign, prepared for interviews, followed up, did your research, and conducted thorough due diligence while pursuing your new position, you will need to position yourself to be effective with your new boss, colleagues and reports from the very first day.
Some things to consider:

  • Contract with Your Boss: Set priorities based on how s/he defines success. If you don’t know clearly what they are, ask.
  • Absorb Before Acting: Understand the culture, the chain of command (formal and informal), the potential and the resistances before taking action….especially if you were brought in to be a change agent.
  • Align Yourself Cautiously: Find out who the influencers, informers, historians, insiders and outsiders are before forging allies or defining adversaries.
  • Ask Many, Many Questions: Learn how decisions really get made and by whom, find out whose success depends on you, discern the most immediate concerns, and whether the culture and stakeholders will support your vision/mission.
  • Perform a Staff SWOT: Interview and assess key players and all of your staff members individually to better understand their expectations, needs, issues, conflicts, goals, frustrations, dreams.
  • Plan a Few Early Wins: Engage in information gathering, feedback, float pilots and small projects to measure the reaction to small, incremental changes. Build on achievement and successes and acknowledge generously. Recognize and shape desired behaviors, business initiatives, and ideas.
  • Attend to Style: Focus on feedback and self-awareness…adapt style to context. Balance drive with an empathy for the challenges change and transition create. Be accessible, steady and inspirational.
  • Think, Plan and Act Forward: Avoid the tendency to compare your new home to the one you just left.

Transition Tips from a Real Job Seeker

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

This month, one of my successful career management clients, a Senior Human Resources professional, offered to share her insights gained through her own transition experience

Lessons from a Transition

Let’s call it for what it is….being in transition is a stressful experience that most people wouldn’t voluntarily choose. I now see a happy ending to my transition on the horizon. Here are a few lessons I learned along the way that may help you or those you know.

Cultivate a support network. I am fortunate that over the years I developed relationships with some amazing people. Without realizing it, I found myself creating my own board of directors. Some in my network were strategic advisors, while others were there to catch me at the end of a disappointing day. Having a diverse network enabled me to get what I needed without burning out a few people. I learned how much people cared about me.

Avoid toxic people. As strong as my network is, I learned that some were unable to support me in the way I needed. They either couldn’t understand the situation, felt threatened emotionally, or tried to make the story of why their career hasn’t progressed my story. After realizing that I didn’t feel better after connecting with them, I lessened my contact and learned how to protect myself when they did reach out.

Have a Plan B, C and D. Most people go on an interview with the outcome of securing the position, me included. When it doesn’t happen, you can be left disillusioned. Having several irons in the fire can help refocus you on what’s next. It enabled me to shake the dust off my shoes and move on to the next conversation…which leads me to…

Lower your expectations. I found myself in a situation where an influential manager was interested in meeting with me and suggested I chat with two of her direct reports first. One of her directs served up a real need on her team and indicated that she wanted to create a role….which matched my background perfectly. I went into my meeting with the influential manager with high expectations, only to have them dashed in the first 10 minutes when she told me she could not increase her headcount. I was devastated. What I took away was that I need to approach each discussion as an opportunity to learn information vs. being the one where I’ll be offered a job. It makes life easier and puts me in the position of being open to ideas vs. disappointed. Adopting this perspective sooner would have saved me pain.

Be an entrepreneur. Prior to my transition, I, like many others, had far too much work to do. Without having a defined role with a steady flow of work attached to it, I learned how to capitalize on my colleagues being overworked. Identifying a problem that was recognized and no one had the bandwidth to tackle was a winning strategy. Managers continued to view me as someone who makes a difference and kept a positive attitude while in a difficult situation.

If you are in transition now or experienced one recently, take time to consider what you learned. Likely you will come to know consciously that are stronger and smarter than you ever thought you were. For now, I hope that you found my reflections helpful. I wish you a happy ending.