Archive for the 'Executive Coaching' Category


Monday, July 8th, 2013

I just read in the NY Times that they will be having a “workologist” column starting in August.

Having been in the career management profession for over 30 years, I found this new term fascinating.

I will never forget one of the first networking meetings I attended after grad school. It was for the Association for Training and Development (ASTD). As we went around the room introducing ourselves, many gave “slash” titles: such as  “trainer/consultant/career advisor”, or “recruiter/staffing specialist”, or “career counselor/outplacement specialist”. Even now, at professional meetings and in LinkedIn profiles we have multiple professional identifiers.

And historically, we have adapted our professional titles to the needs of the marketplace.  In the early 1900’s we called ourselves vocational counselors. By the 1970’s we became career guidance counselors. And with the inception and growth of the outplacement and talent management industries we have evolved to career/talent management consultants/executive coaches/ career advisors/ career transition guides….quite a mouthful for an “elevator speech”.

I wonder if all of these various identities for our profession confuse people.
Recently, I have experimented with shorter and more accessible ways to answer the casual question: “what do you do,” mainly because I am tired of being asked to clarify with either of these two options: “Oh, are you a head hunter?” or, “Are you a Life-Coach?”

So, maybe we should now try “workologist”…pretty catchy term and might lead to some very interesting discussions!

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 Crisis Style

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

November’s destruction and disruption of an unexpectedly devastating storm in the Northeast gave us all a chance to test out our resilience, survival methods and coping skill. Reflecting on your own reactions and observations of others can be instructive.

In conversations with clients who shared their experiences and concerns with me, I was struck by the very broad spectrum of reactions….some unique to the severity of disruption and loss and some more representative of stylistic differences and habits build on previous life experiences. Many, who survived other devastating crises, compared Sandy with a job loss, 9/11, loss of loved ones, a broken relationship, loss of personal belongings. They found it helpful to look for commonalities in these past reactions and actions to other events to flex emotional muscles needed to deal with the present and future.Remembering strength, choices and support systems from formerly survived crises adds perspective and action to the present.

There appeared to be several “learning moments” around crisis management: focusing on what you can be grateful for, demonstrating compassion and reaching out to help others, setting realistic priorities and expectations, focusing on small things that can make a difference rather than what we cannot change or fix.

Hopefully, Sandy is behind you or you are at least in the process of repair and recovery. Regardless, you can learn from your responses and inform your future choices.

Here are some questions you might ask yourself:

1. If you were in the potential storm path, what constituted your decision to stay/evacuate?
2. If you were a proximate observer, but unaffected personally, what actions did you take, if any?
3. In a similar future crisis, what would you do the same? Differently?
4. What enabled you to recover your sense of “normal” in the face of loss?
5. What did you learn about yourself? About others?

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.

Flip Desperation to Desire

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Just picked up a recent blog that described the various ways that job seekers can inadvertently appear desperate, thereby undermining their image and impression with potential employers. Check it out to make sure you are not doing any of these things:

Now that you have identified ways you may be feeling and appearing desperate, whether you are employed or seeking employment, how can you create and maintain a positive attitude and presentation when in the throes of a challenging and discouraging transition or advancement effort?

My observation of what separates an effective campaign from one that just seems to whither and wilt is that when my clients become excited about the possibilities, take sincere interest in their chosen or aspirational field, demonstrate generosity and curiosity in their conversations and meetings they turn the corner in their efforts.

Five Small steps may just do it:

1. First thing in the morning, focus on what you want to and can do rather than on what you don’t want or cannot do.
2. During the day, read, talk, research, strategize about what is needed out there.
3. Whenever you can, use every experience—even the most mundane like food shopping, taking public transportation, taking a child to the park to strike up a conversation in which you learn about someone else.
4. In the evening: build desire about alternatives you are learning about. Write down three new ideas
5. Before bed, list three insights or ideas you gained that make you more excited about where you want to be and do.

Talk about what you desire not what you are desperate about….the feedback loop will energize you and others.

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.

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!