Archive for the 'Executive Coaching' Category

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.

Magic Seven

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Magic Seven

Once it was the elevator speech.  Now it is the tweet!  Malcolm Gladwell in Blink talks about “thin slicing” and priming.  We make an impression instantaneously.

Of course, there are ways to consciously guide this impression.  What do you present to others?  Are you aware of the conclusions others draw?

Frequently, I have suggested to my clients who want to manage their image, impact and impression that they pick seven adjectives that describe how they want to be known and remembered.  We use those words to frame developmental opportunities, communication and behavioral goals and leadership and career initiatives. The “magic seven” is written down and referred to regularly to remind and review words, behaviors and attitudes.

Recently, one of my LinkedIn groups, Peter F. Drucker Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship asked members to describe what they do in exactly 7 words (pronouns and names of organizations can be excluded).  The responses were striking.  I even tried it myself.

I came up with:

“Advance executive career satisfaction, effectiveness and success.”

When you consider that you have just a brief moment of someone’s attention in a relevant and memorable way, a select seven points (the same number as a phone number) is an efficient guideline.

You are invited to comment on this blog with your “magic seven”.

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.

“New Normal” Executive Themes

Monday, June 28th, 2010

My career management consulting colleagues and I have been comparing notes recently on workplace trends, issues and challenges.  A trenchant summary came from one client quote:

“The pressure is to drive productivity and assure quality.   At the same time, we need to stay attentive to the “soft stuff” with fewer resources, more job loss anxiety, steeper deliverables, while operating around the clock and around the world in virtual teams.  Something’s got to give.”

The obvious solution is more attention to leadership and engagement.  Yet, one of the biggest complaints we hear is that there is no time even to schedule regular one on one update, review, planning and development meetings with highly valued talent. Why?

  • Multitasking on multiple platforms is the Standard Operating Procedure that limits time to plan, dream, or interact
  • Many leaders, managers and employees are going on automatic through their day, defaulting into a task, check the box, transactional mode
  • People display frustration and insecurity when they don’t have enough time to properly prepare, think, get or give information or feedback, leading to communication, confidence and trust gaps

And the irony here is that at a time we need leadership commitment to drive results, engage employees and increase morale and motivation, we risk draining our talent because:

  • Teamwork, mentoring and feedback and leadership development suffer
  • Overload and inadequate “touch” time bread misunderstandings, misaligned action, procrastination, risk aversion and inhibit collaboration and collegiality
  • Talented and highly valued executives and managers too swamped to take advantage of development programs, organize off sites or meetings with career management consultants

If your to-do list is overloaded with transaction, and you and your people are suffering, whenever possible, put people and relationship as a priority in your schedule.

Here are five creative ways to schedule interaction by re-framing the time you think it will take:

  1. Plan shorter and more frequent conversations
  2. For anything that requires tone or nuance, wait, breathe, compose and then communicate by voice or in person
  3. Use emails only for quick, factual, short transactions
  4. Demonstrate concern and interest in others by really listening
  5. Provide on the spot feedback and appreciation—it will go a long way

Don’t Wait: Create

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Are you seeking meaningful work, and having difficulty finding a job where you can do it?

Daniel Pink, in his new book, Drive, helps us see a brighter workplace future, which he calls “Motivation 3.0”. In this world, we can bring innovation, enthusiasm and meaning to our companies and clients. While traditional, job centric (Motivation 2.0) workplaces drive employees with extrinsic motivators (security, financial rewards, structure), Pink envisions the workplace of the future that supports our intrinsic motivators, such as innovation, autonomy, mastery and purpose.

Work in Motivation 3.0 may reside in a job, but one with variable hours, flexibility, time to reflect and create. Motivation 3.0 is ripe for interim, independent workers and project-based engagements.

Why wait for the future? You can instill energy and excitement in your work, whether employed or seeking a new position by re-designing the “daily grind”. As a matter of fact, this mind shift will make you more valuable to organizations, before job specs are defined and additions to head count are made. You can craft, propose, and deliver projects that meet immediate, and unmet needs. You can remove yourself from the “waiting game” that is so frustrating and demeaning. And, you can leverage your strengths and growth potential paving the way for the future.

Some of my happiest clients have decided to stop waiting for things to get better. If they are in transition, they have found or proposed meaningful projects that keep them visible, active and fresh. If they are stalled out at work, they propose a role expansion that might include a global initiative or contribute to productivity or profit. Some are taking vocation vacations to explore new fields of interest. Yet others are doing volunteer work connected to their expertise, to enhance their relationships, or to experiment with something of interest. They express renewed energy and engagement which makes them more attractive in their present role, or as opportunities emerge. And their renewed enthusiasm and energy are attractive and noticed.

Create your next step by answering these questions:

  • What matters to me?
  • What is going on in my field/company/community that calls out for my talents and ideas?
  • What do I uniquely do well that I enjoy?
  • Who needs this expertise?
  • Why do they need me?
  • How can I connect to the stakeholders who can help me make it happen?

Now, create your work opportunities!

Five Ways to Make it Happen in 2010

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Now that year end is completed and bonuses distributed and unemployment reports are looking more optimistic, you are most likely thinking about what you want to achieve in 2010.

These have been tough times to be thinking about getting ahead. Many of you may be thankful you have a job….but are building up a mountain of resentment because you are working harder, with fewer resources, for less money, in flatter organizations, with no “promises” or promotions to keep you motivated, other than an ongoing paycheck and health benefits to sustain you.

Yet, you see others getting ahead, despite the economy. You watch co-workers being tapped for advancement, called by recruiters, or offered big assignments and interesting projects.

What are they doing that you could as well?   They are not waiting for someone to notice.

Working hard and waiting to be recognized and promoted leads to a lot of output with little forward momentum, and eventually bitterness and poor morale. Believing that their contributions go unappreciated is one of the three main reasons people lose their drive or seek other positions. While it would be great if all managers were focusing on their employee engagement and advancement, in reality, getting promoted is the ambitious employee’s responsibility, particularly when resources are low and demands are high.

Achieving great results is only part of the advancement equation. Being unable or unwilling to consciously connect and self-promote is a major career limitation.

If no one knows you are contributing, then your efforts will go either unacknowledged or others will take the “credit”. If you get frustrated and then demand advancement and are perceived as pushy or competitive, you will be moved aside. Self-promotion is a delicate and critical career management skill which requires observation of how others get recognition, patience, persistence and a strong belief in your self.

The key is to build awareness with stakeholders, connectors and decision makers. This effort extends beyond doing your job. Strategic self-promotion requires a focus on articulating your value with decision makers in ways that they find compelling; understanding and addressing the linchpin issues; and cultivating positive buzz about what you do through your manager’s peers, your colleagues and reports. And in today’s volatile economy, you will benefit from being known beyond your own organization, as well.

So, if you want to get ahead and believe you are being limited, do some of the following:

1. Look for a way to be a unique contributor based on an unmet business need.
2. On a regular basis, initiate a career discussion with your manager, mentor or sponsor in which you review what you have achieved, what you would like to do and how you can contribute going forward .
3. Don’t ask what the company will do for you, propose what you can contribute to the company/department.
4. Think in terms of what skills and relationships you want to develop and volunteer/request to be on some interesting project or part of a team that will expand others’ knowledge of what you can do.
5. Eliminate the complain, compare, criticize routine. Instead, plan, propose and position yourself in a collaborative and positive way.

These five steps would be terrific 2010 resolutions!

For more inspiration, read Staying Power: Executive Fit and Flex

Realistic Reinvention

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

“All my life I’ve wanted to be someone; I guess I should have been more specific”
– Lily Tomlin

Are you waiting for your “passionate calling” to call to you?

Does the structure and stability of the status quo you sought now restrict your future?

Are you exhausted by a protracted job search and thinking about “Reinventing Yourself” but not ready to jump into the breach?

Are you looking for a new way to work and to live while having to maintain your ideal life/style?

Have you re-defined success but are not sure how to re-direct your work to reflect it?

You may be considering “Reinvention”.

Redirecting your career to doing what you love can be a ticket off of the treadmill. And, if you have been “liberated” from your job either through a reorganization, retirement or business shift, this may seem like the right time to do “something else”. A complete career/life conversion, particularly if your current work is dissatisfying, derailed or just plain dull is a very compelling.

But, you may not be ready or able to “pull the chord” on your lifestyle or career just yet.

Don’t let that stop you! Reinvention does not have to be a radical step. You can begin to integrate your “new self” is small steps.

If you are in a dead end career or unproductive job search, sometimes a full fledged change of direction is necessary and possible. Alternatively, such a radical move might be out of reach or inadvisable.

You can experiment with new direction without going the whole way. Try devoting a few hours to your desired pursuits and activities in small bites. Gradual is less risky and can lead to additional relationships and directions.

Here are some examples of what some of my clients are doing to re-energize:

• Getting on a not for profit board
• Studying for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah
• Taking trumpet lessons
• Joining AmericaCorps (Vista)
• Helping an entrepreneur whose business has expanded
• Singing Cabaret
• Studying Fashion Design
• Starting a Web Site
• Joining Toast Masters to learn how to be a motivational speaker
• Writing that novel
• Interviewing experts publishing an opinion piece or white paper
• Starting a book group
• Working on a political campaign

You may find, as others have, that when you choose to do something fun, interesting and new, you feel that you can take control of your destiny. Exploring avocations re-instills curiosity and purpose. A mutual focus naturally builds and enhances relationships. People are drawn toward others who are enthusiastic and interesting, not those who are needy and at an impasse.

Passion and curiosity are magnetic.

Maximizing Your On-Line Identity

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

Yesterday I was fortunate to participate in an ACPI professionals telephone and web-based meeting on the subject of maximizing your on-line presence through social networking sites. The topic and speaker were organized by Jack Chapman, a very well respected expert in the field of salary negotiation, who invited Shama Hyder, the author of a book called The Zen of Social Media Marketing, which you can find on her web site.

Program participants included active Twitter-ers, avid Facebook “Friends” and highly Linkedin, as well as those who were interested, but hesitant novices. Our expert guide helped us sort through the differences between each of three major social networking vehicles. In the dynamic hour conversation we explored the efficacy and etiquette of on-line identities. And, we shared views on uses, advantages and concerns. As professionals who advise our clients on career issues, we were particularly focused on privacy verses public sharing, and the how to merge commercial and social connections appropriately.

Here are some of Shama’s tips:

Understand the distinctions between and best use of each vehicle.

Facebook is like a coffeehouse where you meet, seek out, connect with, and enjoy your fans, friends and acquaintances. In this context personal stories, requests for advice, congratulations, updates, family pictures and life events and updates are appreciated and expected;

LinkedIn is more of a global business search engine, where participants converse about professional issues, inquire about business solutions and share ideas and trends, join special interest professional groups, get and give business and work leads, provide recommendations, promote your expertise and elicit introductions to other professionals;

Twitter as a global human search engine providing access to immediate information about those you follow. In addition, it has become a resource for real-time news, publicity and even political events. And it is becoming the go-to place for the media to learn real time what is happening around the world.

We had a lively dialogue about what and how much to share on these sites. While everyone has a different sense of what a “friend” is and a varied interest in sharing and reading about daily activities, we all agreed that professional and personal are increasingly intertwined: who you are as a person is important to business associates. While we used to keep these two sides of ourselves totally separate, we now find that family, interests, travel, and avocations add texture to one’s professional impression….and create the differentiation, ongoing real time visibility, engagement and impact critical to business success. Being able to update and inform business associates and personal connections provides efficient and current top of mind awareness and opportunities to interact.

Shama has a wonderful acronym (BOD) to guide us in how we decide whom to connect with, what, how much to share, and the content of our profiles, pictures, notes, comments and twitters.

B-is for brand which should be summed up in a short phrase that is supported and reinforced in each of your communications
O-is for outcome or the value you represent
D- is for differentiation or how you stand out

Bottom line: Social Networking is becoming increasingly important in our personal and professional lives. Be thoughtful and intentional about what you say, pictures you place on your wall, updates you place, comments you make. Don’t put anything on-line you would not want a stranger to know. You want to be consistent with your professional ethics and cautious about attracting attention that might compromise your reputation, image or attract  spam….or even criminal behavior.

Remember, the personal on the internet is public and permanent.

Liking Linking

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

Liking Linking!

All of today, I have been occupied with LinkedIn, FaceBook, texting and emailing to be in touch. I did not have one voice to voice or face to face conversation outside of my interactions with my husband. This is very unusual for me as my work, friends, family and avocations generally bring me in active contact with others. I think about my clients who are finding themselves inter-personally isolated because they work virtually or are in career transition.

Virtual communication gives the satisfaction of immediacy in getting and giving information. You could spend many hours on-line believing that you are nurturing your connections and creating opportunities.

Social and business networks are useful transactions for informing and expanding your “presence”. However, I think that relationships still require commitment, chemistry and context to develop. Online communication…email, twitter, social networks, blogs, while great for sharing information can fool active participants into thinking they are connecting/networking/branding/getting “out there”/getting noticed. Virtual communication, however, is not a substitute for the value of in-person or live voice-to-voice intimacy.

On-line has the advantage of immediacy and the disadvantage of lacking nuance and context. Because it is written, sent and read quickly, it can result in abrupt judgments and replies.

Misunderstandings and misinterpretations cause a great deal of time spent resolving conflict. Just think of the tension that can be avoided by a conversation that requires listening, give and take and clarification. So, I recommend emails, texting, and social networking be used for factual, not emotional or nuanced, messages. When you really need to “talk”, make a date to meet in person, Skype, stop by someone’s office, or pick up the phone.

A really great way to capitalize on any virtual communication is to use it as a supplement rather than a substitute for live human contact. It is great to stay in touch and it is not a replacement for high touch.

Virtual Success

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

This blog entry is going to be different:  It is co-authored by my colleague and co-writer, Karen Otazo with whom I have just had the great pleasure of launching No Time 4 Theories/Executive Series . We wanted to share with you some lessons learned and insights gained from our collaboration, as we realized that what we have just experienced is the way many of you  all are now, or will be very soon, working.

Karen and I have been collaborating and communicating around professional issues, insights and initiatives for around 5 years.  During one of our many phone discussions, we realized that we shared a lot of views that were not currently written about.  And so, it began as a casual comment, “you know, this could be a great book!”

We began in July to collect our ideas, convert ramblings to outlines and maneuver our way through communication, technology, schedule and “day job” commitments. We found that we actually were living the changes we were writing about.

Our intensity about this collaboration heated up as the economy melted and then froze.  Our clients urgently needed our perspective and expertise to help them navigate the seismic disruption and change they are struggling to understand and manage. And so, we began in earnest in October to put our ideas into a format that would be attractive for our readers.

From that awareness grew an agreement that we wanted to write and publish together in the most modern way:  virtually, technologically and stylistically.  Virtual teams, virtual networking, virtual newspapers, virtual everything led us to create a more-than-virtual writing team.

Here are a few things we learned we wanted to share with you:

Move beyond the traditional and tested ways to match the rhythm and format of your work with the market needs:

We learned from a set of sample reader discussions that we needed to work quickly, efficiently, cost effectively and eliminate all the layers and processes that would hold up the end product. In addition, we focused on a series of guides which would appeal to our busy and diverse executive readers. Finally, we decided to self publish (which would bring the materials to market quickly) and offer our writing on-demand and in e-book format as well.

Gather a team of enthusiastic experts who will work with as much energy and commitment as you do:

We were fortunate in being able to gather together a virtual team that were excited about this new way of working, new media and the topics we were addressing.  When we ended up working through the holidays, which we had tried to avoid, everyone just pitched in and did what needed to be done without complaint.

Identify and work off strengths:

We constantly checked in with each other to make sure that each team member had information or resources and the skills/experience to carry out unexpected assignments.  Some of us were better at content, some at technology, some at process and project management.  We laid out what the next step was and team members volunteered and teamed. Flow ruled!

Marshall creativity and enthusiasm by clarifying roles based on strengths based on project needs, not ego:

One of the biggest challenges of a virtual team is sorting out priorities, resolving senses of urgency, accommodating to different styles (content, timing, process) and being careful to always know who is on first to avoid things being duplicated or falling through the cracks. Emails work for facts, voice and face to face is better for feelings.  Whenever we sensed a sensitivity, we made a call and worked things out.

Communicate BEFORE there is conflict and clarify roles early and often:

There were times we all jumped in and we had to step back to find out who was on first, who had the expertise, who had the time, who had the desire to take the lead.  We took turns being in charge depending on the circumstances and content. At times, we got confused with emails flying and schedules slipping. So, we just helped each other move the project along by identifying the stuck moments with great sensitivity and compassion. It was great to apply our counseling skills with each other!

Give feedback quickly, clearly and often:

Sheryl and I both have spent our entire professional careers encouraging people, giving feedback with care and clarity. So, we were sensitive to and committed about constantly checking in, comparing notes, clearing any misunderstandings, pitching in when the others were busy, being honest about deadlines and accountabilities.  We became adept at trading off and pitching in when our “day jobs” or personal lives required.  We kept our eye on the motto:  don’t explain, don’t complain…just do it or delegate it.  And we had a lot of “Yeah Team” moments!

Use technology wisely and where appropriate for your needs/styles:

Since we’re both great talkers, initially, we tried using Dragon Naturally Speaking (voice recognition software) to record as we discussed our ideas.  Frustrated with the pace of the technology, we moved into having one of us take the lead on a topic, develop a first pass and then used email and phone dialogue, Skype, three way meetings and even face to face time to organize, edit, polish, cut and finalize.

We never could have completed our first two guides without the dynamic and engaged team.  Thanks to:

Nick Kolakowski, our Editor

Mike Bain, our Graphic Designer

Lucio Furlani, our Web Master and more!

Lori Quaranta, our Cheerleader and On Line PR Consultant

Ian Spanier,  our Photographer

Yeah Team!