Archive for December, 2006

Learning to Lead

Tuesday, December 26th, 2006

This, being performance and bonus time, you may have been given feedback about your “leadership”, “teamwork” and “people” skills. And of course, you are committed to make big changes in 2007. Many executives believe that 360 and management feedback given to smart, capable and ambitious individuals results in desired change. Would that it were so simple.

Have you ever watched a baby learning a new skill? At first s/he demonstrates random movements. Getting a pleasurable result (making a parent smile, hearing a noise, setting something in motion, grabbing a toy, tasting something sweet, getting praised) results in repetition and eventually a new habit. It takes time, trial and error, and reinforcement, to create a new behavior. Yet, so many adults think they will learn to lead, change perceptions of themselves, develop new people skills just as a result of getting feedback. It does not happen.

An article in Fortune entitled Five Levels of Greatness last October outlines the stages required for developing new behaviors.

To take that model a little further, I recently created a Leadership Development Process tool (download here) for my clients mainly in response to unrealistic expectations for leadership development coaching. Many of my clients, having been successful in turning around businesses, executing strategy, and displaying complex professional expertise believe that learning to lead well is simply executed based on data. But, the truth is that, even when we are all grown up, every new skill starts with awareness and then moves through a set of developmental steps to eventually become habit.

So, congratulate yourself on having achieved the first stage. Then, provide yourself with the input, reinforcement mechanisms and patience you will need to convert the data to a deliverable!

Don’t Just Hang in There….Do Something!

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

One of the worst parts of job search is to be in a “wait” situation.

Joanne Lublin’s article, “How to Cope When a Would-Be Employer Takes Forever to Hire”, in the December 5, 2006 Wall Street Journal got me thinking about additional ways job seekers can manage this potentially frustrating experience. Here are 5 strategies to consider:

1. Gain agreement from the prospective employer about follow up and place yourself in control by suggesting a time/date for you to give them a call. Then, initiate other opportunities even if you continue to be interested in the position you are waiting to hear about. Creating multiple opportunities to pursue diminishes the frustration.

2. Follow up and ask for a meeting to review your candidacy. Get some information about what is causing the long duration. For example, consider these alternatives:

  • Are they interviewing new candidates (in which case they may not be “sold” on you),
  • Do they need more information about you (find out what they need to know to make you an offer) Are they re-considering the position (ask what changes they are thinking about).
  • Are they re-directing the business (learn a little more if possible about their plans/strategy)?
  • Are there be some other management changes which may be confidential and they may not share with you (in which case, do more research and networking to unearth causes if possible).
  • Is there an incumbent (ask what is the status with this person’s future)?

Based on the causation, make your own plans, offer additional information, consider how long you are interested in/willing to wait for a resolution and create mental deadlines for yourself so that the limbo does not go on beyond your comfort level.

3. Many organizations put out searches that then do not get completed because the role has not been clearly defined against strategy, the manager is not sure what kind of person s/he wants to hire, the company is just “fishing for talent” and then decides to re-organize or hire internally, or because business needs or circumstances change mid stream. Search consultants and internal talent management professionals are sometimes not in the loop about these changes and continue encouraging a candidate. Sometimes your network can give you valuable information about what is really going on.

4. The challenge of a long search is that once you are in play or think another opportunity could be of interest, your focus on your present position might suffer. There is a tendency to fantasize about the new potential position and make decisions in your mind when there is not yet an offer on the table. The longer you wait, the unhappy you can become with your current job. If this starts to happen, use the opportunity presented to you as a spring board to re-invest in your work or launch a full scale search for another job. Otherwise you can invest too much in vacant hope and then be very demoralized if the job does not materialize.

5. Find a clever way to follow up: Once when I was in a protracted interview process, the conversations stalled for several months because of a very confidential management change that I did not know about. During this time I was interviewed for a magazine article and I recommended that the writer contact the president of the company for a quote since I knew he would have interesting things to say. When the article was published, I sent a copy to him with a note saying “looks like we belong together!” He immediately called, said he was sorry that our discussions had stopped. We re-opened up our discussions, and I was made an offer.