Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

I am embarrassed to say that I do not recall where I found this post or if someone sent it to me, one of my resolutions will be to try and make sure that when I save something like this to make sure that I write down all the details, especially if someone was kind enough to send it along to me because they knew it would resonate for me.

So with that mia culpa, I still want to share it, as there may be some who read this blog who had not yet seen it, and based on the feedback I have had from those who do read my posts I am guessing they would be as moved as I was.

What follows was written at the end of 2001, and even six years later, can't be ignored:
"So what does life expect of you in 2002? Better yet, what do you expect of yourself? Well, here’s the defining truth of 2002: we are all being held to a higher standard. The age of indulgence ended on September 11. It’s been replaced by the age of accountability. The most valuable people will be those who consistently enhance the people and the world around them.

So here are ten of the best New Year’s Resolutions you can make. They are based on The Ten Personal Best Practices formulated by Environics/Lipkin, the specialist Motivation Company in the Environics Research Group. These are the personal strategies and actions designed to achieve maximum impact in a topsy-turvy world:

1. Resolve to stay brutally optimistic. See the opportunity in every difficulty. Anticipate the most favorable outcome out of every situation. Whatever you look for, that’s what you’ll find. We can get better or we can get bitter. It all depends on the lessons we draw from each experience. Optimism is like electricity – very little happens without it. Know this truth: you have all the resources you’ll ever need to handle all the challenges you’ll ever have. It’s in the true emergencies that the true you emerges.

2. Resolve to identify the most powerful benefit you offer to the people around you and then deliver it. “The purpose of life” said George Bernard Shaw, “is a life of purpose”. What’s yours? Where are you investing your personal energy – on self-preservation or adding value to others. Here’s the well-being paradox: if you’re only concerned about yourself, you cannot take care of yourself. Only by helping others, can you succeed. This is not the creed of the Good Samaritan. It’s the primary source of motivation that sustains the Go-To people in tough times.

3. Resolve to pump up your Personal Vitality. In the game of life it’s not about who’s right, it’s about who’s left. Over 60 percent of us are over 36 years old. The real currency of the 2000’s is not cash, it’s vitality. It’s the ability to keep going 24/7/365 with vigor and verve. All you are to the people around you is a source of energy. And you cannot give what you don’t have. Ninety percent of all adults do no physical exercise at all. More than half of us is overweight. A third of us still smoke. So this year, resolve to enhance your physical, emotional and mental vitality. Take just a small step. First you’ll amaze yourself and then you’ll amaze everybody else.

4. Resolve to be Habitually Generous. Success is not something you pursue. It’s something you attract by what you become. The more you give of yourself, the more favors you attract from others. It’s called The Law of Reciprocity. People have a deep-rooted drive to give back. So resolve to proactively search for ways to contribute to others. Live above the line. If the line represents others’ expectations of you, consistently exceed those expectations. You’ll develop what Ken Blanchard calls “Raving Fans”, people who become walking billboards for you, your product and your service.

5. Resolve to go on a mental diet. Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can scar you for life. It’s humans, not elephants, who never forget. So resolve to use the language of Conciliation, not the language of Confrontation. Avoid the temptation to vent your negativity on others. Instead, use words that express your joie de vivre and connection with others.

6. Resolve to be a Global Citizen, fully open to the cultures and influences of others. There is a direct correlation between personal well-being and openness to other peoples’ ideas and cultures. If someone has a different point of view to you, they’re probably right as well. There are no absolutes anymore. No one has a patent on right and wrong. So welcome different opinions. Become a one-person champion for plurality. Not only will you make lots of new friends, but you’ll also gather multiple reference points to help you resolve personal challenges.

7. Resolve to take Control of Your Destiny. Don’t be so busy trying to make a living that you forget to make a life. You’re in charge of your own life, so take charge. Decide who you want to be and what you want to achieve. And then stride boldly towards your vision. The most precious human commodity today is Confidence. Confidence and Control of Destiny are Siamese Twins.

8. Resolve to increase your human connectivity. The person with the best connections wins. The wider your network, the more opportunities you generate. It’s all about trust. And it’s all about profile – your presence in the minds of the people who matter. So invest at least ten percent of your time broadening your sphere of influence. Connect other people to opportunities within your network – cross pollinate their potential. When you are with others, make every encounter a pleasurable one. When you listen, truly listen. And burn your fear of rejection.

9. Resolve to increase your creativity by letting go of the familiar. Nothing is as far away as yesterday. As Salman Rushdie writes, every year is the Stone Age to the year that follows it. See the world through fresh eyes everyday. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. So be ready. Listen to your intuition and follow your instincts, they’ll tell you what to do before your head has had a chance to figure it out. You are a Picasso or Einstein at something. Discover what it is and then develop it to the maximum.

10. Resolve to be you because others are already taken. You and I are at our best when we’re being authentic. We’re at our best when we’re being positively spontaneous because that’s when all our energy is being invested in the person in front of us or the task at hand. In a hyper-competitive world, we cannot afford to second-guess ourselves. Success in the new, new age is all about speed. So act now, because if not now, when?

So there you have it, ten New Year Resolutions to improve your life in 2002. So decide. Fight the Good Fight, stay the course, and keep the faith."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Be Remembered and Be Referred

As we all know, blogs continue to multiply in geometric fashion. I don't know about the rest of the world, but it is all I can do to follow a few. The general criteria I use is probably not unlike how most people make choices about what they read:

1) the subject matter is of interest,and

2) the writing is stimulating and "interesting" to read. In other posts over the past several months, I have noted some of those that happen to appeal to me.

One that I have bookmarked in recent times is Amitai Givertz's blog which he calls Amitai Givertz's Recruitomatic Blog.

I have no clue where he found Rob Robinson's resume, but I'm glad he did.

When it comes to proactive career management, at ExecuNet we talk a fair amount about "being remembered and being referred." Most of us try to accomplish this goal by doing a whole host of things including making sure that our resume makes us stand out from crowd.

Amitai thinks the Mr. Robinson's resume is "One Hell of a Resume" and while I am sure that there are those who might or might not agree, it is definitely different and, especially since Robinson is a "marketing guy" I would be very surprised if it didn't resonate with a number of folks.

Check it out. Would this make you want to pick up the phone?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Networking & Root Canals

Maybe I'm just crazy or am missing something along the way (which if you asked my wife she would say "what do you mean 'maybe'?) but even after roaming around the career management space for all these years, I still hear people (i.e. most) who are interested in making a change say they plan to "work with a recruiter" or use a job board and these are the major strategies that are going to get them to their career goals.

And I hear it so much that I wonder how the heck it is that most of us got to where we are. Indeed, when I'm talking to members about stuff like this, especially when they are lamenting over the fact that they answer ads and never hear anything, or call recruiters and get no call backs, or generally don't understand why the world is not beating a path to their door, I often will ask them "tell me something, how did you get the job you have now or jobs that you have had in the past?" I haven't kept score over the years, but my finger in the wind survey tells me that probably at least 75% of the time, the answer comes back "oh, I got it through networking."

As I said, I don't keep score when I'm on the phone or just talking with someone at a meeting, but we do keep score when we hear from members when they come back and tell us they have made a change, and have been keeping score for several years. Interestingly enough, the number turns out to be 70%, and interestingly enough, that number doesn't seem to change very much no matter what the economy is at the time.

All that being said, we still can't deny that we live in an instant gratification society, and the more technology advances, one that on many levels becomes even less and less personal and requires more investment in hardware and software than in building real relationships.

This is in no way intended to be a rant against the "social networking space" indeed, there is no question that technology has made electronic networking easy and in many cases very productive on many levels.

Should be interesting as we follow the continuing evolution of "social networking" to see if and when it becomes the 21st century's version of "personal networking" as in people's willingness to put their personal reputations on the line.

Am I just splitting hairs, or is there a difference between "social" and "personal"?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Grace Under Pressure

Grace Under Pressure was the title of an Op Ed piece by Peggy Noonan that appeared in the weekend edition of the Journal on December 2nd.

Yes, that Peggy Noonan, you’ll remember her memorable words typically uttered by Ronald Reagan and later for the first George Bush campaign in ’88.

If you haven't read it, I commend it to your attention, but not because I have decided to shift the focus of these commentaries from the human capital management space to the political arena (heaven help me!) Point being, that just because Ms. Noonan is the author, don't be concerned that the piece is written to sway you to a particular point of view. In actuality, I found it to be a pretty profound commentary on relationships be they inside or outside of the business world and as such, it had some pretty powerful "learnings" that any of us as managers of people and/or an enterprise would do well to reflect upon.

When things are not going well, it creates, as we all know, high levels of stress. The stress is born of many factors not the least of which is fear of failure. As we all know when that happens, human nature is to become defensive, and one of the first outcomes of falling into defensive mode is to "open mouth, insert foot, close mouth and chew." We've all been there.

One of the key points that Peggy makes in this piece was the degree to which she feels the impact of interviews and so called discussions as they are heard or seen as they air on radio and/or TV. Specifically she talks about not only the physical volume levels of people's voices, but more importantly the degree to which people interrupt one another before thoughts are completed and as important, the 'tone' of superiority and judgement the interruptions take.

I wonder how many of us recall the communications exercises from Management Skills 101 in which we were taught to not only listen to what the other person had to say, but before we were allowed to express our counter-argument (which we knew and had composed in our heads well before they had spoken 10 words and we were sure would blow away anything they might have to say that might, by some miracle, approach something that could be viewed as a legitimate point) we had to reflect back to them what they had said and we were not allowed to state our point of view until they confirmed to us that "yes, that is what I said, and you know understand what I was trying to say.

I don't know about you, but when I have done this, what I discovered was that by the time the other person gave me the go ahead to state my position, I realized that what I thought were opinions separated by light years were, in fact, much closer to my colleague's point of view than I thought.

Of course, the self-discipline that it takes to stop me from saying things like "I hear you but...," or "let me tell you about...," or "wait a minute, I think you are missing the point," etc., for most of us takes the patience of a saint.

They also say that one of the key skills needed by successful executives are communications skills. I would argue, and I think this is part of what Peggy was saying too, is that maybe we ought to put more emphasis on the skill it takes to LISTEN versus TALKING.

It if takes the patience of a saint, then I guess we're also saying that it takes a fair amount of courage because you feel forced to go against every instinct you have to defend yourself. If I don't defend, won't I lose?

To keep from immediately traveling down that road is not an easy behavior to acquire. In other words, it does, as Peggy has noted take "grace under pressure." Apparently Hemingway agreed with her when he said "Courage is grace under pressure."

Monday, December 04, 2006

The NCO Creed and Servant-Leadership

I have mentioned Kent Blumberg's blog here on other occasions, and as long as he continues focus on issues of leadership and the importance thereof, I guess I will likely be trying to bang his drum again from time to time.

Over time, Kent has embraced the concept of "servant leadership." Can't say I blame him. If the term is new to you, you can certainly read Kent's post on the topic, but as he put it most recently, "a servant-leader is a steward of the resources under his care, and seeks to serve those he leads while still getting bottom-line business results."

Kent also pointed out that he added to his knowledge on the subject after having ready and being impressed (and rightly so) after reading a post by Bill Waddell which made the argument that NCO's in the army were, in fact, servant-leaders and suggested that people check out the NCO Creed to further underscore his point.

After reading the creed, Kent pulled out some key phrases which if you were to ignore the references to the military would indeed be a pretty darn good starter set for any manager anywhere. Here are the one's that Kent selected:

"I will not use my grade or position to attain pleasure, profit, or personal safety."

"Competence is my watchword."

"My two basic responsibilities will always be uppermost in my mind -- accomplishment of my mission and the welfare of my soldiers."

"All soldiers are entitled to outstanding leadership; I will provide that leadership."

"I know my soldiers and I will always place their needs above my own."

"I will communicate consistently with my soldiers and never leave them uninformed."

"I will be fair and impartial when recommending both rewards and punishment."

"I will not compromise my integrity, nor my moral courage."

It should not come as a big time surprise to anyone that when it comes to the topic of leadership that there is much for us to learn from the military. Talk about an organization where leadership is the do all and end all when it comes to crunch time. Indeed, for those who follow the subject closely, they would tell you that some of the most comprehensive studies on leadership have been fostered by the military, especially when it comes to the chicken and egg debate of whether leaders come by nature or nurture.

In a former life I did some consulting, and there was a program that had been developed by The Center for Creative Leadership in conjunction the the Navy called Looking Glass. CCL still uses it. I thought it was the best and most powerful management simulation program to which I had ever been exposed.

If you or your organization is looking for a program to help you really understand and "reflect on" (no pun intended) your leadership style as well as the leadership culture of your organization, you might want to check it out.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

$50 Dollar Tips

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to run into and become friends with Dave Morris. When I met Dave, he was with WTW Associates Executive Search. To say that he was a very engaging personality would be to understate the case. Among other traits, I was drawn to his sense of humor that went along with a "directness" that was in-your-face, but in a "nice" way in order to help make a point. As a long-time professional he had also been the past Chairman of IACPR - International Association for Corporate & Professional Recruitment) and in a prior life had been with Citibank.

Over the years and as we got to know each other better, I had asked Dave to be a speaker at ExecuNet's New York networking meeting which he did on more than one occasion to rave reviews. Aside from the fact that he had well honed communication skills, he also had the experience to translate to listeners the do's and don'ts of executive career management, including job search. One of the highlights of any presentation he would make would be what he called "$50 dollar tips," and as I was looking over some of the handouts Dave had from some of those meetings, I came across some of them again, and as I read through them, even though some of them are things we have all heard before, it still seemed to be a pretty powerful list and worth sharing, even in a digital age:

Dave Morris: $50 Dollar Tips
There is no right or wrong way, only the best way.

Dates on the right

If you keep doing what you've been doing, you're likely to get what you've always got.

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it. (Henry Ford)

You are as good as you're afraid you are.

Resumes empower the reader not to see you.

In so far as possible, resumes never precede you.

Reading a resume is a negative experience.

Face to face meetings are always positive.

Eliminate "no" from your vocabulary.

When you expect less than the best, you often get it.

Networking isn't about Christmas card lists.

You only know you get where you got when you know how to go.

Nothing happens that you don't make happen, or what to have happen, you’re in control.

Interviews are not just conversations.

Nobody cares about you like you!

If the world made sense, men would ride side saddle.

I know in the end timber grows not with ease, the stronger the wind, the better the trees. (Wm. Marriott)

Only the mediocre do their best all the time.

Dave, if you're listening, these are under-priced.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Old Fashioned Way: One Person at a Time

If you believe the stats, there are currently more than 45,000 career related web sites, and the last time I looked blogs were being created by the thousands every HOUR! There is so much talk and hype around "Web 2.0"
MySpace,YouTube,Facebook, YourSpace, HisSpace, Everybody's Space, and God only knows what else that one would think that anyone who ever has a conversation f2f (as they say in the text messaging world) was in need of therapy or should simply be admitted to the local home for the bewildered.

Okay, maybe that's a tad over-stated, but nonetheless, as I was checking out another of my favorite blogs (Dave Mendoza's Six Degrees from Dave) I found a post by Steve Levy (post date: Nov 13th) entitled One Brick at a Time. Steve's article, which was the third in a series that he had written on different aspects of recruiting, was totally focused some of the techniques and tactics he uses to identify potential candidates and clients. Talk about a good use of your time! But even so, nothing totally revolutionary here just lots of common sense based on experience from someone who has been at the game long before email was a glint in Ray Tomlinson's eye.

What struck me, however, was that no where in the article did one find links to LinkedIn or Ryze or Spoke. What you did find were tips not just for recruiters, but tips which if followed by any proactive executive would work just as well for the to expand their network and there wasn't a bit or byte in the bunch.

So what were Steve's suggestions? Here they are:
1. Business card bowls. Ah, ol’ reliable. Do you know where your competitor’s HQ or other locations are located? Do you know where their employees eat breakfast or lunch? Have you ever seen those business card bowls that seat up by the register offering free meals if you toss in your card? Absolute goldmines. Ask the manager what they do with the cards at the end of each week. If you have to, offer them $10-$20 for the contents of the bowl. Then call the ones who seem to be on target. Classic brick and mortar recruiting.

2. Airports (or really any transportation hub). These are like open directories on the Internet with one great difference – real live people. When traveling, I always make a point of walking past telephone banks or people on cell phones – and listen (well, okay, eavesdrop but it’s a public place) to the conversations. More specifically, I listen very carefully to the details of the call hoping to catch a juicy tidbit that gives me an idea of who the person is, what they do, or for whom they work. If I do, the first chance I can I walk over and say, “Hello, my name is Steve Levy. I’m quite sorry for bothering you but I overheard your phone call and…” Classic brick and mortar recruiting.

3. I’m still at airports. This time sitting amongst other travelers waiting for my flight. Here’s another “must have” skill for all recruiters – the ability to read from the side or upside down. I mean it – and you can practice to develop this skill. So I’m waiting for the flight to be called and I’m severely exercising my eyeballs – left, right, up, down – spying the contents of laptop screens and paperwork of travelers. Eavesdropping? Darn right. But to the naysayers, it’s all public. Just as the telephone example, I use the same approach… “Hello, my name is Steve Levy. I’m quite sorry for bothering you but I caught a glimpse of what you’re working on and …” Classic brick and mortar recruiting.

4. Field Trips to Starbucks. I consider these to be the mainstays of brick and mortar recruiting. Don’t like Starbucks? Pick any gathering place in your area that offers beverages and Wi-Fi. I once took the recruiting team from a West Coast client to a local Starbucks and had them sit at different tables and listen to conversations or exercise their eyeballs for five minutes. Next was to introduce themselves according to the model and go from there. Sure it was difficult at first but in time it does become easier, more sincere, and more effective.

But here’s the one inherent problem with this approach to brick and mortar recruiting: It isn’t easy. And it has vexed most normal people practically their entire lives. Do you remember your junior or senior prom (or really any social event before you were an “adult”) especially if you went solo? Do you remember girls on one side and boys on the other, neither side approaching to ask someone to dance? Brings back some interesting memories, right?

Finally someone takes a chance and pops the question; soon enough, most are dancing and thanking the person who reached out their hand. Classic brick and mortar recruiting will always be like this with the risk-taking first-responders who recognize its value receiving the greatest accolades and the best candidates. At its core, recruiting really is just one hand shaking another, a human interaction versus a technological one.

Here are a few more brick and mortar examples to consider:

5. Commuting. If you commute to work via mass transit, do you just sit there cuddled up to your favorite newspaper or exercising your thumbs on your Blackberry, or do you introduce yourself to others? Do you sit in the same seat every day? For shame - your next hire is in the next car!

6. Conferences and Trade Shows. While attending trade shows, do you walk around collecting pens and squishy toys or do you show up early during set-up time with coffee and donuts and offer these to the people assembling the booths? Trade a treat for an introduction!

7. The Internet. I’m quite sure that searching User Groups is part of most of your sourcing strategies. But do you attend these groups’ monthly meetings? Or better yet, what I recently did for a client was to survey the landscape and realize that there wasn’t a dotNET User Group in their area and having recruited dotNET Developers, I knew who they were and where they worked. So I created one in an area that was in desperate need of one (in fact, others had failed to successfully create one in the past). The result was 62 dotNET Developers at the kick-off meeting and I strongly suspect at least 25% to 30% more attendees the next meeting. The group meets at my client’s office; however, the single most important goal is not recruiting but brand and relationship building – a staple of brick and mortar recruiting. The result will be that my client’s brand will be bolstered by this show of professional goodwill and in time, so will their talent pipeline.

8. Chapter Meetings. Hold as many meetings of the local chapters of the professional or technical associations in which your employees belong. You know all these groups from searching the Internet so my not really make this information useful? Why not build your company’s brand and expose your employees to new and fresh ways of thinking? Incidentally, when consider The Internet and Chapter Meetings one of your most critical tasks is to train your people how to network, how to introduce themselves to others, what to say, and how to offer and ask for business cards. Finally, you’ll have to debrief them afterwards and even give them homework to follow-up with the people they met. Now your employees are part of brick and mortar recruiting.

Ultimately, recruiting is all about building and building requires significant investments to ensure the building is solid and meets the needs of its occupants. We’ve invested in technology to the point where entire conferences focus on HR technology. But are there specific conferences that focus on recruiting at the point of the person? Sadly not. We’re so enamored by the technological solution that I think our eyes have come off the ball. Hard to believe but the politicians may actually have it right: Elections are won one vote at a time, shaking hands and kissing babies.

Talk about being on the "bleeding edge." Way to go Steve.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Not Just The Big Picture, The Total Picture

I am sure that I am no different than most in terms of trying to keep up with the information overload that comes from the 24/7 world in which we live. I am also sure that like most, it doesn't take long before you stop adding to your "favorites" list and start culling it down to those sites and blogs that you find meaningful in terms of whatever your particular area of interest might be.

In my case, there are number that I follow as closely as I can. Among them are blogs such as Joel Cheesman's, Cheezhead, Steve Levy & Maureen Sharib's The Recruiting Edge, Jeff Hunter's Talentism, and Jack Hayhow's Pig Widom just to name a few.

The other day I noted a post on Talentism in which Jeff was thanking Peter Clayton, the engine behind Total Picture Radio for helping him learn more about Podcasting. Given the quality of thought that is evident in what Peter has done and continues to do with Total Picture Radio, not to mention the positive spirit and energy he brings to the career management arena, that he would offer his help came as no surprise. If you know Peter, you know what I mean.

At ExecuNet we have had the pleasure of both "learning" from Peter as well as contributing to some of his broadcasts. He is, in our opinion, doing outstanding work, and if you are someone interested in keeping "tuned into what is happening and important in the world of careers, you would do well to set your Internet dial to Total Picture Radio.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Age Police

Britain cracks down on age discrimination was a story that recently found its way into the pages of the Christian Science Monitor. It made me wonder if the UK "age police" were going to be any more effective at the age game than our sad record here in the U.S.

The average age of ExecuNet's membership is 49, so we hear a good deal from our members on this subject. We also have done surveys on various aspects of the senior level executive market, including this subject for many years, the most recent of which was just a couple of months ago. The results were hardly a surprise:

According to the survey of 168 executives with an average age of 50, nearly three-in-four (74%) are concerned they will be discriminated against on the basis of their age and more than half (58%) believe their age has disqualified them as a candidate for opportunities in the past.

One-in-three executives surveyed (33%) believes age becomes a significant factor in a hiring decision at or below the age of 50, 34% say it starts between the ages of 51 and 55, and another one-third (33%) report it becomes an issue after the age of 55.

Nearly half (47%) of those surveyed say that the stereotypes suggesting older workers are inflexible and lack energy are most responsible for putting executives at risk of being discriminated on the basis of age. Thirty-seven percent blame corporate cost cutting, 10% point toward rapid changes in technology, and 6% say increased health insurance premiums are the primary reason older executives encounter age discrimination.

The survey also found that while nearly half of all executives (47%) expect to retire after the age of 65, 24% are concerned they may be forced into retirement sooner due to their age.
Obviously, none of us are so naive as to think that discrimination based on age is going to disappear any time soon, but one would think that with some 76 million boomers heading to traditional retirement age, companies who are already more than mildly concerned about slots going unfilled due to a significantly reduced labor pool would start to realize that retaining and capitalizing on the experience base represented by this cohort would be something to creatively court rather than creatively cut.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Shameless Promotion

I have known Sheryl Spanier the lady you see here for a long time, and it was not until some years ago that I discovered her talents went well beyond being one of the most accomplished and well respected executive coaches and career management professionals around to also becoming aware that she was a Broadway vet and had a voice to match.

I also knew that Sheryl, had been continuing with her avocation, but it wasn't until I got an invitation to her appearance at the Skylight Room Cabaret on Dec. 6 and Dec. 12 (show time is at 7:00) which arrived by email today that I became aware that she was taking her show on the "road". Okay, maybe not on the "road" but to the West side, 346 W. 46th between 8th and 9th to be precise. If the name of the location is not familiar to you, here's just a little of what the New England Entertainment Digest had to say:

"Danny's Skylight Room remains one of the best locations nationwide for audiences to discover the magic of cabaret. Whether one's personal taste leans more towards jazz, Broadway standards or pop, this little jewel box on Restaurant Row in New York always sings with joy."

If you are in the City and are looking for a relaxing time Sheryl would make it a fun evening. (212) 265-8133

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Asking for the Order

I am not sure if we get more questions about age discrimination or negotiations but both are major topics that ExecuNet members talk about all the time. While there are no magic formulas for either, there is certainly no shortage of folks who have opinions or profess to have expertise. The question is do they or don't they?

To that end, I was very pleased to learn that we were able to have Dr. Michael Watkins join our team of FastTrack experts. If you have not seen the term here before, the short version is that FastTrack programs are 90 minute web based programs we offer our members on a variety of career related subjects. Indeed, most of them are also available "on demand" as well.

We had been looking for a long time to try and find someone who can talk on the subject of negotiations at a level where it is really useful for senior level executives. Not just in terms of their own compensation packages, but in terms of the art of influencing in general.

Michael, who is a professor of Practice in Management at INSEAD is, as many already know, the author of many books including The First 90 Days, and Predictable Surprises which was named best business book of 2004 by Strategy+Business.

The "live" program he is doing this week SHAPING THE GAME: NEGOTIATING YOUR NEXT SUCCESS (Thursday, Nov. 4 at 4:00 Eastern) is going to be open to the public as well. Those attending not only will have the chance to hear and interact with him "live" but also get a copy of Dr. Watkins' newest book Shaping the Game, The New Leader's Guide to Effective Negotiating along with a written executive summary of the program as well as a copy of the presentation slides. All is included in the price of $89.95.

Michael is a busy camper, so if any readers here are interested in the topic, or want to find out more about the program and/or register to attend, all the info you would need is on the ExecuNet website.

Executive Leadership - Whatever That May Mean

We hear stories about leadership all the time. Some of them inspiring (Washington, Lincoln, Truman, Kennedy) and some of them despising (Hitler, Stalin, Ebbers, Lay). There are literally thousands of people and heaven only knows how many companies who for eons have made a very handsome living trying to understand what leadership is and how it is acquired, how to grow it, nurture it, develop it, implant it, copy it, manufacture it, buy it, sell it, define it, and you name it.

Over the last fourteen years , we have asked recruiters to tell us what the key characteristics or criteria are that they are asked to “find” when given a search assignment. We have always ended up with a list of ten to twelve items, but the top three every single year have always been leadership, industry-specific experience, and functional expertise. You look at the list, and the only one that sounds like rocket science is leadership. Given the current tenure of the corner office these days, it sure feels like the search continues.

I am sure that I, like many of us, have thought about this question for a long time. I am also sure like many of us, that I don’t have an answer. I do, however, have an opinion, and like most opinions, it is based more on “feeling” than “fact.” While I don’t know what leadership is, like pornography as they say, I know it when I see it.

That said I also have a theory which may speak to leadership per se or may just address managing, but it goes like this:

When it comes to judging the performance of a manager, they really get paid to do three critical things: Hire, Fire and Evaluate.

At the risk of being overly simplistic, the rest you can learn from books and on-the-job experience. Said differently, leaders are judged by their ability to make judgments which are subjective which means they are always open to interpretation and argument. And who is to say what’s right or wrong, but they have to make the judgment nonetheless and then be able to take the heat from those who disagree. In short, they must take a stand for a belief.

Not easy stuff.

P.S. In case you don't recognize it, the "post office" picture of some of our more well known "leaders" was in BusinessWeek a year or two ago, I just don't remember exactly when, just thought it was cool.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Plan Ahead aka Ready - Fire - Aim

Remember those old Plan Ahead signs? I was reminded of this as I was following an interesting discussion amongst several of our members who participate in our Sales & Marketing Roundtable. This is a recent ListServ discussion group that got started on the member side of our site.

The subject under discussion was around the issue of what Sales says they want from Marketing and vice versa. If you have been around the business world for any length of time, you don't need me to tell you that there were some fairly strong opinions being tossed around. Sort of reminded me of a former life where such "discussions" often took place between Manufacturing and Sales which could easily have developed into a contact sport.

In any case, one of those contributing to the dialogue was Jim O'Shea. Jim has been and continues to be a very active member in these discussions, and always has major contributions.

In summing up the issue of making collaborative sense out of the importance of Sales & Marketing working together, Jim put it this way:

"Strategic planning provides a great opportunity to bring together sales and marketing, design and operations, and all other key functions in order to build not just a plan but a stronger team as well. The outcome is what's most important, but the process itself also pays dividends in building a culture of teamwork and collaboration.

You've all no doubt heard the saying, "those who fail to plan, plan to fail." I don't believe that failing to plan necessarily leads to failure. Many businesses succeed despite missteps. What I do believe is that the failure to plan leaves a lot of money on the table!"
Well said, I thought. It also brought to mind an issue that we at ExecuNet have seen repeat itself time and time again when it comes to how executives (and this includes very senior level executives, i.e. C-level folks) approach the management of their careers.

Maybe it's because so many of us fall into the type "A" personality group or maybe it is just a result of the "instant gratification" society in which we live. Not sure what the answer is, but I do know what the result often is, and that is people who head out into the marketplace following what I call the Ready-Fire-Aim approach and then lament the fact that they seem to be getting nowhere fast.

The more I think about it, the more it seems logical that all of this could come under the general heading of Sales & Marketing (or to use today's buzz words "personal branding") since in its simplest form, effective career management really is about both. We stumble when "we" are both the product manager and the sales force.

But if we think about career management in these terms, it makes sense that one needs to have a plan first, and not just any plan, but one that has been carefully thought through in terms of both target market and positioning within that market. Why? Because in more cases than we imagine, the buyer "doesn't know what they don't know" and they need the marketing and sales teams working together to help them see that we are, as we like to say here, "the aspirin for their headache."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Talent Management Right & Left Coast

Time was when you heard the phrase "R&R" people thought you were talking about getting a little "rest and relaxation." I think it was a phrase that came out of WWII when troops were sent to the rear to try and "recharge."

These days, you hear the same phrase and it seems like what they mean is "recruitment & retention." Not surprising given the issues facing corporate HR staffs in general and organization and management development professionals specifically.

In this conference time of year, it was nice to see that ACP (Association of Career Professionals International) is sponsoring a series of Forums both here and abroad. One is in NYC on Nov. 8th at Pfizer's headquarters, and another in San Francisco on Nov. 16th

In most programs, it is frequently a case of "experts" telling those on the firing line what to do and what will happen to them if they don't. Aside from the expertise that both of these programs include, one of the things that make them unique is that conference planners have gone out of their way to make sure there is an excellent balance of resources from inside corporations, industry experts, and career management professionals.

Said differently, access to technology and money has leveled the corporate playing field. The unique productivity difference comes from people, and with our data revealing that executives change companies every 3.3 years, recruitment and retention is even more critical than ever. As an executive or career management professional your role in the career management process allows executives and organizations to better collaborate, thereby extending tenure and strengthening corporate advantage.

There is no better way to learn than by the sharing of experiences, and these Forums offer a unique opportunity to do just that. Different perspectives produce powerful learnings

P.S. In the interest of full disclosure, ExecuNet has been a member of ACP for many years and while we are sharing some data from our annual survey during the luncheon at the NYC event, we would have plugged the meeting in any case.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Maya Angelou Effect

People have talked about "effective" networking, relationship building, being remembered and being referred, giving before getting, helping without strings, and probably at least a dozen other phrases for what feels like eons. Indeed, maybe there's an argument to be made that the oldest and most famous (?) networking axiom might be "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Who knows?

I guess what we do know, however, is that our lives, both personal and business, really are about relationships. Maybe this is why when I read a recent post by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval on The Huffington Post it reminded me of all this. Their post was called How We Discovered The Power of Nice. It is well worth the read if for no other reason than to give renewed hope to those of us who believe in the philosophy of pay it forward.

Indeed, when ExecuNet was started nearly 19 years ago, our first tag line was "The Power of Cooperation." While the tag line has changed over the years, for sure our operating philosophy certainly hasn't and reading about Linda and Robin's experience served as a very nice reminder, and while it wasn't necessarily a "perfect" fit, it also reminded me of a well known quote of Maya Angelou's that I always thought was very powerful:

“People do not remember what you say or what you do, over the years, but they never forget how you made them feel.”

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

One Size Does Not Fit All

I can't imagine anyone who is a part of or has even a passive interest in the world of recruitment who isn't familiar with If you don't subscribe, I would urge you to do so. John Sumser's tagline for the site is Daily Newsletters and Professional Toolboxes. It's a very apt description.

In a piece he ran today called Not The New Big (JJ-IV he gives one real pause for thought in terms of the impact of "size" on the individual and quality.
You should really read the whole piece, but if you don't have the time, the excerpt below will give you a flavor:

If you look at Craigslist and Google, it's clear that getting big has erased some (or most) of the original charm. We think it eliminates much of the effectiveness as well. When volume and money are the only discriminating factors in audience reach, there is no community. When permission based marketing no longer requires asking permission, providers will get resentful. When the act of creation is ignored in exchange for reliance on search, something critical is getting lost.
People ask me all the time if when I started ExecuNet way back in the dark ages (i.e. 1988) if I had a "vision" of turning it into a Monster type site. My immediate answer was "God forbid!" I had a tough enough time once the Internet came along allowing new members to join online before we had the chance to talk with them. I finally relented, but only after we had systems in place to make sure that we could communicate directly, and most importantly individually.

So maybe this is why this article made such an impression on me. The operative word here is "me". When I go somewhere I am not looking for something for everyone else, I am looking for something for me. When I ask for help, I am looking for someone who not only has the information I need but who actually shows me they have a genuine interest in whatever problem it is that I am trying to solve.

If one takes that notion and translates it to career management at the senior executive level, it becomes clear why most people move around the executive world (and most of the rest of it as well) by the relationships they build with others.

It is also one of the reasons why we continue to be a membership and not a subscription.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Breaking News From The About Time Department

Over the almost nineteen years as we at ExecuNet have talked with members and asked them about their feelings about interacting with the recruiting community, with very few exceptions, the responses range from "lousy" to "what relationship"?

Over the same period of time as we have talked with recruiters about their feelings about candidates and shared the candidate's feelings with them, with few exceptions, their responses range from "Yeah, I know and I don't blame them" to "If I had the time I would try to do something about it, but I just don't" to "tell 'em to grow up, my obligation is to the client."

So, if you are one of those who can relate to the foregoing, below you will see the guts of a press release that I saw today, and once you have read it, maybe it will bring a smile to your face as well.

CHICAGO, October 2, 2006 – Chicago-based executive search firm Slayton Search Partners has recently launched a formal quality assurance program. This program will ensure that client and candidate expectations are being met during every phase of the executive search process.
“Client satisfaction surveys are not new in our industry, however, we believe that the inclusion of candidate perspectives is,” said Bob Benson, Slayton’s Chairman. “What candidates think is a critical dimension in measuring the success of a search. And most importantly, the views of the candidates are central to helping build our clients’ image as an employer of choice. Our clients engage us to represent them in the best possible manner. How we accomplish that has a major impact on the attractiveness of a company to executives in their space.” That is why Slayton is taking the lead in the search industry to determine how candidates feel about their experience – setting the industry standard for providing candidates with an outstanding experience.

Slayton wants to ensure that each candidate is given an opportunity to provide his or her views concerning the way they were treated – both by Slayton and by the client. This will ensure that the candidates are treated with professionalism, courtesy, fairness and that they receive regular updates on their status during the course of the search. All responses to the quality assurance surveys will be carefully considered and the results will become an important element in the determination of Slayton’s consultant compensation related to quality. Slayton has also committed to regularly reporting its candidate survey findings, favorable or not, back to their clients.
I also should say that for those who are readers here, and you say to yourself, I think I have seen Benson's name here before, you would be right. A month or so ago, I posted a piece called Why Do You Work? If you read it, then you, like me, would not have been surprised to see Bob's leadership reflected in what Slayton has committed itself to do.

Kudos Bob et al. I hope it starts a trend.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Myth of the Puritan Work Ethic

Over the years, I have talked to lots of executives who, like myself, back in the early 90's were around when IBM announced to the world that they too were going to have RIF's. That event came as a bit of an epiphany to many executives who finally realized they had to face the reality of the fact that the Puritan work ethic notion with which most of us had grown up was really a myth. We wanted it to be true, but in our hearts we knew it was wishful thinking.

Once that reality had set in, management gurus of almost every stripe wondered out loud and in print how the loyalty which had been the currency of the implicit contract between employer and employee for so many generations, could, if ever, be replaced in the psyche of the executive workforce.

Sometimes, I suppose, when we read Fortune's list of the 100 best companies to work for, etc. we think there actually are organizations who understand that the biggest competitive advantage any company has really resides in the hearts and minds of its employees. One would hope this is the case.

Then again, we are reminded when we read articles such as the recent AP story that Radio Shack, which had previously announced they were going to cut some 400 jobs had implemented the reduction and in an "interesting" utilization of modern technology, informed the 400 employees via an email that apparently read: "The workforce reduction notification is currently in progress, unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated."

Even though a company spokesperson told the press that employees had been told that the RIF notices would come via email, the story went on to say that a management professor at the University of North Texas, Derrick D'Souza, commented that handling the communication in this way could be seen, as "dehumanizing to employees." (A great candidate for the understatement of the week?)

Not that I would offer it up as scientific proof, but the last time I checked ExecuNet's membership stats when we asked members employment status, 70% indicated they were currently employed.

Message recieved.

I think all of us at this stage of the game understand the implications of a global economy, etc. We understand that the "contract" never really existed. We can live with that, but when I read articles such as the Radio Shack piece, and I think about the management process and the responsibilities of leadership, it also reminds me yet once again that it is always much more about the "how" than the "what."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Happiness Is Different Things To Different People

It's always fun to see surveys that are taken by different organizations on the same subject. In this case, my colleague Robyn Greenspan, the Senior Editor of our bi-weekly newsletter the CareerSmart Advisor, made me aware of one conducted by the Computing Technology Industry Association and reported in an article on Some interesting stuff. Always is when they are asking people how they feel about the jobs they're in versus the ones they think they want.

In this case, 60% of the 1,000 IT types who responded indicated they were looking for new jobs, and if you believe the numbers, 80% of those who said they were looking, considered their searches "very active."

I guess with the economy still chugging along at a decent pace, it shouldn't be too surprising that folks are looking. Indeed, our own survey, which includes a much broader spectrum of functions, including IT, indicated that 53% were dissatisfied with their current gigs, and 72% were ready to put their money where their mouth was - i.e. planned to bail within 6 months.

What has interested me in such surveys over time is what appears might be a shift from money always being the prime motivator on both ends of the "why" people want to make a change. Time was when people left it was because they wanted to make more money, and when they took another job is was money that topped the list.

Not that the world has turned completely idealistic. Money still "talks" as they say, and in the CTIA survey it was the top reason (73% said money was the driver motivating them to look) but there was a substantial percentage (58%) who cited "looking for a new challenge" as the prime factor. Considering this survey was focused on the IT world, I guess the results might not be too surprising in the sense that the conventional wisdom has always indicated that in the IT world, it has always been about "challenge" and money.

In our own survey,The Executive Job Market Intelligence Report, however, and as I said, it covered a much broader spectrum of executives, the numbers came out quite differently. Specifically, the reasons given for expecting to make a change within the next 6 months were:

Personal Reasons: 30% (limited opportunities; lack of challenge/personal growth)
External Factors: 26% (company/industry prospects not favorable; job security)
Atmosphere: 22% (differences with culture; boss not a good match)
Lifestyle: 11% (work/life balance; volume of business travel; commute)
Compensation: 11%

It was the first time that I had ever seen money that far downt the list.

Maybe Maslow was right, once you get to the point where you feel you can put food on the table other factors start to become strong enough to really start to influence behavior.

Things like 911 do too.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Where Has All The Wisdom Gone?

Where have all the Flowers Gone was a 60's song written by Pete Seeger. It's a song that would still be recognizable to many of us today, especially the song's message that was repeated in each and every stanza:"When will they ever learn?" "When will they ever learn?"

If you follow the human capital space at all, you are keenly aware that that one of the key issues being discussed in the press, in professional journals, websites of every stripe and blogs across the electronic universe has to do with the brain drain forecast as the boomers leave the workforce and those coming in behind them, rather than having the benefit of their advice and counsel will be faced with a learning curve driven by trial and error. Not a great picture when played against global competition.

Many organizations, including ours, have asked corporate America if (a) they are aware that this is turning into serious issue, and (b) if so, what are they doing about it. In our
Executive Market Intelligence Report
this year, 67.7% of the recruiters told us they felt there was a shortage of executive talent, and 76.6% of the corporate recruiters who responded indicated that their companies were concerned about retention, and all agreed the proverbial "war for talent" was heating up.

In addition to our own data collection on this topic, we also had the opportunity to work with Ernst & Young on a survey they were doing in this area as well. Whether one is part of the boomer generation or part of the manpower planning world, the challenge of filling the coming void with talent and keeping that talent is an attention getter.

For those who might have an interest, on the 20th at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, the National Institute of Business Management is hosting an audio conference with Bill Arnone of Ernst & Young's human capital practice and our President, Mark Anderson who will be addressing this topic in a program entitled Aging in Corporate America: How to Retain Wisdom & Recruit Leaders

NIBM is noted for the quality of their programs, and we are pleased to be able to contribute to this one.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Life Altering Events

It happens at all different ages, and if you live long enough, it probably happens more than once. (e.g. the days that JFK, RFK or Martin Luther King were assassinated.) Five years ago it was 9/11. Events like these change all of us, and each of us takes different paths in how we process the pain, hurt, and anger.

There were many very moving reminders over the past week or so, both in print and on television. I would like to draw your attention to one more, particularly if you were not directly affected by 9/11.

Steve Levy and Maureen Sharib co-host a blog called The Recruiting Edge There is much I could say about Steve's post on remembering 9/11, but after reading it, anything that I could say seems totally unnecessary. It speaks for itself.

Monday, September 11, 2006

"...With a Little Help From My Friends"

I have always felt that one of the best, if not THE best, sources of advice and counsel when it comes to career management is to talk to your peers. Indeed, trying to foster that sort of discusssion was a key factor when we started ExecuNet "back in the day" as they say. Given that we started in 1988, most of that peer counseling and experience sharing came from my logging long but very gratifying hours on the phone. It wasn't long before I was ready to buy stock in Hello Direct or Plantronics.

While I still spend my days strapped into a headset, the avenues now available for people to help eachother have, through the wonders of modern telecommunications, multiplied big time. In our case, in addition to the 40-50 face to face meetings we have in cities across the county on a monthly basis, we have members sharing all sorts of "learnings" both online and off.

Whenever I explore the myrid of topics being discussed, the thing I get the most satisfaction from is the degree to which members "get it" in terms of sharing and trying to help each other. Sure, each of us have our own agendas, interests, and goals. Everyone "wants" something. But if you don't have others who are willing to try and help you get to wherever it is you want to go, you may get there eventually, but for sure it will take you much, much longer.

As an example in our ExecuNet Forum, there has been an on-going discussion amongst several of our members in the sales function. The topic they have been kicking around is the challenge of changing industries, and as an aside, something that is on more peeople's minds than you might think. In our Executive Job Market Intelligence Report this year over 70% said they were considering this as a potential next step in their career.

Here's a sample of the kind of sharing that people are doing that came from one of the forum participants who goes by the handle JimOSales:

A few comments on the recent posts on this topic. One relates to the questions Steve in Jersey listed. I think they are all excellent things to explore. Ask what they are looking for and why, and what has worked for them in the past. If you find that industry experience has been no guarantee of success in the past, you might be able to get them to see beyond that factor.

I also agree with the post from 491318 suggesting that reaching this type of career crossroad is a great time to "re-think your life and do something you would really love doing." For me it was becoming a coach and helping people to become more successful--something I truly love. It is much easier to sell something you love than something that is just a means to the end of putting food on the table. I confess I had a lean year and a half while making the transition, yet I never looked back and I am better for having taken a road less traveled. Many of you have extensive sales experience and have probably trained other sales professionals. Perhaps a career in sales coaching is another avenue to consider. There are organizations like Resource Associates Corporation and Sandler Institute that are always looking for new people to do this kind of work.

Jim OSales continued:I met an interesting speaker and author recently (Kenneth Gronbach) and just finished reading his book, "Common Census: The Counter-Intuitive Guide to Generational Marketing." Some of you might find it of interest on a couple levels. First, it might give you some insight into industries that are likely to be up, as well as ones that are likely to be down, over the next 10-20 years. It might also be encouraging in that generational shifts have us heading into a period where we are likely to face labor shortages as Baby Boomers start to retire and a significantly smaller Generation X moves along in their careers. There is good news and bad news in these generational shifts. The key is to use the knowledge of where things are heading to your best advantage.

One final comment re: trying to convince someone that being an outsider is an advantage. We have a saying in our sales development process: "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. Your job is to make the horse thirsty." We ultimately can't convince anyone of anything. What we can do is ask them the kinds of questions that might help them convince themselves. It's hard for me to believe that every hiring manager out there has always had success with new hires from within the industry. I'm sure many hire the "experience ones" simply because that's the way it has always been done and it seems logical. But if you can probe and get them to acknowledge that the "experienced ones" don't always work out, perhaps you can shift the conversation to those qualities that do seem to have a direct correlation with success in the job.

Best to all in your transitions!
To coin a phrase, "what goes around comes around."

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Lexus Syndrome

I don't know if they still use it, but the tag line that Lexus had for a while was "the relentless pursuit of perfection." I loved it. Not because I thought it ever applied to me as such, but just because I thought it was so clever in terms of capturing and conveying their sense of commitment to producing a high quality product on an on going basis.

For many of us, it isn't so much the challenge of getting to perfection that holds us back. After all, I suspect that most people are realists when it comes to batting 1.000. In the real world, most of us find ourselves having trouble moving out of our respective comfort zones and pushing on. Somehow we just can't seem to "get started" or as Michael Bungay Stanier, who I had the good fortune to hear speak at our local ACP chapter meeting recently, puts it, "Getting Unstuck."

Michael, Canadian Coach of the Year among other things, is one of those career coaches who when you first check him out you are thinking "nah, this is too far out for me." "Too idealistic for the real world," but like most good consultants, he overcomes the skepticism by giving his audience examples and tools that can't be ignored. He also does a great job of putting things in a perspective that transforms one's thinking from "there are just too many hurdles to overcome" to one of "wait a minute, this really isn't as impossible as it looks."

To help with putting things in context of the "doable" he has developed a pretty cool set of tools, 10 little cards actually, each of which addresses different aspects of helping someone to "get unstuck." An example:

Provocative quote: "One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time." You are then asked the question: Who's against you? How are you letting that get in your way? Perspective.

One of the tools I liked the best was the card entitled: Probabilities. This card has the following list which comes from ASTD (American Society of Training & Development)

The probability of completing a goal:

10% if you hear an idea.
25% if you consciously decide to adopt it.
40% if you decide when you will do it.
50% if you plan how you will do it.
65% if you commit to someone else you will do it.
95% if you have a specific accountability appointment with the person to whom you committed.

Pretty good list, but one that I had not been aware of until Michael shared it with us.

As I thought about it, it occurred to me that these percentages really play into why it is that we host around 40-50 face to face networking meetings around the U.S. and Canada every month. The meetings give those attending (they are open to anyone) a chance to not only expand their personal and professional networks, but an opportunity to build the kind of relationships that help people to turn their individual 10% probabilities into 95% probabilities.

When people commit to helping each other, good things happen.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Money Isn't Everything & Other Revelations

I was checking out the most recent issue of BusinessWeek while basking in one of the most beautiful weekends of the year. Temp in the low 80's, no humidity to speak of, just enough breeze to keep you cool without having to worry about shade. It felt like the biggest decision for the day would be where to go for some outdoor dinning. The whole experience made me wonder if this is what living in San Diego must be like.

In any case, if you missed it, it was one of their "special issues" called The Competition Issue. Some pretty interesting stuff and among other things, they had some factoids from a survey they had run this past July in which they talked to just over 2500 Americans described as being in "middle management."

One of the questions asked was "Which work objective gets you out of bed in the morning?" Finishing ahead of "a high salary" which came in at 9% were "respect of your peers" (11%); "a good balance of work and home life" (30%) and "knowing you did your job well" (44%)

So there was money coming in as close to "an also ran" and somewhere in the deep furrows of my memory, I recalled not just the statement that money is a short term not a long term motivator, but that it had been empirically demonstrated.

Indeed, in our own annual survey (The Executive Job Market Intelligence Report) we asked the question a bit differently but got a similar answer. Our question was around the reasons that people choose to leave their jobs. 30% of our members said it revolved around personal issues such as limited advancement opportunities, lack of challenge and personal growth. Another 26% said external factors such as company or industry prospects were poor, and another 22% felt the culture match wasn't right for them. Compensation came in at 11%.

So if it isn't the money, what is it? In my head I knew, but as I read the rest of the issue, there was something that Joe Torre said in an essay that he had written for this issue, that w while I am not a Yankee fan, I am a Torre fan, and I thought the way he said it covered it very well. He said:

"...But in the end, it still comes down to people. You have to make people feel necessary. Even if their contributions are minor, it adds to everything else. That's what makes the machine work."
As I closed the magazine, I thought to myself, why does something that seems so self-evident come as a revelation to so many?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Life Changers

Kent Blumberg has a blog in which he shares his thoughts on "leadership, strategy, and performance." There is much that I like about his writing style not the least of which is the sincerity that comes through in the sense that he is simply willing to share. He is not keeping score.

In a recent post, he was prompted to write about his "three most influential teachers" which he says was prompted by a post by George Ambler. Based on Ken's recommendation, I checked out Ambler's blog and immediately added it to my favorites list along with Ken's.

In any case, be they teachers, which I suspect they were for many of us, or maybe even some bosses we've had, there is no question that almost anyone can name two or three people who have touched their lives in such a way so that if someone said name the 3 people who you feel most influenced you by the time you were say 30 (parents & spouses don't count) most people could easily come up with the names.

In Ken's life, the names were Ken, Rod, and Mike. In my case, they are Eddie, Buddy, and Ken. All teachers. All I met when I was 13 and had just moved back to Connecticut from North Dakota. (Not sure if the move was by choice, or as I often say, was due to our family being paroled.)

If you asked me why these three in particular made my top three I am not sure I could really say, all I know is they are there, and it was a "no brainer." That said, if I had to take a shot at explaining why, I guess it was a combination of what each taught me in the class room and on the athletic field. Eddie taught biology, Buddy math, and Ken history. Eddie was an assistant football coach and varsity basketball coach. Bud was the school's AD and head football coach, and Ken coached varsity soccer.

I probably knew Buddy the best as I attended his summer day camp for many years in my early teens, and more importantly, spent almost every Saturday morning back on the school's campus in his class room trying desperately to catch up on my non-existent math skills.

Ken makes the point in writing about the three people in his life that they each taught him something about both himself as well as instilling in him qualities that have remained with him as guiding principals in his professional life.

I guess I would say the same about the three I have mentioned here, and now that I think about it, I suspect that most of us would feel the same about those who have influenced us deeply. It is about the value systems they demonstrated, not in words so much as in behavior. The standards that Ed, Buddy, and Ken set in the classroom were high, but each had his own way of supporting me (and my classmates) in a way that made even those of us who weren't "as smart" to give it our best and in so doing most of us ended up doing far better than we had ever imagined both in the classroom and on the playing fields.

I was an okay football player, a horrible basketball player (so they turned me into a diver in the winter) and in baseball, a disaster waiting to happen (so they turned me into a pole vaulter and javelin thrower). We went undefeated my senior year.

Many years later I was asked to serve on the school's Board of Trustees. At the time I was working in New York City, so making board meetings was not going to be easy, but I said yes instantly. Why? Because among other things I felt it was the least I could to for three men and a school which helped to give me a chance in life that I otherwise would never have had.

I still owe them.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Virtual Handshake

One of the really fun aspects of ExecuNet being a membership organization rather than a subscription is that we get to talk with members all day long both on the phone and by email. There are a lot of benefits that come from that sort of a relationship, one of which is that you get to hear first hand not just what is on people's minds, but you get great ideas on things you can do to help meet their needs.

With the advent of not just the Internet, but the explosion of email, IM, and "social networking" as communication channels of choice for millions, for a long time we had been searching for a subject matter expert on the use of cyberspace for the care and feeding of one's network.

When the book The Virtual Handshake came out we knew we had found the answer in terms of the right resource, the issue was trying to get either David Teten or Scott Allen to slow down long enough from their various and sundry enterprises and speaking engagements so we could put together a webinar on the subject.

Given the degree to which we talk to people about the importance of expanding both one's personal as well as professional network, we are more than just a tad psyched that on the 4th at 4:00 co-author Scott Allen will be presenting a FastTrack webinar which will show the audience how to effectively build a online presence that will help senior level executives to present themselves electronically in a way that builds effective relationships.

To that end, attendance at our networking events has always been open to anyone, be they members of ExecuNet or not. This program is no different

Monday, July 31, 2006

There's a Reason They Call it Caveat Emptor

I never took Latin in school, and my kids think I look old enough to have been going to school when that was the 'only' language they spoke in school. That said, you don't have to know Latin to know that the phrase caveat emptor gives one the feeling of and a message of "watch out"!

So, what does that have to do with the space within which
operates? The answer lies in a story that showed up in a recent issue of Information Week that carried the headline "FBI Warns Job Hunters of Online Scams."

In reading through the story, written by K.C. Jones of TechWeb, it struck me that I have heard stories about job seekers be scammed almost ever since I can remember. Even though I am well aware that this stuff still goes on and note that there is a very well worn path on this subject that shows up in our online member forums that our members use to exchange information and ideas, nonetheless, almost a day doesn't pass where I don't get a call from someone who has been ripped off by some firm that is selling smoke and snake oil to someone full of the fear and anxiety caused by the pressure of wondering if they are going to be able to make the mortgage payment next month.

Fortunately, more and more of the members we hear from are contacting us BEFORE they have written a check, and one of the reasons I think is the degree to which people are using the "net" to share experiences and to warn each other. For those who may not be aware, there is also a website called RipOff Report that I have watched grow over the years. The good news is that it is there, the bad news is that it is so packed with visitors that sometimes you have to come back to do a search, although the last time I went to the site they said they were pounding forward on some improvements which would speed up the wait time.

I guess we all have seen the segments on 20/20, Dateline, 60 Minutes, and other magazine shows over the years, and every now and again they do a segment on one of these outfits that continue to pray on the vulnerability that comes when people are under enormous financial and emotional stress.

It can get very, very sad. I recall many years ago a fellow in Florida (and this was long before the Internet) who had been burned (and emotionally scarred) so badly by one of these companies that he literally devoted the rest of his life to trying to discredit the crooks and help people who had been victimized by them.

One wonders in this day and age how it is that really "smart" people can continue to be conned into this stuff, but they are. Maybe ole P.T. was more right than wrong, I don't know, and I am certainly not among those who might be looking for Uncle Sam to get more involved in anything,(heaven forbid!) but when I see this sort of thing going on for as long as it has, it certainly drives home the reason that regulators get involved.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Why Do You Work?

I guess everybody has a couple of "favorite" interview questions. One of mine has always been to ask "why do you work"? If you have never tried it, give it a go, you get some interesting responses aside from the normal "to pay the bills."

Over the years lots of people have asked me that question in one form or another, or if it hadn't been asked, it certainly is something I've thought about a lot. As a recovering HR person, I guess it would come as no surprise when I tell you I learned long ago that money is not what motivates me.

This all came up for me again a few evenings ago when I had the chance to have "reunion" dinner with our Sr. Contributing Editor Joe McCool and Bob Benson, Chairman of Slayton Search Partners. I have known Bob for years as has Joe, but I had not seen Bob since he returned to the U.S. after working in Europe for several years. It was a fun evening to say the least.

Especially when Bob asked me how things were going at ExecuNet. Since he and I are roughly the same age, and I was well aware of the passion he has for his work, I knew he could relate to my reply. What I told him was that aside from the fact that things were going very well in the network, in terms of job satisfaction, this has been the most exciting and rewarding experience of my career.

The reason it is, I told him, is that we felt so blessed to be able to make our living from being able to help as many people as we do. It was a tremendously satisfying feeling. He knew exactly how I felt.

In fact, I went on to tell him that while we had lots and lots of members who when they joined were all looking for senior executive jobs, and many of them got the next gig after responding to one of our postings, that since most people make a change via networking, that I got a much bigger kick out of the emails that we get from members who have made a change and who tell us how helpful we were to them as a resource as they managed a job change.

So all this was still fresh in my mind when I walked in the office today and found the following email from a VP of Marketing member which said in part:

"Your firm and what you teach via ExecuNet has been invaluable to me. My life is much better, different and more rewarding as a result of the opportunities and jobs I've had, the skills I have learned and the people I have met. Thank you! You all do important and life-changing "stuff"!!!

Maybe a lot of people would tell me to "get a life" in terms of what turns you on, but as I told Bob and Joe, I live for this stuff. It's why I work.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Role Models and Working to Live

One of the problems (and that's with a small "p") of being in the same business for a while (in our case nearly 20 years) is that your "friends" send you stuff that they see in which they think you might have an interest because it relates in some way to your personal or professional interests.

I should quickly add here that I really don't mean this to sound like a complaint for in truth people who do things like that are the type one remembers - and for all the right reasons. In addition, and as an organization that bangs the networking drum as hard as we do, I should and do applaud these types of communications. All of which is a long way of saying my friend and colleague Robyn Greenspan, our Senior Editor, sent along a copy of a recent article by Anna Bahney of the NY Times called A Life Between Jobs.
One of the stats in the article stated that between 1978 and 2002, people between the ages of 18-38 had held 10.2 jobs. According to my calculator (I would never trust myself to do it otherwise) that says these folks were changing jobs every 2.3 years give or take a few months. No wonder the service award industry is in a slump!

What struck me about all this was when I went back and checked some of the data in our annual Executive Job Market Intelligence Report
it told me that our ExecuNet members (whose average age is 49) said they changed jobs every 2.7 years and companies every 3.3 years. So much for " 25 and out" which if you are an executive with more than 25+ years experience you already are well aware that the old saw of "25 and out" "went out", as they say, "with high button shoes."

Each generation looks to the next for role models on a lot of levels, and given that I am of the generation, which I am not proud to report, put the organization ahead of not only ourselves but worse, our families, The generation behind us took a gander at that and said "not on my watch." None of my kids took jobs in corporate America. For sure they understand one needs to work in order to live, but having seen the "price" of "living to work" they have elected to work to live.

When I look at the stats above, and while clearly there are many factors that cause the numbers to be what they are, one of them, I think, has something to do with putting job satisfaction and life style issues, if not in front of dollars and cents, at least much higher on the list than they used to be. As I say, seeing what has gone on with our parents is certainly part of what has brought about this change, but only one factor. There's another called 9/11 that probably has something to do with it too.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

New Rules in a Flat World

I guess if you're a business magazine reader you probably saw the cover story in Fortune that was blasting out the news that Jack Welch's rules for running a successful business have gone out, as they used to say, with "high button shoes" and the poor guy has only been out of the corner office for five (5) years. How time flies.

If you didn't see the piece, the list was kind of interesting:

Old Rule: Big dogs own the street. New Rule: Agile is best.
Old Rule: Be #1 or #2 in your market. New Rule: Find a niche.
Old Rule: Shareholders rule. New Rule: The customer is king.
Old Rule: Be lean & mean. New Rule:Look out, not in.
Old Rule: Rank your players. New Rule: Hire passionate people.
Old Rule:
Hire a charismatic CEO. New Rule: Hire a courageous CEO.
Old Rule: Admire my might. New Rule: Admire my soul

I guess it is one of the "benefits" or some might say "curses" of having been running around the planet for a while and the business part of that world for more than forty (40) years that one gets either "wiser" or some might say cynical. I guess it depends on one's point of view.

Anyway, when I first saw the Fortune story, the image that flashed across my mind was the segment on Bill Maher's show on HBO called "new rules." No matter which side of the political spectrum you're on, some the stuff he does is really very funny.

As much as I, along with the rest of the universe, admire the results of what GE accomplished during Jack's tenure, it does not necessarily follow that his leadership "rules" are the be all and end all. Becasue of Jack's personality and style he is often looked at as a benchmark when it comes to leadership. Understandable, but as we all know, there are lots of other companies that have done extremely well with leadership styles that were very different from Jack's. There are also plenty of examples of ones that have failed with leaders whose styles and rules were like Jack's. I guess that is why they call it "situational management."

So I don't know if it's the fact that the "rules" of leadership have really changed so the old ones don't work anymore or if it is simply that we have "new rules" driven by the epiphany of the 90's when U.S. industry discovered the realities of globalization. A discovery which on an individual level translated to the knowledge that the Puritan work ethic in return for job security was a myth from the get go. Whatever it was, things changed, and companies and those who work for them have been trying to adapt and adjust ever since.

In our case, ExecuNet as an organization was born out of the aforementioned 90s epiphany, and the "new" rule that we started to apply was "nobody cares about you more than you" and if you were not going to become proactive in terms of managaing your professional worklife, you were playing career roulette with a fully loaded gun.

It took a while for the notion to catch on, but as we look at our membership now, some 70% is made up of senior level executives and professionals who are currently employed. They are not necessarily looking for their next senior executive jobs, nor are they necessarily interested in anyone's rules other than the one they have now internalized: The company I work for is "Me, Inc." and we outsource our services.

Very 21st century.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Friends vs. Allies

I saw an article the other day written by Ely Portillo in which he was talking about study results published in the June issue of the American Sociological Review indicating that as a society we have fewer and fewer close friends. Now, don't get me wrong it's not like my "first read" on a daily basis is the the American Sociological Review, indeed until I saw it referenced in Portillo's article, I didn't even know there was such an animal; Sports Center is more my speed.

What struck me was that the article said in 1985 the people surveyed said they had only three close friends. That was surprising enough, but the new study indicated that the number was only 1 out of 4.

In the name of full disclosure, essentially "friend" seemed to be defined as someone with whom one felt they could discuss "important matters" whatever that may mean.

Aside from being struck by how low this number was, it made me think about something I had observed on a personal level over the years, and which has simply been underscored even more as we talk with our ExecuNet members on a daily basis.

The "learning" that most members seem to take away from making a job change is that the folks who they expected (i.e. my "A" list) would be the biggest help turned out to be pretty much a bust. The question is why? After all, aren't these guys supposed to be my "closest friends"? Well, not if you buy what Portillo's article reports. Indeed, and while we have not yet done any surveys on "friends", we have done a number of surveys on how people make changes, one of the most recent being this year's Executive Job Market Intelligence Report which underscores the value of trusted introductions.

The answer we keep getting is not "friends" but rather contacts and relationships that came about as the result of "networking." The last time I looked, the number I recall seeing from those members who checked in following their most recent change was some 70% said it came as the result of networking, but not necessarily networking with those who would be thought of as "my closest" friends, but rather people that I met during the course of my search with whom I "hit it off" and we just started to help each other. In fact, even after making the change, most would not describe these individuals as "friends" but rather as "allies" in a common cause.

Works for me.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Graduation Time

This time of year is always fun in that there are lots of pieces that show up in print or in short segments on the evening newscasts all of which are focused on advice to the new grads.

If you had not seen the one below authored by Charles Sykes, author of the book Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good About Themselves But Can't Read, Write, Or Add, I think it worthy of attention.

Rule No. 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average teen-ager uses the phrase "It's not fair" 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids, they realized Rule No. 1.

Rule No. 2: The real world won't care as much about your self-esteem as much as your school does. It'll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. This may come as a shock. Usually, when inflated self-esteem meets reality, kids complain that it's not fair. (See Rule No. 1)

Rule No. 3: Sorry, you won't make $40,000 a year right out of high school. And you won't be a vice president or have a car phone either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn't have a Gap label.

Rule No. 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait 'til you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he's not going to ask you how you feel about it.

Rule No. 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity. They weren't embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.

Rule No. 6: It's not your parents' fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of "It's my life," and "You're not the boss of me," and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it's on your dime. Don't whine about it, or you'll sound like a baby boomer.

Rule No. 7: Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.

Rule No. 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn't. In some schools, they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. Failing grades have been abolished and class valedictorians scrapped, lest anyone's feelings be hurt. Effort is as important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life. (See Rule No. 1, Rule No. 2 and Rule No. 4.)

Rule No. 9: Life is not divided into semesters, and you don't get summers off. Not even Easter break. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don't get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on. While we're at it, very few jobs are interested in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself. Fewer still lead to self-realization. (See Rule No. 1 and Rule No. 2.)

Rule No. 10: Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. Your friends will not be as perky or pliable as Jennifer Aniston.

Rule No. 11: Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.

Okay Mom and Dad, let's adjourn to the bar!