Friday, March 31, 2006

Lessons from the Ethics Panel

One of the other sites I like and follow as best I can given the stresses of living in the 24/7 business world is the Electronic Recruiting Exchange where I find some pretty interesting discussions and blogs.

While the site is primarily designed for corporate and third party recruiters my interest in following the discussions is because to some degree we are part of the staffing space (one of the reasons we became a charter member of Pete Weddle's International Association of Employment Websites) and our membership is made up of both senior level executives (who have feelings and perceptions about the recruiting world) as well as recruiters - both corporate and third party (who have feelings and perceptions about candidates and clients).

That the ERE should be having discussions on the subject of ethics is no surprise. The recruiting industry has been talking about and around this subject for a long time, just as companies have been talking about it for a long time.

The most recent exchanges on this topic arose from a panel on ethics that was featured at ERE's recent conference in San Diego. One of the more recent posts on the subject was titled Lessons from the Ethics Panel if you wanted to check it out to see how the discussion was going. Clearly people have feelings on the subject, but it also makes one wonder why it should be a topic of discussion after all these years.

As I have followed the discussion and digested the points of view expressed, it reminded me of a couple of things:

1. Whether it is an individual, a group, a company, a profession, an industry, a country - we all (rightly or wrongly) have our reputations. Proof once again of the old saw: "Perceptions are real to those who hold them," and

2. "Actions speak louder than words."

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Careful What You Wish For

Robyn Greenspan, the Senior Editor of our Career Smart Advisor newsletter as well as the senior editor and writer of our Executive Job Market Intelligence Report that just went out to our members this week, has, among her many talents, a seemingly unique ability to find the quirky little tid bits here and there and then always has something thought provoking to say about it.

She sent me the following blurb that she found in the NY Times:

FINAL TAKE Some 21 percent of workers said they pitied their bosses, and 54 percent said they "could never be paid enough to take their boss's job," according to Money magazine, which also reports that the average chief executive's salary increased 14.5 percent in 2004, compared with a 3.7 percent raise for the average worker.

This lead the Times to comment:

"That leads to one of two possible conclusions. Either the boss deserves the money, or those who feel sorry for him may want to rethink their position."

Robyn's comment after she read it was: “Every company needs bench strength, so it’s probably a good idea that the 54 percent stay out of the way of the high-achieving 46 percent.” Love her sense of humor!

It also made me think a bit about the shots that bosses take. When I was growing up, the American dream was to rise up the corporate ladder and become a "boss." Sounded great until I got there. Once I got there, I found out in a hurry that it wasn't anything close to being "as advertised."

I also think that my experience in working with different bosses over time was probably not too different from my peers. I had a couple of really good ones, and some who were so bad that I kept saying to myself that they would get a separate chapter when I write my book.

Good or bad, however, I would like to think that I learned from each and as I continued on with what I now must look back on as a "career" it is my hope that I was able to save and apply the "good learnings" and drown the "bad learnings" in apple martinis.

Monday, March 20, 2006

The Cost of March Madness

I think many of us saw the stats recently attributed to Challenger, Gray & Christmas on the cost of the lost productivity due to NCAA men's basketball tournament. Was a pretty impressive number, and makes one wonder how much more we "lose" when it comes to super bowl pools, fantasy football, baseball, NASCAR, and we hear there is even fantasy golf! It's a wonder anything gets done at all.

Anyway, in case you missed it, here is how Challenger et al got to their numbers:

- 58,548,000 = the number of Americans who are estimated to be fans of college basketball (41 percent of a workforce of 142.8 million).

- 13.5 minutes = the average amount of time U.S. workers are expected to spend on NCAA-related websites over the 16 business day tournament season.

- $4.05 = the average amount earned every 13.5 minutes by American workers

- $237,119,400 = the cost to employers nationwide in lost, unproductive wages for each 13.5 minutes of time wasted on the Internet.

- $3,793,910,400 or more = the total amount March Madness could cost employers over 16 business days of tournament.

Just for the fun of it, ExecuNet decided to take John C's formula, add a bit of data of our own, specifically compensation data of our membership based on our survey figures, along with occupational data from our friends at the Dept. of Labor. We came up with a number that says executives are responsible for $315,000,000 all by themselves.

If you have nothing else to do at half time, here's how we totaled it up:

- 943,000 = the number of executives who are estimated to be fans of college basketball (41 percent of the 2.3 million executive jobs in U.S., according to DoL).

- $20.88 = the average amount executives earn every 13.5 minutes (ExecuNet found that top executives, on average, earn $92.79 per hour).

- $19,689,847 = the cost to employers nationwide in lost, unproductive wages for each 13.5 minutes of time an executive wastes on the Internet.

- $315,037,440 or more = the total amount executive fans of March Madness could cost employers over 16 business days of tournament.

Not being a "numbers" guy, I didn't want to ask our team to go back and recalculate everything based on the fact that I stopped watching once two of my final four got knocked out by Sunday!

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Wonders of Modern Telecommunications?

One of the e-newsletters I follow is The Herman Alert. It is published by Roger Herman and Joyce Gioia, and frequently has some interesting insights.

One of the more recent posts was titled Ubiquitous Cell Phones Blocking Relationships. Without going into great detail, the essence of the article was that the use of cell phones (and by implication other electronic communications) has gotten to the point where is was replacing personal relationships and in general going a long way to making the world far more impersonal not to mention impolite.

While people talking on cell phones in restaurants, on trains, and in other places where it really is pretty hard not to be annoyed by both the ringing and the conversations is certainly not anything I would endorse, I thought that this particular piece went a bit overboard in terms of sounding the death knell of modern society.

For example, one of the major complaints of the article was that we have people who work within a few yards of each other who communicate via email rather than getting from their desk and going to talk to someone in person.

On the surface I guess that may seem a bit odd, but frankly, it didn't strike me as that crazy. Maybe that's because we do so much of it here, but in doing so, and as I look around (and yes, even walk around) our office on a daily basis, I don't sense that the use of the technology is causing us to lose the personal relationships that we all value and feel are important.

Just because the technology is there doesn't mean that organizations can't do things to ensure that people stay connected on a personal level as well as an electronic one. In fact, I even believe that the electronic tools can help ensure that organizations "stay connected" and that the "connection" is even more personal, not less.

As an example, in our company, we have an email newsletter that goes to everyone in the company every working day. We use it to not just communicate "what's happening" that day on a business level, but often the "Buzz" as we call it, reports on personal achievements as well as contributions to the business. We have fun with it, and it is the technology that makes it possible.

In short, my feeling is that technology is an enabler of communication, both personal and professional, and not a replacement for personal relationships be they personal or professional.

The last time I looked, we manage the systems, the systems don't manage us. Bad manners are one thing, but organizations don't fail because of bad manners or technology that is "abused". They fail because they are not managed well. If things are too impersonal to the point where people don't care, it's because management doesn't care enough not because some jerk wants to show off his latest Bluetooth gadget.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Happenstance Theory of Career Planning

David Lawrence has a blog which he calls Ripples which I have followed for some time. He, in turn, follows a blog written by a fellow named Adrian Savage whose blog is titled: The Coyote Within. Had I stumbled across the title I would have taken a look just because I thought it was intriguing. He explains the title and his blog's purpose as follows:

"Coyotes are quick, smart and adaptable; everything a small business should be. And despite decades of persecution, they're still doing what they do best: being themselves.

A blog for sharing insights and thoughts into how to survive and prosper in a harsh world."

He has some interesting things to say about careers and how we do or don't manage them.

As I was reading through Adrian's most recent post and the suggestions he has for his readers (which made a lot of sense it seemed to me) it reminded me that I, like so many of my friends and colleagues, sit here some 40+ years into a "career" and realize that that while for the past 18 years I can say that I have never been more excited about what I am doing for a living, I also realize just how lucky I am to be able to say so, because the fact of the matter is that most of my career I had just let the "world happen to me." I was not proactive at all. Things happened, and I reacted as best I could. A sad commentary, but as life has gone on, I realize that I am far from alone in having managed my career in what I would now call "The Happenstance Theory of Career Planning."

As we all know, times change, and one generation observes and "learns" from another. In my generation, senior level executive jobs was the goal for a lot of us, even if we weren't quite sure why and didn't have any great strategy figured out on how we were going to get there.

In today's world, it feels to me like one of the key lessons learned by those who aspire to senior or executive level jobs is that if you are smart, you will not wait for the "world to happen to you." Indeed, given the type of turnover at the executive level that has surfaced since the early 90's, and if the make up of the membership here at ExecuNet is anything close to being representative today's executives are not sitting around waiting to react to events. The last time I looked at our membership mix, nearly 70% of the membership was made up of executives who were currently employed but who were keeping their both their eyes as well as their options open.

We also publish a comprehensive survey of the executive marketplace every year called the Executive Job Market Intelligence Report, and just one of the telling stats that surfaced this year was the fact that over half of the respondents described themselves as unhappy campers in their current jobs, but even more telling, over 70% said they planned to do something about it in the next six months.

While that doesn't give the nation's employers high marks in terms of figuring out how to retain the talent they have, it does indicate that executive level talent isn't just sitting around waiting for the world to happen to them anymore, and given the swing that we have seen in the market from buyers to sellers, there are going to be a lot of companies hurting for hires in the coming months.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Wisdom of the Flying Pig

I have always wondered why I was such a sucker for those cool little books on managing that come out every once in a while. I am thinking of things like The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson that was so popular some years back, as well as their more recent one, Who Moved My Cheese, or even Tom Peter's mega hit In Search of Excellence.

Prior to that, I used to look forward to getting these little gems published by Price Pritchett that were chuck full of quotes, affirmations, and pithy inspirational statements about "the right way to manage" in the 20th century. (Shows you how long ago that was!) They had great titles like Carpe Manana.

I still have them, and every now and again a break them out and sit there and nod my head wondering why it still rings so true and remains so hard.

I was reminded of all of this again when there arrived in the mail a cool looking, slick covered 103 page 5 x 8 book that was so slippery I had trouble turning the pages. In it was a note from its author, Jack Hayhow that read:

"Dave, Your post on 2/16, Building Retention the Old Fashioned Way, made me think you might enjoy the enclosed book."

The book was titled:The Wisdom of the Flying Pig, Guidance and Inspiration for Managers and Leaders.

How right he was.

Maybe I liked it so much because it seemed to be written for someone like me where patience is measured in nano seconds and any chapter that is more than 2 pages is a struggle. Maybe it is because it was full of lines like:

Reciprocity is a fundamental law of life and an indispensable lever for management effectiveness.

Managers don't get paid for what they do, they get paid for what their people do.

Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.

Using learnings from Drucker, Dr. Seuss and Cyndi Lauper, and a lot of folks in between, this little book, I thought, did in fact live up to what its author says was its intent on the back cover which simply stated is Word for word, we intend for this little book to the be most productive business reading you've ever done.

I don't know if is was the most productive business reading I've ever done, but nothing else comes to mind at the moment, and even if it wasn't, it's right up there.

I have spent lots more than $17.95 for business books, but I don't think any I have read in recent years provides a better ROI.

You can check it out at

Friday, March 03, 2006

Writing Checks is the Easy Part

I guess because of the business we're in that maybe we are a bit more sensitive than the average bear about noticing how different enterprises go about their business. When you have your own company, and therefore control over both your time and web real estate, it is interesting to see how different companies use both.

Peter Clayton, the Senior Producer and Director behind Landed Radio aka is one of those folks who uses his time and real estate to do more than just promote his enterprise, and to that end, every now and again he shares one of these things he hears about (or is involved in on a personal level).

The most recent of these was a neat idea called Get In Their Shoes. The title by itself was enough of a teaser to get me to want to find out more. The short answer is that it is a concept started by the founders of the International Mentoring Network Organization, and Their Shoes Campaign is a call to action by successful business leaders, athletes, entertainers, and politicians to rally youth and aspiring leaders to lift themselves out of their limiting circumstances by proactively interviewing successful professionals within their own communities.

Aside from the fact that the whole concept struck me as pretty cool, I was also impressed that it involved people's personal time, not just having some sucessful folks write a check.

The fact that the individuals involved, and it's an impressive list, are giving of themselves is what will really have an impact on those they spend time with. My thanks to Peter for passing this along.