Friday, December 21, 2007

Arlington At Christmas

Pat Haly who has for a number of years and continues to facilitate our networking meetings in Atlanta sent this photo along to me (and many of his other friends) with the following information explaining what brings this all about. He suggested that I might want to share it with others, and it struck me as something very much worth sharing. Many readers may have also seen it reported on some of the nightly newscasts.

Since I will be away for the next month, this seemed like a fitting image to remain until I return. Among other things, for me, it also served as yet another reminder that "actions speak louder than words."

Readers may be interested to know that these wreaths -- some 5,000 -- are donated by the Worcester Wreath Co. of Harring ton , Maine . The owner, Merrill Worcester, not only provides the wreaths, but covers the trucking expense as well. He's done this since 1992. A wonderful guy. Also, most years, groups of Maine school kids combine an educational trip to DC with this event to help out. Making this even more remarkable is the fact that Harrington is in one the poorest parts of the state.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Oxymoron #36 Passive Candidate

I am a sucker for "bumper stickers" like the one that I recently saw for the holidays that said "It's a Jingle Out There." Okay, if you didn't like that one, how about "Ho. Greetings from the Society for the Prevention of Redundancy." Okay, I'll move on, just don't throw anything.

The site where I find these is called Internet Bumper Stickers and there are several categories on the site one of which is Oxymorans and there you will find stickers like Oxymoron #3: "Microsoft Works" or #7: "Government Accountability." Okay, I'll move on from these too, but before I do, I want to try and add what I have arbitrarily labeled Oxymoron #36: Passive Candidate.

What energized me to lobby for this addition? My friend Pete Weddle, as he has on a number of other occasions, prompted me to start pounding away on my keyboard. Pete recently published an article in one of his newsletters which he called Why Recruit Passives? In it, Pete makes, as he always does, a number of very cogent arguments about why "passives" are better than "actives." One of the points he made was this:
... Are active job seekers also qualified? Of course. But passive prospects are passive largely because they are already employed and, therefore, presumably making an acceptable or better contribution to their employers. Data collected by the Yahoo! survey tend to support this view. It found that the average experience level of passive prospects was 18.4 years, with over half reporting more than 20 years in the workplace. The average for active job seekers, in contrast, was 14.9 years of experience, with slightly more than a third reporting more than 20 years on-the-job. In addition, if pay is a measure of a person's perceived value to an enterprise, then passive job seekers are viewed as significantly greater contributors. The average annual salary for passive prospects is $66,100, while the average for active job seekers is over 10% lower at $54,583.
Okay, I admit I have not gone back and looked at the Yahoo survey that Pete has referenced, so maybe it defines some of this stuff in more detail, but at least based on what I read in all this, I just don't buy it.

I don't buy the exerience level as much of a criteria for a number of reasons, not the least of which is just because someone has "hung in there" for 20 years or so doesn't mean they aren't "active." I know an awful lot of folks with 20 years in same gig who may not be "actively" looking but that doesn't mean that they are happy campers (we have lots of data from our own surveys that says they aren't) or that they aren't staying where they are because they are afraid on a lot of levels.

There is an old saying that there are two things that cause people to act; one is inspiration and the other is desperation. Point being just because they aren't out there pounding the pavement doesn't mean they wouldn't like to be "active" and certainly doesn't mean that they would be a better or more productive employee than someone who is "active" be they driven by either inspiration of desperation.

I also don't quite get the compensation as a criteria etiher. Compensation is, as we all know, dictated by any number of veriables, such as industry, geography, seniority (and I am not talking about bargaining unit seniority), etc.

That there has been and continues to be a strong bias in this country against people who are "at liberty" as they used to say back in the day versus someone who is "...presumably making an acceptable or better contribution to their employers" is hardly a military secret.

I would submit that at this stage of the downsizing game in our country that there are at least as many folks out there working like hell to find meaningful employment who are every bit as capable if not more so at making "acceptable or better contributions to their employees" as those who are still "presumably" still doing so.

I just don't think there is such a thing as a "passive candidate" in the sense that someone who is currently employed is the definition of 'passive' and someone who isn't employed is the definition of "active."

As far as those who are working being passive or active is concerned, I think that depends on how things went at the office on any given day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Work-Life Balance

Pete Weddle is a name that has been around the cyber staffing space since it became a "space." For those who try to follow what's cooking in the staffing arena, being on the Weddle's newsletter mailing list is not just a "want to" it is a "must do." It is also free by the way.

In a piece that he wrote for the December 6th issue called Rethinking Work-Life Balance Pete did what he usually does, he got me to thinking about what he had to say both on a macro level as well as a personal level.

I am not going to try and summarize the point Pete made in the article. It would take up too much space and more importantly, he has already said it far better than I could.

When I finished reading the piece, however, the quote "Happiness is different things to different people" came to mind.

Maybe it's because it is the holiday season that makes one nostalgic or maybe it's the fact that ExecuNet is only a matter of days away from marking our 20th anniversary or something in between, but whatever it is is, when I think about my own work-life balance at this stage of my life, I can't help but feel how very fortunate I am on both sides of all this.

When it comes to "work", I can't help how very proud I am to be a part of an enterprise where we hear "thanks for your help" as much as we do, and and to come to work every day with people whose skills I not only respect but who are so much fun to be around.

And when it comes to "life" and for all our faults and flaws, how fortunate I feel to live in this country.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Feedback from the Real World

There are a couple of ways you can gather the data you need to support your professional or personal interests. The insular way is to stay in your office and evaluate the feedback that comes in on a minute-by-minute basis and bounce that off of what you glean from the Internet.

The other way, of course, is to actually attend conferences, seminars, and workshops that are taking place around and about topics of interest in your area of interest and/or supposed expertise.

For good or for ill, my work-life balance in this regard is badly skewed to the office-bound variety of trying to get a handle of what's hot and what's not.

It was therefore with considerable anticipation that I looked forward to attending Kennedy Information's Recruiting Conference & Expo in Orlando recently. I wasn't disappointed.

It was a fun time because I got the chance to catch up with many industry colleagues I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was also a time for some significant "learnings" when I had the chance over the two days to hear what thought leaders in the HR and Staffing world had to say on a wide variety of topics. I even had the opportunity to contribute a bit myself as part of a panel headed up by Pete Weddle who moderated a discussion on looking ahead at what recruiting in 2017 might look like. Long story short, there was a lot going on.

Of course, one of the dilemmas that anyone attending a conference like this faces are the hard choices you have to make when you have concurrent tracks going. To try and help people overcome this habitual hurdle, the folks at Kennedy asked us to field some "reporters" so that we could pull together a summary that participants could use and have the "learnings" and headlines in one place.

Spearheaded by our intrepid Senior Contributing Editor and industry guru Joe McCool, we tried to accomplish all this by doing a live wrap-up session at the close of the conference and then using the notes of our "reporters" to create a summary report for the attendees.

While there were around 500+ attendees at the conference, there were obviously lots of people who were not able to go but who might have an interest in some or all of the topics on the agenda. Kennedy has posted copies of the PowerPoint presentations on their site as well as a PDF copy of the report that ExecuNet put together called ROI Recruiting: Select and Retain the Best.

While certainly it is not the same as "being there" it still seems to me a nice gesture on the part of Kennedy to make these materials available, so by extension, I thought I would make them available here as well.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Learnings From The Way We Treat People

Maybe it is because it is now officially December or the fact that as this is written the wind is blowing at about 40+ mph, the sky is crystal clear and the blue has a freshness and crispness to it that somehow doesn't seem to show itself at any other time of year, and the whitecaps blowing across Narragansett Bay don't seem to bother the swans, ducks, or gulls at all. It also might be because the few trees with their deep brown, red, and gold leaves are putting up such a fight against the wind in trying to hang on to what they have left before giving up their grip on fall.

Whatever it is, I was sitting in my home office working on stuff that I thought was super important and up pops an email from my wife (sitting at her PC not 100' away) which in turn had been forwarded to her by a friend.

When it is from your wife of course, you read it right away even though I have to admit I was also intrigued by the title: Five (5) lessons about the way we treat people.

I "googled" it after I had read it and found that it has apparently been around for quite a while and that its author is unknown. Maybe that fact alone makes its impact even more powerful? I also have no idea if some of the vignettes in the piece are true (e.g. the story about Mrs. Nat King Cole) or not, but the messages certainly resonated, at least for me.

I share it here for those who might come to this blog and who are not familiar with it hoping that if it turns out to be "new" to them, that they will pass it along to others.

Five (5) lessons about the way we treat people.

1 - First Important Lesson - Cleaning Lady.

During my second month of college, our professor
gave us a pop quiz. I was a conscientious student
and had breezed through the questions until I read
the last one:

"What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?"
Surely this was some kind of joke. I had seen the
cleaning woman several times. She was tall,
dark-haired and in her 50's, but how would I know her name?

I handed in my paper, leaving the last question
blank. Just before class ended, one student asked if
the e last question would count toward our quiz grade.

"Absolutely,” said the professor. "In your careers,
you will meet many people. All are significant. They
deserve your attention and care, even if all you do
is smile and say "hello."

I've never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her
name was Dorothy.

2. - Second Important Lesson - Pickup in the Rain

One night, at 11:30 p.m., an older African American
woman was standing on the side of an Alabama highway
trying to endure a lashing rain storm. Her car had
broken down and she desperately needed a ride.
Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car.
A young white man stopped to help her, generally
unheard of in those conflict-filled 1960's. The man
took her to safety, helped her get assistance and
put her into a taxicab.

She seemed to be in a big hurry, but wrote down his
address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a
knock came on the man's door. To his surprise, a
giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A
special note was attached.

It read:
"Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway
the other night. The rain drenched not only my
clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along.
Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying
husband's bedside just before he passed away... God
bless you for helping me and unselfishly serving

Mrs. Nat King Cole.

3 - Third Important Lesson - Always remember those
who serve.

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less,
a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and
sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in
front of him.

"How much is an ice cream sundae?" he asked.
"Fifty cents," replied the waitress.

The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and
studied the coins in it.

"Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?" he inquired.

By now more people were waiting for a table and the
waitress was growing impatient.

"Thirty-five cents," she brusquely replied.

The little boy again counted his coins.

"I'll have the plain ice cream," he said.

The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on
the table and walked away The boy finished the ice
cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress
came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the
table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish,
were two nickels and five pennies..

You see, he couldn't have the sundae, because he had
to have e enough left to leave her a tip.

4 - Fourth Important Lesson. - The obstacle in Our Path.

In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a
roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if
anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the
king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by
and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the
King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did
anything about getting the stone out of t he way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of
vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the
peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the
stone to the side of the road. After much pushing
and straining, he finally succeeded. After the
peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed
a purse lying in the road where the boulder had
been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note
from the King indicating that the gold was for the
person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The
peasant learned what many of us never understand!

Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve
our condition.

5 - Fifth Important Lesson - Giving When it Counts...

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a
hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who
was suffering from a rare & serious disease. Her only
chance of recovery appeared to be a blood
transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had
miraculously survived the same disease and had
developed the antibodies needed to combat the
illness. The doctor explained the situation to her
little brother, and asked the little boy if he would
be willing to give his blood to his sister.

I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a
deep breath and saying, "Yes I'll do it if it will save
her." As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed
next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing
the color returning to her cheek. Then his face
grew pale and his smile faded.

He looked up at the doctor and asked with a
trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away".

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the
doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his
sister all of his blood in order to save her.

Now you have 2 choices.

1 Delete this email, or
2. Forward it other people.
I hope that you will choose No. 2 and remember.

Most importantly.... "Work like you
don't need the money, love like you've never been
hurt, and dance like you do when nobody's watching."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Discretionary Energy

I just recently returned from Kennedy Information's 2007 Conference and Expo in Orlando. Not bad duty for lots of reasons such as Florida in November, a chance to catch up with lots of folks in the recruiting space who I had not seen for quite while, lots of great food and drink and two days of insights and "learnings" from some very knowledgeable presenters.

As is true in most cases when you have been away from your own office and find yourself out in the "real world" it is always interesting to reflect back on the experience. For me, that usually takes place on the plane ride home as you review your notes and try and remember what you heard.

As I went through this ritual on my flight back to Providence I kept wondering why I was feeling a bit depressed (or maybe it was cynical?) as the thought kept going through my mind that I had been attending conferences, seminars, and workshops of one flavor or another for more than 45 years! I guess that would be enough to make you feel depressed and cynical all by itself, but that really was not the driver.

What kept running through my mind was that the issues which we were discussing and exchanging ideas and opinions about were challenges that have been around for any and all of those 45 years and for which answers were still being sought. Now I knew why I was feeling the way I was.

For sure many of the technology tools available to employers that can be applied to both recruiting and/or retention are very cool, and when my cynical side kicks in I think "yes indeed it is, and it is now absolutely easier than ever to track your turnover." Point being, however, I don't want to have cool systems for tracking turnover, what I want, to the extent that I can, is to reduce turnover, all of which is a long way of getting to the point of all this - people sometimes will stay because they feel they have to, but what we all strive for is to have them stay because they want to.

Hardly a revolutionary thought, and it's not like we all don't understand this notion at least on an intellectual level. Creating and caring for a culture that fosters what one speaker, Alan Guarino summed up as 3 "E's" and a P. If you are curious in terms of not only what these are but want to know more about how he suggests they be applied in depth, you might want to pick u a copy of his book Smart Is Not Enough!: The South Pole Strategy and Other Powerful Talent Management Secrets.

If, however, you can't stand the wait, here is the cliff version:

Energy, Engagement, Empowerment and Pride. Not a new formula, but certainly one that if applied consistently (and therein lies the challenge) ought to buy an organization some profs for trying.

Unfortunately, I have not been clever enough to come up with such a neat acronym as Alan's three E's and a P, all I have ever come up with is thinking about what meant a lot to me when I was working my way through a career, and in that regard, I have to believe that I am not all that different than the next guy.

The bottom line was whenever I felt that the organization valued me and did things to make me feel I was really part of the enterprise, that's is when I was motivated to expend what Alan kept referring to as "discretionary energy."

I don't know if Alan coined the phrase or borrowed it from someone else, but it was a new one to me, and for sure I am going to remember it because as we all know, that is the ultimate driver of real productivity and commitment. It is that feeling that fills be gap between "have to" and "want to."

Thanks Alan, well said.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Zig Zag Networking Trail

We have a special feature in our CareerSmart Advisor newsletter which we call Learnings From Landings. As you can probably guess, it is an opportunity for us to share those things that various members tell us which they feel would be helpful to others who are interested in making a career change.

When I first started to share these stories almost twenty years ago now, I didn't realize just how valuable these "learnings" were. It did not take too long, however, to recognize that most of us (if we're lucky) don't go through changing jobs all that often, and given the pace of change in today's world, most of us, if we go through that door again, it is hard to recognize what we find on the other side.

Recently, I got a note from Patrick Cotter. I recognized his name instantly because some months before he had written to me to let me know that he had accepted a senior level executive position in China about which he was understandably excited. Just over a year later, this is what he had to say:

My message is basically one of not giving up even when nothing is coming to a close and there is nothing promising on the horizon.

Last year through ExecuNet I had secured a senior management position in China. However this job became short lived when the Chinese Chairman took off with about $ 100 million at XMas. The company went into receivership and I came back to CT to mull things over. I am 57, overeducated and overqualified in a dozen fields and scare most directors, so my prospects were dim as to whether or not I would ever find that "last Big Job".

I reactivated my contacts and did a few networking meetings with not much happening. I picked up on the side however some occasional consulting jobs where due to the complexity of the issues surrounding global logistics and related support systems, I could charge $1000 a day with nobody complaining. So that covered the bills but still no Big Job.

Last month while networking ( i.e shooting the breeze) with an investment banker about buying a small company in Fairfield, he asked me if I could recommend a prep school with a high degree of security for the Chinese son of one of his clients. I told him I knew just such a school in Vermont which handled kids from very high profile parents. For example in May President Putin's son had graduated from there ( under an assumed name until G-day). I followed up that request for lack of anything better to do that day and got the boy admitted after a few calls and promises of (hopefully) much endowment funds.

Lo and behold two weeks later Chairman A. and son plus retinue show up on my doorstep on the way to Vermont to give thanks. We start talking a bit about my Chinese retail experience as I know he has about 650 stores covering over 100 million SF of space and growing at about 30% per annum. All I'm hoping for is maybe a consulting job out of it.

A week later I get an email from China asking me when I could come over to visit some operations in Shenzhen and Shanghai with the Chairman. So off I went 10 days ago with a consulting deal in mind. I ended up spending 6 days (and nights) with the Chairman and his retinue at the conclusion of which I gave him a short list of priorities needed for his organization to survive its growth rate. He stared 30 seconds at the list turned to the translator to make sure I had not misunderstood that he wanted me as his COO, not as a consultant. I accepted on the spot.

So far I had run a faultless course bypassing 4 killer issues but had one final one where no US business rules would apply and that was: How much do you want?? My mind froze for a minute as I knew the going US rate, but this guy was a Buddhist who thought radically differently about values than I did. After all he could buy anything in the world, yet all he had brought back from the States was a small(tree)plant for his garden....So I low balled a base and waited.

I knew that was the right answer because he then immediately came back with a 7 figure bonus and stock package plus car, driver and housing. If I had gone full market rate (like in the US) I probably would not have benefited year one from the Chairman's discretionary bonus pool money. When the dust settled later that evening and I was ruminating why I had low-balled. It came to mind that the salary question had been the final test and what the old man wanted to see was passion and a deep understanding of the business more so than the ol' MOB. He knew I had low balled him . That had pleased him and in return it amused him to throw lots of money at me...and I wasn't complaining.

I'll be moving back to China in 2 weeks. I just need to find my my book on "Mandarin for Dummies" in 10 easy lessons !!.

Bottom line, even when you think you've hit the end of the road professionally it pays to keep networking. You just never know what can pop up.
When I finished reading Patrick's email, it served to remind me of a couple of things:

1. Given the business world in which we all find ourselves, it is very understandable why the biggest change I have seen in our membership since we began way back in 1988 is that 70%+ of our membership is made up of senior executives who are currently employed and who consider their membership a form of career insurance, and

2. At the end of the day, effective career management is about perserverence and linkages (aka networking). You just never know where the links will begin or where they will eventually lead.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Personal Branding Beat Goes On

Seems like the buzz word of the week if not the month or year might well be "personal branding." I think in my generation they used to call it "reputation management" or something like that.

In any case, on the off chance that you have not seen some of the information on the Personal Branding Summit that airs tomorrow; I thought I would post the information here as well.

The idea is to mark the 10th anniversary of personal branding by offering 24 free teleseminars with experts in the field of personal branding. If you are one of those who follows blogs and articles on this topic then you will readily recognize many of both the speakers as well as those who have helped to organize this event.

So if you are interested, obviously all you need is a phone and to cherry pick the times you would like to listen in. If you want to check out the schedule, just click here, or if you just can't deal with such things without being able to talk to real person, I have no doubt that Jason Alba at Jibber Jobber (one of the event organizers) would take your call in a heartbeat.

Friday, November 02, 2007

And the Answer Is?

I would guess that anyone and everyone who watches or plays in the world of recruiting and/or talent management is aware that Kennedy Information is hosting their annual Recruiting Conference & Expo in Orlando the week after next. Even if you are not a staffing space watcher, it is always an interesting event to attend.

I am looking forward to being there for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it gets me to Florida so I can stay the weekend and see my grandson - always a nice fringe benefit.

I am also flattered and looking forward to being part of a panel moderated by Pete Weddle, CEO of Weddles and the Executive Director of IAEWS on The Future of Online Talent Acquisition. Also on the panel will be Don Ramer,CEO & Founder, Arbita, Rob McGovern, Chairman and CEO of Jobfox and Jenny Floren, CEO of Experience.

While we certainly expect a lively discussion as well as questions from the audience, Pete asked all of us to think about a couple of questions beforehand, and while certainly I am thinking about them, I also thought it might be fun to post them here and see what, if anything, others might have by way of an opinion. So if you are of a mind, what might be your thoughts on the following:
1. How will the online behaviors and preferences of the Baby Boomers who will still be in the workforce for the next 10 to 15 years influence the way online recruiting will be conducted at that time and

2. What aspect of online recruiting today might we all look back on 10 or 20 years from now and consider as charmingly quaint, horribly misguided, or just plain dumb?
I'm all ears!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The "Joys" of Leadership - NOT

Here's something that probably falls very much into the category of "so tell me something that I don't know." Being a manager is no easy deal. Indeed, anyone who has ever had to manage a staff knows exactly what I am talking about. Over the years I, like thousands if not millions of others, have read all sorts of articles and books on the topic of managing, not to mention hearing more speeches than I can remember.

What brought all this to mind was a discussion that I had been following in our online GM Roundtable. Members were exchanging views on various aspects of running a business and dealing with the myriad issues that arise be they involving people or products or both.

As you might expect, there were a number of comments surrounding how people felt about and made tough decisions, especially when it came to having to fire people. Adding to this discussion was Kevin Cronin who posted the following:

Early in my career, I heard an accomplished turn-around CEO respond to a question about whether or not he ever lost sleep over people that he had to fire. He said that he had not because there was always some justification for the action. He went on to say that the only times he had lost sleep was when he kept someone on too
long who should have been let go earlier because it caused poor performance
and significant stress to the organization. I have found this a helpful
reflection when dealing with these situations.
I thought this was a very telling remark and one with which I supected many would agree.

As I continued to reflect on what Kevin had to say (and I very much appreciate his allowing me to use his real name) it reminded me of what I have always thought made the role of a manager so challenging.

Simply put I think what makes it so hard for so many of us is that all three of the things that a manager (read: leader) is really asked to do are things that are subjective, not objective.

The three magic "joys" of managing - hiring, firing, and evaluating.

Anybody want to add to the list?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Put 100 Career Counselors in a Room

"Put 100 career counselors in a room and ask them to identify the single most effective way to land a great job, and 98 of them will say that it's networking. Why? For two reasons:

First, many of the best employment opportunities are never advertised. You won't find them posted on job boards or even on a company's own Web-site. Collectively, they are known as "the hidden job market." Employers only want to interact with top candidates for these positions, and they believe the best way to find such prospects is by networking.

Second, because the opportunities in the hidden job market are not advertised, most people never even hear about them. Far fewer people, as a result, apply for these openings which means that there's less competition for them. Not only are they among the best openings available at any point in time, but the odds of being the successful applicant are often better than with advertised positions."
Thus began an article by Pete Weddle in his October 15th issue of his widely-read newsletter in which he often features a column entitled WEDDLE's Research Factoid. In this case, the "Factoid" was called The Overlooked Strategy and was based on the results of a survey he ran on WEDDLE's between 1/1/07 and the end of August. He had 11,700 responses to the two question survey: "where did you find your last job and where do you expect to find your next one?"

Only 10.5% said that they got their last job via networking or at a business event, and Pete said an even smaller percent said they used online networking (including the buzz word of the day "social networking") as part of their search process. Amazing!

Given the data that one sees almost on a daily basis on how people get their next gig, I was really surprised to see the number that low. I guess Pete was too which is why I suspect he called the piece "The Overlooked Strategy."

Pete doesn't say what the demographic of the respondents was, so it is totally a matter of conjecture as to what sort of job levels he was talking about but I have to believe that it did not include a significant number of senior level executives.

We have been asking our members similar questions ever since we started doing some serious survey work some fifteen years ago and the numbers what we got have always been in the 60s and 70s. At the moment, it remains at 70% and has been at that level for quite some period of time.

While I remain surprised at Pete's figures, I certainly am on board with his key point in terms of the real driver of networking success:
"The key is to practice the Golden Rule: network with others the way you would like them to network with you."
Said differently, effective networking has, so far as I know, always been about an attitude and lifestyle of giving long before you worry about getting.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Man In The Arena

There is a great post today, as there is almost any day you look, from Tech Crunch. Even if you are not on the bleeding edge of all things in the digital universe, it is still a fascinating blog. It is edited by Michael Arrington and this particular post focused on cyber-investor Yossi Vardi and his thoughts on how he decides on what and in who to invest.

The title of the post readers my recognize comes from a famous speech and quote by Teddy Roosevelt in which he talks about risk taking and the courage it takes.

In any event, there was one line in the post that apparently not only resonated with me when I read it, but with lots of other folks given the number of comments made so far. There were 56 the last time I looked.

The sentence was: "...He generally doesn’t look at business plans at all, and just invests in the individual."

Think about it. Every person who has inspired you, every boss or teacher you have ever had for whom you had great respect, every co-worker you admire, etc., it's always about the individual and what you see in them.

That is just one of the reasons that my own philosophy on hiring as always been built around indivual attitude and passion, not skill.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The "Q" Generation

I don't know if everyone in the country knows who Tom Friedman is or not, but if they don't, I wish they did. I have written posts on any number of things he has written about any number of times. I can't help it. I think he is one of the most brilliant thinkers of our times and, at least to my mind, the gift he has in terms of how he communicates in writing is enough to take one's breath away.

If you didn't catch his op-ed piece in the NY Times today, check it out. He is talking about the need for what he has labeled the "Q" generation (college students) to be much more active in terms of trying to make, what we laughingly refer to these days as political leadership in America, really accountable and focused on critical issues - e.g. global warming.

There are a number of great lines in this piece, but two paragraphs in particular stuck me:
"Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy didn’t change the world by asking people to join their Facebook crusades or to download their platforms. Activism can only be uploaded, the old-fashioned way — by young voters speaking truth to power, face to face, in big numbers, on campuses or the Washington Mall. Virtual politics is just that — virtual." and his closing paragraph :
"Maybe that’s why what impressed me most on my brief college swing was actually a statue — the life-size statue of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi. Meredith was the first African-American to be admitted to Ole Miss in 1962. The Meredith bronze is posed as if he is striding toward a tall limestone archway, re-enacting his fateful step onto the then-segregated campus — defying a violent, angry mob and protected by the National Guard."
"Above the archway, carved into the stone, is the word “Courage.” That is what real activism looks like. There is no substitute."
There's not much to say after that.

Monday, October 08, 2007

What's In A Name?

You really have to love the Internet! I just wish I had the time to find sites like Buzzwhack which my colleague Robyn Greenspan, our resident and much loved Internet Junkie sent to me today. Among other things, Buzzwhack comes up with a Buzzword of the day, and since Robyn knows I get a kick out of off-beat job titles (yeah, I know, I need to get a life!) she fired it off to me.

Actually, it isn't just me who's interested in the "title of the week" stuff. At ExecuNet, we have been following it for a bit as well in terms of how companies are using different titles to describle some of the senior level executives, a few examples of which have been:

Chief Digital Officer
Chief Encouragement Officer
Chief Innovation Officer
Chief Learning Officer
Chief Momentum Officer
Chief Networking Officer
Chief Officer of Ideas
Chief People Officer
Chief Performance Officer
Chief Sustainability Officer
Click Quality Czar
Corporate Workplace Executive
Enthusiast Evangelist*
Senior Simplification Specialist
Vice President of Global Sales Excellence

*my personal favorite
In any event, the word of the day was COR and was offered up as the latest C-level title, which apparently stands for (are you ready?) Chief Obstacle Remover. The guy who came up with it was Michael Thiel, president of IC Intracom US, but whose business card says his title is COR

Some of the titles I have seen over the years I thought were fairly cool, and I think this one is "cool" too, but from a leadership perspective, I also like it because I think it sends a nice "branding" message on both a personal and professional level.

To his customers it says "I'm here to help" and to his staff it says "I feel my role is to do all I can to enable you to do your job so we can all serve our customers better." It also, I think, says something about Thiel as a person. I don't know if it is true or not, since I have never met or talked to him, but the impression I get when I see the title is that he understands that leadership (at least over the long haul) doesn't come from titles, it comes in large measure from helping others.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Time Flies When You're Having Fun?

For those who work in the staffing world, Kevin Wheeler is a name that needs neither introduction nor defending. He is both well known and very well respected on both a personal and professional level. Kevin is also a regular contributor to ERE, and one of his recent posts caught my eye because it dealt in part with what goes on in the life of a recruiter. The title of the article is: Multitasking: The Key to Success: Challenges that only the agile recruiter will be able to conquer.

If you have never been one or if you are a candidate waiting to hear from one and are wondering what's going on, Kevin's piece may well help in understanding and therefore mitigating to some degree the level of frustration that thousands if not millions of candidates feel in being part of a process that from the candidate's perspective is often not well understood.

Indeed, in the 20 years that ExecuNet has been around, to say the failure on the part of recruiters to respond has been a major complaint would be the understatement of the year. It is a complaint that has followed the recruiting world for many, many years, and of which the profession is acutely aware.

That being said, when we talk with recruiters, as we do on a daily basis, it is a major source of frustration to them as well, but awareness doesn't necessarily translate to progress or in saying that some happy medium has been reached. Ask both candidates and recruiters alike and I think both would say we have a long way to go.

Anyway, since the readers of this blog (or maybe I should just say reader?) tend to be senior level executives, I thought suggesting they give Kevin's article a stare might be useful.

If you decide to read it, keep in mind that what he is describing is a recruiter who "gets it" and who behaves like someone who understands that they represent not only themselves but who also understand that they represent a profession. Not everyone "gets it" in any profession which is why the ones who do have earned the reputations they have and of which they are justifiably proud. They are also, by the way, those with whom we like to do business.

Friday, September 28, 2007

We Have Some Good News & Some Bad News

There are some very interesting and informative articles on ERE as anyone who cruises the staffing world is keenly aware.

Saw one the other day written (extremely well I might add) by Lisa Calicchio, who is the Director of Recruiting for the Pharmaceuticals Team, for Johnson & Johnson. She calls the piece People Are People: Don't Fight It, Work With It. I am not going to reiterate all she had to say here (a) because you can read it for yourself and (b) because she certainly doesn't need me to speak for her at all.

After I read the article, however, it caused me to reflect on my own 45+ years experience in the HR world in general and the portions of that which were and to some degree still are focused on staffing. It also made me think of the number of "hiring tools" to which I have been exposed over that same period. Someday I am going to sit down and try to see how many I can write down!

While certainly progress has been made by both recruiters and candidates alike, it is still abundantly clear that given the number of hiring decisions that end up going South, we still have much to learn.

While it has been a while since I have seen some stats, it is still my perception that the failure rate in terms of hiring decisions that turn out to be successful, especially at the executive level, would compete well with the divorce rate.

You could give every applicant every test known to man plus a lobotomy and still end up with what amounts to a coin toss. Okay, maybe that's a bit extreme, but it still feels more right than wrong.

Of course, the big question is why, and if you are looking for the answer to that one, you might as well stop right here. If I knew, obviously I would apply it to our own company first and then bottle and sell it.

So maybe your experience has been different, but for me, it just seems that there are certain things in life that no matter how much you study, test, prepare, visualize in yoga class or whatever, you just don't know how it "feels" in the real world until you are there. Getting married is one; becoming a parent another. How it is really going to feel and turn out for both the employer and the employee is one more.

It may be frustrating, not to mention painful and expensive for all concerned, and that's the bad news.

On the other hand the fact that we are still searching for answers provides a living for a significant portion of the population, and that's the good news.

Friday, September 21, 2007

If You Had To Pick Only One

This past week I had the chance to share some of our Executive Job Market Intelligence data with the members of ESIX (Executive Search Information Exchange) who were meeting in New York. The group, which was organized in 1996 and is chaired by David Lord, who prior to founding his own consulting firm in 1995, many remember as the former Editor at Kennedy Information, publishers of Executive Recruiter News and The Directory of Executive Recruiters among other things. Needless to say, the focus of our discussion was on the challenges of recruiting and retention in today's environment and beyond. It was a very stimulating morning.

Much of what we talked about was still on my mind as I headed back to ExecuNet's offices via Metro North. Rather than the morning's discussion fading into the background as I started to wade through my email, it was immediately brought back into focus as I came across Pete Weddle's newsletter (always of interest) and read the lead piece. It was entitled: What Do Employers Want?

The piece was prompted by Pete's reaction to a joint survey by The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, The Partnership for 21st Century Skills and SHRM. Essentially it was a survey of what U.S. employers felt were the most critical skills needed by employees going forward. Pete took exception to some of the conclusions of the report, and I can't say I blame him. Of the issues Pete raised, one in particular caught my attention when he said:

"The fact that employers in this survey did not cite such skills for college-educated workers is incomprehensible, especially in light of the problems we've seen at Enron, Worldcom and other organizations. Whatever this poll may suggest, therefore, you can be sure that honesty and ethical behavior are prerequisites for employment regardless of your educational background."
It wasn't just the comment on ethics that got my heart rate up, but the whole issue of education college or otherwise, especially as it relates to our ability to compete in a global market.

Pete's point reminded me again of something that I had shared with the ESIX group earlier in the day. It was a list complied in a book called Workforce Crisis by Ken Dychtwald, PhD, Tamara Erickson and Robert Morison. If you are concerned about recruiting and retention and our ability to stay in the game, I commend it to your attention. Here's the list:

Tightening labor markets: As the rate of labor force growth plummets to 2-3% per decade, labor markets will tighten and competition for talented people will intensify.

Shortages of skills and experience: As the Baby Boom generation reaches retirement age, organizations face a potentially debilitating "brain drain" of skills and experience.

Shortages of workers: Overall demand for workers is already beginning to exceed supply. The gap is projected to grow to millions, perhaps tens of millions, of workers, with potentially profound effects on economic output and standard of living.

Shortages of educated candidates: Despite continuing progress in average educational achievement, colleges will graduate too few candidates to fill the technical, information-intensive, judgment-intensive jobs five years from now.

Aging: The average age of employees will continue to rise, and the workforce will become more multigenerational. Proportionately, mature workers are the fastest-growing age work segment, and large employers can expect to double their percentage of workers over 55 during the next 5-10 years.

More ethnic diversity: By demographic standards, the racial and ethnic mix is changing very rapidly, with minorities now accounting for one-third of younger workers.

More women: The proportion of female workers, already high, will continue to rise slowly.

Tension around HR policies and practices: The whole range of management practices — compensation, benefits and especially work arrangements — must appeal to the new workforce and accommodate the expanding variety of workers' needs and preferences

Pressure on training and development: Employers must not only encourage employees' continuing education but also provide that education directly to maintain needed skills levels.

Strain on organizational coherence: As the workforce diversifies and disperses — adopting flexible schedules, telework and other technology-enabled arrangements — leaders must find new ways to cultivate and nourish organizational culture and identity.
As you look over the list, one could pick any one of the ten issues and be challenged for a long, long time, but if I only had to pick one, my vote is the shortage of educated candidates.

Education, of course, is not a panacea, but having said that, I absolutely believe it is the most potent weapon we have as well as our best hope to continue to be a world leader socially, politically, and economically.

What would be at the top of your list?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Stress Busters

For many, "have a great day" just doesn't get it done.

We added an EAP program (Employee Assistance Plan) to our benefits program a year to two ago, and given the pressures created and faced by all of us, both in and outside the office, I am very glad we did. Based on the feedback we have received, there are lots on our staff who feel the same way. Indeed, to say that we live and work in an environment that produces a fair amount of stress for all of us would be an understatement to say the very least.

I can remember somewhere along the way reading or hearing that some "experts" say that some stress is good for you. I don't know about you, but if that's true, there are probably millions of us who are in such "good shape" that we can't stand it anymore. Just kidding.

In truth, however, I actually do believe that some stress is good and that it helps to keep us focused, energized, interested, competitive, goal oriented, and committed. All that being as it may, however, most of us still spend a fair amount of time trying to manage our stress levels so that we retain the positives so that they continue to help rather than reaching a point of diminishing returns.

What got me to thinking about all this was when I read the September newsletter that comes to us from our EAP service provider. It was just an electronic one-pager the title of which was Stress Busters: 10 Little Things to Try. After reading it, I thought it was worth sharing here if for no other reason than while not everyone has the advantage of an EAP plan to turn to, everyone is subject to any and all of the factors that bring stress into our lives.

Stress Busters: 10 Little Things To Try!

Researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health indicate that many of us experience a growing sense of stress during the fall months. In some cases, this is related to the opening of school and all that this entails, such as shopping for clothes and readjusting schedules. For others, it is the anticipation of the coming winter months as we say goodbye to the laid-back days of summer. But the concept of “stress management” can itself become stressful when one considers intimidating therapies such as “autogenic training,” “biofeedback” or “transcendental meditation.” However, stress management can sometimes be achieved by making minor adjustments rather than radical makeovers! Here are 10 such suggestions that are easy to try:

1. Go to bed just 15 minutes earlier at night. You will feel noticeably refreshed in the morning and more energetic in taking on the day and its challenges.
2. Nourish your friendship circle. Reconnect with an old friend.
3. Learn to say no. Resist the urge to accede to someone’s request for your time or assistance if you’re already multi-tasking. This does not make you a selfish person.
4. When faced with stressful situations, reflect on similar situations that you have successfully withstood in the past. You survived those and you’ll survive these!
5. Learn to appreciate your family and co-workers. All too often, we tend to take their positive traits for granted and focus instead on traits we wish we could change, alter or redirect.
6. Don’t procrastinate. When we postpone burdensome tasks, they continue to loom on the horizon and drag us down.
7. Avoid perfectionism. The discovery of fuzz balls under the bed doesn’t mean that you must embark on a cleaning crusade.
8. Focus on improving yourself in some small way. According to Leslie Bonci, a dietician at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, “four fewer bites of food per day can translate into a weight loss of ten pounds per year.”
9. Limit interaction with “negative” acquaintances who chronically reinforce feelings of hopelessness, anger and despair.
10. Catch yourself when tempted to “catastrophize;” i.e., when your mind fixates on some remotely threatening situation and anticipates an horrendous outcome.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Miss Teen USA, Miss South Carolina, & The Power of the Web

If you have not yet already heard about the (to say the least) unfortunate response that young Miss South Carolina gave to the question “Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can’t locate the US on a world map. Why do you think this is?” on the Miss Teen USA telecast it is (to borrow the NBC tagline) "must see TV."

Unhappily for this drop dead beautiful kid, this is a clip that will likely be around for a long, long time. It was up on YouTube faster than you can say high speed connection, and according to a posting by very glib guy named Scott Goldberg on DigitalMediaWire the clip had already been viewed by more than 5 million people and as this is written it could well be double that number by now.

For the remaining .2% of the population who have no idea what she said and aren't into pointing and clicking, her response was:

“I personally believe that US Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and that I believe our education, such as in South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and I believe that they should our education over here in the US should help the US, or should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future.”
If you still can't believe that someone of any age could say something like this, and didn't see the film at 11:00, this will get you there.

Scott goes on to say in his post that while he could, he was not going to comment on what all this has to say about education in general or maybe even in South Carolina in particular since the site is really about digital media and not social commentary.

I would like to think that this blog is not about social commentary either, and for sure it is not about digital media. I can barely find the onoff switch on anything. It is, however, sometimes about leadership and as such about education from time to time as well.

You would have to listen to this young lady's response to the question plus her efforts to explain her way out of it on Today and decide for yourself if you are buying any or all of her explanation that she was just kind of overwhelmed by it all and sort of went blank and the words just seemed to tumble out without regard for anything logically connecting to anything else.

Although my bias is to think that the women who compete in things like Miss Teen USA are not exactly newbies when it comes to the various segments of these beauty pagents, including the "interview" stuff, but I am still willing to cut most 18 year olds some slack - not much, but some.

That said, what really scares me is that somewhere there is a survey whose data states “Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can’t locate the US on a world map."

God help us all.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Chicken Little Doesn't Know Everything

As we are all acutely aware, the stock market has been behaving like something you could only find at Six Flags. Given the hype that we get on a minute by minute basis via CNN or MSNBC or whatever oracle you use to get your news fix, it is a wonder that we have anyone left who can look forward to anything.

Okay, maybe that's going a bit too far. I don't know about you, but no matter how you get your news information these days, it really is pretty tough to stay optimistic. Not that those of us here at ExecuNet have any deeper insights into the future than anyone else, nonetheless, in our own small way, some time ago in an effort to try and help our members and readers get a somewhat different perspective on how all this stuff was likely to impact their professional work lives, we set up a place on the site so that senior executives who were interested in getting a 10,000 foot view of the Executive marketplace could check it out from time to time. Over the years it has proven to track very well against what other indices say is going on.

So, to in some way try to counteract recent headlines, be advised that from where we sit, the sky is not yet falling. Based on our monthly polls of both executives (Executive Employment Outlook) and recruiters (Recruiter Confidence Index) we still appear to be in pretty decent shape.

On the executive side which tends to be more conservative than the recruiting world, nearly half of those who responded (46%) were confident or very confident that the market for executives would improve of the next 6 months. That was up 14% from a year ago, and 8% higher than July. When we asked the recruiters the same question, 69% were confident regarding the executive employment outlook for the next 6 months, and while they were not up quite as much month over month as the execs were, they were still up 2% from the July survey.

The two monthly surveys I am citing here are not the only way in which we attempt to take the economic temperature, but over the years they have turned out to be pretty good indicators and we have no reason to think they will not continue to be, so for now anyway, we are still, as they say, bullish.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Plus ça change? Not quite

When one thinks of "thought leadership" in the business world and what comes under the heading of "must reading" The Economist is one of the names that come immediately to mind. So, when my colleague Lauryn Franzoni sent me a copy of a recent piece entitled Plus ça change? Not quite I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but one thing I didn't expect was to end up laughing to the point of tears.

Maybe it's just my love of British humor or maybe my envy of wonderful writing or maybe it's just because it's Friday, summer and sunny, but whatever it is, this piece really struck a chord.

It's not all that long, so even if it doesn't make you laugh out loud it won't take that much time from your day. Here's a taste:

In a technological age ever more clichés are being untethered from their origins in this way. People write out plenty of metaphorical cheques, whether blank or bouncing. Many of them are to be found in the post, but fewer in real life (some shops no longer accept them). There is no need to keep your cards close to your chest, or indeed an ace up your sleeve, when so much gambling happens online. Thanks to reviews, awards and celebrity book-club stickers, you can in fact judge a book by its cover. If you carry a mobile phone, write e-mail or post entries on MySpace, being out of sight does not mean being out of mind. And in the age of the iPod, no one can be accused of being unable to carry a tune.
The rest can all be found here if your curiosity has been tweaked.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tsun Ami

"He's the most productive person I have ever met."
Thus starts the piece that John Sumser posted on August 9th. He was referring to Amitai Givertz, a name seen in this blog on a number of occasions, and which will likely resurface from time to time so long as he keeps being thought of as:

"...Furiously writing, experimenting and barnstorming the south, Amitai Givertz is a bundle of raw energy wrestling with the ambiguities of contemporary Recruiting. Recently, I started recommending his powerful presentation on the recursive nature of blogging to anyone who will listen. Posing by day as a Vice President of Recourse Communications, Inc. (RCI), Ami is fast becoming a central theorist and practitioner in 21st Century online recruiting."
which is how the rest of John's opening paragraph went in a piece he posted called Tsun Ami. Do you think John might have second career ahead of him as a headline writer for the Post or Daily News?

I commend the article to your attention if you didn't catch it when it ran a week or so ago. In addition to singing Ami's praises (clearly warrented) John also points out that Ami is going to be the ringmaster for a September 25th event in Atlanta called the Recruiting Roadshow which I think was John's brainchild and which sounds like an intriguing professional development and intelligence gathering opportunity for players in the recruiting world.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Judgement By Reputation

There have been a lot of bits and bytes flying around in the past couple of days over Facebook's kicking recruiter Harry Joiner off for what they interpreted as spamming of their members; a debate that is probably not going to die immediately either. In case you didn't catch it, Harry tried to fire up his entire gmail list (4600 names) and suggest to them to join Facebook. Facebook apparently was "not amused" (to borrow a phrase from our friends in the UK) nor did they appreciate the "marketing help" and not only blew Harry away, but in a message that is certainly not going to win any awards for tact. Check it out:
Hi Harry,

Your account has been disabled because you have violated Facebook's Terms of Use.

Abusing the features of the site to spam other people is not permitted. In addition, it is a violation of our Terms of Use to use one's account for advertising or promotional purposes.

I'm sorry, but you will no longer be able to use Facebook. This decision is final.

Thanks for your understanding,

Customer Support Representative
If you want to get a good understanding of Harry's perspective on all this, take the time to read his comment on Gavin Heaton's blog MarketingProfs Daily Fix on a posting called Who Owns You. He makes some pretty potent arguments.

So what causes stuff like this anyway? My take is that at one level it is simply part of the growing pains and "learnings" that we are going through as we continue the cyber experiment we currently label as "social networking. At another level, unhappily I think I would tend to agree with John Sumser's take when he wrote in his post on his Electronic Recruiting News:
"The Facebook's response to Harry Joiner was due, in part, to the dreadful reputation that Recruiters have around the planet. Spam, in the guise of "talent pool development" has become a tool of the trade. Bulk email, used because it works, has an unseen cost."
You can read the rest of what John had to say by going to the post About Recruiters.

We all have our reputations, and for good or for ill as they say, perceptions are real to those who hold them. What happened to Mr. Joiner is an example of once perceptions out there, and in a world where judgments are far too often made without really making an effort to look beyond the surface (as clearly Facebook didn't) when it rains, it rains on the just as well as the unjust. Harry Joiner may have made some sort of an error in judgment, but from what I can tell, he really didn't deserve the electronic version of being summarily executed.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Is Sorry a Strategy

Robyn Greenspan is our Senior Editor who among the many things she does is the engine that drives our Executive Insider newsletter, a complimentary publication on senior executive career related issues which is published every two weeks via email.

In the edition that hit my desktop today, Robyn's Letter from the Editor immmediately caught my attention. First because I so much admire the way she writes, but also because of the subject matter which had to do with executive leadership or lack thereof, and readers of this blog will know that this is a subject on which I have focused a good deal such as:

The Qualities of a Successful Leader/Manager

Visting Day Leadership

Things to Think About on the Way Home

The Price of Leadership
I know there are lots of folks who, like myself, look forward to getting the Insider every two weeks. Indeed, the number is deep into six figures at this point, but there are also lots of folks who may not have seen it, and I could not help myself from sharing Robyn's letter in this issue.

Is Sorry a Strategy?

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, is the latest apologist for his role as an anonymous Internet user who posted negative messages about competitor Wild Oats on financial stock forums. It may seem like a MySpace prank at first — an impulsive action from a high schooler who didn't get a prom date — but Mackey routinely posted on these message boards for eight years.

Mackey's actions were certainly opaque, and his apology seems to represent transparency. But with a recent wave of public "sorries" from visible figures — Paris Hilton, David Neeleman, Don Imus, Mel Gibson and a growing list of politicians — these megawatt mea culpas may no longer suffice. In many cases, the apology seems less about reprehensible actions and more about "I'm sorry I got caught."

While the antics of drunken celebrities, corrupt politicians and greedy corporate executives (Enron, Tyco, etc.) may not surprise us — and may sometimes be expected — Mackey's actions are more disappointing. Whole Foods, like Neeleman's JetBlue, are supposed to be the good guys — socially conscious, friendly, customer-centric companies that care about their employees, the earth and doing what's right.

They both issued very public apologies, but Neeleman's and Mackey's downfalls are decidedly different. The former faced a customer service debacle while the latter deliberately deceived stakeholders; Neeleman absorbed the blame for issues where he may not have been directly responsible and Mackey's consistently poor judgment put his company and — especially its brand — in jeopardy. There are many lessons in Mackey's story: the myth of Internet anonymity, the economic influence of user-generated content, managing bad PR and repairing brand reputation, the psychology of forgiveness, etc. But the most important is about the interrelationship between leadership and trust.
The "learnings" she draws from the likes of Messrs. Mackey and Neeleman among others should serve as reminders to any businessperson large or small.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lessons Last Night's Democratic Debate Taught Us

I don't know about you, but I subscribe to lots of electronic newsletters. Among other things, it's nice lunchtime reading. One of the ones I get comes from Leslie Unger, a communications consultant and calls her business Electric Impulse Communications. Leslie had been kind enough to do a FastTrack Webinar for us and once I had heard her I knew that this was someone whose thoughts were worth knowing.

I had only seen highlights from the YouTube/CNN Democratic candidate debate, but it was enough to suggest that it seemed to make for far more interesting watching than what we are used to seeing. Apparently Leslie thought so too as one of the articles in her most recent newsletter told her readers some of what she saw as "learnings" from the event.

I share it here since I am sure that in doing so there will be some others who will now get a chance to see what she had to say:

I. Lessons Last Night's Democratic Debate Taught Us

1. Technology Won. Pundits can argue over the validity of YouTube or the format of the taped questions, but the updated use of technology was the clear cut winner over one candidate or an agenda.

Lesson Learned: Technology will continue to revolutionize elections as TV did in the Kennedy - Nixon debates. If technology affects elections, are we naïve to think our updated use and inclusion of it does not affect our success?

2. Being defensive is always a choice. All candidates were asked if they sent their children to private school. Every candidate whose children attended private school allowed themselves to be on the defensive, defending their choice for private education. Once on the defensive, very difficult to be proactive or strong.

Lesson Learned: From a communication standpoint, the most effective technique in dealing with an objection is to embrace it: "Yes, this is a country of freedom and choices, and we made a choice". Why should a candidate defend their choice of education?

Do you allow yourself to be put on the defensive? Embrace, rather than defend.

3. The value of wit. Humor can ingratiate, create a bond, crash through the invisible fence between speaker and audience. A few candidates had witty moments that said, wow-I can think on my feet. The exchange between Kucinich and Anderson Cooper about no one being left of Dennis, Bill Richardson's comment about his peers all looking good in the White House . . .as his VP. Who knew Kucinich had a sense of humor?

Lesson Learned: There is value in being relaxed, confident, and prepared enough to allow your Inner Brilliance to come out and play.

Points of interest:

• Positioning behind the podium: death grip or comfortable stance?

• Was John Edwards remark about Hillary's jacket sexist?

• Target YouTube audience is young, male candidates in traditional suits- good match?
As I read Leslie's piece, it made me also think that the "learnings" she pointed out had obvious implications and applications outside the political arena. If you are an executive and wondering about how you are perceived by your team or those you are trying to influence as a leader there are lessons for us as well.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Blow the Sucker Up?

For those of us who follow the articles posted daily on ERE (Electronic Recruiting Exchange) the name Kevin Wheeler not only comes as no surprise, but when mentioned is often accompanied by the nodding of heads coupled with an assortment of facial expressions which convey the respect and acknowledgment that comes when people feel you really have earned a "thought leader" merit badge. Makes no difference if you agree or not, Mr. Wheeler is clearly a thinker who, and happily for the rest of us, is also a very effective communicator of ideas.

Kevin recently posted a piece entitled Blow the Sucker Up? in which he challenges a fair amount of the conventional wisdom on a number axioms surrounding the care and feeding of staffing strategies that have been around since the days of help wanted ads on sandwich boards. The article is much too long to reproduce here, but if you haven't read it, I would certainly recommend it.

Below, however, are five of what Kevin considered the most critical notions that people should consider "blowing up." It is an interesting list and if it stimulates your curiosity, as I would think it might, then you have some appreciation of the challenging perspectives he presents.
* Only passive candidates are the best.

* It's not possible to keep people as candidates for more than a short time.

* Most candidates want to apply with a resume and don't like online screening or profilers.

* Each candidate will have to be interviewed in person.

* There is no way to show a direct correlation between the sourcing and interview process, and the eventual performance of the candidate.
While I had read Kevin's piece a few days ago, I was reminded of it again today as I was being interviewed by HR Executive who had called ExecuNet regarding some of the data that had come from our Executive Job Market Intelligence Report part of which talked about the degree to which senior level executives were not happy campers in their current jobs and the implications of this in light of the current issues surrounding both recruiting and retention.

One of the things we talked about was the fact that organizations that were really serious about winning their battles in the "war for talent" had best come up with innovative solutions. I suggested to the reporter that one of those folks who has demonstrated that he really is thinking about this stuff is Wheeler and that I very much admire the way in which he gets people's attention by challenging the status quo without making the reader feel too much like a jerk for not thinking about some of this stuff themselves.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Balancing Success With Significance

At various junctures in our lives, we often kid each other about the "big 30,40,50,or 60" and once you get past the 60 maybe you start thinking that I hope I can be around to get kidded about the ones that come after that.

In terms of the world in which I work, the average age of an ExecuNet member is just a tad under fifty, so it is no surprise that many of the members we talk with on a daily basis express a fair amount of feelings on the topic of this post.

We all have often heard our friends (and ourselves?) talk about "giving back." Maybe this is driven by the realization that one has arrived at what is euphemistically called "mid life"? It is probably a combination of a lot of factors, who knows, but few who are in this age group can deny that they don't think about it.

Armed with the foregoing, it probably should not be a surprise that a recent survey by Money Magazine and found that the number one job for individuals over the age of 50 was nonprofit executive. Our own survey data which came from our 2007 Executive Job Market Intelligence Report also showed a substantial amount of interest in the NFP world as well with 47.4% of the members indicating that they were considering or might consider careers in Nonprofit/Govt./Education.

Just because I have had a "successful" career in or out of corporate America doesn't by any means suggest that at the end of that road that I feel totally comfortable about where I would rate myself on the scales of what I've been fortunate to get versus what I have given back.

There is certainly no shortage of problems to solve or people in need. While it certainly isn't too late for any of us to think about giving back, having reached that "mid-life" juncture, I have to say that I'm not feeling so great at not having started sooner thinking more about the difference between success and significance.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Don't Do As I Do, Do As I Say

One of the blogs I try to follow is Kent Blumberg's. I do so for a couple of reasons, first he has interesting things to say based on his own experience, and second, he follows ten times the number of blogs I do, so in reading his posts frequently he shares "learnings" and links from numerous sites many of which I also find of interest and would certainly have missed were it not for Kent's collecting them.

Such was the case today when Kent had a link to a blog site hosted by a fellow named Phil Gerbyshak called "Make It Great! with Phil Gerbyshak. I was not familiar with Phil's musings, but his post of July 2nd entitled 20 Quesitons:Monday Morning Greatness obviously made an impression on Kent and when I read it, I had to agree.

It isn't that the questions posed are life-altering or new, they aren't, but they are good reminders nonetheless, and it makes no difference whether you are an individual contributor, lead a cast of thousands or are entry level or board level.

Of course, the fact that most of the questions Phil suggests are intended to help keep one on the right track, like most things like them, it is much easier said than done which is why I have used the title on this post that I have.

If readers here choose to check it out as well, maybe you will agree too.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Video Killed The Database Star

So I was reading today's Interbiznet Bugler where the lead piece was entitled Video Killed The Data Base Star.

As I read on, essentially John Sumser was making the argument that there was a coming tidal wave of video resumes despite the obvious issue of time that it would take for recruiters, third party or otherwise, to screen them nothwithstanding. God only knows they have issues enough dealing with electronic versions.

John finished off this piece by asserting that hiring managers would actually "want" video resumes because "there's something about live action that cements decisions." He also went on to say that all of this would "swamp the recruiting folks with the challenge of wading through years of video clips." Now there's a candidate for the understatement of the year award!

Maybe because it's Friday, a beautiful summer day, and I am more focused on a Tom Collins on the deck watching the boats come in from a sunset sail that I am assuming this piece was written tongue in cheek.

I mean I certainly realize with the advent of YouTube and MySpace, not to mention the official launch of the iPhone that video is going to be used in a lot of ways with much of it hopefully benefiting both our personal and business lives, it's just that I can't see video resumes being one of them.

Aside from the time factor and the ability to edit them to the point where they might be eligible for an Oscar special effects nomination, one wonders what the EEOC would have to say?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

In Search of the Perfect Job

I guess if I had the proverbial nickel for every book that has been written about how to go about a job search or just managing one's career in general, I could retire yesterday and not have to worry about the future of social security or anything else.

Furthermore, there are a number of the books out there that are, in my opinion, quite good. So why do people keep writing them? I think because as I learned to my own amazement some years ago, that while many people can write or talk about the same subject, we all come at it from our own personal experiences and "learnings" which usually means that how one communicates his thoughts on a given subject is likely to be different from someone else's and therefore will resonate differently with different people. The result? In one instance I come away and felt I have learned little, and in another I feel like I just had an epiphany of major proportions.

While we have never met, I have known Clyde Lowstuter both by reputation and phone almost since I became involved with ExecuNet nearly twenty years ago. Clyde has written a number of books and In Search of the Perfect Job - 8 Steps To The $250,000+ Executive Job That's Right For You while the subject is certainly not new, it is nonetheless very timely in that it is written for really senior level executives, and if you think it is easy to write something for a group of folks whose lack of attention spans are legendary, think again.

That said, I can promise you that some of its readers are going to rebel at some of the exercises that Clyde has built into the book, but that's only because they force you to think and don't come with a mouse you can click that promises to take you immediately to the URL that is going to answer every concern you have ever had and comes with a seven figure sign-on bonus. In other words, the real world, as we all know, doesn't come with pat answers.

Anyway, even if you cop out on some of the exercises, Clyde has a neat way of putting in light bulb type things to remind the reader of some of the key "learnings" and one that showed up very early on is one that I think many of us should print out and paste on the bathroom mirror because it wise counsel indeed no matter what is going on in your life as a leader:
"Authenticity is the single most important derterminant for personal and leadership success."
When I saw this little gem it reminded me of another quote that I've been told was attributed to Lincoln. I have never been able to verify that came from Lincoln, but even if it didn't, I have always liked it. It goes something like this:
"There is not a man alive with a memory good enough to be a successful liar."
Clyde, they are important values to live by ~ thanks for book and the reminder.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Qualities of a Successful Leader/Manager

Bells and Whistles is a blog about which I have had something to say on more than one occasion and given the contributions to it made by Amitai Givertz, and Eric Jackson both of whom are on the staff of RCI Recruitment Solutions whose company blog it is, the names are likely to show up here many times in the future as well.

Given the business they are in is probably one of the reasons they write so much about leadership stuff, but that isn't the only reason that the site is way up on my list of blogs to follow. The real reason is not what they are writing about so much as they impact (at least on me) of how what they have to say is so sharply focused.

Happily and another reason is that they attract readers who also are not only obviously very bright, but who also have a gift to communicate via the written word.

One such contributor is a fellow named Gil Keough who happens to be the Director of Corporate Training for a company called Toobeez International located in PA. Gil is an exceptionally bright and gifted writer.

Were I not a follower of Bells and Whistles as well as John Sumser and I am sure I would have missed Gil's powerfully put comments that he posted after having read a commentary of Eric Jackson's (also excellent) back in April titled Building Smart Leadership. Such is the convoluted and often very valuable "linkages" created by the net.

In any event, all of this is a long way to say that Gil's commentary which he simply called The Qualities of A Successful Leader/Manager is not only very much worth reading, but once you have, you might well be motivated, as I was, to print and place it in that folder we all have called: Lessons in Leadership I Don't Ever Want to Forget.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Fear Induced Lethargy

Anyone of us who has ever found themselves "between portfolio assignments" or whatever other euphemism you want to use for looking for a job while being unemployed knows full well the range of emotions (very few of which are good) one experiences in the quest for the next gig.

Some of us talk about it, others write about it, most of us intellectually fully understand what we're supposed to do about it, but for a multitude of rationalizations often hold back desperately hoping that the world will finally feel the pain of not having us as the answer to their prayers and that one day our phone will ring and the person on the other end will say "Dave, I am so glad I finally found you, please just fill in the blank on this check, and come help us become #1 in our industry."

So why is it that so many senior level executives in a job search seem to find themselves waiting for that call, or who feel they are really having a productive day because they have sent of lots of emails with resume attached to job board after job board or if they were really on an efficiency kick, sent off lots of emails to jobs they found on one of the aggregator services that have been scrapped and published from the net thus saving themselves the click and loading time going from site to site.

One of the best answers to this behavioral phenomenon I found in the musings of John Reinke (who in the interest of full disclosure is a member of ExecuNet) and who among his myriad activities has a blog which he calls Reinke Faces Life.

John came up with the phrase "fear induced lethargy" in a communication he was sending to one of the many folks who come to him for free advice regarding their search. John, who, like many of us, has far more experience in looking for a job than he would like, has what some might consider a pretty cynical outlook on a number of things. Said differently, the advice he dispenses from what is clearly a very giving and compassionate heart is neither "warm" nor "fuzzy." It falls much more into the Howard Cosell school of career management circa 2007. Hence the phrase "fear induced lethargy."

When John used these words he was really trying suggest why it is that many of us take the easy way out (and hope) rather than putting our time and energy into those aspects of a search that are much tougher (e.g. really trying to think about and articulate what it is that I really bring to the table and being able to communicate same in a compelling and confident fashion.)

Fear of rejection is indeed a very powerful motivator for inaction.

It is for this reason and lots of others (but this one will certainly suffice for now) that when people ask what ExecuNet is all about that one of the answers I will give is that we are in the career management education business for senior level executives and professionals.

When the lethargy takes hold, it's as if all of our self-confidence and self-esteem resided on only one side of the desk, and for many that perception is in fact the reality.

So, what helps to change all that and make what John calls "fear induced lethargy" morph into result producing proactivity and action? For me, the hold a gun to my head one word answer is information.

When the "what" seems overwhelming, often it is only because we don't have the information that provides us with the knowledge of the "how". Once I know how, somehow or another the self-confidence adrenalin kicks in and it is for that reason that we spend the time and energy we do on the "how" and I have to say the feedback we get helps me to understand why many teachers love what they do.