Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Why Do This?

As I was wading through what seemed like endless emails following an all too brief vacation, I was both surprised and flattered to see one from Steve Levy, (50% blogmaster of a very interesting, entertaining and well-regarded blog that he and Maureen Sharib have produced for some years now called The Recruiting Edge.

Steve's email explained that he was going to be part of a panel at Kennedy Information's up coming recruiting conference and expo that takes place in Las Vegas on May 9 and 10 next month. Should be a fun time.

The panel which will feature a number of "A" list bloggers is going to be exploring a number of questions about blogging and to get some perspective they decided to reach out to a number of folks in the blogosphere and ask them "why."

Why I was on his "ask" list I would dare not ask for fear he would tell me, but to be honest it was very interesting exercise as I found myself thinking about blogging from perspectives that I had not really considered before.

I reproduce them here in case as a blogger or bloggee (if there is such a word) you might want to think about why we all invest our time in this evolving electronic experiment in free speech.

Here's what I sent back to Steve:

1. Why do I blog? At first I just thought it might be fun to try since I had not done anything like it before, although since I write an internal newsletter every day that goes to everyone in our company lots of staff members here felt I would find it a natural extension. I also felt it was another channel to communicate with our members and other professionals interested in various aspects of career management at the executive level.

Since we are an organization that has been preaching the value of building a personal and professional network based on members helping each other for the past 19 years, when blogging came along it seemed like another opportunity to try and help as well as learn from others in the field.

2. What do I prefer to blog about? For good or for ill, I have been running around in the career management, HR, and staffing worlds for more than 45 years. Worse, I have never been known to lack an opinion (although I certainly can’t express them with your clarity or humor). That said, I tend to blog on topics where most of us are still searching for answers (e.g. what is effective leadership really?) or on subjects about which I feel strongly (e.g. education, business and personal ethics). My readers are concerned about a variety of provocative topics (e.g. age discrimination, job security, and compensation.) I try to keep them up to date with what we’re learning from our vantage point. My favorite topics are those that have the potential to really help readers improve their professional lives – even if it’s a tip that just gets them home a half hour earlier or a little saner after a long meeting with their boss.

3. Where does the inspiration come from? Much of it comes from the 45+ years on both sides of the hiring desk and the observations and “learnings” that come from the mistakes we have all made along the way. Much of it also comes from our members. The issues I talk with them about both by phone and email cover the waterfront and often have to do with effective career management in a digital age.

4. Who do I blog for? I approach my blog the same way I approach the networking meetings that we have around the country and in Canada. The blog is a forum that is open to anyone, ExecuNet member or not. Our meetings have always been that way. All we ask is that people come in the spirit of sharing and helping others. The blog is the same as far as I am concerned, it is one of the reasons I like the idea of allowing people to comment and add their own thoughts. One of the factors that make groups such a powerful force in problem-solving is because people bring different sets of experiences to bear. Blogs can be another forum that enables meaningful connections to be made.

5. How has blogging impacted the business/brand, etc.? I honestly don’t know, probably not a lot, although we certainly have received some very nice comments and commentary from many in the blogosphere who feel it makes a contribution, so that is great for the ego. In terms of our business, ever since we started in 1988 the vast majority of our members have come to us by referral, and I’m pleased to say that is still the case, so while it may be that the blog has caused some people to become aware of us who weren’t before, usually they have talked to a current or former member or a search consultant by the time they get to us.

6. When do you find time to blog? Now there’s an issue! Often I don’t and by the time I come up for air, the issue that got me thinking about saying something I sometimes feel is “old news” so I pass. Where folks like you and others on your panel find the time I have no clue, but I stand in awe, that’s for sure. All that said, I usually try to find time at night or on the weekend. It is very hard for me to blog during the business day. I have to find time to put my thoughts together, and for me, that means some quiet time.

If you blog or read blogs, I would be interested to hear your "why do this."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Getting Paid: The Price of Leadership

When I typed in "leadership" in Google I got back 178,000,000 hits, and I am sure by the time this gets posted, there will be several thousand more. Based on this piece of raw data, plus my own experience on both a personal and professional level I have jumped to the conclusion that it is (a) a topic of interest to some and (b) the answer has yet to be found.

So, what does this have to do, if anything, with Getting Paid: The Price of Leadership? I'm not sure, maybe nothing, but I could not think of a more catchy title on the spur of the moment.

What got me to thinking about this at all was a post I saw on Kent Blumberg's blog a few days ago in which he was writing about one of the many "perks" of being an executive, in this case having to say "no". Great fun.

Anyway, all this reminded me of something that one of my old bosses told me once that obviously struck a nerve with me because over the years I have been involved with so many situations where whatever the situation was, what he said pretty well covered the water front. The essence of it all was this:

After you take away all the fluff, all the "responsible for's", all the "introduced this", all the "saved that's" and our all-time favorite "promoted to" what was this person really getting paid for that in an overly simplistic way one could easily argue that they could get it from a book?

After all, when people go to school, bschool or otherwise, they acquire knowledge. When they enter the business world they try to apply the knowledge, and down the road, when the time comes to see how it all turned out, what really made the difference between the success and failure?

It was somewhere in the course of this sort of discussion that this boss I was mentioning said to me "Dave, at the end of the day, managers really get paid to do only three things: Hire, Fire, and Evaluate!

As I think about my own experiences, and with acknowledgement that there really is a bit more to it that just that, nonetheless, if one could be really good at these three terribly difficult subjective judgments, you would be in pretty darn good shape and a very high first round draft pick for sure.

Think about it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Three “P’s” of a Successful Career Change

When the term "thought leader" is attached to some names it can stand as the poster child for oxymorons, however, when it is attached to Pete Weddle, it helps to clarify what the term really means.

In his commentary that appears in his newsletters, various columns, as well as his books, Pete is normally not just ahead of the curve when it comes to career and/or recruiting issues, he often can be the first person to identify them.

In the case of the piece that appeared in his newsletter of April 5th, I am too far behind the power curve to know if Pete's observations would be classified as simply some thoughts on the trend of career changing or if he is starting a discussion on it by offering it up as a trend to watch.

If you held a gun to my head, I guess I would tag it as commentary on an already identified trend, but either way, it is worth a read.

The degree to which people these days, are changing not just jobs but careers has been something that we have been hearing about from ExecuNet members for quite a while. Time was when any executive thinking about doing something like this would have been considered a candidate for the out patient mental health provision of their medical plan. Not so any longer.

There are, of course, lots of factors that enter into this type of change as a serious option for many of us. Some that come to mind immediately are: dying industries that have been replaced by technology, the impact of 911 on people's priorities in life, or the excitement and motivation that comes from being your own boss, and there are likely many more that could be added.

The fact that people are motivated to try, does not, as Pete points out, make it easy. Indeed, it adds another complicating component to trying to manage one's career.

While the three P's that Pete offers to those who want to take a serious look at doing something like making a career change are by no means a "universal solvent" they do stand as sound advice of the first order.

Monday, April 02, 2007

"Wage Management Initiative"

Does anyone beside me remember when they used to use phrases like layoffs? Then I think we moved to "RIFs" aka "reduction in force." We were just starting to get used to this when along came the more creative "reorganizations" followed by the ever popular "restructuring" only to be displaced on the euphemism hit parade by "downsizing" or "right sizing." Not bad for openers.

If they ever give out awards for corporate euphemisms I hereby go on record as nominating Circuit City who, in a recent announcement, described the elimination of some 3,400 sales jobs as "a wage management initiative." As Don Imus might say, "You can't make this stuff up."

I stumbled across this gem in an article by David Carr that appeared in Monday's NY Times.

The real message Mr. Carr was delivering was to not only remind us all yet once again of the continuing disparity in the distribution of income* in our country, but also of the business culture we have created that allows failed corporate leaders such as Circuit City's CEO and Chairman, who between the two of them, got $10,000,000 for, as Carr so beautifully put it, "steering the company to its imperiled state."

"Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, our nation turns it lonely eyes to you."

* the article states that the top 300,000 Americans had almost as much income as the bottom 150 million Americans.