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!