Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Man's Opinion

One of the things that has made being a part of ExecuNet so satisfying and rewarding over the years is meeting and getting to know our members be it in person, on the phone, or online.

In the case of Rick Hubbard it was first via email and then by phone.

His self-description is that of a "Technologist, Author & Professional Services Executive" and now having spent a fair amount of time with Rick, I would say that was a very apt description but doesn't really convey the depth of the talents he has. For that you need to get deeper into his profile.

Among other things, Rick is an active (read very) of a networking group in the bay area called PSVillage a 1500 member community of technology, professional services and consulting leaders.

Combining both personal interests with his broadcast and interviewing skill sets, for the past several months, Rick has been busy producing a series of podcasts for this group covering the subject of job search at the executive level.

As part of that effort he contacted me to see if I would be willing to spend some time with him and share my take on a number of questions that were subjects of interest to those who were listening to his special series. With his high energy level and enthusiasm to go with it, there was no way that I was going to say no.

As I suspected, it turned out to be a great experience for a number of reasons, not the least of which was his easy going style and the fact that we actually a reasonable amount of time to discuss the issues (it runs around 39 minutes) and it gave me the chance to not only express my opinion on a number of questions that frequently come up, but it also gave me the chance to explain why I felt as I did, and in this age of "sound bites" it was a welcome change.

So, if you are an executive and trying to wade through the jungle of the marketplace these days, you might want to check it out.

I also should mention since Rick is also an author as well as an accomplished broadcaster, he has just released a book on planning (a word frequently that raises the hairs on a lot of necks) called simply How to Plan. In fact, he tells me he is actually giving away some complimentary copies - for just how long I am not sure, but if you're interested in checking out the book, the site is here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mekong Blue

So I am driving to work and listening to NPR as I do on most days. On Morning Edition I hear this story about Mekong Blue and immediately said to myself this would be a good thing to share for those who may not yet know about this project.

Since I just recently returned from a trip to SE Asia, this might have had something to do with my wanting to help get the word out on a project like this, although Cambodia was not on my itinerary so maybe not.

Actually I think it is more likely that I was motivated by having seen first-hand how truly high quality silk is created and woven. For those who have seen this process I would guess that would agree that it is impressive to say the least.

In any event, while it is probably too late for any last minute Christmas shopping, given the beauty and quality of the products produced by this group of Cambodian women, it is a site you might want to put on a favorite list when you are looking for a gift for any special occasion.

If you would like to get full story the NPR clip is here.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Happenstance Theory of Career Planning

I guess I should start this post with a tip of the hat to longer vacations. I, like many Americans, rarely use all of the vacation time allotted, but this year I made an exception and invested three weeks to explore Bali, Burma and Thailand.

Once I got over the guilt's (that took about a week) by the time we returned, I didn't even know what day of the week it was.

Of course, some of that might have been the result of the 30+ hours of travel time, but I would rather believe that it was due to the chance to observe and participate in the unique cultures and beauty of SE Asia.

And, if you have checked out the picture here, I can tell you that the answer to the question of whether or not I ever thought I would have the chance to spend quality time with a live, 20 month old, 300 pound tiger, the answer is no, but it is something I will not soon forget.

In any case, what does all this have to do with careers and how they evolve? The answer is probably not much other than the fact had I not had the experience of losing my job some 20+ years ago, and as the result of that migrate into an experience which became ExecuNet, I am sure I would still be only fanaticizing about the chance to actually spend time with a tiger.

That said, over the years, many people have said to me that somewhere in my DNA there must have been a fair number of entrepreneurial genes in order for ExecuNet to be starting year 22 in 2010. My answer has always been that if that was true, I was certainly not aware of it, but rather it came about based on my own experience in career transition and that I just felt there had to be a better way to make the process of career management at the executive level more win-win, and ExecuNet turned out to be the answer for me.

It wasn't until I returned from vacation and was wading through my email that I noticed one from Pedro Ramirez, and Greg Skidmore who team up to do a podcast in which they interview entrepreneurs from around the area. Not sure how Pedro found me, but he did and some weeks ago I sat down with them to talk about how ExecuNet came to be and what do we do as well as the why and how of what we do.

Once I listened to the podcast, I actually thought it came out fairly well and more importantly as we got into a deeper discussion around senior level career management that there were some key learnings that might be of help to others trying to fight the current career battles.

If you want to listen, you can just click here. It runs about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Getting Through The Maze

Given the current state of affairs on the unemployment front these days it probably comes as no surprise that two of the most asked questions we get from ExecuNet members who have been caught up in all this are:

1. What is the "secret" in dealing with recruiters, and

2. What sort of strategies are there for moving from one industry to another?

I could easily list another ten to twenty questions that would all have double digit percentages in terms of how often they come up, but for now and in the interest of both time and space, a comment and a recommendation.

Comment: When someone finds themselves in a job search, it has long been both a knee jerk reaction for the person to say to themselves that one of their primary strategies is going to be one of "working with recruiters." On the surface, of course, that has some logic to it in the sense that most equate recruiters with jobs.

What is forgotten all too often however is that recruiters "work for clients" not candidates. Once they have sourced a candidate they may "work with them" to help get them ready for presentation to their client, but they are a long way from being the person who is going to help the candidate find the next job.
Of course the other fact that is easily forgotten (maybe repressed?) is that the percentage of positions filled by recruiters vs. what is out there is relatively small. The numbers vary, but if it reaches as high as 20% that would be pushing the envelope. It is more likely 10-15%.

So maybe the question really ought to be not about working with recruiters but rather how should I be interacting with them as one potential contact point in my search.

Recommendation: While our members have any number of resources to draw upon, including a whole section of the site that is focused only on recruiters, if people ask me for just one resource that I think puts this all in perspective and has excellent, solid and practical advice, I point them to Nick Corcodilos and a book entitled: How to Work with Headhunters.

Recommendation: When it comes to looking for similar quality input on the issue of making a change from one industry to another (not an easy task by any means) my suggestion is to check out Nick's latest which he calls "an answer kit" that carries the title of (as you might guess) How Can I Change Careers? This is a 36 page PDF crammed with answers on this tricky challenge.

One of the hardest things about dealing with the issues of transition is trying to make some sense out of something that leaves many of us with the feeling of being caught in a maze and continually running into dead ends.

If you are looking for a maze guide, Nick comes highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Houston: My Net Isn't Working

Aside from the frustration experienced by job seekers from what feels like the "black hole" in responding to postings on job boards (and there is enough on that subject to provide fodder for posts for the next year!) the next major pain point often seems to be around the dreaded word for anyone in transition: networking.

Yes, they have read the stats be they from our own Executive Job Market Intelligence Report or a zillion other sources all of which report that at the executive level somewhere between 50% and 80% of the time, networking is what made it happen. Our own experience has been consistently at the 70% level which is one of the reasons we invest so much time and energy to provide our members with the ways and means to expand their personal and professional networks both on and offline.

[And BTW, ExecuNet networking meetings around the country and in Canada are open to anyone, be they a member of ExecuNet or not].

In any case, armed with all this overwhelming data, why is it that I continually hear from people who say to me, "Well, this networking stuff may work for someone else, but it sure as heck isn't working for me."

After talking with such a person for a while, it usually becomes pretty clear pretty fast that they are still on a learning curve when it comes to really understanding what networking is. They are still at the stage where they think that networking is a noun.

In their mind networking is a "thing." They haven't quite gotten the message that really effective networking isn't a program ~ it's a process. Said another way, networking isn't a formula that you plug in and a job falls out at the other end. What is it? Short version: It's a process of building a relationship.

As you might guess when I say that, heads nod in agreement, but when we talk further it becomes clear that the "agreement" is really more about "understanding" the concept on an intellectual level not on a "personal/emotional" level, to which I usually says something like: "This just in, real relationships are personal and are based and built on trust not concepts."

After that, not a lot of time passes before I hear something like: "Okay Einstein, and I do this how"? To which I usually respond by asking some questions like: "How have you built relationships in the past"? "Were these relationships where you weren't worried about getting something"? "Did the relationship start with you trying to help this person"? "Where was your focus - on them or yourself?"

So what I am trying to do here is actually stumble to a point: behavior is driven by attitude.

If you enter a relationship where "getting" comes before "giving" people will sense it and if that is the attitude they continue to see, what you will have, best case, is an acquaintance and probably not one whose face will light up at the mention of your name.

I know this sounds horribly naive, but I can't help it; for good or for ill it seems to be in my DNA. To over simplify, at a macro level, I think there are two types of people running around the planet: givers and takers.

Now for sure, the "takers" get more ink (think too big to fail?) and I don't have stats to prove it, but my life experience suggests that at least when it comes to making a career move, the "givers" make changes a lot faster than the "takers."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Technology Is A Means, Not An End

Like many other businesses with a major online presence, we do lots of "live" programs which means there is no time for a do over. A few weeks ago, we experienced a techno glitch during one of our online programs. It was a sold out show and halfway through, our web meeting provider lost our connectivity. Not only was access lost, so were a few pounds from the stress.

Fortunately, these problems have been few and far between. Since ExecuNet was founded in 1988, obviously the business was built on the old fashioned forms of communication. We migrated online 15 years ago when the Internet was still a fledgling outlet.

Having gone through this migration, over the years we have seen firsthand how the Internet has the power to bring people together. Our members report deep and long-term networking bonds with each other, without ever having met in person. I also doubt that any of us would argue that contacts, referrals, introductions and advice are instrumental to getting help with both business issues as well as career management challenges and I would be lying if I didn't say that is has been deeply rewarding to be part of an enterprise where one of the fundamental goals is to help foster these relationships.

On the other hand, incidents like this one when we got "unplugged" serve to remind me more than ever, that as wonderful as all the technology is, businesswise or career wise, it is still about relationships that are built on trust.

This is one of the reasons why, even with all the electronics today, we still tell people, there is no substitute for face to face. It is also why our networking meetings are open to anyone be they members with us or not. Indeed, the whole purpose of the meetings is to give all those attending one more venue in addition to everything else one would hope and expect they would be doing to expand their personal and professional network.

All we ask is that people come with the attitude and spirit of helping each other. If you haven't checked out a meeting, come join us. You can always check out the upcoming events in your area by just clicking here.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

It's Getting To Be That Time of Year

I don't know about you, but in my case I can tell you that when they were passing out the genes for creatvity I was either sick or on vacation. It's a good thing for me that my wife got more than her fair share otherwise both our house and my home office would look like it was decorated in an "early Salvation Army" motif, and that's only on the personal side.

On the business side they simply have stopped asking what I think about the design of anything be it print or electronic. After all, back in the day, I thought the Edsel was cool looking.

All of which is to say that I hold anyone who has design talents in awe. Not just because of the professional talents they bring to what they do, but also because of the frustration they must feel in dealing with something so subjective. How they ever get clients to agree with anything is beyond me.

If you have read this far you are probably wondering (and rightfully so) what, if anything, this has to do with the title of this post? Such as it is, here's the link:

A few days ago we got a notice from the Connecticut Food Bank that a donation had been made in ExecuNet's name (specifically on behalf of our VP & Executive Director Lauryn Franzoni). The donation was made by Rob Hudgins the president/creative director of a graphic and web design firm down in Florida called 50/50 Design. Rob has been a prime design resource for us for years.

As it turns out, Rob's company marked their 10th anniversary this past July, and to mark that occasion rather than spend lots of money on self-serving hoopla, he decided to go to each of his clients and have them select a charity of their choice to which he then wanted to make a donation on their behalf as his way of saying thanks to the companies who have helped bring his business to where it is today.

When I learned all this, it got me to thinking that before any of us know it, the holiday season will be here (Sam's Club has Christmas stuff out already and it isn't even Halloween!) and lots of businesses big and small will be thinking of how to say thanks to their customers/business partners, etc.

While it is true that the economy is slowly trying to pick itself up off the floor, as we all know for millions of folks through no fault of their own, getting off that floor is still many months away.

So, if your company is looking for a really nice way to say thanks and give some extra help to those in need, you might want to borrow Rob's idea when someone asks "does anyone have any ideas of what we should do this year."?

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Members vs. Subscribers

One of the really interesting things about having been around as long as we have is that we have experienced what it is like to be part of a community both on and off the Internet.

As many who read this blog are aware (i.e. both of you) I started ExecuNet in 1988. Hell, now that I think of it, there were fax machines then and we still thought technology had gone beyond amazing and then along came CDs and left us speechless. Time flies as they say.

In 1995 we silently and with great trepidation turned on our website, we were concerned about a lot of things, not the least of which was losing the relationship with our members who up until that point could not become a member without actually talking to a real live person and/or getting hundreds of emails a day from high school kids with nothing better to do.

The email overload turned out not to be a problem then, but it is now with the never ending SPAM for Viagra, Rx offerings from Canada and easy money opportunities from the President of Nigeria.

While executives can now join online, we have held firmly to our belief that really effective networks/communitites (be they for business or career or both) are built and based on real relationships not simply a collection of Vcards.

I was reminded of this recently when I thought about a panel I was on some years ago wtih Craig Newmark of Craigslist and Laurel Touby, the founder of Media Bistro. The subject we discussed was the building of online communities.

Even though none of us had talked to the other about what we were going to say. The common thread was that each of our sites had grown by personal referral and personal involvement with our "community."

“Word-of-mouth” is obviously impossible to actively control, but when it works in your favor, the positive results can be quite powerful. ExecuNet was, as mentioned above, formed well before commercial Internet usage, and obviously at that time we relied heavily on referrals from our members.

Now nearly twenty-two years later, we still credit recommendations from our members for much of our success and longevity.

In today's world, the value of word-of-mouth buzz is compounded by the speed in which news travels over the Internet. My desktop blinks constatly as the "tweets" pour in.

No matter how people get here, however, I have always felt that personal referral was the most powerful advertising there is, and that is evidenced by the fact that the community we have with ExecuNet is based on the commitment that comes from being a member. That was -- and still is -- the key factor in why personal referral remains the way most of our members get here.

One of the first questions many people who contact us for the first time ask is how we measure our effectiveness as a resource for senior-level executives? My response is usually along the lines of "How did you hear of us?"

The answer more often than not is "A friend of mine told me about you." To which I then respond, "Well, you have now found a good part of the answer -- by reputation. Most people I know don't refer people to something unless they feel there is value there. I don’t, and I wouldn't expect you to either."

There is a real difference between being a member of something and simply a subscriber. Subscribers transact; members TRUST.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Putting America Back to Work

Bill George is, as many already know, a professor of management at HBS and the former chairman and CEO of Medtronic. He also wrote the 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis. In short, he is one of those people who as the old E.F. Hutton commercial said "when Bill speaks, people listen." And well they should.

If you didn't see his piece in the past week's edition of BusinessWeek it is well worth the read. If you are short on time, the Cliff's Notes version is that he shared some ideas of what we should be doing as the country keeps moving toward rebuilding our economy and creating sustainable jobs.

Specifically, he argues that we should be focused on "innovation, entrepreneurship, small business and new company formation." which if you believe in history seems pretty hard to argue against.

To prime the pump he thinks that if tax credits for long-term investments were raised along with making the current tax credits for R&D permanent it would go a long way to creating jobs in the aforementioned areas.

Moreover, he points to renewable energy, information technology and healthcare as logical places to start which also may seem obvious to many but these too are hard to argue against.

When I had finished reading Bill's op ed piece and put BW down, I was reminded again of just how important innovation is and how it really is and has been the engine that drives job creation, and if we don't make a concerted effort to provide an environment that fosters innovation far more so than is currently the case, "Do you want fries with that?" could well become our epitath.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Perceptions Are Real to Those Who Hold Them

Our banjo playing Chief Creative Officer, Sue DiAmico, is, among other things, a multi-tasker extraordinaire, so I wasn't surprised when she found the time in her cyber travels to forward a piece that appeared on the eMarketer Digital Intelligence site. The article was entitled: Job Candidates Both Hurt and Helped by Social Networks. As the title implies, the information about you on the Net can be a two-edged sword.

As I continue to contemplate the electronic world in which we live and while I am fascinated with it all, at least when it comes to the "digital dirt" issues that face some of the Gen X and Y folks, I not only feel for them but actually feel lucky that I was born way too soon.

Indeed, once I had read the piece, I could not help but think of the fact that if some of the stuff that I did when I was in college (or high school for that matter) ever made it to the Net, and I was a hiring manager and saw it or read about it, I wouldn't have made a phone call to me, much less hired me.

No matter where you are philosophically, when it comes to the debate over the separation of business lives vs. personal lives, if you are looking to make a change on the business side and whereas you might put points on the board for freedom of expression when the cover of an album on your Facebook page is a picture of you and your buddies standing by someone's VW that you just put on their porch last Halloween, points, not paychecks will be about all you'll get.

I don't know how many clich├ęs there are or ways to say "You only get one chance to make a first impression," and for sure there has been plenty written on the subject (e.g. when I goggled "digital dirt" I got 3,600,000 hits); and yet even in this super competitive market I can't get over how we still see way too many people head out into the market before they are really ready to make sure that the impression they are going to leave be it verbal, print or electronic is at the quality level that they not only would want for themselves but which others would expect.

I am not talking about the crazy stuff that most of us did. If it's out there, it's out there, and while there are still plenty of folks who are at senior executive levels today who have been eliminated by recruiters due to stuff the recruiter has found online, for the most part at senior levels it isn't the skinny dip photos that gets your resume shredded. It is much more likely to be sloppy spelling, poor follow-up, poor communication skills, poor grammar, or maybe a resume that looks like it is a "before" sample.

With the pressures facing organizations these days, they don't have and won't take the time to get a second impression, so taking the time to make sure that "the product" is ready for prime time is not only time well spent, it is absolutely essential.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Biggest Bang for the Buck

If one of your goals as a leader is to become a better communicator, there is no better time than now to do just that. Indeed, given the present economic envionment, if you are a leader there has never been a time where it is more important for you to communicate to those you lead.

As we all plan to spend the balance of 2009 moving beyond the recession and into some sort of recovery, the fact remains that the economy and its instability are top-of-mind for most employees. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep the lines of communication open as you navigate your company through these uncertain times. Employees are counting on you for that.

Consulting firm Watson Wyatt surveyed employers about communicating in this rough economic climate. Among the topics employers said they are addressing include company performance and solvency as well as job security — issues employees say are of the most interest to them. Hardly surprising.

How is this communication occurring? According to the survey, the most popular methods seem to be town hall meetings, staff meetings and face-to-face talks. Even email and company intranets are effective tools. Apparently the survey was done before Twitter came on the scene or it probably would have had that as a source as well.

Regardless of the channel, the good news is that the majority (62 percent) said they’re not going to stop. In truth, I was a bit disappointed and surprised that the percertage wasn't higher, but 62% is a good start and hopefully once times improve they will not go back to "business as usual" and allow the "grapevine" to communicate for them.

Why was I disappointed even with 62%? The answer is because if I was the head of HR and the boss came to me and said your budget for the year is $1.00 and you must pick only one item on which to spend it, I would tell him that I was going to spend it on communications with the staff. That's how important I think it is and here's why:

The real driver for productivity doesn't come from the application of technology. The technology is just the tool. The real difference maker is the committment level of the individuals in whose hands the tools are placed and my belief is that committment comes from the motivation that is bourne out of trust and good news or bad (especially bad) the enteprise that levels with its people - wins.

This is not to say that there aren't any number of other elements involved, of course there are, but if these are not bulit on a foundation of trust, long term the organization will find committment replaced by people who are simply going through the motions.

And before you say "Hey Dave, tell me something I don't know," explain to me why more companies don't do it? Maybe it's because as my mother used to say their leaders have the "morals of an alley cat?"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Looking Ahead

As most readers who know ExecuNet are aware we have been up to our ears in the career and business issues impacting senior level business leaders for 21+ years.

Among other things this means as an organization which is focused on the executive level we have been around for the last three recessions and because of our relationships with not only our executive members but our RecruitSmart members as well we hear a great deal of the business buzz both positive or otherwise, and it is no secret that much of what all of us have been hearing for a long while falls into the category of "otherwise."

Nonetheless, we keep our radar open and operating and going back to March of this year and "otherwise" notwithstanding, we were reporting and seeing and hearing about "green shoots".

I am happy to say that this has continued, and if you are interested in a take on the economy both current and going foward gleaned from our somewhat unique perspective, you might want to take a few minutes (less than five) to hear what our President (and resident economist) Mark Anderson's thoughts are as he looks at where things stand now and what he sees in the coming months, all of which were captured by ExecuNet TV and posted on YouTube just yesterday.

Agree or disagree, feel free to comment.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hiring Roulette

Among the all-time debates with no answers such as: nature or nurture; chicken or egg and of course DiMaggio or Mays there remains the nagging one of hiring or retention.

What is tougher, making a good hiring decision or retaining "A" players once you find them? These are issues that probably have been studied, surveyed, poked and prodded by more organizations than have sworn off applicant matching systems, attitude surveys and exit interviews combined, but that doesn't mean that we don't keep on looking for the answers even though much of the time the results in the real world make us think that our resident guru is Monty Python rather than McKinsey.

But undaunted, we keep trying, and even though the study will be a year old come October, the Corporate Executive Board and more specifically the Recruiting Roundtable which is a subsidiary of CEB released the results of a significant study last October which they say was the first of its kind in that they tried to actually identify the key reasons why more than 50% of the hiring organizations or the new hires themselves regret the decisions they made.

When one thinks of the time, energy and money that is focused on the issues of hiring and retention, this is not a number that generates optimisim on either side of the debate.

In any case and for sure, the issue is certainly not going to be solved here, but nonetheless I thought the study was of sufficent interest to share in the event there were those who might not have seen it or like me, had forgotten about it as we are wont to do. Even so, the data has lost none of its importance to any one of us who sit on either side of the desk:

The study details several contributing factors, including that 40% of new hires report the information they received about the job when they were applying was less than accurate. Overall, only half the time will organizations and new hires achieve a win-win outcome where both agree that they made the right decision.

"Given the high cost of early career turnover, organizations cannot afford to make the wrong hiring decisions," says Senior Director Donna L. Weiss. To save millions, the Roundtable aims to help organizations reach that win-win outcome closer to 100% of the time. After analyzing data from more than 8,500 hiring managers and 19,000 of their most recent hires, the Roundtable identified three important reasons organization fail to consistently hire high quality candidates:

(1) they over-rely on candidates describing themselves rather than having them demonstrate what they can do,

(2) they don't follow a consistent, evidence-based selection decision process and

(3) they fail to provide the candidate with enough information and 'experience' about what the job is really like.

Based on detailed quantitative analysis and over 100 interviews, the Roundtable has identified 10 key strategies that organizations can deploy to improve their selection processes.

One recommended approach is to move beyond the traditional selection process to include an experiential component to the process. Weiss adds, "By providing candidates with an experience that is either 'on-the-job' or that is key to job success, organizations can better observe a candidate's capabilities and a candidate can get a better sense of what the job is really like. This is one way to drive to more win-win outcomes."
If you felt the information in the study was interesting and/or helpful, on Friday, August 21st at 1:00 p.m Eastern, you might also want to consider joining Leah Haunz Johnson who is the Senior Director of the Corporate Leadership Council of CEB’s Human Resources Practice. Leah is going to be the featured presenter on an ExecuNet Webinar called: Motivation vs. Malaise: Driving Engagement in a Troubled Economy

About the Recruiting Roundtable

The Recruiting Roundtable provides research, training, and tools to help recruiting executives and their teams make decisions that achieve the highest return on their investments. Roundtable services address key recruiting challenges in areas such as recruiting strategy, sourcing, candidate assessment, diversity management, employment branding, onboarding, outsourcing, metrics, workforce planning, among others. Additional information on the Recruiting Roundtable can be found here.

About the Corporate Executive Board

The Corporate Executive Board (NASDAQ: EXBD) provides analysis and authoritative guidance to the world's most successful organizations. With a member network of over 80% of the Fortune 500, the Corporate Executive Board delivers indispensable resources for timely decision-making on all issues related to strategy, operations and general management. For more information you can click here.

I have purposely left the information on both the Recruiting Roundtable as well as CEB here in case some readers might be becoming aware of one or both for the first time. If you operate in or care about hiring and/or retention space either from the corporate side or the staffing industry side these are sources for thought leadership that merit your continued attention.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Choose One from Column A, B, or C

I guess I could have labeled this post as "A Public Service Announcement" but decided on the A,B,C theme since I wanted to draw readers attention to three totally unrelated but I thought interesting posts that came across my CRT this past week.

Since I stole GL Hoffman's gruzzle graphic (I know, I don't know what that means either, but that's what he calls them) so I guess I'll start there.

I, along with a cast of thousands, have been following GL for quite a while. He is, as those who read his What Would Day Say blog a very clever and insightful guy. In this particular post, I thought he demonstrated both of those traits very well as he gave us his take on the recent Beer Summit.

Not only is the visual pretty neat, what he had to say about it all was equally powerful I thought, so if you didn't happen to catch it, you can check it out here.

Next on the list was a post on ERE by Matthew Charney entitled Bullet Point to the Head which I am still laughing at. Given the well-known and often not displaced frustration that candidates have with the lack of communication with the recruiting world, Charney provides some "insights" that are not only very funny but since most humor comes from truth exaggerated some "learnings" that might help relieve some of that frustration.

You can read it here, but for sure you need to be sitting down otherwise you may fall down laughing.

Finally, if you have not been following John Sumser's latest venture for in which he is attempting to ID those who he and/or others feel are the top 100 influencers in HR and Recruiting it's a fun pass time to watch the list grow.

It is sort of like those lists that ESPN or SI put together every once in the while of the top 100 pros of all time in whatever sport you want to name. The lists, of course, are subjective but so far as we know not influenced by direct bribes, and when folks like Peter Clayton are on the list, it helps to provide comfort that it's hard to argue with the choices made especially if you happen to agree with them.

As far as I can tell, at this writing, the list is up to 20 or so and who knows who the other 80 will be, but it is the sort of thing when you are old enough to probably recognize most of the names that appear you feel "qualified" to say to yourself, "Yeah, I buy that!" or "How the hell do you suppose he/she made the list?" That's what makes them fun, but be that as it may, I was happy to see Peter's name.

In my book, he certainly deserved the recognition along with many of the other names of folks that I have come to know at some level over the years and whose work I respect as well, including of course John himself.

On the other hand, I don't know where they got Peter's picture from, but I am guessing from his high school yearbook. [Just kidding Peter.]

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Feedback from the Real World

One of the advantages of being the first and oldest at something (ExecuNet was founded in 1988) is that when you start collecting data and war stories you can truthfully say "trust me when I tell you....because I can prove it."

So "trust me when I tell you" ever since day one when we spoke to each and every person considering joining this network as well as the wealth of survey information that we have gathered since, that by far and away one of the most profound points of frustration for anyone in a search and senior level executives in particular is the deafening silence that most get when they respond to an ad, be it online or off.

There is a great deal that has been and could be said on this subject and many of us have done so over the years, but I am always looking for more resources to help in setting the right expectation level when it comes to the something like this very sore subject.

Unfortunately, a lot of what has been written on this topic while directionally correct is so filled with platitudes and excuses that in terms of resonating with the reader it simply falls pretty flat. So, when I find something that doesn't and more importantly meets our standard of pragmatism or as we like to say around the office truly is "feedback from the real world" I want to do all I can to make our members as well as others aware of it because there isn't enough of it out there.

Okay, so write this down How to Work with Headhunters by Nick Corcodilos. Many readers of this blog I am sure will recognize Nick's name if for no other reason than he too has been around for a good long while and has a well-deserved following (including myself) of his blog called Ask the Headhunter.

So why am I flogging How to Work with Headhunters? Easy. It speaks my language and if you go to the site Nick has set up to buy the book, I think you will quickly see what I mean.

Words of one syllable, really worthwhile advice from someone from the recruiting world who is willing to be transparent in an effort to try and help people really not just understand the whats and whys, but more importantly the HOWs in dealing with a whole host of issues that few job hunters really understand but which frustrate them by the thousands.

The book contains the answers to 62 "in-your-face" questions, and "in-your-face" is the right phrase. Nick's writing style sort of suggests to me an image of Howard Cosel with a sense of humor. Said differently, you may or may not like what he has to say sometimes, but it is very real, actionable, and as such should help a lot of people deal with "the system" in "real world" terms, and that we like and happily recommend.

Friday, July 17, 2009

People Will Always Pay a Premium for Quality

If you are familiar with ,ExecuNet then it will come as no surprise for you to know that we collect trend information in the executive career management arena.

One of these collection channels we call the Recruiter's Confidence Index. The RCI is a monthly survey of the recruiting community and includes both retained and contingency firms.

The core of the index is focused on their feeling about the market over the next 3-6 months. If you are interested in the latest you can click here.

In doing the survey however, we often will ask some other questions based on trends that we have either read or hear about on a day to day basis.

Recently, we wanted to check and see what the executive recruiting community folks were feeling were their "top business challenges" at this point in time vs. several months ago when the answer was a resounding "what business!"

Among other things, I was struck by the fact that doom and gloom on the nightly newscasts and the front pages notwithstanding, the #1 issue came back as: finding qualified candidates.

To explain: I was struck that this was the top concern not because this is a new issue. Finding top tier talent (what's the buzz word these days - "A" players?) has always been a major challenge, and remains so. [Hence the title of this post] No, what got my attention was not what was on top of the list, but what wasn't even in the top three - specifically the hunt for new business.

This isn't to say that firms that specialize in the sectors that have really been hard hit (Financial Services, Credit, Construction,and Housing) aren't still feeling it big time, for many are, but as a whole, at least based on what people were telling us in the last couple of months, the sky may still be very cloudy and producing occasional severe storms; nonetheless, they are starting to see some light on the far horizon.

And in case you were wondering, #2 was covered by the phrase "client and business issues" (whatever that may mean) and #3 was "relocation." Certainly one can tie the latter to the housing market, and it would also make selling a candidate tougher for sure, but the fact that recruiters' phones were starting to ring (if not off the hook but still ringing) was a good sign.

What are you hearing?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Invent, Invent, Invent

Okay, I admit it, I am a Tom Friedman groupie and if you fall into that category then you will instantly recognize the title of this post as being the title of the Op Ed piece that Friedman wrote for the Sunday NY Times at the end of June.

If you haven't seen this piece then as both as a business leader not to mention a concerned citizen I very much suggest you check it out.

If you don't have the time, the gist of the article is about what Friedman (and others) feel is needed to overcome our current economic woes.

Essentially, the point he makes is that the benchmark UVP that the U.S. has is its creatvity, especially in the creation of breakthrough technology. Not that this by itself is "the answer" as we all know, but it is certainly an essential element.

To help underscore his point, there is what I thought was a great quote at the beginning of the piece in which Friedman quotes Craig Barrett, the former chairman of Intel, who when Tom asked him what he thought the "way out" was said: "Any American kid who wants his driver's license has to finish high school. No diploma - no license. Hey, why would we want to put a kid who can barely add, read or write behind the wheel of a car?"

A tad of an over-simplification for sure, but an attention grabber that helps us to foucs on what I think is the real elephant in the room - the state of education in our country.

If you buy the argument that the world is well into a knowledge driven economy then you would certainly get the point that Barrett was making and one with which I am sure Friedman agrees.

A sample for those who like stats:

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development places the United States 18th among the 36 nations examined, USA Today reported ...

Headed to the top of the heap is South Korea where 93 percent of high school students graduate on time compared with the United States where 75 percent receive their diplomas.
And these are just percentages and say nothing about the "quality" of each. I often wonder if in many high schools they don't give away as many diplomas as are really earned.

I also often wonder why it is that the American business community and most especially those with global footprints don't do far more to lobby and $upport an education system that is desperately deficient.

To say that it is in their self-interest is the understatement of week!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Treadmill Thoughts

"The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all." H.L. Mencken

I suppose I am not unlike most other Americans in that I undoubtedly take the freedoms that I have pretty much for granted. Not that I'm proud of it, but when I look in the mirror I have to admit that it isn't something that I go to bed at night or wake up in the morning thinking about.

That said, as I was on the treadmill at the gym this morning and watching the news and listening to the commentary surrounding our latest poster children for ego driven greed (i.e. Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford) two thoughts kept surfacing in my mind and as they did, I kept getting madder, going faster and sweating more.

The first thought as I've already said was the anger I felt at listening yet once again to the how these two guys had betrayed the trust of others.

The second, however, was about how they had thrown away the opportunity that living in this country had given to them.

Maybe the second thought came because the 4th is this weekend when we are all reminded of just how fortunate we are to live in this country. It was this second thought that led me to the Mencken quote up top of this post.

Since I have spent my entire career in the business world, and most of that interacting with senior level business leaders, I have had my share of experience in dealing with the "scoundrels" on a personal level as well as reading and hearing about the all too many others (i.e. Ebbers, Lay et al.)

But as I was "cooling down" from my workout, and thinking about these SOBs and what they had elected to do with the freedom and opportunities that living here had given them, I thought to myself that as bad as they were and are, in terms of those who lead businesses in this country (both large and small) the over-whelming majority of them don't really need to be "regulated."

As I think the Mencken quote suggests, laws are written to try and protect the rest of us from the few who choose to use the freedom we enjoy to satisfy their own greed as opposed to using the opportunity they have been given to give back in a way that helps us to grow as a society and country.

Maybe all this sounds rediculously idealistic, however, I have certainly been around long enough to know that like it or not, we actually do need the laws and regs to protect us from the preditors. Caveat emptor hasn't been around as long as it has just because back in the day someone thought it was a clever phrase.

But even with all this "evil" surrounding us why am I optimistic? Because I really do believe that there are far more leaders out there (even lots whose first name might be Bernie or Ken) who lead their departments, divisions, SBUs and companies who have taken advantage of the freedoms we enjoy to lead in a way that make us proud to not just be part of their organization but proud as well to be a citizen of the greatest country on earth.

Enjoy your holiday.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Successful Leaders List

HSM is an organization that has a richly deserved reputation for putting together conferences that rank among the very top tier of executive education for C-Level leadership.

Last year's World Innovation Forum held in New York featured any number of A-List names, one of which was Andrew Zolli who was the closing keynote. Zolli is the founder of Z + Partners, a futures research and strategy consultancy. He also is the force behind an annual conference called Pop!Tech whose focus is on thinking, science, and technology.

To say that the business world has been searching for the Holy Grail of leadership traits, chacteristics or themes is an understatement of the first order, so when someone of Zolli's stature is willing to share some of his thoughts of the subject, it is a list worth sharing.

In his remarks, he offered up the following as the most common behaviors of successful leaders:
• Making the top of the organization accountable
• Embracing user-centered design everywhere
• Treating employees and consumers the same
• Constantly placing a lot of small bets in small increments, then managing and collapsing them
• Leveraging ambient, unused architecture
• Finding and embracing lead users
• Investing and incenting with cash
• Investing in employees before consultants and customers
• Copying existing best practices, but sparingly
• Leveraging innovations outside the company
• Embracing a portfolio management approach
• Systematically scanning for weak signals – the fringe things today that are important tomorrow
Certainly is as good as any list I've seen lately. How does it stack up against your own feelings and experience?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Work Matters

I am a fan of Robert Sutton which hardly makes me unique in that I am sure his fan base runs well into the thousands if not tens of thousands. Sutton's own blog is called Work Matters. He also writes for The Huffington Post when he is not writing books.

Sutton's latest book as most know carries the attention getting title of: The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't. If you are among those organization leaders who are always looking for the ways and means to keep moving toward a work environment where the only yelling tends to come when celebrating success, and you haven't checked this book out, put it on your summer reading list!

Anyway, the purpose of this post wasn't to flog Sutton's book but rather to point readers to his blog and a posting titled: The Asshole and Umpire. It was posted on the 15th.

Colorful language aside, it is an interesting commentary on conflict resolution and among other things helps to reinforce the time-honored rule of effective management 101: Praise in Public, Punish in Private.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Poco a poco se crusa el mar

The Fed numbers report that came out today were described by CNN as "positive signs."

Jobless claims came in at 601,000 which while a big number at least was less than the prior report. In addition, retail sales showed a gain for the first time in three months.

Eveyone has his/her own "touch points" that they watch to try and read the economic tea leaves. One of the ones we have been using since 2003 is what we call the Recruiter Confidence Index.

For those who may not be familiar with the index, it is based on a monthly survey of executive search firms conducted by ExecuNet. Designed to forecast job growth at the executive level, a reading above 50 percent indicates recruiters expect the number of search assignments in the next six months will increase. Independent analysis of the RCI has confirmed it is a leading indicator for the executive employment market.

We post the index on our public website so if you are not a member, you can still check it out by clicking here.

Better still, we have recently twisted Mark Anderson's arm (Mark is ExecuNet's President and Chief Economist) to add some of his own commentary. If that's of interest you can hear what he has to say by clicking here or by doing a search on ExecuNet on YouTube.

All of which is to say, that while things like 600,000+ are still distrubingly a lot bigger than any of us would like, and a gain for retail sales for the first time in three months is hardly the hockey stick we all would wish for, at least it is one more sign that while we have a long, long way to go, maybe we are on the right path.

Let's hope.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Another Chicken & Egg Story

When it comes to the economy it has always been about confidence (or so the talking heads tell us). To hear them tell it, it is almost like a self-fulfilling prophesy. If we as consumers think things are getting better, they get better. If we start to lose confidence, then the charts go the other way.

Every day in the papers (what few are left) or on the crawling headlines on CNBC or MSNBC not to mention tons of tweets, we get the word:

Index on pending housing sales has gone up. (yea)

Oil prices are heading up again. (boo)

Fewer banks failed this month. (yea)

Number of people filing on-going unemployment claims declines for first time since January. (yea)

Unemployment rate jumps to 9.4% (boo)

and on it goes....

So what are we to believe? Beats the hell out of me, but in case you hadn't stumbled across it yet, and since everyone likes to look at employment as a key indicator, check this out:

Recruiter Confidence Climbs To Highest Level In Eleven Months

ExecuNet's Recruiter Confidence Index (RCI) surged 16 points higher in May, as the executive search industry's outlook for the employment market improved for the third consecutive month amid signs that economic conditions are stabilizing. The RCI now stands at its highest level since June 2008.

Introduced in May 2003, the Recruiter Confidence Index is based on a monthly survey of executive search firms conducted by ExecuNet.

Designed to forecast job growth at the executive level, a reading above 50 percent indicates recruiters expect the number of search assignments in the next six months will increase. Independent analysis of the RCI has confirmed it is a leading indicator for the executive employment market
Yes, I know that the unemployment rate hit 9.4% and will likely keep going up for a while, nonetheless I am very encouraged by what our RCI is showing. Not just because it has made it back above 50, but more importantly because we firmly believe that it has proven to be a leading indicator as the copy above states.

I also know, based on our penchant for "instant" fixes, that there are still millions who are struggling to work through these tough times, and that the positive signs that we see (be they home-grown such as our own RCI data or whatever), the "good news" isn't going to happen fast enough.

Those who know me would probably tell you that I tend to be a half-empty type, but that is not my feeling at this point.

Manic? No. Euphoric? No. Feeling better? Yes. Press on, press on, press on!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Never Be Afraid To Hire People Who Are Smarter Than You Are

In terms of "followers" neither Seth Godin or GL Hoffman need any introduction in either the blogosphere or Twitter worlds.

However, and in case you missed Seth's post a "Clean Sheet of Paper" and GL's value added, the links are included here as a public service.

Far be it from me to try to value add to what these two guys have to say, but the thought struck me that in a sense what both were talking about is (at least for me) one of the most uncomfortable tasks any of us have to do as managers.

If you're a Jeopardy fan, the category is Management "D"ilemmas. The Answer: The toughest thing for most managers to do consistantly and well.

Question: What is delegation?

Is that what you wrote down?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

When In Doubt

Given the "latest in the series" as they say (i.e. Madoff and Stanford) many of the talking heads both on and offline have dusted off all the stuff they wrote when they were writing about Ebbers, Lay, et al each of whom were desparately jocking for space in the papers, on blogs and the FBI's Most Wanted List.

I guess I probably should include the likes of Citi, BOA, Freddie Mac, etc. as part of "the list" too, but I think I am still too ticked off to deal with it. I am still at the "let's draw and quarter them" stage.

Anyway, every time I read or hear about this stuff, I just can't help wondering why such a simple and fundamental set of values seems to have been lost by so many of those who used to carry around the title of "leader."

I figured if everybody else was doing it, maybe I should dust of my "when in doubt" file and see what I had saved. What turned up was the following from Norman Augustine.

Here's what he had to say:

How can one decide what the ethically correct thing to do is? Answer the following questions:

1. Is it legal?

2. If someone else did "this to you," would you think it was fair?

3. Would you be content if this were to appear on the front page of your hometown newspaper?

4. Would you like your mother to see you do this?
I suppose that instead of this list he could have just said why not try the one that starts with "Do unto others..." but I guess he thought that one was already spoken for.

Anybody out there have any suggestions who we might send these guidelines to who might have missed the memo?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Keys to Influence

If you think that all recruiters care or talk about is putting warm bodies into open boxes, you might want to check out Jason Davis' site Recruiting

Sure there are lots of posts regarding the care and feeding of recruiting practices both in and out of cyberspace. But beyond subject matter in which you would have little interest unless you were a part of the staffing world, there is a good deal of very insightful thoughts on a wide variety of topics in which any business executive would have an interest and is one of the reasons I try to see what folks over there are talking about.

Not surprisingly, when John Sumser starts a topic on this site, it is not only widely read but usually prompts lots of commentary, and his recent post entitled The Keys to Influence was no exception.

Indeed, one of the things I have learned in writing my own blog over the past four years is that I can't just sit down and fire up a post, which is probably why (along with time management that's in desparate need of first aid) I don't post as frequently as many others. For me, I have to genuinely feel I have something I want to say, and often when reading Sumser commentary, it gins up those feelings.

I also have discovered over the years that there are certain subjects on the business front that spark my interest, the role of leadership being one of them. And it's that which caused me to be one of those who commented on the aforementioned posting of John's.

Some of the most spirited discussions amongst ExecuNet members over the years have also been on the topic of leadership, and the fact that it continues to be simply underscores the fact that while we all understand how critical leadership is for any enterprise, it is also clear that we all have an opinion that almost by definition is preceeded by a thought such as: "I can't prove it, but this is what I believe..." and this has always struck me as one of the key criteria that earns people the label of "thought leader" versus simply subject matter expert.

My take? Experts collect data and are often "book smart." Real thought leaders make you feel that they not only understand the data but at the same time give one the confidence to move beyond the "book" answer.

What is your definition of a thought leader?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Light or an Oncoming Train?

Ever since we published this year's Executive Job Market Intelligence Report I have been getting lots of cards and letters (okay not cards and letters, really emails and "tweets") but in any case, lots of feedback on how much our members and others who have seen the report appreciate the work that went into it.

As we all know all too well, the world is very quick to let you know when you screw up and not quite so fast to let you know when they think you have done something right. The positive vibes we have received become even more satisfying, and this forum gives me the chance to say thanks to those who have taken the time to let us know the value they feel is contained in the nearly 20 pages of facts, figures, and analysis.

If you have not yet seen the report, while I can't offer up a full copy since it is a part of membership in ExecuNet, we have put together an executive summary which is available here.

If you would rather listen than read, Total Picture Radio's Peter Clayton stopped by galactic headquarters this week and taped an interview on this year's report with Mark Anderson and myself. It runs roughly 30 minutes.

If you do take the time to listen, I would be interested in your comments in terms of how you are interpreting the data you follow be it gathered formally or in water cooler conversations. Is what you are seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel or an oncoming train?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

And The Winner Is...

So we were fortunate enough a few weeks ago to get icon Bill George who many may recognize as former Medtronic CEO, Harvard professor, and best-selling author, to serve as the judge in what we called The Bill George Challenge. I first mentioned something about it here in a post called: Semper Fi & The Challenge of Leadership

The Challenge was for members to tell Bill what they would have to change about their leadership style to adapt to a more participatory management practice. What role models would they reference? How would they measure the result to assess whether the effort to make such a change was worthwhile for themselves and their organization — would specific behaviors or aspects of the culture also change?

The responses from the membership were incredible, and while there can only be one winner (he gets to be Bill George's guest at HSM's World Business Forum) I am sure that we'll put together a collection of the responses to share.
For now, however, I wanted to thank our winner and former Healthcare CEO, Jay Jarrell, for giving us the okay to let the readers here gain from his thoughts on the subject. Here is what Jay had to say. Once read, it is easy to see why Bill George picked it.

Mr. George,

There is an old adage about having to step inside the shoes of another to understand that person's actions. I believe this understanding is the starting point for practicing participatory management. Asking questions, such as what would motivate me to participate or what would make me work harder, have always guided me in eliciting stronger participation from my staff and others. I have always found that it is my responsibility to create not only the environment for all to participate, but also, to have that occur.

From this beginning, it is a matter of having the generosity to reward success and share the financial success, the patience to listen and communicate, the good sense to encourage, the intelligent curiosity to probe and ask questions, the diligent work ethic to demonstrate personally the more routine daily actions of making sure all that I can make happen in an outstanding way does happen, and the character and integrity to reward.

I am constantly finding myself falling short of practicing what I preach. Believing in participatory management and its benefits is easy, as are having most of the characteristics I described above and practicing them. However, there are two characteristics that I find I typically over time short change.

I often don't take the time to personally reward, believing the receipt alone of previously agreed upon monetary or other awards is sufficient. Also, I find myself not making the effort each day to make the contacts to ensure all of the strategic steps of a certain goal are occurring as well as possible.

To correct the above, I have begun writing out each evening a daily plan for the next day to make sure I practice each of those steps.

President Obama has been inspiring whether you agree with him on all policies or not, and in these dire economic times, he will have to become even more so. I intend to take inspiration from him and try to communicate better a vision and hope for better times.

Measuring the benefit of practicing participatory management may be somewhat subjective, but I can see it clearly. Certainly, achieving your revenue and profitability goals or chosen other specific goals that are quantifiable are a great indication, but industry or even national or international economic crises, as we are now incurring, can prevent financial goals from occurring. I can see the benefit of having practiced good participatory management in the constant flow of ideas and suggestions on a daily basis.

If personnel at all levels down to the lowest are not comfortable in greeting me by my first name, if they are not comfortable being able to tell me their ideas or even just what is oing on at their level that day and how it can help achieve certain company goals, and if they are not completely knowledgeable of the company's goals and the problems the company is facing that month, then I have not achieved my goal.

Those cultural changes of all employees knowing what I know and enthusiastically participating in the achievement of company goals are measurement enough.

The philosophy I try to follow comes from playing and following sports. It's the team that wins or loses, not the individual. By including all employees in my circle, by empowering them with as much knowledge and information as possible, by communicating the company's goals, and then by offering significant rewards and recognition for their achievement, I've used as much leverage as I can bring. The more people a company has working together and intensely toward shared goals, the greater its chance for success.

Thank you for this opportunity.
Jay Jarrell
Congratulations Jay, enjoy the forum. New York in October is a great place to be.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Signs of Spring?

For those who read this blog from time to time and are wondering what the heck the "good hands" are doing with a springlike sprout of who knows what growing up through the what's left of my 401(k), the answer is that this is the cover of ExecuNet's 17th annual Executive Job Market Intelligence Report, a copy of which went out to all our members last week.

For those who may not be familiar with how the data is gathered, each year the survey goes to all our CareerSmart members (i.e. executives) as well as our RecruitSmart members (i.e. company HR executives as well as search firms). In addtion, this year we also partnered with several organizations as well: Financial Executives International, Forbes Media,, MENG (Marketing Executives Networking Group) and Dillitone Systems Search Consult.

The result was a wealth of data (e.g. more than 4,500 executive responses and 450+ search firm and corporate HR responses)that after more than two months of analysis translated into this year's eighteen page report.

Given the digital shorthand nature of the today's world I suppose one could argue that from an attention span perspective it is 17.5 pages too long, but I sure didn't think so.

Am I proud of it? For sure. Am I biased? Of course, but based on what we have heard from members thus far, they feel it has a lot to say in a time when most of us are anxious to listen.

If you don't happen to be a member of ExecuNet, but would like to check out an Executive Summary, we have one available which you can get by clicking here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

You Are Better Than You Think

I have been in the nonprofit sector for 24 years and am looking for a new career challenge.

What is the best way to do this?

I have been the CEO of a Foundation in Ohio for the past 10 years. I have achieved every goal set for me over the past 24 years. (I have boxes of awards)

Please advise a plan for me.

I am interested in working for UPS but I have done nonprofit work for so long I don't know how to market myself to a for profit company.
With not too much by way of changing some of the variables in the note you see here, the issue raised by this member is not unlike that with which many of our members wrestle and who contact us virtually on a daily basis. And given the current environment in which we find ourselves there are an awful lot of executives worrying about where I could go if.....

Not being a certified career counselor, I am not sure I could "advise a plan", but I guess I could share what I think based on my experience with ExecuNet for the past 21 years and which I have tagged onto the 25 years running around Corporate America before that.

So if I were talking to this guy, I would probably say something like this:

I don’t care if you have been working in the NFP world or not, the fact of the matter is that you have been running a business just like any other CEO has had to and I also suspect that if your organization doesn’t “make a profit” it would be out of business just like a company in the public or private sector would be. Said a different way, I think this is more about mind set than anything else.

I would guess if you thought about it, you would find that many of the problems faced by UPS or anyone else for that matter you have in some form or another faced in your career as well. It is a matter of degree to be sure, but the issues are not all that much different.

I am being a bit simplistic on purpose to try and make the point that the things that have made you successful as an organization head is what you are selling. Where you applied those skills really is beside the point. Yes it will be a challenge in some case to get some people to see that, but with some thought and practice, you will be able to find what resonates with those who in fact can be influenced, be they at UPS or somewhere else.

Is it easy to do? No. Is it possible? Yes.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Light of Day Test

"Perceptions are real to those who hold them."

I don't remember where I first heard this phrase or even if it was a quote from someone, but in my experience I have found there is great truth in it.

How one measures the "value" of someone to an enterprise is like talking about "quality." It is a subjective term, and obviously means different things to different people.

It has also been my experience that if someone is judged to have significant "value" to a business and is recognized for this by way of title, compensation or otherwise, the real test for those who have made the judgment comes when the decision is made public.

When I was in the corporate world we used to call this "the light of day test" and on more than one occasion it was a good notion to apply to actions before deciding whether or not to take them be they personnel moves or otherwise because once made public, it didn't take long to see and sense if the person's peers as well as the rest of the organization agreed or disagreed with the action.
We still seeem to live and work in a world where "score" is kept on lots of different criteria and AIG, etc. notwithstanding I doubt this sort of score keeping is going to go away anytime soon, and as speechless as I am at what we have all heard and read over past few weeks, I am not even arguing that it should.

At the end of day, if the decisions that senior leaders make in terms of handing out kudos (monatary or otherwise) pass the light of day test first, they are probably not going to find themselves the lead story on the 24/7 news cycles for weeks at a time.

Someone much smarter than I am taught me a long time ago that as managers we really get paid to do just three things: hire, fire, and evaluate.

Translation: We are paid to exercise judgement and what makes that so uncomfortable at times is that subjective judgement is just that. I can't defend it other than to say "after considering all the factors, this is what I feel is the right thing to do (i.e. this is my belief).

Beliefs come from personal value systems and where value systems are absent or broken we get the Madoffs of the world.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What Would Your Mother Say?

One of the features that ExecuNet members have and make great use of is our Roundtable discussion groups.

I still think that the most powerful learnings on almost any subject come from peers, and when I get my daily digest of these discussions it does nothing more but add to that feeling. It is just great stuff.

One of the topics a lot of members have been talking about, not surprisingly, was the AIG stuff and the perceptions thereof. Obviously it made most of us sick and for all the right reasons.

In reading through the discussion thread on our GM Roundtable, one of the posts struck me to the point where I wanted to reach out to its author and ask if I could share it here. Fortunately, member Bill Jackson told me it was okay and once you have read it, I hope you'll agree that what he had to say makes all kinds of sense.

First we have no idea what the contracts said. Were these retention agreements put in place years ago to keep people from bolting that guaranteed the payments regardless of performance? Were they performance based contracts? Were they earn outs as part of an acquisition? Since we don't know, we really can't comment.

That said, if I were running the place I would have taken every one of the people who were going to get these bonuses into a room and said the following:

"Look, I know you have contracts and you are entitled to these payments. I understand that you may have even based plans on these payments coming. In fact, I'm sure that you may even be able to legally force me to make these payments. But, if we pay these out we are going to create a firestorm in the public eye, congress and the political arena that none of us may survive.

It is in our best interest to not do this now. When we turn this thing around, I can ensure you that your decision to not take these payouts now will be rewarded in the future.

Thus, I've made the decision to not pay these bonuses. I hope you can support me in this, now let's get back to work to making this company great again."

Any good leader needs to understand both the legal and moral responsibility but also what the "optical" view of what you do. If it's not going to look right in the eyes of people who can make your life miserable, you need to deal with that. AIG didn't, and we're seeing the results.
It reminds me of the well known "light of day test" where if you need help in making the right decision just ask yourself "what would your mother say?"


After more than 45 years of being attached to the world of career managment in one way or another, it is pretty easy to think that you've heard it all and in some respects maybe you have. On the other hand, that doesn't change the fact that more often than you might imagine when you hear someone talk on a subject about which you feel you not only have "heard it all before" but think you know a lot about it yourself you realize yet once again that neither is true.

What I mean is that while the subject matter is not new to you, the way in which the presenter conveys a point all of a sudden resonates in a way that sharpens your focus on some critical concepts and helps you to internalize those concepts in a more impactful way.

Such was the case for me when I tuned into Peter Clayton's Total Picture Radio podcast that featured Judy Rosemarin talking about The Magic of Storytelling in a Job Search.

In the interest of full disclosure, I initally wanted to tune into this because I know Judy so well. We have been lucky enough to have her as our point person and facilitator for our networking meetings in NYC for 15+ years as well as a frequent presenter for both our FastTrack and Coffee Break webinars. Point being, as a "fan" I wanted to hear what she had to say.

What blew me away and prompted this post was the "learnings" I got from listening to her talk about "value and values" and "storytelling" in the interview process.

Peter's interview with Judy runs just over 20 minutes, but it is 20 minutes well spent whether you think you have heard it all before or not.

As the Brits would say, at least from my perspective, she was, as usual, "spot on."