Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Now The Game Starts Again

I am sure that many readers of this blog are, like me, subscribers to Bloomberg Businessweek. For those who might not be, you might want to pick up a copy of the December 20, 2010 - January 2, 2011 Year in Review edition. Pretty interesting stuff presented in a very different and creative way.

It is filled with lots of data much of it leaving the reader wondering as many of us felt before confronted with contents - what will 2011 bring?

It seems that for every piece of "good news" there is a balancing piece of "bad news." For example, we are told that in 2010, "the U.S. added 937,000 jobs."

While not super, wow, terrific, at least it's a better number than losing a like amount. At least it feels that way until it is followed by the fact that
"...Foxconn, the Taiwan-based maker of nearly every consumer electronic product you wanted this year, added 300,000."  And sports fans, in case you missed it, one is a country the other a company!
And the opening piece goes on to say in part:
"Fueled by gold, copper and coal, the most robust currency of the year against the dollar was the Mongolian tugrik." "In India, competition for deals has become so intense that billionaire Ravi Ruia is branching out to Africa - buying coal mines in Mozambique and a Kenyan oil refinery. Competition is one of the pleasures of business and one of the foundations of America."
"That right hasn't been rescinded - it's been extended to people around the world. In a way, we've won. Now the game starts again."
As I read through the issue, my thoughts kept going back to the foregoing line which somehow struck me as very powerful and profound even though the thought was hardly new.
"That right hasn't been rescinded - it's been extended to people around the world. In a way, we've won.  Now the game starts again."

The term "globalization" has long since become part of our daily business lexicon, and if you listen to many of those described as "thought leaders" they all seem to applaud the changes and talk of the opportunities represented by the evolving global markets. For those who can innovate, the future looks very bright indeed.

Said a bit differently, Bloomberg Businessweek said it this way:"Capitalism lives off of change."

What it didn't say, but is clearly implicit in that truth is that those same "thought leaders" also point out that unless the U.S. can maintain its leadership position when it comes to innovation, which is what really drives "change," our role as the economic engine of the world will be lost. Indeed, it doesn't take a lot of research to find lots of folks who think that this has already happened, but we either haven't noticed it yet or are simply in denial.

It would seem that there is more doom and gloom on this subject than those who think the pessimists wrong. After all, it is the bad stuff that "sells" so finding an abundance of those who think "it's all over but the shouting" isn't surprising.

For sure only time will tell if as a country we are up to the challenge.

As for me, and maybe it's just the hopefulness, excitement and optimism of a new year, but no matter what the challenge, I would rather be in the USA than anywhere else in an effort to meet it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Customer Service Surprises - Maybe There's Hope

They keep telling us that we are up to our necks in a service economy. I don’t know about you, but it seems like with the advent of the "net" the world has been turned on its ear. It wasn’t too long ago that I traded at those bricks and mortar stores based on how I felt I was treated as a customer. That was then and this is now. Now it seems you walk into a store and you feel like you should go buy a lottery ticket when you even find a sales clerk, much less someone who knows how to say "customer service."

The other side of the world used to be, and still is on many sites, that you considered it a major coup to get any email responded to much less the answer to your question or issue.

It could well be that I am obsessive on this subject because we feel our company lives and dies on customer service. This whole concept was one of the prime reasons when we started ExecuNet that a key driving principle was that this was a "membership" not a subscription.

To give you and idea of just how obsessive we were about it, even though we went online in 1995, it still took me a couple of years before I relented and said it was okay to allow people to join online without having to talk with us first. People thought I was nuts, but I was adamant about the fact that while we were indeed a for profit enterprise, this was to be an enterprise built on relationships not transactions.

I am not embarrassed to say that it remains a great source of pride here at galactic headquarters that the vast majority of people who choose to join ExecuNet still come to us by referral from current or former members, and we’ve been at this for 23 years.

In any case, back to the customer service world: Not sure what your experience has been but in recent months it starts to feel like maybe we’re starting to "get it" again, and what really blew me away was where I saw this taking place. I offer up two experiences:

When I finally woke up to the fact that I had not signed up for social security (I was eligible in April), and it never dawned on me until November – talk about not feeling your age!) I picked up the phone with more trepidation than you can imagine. I was fully prepared for a real life experience that if it wasn’t so painful could easily be on Saturday Night Live or Jon Stewart.

But check this out: From the time I got to a real person (which I admit took a bit of doing going through the phone tree, but was not impossible) I thought I was either dreaming or had the wrong number. I could not have been treated any better if I were a season ticket holder at Neiman Marcus. "Would you like to make an appointment to come to the office, or would you prefer to handle it via a phone appointment and we’ll call you at your office?" Whoa! You mean I don’t have come to you? That practically sounded like an offer to make a house call and I thought that had gone out with high button shoes! Bottom line from that first call until my first check arrived was crisp, professional, and very "user friendly."

My next move was on to Medicare, and while the phone trees there started to feel a bit like an old Bob Newhart routine, whenever I spoke with someone, which given my lack of skill in following any sort of instruction written or verbal, was fairly frequently, I had a similar feeling ~ wow, maybe my tax dollars really had been working – at least they had been working on providing some really good customer service training in places where I fully expected it to be more like a cross between a root canal and my first visit to the DMV before they too seemed to have gotten their act together.

The second and almost equally mind blowing experience was when my wife decided she was so frustrated with AOL that she wanted to shift to Verizon since we already were on Verizon for our cell phones and house phones. I entered this task fearing the worst as well. I was even more worried than with my dealings with the SSA in that this involved the need for me to have some semblance of understanding of the tech side of cyber space. Not a good sign at all given that the extent of my tech skills pretty much begin and end with my TV remote, and she takes that away from me so often that if they offered remedial training for it I would likely sign up.

Bottom line again: There was not a single person I spoke with over the course of a few days when I had time to deal with all of this who was not as courteous and understanding and responsive as they could be, and this included explaining our phone bills as well as walking (with me it was actually crawling) through the install process.

My belief has always been that there are at least two key truths about a business relationship:

1. All of us will always be willing to pay a premium for a quality product or service, and

2. If I am treated as a valued customer, I will remain loyal to the product or service almost no matter what.

The "loyalty" contract may be dead from a careers perspective (that’s a whole other subject) but my desire as a person to be able to demonstrate my loyalty is still a pretty big motivator for me.

I am loyal when I am recognized for who I am, and when I get customer service as in these two unexpected cases I have cited here, it gives me some hope that as a business community all is not lost.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Don't chase, hunt.

I don't know about you, but based on my own experience as well as talking and listening to ExecuNet members over the years, people spend a heck of a lot of their time reacting as opposed to 'proacting'. Worse, by the time we realize that there is something to react to, we rush into an "action" mode before really thinking through what we want to do, why we want to do it, and how we want to do it. We seem overly focused on doing something NOW.

When it comes to making a career change, however, be that change being driven by a 'we want to' or a 'we have to', we tend to follow similar patterns and react in the same mode and start running around doing things before stepping back and getting things organized.

Said differently, we want this "fixed" and "fast." Understandable for sure, but not without its pitfalls, chief among which can be a shotgun approach to the marketplace.

It is so easy. Login and launch your resume around the world and wait for the phone to ring and the emails to pour into your inbox. In truth, some people actually do end up with some interviews and job offers as a result, but if you were a betting person, this avenue would not be where you would bet the ranch.

So what's a better use of your time? Answer: Look for opportunities that allow you to bring the expertise you have to help solve problems about which you really care.

Obviously only you know what qualifies as "really care" but of this you can be sure. There are plenty of organizations, for profit and otherwise who are working every day to deliver products and/or services that deal with things about which you "really care" and finding them is not as hard as you might think, especially with the wonders of the Internet.

And here's one other key item to consider in the "hunt" - if you don't see things in the present, then look to what's coming down the road and focus on bringing your expertise and passion to those organizations who are already in the process of addressing the needs of emerging issues and opportunitites.

Need some help in getting your imagination started as to what some of thesse things might be?  The resources are so many your challenge might be to limit how many you are going to look to so that you actually have the time to build on the ideas that come out of your reading and research.

Here's one for starters: It is a site called and they describe themselves as " independent and opinionated trend firm, scanning the globe for the most promising consumer trends, insights and related hands-on business ideas."  It is, in my view, a very apt description.

And, since we are only days away, and you want to get a running start at 2011, check out their December briefing called 11 Crucial Consumer Trends  for 2011Just what you find there might be sufficient to help you begin to connect the dots to a place where you'll find the personal and professional satisfaction to which we all aspire.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The "What", the "Why" and the "How"

It’s funny how sometimes you really don't think about some things until someone asks you a specific question and when you come out with an answer you are sort of surprised by what you say.

I had a moment like that some months ago when I was doing a "live" interview on a local radio show called Greenwich Entrepreneurs. I think part of the reason that these "truths" pop out in these situations is that the program was "live" and unscripted so when the question is asked, you just say what you think.

The program was hosted by Greg Skidmore who is the President & Chief Investment Officer at Belray Asset Management and the program is really focused on talking with people who have started a venture and having them talk about what it is, why they did it, and how they made it work.

With regard to ExecuNet, I have been asked the "what" question many times over the years, and while I have yet to come up a nice, crisp, definition, at least I am able to give people a general idea.

The why (did you do it) and the (how did you do it) pieces were a bit more challenging, and as I stumbled through my responses and worse after the show (as we all do) I kept thinking about how I wished I had expressed myself better.

Of course I wanted to say that getting to this place in my life could be directly attributed to a fanatical dedication and strategically driven approach to the management of my career, but as much as I would like to point to such things, for good or ill, the more descriptive and truthful answer was that the "why" began as it does with many, an event which forced me to react - the company where I was working was acquired and the job "restructured."

The result, to put it in current vernacular: "the op­portunity to explore other options." Said differently, I was parachuted into the market at age 48 to look for the next job at a time when I didn't have one. It was 1988 and we were well on our way into a recession.

Like most of us, I had made a job changes prior to this, but it had always been because I was (a) recruited and (b) I was working at the time. Not so this time around.

Indeed, it was literally a matter of days before I realized that my "A" list contacts might be fine for business stuff but when it came to trying to find a job, it was more like a lot of long and uncomfortable pauses. My recruiter "A" list was pretty much the same if and when I even got a return call.

The more time went by the more I wondered why this was and what could be done to change it. The whole thing felt very much like a "win/lose" proposition, and in many cases coupled with a real adversarial feeling.

I also have to admit, the more time that went by the madder I got. The whole thing seemed very unfair to say the least. For 25+ years while I certainly didn't ever think I was Time's Man of the Year material, I had been reasonably successful. So why now all of a sudden was I being made to feel like I had some sort of a communicable disease.

In a far longer time than it should have taken, I finally realized that rather than directing my anger outside, that maybe I ought to think about how I could bring the outside in and that was how the notion of ExecuNet started to take shape.

I tried to put myself in the mindset of the recruiter and as simply as I could, write down what I would want. The answer that came back was:

1. Quality candidates in a timely fashion.
2. Confidentiality when necessary.
3. Not having to defend my judgment on who was qualified and who wasn't.

Having done a fair amount of recruiting in former lives, the list did not seem unreasonable.

I then went through the same thought process for someone making a career change, and the answer that came back was also pretty straight forward:

1. The opportunity to compete for real jobs at a time when it was meaningful.
2. To be treated with professional courtesy and respect.
3. Confidentiality when I needed it.

The more I thought about it, it seemed like what was needed was a place, a destination if you will, where both sides could "meet" and where it was "safe" for both and where they could come in confidence and with confidence.

So, at the end of the interview and after I had tried to explain the "what" and "why" of ExecuNet, Greg wanted to know "how" we were able to actually translate what started as a perceived need and actually build the "destination"?

The answer that jumped from my throat spontaneously felt right then and still does.

It was a one word answer: TRUST. I believed then and have always believed that this is the foundation of every relationship be it between individuals or between companies, customers or nations.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Scam Artist All-Star List

As we all know, there are top 25, 50 or 100 lists for almost everything such as the top 50 NFL players of the decade or the 25 Best Costumes for Lady Gaga, Most Important Inventions of All Time, Best Political Scandals of the Decade, etc.

As we all also know, it seems that whenever something awful happens, be it large or small, man-made or natural, there are always some folks lying in wait to take advantage of people when they are down and at their most vulnerable.

We read about it every day: con artists scamming seniors, sub-prime lenders, quacks selling phony cancer cures, or those who think of ways to take advantage of people whose lives have been shattered by Katrina or, of course, the Bernie Madoffs of the world be they on Wall Street or, as we hear about almost daily, another elected official who has betrayed the trust given to them.

The list is dreadful, long and always makes you wonder how or why it is that one person would do something like that to someone else. Even more depressing is the fact that lots of these people are actually parents!

At any rate, what got me going on this subject was a question that one of our members asked on a teleconference I host every week in which members can ask anything they want to on any subject be it about ExecuNet, executive job search, executive search, headhunters or whatever.

In this case, the question was: “Are professional career marketing services effective and worth the cost to assist in landing an executive-level position?”

Every time I am asked about this topic I have to take a deep breath before responding and compose myself so that I don’t sound quite as angry as I feel.

Indeed, I posted some thoughts on this subject a few years ago in a post I called: There’s a Reason They Call it Caveat Emptor and given that title it is pretty obvious what my feelings are about how some of these executive marketing firms operate.

Talk about taking advantage of people when they are most vulnerable! As they say, “I could tell you stories…”

Technically we may be out of the recession but when you are still trying to find a job, it sure doesn’t feel like it, and given the current economic environment, many of these outfits have re-surfaced as hundreds of thousands of people try to fight their way back from the recession.

In any event, in trying to pass along a few tips to the caller in terms of “red flags” when it comes to services that claim they can work magic for you, it occurred to me that while some of it was still fresh in my mind, maybe posting a few things to keep in mind here, might be of help to others who weren’t members with us but who certainly are as vulnerable as anyone else.

So, here are a few things to keep in mind if before you sign a check:

Beware of firms that “guarantee” placement, promise an astoundingly high success rate or a job in certain period of time. Of course, they won’t really put it in these specific terms, but it will be implied and you are going to think that is what you heard.

Real world: There is no one better at selling you than you, and therefore no one who can get you a job but you.

Be careful if asked for big bucks up front. Outplacement services and executive recruiters are normally paid by companies and not individuals so these scam career firms sometimes will often have names that suggest they are in the same arena and might explain their services as “retail outplacement” or “reverse recruiters” to try to legitimize themselves in the prospect’s eyes when, in fact, they have no intention of providing the sort of help that the legitimate career services firms and practitioners do. The fact that the career services industry is unregulated, makes it very easy for the unethical firms to pass themselves off as legitimate.

Go to the company's website. Is there easy-to-find contact information with names, addresses and phone numbers? Are there pictures and bios for the management team? Research them online too.

Conduct thorough due diligence. These firms are masterful at initially creating positive search engine results but once a steady stream of complaints build online and/or with the Better Business Bureau or sites like RipoffReport, they go out of business and change names. They are all-stars at walking the legal line to the edge.

Worse, they know that most of their "marks" are in transition and therefore don't have the money to take real legal action and/or are too embarrassed at falling for the scam and just want to move on. Point being, they know their risk is very slight at best.

Watch out for the bait and switch. These low life outfits have lots of ways to get leads such as: posting bogus positions on job boards, watch the résumés stream in, and then they’ll make contact with some sort of pitch to get you into their offices: e.g. “This job has been filled but your background makes you perfect for…” They also scan résumés on public job boards and reach out to those whose backgrounds look like they were in jobs that paid well enough to get someone to write fat five figure checks.

Find out what they’re promising. Break down and quantify the list of services they’re providing. You’ll find some you can do yourself, some are free, some are less expensive, and some aren’t worth it at all.

They are exceptionally strong sales closers. Every contact – email, phone and in-person meeting – is to draw you closer to writing a check or handing over your credit card. They will often invite you to bring your spouse or significant other to the office with you so as not to delay your financial decision or give you too much time to change your mind.

Don’t be tempted by an “easy” solution. Job search is not an easy road, and there is certainly a tendency for most of us that once we have paid for a service, we can sit back and wait for the service to be delivered.

Better yet, when we give money to someone and are expecting them to do the work, the candidate is thinking that they now don't have to worry about dealing with the inevitable rejections that comes along with the process of a job search. Outfits like these make it sound like an “easy” answer because of all their “contacts” and access to the hidden job market, etc.

Bottom line: As the old saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it’s too good to be true.” Full stop.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Oxymoron of the Week: Working With Recruiters

So just for the heck of it, I googled working with recruiters and back came nearly 5.2 million hits give or take.

That was almost enough to make me think that writing about what was wrong with the Mets and Red Sox might serve a more useful purpose. But before cashing in my chips, I took out my Google user's manual and tried "working with recruiters" in quotes and felt a bit better when only 11,600 hits showed up.

Of course, even with that I knew I was only kidding myself that whatever my thoughts were on this subject it was hardly going to break new ground and more importantly probably wasn't going to change anyone's mind on the subject be they on the candidate side or the recruiter side.

Idealist that I am however, I thought what the hell, at least I can share an opinion because even with all that has been written about this subject, the sheer volume suggests that there continue to be lots of folks remaining who still go into a career change thinking that one of their prime strategies is going to one of "working with recruiters."

For sure it's a logical thought; unfortunately it just isn't reality. While it is true that recruiters whether they are internal to a company or hired by a company do, in fact, "recruit" it does not follow at all, however, that a person who would like to be hired simply decides to contact the recruiter and "work with them" in order to achieve the candidate's objective of being hired.

On the remote chance that you are not aware of this already, here's news:

Recruiters work for clients not candidates. Why? Simple: They get paid by the clients. Indeed, and to further rain on the parade, a fair amount of what they are being paid for is to screen candidates OUT, not screen them IN.

I know, maybe that sounds harsh, but most people I know who have been in the business world for more than a few years really do know this and probably have hired a recruiter to do exactly this, but somehow when all of a sudden they find themselves on the candidate side of the job changing desk their memory disk gets erased and they become incensed when they reach out to recruiters and hear nothing.

Too boot, if that outreach is made by responding to a posting somewhere (as is often the case) and silence is all they hear it just makes people even more ticked off. No surprise there either.

Unhappily and from my own personal experience along with being a part of ExecuNet for the past 22 years, it doesn't look like that experience is going to change any time soon.

So, why bring all this up yet again?

Answer: Because even though I thought everyone on the planet knows all this already, I keep getting reminded daily, if not hourly, that just because I thought that to be the case, the fact of the matter is that there are still thousands if not tens of thousands of poeple in an executive job searche who either don't know it or at least, don't want to believe it.

For sure I can understand their frustration. I've been there.

Both by phone and email (and sometimes in person) I talk with ExecuNet members who are PO'd beyond belief both at what they feel is an outrageous lack of professional courtesy not to mention the anxiety that comes from not knowing where to else turn.

Aside from trying to help them understand what's going on from the recruiter's perspective (and I emphasize "understand" as opposed to "condone") I offer up statistics in terms of the percentage of openings filled by the search world (maybe 12-15% tops) vs. networking where the numbers are more like 70%+ vs. the inordinate amount of time invested in "working with recruiters."

Of course building and effective network is a lot harder than "clicking and praying" or firing off emails and/or resumes to recruiters, stats notwithstanding.

So, if you still think "working with recruiters" is the most critical piece to the puzzle, then at least you owe it to yourself to get the best information and insights available on the subject.

If you are a member of ExecuNet then hopefully you already know that we have a special section of the site dedicated solely to this area. We call in Recruiter Connections.

If you want more info (along with additonal answers and ideas) then I know of no better resource to point you toward than checking out Nick Corcodilos and more specifically his book How To Work With Headhunters.

The book's tag line is 62 Myth-busting answers for fearless job hunters and believe me when I tell you he is not afraid to "break the myths."

Given his background as a recruiter coupled with his "tell it like it is" style, you will have no difficulty whatever in understanding his point-of-view and why he feels as he does.

All of which is to say, if you are going to invest precious time and energy in "working with recruiters" then arm yourself with information that can give you the best shot at a decent ROI but also which will help you channel some of that extra energy that comes from anger and frustration and apply it in directions that will shorten the "hunt" as well as lower your blood pressure.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The New Job Security

"When it comes to the hard work of finding great work, Pam Lassiter is the consummate pro. She has the experience, the common sense, and the proven track record. My advice: Take her advice."
The foregoing is what Alan Webber the Founding Editor of Fast Company had to say about the newly released and revised edition of The New Job Security by career management expert Pam Lassiter.

The book was originally published in 2002 and so well received that Ten Speed Press asked Pam to revise it with today's environment in mind and that she has.

Anyone who follows this blog with any degree of consistency knows that when it comes to books I put a very high premium on advice that is "real world" aka practical. I am not big on stuff that waxes philosophical or doesn't spend as much or more time on the how as it does on the what.

As was the case when the book first came out, it is filled with practical and actionable advice just as Webber's comment suggests.

I wanted to bring this book to readers' attention not just because I thought it deserved it, or even because Pam has used some ExecuNet data in the book, or even because Pam led our networking meetings in Boston for many years but because I was very happy that through the book she is able to share her expertise to an even wider audience.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Don't Just Stand There, Do Something!"

Since sites and blogs are created faster than most super computers can track them, maybe you haven't yet found HumanResourcesiq.

Now, as soon as some see the words "Human Resources" in the context of most anything, they immediately tune out figuring that this is just another "feely touchy" place that produces platitudes covered with layers of wishful thinking the practicality of which is something slightly to the left of absolute zero.

I think not, or at least not when it comes to the postings featuring William Cohen.

Cohen has his own site called Heroic Leadership and given that among other things he was Drucker's first executive Ph.D. graduate as well as a Major General one would think it a subject about which he would know something.

He does.

Readers of this blog are also aware that leadership is a subject about which I have pondered and explored for a long time. Maybe because it is something about which we are all aware and yet none of us can really define. It is simply something that each of us in our own way "feels" and while there seem to be common elements of those feelings, it is nonetheless different for each of us.

In any case, over the years there seems to be a reasonable consensus that Peter Drucker probably has had as much to say on this subject as anyone, so when I came across a posting with the title Peter Drucker's Favorite Leadership Book, I definitely wanted to check it out.

As I read it, I was struck by many things, not the least of which was how it all seemed so relevant and current in terms of what executive leadership faces in today's environment, especially in terms of business leadership.

I don't want to spoil it for you, but as an added inducement, I can only tell you that it is not a book that you will find on this or last century's best seller lists and given when it was written there are few, if any, who would likely invest the time to read it in the original, but Cohen's post and his explanation of why this was Drucker's favorite should suffice for starters.

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's About the Values Stupid

One of the real drawbacks of modern communications and technology is that it makes you realize more quickly than you otherwise might just how little you know about so much.

But just when you're feeling really bad realizing that you'll never catch up, there turns out to be a real plus side.

Here's the plus: while it is crystal clear that the world is chock full of people who are ten times smarter than you'll ever be, it's okay because and doesn't matter because (dream of dreams) every now and then you stumble on one of those super smart folks and discover they agree with something you already felt, just have never been able to express it as well. Now you're pumped!

So it was for me when I discovered Stan Slap and read the excerpt from his upcoming book Bury My Heart at Conference Room B: Sweat Time at Microsoft in the August issue of Fast Company.

Heck, with a title like that I would have read it just out of curiosity alone. [Copyblogger take note.]

If you didn't happen to catch the article and you ever wondered how important personal values really are both individually and collectively, then I would urge you to simply click here.

See if you don't agree that the time spent was well invested.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Another Recipe for Lemonade

Most of us go to industry conferences all the time. If the ones you attend are anything like most that I have been to, they usually have a keynote speaker to kind of kick things off and get people energized. Also, and if you are anything like me, you have heard really good ones and some “not so good.”

Like everyone else, it is hard for me to get “energized” and in a positive frame of mind when I read what I read, and see what I see both on the domestic as well as the international scene. Not much to get energized about.

In truth, it is pretty easy to get down on life in general and yourself in particular even though in doing so you know very well that you are wasting both your time and energy.

How do you break the cycle?

One way is to stop being so self-centered and look for examples of how others have dealt with adversity; those who have been dealt lemons and as the saying goes, “made lemonade.” Certainly not something new, but often something we can easily forget.

So if these times and your own personal situation find you in one of those “down” moods, take some time to learn more about a keynote speaker I heard some years ago. Her name is Kathy Buckley. She is a comedienne, so you might recognize her name, but for those who don’t here’s the short version of her background:
Since birth she's been hearing-impaired. As a child, she was misdiagnosed and labeled as retarded. She was sexually abused and seriously contemplated suicide throughout her teens. Then she was run over by a Jeep while sunbathing on a beach, which resulted in broken bones and intermittent paralysis in her legs (not to mention being pronounced dead by the attending paramedics). And after five years of recovery, once she could walk again, she discovered she had ovarian cancer.
She turned all this adversity and more into becoming a highly sought after stand-up comic and for anyone who has ever heard her, an incredibly powerful motivational speaker.

I am sure that all of us have marveled and been motivated by individuals who have overcome barriers in life that are so far beyond anything that any of us have ever faced and that once having heard their stories our own "troubles" pale so much by comparison that it's embarrassing.

That being said, Kathy has such a powerful way of putting this sort of thing in the right perspective that unlike most of the motivational speakers I have heard over the years, this is one I never forgot.

If you are having an event where those attending need to gain that perspective, I would recommend you check to see if Kathy is available.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Building Better Boards

Any of us who have had anything other than a flat EKG have known for many years that a good many of the ethical failings that we see on the business pages with appalling frequency can and often are laid at the feet of the CEO.

And why not, for if nothing else, a CEO is looked upon and expected to be the moral compass of the enterprise. So, when that turns out not to be the case, generally we "shoot" the CEO and try to move on.

Of course with the severance packages that they walk away with, they usually have no problem worrying about how they are going to make a living going forward even though anyone in his right mind knowing what they know wouldn't want to have them represent their brand in any case, but that's a subject for a different post.

I don't know about you, but for some reason it only seems like it has been within the past 15-20 years or so that stockholders (and those of us who are just observing from offshore) have started to realize that the "checks and balances" of business and/or the "adult supervision" of the CEO, which is in the hands of the Board of Directors has been lacking to say the least.

To coin a phrase (and trust me, I am NOT making a political statement here!) "How's that working for you"? The obvious answer of course is if the boards of these companies had been serious about their moral and fiduciary responsibilities there is a good possibility that as a country we could be focused on solving any number of challenges rather than trying to fight our way out of the current mess.

Having gotten that out of my system for the moment, it is fair to say, "Okay, so tell me something I don't know." After all, we have SOX, the recently passed financial reform bill, etc., but is there anything else going on?

Words on paper really mean nothing unless there are actually real people behind them who understand spirit and intent and want to facilitate change.

If you are interested in seeing what at least one firm is trying to do, check out the white paper called Building Better Boards. It is available as a PDF on the site of CT Partners, a retained search firm with an active board practice and who recently sponsored their 8th Annual Institute on Board Independence and Effectiveness.

Totally altruistic, of course not, but neither is any apology necessary on their part for taking the initiative in trying to draw attention to the issue. If you check out the PDF and see who made up the panels, these are "A List" players who have reputations for being on the right side of corporate governance. In addition, the firm has been at this for eight years, so immediate PR can't be said to be the driver either.

When it comes to Boards of Directors there are many who feel it is a case of the "rabbits watching the lettuce" and while that is certainly not the case in most companies, we can't forget that "perceptions are real to those who hold them."

CT Partners should be applauded for trying to help change the perception.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Letting the World Happen to You

It is really very hard these days to take anything positive from the challenges faced by millions of Americans trying to work their way out of a recession that has "ended" but where the jobs engine is not yet operating on all eight to say the least.

And as if it were not bad enough as we read the newspapers, magazines, blogs, and/or see and hear about it all on TV 24/7 it feels like 99% of what we see or read is not just negative but offers no pragmatic or practical steps that an individual can take to deal with the situation.

It was with this in mind that when the information about Pete Weddle's latest book came across my desk that it made me smile.

I have known Pete for more than 20 years and for those who are part of the world of recruiting, retention, and career self-management his is a name that we all know and respect.

In terms of my relationship with him, one of the traits that has always stood out when I think of him (and I don't know if this comes from his West Point education, parents or simply his outlook on life) but if there is a problem, Pete always is looking for ways to solve issues, rather than wring his hands and wonder what to do next.

This attitude comes through 5x5 in his latest book called The Career Activist Republic.

The picture Pete paints can maybe best be understood if you know how he defines what a Career Activist Republic is vs. A Republic.

Here is what he says:
A Republic

A state without a monarch - a political system in which the supreme power lies in the body of its citizens.

The Career Activist Republic

An economic system without omnipotent employers - a workplace where the supreme power lies with people of talent.
When ExecuNet began in 1988, virtually every executive I talked with was looking for a job due to a corporate restructure, merger, or whatever. Over the years, one of the key lessons that thousands of us have learned is that we can either sit back and let the world happen to us (as almost certainly it will) or we can decide to do all we can to make sure that we are the ones "happening to the world" rather than the other way around.

I suspect that it is a significant part of that "learning" that accounts for the fact that a very large percentage of our membership is made up of executives who are currently working but knowing what they know from past experience, want to make sure that they can not only keep up with what is going on in the business world but also can tap into the "learnings" of their peers, confidentially if need be, along with being able to monitor the executive marketplace.

We believe that we are a Career Activist organization, and as such would urge all "activists" who are tired of letting the world happen to them to pick up a copy of Pete's book either on WEDDLE's or via Amazon.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

So Many Questions - So Few Answers

While there are literally dozens of issues where job changers look for answers such as on: resumes (functional vs. chronological), interviewing (what are the best ways to deal with questions that feel like they have no good answers), networking (how do you build one, keep it, expand it?), salary negotiation (when asked about compensation, what's the right answer?), age discrimination (how do you fight it?), follow-up (what's too little or too much?), changing industries (how is it done?) And the list goes on.

Unhappily, ginning up the list is easy. Knowing what to do next, however, is definitely a different issue.

All you have to do is go to your local bookstore (remember those?) or cruise around Amazon and check out the number of books available on career management to see what I mean.

The mere fact that there are literally thousands of books and probably tens of thousands of articles is enough to provide a clue that while most of us want "answers" the fact is that in the real world you get "opinions" and in most cases that will have to do.

To be sure, this fact is a source of no little frustration for many, especially senior level executives whose DNA is almost always type "A" and whose attention spans are measured in nanoseconds.

As I talk with ExecuNet members I certainly hear the frustration and once past the rants irrespective of subject, the question I get asked a lot is what, if anything, can I do about this stuff?

My short answer is it depends on your approach to problem solving.

My longer answer (i.e. suggestion) is to ask people to put on their business problem solving hat and focus on dealing with a job search as a business challenge because in essence that's what it is.

You are the product and your job as GM is to overcome the market hurdles for the product. That said, however, no one is asking you to fight through all this alone (that's why you have staff) and in terms of their membership, we are their staff.

Looking at it in this light, as GM, what would you do? Answer: You would do an analysis of the situation including sorting out the things over which you have no control and focus on the things you can control.

In terms of looking for a job, among other things, this would mean market research, product development, sales training, a product launch plan, monitoring the results and adjusting as needed.

It also would mean setting the appropriate expectations so as to help manage the inevitable "foul balls" and inherent impatience referred to above.

Alan Lakein is often given credit for the "Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail" line. I am not sure who said it first, but whoever did they were, as the Brits say, spot on and if ever there was a situation to which this statement applies, it is job changing.

Yet, so much of the frustration that people feel is driven by the understandable pressure that comes from the product being themselves and the fact that the product's entry into the market place is self-funded.

Patience is a lot easier when it's not your money supporting the enterprise.

Understood, but my point is that if you succumb to the pressure to act before you really have a plan to manage (read: click and pray), you are going to find yourself even more frustrated when your customer is not responding because they really don't understand what you are selling, why they need it and certainly don't have the time to find out.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What We Don't Learn in Kindergarten

Want a sure bet? Here you go: What is the probability of yours truly actually making an effort to read an article on the website for the EE Times?

Actuarially impossible, right?

I mean we are talking here about someone whose aptitude for things mechanical, much less electronic, is something slightly to the left of absolute zero. Indeed, I have been known to be found at the desk of our company’s LAN administrator on the verge of tears because I can’t find the ON/OFF switch on my PC.

So how is it that I found myself on the EE Times site engrossed in an interview they did with James D. Plummer, Dean of Stanford’s School of Engineering?

The blame falls to Nick Corcodilos of Ask the Headhunter fame and a Twitter post he sent this week that caught my attention.
"Stanford's top engineer says our K-12 problem is serious."
So, what made be follow the link? First of all, I follow Nick because I know that he is worth listening to, and second, anyone who follows this blog with any consistency will know that things educational catch my attention big time.

I know we all have things we worry about, in fact we had a really interesting discussion going on this week in our General Management Roundtable about “what keeps you up at night” and as you might guess there was a long list of the usual suspects like cash flow management, sustained profitability, long term growth potential, people issues, etc.

Interestingly enough, at least from the posts I’ve read thus far, an educated workforce wasn’t showing up. Maybe because respondents weren’t really thinking about the K-12 space, but to my mind, that’s really the focal point and represents vulnerability we can ill afford.

(Okay, I know that's a bit much given that short term survival is the first order of the day for most of us, but I was just trying to make a point.)

Be that as it may, here is just a taste of what Plummer had to say about the K-12 situation:
"...So we need to help K-12 understand the opportunities in science and engineering, and then change the way we admit students to universities. Some engineering schools think that’s impossible. They say students have to take calculus and physics as freshman or they are history. I say we can rethink the curriculum. If we don’t do that, we have shot ourselves in the foot."

"…You can debate if it's five or 50 years away--my view is it's probably 25 years out--but they will get there. As they get closer, the numbers of students who want to come to the U.S. will decline—especially as students see world-class economic opportunities at home. So in the long term, we have to have a different strategy."
While Dean Plummer’s focus was on the science and engineering space because that's his gig, for myself, I think the issue goes well beyond just science and engineering.

While the politics of education continue to seemingly paralyze our ability to make progress, there is ample data to demonstrate that there are many other developed countries who have decided that the quality of education of their citizens is paramount to their ability to continue to compete in the global economic game.

If sustained profitability and paths to long term growth are on the list of what our business leaders are worried about then we better start leading. The engine that will drive to the answers of some of those sleepless nights is education, and I mean K-12 education in particular.

In the U.S. we keep hearing that our ability to lead the world in innovation is what will sustain us. But if Plummer is right, and I believe he is, we not only will be unable to compete in numbers but the numbers we have will not be motivated enough to take on the challenge.

Worse, even if they had the motivation and/or innate intelligence, the educational foundation needed for them to succeed will not be there.

Talk about the need to fix our infrastructure!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Enhance Assets or Reduce Liabilities?

We once asked a banker and CEO about his decision to lend to a start-up technology company that later became a big success. The banker took out a sheet of paper and wrote two words: assets and liabilities.

This is the opening paragraph in a post contributed by Larry Stybel and Maryanne Peabody to the MITSloan Management Review.

Larry and Maryanne are cofounders of Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire and I have known Larry for many years and so when I come across a chance to either hear him speak or read something he has been a part of, I try not to miss it.

I have never been disappointed.

On the other hand, when I was made aware of this post which was called Enhance Assets or Reduce Liabilities? I almost didn't click the link. Not because I didn't think it would have plenty to say (as indeed it does) but because anyone who knows me will tell you that any term that even feels financial makes me break out in hives.

I mean I get the notion that the idea is to take in more than goes out, but when they start talking EBITDA, etc. let's just say it's not my idea of fun.

Needless to say, I'm glad I went and read beyond the opening paragraph, and if you are interested in gaining some real insight into the keys to managing an enterprise as well as those who manage the enterprise you will want to make the investment of the few minutes it takes to read what Larry and Maryanne have to say.

One of the things I most admire in people who write is the ability some have of being able to convey insights on topics of great complexity in terms that are simple yet very powerful.

It was one of the gifts that someone like Drucker had.

People have written about leadership forever and people have written about the characteristics of outstanding leaders forever too.

For those of us who play or have played roles in the interviewing process as we have searched for leaders for our companies and were looking for "something" but not quite sure how to express it, I think you will find in this piece a really great way to keep what what's important in mind as well as in perspective.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Nobody Asked You To Move Yet

I have no idea how many blogs there are, and if you google it, you get a pretty big range of answers and no agreement.

Let's just say that it is well into the 70 million plus range and there are those who say the number doubles every six months.

Maybe they ought to put up another clock in Times Square to count how many are created every minute? There's probably room right under the one that calculates the national debt.

Anyway, as one of the scores of millions, I am always looking for advice and ideas on how to make the blog more interesting and dare I say it, fun. Needing all the help I can get, a colleague recently turned me on to a site called It hasn't helped with my spelling maladies much, but it has made for some interesting reading.

In a recent edition I came across a blog called IttyBiz written by a gal named Naomi Dunford. She has a wonderful writing style that gives the reader a real feel for her personality and makes you say to yourself "she is one sharp cookie and probably lots of fun to be with" and I have no doubt that both are true.

Naomi's blog is focused on "Marketing for Businesses without Marketing Departments." Nice tag line, yes?

In any case, she recently had a guest post which she introduced by saying "This is one of the best posts I’ve ever read on getting what you want." Who can't relate to that, so immediately I wanted to read it.

The post was authored by a fellow named Chris Anthony who describes himself as a "delight specialist" who helps small businesses to "turn their audiences into insane, raving fans" and bore the headline: Crossing the Red Line.

Whether you agree or not you can judge for yourself. For me, I'm with Naomi.

One of the thoughts that came to mind after reading the post, after I got past the fact that so much of what Chris had to say applied to me, was how it reminded me of an issue that I have heard come up many times when I talk with ExecuNet members.

It comes up not so much because people are reluctant to ask for what they want, but because they are so focused on what they want that they don't realize that the constraint they have imposed on themselves could well result in missed opportunities.

Most often this comes up when someone wants to make a career change but is strongly rooted to a given geography and as a result simply ignore opportunities for which would be a good fit but walk away when they discover the location is somewhere they don't want to be.

Indeed, the phrase often goes something like "There is no way I'd move to East Gabrew."

An understandable feeling for sure, but I also try to diplomatically point out that no one has asked you to move anywhere yet.

What they have missed is to not realize that whoever it is that has the opening in East Gabrew may well have a similar need in the location they do want and by their failure to reach out, they will never know what they might have missed.

Point being, and what I try to convey is that once you have the chance to start a dialogue lots of things can and do change, and that includes things like titles, responsibilities, compensation and yes, LOCATION. This is especially true in today's environment where cost is critical and communication so much easier.

Bottom line: Most of us don't make the effort because we're afraid to cross the "red line" for fear of people being offended because we have wasted their time or they will think we are just jerking them around or whatever.

There is never any harm in listening, it's a free country, you can always say no.

And a fellow named Dave Harmon may have helped to sum it up best when he posted his comment on the original post and shared this wonderful line from his father-in-law:
"What are they gonna do, take away your birthday?"

Sunday, June 27, 2010


When you talk to anyone trying to make a career change these days it doesn't take long before you realize that while there are lots of the questions being asked, the answers vary all over the lot.

To many of us this comes as a very frustrating and unhappy surprise. This is especially true for those seeking executive level jobs since most come from positions of executive leadership and are very used to asking questions and getting answers that don't start with "well, that depends..."

In short, I think the discomfort comes from the fact that the dynamics of making a career change are, at its core, made up of a process that despite all the hoopla around assessment instruments, interviewing, resumes, etc., based on the subjective judgment of both the executive recruiters and the candidates.

While I don't see anything on the horizon that is going to change this anytime soon, the good news is that with the freedom of expression and access offered up by the Internet, the ability to seek and digest the opinions of many on whatever issue it to which you are seeking (or wishing) there was a definitive answer is only a click away.

What most of us do is check out as many sources as we can before we either run out of the energy to read one more "opinion" on the same subject or come down with carpal tunnel syndrome - whichever occurs first.

So, it was with this in mind that I came across a blog post by Mark James. Mark is a career executive recruiter and executive coach. He also, I am happy to say, has been hosting ExecuNet networking events* in the San Diego and Irvine area for several years so naturally his is one of the blogs I follow.

What caught my attention on this one was the title of the post: How to Make the Right Decision Every Time. Now I wasn't so naive as to really think that Mark had come up with the "universal solvent" when it came to decision making, especially when it came to the managing of careers, but the title certainly got me curious enough to check out the post which, of course, was the purpose of it in the first place.

So, why do I share it here? Answer: Because while it remains only one opinion of many, Mark's post does speak to an issue that in the heat of the job changing process often does not get the attention it deserves - i.e. what to consider when making the call on accepting or rejecting an offer.

Point being, with the pressures created during a job search, it is very easy to say yes for the wrong reasons.

I am not saying that Mark's post will make it easier to make a call, but at the very least it provides a perspective that is not on a lot of the check lists created to give people the "right" answer.

He talks to People, Challenge, Balance and Worth and if you are hoping that your next gig will be "for the duration" these are four things to be thinking about not just when you finally get the offer, but critical criteria in terms of what you are seeking.

His arguments are pretty persuasive.

* Meetings around the country and in Canada are open to anyone. More info here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


When it comes to the world of career management these days, online or off, as we all know, the buzz word of the moment is "branding."

Translation: If I am looking to make a career change in this economy (either because I want to or have to) how do I make myself stand out from the rest of the tens of thousands who are trying to do the same thing?

It's a question that has been around for as long as I can remember no matter what the economy was doing. Sure it was easier to get air time when it was a seller's market, but that doesn't change the fact that the seller still had to "market" themselves and at the very least, make sure the interviewer walked away from that encounter with an impression that was not going to disappear by the time they got home for dinner.

It has often been said that fifty percent of getting a job is getting yourself across the desk from someone. I certainly would not argue that, and how one gets that opportunity is fodder for any number of posts down the road.

For this commentary however, I want to focus on the interview piece because I am fortunate enough to know someone who has come up with a concept that has helped a lot of her clients leave those interviewing situations feeling very comfortable that when that interviewer gets home for dinner they not only won't have forgotten you but may well be talking about you over dessert.

The "someone" is a woman named Judy Rosemarin. If you are interested in her background, you can check it out on her company website.

Suffice it to say that she has been in the career management world for more than 27 years. [Full disclosure: Judy has also been facilitating ExecuNet's NYC meetings for nearly 18 years, but the only connection that has to this post is that this is how I came to know her and hence became aware of her "storytelling" approach.]

I could take up a great deal more space here by trying to describe exactly how the "storytelling" approach works, but clearly Judy can explain it far better than I can which she did recently when she was interviewed on a radio program hosted by Dr. Zara Larsen out in Tucson, AZ called Circles of Change.

The interview runs roughly 20-25 minutes but is worth a listen if you or someone you know is still trying to figure out how to change an interview from an exercise of "been there, done that" into a memorable conversation.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Stand By Me

The last time I checked there were only 21,185,836 views of this video which should give you some idea of how "tuned in" I am!

The video is part of a series put together by Playing for Change and if you are one of the 21 million plus mentioned above, of course, you already know that.

But for those, like me, for whom it was a recent "discovery" then hopefully you'll enjoy it as much as I did. And if you really like it, there are 36 more videos of different songs played around the world.

Now for sure I know that this won't stop the horror show in the gulf or the tidal wave of depressing items we all hear and read about hourly, if not minute by minute, but it is nice to know that there is also stuff going on that helps to remind us all that we are in this togetehr and it is going to take all of us to work our way out.

Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Irrevocable Mistakes at Work

By now, whether you are a Sports Center addict or not, you have seen the call by umpire Jim Joyce that cost Detroit Tiger pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game with only one out to go.

Talk about a bummer both ways, this was definitely a classic.

On the other hand, once you get past the emotion you feel for both men, if you followed what happened after the call and the next day, you also had a chance to experience a different emotion, or at least I did, and that was one of admiration and respect.

Admiration for the way that Jim Joyce expressed his regret and admiration for the way in which Galarraga handled himself. The scene of him handing the lineup card to Joyce the following day and the emotion shown by Joyce was a "special moment" and one which at least does something to restore one's faith in how people can deal with each other even under tough circumstances.

There are some who might well argue that the situation that developed in a baseball game is hardly of the same magnitude as some of the situations that surface between managers and employees at work. They might say that this is not a "game" and at work, these situations can come down to being about people's livelihood.

How people choose to react when faced with major disappointment is an interesting question, be it on the field of play or in the office. If you get a chance, read GL Hoffman's post which prompted the title of this entry: Irrevocable Mistakes at Work.

In it he asks us our opinion of whether or not Joyce's "mistake" is one which should cost him his job. My opinion was that it shouldn't, but GL's post also made me think of the dynamics of the interactions between manager and subordinate. It reminded me again of how critical a role behavioral choices have in that relationship.

While Joyce and Galarraga didn't have a direct supervisor/employee relationship, the fact that he was an umpire gives him the upper hand in terms of who has the POWER in the relationship. The same is true of the balance of power between manager and subordinate.

The big learning that I took away from the way Joyce handled himself by immediately taking responsibility, apologizing, and most importantly, acknowledge how deep his empathy was for Galarraga I believe made a huge difference in how not only Galarraga reacted but how his teammates and the public reacted.

Move this to the workplace, and I think many of the same elements can have an enormous impact on a team's productivity. As the saying goes we all make mistakes and that most certainly includes those in leadership roles.

How quickly the organization recovers and moves on is, I believe, in direct proportion to how the organization views our behavior following the incident.

Said differently, I think the real "irrevocable" mistake is failure to take responsibility. When you are most vulnerable is when people see your real value system surface and if they are comfortable with that, more often than not they will be looking for ways to help you, not hurt you.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Freedom Isn't Free

Maybe it's my age, maybe it's the silent list of those killed in action at the end of the News Hour or maybe it's the impact of having just finished watching all ten episodes of The Pacific on HBO or some combination of the foregoing plus the fact that it is Memorial Day weekend that prompts this post. Who knows?

When I say my age, I am of the generation that was born just before WWII, so while I was aware that my father was "away" I really was too young to connect any dots. When the war was over I was six and about the most I remembered was handing a bouquet of flowers to the MPs at the base in Tallahassee, Fla.

Because I was so young, as I grew older and was exposed to programs such as Victory at Sea, it still all felt like the good guys against the bad guys and since you knew who "won" it was neat to watch, but even as a young adult, it didn't all hit home.

It wasn't until even later on that I began to read some histories (e.g. Truman by David McCullough) that I began to realize just how close we had come to losing what I took for granted every day, to the point where I rarely thought about it at all.

Fast forward to today, and I have to say when I look around and see the sort of thing that Steve McCallion has so eloquently portrayed in his post on Fast Company, it worries me a lot.

There is much I could say about it here, but as I say, it would do an injustice to McCallion's piece but if you have not read it, read it.

I have been fortunate enough to be in some countries at a time when the acknowledgements of the kind that McCallion's article references have taken place, and they are powerful, emotional and stick with you.

It is quite a feeling when no matter where you are or what you are doing everything comes to a total halt, and for sure is a different feeling than eating hot dogs that come wrapped in red, white and blue napkins.

The moments of silence that we sometimes have at sporting events are nothing by comparison in helping a nation to remember things like freedom isn't free until one sees their world simply stop.

If we did this as a start, maybe generations who have yet to relate will start to internalize the fact that there are some things where the term video game is an oxymoron.

Monday, May 17, 2010

That Time of Year

I live in a town just outside of Providence, RI. Of course, now that I think about and given the size of RI, I guess almost any town in RI is "just outside of Providence.

Be that as it may, I am happy to report that despite its size, Providence still has a daily newspaper; actually a pretty good one by my "lay person" standards which are pretty much made up of a criteria that includes large print, very little coverage of the Yankees, the virtually daily stories reporting with great color commentary which local politician has been arrested for what, and really good forecasts as to when the blues will be running.

There is also a columnist named Mark Patinkin who is syndicated around and about, but happens to live in Providence. Not that his living there is of any real import, just something for us to get puffed up about and living in RI, hopefully readers will understand that we need all of that we can get.

Anyway, to the crux of the post; Patinkin recently wrote a piece called Best advice? The simplest which as you might guess it being this time of year was what he called his own "low-key guidance".

I don't want to spoil it for those who might want to check out the whole column, but how far wrong could anyone go by knowing things like: "..Life is easier if you hang clothes instead of stuffing them in drawers" or "..It's all right to ask for a fork in a Chinese restaurant."

By this point some of you may be wondering where the business/career leadership point is since much of what I post here ends up in that arena in one form or another. Well, I thought there really was one.

Mr. Patinkin also had a couple of other pithy "tweets" that anyone who aspires to a leadership role in the years ahead or who may be in one now could do well to keep in mind:
- "A key test of character is how you treat salespeople."

- "It doesn't count as listening if you're thinking what you going to say next."

- In both hockey and life, skill matters but it matters more to really want the puck."
I think this sort of stuff applies equally well to the classes of '10 as much as it still rings true for those of us of with rings from '61.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

The Data-Driven Life

They don't call it the digital age for nothing I guess and further proof showed up recently on the NY Times site with the publiation of an article written by Gary Wolf who, if you read the print article in the May 2nd Sunday Times magazine, you will already know writes about science and social issues for Wired, where he is a contributing editor. The article is called The Data-Driven Life. I found it a fascinating read.

Among other things it made me stop and think much more carefully about the degree to which data plays a role in our lives, both business and personal. If you believe what Wolf has to say in terms of the impact data has, you haven't, as the saying goes "seen nothin' yet."

From a business perspective it made me wonder if those executives who suffer from what back in the day was called analysis paralysis would soon become extinct or whether as data gathering becomes more and more sophisticated if those same executives would all of a sudden become the super heros of the corporate universe not to mention cyberspace.

Seemed to me one could make the argument on both sides and have an equal chance of making the right call.

On the other hand, as we all know data is just data until someone interprets and draws from it conclusions as to how it can most effectively be used to make decisions for the organization.

It was when I reminded myself of this last thought that I started to feel a bit better that maybe we were not all destined to be replaced by R2 D2 and/or C-3PO.

I found myself thinking that while technology continues to move at a pace that is harder to follow than re-runs of trauma cases arriving on ER, that at the end of day no matter how much data we are able to draw from the system value judgements will have to be made and so long as that holds true, people not machines will continue to manage the systems not the other way around.

And before you start sending in cards and letters that remind me that while all this may be true, given our track record as a species we would not likely get too many Oscar nominations for the decisions made to date, hopefully the advances about which Mr. Wolf has written will help us to do a better job.

Those who work with us and for us are probably hoping the same thing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wildcat I to Wildcat II Come In Please

Are you a trivia buff? If so, here's today's Six Figure Learnings trivia question:

In the 22 years that ExecuNet has been around, what topic gets members more ticked off than almost any other?

a. The world has too many Yankee fans?
b. Everything we like to eat is fattening?
c. I rarely hear back from recruiters?

Right, c. It's like things were vaporized.

The purpose of this post is not to condone the behavior but simply to report in the hope that while it may not make those who are angry any less angry but might help lower their blood pressure a little.

Some "learnings" for whatever they may be worth:

First, the fact that this frustration has been at or near the top of people’s PO'd lists for as long as it has probably suggests that it isn't going away any time soon.

Second, (and I know this is easy for me to say) while everyone takes it personally; don't. This isn't about you. I know it feels that way, but trust me, it isn't.

Life is too short and there are more important things to worry about other than wanting to send some recruiters to an Emily Post boot camp.

Third, while you may have been raised in one of those generations where it was considered simply common courtesy to acknowledge any sort of inquiry, based on the feedback we get from the real world it would seem that custom "went out", as they say, "with high button shoes."

Fourth, try to keep your eye on the prize which of course is to get yourself in front of the recruiter's client. You aren't contemplating going to work for the recruiter.

Fifth, the way things work these days is pretty simple. If there is an interest you will probably hear pretty quickly and if there isn't, silence is definitely the norm.

Lastly, the recruiting industry is no different than most others in terms of the spectrum of quality and professionalism. And as any of us would do, we compile our lists of who we trust and feel are the quality players and when we have a need, we act accordingly.

So with the foregoing in mind, when this is over and you find yourself once again into 12 hour days not including Blackberry time, just make sure you don't lose that short list you are carrying around so that when it comes time to add to your staff and you feel you feel you need the help of a recruiting professioinal, you don't have to get mad you can just get even.

It's a great feeling.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Humble Hound

I know there are lots (i.e. millions) around the country who think that the New York Times is so liberal that when you even mention the name Bill O'Reilly breaks out in hives, but that is not what this post is about nor is this about trying to make a case for the Times in general.

It is, however, to suggest that anyone who either doesn't have the time to get their TV news from the News Hour or haven't got the time to read BusinessWeek, Fortune, Forbes or The Economist either in hard copy, on a Kindle or the new iPad that you stayed up all night to get, you might find reading the Op Ed columns in the Times very wothwhile.

It makes no difference what your political persuasion might be as they have a nice mix of both liberal and conservative viewpoints. More importantly, whether you agree with what folks like Paul Krugman, Tom Friedman, Gail Collins, Maureen Dowd, Frank Rich or David Brooks have to say, the writing is usually both provocative, not infrequently eye-opening and often very funny.

Not surprisingly these writers often are commenting on the issues of the day, but from time to time they also have some interesting perspectives on leadership, and it was a piece by David Brooks which he called The Humble Hound that caught my attention over coffee on a recent Sunday morning.

In short Brooks helps the reader to both think about and understand that the sterotypical vision most of us have in our heads of how leaders lead isn't the only game in town.

Living as we do in a time that seems to push everyone toward faster and faster responses, taking the time to think things through is not a bad way to go either.

Point being there is a fair amount of middle ground between intuitive instant knee-jerk reaction and "analysis paralysis."

Said differently, when it comes to leadership we sure don't live in a WYSIWYG world. All one need do is look at the turnover at the leadership levels across the corporate spectrum for all the data you need.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Global War for Talent

As this written, I no longer remember where I stumbled across the info that came out of a 2008 study by The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and which placed the United States 18th among the 36 nations examined.

While I know 2008 seems like ancient history and in Twitter years probably qualifies as prehistoric, but even way back then there were folks concerned about where America stood from an educational perspective.

Indeed, even with data this old, if you were looking for a way to get back on your diet by losing your appetite in a hurry, you can read the entire article here.

I am guessing that most of us would have a tendency to say, that if the sky hasn't fallen by now, it's time to worry about something else like trying to figure out if the Eagles trade of McNabb to the Redskins was a good one, and if so for which team. (As a Giants fan, I'm worried about both.)

If you read some of the think pieces about our country's prospects for the future as a global player most don't exactly make you want to run out and bet the ranch on our educational system as the answer.

Certainly I realize that many of the articles that look at this stuff as very much half empty are done to, as they say, "sell papers" but the fact remains that even if things are not as dismal as they project, to say that we do not face major challenges is a huge understatement.

When one reads articles on how to fix all this, the Rx always seems to say we need to develop more collaboration between parents, teachers and school administrations. Rarely, or at least not often enough, there is little talk about the role that business leaders should play.

Sure there is a fair amount of financial support for scholarships, but in a sense it feels to me that by the time those are awarded, we have already lost hundreds of thousands of kids with equal or better potential because they have been destroyed by the system before they even had the chance to compete.

As to putting cost of education out of reach for most middle class families, there is plenty of fodder there for books much less blogs.

If business leaders hope to compete effectively on a global basis, then they best think about putting some of that R&D money into helping to figure out how to save the intellectual capital that is going to waste.

H-1 visas are not an answer, they simply mask the disease.