Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Law vs. The Real World

If you are anything like me, while you always knew there were laws against age discrimination on an intellectual level, it wasn't until you got out there in the real world looking to make a change at say 45+ that you came to internalize emotionally age discrimination was very real.

Not a great feeling to understate the case.

Given the make-up of ExecuNet membership (average age 52) we gets lots of feedback and war stories from people facing this issue and they often ask me what my feelings are about the subject. Maybe it's my own age (72) kicking in or just that in combination with the life experiences that have gone along with it, but what I usually tell them is that in my experience, when it comes to discrimination (be it age, sex, religion, or whatever) there seems to be a spectrum - on one end are people whose minds you will never change and on the on the other are those whose minds you don't have to worry about changing. The rest of us tend to fall somewhere in-between which means to one degree or another, while we all have a bias, we are influence able, and that is the group on which I would concentrate.

Said differently, it depends on how you want to spend your time and energy. The fact is that we all need to go to work somewhere and if you elect to go the suit route, aside from the time and expense, the "real world" probability is that no employer is going to be that excited about bringing you on board for fear that they would be next on your list, and in this day and age, finding out that you are involved in a legal battle would not take long.

Not an easy choice for sure, and it doesn't help with the deep anger that one feels, but maybe what reality dictates as the best choice for you and your family. Would that it were a perfect world.

All of this doesn't mean that there is nothing to be done except to sit back and "take it."  There is a great deal that one can do, especially if you are focused on those in the middle of the spectrum who can be influenced, and while there are a number of tools one can use to help someone "to see the light" I think the most powerful of those available are information and networking.

What I mean is this: if you have done your homework on an organization in which you have a real interest, you will be armed with the knowledge of the challenges they face, and therefore are able to share with them the fact that over the course of your career to date that you have dealt with the issues they face, and at 45+, probably more than once. 

When people are engaged in conversations that are (a) focused on their needs and (b) are seeing potential solutions to their problems, they are not thinking about your age, they are thinking about how much easier their life can be.  That is the power of information.

That said, what I hear a lot of from members is that all of this is well and good except they never get the chance to share the information because they never hear back from their responses to job postings, so what good is all this info.

My response usually runs along the lines of if postings is what you are chasing, I am not surprised to hear it.

Whoever and however your electronic outreach is being screened, it is highly unlikely that they will be the least bit interested or be feeling inclined to find out how much value you can bring.  Their role is to screen candidates out just as fast as they can and that usually translates to whatever you have sent is going to see the light of day for something in the neighborhood of twenty (20) seconds - give or take.

In order for you to get the chance to show what you bring based on your research and experience, you need to be face-to-face and that will come about as the result of your networking into the organization, not from answering postings.

New information?  Hardly.  Does it require the investment of your time, energy and passion?  Yup, and the operative word is "passion."  Once you start to care about something, you will find the time and the energy. 

Investing your precious time sending responses into the black hole of cyberspace drains both energy and passion.  Gaining information on organizations that produce products or services that get you juiced will produce more energy and passion than you have felt in a long, long time. 

Sunday, December 04, 2011

You Control More Than You Think

About a year or so ago in addition to the normal phone calls and emails that come on a daily basis I wanted to find a way to make sure that I was continually available and accessible to our members but also to do more in terms of sharing with them some of the lessons I had learned from my stumbling around the world of career management for the last 45+ years.

I don't mean to imply that I haven't been accessible; my email and number is all over the site.  What I mean is that I didn't just want to be there to react to questions or whatever, but rather I wanted to do something that was more proactive, especially in a market that has been and remains so difficult to navigate.

One solution I thought would be to create a weekly forum (live) that members could attend by phone and talk about whatever they wanted.  This would not be something where I was trying to guess what might be of interest to callers, but rather an event where the member could feel totally comfortable to discuss whatever was on their mind, and I would see what suggestions/ideas occurred to me that might be of help.  The scary part, among other things, was (a) not knowing if anyone would show up, and  (b) would they find value?

After some weeks of trial and error the answer to (a) seemed to be yes and (b) people felt the calls were indeed helpful on a number of levels. 

In latter case, there were two main things that callers told me they took away: (1) They got an immediate answer to something that they were dealing with at the present time and (2) it was comforting to learn from the issues raised by others that they were not the only ones experiencing this stuff. 
In terms of what I have learned from the calls, the lessons have been many, but the one in particular that stands out is this:

No matter how the market or technology changes over time, the process of career management has remained fundamentally unchanged which is one of the things that remains a source of big time frustration -particularly to action oriented senior level executives.  People want "answers" (are used to getting them) and they want them sooner not later.

So, it is not surprising that one of the recurring themes on these calls is trying to help listeners understand that when it comes to this matter, there are no "plug and play" answers.  At best there are opinions (and lots of 'em) which sometimes serve more to confuse than clarify, but as they say, "it is what it is," and coming to understand this is helpful knowledge all by itself.

It is partially for this reason that I always try to have a guest join me. A different voice, a different set of experiences, and sometimes a different opinion. The feedback from callers has been that they like this a lot largely because it helps to understand an issue from different perspectives and often will generate different approaches.  (An added benefit, of course, is that they are not subjected to me the whole time, but most are polite enough not to mention that.)

Anyway, in a process where much of the frustration is driven by the fact that people feel (and rightfully so) that they have no real control of so much of what is going on, one thing that can be controlled is expectation level, and managing that has a major impact on the emotional ups and downs, and anyone who has ever been through a job transition (myself included) knows full well what I mean.

The trap that is all to easy to fall into in today's technology driven environment is to think that as long as I keep firing off my resume into the ether it is only a matter of time, and maybe there is a statistical case to be made  for that, I don't know.

What I do know is that results oriented executives don't manage that way and they don't solve problems that way.  They set realistic expectations based on thorough research, plan accordingly, bring the product to market, gauge the reactions and adjust.

For sure there are always going to be those aspects over which they have no control, but as professionals, they know it, expect it, and constantly keep focusing on the things they can control.

It reminds me yet again of the axiom we have all heard many times: Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. The operative word being preparation.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Maybe We're Not So Crazy

I actually can’t recall when I first met Pete Weddle which is either yet another sign of my senior citizenship status or simply evidence of the fact that I have known and respected him for a long time. I think I’ll opt for the latter.

Over the years, at ExecuNet, we have been fortunate to have had Pete as a speaker at our networking meetings in and around the NY metro area as well as being able to treat our members to his insights via webinars, but what caught my attention recently was a newsletter article that he wrote way back in 2005 which we called: Why You Need to Be a Career ActivistI know, that may seem like ions ago, but sometimes when you stumble across things like this and read them again in the context of today's world, they can often underscore just how "right" the message was.  The fact that the concept became a book just las year would also seem to add to the notion that the message was just a passing thought.  

In reading this piece, it reminded me of not only how well he writes, but also why he deserves the reputation he has as an expert on the world of online recruiting for executives at all levels, be they passive candidates or out there fighting the battle of job search in the 21st century, as well as the solid advice he has for his readers on the smart way to manage their own careers.

In re-reading the article, Pete made some really important points that had big time merit then and still do, especially about how today’s workforce really needs to understand that since the “loyalty” myth has long since evaporated and that in today’s world “you owe your employer performance, not permanence.” From a career development perspective, “your goal is to perfect what you can do at work, and your career is your personal quest to achieve that end.”

Pete goes on to say “Your supercharged performance on-the-job is your best insurance in the demanding, ever changing business landscape of the 21st Century. In good times, it will increase the paycheck and satisfaction you bring home from work. In hard times, it will enable you to land on your feet. It won’t prevent you from being laid off, but it will prevent a lay-off from derailing your career.”

As I read this, I kept saying to myself, why don’t more of us “get it”? It doesn’t seem like it is a concept that is all that hard to understand. When I talked to my partner Mark Anderson about it, he reminded me, as he often does, that maybe more people get it than I might think. He pointed out that 60% of our membership is made up of people who are currently employed whereas when we started way back in 1988 everyone who came to us arrived only after they had lost their jobs. I had to admit he had a pretty good point.

We have been pounding the drum for so long about how critical it is for executives to be proactive about managing their careers and yet it still feels like I constantly hear from members who tell me that it wasn’t until they faced the crisis of losing their job that they decided to “do something about it.” It makes me wonder if anyone is listening.

Reading what Pete had to say, as well as hearing Mark’s stats, made me feel that maybe more people may understand the issue than I realize, and that I just have a tendency to lose perspective when I get tied up in the day-to-day. Knowing me, that is probably true. Sometimes I can’t even remember if I’ve had lunch, but when I see people like Weddle pounding the same drum as we do, it feels good.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

It's Always About Priorities

This is not a paid commercial in any way but I have to say that I am a fan of Bloomberg Businessweek, especially since they changed the format.  Really like the way it is organized, but that is not what this post is about which I would guess comes as a relief to anyone who has read this far.

Along with millions of others, I am also a big fan of Charlie Rose.  One of the best interviewers ever IMHO.  If you don't follow his show on Bloomberg TV, he also has a one page interview in the magazine every week. 

A recent such interview was with Azim Premji, the chairman of info-tech giant Wipro in which Rose sought Premji's opinion on a range of topics one of which was, as you might guess, what thoughts he had about the U.S. and its role as an economic power going forward.

I thought his response was very telling both in terms of his identification of both our strengths as well as our weakness.  Here's what he said:
"The U.S. is a complex country.  It has a high predominance of immigrants who have been eminently successful.  But in the past 20 years, government has increased spending on jails by six times in the U.S. whereas the per capita spending on education has remained the same."
A message in there somewhere?  Ya think!

Anyone who has followed this blog, even sporadically, knows that one of my hot buttons has always been on the subject of education and more specifically, our continued failure as a country to have the political will to make the investments in an educational system whose state of disrepair has to be at least equal to if not worse than our physical infrastructure. 

Said differently, when a well-respected world business leader such as Azim Premji takes note that we think it is more important to increase our spending on jails than on education, sadly it gives us yet another way of underscoring just how little we seem to understand the challenges we face.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It's Still Personal

Okay, I admit it, I am a bit of a "machineophile" or maybe in the current era and vernacular a "gadget geek."  I love the apps, the widgets, and the QR stuff.  I have no idea what most of it does, worry to death about which ones come preloaded with a virus and then end up deleting the vast majority about every 6 months to make sure I still have disk space on my PC and cell phone.

Well, yesterday when I needed something to take my mind off of how badly I had done in this week's office football pool I decided it was deletion time again, and it was during that process that I came across reference to an app that if you believed what they were saying, was supposed to be the job seeker's answer to automated responses and messages that come from many job board postings, which, loosely translated, stop just short of "Dear Occupant."

Apparently after this certain piece of software is up and running, the applicant can send out an automatic message to any posting on any site it searches for the key words one sets as the criteria. If true, this would make my list of finalists for the the ultimate recruiter's nightmare and the job changer's time-waster of the year award.

I recall when the Internet first showed up on most of our radar screens, many of the industry pundits were forecasting the early demise of the whole executive search industry, and what we could expect before too long was all job openings would be filled as we slept. Okay, a bit of an overstatement to make a point, but that is what it was starting to sound like. Here we are a couple of decades or so later, and for sure the death of the industry was, as Mark Twain said, "greatly exaggerated."

Admittedly, at ExecuNet be it career issues or business issues, we are focused on only one segment of the market (i.e. C-level executives and their direct reports) but by observing and interacting with that segment (as well as the executive search community) on a daily basis, we continue to see more of an emphasis on human judgment and less on robotic matching, and for all its impact on the speed of research and communications, the search community keeps telling us that the time to fill the assignments really hasn't changed all that much, the Internet notwithstanding.

Indeed, in our 19 year old annual survey (Executive Job Market Intelligence Report) we have always asked search consultants about the time it takes to fill positions. With the exception of the height of the '08/'09 recession, when they say it took on average a month longer, the answer has always been between 3 to 4 months.

As I think about this issue, and keep reading about the latest and greatest technological enablers that often literally "pop up" it just keeps reminding me of three things:

1. There is no substitute for quality, and

2. There is no substitute for making qualitative judgments, and

3. As a consumer, no matter what the economic conditions, I am always willing to pay a premium for quality, and so, by the way when it comes to talent, are companies - even in this market.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Zig Zag Theory of Organization

To be honest, I am not sure where the zig zag theory of organizations originated, but I do know that I have heard about it most of my professional work life, and I have been in enough settings, both large and small over the past 40+ years to know that there is much truth to the concept.

In case you are not familiar with the concept, it is pretty straight forward.  The theory essentially says that when the pressure from the organization below the "head" becomes so great in its momentum in a given direction that the "head" has no choice but to follow.

If you have been following the events in several of the countries in the Middle East of late, which has been pretty much unavoidable, you have seen this theory in action (both literally and figuratively).

But this happens in business as well and there are probably plenty of us who have seen it happen time and time again, and depending on one one's point of view, in some cases it can be a sad thing to see unfold and in others we just smile and are glad to see someone "get theirs."

The business section of your local paper probably has examples, big and small, almost every day.  Maybe one of the most prominent recently was when Yahoo's board pulled the plug on Carol Bartz.

Ask most anyone who has ever made the move from individual contributor to supervisor, manager, department head, division head, unit head, or any C-level role and most, I think, would tell you that delegation is one of the hardest bridges to cross and without doubt one of the most critical of leadership skills to master if one is to succeed. 

Giving up the control of doing it yourself to depending on others to do it while you are held accountable for the outcome for  most people is scary and uncomfortable.

In politics, "the organization" delivers their message at the ballot box as we all know.  In business, however, it is often much more subtle, but more often than not when those who are led are fed up with those who think managing is more about "telling" than "asking" or who somehow believe that a leader is someone who comes across as a "don't do as I do, do as I say" type what might have started as an enthusiastic "I'm on it" over time morphs into what I have best heard described as malicious obedience. It's a very apt description and a leader's worst nightmare.

Translation: It is people doing exactly what they have been asked to do, nothing more and nothing less.  In other words exercising no judgement that might value add or providing information that would help avoid a problem, etc., and when the inevitable happens and the boss is screaming how could this happen, the answer comes back as "...that's what you told us to do."

So, while it is a long way from being a "new" or "novel" message, those leaders, irrespective of sector (public or private) should keep this theory very much in mind as they interact with their those they lead, be they voters, employees or as we have seen in the Middle East - citizens.

At the end of the day, as they say, you serve at their pleasure.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Negative Feedback Loops

For sure, like the one Fortune ran for their cover story in the May 16th issue way back in 2005 (50 and Fired) are attention grabbers designed to sell the magazine, but I wonder if those who read that piece or others like it these days come away feeling anything like I did.

What a downer! After reading it back then and checking out the look on the faces of some of the folks they featured, one would think that the only option if you were unemployed and over 50 is to adjourn to your garage, shut all the doors, fire up the car, and drift away listening to Stairway to Heaven!

Why bring all this up again now?  Because stuff like this tends to surface again and again depending on what the economy is doing at any given point in time.  The tougher the times the more the media seems to invest their time and resources into trying to make us all feel worse.  No wonder they call it a "negative feedback loop."

This isn't to say that there isn't rampant age discrimination in this country. Of course there is, just like there is rampant discrimination of about any flavor you want. It has all been around for far too long to be sure, but around none the less. The way that article came across one would think that there is simply nothing to be done and you might as well cash in your chips and head for HR department at Wal-Mart or Home Depot unless you are really into cultural stuff and want to be a guide at a local historic site.

Is age an issue? For sure! Is making a change easy? Absolutely not, but it is a long way from having to swallow a gun which is the impression one gets from articles like these.  What a disservice to the tens of thousands of people impacted by the recession, and the further up the organizational hierarchy one goes, the more the age factor comes into play.

As tough s it is, however, making a job change is really a process with which most of us (age notwithstanding) are all too familiar.  It is a sales process and for most people I know, in order to be successful in sales, you need to really believe in your product, understand how its features and benefits will help the buyer and even more importantly, understand the objections the buyer might have and provide the information and answers that help the buyer to see that their objection is really not the problem they might have thought.

This may be an over simplified way of stating it, but when you peel away the anxiety and fear of rejection that is inherent in any sales process, and which is even more pronounced when the product is "you," the fact remains that this is really what it's about.

Maybe I am overly sensitive because I'm 72 and still feel I am still a long way from having to be kick started in the morning. It also might be because the average age of ExecuNet members is 52, so we talk to 50 somethings all the time.

But most of all, I think it's because we hear from and talk to members every day who are telling us about how they moved on to their next gig, and we get pretty excited each and every time.

The most recent came just the other day when I got an email from a member (age: 60) who was writing to tell me that he was about to start his new job as the CFO for a pharma company in the Northeast or the member (age 58) who had accepted the CEO position at a consumer products company in California.

Bottom line, I think and hope those who are working as hard as they know how to get on with their lives and careers are way too busy to take the time to read something as de-motivating as the one that appeared in Fortune back then and continue to show up in other magazines, blogs, and 2 minute "reports" on the tube these days.

When one reflects on the challenges facing the country, especially in terms of the economic competition and the numerical advantages faced by the U.S. versus the more rapidly developing economies, you would think that as a nation we would want to take advantage of every ounce of experience we can lay our hands on.

But then this is the country where our elected officials seem to think they are helping people deal with all this by spending their waking hours doing nothing except wringing their hands and calling each other names.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

This Is Getting To Be A Drag

Ever since I can remember, there has been a “factoid” making its way around the career management world about how long someone should plan their job search will take. What I can’t recall and never remember seeing is the source from which this “factoid” came.

In any event if you are in a job search, you have probably heard it too. It goes something like: You should plan your search to take about 1 month for every $10,000 you seek in salary.

I haven’t the slightest idea nor have I ever seen statistics that indicate whether this rule of thumb is right, wrong or anything in between, and I have been roaming around the career management space in general since (dare I say it?) 1961 and with ExecuNet since 1988.

That said, in talking with ExecuNet members, this is a subject that comes up with great frequency. Certainly not surprising, as most executives tend to be more type A’s than B’s and as such focus on objectives to be reached within a specific timeframe and get pretty impatient if and when it doesn’t look like that's happening.

In addition, as leaders, they are used to being in control (more or less), and if things are not going the way they want them to and fast enough, they can make the needed changes.

In truth, I believe the foregoing is one of the major reason why we all find the search process so frustrating.

There is only so much of it we really can control, and a great deal of it that we can’t. When you are “action oriented” and you feel you are in a situation when you can’t “make things happen,” to say it is frustrating doesn’t do it justice.

Also, how much time a job search is going to take is also one of those questions where I am not sure that an actuary could really give anyone a meaningful answer. There are so many variables involved, such as geography, age, function, industry segment, compensation needs, and the economy just to name a few, and given what we're all dealing with at the moment, "economy" deserves a capital "E"?

Armed with the foregoing, hopefully you can understand why it is when someone asks me to guesstimate a timeline that I try to say this is one of those things where “the answer is, there is no answer.” But of course, most people think that this is just a cop-out on my part and ask for a number anyway.

At that point and using my own personal experience as a starting point, I am likely to say something along the lines of, “Well, I can tell you that whatever length of time you think it will take, you are probably underestimating it significantly.

It is kind of like when your wife says she is going to do some redecorating and she estimates the cost at X; as a seasoned pro you immediately make a mental note that it is much more likely to be at least 2X+.

While we can all try to smile at our spouse’s budget estimates, translating that to a job search isn’t so funny. It is, however, very important in this sense:

Part of trying to manage your way through a process as frustrating as a job search is to set realistic expectations. Without them, people tend to set goals that reality will make it very hard to attain, and when they are not attained, they feel it is somehow a sign that there is something seriously lacking in themselves when, of course, that is not the case at all. Easy to say but much harder to internalize and believe.

I talk with members almost daily whose searches have been going for several months and in many cases more than a year, and aside from looking for ideas on handling the frustration, they also want some ideas on what they can do to try and re-energize the quest.

There is a lot that could be said on this subject too and even more that’s been written, but for whatever it’s worth, here are a couple of thoughts for those who might be in this situation:

• Keep in mind that this is essentially a sales process, and as such, do what companies do if a product they have introduced to the market is not producing the results they expected – repackage it. As a candidate, that could mean a résumé makeover, tuning up your phone and/or in-person interviewing skills, making sure you are doing really thorough research in terms of target companies, and certainly working harder to expand your personal and professional networks.

• Make sure that because things have gone much longer than you wanted them to that you don’t fall into the trap of locking yourself in your home office and spending your days “clicking and praying.” It is counterproductive both strategically and emotionally.

• Get out, about and involved, both online and especially offline. Relationships can start online, but trust, which is the tipping point in personal referrals, comes much more often from face-to-face relationships built over time. If you are not already actively involved in at least one professional organization and one civic organization, do so. Keeping yourself intellectually “tuned in” is really important in terms of both attitude and energy, both of which are critical in terms of how others react to you, not to metion how you feel about yourself!

• Since most people get jobs as the result of a linkage process (i.e. networking), everything you can do to give yourself the opportunity to create those links is very much worth the time and effort. If you are a member of ExecuNet, you have long heard us talk and write about effective networking being built on a foundation and attitude of “giving, not getting.” Approaching both people and/or events with the idea that you’re there as a resource to others does a lot to get your focus on the right stuff.

• If you are someone who has trouble doing some or all of this revamping yourself, you might consider getting an executive coach to help. It is certainly nothing to be ashamed of and from an accountability and structure perspective can be very helpful in getting things back on track. At ExecuNet, members frequently ask our help in finding such a resource, and we are happy to refer them.

And don’t ever forget what every salesperson will tell you: every “no” is simply one step closer to “yes.”

Monday, August 01, 2011

Let's Play Twenty One

Want something to take your mind off the mind-numbing noise coming out of DC? I said take your mind off it, not fix it (or them).

Okay, here's what you can do; think of any one of the several characters we have all been watching over the past several months irrespective of political persuasion. Got that picture?

Okay, now download the PDF summary (it's free) of John C. Maxwell's The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and see if you can find anyone, and I mean anyone, where you can objectively say that you feel they would qualify as having dmonstrated or even attempted to demonstrate any of the twenty-one. 

I couldn't, however, I did find it helpful to have revisited Maxwell's thoughts. Certainly served to remind me that despite having been in the working world for nearly fifty decades how many and large the gaps are between what I would aspire to be and reality. It doesn't mean that we don't keep trying, but it sure puts in perspective how far many of us (and I certainly include myself in that number) still have to go.

If you are familiar with the "laws" then I am sure there are those who would argue they are too "warm and fuzzy" and aren't anything more than idealistic consultant-speak that has no place in the real world.  Maybe so, and I would leave that argument to others, but directionally they tend to ring true for many of us who have been "followers" or have found ourselves to be placed in leadership roles.

This exercise also served to drive home the reality of the difference that true leaders really make and why there are so very few of them. I believe countries drift into situations such as the one in which we find ourselves largely due to lack of leadership, and that is going to cost not just our kids, but their grandchildren and perhaps well beyond very dearly indeed.

I am also sure that no matter what the future holds it certainly will not produce an answer to the eternal question of whether leaders are born or made, but it will certainly serve to underscore the fact that without them no good will come.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Defining What Effective Means

Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler are well known in the staffing world, and with good reason. Their consultancy called CareerXRoads has been adding value to the world of talent acquisition for quite a while now. 

One of the things they do is to publish a (free) quarterly newsletter they call CareerXRoads Update. In the most recent edition, there was a piece called: Measuring the Right Thing is Crucial to Social Media in the Future*.  It is well worth the read for both recruiter and candidate alike.

Worth it for the recruiter because it helps to put some important factors into perspective such as the difference between what really constitutes a "source of hire" and the process by which hiring decisions are made.

After all, if one looks at the track record of hiring decisions that turn out to be really good ones, it becomes pretty clear pretty fast that the source from which a contact is first made isn't nearly as important as the quality of the process that leads to the decision to hire since it is common knowledge that a very high percentage of hiring decisions that everyone hoped were home runs end up going South.

Point being that at the end of the day, the corporate recruiters add up the "source of hire" stats and then pat themselves on the back because of all the money they saved on ads or search fees or whatever because they sourced "X"% of their candidates from Facebook, Twitter, employee referral or some other free source.

If you read the piece, you will quickly understand the foregoing assertion that the original point of contact is not nearly as important as the process in terms of trying to measure "effectiveness" fo the hire.

Worth it for the candidate because what is really (or should be) critical to them is not how they "found" the opportunity but rather did they do their homework before saying yes in order to do all they could to make sure that they were making the right decision. After all, if it turns out that what everyone hoped was going to be a good 'marriage' ends up in a divorce, it is the candidate's life that is the one most damaged, not the company's.

So, given that ExecuNet is not in the recruiting business, why would I take up space on this topic?

Answer: Because like any business, we are frequently asked by prospective members "how effective are you" or "what is your "success" rate? A very fair question if you happen to be in a job search and your definition of”success" or "effectiveness" is defined as "a job offer"

Now, don't get me wrong, we post jobs on ExecuNet (have for all 23 years that we have been around) and I lost count long ago as to the number of members who have ended up with acepting offers as a result. And if I were to extend the definition to "interviews" (F2F or phone) I couldn't even begin to count, but that's not the point.

The point that so many forget is the percentage of job changers who actually make a change as the result of responding to a job posting is quite small especially when compared to those made as the result of networking.

And at the senior executive level, those who get jobs as the result of ads (i.e. postings) even less.  While the stats I have seen over the years in terms of jobs obtained as the result of postings runs around 10-15% give or take, when I talk to our members who have 'landed' 70% tell us that the "source" was networking, and that's just those that I hear from, my guess is that the percentage is actually higher.

So where I am going with all this is simply to say to the corporate staffing world that Gerry and Mark's update makes a lot of sense.

To the executive job seeker my point is that in measuring the effectiveness of a resource you are utilizing in a job search, look at and determine the "value" of what you feel the resource brings to your effort so that when the opportunity surfaces, by whatever channel, are you better prepared to take full advantage of the opportunity than you otherwise might have been because of the investment of time and/or money that you have made in that resource.

Said differently, when the "what" (i.e. the interview) comes along, how much did the resource help you with the "how" so that you were able to sell yourself as the aspirin for their headache and actually get an offer? 

If you don't know what the "how's" are and more importantly how to use them, knowing where to see thousands of "what's" is more often than not nothing more than an exercise in frustration.

*  Re-published with permission of Gerry Crispin and Mark Mehler of CareerXroads, your staffing strategy connection. To reach Gerry or Mark, email mmc@careerxroads.com or visit their web site at http://www.careerxroads.com

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

You Think You've Got Problems?

I am as I am sure you are, keenly aware of the magnitude of what Japan experienced.  I am also equally sure that when the images of what the quake did to Japan it reminded us of events like Haiti, Joplin, Katrina, the flooding in the Midwest and any number of other catastrophes visited upon us by mother nature.

On the other hand, with what we are confronted with on and off the Internet on a minute by minute basis, both natural and man-made, I also wonder if we have become so used to the carnage that we see going on that when things cut to commercial we then turn to our dinner companion and say something like "wow that's just awful isn't it?  What's for desert?"

Throughout most of our lives we are reminded constantly of the fact that no matter how tough we feel our own indiviudal situations may be, there are always others who when we compare our own reality to thiers we blush with embarrasment that we were complaining at all.

I thought about this a good deal over this holiday weekend and reflected on how incredibly fortunate I am to have been born in this country, to have parents who could afford to give me the chance at an education, to have never even thought about where my next meal might come from, and to have only faced one real health issue in 70+ years.

I don't know about you, but I've been doing a lot of blushing lately.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Start with Why

It used to be tough enough to pick a few columnists to follow, but when blogging grew into a hydra it became impossible to pick "just a few." 

Indeed, even if you wrote off the millions who when you saw what they were doing you wished for a universal block & report spam button, there was still so much "good" stuff that one could not begin with any organized approach, and even if there were a "system" I am too undisciplined to have followed it.

I have to say that despite all the issues we face in the country on more levels than I can count, I am encouraged by what seems like a never-ending stream of creative, thoughtful, and often very insightful writing that I come across either by chance or because someone sends me a link because they think I would be interested, which, thruth be known, has turned out to be Dave's "search engine" of blogs that interest me.

So, such was the case when I discovered Matt Youngquist's blog which he calls Career Horizons The Blog.  Given that I am a recovering HR person of some 40+ years and the fact that ExecuNet is deeply committed to the career and business challenges of the senior level executive, that I would want to check out a blog with Career Horizons as its moniker is no surprise.  If you haven't had a chance to check it out, I would.  You can tell by the way Matt writes that he is a "giver" not a "taker" which by definition makes me a fan.

Anyway, last week he ran a piece he called Leadership, Wherefore Art Thou? and among other links he included to help him make his point was one that took the reader to the TED site and an 18 minute talk given in 2009 by Simon Sinek called How Great Leaders Inspire Action.  His talk was the result of a book he wrote around his theory called Start With Why.  My guess is that many readers here have heard of it and/or read it.  If not, put it on your summer reading list, or if you want the cliff notes, listen to the TED talk.

I think that most of us who find ourselves in leadership roles either by happenstance or design struggle with the challenges, and maybe this is the reason why Senek's approach resonated so profoundly and reminded me of exactly why it is that people so often have said to me "boy Dave it is really clear that you are passionate about what you do!"  And usually when they say that, I can't figure out what they have seen or heard that makes them feel that way.  When I listened  to Sinek's talk, I realized again where all that comes from.  What they sense and feel is (for good or ill) so much a part of who I am, that I don't even think about it which is why I am surprised when they say it. 

It doesn't come from what we as a company do or how we do it, although for sure both make me very excited and proud.  But that is hardly unique.  I am sure that any business leader would feel the same way.  So where does the inspiration/passion come from?

If you have listened to Sinek's talk you already know, if you haven't better you should listen rather than my trying to put it into words here.  He is far more eloquent.

It is indeed all about the why.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

One Story At A Time

The fact that an article that was written in June of 2009 has just found its way to my consciousness is probably as good an indicator as anything in terms of how unorganized and not on top of things I am.

I have no excuse, however, if I were to try to conjure one  up it would be that I am not technologically proficient enough to get my information filters properly in place and as a result, if whatever it is does not show up above the fold in Google News, it stands little chance of surfacing in my world.

Okay, maybe a little bit overstated, but at least it will give you some idea of the "issues" I have in trying to time manage between dealing with the day to day goings on at work and wanting to more about other things that tweak my interest.

In any event, the awakening to the soon to be two year old piece came about because I am a member of a LinkedIn group started by Karen Armon who, among the many interests that spring from her MarketOne Executive consultancy, also has  hosted and facilitated ExecuNet networking events in the Denver metro area for a number of years.

The article she had posted in her LI MarketOne Executive Group was one by management guru Peter Bergman which appeared in the online HBS business review- as indicated nearly two years ago. The piece is called A Good Way to Change a Corporate Culture, and since this has been a subject of interest to me for a long time, and it appeared to be very short, I continued with my totally disorganized approach to life and stopped what I was doing to read it.

If you, like me, are somewhat fascinated by how organizations continually wrestle with their cultures and the impact that they have on where you work and /or your role as a leader in those organizations, I suggest you take 10 minutes and read what Bergman has to say. 

If you don't have the 10 minutes, then here's the gist:

While for sure there are plenty of things that go into creating a culture, one of the most profound  are the "stories" that come out of the organization as it grows, and these stories do much to cement the expectation we all have of what is expected of us as we consider becoming part of that culture or as importantly, if the "stories" we heard that attracted us in the first place turn out to be fact or fiction

As the economy continues to improve and the talent marketplace begins to turn once again into a "sellers" market (and it will) - our ability to continue to attract and retain the "A" players will turn on their feeling of whether those stories are indeed fact or fiction.

Hint: We live in a non-fiction world.

Friday, May 20, 2011

One For The Old And Jaded

This is probably another case of "Dave, where the hell have you been" but I only recently got turned on to a site called 1.00 FTE whose tag line is Impressions of a Corporate Life, and man are they!

If you are looking for at least one smile a day from your current or fomer life, I suggest you check out the site here, and if some of what you see doesn't remind of places you've been (or are) then you may well have a flat EGK.  Very cool, at least in this writer's opinion.

Once you get done laughing it will likely also serve to remind that we  laugh because we know it is (sad to say) based on truth and often it is those truths that can destroy what many have worked so hard to build.

I would give more credit where it is due, but I can't even tell  you who the clever and imaginative person is who comes up with this stuff on a a daily basis, other than he goes by Stuart - that's him up there to your left.

No reason to hide Stuart, you should be out there taking a bow!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

If I Had A Nickel

Everyone knows the "If I only had a nickel..."  phrase, and I know we all have dozens if not hundreds of situations where we have thought of those famouns words as we sat frustrated over one thing or another.

The most recent instance for me actually wasn't one of frustration but rather was much more positive, although it didn't necessarily start out that way.  So why did the "If I only had a nickel..." phrase run through my mind? 

Essentially, it did because ever since I moved from an "us" to a "them" in the management world, I have been fascinated by the books that seem to be published every other week by professors, consultants, and current or former CEOs - all of which promise to answer my every prayer in terms of managing, leadership, and overall organizationall effectiveness.  So, it was pretty natural to think, "Here's another one" when I picked up Workarounds That Work by Russell Bishop.

All that turned positive, however, after I had been fortunate enough to have him join me on a weekly call that I do with ExecuNet members; we it call Six Figure Hotline, and members can raise questions on any subject they want, be it career related or business related. 

At the time of the call, I only knew of Russell by reputation as an editor and columnist for Huffington Post and a consultant with a long history of success. I was anxious to have him on the call, however, because logic suggested that his experieince and success was likely built the same way it is for most of us - by dealing with one person at a time, and if his approach worked for organizaitons, it probably would work for those who make up the organizaiton.

I am not reviewing it here - you can go to Amazon for that if you like. I bring it up on this blog only to say that while I cannot begin to bring Russell's experience as a consultant or his skills as a communicator to this space, I can and do think any executive who feels the need for some insights into trying to figure out the workaround situations that face us almost daily, would do well to check out this book.

And there is another reason as well, and which is, of course, the real reason as to why I am so thumbs up on this book: because much of what the book suggests makes me feel my own theory about organizational issues has been vindicated by a source that has real credentials. Now I can say: "If you don't believe me, then see what Russell Bishop has to say and then tell me I'm nuts."

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Work Life Balance: The Oxymoron of the 21st Century?

A number of people, both on our staff and off, who have stopped by my office over the years have often remarked about the fact that I seem to have an awful lot of pictures for such a small office. Indeed, they say I have a lot of them even for a big office! I guess I never noticed or thought that it seemed like picture overkill, although now that I look around I guess I see what they mean. I just counted them and there are 25. That's practically enough for a one man show for Pete's sake.

I guess the behavior gurus would say that all the pictures (wife, kids, vacation spots, grandchilden, etc. are supposed to give off vibes as to my "warm and fuzzy" MBTS profile. What they would say about the one with me dressed up in a court jester costume I have no idea. (We dress up at the office on Halloween, but that's another story) I guess they would just think to themselves "I hope he has outpatient psychiatric coverage" and move on.

In any case, when I look at these pictures now, as much as anything else, they serve to remind me that I undoubtedly spend and have spent, far too much of my life in my office focused on the care and feeding of "my job" than physically being with and caring enough about the people and places those pictures represent.

They remind me too of a profile of ExecuNet that was in the NY Times some years ago. One of the labels they pinned on me in that article was "workaholic". Not exactly my proudest moment.

As the old saying goes, you have never seen a tombstone that says "I wish I had spent more time at the office." However, I am of The Organization Man generation but on reflection, even that feels more like an excuse than a chronological factoid. I’ve learned that work and time with family are not mutually exclusive, but the tipping point is difficult to find, and it is different for everyone. 

What many find encouraging is that over the years, our annual Executive Job Market Intelligence Report survey has revealed that more senior level executives are moving toward simplifying their lives. While certainly 9/11 had much to do with this trend starting, it has not gone away either.

While salary remains the biggest motivator, many respondents also report that relocation, personal growth potential, improved work/life balance, and corporate culture were key factors in job acceptance.

It is going to be interesting indeed to see how these trends develop, particularly as technology continues to make it easier for us to work outside our physical office space.

If this combination really flies, there are a lot of us type A's who will probably think they had found the universal solvent. Or will they?

Are you a teleworker, and if so, what are you finding from the experience that you like and/or don't like?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Making Your Own Luck

As you might guess having been part of ExecuNet for 23 years during which time there have been at least three recessions and given the depth of the most recent one, we could probably say four and not get too much of an argument, I have talked with thousands of executives about more career related issues than I can remember.

Given the economic turmoil of recent times, it isn't surprising that many of the conversations have revolved around the frustrations associated with making a job change, and especially trying to make that change when the unemployment rate is getting better but is still where none of us likes to see it, and the recovery isn't going fast enough. 

Then, of course, many add to that minor administrative details such as having kids in college, a mortgage to pay, and being on the other side of 45 and getting tired of hearing that they are "over qualified" if and when they hear anything at all which isn't often and which just adds to the frustration.

Since most of our members come to us by referral, it is also not unusual that by the time they "find" ExecuNet they have been travelling around the career changing universe long enough to be almost deaf from all the noise.

With that as the backdrop, when we talk to prospective members one of the first things we often hear is that they say they have tried about every job board known to man, and to use their words "haven't had any luck" to which I will then often ask: "What do you mean by luck?"  The answers vary, but can be pretty well summarized by the fact that they have sent out hundreds if not thousands of resumes and have gotten very few if any phone calls and/or interviews much less even acknowledgment that they responded in the first place.

It is at that point that I often will ask them if they have ever heard this definition of luck?

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunituy.

Most say they have, as have I. I even tried to find out where it came from at one point and at least for now the consensus seems to attribute it to the Roman philosopher Senecaand am happy to give him the credit.  Indeed, if this was one of his "keepers" then we owe him a real debt of thanks because it puts something very important into perspective, at least in terms of the frustration I am talking about here.

So what's the point?  Just this:

When we're trying to help many of the executives we talk with to understand the why of "no luck" it usually comes down to the person admitting that their "preparation" to date was pretty much focused on responding to online postings, even though they were generally aware that most job changes don't come about via job postings in general and is even more the case at senior levels. 

Indeed, in our 19th Executive Job Market  Intelligence Report which was just released, many are surprised to learn that 92% of the openings at $200,000 and up are not posted at all!

All of which is to try and help the person understand that if they really want to have "luck" come their way in this process they have to invest the time, research, and energy to prepare themselves to take advantage an opportunity when it surfaces.  And this is the real reason why when I explain that we are a private career and business network and not a job board per se but rather a community where we invest the time and effort to provide the member not just with the "whats" of  "preparation" but as or more importantly with the ways and means to implement the "hows" things begin to make more sense.   

Clicking and praying is easy, but not particularly productive for most.

Quiet and determined preparation may sound harder, but when you are part of a professional environment with the committment to showing you "how" it beats noise every time.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Captain May I?

One of the blogs I follow is called Leadership Freak.  Heck, I think the name is enough to warrent a connection, but as it turns out the content is consistently of interest, well said, and thought provoking.

A recent post by Dan Rockwell (the blogger behind Freak) was on a subject which, judging by how fast the comments were coming through the ether was of far more than just passing interest.  The title was How To Go Over The Boss.  Always a great subject for thrill seekers when the nearest bungy jumping site just isn't close enough.

You can check out the post and the interesting comments yourself by clicking here.

Aside from the topic which stuck me as an automatic contender for "Good Luck With That" award for the week if not the year, was one of the comments that was posted by a reader named Debbie who shared a "learning" that she got from a former boss and which she said was one that she has never forgotten and something that reminds her of this boss every time she thinks about the relationship between boss and subordinate.

The statement was " “Question me about anything but my integrity”.

I have no idea who this boss was who said this to Debbie or under what circumstances but my guess is that it was when he was trying to deliver a message on how he hoped (and expected) they could work together.

He was doing somethinig enormously critical when it comes to establishing a working relationship and it has to do with openess, collaboration and permission to disagree when searching for solutions. It is also something that I am sure many in leadership positions feel and want their teams to feel, but what makes this so powerful, I thought, was that he didn't just think it, he said it!

The elegant simplicity of being able to capture so much of his value system in just a seven (7) word statement I found remarkable.  The fact that he chose to say it out loud was equally important and powerful because, if he "walked the talk" as they say, it gave life to what for many leaders unfortunately only remains a thought.

Leaders frequently forgot that unless and until they actually demonstrate to their teams that things really are open to debate and disagreement the implicit intimidation factor remains, and to the degree that it does, the loss of creativity (not to mention productivity) is staggering.

I don't know what your experience has been, but for me, every company I have ever worked for wrote and talked a good deal about encouraging people to take risks, to not fear failure, to challenge the norm, and of course, one of our all-time favorites: think outside the box. 

I have no data whatever to support my hypothosis as to why organizations continue to fall short when it comes to the kind of involement they espose but nonetheles, my theory is that this happens because leaders express things like Debbie's boss did, but then fail to reinforce it early and often. 

When someone holds the power of economic life and death over someone else, it is only human nature for risk taking in almost any form but certainly in terms of challenging the boss to be something very few would entertain unless they were self-destructive by nature or just had been off their meds for an extended period of time.

If the actions of leadership is such that the seven words can and are translated into only one by the team, then the future of that team and that organizaiton portends very well indeed.

Oh, and in case you're interested, I think that word is TRUST, and that, I beleive, was the message Debbie's boss was sending.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Where's Our Boy Donny Q. When We Need Him?

I need some help! Probably not the best way to start this post as it begs the question of "so tell me something I don't know."

Anyone who knows me would probably say this isn't a question of Dave needing help, we have known him long enough to know that he is well beyond that at this stage!

As true as I know that is, at least at this point, that’s not the kind of help I had in mind.

My need comes from something that has been bothering me for a long time, indeed it was something I had thought about even well before ExecuNet's founding some 23 years ago, but for now, I'll just stick to recent history.

If you follow ExecuNet at all, then you might be aware that around this time every year for the past 19 we have published the results of a survey we do called The Executive Job Market Intelligence Report (EJMIR). 

This year's report is, as they say, coming off the presses as we speak, and if there is any "perk" that comes with being the founder of something it is that you get a "sneak peek" at stuff before it goes public.

So I had my "sneak peek" and there is some really interesting stuff as there always is, and given that we are coming out of a very tough couple of years, the data for 2011 will be gone over with a fine tooth comb for sure, so stay tuned.

I am under penalty of being cut off from my latte lite for a month if I reveal anything before our members get their copies next week, but when I read the report, I felt I could raise this issue since it is something that has been part of EJMIR every year and has bugged me for so long.

So, here's the deal: One of the questions that the survey has posed every year to both the recruiting as well as the HR communities is for them to rank what they feel are the most sought-after executive characteristics.

Each year three things have always topped the list: industry specific experience; functional expertise, and leadership skills, and while there were a number of other things on the list, these three were always way ahead of everything else.

So, when you have 19 straight years of the same result it is kind of hard to argue with the notion that obviously companies think these are pretty important, and if the employers thought these important, then it’s no surprise that the recruiters followed suit. It all seemed to make reasonable sense.

If I was going to hire someone for sure I would want them to be competent in their functional area, understand the industry segment and to have "leadership skills."

But here's what bothers me and where I need someone, as Rachel Maddow says, to "talk me down."

Functional expertise I get, and leadership skills are a whole other ballgame.

My hang up is on industry specific experience. If it is so damn important then why do we keep trying to back fill openings that become vacant because the last incumbent was carried out on his shield with another person who "must have" industry specific experience?

Point being, if this characteristic was so critical to success, then one would think that we should not experience the turnover that we do.

All of which leads me to the feeling that while the survey data show the three characteristics I have mentioned here as being so closely aligned that there is no statistical difference between them - in other words they are essentially equally important in the eyes of the more than 3,100+ who responded - that the real "make or break" characteristic is leadership skills or as many respondents put it this year "...the ability to build and lead high performance teams."

So my convoluted logic says I really don't think that functional expertise or industry specific experience are the "show stoppers" - sure they play a role, but they don't hold the proverbial candle to leadership skills, and I just don't understand how the three can be seen as equally important.

So, if the real deal is around leadership skills, then through the wonders of modern technology we’ve got it made. All we have to do is ID "leadership skills" and we’re golden on the hiring front, right?

With that in mind and as a public service to my fellow travellers on the leadership quest, you’ll be relieved to know the answer lies somewhere in the 37,500,000 hits I got on Bing when I asked for "leadership skills" or to make it less time intensive since we all have other things to do as well, the same ask on Google narrowed things down to only 17,200,000.

Now that we have that "solved" we can move on to the next problem - once we have found the leaders, how do we keep 'em because as this year's EJMIR will show, if this an issue that you think has gone away, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn that's on sale and that you are going to have a hard time passing up!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

This Just In

By now, I would guess that the article that was in the New York Times
a couple of weeks ago that went by the catchy and attention grabbing headline of  Google's Quest to Build a Better Boss has probably been passed around every HR department in the continental U.S. along with as Walter Winchell used to say "...and all the ships at sea."

In addition to that, after they read it, there are probably a lot of pretty big-name consulting firms that are wringing their hands thinking that their cover has been blown, and that their 2011 revenue forecasts are going to go down in flames because an icon organization has discovered for itself something that has been known to anyone who is been in the working world since time began had discovered after a couple of weeks on the job - i.e. at the end of the day when someone decides to leave it is more likely that they are leaving because of their boss then anything else.

If for some reason you were so totally absorbed in March madness that you actually did not read this piece, for anyone who's interested in what retention is really all about its well worth the 10 minutes or so to check it out.

On the off chance that you don't have the 10 minutes or you don't want to read it because you figure Google has done it to us yet once again and I don't dare, you can breathe easier because after thousands of hours of data gathering in an effort to determine what really does make managers better, they have come to the earth shattering conclusion that among other things, demonstrating genuine interest in the people who work for you is like really important.  It's enough to leave one speechless in amazement.

So as I said, if you don't have time to read all, here are a couple of CliffNotes from the article:

People typically leave a company for one of three reasons, or a combination of them.

The first is that they don’t feel a connection to the mission of the company, or sense that their work matters.

The second is that they don’t really like or respect their co-workers.

The third is they have a terrible boss — and this was the biggest variable.

Google, where performance reviews are done quarterly, rather than annually, saw huge swings in the ratings that employees gave to their bosses, and this was the biggest variable.  
Armed with these shocking data I can now understand why the picture of Google's head of People Operations Laszlo Bock (see above) shows him "recovering".  After all, it had to have taken some time for him to absorb such a profound revelation.

The list of what in today's vernacular might be termed "best practices" reads as the article says "...like a whiteboard gag from an episode of “The Office.”  An apt description for sure.

Okay, I know that the cynicism is beginning to pile up here at a fairly rapid pace, but I really can't seem to help myself.

To be honest, as I have reflected on this for the past couple of weeks I've been trying to figure out if there really was any kind of a redeeming "learning" or take away from the work that Google did.

I'm not sure there is other than it's nice to have confirmed yet once again that what is commonly referred to as the Golden Rule has been and continues to be the key driver of what makes each of us decide to stay or leave.

So there you have it!  Keep this in mind and you can save your company some big time bucks on consulting fees, and if you're a manager, yourself a lot of grief.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Leadership Freak

I wish I could come up with whatever it was over the past 45+ years that I have been running around the working world that has fueled my interest in leadership but the fact of the matter is I can't, or least haven't been able to so far.

And if the truth be known, if I am going to come up with, "the" reason then I had best get my act together because with 45+ years worth of running and wondering behind me, I am now at the "walking" around the working world stage so I may not have the chance to look in too many more places.

Be that as it may, anyone who reads this blog knows while I do write about other things as well, the DNA of leadership is a subject that surfaces fairly frequently in this space, and this post is another of those times.

With the convoluted paths one travels in cyberspace, unless you keep really detailed notes (which I don't and which is but one of many glaring gaps in my organizational and self-discipline resume) it is hard to say how it is that you discovered yet another source that you feel not only has something to say, but an interesting and compelling way of saying it - the latter, of course, being what makes you come back.  So, I would gladly give credit and thanks where it's due, but alas I can't.

Such was the case for me when I came across a blog called Leadership Freak (great name don't you think?) that is authored by a fellow named Dan Rockwell. I am not going to take up space here with his background, etc., you can check that out here, but to give you an idea of his attention getting gifts for turning what many would think is a pretty unexciting topic into something that provides real insights, he recently had a post entitled: Britney Spears on Leadership. (There's another one of those really clever headlines!) I haven't really checked Dan's background too deeply, but I wonder if copywriting played any kind of a role at some point?

Anyway, the last time I checked, Dan has just under 40,000 Twitterites (?) following him, and the skill with which he writes and/or tweets suggests that they just might well follow him anywhere and for good reason.

Much more importantly, by having won the audience he has, he serves as a model for leadership on a number of levels, not the least of which is that certainly part of the meeting the criteria of "leader" is one has to have (and keep) followers.

It is one thing to talk about something. That's the easy part. "Walking the talk" as they say is a far different deal and this would seem to be a case where the numbers do, in fact, speak for themselves.

Point being, anyone with that many "followers" and blog hits of 271,000+ strongly suggests that if he has not yet achieved what Leadership Freak's tag line says is its goal: "Helping leaders reach higher in 300 words or less" he is certainly well on his way and I, for one, am happy to tag along.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Why of Work

For the past several years, we have worked with any number of thought leaders and practioners who are experts in a wide variety of fields and subjects.  With ExecuNet being both a career and business network the opportunity to learn from these folks has and continues to be a terrific experience and a major perk.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a chance to experience this once again when I hosted a program for our members that featured Dave and Wendy Ulrich, authors of  the national best-seller The Why of Work

When the program had ended and Dave, Wendy and I were chatting afterwards, one of the things I told them was how incrediably timely I thought the timing of this book was because as we continue to come out of the recession, executives, be they currently in transition or not, were going to be doing some super serious thinking about not just what they put "into" work, but more importantly to both themselves and their employers what they are getting "out of work." 

It is a question that is critical not only for companies who are going to be faced with retaining key players but equally critical for those who are faced with job offers and trying to decide if this is the move they really want to make.

In trying to help the listeners think about all this, the Ulrich's built their presentation around the following list of quesrtions: 

1. Identify: What am I known for?
2. Purpose and Direction: Where am I going?
3. Relationships and Teamwork: Whom do I travel with?
4. Positive Work Environment: How do I build a positive work environment?
5. Engagement/ Challenge: What challenges interest me?
6. Resilience and Learning: How do I learn from setbacks?
7. Civility and Delight: What delights me?

I still can't believe how much they packed into the 60 minutes of this program, but I was particularly taken with their remarks around #6 on their list (Resilience and Learning). 

I am not exactly sure why this particular section stuck in my mind expcet maybe as I thought about where we are in terms of the recovery and more importantly where we have been.  Talk about "setbacks" both collectively and individually! 

It is so easy to get discouraged, especially when there isn't a lot of postive stuff coming your way, and this is true for the company trying to sustain itself through tough times, or an indiviudal trying to fight their way back in a job market that is much more about rejection than acceptance.

If you are a member of ExecuNet and didn't get a chance to listen in to this program, it is, as are all our programs, available to you on demand, but member or not, this is a book you will want to have going forward as I think you'll find its content a roadmap for the role you're in or one that you are considering taking on.

Oh, and if at any point you feel like you have been knocked down more often than is "fair", the Ulrich's reminded us all of some of the stuff that a certain A. Lincolon had to deal with:

His parents were forced out of their home. He had to work to support them.
  1. His mother died.
  2. He failed in business.
  3. He ran for state legislature and was defeated.
  4. He lost his job. He wanted to go to law school but couldn't get in.
  5. He borrowed money from a friend to begin a business and lost it all by the end of the year
  6. He spent the next 17 years paying off his debt
  7. He ran for state legislature again and won. 
  8. He was engaged to be married when his sweetheart died and his heart was broken.
  9. He had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months.
  10. He sought to become speaker of the state legislature and was defeated.
  11. He sought to become elector and was defeated.
  12. He ran for Congress and was defeated.
  13. He ran for Congress again and won. He went to Washington and did well.
  14. He ran for re-election to Congress and was defeated.
  15. He sought the job of land officer in his home state and was rejected.
  16. He ran for Senate of the United States and was defeated.
  17. He sought the Vice Presidential nomination at his party's national convention and got less than 100 votes.
  18. He ran for the U.S. Senate again and was defeated.
  19. He ran for, and was elected, President of the United States
I don't know about you, but I can't tell you how glad I am that he kept on 'truckin.