Search This Blog

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Talent Matters: Step Change - The Bob Beamon Effect

Talent Matters: Step Change - The Bob Beamon Effect: I recently had a very interesting conversation with a fellow HR professional about the necessity for organizations to embrace step change in...

Step Change - The Bob Beamon Effect

I recently had a very interesting conversation with a fellow HR professional about the necessity for organizations to embrace step change in order to remain competitive.  During the course of this discussion we talked about the Bob Beamon effect.

For those who are not familiar with Bob Beamon, he was responsible for a step change event within non-professional sports in Mexico at the 1968 Olympics.

By way of background, going into the 1968 Olympics, the world long jump record was 27 feet, 4¾ inches, shared by American Ralph Boston and Soviet Igor Ter-Ovanesyan. Over the years there were incremental improvements to previous records however, all of that changed in 1968 when in six seconds, Bob Beamon, a 22-year-old New Yorker took exactly 19 loping strides and hit the sand in the pit at 29 feet, 2½ inches!

Not only was he the the first long jumper in history to reach 28 feet, he also became the first to reach 29 feet, he shattered the world record by an unbelievable 21 ¾ inches which went unchallenged for almost 23 years.

Bob had barely qualified for the Olympic long jump finals after fouling in two of his qualifying runs and only through sch ere determination, perseverance and an unfettered desire to win, he set a new world record.

Some people would say "so what", I would suggest, it takes someone like a"Bob Beamon" to smash through the status quo, crush current records, paradigms, cultures and thinking in order to establish the new bench mark and standards for which all others will be measured.  If you lack the passion to win, you might as well surrender to the competition now because you have become redundant and will be left behind.

The Bob Beamon's of the world need to stand up and declare themselves and, smart organizations need to embrace them because, "you can't do today's job with yesterday's methods and expect to be in business tomorrow".

Monday, January 30, 2012

Talent Matters: 2012 HRPA Trade Show - #hrpa2012

Talent Matters: 2012 HRPA Trade Show - #hrpa2012: Come Chat with Talent Matters at the HRPA 2012 Annual Conference & Trade Show - Booth #231 - February 1-3, 2012 We hope to see you at the ...

2012 HRPA Trade Show - #hrpa2012

Come Chat with Talent Matters at the HRPA 2012 Annual Conference & Trade Show - Booth #231 - February 1-3, 2012

We hope to see you at the 2012 HRPA Annual Conference & Trade Show.  Visit our booth (#231, Aisle 200) for your chance to win one of eight new iPod shuffles or the grand prize of a new iPad2 64 GB tablet computer with Wi-Fi + 3G.  We can discuss how our Human Resources Solutions firm can support your organizations Talent Acquisition and Talent Development needs.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Talent Matters: Leadership Development: Leading from the Middle -...

Talent Matters: Leadership Development: Leading from the Middle -...: Are the middle ranks in an organization a "spare tire" or are they "protective padding"? (I define the middle ranks as Manager and Director...

Leadership Development: Leading from the Middle -- Spare Tire or Protective Padding

Are the middle ranks in an organization a "spare tire" or are they "protective padding"?  (I define the middle ranks as Manager and Director level roles which have people management and budget responsibilities.)  In today's volatile economic times, headlines are dominated by stories of doom and gloom.  The story often involves the mass lay-off of middle management as a means to find savings and "trim the fat" in times when revenues fall short and profitability seems elusive.  This strategy is often carried out to drive short-term savings, have the appearance of a healthy balance sheet and deliver the optics that dramatic change is afoot.  While this strategy may achieve these short-term goals, I often wonder how well an organization will function in the long-term.  This begs the question: are the middle ranks simply a "spare tire" or are they essential "protective padding"?

In exploring this question, I happened upon an interesting article written by Vince Thompson appearing in the November 11, 2008 edition of CBS money watch titled, "10 Reasons Why You -- Managing in the Middle -- Are More Valuable Than Your Company's CEO", which is reproduced below:

"(MoneyWatch)  Yes, that's right. Peter Drucker said, "the purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer", and much of that work happens smack-dab in the middle of companies.

Sorry CEO's. We know the last few years have been tough with all of the scandals and talk about excessive pay. Now, just when you're starting to feel good again, we're throwing this at you. While it doesn't seem fair, stick with us for a minute and you'll see how we can all benefit. And don't worry--nobody is suggesting that you can't keep the town car or fly the corporate jet.

Now, ten solid reasons why You -- Managing in the Middle -- Are More Valuable than Your Company's CEO:

You know how stuff really gets done. Let's face it, process maps mean very little when you know that to get your PC up and running again, the fastest route is to buy a muffin for Oscar in IT.

You know what motivates individuals. You're with them every day. Sometimes it's cash, time off for a kid's event, or just some simple recognition. Whatever the case, you're in a position to help motivate both in- and extrinsically more than anyone else.

You know the customer well enough to get to the truth. You are them, they are you, and there's a symbiotic bond. More than anyone, the customer will tell you exactly what they need and how to sell to them.

You know the vendors as well as the competitive landscape. All that shooting the bull with Marvin, who supplies the whole industry, really pays off when he tells you that your biggest competitor is never going to get that new launch off the line. With some tweaks, your firm can make a killing!

You don't have to defend the original strategy. This is BIG! Since you didn't devise the strategy, you aren't obligated to defend it. Instead you can speak openly and tell it like it is. Do tell brothers and sisters--do tell!

You have the skills to get people of diverse backgrounds and in cross functional groups to work together. That's because you live with them every day. There's a big difference between telling people what to do and really working it out. You know how to work it out.

You know exactly what point your company is in the movie. You've been living it with the team, and more than anyone else you know if the team is ready to take the hill or go back and lick its wounds.

You know the believers. When the team needs to get motivated, you know who they turn to, and more importantly, you know what gets them fired up.

You can motivate with humor. You've got their trust; therefore you can joke a bit and have some fun. Fun is a great motivator, and you're the one best positioned to get them laughing.

You have the power to heal. When things go wrong you're best positioned to get people on the path to recovery with a vision for the future.

So why do we need you, Mr. CEO?  Well--you've done one heck of a job getting people and money in the right place. Hats off to you for that! When it comes down to it, dealing with regulations, reporting issues and testifying before congress doesn't seem like much fun either-- so thanks for that as well.

In a business world where everything is changing overnight and entire industries are being reshaped: from Manufacturing to Music, Transportation to Telecom, it's quite likely that the next great business model won't come from you but rather from us, the middle person.

So let's make a deal right now. You CEO's keep doing what you're doing and we'll be out of your hair, but when it comes to strategy, policy, employee recognition, and benefits we'd like to be in on that conversation. Deal?"

While this is not the definitive answer to the question I posed, Mr. Thompson does raise some very interesting points.  Although he pokes fun at CEO's, I think most smart CEO's do get it.  For those that don't, they too may one day find that some antsy shareholder views them as "dead weight".  


Please click on human resources consulting for more information on Talent Matters.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Talent Matters: Recruitment Tips and Team Dynamics

Talent Matters: Recruitment Tips and Team Dynamics:

As I sat in the departure lounge at Pearson in Toronto the other day, I overheard a familiar conversation between two colleagues.  One of them was venting about how they spent a great deal of time, effort and money to hire what they thought would be their next "shining star" and future organizational leader.  Apparently, their new hire, who had impressive credentials, an outstanding resume and great charisma during the interview, turned out to be a dud.

While having impressive credentials, an outstanding resume and being charismatic during the interview process are undoubtedly important factors in any hiring decision, the hiring manager also needs to consider the candidate's personality type as it relates to "fit" within the broader team.  In my experience, sometimes hiring managers become awestruck by what they believe is "the perfect candidate" because they look so good on paper and appear to be very charming during the interview process.  They become so wedded to that person that they fail to consider whether they are the right "fit" for the team or the broader organization.

In order to avoid similar hiring mistakes, here are some factors that hiring managers should consider during the recruitment process:

Appreciate/Understand Team Dynamics: Do not underestimate the importance of "fit" as it relates to a candidate fitting into the existing team, group, department or functional cultural dynamics. 

Organizational Contribution: Be careful not to set a new incumbent up to fail by setting a high bar for them to achieve too lofty a goal.  More specifically, very rarely can one person single-handedly drive a disproportionate amount of organizational value, especially when they are new to an organization and in a steep learning curve. 

There's No "I" in "Team": Collaboration is key to most organizations.  By touting someone as the end all be all will not bode well for the rest of the team. 

Allies Are Key To Success: You need to ensure the incumbent focusses on building allies not enemies.  Oh too often the new hire is focused on demonstrating the value they bring to an organization which if not managed effectively, can be at the expense of relationship building with their peer, colleagues. 
Apart from not discussing hiring decisions in airports, the morale of the story is that hiring managers need to look beyond credentials and resumes, and equally weigh personality "fit"within the team and broader organization.  This will ultimately lead to better hiring decisions with employees who are the right fit for the organization.

Please click on human resources consulting for more information on Talent Matters.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Be "Insanely Great" - In Memory of Steve Jobs

As I settled in for the night in my hotel room while visiting a client in Western Canada, I turned on my treasured and indispensable companion - my MacBook Pro - and was deeply saddened when I clicked on Safari. (For those of you out there (if there are any) who don't own any Apple products, Safari is Apple's web browser). As would be expected, Safari defaults to Apple's website. I never bothered to change it.   The usual marketing-heavy (yet simplistic style of heading, image and movie elements set in geometric configuration against a white background) start page of the website had been replaced entirely by a simple tribute page. Steve Jobs, the brilliant, innovative, hard-driving, legendary, iconoclastic leader and visionary of all things Apple, had died.

While Steve's passing was not unexpected and I certainly did not know him or ever meet him, the world feels different without him in it.  By many accounts, Apple's success over the past decade has been attributed directly to Steve.  While I'm no expert in the area, the fact that he has more than 300 patents registered in his name, speaks volumes.  

It dawned on me that Steve was not just great, but in many ways was "insanely great" (a phrase often used by Steve).  That's why we are all the beneficiaries of such great products (some would even call "insanely great") and feel such a strong sense of loss by his passing.  That's the impact "insanely great" people have on others -- they are true visionaries, they move people to do great and even "insanely great" things, they inspire others, they innovate, they build on "insanely great" things and make them even better.  While we have all heard the stories that Steve wasn't perfect and may have not been the ideal people person, one of the things we can learn from Steve is to be "insanely great".   By being "insanely great", you will inspire others to be as well.

This is something all leaders should strive to be -- be insanely great.  Leaders don't have to emulate Steve Job's exact style, but they need to strive to be brilliant, to be innovative, to be hard-driving, to be legendary, to be iconoclastic and to be a visionary.  In doing so, they will lead others to follow in their footsteps.

In closing, I wanted to leave you with a few poignant words from Steve Job's commencement address to Standford University's 2005 graduating class:

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on."

Please click on human resources consulting to be linked to the Talent Matters website.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Career De-Railers - Hero To Zero Before You Know It

Most professionals over the course of their career will encounter people that are brilliant and seem to have all the qualities to become high-fliers with the potential of reaching the upper echelons of senior management. On occasion, these seemingly talented people find their careers crashing and burning and after the dust has settled, they wonder what has happened that caused them to go from hero to zero in no time flat.

In many of these cases there are some clear reasons why this happens and indicators if paid attention to early enough and addressed, would have potentially led to a different career outcome.  I will outline some of the most common career de-railers, that if diagnosed early, can in most cases be overcome:
  1. Being Inflexible - some indicators of this de-railer are being too vocal about their disagreement with senior management, having difficulty adapting to changes in strategy, organizational structure or new leadership.  These people may be seen as arrogant, perfectionists, defensive or too invested in their own points of view.
  2. Failure to Build Trust or Betrayal of One's Trust - some indicators of this de-railer are not "walking the talk" or inconsistent or unpredictability in their behaviours or actions.  These people can be seen as overly ambitious, devious or conflict avoiders.
  3. One Trick Ponies - some indicators of this de-railer are relying heavily on one single strength only, being too comfortable in their role or having a very narrow perspective.  These people can be seen as  inexperienced, lazy or overvaluing a skill they personally possess.
  4. The Water-Walker - some indicators of this are people who are fast-tracked through a number of critical roles and do not work through complete business cycles or choose only to build a superficial understanding of these roles.  These people can be seen as not valuing the experiential opportunity, having an advocate who doesn't understand the importance of hands-on learning or just naive, or worse, just plain arrogant.
The remedy for these de-railers are early diagnosis, acknowledgement, acceptance and a willingness to seek coaching and support to take material steps to address them.  If people choose to manage through these detailers, there is a strong possibility they will be able to retain the title of hero and avoid being labeled as a zero after what is usually a very public fall from grace.

Talent Matters can support organizations and professionals alike to diagnose these and other career de-railers and provide coaching, and realistic development strategies to keep you on track.

Monday, August 15, 2011

What Do Your Employee's Really Want From Their Boss

As a follow-up to my last blog "What Your Boss Really Wants From You - The Six Golden Rules", I am writing this blog from the perspective of the employee.  

If you manage people you have most likely had many occasion to ponder this question, what do my employee's really want from me?  After twenty-two years of coaching both employees and managers alike, I have found that there are some fairly consistent answers to this question.

In my experience the vast majority of employees I have interacted with consistently identify the following four things that they want from their boss:

  1. Have A Basic Interest In Me As A Person- most employees want to know that their boss actually has some basic level of genuine interest in their working and home lives e.g. what type of work motivates them, what employees do on their down time and what their interests or hobbies are.
  2. Have My Back - employees would like to know their boss is loyal to them and will go to bat for them if the circumstance requires it.
  3. Acknowledge My Contributions - employees do like to receive praise and positive feedback as it validates their sense of self worth and contribution to organizational successes.
  4. Treat Me Fairly - they expect their manager to be fair in their delegation of workload, access to opportunities for advancement and allocation of annual pay/merit increases.
So if you have direct reports, you will want to ensure these fundamentals are in place as they provide the basis for a respectful and healthy working relationship.  So to use an analogy, just like a chair, all four legs need to be firmly in place and planted on the ground in order for you to have strength and stability so should you choose to follow these four simple but impactful tips, you should have the building blocks for a healthy and successfully working relationship with your employees that will pay dividends.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What Does Your Boss Really Want From You - The Six Golden Rules

Have you ever wondered what your boss really wants from you?
After twenty-two years of coaching both employees and managers alike, I have found that there are some fairly consistent answers to this question.

In my experience the vast majority of managers I have interacted with consistently identify the following six basic tips/rules:

  1. Make Me Look Good - yes that is right, every boss expects their subordinates to help them look good across all levels of the organization.
  2. Display Loyalty - they expect you to openly display loyalty to them.
  3. Be An Enabler - they expect you to find ways to further their agenda and help them succeed within the organization.
  4. Don't Patronize Me - they expect their subordinates to challenge their ideas and decision however, this needs to be done respectfully and remember, no one likes push back for the sake of push back.
  5. Be A Low Maintenance Employee - bosses appreciate a self reliant employee as this will enabler your boss to focus on delivering key functional or business priorities versus being required to micro manage issues.
  6. Be Honest With Them - let them know what your career expectations are so they can find ways to support your development.

So if you have a fairly typical boss it would benefit you to understand their motives and follow these six basic rules for successfully managing your relationship with them.  If you do this it will ultimately pay dividends for both your career and relationship with your boss.

Be sure to check out my next blog where, I will write about "What Do Employees Really Want From Their Boss?"


Friday, June 3, 2011

Maximize the Success of Your Project and Cross-functional Teams

While standing in line at the local Starbucks the other day, I was in the all too familiar and unlucky position of standing behind a couple of bright-eyed neophytes with their noses pressed into a detailed list that read like War and Peace.  You know the types I'm talking about!  I overheard them saying the order was for their team.  It then dawned on me that more thought likely went into creating the list for the local coffee run than in bringing the team itself together.  I've seen this common mistake time and time again where very little thought goes into bringing organizational talent together to manage a highly strategic business project. 

Over the years, I have had significant experience with project work involving cross-functional teams.  Talent is brought together from across the organization to play a critical role on projects of strategic business importance.  Too often, however, little to no attention is paid to the dynamics of the team and how this can impact on productivity and team success. 

In my experience, effective project leaders typically do the following in order to maximize project and cross-functional teams success:
  1. Talent: they have a clear and unbiased view of who their top talent is across each function within their organization.
  2. Scope: they clearly define the key deliverables, timelines/milestones and success measures associated with the project while ensuring they have been vetted and validated with all key stakeholders.
  3. Champion: they ensure there is overt support for the project and its team across all levels of the organization and they also remove any potential roadblocks the team may encounter.
  4. Communication: they typically take the approach of utilizing many mediums to over communicate their key messages to all affected parties.
  5. Resources: they assemble all required resources (e.g., internal talent, external consultants, equipment, etc.) to ensure the project's success.
  6. Recognition: they make sure that celebrations for achieving key milestones are planned along with additional team/individual recognition events.
  7. Debrief/Post Mortem: they ensure that time is allotted for the completion and documentation of project debriefing session(s) that include the identification of key successes and key learnings/failures.
Most project leaders fall short in effectively planning for the integration of team members so as to maximize their full potential and reduce the amount of potential conflict that arises when groups of talented professionals get placed together on a project team, particularly where they have little or no previous working relationships together.

My proposed solution is to "access style preferences"  This approach enables team members to have visibility and an understanding of their own and fellow team members' style preferences relating to how they gather information, make decisions and interact with others.   Ultimately, this will enable teams to maximize their effectiveness. 

The tool of choice with over 2 million assessments administered last year alone is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) psychometric assessment. This assessment can be facilitated in a supportive, expedient and cost-effective manner by a certified practitioner.  MBTI has proven to be extremely effective in supporting individual and team dynamics, as well as providing a platform for life long learning, personal growth and development.

If you or your organization is interested in learning more about the variety of applications of the MBTI tool or would like to schedule an individual or team assessment, please contact Neale Harrison of Talent Matters Inc. at

... I finally did get my grande, non-fat, decaf, sugar-free vanilla latte.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Workplace Conflict - Just Like Having Kids or An Opportunity

When most people go to work their focus is usually on doing a good job not having to mediate unproductive and sometimes personal/morale damaging conflict. Some people would suggest they get lots of opportunity to mediate relationships at home with their children or sometimes at those crazy family functions and therefore want to avoid/minimize having to mediate relationships in the workplace.

Well there is a solution that exists which can proactively minimize the amount of workplace conflict that arises i.e. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  This versatile assessment of personality type aids in accessing people’s preferences for interacting with others, gathering information, making decisions and organizing their  lives. Widely used for individual, group and organizational development, MBTI can help people make business, career, personal decisions and reduce workplace conflicts. Over two million people gained valuable insight about themselves and others by undergoing a MBTI assessment last year.

Some of the many applications of the MBTI are as follows:

Conflict Resolution: Workplace conflicts reduce innovation, productivity and job satisfaction. Company leaders, coaches, managers and human resource professionals can rely on MBTI assessments, reports and support tools to help individuals deal more effectively with clashes between co-workers, communication breakdowns, power struggles and to learn how to constructively work through disagreements.

Team Building: Organizations depend on teams that work together effectively. Our team building solutions cover team development from start to finish, helping individuals learn how to minimize conflict, adjust to change, and improve communication. 

Leadership Development: Leaders need specific developmental strategies based on who they are and what they are capable of achieving. MBTI can help them to identify their preferences for dealing with stress and change, explore their personal leadership style and assist in their development of effective interpersonal relationships at work. 
If you want to increase your business performance, enhance communication, reduce workplace conflict and support your leaders' development, you should consider having your talent undergo an MBTI assessment.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

4 Things You Can Do To Keep Your Top Talent from Becoming Free Agents

I have written a number of blogs that talk about what organizations and employees can do to ensure that there is a balanced and positive working relationship (see, for example, Is Your Employment Relationship In Balance - Tipping the Scales In Your Favour, Are You A Strategic Partner or A Bureaucrat and When Is It Time to Move On 

I recently read an interesting article entitled "Will your best employees split because they can?" written by Allison Hemming and appearing in the March 21, 2011 edition of Fortune magazine.  This article reaffirmed my position that organizations and leaders should not take a passive approach to managing talent within their organizations; to do so would be at their peril.  In fact, talent, is often one of the most valuable assets of an organization and successful organizations know this.  This was reaffirmed by David Overton, the founder of the billion-dollar restaurant chain, Cheesecake Factory, in his advice in an article entitled "Cheesecake Factory's Winning Formula" appearing in the May 2, 2011 edition of Fortune magazine:  "Focus on people ... In this business it's all location, location, location.  But once you grow, it's all people, people, people." 

Allison Hemming's article offers four key suggestions:
  1. Know who they are - find key attributes that separate true stars from the rest, then rank your team and then focus on those employees who can execute your current business plan.
  2. Do some shopping - research the market value of your people and compare it to their current pay and the cost of having to replace them.
  3. Set up a powwow - let your star employees tell you what they need, they may not always be looking for just more cash, they may be looking for a new role or clarity around their career path.
  4. Step up - if they deserve a raise or promotion, make it happen as soon as possible and if you can't, then let them know what you intend to do and the timing of when you will address this. Add some public praise, it makes people feel great and it also signals to others your definition of excellence.
Most employees know that job security is more of an illusion these days and the definitions of organizational loyalty and long service are being re-written.  Consequently, progressive employers and leaders, who understand that all employees are free agents, often are proactive and take every appropriate measure to shore up their key talent.  Key or "KEEN" talent (talent who are knowledge and have experience, expertise, and developed relationship networks) is usually your single biggest contributor to bottom line profitability and like every other significant asset, needs to be protected. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Is Your Employment Relationship in Balance? Tipping the Scales in Your Favour

It is astounding how many conversations I have recently engaged in about this very topic with a wide variety of professionals across many industries and organizations: 

First of all, what do I mean by "is your employment relationship in balance"?  Simply said:  are you as an employee deriving as much benefit out of the employment relationship as your organization is deriving from you?

Let's first identify some examples of what you, the employee, may bring to an organization that is viewed by most progressive employers as valuable attributes:
  1. Knowledge - you may have specialized knowledge, skills, experience and/or professional expertise that is required to be effective within your particular role or organization.
  2. Relationships - you may have solid professional relationships which you leverage to the benefit of your role and/or the organization.
  3. Leadership - you may be an extremely effective leader and as a result of your leadership skills, you are able to positively influence up, down, across, inside and outside of your organization to help you achieve business results.
  4. Work Ethic - you may have an admirable work ethic that enables you to drive sustainable business results over a protracted period of time as compared to others.
  5. Positive Attitude/Personality - you may have an infectious "glass half-full" personality that enables you to focus on the positive thereby creating a magnet for others to gravitate toward, even when times are tough.

If you possess any one or a combination of these positive attributes, then you have to ask the question, am I being rewarded appropriately for them?

Some examples of being appropriately rewarded may include one or more of the following: 
  1. Recognition - are you seeing your fair share of job promotions, competitive annual increases, employee awards, letters of commendation and/or enrollment in developmental courses, etc.?
  2. Growth - are you continuing to grow and develop your skills, knowledge, experience and leadership skills on a personal and professional level?
  3. Remuneration - base salary, commissions, bonuses, etc., are they reflective of your worth as a free agent in the open marketplace?
  4. Respect - do you feel your boss, peers and organization truly respect and value you and your contributions to the business?

Baring this in mind, when you weigh what you bring to the table (i.e., "your attributes") versus what you receive in recognition for them from your organization (i.e., "the organizational rewards"), which one of the following three scenarios best describes your current situation:
  1. When the scales are reasonably balanced between your attributes and the organizational rewards, generally speaking, most employees should be content with their employment situation;
  2. If you happen to be one of the lucky ones where the scales tips in your favour, then be thankful for what you have achieved, but don't be surprised if at some point your employer takes steps to even the playing field; or
  3. If the scales tip in favour of the organization, the question then becomes by how much?  As long as there is not a significant disparity, arguably most employees should be content with their employment situation with the caveat that they need to ensure the scales don't continue to tip away from them. If, however, there is significant disparity, one legitimate reason may be that you are new to the position and there is a steep learning curve.  In the short term, this is perfectly acceptable in many circumstances.  On the other hand, if this is not the case, you should give serious thought to addressing the imbalance (please look to future blogs where I will be discussing ways in which you can address this imbalance in a constructive manner).

Both employers and employees alike need to be cognizant of the ever-shifting balance of the employment relationship scales and make a concerted effort to maintain equilibrium where ever possible.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

I am in Transition ... "Damaged Goods or An Equally Strong Job Prospect"?

Sometimes good -- and even great -- employees are let go from organizations not as a result of performance, but for various other reasons which I'll get into below.  Strictly speaking, these employees have been "terminated without cause".  You often hear people in such circumstances describe themselves as having been "downsized", "right-sized", "made redundant" or "severed".  In outplacement circles, the more appropriate vernacular is to refer to such persons as being "in transition".

There are a litany of reasons why good, loyal and productive employees may find themselves going through transition, including: 
  1. Organizational restructuring  (i.e., their role no longer exists or the role is not viewed as driving the required organizational value).  
  2. Cost reduction measures (i.e., reduction in SG&A or overhead costs).
  3. A new leadership regime (i.e, new leadership wanting to be seen as making overt people changes without fully realizing its impact). 
  4. Political fall-out (i.e, backing the wrong leader, pushing the wrong issue, not being a "yes person"). 
  5. Falling out of favour with the person's boss or peer group or having "personality conflicts" with these people. 
These are some of there more common reasons why good and otherwise capable people may find themselves working with outplacement firms to re-write there resumes and, at times, re-invent themselves and re-calibrate their career expectations. 

For anyone who finds themselves in these circumstance, it is not uncommon for them to go through a number of emotional stages, including: 
  • shock (of the initial event and related notification);
  • anger (at their boss, organization, un-affected peers and coworkers); 
  • embarrassment (what will people think of me); 
  • self-doubt (will I ever land on my feet); 
  • disappointment (when rejection is experienced relating to positions they have applied to); 
  • excitement (as they receive job offers); and 
  • exhilaration (when they land their next career opportunity).
The question often asked behind closed doors by recruiters and hiring managers alike if a job prospect is currently in transition or has been through transition in their recent past is:  are they damaged goods (i.e., sub-optimal performers, organizational cultural outcasts, problem employees, desperate to accept any job offer and/or in some other manner inept)?

Based on my 20 plus years of human resources experience, I would suggest that while it is still vitally important to do due diligence on any prospect that has gone through "transition" and drill-down into the reasons for their circumstances, these candidates may sometimes be seen to bring a higher degree of professional maturity to a role that may not otherwise be present with candidates who have comparable credentials but not experienced transition themselves.  

Nothing should ever be assumed when recruiting and selecting talent for any search assignment!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Look Beyond The Base: "Total Compensation"

Whether you are a hiring manager or a job applicant you should ensure that you have a full and complete picture about all the components of the compensation plan an employer is prepared or able to offer. This is key information for a hiring manager to have so it can be used to sell a prospective employee on all of the benefits of joining an organization.  As a prospective employee, knowing and being able to quantify all of the components of "total compensation" will enable you to make a more informed decision as to whether or not to join an organization. 

The term "total compensation" is most often used to describe not only a candidate's salary and wages, but also all the various plans, programs, benefits and opportunities that become available to the incumbent during their employment.

Other components of "total compensation" can include:
  1. Flexible Work Hours - compressed work week, telecommuting or working from home and flexible working hours.
  2. Professional Development - tuition reimbursement programs, professional association dues payments and funding for attending conferences or workshops.
  3. Pay for Time Not Worked - sick pay, sabbaticals, floater days, vacation entitlements and carry over of vacation days not used.
  4. Health, Accident and Liability Protection - flex benefit plans, competitive levels of co-insurance and no deductions, no caps and or reasonable spending limits on prescription drugs along with travel accident insurance coverage.
  5. Disability Coverage - do short term and long term disability plans exist and are the reimbursement levels competitive (e.g. STD 12 months coverage at 100% of salary, LTD level of 60% of the employees pre-injury earnings).
  6. Deferred Income Benefits - is there a pension plan, does the employer match or contribute to the plan and is the plan a defined benefit or defined contribution plan.
  7. Company Vehicle - does the company offer a company car as a perk and do they pay for the insurance and operating costs (e.g. fuel, maintenance, etc.). 
All compensation considerations need to be understood and assessed in addition to base salary and bonus numbers in order to gain a full understanding of the total compensation an employer is prepared or able to offer.  Knowing all of these components of "total compensation" will lead to hiring managers making a stronger articulation of the job offer and also enable prospective employees to make a more informed decision to either accept or decline a job offer.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Is it Better to Be Liked or Respected as a Leader? - "The Power of Engagement"

Some leaders ponder the notion "is it better to be liked or respected by my subordinates and peers".

In my experience, I have too often only seen the following two traditional approaches to leadership: 

Those who seek respect: Some leaders subscribe to the view that they would rather be respected than liked. They tend to keep a professional and emotional distance between themselves and their peers and subordinates. They typically drive for business results and are very demanding, keeping high standards and expect the same of their peers and subordinates. The perceived positive aspects of this approach to leadership is the leader is viewed as hard-driving, focused first and foremost on  delivering strong business results and typically seen as surrounding themselves with like-minded staff. The negative aspects, however, associated with this puritanical approach to leadership are that these leaders are often viewed as traditional, autocratic, non-dynamic, lacking creativity in their approach  and often risk alienating high quality staff as a result.  (Note:  Please watch for more on this topic in an upcoming blog on the shift in the economy from the "information age" to the "conceptual age" and what that means for talent.)

Those who want to be liked: Some leaders seek validation through developing positive connections with their peers and subordinates. These leaders may be viewed as having a motherhood and "apple pie" approach to their professional relations, being too forgiving or soft and reluctant to compromise relationships for results. Some perceived advantages to this approach to leadership are that peers and subordinates can feel a deep and genuine bond with the leader resulting in the leader creating a followership who will go to great lengths to support them. The downside of this style of leadership is that some may see these leaders as too soft and placing too much value on personal relationships versus driving business results.

Instead of being a slave to either of these two approaches, I recommend a third approach that seeks to achieve a balance between being respected and being liked, but which also ultimately leads to higher organizational profitability.

Seek to achieve a high level of employee engagement: In this third approach to leadership, leaders attempt to achieve an appropriate balance between focussing on driving business results while equally valuing strong professional relations with peers and subordinates. This approach to leadership, when effectively mastered, enables the leader to develop strong professional and personal relationships with peers and staff while still driving significant business results through their peers and subordinates. One of the key drivers of success to this approach is the leader's ability to harness the discretionary efforts of their peers and subordinates. Discretionary effort is defined as the effort staff choose to deploy over and above what they would normally expend under normal job conditions. This is also referred to as "employee engagement".  A number of studies have found that there is a direct link between high levels of employee engagement and employee retention, greater job satisfaction and the achievement of greater business results, which all lead to higher organizational profitability.

Achieving a high level of employee engagement should be an approach that leaders should strive to achieve.  If genuinely subscribed to, it will not only drive greater organizational profitability through higher employee retention, reduced absenteeism and greater employee discretionary efforts, but will also lead to a better work environment for all.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Leadership Trait Theory

I happened upon an interesting article by Mark Shead appearing in in which he challenges "Leadership Trait Theory", the theory that people are born leaders, that I thought was a worthwhile read and would be a good segue into my next blog about leadership: 

"Leadership trait theory is the idea that people are born with certain character traits or qualities. Since certain traits are associated with proficient leadership, it assumes that if you could identify people with the correct traits, you will be able to identify leaders and people with leadership potential.

Most of the time the traits are considered to be naturally part of a person’s personality from birth. From this standpoint, leadership trait theory tends to assume that people are born as leaders or not as leaders.
There is a lot of value in identifying the character traits associated with leadership. It is even more valuable to identify the character traits that followers look for in a leader. These traits would be the characteristics of an individual who is most likely to attract followers.

However, the idea that leadership traits are inborn and unchangeable appears to be incorrect. It is true that many of our dispositions and tendencies are influenced by our personalities and the way we are born. However, most people recognize that it is possible for someone to change their character traits for the worse. Someone who is known for being honest can learn to be deceitful. The whole idea of saying that someone was “corrupted” is based on the fact that people can learn bad character traits.

If people can learn bad character traits and become different than the way they are naturally through conditioning, it logically follows that they can learn good character traits as well. A person who is prone to being dishonest can learn to be honest. A person who avoids risks can learn to take risks. It may not be easy, but it can be done.

The book The Leadership Challenge identifies 20 character traits that are generally associated with good leaders. The top five traits are:
  • Honesty
  • Inspiring
  • Forward-Looking
  • Competent
  • Intelligent
These are all traits that someone can learn to implement. It may not be easy, but with practice you can become more inspiring, with practice you can become more honest, with practice you can become more competent.

What makes this less difficult than it first seems, is that these are character traits that followers are looking for in a leader. By simply displaying these character traits more consistently an individual is able to change how they are perceived. Sometimes it isn’t a problem with changing your internal characteristics—it is just an issue of displaying those characteristics more openly."

Mark's article suggests that although some leaders are born, leadership traits can most certainly be learned.  In fact, leadership characteristics may already be inherent in some individuals, but "followers" just don't know about them.  These individuals just need to work on displaying those characteristics more openly.   In a nutshell, nature or nurture! 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Etiquette "E-body language, techno-communications"

For over 25 years, Diane Craig, President of Corporate Class Inc., has provided corporate consultations, helping hundreds of men and women realize their professional and personal goals. She regularly speaks at national business meetings, delivers comprehensive workshops to corporate groups, and offers private consultations on executive presence, business etiquette, dress and dining.

Diane was kind enough to allow me to share this post which I found very relevant and an interesting read.

E-body language — cornerstone of business communications

When I established my Executive Presence Training Program, body language was an important building block. Still is, when you consider that our strongest impressions are conveyed visually. The subtleties or nuances of even minimal body movements and gestures provide important signals. Body language speaks volumes.

Today, however, there’s another lingua franca in the workplace that has become the cornerstone of all business communications. Although often referred to as e-body language, I think “techno-communications” really covers it all — email, cell phones, mobile devices. When we can’t see a person speaking, we look for other interpretative clues to help decipher the message. Words and tone become the carrier pigeons for emails, text messaging and obviously, phone calls.

But just for a minute, let’s return to body language. Professor Albert Mehrabian is frequently quoted for his non-verbal communication research on what’s often called The 3 V’s: visual, vocal, verbal. His published studies indicate that, person-to-person, we interpret messages:

• Visually — 55% from facial expressions
• Vocally — 38% from voice quality and the way words are spoken
• Verbally —7% from the actual words

With techno or e-communications, the relevance of the actual word choice increases dramatically. Obviously, the spoken tone upstages language on phone calls — we hear anger or joy — but with emails, words become the stars of the show. From the minor 7% bit player in face-to-face communication, words now move up to 70%, a big change of roles.

Just for a moment, consider the permanence of email. The sender has no control over the message, in terms of its “replay” frequency or readership. And this is worrisome for the simple reason that as we have become more and more dependent on email and message texting instead of personal meetings, we’ve become not lazy or careless, just less attentive. When it comes to trendspotting, I’m on autopilot, and I’ve noticed this shift. There’s a time for easy-breezy e-chitchat, emoticons and buzzword abbreviations like “BTW,” but business email isn’t the place. I’m not advocating a return to old-fashioned correspondence. Au contraire. Techno-savvy communication is essential in our feverishly fast-paced world. I’m simply pointing out that attention-to-detail is mandatory with every email or text message.

We all make email typos. SpellChecker isn’t clever enough to highlight “tow” when we meant to type “two,” in a hastily composed message. Take an extra minute to proofread; it’s such an easy solution. Robert Whipple, CEO of Leadergrow and author of Understanding E-Body Language, raises an important point:

“Everyone knows that E-mail is different from conversations, but often people do
not consciously change communication patterns based on that knowledge. For
example, people cannot modify content of an e-mail based on the real-time visible reaction of the other party as is possible in face-to-face conversations. Instead, all of the information is presented at once without feedback. Misunderstandings or hurt feelings are common.”

Then there’s the embarrassment-email category. It could be called really-big-blunders and criticism heads the list. Believe me, a follow-up email with an “Oops” subject line just doesn’t strike the right chord! And remember, the original, offensive message is floating around in cyberspace for posterity. When in doubt, put the brakes on. Send the message to yourself and reassess its implications.

Texting’s inherent limitations are in some ways a bonus. We tend to be more forgiving about the often heavily abbreviated and occasionally hieroglyphic content. Mobile devices function as prompters or mini-message boards — it’s the protocols of usage that are the problem. Park your mobile device in your pocket or purse when you attend a meeting. Every time you’re tempted to make an exception, don’t. Remember instead your suppressed sense exasperation when fidgeting fingers signaled you were talking to yourself.

Same story for cell phones. Of course, we all know cell phones must be parked and off before meetings, big or small, but most people seem to think this rule only applies to others. The fact is, from cell phones to emails and mobile devices, techno-communications present a long learning curve. I think we’ve just started the journey.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Eight questions NOT to ask at the job interview

The phone call you have been waiting for finally arrives for a job interview. Are you ready? Have you researched the company? Are your Situation/Action/Result – SAR-  stories articulate and snappy?

The interview is not a one way conversation. An experienced interviewee should be prepared to ask the interviewer questions as they go through their time together. Prepare the questions you are going to ask the hiring manager in your next interview, as questions are expected; but, stay away from these:
  • Salary: Never, as in never, ask what the position pays. Until a hiring manager determines your fit and expertise they may be flexible with salary, don’t give away your asking price or ask how much the job pays – they just might be willing to pay more than you are expecting.
  • Vacation time/Benefits/sick days: Don’t expect an offer if you are already suggesting you need time off. Wait until the contract is signed before mentioning pre planned trips or personal leave.
  • Time in lieu/overtime:  If you are on salary, expect you will be working 40 – 44 hours without extra compensation; the higher the salary, the more overtime is expected and not compensated for. If you want to negotiate time in lieu once the offer has been made, do it then.
  • Expense accounts/car expenses: Don’t think of an expense account as additional income, it is taxable. Expense remuneration is pretty standard across the board within a company and it is not usually discussed until an offer has been accepted.
  • Health issues: You are under no obligation to disclose past illnesses or disabilities that do not pertain to the job responsibilities as outlined in the job description – don’t bring them up.
  • Past conflicts: Don’t speak negatively of past positions or bosses. Keep the reason you left explanation as general as possible. It is perfectly fine to say your values were not congruent with that of the new manager or management or that there were personal differences.  You also don’t want the interviewer to think you will ever speak ill of them.
  • A higher up position: Don’t interview for any other position than the one you applied for. If you have ambitions of moving up, great, but stay focused on what you can contribute NOW. Don’t ever tell the interviewer you would eventually like their job.
  • Personal stuff: The interviewer is NOT your friend; do not share any personal information no matter how well you think you are “bonding.” The answer to “tell me about yourself” is not how many children you have or your favorite holiday.
Article writtine by Collen Clarke 2010.

Monday, February 28, 2011

"Attitude": An Important Component of the Hiring Decision

A candidate's "attitude" can be a strong predictor of their future performance, however, not all interviewers probe this dimension of an applicant's capabilities during the interview process.  This is especially relevant given attitude is closely tied to motivation and job performance.
A three-part behavioural-based skills assessment can be utilized during the applicant screening process to access for effective attitude: 
  1. Firstly, the interviewer needs to design a behavioural question that is based on a real life challenge the applicant will face in their new role at your organization.  This will allow you to assess the candidate's effectiveness of managing through adversity.
  2. Secondly, the interviewer must be prepared to explore or probe the response the candidate provided in responding to the "challenging situational-based" question as stated above.
  3. Thirdly, the interviewer should ask the candidate what end result they expect to achieve from their proposed actions.
 This approach to questioning is known as the "O-SAE" approach to behavioural-based interviewing:
  • O-S, stands for "obstacle situation" (e.g., "tell me about a time when you faced _____?")
  • A, stands for "action taken"  (e.g., "what actions did you take?")
  • E, stands for "end result" (e.g., "what was the end result?")
How the applicant responds to these behavioural-based interview questions will provide the interviewer with indicators of whether they have a "can do attitude" and will persevere to achieve their goals, or choose to explain why the goal could/can not be obtained.  Interviewers who utilize this approach to screening and selection will increase their odds of hiring a candidate with the right "attitude", and thus, right fit for the organization.

Friday, February 18, 2011

When is it time to move on?

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life."         

While there are many reasons why people stay in jobs that they no longer like, there comes a time when people need to question the value of staying with an employer where they may be over-invested.

If you are experiencing any of the following, you should seriously think about exploring alternative career options: 
  1. Lack of upward mobility.
  2. Waning support from your manager.
  3. Offering of "so-called" opportunities that do not align with your career aspirations.
  4. Biased, unfair or overly critical performance reviews based on hearsay or unsubstantiated allegations.
  5. Reduced decision-making autonomy. 
  6. Shrinking scope of key accountabilities/responsibilities. 
  7. Lesser qualified and/or experienced co-workers are promoted in advance of you.
  8. Pay increases or bonuses cease or are not reflective of your performance or the organization's performance. 
  9. Continuing lack of support to deliver on mandates.
  10. Your "political position" within the organization is demoted. 
True talent know they are free agents and have the right to demand organizational investment in their career growth, and likewise, great organizations "get this" and find ways to enable true talent to realize their full potential!

For an interesting article on how many managers violate common rules of workplace etiquette, see the following article appearing in the February 14, 2011 edition of The Wall Street JournalFive signs you're a bad boss

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What Not To Say On Your Resume

The following are examples of what some highly qualified applicants have included on their resumes and/or cover letters that most likely led to their de-selection from prospective employers:
  1. Exaggerated or misrepresented skills, experience and/or qualifications.
  2. Salary expectations in their career objective statement.
  3. Pointing out the fact they were terminated from a job.
  4. Fabricated business relationships.
  5. Listing political, religious or other affiliations.
  6. Including any personal information (e.g., age, marital status, etc.).
  7. Having spelling and/or grammatical errors. 
While the foregoing examples may seem rudimentary to many, it is surprising how often these seemingly "common knowledge" mistakes seep into job seekers' documentation however unintentional (or, in some cases, intentional) it may be!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Importance of a Competency-Based Approach to Recruitment and Employee Development

Definition of Competencies

Competencies are defined as "the measurable characteristics of a person (e.g., behavioural skills, technical skills, attributes, attitude, etc.) that are related to success at work" .

"Lominger", Example of a Tool for Assessing Comptencies

Michael M. Lombardo and Robert W. Eichinger, co-founders of Lominger Limited Inc., have conducted significant research in the area of management and executive development, and co-created the Leadership Architect Suite of management, executive and organizational development tools.  These tools can be used to access existing and prospective employees' level of capability in relation to leadership competencies. They can also be used to diagnosis developmental needs and create development plans.

Once an organization has determined what leadership competencies are critical to to driving business results, they can  conduct a competency-based assessment of their current talent pool in order to identify how best to approach leadership development and organizational succession planning initiatives.

The Importance of a Competency-Based Approach to Recruitment and Employee Development
  1. To recruit for specific leadership competencies that are lacking in your current employee group, enabling you to bolster the current capabilities within your team or organization.
  2. To be more strategic in how you deploy development dollars or opportunities to ensure you maximize your return on investment.  (For example, research has determined that the most difficult leadership competencies to develop at the executive level are conflict management, innovation management, personal learning and understanding others.  The same research also suggests that these competencies are the least prevalent within the general population.  Therefore, assuming these are competencies critical to your organization, you would realize a greater benefit by hiring candidates into your organization who are already strong in these competencies, rather than trying to develop current employees who are weak in them.)
  3. To develop concrete developmental action plans that will have a much greater chance of success and thus greater level of credibility with employees.
  4. To support your organizational succession planning efforts in a more structured and fact-based manner, which will yield better results in these efforts.
Neale Harrison*
*Neale Harrison, President of Talent Matters Inc., has been certified and licensed in the Lominger Leadership Architect Suite since 2003.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Are You a Strategic Partner or a Bureaucrat?

What are some of the important indicators that would suggest you are a strategic partner versus a bureaucrat?

1) Do you know what your businesses key performance indicators are, and more importantly, how to influence them?

2) To what degree have you developed your business and financial acumen skills?

3) Can you articulate what your organization's point of sustainable competitive advantage is?

4) Are you able to demonstrate how your efforts are directly or indirectly linked to driving increased profitability, market share or decrease operating costs?

5) Do you know, study or have competitive intelligence that outlines how and in what way your competitors out-perform your business?

6) Are your opinions or insights sought out by business leaders within your organization?

If you are able to positively answer the majority of these six indicators, then you are most likely a strategic partner who is able to demonstrate how you add value to your organization.  Conversely, if you struggle with most of these questions, then you may be a bureaucrat and you need to question the value your organization derives from your efforts!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Common Recruitment Missteps

During my 20 + years of recruiting top talent, I have observed a number of common recruitment missteps that led to either the derailment of the recruitment process or the hiring of suboptimal talent. 

The following are some of the most problematic recruitment missteps that should be avoided: 

(1)  Task vs. Strategic Opportunity:  Treating the recruitment process as a task rather than a strategic opportunity to enhance the team's or business' capabilities. Hiring managers should not expect exceptional results from the process if they approach it from a place of mediocrity - "effort equals reward".

(2)  Like Me Hire:  The "like me hire" (i.e., hiring the candidate with similar skills, capabilities and personality traits as the hiring manager). As I identified in my previous blog, a strategic hiring manager will target an applicant that possesses "complimentary capabilities" versus perpetuating homogeneity. 

(3)  Rushing or DelayingRushing the hiring decision to get a seat in a chair versus the best seat in a chair or, conversely, delaying, procrastinating or not placing high importance on the process, thereby losing momentum and in either case missing an opportunity to hire top talent.

(4)  Unrealistic Job PreviewFailing to provide the candidate with a realistic job preview. This critical step in the recruitment process should enable the job applicant to gain a clear picture of the rewarding aspects of the job, as well as the challenges one will face operating within the organization.  This step should enable the hiring manager and applicant to access suitability factors of importance to both parties.

(5)  Failure to Conduct Reference ChecksFailure to conduct reference checks or the verification of candidate credentials.  Under ideal circumstances, the hiring manager should conduct at least two reference checks themselves to ensure the applicant has accurately portrayed their work experience and achievements, as well as probing for specific developmental themes of the applicant .  Equally important, applicants should be asked to produce original documents or acceptable copies of their accreditations and other relevant credentials given various studies have suggested that between 5% to 10% percent of all applicants misrepresent credentials on their resumes.