Tag Archives: Organization

If I only had a Brain?

download“I could while away the hours conferring with the flowers consulting with the rain, I could dance and be merry life would be a dingle darry…if I only had a brain.” C’mon y’all know the song. Dorothy Gale’s best friend from OZ who guides, protects and consistently places himself in harms way to keep her safe..and constantly claims he knows nothing because his maker did not invest him with a brain. What we come to discover, rather quickly, is our friend the Scarecrow has common sense oozing through every pore of his being. No, he does not have a formal education or as the Wizard himself bestows a diploma; however when the going got tough it was the Scarecrow who had the answers, the plans and the gumption to get Dorothy’s rag tag band of compatriots through the tough times.

Ok Betsy get to the point! Well here goes, I was talking recently with the CEO of a mid-sized company that I work with (yes he has a brain and no he is not a scarecrow). We somehow got into a long discussion about how to break out of the rut so many similar businesses seem to be stuck in (unable to address challenges or move at all). I asked what he’s been doing to encourage staff to innovate and push the limits of current business practices.  First he looked at me like I had a third eye then he informed me that he’d hired a business consultant to come and observe, research and provide feedback into what he could do differently to move his business ahead.

Now for the record, this is a very intelligent and successful business man who has worked hard to grow his enterprise into what it is. That being said I wanted to scream “Please Use Your Brain!”. He is overlooking his single most valuable asset to experience incredible innovation and growth… his current employee brain trust. They may not have a formal education or be Bill Gates, Nikola Tesla or Thomas Edison; however they know your business, sometimes better than you do. Why wouldn’t you engage them?

As leaders we are constantly looking for the next big idea, what can we do differently that will catapult us ahead of the competition? So we read books, articles and blog posts on the next big idea, industry trends and we chase unicorns across rainbows only to end up in OZ with no idea how to get back. Do you know where most great new ideas come from? They come from the last place most managers look, your current employees… your employee brain trust.  Remember Dorothy’s famous line, “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home“. She didn’t need to go looking any further than her own back yard to find all the answers.

If you are looking for industry trends, talk to the people who live it every day. If you want customer feedback, talk to the people who talk to your customers. If you want to tap into institutional knowledge and find out what is possible, impossible, too hard, too easy or will have a real impact ask the people who live it every day. Inside of your current organization are your disruptors, game changers,  and generally brilliant people. Talk to them, pose the questions to them…you may just be surprised at what you find.

yes change is scary and hard and often expensive however, never as expensive as staying still while everyone else passes you by. Not as scary as watching your hard built dreams unraveling before your eyes cause you didn’t anticipate future trends and certainly not as hard as telling your entire workforce that your business is closing and they are losing their jobs.

Really, what do you have to lose by engaging those who already work for you and have a vested interest in your success? I’ll tell you…nothing, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

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What do I want to be when I grow up?

This has been one of those weeks that leaves me thinking about a lot. Now thinking generally is not something I have trouble with, unfortunately I’m one of those people who has a very difficult time turning off my brain…even when I want to.

This week I hosted a luncheon of  women leaders who’ve I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with. I wanted to give us an opportunity to hear an incredible speaker, enjoy a healthy lunch and forge a deeper understanding of one another. Yes it was quite the women’s power hour and I LOVED it! Hearing their stories of adversity, challenges, struggles, success and set-backs inspired me; however, there was one question that I’m still pondering? What is my purpose and am I happy where I am right now?

I spent a good part of the evening and the next day with those questions still in my head. What IS my purpose and AM I happy where I am right now? My answer at the time was, “Yes I’m happy with where I am right now however, I’m not done yet.” As for my purpose, well that’s a harder one. I have always been an incredibly mission driven person, I want to make the world better. How I have lived that out through the years has morphed; whether its working in education, non-profit organizations of all sizes, employment services or in the media; if I don’t feel like I’m making a difference I am not happy.

Today I attended a panel discussion composed of female leaders from across different industries. They shared their trials, tribulations and successes, what got them there, what lessons they’ve learned and the pitfalls they wished they had avoided. Again the topic came up…live your purpose. I was sitting with a friend of mine who is a source of inspiration, she lives her purpose every day. She knows exactly what impact she wants to make and how she’s going to make it, she has laser focus in her career choices.

Now I am the first to admit that my career path has not be planned. In each of my career moves, I was scared to death that I might not be able to do the job, which is ultimately what inspired me to make the jump, I LOVE a challenge.

The BIG question is, what do I want to do now? Is it time to have a more purposeful direction? Is it time for me to pick a career field and stick to it? Do I finally need to decide what I want to do when I grow up? Answer: NO! Not just no but heck NO!

I’ve had a wonderful roller coaster ride of a career path. In each of my fields I learned new skills, honed my talents and grew exponentially. I grew in ways needed to take my next leap. Not only that, but as I have been promoted, I look to hire people with similar paths. Individuals who have a varied background that bring new perspectives to what we do, challenge the norms and me. I love where I am and what I’ve become both personally and professionally, which wouldn’t have happened without my roller coaster career path. No I’m not done, I have LOTS left to do and I’m not the type of person to confine myself to one box, one purpose or one direction, where’s the fun in that?

My mother and father both worked for the same employer for 35+ years. I’ve seen their ups and downs and I’ll admit there were times that I actually thought, “that will not be me.” Don’t get me wrong they loved what they did, my parents taught me professional & familial responsibility, extremely high work ethic and integrity. All of which are incredibly important but, you don’t need to stay in the same job to exemplify those traits.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t have to decide what I want to do when I grow up. Only time, opportunity, bravery and passion will tell. One thing I know for sure, it’s going to be fun and I will make the world better in whatever way i’m able.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Humility Required…not Desired!

humility

For a highly motivated and driven individual, not hitting a goal hard and leaving it dying in the dust is never an option. However, sometimes it is a very painful reality. Finding a way through the complex range of emotions can be difficult…the key is not to be defeated. Yes, this sounds like the opening few sentences of the next “How To” business book or motivational “You Can Do Anything” article. Well it’s not. I missed a goal for the very first time in my professional career and it totally SUCKS.

I have felt defeated, bruised, my confidence is shaken and I have a hard time looking people in the face when they ask me how work is going. Especially those who have been friends for years and often talk of our various professional successes as if they are badges of honor. No, we don’t ever compare our successes like others do their cars, kids or paychecks. Believe it or not we do revel in each other’s triumphs.

Over the past weeks, it became painfully clear that although we had a bang-up year (in the best sense), my team was not going to achieve what we set out to achieve. I have been uncertain how to accept my defeat. In my mountaintop moments I often looked to my mentors, heroes and idols; could that be me some day? I want to make that kind of impact. How can I follow in their footsteps? Well the truth of the matter…I am.

Before Nelson Mandela united a nation, he was in prison for over two decades. How many setbacks did Abraham Lincoln suffer before he achieved the level of success that captures our imagination over one hundred and fifty years later. Did Steve Jobs achieve total world domination after building his first Mac…NO! Our leaders, heroes and idols are so often defined by their successes, it is after all,  what they are remembered for. We strive to be like them, read books and articles about them listen to endless TED Talks and quote them whenever we can. We don’t sit around thinking, “gosh I sure hope that I have to suffer the failures, humiliation, and persecution that they did“. GET REAL!!! Who wants to go through that, isn’t there a fast track, a short cut, a pill or “Get Out of Jail Free Card“, that can alleviate all that nastiness? No, my friend, there is not.

Yes, thinking through this, I do have a slightly better perspective. No, I am not back on my mountaintop, I’m still frustrated and a bit disillusioned. What I can say is this, knowing that the incredible people that I have looked up to all these years are indeed human and have also suffered failures and defeat does give me hope. I choose to move forward, learn where I need to adjust, how can I approach differently, rethink my box (not that I ever really worked in one) and go at it again.

We are not defined by our circumstances or what happens to us, anything that happens to us. We are defined by how we respond to, and through those circumstances. I may never change the world in the way some of my heroes have, but I will change it, and I will change it for the better. I will change it because I know I can and I will get up each day, no matter how difficult it may be, and go at it again.

Humility is a key characteristic of successful people. They have been knocked down, walked in others shoes and chosen to lead through that experience. Without humility, we can never truly understand or appreciate what we have and how hard we had to work to get there.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

Your Greatest Weapon…Your Smile

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You never know the effect a smile can have on those around you.
I was reminded this week of a time, early on in my career, where I was asked to fill in for a colleague with our CEO. He had a terrible reputation within the administrative pool. In fact it was not unusual for a newer admin or a temp to leave his office crying. Unfortunately, it was a regular occurrence.
When I was asked to fill in for a whole week while someone was on vacation, I was terrified… but determined. No one could be that mean…right?
I showed up my first day and was quickly (very quickly) shown the ropes and left on my own. I sat in my chair and thought…what do I do now? I stood up, put on my best smile and went to his door. I knocked and was quickly reprimanded with a “What?” Entering the room still wearing my smile, I asked if there was anything he needed or if I could do anything for him. Slowly, he looked up from his computer. I think the unfamiliar voice threw him, (he may have actually forgotten his assistant was out for the week). Looking at me he thanked me and stated he would let me know if he needed anything. I wished him a good morning and went back to my desk. I made sure to repeat this every time he called me on the intercom (which was VERY often), and asked me into his office to take his dictated communication.
When it was time for me to leave for the day, I smiled and asked if there was anything he needed before I left, wished him a good evening, and let him know I’d see him in the morning.
Here’s where it gets good. The next morning I was in the office before him and as he walked by my desk he stopped to wish me a good morning, politely asking if I would get his coffee.  I fixed it, per his request, brought it in along with his paper and periodicals, pages marked with tabs where I thought there was something that related to the business or might be of interest to him.
I spent the week exceeding expectations with my work, but more importantly, with my behavior. Yes he was old school, I mean taking dictation…who does that?! However, he started including me in conversations, meetings and asking my opinion. He joked with me and taught me. Within one week, his demeanor had changed to the point that others noticed.
I spent the next several years working for this organization and I can say that each time there was a life event, he noted it. When my daughter was diagnosed with Cancer, he gave me his personal guarantee that my job was secure no matter what and that I should reach out to him if my family needed anything.
You can be assured that each time he needed someone to fill in, it was my line he called. If there was a project, new initiative or opportunity, I was included. He helped to shape my young career in ways others could not. This brilliant, stern, dry humored, generous man passed this week. I am sad that the world lost him, perhaps without really knowing or understanding him. I am so grateful for the time I was able to spend with him.
I remember those years working for and with him with a smile on my face. The same smile I greeted him with each day. Do I think that this will always happen when we put our best selves forward? No. Unfortunately the world is still full of people who have to make others feel less, for them to feel more. However, there are also those who have goodness inside of them and might just need someone help them bring it back out.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at  “Connectthedotblog”.

 

Kirk, Spock, Bones or Scotty; who would you pick to be on your team?

8-30-13 Star Trek New8-30-13 startrekoriginalcrew

I think one of the reasons we love Star Trek isn’t because we get to see one of our favorite actors do what they do to save the world. We watch to see how this amazing group of misfits conquers the universe together.

We’ve all had co-workers, supervisors, department heads, or CEO’s that resembled Captain Kirk (whether you’re a Chris Pine or William Shatner fan). All they have to do is walk into a room, and you want to load up your gear and follow on whatever hair brained adventure they have in mind.

Why? Because it seems like whatever they do, whatever they touch, turns to pure gold. How do they do it, you ask? Well, I believe it’s because they don’t. They do. Of course by they I mean the ensemble. Captain Kirk, like all great leaders, knows they aren’t an island, although their ego may want to believe it’s all about them sometimes. It takes a team of skilled specialists and a few misfits to save the universe.

Don’t believe me? Please name one episode or movie where the mighty Captain alone on the bridge of his flagship saved the Universe. Planet? Person? Anyone? You can’t because he didn’t.

He needs the data/information (Spock) to understand all his options. He needs is moral compass (Bones) to keep him from doing more harm than good, and he needs his miracle worker (Scotty) to develop, implement, innovate, or when all else fails, use bubble gum and bailing wire to ingeniously limp the Enterprise out of harm’s way.

Every high performing team needs their key players. The group looks towards these people to mobilize the resources to get things done. Can you imagine an Enterprise full of James Kirks? What could possibly get done between the ego trips, skirt chasing, fist fights, and distractions? NOTHING!

Teams need diversity of talents, ideas, perspectives, and experiences if they are going to be able to fully understand a challenge, obtain the needed resources to overcome it, and have the wherewithal to get things done.

So, back to the original question; who would you choose?

My answer, none; any one without the other, although an exceptional individual, could not get done by 1/4 what the whole crew could. In the end, one by themself might cause more harm than good.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help, job search advice, or developing high performing teams, check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Is Interviewing a Sensory Experience – Part 1 of 5

sensory overload

How much time do you spend getting ready for an interview? When I ask my students this question, the normal answer is a tirade upon how long it took for them to pick out an outfit (the winner thus far is two weeks), picking the right hair style and make up, and coordinating shoes and lip gloss. For my male students, it’s the Shakespearian, “To iron or not to iron” conundrum.

What many people fail to realize is that an interview, believe it or not, is a smorgasbord of sensory experiences. The interview encompasses all of your senses and after taking a minute to review them, you may be surprised how missing just one can cost you the job.

This is the first part of a series regarding the five senses of an interview.

Let’s take these one at a time…

Sight – This, of course, is the most obvious; it takes into consideration… your clothes, shoes, jewelry, make up, hair, etc. It also takes into consideration your walk, your smile, your cell phone, your watch, eye contact, etc. One of the things that novice and professional job candidates alike fail to recognize is that sight encompasses ALOT!

  • Are you talking on your cell phone when you walk in the door? BAD
  • Do you keep checking your cell phone or watch? BAD
  • Are you standing up straight and presenting a professional confident demeanor? GOOD
  • Do you look people in the eye when you introduce yourself and shake their hand? GOOD
  • When you are sitting waiting for the interview to begin, are you sitting up straight? GOOD

When I’m working with students to hone in on their soft skills, especially their interview skills, I tell them the purpose of the interview is to make sure that the hiring manager can actually visualize them doing the job. You never know what kind of prejudices the employer may have, so you want to present a clean, professional slate that they can see fitting into their culture. If you have tattoos, facial piercings, stiletto heels, low cut tops, high cut skirts, wrinkled clothes, and messy hair…what does that say about you and the image their organization is trying to present? Yes you may look great, for Friday night, but not for Monday morning.

Remember to think of the job you want and dress for it: not too much, not too little, but just right. Give yourself the best foot forward to get the job, and then let YOU shine through. An interview is not the time to make a social political statement; it’s the time to show the employer you are the best fit in skills, culture, and professionalism.

  • When in doubt, look in the mirror. If you think your skirt may be too short or your top too low…it probably is. Change it.
  • If you’re wondering, “Iron or not to iron,” throw it in the dryer till it’s flat.
  • Is your make up Friday night fresh or Monday morning professional? Fix it.
  • Can you hear your shoes or jewelry coming down the hall? Change them.
  • If you are expecting a call that’s so important you have to take your cell in with you…Reschedule the interview.
  • Take a look in the mirror, and ask one simple question: “Would I hire me?”

Take a deep breath, walk into the office, smile, introduce yourself with confidence, look them in the eye, and let them know you are the best person for the job.

Check back on Tuesday, August 13th where I’ll discuss how it’s not your nose but theirs that matters.

Help I need a new career but I don’t know what I want to do?

career change2I’m sure that during the course of your career, day, week, month, fiscal year…you have had one coworker make this comment. They don’t feel fulfilled in their current role, for many different kinds of reasons. They want to make a change but don’t know where to start. I have a colleague in this dilemma currently. She is a very energetic, talented, educated and highly skilled young woman with great work experience. But like many of us her career has taken some turns and her work history is more like the Great Wall of China than the I10 from AZ to CA. It took some turns and at times seemed to have little direction. However she is where she is and would like to have some direction before she sets off on her next road trip.

In one of our many conversations I began to ask her some very basic questions. And after she answered I had to respond, “No even more basic than that”.

1. What do you like to do?
2. What makes you really happy?
3. What are your strengths?
4. What do you feel are your greatest opportunities for development (fancy way of asking what are your weaknesses)?
5. Where do you want to live?
6. Is there a particular field or industry that inspires or intrigues you?
7. Do you have friends, family that you really look up to and what do they do?
8. When you think of people that really inspire you, what about them do you admire?
9. When you chose your major in college, why did you chose it and how do you feel about it now?
10.(Here’s the kicker) When you think of your life 5-10 years down the road…how do you see yourself?

Yes these questions are basic inventory questions. Some of which you may get asked in an interview, there is a reason for that! Many of us aren’t born with the innate desire to do just one thing in life. Some are, some aren’t…for those of us who are in the latter category, we have a tendency to follow our career path like The Great Wall with all its twists and turns. We make decisions as they come along, not giving a whole lot of thought to the Plan.

Working with college students, especially those who are just getting started, I have a very standard speech. I ask lots of questions, many I’ve listed above. Mostly I tell them that choosing a major is not dissimilar to purchasing a home. A house is not a piece of disposable property. It’s something you are going to spend a lot of time in, money on and energy with. If it isn’t going to last you through your 5-year plan (unless you’re a house flipper) you may want to keep looking. We need to think of our educational/career choices the same way. We need to look down the road to where we want to be. Why do we admire the people we do, what they have we don’t, how we get there, what really makes us happy and drives us to perform. If you can’t really answer these questions honestly, well honestly it’s not the best time for you to be looking for a new opportunity.

There are literally hundreds of articles being written and published on the risks involved with making a career change; especially in the face of high unemployment and a recent recession. There are some very common threads with the advice given; and believe it or not they are pretty much in line with the questions I asked my coworker. In addition to your employment inventory; make an assessment of the possible risks that may be involved with making a career change.

I think what my coworker discovered through this exercise is that it isn’t a new career she needs; it’s direction. Her job isn’t the challenge; her lack of a real plan for her future, where she wants to be not only professionally but personally is the issue. Now, that may mean a change for her in the future, but it will be one born of a plan and for a purpose.

Yes there are times when a career change is what’s needed to achieve that plan. I have made a couple myself; one born of frustration without real purpose and one made with intent, thought and commitment to my future. I am where I am today because of the latter, despite the first.

So the next time someone you know asks you the “I need to do something but I’m not sure what to do” question…remember, location, location, location. Don’t make the investment without the inventory, without real thought of the effect on the future. My mom once told me, “when you don’t know what to do…don’t do anything”. Made no sense at the time but now I live by it. How often do we have the desire to do something, when the best course of action is to sit tight, evaluate, plan and when appropriate, execute.

“When you don’t know what to do…don’t do anything.” Thanks Mom!

Culture fit? What is that and how do I measure up?

6-10-13 the right fit imageThe internet, business periodicals, the news…you hear it everywhere. Employers are looking for culture fit, the employee who has it all, but above all will fit into the “culture” of their organization. While I was thinking about this topic I did a Google search on ‘Culture Fit’ and do you know what I found, 371,000,000 listings. Yes that is three hundred and seventy-one million listings. Under ‘culture fit definition’ I found 4,430,000 listings. Why am I telling you this, well either the topic is pretty hot, it’s under debate, yet to be accurately defined, nebulous, vague or all of the above. My choice is, all of the above!

Culture fit is most commonly defined as: Exhibiting a good fit with the company’s culture. That leads to the question, what is your company’s culture? How is it measured, defined, organized, presented, etc? I think you may be starting to get where I’m coming from. How can we begin to prepare individuals to enter a work force where the primary hiring decision is based on a nebulous, undefined, immeasurable concept that many hiring managers have difficulty explaining themselves?

Here are some ways you can being to uncover the culture of a prospective organization, questions you can ask and research you can perform to find out if you are a fit for them and if they are a fit for you.

1. Do your Research – now days most organizations have a website, or digital footprint of some kind. It’s amazing what you can find out about a company from a simple Google search. Check out the employment or careers tab on their company website. See if they have a ‘Why Work for Us Section’. Click on the ‘About Us’ tab or the ‘Mission and Vision’ tab. Is there a link that connects you to recent news about that company? There is no end of ways you can find out what, at the very least, that organization wants you to think is the culture.

2. Be Prepared – You will not be asked yes or no questions. You will be asked to give very specific examples of an experience you had in dealing with a difficult customer, coworker, supervisor or project. What you did to resolve the issue and what was the result?

A. What is your favorite movie?

B. What’s the last book you read?

C. Where’s the last place you went on vacation?

D. What TV shows do you watch most often?

E. If you were an animal which would you be and why?

3. Ask Questions – Whether it’s a phone interview, an in-person interview or an exploratory interview, ask questions. Not the kind that every job board in the world says you should ask; the questions you really want to know the answers to.

A. What does it take to be successful here?

B. What does a normal day look like?

C. How can I add value to this position, department, and organization?

4. Be Energetic and Enthusiastic – I can’t tell you how many times I have followed up with an employer after one of my students has interviewed only to find out that the student in question acted like they just woke up, or were still asleep.

A. Smile, first impressions are lasting and you never get a second chance.

B. Be confident, you will be representing their organization to the community; this is your chance to shine.

C. Show them your contagious energy. No you don’t have to channel the really annoyingly energetic girl from the Starbucks drive through, however you do need to show them you are excited about this opportunity with them.

Culture fit may be the hot HR buzz words right now, but the idea has been around for a long time. Traditionally Ivy Leaguers sought out other Ivy Leaguers. Organizations have always hired those individuals they feel will best compliment the image they want presented to their customers, clients and community. They are looking for employees who will share their values, passions and drivers. It’s not rocket science! You aren’t going to hire an Eeyore for a Tigger position.

Find out what you can before the interview, go in knowing the job you are applying for, bring thoughtful questions, smile and shine.

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