Tag Archives: Executive Search Brussels

Losing your team

7 tells you’re on the brink of losing your team

The stats on the level of engagement in all organizations come out overwhelmingly against the boss. 66% seems to be a standard figure for disengaged employees, so let’s work around that. It starts with the top employee who can bail fastest and more easily than the others. Then it trickles downwards, so that means losing your team will be the next step.

The top performer’s departure can blind side you. They are the best for a reason. Part of that is they are tapped into the market and bring their best selves to every situation. Very often their exit will be discreet and sudden. You can rightly be shocked, although some would say that even that might indicate that you are not in touch as you might be. But for the others, there are a multitude of tells that let you know you are losing your team, they are restless and out there testing the market. This might be as active candidates, or actively passive candidates, driving traffic to themselves and raising their visibility.

Whether you have your head in the sand or the clouds, unless you get on the ball, it will trickle down the ranks, until eventually you will be stuck with a team that will not be top calibre.

Multiple departures is a sign that you have a cultural issue which needs addressing urgently. Becoming tuned into the tell tale signs that you are on the brink of losing your team can help you take pre-emptive action.

So how do you know you are losing your team?

  1. LinkedIn not Facebook activity: Lots of it. Maybe a professional head shot or a pimped profile that’s been written with a career coach or by a resume writer. There will be some sensible updates going out on matters relating to your sector, not “likes” of a mate’s posts or selfies. The smart ones will do this on an on-going basis, but most don’t. So this is tell number one for sure. They will connect with recruiters or contacts in other companies and will have forgotten to adjust their privacy settings. Some companies try to limit social media usage, thinking that is the solution to employee retention. But creating a firewall around your employees, isn’t going to stop them leaving. You have to make them want to stay.
  2. Improved professional image: gone is the faintly rumpled shirt or nondescript trousers which have had only passing contact with an iron. Suddenly the workplace outfits are going up a notch with some statement jewellery and jackets on hangers, instead of a puffa anorak on the back of the chair. Shirts are crisp and starched. Shoes polished and make-up touched up. She is dressed to impress and warning tell… it’s not for you.
  3. Looking for metrics: watch out for a deeper interest in budgets, KPIs, targets and numbers, as he embeds his activities with metrics using the Be FABulous approach to prepare his USP or elevator pitch or soundbites.
  4. Loss of interest in next year: Interest in next years’ activity will fall off.  When there is barely a murmur about the bonus situation or summer party, you know you are in trouble. Your employees have opted out of even medium term thinking. Maybe you will see some passive aggressive behaviour, not meeting deadlines or poor time keeping. These are not necessarily signs that your disengaged employee is checking out the job search market.  This is even worse news – they are so demotivated they can’t or won’t be able to leave.
  5.  Networking: Instead of piling down to the pub, your team will be heading for after work professional drinks and events, clutching newly ordered business cards to pass around the room.
  6. Mysterious calls: taken in lowered voices in hallways or spare conference rooms. They are probably head hunters and recruiters
  7. Absenteeism: You will see an increase in requests for a few hours off, only one day’s vacation or recuperated overtime. The unscrupulous will take sick days.

If you see any or all of these tells, you should wake up and acknowledge you are losing your team. Don’t leave it until you have a high number of open vacancies to understand that you need to do something and fast.

 

 

 

How to cultivate gravitas

You can cultivate gravitas with inside out work

Many think it is not is possible to cultivate gravitas, central to executive presence, that elusive quality said to contribute by 25% towards career success.  It can be acquired by anyone, at any age. It’s about presenting your best self, all the time, even when you may not be prepared. Gravitas and charisma are not necessarily the domain of the older and usually more experienced, male, professional.

For lazy managers the lack of executive presence, has become a catch all phrase to avoid constructive and thoughtful feedback and emphasizes an inability to create a strong coaching environment. It lets the manager easily off the leadership hook. This sloppy opt-out, helps fuel a lack of diversity at senior levels, as those not fitting a cultural template based on age, gender or ethnicity, are excluded. It is a failure to understand that it is possible to cultivate gravitas and therefore executive presence.

More people believe they have these characteristics than actually do. The reality is that gravitas is both bestowed and earned. So there is both a self-perception and self-assessment problem, which can lie at the heart of the issue.

The 3 pillars of Executive Presence: gravitas, communication and appearance.

3 pillars of executive presence

3 pillars of executive presence

According to more than two-thirds of the executives (268) surveyed, in the Center for Talent Innovation research, gravitas seems to be the core quality of executive presence. This is a word that is less used today, but it is perceived to be a combination of behaviours and characteristics that convey confidence.

The Latin root of gravitas suggests “weight” and the word gravitate, its cousin, means moving towards. So gravitas conveys a depth of personality, reliability, respect, and trust, which draws people.

Think of the leaders you are drawn to. Why is that?

Add to those mentioned qualities, gravitas also requires a demonstration of moral integrity, a burnishing reputation, vision, an ability to show poise under pressure (bringing your best self to every situation) and credibility. People with gravitas are able to lead and develop relationships more effectively, are promoted earlier and are believed to get better results. This concept is especially confusing when so many of our leaders today do not seem to possess some, or all of these qualities.

Yet many people are uncertain how they can cultivate gravitas that and think there’s some magic formula.

There isn’t.

Self awareness needed

Executive Presence essentially starts with an inside out process. Anyone who bypasses this key element (and many try) will de facto not have achieved it, unless you are in the tiny minority for whom gravitas is a totally innate gift and you know instinctively when to present your best self. Developing gravitas is highly individual and everyone will have a different journey and response. Read: 10 Executive Presence Rules

It is difficult to standardise a learning process to cultivate gravitas. Yet many organisations try, with a one size fits all coaching or training programmes. Group exercises with prescribed prompts relating to values or personal qualities are often carried out. In a like and click internet culture, these can be less effective than they were in the 50s when Jahari’s Window  for example was originally designed. They can interfere with the real work you need to present your best self. Thinking. Not clicking. This inner work can be really challenging.

Too often we… enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.  J.F. Kennedy

I would suggest only using these exercises if you are really stuck.

Ask the right questions

if you wrote your own speech for your leaving party what would you say? Ask yourself the questions: what do you want to be known for? What do you regularly achieve? Are you the person who respects people’s time, communicates courteously and effectively, asks the right questions, listens attentively and smiles hello in the corridor?  Do people come to you to ask for your opinion or feedback? Are you open to feedback?

Or are you always late, poor at listening and responding, or bring your stress to the office?  Distracted or unwilling to engage. In many ways some of this is common sense and old school courtesy. Like many things, executive presence can be built up by small daily habits built upon from self- insight, that eventually become who you are. Trust is rooted in a reliability to make the right choices and decisions.

“We become what we repeatedly do.” Sean Covey

I ran a training programme for an international company last year, where for some reason 70% of the group had not done the pre-course work, despite the best efforts of the organiser. The group clearly under performed and their lack of innate skills was exposed and they were vulnerable.  Some embraced the learning experience. Others became defensive.

Executive Presence is an “E” concept, so preparation is critical for introverts. Without it they will get left behind in the promotion process. This is the group which is more frequently told they have no EP or charisma.

Inside Out Work

Charisma checklist

How does the inside out process work? It’s about:

  • Knowing yourself, your values and passions and what you stand for and against.
  • Creating  a powerful, passionate, impactful message, preferably  with humour. People love to smile. This can be a major stumbling block for many, but can be learned.
  • Sharing your great message whenever you can. The ability to weave your story into any situation in an appropriate way, conveying a benefit, shows mental agility and flexibility.
  • Developing strong people skills. Treating everyone with warmth, respect and consideration. Every day. Asking questions, listening and being present.
  • Making a great first impression. Make sure people remember you. Presenting your best self whenever you can. Pay attention to your professional image and finding the right balance between compliance and authenticity. Remember women are judged more harshly than men in this area.
  • Getting comfortable with the right kind of discomfort – by that I mean a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. Anyone who displays that kind of openness, is able to embrace change and will stop trying to control the conditions that make them feel secure. Whatever they are. This allows you to step up when you might have held back. If you hold back on something because you are nervous  – this means you need training or coaching. Make sure you get it.

When you have completed your inside out work you will have the skills and tools that will give you mental agility to present your best self even under pressure. You will have the presence of mind to take advantage of spontaneous opportunities to advance your career. It also makes you a great brand ambassador for your company.

Outside-In Work

This is about how you present yourself to the world. It is about trainable skills around communication and appearance.  It covers professional image, voice, smile, eye contact, and posture. This comes easily to people who have done their inside out work and is the easy part. Many great leaders have had coaching for presentation skills or voice.

Gravitas is not necessarily about age, as you can see from the video below. Malala Yousafzai was only 16 when she addressed the United Nations.

Companies encouraging employees to do their inside out work early on, will have a greater chance of grooming higher numbers for senior management  roles and strengthening their talent pipeline much earlier. Quite often this is left to leadership training when for some it can already be too late.

For any information on executive search, coaching and training services contact me here.

 

 

LinkedOff

Why I’ve LinkedOff

Will being LinkedOff make a difference?

I have just cancelled my premium membership to LinkedIn. You could say I’ve LinkedOff with LinkedIn.

Reduced professionalism

Social media is awash with blogs and posts about the decline of the traditional channels. To cut to the chase, one over arching comment is this. With all the automation, the social has gone out of social. There is one notable exception. LinkedIn is now too social and not professional enough.

LinkedIn has been one of my anchor platforms for many years. As a head hunter it’s part of the candidate identification process. As a career coach, I recommend and coach clients on how to leverage it to advance their job search and manage their careers.  As a business person it was an ideal platform for tapping into great contributions and insights from sector leaders.

I now feel as though I subscribed to the Times or Wall Street Journal and am getting the Sun or National Enquirer. Or worse.

In some cases we are seeing a stream of soft porn images. The image below is a screen shot from my LinkedIn stream today.LinkedOff2

I really only joined Facebook initially to make sure my kids were still alive. But I am seeing a higher level of engagement there. I know there are others who have LinkedOff too.

We’re a growing number and LinkedIn need to pay attention.

Barriers to entry

I thought this was great in the early days. Open and democratic in line with the zeitgeist. Now the proliferation of fake profiles and dubious agendas is on the rise, with seemingly no penalties. As a Premium Member I expected all outliers to be taken care of by basic controls at the profile setting up stage. There is no place for a woman’s nipples and bum on LinkedIn, or some stud muffin looking for a date. So I will block and report and not connect with anyone who looks doubtful. This means the first letter of your name should be capitalized. That is a dead giveaway. If you refer to yourself as Caspar in your summary but William in your name, there is something not right. But Caspar/William had 500 connections when I sent his profile for review today.

What I know about coding couldn’t even be covered on the back of a SIM card – but if dating sites can approve profiles and photos, why can’t LinkedIn? Surely this is just some software check? #justsaying

Business model

LinkedIn is a business and they need to make money. I get that. They need to find ways to generate activity and content so people will buy and use their product. I get that too. They have also spawned a whole industry sector around it.  But my patience is being sorely tested. It is no longer my go-to platform for top level content. Why? Because either there is less top level content, or that content is hard to find.

LinkedIn off with LinkedIn

LinkedIn off with LinkedIn

Generic and bland automated content and spam, gratuitous self-promotion, dubious photos or quizzes are the norm. LinkedIn is morphing into an unregulated platform for people to share whatever they want. There is nothing wrong with that per se, if you are interested in that sort of thing. I just want to be able to filter it out, as you can on other platforms.

The extension of the self-publishing facility, LinkedIn Pulse has become a license to publish … well…anything. Thousands do so with no control over quality or content. Members are posting adverts for jobs and services, plus links to other articles with no content at all. Sorting through updates now takes up too much time. The good content gets lost in all the nonsense I see in my stream. Babies, cars, even women in bikinis, and men liking photos of a woman in transparent black mesh pant suit.

Sure it’s ART

There are a huge number of changes and tweaks, presented as improved features. This quote from Henry Havelock Ellis comes to mind: What we call progress is the exchange of one nuisance for another nuisance.

Freedom of choice

I am not suggesting that people shouldn’t publish what they want. I just don’t want to see it. Just as you can with other platforms. Barbara Safani made a case  that variety of exchange makes up the composition, of any workplace. That is true, but I wouldn’t hang out with women in black mesh pant suits or bikinis around a water cooler and I want that option restored on LinkedIn.

I want what I signed up for – professional content.

I want to filter out the stuff I don’t want to see and only focus on the content I’m interested in. You can do this with Twitter on Tweetdeck or Hoot Suite and Facebook.

For Premium membership  – I expect a premium service. I wasn’t getting it.

If you would like to campaign for tighter control from LinkedIn please share using hashtag #LinkedOff and flag and report all instances of inappropriate content!

Blind CVs

Blind CVs don’t deal with the real problem

How helpful are Blind CVs?

There has been a recent move towards proposing blind CVs in the recruitment process. Intended to increase diversity and reduce bias in areas such as gender, ethnicity and ageism, a number of organisations are committing to this system, including the U.K. Civil Service, the BBC, the NHS, KPMG and HSBC.

But will blind applications support the reduction of unconscious bias in the recruitment process, or just serve to highlight its existence? At some point the candidate has to be called for interview.

Gender

Research from Yale has shown that when women remove their names from their resumes, they stand a higher chance of being short listed for a job than when their names are visible. Although that may help in the short listing process, it doesn’t save these women from the same bias which reappears once hired into the organisation. In a recent study of code written by women, it was noted that their efforts were more likely to be approved by their peers, than code written by their male colleagues. This caveat was based on the fact that the men didn’t realise the code had been written by a woman.

There is one argument against Blind CVs and it’s a valid one. Blind CVs serve  to get candidates through the first part of the process.  But after that point they only then serve to delay discrimination.

Ethnicity

Individuals with names that don’t match the ethnicity of the culture they are applying into have claimed for years that bias exists at the application stage. I have known many highly qualified North African and Arab candidates, adopt names in line with their target markets to avoid bias in the selection process, to increase their changes of landing an interview. This process of deception surely only serves to mask part of their unique background and experience. It also marks a shift from unconscious bias to direct discrimination.

Age  

The age of older candidates is usually clear in the career history of a candidate. I always feel that my time has been wasted when someone presents themselves as 40, when they are actually 65. If someone doesn’t put the year they graduated, it’s usual to assume that they will be over 50. Today with retirement ages being deferred until 67 or even later, a 50 year old has about 30% of a career left.  Candidates would be better advised to prove they are current.

I would also hope that a candidate should be able to embrace their age and younger hiring managers would be trained to handle generational and age differences in the hiring process.

Downsides

A person’s full career history including personal details, interests and hobbies as well as background play an important part in assessing a candidate’s suitability for a job. Resume writers such as Jacqui Barrett Poindexter, suggest that we should weave our resumes with a relatable story  to showcase our personalities and personal stories. Leaving out key elements or obfuscating in any way, will not show who we are. With the spread of online profiles it is not too difficult to match blind CVs against a real person anyway.

So the question remains is whether the blind CV process is just treating a symptom of unconscious bias, or we should seriously focus on getting to the root of it. Candidate sourcing is only part of the process. If the rest of the experience is riddled with bias, not a lot of progress will be made.

Although unconscious bias can’t be eradicated, it can be managed.

This is why all hiring managers should receive unconscious bias training. Contact me! 

 

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Copey paste recruitment

Why copy-paste recruitment fails in today’s market

Getting beyond copy-paste recruitment

Copy-paste recruitment is generally business as usual in most organisations. A job description will be drafted for any open assignment. Usually this involves pulling out the old one, or re-positioning the CV of the last successful post holder.  “Get me someone like….” is a common instruction.

Even if the post was last filled five years ago, the chance of anyone thinking it might have to be crafted differently are slim. Generally the only changes I see are to inflate the qualifications.

Really, your receptionist needs an MBA?

Copy-paste recruitment is limiting

The changes in the market since 2008, means that most hiring managers are missing out on identifying and sourcing candidates with different and non-linear career paths. Many candidates have special and relevant skills which are not always directly evident. Candidates should assume some responsibility for identifying those skills themselves. But more importantly, hiring managers should be capable of going beyond the obvious to identify and source the best talent. This talent may not wear the familiar and comforting keyworded labels.

Why? Because they are missing candidates with those special skills.

This will include those with:

  • Portfolio Careers (a series of related professional activities, connected by the same transferable skills)
  • Or what is shifting into what I call a Cluster Career (a series of unrelated professional activities)
  • Giggers or independent contractors.

A  typical story

Bart graduated in 2009 with a degree in Philosophy as the global economy went into free fall. He spent the next two years doing unpaid internships during the day and working in shops, bars and restaurants as a waiter, bartender, bouncer and even cleaner at night to pay the bills. He worked on short term or zero hour contracts in call centres and creative agencies. He was eventually promoted to Deputy Manager in a bar resto, before he was hired to join the operations team of an event management company.

He had never worked in events, but his skills in running teams, handling difficult situations as well as his sales skills made him a risk worth taking for his new boss. Bart commented “I struggled to find a recruiter who could see beyond my CV. I found my current job through my personal network. Hiring managers have actually said to me  “you have never had a proper job!”  What is a proper job today?” 

As more and more candidates have diffused backgrounds, hiring managers need to consider making changes to their own skill sets and processes, to move out of copy-paste recruitment mode. This will involve:

Fishing where there are fish

Hiring managers in many sectors complain that the talent pool is dwindling. Yet they continue to look for the usual suspects, in the usual places. Time is now to think broader and consider where else might those skills actually be found. This is particularly true in STEM roles or to achieve gender balance and diversity.

Aptitude testing

It is now easy to arrange online aptitude testing, which although not definitive, are reasonable indicators of success, particularly for verbal and numerical reasoning, especially if they are verified. Many hiring managers, recruiters and head hunters are not qualified in even rudimentary psychometric testing.copy paste 2

Transferable skills

Many recruiters and hiring managers wouldn’t recognise a transferable skill if it punched them in the face. Their focus is keywords, job titles and familiar hard skills. It’s now necessary to be able to get behind a candidate’s achievements with some insight, to identify the skills they tapped into to be successful in their previous career professional activities. What ever they might be. Running a Boolean string with keywords on LinkedIn isn’t going to do it.

Behavioural interview

If hiring managers have identified the transferable skills needed for the role, interview questions should be structured to establish if the candidates possess those skills. Behavioural questions should be posed, to indicate how they used them in a previous role or would instinctively know what to do. Candidates can also be assigned tasks and exercises to see how they perform.

Detailed references

Reference collecting is a much under estimated skill. In litigious cultures many are wary of giving too much information in writing. Seeking a reference by telephone is by far the best way to go and questions should be structured and open ended exactly as for an interview.

Asking ” will x be a good candidate for this job?”  of course, gets you a YES answer.

Substituting with  “How would x be a good candidate for this job” will get at least drive some of the answers a hiring manager would be looking for.

What is needed to ensure success?

This is a question I usually pose to referees. Asking candidates will give some insight into their assessment of the personal development needs which can be insightful. It’s also an indication of how they have benchmarked themselves against the job requirements.

Work ethic, commitment and courage

Looking for commitment, work ethic and courage is a valuable indicator of future performance. This is showcased by Bart’s story, but also recently by Stefanie William’s response to Yelp employee Talia Jane who complained about her salary in the public domain and was fired for it. How people respond to adversity can be very telling. Who suits your company best? The tougher suck it up and get on with it (Stefanie) or the empathetic corporate whistle blower campaigner (Talia)? All 3 stories require different types of work ethic, tenacity and courage.

Hiring for attitude and enthusiasm are currently found more in gung-ho memes on Twitter and Facebook, than during any actual selection process. As an increasing number of candidates no longer have CVs that comply with traditional linear thinking, hiring managers are going to have to update their own selection skills and process criteria to identify top talent.

This could be time consuming (read costly) but no more expensive than high levels of churn or hiring the wrong candidate.

Check out your executive search and research options

 

 

 

diversity initiatives

The main reason diversity initiatives fail

Diversity initiatives and commitment

Diversity initiatives are hard to introduce and even harder to manage successfully and bring to fruition. Many would say they are the window dressing and lip service to appease campaigners. Having a diversity policy is very different to making it effective.

Neil Morrison covered this exact point in his post the other “Some are more equal than others.” He gave an astute analysis of the status of diversity initiatives, especially  gender inclusion. He suggested they were more about “undertaking institutional appeasement. Saying the right things, whilst nothing really changes.”

I agree. For the most part.

He then went on to ask “What if business is essentially a masculine construct, with male rules and the only way to succeed is by being more male than the men?”

Return on Equity

That is a depressing commentary on the state of imbalance in our corporate cultures and one that doesn’t explore alternative models.  But it did make me think.  One of the main and basic reasons why diversity initiatives fail is lack of genuine leadership buy-in. This is in spite of the fact that there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that gender balanced organizations generate higher shareholder return on equity. That ($£€) usually works as a male definition of success.

In an era where approximately 66% of the workforce are said to be disengaged, many male dominated organizations are not doing so well, are they? Think financial crisis melt down, VW & FIFA scandals.

This week also saw the announcement that Sir Philip Hampton has been appointed by the UK government to lead the push to get more women into senior roles. Because that is exactly what we need isn’t it? Another middle aged, middle class, white guy, to lead even more diversity initiatives that may be destined to fail.

To quote Einstein Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Shifting body parts

Corporations reward, promote, recruit and develop for the most part based on a masculine premise. All women know that. The 3M approach to hiring prevails. Mini-Male-Mes. Historically, gender division of labour was centred around the management of the food supply and survival, requiring upper body strength. In a knowledge based economy, the main tool in revenue generation is the iPad, an implement where a manicured nail can work as well as shoulders built like Channing Tatum.man on ipad

So a new barrier to entry for women was required.  Hours worked, and lack of time, have become the new male benchmark for success , in a 24/7 presence culture of over work. 

  Women for the most part still assume the role of C.D.O (Chief Domestic Officer,) and are less open to a life of corporate bondage. At one time the discussion would have been whether a man brought home the bacon/harvest. Now it’s how many billable hours he took to do it.

But this doesn’t mean that there can’t be a shift in these values. H.R. V.Ps  are in a leadership position to correct the “some are more equal than others” situation, more perhaps than any one else in a company, except the CEO.

The question remains why don’t they? I’ve written before about the changes that senior HR executives can lead. Let’s be clear, although HR is a pink function, the top jobs are predominantly held by men.

Two key steps forward 

  1. Assign the gender balance project to a senior position with clout, rather than dumping it on a junior, overloaded employee, with no teeth. Preferably not a middle aged, middle class, white guy.
  2. Give all HR personnel, including the VP HR, plus senior managers unconscious bias training.  I would be delighted to run my programme in your company.

Diversity initiatives require top down commitment to cultural change. If VPs of H.R. feel that the challenge of re-engineering corporate culture is too daunting, they need to bring in more women. Women can’t be what they can’t see and hear. They need someone who has walked in their shoes.

Until then, some will definitely be more equal than others. Diversity initiatives will continue to underperform or fail and sadly imbalance will remain .

 

What would you do?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Career path is dead

Career Path replaced by Cluster Career

What’s happening to the career path?

We all know the concept of  having a career path has shifted. Initially this was almost imperceptible, but in the last few years, it is well.. dying, some would say already dead. We saw the arrival of the portfolio career and now I’m seeing the start something else.  What I’m calling a cluster career.

That is a series of diversified professional activities. Not be confused with a career cluster which is quite different.

Linear Career on the wane

The notion of a vertically linear career path, is disappearing, at the same pace as agile and lean are commonplace. The expansion of the “gig”, on demand or collaborative economy is a key part of that shift. It is estimated that 25% of the total workforce will be working on demand.

In certain traditional professions, linear promotion may still apply for a while longer: law and, medicine, come to mind. But even those knowledge based professions will face change, as they are replaced by artificial intelligence.

Portfolio careers

We then saw the arrival of  “Portfolio Careers,” where career management was based on the identification of transferable skills, which could be used in a range of sectors and functions. This was based on strengths and interests, to create a career strategy which met identified goals and allowed people to manage their own careers.

This approach was blocked by older school hiring managers with traditional mind sets, struggling to cope with a model that doesn’t fit a “copy paste” recruitment mode, which facilitates filling openings with “Mini-Mes”

Cluster Career

This concept has been taken a step further by the Cluster Career, with even further diversification, to include multiple, activities in seemingly unrelated fields.

It can be one activity at a time, in rotation. Pete (The Feet)  is a marine engineer, who is also a chiropodist. Isabella is an auditor who responded to a recent call for graduates to retrain as maths and science teachers in the U.K. Elinor, trained as a lawyer, worked as a journalist, then as a media consultant. Olivia is an environmental scientist, turned tree surgeon.

Or it can be multiple activities simultaneously to suit demand: Martin, works in Instructional Design and as a chef and a hairdresser and switches between all to suit the market. Janice does ad hoc editorial and content marketing, plus beauty therapy (mani-pedi and massage.) Dylan, an events manager, works in a bar, as well as gigging as photographer.

What they have in common is fast and continuous learning skills, an ability to change direction, open mindedness and mental agility. They also have acute trend spotting skills.

Strategic diversification

For this type of career management to be effective, some key concepts have to be applied to take a strategic global overview of a career and then project long term. There has to be clear answers to the following two questions:

  •  Will my knowledge be needed by anyone? Ever?

Demand and supply for skills comes and goes. Technical skills gained in university are out of date before someone has graduated. The list of Jobs being automated gets longer every day. Knowledge and access to skill training is becoming easier, pushing down the earning power of certain skills, as competition increases because of over supply. We have seen that with the glut of life coaches on the market and social media “experts.”  Pete-The-Feet is targeting the 65+ demographic, which after 2025 according to W.H.O. will represent  63% of the global population. Pete’s logic is “we all need feet”

  • Will anyone want to pay for what I know?

The trick will be to position yourself on the right side of demand/supply curve, so that any professional activity you pursue, will generate enough revenue to pay your bills. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is still out there. The talent will be to identify long term skill gaps, where certain competencies are in short supply and take the necessary steps to up-skill. This is a difficult one and why we have seen so many unemployed graduates, because high numbers are studying topics that will soon be obsolete. Any profession involved with the aging population will be in demand. The skills will presumably be anything that can’t be automated or robotized. Ironically, many seem to involve manual work.

Career Planning Today

Previously we have talked about pursuing a passion and finding the ideal career, as if it were one single object or objective. Most people embarking on a career will change jobs every 2-3 years. They are now more likely to be pursuing multiple professional activities, in sequence or concurrently. These activities may, or may not, have compatible transferable skills.

That will make career planning today more challenging. Having an open mind and being a life long learner will be critical. People are going to have more options than ever, which is going to make positioning and pitching, to what will eventually be a new breed of recruiters and hiring managers,  who should be trained to assess diverse skills, across multiple disciplines.  Currently at their core many are still conservative, but they will retire eventually.

The need to be self-aware, self-advocating, self-reliant, self- sufficient, self managing and self- promoting, maybe even self- taught and adaptable is going to increase.

The days when anyone took care of your career are over.

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How to combine career disruption with strategy

As a career coach, who is a strong advocate for both men and women to create strategic plans for their careers,  I listened attentively to Whitney Johnson, author of Dare, Dream Do  at a recent 3Plus Mini-Coaching session “Dare to Disrupt.” Career disruption comes in many forms:  mergers, takeovers, bad bosses, new bosses, downsizing, up-scaling,  marriage, parenthood, re-location, health issues, transfers,  job loss to name some. What is important is how these changes can be harnessed positively. Although, sometimes we want to disrupt ourselves,  simply because we want change.

So how can we combine disruption and planning?

Whitney said ” When you are disrupting, you are discovery-driven, searching for a yet-to-be-defined market. Having a strategic plan implies that you know where you want to go, which presumably you can plot on a map. Your approach when you are disrupting must be discovery-driven; learning, gathering feedback, adapting.”

Krista has been disrupted. Changes on the political landscape following the recent European Parliament elections where the existing candidate was not voted back,  means that she has career disruption with a new boss. Political relationships are based on personal chemistry and she worries her services will no longer be retained in the new order. As a fall back position she has approached her previous employer who could offer her a role at a much lower level. She is at a crossroads: carry on with the disruption with the new boss or go back to a comfort zone? Clearly she should approach the new incumbent with a concrete strategy on how she can make the situation work, but with a Plan B in place in case it doesn’t. Preferably this will not involve back-sliding into an old, more junior position.

Need help with disruption, career strategy or Plan B  – Check out these career transition programmes

Olivier has disrupted himself  Feeling restricted in his last role in the art world he wanted to broaden his horizons. Leveraging his artistic background he is studying an MBA with a focus on innovation. After some months of systematic research, a high number of informational interviews, coaching and networking,  he is now positioning himself in the design sector.

Jeff has been disrupted. A new boss and a re-organisation made him reflect on his work/life priorities. He decided to take his entitlement to three months paternity leave and use the time to change direction. Creating a plan for the year he accepted a redundancy package to work on his position and re-brand himself in a role in a new sector. He started his new job some months ago. Whitney adds  “it’s important that you have a plan for what you hope to learn and discover about the market that you are pursuing, and perhaps more importantly that you have a “why” for doing this, so that you stay the course rather than slipping back into the safety of the known”. So although it’s important to have an idea of your overall long-term goals both personal and professional, the fact that there is disruption just means that another type of plan is required to make that disruption effective and work for you.

So to quote Whitney again:

With thanks to Whitney Johnson. Check out her other thoughts on the 3Plus LinkedIn Group

How to deal with the label Whistleblower

noun: whistleblower :
a person who informs on a person or organization regarded as engaging in an unlawful or immoral activity.
 
Many people assume that “whistle blowing” is associated with high level governmental and corporate corruption. Images appear in our Hollywood fuelled imaginations of dubious, clandestine meetings held in underground car parks in the dead of night, with individuals wearing Dick Tracy style trench coats and fedoras.
 
 
Although most of us have seen movies and read about these situations, the average employee possibly doesn’t encounter breaches of integrity in exactly this way. Most are far more prosaic and pedestrian. But the issues still prey on our consciences.
 
 
How does someone cope when the organisation they work for and its leadership seems to have lost its moral compass?  Many struggle when they have a livelihood to protect not knowing how far to pursue the situation within the hierarchy of their own company, when to leave and when to report these incidents to the authorities. How then do they deal with the questioning in interviews and the labels of “troublemaker” or “crusader?”
 
 
 
When less is more
 
Questioning on reasons for leaving a previous job is normal. Wanting to work in an organisation which is aligned with our core values is also normal and a perfectly acceptable response to any questioning. It is at the core of any personal branding work. To respond in exactly this way, pre-supposes that any previous company was not meeting those values well, or even at all. There is no need to be overtly negative. This another case when less is probably more.
 
 Need help dealing with tricky interview questions? Check out the individual coaching programmes.

3 case studies

Simon was a hi-po marketing and innovation specialist working in the petro-chemical industry. He reported his company to the authorities when he came across evidence of bribery and corruption. He was “counselled out” and fears he has been blacklisted within the sector, as 8 months later he is still on the job market. 

Martina, a junior tax accountant with a law background, highlighted some accounting discrepancies to her senior management and found herself suddenly moved to another division and location, with access to the files withdrawn. Unsure what she had uncovered, and having seen what she perceived to be “other grey areas” she decided to leave. She feels she is quizzed in detail in interviews about her reasons for leaving and wonders if she is being judged as a “trouble-maker.”

 Joel left his company after acting as a witness for an ex-colleague in an internal bullying and harassment enquiry. The case against his boss was eventually dropped and he was re-instated. He is also questioned about his actions.

 
 
Cultural fit 
If any organisation perceives a person with a high level of integrity to be a potential “troublemaker” then the cultural match is not right. Walk away and continue the job search. There is value to being a whistleblower and that is being seen as a person of integrity. 
 
If there is a pattern of similar issues then there is a likelihood of being labelled as a “crusader”, which is quite different. But even that would also suggest that the cultural fit is not right. If you have a mission for exposing corporate wrong doing then there should be other more appropriate avenues to explore and its important to carry out the basic reflection about core values. A pacifist may struggle to work for a company supplying the military for example. A non drinker may not want to work for a company producing alcohol.
 
Job search research should be thorough and it would be wise to be more focused when targeting organisations. Vigilance is also needed about selecting the right boss. The interview process is a two-way street which many forget. Some would even say the right boss is more important than the company.
 
 
 
Making sure that a company or boss has values that are aligned with your own is important in any interview process and difficult to establish. From that point onwards compromise maybe necessary and only the individual can know what their own limits are.
 
 
What would you do if your values were tested?
bored businesman

Over communication: 7 reasons to learn “Mench”

One of the key messages across the board at the JUMP forum in Paris was gender communication differences and the impact this has on workplace mis-communication. Not one, but multiple speakers raised this issue, with a particular emphasis on over communication. 

Hmmm.. I thought I need to listen this. Although for a woman I am reasonably direct and brief, I still have the capacity to deliver a monologue on something I feel passionate about. Women speak twice as many words as men. We speak in paragraphs, not sentences.

Many of us like to tell the whole story, every last word, down to the finest detail.

But is over communication strictly a gender issue? I don’t think so. I know any number of men who could talk for their countries.  Women often make comments about the monosyllabic “report” style communication patterns of the men in their lives, thinking that the rapport we create via our own delivery is much better. But Lynette Allen, Co-Founder Her Invitation suggests that over sharing (over communication) can indeed be a female characteristic which we use to our detriment seeing it as an  “unconsciously displayed behaviour which actively holds women back. They have to learn to be more succinct in the workplace and not tell the whole story and even more.”  A recent article in the Harvard Business Review  suggested what happened to a senior woman in a meeting ” was like a snowball going down a hill and picking up stuff in its path”  and was a real barrier to being taken seriously.

This message made such an impact on me that recently in recounting a tale I asked in two separate instances if the listeners wanted the “mini- series” version or the “book cover blurb.” One was in a social context with old friends, who clearly wanted the total scoop. The other, was a more professional situation where an overview was requested. I’m going to make asking my new habit.

So why does over communication cause mis-communication, isn’t it important that everyone has all the details?

  1. Your thinking appears cloudy and muddled if you are unable to be succinct and your message becomes blurred in verbiage. If you forget the point of why you’re telling something, you have gone seriously adrift. People stop listening and you fail to get your message across.  You have become a snowball and snowballs melt. Ding!
  2. It seems that you don’t respect other people’s time if you over communicate in any situation, you run the risk of your listener shutting down and retreating, either physically or psychologically. At the far end of the spectrum they will avoid you totally. In all cases your message is not going through. Ding!
  3. It seems that you don’t respect your own time if every time a simple social question of “How are you?” produces a twenty-minute discourse on your health or what is going on for you,  you give the impression of being a poor time manager.  Ding!
  4. It suggests that you are not in touch with your audience as you don’t recognise social cues.  So just as if you were going to France you would try to speak a bit of French, If you are delivering to a male audience then try to speak in a language they will understand. Mench? Ding
  5. It indicates a lack of empathy especially when you fail to pick up disconnected body language signs (loss of eye contact, fidgeting) If you are talking, you are not listening. Ding! Ding!
  6.  If you need to talk to wear someone down with your voice, then they are agreeing under duress. That was not successful communication. It could even be considered a form of passive aggression if you don’t allow your listener the opportunity  to participate. Ding!
  7. It suggests that you think what you have to say is more important than what others have to say and conveys arrogance Ding! Ding!
  8. It confirms that you like the sound of your own voice, email etc. See point 7. Ditto Ding!

Lynette felt that while organisational culture is male dominated this is a necessary work- around to get our voices heard. Isn’t this another one of those fix women things? No apparently not, it can be completely gender neutral. Factor in a general reduction in people’s attention span, then anything prolonged is going to be ineffective for both men and women alike. We have already seen the one minute elevator pitch cut back into the 30 second commercial.

So perhaps the converse  can also apply  Maybe we should start saying  “OK that was the book cover blurb  – now give me the mini-series”

What do you think?