Tag Archives: Career Coach Brussels

Do you practise conversation hygiene?

I was introduced to this expression “conversation hygiene” by someone who is not a first language English speaker. Once I heard the words, they stuck in my head and I realised how perfect they were to describe many of the situations we all see and hear on a daily basis. Some of us don’t practise any sort of conversation hygiene at even a most basic level, and many not at all.

Hygiene is defined as:

Conditions or practices conducive to maintaining health and preventing disease, especially through cleanliness.

So  in terms of conversation hygiene, for the word “health” substitute “mental health”,  and for “disease” add “stress and discomfort. Although they are not soap and water instances, some can be pretty close. It has the same impact on your auditory space as bad breath and body odour have on your olfactory senses. We don’t like to be around people who smell. People who have personal hygiene problems are usually glad to be told and yet we frequently don’t tell people when they don’t carry out conversation hygiene. Why is that?

8 examples of conversation hygiene

Do any of these sound familiar?

#1 Abusers

Of course this is familiar. I’ve heard these people on a number of occasions in the last few days. On a train, in a restaurant and in a shop. Yes I do give a f*****ing  $*µ#! I have no problem people complaining – more should, but loud aggression directed at some junior employee, who possibly doesn’t understand them, is not going to help anyone at all.

#2 Dominators

conversation hygiene

Commonly found in meetings the Chair calls for everyone’s view points and then talks over them.  He clearly hasn’t listened to Simon Sinek’s video -“Leaders be the Last to Speak” There’s  no agenda and we go off topic. Nothing is decided. There is no action plan or follow up or through. It is an epic waste of time. Lack of conversation hygiene – big time.

#3 Mega Talkers     

A network encounter talked at me for about 8 minutes, apologised for talking too much, smiled and then left. More time wasted.

#4 The self absorbed 

A man held a conference call via lap top speakers in a public space. This was a major conversation hygiene fail and noise pollution alert.

#5 The self interested  

A woman watched a video in a restaurant with the volume on. it sounded like a sex/slasher and horror flick. Let’s just say it wasn’t Frozen or a TedX Talk. There was a lot of panting and screaming.  She did put in ear buds when prompted without looking even faintly embarassed or nonplussed.

#6 The inconsiderate

Two women sitting two seats down from me talked through a presentation by Daniel Thorniley at HRTechWorld Amsterdam until I asked them to stop. Trust me, everything Daniel Thorniley says is worth listing to. Every. Single. Word. They threw me a “Whatever” glare. Thorniley’s presentation was targetting their age demographic, the under 40s. They obviously have no interest in the economic and social projections about their futures. They are not great.

#7 The extreme interruptor

The extreme interrutor cuts everyone off mid sentence. All the usual strategies “let me finish” and assertive body language fail.  No, you are not more important than any of us, even though you would like to think so. The only thing that stops them is telling them to “shut up and let other people make their point”

#8 The unpresent 

This is the person who is talking to you because there is no one else. They are constantly looking over their shoulders for someone more interesting /influential to engage. As soon as they see that someone, they smile indulgently, tap you on the shoulder and leave. Their conversation hygiene needs a lot of work.

The idea of when we open our mouthes it should be with the same consideration for conversation and other people  as if we needed to brush our teeth. We wouldn’t breathe stinky breath all over anyone. Would we?

For executive search services contact us here

boreout

How to lose the disengaged employee tag

Employee engagement – or rather the lack of it, has been a hot HR topic for many years. Research from Deloitte indicates that the issues of “retention and engagement” have risen to No. 2 spot on the business agenda, “second only to the challenge of building global leadership.” This is rooted in compelling indications that a very high percentage of members of the workforce (as many as 66% ) would describe themselves as a disengaged employee.

It makes sense that organizations need to fine tune their career progression opportunities to attract top talent. It also means that with literally millions of employees potentially open to a move, candidates face stiffer competition to position themselves as an ideal hire when looking externally.  Employers frequently complain about difficulties finding the right kind of talent. In a recent survey Glassdoor suggests that 76% of organisations fail to find the right talent. So that must be you.

What can you do to shrug off the disengaged employee moniker if your current career progression has stalled and present yourself differently?

The job you have

Let’s kick off with the obvious. The job you are in is the one you have for the moment. Very often demotivated employees takes their foot off the career progression pedal. They check-out and do the bare minimum to coast by. It’s hard to convince any potential hiring manager who is looking for agile and dynamic talent that you will meet their criteria if you are stuck in your current role and above all look and act stuck. Anyone who is looking to boost their career needs to take charge of their personal development. This involves know-how, time and energy. For starters you need to ditch the disengaged employee tag.

How to lose the disengaged employee tag

Create a plan 

The first step is to have goals and a strategy. Those who leave things to chance and expect and organization to take care of them are the ones that come unstuck first. Communicate those ambitions to your manager. Do  a realistic assessment of your own performance. If anything needs addressing  – do just that.

Raise your visibility  

It’s important that people know who you are and you are perceived to be pro-active. Instead of whining about lack of opportunities create solutions and make yourself part of that initiative, showcasing how you can add value to the business. Participate in meetings and be willing to take on new challenges.

Up your game

Now is the time to do more, or at least something different, not less. Position yourself for the next role by learning as much about the next steps as possible and the skill set required.

Show flexibility

A disengaged employee tends to be stuck in a rut and gets caught up in old and frequently bad habits and work practices.  This can be accompanied by a negative attutude. Now is the time to be flexible and be willing to take on continuous learning and personal development, even if it means investing in yourself. You may have been in the same role for years but show you have updated your skills. Add these to your LinkedIn profile so other people can also see what you’ve been up to.

Test the market

A disengaged employee whose career progression has stalled will struggle to present themselves as the right kind of candidate. Make sure you maintain your external networking to stay in touch with developments in your market. You may have set backs but it’s important to build resilience. Stay positive and confident. You might change jobs but if you haven’t looked inwardly to figure out what is holding you back you will merely transport the issues to another location.

If you want to source ideal candidates  contact me now

Graduate recruitment tips for SMEs in 2017

Graduate recruitment can be expensive and not always successful, with heavy investment needed at the upstream identification end.  There is a high risk of low return on that investment if the downstream end isn’t tightly managed. Large corporations have huge budgets to invest on job fair stands and online campaigns.They make scores of offers. But all is not lost for SMEs if they go about the exercise in a structured and strategic way. They will still be able to attract the best candidates for their organisation, if their graduate recruitment process is sharp.

Best as we know, is a very nuanced word.

I started my early career running graduate recruitment programmes and in 2017 I observed improvements, contradictions, some changes and the same old. Some things that you would think would have changed, simply haven’t. Graduates are pretty much the way they have always been. Some are open, others arrogant. Some get it, others don’t. Some are focused others are not.

Managing expectations

The World Economic Forum report lists the 5 things that Millennials look for in a job .Holidays, working with great people and flexible hours are important factors, with money and job security listed at the top. Research from Deloitte indicates work life balance, professional development, sense of meaning, the impact on society and high quality products are also key drivers.

My own experience would be in line with the Deloitte research, although work-life balance was not mentioned once by any one of the hundreds of graduates I talked to this year. The focus was more on lifestyle in general. I found that the connection to family seemed stronger than I had encountered in other years.  They key mentions to me were: career advancement (very important) ethical products and leaders and meaningful, impactful work.

Here are 6 graduate recruitment tips for SMEs

But what do SMEs have to do to get the right talent for their organisations?

1. Career Services

University Careers services continue to be mixed. Their web sites are easier to navigate than I remember and they do seem to be more in touch with what’s going on in the market than before. In general I found the level of CVs higher than in previous years, so they are obviously working with their students to produce better results, which is always a positive. Some use their job boards as revenue generating operations and charge for their service. Others have fees for a placement. I didn’t use these options, which was a good decision. I found like any job board the results were generally poor and it was direct approach via my network and digital sourcing worked best. LinkedIn Recruiter was helpful to a point. The quality of contact varied between universities with some acting as if they were doing me a favour connecting me to “their graduates”.  I bypassed their system and used general sourcing methodologies.

2. Values and Vision

Looking for employment in line with their values and vision seems to be a key motivator for 2017 graduates. Many are open to working for SMES especially those that replicate their own beliefs. So although hiring managers from SMEs fear competition from the top players, many students are looking for smaller more flexible environments. Some of the big name employers are perceived to be working with, or have strong links with top ranked universities, giving preferential treatment to graduates from those establishments. A strong big name employer brand isn’t necessarily always going to win the day. In October 2016 budget supermarket Aldi out-positioned Google in the Times Top 100 Graduate Employers. 

Lifestyle decisions seem to be critical. I observed larger numbers than usual being very specific about their general needs with regard to friendship groups, relationships, family commitments and geographic location. There was no mention of work life balance with regard to time, even those new graduates who are already parents. And there where some. I saw little evidence of graduates yearning for independence and desperate to escape the nest. Rather the reverse. Family commitments seemed more significant and many had lived at home to save money during university to reduce student debt. We looked for indications of independence in other ways. A high number openly referenced the influence of their parents. Almost all had worked to support themselves through university and workplace exposure was an added bonus. There seemed to be a higher number of mature students.

3. Speed is of the essence

Today the recruitment process needs to be speeded up. Graduates expect rapid responses and high levels of engagement. Corporates are frequently not set up to reach decisions as fast as they need to be for this demographic. Expect high levels of fall out if you are not running a smooth operation with a clear timeline  to manage expectations. Very often final year students have exams and dissertations well into July of the academic year. Making your application process as seamless as possible is important without asking them to jump through too many selection hoops.  Regular communication is vital even if you have nothing to say. They like to be kept in the loop. Many will not read emails for days – agree in advance what platform you are using and advise them to monitor communication channels frequently. This is where smaller companies may have an edge with fewer approval layers. I advise you to use it.

4. Online presence

This generation is digitally savvy and will research your company online. Skilled and experienced at picking up digital anomalies, all online communication needs to be on point. Any detail no matter how small will be picked up. Because I focused on online sourcing, I tapped into students who had a reasonable professional presence. Anecdotally I would say that this had increased in the last year. Employers need to have compelling web sites with some space dedicated to the career advancement featuring younger employees.

5. Long short lists

Graduates will agree to participate in a process and do accept alternative offers if they receive something better or just something quicker. It’s important to have longer than usual short lists and to move swiftly on final decisions. This is where ongoing communication is imperative.

6. Everyone makes the pitch

Graduates need to see enthusiasm from everyone in the process. They are looking for work as a life experience which is a major shift. Many are saddled with significant debt and commitment to future training and  career development needs to be spelled out. They have expectations of corporate life gleaned from TV and the movies. Very often the office on a plant or some industrial site is a far cry from what they have in their heads. Your brand needs to be sold convincingly by everyone. I used researchers nearer to the demographic in age than I am and they provided invaluable insights and could put expectations into perspective. One researcher was well versed on where the best music scenes could be found in relation to the hiring locations. This proved to be invaluable information, clearly something I might struggle to do.

So although SMEs have concerns that the big corporates will cream off the best talent, a strategic, targeted, flexible search which taps into core values of the graduating demographic will prove to be a big bonus. SMEs still have the opportunity to attract the best talent for them.

If your organisation wants support for graduate recruitment now or in 2018. Contact us.   

 

Diversity and Inclusion Recruitment – Beyond the Hype

Diversity and Inclusion recruitment processes and workforces are the buzz words right now. If the level of white noise was a benchmark, we should be there and all sorted. But we’re not. So  what’s going on behind the hype?

Why aren’t diversity and inclusion recruitment initiatives working?

I see regular, but superficial posts about the way to get it right. But despite the social media fanfare and the business case for D & I being incontrovertible, the needle isn’t moving at the rate it should. In some cases it’s regressing. These are the stats from McKinsey,  but if you go with Deloitte, Mercer, the World Bank or W.E.F. the indications are all similar.diversity and inclusion recruitment

Now companies like Microsoft and Google who seemingly go to great lengths to do everything right are struggling to shift the status quo. They are making D & I KPIs for senior management and part of their personal objectives. Essentially the message is that people can’t be relied on to do the “right” thing, they must have incentives and be rewarded for achieving specific objectives when it comes to diversity and inclusion recruitment.

Tackling bias 

To tackle this, many organisations have thrown big budgets and people at unconscious bias training and awareness coaching, but without creating a safe culture where biases can be called out.  Not unsurprisingly there is push back against generic programmes as employees resent the idea that they need to be “fixed.” Unconscious bias can only ever be managed in any of us. Candidates are placed because they conform to pre-conceived ideas around “cultural” fit (affinity or confirmation bias) and conversely rejected because they may not. The concept of hire for attitude rather than aptitude beyond entry-level, is something mainly seen in Twitter memes and quoted by LinkedIn influencers.

Read: Affinity bias and the recruitment process

Defining diversity

Organisations need to have a clear vision of how they define a diverse workforce, what it means for them and then clarity on the strategy they need to achieve those goals. Then there needs to be an impactful  message related to the company mission statement and employee benefits that would attract that diverse workforce. These conditions need to be openly stated as this demographic self-deselect. This can be flexi-time, welcome bonuses, job sharing, disabled facilities, carer support, retirement support, mentoring programmes and education and study support. So whether diversity comes from hiring on the basis of gender, ethnicity, age, physical ability or even mental health issues, there has to be clarity on which demographics are being targeted.

Promote an employer brand based on diversity

diversity and inclusion recruitment

Diversity and Inclusion recruitment drives can’t succeed in a vacuum.  A positive employer branding message has to focus on the benefits of working in an organisation that supports diversity. Building relationships at grass-roots level to create a feeder talent pipeline,  whether via alternative schools, community centres, colleges, NGOs, charities or women’s organisations etc;, or offering returnships to early retirees or parents. This involves having role models to act as brand and diversity ambassadors going directly into those communities to do a full-on PR job.

Spread the word

Once created this message needs to be strategically communicated where the target demographics are likely to be found.  85% of jobs are secured via networking so you can see why hiring results in “mini-mes” being selected. Many recruiters pursue low hanging, visible fruit. It means a fast, problem-free placement and easier fee. Identifying potential candidates easily tracked on LinkedIn is the quick fix option which will not support diversity. Many young recruiters don’t have the skills to do anything more imaginative and will need training on what is needed to encourage successful diversity and inclusion recruitment drives

Positions should be advertised in a wide variety of places and platforms. It is well-known that women cannot be found on STEM courses, so it’s a waste of time looking there. Yet most companies continue to do exactly that and then complain loudly they can’t find the talent. They should try looking at liberal arts courses and conducting numeracy testing at the interview stage.

Neutral selection processes

At this point the selection process should be as neutral as possible.

  1. Empathetic application forms – some companies still list learning differences as disabilities.
  2. Neutral profiles – making sure that the text usually written in an alpha male tone will not cause candidates to self-deselect.
  3. Blind CVs  – these are useless on their own without 3,4 and 5.
  4. Structured interviews with open feedback and a culture of calling out and naming bias
  5. Short lists of 3 for the target demographic. A token minority will end up getting cut.
  6. Interview panels with a diverse composition.

Read: Do structured interviews overcome unconscious bias? 

Organisations with a real interest in diversifying their workforce will make more concerted efforts to test new ways to identify and attract a new type of potential candidate. Unless that happens then diversity and inclusion needle will continue to stick.

For support on innovative recruitment processes contact here 

mindfulness in recruitment

The Value of Mindfulness in Recruitment

As someone who is notoriously mind-less (I am the person who opens the refrigerator door and has forgotten why,) it has taken a lot of work for me to become attuned to my own biases. In that process I have become especially aware of the value of the process of mindfulness in recruitment. It was heartening to hear Katrien Goossens, Global Head of Diversity and Wellness at Euroclear recently advocate the same. Getting individuals to understand that bias isn’t only found in others, is not easy.  We all have unconscious biases. It’s about all of us.

These biases are so deeply embedded in who we are, our values and belief systems that we barely notice they are there. Unconscious bias is there to protect us and to enable us to sort through the millions of thoughts that go through our heads every day and make sense of them. It is exactly the same as a Twitter hashtag system. A filing system to sort out the things that are important to us and effectively blocks out content that we don’t agree with, is dangerous, offensive or upsetting. In social anthropological terms life threatening people and situations.

3 types of workplace bias

The workplace is no different to our wider cultures. We all make decisions under pressure in the workplace and especially in the recruitment process. This is not efficient and at times illegal and especially frequently not rational. These biases relate to a number of assumptions around gender, age, race, disabilities, sexuality, appearance, BMI, height, social class, accent, nationality, schools and universities attended, political affiliation, postal codes or body art. The list is endless.

  1. Affinity bias   where we ignore negative traits of people we like and focus on the faults of those we don’t
  2. Social bias  –   exhibiting preference to P.L.U. – People Like Us  – our own social group
  3. Confirmation bias  – where we justify our existing perceptions

Even within the organisation, biases play an ongoing role in career advancement. Employees can be offered different levels of career opportunities based on any of these biases.

Backlash 

For many years, employers have used diversity training as a way to overcome biases and make their organisations less homogenous.  Millions are spent. Increasingly those involved in bias awareness training report resistance and even hostility from their programmes and workshops.  Harvard Business Review suggests that  traditional strategies are not only ineffective, they can have a negative impact and even reduce diversity. Even pioneering companies like Google have barely moved the needle in terms of the composition of their workforce.

Some companies are trying to change procedures and practises to deal with these challenges and produce better results. These include:

  • Blind CVs
  • Skill based adverts and job descriptions
  • Structured and behavioural interviews
  • A bias facilitator at interviews
  • Wide range and background of interviewers
  • Interview by text (saw that this week)

My own unconscious bias

However, unwittingly we can continue to disadvantage others, even when at a conscious level we reject those biases. These biases interfere with our rational decision-making, which impact our organisations. It was never more apparent than when I was recently trying to arrange to interview candidates on a Wednesday afternoon. In Belgium the schools are closed. One male candidate was unable to meet because he had to pick up his kids. Another female candidate also had the same commitment. I noted my own reactions to both.

In emoji terms one earned

smiling_face_emoji_with_blushed_cheeks

The other was: Unconscious Bias

My immediate reaction was for the guy “too cute.” The daddy factor. For the woman “she could miss an opportunity. What a shame.” It was very fleeting, but there nevertheless. Using mindfulness in recruitment allowed me to catch and manage that one. I caught myself watching Conchita a few years ago at the Eurovision song contest and caught a definite bias then.

Read: Conchita – Overcoming unconscious Bias  

But how many have I missed? How many do we all miss?

Creating awarenessmindfulness in recruitment

The fact that we have these biases does not mean we need fixing.  When I took the Harvard-designed IAT, or implicit association test I discovered I had gender bias.

A contact discovered that she associated sciences as a male activity, which as a school counsellor she needed to be very aware of.

Another described a man with natural ethnic hair as “sloppy.”

I heard young HR woman reference an older male candidate as a “past his prime.”  Whatever that is.

Our cultures are embedded in gender expectations. This really great video from Kristen Pressner Global Head Human Resources Diagnostics Division Roche covers this point perfectly. Here she acknowledged her own gender biases. It’s a game changer for HR, heavily populated with women and one of the most important HR videos in a long time.

Mindfulness in Recruitment

The practise of Mindfulness can help make us aware of our hidden assumptions. It is about being present, paying attention with intention and not judging. It helps us focus on the experience we are in at that moment in time and creating an awareness of our reactions and making the unconscious conscious.

Becoming aware of my underlying assumptions has allowed me to observe and monitor my reactions and then to change my response if required. This is supported by research from Social Psychological and Personality Science, which suggests that mindfulness can reduce implicit bias and the subsequent negative behaviors follows.  Do I succeed every time? No. Yesterday I was called out by  a colleague for a slip. The most important thing is to be open and accepting of feedback. A senior recruiter became defensive with me when I suggested his language choice was sexist.

Essentially you can’t take the bias out of recruitment until the people involved in the recruitment process become bias conscious. If we all started to note and to become aware of why and how we react to people and ultimately judge them, then we might start to see better results.

The process starts with self. It’s just about getting started.

If you are struggling with unconscious bias in recruitment, contact me.

Career advice needs context

Why career advice is meaningless without context

There is no shortage of career advice, with any number of people giving tips on what and not what to do. There is even advice on what career advice to ignore. Everyone has careers, so we all believe we know what everyone else should do. But as with anything, these bumper sticker type homilies are much more nuanced than we ever imagined. Times and workplaces change. Circumstances change. Heaven forbid – you change. These golden tips and nuggets of wisdom need to be revisited and always put into context. Context is everything when it comes to career advice. Without that – any career advice is meaningless.

4 common pieces of career advice without context

#1 You have to follow your passion

This is the most regularly doled out of all career tips. If it was a movie or a song it would get an award. Of course you should all be advised to do something you love and which satisfies you. Otherwise you will be condemned to a life of frustration and misery. But there are some caveats. The first is to be strategic. Do you have the skills or can you acquire them? The next question is will that passion pay the bills? At the age of 14, I was passionate about tennis, but there was no way I could make a living at it. Or had the skills. That is something that very often people misunderstand. I know one woman who was an excellent home cook and passionate about food. But she was unable to turn that passion into something that paid her bills. Some things like my tennis, are best kept as hobbies.

The other thing is that your passion can change over the years. So something that you might be passionate about in your 20s,  can be the source of unremitting boredom in later life.

You can also develop new passions. It’s not inconceivable that you might find two or even more passions in a working life which is extending all the time.

Core advice: maintain a path of life-long learning. Be open to possibilities and be sure to do your inner work regularly. Assess and prioritize your goals.  In our careers we will be passionate about many things at various times. At different stages of our lives we have a range of commitments and constraints. There is nothing wrong with having to defer to those in the short-term. As life goes on compromises are made as we factor other people’s needs into our planning. The question is do you feel compromised? If you do, then it’s time for a re-evaulation. The pace of change is also so great in our workplaces, that we have no idea what jobs will exist in 10 years that we may become passionate about.

Passion isn’t static for most people. It’s misleading to suggest it might be.

Read: Knowing yourself in the beginning of all wisdom 

#2. You should have a dream

Martin Luther King had a dream.  Some athletes, movie-stars, musicians have dreams. Other more regular people also have them. But unless that vision is backed up by a strategy, goals and a plan then it is worthless.  Relate this to your passion. The same criteria apply.

Core advice: See above

#3. There is no substitute for hard work

Actually there is. I prefer the advice to work smart. In an era of 24/7 availability the pressure to work incredibly long hours is high. In some sectors it’s a badge of honour and status symbol, particularly for men.  Burnout, breakdowns and depression are now normal. There are times when hard work is necessary. But it’s not just about the hours clocked  – it’s about the quality of those hours and their strategic value.

A bedfellow to this piece of advice is that you are judged by your work, so you should allow that work “to speak for itself.” That isn’t necessarily true. People tend to be judged by their results and they need to be able to develop a message that people are aware of. Find a mentor or a sponsor to help you share that message. This is a very female trap to wait for recognition. It frequently doesn’t call. We all have poor, lazy colleagues who still manage to do well.

Core advice: work smart and strategically, have a plan. Network effectively, work with a sponsor who will act as your door opener and find balance. Don’t be afraid to communicate your achievements. Done properly, with some humility, it is not bragging.

Read; Overwhelmed by a culture of overwork

#4. Get as many qualifications as you can 

Today with the cost of education sky rocketing and many graduates leaving university to depressed job markets with huge debts, the further education argument is now under discussion. It is no longer the golden conveyor to career success. So the career advice in this area should be tempered. Clearly there are certain professions which require higher education. In medicine, engineering, architecture and so on, minimum academic professional standards are not optional. But a number of organisations are starting to drop the focus on degree qualifications and look at other skills. The accounting firm Ernst and Young says that there is

‘No evidence’ that success at university is linked to achievement in professional assessments”

The World Economic Forum list the following as vital skills in the future of work:  literacy,  numeracy,  financial knowledge, technology, soft skills (see list below)

wef -skills

 Core advice: The workplace is changing at a terrific pace and currently there is a massive disconnect with our education systems. There is no doubt that the value of traditional educational paths is coming under question. I would definitely think long and hard before taking a liberal arts or soft degree and relate that carefully to longer term career projections. This brings us back again to life long learning. No one can afford not to update their skills on an ongoing basis. Failure to do so will be a problem. So you can have as many qualifications as you like, but if they are out of date, or redundant – they are of no value

Success means different things to each of us. The important element is to be clear what it means to you and to check regularly if those factors are consistent and constant. Career advice is not a one of one size fits all. The advice we need, will evolve as we and our circumstances do.

For career advice, context is not just critical, it’s everything.

Make sure you contact me for any career advice and coaching! [contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

Time poverty

Time poverty the latest corporate epidemic

Poor timekeeping and time poverty

Richard Branson wrote on LinkedIn telling us that if we wanted to be more productive, we should be more punctual. Yet poor time keeping seems to be a current and growing trend, as everyone claims to be overloaded and time poor.

Time poverty has become a corporate and cultural epidemic. Busy or stressed has become today’s standard response to a routine enquiry asking someone how they are. We ae constantly complaining about time poverty.

Time scarcity seems to have become a badge of success and an indicator of professional status.

Opportunity cost  

I confess to having been guilty of some erratic time keeping myself. I was very much “a one more thing before I go”  type of girl and a great subscriber to the phrase “fashionably late.” But, fortunately in my early career, I worked for a manager who monetized the communally wasted time whenever any of his team was late for a meeting. It was actually quite shocking. If we had all been held financially accountable, our pay cheques would have been significantly lighter.

When I transitioned into sales I had to replace  “better late than never ” with  “never late is better.”   Arriving late isn’t actually a recognised commercially winning strategy.

Running late

I have become acutely aware in recent times how erratic general timekeeping seems to have become and how easily  the phrase “running late”,  has slid into our daily business and social vernacular, including my own. Very often people apologise, (sometimes they don’t), explaining that either they, someone, or something else was “running late“, as though they were a bus service, entirely passive and had nothing to do with it at all. Clearly there are always unforeseen circumstances but these tend to be less common than imagined.

I ran a training session a few weeks ago when 50% of attendees were late. I was told this was quite usual. A contact mentioned that two of that same organisation’s account managers were late for a sales meeting with a senior director in his company. They went on to lose the account. A lack of respect for time, their own and others, has become embedded into their corporate culture.

Why are we all becoming more tolerant of  poor time keeping? Whatever happened to William Shakespeare’s “Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late?”

Consequences

Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management From the Inside Out,  tells us that the first step is to make promptness a conscious priority, but also we need to  gain an understanding into why we’re always late. Poor timekeeping can be very costly, both directly  but also via damage to our reputations suggesting we are unreliable,  untrustworthy and/or disorganised. The reasons she maintains tend to fall into two categories: technical or psychological.

1. Technical Difficulties

If we are always late but at different time then, the likelihood is that it is the result of  bad planning and under estimating how long things will take. Morgenstern advises establishing patterns by keeping a time log of all tasks and finding out exact how much time each task takes. Then factor in a margin for some unforeseen contingency.

2. Psychological

 – Inability to say no

Linda Sapadin, PhD, author of Master Your Fears believes there are deeper underlying implications of poor timekeeping,  which are linked to procrastination. Very often many of the difficulties come from lack of confidence and an inability to say no,  or even to tell another person we have another appointment in our diaries.

– Do you choose to be late?

If we are always late by the same amount of time, there could be a number of reasons – but no doubt, it’s about us!  We might be:

  • Rebellious   – not doing what’s expected
  • A crisis maker   – need an adrenalin rush to get going
  • Attention seeker  – which comes with being last through the door and going through the apology ritual.
  • Power playing  – I’m more important than you are,  sending a message of disrespect
  • Avoider – you don’t want to meet the person, or attend the meeting, so leave it until the very last-minute.

So next time instead of saying something  “ran late”, perhaps we should all just be honest and admit to being bad planners, power players, attention seekers or avoiders.

More importantly if we manage our own time, we will automatically respect the time of others. We should also stop thinking poor time management is worth emulating and follow Richard Branson’s lead.

“It means being an effective delegator, organiser and communicator.”

If you need support with your time management and planning which could impact your career – check out these coaching programmes.

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!

gender de-coding

Gender de-coding of job adverts treats symptoms only

Gender De-coding and unconscious bias

Corporate culture and communication generally has a male tone. Whether it’s job adverts and postings, job descriptions, feedback and review forms or employee engagement and reward terminology. The HR world is awash with phrases such as champion, ninja, winner, hero, scrum master and black belt. It’s hardly surprising that some women or introverts can be deterred from putting themselves forward for new positions. So although we haven’t seen adverts with “male applicants only” for over 40 years, there is subconscious use of  masculine coded language which will cause many women to de-select themselves.

This is known as “second generation discrimination.”  To counteract this, there has been a demand for gender de-coding of job adverts.

Masculine language  

Research in Personality and Social Psychology 2011 and also published by Duke University and the University of Waterloo, suggests that women are discouraged from applying for jobs if the posting uses masculine coded language.  “Independent”, “self-confident” and “decisive” are three examples of male wordings that may put off some women from applying for a job. However, men seem to not be affected if a job description uses feminine words like “considerate”, “collaborate” and “loyal”.

This research has generated commentary around the construction of gender neutral adverts and the need for gender de-coding.  A number of apps have been developed to monitor the gender bias of job advertisements,  to offset indications that many organisations are unintentionally using language which will turn off female candidates. These algorithms then count the number of gender-coded words to determine if there is a bias in any direction.

gender coding

gender coding

Using two software apps I ran two adverts I had created through Textio and Kat Matfield’s Gender Decoder.  One was for a Managing Director in the B2B heavy industry sector – very male dominated. The other was a mid-level change management consultant. Despite my best efforts, they both contained  some masculine coded words. Leadership, manage, business acumen and analyse are highlighted as being masculine coded.

Matfield provides a full list check list of male and female gender coded words.

Band-aid policy

The MD role is a senior position and indicates an MBA is desirable. This is not an inflated requirement, as I am strict about over egging the job advert omelette.  I used the term “business acumen” which was highlighted as being a male coded term. The alternatives offered were “business understanding” and “business sense.”

Are they best use of the English language? I’m not so sure. We’re talking about running an multi-million SME not a monthly allowance.

Can you really write an accurate job description for a senior role without using at least some words that are considered to be male coded, without over simplification? They have masculine connotations now, because not many women have been in these roles until recently. Leadership is currently a male coded word. There is no reason it should be and especially stay that way. We have to be careful about getting into revisionist language policies reminiscent of communist Russia with the selection of, for example, female friendly leadership synonyms, which may not convey the same message.  We are so unused to female leaders – we even call them “women leaders.”  One senior HR Director said they were considering replacing the job title “Team Leader” with “Team Coach”

This is about gaining an understanding of our own unconscious biases, not just treating the symptoms. We can’t eradicate those biases, but we can learn to become aware of them and manage them. We need to tackle the root causes of the problem, at the same time as treating the symptom.

Women’s input

I spoke to some senior women for their opinions. They thought the process of gender de-coding job adverts was really helpful, especially at at mid-junior levels, when women are unfamiliar with business language, and could be overwhelmed and maybe deterred by its usage. They all advocated the use in their own organisations. At a senior level care has to be taken for language not to be reductive.

They also believe at the same time that it would be more effective to educate women to be gender bi-lingual. They would then feel  more comfortable with what is currently being perceived as masculine language, such as “leader”. It’s interesting that men are not put off by feminine coded language. They added hiring managers and HR should stop the inflation of qualifications and experience levels of these postings, which they believe are a greater deterrent to women to put themselves forward for jobs and promotions.

I passed this idea on to some HR contacts and they agreed.  I also asked them their thoughts about adding a line suggesting that “those without all the stated qualifications could still apply.” They all groaned. “We would be inundated with under/over qualified applicants

The field of gender balance is fraught with conflicting opinion. There  is no doubt that job adverts need to be made more accessible to some women, although not all women are deterred by language use.  But not at the expense of dumbing  down. That is patronising.

But please….. the use of “Ninja” and “Black Belt” should be stopped NOW!

If your organisation wants to strengthen the female talent pipeline – read here.