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Stronger Hiring Rate Expected for September

D&B Consulting


For the second month in a row, the hiring rate for September 2012 will rise in the manufacturing and service sectors compared with a year ago, September 2011.  This is according to the  Society for Human Resource Management’s  (SHRM) Leading Indicators of National Employment (LINE) Survey.
This confirms steady job growth, but not enough  to bring down the unemployment rate.  Manufacturing jobs are  expected to  grow by 12.4% and Service jobs are expected  to grow by 2.7%.

Providing Leadership- Inspiring Greatness

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I  am a film junkie.  For me, films serve as a way to gain strength and inspiration. So I was intrigued when I received an email from “The Leaders’s Beacon” that incorporated a clip from the movie, “Invictus” starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. It  was part of an  article asking “What is your Pholosophy of Leadership?”  In this movie Freeman plays the role of South African President Nelson Mandela and Damon plays the role of Francois Pienaar, the captain of the Springbok rugby team. The movie follows Mandela and Francois over the next year as the team prepares for the World Cup in South Africa.
This article dscribes  a leadership philosophy as  the “blueprint for how you live your life, how you run your company, and how you treat others.”
In the clip, Mandela asks Francois about his philosphy of leadership. Francois replies that he leads by example.
1. What is your philosophy of leadership?
As the clip continues, Mandela  focuses on how a leader inspires other to greatness. He shares his inspiration for  how he endured durng the darkest  times of his imprisonment  at Robben Island. It was  the poem “Invictus” by  the Victorian English poet Willima Earnest Henley. From Wikpedia: At the age of 12 Henley contracted tuberculosis of the bone that  progressed to his foot a few years later. When he was 17 his leg was  amputated  directly below the knee.  Stoicism inspired him to write this poem. Despite his disability, he survived with one foot intact and led an active life until his death at the age of 53.
“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul”
Mandela wanted to unite his country.  He determined that one way to accomplish that goal was if the Springbok team could win the World Cup, which was to be hosted by South Africa the following year.   First had the vision, then he set an example for Francois. Francois was able to embrace the vision that it was indeed possible for his team to win the World Cup.  The film takes us through the year as Francois  finds ways to inspire his team to greatness and to go on the win the World Cup, which served the greater goal of uniting a country once torn by apartheid.
2. In what ways do you  inspire yourself to greatness?  How do you  inspire others?
As demonstrated in this film based on a true life story, it is critical  that you first  know what you want. Then you must believe in your goal, and then find ways to inspire yourself and other to greatness- to achieve more than you and your employees ever imagined

Developing Better Emotional Intelligence: Part 1

D&B ConsultingIn the drive for results, sometimes we don’t focus enough on our work relationships.  This is one facet of  emotional intelligence (EQ): how we manage ourselves and interact with others.  We know that once you have the skills and knowledge to perform your job, EQ is a key to business success. Are you the hard-driving analytical type, very intelligent and well-educated, who does not connect well with your employees?  Or has your reaction to constant stress at work and home hurt your work relationships?  There are many factors that  affect how we manage ourselves and interact with others. Stop and take an inventory of your work relationships.  If you think they can be better, read on.

The first step  is focusing on being conscious:  slowing down rather than accelerating. But how  do  you  do that with all of the pressure on you for results, NOW, and all of your responsibilities, with so little time?
The Buddhists call it “Mindfulness”.  Tolle referred to it as staying in the “Now”, being presently focused.  Meditation of some sort is often recommended in these books.  Yoga and Tai Chi are also recommended as ways to connect the body and the mind.  Some people opt for prayer and the reading of scripture, or other religious texts.  Some people journal.
Your first reaction is probably, “But with all of my responsibilities, are you crazy?”  I know.  I’ve been there.  But I also know that I perform better, are more in tune with my clients and make fewer careless mistakes when I make the effort to take care of myself  physically, emotionally and spiritually.  And that means slowing down and being more conscious.  It  means pacing yourself and seeing life as a marathon rather than  consecutive one mile sprints with no finish line.
You do not need a lot of extra time, maybe 15 minutes in the morning and late in  the day. I challenge you to find some time.

“For fast acting relief, try slowing down.”

Lily Tomlin

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

Mahatma Gandhi

The American Dream

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The businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The businessman complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied only a little while. The businessman then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs. The businessman then asked, but what do you do with the rest of your time? The Mexican fisherman said, I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos; I have a full and busy life, señor.”
The businessman scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and I could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats; eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the processor and eventually open your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City where you would run your expanding enterprise.” The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?” To which the businessman replied, “15-20 years.” “But what then, señor?” The businessman laughed and said, “That’s the best part! When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.” “Millions, señor? Then what?” The businessman said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
This parable has been around for a long time.  I like to read it periodically to gain perspective.
I hope it helps you to gain some perspective as well.


Some Thoughts on Careers and Life

D&B Consulting

Over twenty years ago I resigned my job and announced my intention to move to another
state to pursue an MBA. What surprised me was the number of people  who approached me to tell me about their lost dreams: to go to law school, to move to another area of the country, to get another job. One person, quoting Thoreau, stated that I was moving ahead while leaving behind others who were ” leading lives of  quiet desperation.” It was then I wondered, what makes some people able to identify and seek work and a life that is challenging and rewarding, while others resist attempts to improve the quality of their lives?

Since graduating with  my MBA, I have  worked with many organizations and individuals on career, executive  performance, leadership and career/life balance issues.What I learned is that the answers are many and varied.

Certainly part of the answer has to do with self-esteem. Those with high self-esteem see themselves as competent and likable people who have the power to make positive changes in their lives. Another part  has to do with the experience that people have with making changes, as well as basic problem solving skills. People who have solved problems and faced challenges independently early in their lives, use those same skills to make changes later on. Some people are not comfortable with the uncertainty that comes with exploring their options.  Others resist change and feel more secure with  the devil they know.

Sometimes people can identify that they are unhappy or unfulfilled in their careers, but might not be able to recognize what about their job needs to change, what they really like, and what they are good at. Vocational and personality tests are helpful, but they cannot determine what is in your heart to accomplish with your life.

For those of who are not happy with your career or  your life,  rewrite a script for yourself that focuses on what provides you with real meaning and happiness. This should be based on your needs, not the expectations of what being a success may mean to some people or to society. Create your vision or persona as a competent person who has the power to make changes in your life.



Grading on a Curve: Does it Work?

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Forced or stacked ranking is a performance evaluation  method where managers grade on a curve. Remember that from your school days? Even if you did “B” work, you may be at the bottom of the ranking if most everyone else did “A” work. In the August issue of Vanity Fair, the author identifies Microsoft’s forced ranking evaluation process as one HR policy that  contributed to it’s decline. See: “How Microsoft Lost Its Mojo: Steve Ballmer and Corporate America’s Most Spectacular Decline”.

This is a prime example of how HR policy can affect the company bottom-line.

Under Jack Welch’s tenure, GE made stacked ranking popular. But in 2004 GE stopped using it. According to one source, the use of forced ranking in the US has declined from 49% to 14%. In sales, where individual producers are evaluated by their ability to make their quotoes, forced ranking can be useful.But even then it can become demoralizing and counter productive when numbers are made public. Recently a sales executive told me that his organization does not conduct performance evalutions because his boss thinks that  numbers “are all that counts.”  But what if a  behavior  from an employee interferes with how others do their jobs, or lowers  the morale of the work group?  Everyone can benefit from timely feedback to help them improve their performance and grow their careers.  And this can help to improve the performance of the entire work group.

According to the Vanity Fair article, today the iPhone brings in more revenue than all of Microsoft’s products. Baller, a deal-making, finance, and product marketing executive replaced the software-and-technological genius, Bill Gates, in January 2000, at the  time of bust. A dinasour, Microsoft, like IBM before them, began to shut  down innovative ideas  that apppealed to the tech savvy younger generation in favor of  products that favored their Windows and Office products.  From music to search engines to phones to PC’s, they repeatedly found themselves far behind innovative companies such as Apple.

All those years of increasing stock prices evaporated, never to return.  Those who made millions on Microsoft stock options now worked along side the newer employees whose stock options were underwater.

Included  in cost cutting was their stellar comprehensive medical insurance, a benefit that attracted many to the company.   Since employees could no longer make money from stock options, the only way to make more money was through promotions. That led to more managers, and  more meetings, and more red tape before new technology could be brought to the marketplace. Policies and culture relied less on innovation and more on  cutting costs and increasing revenue of Office and Windows products.

With their stacked ranking system,  even good performers could be at the bottom of the curve.  The culture became cut-throat, with employees doing what they could to make it to the top of the curve.  Great perfornmers did not want to work next to other great performers.

In  Microsoft, we see  how HR benefits and policies can affect company culture  and contribute to the  decline of the company.   As an HR manager,  how can you  influence management to implement policies that that are “life enhancing “for the organization and the employee?


Manners, Please: Workplace Civility

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How imporant is it to have a workplace culture that values civility?  And not just in a written statement of organizational values, but in practice?

I have heard many stories of screaming matches, and other demeaning and rude behavior in workplaces.  If employees are focused on emotional reactions, they are not focusing on their work and the organization. And this can affect the organization’s bottom line.

According to a recent article by Joyce E. A. Russell, a lack of civility drains productivity as employees deal with the stress caused by interactions with one another.

She lists some tips for organizations.  I have added to this list.

1. Role model good manners.
2. Train employees on how to show respect for their co-workers.
3. Incorporate and execute a zero-tolerance policy for abrasive behavior.
4. Use a self-assessment tool such as the MBTI to help employees identify their personality,  communication  and conflict management styles, and to identify what triggers intense reactions or responses.  Then coach employees to monitor their behavior and the way they deal with conflict.  Encourage employees to  ask for feedback regarding how they come across to others, or better yet, use 360 degree feedback  or team building workshops.
5. Provide anger and stress management training.
6.  Encourage employees to wait to reply to emails or text messages that elicit in them emotional reactions. Employees should first think about an appropriate response, and consider  a phone call or in person meeting, if possible.  Emails and texts can come across in a different manner than was intended.
7.  Consider implementing a business, or business casual dress code, if you  do not have one.  This can aid a professional environment where professional behavior is expected.
8. Encourage employees to ask for feedback.

Money as a Resource: Gaining Perspective

D&B Consulting

I often watch my clients who make healthy six figure incomes, yet are miserable, struggle with the thought of earning less. In the US many of us measure our self-esteem and career success by how much money we make. So money becomes who we are, our being, and our worth in society.

Some endure jobs or companies that provide little satisfaction, and/or work in conditions that are dehumanizing and demoralizing. But their addiction to the salary, perks and prestige offered by their careers hold them back from moving ahead. They may find themselves handcuffed to a large, popular company, or a glamour profession, or a job that is not a good fit for them. And at the exact time they complain of their unhappiness on the job, they may purchase a new house or a fancy car. Their motivation is to have the “things” make up for the discomfort and dissatisfaction they find in their career. They want to assume the outward appearances of success, while they are suffering deep inside. But “things” can’t do that for us. Nor can fancy expensive vacations. Ever take a great vacation and then 24 hours after your return feel like it never happened?

Everyone wants financial assets and savings, and enough material possessions for comfort. Money is a resource that provides many of the creature comforts we enjoy. Financial assets help put our children through college and provide for our retirements. Our personal savings allows us to make changes in our lives and provides us some comfort and a sense of security.  It’s when we expect material possessions and status to create inner fulfillment that we get in trouble. Remember the Beatles song “Money Can’t Buy Me Love”? “Things”can’t love you back.

In a questionnaire I give to my clients, I ask when they felt the most successful and the happiest. A surprising number describe their college days or when they were just starting out in their first job, or talk about their life outside of work. In college they knew where they were going. They set goals, achieved academic success and had a rewarding social life. They had balance. Their first job after college provided the means to furnish an apartment and establish their independence. Life was simple. Even so, when considering making a change in their career to more fulfilling work, some will not consider taking a lower starting salary, or moving to a smaller house or one that is in a less prestigious neighborhood. Or a change to a less glamorous career that is a better fit for them. And sometimes those with the most financial resources see their choices as the most limited. Yet logic tells us they should be the ones with the most options.

But it is also this attachment to money and “things” that does many of us in–this pursuit of large paychecks and closets filled with clothes we never wear. Instead, we should first identify what gives meaning to our lives. And identifying and pursing meaningful work that uses the best of us, in a supportive work culture, is one way to add value to our work beyond the paycheck.

I worked with a couple that were both employed for the same Fortune 500 company for 15 and 20 years respectively. This company has a strong corporate culture that demands loyalty and offers no flexible or alternative work schedules. Their work is demanding and consuming. They contacted me because they lacked meaning and balance in their lives. Since one of them travels extensively, the other assumes almost total responsibility for household chores while working a sixty-hour work week. Their goal was to retire early. But what purpose does an early retirement serve to people who have not yet learned how to live??

If we devote our lives to amassing material possessions, and measure our worth by these things, what happens if we lose some of it through divorce (there is a 50% divorce rate in this country), or from losing our job. If our worth is attached to that county club membership and it suddenly disappears, who are we? Today’s companies run lean and mean and lay-off employees when profits decline. Many states are “right to work” and do not need a reason to fire an employee.

If we spend time developing a clear sense of who we are, identify our values, and attempt to live our lives to reflect those values, then we have the inner resources to shield us in times of misfortune. All is not lost if we lose our job. All is not lost if the stock market goes down. What I am talking about is developing a strong inner foundation and a healthier perspective on money so that we can develop both inner and outer wealth. It is a fine goal to own a nice home and car, and have a nice lifestyle. It is when we expect these things alone to provide fulfillment for us that we get in trouble.

Do Companies Use Social Media Sites for Hiring?

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A  survey this year by the Society of Human Resource Management ( SHRM) found that 56% of companies use social media  for recruiting, up from  34% in 2008.

The site most commonly used is LinkedIn ( 95%)

52% of recruiters believe that these sites are efficient for recruiting executive/upper management (CEO, CFO), up from 22% in 2008. 58% also believe they are efficient for recruiting other management positions, up from 13% in 2008.

84% of recruiters say it is the best way  to recruit passivejob candidates, those who may not apply or be actively looking for a position.  We know that some companies today like to recruit just those candidates who are currrently working.  Using a site like LinkedIn may give then  more control and expand the base of candidates they consider.

Is Your Boss Wrong About You?

D&B Consulting

Performance reviews are supposed to be an objective evaluation of an employee’s performance, based on measurable criteria.  But how often does that happen? And how often does a job lend itself to actual  objective metrics?

Samual Culbert, a professor in the Anderson School of Management  at UCLA,  is the author of  “Get Rid of the Performance Review!  How Companies Can Stop Intimidating, Start Managing-and Focus on What Really Matters.”

He asserts that performance reviews are subjective and based on how comfortable your boss is with you, not  on how you contribute to overall organizational results.  So you may refrain from criticizing your boss or giving feedback on a better way to accomplish some result, as a way to maintain a harmonious relationship with your boss. In an ideal situation there should be healthy “push-back”  between employees, including bosses and subordinates.  But how often does this actually happen?

We know that the number one reason why employees leave an organization is their boss.  Personality conflicts, and setting unreasonable or ambiquous performance goals or arbitrary metrics can contribute to unhappy employees. So getting a new boss is a way to improve your performance appraisal. Culbert asserts that  a performance preview, where the boss and employee together are responsible  for setting goals and achieving results is an effective alternative for the employee, the boss and he organization.  Bosses are taught to manage employees and to listen to their employees, and employees want that collaboration.

What do you think?