“J” is for Job Satisfaction

I can’t get no-oh satisfaction…”

–Mick Jagger

mickAll right, all right…we all know Mick was not singing about job satisfaction, but how many of us have said this under our breath as we leave our desks at the end of the day. What is job satisfaction and how can we get some (or some more)?

It’s no surprise to HR professionals that when people answer surveys about what brings them satisfaction on the job, money is not the #1 satisfier. Money is not even #2. moneyWhat sits in these coveted positions year after year are meaningful work and a good relationship with the boss. (<everydaylife.globalpost.com/relationship-between-job-satisfaction-and-salary>, <humanresources.about.com/employeesatisfaction>, and <smallbusiness.chron.com/factorsaffectingjobsatisfaction>).

That said, these are just two of a number of factors that lead to job satisfaction. Because there are so many variables having an impact on job satisfaction it’s a challenge to measure. The following aspects of work were listed in all three of the articles cited above:

  • Work conditions
  • A sense of job security
  • Advancement opportunities
  • Wages
  • Workload
  • Recognition

Other factors, cited less often, include clarity in communication and chain of command, respect from co-workers, and ability to influence decisions.

A Gallup poll in 2011 said that 87.5% of Americans experience job satisfaction. satisfactionBeing able to use their strengths at work and having a trusting and open work environment were strong positive factors. The poll also showed satisfaction levels rose with age and with education. Salary level also had an effect. Employees making less than $36,000 were most dissatisfied (82%), while those making over $90,000 were satisfied (91.9%). Keep those satisfaction numbers in mind as you read on.

For their State of the American Workforce Report 2013, Gallup surveyed 150,000 full and part-time workers. A full 70% of them said they “hated” their job. This hatejobattitude toward their work, according to Gallup, results in estimated costs of between $450-$500 billion dollars a year in lost productivity, stolen office supplies (and you thought no one noticed that missing stapler) and absenteeism. What happened to the 87.5% who expressed satisfaction? Well, satisfaction with and engagement on the job are two different things. Engagement means feeling connected and committed. American workers overall do not feel that way. Perhaps Frederick Herzberg can help us determine why.

HerzbergFrederick Herzberg (remember that name from your college psych classes?) was an American psychologist who became one of the most influential names in business management. He is most famous for introducing the concept of job enrichment and the Motivator-Hygiene theory. This theory speaks of two dimensions to job satisfaction: hygiene factors and motivators. It is interesting to see, when compared to his theory, where most of our job satisfaction variables (and efforts to increase it) fall.hygiene

What are hygiene factors? Company policies, salary, supervision, interpersonal relations, and working conditions. Hygiene factors do not motivate people. When present, the best they do is minimize dissatisfaction. If they go missing, they cause dissatisfaction.

On the other hand, motivators create satisfaction by fulfilling individual recognitionneeds for meaning and personal growth. Motivators include the work itself, receiving recognition, and having responsibility and a chance for advancement. The disconnect between American worker job satisfaction and engagement is easier to see when you look at it through Herzberg’s lens.

Where do you fall? Are you satisfied but not totally engaged? Are you both satisfied and engaged? Neither? What can you do about your situation should you fall in the 70%? Or maybe you are reading this to get some insight into why your reports perform they way they do. What can be done to increase the presence of motivators?

Some suggestions:

  • Help employees believe what they do is important and meaningful. A manager once told me how he motivated his employees to do the unpleasant job of cleaning his store’s restrooms. He explained how dirty restrooms reflected on the store. If the restrooms were dirty, customers might generalize their disgust to the store’s food products and stop shopping there. In other words, cleaning the restrooms contributed to the bottom line just as fully stocked shelves did. Cleaning the restrooms was important work.
  • People usually don’t get up in the morning and think, “I’m going to do a recogbad job today.” Most employees want to do a good job. Doing a good job is more likely if the employee has ownership of the task and/or receives some sort of recognition for doing a good job. Ken Blanchard in his book The One Minute Manager encouraged readers to “catch employees doing something right” and say thank you for it. A sincere “thank you” costs nothing and can reap much in terms of commitment.
  • Have no way to advance employees up the ladder? Discussions about where they want to go next and helping them prepare through assignments to projects, task forces, allowing them to attend training and other activities can communicate to the employee that he/she is a valuable resource you want to develop,

If it is your job satisfaction that is one the wane, look at the above suggestions and determine how you might have them incorporated into your position. What would it take to increase your satisfaction? awarenessAs the first article in this alphabet series reminded us, awareness is a critical first step. What is it that you need to, as Mick says, “get satisfaction”?











“I” is for Interview

th-3No matter what side of the desk you’re sitting on, an interview is an informational exchange that can change a life. What you say and how you say it is critical. As an interviewer, the questions you ask and the answers you give when asked questions, will determine if the person you are interviewing gets an offer / takes the position. The same applies if you are the candidate being interviewed, The answers you give and the questions you ask will also determine if you get an offer / take the position. An interview is an intense communication situation, even though we all work hard to appear calm and confident during it, no matter what side of the desk we sit on.

Interviews have three phases: pre-interview preparation, the interview itself, and the evaluation/follow up. Professional recruiters know how to prep and what should occur during each of these phases like the back of their hand, but for candidates interviewing for a position or managers responsible for interviewing the candidates who have made it passed the recruiters, what to do and what to expect may not be so well known. Here are some tips and strategies to get what you need from each phase.th-8

Pre-Interview Preparation: For both the candidate and the interviewer, this is a time of investigation and research.

As the candidate, you should research the company online and learn all you can about it. Investigating a company online entails more than reading the “About Us” tab on the company website. Check out everything. Has the company made news recently? Check into their press releases. What are their products and services? Who are their customers? What is their mission statement? Are they domestic or global? Some company websites have information on C-suite execs…learn who they are. Check the company stock prices. Are they having a good/bad year? Why?

Going deeper…do you know the name of the person(s) who is interviewing you? If so,th-12 look at their LinkedIn profile. They have looked at yours. Knowing a bit about your interviewer(s) will not only give you good information, but will help the person seem less of a stranger the day you meet them. You may discover commonalities that will give you topics for small talk.

Finally, research yourself. Re-familiarize yourself with your resume and your LinkedIn th-13profile. We all think we know what’s there, but review this information a few times. Why? Most interviewers ask at least a few behavioral questions. Behavioral questions ask you to recall situations, actions and outcomes that you have experienced in school or on-the-job. Often the question begins as a statement: “Tell me about a time when you… How did you handle the situation and what was the outcome?” Spend some time thinking about what the interviewer might ask. Review your resume with an eye to remembering actual situations prior to the interview. This will be of great help if called upon to recall a specific example.

If you are the hiring manager interviewing the candidate, the pre-interview prep period is equally important. If interviewing isn’t part of your daily routine, planning your th-7questions ahead of time is critical. Plan questions that look for “fit” as well as skills and experience. Is the position a pressure-cooker? Ask for job-related examples of when the candidate has been under pressure. Hypothetical questions will get you hypothetical answers. Ask for actual examples. Remember, past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.

Candidates who pass the initial interview with the recruiter will probably be prepared with some questions for you as well. Determine what you will say if asked, for example, to describe the other members of the team. What qualities make a person successful on your team? What is the first priority you’d ask the new hire to tackle? Why do you stay at XYZ? Consider these questions prior to the interview so you are not blindsided or tongue- tied should you be asked.th-1

The Interview: Here you are, face-to-face, in person or on Skype. Candidate or interviewer, everyone is working to be approachable, calm and make a good impression. Candidates, remember the interview starts the moment you give your name to the receptionist. He/she may well be asked for a first impression.

For both interviewer and candidate, the following points are important to remember:

  • Take notes. The information exchanged in an interview is too important for you to rely on memory.
  • Listen, listen, listen. Candidates – Don’t let nerves make you formulate your answer before the entire question has been asked. Interviewers – If you don’t hear an th-20answer to the question you asked, ask again, probe, and follow up.
  • It’s OK to pause and think.
  • Eye contact is important.
  • At the end of the interview, ask about/reveal next steps in the process. This makes everyone’s life between interview and offer/rejection letter easier.

Post-Interview Follow Up and Evaluation: Whew! It’s over. Now both candidate and interviewer are asking themselves how it went. If the interviewer did strong pre-interview planning, he/she will have gone into the interview knowing what they were looking for, asked planned questions to uncover that information, and after reviewing their notes know whether or not they got it.

th-18As the candidate, check your gut on the way out of the building. How did the interaction with the interviewer, in many cases the “boss” of the position, feel? If your gut is saying “no, no, no”, pay attention to that and ask yourself why. Not every position is a good fit. Don’t let big money or a fancy title lure you into a situation where you will be miserable.

If your heart is soaring, pay attention to that as well. Think about what you will say in the thank-you email (yes, email is OK) you will send later that day. If you want the job, say so. Add a short plug about why you would be a good choice. Remember K.I.S.S. Keep it short and simple! If you were savvy enough to ask about next steps at the end of the interview, you will have your after-the-thank you-email next step info. If not, don’t be a pest no matter how eager you are. Give them some time.

Interviews are intense engagements and the above strategies are just the tip of the iceberg. There is an amazing amount of information online about interviewing and beingth-9 interviewed. BrazenCareerist.com is one of my favorite sources for all things career. Go take a look, no matter what side of the desk you are on.

Career Strategies: “H” is for Habits

Career Strategies: “H” is for Habits


fishTwo young fish are swimming along when they meet an older fish swimming in the opposite direction.
“Good morning, boys,” says the older fish. “How’s the water?”
The two younger fish continue swimming and before long one turns to the other and says, “What the heck’s water?”

This, says author Charles Duhigg, is the ubiquity of habit. Habits are the “unthinking choices and invisible decisions that surround us every day—until, just by looking at them, they become visible.”

Any time is a great time to take steps to break a poor or begin a new healthy habit and the new year seems to be when many turn attention to “making a fresh start” on some aspect of life.

Habits are powerful things–ask anyone who has tried to break a “bad” one (smoking) or an cakeexpensive one (Starbucks). Pleasurable things can become habits quickly (a TV show) but things that are good for you but not much fun (exercise) seem to take forever to get “ingrained”. It’s said it takes 21-28 days to establish a habit. Why then, after years of running, do I still have to force myself?

What does any of this have to do with building a successful career?

Building good habits at work will give your career a boost and give you an advantage if you suddenly find yourself in transition. Good habits promote productivity and build/maintain professional relationships with others up, down and outside the management hierarchy. valuesShowing up on time and doing what you were hired to do is expected. Good habits that boost your career go beyond expectations.

In an article that ran in Forbes, psychologist Cy Wakeman suggests six healthy habits to strengthen your career:

  • Seek opportunities to grow yourself and your skills
  • Be grateful for feedback
  • Focus on your own contribution (rather than on what co-workers are doing)
  • Be flexible
  • Let results drive your work
  • Keep your emotions on an even keel (limit the drama)


Here are a few more habits I recommend:

Keep up. How? Don’t allow yourself the excuse of being “too busy” to fall behind in terms of trainreadingstaying on top of what is happening in your field. Even if your workload is heavy and constant, make it a habit to read at least one article about your field every week. We all have 15 minutes at some point in the day. Don’t nap on the train, read an article or read an article over lunch. Articles are easy to find online.

havingcoffee Nurture your network. What does this mean? First, determine your network. These could be former co-workers, bosses, students, and 1st connections on LinkedIn. Who has motivated you? Who would you want to contact for job leads or contacts should your current job disappear? Making that call will be much easier if you have kept up with that person(s) over time. A quick call or email to keep in touch is all that is required. Again, we all have 15 minutes and that’s about as long as it takes to touch base with someone. Maybe an article you read would be of interest to them. Pass it along.

Have a plan. This is something many of us put aside, especially if we have a job we like and in which we feel secure. But just as Wakeman advises, “seek opportunities to grow yourself and your skills”, so should we have a plan for what we want to do next or what we would do if something should happen to our current position. A plan for the future should always include resumean updated resume. An updated resume is like having insurance. You don’t want to use it, but if the unexpected strikes, you’re sure glad you had the foresight.

Back in the day (1989), business guru Stephen R. Covey outlined seven habits he had gleaned from researching over 200 years of success literature. His book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, was the go-to guide in the 1990s.

7HabitsHis habits have withstood the test of time. If you’re not familiar with them they are:

  • Be Proactive
  • Begin with the End in Mind
  • Put First Things First
  • Think Win/Win
  • Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
  • Synergize
  • Sharpen the Saw

If you’re not sure what each of these mean, do what I did, and re-read (or read for the first time) the book. Covey wasn’t just talking about habits for a successful career. He was talking about habits for a successful life. Perhaps reading a chapter of this timeless book each week in lieu of an article is a good place to start getting in the habit of keeping up and creating a plan.

Want to learn more about habits themselves? Another book I recommend is the one I quoted at Habitthe top of this post, The Power of Habit: Why We Do Things in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.

I have a review of it on my website…take the 15 minutes discussed above and  give my review a read. http://www.jwillinconsulting.com/coach.htm



“G” is for Gap Analysis (Your own)

There is an old saying that goes something like this: “The shoemaker’s children go without shoes.” What does it mean? Usually it refers to the fact that what we do for our company we often do not do for ourselves. For example, my dad was a professional photographer yet photos of me as a child are few and far between. What does the shoemaker story have to do with career strategies? I propose that few of us take advantage of the tools we use in our work to keep our careers on track. For example, have you ever conducted a gap analysis on your career?

gap Gap analysis is a formal study of business performance in terms how the business is doing compared to expectations/potential. The difference between expectations and current performance is the gap. Once identified, the company can take steps to close the gap by better use of its resources, capital and technology. A good gap analysis makes a company look more closely at their current situation, where they want to be (or should already be), and how they got there. Knowing where it needs to be to stay competitive and be successful helps the company focus on steps to get there and examine what has prevented it from getting there to begin with.

Gap analysis can help us do the very same for our careers. Yet we seldom use this diagnostic tool to make sure our careers are on track as the years slide by.

It is usually when something “big” happens (lay-offs, down-sizing, promotion pass-over) that we make the time to step back and say, “Am I using my resources to their best advantage? When was the last time I invested in myself in terms of development? Is my current position positioning me for where I want to be and when I want to be there?”decision

Right now, as you continue to read this article, grab a pen and paper and jot down some thoughts or questions to use as you begin your career gap analysis. Remember this is a gap analysis; you only have to act on it if you want to. What is important here is awareness of where you are right now in your career and if this is where you want to be at this point.

Step 1: Identify Expectations: Take a candid look at your current situation. Is this where you expected to be in your career at your current age and level of experience? What were your expectations of you when you looked down the road 10 years ago or when you graduated from school?

exploreStep 2: Gather Data: If Step 1 revealed a scenario different from current reality, what road did you take to get to where you currently are? What decisions did you make? How did you make those decisions? Be honest. Were you going for the money and if so, why? Were you going for the low hanging fruit in a tough job market? Did your “dream job” present itself and you grabbed the golden ring? How did you get where you currently are in your career?

Ask  yourself if you were to enter the job market right now, how does your experience compare to what is expected in your next level position or in the position you currently hold? This kind of data is rarely gathered until we find ourselves in a job search. Gather data now. What are open positions in other companies looking for? I am not advocating a job search…I am simply recommending that you gather some data. A job exploration, if you will. There is plenty of data out there. Visit the career sites of companies you’d want to work for if you were in a job search. See what’s out there. Visit the SHRM career center, Monster, Career Builder. Do you have what they are looking for?

Step 3: Explore the Causes of Deviation: Are you ahead of the curve or beginning to fall behind? In our current 24/7 workplace it is easy to be so focused on delivering great results thatgather data our own vision of what we want for our career is lost. Just as your company stays on top of what is happening in the marketplace for its products/services, so should you keep an eye on what is happening in your career marketplace. If you see you have fallen behind, examine the causes. Awareness of where you might be behind the curve can help you strategically plot your course to catch up.

 Step 4: Take Steps to Close the Gaps You May Find: You may be shocked to see what recruiters are looking for in your current position or those at the next level. By doing this gap analysis, you can begin to take steps to close your gaps using resources that behindwill also help you in your current job. Does your current position motivate you? Are you learning new things? Are your annual goals tapping into your potential and making you stretch? If not, now is the time to make a strategic plan to get broader experience within your company. What kind of broader experience? Well, what is the marketplace asking for? See how that works?

Whatever you decide to learn more about or ask to be a part of is ultimately going to help you in your current position as well as set you up better for your next even if your next position is within your current company.

So, where do you think you are right now in terms of your own career expectations? Use a personal career gap analysis to become more aware of and informed about your career journey so far, and organize, plan and stay competitive as you move forward.




The Stories Inside You:  Develop a Manuscript Idea in 45 Minutes or LessOswego

 A story lives inside you even as you read this. Whether we write for our own enjoyment or share our work with others, we sometimes fall into periods of fallow. We worry. Where has our creativity gone? What can we do to get the spark back?

The Stories Within You ignites the creative embers of writers at all levels. Through exercises adapted from the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Festival, participants will learn techniques to defeat writer’s block, develop a new scene with 5-10 possibilities for expansion, plus interact with others who write! Join us for this workshop and give your story life.

 When:             Saturday, November 8     9:30 – 11:30 am

Where:            First Presbyterian Church of Itasca      207 E. Center St., Itasca 

Facilitator:             Jerilyn Willin, speaker, published author, coach

 Cost:               $30.00 if paid by November 1  or  $35.00 at the door     (fee includes Jerilyn’s       book, Deep, Deeper, Deeper Still)

Register:       Jerilyn@speakerwritercoach.com or by phone 630-924-8362  

“F” is for Fear

cheese “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”

Spencer Johnson, “Who Moved My Cheese?”

 There is a lot of fear in the world today. Whether you are six or 60, fear is a factor in many of the important choices you make. A Chicago police detective once told me that fear of looking foolish, fear of being embarrassed, and fear of looking fearful led to dozens of deaths every year. Trust your gut, he told me. If you have chest pain, tell someone, don’t go into the bathroom and die. If you think someone is walking too close behind you, turn around and look at them, don’t wait until they grab you and NEVER go with them, even if they have a gun. Run. It’s hard to hit a moving target. Fear of looking foolish or making a fuss can kill you.

How does this relate to career strategies? We all know there is fear in the workplace: fear of change, fear of not being a team player, fear of sticking your neck out, and possibly the most debilitating… fear of failure. What would we do if we weren’t afraid?

two campsWhen it comes to fear of failure, the workplace seems split. On the one side there is the camp of “failure is a learning experience to be valued”. Here one hears complaints about young employees who have not learned to spring back from failure because of a coddled, everyone-gets-a-trophy mentality in their childhood. The Harvard Business Review gave an entire issue to failure, citing it as a driver of creativity and lauding managers who create cultures in which failure is not only an option, it is inevitable. In the other camp is the culture where failure is not tolerated. It is seen as weakness and winning by any means necessary is the name of the game.

Robert T. Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad says, “Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” If we are afraid of failure, we don’t take risks–even calculated ones—and we don’t grow because we pass on taking assignments or projects that stretch our skills and raise our visibility.thief

Fear is a thief robbing us of our potential and opportunities to use that potential. It makes our world smaller and more anxious and it does the same to us. Fear is the #1 killer of creativity and innovation. It freezes flexibility and rapid response. And what is needed for success in today’s marketplace? Creativity, flexibility, innovation, and rapid response.

Where is our attention when we are anxious or drenched in dread? Most likely we are ruminating about the past or trying to figure out what is going to happen in the future. We are not fully “in the moment” deciding what is needed, evaluating what is truly happening, and responding in a way that is on target.

Is your workplace swathed in fear? In a March 2013 HR Magazine UK article, Chris Wellford scared manshares five telltale signs of a fearful workplace:

  • A preoccupation with status and conformity and where rules have precedence over common sense
  • Distinct in-groups and out-groups exist with little opportunity to cross the boundaries between them
  • Everything is measured but nothing is questioned
  • Appraisals are one-way
  • The focus is on pace but short term gain is known to be at long term cost

http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/hro/features/1076556/fear. Sound familiar?

Feelings of security and confidence are born when we know we can handle what may be coming. This knowledge comes from:

  • Previous experience of having risked and prevailed
  • Determining “the worst that can happen” and making a plan
  • Having a support network to help us “soothe the horror” when things go awrypositive failure

As a coach, I encourage my clients to write their fears and the “worst that can happen” on a piece of paper. Actually seeing their fear put into words on paper often strips the words of the power they command while in our head.

An environment that helps people cope with fear must include leadership, trust and vision. It must be a place where people can share information without concern for repercussions and retaliation.

Sally Stanleigh, in her article “Diminishing Fear in the Workplace”, http://www.bia.ca/articles/DiminishingFearintheWorkplace.htm says that while leaders can influence the amount of fear employees feel through some rather commonplace management techniques (i.e. communication), it is important that individuals realize they can manage their fear as well. How?

  • Acknowledge fear exists and determine its origins.
  • Be clear on what the boss, co-workers and staff expect from you.
  • Define the level of trust you have for those around you and they for you.

While transferring departments or changing companies can divest us of unfortunate bosses, negative co-workers, or work we were not cut out to do, fear is something that lives inside us. We take it with us when we go. The work we must do to get the most from our life and career begins with us. As is stated above, acknowledge your fear and determine its origins…then get to work on showing your fear who is boss. Only then can you answer the question: What would  I do if I wasn’t afraid?cat









“E” is for Ethics

In the past few months, two branches of the military have been rocked by exam cheating scandals. The identified “cheaters” are not raw enlistees or trainees; they were Air Force officers Rolemodelresponsible for land-based nuclear missiles at-the-ready for short notice launch and Naval training staff responsible for training others to work with nuclear reactors. People who should be role models.

We have grown sadly immune to shock when it comes to shady ethics in the political and some financial sectors. Now the military?

“Well,” someone said to me recently, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Seriously? That comment got me thinking. Where does it start and who is to blame? Is unethical behavior in the workplace on the upswing, or do we simply hear about it more? What about our own backyard? How ethical is your workplace? More to the point…how ethical are you?

Lapses in workplace ethics happen every day, despite employee handbooks, codes of   sickdays    ethics/conduct, and values statement posters hanging on corporate walls. Calling in sick when you aren’t, using company resources for personal projects, fudging on expense reports, taking credit where credit isn’t due…these are all ethical lapses. They’re small lapses, you may say, no one gets hurt, I earned the sick day, everyone does it. Really? Where do you draw the line?

Those who work in HR may be more privy to the ethical lapses throughout our company. How do employees think all those policies originate? Not because people conduct themselves in a professional manner, but because of the people up and down the hierarchy who don’t.

wrongEvery day we individually make choices that demonstrate our values and our character. There are rules (internal and company driven) that govern our behavior and we are constantly challenged to abide by them. In many cases, were we to give in to temptation no one would be the wiser. But something stops us. Something tells us what we are about to do is wrong on some level and so we move on, find another solution, get out of our PJs and go to work.

What constitutes ethical behavior at work? Here is an edited excerpt from a Buzzle article on three buckets which pretty much covers it all:

It’s a tough one upfront, but honesty is non-negotiable. Honesty should reflect in the way you work, in your mannerisms, in your interactions with colleagues, and in pretty much everything lyinmanyou do. Of late, though, people have been considering honesty to be somewhat of a wussy quality to have, without realizing the actual strength of character behind it.

Treating people with respect is a given, and it works both ways. The fact remains that we do not live in the Mad Men world where it is acceptable to be racist, misogynist, sexist, adulterous, homophobic or anything that encroaches on another person’s identity. It doesn’t end there, though. One needs to have an immense amount of respect for the work one does, as opposed to being paid for simply existing in an office. Employees who walk into an office with a sense of dread can never give 100% to the job, no matter how high the financial remuneration might be.

Professionalism refers to a whole spectrum of qualities that include thoroughness, punctuality, accountability, dedication, and integrity. While we all are guilty of disregarding these qualities at some point, making a habit of it does nothing for our career. Dismissing company rules, whiling away the time that you’re supposed to be working, and generally being a pain in the neck makes for an unprofessional person. One needn’t mention it equates to professional suicide.

 Any ethical lapse we have seen, heard, or perhaps perpetrated will fall into one of these categories. Just as baby steps can get a person to their goal, baby steps when it comes to ethical tip$lapses can lead a person down a slippery slope. I recently saw a commercial that said, “You wouldn’t steal a cell phone, you wouldn’t steal a tip from a table, you wouldn’t steal food from a grocery…why would you buy a pirated DVD?” One could just as easily say, “Why would you work on your own projects on company time / lie to a client / take credit for someone else’s work?”

decisionNo matter how specific our company ethics policies are, how rigorous our monitoring of employees is, how we (and others) conduct ourselves and manage our business each day is ultimately up to us. We make the decision…and if we are in a leadership position, our decisions and actions help mold the decisions and actions of those who look up to us as role models. Ethical lapses we think are small and inconsequential can have a ripple effect. Ask yourself, “Would I want this to be published about me in a newspaper?” If the answer is no, move on.Rosa





“D” is for Development

“I am still learning.” – Michelangelo (1475-1564)

 Here are some interesting (and horrifying) statistics I found at Hot For Words while researching this article http://hotforwords.com/2011/04/11/42-of-people-who-graduate-from-college-never-read-another-book

  • 1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.th
  • 42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
  • 80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year. (Source: Jenkins Group)

Can this be true? As a life-long learner, not to mention an author, these are scary stats.

Learning and development are pretty well planned out for us through high school graduation. Choices are few when it comes to what we learn in elementary and middle school. With progression to high school choices expand and until we graduate we are in a learning environment whether we like it or not. But unless you choose to pursue higher education, the “steps” to formal education stop there. Does the learning? Who is responsible for your continued intellectual growth when high school, college or grad school th-6ends? That would be you.

Even if school was not your “thing” there is a multitude of ways to expand your awareness/knowledge, tap into your potential and hone your talents outside of the classroom…even outside the workplace. Why would you want to keep learning? Continued development elevates your employability, increases chances for promotion, improves interpersonal relationships and research shows, helps you manage stress. No real downsides there.

What can you as an individual do to develop your skills as a professional as we head into mid-year? The choices are many regardless of your budget and time. The first step is determining what you want to learn. Let’s say you are an individual contributor and want to cross over into the management track. How might you prepare?

th-4Start with a candid conversation with your boss. Keep this conversation apart from your performance review. Make this a separate, dedicated conversation. Give your boss a heads up about the focus of your meeting so that he/she might also prepare for the conversation. For example: “Boss, I’d like to manage people in the future. How can I begin to prepare for such a role?”

Don’t be put off by the fact that there may not be any such positions available right now. Remember, you want to begin preparing now and developing the skills you need for when the opportunity arises. It’s always wise to come to this meeting prepared with some development ideas of your own. Suggestions you present to your boss might be:

  • Assignment to a task forces (or team or project) on which you can be in a leadership role
  • Classes/workshops you have researched both within the company and from outside vendors that focus on the skills you need to develop
  • Come to the meeting with a project idea of your own design that you would like to recruit others to work on with you. With this, you can work to develop influencing, leadership and project management skills, demonstrate creativity, and help solve a departmental or organizational problem.

For conversation sake, let’s say the boss isn’t onboard right now. Is that the end of it? No! The workplace is not the only venue for development of self or career. Involvement in outside organizations can help you develop skills needed on the job and for life. Get involved at your child’s school, in your community, at your place of worship or in the professional association of imagesyour field. All these places of opportunity have little if any cost, but for your time. For example: as a consultant I don’t get many opportunities to supervise people or call all the shots on a project. Four years ago when my church decided to open a resale shop I jumped at the chance to bring my business startup knowledge to the project. Today, I am the shop manager. I train volunteers, create and delegate assignments, handle customer complaints, etc. I have developed and use skills that my consulting practice doesn’t call upon often. What I have learned with the shop has made me a stronger consultant.

If your employer can’t pay for a workshop or class, look for a class you can handle through your th-5own budget. Not all seminars are hundreds of dollars. Explore what your local library or continuing education department of your local high school district/park district/community college has to offer. Libraries often bring in business speakers and the cost to the public is free.

Don’t have much time outside work for involvement? Once you decide what it is you want to learn more about, start with reading about it. With traditional books, eBooks and books on CD there is little excuse not to expand your world through the words of others.th-8

And I haven’t even touched on the number of courses and webinars that are online at little or no cost. Check out the free courses from top schools you can access online. Some even provide certificates of completion. https://www.edx.org. You can see and learn from fabulous speakers and thought leaders via TED talks. Their tag line is “Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.”www.TED.com

Opportunities for development are all around us. Time and cost are not valid excuses for any of us to stop learning…or giving back, which can also be a great development experience. Don’t be the person who has not read a book since high school/college/grad school ended. There has never been a better time to expand your horizons.






















“C” is for…a combination of things

diamondsWhat do diamonds and career success have in common? Each has four “Cs” that are important to pay attention to if you are going to get the most from your investment. When it comes to diamonds, the four Cs are: cut, clarity, color, and carats. When talking your career, the four important “Cs” are: character, confidence, credibility, and communication. Remove any of these four and your climb up the career ladder will be stunted.

Most often “character” is described as acting with honesty and integrity. The nightlystealing news carries many a cautionary tale of businesses that say one thing and do another or put the safety of their customers/employees at risk to build a more profitable bottom line. How does that start? As businesses are made up individuals, it starts with small individual decisions that don’t seem “that bad.” It can start with “going along” through our silence or being a “team player “ even when our gut warns something is not right. It takes courage (another important “C”) to step forward and say something.

Previous articles have examined the roles of awareness and behavior in career success. Both are critical to having character; awareness in terms of personal values/ethics to live by and behavior in terms of what you do when those values/ethics are being compromised.  Have you been asked to do things at work that make you ethically uncomfortable? How have you responded? Did you show courage and push back? Offer an alternative? Did you go along and rationalize? Sometimes a little pushback is all it takes for another solution to be found and everyone can sleep better.

confidenceThe good news about confidence is that it doesn’t have to be real. Watch almost any person speaking before a large group and you will likely see confidence as an acting technique. The audience only knows what they see and hear, so if the speaker looks and sounds confident, it is assumed that she is such. We’ve all heard the saying, “Fake it ‘til you make it.”  Steady eye contact, a firm handshake, a smile, squared shoulders and conviction in your voice all say confidence, even if you are dying inside.

“Confidence equals security equals positive emotion equals better performance,” says Tony Schwartz, the president and CEO of The Energy Project and the author of
Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live. And yet he concedes that “insecurity plagues consciously or subconsciously every human being I’ve met.” Overcoming this self-doubt starts with honestly assessing your abilities (and your shortcomings) and then getting comfortable enough to capitalize on (and correct) them, adds Deborah H. Gruenfeld, the Moghadam Family Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior and Co-Director of the Executive Program for Women Leaders at Stanford Graduate School of Business.” http://blogs.hbr.org/2011/04/how-to-build-confidence

How can one build genuine confidence? It begins with awareness: what do I already know? What do I want to know? What would confident performance look like?

Confidence is a key leadership quality and one of the most attractive personal brand attributes. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2012/03/06/how-to-be-more-confident-at-work) Research shows that people who appear confident get better opportunities and are assumed to be more capable.  Confidence (and confident behaviors) can be learned; become the student you need to be!

When I was a young psychotherapist, older clients would sometimes question my credibility as someone who could help them with their issues. How could a 25-year-old possibly know what it is like to (fill in the blank)? Credibility is one of those success characteristics aided by age, experience and a demonstration of competence. It’s never too soon or too late to begin building credibility. I learned that addressing the clients concerns directly helped reassure them that while I might not be suffering from OCD/depression/in recovery myself, I had the competence (another “C”) to help them on their journey to healing.

Success and credibility is positively correlated in every sphere of life.

Now we come to the final “C”, communication. The ability to communicate with clarity and listen for understanding is a skill that is called “soft” but is complex and multi-layered. Communication is a two-way street, though it is often used in an I-talk-you-listen format. A few years ago there was a TV commercial that said, “You can’t learn if you do all the talking.” How true, and learning is something that everyone, no matter where they are in the corporate hierarchy needs to do. Listening is a critical piece of communication.

communication“The importance of communication is not surprising when you consider the staggering amount of time people spend communicating on the job. One study, published in Business Outlook, based on responses from over 1000 employers at Fortune 1000 companies found that workers send and receive an average of 1798 messages each day via telephone, email, faxes, papers, and face-to-face communications. Some experts have estimated that the average business executive spends 75 to 80 percent of the time communicating, about 45 minutes of every hour.

The importance of communicating effectively on the job is clear. But this discussion so far hasn’t even addressed the fact that communication skills often make the difference between being hired and being rejected in the first place. A study published in the Journal of Career Planning & Employment asked almost 250 employers “What skills are most important for college graduates?” Their overwhelming response was written and oral communication skills, followed by interpersonal skills, teamwork, and analytical abilities. Having strong written and oral business communication skills will make you more competitive, more promotable, and more productive on the job.” (http://emedia.leeward.hawaii.edu/hurley/modules/mod1/1_docs/whycommunicate.pdf)

leadershipDo you want to be the diamond of your organization? Do want the best “leg up” when it comes to career success? Take some time to assess where you are in these four important career “Cs”. Get feedback from others. Take the steps necessary to place these critical characteristics among your strengths. Character, credibility, confidence and communication…they will help you shine!

Career Strategies: B is for Behavior

“B” is for Behavior

chocolateLast fall, a friend and I decided to take a chocolate tour of Chicago. On the appointed day, we showed up at the Wrigley Building and began looking for our tour guide. We approached a woman who, while looking rather cross, also looked official. Was she connected with the chocolate tour, we asked.

“Yes,” she replied. “We’re waiting for a second guide. She’s late and I can’t take everyone.” Her tone matched her weary facial expression. She checked off our names and dismissed us by never making eye contact again. A few minutes later, the second guide arrived. Participants were asked to join one of the two women.

“I don’t want to go with crabby pants,” one young woman whispered to her friend. Others must have felt the same way, for much coaxing was needed to get the right number of people in the original guide’s group.

We often think of behavior as performance, but the two are not always the same thing. None of us knew the competence or experience of the “crabby” guide. Her knowledge of the seven chocolate shops we visited may have been stellar, but her behavior turned people off.

Behavior, as well as performance, affects the bottom line of any business. As writers anJerikd speakers, our behavior with readers/fans/meeting planners affects repeat business. What role does your behavior play in your success? Where do courtesy, respect, and professionalism to others with whom you interact fall on your radar?

Most people would probably find it easier to tell you what being unprofessional is, giving examples of unprofessional people they have dealt with in the past. However, it is much easier and more positive to know what to do than not to do.” Tash Hughes of Word Constructions.com goes on in her post Being A Professional to list a number of behaviors: apologizing, taking responsibility, being prepared for meetings, and accepting feedback to name a few. http://www.wordconstructions.com/articles/business/professional.html

For most of us, behaviors such as punctuality, keeping confidences, and being fair in constructive feedback are common sense. How did we learn them? Did we see them exhibited early in our careers? Did we learn them in school? In any case, professional behavior is essential to career success. It is our responsibility as individuals experienced in professional workplace behavior to pass this knowledge on to those who are new.

In this age of increased technology, new forms of bad behavior can be seen daily. How many of us have been in meetings where people are obviously texting one   texting another, or texting in general rather than participating in the discussion? How many folks neglect to turn off their phones (or at least put them on vibrate) during meetings or when a speaker is giving a presentation? The “pace of business” is a poor excuse for lack of courtesy/rude behavior.

In The Cost of Bad Behavior, author Christine Porath devotes an entire chapter to her work at Cisco Systems. I quote, “The company values interpersonal skills and mutual respect in its hiring, but when Porath helped Cisco calculate the impact of even occasional acts of incivility, it amounted to a hefty sum. If just 1 percent of employees experienced workplace$$$ incivility, she says, the cost of lost work time and employee departures would add up to almost $12 million a year.”

As speakers and writers it may be more difficult to quantify what is lost in repeat bookings or when readers don’t pick up our books because of a diva reputation. But the effect is there. Remember some years ago when a famous author was accused of plagiarizing the work of another? Her sales plummeted.

Professional, courteous behavior is a soft skill with hard consequences when it goes missing. Part of good behavior is being simply being present in the moment to what is happening, looking beyond the press of the buzzing phone.

A client recently told me of an experience he had while getting his haircut. While the stylist did a great job (he’d been going to her for years), he had been thinking about finding someone new as he felt invisible while sitting in her chair. “She was always talking to people other than me, occasionally answering her phone. I literally felt like an object. Last time I was there, it was amazing. She concentrated only on me. When her phone rang, she commented that voice mail would take care of it. She looked me in eye (through the mirror) as we chatted. It was a wonderful experience.” His stylist was always talented and when she added professionalism and courtesy to her services she retained a customer on the verge of leaving.

Take some time to become more aware of how you interact with others. Are you treating them as you would expect to be treated? Do others feel good after an interaction with you? Keep in mind, how people treat each other is often a reflection of how they are treated. It all begins with us.behavior