Eight Lessons of Leadership from Martin Luther King, Jr.

blog2Today, we celebrate across the nation the tremendous legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. His leadership excellence is best exemplified in his famous “I Have A Dream” speech that was delivered on August 28, 1963. In what is arguably one of the most famous speeches in history, Martin Luther King Jr. provided an articulate version for the future of this great nation. The speech contained some great leadership insights. If fact, an executive leadership development program could be built around the lessons from that Dr. King gave in that historic speech.

From Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech there are eight great leadership insights. They are:

1. Great leaders do not sugar coat reality. Martin Luther King Jr. talked directly about the conflict and brutal reality facing the nation so that he could later set the stage for his vision on how we all can overcome these problems.

2. Great leaders engage the heart. While logic may compel the mind, stories and metaphors move the heart. This is the difference between offering information and inspiration. Dr. King chose not to make a fact-based argument and instead decided to make a direct appeal to the hearts of the world. In doing so, he made history.

3. Great leaders refuse to accept the status quo. Dr. King refused to accept what was currently acceptable and outlined a bold vision on what needed to be changed, why it needed to be changed and how it would be changed.

4. Great leaders create a sense of urgency. They are impatient—in a good way. They refuse to just sit by and let things take their natural course. They have a sense of urgency and communicate it. Dr. King reminded America of the “fierce urgency of Now”.

5. Great leaders call people to act in accord with their highest values. Dr. King took the higher ground of nonviolent resistance that his movement would have the moral authority in their quest for change. Like Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, Dr. King believed that his movement could achieve their objectives by upholding a higher standard.

6. Great leaders refuse to settle. Great leaders know when to be stubborn and when it is better to compromise. Dr. King made a number of compromises on the smaller things, but was relentless when it came to achieving his vision.

7. Great leaders acknowledge the sacrifice of their followers. They notice the effort their people have expended. Dr. King did not take credit for the accomplishments of his movement. He saw it as a collective effort. From this he received the engagement of his followers.

8. Great leaders paint a vivid picture of a better tomorrow. Leaders can never grow weary of articulating their vision. They must be clear and concrete. They have to help their followers see what they see. Dr. King talked about his dream:

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”

I want to thank Michael Hyatt – a leadership development coach for the inspiration for this blog. He wrote about these eight leadership lessons in a blog in 2010.

Download our FREE eBook: 7 Tips for Improving Workplace Communication

Done Is Better Than Perfect

Done Is Better.pngFortune magazine (www.fortune.com) recently had a cover story about how Facebook internally operates.

The excellent article offered some great insights into how Facebook operates and how they are trying to balance their original start-up/hacker culture with the post IPO big company culture that awaits them in the future.

One of Facebook original “hacker ethos” that impressed me was: “Done is better than perfect”.

In Facebook’s culture “perfection is a moving target. If you want to create the perfect product for everyone, you will end up with vaporware. You cannot please everyone… The trick is to find the right balance between getting things done and meeting expectations”.

This ethos struck me as being particularly relevant to the career coaching clients that we have at The Frontier Group. Routinely we will see clients get held up in the career marketing execution by pursuing perfection – the perfect resume, cover letter, target list, set of contacts. You get the picture.

What happens to them – just as Facebook warns their employees – is that you chase a moving target that in the end will leave you with little accomplished.

What we advise our clients is that action – speed – constant improvement – are all essential to executing a first rate career marketing plan. We are not advocating a “shoot first, aim second” approach but rather we encourage our clients to aggressively and consistently pursue opportunities and constantly update/revise their content based upon the learnings they generate from the market. This keep their career marketing plans dynamic and positions them well to take advantage of quick emerging opportunities.

Done is better than perfect – great advice for managing your career.

Thanks
Pat

In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

blog2Fifty year ago today, Martin Luther King was assassinated.

This horrible event shook a nation. I remember the day as a kid in junior high – trying to process how cruel the world must be to take away a man of God who simply wants everybody to have an equal opportunity.

I wanted to revisit a blog that I wrote a couple of years ago about Dr. King and share it today.

His leadership excellence is best exemplified in his famous “I Have A Dream” speech that was delivered on August 28, 1963. In what is arguably one of the most famous speeches in history, Martin Luther King Jr. provided an articulate version for the future of this great nation. The speech contained some great leadership insights. If fact, an executive leadership development program could be built around the lessons from that Dr. King gave in that historic speech.

From Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech there are eight great leadership insights. They are:

1. Great leaders do not sugar coat reality. Martin Luther King Jr. talked directly about the conflict and brutal reality facing the nation so that he could later set the stage for his vision on how we all can overcome these problems.

2. Great leaders engage the heart. While logic may compel the mind, stories and metaphors move the heart. This is the difference between offering information and inspiration. Dr. King chose not to make a fact-based argument and instead decided to make a direct appeal to the hearts of the world. In doing so, he made history.

3. Great leaders refuse to accept the status quo. Dr. King refused to accept what was currently acceptable and outlined a bold vision on what needed to be changed, why it needed to be changed and how it would be changed.

4. Great leaders create a sense of urgency. They are impatient—in a good way. They refuse to just sit by and let things take their natural course. They have a sense of urgency and communicate it. Dr. King reminded America of the “fierce urgency of Now”.

5. Great leaders call people to act in accord with their highest values. Dr. King took the higher ground of nonviolent resistance that his movement would have the moral authority in their quest for change. Like Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, Dr. King believed that his movement could achieve their objectives by upholding a higher standard.

6. Great leaders refuse to settle. Great leaders know when to be stubborn and when it is better to compromise. Dr. King made a number of compromises on the smaller things, but was relentless when it came to achieving his vision.

7. Great leaders acknowledge the sacrifice of their followers. They notice the effort their people have expended. Dr. King did not take credit for the accomplishments of his movement. He saw it as a collective effort. From this he received the engagement of his followers.

8. Great leaders paint a vivid picture of a better tomorrow. Leaders can never grow weary of articulating their vision. They must be clear and concrete. They have to help their followers see what they see. Dr. King talked about his dream:

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.”

I want to thank Michael Hyatt – a leadership development coach for the inspiration for this blog. He wrote about these eight leadership lessons in a blog in 2010.

Download our FREE eBook: 7 Tips for Improving Workplace Communication

Rethink How You  Hire People – You May Be Doing It All Wrong

Two young businesswomen having a meeting in the office sitting at a desk having a discussion with focus to a young woman wearing glasses.jpegA recent Harvard Business Review article “How To Hire” by the always on target Patty McCord (former Chief Talent Officer for Netflix and now a very in demand consultant) challenged many of the perspectives that I had around how to successfully hire and build high performance teams.

In the article Patty McCord calls out what she says are many of the faulty assumptions that companies have about hiring.

Through the great examples she provides from her experience at Netflix, McCord provides a new way of thinking about how all of us hire.

Rethink Why You Only Need “A” Players

Patty McCord bristles at the notion that an organization should fool themselves into thinking that they only hire “A” players. She says that this belief locks a company into missing out on an important determinant – context matters.

“In truth, one company’s A player may be a B player for another firm. There is no formula for what makes people successful. Many of the people we let go from Netflix because they were not excelling at what we were doing went on to excel in other jobs.”

In truth, one company’s A player may be a B player for another firm. There is no formula for what makes people successful. Many of the people we let go from Netflix because they were not excelling at what we were doing went on to excel in other jobs.

Finding the right people is also not a matter of “culture fit.” What most people really mean when they say someone is a good fit culturally is that he or she is someone they’d like to have a beer with. But people with all sorts of personalities can be great at the job you need done. This misguided hiring strategy can also contribute to a company’s lack of diversity since very often the people we enjoy hanging out with have backgrounds much like our own.

Making great hires is about recognizing great matches—and often they’re not what you’d expect.

The important lesson to be learned here is that the best teams are built by having the right people matched with the right set of responsibilities so that they can do their best work. Nowhere in this equation is there a controlling factor that only an “A” player will work. The subjectivity of what and who is an “A” player will lead to many mistaken hiring decisions. Examples are abundant in sports and entertainment where superstar teams, casts, or bands end up greatly missing the mark because the chemistry is wrong.

Your Best Talent May come From Places That You Do Not Expect

Following up on dispelling the myth that recruiting should only be for “A” players, McCord then presses forward with challenging how we think about where to source candidates. As she discusses in her HBR article, Netflix had a unique business model where they needed candidates who possessed a unique set of technical skills. This pushed her recruiting team to be more creative and get past simply having their applicant tracking system match ideal candidates by keywords.

This pushed Netflix to begin to use a deeper level competency and interest assessment approach to identify who would be an ideal hire for an open position. For example, what Netflix found was:

We always tried to be creative about probing people and their résumés. Bethany (the recruiter mentioned in the HBR article) once decided to analyze the résumés of our best data-science people for common features. She found that those people shared an avid interest in music. From then on she and her team looked for that quality. She recalls, “We’d get really excited and call out, ‘Hey, I found a guy who plays piano!’” She concluded that such people can easily toggle between their left and right brains—a great skill for data analysis.

The Best Hiring Model Is A Full Collaboration Between The Hiring Manager and Recruiter

Patty McCord drives home an important point regarding one of the biggest problems facing companies looking for top talent – the fact that they treat recruiting as a lower level priority:

The sad truth is that most companies treat recruitment as a separate, nonbusiness, even non-HR function, and many young companies outsource it.

The technical nature of our business meant that managers needed to be highly engaged in the hiring process. But that should be required at all companies. Every hiring manager should understand the company’s approach to hiring and how to execute on it, down to the smallest detail.

Our recruiters’ job involved coaching our hiring managers. The recruiters created a slide deck to use with each manager, one-on-one. They would ask, “What does your interview process look like? What does your interview team look like? What is your process for having candidates come in?” People don’t have to approach interviewing or recruiting in the same way, but we insisted that they have a plan and not just improvise.

In the end, the manager would make the hiring decision. Team members provided input, and my team and I also weighed in. But the ultimate responsibility was the manager’s, as was the performance of the team he or she was building.

In my mind, the important point the Patty McCord is making is that recruiters (internal or external) should be an important part of the talent identification, screening, and selection process. Too often, they are not trusted by their business partners to find talent or they are second-guessed on the recommendations that they make. All this leads to a losing solution.

By working together, both groups can flourish. For the hiring managers, they must work with their recruiters to make them fully fluent in the business because this will help guide them to better screening and selection. This can be done with lunch and learns, customer visits, or having them attend key business meetings. They will better help the business if they are part of the business.

It infuriates me when hiring managers dismiss the value of good HR people. Usually, when I asked managers why they weren’t engaging more with recruiters, they’d say, “Well, they’re not that smart, and they don’t really understand what’s going on in my business or how the technology works.”

My response would be “Then start expecting—and demanding—that they do!” If you hire smart people; insist that they be businesspeople; and include them in running the business, they’ll act like businesspeople.

Always Be Recruiting

This is pretty straightforward. Everyone in the organization should always be thinking about how to bring other well-qualified people on board. While there may not be any open positions in the present, there may be in the future. The goal of everyone in the organization should be to fill the talent pipeline.

This not only means that someone should be recruiting for new candidates but they should also be engaging with people who come in for interviews and people who have had interviews with their company (regardless on whether they were hired). A case in point, I wrote a LinkedIn article about interview candidates being ghosted after they interview. The responses that I received on the article overwhelmingly showed the frustration of many who have been given this poor treatment. What does this say about the recruiting and talent management philosophy of the ghosting company?

Do Not Let Compensation Models Block You From Opportunities

In the HBR article, Patty McCord discusses a thorny issue on whether an organization should go outside its pay grade to hire a superstar. This is a tough call. While the star performer does hold the promise of bringing some big results, their higher compensation can fuel resentment, envy, and turnover amongst the rest of the organization.

McCord admits that she was conflicted about this thinking that increasing candidate offers to match the market was basically letting the competition dictate your compensation strategy. Her advice? Identify the positions within your organization that have the greatest potential to boost performance and pay top dollar for them.

How Can A Whole30 Program Approach Help You Change Your Life and Career?

Change Management.jpgI recently completed a personal change management program.

It involved some big behavioral changes, a personal commitment to making it work, and accountability to see that the program gets completed.

What was this big change initiative?

I decided to follow the Whole30 program. Here is a brief description for those of you not familiar with the Whole 30 program:

Whole30 is a 30-day (duh) clean-eating 
plan designed to clean up your eating habits by cutting out foods that might be having a negative impact on your health (a.k.a. making you feel crappy).

Yes, we’re talking about the foods that are super hard to give up: dairy, sugar, grains, legumes, and alcohol.

One thing that I have learned over the years in leading change initiatives is that there has to be an openness with the individual to make an effort to try and make the change work. I had reached the point where I was looking for ways to improve my overall well-being. Spending less time exercising and more time working (and yes – blogging) had taken me far away from my ideal physical state. I was ready for something different.

Like most people, I learned about the Whole 30 Program from conversations with friends. The more I learned about it, the more drawn I wanted to try it out. I found that many people would explain the diet to me as a “process of elimination” as in “you cannot eat this or that”. The people I know who have gone through the program almost all had very positive things to say about. They told me to follow the rules the program (Whole30 does not like to consider itself a diet) prescribes and you will start to feel a whole lot better, have more energy, and lose weight (there – I said it).

What are the Whole 30 Program rules?

Eat moderate portions of meat, seafood, and eggs; lots of vegetables; some fruit; plenty of natural fats; and herbs, spices, and seasonings. 

Eat foods with very few ingredients, all pronounceable ingredients, or better yet, no ingredients listed at all because they’re whole and unprocessed.

Avoid any kind of sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy.

These seemed like pretty simple rules to follow except that it seemed my entire diet consisted of foods in the avoid column. This was going to be a major change management project and I was going to need to start – to quote the old Apple ad campaign – Think Different.

To make this program work:

  • I had to learn new habits (a lot more time devoted to food prep)
  • Resist falling back into negative behavior patterns (mindless snacking)
  • Avoid taking the path of least resistance (hello drive-thru!)
  • Enjoy the journey (a lot of the recipes and foods were great).

Once I got started on the program I naturally drew a number of correlations between my Whole30 journey and how people can more effectively manage their careers and life (this is how someone in outplacement and career transition thinks).

Drawing upon the lessons that I learned from how to make the Whole30 program work for me, I began to think how these lessons would apply to careers and life. The program is a 30-day commitment to change. Afterward, you are free to keep on the program or some parts of it (or scrap it and hit the drive-thru again).

So what are some life/career ideas that any of us could tackle in the next 30 days?

Try Out Some New Positive Habits

One of the hardest things for many of us to do is to act. We know that we need to update our skills, we know that we need to better use our emotional intelligence, and we know that we need to improve our time management skills. All of these positive habits will help to accelerate our career by making us more productive by fully leveraging our capabilities.

We write how we are going to start doing all of these habits on January 01 but forget (or give up) on them by mid-February.

Pick a couple of positive habits and try your best to stick with them for 30 days. Here are some ideas:

  • Start each morning with some type of physical activity. It does not have to be a full hour at a spin class. It can simply be doing some stretches or a short walk.
  • Make an effort to reach out to one new person a day in your network and wish them well. Or better yet, share something with them – an article or a blog.

Encourage Yourself To Not Fall Back Into Negative Behavior Patterns

To make positive behavior changes that will stick, we need to resist the comfort of falling back into the negative behavior patterns and push ourselves to stay on the positive path. There are a lot of negative behaviors that hold our careers back (gossip, procrastination, lack of curiosity, poor listening, low EQ, and countless more).

Many of these behaviors are hard to modify because we have been doing them for so long that they seem like they we are hard-wired into them. This is not true. If I could prove to myself that I could go 30 days without any bread, wine, and cheese (goodbye Roman lifestyle).

Some ideas that might help:

  • Leave your phone at your desk when you attend a meeting.
  • Hit the pause button before you react to criticism or comments. Give yourself some time to let your EQ take over.

Avoid Taking The Path Of Least Resistance

What I have seen from the Whole 30 diet is that a lot of bad consumption habits are based on taking the easy way out. Fast food and prepared food are not the best but they sure are quick and easy. Avoiding the path of least resistance also matters in managing your career. A great example of this is how open we make ourselves to change. Keeping things the way they are is easy and comfortable while trying something new will take us out of our comfort zone.

Some ideas to think about:

  • Take the time to read emails and presentation material for comprehension. Slow down your mind so that you can give yourself enough time to fully understand what is being communicated.
  • Try out a new software upgrade that you have been avoiding because you are so locked into your current routine.

Learning to Enjoy the Journey

While starting the Whole30 program made me apprehensive I learned to enjoy the new perspective it gave me about food. It also has paid off. I do feel better, have more energy, and have lost a few pounds. I am keeping almost all of the new habits I have learned.

My Whole 30 journey was a refresher course in change management. It showed me how talking about what needs to change is easy but making the change takes commitment and sacrifice in order to make it happen. I have to make an admission that I am not a role model for change management (full confession – I had a Blackberry up until last Fall). While I was able to break a number of bad food habits with this program and elevate my consciousness regarding nutrition. While I thought that the 30 days would resemble a prison sentence it actually became quite fun. 

Hiring Managers – Please Stop Ghosting Your Candidates – Notes From An Outplacement Consultant

Ghosting.jpgAs an outplacement consultant, I work with a number of great candidates who are in job search. They put their heart and soul into finding their next opportunity.

We work together on getting their resumes polished, their LinkedIn profile optimized and their interview skills sharpened.

I am almost as excited as they are when they land interviews. We debrief afterward, talk about follow up strategies, and then wait for a reply back from the hiring manager.
 

Too often than I care to mention, these great candidates hear nothing – crickets – Paul Simon singing the Sounds of Silence.

They have been ghosted.

For those of you who have never been ghosted, here is a quick explanation from Wikipedia:

Ghosting
 
 is breaking off a relationship (often an intimate relationship) by ceasing all communication and contact with the former partner without any apparent warning or justification, as well as avoiding or ignoring and refusing to respond to the former partner’s attempts to reach out or communicate.

When it comes to interviewing, this means that you never hear back from the hiring. Something went sideways but you never know why – zero feedback.

Tim Sackett (who writes a great blog that I strongly encourage everyone to follow) gave these reasons why an interview candidate got “ghosted”.

There are a number of reasons that recruiters and hiring managers ghost candidates and none of them are good! Here’s a short-list of some of these reasons:

– They hated you and hope you go away when they ghost you because conflict is uncomfortable.

– They like you, but not as much as another candidate they’re trying to talk into the job, but want to leave you on the back burner, but they’re idiots and don’t know how to do this properly.

– They decided to promote someone internally and they don’t care about candidate experience enough to tell you they went another direction.

– They have a completely broken recruitment process and might still be going through it believing you’re just as happy as a pig in shi…

– They think they communicated to you electronically to bug off through their ATS, but they haven’t audited the process to know this isn’t working.

– The recruiter got fired and no one picked up the process.

The sad fact is that candidates get ghosted all the time. I can think of two times this past week alone that my candidates have got the silent treatment. In researching this article, I found a CareerBuilder study that said 60% of candidates who did not get hired in their study never heard back from the company. This definitely is a problem.

Let’s be as direct as possible – Hiring Managers – It Is Never OK To Ghost A Candidate – NEVER.

Besides being unprofessional, it shows a complete lack of humanity.

Hiring managers – I realize that you are busy, overworked and understaffed. This still does not excuse you from being courteous enough to give feedback to a candidate that took the time and effort to want to work for you. We are living in an age that has so many electronic tools available that should give you several ways to get back to your candidates. Oh, by the way, this also includes recruiters.

Hiring managers, by stopping the ghosting of candidates you will reflect well on both you and your organization. This may not seem like a big deal until you start seeing your company show up on Glassdoor. Or worst case, you get a reputation in the market as being a place that does not treat their people very well. This is a very big deal now because we are in a full employment economy where candidates have options and leverage,

What can candidates do to stop this?

I am afraid that the options are limited. I found a number of articles with advice saying that candidates should send back a pointed criticism to the hiring manager or they should go viral about their experience. This is too much bridge burning for me.

The best advice that I can provide is to forgive but don’t forget. Give the hiring manager the benefit of doubt (they were not intentionally trying to be insensitive) but also remember that that company is most likely a lousy place to work. Also, let anyone else that you know who will be interviewing with the ghosting company about your experience. This negative word of mouth is justice being served.

The Frontier Group Proudly Annouces Its Merger With Dallas Based CMP

CMP - 2-06-18-2.jpg

Dallas, March 6, 2018 –CMP, a leading talent development, and transition firm, announced today that it will be merging with The Frontier Group starting immediately.

The Frontier Group, which has a 31-year track record of delivering solid results as a premier provider of individual career transition solutions, redeployment solutions, and executive coaching, will begin to operate under the CMP brand.

Patrick Lynch, President of  The Frontier Group, will stay on post-merger and will assume the title of President, CMP Southeast Region. CMP will continue to be led by CEO,Maryanne Piña, and President Joe Frodsham.

The new CMP will provide innovative solutions to the full talent lifecycle – from recruiting and leadership development, to coaching, assessment, and career transition support across all major metro areas in the Southwest and Southeast USA along with providing national and global delivery through its strategic alliance relationship with OI Global Partners.

According to Piña: “CMP and Frontier have a complementary set of capabilities, and together we will have greater depth in each practice. Starting immediately, we have more resources to support clients across the country and globally.”

“Merging with CMP makes us all better. We will provide a unique ROI to our current and future clients through deeper recruiting reach, contemporary development and succession solutions, and uniquely innovative outplacement solutions,” says Lynch.

“Our priorities and values are aligned,” says Frodsham. “We now have even greater ability to impact Companies and Candidates with recruiting, leadership coaching and assessment, and career transition solutions.”

The Frontier Group transition to the CMP Brand, along with marketing and operational realignment, will happen through March. CMP and Frontier will be operating as one company by April 1.

 

About CMP

CMP is a talent and transition firm in the business of developing people and organizations across the full talent lifecycle. We marry the art and science of talent and transition to provide individuals and organizations with a unique competitive advantage. CMP has offices in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Fort Worth, New Orleans, and delivery capability across the nation and globally through OI Global Partners. CMP is a Woman and Minority Owned Business. 

Press Contact

Name: Faith Abbott

Phone: 972-680-9200 

Email:  faitha@careermp.com

Career Advice You Can Learn From CEO’s Who Do Not Have College Degrees

Two People Walking - Talking.jpgThere are so much written about how to successfully manage your career.

I know because I have written a few career advice articles myself.

I came across a really interesting Harvard Business Review article “How CEOs Without College Degrees Got to the Top” where the author Kim Rosenkoetter Powell listed three ways that CEO’s without college degrees were able to reach the top. The three ways she lists is something that anyone can use to help improve their career.

First, how did Kim Rosenkoetter Powell arrive at her insights? She is part of a fascinating research project called the CEO Genome Project.

“The study assembled a data-set of more than 17,000 C-suite executive assessments and studied 2,600 in-depth to analyze who gets to the top and how”.

The CEO Genome Project research showed that 8% of the CEO’s they studied reached the top without a college degree. How did they do it and what lessons can others learn

Become A Proven Insider

The CEO’s that reached the top without a degree all developing exceptionally deep understandings of their industries. They became the ultimate insider with the expertise, institutional knowledge, and credibility that they were able to develop.


89% of CEOs without college degrees “grew up” in the same industry where they served as CEO, and spent 40% more time in the industry where they became CEO compared to their peers with college degrees.

Employers often feel safer hiring industry and company insiders. These CEOs’ deep knowledge and relationships gave them a platform for success that more than compensated for lack of formal education.”

What can everyone else learn from this?

Learning everything that you can about your industry can set you apart from others. This may seem like an obvious observation but many people do not spend the time developing a complete understanding of the competitors, economics, end user preferences, technology, and all other drivers for their industry.

This takes hard work and a willingness to learn. It also should be noted that staying in one industry will help you develop the high level of expertise to be considered an insider.

“If you don’t have a strong track record in a single company or industry, you will likely have better luck at smaller companies than large ones.

We have found that small businesses are open to a much broader range of educational backgrounds and pedigrees, in part because the available talent pool is often thinner. Finally, there’s always the option of starting your own company. CEOs who don’t have a college degree are twice as likely to be company founders as CEOs who do”.

Create A Track Record Of Achievements

The CEO’s without degrees let their results do the talking. Rather than rest on academic credentials, they focused on producing results. As they moved on in the career, their track record became what defined them and the lack of degree became less and less relevant.

Some other interesting insights from the study:

The majority (56%) of CEOs without college degrees in our survey came up through sales and marketing. 
Numbers speak louder than credentials, and it’s easier to get noticed in roles that drive measurable topline results for the business.

Interestingly, the CEOs without college degrees had almost twice the rate of military experience than the overall pool of CEOs we analyzed. In the absence of a college degree, military experience can offer opportunities to learn important skills and demonstrate results in early leadership experiences

What can everyone else learn from this?

Actions speak louder than words. A college education is a great starting point and may help you get in the door for your first couple of jobs. After that, you need to produce. This will become the most important part of your career and will overcome any lack of degree or a degree from a lesser-known school.

Build Great Teams

Kim Rosenkoetter Powell points out that:

“The CEOs without degrees that we analyzed were more likely than their peers to proactively surround themselves with strong talent and lean on the team to contribute expertise. They were humble and more open to soliciting ideas from all types of people, regardless of status or rank

This kind of focus on building a strong team goes a long way. In contrast, we were intrigued to uncover that the CEOs who saw “independence” as their defining character trait were twice as likely to underperform compared to other CEOs.

It is interesting to note that these CEO’s did not have the compulsive need to be the smartest person in the room and saw that their success heavily weighed on their ability to effectively work with others.

What can everyone else learn from this?

Put your insecurities and alpha instincts aside and learn to cultivate relationships with others by being someone that they want to follow. This takes work. I should know. In my earlier career, I had a reputation for being able to produce results but I was hesitant to delegate to my team – preferring to do the work on my own. This was very flawed thinking and it held me back as a manager. It was only later in my career where I was able to reverse this and begin to be comfortable surrounding myself with people much smarter than myself.

The CEO Genome Project results are valuable reminders of what it takes to be successful in your career – be recognized for your expertise, deliver results, and build a great team.

A special thanks to Kim Rosenkoetter Powell, a principal at ghSmart and a co-leader of the CEO Genome Project. She is also a coauthor of the forthcoming book The CEO Next Door (Crown Publishing, 2018).

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Are You An Insecure Overachiever?

Stressed businesswoman sitting in front of computer in the office.jpegLong hours – impossible deadlines – endless meetings.

Many of us face these challenges like super-heroes who can bravely conquer anything put in their way. We pride ourselves as we rise up and win the day.  This seems to be leading to a happy ending but what does the next day look like?

Long hours – impossible deadlines – endless meetings.

There is a pattern of overworking that seems to trap many of us. Why does this exist and how can we break it?

I remember being an undergraduate at The University of Michigan and taking a sociology course that covered the a wide range of societal impact changes taking place in post-modern America (ah – do you remember those innocent times when learning was important on its own and did not have to be part of a process towards earning a living).

In the class we read The Protestant Work Ethic and The Spirit Of Capitalism by Max Weber.

… the view that a person’s duty is to achieve success through hard work and thrift, such success being a sign that one is saved.

The book put forward the compelling argument that the principles of the Protestant/Calvinist faith were key drivers in the growth of capitalism during the industrial age. It planted the seeds that told us that hard work, perseverance, and thrift will help bring you success.

 The thesis was mainly covering the industrial age where the labor force was moving from the fields to the factories. How did this work ethic transform into today’s modern workplace of intellectual capital? Well, in many ways we have the Protestant Work Ethic on steroids, cleansed of any religious overtones (who needs to be thrifty – I got credit).

I read an interesting Harvard Business Review article last week – If You’re So Successful, Why Are You Still Working 70 Hours a Week? – where the author Laura Empson talked about working incredibly long hours in professional services organizations (legal, accounting, consulting) is now the norm at all levels, not just for the junior firm members who are working for partnership or title.

Dr. Empson frames the story his way:

In the old days, if you were a white-collar worker, the deal was that you worked as hard as you could at the start of your career to earn the right to be rewarded later on, with security of tenure and a series of increasingly senior positions.

In professional organizations, such as law firms, accountancy firms, management consultancies, and investment banks, the prize was partnership. The competition was relentless, but once you won the prize, it was yours for keeps. Partners had autonomy to choose how and when to work and what to work on. Of course, some senior partners spent a surprising amount of their “business development time” on the golf course, but that was OK because they had already paid their dues to the organization.

This is no longer true.

What is true today is that the senior level partners is at the office as long as a junior associate. Empson’s research on the reasons why showed that insecurity was at the heart.

This started to hit close to home for me because I saw that my approach fit into this pattern.  

As one senior business unit leader in a law firm admitted to me: “I just come in here and work as hard as I can all the time. I feel like I’m doing a good job, but it’s hard to measure. That’s the nature of what we do: It’s feast or famine. And we all tend to be such insecure people that we’re all scared all the time.” 

Scared all the time. This started to hit home for me. Not only could I identify with it personally through various stages in my career but I have also seen it surface itself in the discussions with many of the outplacement candidates that I have worked with.

The 500 interviews I conducted for my book showed a pattern: A professional’s insecurity is rooted in the inherent intangibility of knowledge work. How do you convince your client that you know something worthwhile and justify the high fees you charge?

The insecurity caused by this intangibility is exacerbated by the rigorous “up or out” promotion system perpetuated by elite professional organizations, which turns your colleagues into your competitors. How do you convince your boss that you’re worth more than your closest colleague? There is no chance for a professional to rest on their laurels — or even to rest.

Like Max Weber research captured what were the key drivers for the emergence of capitalism in the industrialized world, Laura Empson’s research today captures what is and will be driving the economic engine of tomorrow’s knowledge driven workplace – insecurity.

Exacerbating this problem, elite professional organizations deliberately set out to identify and recruit “insecure overachievers” — some leading professional organizations explicitly use this terminology, though not in public.

Insecure overachievers are exceptionally capable and fiercely ambitious, yet driven by a profound sense of their own inadequacy. This typically stems from childhood, and may result from various factors, such as experience of financial or physical deprivation, or a belief that their parents’ love was contingent upon their behaving and performing well. 

Dr. Empson points out that elite organizations (blue-chip law firms, Wall Street, top consulting and tech firms to name a few) all have developing recruiting strategies and talent management programs addressing how to optimize the inputs of their insecure overachievers. These organizations are actually perfectly tailored for these types of individuals:

  • They selectively recruit and hire “only the best”
  • New employees are entered into classes of new employees where their progress will be measured against their peers.
  • The performance demands of the organization never stop. There is always a new software upgrade, a new merger or acquisition to push forward, or a business initiative that needs to be accelerated.

How do we change this?

First step is recognizing that it exists and understanding the reasons why. This is something (personal confession) that I have not been good at for myself. There is a great line from the movie The Departed that says ““What Freud said about the Irish is: We’re the only people who are impervious to psychoanalysis.”

Next step is to work at finding ways to break the pattern. Dr. Empson puts it this way:

Your insecurities may have helped to get you where you are today, but are they still working for you? Is it time to acknowledge that you have “made it” and to start enjoying the experience a little bit more? And if your boss is an insecure overachiever, recognize how they are projecting their insecurity onto you — how they make you feel insecure for not being able to keep up with them.

Work exceptionally long hours when you need to or want to, but do so consciously, for specified time periods, and to achieve specific goals. Don’t let it become a habit because you have forgotten how to work or live any other way.

Special thanks to:

Laura_Empson-200px.jpg

Laura Empson is Professor in the Management of Professional Service firms at Cass Business School, University of London, and Senior Research Fellow at Harvard Law School.  She has devoted the past twenty-five years to researching and advising professional service firms on leadership, governance, and organizational change.  Her most recent book, Leading Professionals: Power, Politics and Prima Donnas (2017) is published by Oxford University Press.  Prior to becoming an academic she worked as a strategy consultant and investment banker.

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HR News You Can Use – Valentine’s Day Edition

LOVE.jpgIt has been a couple weeks since I published my last article.

To get back in the flow, I wanted to return with a Valentine’s Day tribute to a variety of HR topics that involve “love”.

There is some artistic license being taken on this so please forgive me in advance.

Pursuing Your Passion

The famous quote attributed to Confucius goes something like this:

 “choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in 
your
 life.”

Truth or fiction?

This is a difficult question to answer because we now have a whole new reality of “alternate truths” to everything. My simple way of looking at this is that work always has an element of hardship to it – no matter what pursuit you are in. No one rises to the top of any profession or avocation without practice, perseverance, and working your way through the natural progressions to achieve mastery. It takes work.

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement has been and will continue to be one the organizational priorities when it comes to human capital management. IMHO (in my humble opinion for those who eschew text shorthand), engagement is one of those intangibles that cannot be simply measured with an annual survey.

I also believe engagement starts with having everyone feel they are truly part of the team and that his or her contribution matters. Opaque management, inconsistent communication flows, and disappointing results are always going to be barriers to get over.

Employee Appreciation Day

Employee Appreciation Day this year falls on Friday, March 02. I am sure you want to know more about this day. Glad you asked:

Employee Appreciation Day is a secular holiday in the USA and Canada, that is annually celebrated on the first Friday in March. This holiday was established in 1995 by Bob Nelson, a board member of the Recognition Professionals International, previously National Association for Employee Recognition.

Employee Appreciation Day was created for all companies as the day, when bosses can thank their employees for their hard work and effort throughout the year. Really good people are very hard to find, that’s why using all manners and techniques to boost the staff is more efficient, than spending money on constant training of new people.

Big question – how many employees will be recognized by having a long weekend that includes taking Friday off? Note: cynics please refrain from answering.

Workplace Romances

The future of workplace romances looks bleak, to say the least:

Suzanne Lucas, the always quotable Evil HR Lady,  describes the current environment this way:

I’ve stated before that 
sexual harassment isn’t a dating problem

it’s a power problem
. This power problem is why you should have
 strict rules about managers dating subordinates
.

And by strict rules, I mean it should be absolutely, positively forbidden. But, romance between peers or people in departments that don’t interact and don’t have hire/fire authority over each other has been something the company should allow. –
Maybe not.

She goes on further to explain how even peer to peer romances can blow up a workplace when the relationship sours. Chances are good that some organizations are going to take this to the extreme, some are going to blissfully ignore it at their own peril, and everybody else will be trying to find a common ground that makes sense

Love The One You’re With

It is hard to believe that the Stephen Stills song “Love The One You’re With” is 47 years old. Interesting tidbit from Wikipedia:

Stills wrote the song after being inspired by the tagline — “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” which was a frequent remark by musician 
Billy Preston
. Stills asked him for permission to use the line in a song and Preston agreed.

It was a much simpler time back then. Imagine the royalty battle that would take place today under the same circumstances.

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