Leadership Q&A #AmplifyYourJobSearch“I keep getting interviews, but no offers.” This statement is usually followed by the asked, or implied, question, “why?”. You’ve been searching for weeks that have turned into months. You are getting multiple invitations to interview. Perhaps, you have made it into the second and third round of interviews…multiple times…only to be told no. This is frustrating, to say the least. It is demoralizing. It can be depressing! (need help to stay motivated? Read How do you stay motivated during a job search

Let’s do a little digging. 

You’ve applied to dozens of jobs. You’ve been invited to interview multiple times. First question, how many times have you made it past the initial screening interview? If you are consistently being screened out of the process at the first interview, the problem may be your resume…well, better stated, the problem may be a disconnect between the story your resume tells and the story you are telling in the interview. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying the disconnect is intentional. The mere fact that your resume is getting selected for a screening interview, tells me your resume is a great match for the jobs to which you are applying. Think back over those interview conversations. Were you prepared? What story did your responses tell? Was the interview by phone, by video, or in-person? What went well? What didn’t? 

You may be applying for the wrong jobs

There are two basic approaches to conducting a job search: shotgun and laser. In the shotgun approach, you are blasting your resume out to just about every job opening you see. If your resume is in decent shape and the keywords are generic in nature, you are sure to pass through many applicant track systems and be presented for human review. This is sure to land you your share of first interviews. 

Ask yourself, are the jobs you are interviewing for really jobs you want? You may need a job, that is a fact. Are you really a fit for the job? The interviewer has been trained to weed out the mismatches. That is their job. 

Is the job one that aligns with your strengths, values, passions, and purpose? If not, it may be difficult for you to show interest and excitement in the position. If you can’t envision yourself working at that company, performing that job, chances are the interviewer won’t be able to envision it either. 

What about your presentation?

No, I am not talking about using PowerPoint or Keynote during a job interview. I am talking about how you presented yourself. 

Phone: Was the audio clear and crisp? Were you in a quiet place, away from distractions and interruptions? Did you use a headset, instead of holding your phone to your ear, or worse, yet a speakerphone? Poor audio could result in a poor connection, literally! 

Video: Think about the audio connection just as you would for a phone interview. Go a step further and think about your surroundings? Will the video quality be adequate, with adequate bandwidth? Is the lighting sufficient (you don’t want to look like you are in witness protection nor under intense interrogation)? What other things are in view of the camera? Do they depict the “you” you want the interviewer to see? Don’t use the virtual background feature of the video call platform, they can be distracting. Finally, how do you appear in the video? Do you make eye contact with the camera (not the image on the monitor)? Do you lean in or slouch back. Approach it like you would an in-person interview. Speaking of an in-person interview…

In-person: How are you dressed? In this time of more and more casual attire at work, this can be tricky to navigate. You want to dress to fit in, not necessarily to match. Let me explain. If the company is business attire, done. Wear a suit (suit, pants- or skirt-suit).  Otherwise, dress a notch above the company dress code. If the company is business casual, consider a suit, at the very least dress at the top end of business casual with a jacket. If the company is casual, dress business casual.  Even if they wear flip-flops, shorts, and rock t-shirts to work…don’t! 

And, what of your skills? 

Be honest with yourself, brutally honest. How do you come across in an interview? Interviews are among the toughest meetings we ever have as professionals. You are on display. You are the focal point. You may need a job. You may really need a job. It can be stressful. Our anxiety can be on full display. 

One word: rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Ok, technically that was three words, but you get the point. Rehearse in front of a mirror. Rehearse in front of a friend, family member, or colleague. Rehearse in front of a stranger. Introduce yourself first or that could be awkward! Kidding! Reach out to a professional network or job seekers network and ask about mock interviews. Even the most veteran of professional can use some rehearsals with candid feedback! 

Are you selling? 

The answer is yes! If you are not, you should be! This is a balancing act. You want to come across humbly-confident, not arrogant, or braggadocious. However, you are selling product…that product is YOU! As in all selling, the buyer has a problem. You have a solution. That solution is YOU! 

Rehearsing can help a lot in this area as well. Go beyond just rehearsing. Review your resume. What stories does it tell? Which stories apply to the interviewer? Tell the stories that solve their problem. 

We are taught the use of the word “I” should be avoided (as-in I did this or I did that). An interview is not the time to use the word “we”. If you are describing a situation in which a team accomplished something, state that it was the team, of course. However, be sure to include your specific role in contributing to the success. 

Preparation is vital!

Are you prepared for the interview? Even an initial screening interview should be treated as a final interview. Research the company. Know the interviewers. Understand the company’s competition. 

As you do this research, think of questions to ask during the interview. Make these questions about the company, the interviewer, or the competition…not about the benefits you may receive! Never-ever ask what the company does, know what the company does. 

Be prepared with your answers to their questions. When asked, “tell me about yourself”. Do not recite your resume verbatim. The interviewer can read. Summarize your accomplishments (the accomplishments that solve their problems). 

Leverage Glassdoor to learn about their interview process and some of the questions they may ask. Be prepared to answer them. Rehearse your answers…out loud! 

If there is a question you hate to answer, be prepared to answer it! Rehearse your answer until you cannot get it wrong! Turn a negative into a positive! 

Beyond the first conversation

If you are bringing your “A” game to interviews in these five areas, I have no doubt you will move forward in the process…and soon! 

Next time: If you are making it to the final round of interviews and still aren’t getting an offer, I will offer some strategies to help you get that offer in hand! 

 

Have a question? Send it to me at jeff.ton@tonenterprisesllc.com and I will be glad to share my thoughts. 

 

Many of these ideas are featured in my new book, Amplify Your Job Search – Strategies for Finding Your Dream Job! Learn more and order your copy by clicking on the cover:

Amplify Your Job Search

#AmplifyYourJobSearch Network Amplifier

The Network Effect is commonly applied to business and economics to describe the effect on the value of a product or service by adding more users of the product or service. There are great examples of the network effect all around us. Think of the value of Facebook or LinkedIn if only a handful of people belonged. Think of the value of your phone if there was no one else to call. 

The network effect can also be applied to, well, you! The broader and more diverse your network is, the more valuable it becomes…to you…and everyone you are connected with. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you are involved in a job search. Speaking from personal experience, I did not fully understand the value of a network until…I needed one!

What’s the connection between networking and being in transition? Over 85% of all jobs filled today can be attributed to the candidate having a network connection into the organization. That connection may have let them know of the opening (hidden job market). They may have provided a warm introduction to someone in the company, perhaps even the hiring manager. They may have sent a recommendation to the hiring manager, HR department, or an influencer within the organization.

Networking: Getting Started

Networking of this type may not come naturally to you. I know it did not to me! One of the best secrets I learned is it’s not about you. Even if you are in transition. Even if you are seeking your next gig. It’s about the other person. You are not reaching out to ask them for a job. Take that pressure off yourself! Reach out seeking to learn. You want to learn about their job, their company, their industry. Ask them questions like, “Tell me about your role with XYZ company, What led you to that position?” Get them talking. 

Of course, you will need to share a bit about you and your career journey, but don’t make it a monologue. Tell your story…briefly. When you are in transition, you will want to include two “asks” in every networking conversation you have. Always ask what you can do for them. You may not think you are in a position to help, but you are. Even if they answer with nothing, think of a connection, think of a relevant book, recommend a relevant podcast. The second ask should be “Is there anyone else in your network I should be talking to?” Your goal is to come away with introductions to two or three people. 

Network while in transition

In my book Amplify Your Job Search: Strategies for Finding Your Dream Job, I provide guidance for building or expanding your professional network. There are several ways to quickly build connections. Look for industry groups in your area, for example. They may not be conducting face-to-face meetings in this environment, but they certainly have virtual meetings you can attend and meet other professionals. Many cities have groups specifically for job seekers. Locate those groups and start attending meetings. You will meet others. This will not only expand your network, but they will provide reassurance that you are not in this alone. 

Think about groups you already belong to such as church groups, civic organizations, hobby clubs. All of these groups provide opportunities to meet others and grow your professional network. They also provide common interests for those awkward initial conversations. 

Of course, social media provides key platforms to connect with other professionals. LinkedIn can be a goldmine for networking. Reach out and make new connections. Invite them to coffee (virtual or otherwise). You will be surprised at the number of people who will want to help. 

Tribes and networking

Networking can sometimes feel a bit random. To help guide you in developing a strong network I recommend two resources. The first is Igniting the Fire Starter by Jason Barnaby. In his book, Barnaby describes the essential roles we all need in our immediate network, or “tribe” as he calls it. These roles include The Listener (someone who is a good listener), The Dreamer (someone who asks “what if”), The Devil’s Advocate (someone who points out potential traps), The Organizer (someone who helps think through the “this before that”), The Catalyst (someone who gives a kick in the pants when we need one), The Connector (someone who loves to make introductions), and The Expert (someone who has “been there done that”). Check out Jason’s website at www.firestartertribe.com to learn more and to download the free Tribal Inventory. 

Diversify Your Net

Think about your network. Does everyone look like you? Do they sound like you? Is everyone thinking like you? If so, you need to diversify your network. In her book, Network Beyond Bias, author Amy Waninger, provides two great tools for identifying the gaps in your network. The first is CHAMP. Who in your network fits the CHAMP roles? C is for your customer, H is someone you would hire or recommend to be hired, A is for associate, someone in your peer group, M is for a mentor, and P is for protege (who do YOU mentor?).

The second tool is the IGGNORE matrix. Who in your network is in a different Industry? Who is in a different Generation? Is there someone of a different Gender? How about Nationality? Are there people in your network with a different sexual Orientation than yours? Are different Races represented? With whom in your network have you Exchanged personal stories, not just pleasantries? 

If you have gaps in your tribe, CHAMP or IGGNORE networks be intentional about filling those gaps. It will broaden your perspectives and insights. It will also open up other opportunities in your search that you may not have even known existed. 

Find Amy’s work at www.LeadAtAnyLevel.com to learn more about her valuable work! 

Why Network

Finding your next opportunity is only a small part of why you need a vibrant professional network. Having a vibrant and diverse network dramatically expands your knowledge. As you exchange insights across your network you will be exposed to a vast pool of thought, perspectives, and opinions. The more you give to this network, the more the network will return to you! THAT is the network effect! 

 

 

I’ve written more on the power of a professional network check out some here: Network  (admittedly some of these are about that other kind of networking) 

#AmplifyYourJobSearch“How do you stay motivated during a job search?” Thas was the question posted on LinkedIn recently. My guess is it was posted by someone who was frustrated with their current search and was feeling very de-motivated. A job search can be very frustrating in “normal” times. In these COVID-19 global pandemic times, it can be downright depressing. We’ve been conditioned to send out dozens and dozens of resumes with the hope of getting a response. Many times we hear nothing. Occasionally, we may get a response that is a polite, “thanks, but no thanks” to our skillfully architected resume, receiving no actionable feedback. 

As our search stretches from days to weeks, to months the pressure and the stress mounts. So, how do you stay motivated during a job search? 

Go to work! 

Approach your job search like, well, a job. Your job is to locate your next job. Create a routine. Get up at the same time you were getting up when you were employed. Get showered, dressed, eat breakfast, and go to work. If possible set aside space in your home where you can work, uninterrupted (I know this is challenging with work-from-home spouses and virtual learning school children). 

Set measurable activities

Manage your daily activities. Your time should be focused on the activities most likely to create success. Statistics show that 87% of jobs filled are filled through professional networking. That means networking is your most valuable activity. Spend 80-90% of your time or about seven hours a day on building your network. 

Review your accomplishments

Celebrate the victories. When your spouse asks, “how many jobs did you apply for today?” Tell them about the valuable connections you made, the deep conversations you had, and what you learned from those conversations. Every networking meeting is a step closer to your next job. 

While thinking about your accomplishments, think about all your accomplishments in your career. You’ve done some great work! Acknowledge that to yourself!

Reflect on the journey

You knew journaling was going to find its way into my answer, didn’t you? Start a transition journal. Spend time writing in it each day. Write about your successes, write about the challenges. What are you thinking? What are you feeling? Take time periodically to read back through your journal. Take encouragement from the progress you have made. 

Give yourself some slack

When you were employed, did you ever have one of those days? You know, the kind of day that is a grind just to get up and go to the office. The day drags by. Give yourself some slack. Those days are going to happen in your search. Acknowledge it. Try to make the next day better. Give yourself some grace, take a day off. Rest, recharge, and attack your search again tomorrow. 

Stay connected

No, I don’t mean connected like the internet-connected, I mean, stay connected to yourself and others. One of the key elements of dealing with stress is connectedness. Stay in tune with yourself and your stress. As stress begins to mount, reach out to a family member, reach out to a friend. Talk to them. Share your frustrations, vent. They will understand. Reach out to me, I’m happy to jump on a Zoom call! 

Have a question? Send it to me at Jeff.Ton@TonEnterprisesLLC.com and I will be glad to share my thoughts. 

Many of these ideas are featured in my new book, Amplify Your Job Search – Strategies for Finding Your Dream Job! Learn more and order your copy by clicking on the cover: #AmplifyYourJobSearch #GetHired

Let’s do coffee. I would be hard-pressed to count the number of cups of coffee I’ve had at local coffee shops. Two, three, four times a week for ten or eleven years. THAT is a lot of coffee. Let’s do coffee. It sounds like a tone-deaf imperative in this age of social distancing. However, despite the stay-at-home and social distancing mandates, it is a practice I have maintained, albeit virtually. 

Let’s do coffee. It is a commitment I made eleven years ago. It’s my way of saying thank you and paying it forward to those who took time out of their busy schedules to have coffee with me. In 2009, I found myself in a position I had not been in up to that point in my career. I was in a job search. I was in a job search without having a job. I was struck by the number of people who stopped what they were doing to meet for coffee, talk, and help. 

What is it about coffee?

Today, my coffee meetings fall into three broad categories: catching up with friends, sales professionals who want my take on the local market, and, yes, people in transition (and those considering a change). Whenever anyone in the latter category reaches out, my answer is “Let’s do coffee”. 

In fact, “Let’s Do Coffee” was the working title for my new book Amplify Your Job Search – Strategies for Finding Your Dream Job. Until, well, you know, branding (hey, I am kind of the #AmplifyGuy, #RockandRollScarecrow, #RocktheSox guy). The book is a culmination of lessons learned, advice received, advice given, and experience. Sorry for what feels like a commercial interruption, that is not my intent…but, if you want to buy the book you can get it on…nevermind!

Over these years of having coffee, I have seen many professionals who were prepared for their search. They knew who they were and they knew what they wanted. I have seen others who, well, weren’t and didn’t. Other than working with the university’s career services department or with an outplacement firm, we don’t teach someone how to search for a job. (Hence, the need for the book and more shameless promotion of same). 

I believe the difference between those who did and those who didn’t comes down to two essential and related practices: reflection and branding. 

Reflection

Journaling has been a part of many successful leaders for centuries. The library is full of biographies and autobiographies of business leaders, government leaders, and thought leaders. The common thread, most kept some sort of record (uh, journal) of their thoughts, insights, and activities. 

Keeping a journal is a powerful tool. Not only does it help you to keep track of details that would be lost to time, but it provides a way to learn from the past…your past. Part of the magic of keeping a journal is to re-read it, weeks, months, even years later. The magic? The lessons change! Why? The journal hasn’t changed…you have!  

Keeping a journal is a great way to understand who you are and what you want and need from your career. I know I have written of this in prior posts…I just can’t emphasize the importance enough. 

Branding

Personal branding is the other essential element, and yes, it is related to journaling. Branding is who you are and how others see you. I was first introduced to personal branding in the mid-2000s by a boss of mine. I have to admit, I thought it was a load of crap! (Sorry, Ron!). Like many lessons in life, we learn the value of something long after we have been introduced to it. 

We all have personal brands. It’s our reputation. How do people see you? What are their first impressions? What are their lasting impressions? That is your personal brand. The question isn’t do you have one, but rather, is it an intentional one? Do you curate your brand? 

A personal brand is made up of four components: your strengths, your values, your passions, and your purpose. Identifying those components takes deep reflection (hence the relationship with journaling). Have you done the work? Do you know your personal brand? 

Coffee and Leadership

Reflection and Branding are not only essential to a job search. They are essential to leadership. If you don’t journal, I urge you to start today. It is easier than it sounds. If you don’t know your personal brand, begin to explore the key components. THAT is your call to action from reading this post. Start today! 

 

Read more about reflection, branding, and coffee in my new book Amplify Your Job Search – Strategies for Finding Your Dream Job! Learn more and order your copy by clicking on the cover:

Amplify Your Job Search

Share my storyShould I share my story? It’s a question I get asked often. It’s a question I used to ask myself. I was asked the question again a couple of weeks ago. I was on a Zoom coffee call when the question came, almost out of leftfield. Should I share my story? This time the question caught me a bit off guard. I’m afraid my momentary confusion caused me to hesitate, it might have even caused me to stammer a bit. I’m afraid it might have caused my answer to seem less confident, less emphatic than I intended. 

I can assure you that was not the case. I just was not expecting the conversation to turn in the direction it did. You see, this was the first time I had met this person. Typically, I get asked that question by people whose story I already know (at least somewhat). This being the first time we had met, it threw me off…at least momentarily. Let me answer now, with all the confidence and as emphatically as possible…”YES, YOU SHOULD SHARE YOUR STORY”. Your story is who you are, you should own your story! This was one of the most impactful recommendations I have ever received, and I think it can have as great an impact on you and your career as it did for me. 

This person’s story was of a battle with alcoholism. They are recovering, but they are an alcoholic. You may be asking why on earth would someone share that with someone they had just met. Well, because it is a story of strength and courage. It is a story of vulnerability. Something in our conversation must have let them know it was a “safe zone” to tell the story and then ask the question. Little did they know the impact they would have on me because they shared. I was honored they felt they could share. They had no way of knowing the number of people in my life who battle the same affliction. 

Why should you tell your story? Because sharing our stories creates an immediate connection. There is something about being vulnerable. There is something in creating trust between people. It’s funny how in sharing our stories and being vulnerable what we are really sharing is our strength. The connection created is real. The connection created is deep. 

When I asked permission to share this story, they responded with “I can’t tell you how much it meant to me to feel vulnerable and safe enough to pose the question and be affirmed by someone else in a leadership role. My strength comes from my vulnerability and ability to connect with others on a deeper level. My alcoholism no longer defines me because I am no longer ashamed.” Powerful. The connection works both ways. 

It was not more than a week later when I was confronted with the power of sharing one’s story again. This time it was with at a meeting of the Indy CIO Network. We had a guest facilitator, Paul Ashley of FirstPerson Advisors, we were to discuss mental wellbeing during a pandemic. Before the meeting, Paul shared his story with the group. Paul’s story is one of battling depression. His vulnerability connected with the group which led to a great discussion. Powerful. Several members shared their own stories. Based on the follow-up conversations, I know it has led to deeper connections between our members. 

My point isn’t that your story has to include battling alcoholism, or depression, or cancer. It doesn’t have to include anything that dramatic. My point is your story is important. It is what makes you who are. Sharing it can create connection. Sharing it can show you care about other’s stories.  Sharing it can help you to lead. 

Post a comment, send an email, give me a call! I want to hear your stories! 

#stress #How are youHow are you? Don’t answer “I’m fine”. I’m being serious. How are you? You’ve been leading through some incredibly chaotic times! You’ve been taking care of your staff. You’ve been taking care of your family. You’ve been taking care of your friends. When was the last time you took a moment to check in on you? 

The first six months of 2020 have been a lot. We’ve now been in some form of physical distancing, stay-at-home orders, and business restrictions for almost four months. We’ve taken part in countless virtual meetings, seeing others only on our computer monitors. Many have not seen family or friends for an extended time. 

About six weeks ago, our country was rocked by the death of George Floyd. The rage of centuries of oppression and racism erupted in cities from coast to coast. Voices have been, and continue to be, raised. Companies have stepped up to meet the challenge to listen and learn. Perhaps your company is one. 

Our businesses are facing unprecedented challenges. Leaders are being asked to make sense of it all. We are confronted by issues on all fronts. What’s a leader to do? 

Pause. Yes, pause. Take a moment. Think about you. How are you feeling? What is your body telling you? 

Please, pause. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you feeling irritable? Anxious? Down?
  • Have you lost some of your motivation? 
  • Are you unable to focus? 
  • Do you have difficulty sleeping?
  • Do you have muscle tension or new aches or pains?
  • Are you unable to have fun? 

If you answered yes to one or more of these, chances are you are under stress. Depending on your answers, you may be under severe stress. 

I know, I hear you. Stress is nothing new. You’re always under stress. Leadership comes with stress. What’s important is you are powering through. You are checking on your team. You are driving your business forward through the challenges. If you consider yourself a servant leader you are justifying the stress by saying your job is to take care of those around you. 

I’m urging you to pause. Get in touch with what you are feeling and why. Rest. Reflect. 

There are five essential elements to counteract adversity and reduce the impacts of stress on our wellbeing. 

Safety – One of our basic needs is to feel safe. If your safety is being challenged are there things you can do to move yourself to a greater feeling of safety? 

Calm – If you are feeling tense or anxious can you calm yourself? Are you able to help yourself feel more relaxed? 

Connection – Do you feel a connection with others? Can you talk to your spouse or significant other? Can you phone a friend? 

Resilience – Do you have a feeling that you can get through these challenges because you have faced challenges before? 

Optimism – Do you have a sense of optimism or hope for the future? 

So. Let me ask you again. How are you feeling? Do you need one or more of the essential elements? Do you know where to get them? Take time to pause, take time to rest, take time to reflect. Your followers need you in your best possible condition to guide them through the next 90 days and beyond. 

Let me know how you are doing. Post a comment or send me a note at jeff.ton@tonenterprisellc.com.

#AmplifyYourLeadership #BlackLivesMatterLast week’s Leadership Thought “I Have No Words” sparked a lot of email, texts and comments. Many of you, like me, are struggling to find the words, to know how to react to the unrest around us, and to know what actions to take. Many of the messages contained an explicit or implicit question: But, what about the violence and the looting? 

Let me respond, first by saying, I am a self-proclaimed pacifist. I abhor violence and destruction of any kind. I wish we all could just get along (you know, hold hands and sing “Kumbaya”). I wish that for the neighbors in a dispute, our political parties, the countries of the world, and certainly the races of the world. Like John Lennon I “Imagine all the people living life in peace”. 

However, I am also a realist. There are wars (and, yes, I wholeheartedly support our troops, I come from a long line of those who have served our country), there is conflict, and yes, there are riots, violence and looting. History is filled with examples of rioting and looting going back thousands of years. 

Don’t believe me? Google “riots throughout history”. There are so many of them, they had to divide them up by century. There were riots in Rome when Julius Caesar was assassinated.There were riots in Canada after a loss in the Stanley Cup. There were riots in the U.S. over a tax on…whiskey. 

The Boston Massacre occurred because colonists were frustrated with the presence of British Soldiers in their neighborhoods and threw snowballs at Soldiers. The soldiers responded and killed five colonists. 

The Boston Tea Party was a result of growing resentment between the colonies and British taxation. 342 chests of tea were dumped into Boston Harbor. It started a revolution. 

As my wife and I watched Ken Burns’ Civil War this week, I was reminded of the riots that took place in the North in response to the draft of Union soldiers. 

As I researched this post, I learned of “Red Summer”, a series of riots and looting in over three dozen cities that took place 100 years ago at the end of World War I. Whites were fearful the black soldiers returning from the war would take their already scarce jobs. (Interesting that was at the same time in history as the Spanish Flu pandemic…history repeats?) 

Riots and looting have occurred because of political differences, because of hatred of another people, because of team affiliations (football, soccer, basketball, hockey), and yes, because of race. Sometimes, the oppressed have rioted, and sometimes the aggressors have rioted. 

I have to ask the question, what would have happened if the armed protesters who protested in state houses recently against “stay-at-home” orders were met with aggression instead of silence? 

Would I ever feel anger or hopelessness, or feel passionately enough about a cause to resort to violence? I’d like to say “no”, but what I can say is “never say never”. 

I, for one, have felt anger. However, I can’t imagine what it feels like to be oppressed. Oppressed for hundreds or even thousands of years. I have felt hopelessness. However, I can’t imagine the hopelessness of generation after generation who are suffering and yet, are unheard. 

What I can do is listen with empathy and compassion to the voices of generations. 

#AmplifyYourVoiceI have no words. Perhaps a funny thing to say, coming from a writer. I have no words…I don’t know what to say. Even now I struggle to find the words.

Our nation, in the midst of perhaps the biggest crisis in the last 100 years, certainly in the last 50, has exploded. When news of George Floyd’s murder came across my television, just weeks after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, I did what I always do. I showed my support, first by liking others’ posts on Facebook, then by sharing a post. I’ve done it for years…

The murderous attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris? Changed my profile picture to “Je suis Charlie” in support. 

The confrontation at Standing Rock that escalated into violence? Joined others who checked-in at Standing Rock to show support. 

I could list dozens of others. Doing my part to show support. But cautiously. Wouldn’t want to draw furor. Wouldn’t want to upset my “friends”. Afterall I have a business to run and many of those “friends” are my readers. 

Doing my part. Cautiously. Rarely, if ever, on LinkedIn. That’s for business. Can’t get personal, can’t get political, can’t take a stand. Would not want to alienate anyone, they might buy my books, they might hire me for a keynote, they might…

This time was no different. Until it wasn’t. 

I shared a “Black Lives Matter” gif on Facebook. A bit later a “friend” commented “All Lives Matter”. I did not know what to say in response. I use quotes around “friend” because I haven’t seen this person in 50 years and just recently reconnected on Facebook. I really didn’t know him. I was at a loss for words. On one level, yes, all lives matter. But that was not the point. The point is right now an entire race of people are hurting. Saying “all lives matter” diminishes their pain. I was frozen. 

And then, my son spoke up and commented on the post. A discussion of sorts started, then someone else chimed in. His tone was decidedly sharper. This back and forth went on for a couple of days…and I remained silent. 

Over the last week I have watched my son find his voice…on Facebook, and yes, on LinkedIn. I have seen countless others raise their voices. What I have seen, what I have heard, tells me there ARE words. I was just stuck waiting for the RIGHT words. 

As leaders, we have to lead…even when we don’t know the RIGHT words. 

To those of you who were like me…waiting. STOP. Add your voice to the conversation! 

To my friends of Color. I am sorry. I have no concept of what it is like to walk in your shoes. I know you are hurting. I know you are afraid. I know you are angry. I want to learn. I am committed to learning, so that I might lend my voice and my support to make this a world that recognizes all people have been created equal! 

I will speak by listening! I WILL find my voice. I WILL listen. 

 

Other resources to read:

Masking language and “keeping it professional”

Leadership Reflections on George Floyd and the Minneapolis Riots

I am one person. What can I do? 

TIME for Kids Age-Appropriate Resources

“We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.” We don’t, but we can.

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culture #Amplify InsightsIs Culture tied to place or space? 

It’s a question that I have asked myself many times over the last two months. The question was sparked during a virtual roundtable with a group of business leaders. Several of them expressed anxiously they could not wait to get back into the office, they couldn’t wait to get their staff back into the office. Why? Not because they missed everyone (though they did express that they did miss everyone), but, rather because their culture demanded it. Their culture was built on open collaboration, the buzz of activity, close interaction among team members. 

It got me thinking…Is culture tied to place or space? 

It’s been said that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” (actually, Peter Drucker is the one that said it). Without a doubt, your corporate culture can have a dramatic impact on the success or failure of your strategy and therefore your company. But what IS culture? 

There are about as many definitions of company culture as there are people in the workplace. The definition I like the best is by Susan M. Heathfield, in her post: Culture: Your Environment for People at Work

“In many ways, culture is like personality. In a person, the personality is made up of the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, interests, experiences, upbringing, and habits that create a person’s behavior.

Culture is made up of such traits shared by a group of people. Culture is the behavior that results when a group arrives at a set of generally unspoken and unwritten rules for working together.”

So, is culture tied to place or space? I believe if culture relies on all of your employees being in the same place and sharing the same place, you are doing it wrong. Can place and space impact company culture, absolutely! A few years ago, as a new CIO the first thing I did was replace all the workspaces for the IT team. It made a world of difference on the mental health of the team. Just recently, I was with a company who moved into brand new office space. I can tell you, it made a huge impact on my own mental health, outlook, and desire to be there. So, yes, place and space CAN influence culture, but it can’t (or shouldn’t) define culture. 

That mentality creates a very exclusive mindset, even at a time when we are all trying to be inclusive. If you can’t be in the workplace, you can’t be in the culture. What of team members who can’t be in the office? What of team members who are afraid to be in the office? What of geographically dispersed staff? How do they become a part of the culture? Even companies who have more than one office..the cultures are going to be different, the “vibe” is going to be different…and that is OK. 

So, how do we create and maintain a company culture that extends beyond the walls of our office? 

Intentionality – Be intentional about including remote employees. This has been easier with everyone being remote, but as we return to the office, be intentional to include those who aren’t there. How many times have you been on a conference call, and forgot to tell those on the phone the meeting was over? It happens! But don’t let it! Make sure to include them in the pre-meeting chatter and the post-meeting debrief. Make sure to call on them. Be aware of time zones when scheduling meetings. 

Technology – You might have guessed I would have technology in here somewhere. It is one thing I think we have all learned over the last two months. While video is not perfect, it does create a connection. I believe we have connected at a far more personal level virtually than we ever have face-to-face. We have been invited into each other’s homes. We have a window into each other’s lives…dogs, cats, kids, spouses. Far more personal than a picture of my grandkids on my desk is my grandson entering my office and saying “hi” to all the people on the video call. 

Creativity – Be creative in including everyone. If your office is known for donut Friday…send donuts to those who aren’t there. If you are having an after work gathering (post physical distancing, of course), open up a video conference and let the virtual employees participate. If there is energy in the office, make sure the energy crosses through the connection. 

There are numerous articles on workplace design and its impact on culture. Extend those design concepts to the remote worker. Do they have all of the equipment to do their jobs as if they were sitting in the office? The answer should be yes. 

I would love to hear from you. What ideas do you have for extending culture beyond place and space? Send me your thoughts! 

 

#AmplifyYourLeadershipWith credit to Bob Dylan for a great lyric, these times certainly are changing. In the last 100 days or so, we have all experienced tremendous change, change in the way we work (and in a lot of cases this change meant a loss of work) and change in the way we live. As our economy slowly begins to open up, many want to return to “normal”. But, normal isn’t there. Normal has changed, because we have changed. 

We have all been impacted. The change of the first four months of 2020 has been unlike anything any of us have ever experienced. There have been a multitude of lessons. There has been opportunity for growth personally, professionally. There are many lessons on the river ahead. 

Remember your first 100 days as a leader in a new role, or a new company? We’ve all walked in with our 100-day plan. It’s critical to a leader’s success. Presidents are measured on their first 100 days. We’ve been given a great opportunity. The world hit pause. Perhaps it was more like a CTRL-ALT-Delete reboot. Your next 100 days as a leader will define you for the next decade or more. Leading through the crucible of the previous 100 days will be nothing compared to the next 100 days. 

One of the great ironies of the last 100 days is that we have connected with each other on a deeper personal level through the use of video conferencing than we ever have in an office. We have had a window directly into each other’s homes. We have had scenes from our personal lives play out live for everyone to see. How will you maintain that level of vulnerability, that level of intimacy, that level of connection? 

You may be anxious to get back into the office. To feel that normal. You may thrive on the buzz of the office, the phones ringing, the conversation, the clacking of keyboards. But what of your team? Are they anxious to get back into the office, or just anxious. There will be some who embrace the return to the office. There will be some who are uncertain, perhaps even afraid. There will be some who have thrived in the work-from-home world of the last 100 days. 

New leaders have emerged. Have you seen them? Have you felt them guiding their co-workers and teams through these rough waters? Will you help them continue to grow as leaders? 

Are you ready to meet them all where they are? As individuals? As people?

The office will not have the same vibe. Not for a long time…if ever. Are you prepared? Do you have your first 100 days plan ready?