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Surviving Today’s Workforce

Recently I was working with a client who had decided to re-enter the workforce after years of being a stay at home mom. She had trepidations about making this move and so my focuses with her was on what the job market looked like today and then provide her tips to be successful with re-entry. After going over my seemingly brilliant information, my client looked up at me and said, “That’s great Melissa but I am not particularly concerned at the moment on how to be successful in today’s job market. I am however very interested in knowing how to survive it.”

To say I was speechless by this comment is an understatement.  I was completely mute by her request for tips on how to survive. Giving it some thought I began to conduct an all out research effort on survival and how it would apply to today’s workforce. Here are the top five tips I have come up with:

  1. Always Be Aware of Your Environment: Although this seems obvious enough you would be surprised how many people are oblivious to what’s going on around them. Every work environment has a culture, which is defined by key people in the organization. Be aware of whether the cultural environment you work in feels positive or negative. Learn who are the key people that are defining the culture and their work philosophies. And most importantly determine how your presence in the environment will impact the overall social architecture. Your work environment is a place you will be “living” in several hours a day and you need to determine if its an environment you can exist in long term.  Many people take a job without making this important assessment and end up hating their work life because it’s contradictory to how they think or act. Be aware of your environment and know your place in it.
  2. Know Your Subjective Value and Its Importance: Each person’s subjective value  (SV) is determined by how each of us is perceived by those around us. This is not only important to understand but its also important to know as it does not always align with how we see ourselves. This is not to say that we don’t contribute to how we are perceived by others. Our actions and words play an important role in defining our subjective value. However the reality is we don’t have complete control over how our subjective value is assessed, hence why it’s considered “subjective”. Understanding our SV is key as it determines our place not only in our environment but it essentially lets us know how others see us in their environment. For example, does our subjective value define us as a leader, a friend, a mentor, an expert, or a valuable asset? Or are we seen as difficult, unproductive, lost, lacking or unnecessary? Idealistically the desired subjective value for anyone looking to survive in business is to be considered indispensible. Knowing where we are on the SV scale allows us to work on gaps and increase our value quotient. Understanding the importance of SV is what will give us the power and influence we need in order to help us leverage those for continued survival.
  3. Emotional Intelligence is the Key to Long Term Survival: It is human nature to have emotions and to ignore the power of emotions and the role it plays in our lives can be a tragic error. Emotions guide us in facing predicaments and tasks too important to leave to intellect alone. It is a vital part in shaping our decisions and our actions as much as reason and thought. Succinctly put, emotions can lead to impulses, which then can lead to action. Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand what we are feeling and why but not necessarily allowing it to dominate our actions. People with skilled emotional intelligence or EI incorporate what they are feeling with other data or variables in there decision making process. EI is taking the power of the “gut feeling” and supporting it through knowledge, information, and other important factors to drive appropriate action. This is important because with all things, gaining support and maintaining a sense of control is through finding a balance. Deciding to act purely on emotions oftentimes compromises a sense of reality. It inhibits our ability to see the forest from the trees. Conversely to act purely on data removes a sense of self-awareness obtained through past experiences or those things that have helped define who we are and why we feel the way we do. Essentially reason without feeling is a form of blindness. The key to increasing your emotional intelligent IQ is to continually work on your emotional literacy, which in today’s market is important to survival.
  4. Always Have a Teachable Point of View on the Important Things: Noel Tichey, who wrote The Leadership Engine, describes a “teachable point of view” (TPOV) as having clear ideas and values based on knowledge and experience and the ability to articulate those lessons to others. Today’s workforce is a community of people that come from different backgrounds and have different experiences. Through our experiences we are exposed to lessons that through time help develop our perspective, our point of view, and if channeled correctly develop our strengths and can even open the door to opportunities. Having a teachable point of view is a way of relating to others because its sharing things you have learned through the experiences you have had.  Your experiences are specific to you and therefore become part of your perceived edge. Successful people figure out early that having a TPOV on key experiences or lessons provide them with an edge that no one else has and they use that edge strategically. So if you want to survive as well as thrive in today’s market then you need to have a perceived edge. I recommend sharing a teachable point of view on something you feel has been a valuable lesson to you. In the end honing your ability to have a TPOV will help you become an important member of your workforce community.
  5. Know Your Strengths but Also Your Weaknesses: Concentrating on your strengths is the act of applying those that are specific to you toward a strategy or tactic in an area you want to be successful. It’s not about knowing how much strength you have but essentially where you should concentrate your power. By following this process, you also address weaknesses simply by applying energy to the right efforts. This is the key to not only surviving in today’s market but also being successful long-term. The ability to apply strength in areas of weakness is an important strategy toward achieving a level of superiority or expertise.  The other key component is to know WHEN to us your strengths because generally the opportune time is during a key decisive point. Essentially the ability to know your strengths and when best to use them comes from self- awareness. The best way to survive in today’s competitive ever changing market is knowing what assets you have that you can leverage and when to leverage those assets. It’s the ability to standout in a crowd by exemplifying certain things while minimizing others.

In the end, despite the fact I started this article to provide a few key survival tips to my client, I realized that they could also apply to anyone wanting a few tips on how to thrive in business. Essentially they are basic rules of engagement that are just good business practices to follow. So whether you are looking to survive in today’s work place or looking to thrive, following the above tips will help you achieve your desired goal. Because in the end surviving can lead to success and determining which is more important in today’s market is essentially just a matter of perspective.

Great Leaders Must Be Great Conversationalists

Early in my career, someone once told me that to be a great leader, you must be a great conversationalist. I thought to myself, that’s easy enough, I love to talk therefore I must be a great leader. To my dismay, nothing could be further from the truth. I should have known that greatness in anything is not that easily attained.

Yes there are those who have always been natural leaders, but for most of us, to be a great leader is a long journey often speckled with the occasional failure. It’s a learning process where experience coupled with intuition can develop into great insight. Interestingly enough these are also the exact traits required to be a great conversationalist.

Allow me to elaborate, Merriam-Webster defines a conversationalist as “one who converses a great deal; someone skilled in conversation”. So essentially if you consider yourself a conversationalist then you would by virtue of definition be someone who excels in the art of conversation. Many of us can say we not only excel in the art of conversation but through experience some of us would be considered savants, myself included. So having mastered the art of talking through a lifetime of experience, the next step is to evaluate our level of intuition.

Intuition by definition means “immediate apprehension or cognition; the power or faculty of attaining direct knowledge without evident rational thought and inference”. Unfortunately this trait is much harder to obtain because it requires continuous study in order to achieve a sense of knowing that is outside usual intellectual thinking. For example an intuitive leader by definition will attain knowledge not readily evident under normal cognitive processes. This ability to gain knowledge through a sense of understanding is called awareness. Awareness IS the key to intuition and in today’s general mindset of “to each his own” or “look out for number one” awareness has become compromised therefore hindering our intuition.

Fortunately for women we tend to be better at intuition. Granted this is an overly broad statement and there are certainly exceptions, but statistically and organically it rings true. Maybe it’s because women in general are more nurturing and nurturing is a form of gaining and developing knowledge through awareness.

This is not to say that men don’t possess intuition because many men have a sense of knowing that is not readily evident through usual cognitive processes. Each of us possesses some level of intuition. The clincher is in order to be a great leader you must achieve a sense of knowing through awareness of those around you. For business leaders this would be your employees, and the more employees you have the more clouded your intuition can become.

The good news gentlemen, is that you are better conversationalists. Yes, ladies its true, men generally excel in the act of conversing much better then we do. Again, allow me to elaborate, Merriam-Webster defines a conversation as “communication that allows people with different points of views to learn from each other; oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions or ideas”. When men converse, its more results-oriented even in social conversations. It’s about sharing information and gaining information. The process is linear. Women on the other hand rarely talk in a linear fashion. Women tend to think spherically and therefore express themselves in the same way. And as much as we hate to admit it, women are never truly married to a particular topic and often change topics mid-sentence and carry-on as if not missing a beat. Some women also tend to engage in conversations from a “wanting to be liked” perspective which can become the driving motivation behind the conversation thereby directing the correspondence into a specific direction. This act of spherical speaking and hidden motivators does create an important problem, the lack of listening. Great conversationalists must also be excellent listeners, a common void for many of us.

Which brings me back to the most important trait found in great leaders – insight. To be truly insightful requires listening. Only through careful listening can we comprehend the inner nature of things. To put it succinctly, listening leads to better awareness, therefore better intuition, developing our insight and ultimately our leadership. This is why the pregnant pause is a popular practice. It allows for that exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions and ideas through engaged listening. Listening my friends is where all the power lies. If you are not practiced at listening then you will miss key information, thoughts, ideas that could help you in being a better leader and frankly a better person.

So knowing what we know, how do we become better conversationalist in order to sharpen our leadership traits? Here are a few tips I recommend:

1. Focus on Listening to Gain Insight. Practice conversing, not just talking, with anyone and everyone. Practice conversing with no distractions and be in the moment. Engage the pregnant pause. Respond with more then a word or two to incite others to share information or thoughts.
2. Hone your Awareness to Develop Intuition. When engaging in a conversation write down or pay attention to two or three things you learned in the conversation you didn’t know before. Ask questions to glean more information about the person your speaking with. Jot down noises/sounds or if face to face expressions or gestures you hear or see during the conversation (you may want to let your conversation partner know you’re taking notes or jot them down later.)
3. Focus on a Topic to Stay in the Moment. Focus on one topic to its completion. If talking with a friend or relative and the subject goes off track, bring it back around and close the topic before starting a new one. Speaking linearly will aid in better listening.
4. Have an Objective in Mind and State it. Being a good conversationalist means getting to the point. Say more with less. This is especially important in business. Have an objective in mind and state it up front even in social conversations (exp: “I wanted to ask your opinion about …”)

In the end some will argue that being a good conversationalist doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with being a good leader. In some cases this is true. However, if you want to be a GREAT leader, being a great conversationalist will create more inroads to accomplish stronger leadership skills. People react more positively to leaders that are approachable, open, friendly, and attuned. Being a great conversationalist allows for the “people side” of every leader to shine through and gives others something to relate to and connect with. This kind of power is known as charisma and having charisma, my friends, is never a bad thing!

Created by: Melissa Grandchamp

[Melissa Grandchamp is the President of P3 offering expertise in the area of HR, Organizational Development and Leadership Coaching]

Unemployment Rate Amongst Recent Graduates

March 23rd, 2010 No comments

Attached is an interesting article about grads who get their diploma but can’t find a job. Considering unemployment among the young is higher then previous years (5.0% in 2009 for those with a Bachelor’s and 9.0% for those with an Associates Degree), having resources in place to help them secure that first job is important. Note what Robert Pagliarini considers as crucial post-graduate focuses in helping grads market themselves better.

http://ptimes3.com/2010/01/what-are-the-options-for-grads-without-gigs/

P3 not only suggests appropriate educational recommendations prior to your student graduating, therefore maximizing their marketability and your investment, but we also ensure they have the necessary resources (resume, references, work experience, volunteer experience) to be attractive to employers and stand out in a crowd of graduates.

Currently P3 is seeking students for summer internships in the field of: technology, software development, engineering, business administration, physical fitness, coaching & training, finance & accounting and web development. If you have a student or know a student who would like to get hands on experience in any one of these fields for summer 2010 please contact me for more information.

FREE Download: Performance Criteria

March 23rd, 2010 No comments

Performance Criteria

Communications Skills

Communicates clearly and concisely

Improves the effectiveness of communications and interactions with others

Excels in interpersonal communications

Avoids communication breakdowns

Encourages open communications to achieve mutual understandings

Communicates effectively with all levels of management

Effectively communicates upward, downward an laterally

Develops and maintains two-way communications

Excels in relating well with others

Decision Making

Can be relied on to make sound decisions

Is skilled in formulating solutions to difficult issues

Is willing to make difficult and unpopular decisions

Assembles all available facts before making a decision

Considers all alternatives before making commitments

Carefully evaluates alternative risks

Foresees the consequences of decisions

Communicates decisions with confidence

Strives to improve decisiveness

Delegating

Delegates to improve organizational effectiveness

Delegates to maximize organizational strengths

Demonstrates effective delegation techniques

Empowers employees with the authority and resources to achieve results

Provides subordinates with the resources needed to accomplish results

Knows when and what to delegate

Delegates routine tasks to subordinates

Matches assignments with employee talents/strengths

Encourages subordinates to solve their own problems

Creates a high degree of trust with subordinates

Interpersonal Skills

Identifies and understands personal values of superiors, subordinates, peers and others

Recognizes the importance of first impression

Well accepted by others under difficult circumstances

Develops mutual support

Builds trust and rapport

Understands and knows how to get along with co-workers

Establishes effective working relationships

Builds positive relationships with superiors

Works effectively with multiple superiors

Displays genuineness in dealing with others

Generates synergy

Promotes participative approaches

Respects the opinions of others

Leadership

Is successfully meeting the position’s leadership challenges

Demonstrates natural leadership ability

Displays leadership stature

Excels in training, leading and motivating people

Knows when to retrain and when to exercise power

Is able to assert authority when challenged

Demonstrates decisive leadership ability

Faces problems with confidence and assurance

Is an inspirational leader

Is a catalyst for success

Leads by example

Inspires others to do their best

Displays a strong ability to build credibility

Is quick to gain and maintain the trust of others

Shows appreciation for contributions and achievements

Promotes a high degree of morale

Promotes teamwork

Promotes  common purpose

Management Ability

Demonstrates productive management techniques

Stimulates management efficiency and effectiveness

Identifies major management problems and develop solutions

Consistently prepares appropriate recommendations

Effectively resolves conflicts between individual needs and requirements of the company

Demonstrates an ability to overcome internal barriers

Excels in resolving interdepartmental conflicts

Obtains the full support of other departments

Pulls the organization together

Holds subordinates accountable for results

Is a polished and effective professional

Shows strong self management

Recognizes the difference between managing and doing

Avoids managing by crisis

Builds organizational harmony

Encourages efforts toward common goals

Effectively enforces policies, rules and regulations

Avoids overstepping authority

Problem Solving

Displays an ability to solve problems, think, reason and learn

Is skilled in identifying and solving bottlenecks

Is skilled in proposing optional solutions

Develops creative and cost effective solutions

Makes a strong effort to be part of the solution

Effectively solves problems rather then the symptoms

Is quick to identify problems

Focuses on core problems

Solves problems before they become critical

Works well with others in solving problems

Supervisory skills

Maintains consistency of operations

Takes prompt action to minimize down time

Expects and demands superior performance

Places emphasis on results

Brings out the best in employees

Maximizes the value of recognition and rewards for others

Promotes and effective climate

Develops a productive work environment

Is readily accessible to subordinates

Receives full support for staff

Properly asserts authority

Is effective in giving direction and orders

Avoids over-supervising

Understands different personality and traits

Capably manages diverse personalities

Supervises firmly and fairly

Shows genuine respect for others

Encourages constructive feedback

Maintains order and discipline

Promptly disciplines inappropriate behavior

Disciplines without compromising authority

Takes steps to avoid recurrence of errors

Tact and Diplomacy

Handles complaints with tact

Is very confident in handling awkward situations

Accomplishes results without creating conflict

Handles confrontations constructively

In tactful in conflict situations

Displays trust and mutual understanding

Tactfully admits mistakes and errors

Follows proper protocol

Is polite in all situations

Team Skills

Excels in building teams for success

Makes effective use of team resources

Builds strong teams to meet performance goals

Is a strong team builder

Makes a valuable contribution to team objectives

Excels in task-oriented team development

Effectively resolve team conflicts