Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Miners

I’ve been thinking off & on about the big story from last week. The Miners. I know I'm behind in posting, but life for me has happily been busy and even hectic- but time to catch up!
They can teach us SOOOOOOOO much. Not only the broad lesson about living life (family and such), but also about us as coworkers- crisis, -and leadership. While a full analysis and commentary would take chapter upon chapter; I want to touch upon just a few points rumbling through my head.
*As coworkers- there are reports there was some fighting at first. Then came, however, the realization –the acceptance that they all had the same goal. With a common purpose they focused on the goal (surviving until rescued) and by doing so they became a team. The pride and courage they showed as a result was AMAZING. When I first heard the group was arguing about the order they would leave this underground prison, I NEVER would have imagined the details. They argued who should have the HONOR of leaving last. The leader who kept them going was bestowed with that. Not a ‘me first’ by ANY means. WOW!

*Leadership: Now here’s a rich source for this heading (but I’ll keep it to a minimum); stories of the shift leader’s efforts will continue to emerge, I think. Turning arguments into resolve has to be credited to him. Not only did he manage to unify his team in this extraordinary crisis, he motivated them to rally together. This guy is my hero. He organized specified areas and schedules to keep all focused (and sane). Gathering resources like the lights on equipment to simulate day & night as much as possible; setting up exercise regimens (that helped the mind as much as the body), and other examples that DEFINE leadership as well as heroism. The examples these men set for us are nearly endless! Talk about handling a stressful situation and overcoming a crisis!!

*Even above the ground efforts of teamwork shone through. Finger pointing was almost no existent- instead, a focus on THE GOAL (getting them out alive). Various industries (including the likes of NASA) from countries around the world come together with the vision defined.

I can’t speak for others, but I can say I will remember these examples for quite some time, and try to emulate- to live up to this high bar these men set.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Business lessons and the new TV season:

No- really, I think there are some basic lessons here.

The Event……Hawaii 5-0…..The Mentalist…….and Lonestar:

The Event: Create interest and curiosity for the client or prospects. Make them want to know more. And give it to them, BUT leave more to answer…more opportunity to ….do business and provide more.

Hawaii 5-0: You remember something that was popular, that filled a need. This is something that you don’t see anymore, but you feel is still ‘needed’ –still somewhat relevant, and that would be popular if made available again. However, to make it truly relevant (current, you need to give it an update (makeover?) that brings it into “today.”

The Mentalist: You have a current ‘product.’ It’s popular, well liked – ‘used’ and talked about. As the saying goes- if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. But you want to continue your success and not grow stagnant. What to do? You build on the core of what brought you success (here= believable characters & solid stories) and bring newer ‘products’ (episodes) based on that core.

Lonestar: Simple= If you have all (or even just too much) hype to live up to—you will fail. Setting expectations is critical. There’s a lot to be said for under-promising and over delivering.

In general-- be aware of your competition (what else is on), and stand out (why watch one over another).

BOTTOM LINE—Never stop paying attention, and never stop learning—no matter the potential source.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor? Day

The first Labor Day in the United States was observed in New York City, 1882, by the Central Labor Union. It became a federal holiday in 1894.
Since then, this "salute to the working folk" has had many meanings to many people, stirring visions of time in the hammock- a cook out - or maybe watching the Jerry Lewis telethon.
HOWEVER- if you are among the millions out of work it probably means something entirely different.
It can mark a milestone of how long you are on the out, or perhaps it is a bitter reminder that while others are looking at a 'long weekend' and/or a shortened week ahead- your own time off to be remains unknown (and UNwanted). Maybe you are part of the statistics that are not counted in the 'mainstream' #s: maybe you ran out of unemployment $ or have taken part-time job(s) while still wanting/seeking a FT one (see the U6 # for more on that! = )
I heard a commentator on one show the other day suggest the unemployed look at it as a type of "New Years Day." He suggested a REnewed effort to find that elusive job. Not bad.
But for some like myself, the effort continues regardless of a "holiday." My focus continues to be trying to show employers WHAT I HAVE DONE and CAN DO-- and how that WILL WORK in their industry, that transferable skills are more valuable than ever (
ANYWAY- Happy Labor Day (or job seeker New Years Day)!!
I'll ponder it some more over the grill myself no doubt.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Real life versus…

Did you ever wonder if your job were only like sports? I mean you have a great year and your ‘agent’ gets to negotiate a bigger contract. Or maybe you’re average and you get traded for someone ‘better’ --plus an accountant to be named later? I mean- just look at Manny Ramirez.

-Or how about if life was like the movies. You could have a theme song to play when you enter the room- or maybe you walk in on coworkers talking about you, or a boss about to reprimand you and you’d hear that warning music--- and that perfect exit walk out of a room WOULD be perfect.
…I’m just saying.

Friday, August 13, 2010

CUSTOMER SERVICE: Internal And External

This week’s top story seems to center on a certain airline employee – It made me think of some past customers & clients I have dealt with in the past. I have used my best diplomacy and negotiating skills in more instances than I could count (and held my frustration in check many times).

The reasons are far too varied to list them all here, but the thing most had in common was something was out of my hands and in a lot of cases out of the hands of subordinates. Coming to mind: -Service from 2 layers downWrong SHADE of a color in an ad—an Unasked request not filled (“they SHOULD have know”)—and on. The two most extreme I think would be a request—um demand—that my boss NOT visit him anymore (AWKWARD!!) and the call accusing my company of FRAUD (that case resulted in A~ the firing of an employee and B~ UPselling of the customer by me).

But the other thing I thought of was INTERNAL customers. Interesting term. Sometimes it is very apt- $ traveled form one department to another, but most times it is different parts of a company that rely on each other to accomplish the end goal= producing a product, satisfying a customer, ETC. In this arena I only had one-for lack of another word- conflict. Another dept was crucial to ME providing the client’s needs, and the manager was – resistant- to taking responsibility for his team’s errors. Well, we had an internal survey, and I spoke my mind. He called my boss and complained- it hurt his bonus. The problems his dept caused cost me bonus money. My boss said that while true “we don’t put it in the survey."
Well- the result was the other manager and myself meeting and going over standards, memos and types of communication available. Longer story shorter (you’re welcome)- We got to the point where he still protected his people, but when it was on his end- he admitted it, fixed it and we moved on. I cemented this by spending an entire day with his team. Them seeing I cared and wanted to understand only added to the improvements seen. My Boss? He publicly gave me credit for building a level of communication between departments the company had not seen before.
Now while it may SEEM I got off track from my opening statement, let me tie it all together. In certain position you have to develop a thicker skin. How many of us have vented once we left the building or hung up the phone? How many have wanted to start singing Johnny Paycheck’s “take this job and shove it?” Now I’m not condemning this guy, Heck- its good escapism and venting by proxy. The thing is, it’s not me

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Unemployment: the sad truth

Anyone who recently has glanced at a newspaper, watched TV or listened to the news on the radio (I hope these #s of informed are LARGE) must know that unemployment is high and hiring is – to put it simply – S-L-O-W.
Now, while the causes for the lay-offs and shutdowns are many, and the arguments over continuing high numbers are a topic for debate, there are other aspects that should be well known, but sadly seem rare in the collective knowledge of people today.

“There are plenty of jobs out there” Well, there ARE jobs listed online and in the classified, sure. But not everyone has an engineering degree, has a history of selling pharmaceuticals to physicians, has 5+ years of multi unit retail management experience, is an RN, has a CDL, ETC -ETC. FURTHERMORE-There is the specter of competition to contend with. In today’s market, you need to match a job description 110% just to GET the interview. It is a buyer’s market without dispute. I just met a plumber who has been out of work for years- finally getting a job driving a truck.

“Some people want to just collect unemployment/aren’t willing to take ‘any’ job.” Oh boy- where to start on this one?! First it can be agreed that there are SOME who will just take what they can get from the system. I need to again refer to the above, however, in that there are so many unemployed that competition for EACH AND EVERY job CANNOT be ignored. There are hundreds of applicants for an average posting. In this, it is understandable for a hiring manager to whittle away at those without experience matching the company or perhaps even industry. In addition, there is SOME credibility to those turned away because they have far surpassed the level of the position advertised. I will debate some points of this however:

“Sorry- you’re overqualified.” As I have repeated- Competition is the chief villain for the unemployed today. Having said, I would argue there are various levels to debate. If say, you are looking to hire a sales re, and a former company Vice President applies, - you may move on to other resumes. But I would argue (as a former hiring manager) if the position previously held is, say, but one level above that advertised, an interview would tell you if a ‘bargain’ could be had. Sadly, I would have to state today’s recruiters & HR managers are short sighted, looking at the “He/she won’t stay” angle despite the harsh reality of the economy and job market we are in.

Furthermore are other disturbing trends (and frustrating ones if you are among the unemployed). Recent news stories not only reveal scams such as pay for job leads, but other work at home or ‘franchise’ type schemes. But even worse is the list of articles revealing that some hiring managers have a policy of “the unemployed need not apply.” The numerous reports of this not only cede credibility, but reinforce the older practice of ‘the longer you are out, the less we want to hire you.’

One other area of comment and facts about information I find not widely known: The numbers counted in the unemployment figures do not tell the whole story. Left out are people not collecting because their compensation has run out or because they (luckily?) have multiple part time jobs while seeking a FT one. Still others are left out because they have temporary (contracted) jobs despite the length or lack of benefits many offer. Sometimes reported as the “underemployed number,” it can be as much as double the unemployment rate.

Monday, July 12, 2010

You pick the best title: “Timing is everything" -OR-“The right tool for the right job”

There have been many notable (famous) people who have faltered in one industry or another, - maybe a start up business even- only to move on to a different area in order to find success.

For instance before entering politics, Harry Truman had opened a haberdashery but it went bankrupt during the recession of 1921. In addition, Truman didn’t even earn a college degree.

I think the best example in Ulysses S. Grant. Having been in the army, he left to support his family in civilian endeavors. He labored on a family farm near St. Louis, Missouri, but it did not prosper. He was a bill collector in St. Louis. In 1860, after many failed business pursuits, he was given a job as an assistant in his father's tannery in Illinois. Ultimately, He returned to the military, where his legacy of leadership is best known. Even more than his actions as president, Grant is recognized for being the right man to lead the Union Army in the Civil War.

Some I have talked to say there are conflicting lessons, but I disagree. While figures such as Edison and Disney kept battling in the same “industry” (for lack of another term), others may not be as lucky to hit the right target for them.

So, while the obvious lesson is perseverance, the second is the one debated. I say it is about judgment, discretion, and even self honesty. The examples I noted above certainly did NOT give up. They DID however realize what was NOT working from them, and looked to where they COULD succeed.

Edison said “I have not failed. I've just found 10000 ways that won't work.” The thing is, Edison was where he should be. He knew WHAT he was working toward was for him. Even Walt Disney knew HE was on the right path already when he said “All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

Looking at people like Disney & Edison – When my employer closed, I looked at my lay-off as the chance to be my own boss. I took a semi-hobby and worked to create a business. I took talent and experience to put into it: relationship building skills, promotions, time management, an entrepreneurial spirit Etc, Etc. Whether it’s the economy or the market itself, I now look to Truman and Grant as I look to move on from ‘self-employed’ to re-employed. To not recognize this would be a challenge to Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I will admit that my timing may have been off TWICE: Once in my start up, once in my seeking a new full time position given the economy and some hiring managers’ view of those who are unemployed. So be it.

Looking back at successes I have had, I know I can, like Grant, return and prosper. With an open mind that Truman inspires, I even look to a new industry that matches my skills. In that thinking, I do not have the arrogance of stepping in at the same level of my previous industry, but rather would expect and welcome a step back to prove myself, and my worth.
With all that in mind, I refer to a quote from Abraham Lincoln, for employers to consider: “If there is anything that a man can do well, I say let him do it. Give him a chance.”
That’s all I need.