What I Learned About Holiday Cards This Year

01/07/2015 04.26 EST

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I’ve been knocking around the world of work for more than 35 years now, so I feel qualified to make blanket statements and sweeping generalizations about plenty of things with only limited facts.   Holiday cards just aren’t what they used to be.   This year, I received no more than five actual holiday greeting cards.  Five years ago, I bet I got at least 40.  I don’t think I am any less popular than I was back then, and my office location hasn’t moved so I think something else is afoot – and that something is digital greeting cards.   I will just come right out and say that I think most of them are lame, not at all creative, and so politically correct that I’m not even sure what I am being wished.  For the first time this year, I received several cards that said “Happy Everything.”  I am not making this up.   The other problem with digital holiday cards is that their nature is dependent on the device on which you read them.  I received an e-card from a large public accounting firm that appeared to be a bare brown tree in a field of green.  I kept clicking on the picture on my PC but nothing happened – it remained a bare brown tree.  Never wanting to miss a chance to take a shot at the managing partner of the firm, a friend, I immediately sent him an email complimenting him on...

What I Learned in Boston

12/08/2014 09.25 EST

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Random thoughts written on the plane ride back to Philadelphia after attending the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange (October 5-8)   Over the past three days, I had the opportunity to participate in the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange (GPLEX) in Boston.  The GPLEX serves as an annual experience that allows Philadelphia leaders in business, government and non-profit to learn about economic development initiatives underway in other cities with the hope that we can bring back useful ideas to apply to the challenges facing the Greater Philadelphia Region.  This trip was an eye-opening experience for me, and I wanted to share some of the highlights.   First and foremost, I found that there are a lot of incredibly talented people in Philadelphia who are deeply committed to improving the prospects for our Region and its residents.  Our delegation was comprised of approximately 120 outstanding leaders who I believe have the capacity to successfully address the challenges facing Philadelphia – such as educating our children, promoting the growth of our businesses, addressing income equality and modernizing our decaying infrastructure.  I would put these folks up against the brain trusts of any other major metropolitan area in the country.   Second, while there are a number of striking similarities between Philadelphia and Boston, we are very different communities.  Our region is much larger and more diverse than Boston.  As a result, our problems are more complex and our stakeholders are more numerous.  That being said, our friends in Boston seem to...

How Do Candidates Want to Be Treated?

10/29/2014 10.55 EST

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Many of us in the executive search business or corporate recruitment field talk about candidate care as an important aspect of what we do.  How do we communicate and interact with candidates during the recruitment process?  How often should we communicate with them?  The definition of “candidate care” is different from person to person, firm to firm and company to company.   One aspect of the recruitment process that is guaranteed to frustrate candidates is lack of communication.  For example, you have applied for a position and perhaps have interviewed with the search firm or company, but unfortunately, there is a limited feedback loop about where you stand in the process.  No one likes to be ignored or avoided.  It leaves you feeling negatively about the potential employer, and that negative news spreads to others – especially in the age of social media.   So what are some best practices for treating candidates so that even if they are not selected, they feel they have been treated respectfully and fairly?   Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. If several weeks go by without any decisions on next steps, you – as the search consultant or recruiter – should call or send the candidate a message.  Let them know they are still being considered but the process is taking longer than expected.   Even if you don’t have any news, still contact them.  Some news is better than no contact.  Leaving candidates in limbo can be a turn-off, and it can also...

Managing Internal Candidates

10/06/2014 04.35 EST

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Many of the searches we perform for clients include candidates already employed inside the client company who want to be considered for the position on which we are working.  Managing internal candidates can be tricky and sensitive, and it can have a large impact on how they feel about their employer after the search is done – regardless of whether they ended up in the job or not.   When we begin a search that includes internal candidates, the first thing we do is get an explicit agreement from our client on two things:   The object of the search is to end up with the most qualified person in the job.  This individual will have the highest likelihood for success in the role and will have the talent to make a strong contribution to the company. Any internal candidates who were considered for the role will feel positively about their experience at the end of the search, regardless of whether or not they ultimately got the job.   How can you achieve these dual objectives?  Here are five effective strategies that we have developed over the years:    Make sure you have a detailed, comprehensive and realistic job specification.  This document is going to be the bedrock for the search and the standard against which you evaluate all candidates – both internal and external.  At a minimum, it should include job responsibilities, required qualifications and critical competencies. When an internal candidate throws his or her hat...

To Share or Not To Share

09/02/2014 11.28 EST

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Nothing annoys me more on LinkedIn than to find that one of my 1st connections has blocked the ability to view their connections (beyond the ones we have in common).  I don’t know why people do this; in my mind, it directly contradicts the social networking purpose of the site.  It also tells me that people are much less discriminating of whom they connect with on LinkedIn than they are of whom they connect with on Facebook.  Most Facebook users don’t limit the ability of their friends to view their other friends.  So, why do people do it on LinkedIn?   First, I really don’t think people give much thought to responding to a LinkedIn request.  I know I don’t, beyond checking to see how that person is connected to people already in my network.  If they are a 2nd connection, particularly one where we share several folks in common, I automatically add them.  If they are a 3rd connection, I give it a little more thought, but more often than not, I add them as well (unless it’s obvious that they are cold selling something).  Let’s just say I’m not conducting thorough due diligence.   LIONS I occasionally debate whether I should be more critical when accepting connection requests.  After all, LinkedIn does advise you to only add people to your network whom you trust and would be comfortable referring to other connections.  And, as I noted in my first-ever blog, referral functionality decreases exponentially when...

Vacation, anyone?

07/22/2014 09.49 EST

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This time of year, a good conversation starter is to ask a group of friends or colleagues about their vacation plans and whether they are able to disconnect during their time off.  I am surprised at just how many people remain connected to the office during vacation and are generally unhappy about it.  While I am certainly guilty of this from time to time and there are periods when it is not possible to avoid it, I really try hard to change my behavior during summer vacation.   Why is it important to take vacation, besides the need for a break?  The reason is both mental and physical.  Through the Framingham Heart Study, researchers learned that men who take regular vacations are 32 percent less likely to die from heart attacks and 21 percent less likely to die early.  Women who go on vacation have a 50 percent lower risk of a heart attack.   Yet despite the growing evidence that vacations are good for the body and mind, many Americans only use a portion of their eligible paid time off.  Glassdoor recently found that 61 percent of workers stay connected or even complete work assignments while on vacation.   So as you prepare to take vacation, consider some alternative ways to approach your time off:   Plan and prepare.  Tie up loose ends.  Update colleagues on projects that may require their attention before you return.  Provide updates to your clients, too.  Do everything in your power...

Lifelong Learners

06/18/2014 09.17 EST

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I come from a family of teachers, and as a result, we grew up in an environment that encouraged all of us to become lifelong learners.  My parents have been incredible role models for me and my siblings throughout our lives.   As time has marched on and they have moved into their 80s, my parents’ personal growth and learning has prospered.  My father just published his second book – annotating a diary of a Civil War soldier – and he is now working on his third book.  On top of that, he just delivered a PowerPoint presentation to more than 150 people in their life care community!  (Yes – he knows how to use PowerPoint.)  He also reads The New York Times cover to cover every day!  My mother is a voracious reader and a day doesn’t go by without her completing a crossword puzzle.  She has been an active and engaged member of a book club that has been meeting for more than 20 years.  The club consists of women in their 70s, 80s and 90s; they read a book orally, discussing it for hours.  It’s a great approach – no need for “homework” or assignments to read several chapters before the next meeting.  They just enjoy discovering the book and its content as the story unfolds.  My mother truly enjoys and values the company of these extraordinary women, and their love of reading and learning knits the group together.   So, with such lifelong...

What Really Matters When Hiring a Leader?

05/29/2014 02.45 EST

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This post originally ran on Modern Distribution Management.  To view it, click here.   Ask anyone who runs an enterprise of any size what he or she looks for when hiring a new leader and you will get plenty of different perspectives, insights, opinions and theories.   You may also hear the opinion that critical executive competencies differ widely from industry to industry.  On the surface, it makes sense.  It seems logical that the critical skills needed to successfully lead a $200 million private distribution company in the Midwest are different that those needed to be successful in a multi-billion-dollar financial services company in London.   Turns out that might not be true.   Our firm recently participated in a global survey that asked executives the world over what they considered the most desirable attributes for a senior executive in their organization.  We heard from 1,270 business leaders around the globe.  What we found surprised us.   First of all, there were very few differences in responses from different industry sectors.  Maybe more surprisingly, there was almost no correlation between desired attributes and the part of the world in which the respondent worked.   It turns out that by a margin of more than 2:1, the ability to motivate and inspire people is considered the single most important attribute for a senior executive.   After motivational ability, the senior executive traits most valued by organizations were: strong ability to manage change, ability to identify and develop talent, and innovative...

5 Considerations When Leaving Corporate for Non-Profit

04/16/2014 03.50 EST

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This article originally ran on Non-Profit Information.  To view it, click here.   It’s an increasingly common trend: After making their mark in the corporate world, senior-level executives want to give back by taking on a leadership role within a non-profit. The good news is that 73 percent of non-profits surveyed said they value for-profit experience in candidates, and 53 percent have significant for-profit management experience represented on their senior leadership teams.   But the transition from corporate to non-profit comes with some particular challenges. Here are the five most common that executives mulling a transition should anticipate:   1) Understand that there may be many more stakeholders involved in a non-profit – and the opinions of each matter. The biggest adjustment for corporate professionals entering the non-profit world is often the number of stakeholders involved in a non-profit – each of whom has input to share. While corporate professionals’ primary focus is almost entirely on three groups (shareholders, customers and employees), non-profit leaders must consider a significantly larger audience that could include funders, employees, elected officials, patients or clients, families of patients and clients, alumni, etc.  Successfully navigating the various relationships of the non-profit world requires a careful understanding and concern for all parties involved.   2) Be prepared for a different culture at a non-profit. The culture of a non-profit generally has a far more collaborative leadership style than for-profit organizations.  Unlike the corporate world where decision-making typically rests with one individual or a small group of executives or directors,...

8 Ways to Advance Your Career to the Next Level

03/13/2014 09.46 EST

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It is always refreshing to speak to students, young professionals and mid-career executives.  I find it broadens my thinking, and the group shares great ideas throughout the collaborative process.   At a recent Drexel University Alumni event, I spoke to fellow attendees about how to advance their careers to the executive level.   Here are eight suggestions we shared on advancing careers:    Know your career objective and pursue it with vigor:  If you are fortunate enough to have found your interests and passions in the workplace, do your best to understand and become an expert in the field.  Determine how you can continue to advance your skills and knowledge on an ongoing basis. Competence alone won’t advance you in your career:  Speak up.  Ensure you ask for what you need and don’t be shy about “tooting your own horn.”  You need to be noticed for a job well done; don’t assume your boss or other key leaders know what you have accomplished. Take some career development risks:  It is important that you take charge of your career.  Be proactive.  Have discussions with your boss about what you’d like to do next.  Partner with him or her and develop recommendations on your next steps.  Make it easy for your supervisor to say “yes” and help you move to the next level. Network, network, network:  You should network even if you are not looking for a new job.  Networking can expand your thinking – learn what others are...