10 New Year’s Resolutions for 2014

01/13/2014 11.13 EST

...

It may be a little bit late, but nonetheless, I am announcing my New Year’s Resolutions for 2014.   I will stop creating retaliatory traffic problems for my rival colleagues near my office by moving the big plant outside my door into the middle of the hallway. If it becomes necessary to create that bottleneck, I will not send an email to my assistant asking her to move the plant for me. I will stop waiting for the sky to fall every time there is a weak jobs report.  I will convince myself that we will never have another recession as severe as the last. I will put a small amount of the money I buried in my garden back into the bank.  At some point. I will take Twitter more seriously. I will submit at least one proposal response to an RFP in the language of Farsi, just to see if anyone notices. I will agree with everyone who tells me that LinkedIn is going to put us out of business. I will never say “I told you so” when they call in two months in need of immediate help on a search. I will stop explaining the business model of retained executive search to well-meaning people who do me the “favor” of sending me resumes of their unemployed friends and neighbors. I will submit my blog entries in a timely manner to She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed so I don’t have to resort to listing my New Year’s Resolutions...

Say-on-Pay Simplified

12/04/2013 04.24 EST

...

With “Say-on-Pay” and Dodd-Frank being practically household names, perhaps it is time for a 101 version in case you missed it.   With the financial crisis in 2008, the United States government developed the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), which was set up to buy assets and equity from financial institutions to strengthen the financial sector.  It was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 3, 2008, and it was a component of the government’s measures to address the subprime mortgage crisis.  TARP originally authorized expenditures of $700 billion.   Out of this same financial crisis, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) was born, with its fundamental purpose being to rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  It also reduced the amount authorized by TARP to $475 billion.  Barney Frank has described TARP as “highly successful and wildly unpopular.”   Fundamentally, over several years, tons of risk was being taken in the housing market by financial institutions that did not suffer any consequences.  These actions created significant economic change, which required a BIG change in legislation.  Translation: loans were made by people who were going to sell the loan, with the incentive being to issue many loans with little concern for borrowers’ ability to pay them back.  Not a good thing.   We saw the Lehman failure followed by the AIG failure.  None of the debts for Lehman were paid, while “all” of the debts for AIG were paid.  However,...

Land of 1000 Welcomes

11/18/2013 12.15 EST

...

One of the wonderful opportunities in being part of a global association is the chance to meet and build relationships with others around the world.  Through Salveson Stetson Group’s affiliation with IIC Partners, we have joined annual meetings in interesting places; last year, our meeting was in Thailand, and this year we met in Ireland.   I was excited about visiting Ireland, as I heard it is called the Land of 1000 Welcomes.  I thought that was just a nice slogan made up by a marketing firm, but I was wrong.  It truly is very fitting!   I’ve highlighted a few thoughts on what I learned during my visit in Ireland:   Yes, it does rain or drizzle often, which makes the landscape very green.  However, the sun does shine as well!  We were fortunate during our trip to have enjoyed sun-filled mornings.   The pubs are the best places to meet people.  Of course, we had to test this out, and test we did.  The locals go out of their way to talk to you, give you suggestions of places to visit and are filled with pride to show you the country.  They are great ambassadors.   Irish dancing truly is what it’s cracked up to be.  I was amazed at how exciting it was to watch them.  It looks like a great form of exercise, but I didn’t want to embarrass myself so I only observed – maybe next time.   The taxi drivers in...

Why Would You Want to Work for a PE-Backed Firm?

10/24/2013 11.35 EST

...

This article originally ran on CFO.com.  To view it, click here.   For CFOs who may be of a mind to hook up with a private equity-backed company, open your eyes wide and tread very carefully.   When speaking with senior financial executives about their career aspirations, the conversation often turns to a desire to work for a private equity-backed company. I am talking about a large majority of respondents here – at least 70 percent. When I ask why, the answer invariably focuses on the opportunity to participate in a transaction and the potential financial rewards to be reaped by doing so.   That is a pretty naïve answer. For every success story out there in private equity-backed firms, there are many more failures. Working in private equity is difficult, particularly for a CFO. Any financial officer contemplating making this type of move for the first time in his or her career must to go into it with eyes wide open. At a bare minimum, consider the following:   1. Not all private equity sponsors are created equal. The industry is not monolithic. In addition to industry specialization, private equity differentiates by what type of asset each firm considers. Is the firm buying the asset to clean up the balance sheet and quickly turn it over? Is the investment for long-term growth? Does the private equity firm have a habit of breaking up the companies in which it invests? CFOs contemplating such a move should investigate how the private equity...

An Unscientific Assessment of the Economy

09/26/2013 11.52 EST

...

Relying on economists for predictions about the tone of our economy can be a frustrating business. After all, everyone knows the First Law of Economics:  For every economist, there exists an equal and opposite economist. The Second Law is that they are both wrong.   So what’s a person – who works in a business that is intimately tied to the economy, but who never once stepped foot in the business school during both his undergraduate and graduate school years – to do?   Rely on unscientific, subjective information, of course.   So here is my hot-off-the-press amateur assessment of the economy: things are improving. Here’s my case:   We just closed a search in which the placement received a sizable counter-offer from his employer when he went in to resign. They are a professional services firm that is swamped with work. The line at Starbucks is definitely getting longer. I met a very senior-level executive last week who decided to leave a high-paying job, purely voluntarily, so she could conduct a job search to take a different direction in her career. We recently closed two search assignments for a client company with candidates who had multiple offers in hand, leading to a mini bidding war. I do not consider it idiotic that I am buying organic, boutique food for my cats. Our firm is hiring again, for the first time in about five years. The new iPhone just sold about 100 million jillion units in 23...

Aspire to be a CHRO?

09/17/2013 02.20 EST

...

We have a robust Human Resources Practice and, as a result, have had the opportunity to interact with many HR executives. The most common questions that come from executives who aspire to move into their first Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) role involve what it takes to be offered that top job. What do they have to do to be considered a strong and viable candidate?   As you can imagine, every company has different perspectives and needs based on their business. But there are some critical competencies you must possess to be seriously considered for the top HR role at any organization:   Emotional Intelligence: First and foremost, you need to have outstanding interpersonal and communication skills. However, that is not all. You must also be a great listener, be trustworthy and authentic in your interactions with others.  Effective Leader: Do you attract, retain and develop a team effectively? Do other colleagues want to work with and for you? Are you seen as a mentor to others? In addition, are you viewed as an effective leader across the company with your peers? Do other members in the C-Suite seek you out for advice and counsel? Driver of Change: The head of HR typically is sought after to drive change across an organization; therefore, do you effectively communicate with others about the rationale for change and help influence others to “get on the change bus”? If you encounter resistance, do you know how to regroup and try...

End of the Day Parade

07/15/2013 09.20 EST

...

There are many things I love about the Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia’s children museum.  One of my favorite activities is its End of the Day Parade, a daily tradition where staff members and colorful characters wander through the museum with instruments, encouraging children and their families to follow them.  They march around the museum and eventually out the main door.  This parade is an orderly process that allows the children and their families to end a day of play and learning in a fun way without tantrums, tears and resistance.  It is brilliant!   I have always wondered if the End of the Day Parade would be effective in the workplace.  Change and transitions are disconcerting for everyone – children and adults alike.  HR executives are constantly focused on leading change management initiatives, attempting to determine approaches that may help the organization and its employees navigate through shifts in strategy, organizational redesigns, restructurings and adapting to new leaders.  During times of change, many questions emerge, including:   What messages do we need to reinforce and how often do they need to be repeated?   Are leaders clear on the direction they are going? Which employees or key talent need to be communicated with and how do you ensure their “buy-in” to the changes? How do we retain top talent under times of uncertainty? How do we coach managers and leaders to ensure consistent messages and themes are being stated? What obstacles will we face and how will...

Tips for Recruiters Looking to Recruit Out-of-Town Job Candidates

06/24/2013 02.07 EST

...

This article was originally published on Brazen Life, a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals.     Your CFO job is in Chicago, but your top candidate is in Atlanta. She has a child who’s a sophomore in high school, and her mortgage is $200,000 underwater. She loves your company and the career opportunity, but can’t get herself over the relocation hurdle.   Sound familiar? Unfortunately, for many recruiters, it’s an all too familiar scenario as they go to market for top talent. Seventy-six percent of employers surveyed last year reported that relocation is still an issue for candidates. Moving for a job can be a tough sell—so how do you turn a “no” into a “yes” with a rockstar candidate when relocation is the only thing standing in your way?   It’s not completely hopeless. Last year, 44 percent of workers said they’d relocate for the right job, and data from 2011 reports that interstate residential shipments were up significantly from the recession, suggesting Americans might be more open to moving for out-of-state jobs. Plus, general job satisfaction remains low, with the majority of employees in the U.S. and Canada unhappy at work.   Despite these encouraging trends, a rigid approach on your company’s part will not put you fully in the game for relocating top talent. In order to successfully compete, your company needs to look at each case individually, rather than trying to fit every candidate into your standard relocation policy.   Candidate objections...

Does Soup Come With The Sandwich?

06/17/2013 12.05 EST

...

I joined the “Sandwich Generation” in my early 40s when, within a month’s time, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and my father suffered two major strokes. I’m happy to report that almost six years later, they are both still with us, after another bout of cancer for my mom – kidney this time – and my dad dealing with the challenges of living with Alzheimer’s. However, I really wasn’t prepared to assume the role of primary caregiver for my parents while concurrently managing a business, a marriage, and all the joys and pains of raising two teenage daughters.   After visiting with my dad last night, watching him continue his long and losing battle with Alzheimer’s; it made me remember something I wrote about him a few years ago. This isn’t a “how to” on successfully managing the challenges of intergenerational family issues, but hopefully a reminder that we sometimes need to take a step back and put our day jobs in perspective…   January 27, 2009 I miss talking with my dad. He had two strokes towards the end of 2007, which has severely limited his ability to speak. He gets lost in a sentence or comes to a point where he can’t recall a word or name. You can see the frustration on his face. He refuses to answer the phone when someone calls the house and tries to limit himself to one or two word answers when he can.   My father...

Reverse Mentoring

05/20/2013 08.50 EST

...

I attend the HRPS Global Conference every year and there are always one or two presentations that have great nuggets of information.  The presentation by Debi Hirshlag from Workday was one of those presentations.   Debi discussed the future of work and talked about Bob Johansen’s “Ten Leadership Skills for the Future.”  While all of these future skills were interesting, the one that resonated most with me was “immersive learning ability.”  This is essentially the ability to immerse yourself in an unfamiliar environment and learn from it in a first-person way.  What does this mean, exactly?  In other words, how do you adapt to new working environments as well as learn new technologies or novel approaches to your work?  Instead of just reading about them, how do you really learn them?   I have a good example: Social Media.  Several years ago, our colleagues at Buchanan Public Relations introduced us to social media.  We had already been fairly entrenched in using LinkedIn but none of us had touched Twitter.  With their help, we dove into this unknown world.  It was like learning a new language!  How do you say anything substantial when it is limited to 140 characters?  What in the world is a hashtag?!  Kathleen McFadden at Buchanan PR, who is much younger and wiser, slowly but surely taught me how to use Twitter and, in turn, demonstrated how to build my personal and professional brand.  Debi Hirshlag calls this process “reverse mentoring” – learning new...