Leaders: Keep Your Head on a Swivel!

Keep your head on a swivel has been cited in a football context since at least 1951, and in a basketball context since at least 1975. The reason I use this term quite often regarding leadership is because I grew up playing both sports and coaches used the term constantly to warn players to pay attention. With football, it was to keep you from getting hurt by a blindside tackle. With basketball, it was to keep you from getting hurt by an errant pass. I learned the hard way, as I have a dental bridge from just such an experience. Trust me, I always keep my head on a swivel. The one constant I see with organizations is they get so focused on process that they lose sight of what’s happening right under their noses. With marketplace organizations, they focus so much on profit, they pay little attention to customers or employees. With Nonprofits, they focus so much on raising money, they pay little attention to mission, employees or volunteers. Then, when the need for change or transformation arises, leaders wonder why there is such a resistance to either one. Environmental scanning is a data collection practice. The intent is to collect information about an environment that can be used in planning, development, and ongoing monitoring. Once the data has been collected, it can be processed and analyzed to create a brief to be used in decision-making. Some environmental scanning is conducted on an ad-hoc basis, meaning only when needed, such as in response to a specific issue or concern. Other scanning is conducted on a continuum, such as an ongoing review of working environments conducted with surveys, observations, and other study methods that allow for rapid adaptations to changing situations. Regardless of how or why, scanning and gathering data before entering the planning stage is critical to identifying organizational gaps, both cultural and operational, that could prevent necessary adjustments toward growth and sustainability. By my own admission, I’m a continual learner, which means I’m also a data freak. If there’s something I’m not understanding or don’t see right away, my natural tendency is to start gathering information, specifically by asking a lot of questions and scanning a lot of resources. In my marketplace career, the planning and decision-making process just wasn’t conducted without environmental scans, both internally and externally. In my Nonprofit career, it was (and still is) a struggle to bring this scanning culture to a sector that has a very high RC Factor (resistance to change). The primary take-a-way of this post is that a critical character trait and behavior of the best leaders is that they keep their head on a swivel. They’re constantly scanning the internal and external environments, looking for any signs of dysfunction, gaps, opportunities, or other information (especially with their people) that can help them, not only to be better leaders, but to keep their organizations healthy and sustainable. When you’re not paying attention, you get blindsided. When that happens, you either come out of the game under your own power, or you get carried out. Truth Be Told, the best leaders prefer neither option. They just want to keep playing!

Just the Facts, Please!

There will always be diverse jobs with diverse requirements being offered to a workforce with diverse skill sets and diverse needs. Peter Drucker said the only good economy is one that’s good for everybody. That might be the holy grail for our economic society, but for some applicants, it’s not easily if ever attained. Even though the economy is better than it’s been in the last 50 years, and unemployment is at an all-time low of 3.6%, there are many people that will spend many hours looking for a new job. They’ll read countless job descriptions, and eventually, the endless lists of preferred qualifications and responsibilities will start to look the same. Additionally, there will be many of these applicants that will turn to professional services with the sole offering of helping people find a job. Their proliferating on-line (where the application process for most jobs is moving feverishly), and leading the way are companies like Indeed and Zip Recruiter. Currently, there are over 250 applications for the average corporate position. A lot is asked of job candidates during the application process. Just to get an interview, applicants need to submit a resume that caters to the open listing, personalize a cover letter, and provide references and submit it all to an on-line process that provides no personal interaction at all. Additionally, most of these applications are never given the same kind of attention to detail that’s asked of the applicant. Considering that most of those applicants must pass through HR first, the chances of the few talented candidates getting a face-to-face with the key person needing the job filled are slim to none. More importantly, formulaic job descriptions can cause applicants to miss out on opportunities that are a perfect match for their skill set. There is a severe case of application fatigue in the potential candidate pool, where applicants are simply worn out from all those hours invested in trying to find a job. Conversion rates on career sites are down. With those who visit a company’s site, fewer than 9% apply for an open position. Job descriptions just aren’t getting candidates excited about the opportunities that are available out there. In a competitive job market, making your resume stand out is more important than ever. In the interest of keeping resumes simple, relevant and compelling, here are 5 resume principles that will make the difference in a job search. 1. Keep Your Cover Letter Brief: I see many full-page (sometimes 2-page) cover letters that will never get a second look. Keep it to no more than two short paragraphs with a balance between introducing yourself without using too much passion-filled language, and don’t repeat information already provided in the resume. For example, do some homework and review the website of the company you’re submitting the resume to. If they use words like innovative, creative, etc., repeat those in your cover letter as a way of describing the kind of position and company you’re looking for. In short, focus on the potential employer and not on yourself. There are many opinions about photos, but including a simple, professional photo with a simple border in the top, left corner of the cover letter is a nice touch. 2. Stay Out of the Weeds: I reformat applications on a weekly basis and it still surprises me, when I see 2-3-page applications. You can count on that resume not being given a second look, much less a first. HR managers don’t have time and neither does the key person a potential candidate would be reporting to. When you try to provide every single detail of your work history (especially over a number of years), you leave the interviewer nothing to be curious about. 3. Summarize & Categorize Your Content: I see applications regularly that still repeat the same responsibilities for the same job positions they’ve had under multiple employers. This makes for a multiple-page resume that will never be read. Just list the employers under EXPERIENCE and then summarize the most important responsibilities that you feel are relevant to the position you’re applying for under RESPONSIBILITIES. 4. Don’t Be Too Proud of Yourself: Most resumes I review are full of how many accomplishments they’ve had in terms of productivity, how many awards they’ve received in terms of recognition, and how talented they are in terms of work ethic, problem-solving, project management, communication, inter-personal relations and I can go on and on. None of the people you’re submitting your resume to (especially on-line) know you and aren’t going to take your word for it. Too much of this selling of one-self won’t get an interview. 5. Format & Grammatical Presentation are Critical: I see resumes consistently that are full of bright graphics, highlights, bolds, underlines, etc. Often, when I see this kind of resume, it’s also full of misaligned bullet points, spelling errors, inconsistent grammatical sequences in the content, etc., because of all of these inserted bells and whistles. In today’s thirst by employers for attention to detail, a resume full of these kinds of grammatical inconsistencies will be tossed aside out of hand. A simple border around the cover page and the resume implies professional simplicity. Ensuring not one single misspelled word implies attention to detail. Format in order such as PROFILE, SKILL SET, EXPERIENCE, RESPONSIBILITIES, EDUCATION, COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT & REFERENCES PROVIDED UPON REQUEST implies organizational ability. This kind of format gets the necessary attention. When creating your resume, don’t submit to the natural instinct to provide as much information as you possibly can. It really doesn’t help if you know that your resume is one of 250 or more being reviewed. Tap into a human being’s most prevalent character trait, which is curiosity. Provide a professional and focused resume that will get the necessary attention and scrutiny. Truth Be Told, the best approach to just about anything is to be simple, relevant and compelling. As Sargent Joe Friday always said Just the Facts, Ma’am! Excerpts taken from https://vervoe.com/blog/how-to-make-your-job-descriptions-stand-out/

Making a Difference Can Be Very Painful (A Short Fable)!

A fairly new employee with the company of only a year (let’s call her Morticia), was asked by the CEO to take on the assignment of Culture Manager. She wasn’t even sure she wanted the position because no one, including the CEO, could tell her what a Culture Manager was or did. She also knew that those in the company with clear, bottom-line responsibilities were of the most value to the executive ranks. So, what would she be doing and what did this assignment say about their perception of her? Would she be like the Sheriff of Nottingham, constantly in pursuit of the Robin Hood of culture, but never capturing him? Morticia suspected that she’d be something like a Human Resource Manager; charged with making something happen, but without the credibility and authority to do so. Unlike others with specific assignments, she had no staff, no rules and regulations to follow (much less enforce) and no systems support for administration. When asking how to begin, she was directed to start going to culture seminars, where she learned about Peter Drucker, the father of the Modern Management movement. She learned about Pareto Charts, SWOT Analysis, Logic Models, Adaptability Plans, etc., all of which were foreign to her at the outset. However, as she attended these events, Morticia was smart enough to see clearly that the company she worked for had no idea who it was, where it was going or how it was going to get there. In short, it had no identifiable culture in place to provide a framework or road map for growth and sustainability, much less acceptable standards of behavior, both internally and externally. She was also beginning to see the need for systemic changes based upon bench marking what she was learning against her organization’s working environment. Even more apparent to Morticia was that there were no mechanisms in place to bring about change. She even suspected that transformation rather than just change was necessary, which scared her to death! She started wondering what she’d gotten herself into. Something else happened to Morticia. She began to learn some things about herself. She learned that she cared more deeply about the company than she’d realized. She cared about its products, its customers, and, more importantly, about its human assets. In short, she cared about all the organization’s stakeholders and she realized that she really wanted to make a difference. She learned more than enough about the theory behind culture and the tools required, but not even close to enough about the subtleties and nuances required to bring about change in order to influence culture. So, where did Morticia begin? She started talking about culture to her CEO, to other managers and to employees on the front line. While they all seemed to be in favor of attempts to improve the company, she discovered that the majority of them didn’t like risks and didn’t want to be the first to try new ways. The RC Factor (Resistance to Change) in the organization was much worse than she’d originally perceived. Although most she talked with were good, honorable people, they tended to do the politically correct thing rather than the thing than was really needed. Morticia started leading seminars around the topic of culture, change and transformation. She coached and she counseled. She did such a good job that the company loaned her out to other companies to give seminars on culture. However, the long and short of it all was that her company didn’t change very much at all. Additionally, since the CEO had appointed Morticia Culture Manager, he’d withdrawn his attention and focus, rarely communicating with her at all. She was trying to make a difference by sharing her discovery that the company’s livelihood was its culture, but she was feeling disheartened most of the time because she had a message to share and no one was listening. She was beginning to understand one very important fundamental about this undertaking: there was no such thing as political correctness about culture. You were either in or you were out, and she wasn’t even close to getting a foot in the door. Morticia finally decided that knowing about culture wasn’t enough. She would also have to learn about how a person can make a difference when they don’t hold formal power and authority. She decided to start taking risks. In the process, she learned three very important things: (1) If she wanted to make a difference in the company, she was going to have to be different than she had been, especially about what she believed was normally expected. By being different, she was responding to the CEO’s request for leadership (even though he didn’t know that’s what he was asking for), which meant separating herself from those who had different expectations of her than she had of herself. By doing this, she realized that most people wanted improvements, but they didn’t want a Culture Manager. (2) She would have to say what was true (or at least how she saw things) and risk making others uncomfortable. This meant stepping outside of company norms in terms of how others expected her to behave in a position they didn’t really want to invest in or take risks with. For example, a strong norm in the company was that people didn’t say things they thought others didn’t want to hear. They defended this behavior as politeness or political correctness, but the result was that no one was receiving effective feedback. Morticia learned that telling people things they didn’t want to hear fueled change and motivated culture. She learned how to talk with others about difficult things. For example, she was able to tell the HR Manager that the majority of the employees always thought she had a hidden agenda and this belief was undermining any of her efforts to bring about change or improve the culture. She was able to do so in an encouraging and supportive way, rather than a judgmental way. (3) That the desire to change is not evenly distributed across the human spectrum; some people embrace change, most do not. She would have to seek out those who really did want change, help them as best she could and avoid spending very little time and energy on the naysayers and negativists. She would try converting some of them up to a point, but when it began promoting more barriers than bridges, she committed to moving on. As the result of all of these experiences, Morticia learned one thing above all the rest. For change to take hold, it must have support everywhere and it can begin wherever the energy is generated to do so. I would be willing to bet this kind of fable is happening right now in many of your companies across the country. If you’re reading this and you happen to be a Morticia, are you willing to take the necessary risks to fuel change and transform the culture of your environment? Truth Be Told, someone eventually has to do it. It might as well be you.

Things that Make You Go Hmm?

CONFIDENTIAL TO: Jesus, Son of Joseph Woodcrafters Carpenter Shop Nazareth 25922 From: Jordan Leadership Consultants Jerusalem 26544 Dear Sir: Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you’ve picked for leadership positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests, we’ve processed the results through our software system, and we’ve also had personal interviews conducted for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultants. The profiles for all individuals are included and you’ll want to study them carefully. As part of our service and for your guidance, we’ve provided some general comments, much as an auditor might include. This is provided as a result of staff consultations and comes with no additional fee. It’s the opinion of staff that most of your nominees are lacking in background, educational and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you’re undertaking. They really have no concept of team and we would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience, leadership ability and a proven track record of success. Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew exhibits absolutely no leadership qualities of any kind. The two brothers, James and John (sons of Zebedee), place personal interest above team commitment. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel it is also our responsibility to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James (son of Alphaeus) and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings and they both registered very high on the manic-depressive scale. One of the candidates, however, has great promise. He’s a person of ability and resourcefulness, interacts well with others, has a keen mind for leadership and is well connected in your network. He’s also highly motivated, ambitious and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your number one candidate and right-hand designate. All of the other profiles are self explanatory. We wish you every success with your new venture. Sincerely, Jordan Leadership Consultants Regardless of your belief mindset, a study of historically affirmed records would indicate that each one chosen fulfilled a specific and clearly identified role in the master plan. Worldwide there are 2 Billion+ people on the planet that identify as Christian Believers! Truth Be Told, the only 100% accurate predictors of success are value-driven results! Unfortunately, they don’t always manifest themselves until after you’ve made your choice, so choose wisely and with a fit for your master plan in mind.

So, You Want to Join a Community, Huh?

Thanks to our networking economy, there are more communities looking for more potential members than ever before. They all want members for the right reasons: a particular skill, connections, a recognizable name, influence, experience or access. These are all valid and right reasons to join.

However, there are communities that are looking for potential members for the wrong reasons: a particular skill, connections, a recognizable name, influence, or access. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? It’s really not. Joining any community has one requirement that’s no different than what’s required to find the right job, the right family, the right faith, the right partner; in short, the right anything.

That requirement is alignment. There are only two questions a potential member has to ask; (1) Does the purpose for which this community exists align with my purpose? (2) Do the core values this community believes in align with my core values? If the answer to those two questions is ‘yes’, then chances are you will have the opportunity to learn, build capacity for yourself and that community, and have an impact that you wouldn’t ordinarily have by yourself.

Groucho Marx once said, ‘I don’t want to be a member of any club that would have me.’

The message here is that if a community wants you, be sure it’s for the right reasons.

What’s the Best Predictor of Success?

I’ve always struggled with the term ‘soft skills.’ Having technical skills (hard, or ‘critical’ skills as they’re called) backed up by higher education and positional authority, are to a great degree predictive of success. However, it’s been my experience that inter-relational skills (soft) are just as if not more predictive of success. Anything I’ve ever accomplished in my career to this point (both personally and professionally) has been because of an ability to get things done through and with people. The data backs me up on this perspective and has for some time. These inter-relational (soft) skills are critical and are in demand in nearly every company and every industry. A Wall Street Journal survey of 900 executives found that 92% said these kind of skills were equally or more important than technical skills. But 89% of those surveyed said they have a very or somewhat difficult time finding people with these kind of attributes. Likewise, LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Report discovered that the four most in-demand inter-relational (soft) skills are leadership, communication, collaboration, and time management. Nothing soft about any of these, I can assure you. Are inter-relational skills a better predictor of success? According to Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence at Work, yes! His research of 500 executives found that emotional intelligence was a better predictor of top performance than previous experience or IQ. Additionally, CEO’s at some of the world’s top companies (Amazon, Xerox, and Tesla, to name a few) lead with emotional intelligence and have designed their entire corporate structure around these kind of skills. The majority leadership style today in this country is still directed authority and those who have this skill often assume that inter-relational skills are only good for creating a fulfilling and pleasant work environment. However, the link between profit and leaders with high emotional intelligence is clear. In one study, CEOs whose employees rated them high in character had an average return of 9.35% over a two-year period, nearly five times as much as companies with CEOs who had low character ratings. The case for recruiting for these kind of skills is strong, and there’s something to be said for balancing good leadership and communication with individuals who have honed their talent. This is not to say that hard skills should be ignored. Without specifically required knowledge, achieving desired objectives is very difficult. Cal Newport, author of So Good They Can’t Ignore You, believes that to have a successful career, you must develop skills that make you an expert in something. There will always be a market for those with a depth of knowledge in one thing and certain fields will always demand new hires with niche skills and technical training. Newport argues that the more mastery you have in a skill or field, the more control and satisfaction you’ll have over your career. While it’s true that technical masters do become top CEO’s (Steve Jobs and Bill Gates for example), other experts note that eventually, inter-relational skills and emotional intelligence must be learned. Many programmers, for example, have some of the basic hard skills that it takes to run a company but fall short on key EQ traits like listening. Truth be told, the best leaders that started out as experts in their field, can and do learn and acquire really good inter-relational skills over time. Taken from an article by Emily Heaslip originally appearing on Vervoe.com.

All We Need to Do is Show Up.

Elections are the only events that I know of where politicians use marketing to try to get fewer people to buy what’s being sold.

In most elections in the US, fewer than half the population votes. This means that in most elections, not only doesn’t the winner get a majority, the winner wasn’t even chosen by a majority of the majority.

Politicians make it even worse by allowing the continued use of arcane vote counting and by manipulating district boundaries with the creation of partisan districts that provide a political advantage. It’s a practice called gerrymandering, and it’s been going on since the creation of government.

Depressing voter turnout is an advantage for a selfish politician, meaning that it’s easier to get your opponent’s supporters to become disgusted enough to stay home than it is to encourage people to proactively vote for the candidate of their choice. The fact that it’s a one-shot event, that a bare majority is the goal, and that decreasing voter turnout is a valid strategy, all add up to make politics as disgusting as it is to most voters today.

Isn’t it ironic that a majority only has to consist of enough people that actually care enough to show up and vote? It’s not an accident we’re disgusted. Politicians spend billions of dollars to create the belief that voting is something that’s better to avoid. They teach us that it’s not a responsibility we want to take, and they make it feel like an irritating hassle. They don’t invest in making it a chance to build a better community, government and country. In short, it’s more like giving blood and less like going to a Super Bowl party.

It’s also depressing that too often, incumbents are liked by a minority, respected by an even smaller group and particularly bad at the job. If many of the registered voters actually showed up and voted, each of those incumbents would lose their job in a heartbeat. The solution is simple. Show up and vote. Every time. It will make a difference.

Truth Be Told, Politicians won’t stop manipulating the majority of voters and the voting process until we do.

Listen to the Voices

The RC Factor (Resistance to Change) is critical to the status quo.

The status quo works overtime to stay that way, which means that urgent voices for different are rarely heard. There’s a plethora of historical examples that are pretty much beyond dispute. Jesus Christ comes to mind. So does Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, and many others.

These are voices from our past, who were willing to persist even when the critics tried to silence them, and in each of these examples, did so by killing them.

Today, where it really becomes challenging is when someone around us chooses to speak up.

It might be someone in HR who risks their job to report the CEO for sexual harassment. It might be an unlikely activist standing up for a cause that wasn’t on our radar. It might be someone in accounting who has found a better way to do things. It might be an unknown with no power or authority, who stands up and says what they think.

We can’t judge those that challenge the status quo merely because they broke a rule that existed only to maintain the status quo. What we must do (rather than adjudicate first) is work harder to see, listen and support the quiet voices who have something important to say.

Truth Be Told, if we listen a bit harder, we’ll hear something that actually makes sense and compels us to change the status quo.

Adaptive Culture

In my experience, most Leaders don’t understand how to change the culture. They think it can be manipulated either through a methodology of control and positional authority, or by using finesse and charm. As a result, their efforts to bring about change take the culture in the opposite direction than was intended. Rosabeth Moss Kanter (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosabeth_Moss_Kanter) put forth that ‘the organizations that survive will be fast, focused, flexible and friendly.’ So, how can you build a culture that could be characterized as this adaptive and responsive on a continuum? It’s difficult to understand why so many Leaders still don’t have clarity around what a ‘culture’ really is. We all need to know that culture is the shared value system of people as it’s manifested in their behavior. If you’ve read any of my previous work, interacted with anyone that’s worked with me in the past or present, or visited my site, you’ll see that my focus has always been on culture, specifically character and behavior as it relates to individuals and organizations. All individuals, groups and organizations have a ‘culture’ in that they share certain values and behaviors that are consistent between and among them. Trusting relationships are at the core of adaptive capability. In order to have a responsive culture, it must be based upon principles that are changeless. Principles that guide character, behavior and decision-making must be shared by the majority in order to adapt on a continuum to dynamics in both the internal and external environment, which are also accelerating on a continuum. Unless you have a changeless core, you can’t be adaptive to these dynamics. The most significant obstacle to an adaptive culture is what I call the ‘RC Factor’, or Resistance to Change. This is a culture in and of itself that becomes embedded in individuals and organizations as a result of three things that I see on a regular basis in working with both: (1) an unwillingness to confront the reality of current state, (2) a culture of enablement rather than accountability, and (3) a failure to recognize that doing nothing endangers everyone under the influence of that culture. Adaptability and flexibility require a higher level of trust, but also empowerment, which most Leaders are unwilling to give away out of fear or insecurity. The way to test the adaptability of any culture is to force people at the lowest level out of their standard operating comfort level by asking them to accommodate change. You’ll find out very quickly that when a new structure or discipline is put in place, all the dysfunctions immediately rise to the surface. Truth be told, you can do a lot in the short run with control and positional authority, or with finesse and charm. However, in the long-run, building and maintaining trusting relationships will always submit to shared cultural values and principles.

What Blows Your Hair Back?

Somewhere, someone is always doing something that just blows your hair back.

Maybe someone took your share, wasted an opportunity, cut in line, invaded your space, bullied you, set a deadline you weren’t expecting, shared news you didn’t know about, disrespected your mother, gossiped about you, misinterpreted what you said, didn’t offer you an opportunity, promised you a shortcut that never materialized, gave something away you felt you should have been given; in other words, whatever.

Whichever of these blows your mind, each one provides a chance for you to choose the way you respond. You can either respond in kind and go on the attack, which a lot of people in the current environment of seek and destroy choose to do.

You can respond passive aggressively, by flying beneath the radar and waiting for an opportunity to respond anonymously, which the majority of people in the current environment of seek and destroy choose to do.

Or, you can choose to respond by understanding this fundamental principle about us humans.

We really notice the things we care about and generally ignore the things we don’t. I can’t help but wonder if we changed what we cared about, would it change what we noticed and in turn, changed how we chose to respond?

Even more intriguing, would it simplify our lives by adding to the things we ignored because they weren’t worth noticing?

Truth Be Told, I’ve personally found that it does.