Category Archives: Marty Martin

Three Keys for Adapting to Any Career Change

By Marty MartinMarty Martin

Whether you work for yourself or are employed in an organization, one thing is for certain: at some point your career will change. It could be a gradual change, such as a job or industry slowly evolving or phasing out; or it could be a sudden change, such as the Board of Directors mandating a reduction in staff immediately. Regardless of the exact scenario, the key trait that will enable you to reposition yourself and thrive after a career setback is your ability to embrace adaption.

Unfortunately, many people lack a belief in their ability to adapt. As such, they become immobilized by fear when change is apparent. So rather than adapt their mindset, approach, and even skills, they choose to stay stuck in their comfort zone, even though it’s no longer comfortable at all.

Realize, though, that adaption is natural. For example, when you travel to a location that has a different climate than what you’re used to (such as going from Miami, Florida to Chicago, Illinois in the winter), the new weather feels harsh for the first day. But after a few days in the new climate, your body adjusts and the colder temperatures don’t feel as frigid. Your body and mind acclimates and you get used to the new environment. This natural ability to adapt at a physiological level also applies to dealing with changes in the career environment. You simply need to tap into your natural ability to adapt and apply it to your professional life. The following suggestions will help you achieve that.

1) Reflect on your past. When change is upon you, reflect back on a few times in the past when you overcame an adversity and identify what you had to do to get through those events. Ideally, choose examples from your past workplaces. If you can’t think of any, then go back to your school days and your personal life. If you really have led a challenge-free life thus far, then think about books or movies where you’ve learned about others overcoming adversity.

Once you choose a few situations to reflect upon, determine the actions and attributes that helped you or others in the past. There’s a high probability if you repeat the mindsets and actions that worked in the past, they’ll work for you now as well. This exercise helps you shift your energy from victim to victor. You prove to yourself that success is possible.

2) Choose to associate with like-minded people. To keep your mindset strong, surround yourself with individuals and groups who support you in doing something different, rather than those who try to keep you chained to the status quo. Of course, this step is always easier said than done, especially when your family or closest colleagues are the ones holding you back.

First, in your work life, assess your transferable skills. For example, if you were a video store manager whose store closed, your skills likely include hiring and staffing, inventory, merchandising, and customer service. Look at what other stable and growing professions and industries use those skills and join their leading association. This enables you to actively make connections with new people in a sector that has more optimism than the one you’re currently in.

If your loved ones are contributing to your negative mindset, sit down with them and have an honest conversation about the current situation and your options for change. For example, if you realize you need to relocate to find a new job, and your spouse does not want to move, show the reality of the situation. You might say, “If we remain here we can’t maintain our lifestyle. We’ll have to downsize to a one-bedroom apartment or move in with family. But if we relocate to this area where jobs in my sector are plentiful, we can maintain our lifestyle, just in a different zip code. What makes the most sense to you?” Be calm and use specifics when you talk. Chances are the loved one will see the necessity for whatever change is needed.

3) Do scenario planning. Write out detailed scenarios about what can happen if you adapt, if you fail to adapt, and if you somewhat adapt. You need to do all three rather than single point planning, because single point planning can set you up for frustration if the plan doesn’t go exactly as outlined.

This sort of triple scenario planning is based on stress inoculation training, which encourages people to anticipate a negative event and explore how they might deal with it in various ways. Should the negative event actually occur, the person has an idea of what to do to overcome, which makes the negative event less stressful. The scenario planning works a lot like stress inoculation training.

For example, if you’ve been laid off and can’t find a new job in your area, you may decide that your best case scenario if you adapt is to find a job you love—one that pays great and offers high satisfaction—albeit in a different part of the country. If you fail to adapt, that scenario may include you moving back in with your parents and working at a minimum wage entry level job that you hate. And if you somewhat adapt, perhaps you find a good paying job in your town, but you’re doing work that doesn’t give you much joy or satisfaction.

With these three scenarios detailed on paper, you have the option of choice. Which scenario do you want to pursue? Now, instead of becoming paralyzed with thoughts like, “I don’t know what to do next” or “Until I figure out what is the right decision I’m not going to do anything,” you can make an informed choice of the best way to overcome your current situation. If you are involved in joint decision-making with loved ones, share what you wrote with them so they can be part of the choice process too.

Embrace the New Reality: Make no mistake: Everyone’s career is going to be affected at some point in their life. This isn’t an “if” scenario; it’s a “when.” So even if your work life seems to be going well right now, start developing your capacity to adapt so that when change occurs, you know what to do.

If you’re in the midst of a change and need to adapt quickly, remember that learning is inherently difficult because you often feel awkward, incompetent, and insecure for a temporary period of time. Eventually, though, you become so fluent in the new knowledge or routine that you can’t imagine your life any other way. Therefore, the sooner you start cultivating and embracing your ability to adapt, the sooner you can thrive in your new situation.

Dr. Marty Martin, known for his state-of-the art content presented in an engaging, dynamic fashion, has been speaking and training nationally and internationally for many years. His book, Taming Disruptive Behavior, will be published by The American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2013. Dr. Martin is the Director of the Health Sector Management MBA Concentration and Associate Professor in the College of Commerce at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, please visit his website: www.drmartymartin.com.

Prepare for the Inevitable: The Four Cornerstones of Career Insurance

By Dr. Marty MartinMarty Martin

There is more to job security than mastering job search skills. There are plenty of books about resume writing, networking, interviewing, and developing a LinkedIn profile. These job search skills are important, but not sufficient in an age when companies and even entire industries are undergoing radical changes. Career Insurance fills the void by preparing people for what’s to come – before it arrives.

There are four cornerstones of Career Insurance; the organizing framework for putting together your own personal Career Insurance plan. These four cornerstones further solidify your survival in the turbulent waters of today’s economy:

  • Embracing adaptationAW Graphic #1
  • Positioning for the next advance or change
  • Investing in cutting edge skills
  • Tapping into abundant thinking, creativity, and emotional non-attachment


Embracing Adaptation: You must get in touch with your built-in adaptive nature. This means being alert, responsive, and engaged; knowing how to survive in what sometimes feels like the jungle of work, careers, and jobs.

A practical way to assess your adaptive qualities is to ask, write down or record your answers to these questions:

  • How did I overcome obstacles in the past?
  • What lessons can I draw from folks I know and those I don’t about how to bounce back and move forward?
  • Who can I lean on to support me emotionally when it seems as if I cannot or will not climb the summit of change?

Your answers to these questions will put you in touch with your built-in adaptive nature. If adversity is foreign to you, then you probably know others in your life that have stories and secrets to share about how to tap into the resilient spirit that we all have.

Positioning for the Next Advance or Change: A very important skill for Career Insurance is to predict what type of work is in demand, the supply of talent available to meet that demand, and how to position yourself to fill the gap. This skill will be used consistently throughout your career.

Self-assessment using surveys and questionnaires as well as soliciting feedback from peers will provide you with most of the information you need to map out these three scenarios:

  • Your desired career scenario
  • Your most probable career scenario
  • Your nightmare career scenario

Your job is to vividly describe, in writing, the details of each of these three scenarios. After detailing each of the scenarios, determine what decisions and actions you must make while in your current position that will affect you in the short- and long-run in realizing your desired position in your company.

Investing in Cutting Edge Skills: Given the fast paced change in the world of work, it is a good idea to learn new skills to increase your value as an employee. Today, you never really finish learning; if you do, you may find yourself and your career on a dead-end street.

There are costs to learning new skills, yet, there are also benefits. The decision is yours to create or seize an opportunity to learn about skills now in demand in your industry, how to acquire those skills, and how to keep those skills on the cutting edge. Train for skills in demand in the future.

Tapping into Abundant Thinking, Creativity, and Emotional Non-Attachment

Reflect back on a time when you or somebody else could only think of the downside of a situation or viewed the world from the perspective of loss, competition and survival. Those thoughts come from a scarcity thinking mindset. Scarcity thinking triggers fear and anxiety. If you more often than not think in the following way, then you may be suffering from scarcity thinking:

  • My job offer means that somebody else is without a job
  • My raise/promotion means that somebody else gets less of a raise/promotion
  • My acceptance at a training event means that somebody else is robbed of the change to grow and develop

To standout in today’s job market, you have to demonstrate value. Demonstrating value is a two part equation: first, let folks know about your past accomplishments. Second, and most importantly, express what you intend to do in the future. This holds true whether you are seeking another opportunity in your current company or an opportunity outside your company perhaps due to situations beyond your control such as restructuring and downsizing.

Many organizations today are revamping their processes, updating their technology, and offering a different portfolio of goods and services with the same and different consumers. Are you poised to be as flexible as the market demands? Do you find yourself thinking “I’ve got by this long…I’ll be OK?” Or, do you find yourself thinking, “This will be rough initially, but I can see how it will be better in the long-run for me, our customers, and the company.” It is the latter thought that illustrates abundant thinking. Abundant thinking has many benefits including creativity and innovation. After all…somebody had to make up the job of being a webmaster. Why can’t you make up a job based upon a need or opportunity in your company?

Building Your Career Future: The four cornerstones are the foundation of solidifying your job, career, and work future in this new world of work. The good news is that at each point in history when industry underwent radical changes, our ancestors adapted most with grace, poise and optimism.  We seem to be at another inflection point where the exact future is not fully clear. Career Insurance is your survival tool.  When not distracted by striving to make a living, you can make a difference.

Dr. Marty Martin, known for his state-of-the art content presented in an engaging, dynamic fashion, has been speaking and training nationally and internationally for many years. His book, Taming Disruptive Behavior, will be published by The American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2013. Dr. Martin is the Director of the Health Sector Management MBA Concentration and Associate Professor in the College of Commerce at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, please visit his website: www.drmartymartin.com.

Ways to Manage High and Low Performers

By Dr. Marty MartinMarty Martin

People who invest their money wisely spend more time focusing on the investments with the greatest chance of turning out to be winners.  Do you do the same when managing the performance of your employees?  If you are like most managers, sadly the answer is that you get caught up spending too much time with low performers who have a fair chance of being acceptable, but not stars.  What would happen if you dedicated more time to your employees who are acceptable performers yet exhibit clear signs of being high performers? The answer is that many of these acceptable performers will move into the ranks of high performers.

So, as a manager, CEO or business owner, how do you identify the employees you should focus on, and how can you make the most of your lower performers?

Be Selective About Who to Focus Upon: The first lesson is to carefully select who will be important for you to invest time, energy, and other resources in to developing their performance.  This decision is incredibly important; if you choose a low performer, then your likely payoff will not be as great as if you had selected a high performer.  This may seem at odds with what you have learned in the past, or it may even seem to go against the grain of democracy or fighting for the underdogs.  But, if your goal is to maximize performance, then this approach is more likely to yield greater results quickly.

As humans, we can only really improve 2-3 things at a single time, no matter what multi-taskers tell you.  Deliberate practice on 2-3 things is what drives high impact gains in performance and productivity.  Deliberate practice can be enhanced with explicit, targeted feedback from managers.  It is far easier, more rewarding, and more effective to leverage strengths, rather than solely focusing upon weaknesses.  The key is to find strength in one area and get the performer to use that strength in an area that requires improvement.  Real, sustained improvement takes time. This requires patience on your part as a manager focusing upon the long term and not just the quick fix. The quicker the fix, the less sustainable the result.

Keep Hope Alive for All Performers: The second lesson is keep hope alive for all performers, even those who are chronically low.  What does this mean?  As a manager or CEO, you want to make investments, though not equal investments, in all performers.  But, do not potentially waste too much time, energy and other resources in your employees who, at their very best, will only be an average or acceptable performer.  This does not mean that they are not a good person, that they are not worthy of their salary or that they are a slacker.  It may simply mean that they are comfortable in their current position and have no desire to become the company superstar, or that they are a bad fit for your organization.  A manager that wants to improve performance should demonstrate what psychologists call “Unconditional Positive Regard.”  This means that you accept where your staff begins their performance improvement journey. For some, they may begin behind, for others at the right place, and some are even ahead. Assess the starting place but do not judge.  Then, you can identify the signature strengths of all of your staff, even chronic low performers; it is unlikely that they are not doing well in all aspects of their job.

Watch out for the “Pygmalion Effect.”  This means that your staff rises or falls to your expectations.  In other words, if you have low expectations, then they will move to meet your low expectations.  The opposite is also true; if you have high expectations, then your employees will move to meet your high expectations.

Focus on making progress toward a longer term goal, and reward that progress, even if it is only one baby step after another.  By rewarding small steps to the larger performance goal, you will also feel less frustration because you know your efforts with the low performers are paying off.

Reassign or Fire Chronic Low Performers: The third lesson is to cut your losses relatively early.  Our country’s goal is to increase employment, but as a manager or CEO you also have a responsibility to your boss or stockholders, to your company, and your customers.

There are two ways to address chronic low performers.  First, if after setting clear expectations, monitoring their performance, giving feedback about their performance, coaching them, and then letting them know about the consequences of underperforming, you see no improvement, you should let them go.

Second, if your company cannot afford to let any employees go in order to keep the operation running, you should reassign the chronic low performers.  When you reassign an employee, you protect the majority of those that are performing well from a smaller group that could persuade them to lower performance across the board or distract the higher performers.

Picture yourself three to six months from now after experimenting with these three recommendations.  Not only will you have a plan for all performers but you will have dedicated more time, energy and resources to those performers with the greatest payoff.  Your time is precious; you can only focus on so much.  You have to be selective about what you focus upon. You have to prioritize. Be sure to do this when you are managing performance in your company and feel confident that your investment will pay off for you, your company and your customers.

Dr. Marty Martin, known for his state-of-the art content presented in an engaging, dynamic fashion, has been speaking and training nationally and internationally for many years. His book, Taming Disruptive Behavior, will be published by The American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2013. Dr. Martin is the Director of the Health Sector Management MBA Concentration and Associate Professor in the College of Commerce at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, please visit his website: www.drmartymartin.com.

Solving Bullying in the Boardroom

By Dr. Marty MartinMarty Martin

Imagine a CEO taking Imodium right before each board meeting and Tylenol after each meeting to soothe the frightening feeling of being terrorized by power-abusing board members routinely reminding the CEO, “You work at the pleasure of the board.”  And even if the CEO is resilient enough to withstand this piercing pressure to please, his staff must wonder if they will become targets of the CEOs who pass along the misery down through the organization. To make matters worse, a few of the board members are making plans to oust the current CEO if their preferred candidate for a new senior executive role is not hired by the CEO.

Does the behavior of the board members in this vignette warrant the label “bullying”? This answer, in part, depends upon your company culture and the board culture; the two are related. In fact, company culture is often shaped by board culture.  Resist the self-deceptive practice to say, “Our industry is different.  This only happens in other companies.  Our board is different because we only allow highly credentialed, seasoned, and talented people on the board.”  All that may be true and yet a few of your board members may still demonstrate workplace bullying.

Board members are entrusted to serve as stewards of the organization and to keep the “best interests” of the organization as the first priority.  This means that if any board member engages in behavior, whether consciously or unconsciously, that results in harm of any member of the executive team or distracts any member of the executive team from putting the interests of the organization first, then that board member has failed in serving as both an organizational steward and fiduciary.

Workplace bullying not only has a negative impact on the target of such behavior by board members but also those who observe or hear about board bullying behavior.  The effects of dysfunctional governance “leak out” of the boardroom and contaminate the rest of the organization.  Given these costs to the company and the target of bullying committed by board members, the natural question that follows is my board at risk of engaging in bullying behavior?

There are a few key risk factors which increase the likelihood that your company’s board will engage in workplace bullying behavior.  Knowledge of these six risk factors will aid you in identifying risky behaviors, risky policies, and risky situation with the aim of seeking to prevent or minimize bully board members.

  • First, an autocratic leadership style is the strongest predictor of workplace bullying. This style of leadership as displayed by the board chairperson or members of the executive committee of the board is corrosive and will result in decreased engagement and innovation.

  • Second, a laissez-faire leadership style is also a strong predictor of workplace bullying. Power abusing boards will often force the hand of senior executive leaders to adopt a “whatever happens” leadership style out of fear of “stepping on the toes of board members.”

  • Third, the perception that bullying by board members results in improved senior leadership performance or organizational outcomes is yet another predictor. Of the six risk factors, this is the most challenging to counter and correct because “why mess with success.” As such, healthier options must be explored to achieve the same or higher levels of productivity.

  • Fourth, the lack of a formal written policy condoning such behavior by other board members is another predictor.

  • Fifth, during times of restructuring, downsizing, and mergers and acquisitions, there is an increased probability that board members will bully due to the increase in pressure and their lack of constructive coping responses.

  • Sixth, some individuals are downright mean and awry and when equipped with formal power, they abuse their power. All board members should first and foremost ensure that the board itself is operating as effectively, efficiently and ethically as possible and call out any board member, including the chairperson, if that individual engages in bullying behavior given their role as a fiduciary and steward.

As a member of a board, you should seriously consider putting into place three measures to prevent if not eliminate bullying board behavior.

  • First, formulate a policy regarding board conduct.

  • Second, implement a board evaluation process including self-evaluation, evaluation by the chairperson, and 360 evaluations by other board members and even senior executive leadership.

  • Third, at least once a year, hold a seminar or workshop on developing effective board member relations with a focus on each individual board member and the board as a high functioning team.

Returning to our original vignette but picture that the board read this article and made a commitment to change, then the vignette would read as follows:

Imagine a CEO being so excited about presenting several opportunities and challenges before each the board knowing that the board will bring forth their collective intelligence to maximize problem solving and decision making. The CEO, while preparing for the board meeting, tells the staff, “This is a great opportunity for you to showcase the wonderful work that you have done.” And, after the board meeting, a few board members agree to have a lunch where they will discuss how to better support the CEO and the senior executive leadership team.

In essence, what you permit as a board, you promote.  President Harry Truman is known to have said, “The buck stops here.” These four words are powerful with respect to making sure that each individual board member and the board collectively demonstrate the best of what individuals and groups can bring to an organization rather than the worst.  There are many things which are just part of doing business.  Bullying board members is not a normal part of that.  And it must end today.

Dr. Marty Martin, known for his state-of-the art content presented in an engaging, dynamic fashion, has been speaking and training nationally and internationally for many years. His book, Taming Disruptive Behavior, will be published by The American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2013. Dr. Martin is the Director of the Health Sector Management MBA Concentration and Associate Professor in the College of Commerce at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, please visit his website: www.drmartymartin.com.

Taming Disruptive Behavior

By Dr. Marty MartinMarty Martin

John, a seasoned manager, is growing weary of receiving 2-3 daily email complaints from his employees, the employees of another manager, and occasionally a customer. They are not ordinary complaints. John is not a customer service manager and does not interact with customers. Frustrated and battle-weary, John has to deal with an employee who meets the expectations of the job but is described as “bullying,” “intimidating,” “inappropriate,” and even “terrorizing.”

The harsh reality is that workplace bullying is more common than many think. This should not be too surprising; remember when you were in elementary, middle or high school and the bullies terrified students and even teachers? If you were not a target, you knew somebody that was. Bullying does not disappear with age. People don’t grow out of bullying. Bullies, in fact, can be very intelligent, get good grades, and then get hired by companies based upon their knowledge and skills. They are often quite skilled in hiding any signs of bullying during the interview process and for as long as three months when they pass probation and then become a permanent member of the workplace. This is often the time in which the bully comes out of the closet seeking a victim, or pairs up with another bully at work and they both team up to seek victims.

Some facts about workplace bullying are as follows:

  • According to a 2010 Workplace Bullying Institute Survey, slightly more than one out of three (35%) of U.S. workers have been bullied at work.

  • Victims of workplace bullying suffer from psychological and physical symptoms resulting from bullying such as sleep disturbances and stress.

  • Victims of workplace bullying are more likely to skip work, decrease their performance and seek employment at a psychologically and physically safer place.

  • Victims of workplace bullying will file lawsuits against their employers and managers for discrimination under Title VII and violations of the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA).

Can you afford, as a manager, to expose yourself or your company to increases in health care utilization at a time with double-digit health care premium increases? Can you fully achieve the strategies and goals of your company knowing that your employees are not fully focusing on their jobs but bullying? Can you allow your company to be exposed to preventable lawsuits and other legal actions? Can you permit, condone, allow, ignore, or minimize behavior that is harmful and hurtful toward any employee under your management and leadership? Clearly, the answer is no.

Thus, as a manager and steward of organizational assets, including your employees, you must do something. But what? As a manager, there are five concrete actions that you must take to prevent workplace bullying when it occurs.

1) Adopt a workplace bullying policy: The purpose of a workplace bullying policy is to formally establish the “rules of the road” regarding inappropriate, and in some cases, appropriate behavior at work. Other HR policies such as harassment and safety policies do not usually address workplace bullying. As such, the contents of a workplace bullying policy should spell out which behaviors will not be tolerated (e.g. physical abuse, verbal abuse, email stalking, etc.) and then identify how incidents are to be reported and how they will be handled by the organization. It is critical that the workplace bullying policy align with existing policies so that workers are not confused or do not play one policy against the other. An attorney must review the policy before it is finalized to be sure that it comports with federal, state, and local laws and regulations. Do not minimize the unnecessary legal, regulatory, and public relations risk of failing to attend to workplace bullying in a serious fashion.

2) Communicate and educate the workforce about the policy: It is crucial that the policy is effectively communicated. Once the workplace bullying policy is approved a communication plan must be developed, focusing upon the key messages, different audiences, and communication channels used to disseminate the policy; simply slapping the policy on an intranet site or website is not sufficient in terms of communicating the policy. Policies of this type should be presented in person with senior leaders, direct supervisors, and HR so that a discussion can be facilitated about the policy and to signal its importance. Beyond making people aware of the policy which is the aim of communication, the policy should be incorporated into all orientation sessions. Classes on “Preventing and Addressing Workplace Bullying” should be designed with the policy as the centerpiece to the training. Nothing beats face-to-face interactions, even in the age of the Internet. Effectiveness and efficiency are not the same.

3) Set expectations that the policy will be followed without exception: A policy without consequences, whether positive or negative, is like a dog without teeth. You are familiar with the saying, “All bark and no bite.” Be sure to put “teeth” into the policy to create and sustain a bully-free workplace. Examples of such include aligning the bullying policy with the organizations’ progressive discipline policy and even having awards for the organization or certain departments if there are zero occurrences of workplace bullying in a specified time period – similar to safety awards for having no injuries or accidents.

4) Establish an anonymous hotline and investigation process to field complaints: Do not make targets of workplace bullying a victim twice, first for being a victim of such behavior and second for reporting such behavior. It is important that employees are able to report incidents of workplace bullying to a neutral third party outside their chain of command to minimize retaliation and discomfort. Many organizations have a hotline or have a position such as an ombudsperson. Whatever mechanism you use for reporting, it must meet these three criteria:

  • Accessible 24/7 particularly if you are a 24-hour operation

  • Confidential

  • Trusted by both the individual making the claim and by those who are part of the claim

5. Record the results of the policy to keep it up-to-date: Report on an annual basis the effectiveness of the policy, the enforcement of the policy, as well as the resolution of workplace bullying complaints. Do not disclose individual information but focus on organization-wide results.

These five concrete actions to prevent workplace bullying make good business sense. In this era of fiscal austerity, lean processes, and quests for higher productivity, there is no place at any organization to waste time, talent and resources by having to spend precious organizational and managerial resources on anything unrelated to achieving the mission and strategies of the organization. These steps also represent ways to make your workplace psychologically and physically safer for all employees. Beyond workplace safety, a work environment free of harassment, intimidation, threats, and harm is a workplace that allows workers to focus on work, rather than worrying about distractors.

Dr. Marty Martin, known for his state-of-the art content presented in an engaging, dynamic fashion, has been speaking and training nationally and internationally for many years. His book, Taming Disruptive Behavior, will be published by The American College of Physician Executives (ACPE) in 2013. Dr. Martin is the Director of the Health Sector Management MBA Concentration and Associate Professor in the College of Commerce at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. For more information, please visit his website: www.drmartymartin.com.