Tag Archives: leadership

Hooked on Experience

By Eric J. RomeroEric J Romero

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein

How much experience do you have is a question that is often posed to job applicants, and lack of experience is the main reason why many applicants do not get an interview. It also prevents entrepreneurs from getting access to capital to start new businesses and current employees from being promoted. The over-reliance on experience as a selection criterion results in missed opportunities for individuals, organizations and society.

Poor Old Experience: Experience is a poor indicator of what has been learned in the past and what can be done in the future. Driving is a good example of how experience often fails to lead to learning and expertise. Many people who have been driving for years, and therefore have ample experience, are still poor drivers. The weak relationship between experience and expertise is evident in many organizations as well. Anything that you do admirably today, you at one point did not know how to do, so experience was not a valid predictor of your future success. Therefore, for the same reason, it is unreasonable to use experience indiscriminately as a selection criterion.

Organizations depend on new ideas and innovation for survival. Since innovation is by nature something new, prior experience in often irrelevant. Some of the most creative and successful entrepreneurs had no experience at all in their fields when they started their firms. For example, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream was started by two friends who knew nothing about the ice cream business. In fact, they learned how to make ice cream from a $5 correspondence course. Despite their lack of experience, they built an American icon with unique ice cream products such as Cherry Garcia and Chunky Monkey. Perhaps the secret of their creativity was their lack of experience based barriers to limit what they could do. If they would have applied for jobs at a mainstream ice cream producer, they would have likely been rejected due to a lack of experience. Ben and Jerry illustrate the notion that work experience is a poor measure for future creative performance. Personality characteristics and behavior patterns are far more reliable predictors.

The global economy makes change occur far more rapidly than in the past. Furthermore, change is occurring too rapidly for prior experience to be used as a selection criterion for many jobs. Even if people consistently learned the maximum possible from past experience, knowledge becomes obsolete rather quickly in a rapidly changing environment. This is particularly true at technology firms like Google, which was formed by two Stanford graduate students who had no business experience at all.

While prior experience is important for technical jobs, such as nuclear power plant engineers, or medical doctors, it is not required for many of today’s jobs. This is particularly true for jobs that require personnel to develop new products, work independently, use their knowledge in new ways, create new markets, etc. For example, Richard Branson has created numerous unrelated ventures (Virgin Record, Virgin Airway, etc.), which have made him one of the richest men in the world, despite the fact that he did not have any experience in many of these areas.

Hooked on Experience: Why does the over reliance on work experience persist? Dependence on work experience is like a crutch on which employers and financers have come to rely. It is measurable, easy to use and it has long been used as a selection tool. Since most organizations do not measure personality characteristics, skill levels or assess behavior patterns, using experience is a convenient, although often inappropriate, surrogate for more valid criteria. Additionally, using experience is often arbitrary (i.e., minimum 5 years of management experience) and helps decision makers lose cite of far more reliable predictors of success. It ignores that fact that some people learn little, even if they have a lot of experience, and other people can learn much in a short period of time. When one uses experience as a selection criterion, one assumes that everyone learns at the same rate, which is obviously false. The result is poor hiring, promotion and investment decisions and missed opportunities for individuals, organizations and society.

Just Try Something New: One may ask, what are good selection criteria for selecting unconventional thinkers who can work in a dynamic environment where personnel are expected to figure stuff out? Seeking people who are open to new ideas, have a vision similar to the company, and are comfortable with ambiguity is likely to yield better results than focusing on how much work experience applicants have or whether they have a university education.  The ability of learn quickly and adapt are particularly important.  Each organization should devise its own selection criteria and process that is matched to its culture and strategy. Keep in mind that the process you create is not static, it should be tweaked and adjusted over time. Experiment with new ideas that come from almost anywhere; movies, military, psychology, etc. Below are some general ideas that one can use as a start.

Finding and Selecting Unconventional People

  • Do no use “professional attire” during interviews and encourage people to be themselves, you want to learn about the real person in an interview

  • Have people do a creative activity as part of the selection process

  • Hire people from diverse backgrounds (music, arts, sciences, etc.), unconventional ideas will emerge from a mix of heterogonous people

  • Using psychometrics to measure personality characteristics

  • Use job previews for select candidates so you can see how they actually work

  • Hire people who are good listeners

  • Hire some people who have no education or experience, but have a lot of energy, ambition, great ideas, etc.

  • Hire people who are a little weird and wouldn’t fit in most organizations

  • Hire people who have traveled extensively or lived overseas

  • Have a debate with the candidate to see how he or she hold up to conflict

  • Hire self-motivating workers (described in the next chapter)

  • Use team interviews for people who will join a team

Summary: Kicking the hooked on experience habit is hard. As an unconventional leader, you will have to do some convincing and selling of the ideas presented here. It will take time for a company to devise a new custom designed system and to refine it.  When using an innovative selection process, you might spend much more time searching for personnel. That is the price to pay for doing things differently. For example, Google interviews are a day long affair, or more. Google is also one of the most unconventional companies in the world. A customized and innovative selection process will help you to find and select more unconventional thinkers who can help your company beat the competition.

Eric J. Romero, PhD is a speaker, consultant, and coach. He helps managers become unconventional leaders who beat the competition. Eric teaches them how to create competitive advantage based on innovation, flexibility and risk-taking. Eric has written over 20 articles and presented his ideas around the world for over 14 years. Originally from Brooklyn, his presentations are delivered with a sense of humor, 100% unedited honesty and street smarts! For more information, go to competeoutsidethebox.com.

Leaders Play a Major Role for the Employee

By Gregg GregoryGregg Gregory

Think of the best boss you have ever had in your adult work life. Now what are the top three reasons you said this is your best boss? If you are like many you answered with statements like:

  • Lead by example

  • Encouraged everyone

  • Rewarded fairly

  • Held me accountable

  • Empowered me

Now either go see or call this person (do not email) and tell them you just thought of him/her. How do think they will feel when you tell them this? Pretty awesome I would think. These are just a few of the things employees said are important to them. What is interesting is that these are leadership traits and not management traits.

When you take a training class what are you looking to learn? Many of us want to learn ‘the how’ to do the things in our jobs – which translates into managing things. Have you ever given thought to what your team members look for and are they getting what they expect. Leadership from the top down in essence dictates the culture of an organization. If the leadership is empowering then this will breed future leaders that too empower others. On the other hand if the organization is one that keeps a stronghold on everyone then that too will result in breeding future leaders of the same style. Think about it this way. Have you ever noticed how much a child resembles the parent?

Not just in physical appearance either. This includes mannerisms and communication styles. Here are four quick tips on breeding a successful legacy in your organization:

1. Treat everyone fairly – and fairly does not mean equal – it means fairly. This is one of the strongest ways to build a respectful team and a respectful team is generally a trusting team.

2. Lead from a position of integrity – How do you expect to breed others if you are not leading the pack. This goes beyond walking the walk – it means you must live the part you are portraying. This means be consistent between word and deed at all times.

3. Develop the right track for everyone to run on – Have you ever had an employee that shared in the vision but could not perform at his or her position? Get the right person into the right job and do it fast.

4. Show a genuine interest in your team members – Everyone likes to have some attention shown to them. This means that even if you are not the extroverted leader develop the skill set to make sure the employees know you care about them on every level.

If you are lucky you will be like the legendary San Francisco 49er head coach Bill Walsh. When he was asked about his career he said he was proud of his super bowl rings but he was even more proud of the number of head coaches he developed over the years. One day five years from now you could be sitting at home and answer the phone. The voice on the other end says, “Hey boss – I just read an article about best bosses and when I thought about my best boss I thought of you and wanted to just give you a call and tell you how much I appreciated everything you did for me back in 2007.” Imagine that…

Gregg Gregory, of Teams Rock, works with organizations to create a culture where people work together and perform at peak levels. Through his interactive workshops and consulting, Gregg’s clients achieve greater team focus, cooperation, productivity, and impact. His experience includes more than two decades of human resources, real estate, mortgage banking, as well as radio and television broadcasting. Please contact Gregg at 866-764-TEAM or greg@teamsrock.com see how his keynote speeches and breakout training sessions can help your company or organization.

Become a Better Leader: Commit to Continuous Learning

By Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D.

Joelle K JayIn order to excel in your work, in your life, or as a leader, you need to commit to continuous learning. Many leaders know this, but many more are missing the opportunities for powerful learning that could really help them get ahead on their goals.

Leaders are encouraged to learn “on the job.” The problem is that many of us don’t. Either because we’re too busy, we forget, we don’t know what we need to learn, or we don’t have the resources we think we need, we end up learning by chance or command. Neither one is very powerful.

Learning by chance means you take opportunities to learn whenever they show up, but you don’t necessarily go looking for more. A conference brochure arrives; it seems interesting; you go. A friend recommends a book; it looks good; you read it. You take opportunities to learn as they come to you – in other words, when it’s convenient.

Learning by command means you learn when someone else demands it. When your colleagues tell you that you need to learn to be more decisive, or when your profession requires that you get an advanced certification, or when your boss sends you to a workshop to learn specific skills, you are learning by command.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these approaches to learning. Anylearning that advances your expertise and builds your capacity may be worth your time.

Or it may not, and that’s the problem. You have so much potential, and there are so many opportunities to learn, and there is so much to be gained by learning that it simply doesn’t make sense to relegate your learning to the whims of chance and command. You need to learn by choice.

Learning by choice means carefully setting up your own learning opportunities based solely on what you need to get better results. Learning by choice is based on a number of assumptions.

Learning is leadership: Learning is an essential component of leadership. Some experts go so far as to say learning is leadership, a leader’s constant quest for the improvement of the business, people, and results. As a leader, what do you need to learn? What leadership skills, strategic practices, or management techniques will help you be more effective? Look at your results, and notice where there’s room for improvement. What do you need to learn in order to improve those results? This is the kind of learning that supports powerful leadership.

Learning is profit and competitive edge: The soul of business is innovation; the soul of personal leadership is the innovation of the self. You can’t have one without the other. If you want to have, run, or be part of a business that succeeds in a time of change, you need to be willing to change, as well. Think about it. If another company is doing better than yours, what do you need to learn to be better able to compete? If you personally are stuck in a rut in your career, what do you need to learn to get a more competitive edge? Without asking these questions, you will start to languish in mediocrity, and that’s no place for a leader. Refuse to buy into the assumption that the economy, the market you’re in, or your products are creating your results. If you’re not happy with what you’ve got, go out and learn what needs to change. You’ll feel more in control, and you will learn to lead the way to a more powerful and profitable place.

Learning is life: In addition to learning for all of the practical and rational reasons that contribute to your effectiveness as a leader, there’s one more: learning is part of the fun of life. When was the last time you picked up a new sport, game or hobby? We learn these things not because we have to, but because we want to. Your vision and goals will be infused with a new sense of exuberance when you commit to learning what you need to learn in order to achieve them. You will know that you can do anything you want to as long as you know how to learn.

Learning is an essential component of leadership, but not all learning experiences are equally powerful. Learning by choice means understanding exactly what you need to learn in order to achieve your vision.

Try this simple exercise to sharpen your approach to learning.

  • Think about your vision or an important goal.

  • Brainstorm. What do you need to learn in order to achieve this vision or goal?

  • Choose one area in which to focus your learning, and choose the one that is likely to have the biggest impact.

  • Ask yourself, “What’s the most powerful way I can learn in this area to get the best and fastest results?”

This approach will steer you away from learning by chance and help you choose your learning, so it’s more strategic and leads directly to your vision.

If you really want to lead well and live well, you must learn to learn well, too.

Joelle K. Jay, Ph.D., is president of the leadership development practice, Pillar Consulting.  As an executive coach, author and speaker, Joelle helps leaders achieve top performance and business results. Her clients include presidents, vice presidents, and C-level executives in Fortune 500 companies. Joelle is the author of “The Inner Edge: The 10 Practices of Personal Leadership.”

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The Engaged Workforce: Who is Responsible?

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

Walt Disney once said, “Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.” He understood perfectly whose responsibility engagement was – it was his. He was a hands-on leader, personally involved and engaged with his workforce.

Engagement is a leadership necessity. Once hired, it is leadership’s responsibility not Human Resource’s to keep employees engaged. When the leader of an organization is not engaged on a regular basis, trust and productivity rapidly erode. According to recent research being truthful and connected are huge factors in engaging, maintaining and increasing workforce productivity and loyalty. When a leader is totally involved and committed to an engaged workforce, everyone’s efficiency and productivity improves and profitability increases.

Where Engagement Begins: Experts often say engagement comes from the top down and permeates the workforce. Others say no, it’s a bottom up process. The answer is – it is both and then some. Engagement comes from inside out. If it only comes from the top down all you need is one mid-level leader to drop the ball and the game is lost. If it begins at the bottom, as soon as a member of the workforce runs into resistance from their management the chain is also broken.

There is a natural flow to the engagement of the workforce and it must flow from the inside out – from the heart and soul of an organization to the workforce in order to permeate it. It doesn’t matter if your business is a three-person accounting firm or a Fortune 500 organization, the natural flow of engagement is the same.

Engagement begins with a decision within the core operating culture of a business to make an engaged workforce a top priority. If not created at this level, the results will be mediocre at best with average productivity and reduced profitability instead of exceptional productivity and increased profitability.

The Flow of Engagement: Engagement flows through the workforce in a circular movement, not linear. When leadership at all levels becomes engaged with their workforce, productivity continues as is. When the workforce is in return engaged with leadership, productivity skyrockets.

Understanding that this is a circular flow is critical to successfully creating a workforce that is focused on the best interests of the business or organization.

What’s Next?

Get into the game by recognizing the need for creating an engaged workforce, discovering where it begins and how it works. Create a leadership roadmap that includes developing, promoting and participating in a full-time circular engagement program.

Crunch the numbers to see how much your productivity will increase with a more engaged workforce. Recently released research by Gallup shows that only 33% of the surveyed workforce is engaged in what you want and 49% are disengaged. Even worse, 18% of the workforce is actively engaged in causing failure.

Industry research analysts believe that up to 95% of employees are unaware of their company’s top objectives. Without understanding how important their contribution is to the company’s overall goal and what role their contribution plays, they will disengage, missing deadlines, dropping production levels and negatively affecting profits.

It will be obvious when you crunch the numbers; even a slight increase in the engagement of your workforce will yield significantly increased productivity.

Schedule Road mapping time to unleash the potential of an engaged workforce. If you do not plan to succeed you are by default planning to fail. Evaluate the circular flow of engagement energy in your workforce to see where it needs improvement. If you don’t have an obvious flow to the engaged energy of your workforce, create a roadmap to get your there. Then, take action and make it happen. Start today.

Walt Disney’s legacy lives on because he knew he was responsible for the engagement of his workforce and took an active role in creating the future he envisioned. The circular flow of engagement is evident in every aspect of the Disney Empire and was one of his success strategies — a strategy you can apply to create the results you envision.

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

The 3 A’s: Ingredients for a Peaceful Office Life

By Esther Francis JosephEsther Francis Joseph

With many different personality types in an office setting, the workplace can either be a pleasant place to be or hostile territory. A lot depends on the dynamics and interactions between personnel. When a coworker has done something inappropriate in their role as a manager or as an employee, destructive emotions and reactions can arise. In either position the repercussions can affect the entire department and ultimately the company’s bottom line.

For example, John and his coworkers had been working on a project for one of their largest accounts for the last few weeks.  On the day before it was due to be presented to the client, John left work early with no explanation or forewarning.  Understandably, his coworkers were furious that he skipped the final preparations, and the company ultimately lost the account.  Now John is faced with working in a hostile work environment, knowing his coworkers are extremely upset with him.

If you are the person in the wrong, it is important to know what to do to resolve the tension you’ve created when seeking to improve office morale and return to a positive, productive workplace once again. A strong, respectful working relationship with bosses, colleagues, and subordinates can be achieved by utilizing these 3 A’s for a peaceful environment that everyone can enjoy being part of.

Apologize for a Peaceful Workplace: A disagreement among work staff can emerge from any number of situations.  An email that seemed a bit too harsh in its language, personal phone calls when that 5 p.m. deadline is looming; numerous other circumstances and reasons can lead to an interpersonal conflict that requires a subsequent resolution.

John knew that to successfully continue his work, he needed to apologize to his coworkers. John gathered them together and said, “I would like to apologize for leaving work early Monday, the day our project was due, without informing anyone. I realize my actions wasted weeks of everyone’s hard work, and cost us the account. You guys have every right to me angry with me.”

If you are the person who is at fault, whether you are an executive or staff member the first step is to apologize. For decision-makers this might be difficult to do, but for most people an apology is a powerful first acknowledgement of responsibility. No matter the title, it means that the individual apologizing understands his or her error and is not likely to repeat it. It helps to dissipate the anger and other negative emotions from other staff associated with the situation.

In terms of the act of apologizing, it is extremely important to be concise.  Frame your apology around the situation at hand, and do not stray from its focus.  Avoid long explanations and excuses for your behavior. Acknowledge what you have done and the impact it has had on others. Show that you regret your action and mention how you will act differently when faced with a similar situation in the future.  Perhaps most importantly, conduct your apology in a conference setting if possible, where there is an opportunity for further conversation from the offended parties.

For most people an apology involves a degree of embarrassment; one has to be humble to apologize. Humility often breeds compassion in others. This exchange of vulnerability and compassion is a necessary step in obtaining closure in many conciliatory situations, even in the office.

Agree for a Peaceful Workplace: It is equally important to simply agree with whatever feedback you receive from your apology if your goal is to restore that fragile working relationship with your coworkers. Agree with whatever your boss or coworkers have to say in regards to the circumstance. This act of agreeing emphasizes that you are willing to work through the situation, repair it and move beyond it.

After John apologized, he gave his officemates time to respond with their feedback.  Some expressed anger and disappointment but many expressed their anxiety over the real possibility of layoffs as a result of the lost account. Though it was hard, John listened attentively to everyone’s comments, only interjecting to say that he agreed with what they were conveying.

If you have apologized and shown remorse for your conduct, it is beneficial at this point to just listen to the input of others without offering any feedback of your own. By paying attention and accepting their contribution no matter what they might be, you are proving that your regret is truly heartfelt. Your office will see that and be more willing to forgive you. You’ll be perceived in a more favorable light.

Accept Responsibility for a Peaceful Workplace: Accepting responsibility for the situation is the third element in mending a workplace wrong you have committed. Be upfront and readily accept that the situation is, indeed, your fault. Any attempts to deflect fault will leave you appearing less than genuine. Readily accepting responsibility for both your successes and failures in the office shows that you are a mature individual and an asset to the company.

In his efforts to restore office morale, John finished with, “After listening to your comments and agreeing with everything that has been said, I’m willing to accept whatever reprimand is deemed appropriate. If necessary I am willing to offer my resignation to save another staff member their job. Once again, please accept my sincere apology; I promise that this behavior will not happen in the future.”

When implemented, these three important A’s – Apologize, Agree and Accept Responsibility – will establish more positive and productive relationships in the office. Everyone makes mistakes, and problems will arise in the workplace at one time or another. The ability to handle these situations effectively is the sign of a superior manager, employee or coworker.

Esther Francis Joseph is a personal coach and author of, “Memories of Hell, Visions of Heaven: A Story of Survival, Transformation, and Hope,” her personal story of survival and perseverance, despite a violent childhood. Growing up on the picturesque island of St. Lucia, Esther molded her literary talents with her childhood experiences as she continues down her path to leading a joyous and fulfilled adult life.