Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Which Way Is Up?

This time of year is all about budgets and strategic planning. Usually, you can look back over the previous 12 months to guide you through both of these processes. However, the economic roller-coaster that was this past year is not exactly a guide we want to follow into 2010.

For most of the managers I coach, this year's planning process has been more difficult than ever before. They haven't yet recovered from the downturns of the last 12 months, and now they are supposed to strategically map out a plan for upward growth over the next 12 months? How? Where? Which way is up?

My advice to them is simple: Stop planning; start making good decisions. To be a good manager, you must develop good decision-making skills.

The economic situation we have endured over the last year is a direct result of poor decision-making. According to Thomas H. Davenport in a recent Harvard Business Review article, "In recent years decision makers in both the public and private sectors have made an astounding number of poor calls. For example, the decisions to invade Iraq, not to comply with global warming treaties, to ignore Darfur, are all likely to be recorded as injudicious in history books. And how about the decisions to invest in and securitize subprime mortgage loans, or to hedge risk with credit default swaps? Those were spread across a number of companies, but single organizations, too, made bad decisions. Tenneco, once a large conglomerate, chose poorly when buying businesses and now consists of only one auto parts business. General Motors made terrible decisions about which cars to bring to market. Time Warner erred in buying AOL, and Yahoo in deciding not to sell itself to Microsoft.

Why this decision-making disorder? First, because decisions have generally been viewed as the prerogative of individuals—usually senior executives. The process employed, the information used, the logic relied on, have been left up to them, in something of a black box. Information goes in, decisions come out—and who knows what happens in between? Second, unlike other business processes, decision making has rarely been the focus of systematic analysis inside the firm. Very few organizations have “reengineered” their decisions. Yet there are just as many opportunities to improve decision making as to improve any other process."

Leaders, it's time to get out of the "black box". Empower your managers to make decisions, and teach them how to make good decisions. How? Take a look at your current situation. Does your organization employ a process of good decision making with your managers, or, does it look for strategic plans from managers that follow the "black box" decisions handed to them from above? By exploring how decisions are made in your organization, there are some wonderful tools (i.e., MBTI®) for understanding and developing the processes your managers use to make good decisions that will guide your organization onto an upward economic path.

What are you currently doing to develop and empower good decision-making skills?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Think Outside the Suggestion Box

How do you create a culture of innovation? Where do you find those innovative process improvements? You ask the employees who perform the process for just one thing: what one thing would you do differently that would immediately improve this process or service? Empower your employees to think creatively about your business. Thomas Koulopoulos, author of The Innovation Zone, advises “You need to give people the license to take risks and to fail often enough to realize that they will not be punished for doing the right thing even though the outcome might not be what they expected. Small failures can encourage big successes.”

At this point, you might be thinking “We are already doing this. We have a Suggestion Box for our employees on every floor, or, in every department. We ask our employees for their ideas, and month after month, those suggestion boxes remain empty.” Exactly. From the employees’ standpoint, there is no expectation that they generate new ideas; just a box to drop it into on the chance they do have a new idea. Providing a suggestion box is not the same thing as asking and expecting your employees to think with economic creativity about the work they do.


1. Do you think you currently have a culture of employee innovation?

2. How do you communicate your expectation of idea generation to your employees?

3. What venues/mediums do you have available for employees to bring forth their ideas?

4. When an employee generates a viable innovative idea, how do you empower them to implement their idea?

5. What rewards and recognition programs do you have in place for employees who successfully generate and implement economically creative ideas?

6. How do you provide feedback and coaching to employees who are generating non-viable ideas?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Change One Thing

It seems as though the majority of my coaching practice is focused in the area of Change. I capitalized Change because most organizations and people I work with seem to view Change as some huge, scary thing that will only bring bad news and more work into their world. Over the years, I have realized that we are oddly comforted by the false security found in the troubles and pitfalls we know as opposed to the fearful unknown of what might happen if we made a change.

So break it down. Apply the tried and true KISS method. We don't have to recreate the wheel or forge a new business plan to create a positive transformation. Take a long hard look at whatever obstacle or trouble that is your issue. Ask yourself this: what one thing could I do differently that would bring about a change in the situation. I didn't say completely fix the situation, only change it. Do that one thing. Is the change positive? Keep doing it. Then do the process again. A series of small, incremental changes with positive results can create a remarkable transformation.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fortune Cookie Philosophy: 5 Ways to Engage & Retain Through a Down Economy

Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday – Some days it seems as if we have been struggling in an uncertain economy forever. And yet, we all remember the rich returns of just a few short years ago. What this tells us is that everything changes – what goes up will go down, and what is down will go up. Once you embrace the reality of change, every day is one day closer to a better tomorrow. Stop worrying about what might happen tomorrow, and start gathering the tools you will need to succeed tomorrow. Identify those employees with high performance potential, and start training them now to take on roles of more responsibility when the economy turns around.

Adjust finances, make budgets, to improve your standing – You say you can’t afford to train in a down economy? If you don’t, your high-potential employees may not be around to train when business improves. If people aren’t growing they are stagnating, and high-potential employees will seek more fertile ground to plant their roots. Take a look at your finances. Odds are, with a little creativity, you can find room in your budget for training and development. It doesn’t have to be training in the old costly model – big groups, catered lunches and paid speakers. Get creative. Use your technology. There are a lot of training programs that can be quite effectively delivered through less expensive media, such as webinars and teleseminars.

Your skill will accomplish what the force of many cannot – You can wish and hope and pray, but you cannot keep the down economy away. What you can do, however, is use this time to train and develop your workforce. Empower your employees for the future. Train them. Engage them. You will find yourself ready to leap into the economic upswing with a skilled, performance-driven, customer-focused workforce – trained and ready to take your organization to the forefront of the new economy.

He who climbs a ladder must begin at the first step – If you listen to the economic forecasters, you might wonder if the economy is on it’s way back up, or, if it still has a way to go before it hits bottom. So, what are you going to do? Do you wait to make sure the economy is rebounding, or, do you take a leap of faith and act as if it is? Regardless of whether we are in recovery now, or it is coming soon, every organization will have to reclaim some part of their market that was lost during the downturn. Start now. Be prepared. Look internally to your employees and recommit to them. Those who carried your organization through the downturn are looking for strong leadership to guide them forward and show them how to thrive in the new economy.

Be patient: in time, even an egg will walk – Start now. Identify your high potential performers. Find room in your budget to get them the training and development they need. Show them the future. Engage them. Ask them for their ideas to improve performance. When all around you are still trying to rebound into recovery, your organization will be leaping forward, trained and ready.

Train To Retain

In the current economy, as companies are downsizing to run more and more lean and management becomes more and more stressed, there is a tendency to believe a terrible misconception: you don’t have to worry about your employees because they are afraid of losing their jobs. While this may be true in the very short term, unhappy employees will eventually find a way to greener pastures. The question is: what are you doing now to ensure a vital, productive workforce when the economy rebounds?

In a struggling economy, non-profit-center departments are the first to feel layoffs and hiring freezes. In most organizations, this usually means Human Resources. Those managers who believe they will get top performance from their employees because they are afraid of losing their jobs, are the first to look to Human Resources departments for FTE cuts. And once they have cut the employee base to bare minimum, the next order of business is to curtail all unnecessary expenses – like development training. So now these employees are working longer and doing more, all in a stressful and fearful environment. They are afraid for the future of the jobs they have now, and are not being trained for promotion when things get better. Wouldn’t you start updating your resume?

The winners in this topsy-turvy economy we are now experiencing will be those organizations who recognize that in order to be able to leap forward competitively when the market turns upward, they have to be training and preparing their current employees now. There are cost efficient ways of delivering training, such as webinars and teleseminars, that are just as effective but don’t break the bank. And employees who are being trained and motivated are far more likely to be engaged in their current roles, and committed to a clearly defined career path.

What type of training and development are you doing now to prepare and retain your employees for an improving economy?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

How To Coach Yourself Through Change - Part II - Fortune Cookie Philosophy

Fortune Cookie Philosophy: 5 Steps To A Great New You!

1. We all have extraordinary coded within us, waiting to be released. – Face the change. Life, career, family – what is it? Define the change. How will it affect you? Turn it around. Turn it into a goal! A BIG one!! Break it down, one step at a time. Set a timeline. (If you’re like my partner, create a color-coded process flowchart!) It is all there, inside of you. Waiting to be released. Why are you holding you back?

2. How can you have a beautiful ending without making beautiful mistakes? – When facing change, you have to be brave. If you are only concerned about doing something right, you will never discover the delight that comes from discovering the unknown, or, the pride you can have from ‘capturing a victory from the jaws of defeat’. You are only holding yourself back. Take small risks. Maybe order Strawberry Citrus Basil Tea instead of plain old iced tea. Next, volunteer to take the lead on that important project at work. Stop playing it safe. Change can bring great opportunity, and in the case of that tea, some really yummy discoveries.

3. May you come to the attention of those in authority. – Wise people know that when they are in doubt, the best thing to do is shut up and listen. But really wise people know that when they have a great idea, they need to speak up. At the right time, and to the right people. Don’t fear change by trying to hide. If you have the answer, if you see an improvement, if you have what may be a good idea – share it with someone who has the power to say ‘yes’. This is the perfect companion to #2. When you come to the attention of those in authority, especially when you are bringing something of value to the table, you are being given a wonderful gift – an opportunity to shine.

4. You are far more influential than you think. – One of the most natural human responses to change is to feel like it is only happening to you. It can make you feel isolated and powerless. But you are not powerless, and there is no reason for you to be alone. Create your own support network! Think of all the people you know – people you have worked with, friends, family, neighbors, etc. Social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn make it very easy for you to connect and get the support you need, personally and professionally. Ask for what you need. Someone in your network might know of a great new career opportunity, or they might have a great idea to help you achieve your goals. Use your resources!

5. May you find what you are looking for. – This fortune in only a curse if you focus solely on the goal, and ignore the journey. So while you are on that path of change, working toward your goals, bravely stretching beyond your barriers, make sure to keep yourself centered and open to the joys you encounter along the way. When traveling through change, we achieve growth during the journey. So, pay attention. May you find what you’re looking for!

How To Coach Yourself Through Change - Part I

Several years ago, I was yawning my way through one of the world’s most boring lunch meetings, and decided to amuse myself by opening all of the fortune cookies sitting in the middle of the table. I found myself deeply moved by the messages on those little white slips of paper, and in fact, felt that the universe was communicating directly with me (yes, that meeting was really boring). I tucked three of those profound message slips into my wallet, where they joined 4 or 5 others that had spoken to me over the years. In fact, every time I purchase a new wallet, my fortunes are transferred along with my driver’s license and credit cards.

I bought a new wallet recently, and in the process of emptying the old to fill up the new, I read through these small white slips of paper for the first time in a long while. As I read, I began laughing when I realized that much of what I do as a coach was summed up in one-liners from fortune cookies:

We all have extraordinary coded within us, waiting to be released.

How can you have a beautiful ending without making beautiful mistakes?

You are far more influential than you think.

Anything you do, do it well. The last thing you want is to be sorry for what you didn't do.

Then, I really had a good laugh when I read those three slips of paper from that long ago lunch meeting:

May you live in interesting times.

May you come to the attention of those in authority.

May you find what you are looking for.

Those three profound messages from the universe – my ancient Chinese secrets – are in fact ancient Chinese curses! After I finally stopped laughing, I realized that I still wanted those “cursed” fortunes in my new wallet. I still believed that I was meant to break open that stack of cookies all those years ago, and that their messages were sent especially for me.

We do live in interesting times. There is more change in our world today, every minute of every day, than ever before. All of this change brings one of two things, depending on your point of view – Fear and Opportunity. Each of us has the power within ourselves to decide the path of our response. Will you respond with fear of change? Or, will you embrace it, grow with it, and seize the wonderful new opportunities change brings?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Why Do You Need A Career Coach?

Do you envy people who are truly passionate about their career?

Do you wish you were working in a different role or industry?

Do you want to grow and move up in your career?

So, what can a coach do for you? It’s simple, really. We help you transform your life by helping you solve problems and achieve your goals. The services of Talent Innovations are not one size fits all. Each coaching interaction is customized to achieve the needs and goals of the client. Whatever the level or scope of your career, whether individual or team focused, our career strategies are designed to help you discover you. What are your goals? What do you want to accomplish? When you dream of your best future, what does it look like? We help open the channels to get you there.

Our clients fall into one of two categories: employed or unemployed. Our employed clients come to us for one of two reasons. They manage people and need to develop as a leader. Or, they manage people and need to develop their team. Our customized leadership and team development programs are designed to take you and your employees to a new level performance. We are here to coach and guide you and your team through the process, and help you manage the changes brought by growth.

Our unemployed clients only come to us for one reason. They want a job. But if they only wanted “a job”, they would have one. What drives our clients to us is a desire for the right job, their dream job. Working with our career strategists, you will discover the path that leads to a career of fulfillment. No more endless job interviews for positions that aren’t right for you. You will develop your strengths and talents to overcome any obstacles in your path. We will help you find the right career opportunities and prepare you to be a stand-out candidate. A career coach won’t get you a job. We help you get your dream job.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Embracing Change

I heard from an old friend recently, who let me know that the company her husband works for was closing, and that he would be without a job by October. Her husband, Dan, is 53, and has worked for this company for over 25 years. In fact, he has never done any other type of work in his professional career. They were not worried, however. In fact, my friend told me that Dan was so excited, he could hardly wait for October!

How could this be? I coach people through this process every day, and very rarely hear this reaction. What makes Dan different? Only two things, his attitude and his approach to the situation.

You see, Dan works for a company in the automotive industry. He knew that, eventually, the odds were he would lose his job. He knew he had no control over that decision, and that it had nothing to do with the quality of his work. He could only control how he responded when it did finally happen. So, what did Dan do? He started making a list of all of the things he enjoyed, all of the things he was good at doing, and all of the things that were of interest to him. Dan then researched and found actual job roles in his geographical area that corresponded with his interests list. That potential jobs list now includes everything from an EPA water and soil testing specialist to a hot dog vendor!

When he went to work in his current job more than 25 years ago, it was an easy decision; good company, good pay, good benefits. However, Dan is now able to choose his next career. Where he works, whether for someone else or in his own business, and what he does, it's all up to him. By embracing the changes coming into his life rather than fearing them, Dan has transformed his own reality. He is not being downsized! Rather, he is being given the greatest opportunity of his life. He knows that it is within his power to make his next job his dream job.

Dan is so excited by the prospect of his new career, he wishes it were October already.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Personal Branding - It's Not Just A Resume

If you are currently looking for a new career opportunity, whether you are currently employed or not, odds are you are using the same resume that got you into your current position. Let me guess, it is a well written chronology of all your jobs, with detailed descriptions of what you did in each role. It may even have an updated list of keywords to improve the likelihood of your resume being selected in a database search. But does your resume do the most important thing of all - does it represent your personal brand? Does your resume tell the reader who you are, or only what you've done? Is your resume your only identity resource?

In today's highly competitive job market, it is paramount that you are represented to hiring companies in the best possible way. When a recruiter or hiring manager reviews your resume, they will spend less than one minute scanning for the required education, skills and experience. Assuming you meet the qualifications for the position, you may be one of hundreds of qualified applicants hoping for an interview opportunity. What will set your resume apart from the others? What will motivate the hiring company to interview you? The common factor in both questions is you. Your resume should be more than just a chronological description of your jobs and responsibilities. Your resume should be a written representation of you, and an extension of all other identity resources.

When a hiring company reviews your resume, they should immediately realize two things: one, that you are a qualified candidate for the position, and two, that you are someone they want to know more about. At that point, your resume should also point them to the other identity resource tools you are utilizing to imprint your personal brand, i.e., LinkedIn, Facebook, and professional blogs. The successful job seeker in today's market knows that a well designed resume is but the first step in their campaign to sell their personal brand.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

So, You've Been Downsized. Now what?

It's finally happened to you, the dreaded pink slip. There are many words for downsizing (i.e., restructuring, rightsizing, or de-staffing, to name a few), but the end result remains the same: you are unemployed. No matter the circumstance, it is difficult to cope with the idea that although you did a great job, they simply can't afford to keep you. The emotional process you are dealing with is similar to other types of grieving associated with loss, and may include denial, anger, or sadness. You are, after all, losing something that has been a significant part of your life.

So, what do you do now? You’re overwhelmed, emotionally drained, hurt and confused. But let’s be honest, you can’t control the economy, you cannot predict the future, and you can’t decide who gets laid off. Being proactive is the only decision you can control. Whether you are a new college graduate or have been with the same company for 25 years, the key to dealing with job uncertainty is to gain a sense of power and control over your career path. The old adage “when one door closes, another opens” is true, as long as you have the keys to unlock the doors of opportunity in your path.

Still overwhelmed? Our career transition coaches provide a unique personal learning program designed to provide supportive, targeted assistance for employees at any age or any employment level, who have recently been, or are about to be, affected by organizational and/or job changes. For organizations that have employees who will require outplacement transition services, we offer a comprehensive and cost-effective program of services designed to assist and guide them in their job search.

Today's displaced professional is likely to have a home computer with Internet access. Rather than providing office space and equipment, we focus on providing the displaced worker with what you really need -- one-on-one time with a Career Transition Coach who can help you identify your natural gifts and talents, and apply them to a career focus. We help you identify and overcome the initial emotional responses that naturally occur with significant life changes, and can become barriers that block your innate gifts and talents, and guide you to develop the resources needed to find your next job.

Our Career Transition Services will help displaced employees:

  • Discover your gifts and develop your talents.
  • Discover your passion and your best career path.
  • Provide you with a customized “personal brand” resume.
  • Find the best fit job openings for your talents.
  • Assist in your networking efforts to maximize your candidate potential.
  • Provide you with a personal image consultation to make certain you are presenting a visual image that matches your “personal brand”.
  • Introduce you to recruiters and search firms specializing in your target career focus.
  • Successfully navigate the interview process and prepare you to be a stand-out candidate.
  • Successfully negotiate future salary offers.

Just as athletes with exceptional skill and talent rely on the assistance of a coach to help them perform at peak levels, our career coaches can help you identify and refine your talents. We help you discover what you really want in your work and career, and help you harness your passion into your daily work life. We help you identify the barriers that block your innate gifts and talents, and guide you to develop the resources needed to find your dream job.

Are you ready? We coach you through the process of identifying the actions needed for you to successfully develop and grow in the next stage of your career. We help you discover. We help you define. We help you make it happen.