Knowing we could be eliminated from the running for a job we want, should we answer interview questions that are irrelevant or even illegal? Continue reading
Hank Fieger, President, HFA, Barcelona Spain
Hank Fieger, President of international management consulting, training and coaching firm, HFA, based in Barcelona, Spain, has worked with many Fortune 100 companies in over 20 countries. His expertise is in Behavioral Executive Coaching, Team Building, Executive Presentation Skills and Leadership Communication Skills. Using a model of open and honest communication, Hank combines his knowledge of business and psychology to help others embody “people management” skills in leadership roles. Hank’s first book, “Behavior Change…A View From The Inside Out”, a handbook on the art of change, is available on Amazon.
Q&A (unedited) On Leadership
If you had to name three characteristics of great leaders what would they be?
They have a clear vision for what’s possible.
They have the ability to communicate that vision to the hearts and minds of their followers.
They are in tune with what people are wanting.
As organizations get larger there’s often a tendency toward dampening inspiration. How do you encourage creative thinking within your or your clients’ organizations?
I encourage creative thinking by reconnecting people to their core values? By understanding what is most important to them, they begin to see what’s possible.
In order of importance or weight, what do you feel is most important: mission, vision or core values?
I think core values are most important, followed by a vision. The mission is the working statement that captures the values and the vision.
How do leaders ensure their organizations activities are aligned with their own core values?
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
What is corporate culture and how is it crafted?
Corporate culture is the unspoken, and sometimes spoken rules about how things are done here. It’s crafted usually from the key individuals at the top of the corporation.
What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?
I think that every true leader has a bit of a revolutionary in them. Most people resist change, and yet what leaders need to do is to help people and organizations to change and adapt to what is needed in order to be sustainable.
What is one mistake you see leaders making more frequently than others? In your opinion, is it different for women leaders?
The one mistake I see is that leaders sometimes make decisions that they think will keep them in the role and keep them having power. I think that women leaders also fall into this trap and sometimes to prove themselves in a “man’s game,” they may even try harder. They also revert back to managing the transactional day to day business, rather than staying focused on the big picture.
What advice would you give someone going into leadership position for the first time?
Is your advice different if that person is a woman?
Be true to yourself and to your values. It’s a privilege to be in a leadership role, so go for it. My advice for a woman is no different. Don’t give your true power away in the attempt to be more like a man, or to succeed in what you may believe to be a man’s world.
What is one behavior or trait that you have seen derail more leaders’ careers?
To sell out to what they believe people want from them, rather than being true to what is really needed.
Yesterday, I was in a store on Columbus Avenue here in New York City, and saw a daytime caregiver shopping for herself and leaving the children she was watching to fend for themselves in a stroller on the other side of the room. One of the children was irritable and crying. I see this all the time. Child- and elder-care givers, dog walkers, housekeepers, teachers, messengers, overnight delivery and UPS truck drivers, construction workers, nearly everyone is on the phone. Whether they are driving, walking or supposed to be engaged in a paid professional pursuit, they are on the phone. Calling, texting, gaming, listening to music, we are hardly ever doing what we are paid to do or even primarily engaged in doing anymore.
A friend of mine who is a self-proclaimed tech ignoramous has a phone, a blackberry, an iPad, a Kindle and a desktop computer. She can barely find the on button for most of these gadgets and is usually on all of them, or at least two of them, at a time. During most phone calls with her, our conversations are punctuated with expletives having nothing to do with our discussion. She isn’t really listening and her responses are fragmented and half-hearted. Until I pointed it out, I don’t think she was aware of what she was doing. She doesn’t call me anymore.
Had the Baby Boomers’s attention been so divided during the late 1960’s and 70’s, what might have happened? Would we have even noticed that Cambodia had been invaded? Would we have noticed that the campus at Boston University, where I was a student during the Viet Nam War, had been occupied by the National Guard tactical police? Granted, friends of mine and I were somewhat preoccupied with what we would wear to the next demonstration, but we knew there was a War on that we didn’t approve of and we were all at least headed in the same philosophical, if not political, direction.
When the Chicago Seven took over the 1968 Democratic National Convention, would the crowd have been behind the protest or would they have been too busy tweeting pictures of each other to their friends? When I was in my early twenties, our focus was focus. We were aspiring transidental meditators following John and Yoko and trying (admittedly, with the help of hallucinogens) to “Be Here Now” with Baba Ram Das.
When I traveled to Europe as a teenager, my parents wired me messages and money and I’d stand in endless lines of other U.S.A. teenagers and trekkers to pick them up at American Express offices all over The Continent. I met some of the most interesting people in those lines, sitting in railway stations, at sidewalk cafes, in museums and just walking around. I experienced the cities I was in and became a citizen of the world. Those, and other experiential wonderments, permanently expanded my consciousness. I was in Italy when the first US astronauts landed on the moon. The Americans at the sidewalk cafe where the landing was broadcast by satellite were proudly huddled together cheering and feeling the palpable patriotism of that moment in history. What I might be doing today in that situation is texting someone at home and missing the whole darn thing.
The question is: Can you really get behind anything when your attention is so fractured?
My career is marked by many forays into the tech frontier. I know the value of marketing communications and have a keen understanding of multiple touch points. What I see in the market place is a machine gun approach to pulling purchasing power with very little real respect for the medium. Overhearing a conversation on the street one day, a young male (ultra coveted marketing target) was on his new cell phone pleading with the service provider to remove him from the mailing list associated with his phone contract. Since his service had been turned on, he said, he’d received hundreds of texts about products in which he had little or no interest. He was approaching total overload and implored them to either quit bombarding him or to cancel his contract.
Abuse of the privilege of having your target market at your fingertips has spawned a particularly obnoxious trend toward consumer harrassment. Typified by marketers who are late to the party, there is faint or little appreciation of the art of communication in the digital market place. This oversight is rampant and, in my humble opinion, a function of marketers being pathetically behind the curve and constantly playing catch up with their target audiences. Let’s face it, no busy mother – if and when she has a spare moment – is going to the Campbells Soup Facebook page! No two-income family trying to hold on to their house is spending down time tweeting Toyota Stories. Ironically, in marketing parlance, this and other futile attempts to seamlessly incorporate into the consumer’s “mind-share” is neatly labeled as “experiential marketing”. Who are they kidding?
I predicted to a colleague of mine that when the online environment became inundated with marketing messages, the mob would migrate elsewhere. And so, like clockwork, as advertisers took over the Internet, the market moved to the next medium, cellular. No one I know under 30 emails anymore. Email just takes too long. Whats more, when the advertiser got hold of it, people began to ignore the messages. We’ve far exceeded the hassle factor of chain letters and daily jokes. Spam folders jammed, most email recipients stopped reading what they received, even from people they know. Most emails are replete with legal disclaimers and are, what we used to refer to as, bandwidth hogs. Text is the medium of choice. I heard the perfect line in a movie the other day. This Mellennial quipped as she answered her cell phone, “If you’re calling, you must be old otherwise, you’d be texting.” As consumers, we hardly know where to look or what to do. If you, like my friend up above who is clumsily managing messages in three media at a time, and are working hard to stay connected to everyone everywhere all the time, are you paying attention to any one of them?
And what is UP with how important every single message is? Is there really an A.D.D. epidemic or are we just distracted by our toys? My favorite visual is of a frozen individual in the middle of the sidewalk staring into his or her palm. My greatest fear is that any one of these folks is going to cross a busy intersection without noticing the car obliviously speeding around the corner. What the heck is the urgency of grunting 40 characters or fewer back and forth t0 anyone in the middle of lunch with a good friend? Why are we walking together if we are each on the phone with other people? Why travel across town to hook up when we are preoccupied with someone somewhere else? Why show up for a protest if you’re busy ordering your new pair of Fry Boots and can’t even hold a sign?
This interview with Paul Maritz, , president and C.E.O. of the software firm VMware, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant. Reprinted from the New York Times, October 2, 2010
Does Your Team Have the Four Essential Types?
By ADAM BRYANT
Q. What are some important leadership lessons for you?
A. I’ve learned that when you go from being an individual contributor to being a leader of a small group of 5 to 10 people, to leading 100 people, to leading 1,000 people, to leading 10,000 people, the nature of your job changes at each of those points.
Q. Talk more about that.
A. As you manage bigger groups of people, you cannot be as closely connected to specific underlying issues and challenges. Your contribution has to become more of making sure that you’re getting the best out of others, that others are really thinking the issues through, and that you’re creating the broad framework in which they can get their jobs done and be as productive and focused as they can be. What makes it a challenge is that every time you cross one of those boundaries, you become less of a specialist, less knowledgeable about specific issues.
You have to realize that your contribution becomes more symbolic, in the sense that you’re trying to set a general direction. People want to see you as representing the general mission, not just yourself.
And, as the groups get bigger, the period over which you measure your own performance gets longer, and the way you get your feedback changes. The bigger the group, the easier it is to spend days wondering whether you had any impact at all. You really have to take a longer-term view. So you’re going to have to discipline yourself and take a step back to ask yourself the question, “Are we moving in the right fundamental direction?” And, if so, take satisfaction from that.
Almost at any level, the really successful people in organizations are the ones who try to structure their lives to learn and get feedback and be self-aware. That’s not necessarily a natural thing to do, so you have to be very mindful of it.
Q. So how did you learn this?
A. I started at Microsoft in the mid-1980s. In 1986, I was managing a group of 13 people. When I left, it was close to 10,000 people. It was not an environment where we got a lot of management coaching. It was one where you just had to learn as you went along. Inevitably, we made mistakes, but fortunately we had such a wind behind us that we had the luxury of being able to make those mistakes and learn from them.
Q. What are some other leadership lessons?
A. One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that there is no such thing as a perfect leader. If you look at successful groups, inevitably there’s an amalgam of personalities that really enable the group to function at a high level.
Q. And what are they?
A. At the risk of oversimplifying, I think that in any great leadership team, you find at least four personalities, and you never find all four of those personalities in a single person.
You need to have somebody who is a strategist or visionary, who sets the goals for where the organization needs to go.
You need to have somebody who is the classic manager — somebody who takes care of the organization, in terms of making sure that everybody knows what they need to do and making sure that tasks are broken up into manageable actions and how they’re going to be measured.
You need a champion for the customer, because you are trying to translate your product into something that customers are going to pay for. So it’s important to have somebody who empathizes and understands how customers will see it. I’ve seen many endeavors fail because people weren’t able to connect the strategy to the way the customers would see the issue.
Then, lastly, you need the enforcer. You need somebody who says: “We’ve stared at this issue long enough. We’re not going to stare at it anymore. We’re going to do something about it. We’re going to make a decision. We’re going to deal with whatever conflict we have.”
You very rarely find more than two of those personalities in one person. I’ve never seen it. And really great teams are where you have a group of people who provide those functions and who respect each other and, equally importantly, both know who they are and who they are not. Often, I’ve seen people get into trouble when they think they’re the strategist and they’re not, or they think they’re the decision maker and they’re not.
You need a degree of humility and self-awareness. Really great teams have team members who know who they are and who they’re not, and they know when to get out of the way and let the other team members make their contribution.
Q. And which of those personalities describes you?
A. I’m very much aware of who I am not, as much as who I am. At least I try to be. I’m not the enforcer. I’m not the champion of the customer. Those two things don’t come naturally to me, so I need to make sure that I have partners who can supply that.
Q. What about leadership lessons from earlier in your life?
A. I grew up on a ranch in Central Africa, where, out of necessity, I spent a lot of time on my own. And then I went to a British-style boarding school. That gave me a certain self-reliance and thick outer skin. I also gained a certain ambition in life because I was very aware, growing up, of being on the periphery of the civilized, technical world. Everything that was new in technology was exciting, and happening in very distant places from me. So I had to drive myself to get to the center of that.
My self-reliance is something I have had to learn to deal with, because it’s my nature to be an introvert. And being a leader, you can’t just be an introvert. People want to know that they can emotionally connect with you — that you’re, in some deep way, going on a journey with them and that you recognize them. And that requires you to open up to people and reach out to them and connect with them. Left to myself, I will retreat into my office, so I have to be aware of that.
Q. What about different styles of leadership you’ve seen through the years. How did those influence you?
A. It’s very hard to talk about these things without becoming trite or corny, but the best leaders are those who get the best out of other people.
I’ve learned that you only really get the best out of other people when you do things in a positive way. There are negative styles of leadership, where you do things by critiquing and criticizing and terrifying other people. But in the final analysis, it doesn’t get the best out of people and it doesn’t breed loyalty. Because no matter how much we think we’ve got things figured out, we haven’t got things figured out. Inevitably, we’re going to go down blind alleys. We’re going to run into problems. We’re going to make mistakes. And when that happens, you have to ask people to help you and to overlook the fact that you’ve messed something up.
Great leaders, in my view, are those who have built up that reservoir of loyalty, so that when the time comes to say to folks, “We have to change direction,” people are willing to make an extraordinary effort. If you’re the kind of leader who cuts people down and humiliates them, you leave scars on people that can eventually come back to haunt you.
Q. How do you hire?
A. I think that in almost any position, you want to have the following attributes: First of all, you want to make sure that people have the necessary intellectual skills to do the job. Second, you want to see if people have a track record of actually getting stuff done. Then, third, you want to look for people who are thoughtful, and that ties into learning and being self-aware.
Often, when I’m interviewing people, one of the most interesting parts for me is when I’ll just pick anything that they’ve done in the past and I’ll say: “Thinking about it now, what would you have done differently? What did you learn from that?”
You learn a lot from people’s answers to that. If they blame everything that happened during that period on somebody else, that tells you that the person is probably not thoughtful or self-aware.
If they can talk in length about what was really going on, why they made the decisions they did and how they would perhaps make the decision differently now, that tells you that this person thinks deeply and is honest enough to really be objective, or as objective as they can be about themselves.
In the New York Times, July 18 article about George Steinbrenner, the writer posits that leadership is something of a combination of patience and persuasion, not intimidation. “Soft skills”, as they are called, are not natural to most people. Brashness, entitlement and ego, the article goes on to say, are essential components for any competent leader. Limits on the over-the-top boss syndrome don’t preclude the need people have to be told what to do. Right or not, not hesitating even a little has been the predominant posture in most companies where I’ve worked.
The Society for Personality and Social Psychology findings are that “participants choosing a leader gravitated toward those who made quick decisions in moral dilemmas.” The Study states that leaders who come from their gut to make tough decisions are thought of as “more morally assured”.
I remember during my television production career sitting in a meeting of minimum 10 people where creative work and decisions about how to execute that work were discussed. In most of those client meetings, the “big guy” would nod his head and the underlings would mimic his decision. Yet, when Procter & Gamble would come in for a creative briefing or production meeting, the leader would always ask the least senior person in the room what he or she thought first, then ask that person to justify his/her decision. Those comments were then either agreed to or refuted by the boss. No one could “go along to get along”. Opinions were fostered and guided not commanded and future thinkers were created. Up-and-comers were not merely imitating, or worse yet, surviving the ordeal.
The Bully As Boss is so last year. Public displays of anger as a way to motivate and inspire people is a thing of the past. When Mr. Steinbrenner was at his most intimidating, the team suffered the most. I worked for a guy who loved to fight. It was his way of challenging people – or so he thought – to be their best. It gave him a reason to enjoy his working life more by putting a little spice into his relationships with colleagues and employees. My personal style is different and I had a hard time with it. Eventually it led to my leaving the company altogether. I noticed, in fact, that most of the people who left felt bullied and unappreciated. So it seems, this boss’s methodology backfired much like Steinbrenner’s.
Humility seems to run counter to leadership in the minds of most people when asked the question in a survey setting. Yet, in practice, the concept of humility is growing in popularity. In a Season 3 episode of Mad Men, Roger Sterling tells Don Draper that he doesn’t have a successful relationship because he doesn’t value them. Don seems to be a sociopath anyway, but the point is taken. Don is, as Writer / Director, Matthew Weiner, describes, a totally displaced person. Someone who is too busy surviving his own life to truly care about anyone else. All of us have known people who bounce when times are tough, and Don Draper’s gift is that he bounces better than anyone. He’s not a stranger to me at all. I’ve known more men and women like him in business than humanitarians, that’s for sure. When the end of the episode came, I couldn’t help wondering if all leaders in all industries, not just advertising, have ice water running through their veins. Is there room in the business world for real caring and generosity, much less for actual humility?
The times they are definitely a-changin’. Along with anti- harassment and the 90th Anniversary Women’s Suffrage, are the popularity of the soft skills previously attributed to only women. Next time you’re at Barnes & Noble or cruising through Amazon, pick up a copy of Tom Peter’s book, The Little Big Things, and you’ll see from the intro throughout words like “thank you, apology, appreciation and listen”. These, he says, are skills to master as much as any taught a Stanford MBA. Corny? Well, not if you figure all the big sellers in the business book section are touting integrity, commitment and accountability.
I’m posting this article from Moneywatch.com hoping it will inspire someone to stand up for herself even during the dark times. EMP
HOW TO GET A RAISE IN A RECESSION
In a recent episode of Mad Men, junior copywriter Peggy Olson confronts what may be a familiarly frustrating situation-trying to get a raise when times are tough. She points out that she’s underpaid compared with her male peers and argues that she needs more money because she’s just moved into the city, but to no avail. “It’s not going to happen,” her boss says coldly, noting he’s fighting for paper clips from the agency’s penny-pinching new bosses. Peggy leaves the office dejected.
In times like these, raises are tough to come by. But there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of leaving your boss’s office happier than Peggy did. While base salary increases at U.S. companies were at their lowest levels in more than 30 years in 2009, variable pay — bonuses, profit sharing, and other kinds of nonrecurring compensation — is currently at an all-time high at about 12 percent of payroll as managers do what they can to reward their top people or risk losing them. Here’s how to make your strongest possible case for a bigger paycheck.
Do Your Research
Even if you believe your work ethic and results are the stuff of office legend, you’ll have to remind your boss of everything you’ve accomplished over the previous year. Pull together a presentation or portfolio that showcases the quantifiable results of your work. Remember: Management cares about results — either how much money you saved or made the company — not things like how many hours you spent on a project, says Ford R. Myers, president of Career Potential in Haverford, Pa., and author of Get the Job You Want Even When No One’s Hiring. Keep track of every instance where you’ve contributed to the company’s bottom line. “Let’s say you were in charge of the company’s sales conference in Las Vegas,” says Myers. “Did you negotiate better rates on the hotel and airfare? Or perhaps you got a better contract on services or supplies the company uses.”
Arm yourself with current market data on the salary range for your position at comparably sized companies in your industry. Sites like Payscale.com, Salary.com, and Glassdoor.com are good places to start; for further advice on how to benchmark your salary, see this MoneyWatch story. Your goal is to get to the top of your position’s salary range, or get a promotion, says Ramit Sethi, author of the book and blog I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
When Tamara, 28, an accounts manager at a marketing firm who requested her last name not be used, asked for a raise in May, she brought a list of all the additional responsibilities she had taken on during the year and the new clients she had brought to the firm. She had accepted about $5,000 less than she wanted when she was hired in April, and at her six-month review, was told the firm didn’t have the budget to give her a raise. But when her annual review rolled around, she managed to get the raise, taking her up to the salary she had wanted. “I think I impressed them by talking about what I had accomplished, and they were afraid if they didn’t give me what I wanted this time, I would start looking elsewhere,” Tamara says.
Get the Skinny on Your Company
Your boss may say the company can’t afford to give raises right now, but don’t take his word for it. Check out the financial health of your firm before asking, and gently incorporate that information into the reasons why you should get a raise. For example: “I understand the company’s need to be prudent with expenditures, but we had excellent first and second quarter sales.”
Of course, since you’re probably spending 50 hours a week in the office, you have a fairly good idea how business is. But a few resources can help you compile the numbers. For public companies, look at the most recent financial reports, especially profit margins, income statements, and cash flow, since these are good indicators of a company’s health, says Pete Bible, a CPA and head of the public companies group at Amper, Politziner & Mattia. Analysts also publish their views of public companies and those with public debt are reviewed and rated by Moody’s. For privately held companies, consult the Web sites of Hoover’s or its parent company, Dun & Bradstreet. Keep in mind, though, that much of the information there is likely to be self-reported, and so it may paint a rosier picture than reality, says Seth Ellis, CEO of RWE Private Wealth in Orlando, Fla.
Apart from these sources, you also probably have access to a lot more financial information than you realize, Ellis says, depending on your position in the company. Senior managers see profitability reports, sales reps get quarterly sales reports, manufacturing staff deal with costs and expenses, and purchasing staff have information on how much inventory the company is buying and how much is being sold. You can also sift through trade publications for information on how your company’s industry is faring overall.
Tell Your Boss What She Wants to Hear
Demanding a raise at a time when your boss could probably find 10 unemployed MBAs willing to do your job isn’t a particularly smart way to negotiate, says Jeanette Nyden, a business attorney in Seattle and author of Negotiation Rules! A Practical Approach to Big Deal Negotiations. Instead, approach her with a softer line that acknowledges whatever economic pressure the company might be under and that emphasizes you’re a team player. So you might say something like: “In light of the fact that I’m taking on new responsibilities for the company, I would like you to consider raising my compensation,” rather than “If I have to do two jobs, I expect to get paid for it.”
And while it might seem like you don’t have much negotiating power without another job offer in hand, you probably have more leverage than you think, says Carol Frohlinger, principal at consulting firm Negotiating Women. If you’ve picked up the work of colleagues who have been laid off, that makes you more valuable to the company. And if there’s a hiring freeze in place, so much the better — managers who are unable to replace departing employees will want you to stay, and more specifically, to stay in their department.
Managers also tend to look at the big picture when deciding whether it’s worth it to go to bat for someone asking for a raise. Todd M. Schoenberger, managing director of investment management firm LandColt Trading in San Antonio, Texas, said he looks not only to how much employees earn for a firm, but how much they cost the firm and what their upside is. Do they spend a lot on corporate trips? Are they a nuisance in the office? And can they accept new responsibilities if they get a bump in pay? “[This last question] is the most critical because employees have to sell themselves if they want more money, and the best way to do that is to ask — almost beg — for new roles and responsibilities,” says Schoenberger. “Simply asking for more money because you want more money isn’t going to cut it.”
Kristi Casey Sanders, co-owner and editorial director of Atlanta Metropolitan Publishing in Atlanta, Ga., echoes Schoenberger’s comments. “As a senior manager, I need people who bring solutions, not create problems,” she says, adding that the employees she’s going to work to keep are those who show initiative. “If they don’t have all the information they need, they figure it out. If they have some spare time, they pitch in and help someone else.”
Think About the Bigger Picture and Negotiate for the Long Term
It may be that even a mountain of evidence showing you deserve a raise won’t get you one, because it’s simply impossible this year. But that’s not your cue to give up. Instead, ask if the company would be willing to consider compensating you in other ways such as paying for added training, giving you more vacation, or allowing you to work more flexible hours.
Penelope Truck, founder of the blog Brazen Careerist, which provides career advice to young professionals, says that the meager raises people might be able to get nowadays probably aren’t worth as much as good opportunities to learn new skills. “Ask to get into a mentoring program, for special training, to be part of a special project you normally wouldn’t be involved with — all these will enhance your skill set and make you eligible for a change in the type of job you do, which would be worth more in the long run,” she says. “Most people don’t increase their worth in the company without changing their job and getting a promotion.”
And don’t give up on trying to get that raise. Get your boss to agree to revisit the issue of your compensation in six months, and set a date for the follow-up meeting. Agree on some specific goals you will achieve in that period, such as a certain percentage increase in sales, or number of projects that will be completed. Then, reiterate everything discussed in a formal email sent to your manager, so that both of your expectations are clear: he wants certain targets met; you want a raise in six months. Keep track of what you’re accomplishing in that period, and email your boss (and copy whomever else is responsible for compensation decisions) monthly updates on the status of your work. “It will show that you are willing to stick with the company and continue to work hard, even through bad times,” says Jonathan Alpert, a psychotherapist and career counselor in Manhattan. “And that will give your manager confidence in you.”
I always introduce the young women I mentor as “brilliant and talented”. And they are. The point isn’t whether you are those things or not, it’s what you do with them. I have a smart friend in the psychology profession. She has a lot of initials after her name proving she’s been thorough in her training and qualified, not just because she says so, but because she has the sheepskins to prove it. Yet, she often disqualifies herself from the modern world of computing and business matters by saying, “I’m so bad at that stuff.” She thinks that excuses her – and while she practices her profession with a waiting room full of clients, I guess it’s okay. But if things change and the world has less need for what she does and more for those business-side skills. Then what? Can any of us afford to be just talented anymore?
In the “old days” I worked in advertising…big international agencies with big international clients. Yet, it was acceptable, in fact, even desirable, for each of us to do our job and no one else’s. Creative people created. Account managers managed. Clients manufactured and served customers. We all lived happily ever after.
Then, the paradigm shifted. We all had to learn desktop computing, then mobile computing, now cloud computing. God help the laggards.
Now, the way I see it, we can’t get by with just skills let alone just talent. We have to have skill sets. We can’t just do a job, stay for 30 years and get a pension when we retire. Most people consider 5 years a long time in a single position. In fact, if you’re not tracking an upward trajectory through job changes every few years, people wonder what the matter with you is…
Back then, when I was in television production, I went to a set or on location all the time with film crews comprised of “departments” of specifically skilled workers handling one job on the set and one job only. (you see the credits at the end of movies the way film crews function on a commercial production set) As an “agency producer” I was taught early that part of my job included knowing how to do everybody else’s job just in case “they got hit by a bus”. I was expected to pick up the art director’s or the writer’s function, and any other job that might be suddenly vacated, and just do it. That’s been my orientation ever since and probably what fed my entrepreneurial nature until I finally had my own business years later.
When my brilliant and talented mentor of many years ago rose head and shoulders above the “men’s club” mentality she faced on a daily basis at work, it wasn’t just because she was a great art director. It was because she could hold her own in a conference room of clients and agency directors commanding their complete respect and attention. She worked with her teams, yet she also firmly led them. She worked as hard or harder than anyone reporting to her. She was fearless and cared little about whether she was liked by everyone. She knew her own mind and broadcast her standards for all who came in contact with her. She was strict with those who reported to her yet they all felt supported and even championed. I know I did.
All in, the requirements for success haven’t changed much. The winning DNA: lead with integrity, consistency and reliability. Be accessible but not a push over. Stand behind your people but don’t coddle them. Make your standards clear to all and defend their right to uphold them.
Be ever curious and teachable. And for certain, especially during times like these, when talent is NOT enough, be willing to go outside your professional comfort zone.