Who’s missing the mark?


[tweetmeme source=”JanineMoon” only_single=false]Help me understand please!

I read an article in a recent International Business Times, U.S. edition, reporting that 3.2 million jobs are going begging because perfect candidates aren’t available within the 15 million unemployed. And, apparently, they aren’t available internally, either.

[Note: I am generalizing and lumping all employers together…I acknowledge that there are exceptions!]

As the author of a book that places career development responsibility squarely in the employee’s lap (Career Ownership: Creating ‘Job Security’ in Any Economy), I still find it stupefying that employers don’t consider growing that perfect candidate–whether from the inside or outside. American employers as a whole look at investment in their greatest assets as an expense to be trimmed or eliminated.

Organizations think nothing of property, building and equipment improvements to extend the value of those physical assets, yet they find it a waste of dollars to maintain or improve the value of the assets that count most in today’s economy: workers’ brains. And, this says nothing of the value of workers who bring their hearts as well, motivated to go over and above to ensure the success of the business.

How did organizations get to the place where an operating assumption is that assets must be “perfect” in order to be a “fit,” to be of value? Or that maintaining the value of capital assets is a dispensable expense? Yet, these assumptions seem to drive many organizations in today’s economy. It’s the same thinking that organizations use to terminate workers who finish a project and hire different workers for the next–even if training or another learning solution would bridge the gap quite nicely.

Why is it that:

>Employers require experience, yet ignore slope of a learning curve?

>They downsize a workforce to reach quarterly financial goals while shelling out big bucks for outplacement to assuage guilt and appear socially sensitive in “hard times”?

>So many employers consider improving and “re-purposing” human assets to be an unwarranted expense while ignoring the expense associated with turnover, lost productivity, low morale and disappearing customer loyalty?

If a position can go unfilled for months while a search for the perfect candidate occurs, how important can it be to fill it in the first place? Do the accolades managers receive for coming in “under budget” outweigh the costs (much more difficult to track) of filling a position with less-than-perfect? What numbers would organizations discover if they weighed the ROI between bringing an internal candidate up to speed and recruiting for the perfect fit? How is the lost productivity measured and tracked? The lower efficiency and missed opportunities? Customers who go with a more responsive competitor while the search drags on for a qualified candidate?

How about measuring the real costs of doing business?

Organizations purport that they must “make the numbers;” so it is time for organizations to take responsibility for tracking all the numbers—not just the ones that make a quick short-term impact. In any economy, sacrificing smart, solid longer term business practice in the interests of meeting outdated stability measures results in a false sense of security for the bankers and the stockholders, especially when it’s the assets that are sacrificed.

In the May issue of Fast Company, authors Dan Heath and Chip Heath make a compelling case for growing talent internally rather than recruiting from the outside. It’s high time business people review outdated activities that fall under the guise of “sound business practice” and upgrade those principles to align with the needs of the 2010 economy.

Why not weigh in?

What will it take for employers to put workers on the “asset” side of the ledger instead of the “expense” side? How can workers help this happen?

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Intentions, not habits, make parades


[tweetmeme source=”JanineMoon” only_single=false]Spent part of the morning at the Upper Arlington (UA) Fourth of July parade: it’s an annual staple and the biggest non-commercial parade in the U.S. (or at least it used to be) My daughter and I have walked 3 blocks to the parade route every year for 21 years, and sat on the same corner: Northwest Boulevard and Barrington Road.

UA Golden Bear

Some things surrounding this event are so familiar: timbits from Tim Horton’s before we go; chairs on the same street corners, set out at least 2 days before; little American flags distributed by Boy Scouts before the parade; the tattered-looking fife and drummers leading the parade; everyone standing as the American flags pass by; veterans of every war since WWII riding in vehicles driven by younger vets; class reunion groups on flatbed trucks; neighborhood floats; the huge UA “golden bear” pulled and turned by Civic Association members; and bands, bicycles, Shriner’s cars, and an OSU Alumni TBDBITL. Such makes the Fourth a celebration at home. It’s comfortable, easy and–for my family–what makes the day an event. It’s become our habit to attend.

Habits are familiar; are they intentional?

While the Fourth comes around each year, the floats, bands and other entries take a special effort and don’t come around without considerable effort. Someone–likely many–make the decision and special effort each year to be part of the parade. My point is that it’s a conscious decision. The “date” is the familiar, the automatic; the “parade” and the resulting celebration is the intentional.

So much of life and especially work is like that–work weeks come around one day at a time–and we go, habitually and timely but with little or no intention. We put in the time, do what we must and then leave–only to do the same tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be cool if there were more celebration–every day?


To whose drummer do you march?

So which part of your (work) day belongs to the drummer in you? When do you do those things that tap your talents, that make you proud of the work you do? How do you ensure that at least some of every day you intentionally use your talents? That you contribute your best that day because you’re using the strengths you’ve developed and honed? This takes intention.

Or, are you marching to a drummer with a beat you don’t recognize? So you can pay the bills at the expense of your pride, satisfaction and efficacy? This takes habit.

Satisfy both

Contrary to much popular belief, you don’t need to give up one for the other. You can earn a living while doing work you love–that is, work that uses your talents–when you approach it intentionally.

The intentional part takes some work, too. It won’t happen when you wait around for your manager to recognize the great job you’re doing and promote you out of the department. It won’t happen when you wait for someone to give you a career path. It won’t happen by staying low so no one will notice you during times of “expense control.”

It does happen when you stay alert to changes in your organization’s strategies. It happens when you volunteer for projects where you can learn new things. It happens when you approach an experienced colleague who can show you some new ropes. It happens when you try something different with a customer that works better than the old way. It happens when you become responsible for being intentional.

So when will you choose to lead the parade?

Hot air is for balloons


It’s pretty easy to say, “Well, of course, I own my career–no one else does.” But saying it doesn’t make it so. Over the next few weeks, I’ll focus on what it really takes (actions, behaviors, words) to be the owner of your career and, by extension, the keeper of your ‘job security.” You’ll be able to assess your relationship with your career, determining what changes if any you choose to make in order to increase your satisfaction and security.

Let’s start with career itself. A career consists of two things: 1. work that is your contribution to the world and that you take pride in doing well; and 2. a “path” for that work that is flexible, multi-directional and constructed to best reflect your values and talents.

Take note: “job” is not mentioned nor is putting in hours. A career isn’t necessarily linear and it’s not something you fall into because a career today is constructed–intentionally. It’s flexible, including the timing, the business, the work itself.

Now let’s consider ownership. Owners care for their possessions in a more intentional way than renters ever would. When you own your home, you consider “location, location, location” before you buy; you make sure the amenities fit your needs; you allocate maintenance and decorating dollars; and (most often) you work with a professional who can maximize the house you get for your money. You make an investment intending to gain value over the years.

We own homes yet rent careers, moving from job to job and stringing them together to make a lifetime of activity. The location is often whoever is hiring; the maintenance is only when a weakness crops up; and the professional is considered only when all else fails.

Here’s a quick check to see if you really own your career:

    Your work matters to you, and you take pride in it.
    You use your talents and walk your values every day.
    You have a rotating one-year learning plan that you follow.
    You are paying for the learning yourself.
    Your career “path” is sketched out for 3 years, yet flexible if markets or your options change.
    You know the value you provide and you make it known.
    You know–always–the way to increase your value.
    You have a career coach who is a sounding board and supporter.
    You have at least 3 mentors from whom you learn.

If you really want to own your career, then pick one or two of the items above and put them in place. You’ll be able to do that more readily if you work with a coach who can guide you to developing a map that works for you. But the map only works when you do. Taking on the responsibility and being accountable for the follow-through is what really makes you a career owner.

Anything else is just hot air.

Meet Kari. And how she became a Career Owner.


[tweetmeme source=”JanineMoon” only_single=false]Kari’s email began like so many others: she was discouraged and frustrated. She had been “a rising star” for many of her almost 20 years with the organization, but new leaders and a different culture dimmed that image. So what did she want from a coach? Kari wanted to know how to navigate the politics so she could “survive and thrive” in her highly volatile environment. She was looking for the answer to once again be that rising star.

When we met, Kari spit out years of pent-up frustration and confusion about her workplace. This manager liked her, this one didn’t, this VP said her work was excellent, that director thought she wasn’t keeping up. She was interviewing for positions in other areas but was always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

Kari wanted to know what was wrong with her, what it would take to get her back on her game. She was looking for the right answers. I said, “Did you come here to be fixed?” and she said “yes.”

So we started there.

I asked her, “What would it take for you to step into who you are authentically, to use your skills and wisdom to discover you again?” With a few moments of thought, a small smile appeared and Kari said “You mean trust myself?” She got it.

Kari’s belief that there is a “right” answer that would fix her, that would make her “fit” into a changing and challenging work environment is the same thing some of you are thinking I’ll bet. If only you could find the right way, the right program, the right degree, the right mentor, the right answer then work would settle down and you would be OK. You’d be the confident, respected and stress-less person valued by managers and team members alike.

You can spend a lifetime looking for that and have no confidence or respect from your fellow workers, or you can take a look at what you bring, and define the “right” thing based on that. Who you already are, the experiences you already have make up the wisdom you bring to your work–if you listen to yourself, if you trust your own counsel.

With that little smile, Kari began the process of learning to trust herself again. Her weekly practices are helping with that. She is practicing these behaviors:

1. staying present; not spending energy worrying about the past or fretting about the future;

2. trusting her instincts; she pays attention to what her gut tells her;

3. examining beliefs that may hold her back, that may no longer serve her; she intentionally chooses to shift beliefs that don’t support her;

4. paying attention to the supportive feedback she receives and giving it at least as much credence as the negative;

5. stopping the voice inside that comes from the emotional brain, the one that likes comfort and sameness and safety and is mired in fear. Kari stops it with “That’s not true because…” to give the logical brain time to think.

Kari no longer expects external approval to drive her best work because she recognizes that she is responsible for her direction and her ability to be a strong contributor.

How about you? Have you learned to trust yourself?

Getting your Career Sea Legs


Getting your sea legs on any boat entails practice, patience and belief—that you will eventually be able to move with the boat and not get tossed overboard. While ‘sea legs’ refers to being on a moving vessel in the water, it transfers to getting used to any new situation.

(c) 2008 sea legs an boat feet by matty!

Sea legs are not tough to get when you’re riding on a boat down a lazy river that’s being piloted by an experienced captain. Both the river and the expertise of the pilot make the journey a calm one. And this is how careers used to be.

In the relative calm of the 20th’s century’s Industrial economy, when competitors were domestic and business growth was defined by long term goals, career paths were defined by politics, experience level and dues paid. Someone else in the organization—usually a manager in conjunction with the leaders—defined where and when you took another career step: it was a planned, defined journey that was easy to ride.

20th Century Careers

That’s how careers were.

Having a career path and getting continual learning upgrades in today’s world entails riding river rapids, rather than cruising on a river boat. Today’s Service and Information economy has little certainty and even less calm.

21st Century Careers

Businesses competitors criss-cross the globe, and the traditional ways of being competitive no longer work. The only way to win in today’s competitive market is for organizations to get all brains on deck: to have employees constantly focused on innovative ideas that delight customers and keep them coming back. The chaotic environment of constant innovation and change creates whitewater rapids in place of the customary calm sea, and riding rapids requires a whole new skill set and mindset, at least for those workers who want to come through the trip intact.

The skill set and mindset of riding rapids

People who raft rivers seem to be so much more adventurous than many of us: thrill seekers who enjoy testing their strength, endurance, reflex time and ability to think on their feet (so to speak). While rafters may in fact test all of these things, the biggest difference is that they welcome the responsibility of taking an active part in the journey. They learn and take the right equipment, skills and mindset. With these things, folks who ride rapids get their sea legs through practice and experience and the wisdom of a great guide.

They are along for much more than the ride. They are along to learn, to participate and to actively take part in the adventure: to get their sea legs and be on the team that guides the raft to its successful end. Dead weight has no place in a whitewater raft, and the same is true for today’s organizations.

The skill set and mindset of whitewater careers

Career success in today’s organizations requires the same things: learning, active partnering in the mission and direction, teamwork, and a mindset that is open to possibilities v. set on a single path.
When your path is the whitewater route, then you must have the knowledge, skills, and mindset to navigate it successfully. Without these, your career route will be disappointing, scary and wet!

1. Learning is the basis of today’s career skills. You must know yourself and your organization inside out: your missions, your strengths and your needs. You must learn how to respond to unexpected turns, to dance as the music changes, and to develop resilience to the stress of the uncertain. You must learn to look several steps ahead and to define possibilities and workable responses to them. What you don’t use today is useful for another time.

2. Active partnering makes you an indispensable member of the team and shows your commitment to the work of the organization, its customers and your team members. Razor-thin margins require that all investments get maximum return, and workers are a business investment. If you’re not partnering, you’re riding on the work of someone else’s paddle, and you’ll soon be dumped from the raft. Active partnering takes initiative, energy, commitment to the cause and skill at strengthening relationships…the currency of today’s economy.

3. Teamwork requires competency in function and content as well as for inspiring and challenging others. Some days you may be a strong paddler but on others you may need to take over as guide…your communication and process skills must be sharpened and ready to do both as the river shifts.

4. A mindset open to possibilities requires you to recognize that the control you have is only as strong as the opportunities you’re open to meet. Business reality requires that your work views are more kaleidoscopic than picture window. Staying stuck in how things have been or what’s in your job description makes you deadwood, unable to shift or solve or allow for any of the challenges and changes that stir-up chaos in today’s workplaces. An open mindset ensures that you can respond to crags, river turns and unexpected boulders and not just the gentle sway of a lazy river.

Getting your career sea legs is a challenge that you may or may not be ready for, but today’s organizations won’t see your value without them. They don’t have the time or resources to pull you out of the river. They have commitments to those workers who are willing to take responsibility for paddling their own canoes and not being a risk to other travelers.

So, how are your career sea legs?

Labor Day Musings


A macro concept that underpins a lot of my thinking is “work,” most specifically how our definitions of work are drastically changed, yet apparently unrecognized by both the work ‘giver’ and the ‘doer.’

job boxes

job boxes

Employers (the ‘giver’) continue to look at work as segmented pieces or ‘job boxes’ that can be put together into an integrated whole by someone looking down from on high. While organizations continue to define “jobs,” what they really need is flexible project workers who use their brains to readily move from one work area to another.

Employees (the ‘doer’) continue to look at work as jobs defined by a description with a defined beginning and end. While workers continue to say, “It’s not my job,” what they really need is work that they recognize as a contribution and that engages their mind and spirit.

If you’ve read my blog at all, you know that I see the employer-employee relationship as–at the very least, dysfunctional, and maybe–at the most–irreparably broken. It is, in many (maybe most) organizations, a lose-lose relationship.

Employers continue to consider employees as commodities, and employees continue to see employers as economic lifelines. Employers see employees as interchangeable and as expenses… a ludicrous view in an economy driven by knowledge and service. Employees continue to see employers as their lifeline with only high-risk options for economic security. There is no joy, enjoyment or even much satisfaction in most work and workplaces.

intrinsic value

intrinsic value

What’s ignored by both parties is work’s intrinsic value: the value that drives the engagement and contribution of the worker. Without this, the enterprise “success” suffers–however that success is defined.

In the agrarian economy, work’s intrinsic value is continuity and contribution to the earth: tending to the growing cycles that foster abundance and replenish life stores.

In the trade / craft economy, work’s intrinsic value is using one’s talents and skill, contributing to the bigger needs of the community.

In the industrial economy, work’s intrinsic value is contributing the “piece” that makes the “whole,” and knowing the end result is better for the contribution. [Really? What happens when you can’t see your contribution because the “whole” changes so often?]

contributions

contributions

In the knowledge/service economy, work’s intrinsic value is knowing that one’s contribution makes a difference…through a creative approach, a new product that better cements customer loyalty, or a superior level of service that outshines the competition. In today’s organizations, there’s lots of talk about these things but the approvals and the second guessing and the need for control and the short-term focus on the next quarter’s financials prevent most workers from having any sense of their work’s value.

In today’s world of global competition and global economics, this lack of contribution is destroying the only assets that can compete in these arenas. As Earl Pitts used to say, “Wake up, America!”

Here’s my question for you: what does it take to move Givers and Doers toward a truly realistic expression of “work” in the 21st century? To let up on the antiquated management and control practices that may have worked in the assembly line environment but that truly smother and destroy workers today? To give up on the antiquated because-we’ve-always-done-it-this-way and it’s-our-policy-service mentality that reduces productivity to ruinous levels?

How will you make a difference?

How will you make a difference?

And here’s a personal question for you: What will you do, when you return to work after this holiday, to show the intrinsic value in your work contributions? Just one thing? How will you make a difference?

So how about adding to these Labor Day musings? What will it take to redefine “work” so it works for both employers and employees? Please leave a comment to further this conversation, and maybe by Labor Day 2010, we’ll see a shift that re-energizes “Labor Day!”