Stuff We're Reading
  • Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All
    Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck--Why Some Thrive Despite Them All
    by Jim Collins, Morten T. Hansen
  • Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
    Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
    by Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Language of Trust: Selling Ideas in a World of Skeptics
    The Language of Trust: Selling Ideas in a World of Skeptics
    by Michael Maslansky, Scott West, Gary DeMoss, David Saylor
  • The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
    The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
    by Gretchen Rubin

The Power of Self-Assessment in Career Transition: If Ever There Was A Time, It's Now

Go ahead; ask your career coach why it is a critical time to commit to formal self-assessment.

After all, you can quickly point out that you are reluctant to take the time because you need to get your resume done; because you know who you are, know how to communicate who you are and know how to link who you are with your next job… you know, because you expect your next job to be like your last job and the one before that! In short, you know where you fit in the world of work with which you are familiar. 

Aye…there’s the answer embedded within your own words.  This is NOT the world of work with which you are familiar.  This time, it’s different!

In this new and unusual world of work, you will be required to look at different ways to work beyond traditional jobs which last less than 4 years on average in the U.S..  This newly-developed shorter tenure is reason enough to take a serious time-out and look inward as you plan for a more disruptive future.

Stop and ask yourself: Is it time to learn to work as a free agent, as a temp, or independently in some other capacity?  Should you buy an established business or a franchise?  How about heading out as an entrepreneur or a ‘solopreneur?’  Do you desire to change the direction of your career?  Are you being forced into a change of direction because the job you once held no longer exists or because – simply stated – it is time to move on and reach for, a new challenge?

Which new or different direction should you choose?  Which direction suits your strengths and minimizes your weaknesses?  Which direction is aligned with your values and your interests? 

Think about this.  If you were running a business, you would take the time needed to make certain that you were prepared to set yourself on the best course for success.  

News Flash! You are running a business. Your career is your business.

Self-assessments, coupled with expert interpretation of results, ensure that you look at yourself in an unbiased, outcome-based way; a way that will help you to make good and prudent business decisions in alignment with what the job market demands.

Consider the valuable insights you can gain from an array of assessment instruments such as these:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Beyond helping you to understand how to develop and maintain relationships in the workplace based on communication preferences, the MBTI provides information that helps you to understand the relationship between personality and careers.  Numerous books share the successful career paths selected by others based on their MBTI type.

Holland Self-Directed Search 

The Holland Self-Directed Search assessment identifies the activities that offer you the most personal satisfaction.  This helps you to identify jobs and career paths that can bring you joy in your work.

Strong Interest Inventory

This assessment compares your results with people like you who have already found interesting and satisfying new careers. 


SkillScan provides a fast, interactive and intuitive-based process for identifying skills that are transferable between industries and positions.  It integrates results with interests, values and personality inventories in order to provide a holistic picture of your career patterns.

Career Design Guide 

This assessment expands your horizons about work and life options thus improving your ability to make good career decisions.

Work/Values Inventory 

Defining work values by the qualities that you seek in your career, this assessment helps align your values with work.


Personal Branding and Social Media


Many people think that personal branding is just for so-called celebrities or stars – or even for those that have too high an opinion of themselves! Yet, each and every one of us has a “brand” and is a “brand.”

Personal branding, by definition, is the process by which we market or position ourselves to others. From the corporate brand to the product brand and down to the personal brand, branding is a critical component to a customer’s purchase decisions.

That customer may be someone looking to buy a new car, or, in the case of an organization, the Recruitment Manager, HR Director, or Recruitment Agency tasked to find a suitable person to fill a role.

Outplacement ServicesYou only need to ask someone’s colleagues to get a sense of their brand - how the person is perceived in the work-place (e.g. hard working, intelligent, a gossip, lazy, etc.). These “attributes” will then reflect that person’s “brand.” Fundamentally, your brand needs to reflect your credibility, your value proposition and what differentiates you from other people and candidates for a position. It needs to focus on the value or benefits of the brand, of you, as opposed to the features (previous roles, education, etc.).

As a brand then, we should be leveraging the same strategies that make well-known “gurus” or corporate brands appeal to others. We can build brand equity, just as they do, through both our actions and our words. This is true whether you are a mid-level manager wanting to take that next step up the ladder or a very experienced non-executive director looking to add more board roles to existing directorships – or even that elusive first, paid directorship.

New Role IntegrationHowever, the key difference between today and August 1997, when the concept of personal branding was first raised by Tom Peters, is the rise of social media. This has leveled the playing field and made branding not only more personal, but key to achieving one’s professional objectives.

You need to carefully consider the role that social media, in particular Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, might play in building and reflecting your personal brand.

  • Make sure your digital footprint is fully integrated. For example, your Twitter and LinkedIn persona should reflect each other, and be consistent with your “physical” presence by being reflected in your resume and profile. While you may choose to use Facebook for personal connections, you still need to ensure there is nothing that could damage your professional brand on your profile that is publicly visible.
  • Use sites like LinkedIn to stay in touch with colleagues, alumni, suppliers and other contacts, but avoid requesting or accepting contacts with people you don’t know. In such cases, a personal introduction from a shared contact (which you can find on LinkedIn) is better. You can also ask connections to provide a “recommendation” for you on your profile reflecting the experience they had working with you. Your connections can both reflect and support your brand.
  • Include your career summary (something short and sweet) in all of your online bios.
  • Keep your online profiles up-to-date. This includes job moves, but you can also share content, such as interesting articles and links, to keep your online profile fresh and dynamic. These “shared” pieces of content should reflect your fields of interest and expertise while helping build a picture of your brand.
  • You may not be ready to start blogging yourself, but you can still add comments and feedback to other commentators in your field of interest. This is the first step in understanding and engaging with your (target) audience and exposing them to your brand.
  • Blogs, posts and tweets should be professional, interesting and add value to the reader. Don’t use social media to simply advertise your business or yourself. For longer posts, ensure someone else proofs your work. Otherwise poor expression or choice of words could make it counterproductive.
  • If you are employed by an organization, ensure you are familiar with its social media policy and follow it. If it doesn’t have one, it’s something you should suggest as a risk-management tool. 
  • Remember, once something is online it’s often there forever. So be sensible about your personal information. Monitor your privacy settings and use common sense about what you do and don’t post. If in doubt, don’t post it!

Certified Career ConsultantEngaging a professional career strategist who also understands social media will pay huge dividends in assisting you through the process of understanding your personal brand (who am I?), considering possible outcomes (where am I going?) and then devising an appropriate strategy to achieve those desired outcomes (how am I going to get there?).

Much of this post has been about the importance of brand, your personal brand, and how you can use social media to reflect and promote that brand. However, your brand, whether as an individual or an organization, is only part of the equation.

Are you doing enough to build both your personal reputation and that of your organization by ensuring the brand promise, the delivery performance and the audience’s expectations are all in positive alignment? Is it time to engage a professional career strategist? As a famous brand says – Just do it!


Five Signs Your Employees Might Not Be Engaged - Part 2


In the last blog we began a discussion of the perils of employee engagement issues and how these issues could lead to employee turnover. After covering the importance of (1) absenteeism and presenteeism and (2) under-utilization of employees’ skills, three signs remain that clearly identify potential employee engagement issues in organizations.

Sign 3: Lack of Employee Input

One sign of disengagement may be a lack of discussion or objections in meetings. Is the employee complacent, doing only what he or she is told? Do they never ask questions about why the task is done this way or how it could be done more effectively or efficiently? If this is the case, the employee may be disengaged.

Leader DevelopmentWhen employees have the opportunity to question and provide input about what they do and how they do it, they often devise better methods to complete tasks. This means they are thinking, they are involved, and they are engaged in their work and with the organization.

When one hears crickets because the room is so silent when asking for an opinion or an objective point of view during a meeting, an engagement issue may be present. The same Towers Watson study mentioned in our last blog found that leadership and the level of interest and support from executives are critical to successful employee engagement initiatives. Leader behaviors and actions most important to employees included: “being able to grow the business, showing sincere interest in the employee’s well-being, behaving consistently with the organization’s core values, and earning the employees’ trust and confidence.” Spurring involvement by employees in discussions and meetings can help develop that trust and confidence.

Leaders and managers of others are not perfect; they too make mistakes. It is good when employees know that leadership can make mistakes and it is even more valuable when employees hear them acknowledge their errors and the lessons learned from them. Creating a coaching culture where employees are presented the same opportunity to question, make mistakes and learn engages employees. Recent studies have shown that organizations that embrace coaching by enhancing their managers’ abilities to effectively coach others increased employee engagement as much as 33% and improved business results as much as 133%.

Pay attention to the silence. A lack of objections or discussion does not mean everything is going swimmingly and that all parties are in agreement.

Sign 4: Rocking the Boat

New Role IntegrationGossip and politics are present to some extent in every organization; however, too much creates a toxic environment and drives employee engagement and productivity down. Some people get involved in the gossip and rumors, while others avoid it, fearing the possibility of losing work friends or, even worse, jeopardizing their career aspirations. Where office politics are rampant, it’s not unusual for highly engaged employees who can’t tolerate it to leave the organization and take their expertise with them. It’s critical to address and reduce the issues of politics and gossip in the workplace quickly, even if it means letting someone go.

Recently a client took action and dismissed an employee, not because of a lack of work productivity, but because the individual was creating a toxic environment for the rest of the staff. Creating a toxic environment is one form of “active” disengagement. An organization cannot afford to retain employees who are actively sabotaging the company’s success.

Sign 5: Insights from Exit Interviews

Outplacement ServicesMany organizations today conduct exit interviews – the idea is a great one – to find out why employees are leaving the company. Unfortunately, the answers provided are rarely straightforward. Most employees know it’s a small world, and they’re not willing to overtly state their reason for leaving. After all, that information might get to their next boss and it might not be quite the same story told during their interview.

Also, employees are wise; they know not to burn bridges. They may want to be rehired by the company in the future and, as a result, may not be as honest in an exit interview as Human Resources would like. Individuals may also prefer to avoid conflict or the office politics that go on in an organization and as such will navigate the terrain of their exit interviews with extra caution.

Outplacement ServicesMany organizations choose to have exit interviews these conducted by an outside firm so all the information collected is confidential and employees are more open to being honest about their reasons for leaving the organization. Themes can emerge from exit interviews providing insight into voluntary departures. Themes vary from all of the topics discussed in this blog to a lack of career development opportunities and beyond. A Gallup poll found that 32% of respondents cited “lack of career advancement or promotional opportunities,” as the #1 reason for leaving a current job. This same report found, for the fourth consecutive year, that career opportunities remained the top driver to positively impact overall engagement levels. Seeing high numbers of staff depart for “personal” reasons may be a sign of an engagement issue.

Today, when there are fewer talented people to fill open positions in organizations across the globe, it is critical to examine employee engagement processes. If people are not finding personal satisfaction and professional/career development opportunities they will likely leave the organization quickly, even without having another position. Such was the case for the young man who left his plumbing job; he did not have a new job. He left first and then put his career transition plan in place. This seems to say that people would rather be unemployed and searching for a job they will enjoy than be miserable in their current working conditions.

 Sign 1: Irrelevant Work or Under Utilization 

Sign 2: Absenteeism and "Presenteeism"

Sign 3: Lack of Employee Input

Sign 4: Rocking the Boat 

Sign 5: Insights from Exit Interviews

Be the organization that provides an engaging workplace. It is a benefit – you will retain more talented and engaged employees, which reduces your costs of recruiting. By examining these five signs of employee engagement issues in your organization, you'll enable your workforce to obtain business success. Start today!


Five Signs Your Employees Might Not Be Engaged - Part 1


Recently, a young man we worked with left his plumbing job. He was excited about the field, he enjoyed getting up in the morning and he liked the people at the organization. In fact, he hoped to obtain his apprenticeship by going to school in the fall. Why, then, did he leave the position? The answer is simple. Young and mobile, he was constantly sent to jobs out of town. While his meals and accommodations were paid by the company, the constant travel kept him from his family and friends.

Welcome to the age of the Millennial! He, like many others his age, finds the need to be with his family and friends just as, if not more,Workforce Planning important than his desire to grow his career. For many of the younger generations, instant gratification seems more important than planning for the future. Had the plumbing company taken time to understand and accommodate this young man’s needs, he would still be with the company today. Instead, they lost a valued employee.

Today, more than ever, employers need to include their staff in decisions – not necessarily about the vision of the organization, rather in how to get there. Businesses now are not like the businesses that current leaders – read Baby Boomers – started 20 or even 30 years ago, it’s different. People want to be heard and to have input into how to reach organizational goals and to know their role in achieving those successes. Ensuring that employees feel like they are a part of the decision making process, is a key to engagement. According to a Gallup poll 70% of the US workforce admits to either being disengaged or actively disengaged in the workplace. Lack of engagement often contributes to employee turnover

How can you tell if your organization has an employee engagement issue. Many organizations conduct Employee Engagement Surveys to provide information on how engaged employees are and how the organization is meeting the needs of its employees. A great idea! However, sometimes employees provide only positive feedback to these surveys, fearing a lack of confidentiality in their responses. Later they may share different information with others, both inside and outside of the organization. Glassdoor is a website that provides an opportunity for employees, both current and former, to comment about their employers, even anonymously if they wish. Sometimes these comments are not positive and conflict with the results of engagement surveys. Organizations should monitor and take into consideration employee posts on this and other social sites to get a full picture of how employees perceive the company.

Whether conducting an engagement survey or not, there are many tell-tale signs why employees of any age might leave their current employers. Today we will look at two of the five these posts will focus on.

Sign 1: Irrelevant Work or Under Utilization

Talent ManagementEveryone wants to feel they are part of the solution and contributing in meaningful ways. If people are performing mundane, repetitive tasks and cannot see how it benefits the organization’s goals , it is very possible the employee will leave. Yes, everyone performs tasks at work that, if they had a choice, they would not do. However, individuals need to do meaningful work that utilizes their skills to the fullest extent possible to help the company move forward.

We frequently see this when people are “all over the place” doing “everything as required.” Often an expectation exists of saving money by having staff perform those tasks that nobody wants to do. However, it becomes a critical engagement issue when it’s the employee’s primary responsibility and the work doesn’t match or underutilizes the employee’s skillset.

Often organizations present employees with tasks that do not connect to their skill sets, training or education. Management then cannot understand why employees are unhappy. It’s not surprising, then, that these employees become disengaged and either leave the company physically, or at least emotionally. By increasing the correlation between employee skillsets, assigned tasks and organizational goals employee engagement increases and the costs from employee turnover decrease.

If the employee perceives these tasks as irrelevant, he or she will likely leave. Note the word “perceives!” It not only matters how relevant the work is to the outcomes of the department, it also matters how relevant the work is to the individual and his or her skill set. The connection between organizational goals and engaged employees is the difference between profit and losses for your organization. A Gallup poll found that lost productivity of actively disengaged employees costs the US economy $370 billion a year. This same study found that 86% of engaged employees very often feel happy at work, as opposed to only 11% of disengaged employees expressing a similar sentiment. 

Talk with your employees and ensure the majority of their work aligns with their passions, skills and expectations. Doing so will lead to more receptivity to do those tasks that nobody wants to do.

Sign 2: Absenteeism and “Presenteeism”

New Role IntegrationWhen employees are not engaged they often find ways to not be “present” at work. This may mean being absent from the work place physically. Lack of engagement can reduce the immune system, causing people to catch colds, get the flu and just generally feel more groggy. The result – they stay home. Billions of dollars are lost daily in the workplace due to physical absenteeism.

It is exhilirating to see those employees who are in the right jobs and how engaged they are with their careers. They love coming to work every day because they know they are making a contribution to the success of the organization and developing their careers. This level of engagement may be one reason many of these people do not let sickness stop them. A Towers Watson study on maintaining employee engagement found that retaining employees depends in large part upon the quality of their work experience, including factors seemingly always in the mix regardless of the economic situation or other outside factors. These factors include career advancement opportunities within the organization, the relationship with the immediate supervisor and overall work/life balance. Ensuring positive employee engagement in the workplace increases the likelihood that employees will stay in the organization and devote themselves to its success, as well as their own.

For example, we worked with one individual who contracted a very serious health condition that would easily have prevented her from working  as she went through treatment. Despite her condition, this engaged employee was at work often and she even worked from home on those days when she was too sick to travel to the office. Some may see this as foolish; so be it. The fact remains that this employee was engaged and wanted to continue to contribute to the organization’s success, even when seriously ill.

“Presenteeism” describes employees who come to work physically, yet mentally are somewhere else. Perhaps they are thinking of their impending holiday, wedding, divorce, a family member’s illness or a myriad of other things. When an employee is present but not productive, spends time staring off into space and not paying attention to the work, it could mean disaster, especially if there are safety issues to be considered in the position.

When employees are away often, whether it is physically or emotionally, it may be a sign that you have an employee engagement issue. If this is the case, then it is time to consider how this can be changed by exploring the “what” or the “how” of doing the job.


Managing the Fit between People and Positions

Historically, hiring usually migrates to the top of the business agenda as economies rebound.  With a changing demographic, organizations are likely to run into staffing problems. Not only will it be hard to find the right people, it will prove increasingly more difficult to find talented younger managers who will replace aging baby boomers. If history serves correctly, as the crisis mounts organizations are likely to react to hiring decisions as an emergency. The problem will be further exacerbated by outdated hiring practices that are typically ineffective at getting “the right people on the bus.”

Talent ManagementIn their Harvard Business Review article in May of 2009, Fernández-aráoz, Groysberg and Nohria report on a survey of CEOs and executive recruiters with respect to recruiting.  Their key finding?  Most employers rely on a very subjective approach to hiring that is influenced by their own personal preferences.  Further, those surveyed “held widely differing views regarding the desirable attributes of new hires.  They emphatically disagreed on whether it was best to hire insiders or outsiders, on who should be involved in the recruiting process and what assessment tools were most suitable, and on what the keys were to successful hiring and retention” (p. 76, HBR, May, 2009).  In a nutshell, hiring managers tended to rely on gut feelings derived almost exclusively from the interview process.  Not surprisingly, most new hires depart after only three years. A DHR study in 2008 found that without proper integration and onboarding programs, 40% of new hires and promotions fail within 18 months at an estimated cost of $1.5MM per year.

We advocate a balanced approach to recruiting that couples traditional employment interviews and reference checks with thorough personal assessments.  While candidates may feel overwhelmed by the process, they should take comfort in knowing that, when the decision is made, there is a greater likelihood that it’s the right decision for both parties involved.  We argue that assessments should augment the overall recruitment process instead of replacing it.

Talent ManagementHowever, one is left wondering what are assessment best practices?  It is very easy to find numerous assessments on the web, but these can pose some significant challenges to those that use them.  When considering the use of assessments, we recommend the following:

  • Take a balanced approach – No one tool can provide the requisite insights for the various positions in your organization. We advocate a selection approach that couples traditional employment interviews and reference checks with thorough personal assessments to increase the breadth of information available when attempting to fill an open position.
  • Don’t rely on one tool – No one tool can provide all the answers so don’t advocate that it is the only tool you will ever need – a battery of tools that derive a more holistic picture of an individual is more desirable.
  • Use only quality assessments – Good assessment instruments are current, based on extensive research and have solid reliability and validity.  The best have limits on who can and cannot administer and interpret them.
  • Avoid biased instruments – Some tools are inherently biased and may expose you to legal issues. For selection purposes, be sure to choose an assessment instrument that is designed to support the selection process in your organization.
  • Consider outsourcing – Training in the proper use and administration of the assessments is necessary with many requiring extensive post-secondary education credentials. As such it can be expensive to properly train staff in the administration of these assessments. Outside assessment providers can be less expensive and time consuming for individuals in your organization.

With a quality assessment process and the success profile for the role clearly defined, you can select the best candidates and shorten the runway to deploying the best talent available.

What is your organization doing to maximize the fit between people and positions?