Category Archives: Craig’s Top Five List

Finding Happiness During A Recession

The best way to be happy during a recession is to insulate yourself from its effects through preparation; however, when this is not possible, there are still many strategies that we can employ to ovecome debilitataing effects.

The best way to be happy during a recession is to insulate yourself from its effects through preparation; however, when this is not possible, there are still many strategies that we can employ to moderate a recession's debilitataing effects.

The weather over the past month has been beautiful; but the pressure — juggling three lines of work — has been intensely, well, wonderful.  Otherwise stated, considering the fatigue and angst that accompany this challenge, I am a happy boy.  In fact, I might go as far as saying that I am blissfully content.  Considering the long days and the focus required to progressively pick off the items on my seemingly endless to do list, some might feel I have earned the right to be just a little grumpy and stressed-out, and as my wife would attest, there is a little of that acting out going on.  However, in all honesty, I am in a great place — enjoying the long hours, excited about life’s prospects and finding life to be quite exhilarating.

Finding happiness in difficult times — like this recession — is challenging.  Whether you are at risk of losing your employment and income or are overworked trying to maintain production with fewer employees, you are likely to feel intense anxiety.

Karen Mazurkewich (The Financial Post, Saturday, March 14, 2009) talks about the “world’s collective mood”. Citing numbers from Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index in the United States, it appears that in December of 2008, the American mood hit a 26 year low. In less than one month, the percentage of Americans at least somewhat happy dropped from over two thirds to just 35%. It is not a huge stretch to suggest that it was during the pre Christmas period that the harsh reality of the worldwide recession really hit.

Clearly, people were not reacting to death, divorce or illness, the three principle “downers” in the happiness index; they were, of course terrified that the economic downturn would force their organizations to cut jobs. Although a job loss causes loss of family income and high levels of stress, the key issue is the stigma that comes with the loss of employment identity; and then, once bitten by job loss, the reality of a repeat performance is forever etched in your psyche.

After a friend experienced job loss for the first time, he was counselled to expect four more layoffs during his career, a prophesy which was ultimately fulfilled.  He told me that after the second time he was “fired”, he began to accept downsizing as a reality of life.

“Although that first layoff was a shock and it left me feeling very discouraged and depressed, I knew from that point on that another firing was a strong possibility.  So I conditioned myself to prepare for the worst and treat it as part of my normal routine”.

For my friend, when the next layoff took place, he still continued to “go to work”; however, the new interim work was finding a new position.  He resolved that this process would be handled in as normal a way as possible; and just as important that he would treat himself with kindness — that means feeling dignified, having fun and staying positive.

Losing your position or being part of the downsized and leaner team under pressure to outperform competitors is stressful; so on this beautiful Friday, here are a few strategies you can employ to “be happy”, or at least strengthen your happiness quotient, when times are tough:

1. Buffer your life against crisis: Try to live a modest life.  Always under consume your income (if you can).  Save for a rainy day.  Diversify your income streams.  Have a back up strategy.  Trying to keep up with the Jones is a death sentence.  When your spending to achieve lifestyle equals your income, by definition, your always one month removed from bankruptcy.
2. Choose to be happy: This is easier said than done.  If you are on the verge of bankruptcy, about to lose everything you have accumulated over a lifetime, you are clearly feeling intense angst every second.  So in making this comment, I am not trying to minimize your pain or your challenge.  Still, once you have done all you can do to address the challenge, allow yourself to be positive, see the glass as half full, avoid obsessing about things over which you have little control.  Most material possessions are disposable; while spiritual pursuits are perpetually enriching.
3. Flip the concept: With every test comes an opportunity.  It could be a new career direction or a chance to pursue a passion you have shelved for a good part of your life.  By looking for the opportunity, you have adopted an attitude of search.  Because you are searching you will find.
4. Celebrate your accomplishments: Take a look at the parts of your life that are working well: make an exhaustive list of the ways in which you feel blessed. Include all the little things that we typically overlook.  You will be shocked when you discover just how much we have.  Pamper yourself and your family. Get creative about the low cost things you can do to celebrate life with your family. Scour the net and newspapers for ideas, games. Spend quality time with family and friends.
5. Reach out to others in need: The best way to develop perspective on life is to serve others.  I am not sharing this idea because it allows you to compare your plight to others less fortunate.  I am saying this because serving humanity is good for the soul and helps to position giving in your life.  There are many people in this world who have very little, largely because they have chosen a life of service to others.

I would love to hear your stories of trying to cope during difficult times.  How did you deal with the challenge and with the emotions?

Principles for Managing Workplace Conflict

Reflections on Workplace Perspective…..

The improper use of numbers is a metaphor for how we express our feelings.  If we are satisfied, we are likely to use numbers with positively and with integrity; if we are not content, we will likely find a way to use numbers to our own advantage.

The use of numerical information is a metaphor for how we express our feelings. If we are satisfied, we are likely to use numbers positively and with integrity; if we are not content, we will find a way to distort these numbers to serve our own advantage.

On this Friday Five (Craig’s Top Five List”), I am addressing the issue of workplace conflict from what you might consider a strange perspective — talking about statistics.  You see, the way we use numbers is a reflection of how we feel about an issue, our bosses, our governments.  So numbers can be revealing indicators about how we as a team or an organization are getting along.

Please note that I am not espousing conflict avoidance, since some healthy conflict is useful; however, proper management of your working relationships will minimize the unhealthy type of conflict and the black hole of wasted time that it attracts.

When there is no hard scientific information available, decision-makers fall back upon their intuition about a particular issue — they speak from what they feel. “I think this is a problem” a client might suggest, or  “this needs to be fixed”.  Without solid information, agreement is difficult to achieve and conflict bubbles just below the surface waiting for its opportunity to explode into existence; participants display anger, frustration, indifference and intolerance, and then sadly trust and cooperation crumble.  The integrity of the relationship has been breached; and once it has reached this stage it will be difficult to restore.

Eons ago, it seems, my organization recognized the dilemma of building client support and opted to take the scientific approach with large data bases, multiple lines of evidence and heavy hitting research methods.  Having this information in hand, developed by a multi-disciplinary advisory team, paid huge dividends since there was less wiggle room for “I think” argumentation.  It was also strangely comforting for all parties, since what they thought was a problem usually wasn’t or was a minor challenge which could be easily addressed with less money.

Of course, the presence of hard data is not always a panacea.  There is still another layer of organization building to be addressed.  Organizations with whom you deal must feel they are part of the team, they must feel consulted, they must be important to your process — specifically, you must build the underpinning of this relationship.  If you have not built goodwill with your client groups, your opponents will find ways to “reinterpret” data to serve their own agenda. My statistics professor back in my graduate studies days tried to familiarize his students with the challenge of numbers by exposing us to a little reference text called How to Lie with Statistics.  This little book uses a tongue in cheek writing style to impress us with how people use numbers to make their points, defend their positions.

Michael Blastland in his article of April 2, 2009, describes how numbers have recently had “the mother of makeovers”. First, he comments on the fact that numbers are everywhere and in every domain to the point that they are numbing and ambiguous.  Second, he notes that numbers are overstated — what was once just a fact has evolved into the “cold fact” and then onto the “killer fact”. Finally, he observes that those who use numbers regularly use them carelessly, either because they do not understand the power of the numbers or their source.  He says that numbers have lost their capacity to be a “counterweight for emotion”.  Hence the premise I am espousing today.

Even with what we know are powerful numbers, our clients and employees are quickly recognizing that numbers have lost their luster and that unfounded rhetoric and the misuse of numbers is just as powerful.

And there are many examples of how challenging it is to address conflict in this world of cleverly choreographed ambiguity. The facts no longer define who wins. In many ways these folks would argue “it is not about what is right; it is simply about winning or, God forbid, losing”.

This new mentality of rational irrationality also occurs in the workplace.  Imagine the new employee who joins an organization full of enthusiasm and excitement — “I can’t wait to get my teeth into this job, I am looking forward to working with a team”, is the refrain as they prepare to be the best and make the greatest contribution to your bottom line. How does this commitment wane and reach the point where they are totally alienated from the organization and can only envision revenge?  This type of isolation is costly for both the organization and the employee; and yes, should be avoided at all costs.

The premise that I am suggesting: to preempt the challenge of numerical quicksand — that is, irrational and destructive workplace conflict — build solid, constructive, team-oriented emotion.

So here is are five suggestions on how a manager can nurture team oriented emotion:

  1. Be humble: This theme keep coming up in my posts. If an employee can see only a wall of arrogance and presumed perfection coming from the manager’s office, this will do little to build trust and openness.  On the other hand, the employee who knows that their manager admits areas of weakness and finds strength in others will be willing to participate in efforts to strengthen team capacity.
  2. Use team strengths in a complementary manner: Use team skills in the most efficient manner.  This may also mean that an employee takes on a role previously assumed to be a managerial role.  For example, planning has traditionally been the bastion of the manager.  But, you may have a challenge planning, executing and recording activities.  So, find an employee with this strength and allow them to assume this role; under your supervision, of course, since it is still critical that the manager have full knowledge of activities in his area of responsibility.
  3. Position yourself to know how your staff are feeling: When things are going poorly, you can be sure your staff are talking about it.  You can also be quite certain that the manager will be the last to know. “I had no idea my staff were so miserable” he lamented, “and that it would take so little action to repair”.  It is important to have a strategy to unearth the decaying working relationship.  It helps if one of your employees, in the interests of both manager and employees,  will approach the manager about this simmering powder keg.  It is also useful for the manager to promote communication and a relaxed working environment by holding regular “how is it going meetings” over a pot of hot coffee and a few donuts.
  4. Genuinely show your staff that you have a heart: When I first started work, managers isolated and insulated themselves from their employees.  The theory was that managers should have a mystique of power about them.  They were better than their employees and nothing should allow this veneer to be penetrated.  I would argue that genuine behaviour builds membership.  Be willing to speak with your staff about issues they are facing and to share your challenges as well.  You will undoubtedly find some common thread.
  5. Show that you are objective and impartial: Organizations regularly conduct audits of delivery systems and accounting practices.  Organizations rarely conduct audits of management practices.  There are anonymous methods that allow employees to comment without fear of reprisal.  They permit and encourage employees to share thoughts on what is going well in the workplace and what needs improvement.  This is a handy tool — if repeated every two years, managers can preempt many workplace problems by making adjustments in concert with the team of employees.

That’s it for this Friday.  I would love to get your thoughts.  This list is not exhaustive so feel free to provide additional ideas.

Effective Employee Empowerment: 5 Strategies

The hot air balloon is a strong metaphor for emrol; but you have sufficient lattitude to ensure a great ride. powerment.  You don't have aabsolute contThink of what you are missing is you just don't let go.

The hot air balloon is a strong metaphor for empowerment; you don't have absolute control, but you can guide, oversee, adjust as needed to ensure a great ride. However, if fear dominates your thoughts, you will simply miss a great ride.

Here we go with the Friday Five — “Craig’s Top Five List”.

Empowering employees is supposed to be a valuable strategy: after all, if you didn’t need your fine complement of employees to work to their full capacities, why would you hire them in the first place.  Certainly not so they can watch you work.  On this premise alone, we can agree that empowerment in “a good thing”.  Quite simply, empowerment’s lustre is bloodied because of the casual, random manner in which managers introduce this “most excellent” opportunity.  So on this fine Friday, I am offering five practical strategies that can be applied to ensure that empowerment works effectively in your workplace:

  1. Buy-in: By involving your employees in the design of your empowerment initiative, it becomes theirs.  The team will always outperform the individual and you will develop a powerful empowerment model.  Or you could waste a lot of time and develop your model in secret;  your employees will feel that the program is moderated and controlled right from the beginning — not a good start.
  2. Boundaries: Raise your concerns and fears with your employees as you are developing the model; of course, this presumes that they have not demonstrated their competence by already highlighting any red flags that would need a boundary.  To assist the high school principal — we met on Monday — overwhelmed by urgent e-mails, what strategy would address his concern?  I would suggest three guidelines: (1) empower department heads to deal with staffing issues in their areas; (2) when a need for an absence arises, require all teachers to directly contact their department head by phone (or now text), using the impersonal e-mail only where there is no other option; and (3) have department heads report weekly or even monthly on staffing shortages or the effectiveness/ abuse of the system.
  3. Communication: Communication is your security blanket — it allows you to build confidence in the system.  To illustrate this point, I refer to a time years ago when my teenage daughter pressured me relentlessly for a later and later curfew.  Loving her as I did and knowing from personal experience that the later a child stayed out the greater chance of some form of crisis, I resisted her approaches.  However, through consultation we eventually came up with a compromise that we both found satisfying.  Her part of the bargain was a series of boundaries that she would learn and teach to her peers.  Her requirement was to communicate these to me and demonstrate that her friends also knew them.  Further, it was communication that convinced me that the system was working.  In your workplace, you will require feedback in terms of how the system is working and what tangible results are being produced.  With this information, you will know what is working and what needs to be fixed.  Although your employees may resist, I prefer too much information rather than too little.  The success of the model depends on your level of confidence.
  4. Correction: One of the boundaries that I would suggest is quite simply that nothing is cast in stone.  Right from the beginning, your staff should understand that the nature and degree of empowerment either to the team or to individuals is subject to change.   There are times when changes will be dictated merely by a clumsy model; at other times, changes will be necessitated by poor performance.
  5. Ownership: Empowerment is not a right; it is a privilege.  It is earned through performance and accountability to the system and the supervisor.  Within this framework, I found that ownership is strengthened when each employee has a piece of the pie.  The piece of the pie is determined through individual capacity and performance.   In addition to that component of the work that the manager believes the individual can handle, I like to build in just a little stretch — a challenge to grow to the next level.  When work is successfully completed, the employee deserves recognition — from you, from peers, from other organizations and from senior management.  This sends the message to employees that they are values, not just by you by by the organization.  Employees who are recognized will commit more strongly to the empowerment model they have developed with you.

Please let me know what your thoughts are and what experience has been with empowerment.

Anger as a Tool for Career Advancement

It is normal for people to feel anger, however anger should always be expressed in a respectful manner.  Further, anger is not a source of career success; it is merely a character trait of the assertive and determined personality.  in

It is normal for people to feel anger, however anger should always be expressed in a respectful manner. Further, anger is not a source of career success; it is merely a character trait of the assertive and determined personality.

Reflections on Workplace perspective…..

Harvard has recently released the findings of a study linking anger to career advancement.  This study may cause employees and managers to reconsider how anger is addressed in the workplace; after all, it seems that anger in the workplace may not be such a bad thing.  Kira Vermond, reporting for Money Talks, writes enthusiastically about this new study.  Based upon the findings of this study, Ms. Vermond suggests that “a little anger is not always a bad thing”.  It seems that those who repress their anger tend to report less fulfilling careers and lives, while those who periodically express their anger in the workplace, are more likely to report successful careers.  The study, however,  suggests that anger must be expressed appropriately, particularly by women.

This is clearly an interesting finding, but raises so many red flags for me.  I can see someone reading this encouraging result and strutting into work on Monday morning with a new attitude, convinced that a display of “controlled anger” will inevitably promote his upward mobility and the most satisfying and harmonious relationships.  And that is even before we address what “controlled anger” means.

Although I do not have the full study before me — and some of my concerns may be thoughtfully addressed in the complete report — I encourage readers to slow down and carefully assess the preliminary findings of this work.  So, on this joyful and exuberantly peaceful Friday, I will be suggesting five reasons why you should entertain these findings with a grain of salt:

1. The Assertive Personality: Assertive and confident people tend to have a greater facility expressing their anger.  Because they often let it all hang out they are more likely to express themselves overtly and anger is one of their emotional outlets.  They also learn techniques for expressing their anger systematically.  That is, anger becomes a management tool.  While many assertive managers must often learn how to tone down their behaviours, the submissive styles  need to strengthen their self-esteem, their positive attitude, their strength of character and constructive ways of expressing concerns.
2. The Career Orientation: People who express their assertiveness and determination tend to have a stronger career focus. Because they are confident and priority driven, they are more likely to succeed and seek out promotion opportunities. Managers can sense their belief and will often groom them to take on greater responsibility.  Submissive personalities tend to be hard working and focussed on the corporate goal; they tend to overlook themselves because they have little belief in their own capacities.  Of course, managers do not see them because they blend in nicely with the wallpaper.
3. The Power Relationship: People who express their anger typically do it where they know they are safe from repercussions.  They will bully employees who have no authority over them or they will act out when colleagues and even peers in other areas of the organization cannot influence their careers.  In this domain, there is little difference between anger and strong directional language — both are meant to intimidate and control.  The submissive style will simply avoid conflict because they abhor it;  they would prefer to be anonymously working.
4. The Buddy Relationship: Those who use anger would define the CEO and other senior managers as  friends and allies.  They would typically use behaviour that would strengthen this relationship and nurture an “us versus you” mentality.  The submissive personality avoids authority and in fact has little respect for those who exert control over others.  They tend to commiserate with their peers complaining about those who exert control over them.
5. Consequences: If you want to share something with a peer or a manager, carefully weigh the implications of your behaviour.  If you understand that the negative outcomes of your outburst, like being marginalized or fired, and can live with these results, then by all means, “fill your boots”!

I would love to get your feedback on this persepctive on anger. Clearly anger has a very complex dynamic.  Have you had experience with expressing your anger in the workplace? What happened?

Management Principles and Team Sports

Reflections on Workplace Perspective…..

Welcome to the Friday Five — “Craig’s Top Five List.

If I had my way, coaching a team sport would be a prerequisite for any management position.   That’s how strongly I feel about it; coaching a team sport will teach you so much about managing people in such a short time, it should be mandatory for any job involving leadership.  “There is no mention in your CV about coaching a team sport?” I would lament, “That’s unfortunate”.

Coaching team sports is the perfect training ground for the aspiring manager.  The best coaches prepare before games, are complete concentration during games and review extensively after competition.

Coaching team sports is the perfect training ground for the aspiring manager. The best coaches prepare before games, are complete concentration during contests and review extensively after competition.

Already spent thousands of dollars on management seminars?  Refuse to relinquish your management books?  No problem; still for  just a little sweat equity, I can quickly and efficiently immerse you into the best management and leadership laboratory.  By being the person behind the bench or standing at the sideline, you will experience and be forced to apply many of the advanced concepts of leadership.  You will simply accelerate your understanding and use of leadership principles.

I hesitate to share with you that coaching a team sport was where I had my greatest management breakthroughs and how I refined my management style and tested several principles.  I hesitate because I have already experienced the stigma of being a person who appreciates sport, and rejection from many who consider sports the domain of the neanderthal.  I have many times heard the intolerant refrain “Here we go again; not another sports story”.  I have been incessantly reminded that the workplace is for work and sports are for weekends, big screen TVs and La-Z-Boy armchairs.

Still I persist on this rainy Friday — I emphatically assert that team sports are the best teachers of aspiring managers.  And, the good news?  This will be the most affordable hands-on management course you will ever take.

To begin, I am asking you to change your focus from the athlete to the person more or less behind the success of these athletes — the coach.  The athlete, in the spotlight, produces that awesome catch, that scintillating save or that incredible slam dunk.  The coach, the puppet master of sorts and in most cases humbly working behind the curtain, generates the context that permits and inspires excellence.

An insider view of the coaching environment allows you to appreciate that talent or individual capacity is just one determinant of success both in sports and in life generally.  This hands-on opportunity will convince you  that the motivated and creative coach can significantly improve the performance of the team, whether that be in sports or in the workplace.

Without further ado, today’s “Craig’s Top Five List” identifies five ways that coaching a team sport can influence and strengthen your management style:

  1. Delegation: Since the coach is not permitted on the playing surface, the coach must relinquish responsibility for completing the assignment to the players — it is immediate and unequivocal delegation to the players.   The coach oversees the work and is responsible for the overall approach; the players are assigned specific duties within the overall system.  Starting with a principle of delegation is important in the workplace, because it is instinctual for managers to feel a need to maintain control and believe that they are the ultimate experts in their area of work (which may in fact be true).  By finding a logical place for work assignments in your area, you are then challenged to find a more fluid way of ensuring that work is performed.
  2. Time Constraints & Intensity: Nothing says focus like a deadline.   Coaching a team sport teaches the coach to be absolutely present during competition  — the epitome of concentration.  Because most sport is played at a high level of intensity, the coach is often offered just one opportunity to make the right decision.  This means that time, before and after competition, is critical for preparation.  Every reasonable outcome must be anticipated and a response to these eventualities must be developed.  The principles of concentration, anticipation and preparation are just as relevant in the workplace; however, workplace managers have the luxury of making plans and decisions in what comparatively seems like slow motion.  If you can perform effectively in a game environment, effectiveness in the workplace is a given.
  3. Communication: If the coach cannot do, he must invest in his capacity to say.  Communication is the most powerful tool in his toolbox.  He must be able to teach complex concepts with absolute clarity.  He must be able to inspire and motivate so he can lever top performances from players with different abilities, strengths and learning styles.  In the heat of battle, he must express his ideas with the right energy so he can infuse calm and patience where there is time, and urgency where the clock is an impediment.  He must apply the correct tone and strength to correct and where necessary discipline, so that the player understands and accepts the message.   Is communication an important skill in the workplace as well?  Absolutely.  As a former coach, I can see how lessons I learned coaching have allowed me to recognize opportunities where communication can support the effective management of the team.  In this regard, I coined a term called “management by opportunity”.  Although preparation and planning were still essential, as a manager I was constantly on the lookout for opportunities that would strengthen the working environment; and, of course, communication was the principal tool for this reinforcement.
  4. What a Team!: Have you heard the expression “You cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”?  If you read the coaches handbook (sic), you will find this quote framed and highlighted in large bold print.   An aspiring coach prays everyday for an abundance of talent.  In fact, he would love a mix of talented athletes who play every game at a high level of intensity and who get along with their teammates and who listen and have a deep passion for learning.  Yes, all that would be good.  Mix all these ingredients will a little luck and everything should, might work out fine.   Coaches understand the importance of maximizing their talent in every way.  First they must find the best players available.  Second they must invest in developing the full capacity of these athletes.  And of course, they must mold this mix of capacity and personality into a well oiled machine.  Coaches are also great teachers.  They know that practicing the way you will eventually play a game is the best way to improve performance and that repetition of necessary skills over a period of at least six weeks changes destructive behaviour into supportive behaviour.  To often in the workplace, we manage the work and the employees are a consequence of this need.  That is, employees are merely there to do the work.  The coaching approach would say manage the employees to complete the work.  From this perspective, employees are a resource to be developed.  The more we invest in the people, the greater the completion of the work and the higher the quality of this achievement.
  5. Performance Review: Coaches are quite simply “students of the game”.   They consume vast amounts of bad coffee trying to remedy the smallest problem.  The saddest tale is of the lonely coach who has no co-coach with whom to commiserate.  Coaches crave an advantage and can regularly be seen trying to squeeze the last drop of hope from a seemingly dessicated thought.  The irony is that those who invest in the journey of search will invariably discover platinum — the means of motivating a demoralized player, the tactic that will paralyze a seemingly invincible attack.  The manager in this new model becomes the facilitator — the person that removes obstacles to performance.  The person who understands through study the best way to maximize performance and output.

Why coach a team before you take on a position of leadership?  Quite simply it makes sense to explicitly understand what it means to manage before you lead.  Further, you will experience fewer setbacks and have less to correct if your employees are not your guinea pigs.  Remember, only doctors and lawyers have the privilege of “practicing” for a lifetime.

So are you coaching yet?  For those of you who are coaches, what has been your experience?  Please let me know and I will participate in the dialogue.

Employment Strategies During a Recession: PartII

And now the Friday Five!  In Monday’s post, we took a look at some evidence regarding success in the workplace.  We first looked at what it takes to prepare for work and then we examined how opportunity influences our degree of success.  From this we provided two examples from outside the workplace on how proponents used creative thinking to significantly increase their level of success; by changing their thinking and charting their course with order and discipline, they altered their status from underprivileged to just as privileged, if not more.

Creativity is the tool that allows us to overcome diminished opportunity.  With excellence in its application we can become the leaders, the managers, the experts.

Creativity is the tool that allows us to overcome diminished opportunity. With excellence in its application we can become the leaders, the managers, the experts.

In “Craig Top Five List” for this Friday, I am suggesting five actions that you should take to entrench your career path.

  1. Confirm Your Career Path: You are about to invest a great deal of time developing a career strategy.  Before you commit to an exhausting “find the right job” process, you need to ask yourself a critical question — are you sure that you are on the right path?  Will  this effort yield a position that matches with your passions?  I have conducted hundreds of job diagnostics, mostly for people in their thirties and fourties, who are very unhappy in their first “careers”.  I have seen many people chose careers because they were advised that employment in a particular field was guaranteed; however, when training or working in that field they were miserable — and these were high paying, high status positions.  Most recently, a friend, laid off after 18 years working for one employer, was forced to seek a new position.  “If you are starting over” his wife coached “is there anything you have always wanted to do”?  With excitement and no hesitation, he shared that he always wanted to become an electrician.  He found a position as an apprentice half way across the country and within weeks was back working.
  2. Be Integral About Your Preparation: So you have a piece of paper saying that you graduated from university.  Congratulations, I guess.  First of all, it really isn’t that difficult to graduate from university; there are many strategies that the creative student can use to slide through.  Second, only you know the true value of that degree.  How did you spend your study time — playing bridge, hanging out in the coffee shops and pubs?  The value of your degree is directly proportional to the amount of time you invested in your development.  To truly deserve a smile and a hug for your accomplishment, you are the student who spent time studying, in the library, challenging yourself.  Remember, a good interviewer will quickly determine how solidly you prepared for the work world; and if you are not discovered then, you will certainly be outed during the probationary period.  Remember Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule for developing excellence.
  3. Accelerate Your Preparation: earnmydegree.com offers a thorough discussion of what currently counts in the workplace.  Clearly experience counts and specialized skills also have value.  However, the undergraduate degree is quickly losing its relevance to employers.   Those with just a BA are exposing themselves to the serendipity of opportunity.  That is, I could pick you, or I could choose some other person with a similar degree whose family I know personally.   Graduate degrees make a big difference as do community college courses that offer concrete skills.  I also found in my working years that employees with graduate degrees offered a higher level of thinking.
  4. Accelerate Your Career Growth: We are quite simply conditioned to think job; which, of course is normal since the reality is that learning institutions were initially set up to serve the needs of the workplace.  However, I am asking you to change your thinking and set your course on this new path.  For example, rather than immerse yourself into a large firm where you can quickly disappear and become subject to stringent rules of progression or a boss who refuses to allow your due recognition,  choose to take on a higher level of responsibility working for a non-profit organization in your field.  You will be paid less, but you will wear many hats and by necessity be a front line worker.  Through this action alone you will accelerate your development.  Or let’s assume that you take the higher paying position in that stuffy corporation.  You will find ways to become known across the organization and most importantly to the CEO.  You will sit on committees, participate in extra curricular activities.  When assignments come up you will be known.    Remember your career path is just that — it is a plan that allows you over a set period of time to take the prescribed steps and gradually progress towards your ideal position.
  5. Ensure that You Have  A Career Attitude: I recently completed a career diagnostic with a young woman who was complaining that she was not being respected by her employer.  It was clear from her diagnostic that she didn’t want a career and that her job was just a way to pay the bills.  It took about a year for her to reflect on this finding and to her credit she has rediscovered her passion and has committed to a career path.  She was just recently hired into a management position.  There is nothing wrong with your priorities being family or an activity outside the workplace; however it is difficult to build a career if you have not turned on your career switch and developed a plan.

What I appreciate about Gladwell’s book is that each of us can now strive to be the expert, the manager, the leader, the writer and so on.  You have not been left behind unless you choose to accept what society has prescribed for me.  The challenge is how will you close the gap; what creative strategy will you employ to outperform the field?  Please send me your ideas on how this can be done in your field or pehaps comment on creative strategies you have used.

Generation S: Unifying the Generations

Today’s “Craig’s Top Five List” is a response  — that is, my hope, my dream, my plea that inherent in the next generation will be a determination to unify, not where it is convenient, not where it is advantageous, but purely and simply as a matter of principle.  The next generation’s single drive will be unity — a unifying force that will allow the phenomenally powerful material “stuff”  of the “next generations” to be supplemented and complemented with an emotional and spiritual super glue.

We often confuse unity as being somewhere out there and bigger than us; however, unity starts with each of us and is then infused in our relationships, workplaces and communities.

We often confuse unity as being somewhere out there and bigger than us; however, unity starts with each of us and is then infused in our relationships, workplaces and communities.

The next generation which we previously labelled “Generation S”, in full awareness of man’s dilemma and feeling the acute suffering facing humanity, will aspire to a higher standard — hence “Craig’s Top Five List” for this Friday and the following five characteristics that define Generation S:

  1. A Vision and Mission that Supports a Unified Humanity: Using Maslow’s hierarchy of need, the next generations in developed societies no longer have to worry about physiological and safety needs; unlike their parents, they have the luxury of spending their precious time growing emotionally and spiritually.  Some might argue that the next generation is the first truly emotional generation; this means that this generation is more emotionally mature and progresses to stages of emotional maturity much earlier than was the case for baby boomers.  This emotional maturity contributes to awareness of the global plight of humanity; members of this generation suffer when any member of humanity suffers.  Their life mission is simple — “doing things for the right reasons” — “every action based upon principles of rightness and goodness”.
  2. A Personal and Generational Virtues Cocktail: To operationalize their life mission, this generation identifies a set of values that will guide their behaviour.  They understand that they will become what they believe and practice.  They are committed to continuous personal growth because if they are not advancing they are retreating.  They infuse their behaviour with values like honesty, understanding, compassion, integrity and love.  They understand that arrogance and ego are the greatest impediments to growth so they adopt and nurture a posture of humility and observation.
  3. A Capacity for Consultation: This generation understands that a change of this magnitude cannot be imposed.  In addition to modelling the preferred behaviour, this generation must also launch a dialog; a critical component of this model is listening.  Consultation also requires participants to detach from ideas so that all thoughts can be assessed objectively, thus containing reaction and impulsive negative emotion.
  4. Relentless Determination, Patience and Endurance: This generation understands that change comes slowly.  Although they feel great urgency in their unifying mission, they understand that resistance to change is embedded in tradition, conformity, fear of loss and power-based relationships.  They remain focussed upon the prize and prepare to perform aerobically, recognizing that endurance is necessary.  Changing behaviour will demand that members of this generation vote consistently for love and peace, while others, lacking in trust, will continue at least in the short term to vote for war and hate.
  5. Joyfulness: While the baby boomers deal with the ghosts of their parents’ legacy of guilt, fear, seriousness and regret, the next generation is whole; and although by nature they strive competitively for excellence, they do this with the knowledge that man is not perfect.  The ego relieved of this albatross, there is no reason to strive under the illusion of being flawless.  Life’s pursuits are joyful and entertaining;  the journey leading to gradual accomplishment of the life mission is equally gratifying.

Some might argue that this next generation should be labelled “generation YOU”, since the overlay should not come from a new generation but from our cumulative efforts to grow spiritually.  In essence it becomes a metaphor for your growth and maturity

“I am doing this now” retorts the reader with intent.  Take a closer look.  What you may discover is that your life mission is targetted to a specific community and conditional on a particular result.  Take a closer look and then tell me what you think.