Sunday, April 29, 2012

Your LinkedIn Headline is Your Calling Card for Success

I spent last Wednesday night with a great group of women from the Schenectady BPW, sharing my LinkedIn experience, strength and hope in support of our mutual success.

One of the first tips I shared was the importance of your LinkedIn headline: if your LinkedIn profile is your website (which I firmly believe), then the headline on your profile is your calling card, announcing that you're open to whatever opportunities you seek or hope to share. "I'm involved in several endeavors that speak to me vocationally and creatively," I shared with the group. "So I include them in my headline:

Change / Project Manager | HR / Recruiting Leader | Career Coach | Writer |
Small-Business Social Media Marketing SME."

"You include everything in your LinkedIn headline?" one of the workshop attendees asked. "Yes," I responded. "I subscribe wholeheartedly to Dr. Wayne Dyer's assertion that I will not die with the music still inside of me. So I include all of my 'music' in my LinkedIn headline and profile. When we say who we are and what we do, opportunities open up on LinkedIn and elsewhere." The attendee, a wonderful women full of "music" herself, decided to update her headline.

I received a LinkedIn message from her two days later:

Thanks, Deb! After working on my LinkedIn account [and headline] last night, I was invited to [a key business organization] event as a guest next week to network about [my project]. Who knew????

I did.

To our shared success on LinkedIn (and everywhere else)!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Your Leadership Presentation for Every Audience at Work

Dress shabbily, they notice the dress. Dress impeccably, they notice the woman.
-Coco Chanel

First, a disclaimer: I'm not a professional stylist, or, by a long shot, the best-dressed professional I know. Nor would I compare myself to Coco Chanel. I learned the quote from one of my all-time favorite movies, Working Girl. I'm just another blue-collar girl from Queens who acts on her dreams using her smarts. Like most of us, I learned from experience to dress professionally enough for each situation to the extent where the focus was on my smarts and not on what I was wearing.

Which is why I loved working at the GE plant where the main manufacturing ingredient was a diluted acid running in pipes overhead. In that environment, the only practical uniform for men and women alike was safety glasses, metal-toed safety shoes, dirt-streaked jeans, polo shirts and hard hats with our last names on the front. I felt right at home; and my Granddaddy Nat, a skilled electrician who passed away before I graduated from college, would have been proud of me.

The Vice President of Human Resources for my GE business, not so much. I had been invited to attend a meeting for promotable women managers at Headquarters facilitated by the VP of HR. I did have enough sense at that point in my career to wear clean clothes (dress pants, no jeans), regular shoes and glasses sans my beloved hardhat. We were told that the dress code for the meeting was business casual. However, the Headquarters version of business casual was clearly a step up from our plant-level definition of business casual. They all wore blazers. I wore a sweater.

My beloved boss and mentor Bill coached me the very next day, displaying minimally the discomfort of a male-to-female dress-code coaching discussion. "The VP of HR liked you," Bill began. "Great!" I said, starting to leave. Bill waved me back into the chair. "However, he didn't know how smart you were until you opened your mouth." I was puzzled. "What do you mean?" I asked. Bill paused. "He liked you a lot, which is why he asked me to speak to you about your executive presentation, in the spirit of supporting your career path and ongoing success." I was still confused. "So he liked the way I talked but he has an issue with my executive presentation? I don't understand." Bill got to the point. "He had an issue with the way you looked." Great, here I am back in high school. I started to pick up my planner to leave. "Bill, if this is going to be a discussion about my weight or the fact that I'm no great beauty, let's please not go there." Bill was a bit taken aback. He down-shifted into Queens, my native vernacular. "Stop being a pain in the ass and sit down," he directed. I sat, subdued. He leaned over the desk. "When is the last time you wore a blazer to work?" he queried. Oh, I wasn't wearing the right uniform for that group - that was the issue. "When I interviewed for my job here," I replied sheepishly. Bill smiled. "Point taken," I continued. "I will take care of it immediately." Bill leaned back in his chair, relieved and proud. "Thank you, I knew you would." I hightailed it to the store right after work that day and bought four new suits. A bit much, but I needed to make up for lost leadership presentation / credibility.

How you dress at work demonstrates your vocational choice as well as your situational leadership: whether you dress so you'll be noticed for your talents or skills; or whether you dress like the executives because you aspire to be an executive; or whether you proudly wear your hardhat so the guys in the plant won't think you're a stuck-up elitist. Or Madonna.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Good Boundaries Make Good Hires

And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

                                                 -An excerpt from Robert Frost's poem Mending Wall

Nothing is more frustrating when you need to hire 100 seasonal warehouse employees in 3 weeks than to have the post-offer, pre-employment drug test come back positive. Cost-per-hire time and money down the toilet (no pun intended), including but not limited to the wasted cost of the drug test, which could run about $35 - $50 a pop.

Now, you may not agree with the concept of drug-testing in the workplace at all: let's agree to disagree. In my experience in manufacturing and warehouse environments rife with automated conveyors, heavy forklift and cherry-picker lift-truck traffic, you want everyone to be clean, sober and constantly on the alert. A 5-story fall from a cherry-picker at the top of your typical warehouse to its cement floor is certain death. A human / forklift collision is at minimum a loss of physical capability and at maximum, life-changing paralysis or even death as well. You get what side of the fence I'm on.

Early in my warehouse hiring career, we had about 10 drug-test failures in one week. A $500 bite in one week out of my already thin Recruiting budget. The Operations, Loss Prevention (LP) and Human Resources teams got together and brainstormed. Here are some of the solutions we developed and implemented:
  • We inserted messages into our employment application and ads that we were a Drug-Free employer;
  • We posted signs with the same messaging in our interview areas;
  • We developed a fact sheet for applicants to read during the offer process that not only spelled out we were a Drug-Free Employer, but also that we also required a post-offer, pre-employment drug test.
These hiring boundaries had an immediate impact, and we saw a drop in our pre-employment drug test failures. But we still had one or two each week, which continued to be a frustrating waste of time and money. I reached out to our testing vendor and asked what drug was the most common reason for failing our pre-employment drug test. It was marijuana, hands-down. We gathered the teams together again. "It's easy to grow and readily available, that's why it's an issue," one LP team member observed. "True," I responded. "It's not considered a 'hard' drug," a member of the HR team added. "So maybe applicants don't think we're testing for it." Great point. "Okay," I summarized. "Let's add that we test for marijuana to the fact sheet and see what happens."

I hit the jackpot later that week. Two well-dressed and professional young women attending college locally came in during the 2nd shift open-interviews; they were friends and I interviewed them together. As I prepared their offer letters and pre-employment drug testing paperwork, I gave them the revised fact sheet to read that spelled out marijuana as an illegal drug included in the drug test. "Ma'am?" one of them queried politely. I looked up. Disappointed, they handed back all of the new hire paperwork to me. "We can't work here," the young woman continued. Her friend nodded. "We smoke weed every day," she added. "We don't want to waste your time. Thank you for the opportunity." I nodded my understanding. "Thank you for letting me know," I said, genuinely grateful. "I wish you both the best of luck." I appreciated their candor, but wondered how many opportunities they had to pass up because of that personal choice.

Are you clearly and constructively communicating your workplace cultural and compliance boundaries as part of the hiring process? If not, consider the opportunity to lower your overhead costs -- your cost-per-hire / cost-of-turnover -- by proactively and positively sharing your workplace running rules with your lead candidates.

Good boundaries make good hires.   

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Who’s Watching Your Cash Register at Work?

I love cash registers. I remember like it was yesterday when my dad worked at a stationery store in Queens; I was 3 years old. Mom and I stopped by for a visit, and the store owner let me push the buttons on the mechanical cash register at the front counter. I was hooked. At the age of 4, I subsequently destroyed an electronic adding machine in Dad's office during a Saturday morning visit by pressing all the keys I could reach simultaneously. It whined, smoked and shorted out as part of its death throes. Today, I treat my electronics with a great deal more respect and thankfully, they last longer. Just to be safe, Joel asked me to not interact with our cash register when The Best Framing Company had a physical storefront.

Cash registers are on my mind tonight because I've read too many stories in the last year, in all sectors, of employees who have been caught with their hands in the till, so to speak. In other words, abusing their positions of trust as bookkeepers, office managers, accountants, controllers and CFOs by stealing money from their employers.

A common thread in all of these stories is that each organization did not have in place a system of financial / accounting controls to minimize the chances of one person using their organization's funds as illegal incremental income.

Another thread is the reliance on relationships alone to ensure financial controls. These stories always start out with the heartbreaking "I trusted him / her for years." Trust is critical in the workplace; however, it cannot be the only source of financial controls. It's a setup for failure for the entire organization.

So who's watching your cash register at work? And what's your system to keep the wrong hands out of the till?

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Power of Blend at Work

I sing in the alto section of my church's choir. My range is actually in between that of an alto and a soprano: so I don't cringe like the rest of the altos when we are called upon to sing in the soprano range. All I know is that I'm most comfortable singing Bette Midler, Carol King and Barbra Streisand songs: they're members of my tribe and make good money at the singing gig. It would be fun to be them when I grow up as a singer.

In the meantime, I'm thoroughly enjoying the choir gig. We have fun and we have a marvelous musical impresario as our choir director, Gary. She's a woman, and her given name is Gareth: a suitable name indeed for a noblewoman of music. My 10-year-old son Noah is in the Junior Choir. We choir kids adore Gary, who is also an avid gardener and dessert baker (and she shares!). Because of Gary, my voice has gotten stronger; I've learned to read music a bit better (I call myself the learning-disabled alto, as I sing mostly by ear and have never quite gotten the hang of reading music), and most importantly, I've learned how to blend my voice with the choir instead of instinctively belting it out like I'm on the stage in Vegas.

Gary manages both the adult and Junior Choirs with a firm hand both in person and via email. Because we only rehearse one (1) hour every Sunday morning before services, I get at least 3 emails from Gary a week; Here are some of her email communications:

 Folks - This is Sundae Sunday so please have your kids go get their ice cream FIRST and then come right to Jr. Choir. They can finish eating in the Emerson Room! We will have Pam, the society choir accompanist with us for Peace Is


Folks - Usually the choir gets January off but we will rehearse again in mid-late January for the cabaret. I will let you know well ahead of time. In the meantime, enjoy the warm(er) weather!

Cabaret performers: First of all, thank you for spending time in preparation for your performance this Sunday! The Music Committee is very grateful. This Cabaret promises to be the best yet. As you know, the dress rehearsal is this Sat. morning. You do not need to wear performance clothes. We will be checking microphones for everyone. Both choirs are dressing especially for the cabaret. We want to have a professional look to the show and therefore are asking that blue jeans and t-shirts not be worn. Anything red is good!  

See you on Saturday.

Sarah, Christine and Gary
Gary is a musical perfectionist and I am decidedly an amateur - Gary rehearses us rigorously and uses every bit of her weekly hour with us. However, when we sing well, Gary lets us know:  

Folks - That beautiful bouquet should be divided many ways as Cabaret was a true team effort again this year. For members of the Music Committee, I will say thank you so much! Days are getting longer and the iris and tulips make me think spring is around the corner. Thanks as well for all your good and hard work AND major contribution to Cabaret. You sang beautifully and looked so smart! It was all just so much fun preparing for cabaret with you.

Thank you Jr. Choir for the best performance of that song EVER! You remembered all the words (hooray!) and sang out and well, you were a great hit. What did I tell you about the Albany line??? Great job!! See you on Feb. 26th when we will begin rehearsing again.    

And Gary also shares good wishes from our "customers:"  

To Gary and Choirs, Holiday greetings, and thank you for the lovely music Sunday; it was a good antidote to the holiday music we hear in stores, etc. I’d much rather have your music running through my head this season!
Gary organized an impromptu welcoming gift from the choir for Madison, our lead soprano Christine's new daughter, who arrived for adoption with one week's notice. When Christine, Madison and Madison's daddy Dan arrived as we sang You Are the New Day for the first time, we all wept with joy as Madison studied us seriously. After we performed You Are the New Day in church, this note made it all worth it for me:    

Well, I just HAD to write! This morning was some of the loveliest singing the choir has done! Several years ago the choir could never have done an a'cappella piece and today it was done with expression and diction and BLEND!! I have been on a high all day - music has that kind of power. George, former bass with the choir, spoke to me with tremendous emotion - he could not comment enough about the beautiful sound and blend, especially. Marta said the same thing. The point of being so picky is not just because I am obsessive (!) about those things but because without pitch and dynamics and blend and therefore, beauty, music loses its power to transform and uplift. And that's our responsibility when we sing in the services.  


What is the power of blend at work for you? Whether you inspire blend like Gary, or contribute to blend like a learning-disabled alto who sings by ear: how and when does the music you create at work together delight your customers? And you?