Showing posts with label leadership. Show all posts
Showing posts with label leadership. Show all posts

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mentor Every Moment

Last week, the Hudson-Mohawk Chapter of the American Society of Training & Development ( kindly invited me to participate on a panel discussion: Not Just Orientation: Onboarding is New Employee Development.

Philosophically speaking, I'm a firm believer that successful onboarding engages the employee at the beginning of the recruitment process (e.g., placing the job posting), much in the same process and manner that a company engages, obtains and retains their customers.

As we shared best practices, the discussion turned to formal mentoring programs as an extension of onboarding / retention. Always the HR heretic, I laid the mentoring gauntlet down. "With all due respect to formal mentoring programs," I commented. "One of the gems that GE gave me is that every manager is at least a mentor, and at best a mentor and a sponsor. The best HR boss of my career to date, Bill, walked the talk of his belief that you mentor and sponsor the folks you work with to promote them to at least your level or above. Bill literally pushed me out of his organizational nest to take a promotional move at the corporate level -- even though I didn't want to leave Bill! He made such an impression on me, that 20 years later, I'm still talking and writing about Bill and the positive impact he made on me and my career path."

The magic of being mentored is when your mentor recognizes your gift and lifts it and you up, encouraging you to run with your gift(s) and build your career and/or life's vocation. Bill's wish was for me to run the Corporate Employee Communications function. However, Bill's real gift to me was not just recognizing my talents, but standing up for me and my talents. He not only pointed out the ruby slippers of my talents, he also stood up for my right to express my talents to support my success, and put his reputation on the line to recommend and push my promotion. The seeds Bill planted 20 years ago live and thrive with me today.

As an expression of my gratitude to Bill and other mentors like him who have graced my path, I mentor every moment. When I meet a talented professional, I acknowledge their talent and lift it up, planting those seeds of possibility that Bill planted so generously in my own career path. The continuity of planting those seeds - growing professionals, businesses, seasoned practitioners rather than apple trees - benefits us all.

And sometimes, the seeds that grow come back and let you know how they're doing. Stacey, a talented writer I met 20 years ago, sent me the sweet gift of this note today:

Hi Deb - 

You and I met through Loretta G. eons ago. You were very kind and mentored me back in the early 90's. I was a lost sheep, in a toxic job..... My life has transformed since then - in more ways than I thought possible. 

I live in Albany and think of you sometimes whenever I pass your husband's plaza - he had a framing store, right? Looks like you are doing fantastically. Just wanted to say Thank You for taking the time all those years ago and doing a wonderful Mitzvah - you planted a seed and look how it boomed! 

Best Wishes,


Happy sowing, my good and fellow mentors.    

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Change and Persevere in Business and in Work

My friend Lisa recently told me the story of how her husband, Brian, became a Mechanical Engineer. Right around the time they got married 15 years ago, Brian got tired of working at his low-paying, swing-shift factory job, an irrelevant path resulting from earlier youthful struggles. He wanted to go to college, but he was concerned that he wouldn't succeed. He was 28 years old.

Lisa, who at the time was a college admissions counselor, gave him some practical advice. "I advised him to take an English course at the local community college," she recalled. "And depending on what grade he received, that would give him a sense of his chances of getting a college degree." Brian got an A in that English course. Still in need of proof, Brian then took a math course at the community college. He got another A. Which led to his Associate's in Science degree in Engineering Science. Which then led to his admission to Syracuse University, where he received his Bachelor's of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. He was almost 33 years old, a quintessential late-bloomer.

When Brian died almost 12 years later this past August suddenly and unexpectedly from cardiac arrhythmia, he was the lead Mechanical Design Engineer at his company. In the online memorial guest book, one of his managers wrote: Engineer: Extremely smart, analytical mind with common sense.

At Brian's memorial service yesterday, his best friend Wally, an Engineering professor himself and Brian's biofuel co-producer / co-conspirator, summed it up neatly. "Brian changed, and persevered. He was an example to us all." Indeed.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Do You Have a $5.3 Million Budget for Sexual Harassment Claims?

Thanks to our state's Freedom of Information Law (also known as FOIL), lately the local press has been peeling back the layers of the cost to settle sexual harassment claims made against state workers over a four-year period to the tune of $5.3 million. In no particular order, these settled claims totaling $5.3 million include allegations of:
  • Inappropriate touching / groping
  • Inappropriate comments and actions
  • Requests for dates
  • Repeated retaliation against those who filed sexual harassment complaints.
The state worker targets of these settled claims come from all organizational levels and backgrounds, including but not limited to elected officials, legislature staffers, managers and prison guards. No matter how large the organization is, $5.3 million is a hefty chunk of change in unplanned expenditures to pay out. And the salt in the financial wound is not only that the $5.3 million is funded by taxpayers, but is also FOILable, e.g. discoverable to the general public. Not the reputational / financial data that any organization wants blasted in the news.

If you don't have $5.3 million budgeted for sexual harassment claims (as well as the additional funds that would be needed to manage the negative publicity should the claims become public and featured in the press), do you follow the advice of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to employers to best prevent sexual harassment? "Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring.
  • They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.
  • They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees; and
  • By establishing an effective complaint or grievance process, and;
  • Taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains."
The cost (payroll, subject-matter expertise, etc.) to train your employees, managers and executives as well as to set up the proper expectations, policies, due-process complaint and investigative infrastructure in your organization to prevent sexual harassment can be as little as .0005% of a potential $5.3 million budget for sexual harassment settlement claims. Sounds like a cost-savings home-run to the bottom line to me.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Liar, Liar, Job on Fire

When an employee falsifies any records for any reason, whether it's time sheets, doctor's notes, travel expense reports, etc.: in my experience as a Human Resources practitioner, it's pretty black and white: it's theft of company resources, grounds for immediate termination. Moreover, in my HR travels: if an employee is stealing company time by falsifying a time sheet indicating time worked when in fact they were, say, sleeping in a warehouse rack location on a pallet 30 feet above the cement floor (a double-play of theft of company time and violating safety rules, both gross / willful conduct violations each worthy of immediate termination), that lack of integrity is usually just the tip of the internal-loss iceberg, an indicator of other internal theft / loss prevention issues, e.g. the theft of company money and/or property.

Now, we may debate that I lean towards the hard-ass side, reminiscent of my Marine-Corps-trained dad. Before we debate too deeply, the following true story of employee falsification and theft of time is submitted for your consideration, straight from the New York State Inspector General's press release last week and quoted by The Times Union:
"Acting State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott today announced the arrest of a New York State Department of Health employee on felony charges, accusing him of submitting an application for handicapped parking supported by a forged doctor’s note. He also was charged with filing paperwork certifying he was working when he was not.
[The employee was arrested] by investigators from the New York State Inspector General’s Office and charged with four felony counts of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree and one misdemeanor count of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Third Degree. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted. The Inspector General’s investigation determined that in May of 2011, [the employee] obtained special parking privileges at his work location at Empire State Plaza based on a forged doctor’s note.
In addition, Defendant admitted that on three separate occasions in January and February of 2012, he submitted certified time records indicating that he had worked full days when he had not reported to work at all. (Emphasis mine.)
“New Yorkers have every right to expect that state employees will comport themselves with the highest degree of honesty and integrity,” said Acting Inspector General Scott. “Fraudulently obtaining handicapped parking not only is unlawful, but potentially inhibits the rights of New Yorkers with disabilities in need of accessible parking. Further, any fraudulent abuse of time and attendance records undermines public trust. Such conduct is not tolerable.”
[The employee] was arraigned today before Town of New Scotland Judge David Wukitsch and held in County Jail in lieu of $10,000 cash or bond. [The employee] has worked for the Department of Health as an Information Technology Specialist II since 2007. His current salary is $58,311.00. Acting Inspector General Scott thanked the New York State Police for their assistance in the case and the Albany County District Attorney’s Office for the prosecution of this matter. The defendant is innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law."
The debate on whether falsifying time sheets, doctor's notes, travel expense reports, etc. is theft takes a bit of interesting turn when it's money from the pockets of New York State taxpayers that's being filched. That outrage that you may feel at having your hard-earned tax dollars unlawfully stolen is underscored by the felony charges of forgery filed by the NYS Inspector General's office. Not to mention the reputational damage to the accused employee, his managers and the NYS Department of Health.

Upholding and enforcing true / accurate records protects the reputations and assets of everyone in your organization, including but not limited to promoting to industry those employees who will not / cannot follow those standards of integrity. You can handle the truth, and so can your colleagues, executives, managers and employees.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Let Go of Resentment to Move Forward Successfully in Business and at Work

Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.
- Nelson Mandela

As these days of awe draw to a close this Wednesday, I'm reminded of a transformational termination of an employee. How can a termination be transformational? Because the employee took responsibility for terminating himself.

In the vast majority of terminations I have adjudicated as a Human Resources practitioner, the employees have terminated themselves: they exhausted the progressive discipline process (usually, the issue was a fundamental inability to get their butts to the building and work their prescribed schedules). Many organizations require employees to work prescribed schedules to meet / exceed customer needs. For example: like getting your paycheck on payday? It helps when the folks in Payroll are reliable so you in turn can rely on receiving your paycheck.

After many years of conducting termination conversations, I don't expect the terminated employee to be happy about losing their job. Of course, they're almost always upset. On the surface, they're upset with me and their manager, but really, they're upset with themselves and don't have the emotional intelligence to take responsibility for their own actions. If they had that level of emotional intelligence, they in all likelihood wouldn't have terminated themselves in the first place. At the beginning of my career, I alternated between incredulity and indignation at the lack of responsibility for terminating themselves. As time went on and my experience grew, I considered myself a termination doula, with the goal of making the experience of transitioning from their job as dignified and professional as the terminated employee will allow.

Attendance was this particular employee's problem as well. He clearly did not care about getting to work on time, and his manager had given him more than enough chances to work his scheduled hours. I was waiting in the conference room for the employee and his manager. They entered the room and sat down. "You know why we're here?" I asked the employee. His manager, inexperienced with terminations, took a deep breath. Employee looked at Manager, and then looked at me. "I did it to myself," Employee stated calmly. I could feel my eyebrow rise in surprise. Manager finally exhaled. Employee turned to him. "Manager, don't feel bad. You gave me more than enough leeway to clean up my act, and I didn't take you up on it. This is my fault." Manager was touched by Employee's candor. "Employee, you're a smart guy and I really enjoyed working with you. But-" Employee finished Manager's sentence. "But I just couldn't get my ass to work. I know." Manager nodded, and looked at me. I nodded too. "Okay, sounds like we're all set. Manager, please get Employee's coat from his desk so we can finish this up." Manager, relieved, left the room.

I opened up the folder with the two copies of the termination paperwork, and passed them across the table to Employee with a pen. "Please sign both copies and keep one," I requested. "Sure, no problem," Employee replied, and scribbled his signature on both documents. He slid one of the documents back to me, and folded his hands as if he had just bought a house. I was intrigued. "I want to commend you for how professionally you've handled this conversation," I began. "Not the way this conversation usually goes." Employee shrugged. "Why burn a bridge?" he replied. "You've all treated me well, it's the least I can do given the situation." Employee's authenticity invited me to transform my role in the conversation. "Manager tells me that while you're smart, you hated the clerical work you were doing. What is it that you'd really like to do?" It was Employee's turn to be surprised. "No one's ever asked me that before," he replied. "I have 15 credits left to finish my Associate's degree in Graphic Arts - I want to be a Graphic Artist." There was the answer. Bad job fit. I leaned across the table, finding myself, surprisingly, in mentoring mode. "Do yourself a favor," I replied. "Finish your degree, and get a job doing what you love to do. Clearly, you've learned what happens when you take a job hating what you do." He laughed. "Clearly!" The door opened, and Manager entered the conference room with Employee's coat. I stood up, and extended my hand. Employee shook my hand. "Thank you," he said. "No, thank you," I replied. "Best of luck to you." Manager shook his hand too. "Take care," Manager said. "You too," Employee replied. "Thank you." Employee left the conference room. Manager looked at me. "Well, that was different," he said. "Yes," I replied. "He was a good guy in the wrong job. Hopefully, he'll go for the right job the next time."

How will you let go of resentment, take responsibility and move forward to succeed in business and at work this week, and in the new year?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pop Quiz: How Many of These LinkedIn Success Tips are Part of Your Profile?

  • Profile Spell-Checked and Formatted Professionally, Just Like Your Website? (e.g., you're not one of the one million current LinkedIn users that have misspelled manager as "manger")
  • LinkedIn Headline Crisply Announcing Your Product Offerings / Areas of Subject-Matter Expertise (SME)?
  • Résumé Summarized, Not Posted in Its Entirety?
  • Included Your Certifications and Publications?
  • Links to Your Blog / Website / Twitter / Facebook Page Included?
  • All of Your SME Skills Listed to Keep You in Searches?
  • Professional Headshot Photo, Eye-Contact, Smiling?
  • Recruiters: When Looking at Profiles, Are You Anonymous?
  • Public LinkedIn URL to Optimize Appearance in Search Engines?
  • Authentic Recommendations Given Then Received from Managers, Partners, Clients?
  • Joined the Maximum 50 Groups Strategically?
  • Joined All of the Subgroups You Can?
  • Strategically Added the LinkedIn Applications (e.g., etc.) That Make the Most Sense for Your Career / Business?
  • Posting Relevant / Useful Updates to Your Profile and to Your Groups Several Times a Week? (e.g., Your Blog Posts, Articles of Interest to Your Audience, etc.)
  • Purchased a Business LinkedIn Account to Increase Your Reach to Source More Business? (e.g., Is a $50k Sale Worth the Much Smaller Monthly Cost of Your LinkedIn Account? In the spirit of full disclosure, I don't work for LinkedIn or own LinkedIn stock!)
  • Managing Your LinkedIn Invitations Strategically, Joining LinkedIn Open Networker (LION) Groups, Following LinkedIn Etiquette and Avoiding IDK (I Don't Know You) / Spam Complaints from Other LinkedIn Users?

Best wishes for a Sweet and Successful New Year!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

From Talent to Mastery to Success in Business and at Work

My esteemed friend and colleague Ernie mused during his sermon today as our worship associate for this Labor Day Sunday about the transition our work / business paradigm needs to make from TOP, as illustrated by Good to Great Author Jim Collins:
  • Talent
  • Opportunity
  • Passion
Collins suggests that you ask yourself the following three questions in order to find work you love: A. What are you deeply passionate about? B. What are you genetically encoded for — what activities do you feel just “made to do?" C. What makes economic sense — what can you make a living at? Find or create work that allows you to do the things that are located at the intersection of the three circles (the sweet spot), and you’ll have the basis for a great work life.
 To Drive Author Daniel Pink's:
  • Mastery
  • Autonomy
  • Purpose
Pink's Self-Described COCKTAIL PARTY SUMMARY  
When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system–which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators–doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: 1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives. 2. Mastery — the urge to get better and better at something that matters. 3. Purpose — the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Ernie reiterated Pink's assertion that MAP is not only the realm of the Millennials, but is essential for all of us who find purpose in our work, in order for us as individual practitioners and for business as a whole to keep moving to the next level, authentically. To continue Ernie's conversation a bit longer:
  • I have several Talents, singing is one of them, and it is a source of immense pleasure for me; however, in Pink's paradigm, I have not Mastered singing yet, which is why I willingly continue to sing in choir under Gary's watchful ear and eye;
  • In Collins' Opportunities, I must rely on others to hire me to sing; in Pink's paradigm, I record myself singing and upload myself on YouTube, removing the middle man and creating my own Autonomy (and the operative, wonderful word here is creative);
  • In Collins' Passion, I sing because I love to sing; in Pink's paradigm, I sing in choir as part of a greater Purpose to connect the spiritual and core value dots as part of a larger, interconnected web.
While I have always enjoyed Collins' Venn Diagram appetizer, I must admit I prefer Pink's cocktail party summary more. Here's a review of my vocational and business purpose:

It is literally true
that you can succeed best and quickest
by helping others to succeed.

I look forward to learning more about your Purpose as well as Your Mastery and Autonomy, as we continue this wonderful journey to support each other's success in business and at work.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Managing Death at Work

I'm in a bit of a surreal state right now: Brian, the beloved husband of my dear friend Lisa, passed away in his sleep Saturday morning from an unexpected and shocking heart attack at the too-young age of 44, a day after Lisa and Brian's 15th wedding anniversary. My son Noah is buds with their sons Charlie and Timmy. I'm not quite grasping that he's gone. I spent yesterday and today calling Lisa's extended circles of friends and colleagues to share this very sad news, the minimum mitzvah I can offer at the moment, aside from urging you to love the ones you're with, every day, like Brian and Lisa did.

Brian totally rocked. In additional to being a wonderful husband and father (we all attend the same church, which is how we met), he was a Senior / LEED Mechanical Engineer with a great professional reputation, reinforced by his calm, direct and almost Buddha-like presence. Which served him and our church well as a member of our Trust Committee. He also reminded me of my Grandaddy Nat of beloved memory: Brian could do all of his own electrical, plumbing and carpentry work. He knew how to run natural gas lines, which allowed him to completely renovate their kitchen and bathroom. Brian also cooked up biofuel to use in the family diesel cars. He had been spending the summer putting new siding on the family house. He has just taken Charlie and Tim on our church camp-out in Cooperstown, and then journeyed with them to use their season tickets at Six Flags in New Jersey. Lisa had given him a brand new toilet last Christmas, in anticipation of his next project to renovate the second-floor attic space. Our collective handyfolk are discussing how they will complete Brian's projects for him.

One of the few beacons during this tragic weekend was the response from Brian's manager to the news of Brian's unexpected death. The manager, extremely emotional himself, told Lisa on Saturday that Brian was highly respected at their company, and that their customers specifically asked to work with Brian. A heartfelt, authentic and welcome message for Lisa in the midst of her grief, demonstrating how as Brian's manager, that he truly saw him and his gifts, and lifted them up. Well done.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Planning Breeds Creativity in Business and at Work

In the course of my client work this week, I've had the opportunity to talk to business owners and professionals whose comfort zone is the creative / R&D. Strategic or business planning for them, at first blush, seems to be the anti-creative. One colleague actually cringed when I suggested that they pull together a one-page business plan. In the spirit of doing what I say, I then showed them the one-page business plan that lives in my planner:

I feel your pain. Putting together a business, strategic or career plan used to evoke the same reaction for me as getting ready to do our personal and business income taxes. Remember the days before doing your taxes via computer? I'd do all of the work in pencil first. For weeks. Ugh, now that gives me the willies.

Business, strategic or career planning, however, is the marvelous act of creativity. The act of writing your business plan down is absolutely the act of creation. Financial forecasting, break-even and all.

It was that work of business / strategic plan development that created my husband Joel's business, The Best Framing Company, and my business, Deb Best Practices. Revenue-producing businesses that did not exist until we conceived the idea for each business (focusing on our respective strengths and marketability), and created the respective business plan first before proceeding with implementation.

We update each plan at least annually as our businesses grow and our markets and clients change. Everything we do in our businesses flows from those plans.

As a highly creative professional artist, writer and picture-framer, Joel's advice is always to measure twice and cut once. Pretty planful for a creative guy.

What's your plan to measure twice, which will in turn shore up your successful business and/or career implementation?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Happy Employees Make Happy Customers at the Blue Ribbon Restaurant

My good friend and colleague Dale and I decided to have our meeting over dinner at the Blue Ribbon Restaurant this past week. It was crowded as usual, and we were happy to score one of the last remaining booths near the counter.

Our server Jenny was Juanita-on-the-spot with menus and ice water, without prompting from us. She kept checking on us, taking our orders quickly and following up to see if we had enjoyed our dinners. She even encouraged me to try one of the Blue Ribbon's great sugar-free desserts. Jenny smiled, bounced and beamed as she multi-tasked taking care of all of the customers in her section, including us.

Intensely committed to providing great service to my customers, whether they have been internal to my organization or external customers, I love when I experience great customer service myself. Jenny's diamond demeanor was infectious, and she energized me even at the end of a long and very busy day of business meetings.

When Dale and I worked together at the same company, we'd have our business cards poised to recruit talent like Jenny to work in our stores; it was a no-brainer.

I had no job for Jenny that night, but I had a question. "Hi, I'm Deb," I said, introducing myself as Jenny brought us both take-out containers and bags to carry them in without a second request (Great service, I told you!). "You do a great job, what's your name?" "Jenny," she replied, beaming even more if that were possible. "Thank you." I asked her another question. "Jenny, you seem really happy. What makes you happy to work here?" Jenny answered without missing a beat. "The family who owns this restaurant treats me so well. They're respectful, they care about me, and they trust me. At past jobs, I've been yelled at and micro-managed. Not here." I loved Jenny's answer. "How long have you worked here?" I asked, my last question. "Two years," Jenny replied. "And I love it here." That was crystal-clear.

As Dale paid the bill at the cash register, I couldn't resist. "Are you one of the owners?" I asked the young man at the register. "I'm the son and nephew of the owners," he replied, smiling slightly. "You might say I'm an owner-in-training." I smiled back. "I just wanted to let you know that our server, Jenny, is great." He smiled wider, glancing at her bustling around the customers in her coverage area, and without missing a beat as he handed Dale his change, replied: "Yes, she is great. We're lucky to have Jenny."

We were all lucky that night, because at the Blue Ribbon Restaurant, they clearly know that happy employees make happy customers.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Embrace the Fear and Take The Risk Anyway in Business and at Work

For a salesman who worked on 100% commission most of his career, my dad injected more of his own fear rather than encouragement of taking risk in the face of my own budding vocational interests. Given generational and gender factors (I was a girl, wife and mother-material, not career-material in his assessment), years later, I understand the limits of my father's assessment context. On top of those factors, Dad had always been an employee, albeit one paid on 100% commission. And the icing on the fear was that fact that his own dad had died when he was only 17 years old.

When I was twelve years old, I signed up with my mother's permission to sell household products from some long-forgotten mail-order company, while Dad was away on a business trip. I showed early indications of Dad's sales DNA and actually made 4 sales on our block in my first few days. When Dad came home from the business trip later that week, I proudly showed him my sales slips. He reviewed them like an IRS auditor, frowning. "You calculated the sales tax wrong," he said, pointing to the columns on one sales slip. "You're too young to do this. You need to return this money and send the sales kit back." I was surprised. "Why?" I replied. "I can just go back to each customer and fix the sales slip." Dad went into his Marine-sergeant mode. "No! This is not a discussion. I will not have you embarrassing me with your mistakes." I went back to my new customers, apologized for bothering them, and sent the kit back as I was told.

When I was 15 years old, I took a job for the summer as a counselor at a reputable sleep-away camp 15 miles from our house. In order to get the campers to bed at a reasonable hour, the camp did not observe daylight-savings time. I made the mistake of calling home at 10 PM one night from the camp director's office, as for us at camp it was only 9 PM. Dad was upset and concerned. "Why are you still up, working so late?" He demanded. I explained the artifice of not observing daylight-savings time. Dad did not buy it. "I'm coming to pick you up and take you home now," Dad decreed over the phone. I did not take his supervision this time. "No Dad, I'm staying here. I like it and they're not over-working me. Please don't embarrass me." My father paused, and I looked over at the camp director. "Could you please explain to my dad how we handle daylight-savings time?" The camp director smiled. "Of course," he said. He took the phone and spoke to my father for a few minutes (they had met when my parents dropped me off at camp earlier in the week), repeating the daylight-savings time explanation. The camp director handed the phone back to me. "You can stay," my father decreed, grudgingly.

When I graduated from the University at Albany, I did not return to the New York City / metropolitan area to look for a job. Instead, I took a part-time job with my senior-semester internship boss Bob, my home Assemblyman, and a part-time job at Macy's. "I don't understand why you just don't come home and get a real job in the city," my father groused on the phone. "Because I want a job as a writer, and it's cheaper to live in Albany than it is to live in New York City," I replied. "Don't worry Dad, I'll be fine." And I was. It took about 10 years, but Dad finally realized that we have real jobs up here in Albany, too.

In both my career and in my business, the risks I continue to take while embracing (and sometimes wrestling with) the natural / nurtured fear is the lotus I harvest from the mud of fear time after time -- it is a drive that I cannot deny. It continues to get better as time goes on and the more I practice and see the undeniable proof of the great results I produce. As my good friend and colleague Lisa Jordan maintains, when we come from a place of fear, the expression of our gifts and talents are limited, and no one benefits. But when we come from a place where fear takes a back seat to the wonderful creative potential of risk, even in the face of potential failure or embarrassment: that's where the potential of success is limitless.

This week, and going forward: I celebrate our collective courage (e.g.: taking action in the face of fear) and joy in the risks we take in both business and at work, in support of our mutual success.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Good Things Come to Those Who Network Well

My 11 year-old son Noah and I spent some quality time together today at The Great Escape in Lake George, New York, thanks to the free admission tickets, parking and lunch door prize I won from The Hudson River Community Credit Union, as a result of networking at the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner Vendor Fair. Aside from the great door prize, one of the reasons I love the Rensselaer Chamber is the fact that it's a connection hothouse for small businesses like mine on the growth curve.

As we finished our lunch under The Great Escape North Grove Pavilion (declared "delicious" by Mr. Best the Younger) while sharing dining space with the Credit Union's employees and customers, Noah held up his hand in appreciation. "High-five on your power networking, Mom," he said, clearly pleased and proud of how my business networking had benefited him. We also stopped at The Hudson River Community Credit Union's booth at the Pavilion and thanked the Marketing Team for the door prize, and they rewarded us further by taking Noah's picture for their website.

Our Great Escape trip is a great metaphor for the rewards of networking well and how the success can cascade and ripple out like a stone skipped on the water of our SmAlbany economy to benefit many. Great networking:
  • Creates new opportunities, experiences, connections, and customers for all involved in the networking contact;
  • Is an ongoing, symbiotic process - it must be a two-way street to ensure both authenticity and results;
  • Shines the reputations of all involved by the good will (in this case, the door prize) which invariably ignites success for all involved;
  • Allows us networking mavens to creatively connect the dots to create new and successful customer opportunities / transactions. Like the Melanie Griffith character Tess McGill in Working Girl who put together Trask Industries and a radio station acquisition from reading articles in both Forbes and The New York Post ("Trask, radio; Trask, radio.");
  • Can be long-cycle, short-cycle, direct or indirect: while we can't control where the act of networking will take us, the fact that we have taken action (and continue to take action) keeps our businesses, and therefore our economy, moving forward;
  • Is fun, rewarding and ultimately profitable for all involved in the networking contact (in that order).
I consider networking at any vendor fair the opportunity to meet new customers, vendors and partners. The act of introducing myself, handing my business card to the company representative / owner manning / womanning the vendor booth is an act of marketing, connection and economic good will, especially considering that these vendors usually pay for the privilege of participating in any vendor fair and the very least I can do is stop and say hello. The door prizes I win are a symbol of my perpetual-motion marketing work. The people / business connections are priceless.

 Eleven years ago, when I was 7 months pregnant with Noah, I won five door prizes at a CRHRA Vendor Fair using the same philosophy. At this year's Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce Vendor Fair, the door prize from The Hudson River Community Credit Union was one of four door prizes that I won. I'm grateful for the generosity of all of these good vendor fair participants, and that I'm 60 pounds lighter 11 years later.

Come on in and join the fun: walk the next Vendor Fair with me. We need to spread the door-prize wealth around and more importantly: ignite our mutual success by continuing to make these critical and long-reaching business connections.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Joyful Recruiting Makes Happy Customers

Since my experience as a customer long precedes my experience as a Human Resources / Recruiting / Organizational Effectiveness Subject-Matter Expert (Yes, I remember my mother taking me for all-Saturday shopping sprees in my stroller, complete with a detachable pink strap harness equipped with a leash to give my mother the illusion of preventing me from making a break for it), it's my great experiences as a customer with exceptional employees that tell me which businesses are probably great places to work:
  • The nurse anesthesiologist who sang The Beatles They Say It's Your Birthday to me as my son Noah was born via emergency c-section while keeping me well-numbed;
  • The dining hall staff who kept us well-fed and well-served at Ferry Beach, Maine camp -- it was more like spa food than camp food;
  • The consistently great service I receive from the staff of the Rensselaer County Regional Chamber of Commerce, who continue to build their success by in turn authentically supporting the success of my business and those of my fellow Chamber members.
This week's Washington Post article on how Zappo's workplace culture directly translates into their best-practice customer experience is yet another key data point that happy / engaged employees absolutely make happy customers.

Conversely, it has been my consistent experience that employees with a bad attitude provide me with bad customer service (customer service is one of those key business areas where you can't fake it until you make it), indicating either a bad hiring decision or even worse, that the employee is a microcosm of a bad workplace culture, which acts as a powerful disincentive to bring my repeat business to their company. Social media on smartphones make these type of experiences painfully contemporaneous on the interwebs and embarrassingly public, such as the tweets I read from a colleague who real-time was experiencing poor customer service at a local grocery store, complete with the sour-puss employee complaining about their corporate management team.

Which is why a great Recruiter -- joyful, full of energy, authentically conveying how happy they are to work for their employer -- is a critical customer service and reputational representative for any company striving for best-practice customer service. As the Executive Recruiter for my company at the time, for example: my extreme satisfaction in my own job was often the decision-point attracting candidates to join my company. Candidates heard the joy in my voice during phone-screens, and wanted some of it for themselves. My company was a great product to present, and I derive a great deal of professional joy to this day vocationally matchmaking great candidates to great companies.

If your Recruiter exposes your candidates / new hires to a negative customer service experience, such as:
  • Lack of skill / experience, e.g. slow response times or rudeness to candidates;
  • Subjecting your candidates to bureaucratic hoops and transactions;
  • Conducting phone-screens and interviews like a grand-jury investigation;
  • And worst of all: when the recruiter conveys their own dissatisfaction with their job or the company;
You may be not only conveying a negative impression of your company and your workplace via the key channel of your Recruiter(s), but also hemorrhaging dollars in lost customers, candidates and turnover (e.g., the average cost of entry-level employee turnover is currently running about $6,000 a pop).

Or: if your joyful Recruiter takes leave of your company for happier workplaces because your company has become too negative, and therefore too difficult, to present authentically as a great place for great employees to consider, it may be time to take a step back and reassess your workplace / human capital strategy and branding as it dovetails with your company / customer service branding.

Which is why joyful recruiting is critical for happy customers.

How authentically joyful is your Recruiter about your company branding, your workplace culture and their job? And, in turn: how happy are your customers?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Declare Your Independence in Business and at Work

I must admit, I'm a bit sentimental about the Fourth of July holiday, e.g. patriotic. It annoys my husband Joel ever so slightly, sometimes reminding him of more rigid, intolerant and oppressive flag-waver types, and for that reason questions the authenticity of wearing red, white and blue as an expression of freedom given the occasional abuse of power.

However, I'm not that type of flag-waver. My patriotism - and pursuit of happiness and autonomy, in my career and in my business - is grounded more in gratitude. Gratitude for those generations who came before me, making my life so much better today than it clearly was for them. Grateful for my great-great-grandmother Katie Markowitz of blessed memory, married at 15 years old and a mother at 16 years old. Who, according to the 1900 census, emigrated to Manhattan from Moscow, Russia with her two oldest children in steerage for what was definitely not a luxury cruise for nearly 3 weeks in 1896, following her husband Davis of blessed memory who had emigrated before her almost 2 years earlier, arriving with little more than a few clothes and no job or business. My own private refuse of foreign shores. Who proceeded to have four more children, including my grandfather Joseph of blessed memory, also known as Markie, who died years before I was born at the age of 51. When Katie died, and of what, we don't know; however, I suspect she died young from a hard life of poverty and childbirth / child-rearing thereof.

Gratitude for my great-grandmother Rose of blessed memory, who's husband Abe, my great-grandfather of blessed memory, died in the 1918 influenza epidemic just a little less than 15 years after they both emigrated here from Austria as young teenagers, also with very little in the way of personal belongings and no jobs: but in search of a better quality of life and more personal freedom.

I found out only eight years ago that Rose, a master needle-worker, subsequently opened her own notions store on the Lower East Side after Abe's death, to support her two sons, Nat and Eddie. My granddaddy Nat of blessed memory was my son Noah's age, 11 years old, at the time of his father's death, and he quit school to get a job to help support the family. In the tradition of my tribe, Noah is named for Nat.

My ancestors of blessed memory came to the United States to find a better life for themselves, their children and their grandchildren, leaving everything and everyone they knew, taking the risk and arriving with nothing but their smarts and their stamina. In the process, they learned and worked hard at their trades; to build careers; to run their businesses; with the hope that their children and their grandchildren would find even more blessings. We did. Thank you for bringing our families here to live and thrive.

As one of their children, I have been blessed with great opportunities and a wonderful career that has forged the strengths of the person I am today. In honor of the 2012 Fourth of July holiday, I am proud to follow the path of my ancestors with the blessing of enough client work to step full-time into my consulting business, Deb Best Practices - in the arch of my combined family history, one of the mildest of risks to date, indeed.

For my colleagues, friends and family: I wish for you the authentic prosperity of your own independence and autonomy, born of those who came before us to bring us to this moment: to express the vocational music within you, whether you are in a career job or your own business, or both. As my friend Barry would say: "Nike! Just do it!"

 Happy Independence Day!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Teach Your Children Well in Business and at Work

I like to tell my son Noah, who turns eleven years old next month, that he attended business meetings with me long before he was born. A bit more jaded now that he's experienced the Family Health unit at the end of his 5th grade career (and on the brink of adolescence: sniggering like Beavis and Butthead over even mild / unintended innuendos), he just asked me recently to tell him the story again. "You had the hiccups constantly, that's when I knew you were awake," I recalled. "I would start giggling a bit in the middle of a meeting, because your hiccups were both powerful and distracting." Although Noah grimaced, I knew he loved the story.

Adolescence aside, Noah's formative years have definitely been different from those of his parents.

Just like Joel's and my formative years were different from our parents. My dad made the happy mistake of taking me to the office at the age of four one Saturday morning to give my pregnant mother a break. That visit - and the subsequent breakfast together at a diner, full of other working stiffs - sealed the deal. So that's where the money came from to buy the Good Humor ice cream, I concluded as I watched Dad pay the bill for our breakfast with dollar bills instead of the Good Humor dimes I usually handled. I wanted a job from that day forward. Fifteen years later, on a hot and aggravating journey north to start my freshman year at SUNY Albany with the initial goal of a double Pre-Med / English major, my father, ignorant of how he had contributed to my journey fifteen years earlier, clearly thought I was wasting my time and my student loan money with a line straight out of Mad Men, repeating the script my mother, his freshly-ex-wife, had followed. "Why aren't you staying home, getting a job, getting married and having kids?" Without missing a beat and a bit taken aback, I replied: "That would involve a date, which I haven't had yet. I'll keep you posted."

As I journey with Noah through his childhood, I marvel at how different his path is from mine and wonder how the mixed influence of witnessing both the career and entrepreneurial adventures of his parents will influence his own career and business decisions.

At the age of five, Noah wanted to be a chef and run his own business: Best Performance Bistro. He talked about it all the time to everyone - his grandparents, his kindergarten teacher, us. I made a sign for his dream business; it hangs to this day on the wall of my office:

Last year, Noah and his friend Frankie spent a Saturday afternoon on a video game company business plan, with Frankie as the CEO and Noah as his second-banana. Noah did not want to be Frankie's second-banana.

As Noah experienced school rules (particularly when a few of his buddies did not follow the rules), I reinforced the learning with an HR geek's eye to the future. "It so important to learn how to follow the rules in school. Because if children don't learn how to follow the rules in school, I usually end up firing them as adults," I hammered home, as Noah listened, wide-eyed.

Noah's career and business vision continues to evolve. He experiments with "Let's Play" videos, which in turn have strengthened his presentation skills to the point where his elementary school principal suggested that Noah consider a career in broadcasting. It's all good fodder for learning marketing on-the-job. Noah is also developing a video game and composing the accompanying soundtrack music, for separate potential sale on Steam. We love his energy, ingenuity, and of course, him. His current goal is:
  • Go to a 2-year SUNY college and take computer science, business and culinary arts courses;
  • Finish his degree at a 4-year SUNY college (or at the Culinary Institute of America, if he gets a scholarship);
  • Work for someone else first before a) starting his own successful video game software company and b) then, once he makes his fortune, opening his own gourmet pastry shop.
Noah is working on a new business plan where he is the CEO of his own video game software company, and his pals Charlie and Tim are part of his leadership team. I'm tentatively slated as the Chief Administrative Officer, grateful to achieve one of my goals to be part of the leadership bench plan of a start-up company. Per his request, I've also shared the business plan for The Best Framing Company, which his father and I worked on together 7 years before Noah was born.

As his parents, Joel and I do our best to also give Noah the gift of authenticity: to see us as fellow creative humans as well as his parents and mentors, taking risks and experiencing, like Edison, the occasional creative failures almost always in stride. For to do otherwise would stifle the music that streams from within each of us that must be expressed / shared. I can't wait to see what Noah cooks up as he approaches adulthood. I'm honored to witness his journey, as we Bests continue to mentor each other.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

We May Leave Our Managers, But We Stay for Our Peer Mentors (Friends) at Work

I bonded with Dale as soon I met him after my fait accompli interview process with the rest of the Executive Team. Dale was the last interview on the schedule. All of the prior interviews frankly did not meet the threshold for an employment interview. Instead, they were meet-and-greet chats, e.g.: "So the CEO has hired you for the HR team; nice to meet you;" or "I understand the CEO is very impressed with your background;" or "Let me give you some advice about how to best work with the CEO."

My soon-to-be new company did not have a Head of HR at the time I was interviewed / hired, and hadn't had one for more than two years. I was recruited by the CEO as a Senior HR Manager to help bring their HR Department to the next level and to work with the CEO to recruit a new Head of HR. While I knew that I would do a great job for my new company and I was honored to be hired directly by the CEO, I wanted the same due diligence performed for my candidacy as I performed as a Recruiter for the candidates I hired. I wanted my strong skills, abilities and experience to be reviewed, validated and documented thoroughly so we could all start off in our work together on a high note.

As the Vice President of Loss Prevention, Dale did not disappoint. "So," Dale began, opening up his folder to my rèsumé, liberally highlighted and marked with his notes and questions, "What is union avoidance, and how would it benefit our company?" I exhaled with relief and smiled at him. "Thank you for interviewing me," I replied. "Please ask me all of your questions. If you have the time; I certainly do. I want you and the CEO to get all of the information you need to feel completely comfortable with me in my role." Dale smiled back. "Don't worry, that's my plan."

Being in a compliance role in any organization, especially a new organization, is not the Miss Popularity job, to put it mildly. So to have Dale as a colleague, peer mentor and eventual friend who was also in a key compliance role for the organization was a critical touchstone that absolutely contributed to my career and developmental success. Dale broadened my business understanding and acumen tremendously as we accomplished our work together: mergers, acquisitions, rolling out new programs like pre-employment drug testing, you name it. Small but significant things, such as upon arrival for a site visit, to visit the bathroom first. The tidiness - or chaos - of the bathroom more often than not indicated how well the site manager was doing their job. Dale was also intensely curious about my area of subject-matter expertise, and it was my privilege and pleasure to share my HR / Recruiting / Change Management experience, strength and hope in return. It was a peer mentoring relationship that benefited both of us equally: the type of work relationship flow that is pure business and career development gold. Dale was a significant factor in the length of my tenure with the company. It's the type of retention that CEOs with any smarts strive for.

Dale was subsequently promoted to an operations executive role; and currently, runs his own successful business. All expected and well-deserved. I had my first inkling of Dale's abilities beyond his compliance role about a month into my tenure at the company's national District Managers' conference. When Dale got up to speak on his topic, Loss Prevention, the entire group jumped to their feet spontaneously and gave Dale a standing ovation. Part of it was in recognition for the company's great shrink performance; but really, it was all for Dale: they saw him truly as their business partner and leader, not just the head compliance guy enforcing the rules.

Me, too.

Lennon's Irish Shop

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Innovation and Growth in Work and Business Love a Vacuum (Breakdown)

My husband Joel's business, The Best Framing Company, celebrates its 18-year anniversary this month.

The Best Framing Company was conceived early in 1994 when the owner (Joel's boss at the time) of the local Deck-the-Walls franchise decided not to renew his 10-year franchise. Before he closed the store down, the franchise owner offered Joel and me the opportunity to renew the franchise for $350,000, at a 6% interest rate. The franchise owner offered to hold the 10-year note, and we would make the astronomical and discouraging monthly payments to him, with little hope of making any profit. No, thank you. Joel had had enough of mall working life. And we had just purchased our first home, so our savings account was a bit thin and our bills were much more substantial. Joel and his boss proceeded to make arrangements to close the store by April 1994, and Joel commenced his job search, a bit discouraged at the thought of working for one of the competitors.  

That offer from Joel's boss sparked an idea. Why not open our own store, in a small strip mall, and Joel could make his own hours? As a skilled custom picture-framer, Joel had a healthy client list of happy customers. Armed with that unique selling proposition and our respective skill sets and smarts, Joel and I proceeded to complete the four months of research and legwork to build a business plan to obtain a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan to open The Best Framing Company's bricks-and-mortar storefront.

By the time Joel was laid off, we completed the business plan. Joel continued his job search and fixed up our new 1944 house while I shopped our 40-plus-page business plan around to SBA loan providers.

One of the local nonprofits at the time ran an SBA loan program: I sent the business plan to the nonprofit, and the 21 year-old pisher loan coordinator said that 1) our business plan was great; and 2) we were a shoe-in to get our loan. The Pisher assured us we would be on the May 1994 loan review committee agenda. Armed with that information, I made arrangements to lease a store space effective June 1, 1994 and order the materials Joel would need to open the store, using a $6,000 credit union line-of-credit.

The day before the loan review meeting, I called the Pisher to ask when we would appear. "Oh," he said, rightfully embarrassed. "I forgot to put your loan review on the agenda. He heard me choke. "But don't worry," he hurriedly said, hoping to avoid my expected outburst. "We can get you on the July agenda. I was deadly and sadly, calm. "You've just put my husband and me into financial jeopardy," I carefully said. "What are you going to do to fix this?" The Pisher did not man up. "I'm sorry, there's nothing we can do," he said. "But let me give you the phone number of Manny Choi at Fleet Bank, who is on our loan committee. He may be able to help you." I hung up the phone and cursed loudly, dropping F-bombs for 15 minutes straight. When I was done, and calm again, I called Manny Choi.

 He agreed to meet me the next morning. I did not sleep at all that night. And while I'm not normally a crier, I cried bitter tears all night long. Joel tried to console me, but I was inconsolable. "Who the hell do I think I am," I wailed to Joel. "What business do I have thinking that I can put together a business plan?" Now I've pushed us deeper into debt. $6,000 will not cover all of the initial carrying costs. I'm so sorry I've gotten us into this!"

Joel knew better. "It's a great plan, and we'll get a loan somewhere else, I know we will," he said, 110% solid in his belief in my abilities, and his own. "We can definitely do this." I took a much-need break from the tears, sniffling. "You're just saying that because you love me," I said, whimpering a bit around the edges - also unlike me. Joel hugged me. "No, I'm not," he said, firmly. "I would tell you if I thought we should quit. We haven't explored all of our options yet."

The next morning, calm from lack of sleep and all cried out, I donned my best blue navy suit and met with Manny Choi. I watched him for nearly 45 minutes as he read all 40 pages of our business plan, occasionally nodding. He closed the plan, and looked up at me. "What do you think?" I asked him. He smiled. "I think we can get you a loan. I'll just need current résumés for you and Joel. You have a good plan here." I exhaled. Joel was right. We got the loan.

As I learn and grow incrementally wiser from these wonderful adventures, I'm quicker to remember my Daddy's advice: if you make 30 calls and you get one sale, you're doing well. In order to start The Best Framing Company, we only needed to make two calls before we got the sale. Or as my friend Barb Wisnom would say: just try and collect 20 "no's." We were only able to collect one "no" before we got the "yes!"

Good hunting for your "yes's" this week, and every week. And savor the creativity and growth that you will produce when faced with the vacuum of a breakdown. For that - and you - are the gift and the breakthrough in the face of every breakdown.

 Happy Anniversary, hon!  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Giving Pays Large Dividends for All of Us at Work

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.

But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.

I've spent most of the day putting the finishing touches on this year's property tax appeal; my brain cells are squeezed dry. I am, as always, looking forward to a lively discussion on Tuesday, while Noah and Joel watch me channel my inner amateur lawyer.

Earlier today, our Senior Youth conducted their annual Bridging Service to send their dear comrades off to college. One of them quoted Lilla Watson during their presentation to us. Another youth, a former Coming-of-Age mentee, shared her love and appreciation for her older sister, headed off to start her college career. "I know my life would not have been the same without her in it; I will miss her terribly," she said.

Yesterday, my good friend Avon asked me to present a Career Workshop to up-and-coming young women served by The Northeast Parent & Child Society. I'm no fashion diva by any means; and my challenge was to coach these young women on how to make a great first impression.

In preparation, I reached back to my own early career experience, with a equivalent college loan debt of about $40,000, making only $8,000 a year during my first of many rides to the Recession Rodeo. What meant the most to me as I began interviewing for career jobs? The first thing that came to mind was how to look professional on a shoestring budget. So I put together an interview outfit accordingly:
  • Navy jacket:      $6
  • Navy pants:       $3
  • Peach blouse:   $3
  • Matching scarf: $1
  • Navy shoes:      $7
And made it part of my "show me, don't tell me" workshop presentation.

That day, I shared my experience, strength and hope with about 60 talented young women, as my mentors before me have so lovingly and generously done for me. I validated their great outfits, all decked out for the Career Fair. I recognized some of their talents on the spot, and told them. I gave advice on how to best manage and conceal tattoos. I gave them my daddy's advice: if you make 30 calls and you get one "yes," you're having a great day: for after all, you only need one job. My friend and co-presenter Barb Wisnom provided a new, more positive trope on that theme: try and collect 20 "no's" and make it a game. Can you? I'm going to try it out. Because one of the hardest lessons when you're marketing yourself to potential employers (customers) to learn is that it's business, not personal. "How can your feelings not get hurt," one of the students asked. "Practice, repetition and time," I replied, with full knowledge and serenity.

Saturday was a day of vocational giving, and I received nothing in return except an unexpected and delicious sandwich from Ambition. And from my experience, the dividends that always come thereafter are: priceless.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Focus the Strengths of Your Own Team of Avengers at Work

Warning Before Reading: Spoiler Alert for the movie The Avengers.

Joel, Noah and I saw The Avengers this weekend. It was a great movie on a number of levels, the best movie we've seen as a family in a long time. Of course, what delighted me personally were the plot elements that addressed The Avengers often-exciting and frankly chaotic team-building process - it was more of a series of brawls than a process. Their storming phase included but was not limited to the triggering of weapons of mass destruction and destroying large swaths of New York City. No time or patience for an HR geek to facilitate the Avengers through the universal development phases that all teams experience. Movie or reality: chaos is definitely the more common state.  

When I attended and subsequently taught facilitation training at GE, one of the optional overnight homework assignments was to ask the class to watch 12 Angry Men: not only a great flick with a wonderful ensemble cast, but also a great "show me, don't tell me" way of absorbing the challenges and rewards of developing and working with high-performing teams.  

The Avengers is more complex and nuanced than 12 Angry Men, however. The plot thread of the marginalization and eventual integration of Dr. Bruce Banner / The Hulk as one of the Avengers is a team effectiveness nugget to note.

As we're re-introduced to Bruce Banner, he's banished himself from his life's work and from any stress triggers to keep The Hulk from making an appearance. He can't even off himself to escape his volatile burden: he and his alter-ego the Hulk are both indestructible. Bruce is self-deprecating and at times ashamed: the last time he was in New York City, he sheepishly admits that he "broke Harlem" and was not quite welcome back there.

Some of the Avengers keep their distance: Nastasha Romanov (The Black Widow) and Tony Stark (Iron Man) however immediately engage him as a respected colleague who they admire and want to get to know better.

Of course, The Hulk subsequently returns and wreaks havoc and destruction in his usual psychopathic way. The rest of The Avengers are similarly challenged, by both external and internal demons, not unlike what the Hulk experiences.

However, when the going got tough, the Avengers regrouped as a tough team and got going. Captain America marshaled The Avengers, doling out assignments; for example, Tony Stark was charged with repair and engineering work while fighting off alien enemies swarming like killer bees. When he got to Hulk's assignment, Cap directed him to "Hulk: Smash!" Hulk grinned and there was a sea change: Cap not only acknowledged Hulk as a team member and "saw him;" Cap also asked Hulk to take his strength and use it for the good mission of the team.

Hulk subsequently teamed with Thor and saved Tony Stark, and got his confidence back in the process: while the punch he gave Thor after they defeated their group of bad guys was not appropriate behavior for the workplace, for The Avengers' comic-book work environment and norms, it signaled that Bruce / Hulk had come in from the margins and regained his confidence in his abilities and his contribution. The team saw it and he saw it. When there work was done and one team member asked him how he kept his anger (and the Hulk) at bay, Bruce grinned confidently and declared that "he was always angry;" e.g., that the Hulk was always there, a part of him, and clearly he embraced that as a strength and a contribution.

Which made the last scene after the credits all the more delightful: The Avengers, sitting together in a destroyed NYC deli, have a quiet sandwich together.

You know you've made it as a team when you can share a quiet meal together without the need to chat.

How will you marshal the strengths of your own team of Avengers - inviting them in from the margins, self-imposed or otherwise - to support your mutual success at work and in your business?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Share the Success of Your Discretionary Power on LinkedIn

The 8th and 9th-graders conducted their Coming-of-Age Service today. They did a wonderful job sharing their musical, artistic, and writing talents with the rest of us in the congregation, including their credos - the culmination of a year of study and self-reflection. One of the Coming-of-Age youth, in sharing her credo with us, shared also her belief that if we all did our small parts in small ways to help others, then together we could actually make things better overall.

At the end of the service, their adult mentors (one of whom was my husband Joel) stood behind the Coming-of-Age youth and shared with the congregation one to three words about what was special about their respective mentees. The positive use of the discretionary power of our adult community's network in support of our young mentees was evident (and heart-warming) indeed.

I met a seasoned professional at a large networking function last week who's been out of work several months due to the elimination of their department at their last company. We chatted for a while and I offered my Recession Rodeo experience, strength and hope as well as a few tips and advice on how to reach out to potential decision-makers in their field. I also encouraged Seasoned Professional to connect with me on LinkedIn, which would expand their LinkedIn network view further for potential local companies to pursue. After I accepted Seasoned Professional's invitation, I reviewed their profile. They had no fewer than 13 recommendations from their last company, from direct supervisors, managers and customers alike.

So I used a bit of my own discretionary power, and forwarded Seasoned Professional's LinkedIn profile to one of my contacts on LinkedIn, with this note:

 [Dear Contact]! I hope this finds you and yours well. 
I met [Seasoned Professional] at a networking event this week; I can't personally vouch for them as a reference, however they seem like a good egg in case you're looking for a [seasoned professional] - they have 13 references on their LinkedIn profile including from their immediate managers; their department was eliminated earlier this year. 

Would love to catch up with for lunch; please let me know what your schedule looks like.  

Have a great weekend,  


Debra J. M. Best, SPHR

How will you leverage your discretionary LinkedIn power and support the mutual success of you and your network this week; and every week? Let us know how it turned it out for all of you, and I will, too.