Why Should You Want to Work There?

An international survey of more than 500 HR executives by global talent management firm Bernard Hodes (now part of Findly) has found that the quality or reputation of products and services, the corporate culture and the work environment are a business's most important attributes when it comes to bringing talent on board.

Ethical reputation also scored highly. But benefits and compensation were, perhaps surprisingly, toward the bottom of the list.

What does it tell us? That job seekers have a keen idea about the kind of atmosphere in which they want to spend their work life and are savvy and discerning in their search. Discerning to the point that companies are getting professional help to create a "brand" for recruiting. I think that's a worthwhile endeavor. But consultants and their client companies have to pay more attention to what's actually happening: "The War for Talent" is really "the system-to-make-it-as-difficult-as-possible-to-ever-get-in-the-door."

Is Anyone Else Experiencing This?

Our daughter graduated from a well-known university. High GPA, Dean's list, two semesters of study abroad in two different countries, fluent in a second language and quite conversational in a third; leadership experiences during college, worked at a real job for a government agency in her junior and senior years and had additional work experience with a professional firm. Most of all she was motivated to work and clear about where she wanted to be.Jobpal_interface


Here's how the job search actually went:

1. All resumes had to be submitted online (not unusual or surprising). She understood the whole "keyword" deal in order to get through internal search machines.

    a. More often than not, there was no response indicating that the document was actually received.

    b. Many websites seemed to be designed by IT people for IT people. They were difficult for even the web-savvy to navigate.

    c. Frequently--very frequently--three quarters of the way through the process all of the information would disappear. On numerous occasions she had to enter the information multiple times before the site remained "up" long enough to complete the application.

2. Seldom did she ever receive any acknowledgment from a real human-being that the resume had been received. I understand that huge corporations receive many applications. If there is a "war for talent" and "company culture and reputation" are really important, then spending dollars on public relations is wasted capital if no one is actually talking to the talent.

3. Career Fairs. My favorite. She figured that if the online application system wasn't yielding results,   then some face-to-face contact could move things along. So she registered for the Career Fair and  showed up with the requested twenty resumes. Please feel free to use the following dialog if you are a stand-up comedian and need some job-related material:

    Daughter: HI, I'm interested in talking with you about___________.

    Recruiter: HI, my name is_____________________.

    (Casual conversation, brochure distributed by Recruiter)

    Daughter: I think this (points to brochure) might be an area where I'd like to contribute. Here is a copy of my resume.

    Recruiter: Go on our website and fill out an application.

    Daughter: Uh, I thought this was a place to talk about jobs and exchange information.

    Recruiter: We don't take resumes. Go on our website and fill in an application.

    Daughter's evil thought: (What are they paying you for if you don't handle resumes. I already knew there was a website. Maybe I should get a Recruiting job with your company so I wouldn't actually have to do Recruiting and could travel and turn in expense reports for meals and hotels.)

    Her target companies were well-known and in the Fortune 500 with some in the Fortune 50. Many tout their Talent Management initiatives. Experience tells me that the internal presentations about Talent Management may be more impressive than the actual execution.

    Happy Ending: She started working at a global firm on a temporary assignment. She liked the company a lot. They liked her work a lot and hire her as a full-time professional there.

Question: If companies are waging a "War for Talent," then wouldn't it be useful to remember that wars are won by the people on the front lines doing their jobs--not in the staff headquarters or the branding office?

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Choosing Who Will Influence You

Every leader must also follow.

Following_elephants Those who show no accountability to others--in business, non-profits, or government--may hold a position of leadership but won't hold on to it without some version of brute and/or "political" force, overt or covert. (If that kind of leadership appeals to you, you may want to check Craigslist for the "Dictators Wanted" ads).

Be selective about who you allow to influence your thinking, attitudes, decisions, and behavior. What are the values that you hold most dear--the ones you would like others to adopt as a result of being influenced by you?

Take time to think about that question. Then, make sure that the influences on your life mirror the same values.

If you do, your life and your leadership will be reinforced and lifted up. If you don't, you put yourself in a position to be led away from your life's vision. Perhaps even worse, you'll lead others in the wrong direction.

Choose carefully who you will follow.

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You Get What You Pay Attention To

There's an incongruity between  time and money devoted to leadership development and the number of articles about bad bosses.  Maybe its' time to re-visit the definition of "bad."

Here's why:

Rewards People do that for which they are rewarded. Period.

I've seen very few organizations care about bad bosses who "make the numbers." In fact, the very people described by employees as "bad bosses" may be the very bosses who keep the shareholders happy.

We all pay attention to what our bosses pay attention to. When people get rewarded solely for behavior that produces profit, then that behavior becomes acceptable--even if it's bad. You can send those folks to ten different leadership development programs that model respectful practices. But you're still going to get the behavior that is actually rewarded.

What's getting rewarded in your organization?


If you want to see something different in leadership. . .

My friend Alex Kjerulf, The Chief Happiness Officer, is speaking at the World Blu Live 2008 conference on democratic leadership in New York City, October 16-17. If the organizers shoot a media pass this way I'll blog it in between client meetings:-)

Don't forget the Top Small Workplaces 2008 Conference coming up in Chicago.

And in honor of the upcoming National Bosses Day, Dan McCarthy has published the 4th edition of The Carnival of Leadership with lots of good reading.

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Business Choices: Starting With Peace

Three Stories and a QuestionTreesun_1

  • I just spoke with a fellow who needed to end a freelance career and return to corporate life. Although he is a real pro at what he does and enjoys the consulting life, other factors impacted the decision. While this would seem like a real blow to many, he sounded very calm and relaxed. He was at peace with the decision.


She didn't have a choice. When you visit the links above, note the bright smile that lights up the pages.

  • Some years back I received a phone call asking if I would consult/coach with a VP of Engineering at a major corporation. Part of his company had actually been shut down by a government monitoring agency. I was told by associates from other consulting firms not to work with him. They said he was  "old school," "narrow minded," and "kept to himself." (Whatever that was supposed to mean).

What had his part been in the company's situation? He had actually warned the CEO and Board of Directors, verbally and in writing,  that things were happening which were wrong. When the smoke finally cleared, he was the only one of the management team left.

The proposed task? To re-invigorate and re-structure a large organization of people who had been under close scrutiny and investigation. They were ultimately found not only to be above-board in their behavior but highly competent in their profession.

I decided to ignore the comments and went to meet with him. At the end of our initial meeting it was clear to me that he wanted to make a real difference and leave a legacy of professionalism and integrity for his group, and that the road ahead would be difficult. At that point I knew little about his personal background. I heard my voice begin a question that I had never asked a prospective client before: "How is your relationship with God?"

His answer: "I am totally at peace."

We worked together for 3 years on the project until his retirement. He was not only not old school or narrow minded; he was willing to consistently be "out there" with his people to lead and encourage throughout the rebuilding of the division and the company.

Here we have three different people facing major challenges and obstacles that were not of their doing. The first person will do just fine. The second two made decisions and acted upon them with courage.

None blamed their boss, their company, or their life.

Instead, they began by becoming peaceful with the situation and themselves. It allowed them to think clearly and act wisely.

Are you starting at the right place?

What do you need to be at peace with today?

photo source: dreampad.org

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Bad Bosses' Bosses: It's Not Just A Training Issue

0712162626_work_stress_boss Bad Bosses are getting lots of blog space.

When I posted Lots of Leadership Training But Still Lots of Bad Bosses, my mindset was about the incongruence between time and money devoted to leadership development and the number of articles and posts about bad bosses.

But that's only part of the story. And it's really a small part.

Carmine at Slow Leadership mentioned my post in his new newsletter (go to the upper right hand corner of his blog to subscribe . He does his usual fine job of commenting on issues that are meaningful). His remarks regarding my post are dead on:

"My own view is that organizations really don't care about bad bosses who 'bring home the bacon,' so the only ones put under pressure to change are those the organization is likely to get rid of anyway."

We all pay attention to what our bosses pay attention to. When people get rewarded by their bosses for behavior that produces profit, then that behavior becomes acceptable--even if it's bad. You can send those folks to ten different leadership development programs that model respectful practices. But you're going to get the behavior that is rewarded.

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Businesses Can't Stalk You. Politicians Can?

It's Saturday morning. Your first thought: "Gee, it's time for a change in government. I hope all of the candidates call me today."

Business people know that folks on the national "Do Not Call" list don't want to be solicited by phone. And businesses can get into some trouble they decide to violate those wishes.New_american_gothic

Apparently politicians believe that the same "Do Not Call" people don't mind if they call. And call often.

I went to the movies last night. When I got home, there was a blinking light on the phone. Thinking that it was a message about my dad (recovering from surgery), I hit the "play" button. It was Pat Boone. Yep, my close personal friend Pat Boone . Pat wanted to tell me about an important issue on the ballot in New Jersey. I was trying to visualize Pat on the other end of the phone wearing white bucks and thinking "Hey, I've gotta call my old buddy Steve Roesler on Friday night to tell him what's on my mind politically."

OK, I confess. It's the only voice message that I let play all the way through. I was sure he would sing "April Love" or the white-guy-cover-version of Little Richard's Tutti Frutti . But no. He just wanted to inform me of the issues. How did they know that the first person I want to consult on an issue of political importance is Pat Boone?

Eric the Swede Weighs In

My first email this morning was from my proud-to-be Scandinavian friend Eric the Swede. Eric was raised in China, the rational-thinking offspring of fine Scandinavian-heritage missionaries. He ultimately became a paid musician (well, trombonist) with a major orchestra. Regardless of that, I still consider him to be my closest and most trusted friend. This leads to:

You Need To Help Eric Today

Here's the text of the email:

    Maybe you can comment on your blog.  Why do politicians not bother to
check if I am on the national do not call list before having their robots
call me?  I know they have the right to call even though I am on the list,
but why would anyone think it was a good idea to harass people who have gone
to the trouble of specifically ASKING to not be harassed?

    I just got a call from the National Right to Life PAC, and in spite of
the fact that I agree with them, I am ticked off at them for calling me
using a prerecorded harassment robot.

    Businesses have the right to call people with whom they have "an
established relationship." However, I can't remember the last time a
business used that loophole and called me with a sales pitch. They seem to
have figured out that "do-not-call" means "I will be pissed off at you if
you call". Are politicians and non-profits just dumber than businesses?


Please let Eric know what you think about this and Comment below. He has lots of time to read the responses. He is a low brass player.


Photo Source: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1453131/posts



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Stringless In Seattle: "My Cellos Can Beat Up Your Tuba"

At best, Bad PR.  At worst, Dysfunctional Organization.

Here is a situation for you managers, board members, consultants--anyone interested in organizational analysis. It contains conflict, power, harassment, an Executive Director revolving door, inability to influence. . .

The Seattle Times reported a story titled Vandalism, threats strike sour note in SeattleSeattle_frontpage Symphony. If you want to join in the organization analysis, read the full story and we'll continue.

Got it? We need to start with one assumption. Since we don't have the ability to go into the situation and do a proper diagnostic, let's first take the report at face value. Looking at some common diagnostic areas, here's what we might surmise:


The governance/management situation seems out of balance.  Does the structure actually support a strong Executive Director or does the Board make all of the managerial decisions?  The allusion to a 56-2 vote would indicate the latter, although on issues of Conductor tenure the Board would, in fact, be the deciding body. If all decisions are taken in that manner it would be more difficult to get a new coffee machine for the musicians' lounge than it would to have a small country admitted to the European Union. If I'm reading this correctly, are there really at least 58 people on the Board? Nice perk for big donors, unwieldy to govern in any meaningful way.


How are things supposed to get done? Is there a system in place that allows the orchestra (musicians) to be heard on issues that impact performance, including leadership and colleague behavior?  If there is, it would seem ineffective at best. I'm not sure what to make of the "survey" issue, but I can say this: It is the norm--and for most consultants an ethical "must"--to provide respondents with survey results. If the surveys are done using interviews the actual quotes don't have to be presented to protect anonymity. But the thematic issues do need to be fed back. The absence of this step discourages people from future participation ("Why bother?") and raises the question "What was so bad that we couldn't see it? (negative fantasy). "If we didn't see it, who did? And why them and not us?" The list could go on.

Note: The nature of the music world normally has musicians represented by a union. Not sure yet where their representation is on this one.


This can be a catch-all phrase. In this case, don't we have to wonder how this ended up in the newspaper? It seems that there is a clearer channel between someone(s) within the Symphony and the media than there is within the organization itself. If there is a communication system within the organization, who is responsible for accuracy, timeliness, and coordination? Does everyone get the same information at about the same time? Or are there some things left dangling so that different constituencies have to "fill in the blanks" on their own. They will. The world abhors a vacuum. In this case, the symphony may need a vacuum cleaner.


Judging from the article, the Board exercises some of the leadership normally performed by an Executive Director. Not sure why there is turnover--that would be an area to explore. Experience with similar organizations has shown me that there are inherently different focal points for the internal constituencies. The musicians are concerned about performance quality, sitting under an effective conductor, tenure, and workplace issues: travel schedules, rehearsal schedules, and administrivia that can impact them.

Boards are concerned about generating revenue, endowments, reputation, etc.  They are frequently composed of donors (nothing inherently wrong with that) who are interested in the organization.

An effective Executive Director really manages the constituencies and keeps operational rules and guidelines as well as cooperative communication on track. This role is key to the healthy and successful functioning of this type of organization.

What if?

The above represents some stream-of-consciousness diagnostic thoughts, by no means complete. But  let's knock off the serious, navel-gazing stuff. There are some factors here that could lead us elsewhere.

1. The issue is about the continuance of the conductor. Conductors often leave or are asked to move on after a reasonable amount of time for creative reasons. In a creative industry you just need to renew your own batteries or bring someone else in to spark the creative juices. There is a time and a season for everything.
2. According to the article, the conductor hired the Principal Horn who is a main figure in this soap opera. If the conductor goes would he go, too? One of his colleagues notes that Principal Horn has a high self-opinion but that it is justified, implying that he is a good player. (For our readers in the U.S.A., this would equate to American footballer Terrell Owens with an embouchure).
3.  Principal Horn-guy is the only one being vocal about this "terrorism." The other alleged victim has refused comment.
4. Alleged acts that supposedly include razor blades and attack-by-killer-coffee-cup have not been reported to the police. But they have been reported to a reporter. I don't know about you but if I am being "terrorized," my first phone call isn't to a journalism school graduate.

And so on. Now I'm thinking:

What if this whole thing is really about trying to keep the conductor and keep one's job. What if the orchestra members don't have the kind of union representation that can actually give them collective clout when it comes to their collective wishes? What if the absence of a proven, trusted Executive Director produces enough of a leadership vacuum to allow mischief to get played out through the media instead of managed through a legitimate process.

The only thing that seems clear is that there is no honest, legitimate, and internally accountable management process to deal with this in an upright way.

The good news: Jerry Springer is tied up on "Dancing With The Stars." We won't see any white tie, tails, oboes, and flying coffee cups on our local stations.

Your armchair analysis is invited. Please don't key the blog.


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Is Cheating Being Taught?

Tshirt I think so. But not by enrolling in Cheating 101. It's more powerful than that. It's being taught in the most effective way: by role models.

When the Hewlett Packard story broke I wrote a post that I called Cartridgegate. The first part was serious; the second was tongue-in-cheek and pointed readers to the latest amateur spy tools. That was my way of coping with one more dark cloud over the business world--the world in which I spend most of my professional time.

Now I'm even more concerned as a result of research that you may also have seen. The headline in the Financial Times reads:

MBA Students Are 'Biggest Cheats'

The reporter writes: "MBA students are the biggest cheats of all graduate students, with 56 per cent admitting to misdemeanours such as using crib notes in exams, plagiarism and downloading essays from the web.

The statistic comes from a survey of graduate students to be published in the Academy of Management Learning and Education journal. The report is based on data from about 5,300 survey respondents at 54 colleges and universities in the US and Canada, including 623 students in 32 graduate business programmes."


There are probably multiple reasons. Apparently the conviction and sentencing of people like Bernie Ebbers and Jeffrey Skilling aren't deterrents. Martha Stewart's brief jail time was covered as a celebrity event. She returned to her company and TV as somewhat of a heroine. She was even allowed to leave her home while under house arrest to receive two awards. I especially like how the Washington Post dubbed her 'America's perkiest ex-convict.'

An American Management Association study showed that the top 3 causes of compromising one's ethical standards are:

1. Pressure to meet unrealistic business objectives and deadlinesCheatcellphone_2

2. A desire to further one's career

3. Desire to protect one's livelihood

You may be able to get a copy of the survey by emailing Rick Keller at hbizdr@yahoo.com or visiting his fine Ethics Global Study  weblog post.

An Educator's Observation

I recently had a phone conversation with Howard. Howard is the now-retired Superintendent of Schools from my hometown. We talked about old times and I asked him what he thought was the most noticeable change in education over his 40+ year career. His response was telling.

"When you were in school and we had to call a parent to come in and discuss their kid's behavior, it went like this:

1. Before anything was said, the parent reprimanded the student for causing disruption and dishonor to the family.

2. I would sometimes intervene on behalf of the student and say to the parent, 'Take it easy--it wasn't that bad!'

3. I seldom had to enact any formal discipline. What they got at home far outweighed the impact of anything we would do.

4. And the scenario was the same regardless of the family's financial, ethnic, or religious background.

At the end of my tenure the same situation with the parents went this way:

1. What do you mean I have to come to school?

2. When the parent arrived, the first statement was often 'I know our rights. You can't (fill in the blanks)...'

3. When discipline and consequences were introduced, so was the concept of 'our lawyer.'

A fundamental issue at the end of my tenure was the absence of 'personal responsibility' and the introduction of 'personal rights.' The issue of right and wrong became 'relative'."

I've learned to trust Howard over the course of a lifetime and his comments have prompted me to offer the following:

Some Thoughts to Consider

  • I've seldom seen anyone fired for lack of skill. It's almost always a lack of character.
  • Character is built in part as a result of watching how the adults in one's life behave and then doing the same things.
  • When a CEO or boss says firmly that no goal will be considered successful if it was achieved by cheating, spying, or bribery, then people will learn what kind of character the company values. But only when someone caught violating it is disciplined.
  • Good character is built as a result of continually doing the right thing as well as admitting wrongdoing, accepting the consequences, and then doing the right thing.
  • Celebrity--whether in business, sports, or entertainment--is not designed as an indicator of good character. It is an indication of good media buzz. Good character is often quiet and humble.

Find a student and tell them what you've learned about temptation and consequences in business. Take them to lunch. Nurture their character. Your own character will grow in the process.

Is cheating being taught? Yes, and in more powerful ways than one could ever learn in a classroom. It's being taught by example.

Can we change it? Yes, I believe it can be changed to a significant degree.

How can that happen? You and I can provide examples of character that are more compelling than those now being followed.

Let's do it.

Photo sources: www.reviewjournal.com     www.bigwormmotorsports.com

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Cartridgegate: What to Take to Your Next H-P Board Meeting


That's what I've decided to call it. Hewlett-Packard's Chairwoman resigned after it was discovered that her efforts to stop informational leaks to the media turned into a campaign of spying. Now there are criminal and congressional investigations that will tie up H-P's resources and cost it a bundle of money in legal fees and goodwill.

This is sad in many of the same ways that Enron and the others were sad. Proud employees are going to hear cynical one-liners from their friends. Honest Board members and executives will be subjected to investigations and forced to give lengthy depositions. Costly hearings will be held. And new oppressive legislation will no doubt follow, causing companies to spend more of their time and money filing paperwork and hiring auditors instead of doing the work that that they and their shareholders want done. (Think Sarbanes-Oxley).

I always thought that there are more than enough laws in place that clearly delineate "right" from "wrong." It seems to me that if someone is prosecuted, found guilty, and actually sentenced under existing laws, then maybe people would at least think twice before doing something stupid--and criminal.

Fortunately, the actions of the Chairwoman don't reflect the actions of the majority. But the majority ends up paying for it. Somehow that has to stop or else well-run companies will reach the point where the "legal" cost of doing business will put some of them out of business.

There's also a nice, brief commentary at the Goliath Ate David blog.

That's my own brief, but serious rant about the issue. Since today is Saturday, I've decided to go where my weekend mind has taken me on this issue:

What to Bring to Your Next H-P Board Meeting

Deluxe Rearview Spy Sunglasses

Let's say the Boardroom is set up in a way that seats you somewhere in front of the Chairwoman. The wrap around windows in the room are creating a sun glare that makes you retinally-challenged. This is the perfect opportunity to avoid being stabbed in the back by the Countess of Cartridgegate. SimplySpyglassesrearview don your rearview sunglasses and you will look very chic while covering your corporate behind. Available in your choice of Black from Kopes.com .

Phone Tap Detector

So you excuse yourself to make a business call on the cell phone. You don't want her to know that you're really ordering a large-with-extra cheese-and-pepperoni to take home to the family. This nifty Phonetapdetector number will ensure that your subversive activity goes undetected. (And if you have teenage children, you might want to...oops. Wouldn't that be the same as...?). Available in your choice of Black from spysite.com .

Spy Mouse

Even Board members are known to bring their laptops to a meeting. That way they can do real-time tracking of the company's stock price, act as if they are taking notes, watch the latest YouTube uploads, or order a "large-with-extra cheese-and-pepperoni" to take home to the family. How do you doSpy_mouse all of that and still stay on top of what's actually happening at the meeting? We've got you covered with  the Endoacustica Spy Mouse. Available in your choice of White. Caution: *Exterior look and specifics are subject to change without warning." No kidding; it's actually on the ad.

I hope that these prove helpful in your quest for Boardroom security. I tried to score a free extra-toppings coupon for you from Dominoes but they tracked our IP address and found out that our cat nipped the delivery guy last week. We were punk'd. Sorry.

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