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The Quagmire – Limits of Unlimited Leave

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Oct 3, 2016 in Career Path, Lessons Learned

quagmireWhen a company uses an unlimited leave plan to attract people, what’s really going on behind the scenes is a culture that drives the highest performers higher and enables lower performers to fall by the wayside into a professional quagmire.

Webster’s dictionary defines quagmire as: “an area of soft, wet ground: a situation that is hard to deal with or get out of: a situation that is full of problems.”

Companies who have this policy are generally known as high performing companies. Top spots are competitive and expectations are high. Work assignments are distributed to those employees who have proven themselves as reliable, dependable and willing to put in the extra time necessary to get a job done on time and within budget. High performing professionals do an excellent job of prioritizing work and combining that with balancing their personal lives, vacations and family commitments.

Lower performers choose personal life over work, and work to live, not live to work within a balanced framework. Employees who are seemingly unavailable are often passed over for both prime assignments and promotions which often leads to them being laid off or let go for circumstances that are actually easy to avoid.

Having a clear and complete understanding of what the employer’s expectations around deliverables is the number one contributing factor to an employee’s success and to prevent themselves falling into a performance quagmire they most likely cannot emerge from.

Use your performance review process to clearly identify and establish what both meeting and exceeding expectations looks like with your supervisor. Use common language and have both qualitative and quantitative goals that both parties agree to in writing. Avoid using generalizing terms like always or regularly and replace them with terms like daily weekly or monthly which are clearer for both parties.

Should your supervisor change, having these in writing to discuss with your next supervisor will ensure a smooth transition and allow as a starting point for discussions around their expectations as your new boss.

Remember, there is no free lunch, and unlimited leave does, in fact, have limits. Meeting expectations is good, but exceeding them is great.

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The Guide – Leaders in the Jungle

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jan 22, 2016 in Building Confidence, Executive Coaching

PRESENCEForest

Successful leaders have a certain “Je ne sais quoi” – an air of authority, trust, confidence and knowledge that inspires others to follow them and move towards the goals they have set. Jungle guides are the most valuable members of the excursion party. Without them, the group may become hopelessly lost, run out of food, or become food themselves. If the guide effectively projects their knowledge and authority, the group will follow the guide safely through the jungle.

As someone moving up the ranks towards leadership, it’s imperative to create your leadership presence early on. In order to be the one that’s tapped to take on new leadership assignments you need to assume the presence of a leader before you can actually be one.

Consider what you say, how you say it and how you look saying it.

WHAT YOU SAY

Leaders phrase things positively. They move as quickly and efficiently as they can through a process to a successful conclusion. Listen to great leaders who choose their words wisely and adjust your delivery to mimic theirs. Researching great speeches of the past is a good place to start to learn to frame your comments positively. Rarely do great leaders talk about all the problems they have had and what they are trying to avoid, they only speak about where they are going and how they are going to get there. Avoid negativity and find the positive in every situation first and only talk about the positive which will eliminate any appearance of negativity.

HOW YOU SAY IT

Contrarians are never the leader – they are the outliers. There are many times you may not agree with something, or have a differing opinion, which is how creativity and growth are often generated. But how you deliver the message is the difference between someone who is considered a leader and someone who is branded as not supportive of the company’s goals. The best way to offer a new idea that may not be in alignment with others’ thinking is to present it as a “brainstorm” by starting off the introduction with something like, “I don’t know if we’ve ever looked at it this way, but what about the possibility of…”, or “These are really important and great ideas, can we brainstorm for a moment here?”. Avoid blurting your disagreement directly out for risk of alienating others in the room. Remember, it is possible that your ideas have been explored in the past and were overlooked or avoided for some reason you are not aware of.

Don’t take it personally if others don’t like your ideas every time. Remember, it takes a village, so do your best to contribute AND collaborate when it’s time for you to support someone else’s ideas that are being adopted.

HOW YOU LOOK SAYING IT

Even if its casual day, a put together look is key. No matter how crazy their morning was, leaders never come in and talk about chaos in their lives, they just manage it. If others view you as unable to manage yourself to be where you need to be and looking ready, you won’t be the one they choose to be a leader. Always putting your best self forward will ensure others view you as a leader at all times. Leaders don’t make excuses, either. They take responsibility for what they do, where they are and their outcomes. They embody this by making it to meetings and appointments on time, dressed appropriately and being organized and ready for the meeting or conversation. Traffic doesn’t keep them from being on time. Their kids don’t prevent them from getting somewhere they need to be when they need to be there. They get it done, consistently and build confidence in others by being reliable and dependable.

Wondering if you are on the right track?  Look at people in the hallway – are they making eye contact with you?  Are they saying hello?  Do the big bosses know you by name?  Take the lead and greet others as they pass you in the hall; introduce yourself in the elevator to someone you know that may not know your name. Leaders are natural connectors, too – introduce others you are with to the people you are meeting to take the lead and position yourself as a leader.

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The Lion – 5 Top Tips To Lead Like A Lion

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Nov 9, 2015 in Building Confidence

Lion2It really is a jungle out there in the business world. Finding the right people for the job can seem near impossible sometimes and therefore retaining and improving the people you have has become so important. So with this in mind, here are some top tips to be the best possible leader, taking after the leader of the animal kingdom and making your roar count.

Round up the pride

As a leader it’s your job to bring your team together. Make sure each member of your pride is working well together and most importantly all working towards the same goal. It’s no good if half the team is chasing one gazelle and the other half are making plans to chase another halfway across the savanna.

Get everyone pumped

Just like the pre-game speech before a match, a good motivational roar can really get your employees on the same page and motivated to do their best for the company. Make sure people know what they’re fighting for and why.

Know your obstacles

Throughout the business kingdom there are many branches, pot holes and obstacles that could trip you up on your way. If you know what these obstacles are, how they might affect you and when, you’ll be able to make a plan of action so you and your team can leap over these with ease. Then if something does go wrong, you have the solutions in place to put it right and your staff will stay motivated.

Get your roar right

It isn’t the loudest roar that is listened to, it’s the roar that explains both positive and negative results in a clear way. As a leader you must ensure you’re communicating with your staff on every level so no one is left behind and everyone understands what they’re meant to be doing, what they’ve done right, what’s gone wrong and how to prevent this happening in the future.

Know your pride

A good leader knows what gets the team going. This means as a group and on an individual basis. Uncover what motivates them, what their goals are, what their values are and how they currently feel about the team. Employee assessments can help with this, as a way to ask employees the right questions and come out with the ways to help employees develop and succeed.

Being a leader in the world of business requires thorough communication throughout the whole journey from briefing to following up with useful feedback. Most importantly, a leader needs to understand the values of the business and ensure everyone understands and shares these.

So good luck all you leaders out there and keep retaining and developing your staff to be the best for your business.

This Guest Post was contributed by Terry of Collingwood Search.

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Transformation – Caterpillar To Butterfly – Will An MBA Transform Your Career?

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Sep 29, 2015 in Career Path, Self Improvement

CocoonAfter eating a lot of food for a few days, caterpillar suddenly stops eating. It creates a cocoon around itself and, within a few days, magically transforms into a butterfly! Have you been working hard for a long time and are still not happy with your job? Are you yearning for freedom to fly high in your career? Will it help to take a break from your job and get an MBA degree and come out of a business school (b-school) with a more powerful profile?

Do you need an MBA for a career shift

The relevance of an MBA degree has been widely contested by many. While some firmly believe that the MBA degree can boost the career of any professional and help him reach the top of the corporate ladder, others tend to say an MBA is not a necessity. While it’s true that you don’t necessarily have to be an MBA to be a great manager, it’s a great asset to have in helping you acquire managerial skills if you don’t consider yourself to be a stellar manager. Let’s compare both the sides of the argument and see if an MBA is really worth it if you are looking for a career shift.

Benefits of an MBA for a career shift

Helps in the long climb: An MBA can easily help in climbing the corporate ladder. Employees complain about how difficult it is for candidates who do not have a management background to succeed in the climb. While managerial skills can be learned on the job, and there are many non-MBA managers running the biggest of brands, sometimes organizations have rigid requirements that a manager needs to have a MBA to move into certain roles.

Networking: A B-school is not just a platform to acquire managerial skills and get the opportunity to make a career shit. It’s also about networking. All good business schools have great alumni networks that students can be a part of. The two years that you spend in a B-School can be one of the best ways to expand your network and increase your contacts. Your alumni network can become one of the best sources of opportunities to make the career change you need.

Leadership skills: A b-school can help you to acquire leadership skills that allow you to manage teams and take on senior roles which are currently evading you in your professional life. An MBA can serve as proof that you are capable of managing people and getting results in the most efficient way possible.

Opportunities: Most working professionals who join MBA courses often do it for the potential placement opportunities top of the line business schools can provide. Top performers with work experience often get a huge boost to their careers upon completing their MBA and it makes complete sense for professionals to invest time in developing their managerial skills for a career shift.

It is important to keep in mind that MBA degrees are becoming more accessible and it is not necessary to go for a full time MBA. An MBA degree can acquired through distance mode also. Other options are include part time and executive one year MBA programs.

But the MBA degree does come with some downsides

An MBA can be a huge investment: Most MBA courses are significantly expensive and even though the returns are massive at top B-Schools due to stellar placements, repaying educ
ation loans can be difficult and managing finances often becomes a problem for professionals in the initial years after graduation.

Experience disparity: Even as a working professionals there may be some disparities when opting in for placements. It’s quite likely that top managerial positions available at placement drives will be filled up by more experienced professionals. It’s often a cause for concern for candidates who do have less than 2 years of work experience or no work experience at all. While an MBA is platform to help your career grow, you have to give it time until you get the managerial positions you seek.

An MBA does not prepare you for real life managerial problems: While you acquire the skills needed to solve managerial problems, it’s only in theory. There is a vast difference between learning hands-on and learning in a classroom by working on real life examples.

An MBA is not a must-have for getting help in your career shift. But it does come with solid benefits especially in long term. It allows you to access more opportunities and have great learning experiences that allow you to know more about the intricacies of management. Some get into an MBA merely for networking and come out of the program satisfied with what they go out of it. Finally, each student needs to assess her dreams and financial situation to decide what makes the most sense for her. All that we can say is that it is not a must to get an MBA to have a rocking career!

This Guest Post was contributed by Paresh  of www.TargetAdmission.com.

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

Image Source – https://justinahurley.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/522988_10150768096746740_1918938162_n.jpg

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The Competition – Surviving Competitive Workplaces, The Natural Way

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Sep 25, 2015 in Career Path, Self Improvement

CompetitiveCompetition in the workplace is nothing new and if you cannot make your mark in it, you are going to lose in the long run. There will always be someone looking to fill your position and will try all methods to get ahead of you. Doesn’t it sound a bit like the jungle? Yes, a competitive workplace is like a jungle, where everyone competes with each other for their survival.

You will find the strong cats in there sneaking upon its prey, bullish elephants pushing ahead of everyone and the sneaky reptiles slithering its way, biting anyone that challenges them. A competitive workplace is sometimes a good thing for an organization to get the employees motivated and productive. But as an individual you may feel that this is all too overwhelming.

As nature is the best teacher, we can learn a lot from nature about adapting in the cut-throat competition that is seen in some workplaces. Here are some of the acts that can be attributed to the likeness of surviving in a jungle, which will help you to get ahead of the competition:

Survival of the ‘skillest’

This is in analogy to the popular concept of “survival of the fittest” put forward by the great naturalist, Charles Darwin; which states that the fittest always survives and moves forward in the evolutionary ladder. In a competitive workplace, to be fit means to have the skills necessary to remain an important part of it. You will have to learn new skills whenever necessary in order to step up the corporate ladder, as skills are the only determining factor that will make you stand out of the rest. Take time out to learn new skills that you think are connected to your industry. There are various online courses nowadays that help one to gather new skills at your convenience.Just like squirrels hoarding nuts for the winter, you will understand that hoarding skills may help you in the future; if you ever have to face that allegorical ‘winter’ of your career.

Evolve to adapt

I will give you an example of the Darwin’s finches here. It is a group of finches which shows highly developed beaks to adapt to the different environments they live in. If you feel that remaining the same person in this competitive workplace is not going to help you, then you should know that it is time to evolve into something which no one is expecting. Be unpredictable and along with the new skills that you might have learned as mentioned above, you will become an eye-turner. Today’s world is dynamic and change can happen any moment. You will need to learn to evolve in accordance to the environment you work in.

Mimicry

You may not be aware of the fact that corporate culture is developed upon the theory of mimicry. What is meant by when one says we have a typical work culture? So where did this work culture actually start from? It all started one face at a time from emotional contagion. Emotions are highly contagious and before you realise anything, you are mimicking the posture of the person in front of you to receive his attention. Someone smiles, you smile back unconsciously; this is what mimicry is all about. You can use this mimicry in order to survive a competitive workplace. In nature, animals mimic their surrounding in order to not arouse any suspicion among the preys or attackers. Even though it is not highly recommendable, you can always mimic your way to be accepted in a working environment.

Pounce upon opportunities

In a competitive workplace there is no place for chivalry. This may come hard but it is true. Just like in the jungle where every moment is a struggle for existence, a competitive workplace is a continuous struggle for leapfrogging ahead of others. No big cat is chivalrous enough to give a deer a head start. If you are the deer in this environment, you will be wiped out of the workplace’s existence.

Remember to pounce upon any opportunity to show that you are superior and that your work is valued. Volunteer to do things that no one else does and gets noticed by the right people in your organisation. If you let others do it, you might have well lost one great opportunity to show your competence.

Territory master

What happens when a dog enters into the territory of another dog? All hells get loose and the second dog viciously protects his territory. No, I am not asking you to bite or kick anyone; just learn to protect your territory (aka position). If anyone tries to give a challenge to your position, use your experience and the skills to know who the alpha-professional is.

You can no wonder learn a lot from nature and if you use the lessons provided by nature to get the most out your professional life, you can cruise smoothly through all the competition. Instead of going through job sites to get out of the competition, try following the tips mentioned above.

This Guest Post was contributed by Hasib. Hasib is a professional writer working with the job portal –naukri.com and often writes articles related to career and education. He is an avid reader and lives for two things – football and food. If he is not involved in any of those, you can find him contemplating existential issues. Follow him @ twitter, Google+, LinkedIn

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Cat – Herding vs. Teamwork

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Aug 11, 2015 in Executive Coaching

Cat3You may have heard the phrase “managing [x group] is like herding cats.” While a group may exist with shared goals it, like the territorial cat, may not collaborate as a high performing team even if they are familiar with its members. The essence of high performing teams is collaborative independence and participative leadership but the wild cat, while independent, is not known for its teamwork.

All teams are groups, but not all groups are teams. Next time you find yourself herding cats in a group, use these characteristics of cohesive, high performing teams:

  • Members of a high performing team have complementary, yet unique, skills.
  • The team as a strong group identity which can be underlined with special names or methods of identifying the group (such as uniforms/shirts/pins/Internet groups).
  • The members maintain a clear understanding of both the importance of the work, their individual role, and how it relates to overall goal achievement.
  • Members have the authority to act autonomously and with discretion to complete their necessary tasks. This doesn’t mean they aren’t supervised, rather it means they are properly empowered to take risks.
  • Members believe success is achievable as a group and are individually passionate about the results and accountable for their own performance.
  • Members treat each other with respect and sidebar conversations that are dissenting or subversive to the goal.
  • Underachievement, or social loafing, is not tolerated in the team. They establish minimum standards for performance or level of effort and members who are deemed ineffective or disruptive are eliminated.
  • They set their own goals, rules, schedules and norms for behaviors and follow them.
  • Use democratic decision making and leadership is participative.
  • Evenly divide the work space and level of effort.

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The Tiger – Bounding Over The Interview Questions

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jul 3, 2014 in Interviewing Skills

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Interviewing Questions Series: 7-8 of 29 Tiger2

Answers to popular (and sometimes tricky) questions you might hear in your next interview. Suggestions and requests are welcome in the comments. If you are currently a job seeker, a great way to help you prepare for the interview is to prepare a brief answer to all of the questions here. Download all of the questions here: Interview Prep Guide.

Would you be prepared to move?

When you are interviewing for a job that requires relocation, say “yes.”

If you applied to the position knowing that relocation would be required, it will usually be discussed in detail after the offer. Despite the fact that there are a lot of steps that will need to be accomplished for that to occur, the interview is not the time to discuss them – save that for after you have received the offer. Bombarding the interviewer with too much detail about all the things you will need to do to get moved and settled may actually be a deciding factor on who they choose, so when asked this up front, just say you will be able to relocate and leave the planning and discussion until after you have accepted the offer.

What is your anticipated salary?”

Start with a discussion of the cash you have received in your last position. Many discussions about stock options get complicated and the first or second interview is not the time to get into those details. Options are only as good as the cash you can or have received for them so make sure you know what your grants were and what that immediate or near term value is. Preparing a spreadsheet is a good idea in case you need it.

No matter what the total compensation is that you are looking for, let them know you are open their best offer. All companies have different pay and incentive pay plans that are pretty consistent across the board and the larger the company, the more consistency they strive to achieve. You could unwittingly under- or overprice yourself by bundling your base and bonuses together in a lump number so make sure you break that out so they have a firm understanding of the components of your previous pay.

Another thing to consider: Health insurance paid on your behalf is not generally used to negotiate more cash up front. Just because you don’t need the plan now doesn’t mean you might not need it later. While it may seem like a good idea to ask for $2k more per year since you won’t be using the benefits up front, it won’t usually work. If you need to initiate the plan later, they most likely would not reduce your pay so it’s best to just leave it on the table.

Never lie about your previous compensations. It will be verified.

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The Terrain – Guiding the Graduates

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on May 11, 2012 in Executive Coaching, Job Search

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I remember it like it was yesterday:  crossing the stage, shaking the Dean’s hand, smiling for the cameras, and feeling ready to take on the world.  Now, I see my friends’ children taking part in the same ritual. These graduates will come home after their graduation parties and beach vacations to find jobs, but will instead find that they are woefully unprepared to navigate the competitive job terrain that holds their fate in its hands.

A recent article in the Huffington Post stated half of college graduates won’t have a job offer upon graduation.

Most people are average.  Average grades with average income potential.  That’s where the term average comes from, right?  It’s the middle of the exceptionally talented, or those with really high GPAs compared to those who may have prioritized the social aspects of college over the academics and may have even worked their way through school. Perhaps they didn’t get to take advantage of the career center prior to packing up and leaving campus.  Within the average pool of people, there are still exceptionally talented people waiting to be plucked into their destiny of success.  Hard work does pay off, and finding a job after college is hard work.

If your recent graduate didn’t have summer internships relating to their studies, or part time work to offer them a glimpse of what professional life would be like after obtaining their degree, they are probably going to have to pay their dues now, as painful as that might be for you to watch.  Recent grads often feel their education should preclude them from starting with an entry level position, but the fact remains, a job with a reputable company is a great starting point for anyone. 

Whether the business is large or small, publicly traded or privately held, full or part time, they need some work experience. They need to prove to an employer they are reliable, dependable, organized, have good communications skills, can follow direction, and that they can work both independently and in teams.  The basics.  They need to take any job they can get and make it their own whether as an assistant manager at a drug store, or as the administrative assistant in an office.  They need to build the list of references that will vouch for them in the future.

For many grads it’s too soon for them to really know what they want to do long term or where their career will take them, so encourage them to just get started. They will learn more about themselves while working than not working and you can learn something from any job, good or bad.  Some of the most valuable experience can be gained in the most unlikely situations. 

Many times the amount of rejections the grads face is overwhelming and they will retreat back to school for more education. Here’s the skinny on that:  Unless the profession they are choosing (like nursing, law, etc.) requires the education to get started, they are going to be in the same boat a few years down the road if they don’t combine that extra learning with substantive work experience. It’s better to obtain that additional degree in combination with some practical application of their studies. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement or special executive on site MBA programs that employees who are positioning themselves for promotion can take advantage of. Developing a healthy balance of education and experience is the most strategic and effective way to optimize your value to current and potential employers.

Telling all of this to your grads isn’t the easiest task, so you might want to consider hiring a coach to work with them.  Through the International Coach Federation website (http://www.coachfederation.org/) you can search for coaches in your local area that offer career services.  The investment there will be well worth your time if you properly vet the coach you choose as someone who has successfully worked with others in the same situation in the past.

Teach your grads to network.  Currently, 80% of all jobs are found as a direct result of networking and utilizing personal connections. Ask your friends who work in your grad’s field for help. You’ll be surprised at how willing these personal connections are to help a young person and how quickly a small network can expand with just a little help from family and friends.  Encourage your job seekers to make a list of companies they are interested in so you can easily see if you have contacts there that may be able to assist them.  Having a well thought out job search strategy they can execute is important.  Setting timelines for follow up and evaluating results can’t be achieved if you don’t have a list to work from.

You might also want to take a look at your grad’s online profile because future employers are looking as well.  Their Facebook page and LinkedIn profile should be clean and professional.  Encourage your grad to remove any photos that may give future employers the wrong impression of their character.  Keeping a diligent eye on their online presence is very important and can be a deal breaker.  Just last week someone in our office pointed out that a person’s wedding website noted they had yet to graduate when the resume they presented to us stated they had completed their degree. That person was due to complete it this year in December but they are looking for a job now. 

Lastly, they can always do volunteer work to obtain more experience.  Many companies and non profits need help so don’t forget to consider those channels as well.

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The Summer Flower – Blooming For Promotions and Raises

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jun 9, 2011 in Career Path

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Summer is arriving and so are the summer flowers! While spring is known for its fantastic array of colorful flora, the brief and brilliant display can still remain in the newly emerging summer flowers which can continue into early fall.

Your Step-By-Step Guide to Score a Promotion!

While the summer flowers emerge as a lingering trace of the dazzling color and delicate fragrance of spring, year and half-year evealuations are taking place in workplaces everywhere. Grab your chance at a promotion or raise this summer and bloom in the jungle with these “do and don’t’ tips on how to approach your boss about your performance and career path.

Original article with quotes by Carolyn Thompson

By Brittany Galla at http://life2pointoh.com

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The Thunder – Preventing Idea Thievery

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on May 26, 2011 in Building Confidence

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Original article with quotes by Carolyn Thompson

Does your boss take credit for your work?

By Rachel Farrell, Special to CareerBuilder

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