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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

 

Several business people wander through a maze looking for a job

When I published the article “You’re hired!”…and it took me a year, I had no idea that I would be looking for work three years later.  Back then, I had just concluded an intensive search after my position in a stable, global financial institution was abolished, ending a successful career that progressed nicely over 16 years.

When I accepted the offer for a permanent full-time position the following year, it was not quite the dream job I was looking for, but I was convinced, and still am, that I was forging a new path to take me to the next level.  In fact, I deliberately disrupted myself.  It was a newly created job with the mandate to develop and deliver a marketing strategy for products I had never marketed before.

Two years in, there were budget and staff cutbacks.  I sub-consciously knew that the time to move on was fast approaching.   Last summer, my position was eliminated.

Although it’s cold comfort, I realize that I am not alone.  I’ve met many mid- and advanced-career professionals on the job search trail.  I see the struggles to remain positive, diffuse anxiety and stay the course.  My career transition experience has given me some insights on stumbling blocks that can potentially derail a job search and how to avoid them.

  1. Other people’s stories are theirs, not yours

During my networking, I’ve met many people who’ve “been there, done that” and they tell their stories of how they got through it.  The Winners, who took only 2 to 4 months to land on their feet; the Whiners who give very detailed explanations as to why they won’t ever get hired (age…, conspiring former bosses and colleagues…, no one hires in summer… etc.) and the Copped-Out & Lucked-Out who boast about the luxury of being able to retire early so they avoid looking for a job.

Then there are those who haven’t “been there.” They have never lost their jobs.  They are really Secretly Scared that this could happen to them, while they hint that they pity you and don’t envy you.  There are also the Helpers and Hinters who in an awkward effort to provide good advice, actually end up saying exactly what you don’t need to hear (“You’re doing something wrong, otherwise it wouldn’t take so long…”) or they send you job postings that are no match for your skills and experience.

It’s so easy to buy-in to other people’s stories.  Comparing your experience with other people’s stories is a waste of time and energy.  The truth is you need to own your story.

Instead of trying to explain your story, make a commitment to yourself to be clear on what’s best for you.  Only you can make sense of your life’s journey.  Only you really know the things that motivate you and ultimately matter to you.  Very few people will understand your story.  Most people are trying to figure out their own story and others don’t have the time or are not really interested in listening to yours.

The temptation to set low expectations and settle for less becomes real when you compare yourself with other people. It takes courage to say “no” to seemingly good opportunities in order to say “yes” to the very best.  You are not a loser if you haven’t found a job within a given timeframe or if you made it to the final interview but didn’t get the job.

Even if you don’t have the financial independence to prolong your search, if you accept a position out of necessity, remind yourself that you can work while continuing to search for your dream job.

  1. The corporate ladder is an obsolete metaphor

Job seekers, who have progressed over many years in one company, tend to be overly concerned with titles, organizational structures and status.  In most progressive organizations today, dotted lines, flat organizational structures and collaborative team environments are the norm.

I agree that people should look for challenging work that fits their experience and expertise.  But looking for a job with a title that fits into the next step on the corporate ladder can prevent you from finding enriching opportunities for meaningful work that expand your talents and capabilities.

The truth is that we are living in a new corporate world order where the corporate ladder is fast becoming an obsolete metaphor.

Sheryl Sandberg in her book Lean In, encourages professionals to forget the corporate ladder and consider careers in terms of a jungle gym. You can venture down different paths and explore numerous possibilities on the way to achieving your goals, just like trying to climb to the top of a jungle gym.  It took me quite some time to get this during my career transition four years ago.  I am glad I did, as I ended up finding an interesting opportunity which has broadened my experience not only professionally, but in my volunteer work and social life.

  1. Being stuck really sucks!

Following on my two earlier points, getting stuck can happen very easily if you can’t define what you want or if your definition of what you want doesn’t fit in the new corporate world order or with your values.

I’ve come across a few people who are stuck within a destructive ‘my way or the highway’ mindset, hanging on to what was and what will never be, taking job loss personally and feeling victimized.  When corporate priorities change, it so happens that some jobs are no longer needed. That’s why no one should take a layoff personally.

I know that it can be a drag to be out of work and pounding the pavement can be tough.  But here’s the upside:  going through a career transition can be the best opportunity to reorient a career.  On reflection, many people thank their lucky stars that they had the chance to move on, rather than stay stuck in a career that was no longer meaningful.

Most successful careers rarely ever follow a smooth, upward north-eastern trajectory.  Compromises and disruptions do occur along the way.  The truth is that compromises can be beneficial.

Speaking from my own experience, the job with a lower salary with less formal influence may just be what you need to gain more relevant experience in a changing world, while applying your past experience in a way that is beneficial to the organization and to your career in the long run.

 

Take ownership and responsibility for your career transition

The world is waiting to embrace talent and you have a fair shot to offer yours. Don’t let people, old ideas or a closed mind derail your job search.  The power to shape the future resides within each of us. That’s why it is important for every job seeker to take ownership of their career transition.

When you can clearly articulate to potential employers, who you really are and why you care, they will see that the value you bring to their organization is far greater than what you know and what they expect you to do.  This sets the stage for you to find meaningful work and for your future employer see you as a true partner, stakeholder and contributor to the organization’s success.

 

You may find the following articles helpful –

Career mistakes you must avoid@Deepak Chopra MD (Official)

Forget the Ladder; Try the Jungle Gym: What Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Says You Can Do for Your Career Right Now – Maggie Malon

It’s called a life, not a life sentence!  How to move forward when you’re feeling stuck@Michaela Alexis

 

Camille N. Isaacs Morell is a proven marketing strategy and business development enabler. She is passionate about inspiring people to make decisions that support business success.  

She currently seeks opportunities to contribute to the success of enterprises and non-profit organizations with direct responsibility for developing the marketing strategy to support business development and stakeholder engagement.

See the BIG picture…Focus on what’s important

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

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Delegate-741x480

“Check, double check and check again.”   This was possibly the best advice I received early in my career.

I followed through on my boss’ advice. I believe that this was the reason why it was noted on my performance evaluation that I was action-oriented and reliable without supervision.

In later years I realized that the checking, double checking and checking again advice wasn’t going to work for me or for the people I was leading.

During my very first role as a people manager, I understood that there is a fine line between being an effective leader and being a micro-manager.

Effective leaders know that they are ultimately accountable for the mandate that they have been given to deliver through the people they lead.

Micro-managers, in their zeal to produce results, get overly involved in the work of the people they lead.  These managers don’t confidently delegate and set expectations.  And when they do, they obsessively check, double check and check again on the work of their people, instead of letting their people, who are responsible for operations, implementation and deliverables, do the required checking.

I believe that micro-managers act the way they do mainly for the following reasons –

  • The fear of failure, which leads to the need to control other people’s actions
  • They don’t know how to manage any other way
  • They have an “agenda,” a personal need they want to fulfill

Here are 3 tips on how managers can avoid micro-managing, or can take to stop micro-managing and 3 tips on how employees can avoid being micro-managed.

 

The fear of failure and the need to control

For the manager –

  1. Gain clarity on the mandate you’ve been given. This means –
    • Identify the resources required – hire the right, competent people, ask for budgets
    • Set realistic expectations with your senior leadership and the people you lead on deliverables
    • Establish a formal schedule of checkpoints and accountabilities

For those being managed –

  1. Communicate confidentially with your manager to uncover the root cause of the fear of failure. This means –
    • Reassure your manager of your commitment and that you have his/her back
    • Mutually agree on how you will be accountable

 

Not knowing how to manage any other way

For the manager –

  1. Be courageous. Take feedback from your people and other managers seriously and seek ways to improve the situation.  This means –
    • Seeking mentorship and coaching from experienced, respected professionals you trust and who can help you to develop an effective leadership style.
    • Open communication in a dedicated forum (e.g. team meeting, off-site retreat) to discuss the mandated goals of the team and how team members will be empowered, engaged and held accountable.

For those being managed –

  1. Reduce your manager’s need to micro-manage. This means –
    • Proactively support your manager by honouring reporting commitments
    • Avoid surprises by forewarning your manager of possible delays and problems, and coming with suggestions for precautionary, preventive or risk reduction actions

 

The personal agenda or need the manager wants to fulfill

For the manager –

  1. Empowerment and accountability are essential for leadership success, regardless of what your personal agenda or motivation may be. Remember –
    • The mark of a great leader is the capacity to inspire and work with and through other people to achieve goals.

For those being managed –

  1. Find a way to see your manager’s “big picture” of what he or she is working towards. Observe and ask yourself a few questions –
    • What’s his or her motivation?
    • Who does he or she network with?
    • What’s his/her vision of the future role of the department or his/her leadership?

 

Important considerations

Managing people is not for everybody.  Managers who find it difficult to delegate and are caught in the micro-management trap should consider alternative leadership roles, such as an internal consultant, technical expert or advisor, and make an outstanding contribution to corporate objectives.

Moving on is an option for employees who are being micro-managed.   If excessive time and effort have to be invested in trying to understand and work with a micro-manager to the detriment of job satisfaction, engagement and optimal performance, the employee should decide whether to stay or to leave.

 

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

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Leadership Heart

 

There are numerous definitions of “leadership.”  No matter how you look at it, leadership is really about inspiring people to achieve goals.

It takes effective leadership to successfully achieve goals, regardless of whether they are tied to revenues and profits, a desired future state of a country, implementing a new programme or promoting a cause.

Then there is the eternally debated question – “Are leaders born or made?”

While I won’t attempt to definitively answer this question, I do know that there are some people for whom inspiring others to achieve goals comes naturally.  There are others who, with coaching and formal training, perform remarkably well as strong, successful leaders.

Having served in formal leadership positions in the corporate world and in voluntary and not-for-profit organizations, I am convinced that a key determinant of success is the personal motivation to lead.

Those who aspire to leadership positions must really want to lead and must be highly motivated to achieve goals through and with the people they lead.

To determine their level of personal motivation, aspiring leaders and experienced leaders considering a new mandate, should be able to answer these two questions –

  1. Do you love power more than you care about people?
  2. Is competing for the position more important than your commitment to the cause / vision / goals of the position?

 

Leaders must love people more than power.

 They must be more committed to the cause than to competition.

 

Nothing is wrong with aspiring to positions of power.

In a civilized society, positions of power – whether corporate, social or political – provide opportunities for leaders to influence and create change that ultimately benefits people.  Good, ethical leaders should be motivated to aspire to positions of power because of the opportunity it affords them to help people.

Aspiring to positions of power involves competition.  Competing for a position of power should really be a healthy activity, giving aspiring candidates the opportunity to demonstrate why they should be selected to lead.

When competing against other candidates, a truly authentic leader should be able to

  • Clearly articulate his/her understanding of the vision of the future state he/she expects to create;
  • How he/she will inspire and engage others in the creation of the vision; and
  • How people will benefit from his/her leadership.

 

It’s not just about getting the leadership title,

it’s about being committed to the cause.

 

As the saying goes, “Once you’re in, you’re in.” 

Once a leader is in place, success will be largely dependent on several leadership traits.  For me, the most important is courage, both inner courage and outer courage.

Inner courage is the unwavering commitment to personal values and integrity, including the ability to honestly decide if the leadership position is the right fit and in the best interest of all concerned.

Public courage is about being prepared to make tough calls, unpopular decisions and persistent commitment, even in the face of scathing and unfair criticism.

Above all, at the heart of effective leadership is the desire and motivation to serve.  Although leaders serve by inspiring people to achieve goals, outstanding leaders always see the big picture of the overarching benefits of achieving the goals.

More important than focusing on the position of power and the process to get there, is that every aspiring leader must be even more committed to the sustainable success of the organization, people and country they intend to lead.

 

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

@Camille21162

Camille Isaacs-Morell is a proven marketing strategy and business development enabler who thrives when leading in contexts of transformation and change.  She enthusiastically seeks her next leadership challenge.

Camille was motivated to write this post in the aftermath of the Brexit campaign and the US Republican and Democratic Parties’ National Conventions.

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BRAND

Although it was a cold day in winter, I had a warm and fuzzy feeling.  The CEO of the company where I worked pulled me aside during his annual Christmas meet and greet employee meeting, looked me straight in the face and said, “Thank you so much for all the great work you do for us, Camille.  We really value and appreciate your contribution.”  And for a few seconds after he said this, I felt as if I could have given the company back the bonus cheque I received a week earlier.  Personal recognition from the CEO was priceless.

So several years later, with most of them spent leading cross-functional teams and direct reports, I finally nailed down the real reasons why I entertained the absurd thought of refunding a hard-earned bonus cheque.

  • Essential alignment of personal values and corporate values

After a particularly unpleasant experience with a previous employer, I vowed never to work anywhere where management did not walk the talk of their corporate values.  More importantly, there should be no conflict between my core values of truth, integrity and respect and those of my employer.

Respect was listed among the company’s values.

Pulling me aside to say how much my contribution was valued was in my view, a genuine act of respect coming from the CEO, not just for my work, but for my personal and professional commitment to the success of the company.   I didn’t feel that he was being politically correct or doing his duty to be polite.

In later years when I did have to manage a department, I learned a very hard lesson.  If the personal values of a highly competent employee are not aligned with corporate values, the best designed bonus compensation plan is ineffective.

  • Personal recognition of a job well done is more impactful than a formal recognition program

The company had a formal recognition program, governed by a process of nomination and specific selection criteria.  Exceptional actions and contributions to special projects were recognized in the formal program.  The consistent delivery of good work was not.

Very often, the employee doing the most critical work is several steps away from the front line.  In my case, I was the one preparing the quotation and response to the request for proposal, and the data required for the finalist presentation.  This was my job.  My work was reviewed and approved through a long chain of command.  I felt honoured that the CEO had taken the time to find out who were the behind the scenes contributors.  His personal statement of appreciation meant more to me than seeing my name among the crowded list on the Recognition Program roster in the quarterly employee bulletin.

  • Fitting in & contributing to something larger than oneself

People need to feel that they are contributing to something larger than themselves, and that their contribution really makes a difference.  The CEO clearly made me feel that the company needed and valued my contribution.

Employee recognition and the employer brand

And this last point leads me, as a marketer, to make the connection between employee recognition and the employer brand.  The employer brand defines for employees, why the organization is a great place to work and sets expectations for employees’ experience throughout their career there.

Employee buy-in to the employer brand creates engagement, encourages discretionary effort and results in committed and outstanding performance, which is the basis for employee recognition programmes.  To be meaningful, the employer brand has to be brought to life, and if not, it remains an empty set of words.   

Bringing the employer brand to life is all about equipping employees to do their jobs with enthusiasm and building commitment to the company’s values.  To do this, I have three suggestions:

  1. Human Resources and Marketing should work together in the on-going management of the employer brand. When there are changes to business strategies, the employer brand must also be adjusted and communicated to employees.
  2. Business leaders and managers should commit to an on-going programme of internal, bi-directional communication activities so that employees understand the importance of the role they play in the success of the company.
  3. A mix of formal recognition programs and opportunities for leaders to give employees personal recognition goes a long way to motivate employees.

 

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important

www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

@Camille21162

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female-symbol

In the week that has followed International Women’s Day, I have read with interest some very impressive statistics on the progress women have made over the years. Earning the right to vote, ascension to leadership in Fortune 500 companies, success in male-dominated professions and legislation protecting safety, pay scales and employment access were in the mix of articles and social media posts published on or around March 8.

In spite of the progress, we must lament the fact that far too many women with limited access to economic opportunities continue to be persuaded or forced into prostitution and human trafficking situations, where they are sexually exploited for the profit and entertainment of unscrupulous men.

Just one month before International Women’s Day, the 2015 Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition was released with the model on the cover removing her bikini bottom, leaving very little to the imagination. Appallingly outrageous!

But before you think I’m going to take a prudish position on this, I’ll say that I am thrilled that feminism has earned women the right to make our own choices. We can boldly be who we want to be, choose what we wear and how we wear or not wear what we want to wear. Bravo!

What I find appalling is the consensual use of a woman’s body as a sexual object to market men’s entertainment products. I am disappointed that the model on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover has chosen to have her body used in this way. It does nothing to uplift the portrayal and image of women and it is a slap in the face to the many women and men who are working so very hard to build respect and gender equality.

It is unfortunate that the media is neither an enabler nor a game changer in the quest for genuine gender equality. The 2014 Hollywood Diversity Report states that 74.4% of leading roles in Hollywood movies are portrayed by men. With the majority of movies telling men’s stories and women who too often play secondary roles as lovers, wives and girlfriends, it is no small wonder that stereotypes of women as sex objects continue to be perpetuated.

I am not advocating censure. I am advocating opportunities and choices for women to be positively portrayed in the media, which influences public perceptions. Bearing in mind that men make up approximately 50% of the population, women need to make responsible choices about the opportunities they accept in the domains of advertising and entertainment. In spite of any progress women make in the corporate, academic or any other field of economic activity, the portrayal of women in the media holds an even greater influence on the way in which women are perceived and treated by men.

I stand fully behind the programs that support women’s professional development. Kudos to the women and men who have launched projects to increase the proportion of women on corporate boards and in senior leadership positions. But since we believe in freedom of choice, not all women will choose to ascend the corporate hierarchical ladder, if and where it exists, in the new corporate world order.

The focus must be on empowering women and girls to develop their talents in whichever field they desire, and to have the self-confidence to decline offers of economic gain that objectify them for the benefit of men’s entertainment.

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.

http://www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

@Camille21162

@Glorymatters

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Winning

Think win-win is one of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

I remember reading Covey’s book several years ago and feeling challenged and overwhelmed as I thought of how I could possibly practice this habit in the ego-centric competitive corporate culture of the company where I worked at that time.

But a strange thing happened yesterday at work. Even though I set out to fight for my right to be right, I won, and so did everybody else!

I was working against a fairly tight timeline to launch a multi-media communications plan for one of my internal clients. As it turned out, I provided a hurriedly prepared brief for an external designer who then prepared advertisements that did not quite meet the expectations of the guardians of the company’s brand.  I must admit that the designer informed me that some of my design requests were not ‘on-brand.’ The ads were acceptable, I thought, but time and money were at stake so I hurriedly approved the ads.  Bad decision.

Then yesterday, I received a meeting invitation from the brand guardian to discuss the project. I remember clicking on the accept button with some amount of fear and trepidation.  Fear of getting my wrist slapped for being ‘off-brand’ – not respecting the brand guidelines – and filled with trepidation of having to tell my internal client that I would have to spend more money from his budget to get the ads re-done ‘on-brand.’

So, off I went to the meeting yesterday, with my mental boxing gloves in tow, preparing to fight for my right to be right. Crusading for the cause of time and money was my platform as I set out to win the battle of the ads!  Stepping into the meeting, I was greeted with a copy of the ‘off-brand’ ad that I approved and a few ‘on-brand’ versions created by an external design company, who had recently been briefed on the latest version of our brand guidelines.  I smiled nervously.  But it was a genuine smile.  I really did see the difference between the ‘on-‘ and the ‘off-brand’ versions of the ad.

My colleague explained that the ads I approved should really not be used as they depicted the company’s brand and image of yesteryear, a time when I wasn’t even working at the company. The sooner we stop using ‘off-brand’ ads and making exceptions because of time and cost constraints, the better it would be for the company’s image.  I had to agree.

I nevertheless launched a somewhat defensive spiel on the time and cost constraints that had led me to give a less than perfect briefing to my designer and that these constraints would make it virtually impossible for me to withdraw the ‘off-brand’ ads. “I can’t just withdraw the ads, as the work has already been done.  I have to pay the designer.  I have no extra budget to re-do the ads,” I declared. “And by the way, how much will it cost me for the work done by your external designer to create these on-brand versions?”  I thought to myself, “There is no easy way out; I’m not going to win this time!”

A quick flashback to Covey’s habits of empathetic listening and of trying to understand rather than to be understood, made me pause calmly and pay attention to what was happening in the moment. My colleague gently said that the work done by the external design company was on spec, at no cost.  The ‘on-brand’ ads were developed by the designer as a template to demonstrate how to properly apply the guidelines, and my project was being used as an example.  “Are there any other ad formats you have in this campaign that you would like to submit so that the designer may prepare some other templates?” she asked.  “It will cost you nothing.  The texts in the templates can be modified for this and future campaigns.  Your department and other departments of the company will have access to the templates and your designer can modify the templates as long as the brand guidelines are respected.”

An important turning point in the conversation was when I realized that I could get the ads re-done and at no cost. By accepting the brand guardian’s offer, I wasn’t giving up anything.  I had the opportunity to create a win-win situation for several stakeholders.

  • By agreeing to have the external design company re-do my ads, the brand guardian would be in a position to determine if the external designer was capable of delivering projects on-brand and on time.
  • My project would give the external designer an opportunity to expand business by adding our company to their roster of clients.
  • What’s more, when all the templates are finalized, the entire company will benefit from having access to a bank of advertising templates for reuse with modifications that will cost much less than having to create completely new advertisements for every project.
  • As for the cost of the work done by my designer, I consider it to be an investment in the design process.  The ads served as the point of reference for the external design company to develop the ‘on-brand’ ads.
  • As for my designer, I definitely will share the ‘on-brand’ versions of the ads and the updated brand guidelines for easy reference for my future projects.

Win-win

See the BIG picture. Focus on what’s important.

Win-win situations are all about seeing the BIG picture – the common good of all – while focusing on what’s important – building healthy, functional relationships through listening and addressing the needs and concerns of others.

Visit my website:  www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

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Work Life Balance

Although I tried it for many years, I no longer believe in work/life balance, and here’s why –

The term work/life balance implies that there is work and then there are other things in life.  According to this way of thinking, finding the balance means that there has to be a trade-off.  In the end, one or the other suffers.

As someone who enjoys working hard, I do cherish time spent with my family and people I love, as well as volunteering and having my ‘down time.’   For many years, I tried unsuccessfully to find a balance between my work and all the other things I wanted to do in life.  Trying to fit in one hour of long distance running, preparing supper, spending quality time with my husband and family, working on communications plans for the two social activities I was involved in, working on my latest art project and then factoring in two hours commuting to an 8-hour day job… all left me tired, frazzled, overweight and unfulfilled.  Then I tried to cut down some of my social activities in pursuit of the ideal balance between work and the other things in my life.  I got the same result – not enough sleep, weight gain and frustration instead of fulfillment.

Then, one Saturday morning a few years ago, I woke up feeling tired.  I was overwhelmed when I read the uncompleted items on the previous week’s “to do” list that was running and ruining my life.  The reality check came when I tried to add another set of commitments for the coming week to the list of “to do’s.”

Realizing the impossibility of accomplishing all of the tasks, I had an honest dialogue with myself about what mattered most to me in my life at the time.   Instead of identifying specific actions, I considered what my priorities ought to be.  Here’s what I came up with –

  1. My spiritual well-being,
  2. My family and the people I love,
  3. Developing my talents and career and
  4. Serving other people.

Overarching all of these priorities was my health and well-being and the need for a holistic, balanced way of life.

What I realized was that if I stayed true to my priorities, I wasn’t making a choice between work and life.  My priorities covered every aspect of my life, of which work is only one component.

Since then, I have reframed my thinking about how I manage my time and energy.  Treating my priorities as assets and the hours in a day as a portfolio, I invest my time and efforts in activities that matter most while ensuring that my health and well-being are not compromised.  Since I’m most alert and productive in the early morning, I spend my first waking hours in meditation and getting ready to start my work day early, allowing for more time in the evening to spend time with my family and with people while being involved in social activities.  Then there are boundaries I set on the commitment and number of volunteering opportunities that I’m involved in.

It’s simple, but then again it’s not that simple.  Having it all is eventually possible.  It’s all about setting priorities and making choices that are appropriate at a given time in life.  As King Solomon stated, “For everything in life there is a time and a season.”  These are wise words to live by.

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.

Visit my website www.camilleisaacsmorell.com

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