Sunday, October 28, 2018

Managing Leadership Pitfalls

All leadership styles are unique.  There may be some similarities between leaders but the human element of leadership makes every leader different.  There are characteristics of leadership that individual leaders gravitate to or use more than other characteristics, and generally, this is done to suit their personality.  Opinions vary on what constitutes a “good” leader, what I describe below is my perspective on why and how leaders fail and how you can manage your relationship with a leader you are having trouble following.  In the workplace, there are two forms of leadership, paid and unpaid.  Simply put, there are people who are paid by the organization to lead you as a part of their job description and there are people who demonstrate leadership qualities naturally even though it is not a formal part of their job description.  I am specifically targeting the paid leadership role and dealing with your direct manager/supervisor. 

Lack of clear communication is a major pitfall when working with another person, when that person depends on you for guidance, feedback and resources it can be catastrophic for the direct report/management relationship.  There are very few things worse that can happen in the workplace than finding out for the first time that you are performing poorly at your job during your annual performance review.  There are some managers who think sarcasm, insinuation, vague references and body language are a substitute for providing actual feedback and coaching.  If you find yourself dealing with someone who isn’t giving you the communication that you need to perform your job at a high level then you must act as the conduit and solicit feedback.  Send them a written request to discuss your performance with very specific questions about how well you are performing.  When you have the conversation be prepared to hear the positive and the negative but make sure you don’t get hung up on the negative feedback.  Instead try and find a path to success by partnering with your leader and creating a plan for you to meet/exceed the goal wherever they feel you have an opportunity to improve.  If you have a negative feeling about your job performance but you have never been told you aren’t performing well, take the initiative and reach out.  Even though the process has failed you doesn’t mean you don’t have a part in it and you can save yourself plenty of stress and anxiety by initiating the conversation.  If your manager is trying to get you out of your seat they will undoubtedly be accumulating documentation about your performance whether they are sharing it with you or not and depending on the company you work for the fact that you found out about it later than sooner isn’t enough to keep your job.  Take the initiative.  Send a written request for a feedback meeting if you don’t already have one scheduled.  If you meet with your manager regularly but don’t discuss your performance make sure you bring it up and ask!

If you feel like it would benefit you in your career if your manager would delegate some things to you but they are keeping everything close to the vest you are probably experiencing major frustration.  There is nothing worse than feeling like your light is being dimmed (intentionally or unintentionally) when all you need is an opportunity to show what you can do.  If you have a formal meeting with your manager there is always a point in the meeting either in the beginning or the end where they ask “do you have anything for me?”.  That is your moment to put yourself out there and say yes, I really think I could add more value if you threw some projects or duties my way.  If you don’t have a formal/regular meeting with your manager then ask for one or just send them your request in writing.  Please make sure you are in good standing prior to making this request and if you aren’t positive, make sure you open up your line of communication.  No one really delegates to someone who isn’t already performing their listed duties well.  Delegating can be a tricky thing for a manager especially if they have been burned in the past but you can build that trust by demonstrating how great you are in your current role.  I am not suggesting people take on additional tasks for the fun of it, this is more of an avenue to gain experience and exposure to further your career.     

If you can avoid having a personal relationship with your manager, do your best to keep things professional.  More often than not it doesn’t end well.  There are always exceptions and some will think that having a personal relationship with their manager will be a benefit, but it really will only serve to create a hostile work environment and probably leadership failure.  Again, there are exceptions, but that is exactly what they are, exceptions.  This is not to say you should not have a positive, collaborative, friendly working relationship with your manager.  That is the sweet spot that allows both to meet and exceed goals that much easier.  There is a very clear line between someone you work well with and someone you go to lunch with on a regular basis or have drinks with after work.  If your boss wants to hang out with you, that is usually a problem.  Don’t get me wrong, who wouldn’t want to hang out with you?  You are awesome!  But they need to find a peer or someone who doesn’t report to them directly to socialize with, both during and after work.  After you get promoted to another department or they leave for greener pastures then, if you both want to be friends, by all means go for it but while there is a direct line, do your best to steer clear of personal relationships with your manager.   

It can be a real struggle when you don’t have confidence in your leader.  It is a challenging job and not everyone is up to the challenge.  It takes an unbelievable amount of patience, empathy, trust, communication and desire to make it really work and like anything in life, you don’t know until you know.  This is not to give anyone a pass, because like anything else, if it’s not for you then you shouldn’t choose it.  For those who are struggling knowingly or unknowingly it may require you as the employee to become more proactive in your relationship depending on where they fall short.  Just know that you can possibly help them by doing so but at a minimum you can make your experience with them better for you.  Just make sure you are correctly assessing the problem, I have had leaders tell me things about my performance that I didn’t want to hear and I took it personally.  That is not what I am addressing.  There are times when the relationship isn’t what you would like it to be because of your performance or attitude, but that is something that can also be improved by open communication once you correctly process the feedback.  It is never too late to begin the communication process as long as you are genuine in your request.  If you make the effort to collaborate and communicate to improve your communication because they have not in your opinion then at a minimum you have a paper trail attempting to establish accountability.  The phrase “managing your manager” is real, and if you find yourself having to do that feel confident in knowing you have some tools to find a path to success.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Thank You Letters – The Hidden Jewel of the Job Hunt Process

Finding a new job is an exhausting process.  You search for jobs on all the major boards (and some not so major), you apply for job after job (always with a cover letter tailored to each job description) and then wait for the email from the recruiter.  They set up the initial phone screen, and you crush it.  You then interview with the hiring manager and nail it.  Now you wait for the offer from Human Resources to come through.  You wait.  You wait.  You wait.  And then you receive the email but it’s not an offer, it’s a thank you for your time, but they decided on another candidate.  You quickly think back to your process trying to figure out how this could happen when you received such good vibes from the conversation with the hiring manager?  There are several things you can do to prepare for a job hunt; clean up your online presence, have your resume and cover letter professionally written, attend an interview prep workshop, buy a new suit and shoes, get a haircut and manicure.  All of these things can help you prepare to put your best foot forward, but one of the most overlooked pieces of this process is the post-interview thank you letter.  That can be the difference between you and another candidate being selected for a position yet there are many who have either never sent one because they weren’t aware of it or don’t see the importance of the thank you letter.

Thank you letters are so easy to do and are worth their weight in gold.  Everyone likes to be thanked.  A simple show of appreciation is always welcome, and if it is sincere, it can make an impact on your relationship with the recipient.  Thank you notes should be crafted and sent 24 hours after your interview with the hiring manager.  They should be brief and to the point, highlighting why you are the perfect candidate for the position.  Thank them for their time and if it is a job you want, make sure you clearly state your interest.  When you question the interviewer, include a question that asks what some of the challenges the hiring manager currently faces, and then include how you would resolve them (briefly) in your letter. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 22% of employers are less likely to hire a candidate if they don’t send a thank-you note after the interview. Fifty-six percent said it shows that the candidate isn’t really serious about the position, and a whopping 86% said it shows a lack of follow-through.  Since there is no way of knowing if the person you are dealing with find value in them there is no reason at all to skip over this part of the process.  

There are several templates available on the internet, and we have a sample available for you to use for free from DE Employment Solutions by clicking here.  Before you send the email, make sure you have at least one person proofread it for you.  When you read it yourself, you may add the words in your head that you meant for the email but never actually made it to the page.  Spellcheck is obvious and Grammarly or some other second level writing tool will be a real bonus.  Use the thank you letter to remind the hiring manager what a great applicant you are, and to show how much you care.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

2017 and Beyond

2017 was a really interesting year.  Politics and workplace harassment dominated the headlines from start to finish. Natural disaster touched every part of the world causing loss of life and devastating damage to cities and islands.  In the midst of all the chaos, there were several reasons to feel good about the future and approach 2018 with a sense of optimism.  People united to support causes and provide disaster relief in numbers never seen before.  Either women found their voice in 2017 or men started to listen or some combination of the two, and that was great for everyone.  There is plenty to build on for the new year.  Self-care has emerged as a leading method of self-love and appreciation.  People are taking time for themselves; unplugging from the internet/social media, reading books, visiting museums, taking walks, cooking, painting (while drinking wine) and many other activities that are healthy alternatives from our traditional time wasters & hogs.  As you prepare for the new year, try to focus on the things that will make you happy; spending as much time as you can with the people you care about the most and doing the things you love.  Strengthen bonds with the people who matter, even if it means having tough conversations to resolve past differences.  If you are not in a good place financially, there are resources out there to help you, both paid and free, to transition into a better paying job.   Look for a position that pays you what you need to make all of your ends meet without having to shuffle bills or pick up a second job.  Just because you can buy something does not mean you can afford it.  Sit down and evaluate your financial situation, make sure all of your household expenses are covered and then determine how much you can afford to save before you start spending.  Max out your 401K, your older self will be glad you did.  If you need help, talk to someone about your finances who can help you get things in order.  Be encouraged.  Be optimistic.  Pay it forward.  Be positive.  Spread love.

We have a lot in store for you in 2018.  We started in August of this year and presented this monthly newsletter and blog both on our website and Blogger site.  We have content-rich social media space on LinkedInFacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and Google+ with daily articles to assist and inform you about any number of employment-related content.  Next year we will introduce our podcast on our YouTube channel so if you are so inclined and would like some helpful and useful information on your timeline so make sure you add us and subscribe to our sites, blogs, and channels.  Use #DEEMPLOYMENTSOLUTIONS (I know it’s a mouthful) to find us all over the internet as well. 

Bring your better self into the year, focusing on the positive.  Try not to consume as much negativity, we were all force fed what seemed like an endless supply of bad/fake news, drama, hostility, and mischief in 2017 but that doesn’t mean we have to accept that today or a couple weeks from today.  You are what you eat and that includes your brain so try not to take in so much of what is wrong with the world and try to increase your diet of positivity.  This will allow you to sustain changes you plan to make past the month of February 😊 giving you a brighter outlook and perspective on life.  Be a shining example for children.  Let them see positive examples everywhere they turn.  Plant the seeds of creativity, independent thought, and kindness in them.  Allow them to fail so they are better equipped to handle it when they get older.  Be a better partner to your significant other, if you have one.  Decide you want to be the best partner you can be and contribute to the relationship fully.  Talk about your problems and try to resolve them without someone being the “winner”.  Listen to understand, not to respond.  Be each other’s peace.  If you still have your parents show them how much you appreciate them every chance you get.  Talk to them at least twice a week.  Cherish them while you still have the opportunity.  If your parents are gone cherish their memory, they are still alive inside of you.  Continue to talk to them.  Write them letters.  Keep your favorite picture of them in your phone.  Do whatever suits you to revel in their spirit.  We are in complete control of our mood, our thoughts, and our feelings.  It is up to us to manage our highs and lows.  We cannot be successful if we are not in the right mind frame to make it happen.

We would like to wish you, your family and friends a safe, pleasant ending to 2017 and a wonderful entrance into 2018! 

Resume Tips

There are several different ideas about what a resume should be, but there are a couple of things that are universal.  The first page is your selling page, and the content of your resume will ultimately get you noticed.  No matter how well formatted and perfectly sculpted, it is your combination of experience, education, and skills that will land you the interview in most cases.  The presentation of those three things can separate you from those with similar/equal qualifications, and that is the reason you should take your resume very seriously.  The tips below should help you manage the process and refresh your resume so that you can put your best foot forward and get that call for an interview.


Your resume is the main tool you will use to convince a stranger to talk to you about their open position.  You probably won’t be there when they are reading it for the first time, and you will only get a chance to explain something in your history if there is enough there to make them want to talk to you.  Things you can control: Punctuation/Grammar/Spelling – These are tools in your MS Word and Google Docs, so it’s just a matter of making sure you use them.  Font – Whatever font you settle on should be the same throughout the entire document unless you are using a different font for headers.  Make sure your fonts are aligned if you are copying and pasting information from other documents into your resume.  Nothing says I’m not very serious about myself like misspelled words, a variety of fonts, bullets out of alignment and bad grammar.  Do yourself a favor and have someone you trust to give your resume a good review before you start sending it out.

What Resume Works Best for You?

The three main resume types: Functional, Chronological and Combination.  My preferred resume is Chronological with very specific attention to professional achievement.  What have you accomplished at your job?  How have you made the business better?  What have you achieved?  Listing accomplishments give the reader an idea of what kind of potential asset they are bringing into their organization.  Listing duties do not show who you are and what you have done.  You can distinguish yourself by providing a summary of your duties than a list of 3 to 5 accomplishments per job.  Whatever you choose, make sure it gets you the results you are looking for and if it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to change it to one of the other options.

Summary or Objective?

One of the most common questions I’m asked is “which one is “preferred” the professional summary or the objective.”  The truth is all hiring managers are different people, and it is impossible to know who prefers one or the other.  The good news is you have options; you can pick one of the two or go with neither if you so choose.  I prefer the summary; I think it allows you to give the reader a brief explanation of why you are perfect for the position and can make your first-page pop.  You can use about four sentences to highlight all the skills that you have that apply to the position you are applying for, and that can be the difference between you and someone else getting the call for the interview.

How far back should I go? 

In most cases, it should only go back ten years.  There are a few exceptions, but for the most part, you can feel safe with a 10-year window.  If you feel like you have pertinent skills that you would like to showcase on your resume outside of that window you can create an additional skills section on your resume and highlight those skills.

How many pages should it be?

Your resume should be as brief as possible without sacrificing content.  What does that mean?  If you are choosing a chronological resume and you haven’t had many jobs, it may be possible to fit everything on one page but don’t be discouraged if it spills over into two pages.  You should be able to fit ten years of work comfortably with a two-page resume.  The main focus should be page one for the reader (not the HR scanning software), and if they would like to know more about you, they will move on to the subsequent pages.  If they aren’t sold after page one chances are they will stop there.

When should you update it?

You should update your resume whenever you take on a new position after the first six months.  This doesn’t mean editing the document per se, but you can make notes of your work accomplishments similarly to your yearly review so when you are ready to make edits you don’t have to think about what you have accomplished during your time, there should you choose to leave.  A running list of accomplishments will give you a really good idea of where you are as an employee and where you add value to the team and the company as a whole. 

How should you update it?

If your resume is already current this part is easy; you can simply add your newest position at the top and remove the last position from the bottom of your work experience if it falls off the 10-year window.  Just be sure you are using the same font and formatting, and you will be fine.  If it’s not current, you may want to consider a complete overhaul especially if you aren’t happy with the formatting or want to you use a more up to date template.  The internet is filled with templates if you aren’t happy with the offerings of MS Office or Google Docs, find the one that suits you and transfer your content.

Put your best foot forward.  Take your resume very seriously.  Job hunting is challenging, and you are already putting yourself at the bottom of the pile if you don’t put in the time and effort to make your resume the best possible representation of you.  If you don’t want to do it yourself hire someone but know that to succeed it will be a collaborative effort, there is no magic that can happen without your input.

Monday, November 27, 2017

End the Harassment

It is amazing how we have evolved so much and remain so archaic in our behavior.  In 2017 we still have people (mostly men) who think it is OK to violate personal space.  Both in and out of the workplace alike, people are subjected to glares, words and physical contact that just doesn’t have to happen.  It is a choice, a conscious choice, made by a person, to intentionally disturb another person.  I apologize, I have no idea why people do this, and I will never understand why anyone would think that it’s OK, but I do know that not everyone does it, so it isn’t “normal” human behavior at all.  I have discussed this topic at length recently with quite a few people both men and women, and I have to say the women I spoke to for the most part are exhausted by this epidemic.  As a man, it was very disheartening to hear the stories of the abuse that most men only seem to care about when it involves the women in their lives.  I don’t know how to solves this dilemma, but I do have some ideas about where we can start to change this behavior in the workplace.

When you interview for a position when it is your turn to ask questions take that opportunity to ask about the culture and include a question about the sexual harassment policy.  Ask them if they feel safe, even ask them to assign a letter grade to their environment.  Read their body language when they respond.  If they appear unusually uncomfortable or try to give you a really short answer and ask if you have any additional questions, take that as a red flag.  Do the same thing if you interview with Human Resources since that is in their wheelhouse, and they would be aware of that kind of reported behavior on a company-wide scale.  The import thing is to get as much information about the company as you can while you are in the decision-making process should they offer you a position.

During your orientation, there should be some sort of harassment training as a part of the on-board process.  If it’s a group discussion make sure you ask questions about how often these are reported.  Who the best person to report an incident if you don’t feel comfortable telling your manager or if it is your manager, do you need documentation, do you need witnesses, etc..  Make sure you are crystal clear on all of the policies and procedures as it pertains to sexual harassment in your workplace.  If your company does this via instructional video make sure you ask HR any questions you may have after viewing.  What is considered harassing behavior?  How much behavior do you have to endure before you report it?  What can you do to ensure there is no retaliation if you report someone?  Once you have a solid understanding, you are better equipped to handle the situation should you be unfortunate enough to fall into one.
I am a firm believer that adults are free to choose whatever they want to wear to work as long as it falls within the company guidelines for dress code.  I am also a firm believer that there are 9,429 different definitions of the term “business casual” and that is for each company to define and enforce.  All that being said, there is nothing you can wear that gives another person the right to harass you sexually.  That is a behavior of choice, and if a person is going to do it, I’m guessing it has nothing to do with what you are wearing.  When you spend 8-9 hours a day with the same group of people, over time professional relationships can turn into friendships and then personal relationships.  That is just the nature of the workplace, and most companies have rules around how personal relationships can be formed in the workplace.  There can be a slightly grey area when one person wants a relationship to move past professional, and they believe the other person wants the same thing, so they take their shot.  Hopefully, if the other person doesn’t want the same thing the situation can be resolved no harm no foul.  Once someone says “no” to something that has nothing to do with work, that has to be accepted.  Trying to change someone’s mind is harassment, plain and simple.  Taking your shot is always a risk, especially in the workplace, but if you miss the game is over.  Do yourself and the other person a favor and move on with your life.

Leaders.  Stop it with your direct reports.  Just stop it.  Nothing buries a leader quicker than one trying to foster a personal relationship with a direct report.  Even if your direct report has similar feelings for you don’t do it.  Plus, it should be somewhere in your company guidelines.  You have the most important role in all of this, so you need to make sure all appropriate boundaries are in place.

Leaders.  CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE THIS KIND OF BEHAVIOR IS UNACCEPTABLE!!!  We owe the people who work for us a safe workplace.  It is a very important part of the job, and we are clearly dropping the ball.  Every employee should feel comfortable bringing this kind of behavior to our attention, and every single incident should be taken seriously and addressed accordingly.  No one should have to go to work and suffer in silence.  This culture of victim blaming & shaming has to stop immediately.  How can we possibly be taken seriously if we are not accountable for the environment we are charged with leading?  Employee morale is down nationwide, and only 37% of employees trust their manager, that should be enough of a wake-up call.  What is currently happening in Hollywood hopefully will find its way into every other work environment, and you don’t want to find yourself on the wrong side of this behavior as a leader.  There are parts of every job that we don’t like doing, this cannot be one of them.

If you find yourself being harassed in the workplace, please report it.  Document what happened with all the information you can: date/time/who did it/who was there/what was done/how you responded and keep a copy for your records.  When you report it ask for clarity on the process and what you should expect as resolution if it’s not offered.  Try to remain as professional as possible when it happens and while your incident is being investigated and processed.  If you can avoid engaging with the other person do so as much as you can.  Even if you feel like nothing will change – report it.  If you feel like you are being victim blamed or shamed – document the incident in its entirety (harassment and the resolution) and then start looking for another place to work.  If you work for a company that doesn’t take this kind of thing seriously enough, it’s best not to waste any more time working there.  In the meantime, you can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and they will take you through their process of filing a claim.  If you are a federal employee, the process is different, but that information is on the website as well.  The important thing is to report the incident and remain professional while you are still working at your job and try to find a better place to work.  You deserve better!

It is unfortunate that we have not yet evolved past this behavior as a species.  We can do so much better if we want to but it starts with us.  When we see bad behavior of any kind make sure we let people know that it is not acceptable.  Don’t participate in behavior at work that you know is wrong and don’t turn your head when you see it happen in front of you.  Every company is charged with providing a safe workplace for its employees and have rules and paid leaders to facilitate the workplace environment.  With your help and participation, everyone can go to work and focus on the actual work without worrying about any of the extracurricular. 

Build Your Network

Network building is essential in furthering your career both internally and externally.  Being really good at your job is a great start, having a solid network can be the difference between getting a new position and being passed over.  A professional network is a social network focused solely on business interactions and relationships rather than including personal, non-business interactions.  The most important person in your network is you.  The best way to build your network is to make yourself someone worth networking with.  Be good at your job.  Be a good teammate.  Work well in collaborative groups outside your immediate team and department.  All of those activities will make it much easier for you to network in your office.  Once you have established or reestablished your professional reputation in the office you are now ready to expand your network.

Are friends and relatives automatically in your network?

Yes!  How active they are in your network depends on you.  Talk to them about where you are professionally and where you would like to go.  They are your biggest fans and will be your best advocates so the more they know about you and what you are capable of the better equipped they are to introduce you professionally in their circles. 

Where can you network?

Networking events can be tricky.  It can be a challenge especially if you aren’t an extrovert to successfully network at an event.  That being said, they are worth the effort and if you decide to attend one bring plenty of business cards.  If you don’t have any employer provided feel free to make your own, you can get 500 for around $10 plus shipping.  The best way and most effective way to network is through an introduction from a friend.  Dinner parties, holiday gatherings and socials provide an ideal setting to meet and remember people you are adding to your network.  Working a room full of strangers at a club happy hour or lounge at a networking event may not appeal to you but an event at someone’s home could be a much better fit.  

How do I use my network?

Who you know professionally can either be a gift or a curse for your career.  Knowing or not knowing the right people can cost you thousands of dollars so the key is to again make sure you yourself are network worthy and that you are taking advantage of both planned and unplanned networking opportunities.  When you are looking to move into another position at your current employer it can help you connect with the hiring manager yourself or through someone who has their ear.  You can find out when positions are coming before they are open for application if your network is strong enough and you can use it to gain insight into the position and what the hiring manager is looking for in the role.  Outside your job you can let people in your network know you are looking to make a change.  There are several email templates online that you can use to make the announcement and tips on how to reach out to your network most effectively.  LinkedIn is an effective tool to use to manage your network.  It allows you to connect with people you have worked with and gone to school with in a professional way.