Posted on: December 11th, 2018 by
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Do you find yourself sleepwalking through multiple meetings that you think are a waste of time?  And that time can be better used for more productive efforts?

During a consulting assignment for a large healthcare insurance company, unproductive meetings came up by employees in asking their top 5 impediments to performance. The results caused management to look for a way to reduce meetings by 10%.  The solution actually reduced meetings by 30%, and in some cased by 50%.  Starting at the vice-president level, senior management was asked to implement a new practice down through their organizations.

What was this remarkable revelation?  A lower level supervisor suggested a simple but highly effective approach.  (My experience is that most answers to performance issues are already known within the organization.  What does it take to find answers to barriers of results?  Ask the question of your employees within your own organization. The answers almost always come from the people closest to the problem!)

Here’s what this organization implemented across and down the organization. For each and every meeting that is called, ask these 5 questions.  If any answer comes back negative, then cancel the meeting until all answers are positive.  The questions are:

  1. Is the objective of the meeting clear to all participants? (What do you want to achieve?)
  2. Have you succinctly and clearly defined the issues to be discussed or resolved?
  3. Is all the information necessary to make a decision available to all parties?
  4. Is everyone that is affected by the decision involved in the meeting and fully briefed?
  5. Will all of the potential alternative strategies and implications of the ultimate decision be presented for discussion, and ready for implementation?

One of the added benefits to this approach was the reduction of “politics” around decisions, as everyone has the same information as everyone else. The meeting discussions are open, with an informational format, and no hidden agendas.  Four factors, however, may determine your degree of success:

  1. The group has the authority to make the decision at hand
  2. The group has a common goal, shared by all: To achieve mutually beneficial results.
  3. Everyone gets along reasonably well and can work together
  4. Cell phones or other distractions are not allowed

Who should be the “champion” to implement this kind of process to reduce or stop useless meetings?  Of course the higher the level within an organization, the better the result.   If the top executive implements this process, the chances of success are wider and deeper than at lower levels.  However, experience has shown that a supervisor, manager or director who implements this practice within their unit will be more productive.  They will have a higher performance because of the efficiency of decisions and the effective use of time, as opposed to wasted time in unproductive meetings.

No matter what level you are within an organization, if you’re in charge of a meeting you can become a model for others to follow.

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Posted on: December 4th, 2018 by
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Are you being paid fairly?  When looking for a higher-level position, how should you answer the compensation question? Your market value has a number of different components to it:  Industry norms, supply/demand, past titles,experiences, geography, the company size and practices, and many more.  Some companies pay at the mid-point of industry averages while others target the 60thpercentile or above, and some are below the 40thpercentile.


So how do you go about figuring out your marketplace worth?  Start by accessing four different data points:  One from government, two from surveys and one from colleagues.


Government:  There’s an online database from the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. It has general but useful information for over 800 different occupations.  It will be less specific than other resources, but you’ll get an overall sense of the marketplace and a view of compensation parameters.


One online resource:  Glassdoor has an excellent program that will give you information once you input some of your data points such as the job, years of experience, and where you would like to work.  You can modify some of the criteria and play with alternatives, but you can get a fairly good insight into compensation factors.


Another online resource:  PayScale is a similar online tool that gives you a useful estimate about what you should be paid, by using the criteria listing of job, experience and location.  The information is gathered by data from users of the system: Those who already have the job for which you are looking, so it’s real-time records.


Colleagues:  Talk with your contemporaries who have similar jobs to the one you are searching. Your network of associates, family, neighbors, friends and co-workers all have contacts that may be helpful. What you’ll collect is an assortment of information that needs to be sharpened to best fit your need.


In a general sense, your market worth is dependent upon what an organization is willing to pay for what you know and can do for them.  If you have a special skill or experience that few people have, you will be worth more to them.


When in an interview situation, I suggest a dual strategy when you’re asked the compensation question, assuming you’ve researched the marketplace data:


  • Most jobs that are posted give a position description and a salary number. When asked, “What salary are you looking for”, never give a number. Always give them a range, from X to Y. In that way you have a better negotiating position.
  • You might also say, “I can’t give you a fixed number because I need to compare my total compensation with an offer, including incentives, bonuses, health and other insurance costs, complexity of the work, expectations for results, advancement opportunities and fit.”


Your worth in the marketplace is dependent upon many factors.  The greatest factor is your ability to contribute to the success of the job for which you are interviewing.  Demonstrated results are your best negotiating position.


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Posted on: November 27th, 2018 by
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One of the greatest mistakes a candidate can make is to confuse their list of activities or responsibilities for a list of their measurable results. If they get the job based on their activities, they are at risk.  Some individuals don’t have the necessary achievements to sustain them in the new job, and then they fall short.  That means they have to go back into the marketplace.  As a result, they have a very short-term job on their resume and a difficult interviewing situation as to why they couldn’t succeed in their last position.


One of the greatest errors of a hiring manager is to mistake a candidate’s efforts with operational results.  For the organization, activity does not equal results.  A wrong hire can mean having to replace the new employee within the first year, then having to go through the search and hiring process all over again. That process can take two years, with the loss of performance and momentum.


My experience over the past 30 plus years is that over 80% of resumes focus on the activities or responsibilities of past jobs, rather than concentrating on measurable achievements.  The hiring organization publishes what they are looking for in their job description.  In order to become a high potential candidate, simply state your actual results on your resume that matches their requirements.  In that way, the hiring manager can see the transition of skills and transference of experiences that will increase the probability of success and reduce a hiring mistake.


Being “outcome-driven” should show up on your resume and be the focus of your interviews.  It’s what makes your candidacy not only unique, but also compelling.  Think about what a hiring manager is ultimately looking for, reflected in these questions:


  1. Can the candidate do the current job with high performance?
  2. Can the candidate expand responsibilities and contribute in the future?
  3. Will this candidate fit into my team, not cause disruptions or negatively affect results?


Other mistakes of a resume:


  • If you list all of your career positions beyond 10 years. Industry and technology changes have advanced too far to be relevant in today’s world.  You should summarize significant achievements in a short listing.
  • If you list all of your educational and professional designations at the top of the resume, which takes up valuable space. Instead, put educational degrees right after your name (B.S., M.A. PhD) along with professional designations or certifications (CPA, EE, PE).  All your educational levels can be seen immediately, and detailed later in the resume.
  • If you present your resumes in a narrative form with more than two or three sentences per item. Long narratives are boring and lose the interest of the hiring manager.  It also hides any meaningful accomplishments in the long text.  Make it shorter and more powerful.  Use three or four bullet points per job, to make it stand out.


Resumes have only one objective:  To get an interview.  If your resume isn’t compelling, you’ll be an applicant, not a candidate.



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Posted on: November 13th, 2018 by
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If you’re now scrambling to pull out a great performance review and merit increase for the year-end, you may be too late.  Develop and implement your strategy about a month or two before the review. Your preparation will determine the outcome.


Bosses tend to have short memories when it comes to performance reviews. “What have you done for me lately?” seems to be the narrative, rather than “What has been your contributions for the past year?”  Performance reviews should center on what you and your boss mutually viewed as objectives a year ago, then adjusted every few months.  These initial objectives will modify given the realities of a dynamic organization.  If you have no mutually set objectives with your boss, you’re at the mercy of a subjective performance review that is more dependent upon your relationship with you boss than actual results.


Performance should be reviewed against objectives that are reasonable and achievable, with a “kicker” for stretch results.  Get them in writing.  Objectives set in stone with no flexibility is a recipe for disappointment.  Keep excellent records of your achievements with special emphasis on metrics.  Ask your internal/external clients/customers to assess and document your contribution to their results.  It’s amazing the power of your support to someone else’s progress.  Fill out a performance review beforehand as objectively as you can, with your results as you view them prior to meeting with your boss. Give it to your boss a week or so before your meeting.  You may jog your boss’s memory on items forgotten, while influencing the outcome at the same time.


Go back to your work calendar to recall projects or meetings you may have forgotten, then:

  1. Develop a list of important milestones where you have achieved meaningful results
  2. Use your position description to make sure all of your responsibilities are covered
  3. Define the results in each area with documents and metrics, if possible


For the past few years, pay growth has been curtailed.  Now, however, pay is accelerating due to the growing economy and competition for talent that has forced compensation expansion.  The marketplace is opening up once again.  People are looking for better opportunities, so your skill sets will determine the type and level of jobs open to you.


Since there has been a downward pressure on pay, you might want to ask questions like:

  1. “Is there an incentive bonus possible based on my future high performance?”
  2. “Can there be a 6 month performance and merit review, instead of annually?”
  3. “Is there an added step in my responsibilities than can convey a higher pay level?”

Even if the answers are “no”, you’ve created a mind-set with your boss for the coming year.

When negotiating for pay, always be prepared with industry ranges based on years of experience so you’re not being underpaid.


For next year, document your activities, responsibilities, projects and results.  It’s surprising how memories fade over time.


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Posted on: November 6th, 2018 by
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Are you thinking about becoming a consultant?  First consider the questions as to why organizations hire a consultant?  I can quickly think of three reasons:


  • The skills or knowledge that is needed does not exist in the organization
  • Management wants objective outside analysis or alternatives to a critical issue
  • Management wants to point the finger elsewhere else if the solution doesn’t work


If you’re thinking about leaving your job to become a consultant, here are some things you should consider before making the leap.


  • What can you do that very few people are able to do? Consultants have special or unique skills, knowledge or expertise that organizations need.  Unless you have a national reputation, are a known expert in your field, or can convince executives that you can obtain the results they are looking for, why should they hire you as a consultant?
  • The actual process of consulting is the easy part. Most consultants can do a minimally adequate job of consulting.  But meeting with senior management, presenting a pathway to results, convince executives that you’re better than all others, then actually sign up a client for a fee, is the hard part.  What makes you more effective than all your competitors?  What can you do that they can’t?
  • During the first or second year of consulting, most new consulting business is dependent upon your contacts from past executives you’ve known before. After the initial flush of business and the low hanging fruit gets picked, then you have to dig out business from organizations that don’t know you or maybe never heard of you.  Most consulting firms dry up within a few years.


In addition, a few more considerations:


  • It’s a very lonely existence. There’s no one to kick around ideas or critique presentations
  • What do you know about legal issues, licenses, tax implications, accounting, marketing, time allocation, insurances and variable income?
  • Even when you have a consulting job, you need to market yourself for the next project
  • Your financial time horizon is about 3 to 6 months out
  • The benefits and healthcare costs are huge. There’s no corporation to help pay bills
  • Your clients will ask, “Where have you worked in our industry? If not, why hire you?”
  • When you have to add needed staff, your costs escalate and cut into your margins
  • The local, state and federal laws for liability, insurances, taxes and licenses are complex
  • It’s difficult for an independent consultant to make over $100,000 a year. Why?  The skill-sets needed, start-up and marketing costs and the marketplace all work against you
  • Lastly, if you try to move back into the corporate world, the hiring managers will be reticent to hire you. Why? Because you left another manager in the lurch and it would be too easy for you to do the same now.


Consulting looks easy, glamorous and financially rewarding.  In reality, you need many diverse skills, extensive business contacts, and a determination to succeed that most individual consultants cannot sustain over time.


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