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Sunday, November 28, 2010


I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new.

T is for the trust the pilgrims had so many years ago

H is for the harvest the settlers learnt to grow

A is for Appoline, my mother who gave me new vision

N is for nurture and beauty which she gives

K is for kindness, gentle words, thoughtful deeds

S is for smiles, the sunshine everyone needs

G is for gratitude... our blessings big and small

I is for ideas, letting wisdom grow tall

V is for voices, singing, laughing, always caring

I is for Islam, who taught me about sharing

N is for neighbors, across the street, over the sea

G is for giving of myself to make a better me.

On this Thanksgiving Day, I wish to say that I am honored to have you in my primary network.

Thanks for loving and caring for me.

Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” Brian Tracy"

Thank you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Who Are Your "Next Generation" Leaders?

Research by Development Dimensions International (DDI), a global workforce and leadership training, staffing and assessment firm based in Bridgeville, Penn., indicates that companies are at risk to lose a substantial number of their executives within the next five years.

Companies are faced not only with the challenge of replacing existing managers, but the need to add new managerial staff. According to a recent hiring survey conducted by Management Recruiters International, Inc., mid-managers, executives and professionals are in great demand. More than half of the companies surveyed indicated that they are planning increases in their mid-management and professional staffs.

As the population continues to age and baby boomers begin leaving the job market, experts predict that there will be serious shortages of employees to fill high-level professional, managerial and technical spots.

Whether your replacement needs are the result of tragedy, transition or trial and error, considering the issue of succession now can help you accomplish these staffing changes smoothly, with minimal disruption to your internal processes and a seamless transition for your customers.

What can you do? You can implement a formal, well-organized succession-planning program designed to identify potential gaps and develop tactics for filling those gaps.

Succession planning is one of those "proactive" initiatives that many companies simply don’t have the time to undertake. After all, HR professionals are working as hard as they can to simply maintain a fully staffed and functioning workforce today. The problem is that, if organizations dont make the time now to address this issue, they will be hit with it head-on in the not-too-distant future. The burden will fall upon the HR staff to deal with vacancies and to recruit skilled employees from an ever-shrinking labor pool.

HR professionals are faced with a tough choice: "pay now or pay later."

Building a Successful Succession Plan

What does it take to build an effective succession plan? There are a number of keys to success:

1. Commitment from top management. Few HR professionals would argue that they could embark upon a successful succession-planning program in a vacuum. To be successful, top management must be committed to the need to have a formal succession plan in place and willing to commit the resources needed. How can you convince upper management that a formal succession plan is necessary? By developing and presenting a solid business case based on external and internal data. Numerous surveys have been done that clearly identify the impending shortage of talent. Data is available through national organizations like the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This data, accompanied by internal data, can help build a case for succession planning.

2. A vision. What skills will your organization need 5, 10, 15even 20years from now? Your vision can be well focused if you take the time to examine workplace trends, projections for graduates in various fields, etc. Take time, as well, to speak with the leaders of your organization about where it is heading and the skills employees will need in the future.

3. An accurate understanding of your existing workforce. Do you know how many of your employees will be eligible for retirement within the next five years? How many of your managers? Do you have any idea how many mid-level staff people might be ready, willing and able to step into those positions? When you look at the technical gaps that your organization will face, can you identify existing staff with the existing knowledge, or the potential, to fill those gaps? Do you have this information "in your head" or in a database that can be accessed at will by anyone with the "need to know"?

4. Objectivity. As you examine your workforce, focus on key positions, regardless of the traits of the incumbents. For example, if one of the key positions for your organization is that of product development manager, and the incumbent is a very loyal 30-something who you feel "will be with the company forever," you may feel that slot is "safe." That’s a dangerous assumption. As difficult as it may be, you need to realize that your loyal employee could always be lured to another job, could decide that corporate life is no longer what s/he wants or, even more tragically, could die or become disabled and unable to fulfill the requirements of the position.

5. An open mind. Too often succession planning focuses on "the cream of the crop" those employees who, for whatever reasons, can clearly and readily be identified as "up and comers." Youre limiting your potential if you stop with these employees, however. Sometimes hidden talents can be found in the most retiring or "invisible" workers. Some employees may self-identify; others may need some encouragement. Your succession plan should include education of existing staff so they understand where the gaps will be and are in a better position to step forward and say: "I would be interested in doing that."

6. A solid plan and strong organization. Succession planning is, in many respects, a numbers game. It is an analytical process that requires good organizational skills, attention to detail and the ability to project into the future. Your plan should be designed to capture the information you need, store that information and allow for the ability to manipulate the information so that you can generate reports, develop "what if" scenarios and make changes as your workforce and your projected organizational needs change.

7. Teeth. One of the primary barriers to successful succession planning is your existing managerial and professional staff. Managers may feel threatened when asked to participate in identifying the leaders of the future. This is just one of the reasons that the succession plan must belong to the organization and not to the HR department. Upper management must hold all managers accountable for identifying talent among their staff members even to the extent that their individual pay and promotion opportunities are tied to their success in identifying and developing future talent.

8. A well-coordinated training and development program. If your organization determines that it will need employees who are skilled in e-commerce and determines that this talent does not currently exist, you are left with two choices: recruit talent from outside or develop opportunities for interested existing staff with identified potential to learn the skills they will need. Once gaps have been identified, the next step is to determine how those gaps will be filled either through recruitment or development of existing staff. That development might involve in-house training, special project assignments, outside coursework, etc.

9. On-going attention. As we’ve already seen, it can be tempting to overlook the need for succession planning in the face of more immediate needs. Again, the involvement and ownership of this issue by top management can help keep it at the forefront of the organization and ensure that it has the ongoing attention and action that it deserves.

Mistakes that Companies Make

There are a number of mistakes that organizations may make as they embark on a succession planning program. Following are some key areas that can create problems and hamper succession planning efforts:

Keeping the plan a secret. How many promising employees do you think you’ve lost to competitors because they had no idea you had them in your sights as "promising"? The more you can involve the entire organization in your efforts, the more successful you will be.

Underestimating the talent within. Why is it that we frequently overlook the talent that we have within our organization in favor of recruiting from a vast pool of unknowns? An old management credo says, "An expert is someone who lives 50 miles away and carries a briefcase." Consider how many of your employees may be considered expert by the competition in the next town (or on the next block). Do you really want to risk losing them?

Narrow-minded thinking. Overlooking employees who are thought to be too old, too young, too rough around the edges or too different.

Focusing exclusively on hard skills. Organizations are finding that soft skills (popularly referred to as emotional intelligence) are often more important in determining an employees success than the more traditional hard skills or technical abilities that we tend to value. Consider organizational culture and teamwork needs in addition to technical requirements when building your plan.

Not offering appropriate training and developmental opportunities. Don’t leave employees and their managers to fend for themselves in building their skills. Make sure that training is part of your program and that the appropriate resources are available.

Expecting employees to self-identify. Identification of employees with potential to fill future needs is a joint responsibility between the organization and its employees.

Not holding managers accountable for succession planning. Don’t let managers thwart organizational succession-planning efforts because of their own insecurities and biases.

Considering only upward succession. Lateral succession may be a need in your organization as well. In fact, many companies have dual career paths. The hierarchy gets decidedly smaller at the top. But that shouldn’t hinder the ability of employees to grow and develop or your organizations ability to attract and retain employees with growth opportunities.

Developing a one-size-fits-all program. Offering generic leadership development programs is an ineffective way to deal with succession planning. Individual succession plans should be developed based on specific organizational needs and specific individual skill and training gaps.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Intelligent Entrepreneur Vs Job-seeker

In "The Intelligent Entrepreneur", a new book out from author Bill Murphy, Jr., Bill distills 10 rules of successful entrepreneurship from the stories of several Harvard Business School graduates from the Class of 1998, including yours truly.

As I read through the stories, and looked at Bill's rules, it struck me that there are similarities between the successful entrepreneur and the successful job-seeker. You're both trying to create something new — a new company or a new position for yourself. You're both faced with the emotional challenges that go with any new endeavor. There are plenty of setbacks along the way in starting a company and getting a job. And success is dependent on sticking to it and seeing it through.

So with that in mind, I thought I'd share five of Bill's 10 rules with you and show how they apply to your job search.

#2 Find a problem, then solve it.

It's not enough in the 21st century to simply describe yourself to future employers as "I'm a finance guy" or "I'm a saleswoman." Particularly in this difficult economic environment, you need to let your future boss know what kind of problem you can solve for him or her. So be specific about what you bring to the table: "I'm a finance professional who specializes in Sarbanes-Oxley and really enjoys working with internationally headquartered companies to meet American regulatory requirements" or "I'm a sales professional who loves working with biotech start-ups as they go from pre-revenue to $10 mm in sales."

Find a problem, and then let your future boss know how you will solve it.

#4 You can't do it alone.

The job search can be a lonely endeavor and you can't possibly make it alone. You'll need the support of your family and friends, and being honest with them about the trials and tribulations you're experiencing is an important part of your emotional well-being during the search. You'll also need to rely on your colleagues and contacts, and have them on the lookout for you during your job search.

Enlisting the aid of the people you know for support, advice, and connections is the way to your next great job.

#5 You must do it alone.

But as much as you'll need to rely on family, friends and colleagues, it is ultimately going to depend on you. You'll need to make the calls, you'll need to do the follow-up, and you'll need to be prepared for the interviews. When it's 10:17 a.m. on Tuesday morning and you're staring at the phone thinking about making that follow-up call, it's up to you, and you alone, to pick up the phone and dial the digits. Nobody else can do it for you.

Understanding that you'll need to make the commitment, set aside the appropriate amount of time, and then fight through our natural tendency to procrastination, is key to your success.

#8 Learn to sell.

Take your annual earnings and multiply by five. That's the value of the product you are selling — the next five years of your labor. It's the most important sales job you're going to have, and you need to learn how to sell. You need to qualify the buyer — make sure they need an expensive product like you — and then explain to them the benefits they'll get by purchasing — how you'll help solve the problems they're facing in their business.

Too often we can allow ourselves to slip into focusing on what I need out of the job hunt. You have to remember that it's not about you, it's about what your future employer needs. And you need to sell them on how you fulfill those needs better than any other candidate.

#9 Persist, persevere, prevail.

The job hunt is filled with twists and turns — moments of hope and days of despair. That's normal.

It's all part of the job-seeking process, and in order to be successful, you'll need to overcome those difficulties. It is only persistence and perseverance that will see you through the bad days and the tough interviews. Anybody who has started a company, and everybody who goes through the job search, experience tough times. Stick to it, know that you are valuable, and you will make it through to success!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Teamwork in tough times

At the center of every high performance team is a common purpose-a mission that rises above and beyond each of the individual team members. To be successful, the team's interests and needs come first. This requires "we-opic" vision (What's in it for we?), a challenging step up from the common "me-opic" mindset.

Effective team players understand that personal issues and personality differences are secondary to team demands. This does not mean abandoning who you are or giving up your individuality. On the contrary, it means sharing your unique strengths and differences to move the team forward. It is this "we-opic" focus and vision-this cooperation of collective capability-that empowers a team and generates synergy, the power of teamwork.

Cooperation means working together for mutual gain-sharing responsibility for success and failure and covering for one another on a moment's notice. It does not mean competing with one another at the team's expense, withholding important data or information to "one-up" your peers, or submitting to groupthink by going along, so as not to make waves. These are rule breakers that are direct contradictions to the team-first mindset.

High performance teams recognize that it takes a joint effort to synergize, generating power above and beyond the collected individuals. It is with this spirit of cooperation that effective teams learn to capitalize on individual strengths and offset individual weaknesses, using diversity as an advantage.

Effective teams also understand the importance of establishing cooperative systems, structures, metrics, incentives and rewards. We get what we inspect, not what we expect. Think about it. Do you have team job descriptions, team performance reviews and team reward systems? Do you recognize people by pitting them against standards of excellence, or one another? What are you doing to cultivate a team-first, cooperative environment in this competitive, "me-opic" world?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Balance Global Strategy with Local Differences

Perhaps the most significant challenge to the creation of a global compensation and benefits strategy is the conflict between the need for a unified global strategy and the need to address local differences, particularly those that are legally mandated. Maintaining the appropriate balance is a constant dilemma for most HR functions, but it seems particularly acute for compensation and benefits.

Of all the global HR practices, compensation and benefits is the most localized (mainly due to economics, tax laws, and labor requirements).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Wait to Worry

I've been in business for over 12 years, and I've come to realize the difference in success, or failure, is not how you look, not how you dress and not even how you're educated. It's how you think. I can't overstate the importance of being able to maintain a positive attitude but I'm the first one to's not easy.

I used to worry. A lot. The more I fretted, the more proficient I became at it. Anxiety begets anxiety. I even worried that I worried too much! Ulcers might develop. My health could fail. My finances could deplete to pay the hospital bills.

A comedian once said, "I tried to drown my worries with gin, but my worries are equipped with flotation devices." While not a drinker, I certainly could identify! My worries could swim, jump and pole vault!

To get some perspective, I visited a well known, Dallas businessman, Fred Smith. Fred mentored such luminaries as motivational whiz Zig Ziglar, business guru Ken Blanchard and leadership expert John Maxwell. Fred listened as I poured out my concerns and then said, "Vicki, you need to learn to wait to worry."

As the words sank in, I asked Fred if he ever spent time fretting. (I was quite certain he wouldn't admit it if he did. He was pretty full of testosterone-even at age 90.) To my surprise, he confessed that in years gone by he had been a top-notch worrier!

"I decided that I would wait to worry!" he explained. "I decided that I'd wait until I actually had a reason to worry-something that was happening, not just something that might happen-before I worried."

"When I'm tempted to get alarmed," he confided, "I tell myself, 'Francis, you've got to wait to worry! Until you know differently, don't worry.' And I don't. Waiting to worry helps me develop the habit of not worrying and that helps me not be tempted to worry."

Fred possessed a quick mind and a gift for gab. As such, he became a captivating public speaker. "I frequently ask audiences what they were worried about this time last year. I get a lot of laughs," he said, "because most people can't remember. Then I ask if they have a current worry - you see nods from everybody. Then I remind them that the average worrier is 92% inefficient - only 8% of what we worry about ever comes true."

Charles Spurgeon said it best. "Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but only empties today of its strength."

Most of us want to be positive. It's advantageous to possess a sunny outlook. Doors open to optimists. They make friends, earn respect, close sales, produce loyal clients, and others enjoy and want to be like them. The question is how can we do that consistently?

That's what Attitude is Everything is all about!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What gives someone the Right to Lead?

How do you define leadership? What gives a man or woman the right to lead?

What gives a man or woman the right to lead? It certainly isn't gained by election or appointment. Having position, title, rank or degrees doesn't qualify anyone to lead other people. And the ability doesn't come automatically from age or experience, either.

No, it would be accurate to say that no one can be given the right to lead. The right to lead can only be earned. And that takes time.

The Kind of Leader Others Want to Follow

The key to becoming an effective leader is not to focus on making other people follow, but on making yourself the kind of person they want to follow. You must become someone others can trust to take them where they want to go.

As you prepare yourself to become a better leader, use the following guidelines to help you grow:

Let go of your ego.

The truly great leaders are not in leadership for personal gain. They lead in order to serve other people. Perhaps that is why Lawrence D. Bell remarked, "Show me a man who cannot bother to do little things, and I'll show you a man who cannot be trusted to do big things."

Become a good follower first.

Rare is the effective leader who didn't learn to become a good follower first. That is why a leadership institution such as the United States Military Academy teaches its officers to become effective followers first - and why West Point has produced more leaders than the Harvard Business School.

Build positive relationships.

Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. That means it is by nature relational. Today's generation of leaders seem particularly aware of this because title and position mean so little to them. They know intuitively that people go along with people they get along with.

Work with excellence.

No one respects and follows mediocrity. Leaders who earn the right to lead give their all to what they do. They bring into play not only their skills and talents, but also great passion and hard work. They perform on the highest level of which they are capable.

Rely on discipline, not emotion.

Leadership is often easy during the good times. It's when everything seems to be against you - when you're out of energy, and you don't want to lead - that you earn your place as a leader. During every season of life, leaders face crucial moments when they must choose between gearing up or giving up. To make it through those times, rely on the rock of discipline, not the shifting sand of emotion.

Make adding value your goal.

When you look at the leaders whose names are revered long after they have finished leading, you find that they were men and women who helped people to live better lives and reach their potential. That is the highest calling of leadership - and its highest value.

Give your power away.

One of the ironies of leadership is that you become a better leader by sharing whatever power you have, not by saving it all for yourself. You're meant to be a river, not a reservoir. If you use your power to empower others, your leadership will extend far beyond your grasp.

In The Right to Lead, you will hear from and read about people who have done these same things and earned the right to lead others. Because of the courage they found and the character they displayed, other people recognized their admirable qualities and felt compelled to follow them.

The followers who looked to these leaders learned from them, and so can we. As you explore their worlds and words, remember that it takes time to become worthy of followers. Leadership isn't learned or earned in a moment.

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