Are you trusted?

building trustThis statistic stopped me cold: 60% of the participants in a 2009 international study trusted a stranger more than they trusted their boss. Yikes, how sad.

In doing a quick mental tally of bosses I’ve had, unfortunately this figure didn’t seem too far off. Many of those bosses didn’t grasp that in times of rapid change and uncertainty (which is the new normal for business) people turn to relationships and those whom they trust.

“The truth is that trust rules,” writes Pamela S. Shockley-Zalabak in Building High-trust Organizations.  ”Trust rules your personal credibility. Trust rules your ability to get things done. Trust rules your team’s cohesiveness. Trust rules your organization’s innovativeness and performance. Trust rules your brand image. Trust rules just about everything you do.”

The handful of bosses from my past who “got it” about building personal trust had mastered these five elements:

1) They were transparent communicators. They came, listened and spoke without hidden agendas or ulterior motives. They avoided making bite-you-in-the-butt-later remarks like “This is the last time we’ll have layoffs” or “This is the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.”

2) They practiced consistent consistency.  There were no say-do gaps because they did what they said they were going to do. They didn’t hesitate to advise their team members of their shortcomings and were extremely tactfully in doing so.  Problems weren’t glossed over and/or ignored; they were resolved.

3) They defined clear roles, responsibilities and expectations.  They made it clear what they expected you to do. You knew ahead of time how your performance would be measured.  And they trusted you to take care of your job.

4) They gave everyone and everything equal consideration.  These men and women lived out fairness and justice in how they allocated outcomes, dealt with processes and handled interpersonal treatment.  There were no favorites or overblown platitudes like “This is the best work I’ve ever seen” or “You’re just the greatest.” They were open to alternate points of view, practiced diversity, and created inclusion.

5) They were character role models. Research tells us that perceptions of a leader’s characteristics, things like integrity, credibility and fairness, shape how employees will behave in the workplace. “…individuals who feel that their leader has, or will, demonstrate care and consideration will reciprocate this sentiment in the form of desired behaviors,” writes professor K.T. Dirks. They balanced selfish and selfless acts. Everyone had equal access, whether they had power or not. They did good and were good.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” ~Stephen R. Covey



Coping with 4 kinds of really awful bosses

really bad bossConvinced you’re stuck with the worst boss in the world? Well, your boss may have serious competition according to a five-year comparative study of bad bosses commissioned by Lynn Taylor Consulting.

According to this study, seven out of ten people believe bosses and toddlers act alike. Being self-oriented is noted as the top offending boss behavior. Being stubborn, overly demanding, impulsive and interrupting round out the top five. Continue reading


Anonymous letter to a narcissistic boss

narcissistic bossThree nearly identical stories shared with me in just two days that really hit my hot buttons. These were stories of individual and/or group annoyance, confusion and heartbreak caused by narcissistic control-freak bosses. 

Most of us at some point in our career have worked for a boss like this. Bosses who aren’t self-aware or open to feedback, so no amount of magic or mojo will help them listen. They don’t care how much we care or have to tell them or want to help them. Continue reading


Decision making six-pack

6 parts to making good decisions“It’s official. My boss is a jerk. He told me this morning he thinks my decision to go with a new printing vendor was bad.”

“Did he give you a reason for feeling that way?”

“He says it’s going to create problems for the marketing team and that I should have talked to them.”

“You did talk to them, didn’t you?” Continue reading


Maintaining your integrity: priceless

maintaining your integrity is pricelessSetting: Panel discussion presentation

Audience: Young (25 to 40) professional organization

Topic: Finding a job in a tough market

Question posed to the panel: What’s your view on “revising” a job title to fit a job posting, meaning it’s OK to call yourself a director on a resume because you did what you believed to be director level work but didn’t hold that actual job title. Continue reading


Dealing with On-Camera Anxiety & Nerves

Manoush Zomorodi is the author of Camera Ready: How to Present Your Best Self and Ideas On Air or Online. Learn more about Manoush on her website  or ebook; connect with her via  Facebook and Twitter.

silencing inner criticWith the popularity of TedTalks, Slideshare, GoogleHangouts and Skype, presentations are everywhere. If you haven’t been doing them already, sooner or later you’ll be asked to show off what you know either onstage or on camera.

This is a debilitating prospect for many of us. I know so many people who are great 1-on-1 or in a small group, but get them in front of a big room and they either freeze up or turn into the most boring, monotone person on the planet. Continue reading


Keeping your career skills fresh

Worried about keeping your job? Our Career Corner serves up some good advice for avoiding coasting and keeping your skills current.

Q: I just had my performance review, and my boss told me that layoffs were possible if business didn’t improve. He told me to expect being laid off because I have one year of experience repeated five times. He said I needed to fix that and fix it fast. What should I do?

A: Kudos to your boss for giving you feedback about your job performance and for being up front about your situation. Now it’s time for you to create a self-improvement plan for increasing both your skill sets and your value to your employer. Continue reading


Ready to take a risk?

While discussing the differences between (and need for both) push and pull influence styles at a workshop on Power, Persuasion and Influence workshop I facilitated for a group of Fortune 100 executive women, one woman shared a moving observation with the group.  Her aha!?. While knowing which style of influence is to use is important, the core issue is one’s willingness to take the risk to influence, especially if the status quo is in question.

Her courageous take-away action item that day was to take the risk. She said she owed doing so to her colleagues, the organization and herself.

What a powerful moment.

“The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.” ~Leo F. Buscaglia

Sometimes the risk is…being the square peg in the round hole, wearing kelly green when your colleagues are wearing charcoal grey, daring — albeit politely — to be the corporate contrarian, and/or dancing with the elephant in the room. Risking your secure place in the corporate food chain by questioning new practices that run contrary to stated values is a high stakes gamble. Will you be rewarded, take a small hit or lose it all?

According to Julie J. McGowan, professor at Indiana University, “Risk taking is hard to adopt among leaders, because recognized leaders have the most to lose and aspiring leaders may be discounted as lacking in knowledge or common sense.” Risk-taking can yield great rewards and possibilities for learning provided you’ve done your homework ahead of time.

Research (Wallach,Kogan, Bem) shows that “women are more conservative when they make decisions under conditions of uncertainty; however, they are more extreme in their judgments when conditions are certain. This result is generally explained by reference to the constraining influences females are exposed to in the socialization process. Males are reinforced for exploratory (i.e., risk-taking) behavior; females are encouraged to be more conservative.”

7 questions to assess your readiness for risk taking

Risk-taking requires high EQ, PQ (political quotient), a thorough knowledge of your work culture and solid self-confidence.  To assess how ready you are to take a risk at work, ask yourself these questions:

1)    Historically, how has your corporate culture reacted to those who challenged the status quo? Are you prepared to accept possible negative outcomes? Are you willing to see your credibility erode? Are you equipped to lose your job?

2)    Is this an issue that’s important to you alone, or do others share similar concerns? Will others who think/feel/believe the same speak up after you’ve led the charge, or will your voice be the only one that’s speaking? Are you ready to forge ahead regardless?

3)    Are you able to be the center of attention if your topic goes viral within the company? Are you primed to be a role model and/or attacked?

4)    Do you have solid solutions already in mind? Are you disposed to collaborate with others and devise a solution that integrates the views of many?

5)    Have you brainstormed possible unintended consequences, both positive and negative, of the stand you’re championing?

6)    Are you OK, mentally and emotionally, with the possibility of failure? Will your self-esteem survive the hit? Can your ego resist the adulation of success?

7)    Do you have the will to see it through? Do you have a support system that will nurture you throughout, regardless of the outcome?

Risk tolerance is extremely personal. Only you can decide if high risk/high reward is your métier or if low risk/low reward represents the boundaries of your comfort zone. Either way, be prepared, be thoughtful and do what’s right for you.

Image credit: Craft Brainiac



Is your resume past its expiration date?

A West Coast gal pal sent me her resume, asking me to do her a favor and look it over.  She’s frustrated - been looking for a job for six months, has sent out over 200 resumes and has had only two interviews.

Resumes are a lot like fashion – certain elements go out of style.  The last time she had looked for work was 1995, and her resume content and format were vintage 1995.

If you’re in the same situation as my gal pal, pull out your resume and compare it to this list of 1995 oldies-but-not-goodies and see how your resume stacks up.

  • Objective statement.  If the first thing after your name and contact information is a sentence that reads I’m looking for a company where I can use my [whatever] skills to advance my career, your resume is in trouble.  Objective statements are about your personal goals. Employers today want to know what results you can deliver for them.
  • Paragraph formatting.  If there’s a long single-spaced paragraph under the name of each employer where you’ve listed all the tasks you did and awards you received, well, that info is better for a blog post [maybe]  than a resume.  Recruiters and/or hiring managers have hundreds of resumes to read.  Documents that like look a novel aren’t going to pass the 30-seconds-to-grab-my-attention test.
  • Accomplishments that are really job descriptions.  Does your resume contain items like Regularly attended management meetings or Responsible for handling the budget? If you’re seeking a management job, of course you attended meetings and worked with a budget.  Today your resume must distinguish you from the crowd.  Do so by writing that you Instituted new budget controls that reduced office supply expenses by 5%.
  • Imprecise language.  Does your resume contain statements like the following: Assisted with new product report preparation, responsible for correspondence, or coordinated schedules? Broad statements like these don’t paint a clear picture in the reader’s mind of what your contribution was. While you know what sort of work you did, your resume reader doesn’t. You know that you spent days pulling together data about the new product your team designed and launched to record sales.  All that grand detail is lost on the reader who only sees assisted with new product report preparation.
  • A memoir. Listing your hobbies, 20-year old awards from the high school science fair or that you were a cheerleader in college most likely aren’t relevant to the job for which you’re applying. You need key words to both get past the automated resume reader systems and to get on the hiring manager’s radar screen because your  experience is relevant to their needs.
  • References provided upon request. It goes without saying that you’ll provide a list of references if or when the prospective employer asks for them.  Use that extra line or two of space to include another accomplishment.

Submitting your resume to an organization is much like meeting someone for the first time – you only have one chance to make a good impression.  Make yours a good one!

Photo from FlavorWire

True colors have a way of surfacing

It was 12:40 pm, the lunch hour was drawing to a close. Six of us were standing in the lobby of our office building, waiting for the elevator. Several of us, myself included, had 1:00 PM appointments.  Mine was an interview for the vice president of customer service.

The elevator arrived.  As the doors opened we were all rudely pushed aside by a gentleman (term loosely applied!) toting a briefcase and a scowl, and obviously in a hurry.

“Would you fat b—-s get out of my way? I’m late for an important meeting.”

Some of the six were startled, some offended, others amused. Regardless of the reaction, we all stepped back nearly in unison and let the gentleman ride up alone.

At 1:05 PM I received a call from our receptionist, alerting me that my interviewee had finished his paperwork. I walked to the lobby to greet him. Imagine our mutual reactions when we saw one another: I saw the discourteous fellow from the lobby. He saw the host of his “important meeting” as someone he had rudely categorized less than 30 minutes ago.

A part of my brain screamed for a very short interview, having already drawn the conclusion that he wasn’t a cultural fit. Another part of my brain (ah, those arguing voices in our heads!) reminded me not to climb the ladder of inference and to give the guy a chance. I gave him the chance.

Our two-hour interview was fascinating, particularly the segment in which he offered his explanation of the elevator incident. It really wasn’t an explanation but more of a lecture – the only part of the interview where he adopted this stance.

He advised me to keep in mind how long he had wanted to work for our organization. That wait, coupled with bad traffic on the way in from the airport to the interview, he explained, had placed him under a lot of stress. So it was his stress combined with his great desire to put his mark on our organization which caused the elevator incident. Indeed.

Curious about him, I asked our receptionist how he had treated her when he had arrived.  She said he was rude, demanding and didn’t make eye contact with her.  His first words were an order, “Hand over immediately, and I mean immediately, the ridiculous application that no vice president candidate should have to fill out.”

He wasn’t hired.

Applicants: remember your job interview starts the moment you pull into the prospective employer’s parking lot and/or enter their premises. Employers are looking for the real you, not the one that’s packaged specially for interview display windows.

Leaders: real leaders are always “on” where ever they are.

Image from The Guardian