Communicate or Dictate?

Picture of Rudy Giuliani

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When terrorist planes hit the twin towers on September 11, one man gained international attention and acclaim for his leadership. Struggling at a 36% in approval ratings for his rigid, dictatorial style of management, Rudy Giuliani was losing popularity fast prior to 9/11. Reacting in his typical control and command style of leadership during what was one of the most catastrophic crises in history; Giuliani’s approval rating soared to 79% among New York City voters. Time magazine named him its Person of the Year for 2001 and he was given an honorary knighthood by Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth II in 2002.*

How could a management style that lost Giuliani favour and elections garner him hero status after a tragic event? The answer is simple…

The ‘dictate’ style of ‘telling’ leadership (ie. Telling people what to do and how to do it) has a time and a place where it’s not only appropriate but absolutely necessary. Namely, during crises when people are shell shocked, immobilized and anxious. When creativity and uncertainty has no room. Where time is of essence. These are the hallmarks of the ‘telling’ style of leadership. Continue reading

Change the way you talk, change your results

My client Gerry thinks he’s unappreciated at work. The truth of the matter is that his boss just isn’t very good at communicating his praises to him. Angela is calling a divorce lawyer this week–her husband won’t talk about their problems. John and Dave work in the same team and unbeknownst to each other, they’ve done the same task. Gina is frustrated that her boss keeps changing his mind on that project he’s asked her to do. That’s because she has no clarity around what he’s really asking for. I’m pretty sure by now; you’re clueing in to the fact that in all these examples, communication is the broken factor and is reducing relationships and success, delaying results and causing conflict. If communication is so darn important, why then are we simply so bad at it? Here are some theories as to why: Continue reading

A blues buster E-zine

This is a photograph I personally took when Wa...

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Every newsletter I seem to read in the recent weeks is a strategy or list of to-do’s for coping during difficult economic times. Of course, I’m no dummy and I recognize why, but I decided to do a different type of list for the New Year. One that talks about inspiration, which in my opinion is the one true blues-buster in the world.

The word “inspire” in the dictionary means “to fill with animating, quickening or exalting influence”. Going into such a potentially bleak year such as 2009, I personally want to forget about my worries and remember instead those things that fill me with this said animating, quickening or exalting influence. Inspiration is the true fire starter in all of us– in our business, at home, and even in the middle of the night when we lie sleepless in the dark.

Here are the people and ideas they embody that inspire me to live the way I live, doing the jobs that I do and interact with people in the way that feels right to me:

The Peace Pilgrim
For over 25 years, a woman known only as the “Peace Pilgrim” walked more than 25 miles on a personal mission of spreading the message of peace. I ran across her name at renowned speaker and author Dr. Wayne Dyer’s seminar. When I read her philosophies which were compiled into a book by her fans, what inspired me the most was her absolute trust in the goodness of other people and her desire to teach the world about the uselessness of conflict. She walked for decades with no food, money, and the clothes on her back. She had no home. Taking refuge in the kindness of strangers, incredibly she was never harmed during her long and difficult journey. My favourite quote from The Peace Pilgrim sums up what I strive for (but sometimes fail at) every day of my life: “If someone does an unkind thing to me, I feel only compassion instead of resentment. Even upon those who cause suffering I look with deep compassion, knowing the harvest of sorrow that lies in store for them”
The Peace Pilgrim inspires me to be better in life and at work. Continue reading

The best interview tips I’ve ever used to get a job

With so many lay offs and restructuring plans in the marketplace, you will need every tip and trick in the book to stand out amongst a sea of competitors. Here are a few tactics that I hope you will find helpful.

  1. “I know your pain”

If you’re applying to become a position’s next successful candidate, make sure that you can do the following properly:

  • Identify the top 3 issues (pains) that the person in that position will face.
  • In a very concise way, speak about each ‘pain’ as if you’ve faced it and solved it in the past.
  • Talk about the actions that you took when you encountered the said ‘pain’ in the past and the positive results that you got from those actions.

An example of this would sound like:
Interviewer: Tell me about your last position at Company X?
Candidate: It was a lot of fun for me because I got to problem solve creatively like the time I created a system to reverse our constant backorder situation and netted the company $1 million extra bottom line dollars from inventory savings.

If you can speak to not only the pain that the interviewer knows that the incumbent will be facing, but also about how you were able to take action and bring a solution to that ‘pain’, he will get the message that you can help him if he hires you.

I’ve experienced a 100% increase in my interview success rate after I learned about this technique. My clients also report a similar shift in their search success when they use this formula.

  1. “I’ve done my research”

You already know from the previous tip that you need to find out the top issues that you would most frequently be facing in the position if you get the job. If you’ve worked in the same industry and in a similar position, you can already take a guess at these issues anyway. However, if you can confirm your assumptions with someone who has contact with the hiring company or department such as a supplier, a customer of theirs or an employee who works in a related department, all the better.

For example, when I was going to an interview with a pet food company, I called my friend’s veterinarian to ask about the company’s products and reputation. Not only did I get help identifying the position’s potential ‘pain’ but when I mentioned my research to the interviewer, he was very impressed with my thoroughness and interest in the company.

Other things you should research about the company are recent news items, financial situation (if public), divisions and product assortment as well as competitors. All these will come in handy as you have a dialogue with your hiring manager about the company. Remember– everybody’s more interested in themselves and the fact that you know a lot about them speaks favourably about you.

  1. “Is that something that would work here?”

Early on in my career, I would walk into interviews armed with a list of questions that was long as my arm. It never got me anywhere and actually angered one interviewer who wanted out of the meeting and now! Since then, I’ve been taught to ditch the list and instead find out the answers to my questions by turning the interviewer’s questions to me–back onto them.

For example, when an HR manager asked me to recount a time of conflict with another manager, I talked about how valuable face to face contact with the other manager had been in resolving the mess. I then turned the question back to her asking “would that be an approach that could be suitable to your company’s culture?” The interviewer then proceeded to reveal that indeed, the atmosphere in the hiring department was a very close-knit one where face to face conversations were not only valued but expected from all members of the team.

This technique of turning the question back on to the interviewer instead of asking a list of questions at the end allowed for a two-way conversation as well as the added opportunity to find out more about the company and the position.

  1. “Who’s in charge here?”

Several clients have told me that they take in a notepad and pen to the interview and actually take notes during their interview to convey their interest, earnestness and attention to the job’s details. I tell them to lose the steno pad and treat the meeting both mentally and physically as if BOTH parties were interviewing each other as equals.

In essence, you should also be sizing up the employer as much as they are you.
Equals don’t need to take notes while meeting and greeting for the first few times.

Since learning of this, I’ve let go of my note taking and started engaging in actual conversations with my interviewers. My success rate and my confidence in the interview process both sky rocketed as a result.

  1. Ask the ‘Golden Question’

At the end of the interview, there’s a single question that if you dare to ask, will yield the answer to whether you’ve gotten the job or not. It is a bold question. In one instance when I overused it (3 times in a row to the same interviewer) it backfired and ended up with my 7th interview up the ladder for the same position being terminated with a scowl and a dismissal.

The question is simply “From what you can see in my background and experience after our meeting, do you think there’s a fit for the position?”

Then shut up. Stop talking. Even if there’s silence for minutes on end. Whoever speaks first usually has the upper hand at this point.

If the interviewer’s answer is “Well, we’re still interviewing a lot of candidates right now”, you don’t have the job.
If however, the interviewer says “yes, there is a fit”, then you’ve most likely gotten at least that interviewer’s vote for the job.
Of course, this is not an exact science and answers may vary or be a combination of the two but in my experience, this question is revealing of the final decision and absolutely needs to be asked.

Some clients don’t have the self confidence to ask this question but if you do, you will see that it will boil down the whole interview to a conclusion that is more concrete than asking ‘what are the next steps?’ (Which you should ask anyway after asking the ‘Golden Question’).

I wish you all the success in your job search endeavours. If you do your homework, speak to the position’s ‘pain’, ask questions as natural parts of the conversation, relax into a two-way dialogue as well as ask the ‘Golden Question’, then you’re as good as hired!

With kindness as always,


“Max, you’ve been saying you’re quitting this job for three years now!”

Max is the kind of guy who’s capable but not driven at his job. His interests lie elsewhere and sometimes in more places than one. Max complains and thinks he needs to quit this rat race every single day of his life and yet low and behold, even through increasingly less stellar reviews and moderate promotions, he is still stuck at the same job for years.

You see, Max isn’t unhappy enough to leave and his employers, while not being exactly thrilled with his performance, don’t see enough reason to go to the trouble and expense of replacing him.

Max can’t leave this job because of a couple of reasons:

  1. He doesn’t know exactly what he would do instead of this job
  2. Max is scared he would never find anything that would pay as much as this job
  3. He’s comfortable where he is and is ok with waiting for the weekends to start

Does this sound like you or someone else you know?

More than ever in the history of mankind, what I call re-careers are happening today. This is the phenomenon of starting a brand new career after establishing one’s self for sometimes decades in a completely separate one.

A research conducted by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) in the UK found that a fifth of office-based graduate men are currently considering a career change with 55 per cent saying they will do so in the future. The biggest reason for this is that the majority of respondents have a partner who would be able to support them during the transition. Continue reading

The Emotional Office

A fellow coach who specializes in personal coaching mentioned to me that with her clients, she can always see emotions at play but that with corporate clients, she never could. I had to disagree with her. My whole world is corporate. I work in a corporation, have corporate coaching clients and speak to corporate professionals for a living. I can attest to this that emotions are everywhere in corporations, you just have to look closer.

Recently, I was booked to speak at a symposium for the Certified General Accountants of Ontario. I was up against a concurrent session entitled ‘CRA Updates and the Appeals Process’, while mine was what the organizers referred to as a ‘soft’ subject entitled, “I’m sorry I just didn’t get to it because I didn’t have enough time’. (see same entitled E-zine Volume 4) Let me tell you that even linear thinking, fact based accountants preferred the ‘soft’ topic 2:1 that day. And as predicted, there was plenty of emotion in the room.

The toughest emotions to see are in the higher echelons of management. A client is struggling with how to effectively deal with a problem character on her staff. She may look and act unruffled on the outside but she recently admitted that if she could, she would rather just run and hide in her office instead of confronting the situation every day. I suspect many managers not only feel the same way but do exactly that. Continue reading

Are you falling off the tightrope?

Work-life balance is the number two concern I run into in everyday conversations I have with managers these days (number one is conflict resolution with someone they manage).

The tightrope of walking the fine balance between what needs to be done to sustain the business vs. the self (from eventual decay of health) remains an enormous continued struggle.

Falling off the tightrope in my definition is: If there’s disparity between honoring what your true life goals are with what you’re actually spending your time achieving. For example let’s say that your life goal is to find a husband and start a family in a year. If you’re spending zero time in pursuit of one and instead, all your time is spent getting a promotion at work and achieving the corporate objectives of your employer, you are falling off the tightrope of work-life balance.

Most working professionals today know exactly what the dire consequences of not maintaining this tightrope balance between self/family and work are. They are surrounded by rampant cancer scares and the continual breakdown of the family unit directly as a result of this inability to balance on the tight rope.

How is it then that these extremely intelligent and knowledgeable humans continue to fall off the tightrope? How is it that they live lives they know should be different than what lies in their heart? I personally think that the answer is that from early on in life, we are led to believe certain rules about happiness and how to attain it. These rules unfortunately, in many cultures including ours are equated with having more and continually striving for more. Continue reading