Monday Mornings with Madison

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People skills

How to Find Talent Today, Part 2

Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, wrote that “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” Regardless of what a company does, having top staff is essential to every organization. From mortgage lending to manufacturing and from waste disposal to web design, companies need good employees in order to execute. But, with the overall unemployment rate at a historic low of 4.1% and with the bachelor’s degree-holder unemployment rate holding at 2.1% in many gateway and key secondary markets, it places serious constraints on the ability of companies to grow or thrive.
According to Steven Lindner with The WorkPlace Group, “With fewer unemployed people in the market, recruiting qualified candidates becomes more difficult. Employers must now begin to consider including other tactics in their recruitment strategy.” To compound matters, a thriving economy prompts companies to expand, requiring even more staff just when there are fewer candidates available. It’s a perfect storm of decreased supply and growing demand. That’s when HR Departments and Hiring Managers must get creative with their recruiting efforts. Not only do they need new strategies for attracting and retaining talent, they also need innovative sources for talent. Fishing in the same waters as everyone else will surely produce a smaller catch at the end of the day. It’s time to try new fishing holes. Continue reading

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Grit is an Essential Ingredient for Success – Part 2

Most every leader, entrepreneur and manager wants to have and hone the qualities that contribute to and best predict success. For example, most leaders want to demonstrate the qualities of confidence, organization, selflessness, structure, humility, and conscientiousness. But, in excess, even the best leadership qualities can become flaws. Someone who is too confident can become arrogant. A person who is too organized can become obsessive. A person who is too selfless can become a people-pleaser. A person who is too structured can have trouble being creative. A person who is too humble may not be able to inspire others to follow. A person who is too conscientious can become neurotic. However, there is one trait that every leader should have in as much abundance as possible. That is grit, a perseverance and passion for long term goals. There doesn’t seem to be such a thing as too much grit. The more grit a person has, the more they press on in the face of adversity. There is no downside to it.
Grit is a key trait – or combination of traits – that is absolutely essential for success. And, according to Dr. Angela Duckworth who won the Genius grant for her study of grit, it is also an excellent predictor of success. People with grit usually demonstrate courage, resilience, conscientiousness, follow-through, and excellence in very specific ways. A person with grit usually has a goal he/she cares about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything he/she does. Best of all, grit is something that can not only be learned, but also something that tends to increase with age. Continue reading

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Humility: The Trait that Costs Nothing but Delivers a Huge ROI

In today’s PR-driven, social-media crazed, self-promoting world, humility is a quality that has perhaps lost its appeal. While everyone is busy yelling “Look at me! Listen to me!” with their selfies, posts, videos and TED talks, the humble are not boastful. They adopt a modest posture that refuses to draw attention for themselves. Humility is self-effacing, and unpretentious. The humble person will not think or act as if he is better than anyone else, and won’t try to impress others by appearing or seeming to have greater importance, talent or culture than he actually has. The humble person may even come across as shy, even if he is actually outgoing and confident. According to Meriam-Webster dictionary, humility is “a freedom from pride or arrogance.”
In the workplace, humble people often go unnoticed because of the very fact that they are not boastful. They don’t draw attention to themselves for their own benefit. When they share or contribute, it is because they have something to offer that adds value or helps others. Those who don’t brag are often seen as having minor value and contributing little to the team. Their modesty is attributed to their work rather than their personality. And yet humility is quite possibly the most valuable quality to have in employees and employers alike. Here’s why. Continue reading

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The Battle between Speed and Quality

In the business world, there is a constant tug-of-war between doing something ‘right’ and doing it fast. The pressure of profitability is forever pushing companies to get things done fast, and then faster still. Managers submit requests and the due date is “yesterday.” The more quickly a job is performed or a task is completed, the more it is praised by management and investors. Employees are urged to pick up the pace. An entire engineering discipline – ergonomics – was developed to focus on improving efficiency by saving time through small adjustments in motion. Sayings abound about not wasting time. Time waits for no man. Wasted time is a wasted life. Don’t waste time or time will waste you.
On the other hand, the more quickly a job is performed, the higher the chance of an error or mistake. Software updates are released too soon, full of bugs and glitches. New phones are rushed to market, often with serious defects such as combustive batteries. Haste is often the enemy of quality. That is why there are also sayings about the problem of rushing. Haste makes waste. And haste does not produce breakthrough ideas. Tham Khai Mend, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy, one of the world’s leading advertising agencies, once said “Miners shift five tons of rocks to extract one ounce of gold. Just like you have to shift a ton of rubbish to get a good idea.” Detailed or creative work requires a great deal of thought, research, concentration, reflection and mulling over to produce the truly valuable nuggets. It is a process that cannot be rushed. And, work that requires precision and accuracy — such as surgery, architectural design, accounting, proofreading, and dispensing medicine – also cannot be rushed. In such work, quality is arguably more important than speed. So how does an employer balance the need for speed and efficiency against the often painstakingly slow nature of achieving quality? The answer is not to balance them. Improve quality and speed is sure to follow. Continue reading

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Helping Underperforming but Unwitting Employees Improve Skills

A study of high-tech firms found that 32-42% of their software engineers rated their skills as being in the top 5% of their companies. This is mathematically impossible. A study at the University of Nebraska found that 68% of the faculty rated themselves in the top 25% for teaching ability, and over 90% rated themselves as above average, which is another mathematical impossibility. A study of medical technicians found that they consistently overestimate their knowledge of real-world lab procedures. This problem is not restricted to just employees. Studies also found this phenomenon in college students. Students in the bottom quartile of a number of tests on grammar, logic and humor grossly overestimated their ability. Those who tested in the bottom 10% for grammar actually thought they were in the top 33%. That’s a huge gap between perception and reality. And given that a study of over 30,000 employees found that fewer than half said they didn’t know if they were doing a good job while most managers believed their own performance was above par, then this phenomenon seems to also apply to those in management and leadership whose job it is to assess and communicate employee performance.
According to countless studies, many people have an inflated sense of their own skills and abilities. A large percentage of people are less skilled than they need to be in their work while their own perception of their skills is significantly higher than their actual skills. It is a common phenomenon. And, for employers, it is also a significant problem. Not only do most companies have many employees whose skills are subpar and thus aren’t doing their jobs well, but these marginally-skilled employees have no idea that they aren’t performing well. In fact, they usually think that their work quality is above average. This problem is not only widespread, but it is one that seriously hurts productivity and service delivery. This is known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. But what is an employer to do when an employee’s opinion of his skills and performance don’t align with what is needed and expected for the job? Is there a way to help underperforming but unwitting employees improve their skills? Continue reading

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Getting Back in High Gear after a Vacation

Everyone needs a vacation every so often. According to countless studies, people need time to disconnect from work and allow time for “play.” For some, play might mean just relaxing at home, reading a book and doing some gardening. For others, play may constitute high-adrenaline sports such as snowboarding, skydiving or bungee jumping. For the vast majority, play is all about changing scenery and exploring a new place and all that entails. Culture; architecture; cuisine; language; history; the arts. Whether it’s an adventurous vacation or a calm staycation, the one thing all vacations have in common – if done right — is a complete disconnect from daily grind of work. It’s a mental break… as in breaking away from the day-to-day routine. Even people who love what they do for a living and thoroughly enjoy their jobs need an occasional vacation.
But, from a global perspective, Americans are among the worst at taking vacation time. They are notorious for not taking all (or sometimes even any) of their vacation time each year and for often working during vacations. Americans vacation less than workers from most other industrialized nations of the world. Consequently, by the time Americans do take a vacation, it is often desperately needed and long overdue. The tough part is that once a person finally gets relaxed enough to be really enjoying their time off, it’s time to return to work. At that point, it is hard to shift back into high gear after letting go of it all. Some find it hard to bring their A Game after a week or two break. But there are ways to shift back into high gear quickly and easily after returning from holiday. Here are some tips to make the transition smoother. Continue reading

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Overcoming the “Bad Day” Blues

Everyone has had a “bad day” at one point or another. Certainly everyone in business – and especially in sales – has had bad days… periods when nothing seems to go right. And every business owner has most likely endured his or her share of bad times. An important piece of equipment breaks. A big account switches to a competitor. The computer network goes down during a peak time. A deal falls apart. It happens. In fact, bad days can even stretch out into weeks or months or longer. 2009 was a downright bad year for builders, investors, bankers, lenders and financiers. Many could not take the stress and left the real estate and financial sectors in search of greener pastures. Those “bad day” blues can be devastating… even killing careers. But they needn’t be so damaging.
Those who have overcome the “bad day” blues have learned a few things. They don’t let a bad day stop them from reaching their goals. They know that there are bad days… and understand that those days can be tough… and even leave scars. But they know not to be ashamed of the battle scars obtained in the scrappy world of business. They understand that those scars means they were stronger than whatever tried to take them down. So how does a person develop the resilience and fortitude to deal with a “bad day?” How do you overcome the “bad day” blues? Continue reading

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Turning Storytelling into Sales

Great storytelling – from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace– is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind for the purpose of understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories. Storytelling has been important to every people in history. It is a cornerstone of human existence, enabling people to communicate and connect. It’s been a primary tool used in government, religion, education, and – of course — business. The world’s most persuasive, compelling, and successful communicators were all great storytellers. Socrates was a great storyteller. Ben Franklin was even better. Walt Disney was masterful.
Thanks to the Internet, mass media and social media, storytelling has become a quintessential part of sales and marketing strategies. So how does a company take good information and turn it into a great story? For stories to be impactful, they need to be easily recalled and they need to motivate people. They must have emotional resonance and relevancy — most of which comes out in the details. A good story holds the audience captive. It stretches the limits of the imagination and allows listeners to marvel or wonder at something. It touches them and leaves them vulnerable. That’s why stories are such an amazing communications tool. Here’s how to turn a product or service into a great story that enhances the bottom line.
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11 Things Salespeople Should Do but Often Don’t

Ask any salesperson and they will tell you that selling is hard work. In fact, anyone who has ever had a job in sales will likely admit that it’s the hardest work they’ve ever done. If a salesperson gets a yes immediately, they haven’t really sold anything as much as taken an order. Selling starts the moment a prospect says no. Selling is what happens when a salesperson turns a No into a Yes. And yet, most salespeople make common mistakes throughout the sales process that keep them from making a sale.
There are a myriad of things that sales people should do… could do… would do… but don’t for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes salespeople are taught wrong. They are told to do things a certain way even though those techniques, approaches and strategies haven’t worked for half a century. Sometimes salespeople are taught the right things to do and they just don’t do them, either because they don’t believe the sales program is effective or they think their way is better. But a lot of the time, salespeople aren’t taught at all how to “sell.” So they emulate the worst examples of salesmanship, which just makes the job of sales even harder than it already is. The following are things a salesperson should do to make the sale.
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Staying Top-of-Mind… For Better or Worse?

It is difficult to live life completely unaffected by what other people think or say. Like pollen, the attitudes and opinions of people blow into the lives of others, shaping their perspectives and influencing their decisions. This is especially true in the age of technology, with digital winds blowing every bit of information farther and faster than ever before. When those opinions and messages are positive, it can be a valuable thing. In business, arguably nothing is more valuable to a salesperson, exec or company than for a customer to share a positive review with others. Customer and vendor recommendations are like gold. They yield a harvest of opportunity and good will over time. But what happens when the opinions and attitudes are negative? What happens when people are talking but what they are saying is not good?

In a world obsessed with being remembered and staying top-of-mind, the goal is to be talked about, no matter what’s being said. In fact, some like to say that there is no such thing as bad publicity. But that is just not true. Not all publicity is good or beneficial and there are countless examples of how bad publicity can be really bad for business or careers. For professionals and businesses alike, bad publicity can hurt in a multitude of ways. Consider the cost.
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