Saturday, June 22, 2013

Successful Interviewing

Congratulations!  You’ve been invited to a sit-down interview.  This means that you’ve already passed through some very significant thresholds on your path to finding a new job.  For some organizations, it means the job is now yours to lose.  Here are 5 tips for successful interviewing:
·         Warmth
Smile.  In your mind, flip roles and make it your job to set your interviewer at ease.  Thank them for the chance to chat and ask them how their day is going.  Create rapport even if your interviewer doesn’t.  This will also convey

·         Confidence
Don’t make the interview too important in your mind.  This is one job.  This is not your only opportunity.  Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.  Even when someone offers you a job, that does not necessarily mean that the organization meets your standards.  Not every job offer should be accepted.  Realizing this will help you to convey a sense of calm.  This confidence is then very attractive to your interviewer.  You don’t want the interviewer to get the sense that you must get this job. 

·         Knowledge
Know the company.  Research it.  Google it.  Read articles about it.  Read their last published Annual Report.  What are their hot buttons?  What are their senior leaders thinking about the most right now?  If you can, try to speak with someone who works there.  Show this knowledge when appropriate during the interview without parading it.

·         Specifics
Good interviewers will use Behavioral Interviewing.  They will not just rely on hypothetical questions (e.g. “What would you do if…?”); they will drill down into specific accomplishments (e.g. “Tell me about a time when…”).  So before you go into the interview, brainstorm the positive traits the interviewer will likely be looking for and think of specific instances in your career or life when you have displayed those characteristics.  If someone does ask you a hypothetical question, it is impressive if you can respond with “Well, I’ve actually been in that situation” and then tell them how you handled it. 

·         Curiosity
Finally, remember that you are interviewing the company as well.  Come prepared with 2-3 questions and toward the end of your chat, ask, “Might I ask you a couple of questions?”  Here are some examples:

o   What are the characteristics of those who have successfully executed this role in the past? 
o   For those who have held this position, what is usually their next role in the company?
o   What is your best advice to someone who wants to succeed in this role?

At the end of the interview, thank your interviewer.  Then within 2 business days, send them a card or letter (NOT an email) expressing appreciation for the conversation and interest (if you’re still interested) in the role.  If you’ve spoken to multiple people in the interviewing process, send every individual a note. 

Finding a new role requires a significant amount of psychological hardiness.  This is because in the typical job search, 95% of your effort will be fruitless.  But you have to do all 100% of your effort because you do not know what 5% will prove fruitful.  So maintaining hope and optimism is critical to eventual success.  Don’t give up; keep at it.  That’s what successful job hunters do.   

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Critical Importance of Psychological Hardiness

"In complete control of his emotions and his game, McIlroy never slipped. He won his first major championship by shooting a 2-under 69 at ultra-soft Congressional and closed his four-day onslaught at 16-under 268, eight shots ahead of Jason Day and four shots better than the U.S. Open scoring record formerly held by four players, including men named Woods and Nicklaus.

McIlroy now joins them on the list of major winners, two months after a collapse so thorough, some wondered if he could ever recover. He took a four-shot lead into the final day of the Masters. But after hitting his 10th tee shot near a cabin on the outskirts of Augusta National, he melted down, shot 80 and finished 15th."

picture from the Associated Press

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The New Jawbone Icon

Last week I was flying to Denver and lost my Bluetooth mobile phone headset on the flight. I travel a lot and more and more states are making driving with mobile phone in hand illegal, so I needed to replace my headset.

I've never owned a headset I've liked.

After doing some research on, I walked into a Best Buy and picked up a Jawbone Icon.

It is by far the finest Bluetooth headset I've ever owned, including an earlier stint with a Jawbone 2, which completely underwhelmed me.

This time the folks at Aliph have gotten it right. The most impressive feature, and - of course, the most important - , is the quality of the Icon's sound outbound and inbound. The people with whom I speak have been impressed at the difference in sound when I turn off NoiseAssassin. NoiseAssassin 2.5, which was developed by the military for use in helicopters and tanks, does a great job at substantially reducing wind noise. The headset has a Voice Activity Sensor that gently touches your cheek and discerns when you are speaking. Inbound audio clarity is also noticeably superior to what I've seen in other headsets.

But the Icon has some other cool features as well.

The headset only has 2 buttons. One is an on-off switch and the other is a button that controls everything else. If you press it once when not using it, a voice will let you know how much time you have left on your battery. Press it 2x and it will redial the last number. Press and hold it down and my Blackberry prompts me to give a voice command to dial someone in my Contacts.

If you have an iPhone, there is a meter on your iPhone that will also advise the user of battery life. You can also connect the Icon to a webpage and download different applications and even different voices. There is a choice of 6 styles to choose from with the Icon. It has a USB cord for recharging which makes it more flexible. It only weighs 10 grams and has a number of different earbuds and an ear loop so that you can find the right fit.

Finally, the design of the headset is quite stylish.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

toward a new (old) mode of political discourse

""If you're someone who only reads the editorial page of the New York Times, try glancing at the page of the Wall Street Journal once in a while," Obama said. "If you're a fan of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh, try reading a few columns on the Huffington Post Web site." "It may make your blood boil," he said. "Your mind may not often be changed. But the practice of listening to opposing views is essential for effective citizenship" [links added]

Barack Obama speaking to over 90,000 at a University of Michigan commencement address on Sat 1 May 2010 (Washington Post story).

This president and I disagree on some issues, but I thoroughly endorse his sentiment here. Obama's comments remind me of something I heard one of my favorite theologians, the late S. Lewis Johnson, say some time ago. The content of this remark is a talk that Dr. Johnson is giving on two variant theological orientations: Covenantalism and Dispensationalism, but the spirit of the remark can be applied to any controversy whether political, religious, or personal.

"Now I hope you won't mind that when I talk about Covenant Theology, I'm going to try to present it as faithfully to its proponents as I can. And when I talk about Dispensational Theology I'll try to present it as faithfully to the viewpoints of its proponents as I can. That won't necessarily mean that I agree with everything of either one of these theologies, of course. But I will try to be as honest as I can and presenting [sic] the viewpoint in as strong a way as possible. And if some of you are partisans for one view or the other, you may get upset when I present ... the other person's viewpoint - and I hope you realize that what I'm trying to do is to do what any person should do in discussing an issue. He should present all of the viewpoints in as positive a way as possible, in a way in which proponents would present it (emphasis mine)."

Effective political discourse is not possible unless we have the ability to stop two-dimensionalizing those with whom we disagree.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

a brief reflection on being on the road

I'm in BWI airport waiting for a delayed flight to Atlanta.

It occurs to me that the road is an artificial life. No cooking, no washing of dishes, no financial concerns, no laundry, no cleaning up, low relational stress. There is the work which is a constant and because of the artificiality of the road, sometimes work expands to consume all hours. I find I tend not to truly relax very much on the road. When not working, catching up on email, or creating new material for clients, I do enjoy the extra time to read. Truly, as I've said before, anybody who thinks traveling very much is glamorous doesn't travel very much. That being said, I'm very grateful for my dear one who holds down the fort and takes care of our beauties when I'm gone.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Toward More Effective Leadership Teams: The Necessity of Open Disagreement

"I am absolutely positive that most leaders wish to avoid confrontation among their senior people, particularly in front of them. And that's a serious weakness. I think every leader should force his senior people to confront major issues in front of him."

- Robert McNamara critiquing Vietnam War decision discussions within the Johnson White House, of which he was a part, in a Sunday 18 October 2009 article in the Washington Post.

In the Bob Woodward and Gordon M. Goldstein article regarding Johnson administration machinations around critical Vietnam decisions, both then Secretary of Defense Robert Mcnamara and Johnson's National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy are quoted regarding their opinion that there was not enough open discussion in the Johnson White House. Before he died in 1996, Bundy was quoted as saying: "The principal players do not engage in anything you can really call an exchange of views...That was prevented by [Johnson], and the process he used was really for show and not for choice."

More and more in my consulting work, I've been speaking to leaders about the necessity of challenging the status quo. This is critical at every level of an organization, including, as Bundy and McNamara imply, at the highest levels.

Unfortunately this level of candor is relatively rare.

There are many reasons leaders fail to cultivate an atmosphere where open disagreement breaks out freely. For leaders whose leadership purpose is to aggrandize themselves, disagreement represents an unacceptable challenge. Disagreement then strikes at the very foundation of their own leadership. Other leaders who may not be so narcissistic still resist disagreement because of the mythology of the leader's omnicompetence. The leader, in their mind, always must be the smartest player in the room. Consequently, entertaining open disagreement implicitly challenges that assumption.

In contrast, the smartest leaders aren't threatened by candor. They don't view themselves as the ones who must have all the answers. These leaders view themselves primarily as skillful facilitators. With dual commitments to both the best perspective on the present reality and the most effective action decision to make to maximize the organization's impact on the future, these leaders look to their teams to work together in a way that will sift out the best approaches.

Patrick Lencioni in his The Five Dysfunctions of a Team addresses the need for open dialogue within leadership teams when he addresses another reason leaders shy away from conflict. He writes, "One of the most difficult challenges that a leader faces in promoting healthy conflict is the desire to protect members from harm. This leads to premature interruption of disagreements..." (p. 206).

In contrast, leaders that nurture an atmosphere of candor are simply expressing internally a characteristic of external leadership: a willingness to challenge the status quo. In their influential book The Leadership Challenge, James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner present challenging the process as one of "the five fundamental practices of exemplary leadership."

The business leader who speaks most eloquently about the need for open candor in my opinion is Max DePree. For DePree, the mature leader is ready at a moment's notice to subordinate his thinking to that of another. In his Leadership Jazz, the former CEO of Herman Miller writes, "Effective leaders encourage contrary opinions..." (p. 15) . Leaders "abandon themselves to the strengths of others" (p. xxi) and, in a marvelous turn of phrase, are "vulnerable to the skills and talents of others" (p. 131).

It is an open question for historians whether a different leadership style might have helped the Johnson White House handle the Vietnam War in a way more beneficial for United States' interests, but there's little doubt that a more open dialog in the administration would have made a more successful negotiation of those troublesome waters more likely.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Robert Caro: The Years of Lyndon Johnson

On my Facebook account, I had posted:

"Just found out that is planning to publish the fourth and last volume of his magisterial The Years of Lyndon Johnson in 2012. The first three volumes comprise the best biography I have ever read. When Caro publishes his final work on LBJ, he will have been writing about the US's 36th President for over 30 years."

Some of my friends subsequently wondered why I would be so drawn to a work about such a controversial figure. It's certainly not because of his sterling moral qualities.

Caro became interested in LBJ after writing his Pulitzer Priz winning The Power Broker, which covered the life of Robert Moses, perhaps the most important developer in 20th century New York. What fascinated Caro was what he learned about the exercise of power through his study of Moses. It was this interest in power that led Robert Caro to then begin studying the life of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Caro had a distinct advantage as Johnson's biographer. Johnson died relatively young at the age of 63 in 1973, not long before Caro began his research. Accordingly, there were a multiplicity of eyewitnesses still alive who were not constrained in their candor by the presence of a living ex-President. The wealth of detail that was therefore made available to Caro gave him the ability to craft an interesting psychological portrait of the man. I'm not sure I've ever read a more complete biographical treatment.

Johnson attracted Caro's interest because while Johnson's presidential legacy is uneven, largely due to the Vietnam War, many considered him to be the most effective Senate Leader in history. Caro eventually came to this conclusion and fellow Johnson biographer and historian Robert Dallek (who has a sturdy one volume treatment of LBJ that covers his presidency, for those who don't wish to wait for Caro) has concurred. Caro details Johnson's career as Senate Leader in his Pulitzer Prize-winning Master of the Senate.

It is Lyndon Johnson's talent as a leader that's captured my interest. Much of my consulting practice revolves around helping leaders maximize their own specific talent set in their performance and Lyndon was masterful in his ability to influence.

Talent is amoral. It can be used for either good or ill. It can be exercised from good motives or from bad motives. Accordingly, Caro presents Johnson as a man with both good and bad motives. On the plus side, Johnson had a genuine motivation to help the disadvantaged. Caro, whose biographies are highly critical of LBJ, details how as a young man Johnson was motivated to help his Mexican students when he was a school teacher near the Mexican border. Similarly, Johnson is considered by many to have had the second best presidential record on Civil Rights, second only to Abraham Lincoln.

And so while there are far many other biographies that are more instructive when it comes to personal integrity, nevertheless Caro's ongoing magnum opus has much to teach us about how to influence and lead others, though those lessons must not be garnered uncritically.