‘Tis the Season to be Jolly

holiday-party

For many people the holidays can not only be a happy and joyous time reuniting with family and friends but also a very stressful time. Personally I love this time of year because I love watching the Hallmark Channel and their stories of what the holidays really mean. Usually they end on a great note with a message to remember family, friends and our communities. I keep a box of tissues close by…not because of the stories but because of those Hallmark commercials that always tug at your heart.

During the holidays, you should feel festive, not frenzied! I think that our very own talk track in our heads can set us up for frenzy, stress and a lack of gratitude for the season.  Remember when you were a kid? Christmas couldn’t come fast enough. This was the time of year starting with Thanksgiving where we sit at the table and talk about what we are thankful for and vow to be good so that Santa would bring us everything on our Christmas list or the eight days of Hanukah! 

Today we have the Elf on the Shelf and the Mensch on the Bench to keep the kids in line. We now have someone who supposedly has eyes on the ground or better yet, hanging in some crazy place in the house, and all we need to do is as a reminder to the kiddies. So to that end, be grateful and appreciate that your children will give you about a month of un-naughty like behavior. Enjoy it!

All those holiday parties are next. Why do we make them so stressful? The actual definition of the word “party” is a social gathering of invited guests, typically involving eating, drinking, and entertainment. We attend parties all year long and live the definition just fine. It’s what we tell ourselves that makes the holiday parties something we hate to love.  Instead, treat them and those invitations you choose to say yes to, as a time to thank family and friends for their support and friendship. Some people will be lonely this time of year and won’t receive any invites. Perhaps their loved one is serving in the military, or recently passed, or lost their job making this holiday season difficult. Perhaps a way to feel more joy is to reach out to someone in need.  Doing “good” for someone else typically reminds us of how fortunate we are.

Pot-luck dinners always crack me up because if you are someone that wants to make a big impression, you make a recipe for the first time and uh-oh it doesn’t look like the photo in the cookbook. Now you are stressing yourself out. If you have been invited to a pot-luck, make that signature dish that everyone talks about even if you are bringing the same one every year.

Office parties….watch your alcohol intake and use the opportunity to network with people you normally don’t have time to talk with and find out more about them.

And lastly, stay connected to your community. This is a time to attend a social event and thank people you have networked with all year for their support. Meet new people to begin a relationship with for the coming year and by all means….have fun! It’s about being a kid again in many ways. Sing some carols, drink some egg nog, make an underprivileged child happy, and then see the holidays through their eyes. There will be nothing but gratitude and no stress there.

Oh yes and one more thing….turn on the Hallmark Channel for inspiration, or set your DVR and watch it by the fire with your family. They are pretty much family friendly and will leave you feeling grateful for those around you. – Sharon Jenks

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CEOs Are Hired to be Fired, an excerpt from CEO Point Blank

CEO Point Blank

CEOs, like football coaches, don’t retire.  They always get fired.  Let me qualify that: For those of us unafraid to lead change in aging institutions, who must grapple with people in key positions who have tenure all their own, and are willing to take on the challenge of financial deficits and uncooperative teams, know this: in the end, we go out as we came in.  We get fired.  Everyone loves us on the way in because we’re going to fix things up and make their future more secure.  But once you do that, and in the process begin to demand productivity and accountability, you’re just a pain in the ass to people and they are not afraid to speak up about it.

So, no matter how anxious you are to jump in and get started at your new job, wait until you’re operating under a contract that protects your interests now and in the future.

There are many things to consider and I strongly suggest you get yourself a great human resources attorney to help you.  You want someone who works on the other side of the corporate line–the kind of attorney who, in other circumstances, might be asking you some tough questions.  I far prefer and recommend you hire an ass-kicking female attorney as in almost all the human resources litigation battles I’ve been in, opposing counsel invariably is female.  They seem to talk the talk better and also, in the majority of cases, they are talking to corporate human resources which, in my experience, is predominately where you find female executives.

Every CEO should have personal counsel that stays with you throughout your career.  He or she should understand your motives, your idiosyncrasies, your style and should help you in crafting an employment agreement that works.  Once you engage, your attorney should be kept up to date with any compensation and/or performance reviews (or the lack of same), and any other correspondence that you feel may at some point come back to harm or question you.  When you get in a jam, and you will, you don’t want to be playing dialing-for-help or worse, trying to convince a new attorney that you’re a good guy or gal.

If you’re going into a hostile environment, or if you’re going into an environment hostilely, you want a contract that basically says, hey, we all understand this is already hostile so you can’t come back later on and whack me when someone gets upset.  There are always people in organizations who are upset about change.  Where your predecessor might have let them slide a bit on meeting objectives, or let them take Friday afternoons off, you don’t; therefore, you eventually will become a thorn in someone’s side.  This can come back on you later and you want to be protected against these kinds of issues or potential allegations that come with the territory.  Your help and decisiveness that everyone loved the day you walked in are often soon forgotten.

You also need to think carefully about a parachute of some kind that keeps you going if someone pulls the plug on you.  Most contracts for the top executive will carry some sort of buyout clause.  People get sick of you, the board gets sick of you, whatever, you need to establish how much cash you have to have in order to complete the timetable of transition.  There are several tricks here.  Most attorneys will want a two-step out; the first for “good reason” or “no cause,” and the second “for cause.”  If you think you ever get a shot at the former, good luck and God bless you.  Boards always want to terminate you “for cause” and if they can get something that sticks, you lose your ability to negotiate a safe exit and you’ll wind up fighting them in court or in arbitration.   Your contract should maintain the same financial deal whether you go happy or you go being dragged down the hall on your ass.  Setting the stage up front while everyone is thrilled to be bringing you on board is a lot easier than it is when the chips are down and you are, too.  Remember, on the day they hired you they made the best decision of their lives, and that enthusiasm should work to get you the best deal for your exit on the day you start.

Another key point is to establish a travel and expense policy that meets your needs.  Write it yourself, take it to the board, have them ratify it and publish it with human resources, the controller, your executive admin, and your audit team.

Your company travel and expense policy needs to be written in accordance with your needs, which is the reason you must write it yourself.  No one in the organization understands what you do every day and also what you can’t do in order to do your job.  For instance, it is not the best use of your time to be sitting in coach, trying to find wi-fi and unable to open your laptop all the way because the guy in front of you put his seat back and is snoring happily away while you’re trying to get down the terms of a deal you just agreed to.  I always expected, both of myself and the executives who worked for me, to use flying time as work time.  There is a reason why they created first-class seats.

Make sure that the board expects the best from you and also for you.  This means you don’t always have to say who you had dinner with or who you met with in Los Angeles.  There are so many examples of how this seemingly small issue can really hurt an organization that it’s critical to your success, and the board needs to understand why.

To emphasize my advice: At one point I was actively interviewing candidates to replace two board members that had far outworn their contribution to the organization.  I had polled my executive team to discern their thoughts and we were all in complete agreement.  I set off on a journey to find suitable candidates. This required both travel and dinners, which at that level were not at McDonald’s.  Through some condition of fate, the board became aware of my actions and before I could act, they did.  In my exit interview, one of their claims “for cause” was that I failed to accurately record who I met with and where I met them.  In the interview, I refused to name the folks I talked to or where I was.  They called this insubordination and added it to the list of “for cause termination.”

In one job I had, in a company with a commodity-driven product, where I went and who I met with had the potential to move the market, and not always in a positive way.  Keeping my travel quiet and not always telling everyone where I was going was critical to my success.

Be sure your travel and expense policy allows you to move with stealth, and act to your station which may mean expensive nights out with potential execs, or flying first-class with the folks you’re making a deal with, or buying someone an expensive gift or a bottle of wine.  In short, if your board trusts you, you need to spend what you need to spend to get the job done.  Having such a policy in place helps the board remember the agreement when it comes time to part ways.

When that time comes, try not to wallow around too much in it and never allow the mud to stick to your feet.

– Ed Jenks is Senior Consultant and Chief Strategist of The Jenks Group, Inc. is a well-known and nationally recognized business professional with more than twenty-five years as a C-Suite Executive. You can follow him on http://ceopointblank.com/

What a Bit of Executive History Shows Us, an excerpt from CEO Point Blank

CEO Point Blank

The 2000s, in my opinion, have been the most trying and difficult times C-suite executives have ever faced in American history—even tougher than the Great Depression.  Not only do we have a tougher business climate, we are faced with bigger competitors—global competitors that do not operate under the same set of rules as we do in the United States.  The idea that globally things are “fair and even” and “may the best-managed company win” are concepts and beliefs shared by no one I know.

The global economy and unfair competitive practices aside, we continue to legislate and regulate ourselves internally to the point where we spend the majority of time wallowing around trying to create some kind of competitive advantage out of thin air.  I spend a lot of time thinking about exactly what happened to us as a country post World War II when we were filled with hope and confidence that when all else failed, we could outwork you.  I see great companies struggle with trying to find production efficiencies while their foreign competitors are allowed to flow products into the American market unchecked and unregulated.

I must admit to being part of the problem.  Here’s why.

Post World War II, our economy was made up primarily of family businesses that covered the range of our needs from food to clothing, transportation, and manufacturing craftsmanship.  Family businesses were passed down from generation to generation with the “secret sauce” that made the products or services unique to the region or geography they served.  You knew where your food came from, where your clothes were made, and you even knew the name of the family that made your car.

Our returning hero’s average age was twenty-six and many were returning to the family business, or turning to trades they had learned while in the military.  They were received into the workplace with open arms and the country was ready to step on the gas, fueling the largest generation of consumers the United States was ever to see.

The returning veterans were schooled in the family businesses and the discipline it took to operate them. They were charged with learning the tasks and craftsmanship of their trade because their mission was to protect the family homestead and their families relied on them.  Those that had new talents put them to use, still with the idea of making America stronger and their lives better.

The results speak for themselves.  Some of the strongest financial years in America were from 1945 through 1965.

And then things got tweaked.  Our foreign policy became unpopular.  The average age of an infantryman in Vietnam was twenty-two. Our youth (I was one of them) rebelled against everything that even resembled someone telling us what to do.  Belonging to anything was frowned upon.  I remember being at college one fall and seeing a group of guys spray painting a sign over a fraternity house door that said, “It’s wrong to belong.”  We had begun to question everything, believe in nothing but freedom—whatever that was—and reject the foundational pillars that had given us the best economic conditions in the history of the world with the highest standard of living yet to be experienced.

It took a few years for the rebellious students of the 1960s and 1970s to get around to work, as most of us went to college, and many on the six-year plan.  As we began to assume positions of authority, we slowly began to bring our rebellious nature to the workplace:  We threw out tradition. We didn’t need to wear a stinking tie–we worked better in flip-flops.  We worked in cubicles because offices created “silos.”  I remember listening with rapt attention to one of the long-haired business gurus of the time with a primetime audience tell us to break down the silos, that big oil was making too much money, and the banks were ripping us off.  He had all the answers.  Get your people a meditation room–that’s what attracts the real talent.

We all drank that Kool-Aid and we changed the face of American business just as we had changed the face of American culture fifteen years prior.  The results speak for themselves.

Please understand that I am not accusing, because I was part of that movement and I was a leader at the C-suite level.  As I look back at my career, I always felt like something was missing.  No matter my success, I always felt a bit hollow.  I think back on my college days and wonder why I didn’t buck the trend and rush that fraternity.

We had all lost our business discipline.  I could make money; that was the easy part.  But I couldn’t control my attitude and approach to anything that resembled authority and control, and believe me, I wasn’t alone.  Everyone was stupid, no one could keep up with me, and I wanted to run ahead of them and demand they keep up with me.  Rules were for other people, not for me.  I was so good at the money-making part that most of the time, people would leave me alone because they knew inherently that they were better off for me running off like a mad man and putting money in their pockets.

I am sixty years old, and though I’ve lived life well I am still discovering and facing the truth about myself and looking to be better for it.  I want to be the person who finds a way to get through to other C-suite executives and prove to them that silos work, we can be competitive globally, it is okay to be a leader, and that the single greatest gift you can bring to an organization is discipline: order overlaid with a huge dose of forgiveness.  If we are to bring our economy back to any level of dominance, we must be disciplined in our approach and willing to subjugate ourselves to our mission.

– Ed Jenks is Senior Consultant and Chief Strategist of The Jenks Group, Inc. is a well-known and nationally recognized business professional with more than twenty-five years as a C-Suite Executive.

 

Preparing for Your New Positions – Phase Two: First Days On The Job

first day on job

If you’re like most people, you’re anxious to “make a splash” in your new job at the earliest opportunity. Management – possibly content to wait several months for your first major contributions – will be delighted to witness your early success. Executives and managers throughout your company will mark you down as a “comer” on a fast track to further advancement (and nobody will be surprised when it happens). Your subordinates will see you as a polished leader, certain of where you’re taking them and sure of how to get there.

In fact, however, there’s a thin line between “making a splash” and “making waves”, especially where newcomers are concerned. As you join your new organization, be conscious of the line and don’t make the mistake of crossing it too soon, or without the support you need.

Up to this point you’ve been concentrating on gaining the approval and support of your boss. Equally important is the support you need from the people who report to you – your employees. It’s worth a moment or two to review the ways in which the enthusiastic cooperation of employees is earned by a new boss.

Leadership and Management

From among many definitions, we can distill the essence of leadership as “an attempt to influence the thinking or actions of people.”

Your employees have been hired because the function is too big for one person to handle. As the manager (leader) of this function, your job is to “influence” your people toward accomplishment of organizational goals. In this sense, your success depends ultimately on your people, and you must find ways to reach your objectives through their efforts.

The secret of successfully influencing people involves understanding what motivates them to perform up to the standards you expect of them. As you enter the scene, your employees’ personal “motivators” are both positive and negative:

  • Positive, in the sense that you represent a new beginning and your arrival could help them get closer to their individual career goals.
  • Negative, in that you are an unknown commodity, and working with you might not be a pleasant or successful experience for them.

Although you have many anxieties of your own about making a soft landing in your new job, be aware that your employees have questions, too:

  • What are your values? What do you stand for?
  • What do you want from them? Will you change their assignments or working conditions?
  • Will there be new rules?
  • What’s your personality like? Will you be easy or difficult to work with?
  • Will you listen? Can you be influenced?
  • Is this a “new start” or are you aware of their past successes and failures?
  • Are their positions secure? Will anything be taken away from them as a result of your arrival?
  • How visible will you be? How much contact will you want with them?
  • Will their creativity and contributions be recognized?

Each of these questions is a potential “negative” motivator because your employees’ anxiety will persist – and interfere with their productivity – until they receive satisfactory answers. Your actions and statements in the early weeks will provide those answers…..and once initial impressions are formed, you’ll have to work very hard to change them.

From the first moments on the job, you can show that you’re aware of these anxieties and begin to remove the negative motivators. Your systematic approach to entering your new job includes a thorough preparation for getting started with the people whose efforts will determine your success.

The “Easy Entry” Method

Many people fear a change in their working environment. To varying degrees, your subordinates are concerned about how your arrival will affect their lives. Under your predecessor – whether they were happy or not – at least they knew what to expect. They’ve become accustomed to being managed and evaluated in a certain way. In the beginning they’ll be watching you closely to see how your ways will differ from the old ways.

The “Easy Entry” method is a proven technique for respecting the concerns of your people while minimizing the disruptions to productivity that are caused by your arrival as leader of the group. IF you can incorporate each of the following six policies into your style, you’ll find that:

  • The group “performance drop” can be avoided entirely even though you may be making major changes in work assignments and procedures;
  • The structure of a planned entry will reduce some or your anxieties, too;
  • The “crisis” of your arrival will become an “opportunity” for personal growth and higher performance levels among all your people.

Each policy is described briefly. Based on the impressions you’ve formed from your Pre-Start review of projects, plans and personalities, you can list specific issues you’ll want to address.

 Policy #1: Learn the rules before you change them

Every organization has its traditional norms and customs, and your people are used to certain ways of doing things. Smart leaders know they have to “earn” the right to change procedures. Spend a few days getting to know how your people have acted and interacted in the past. Pay attention to traditional lines and patterns of communication. Show people you understand the system before you impose new ways of getting things done. With each change you introduce, be sure that all your employees understand why you’re improving the procedure and what benefits the change will bring.

 Policy #2: Evolution, not revolution

Even the most needed medicine is hard to swallow if the dose is too large. You may have inherited a smoothly running machine or a “clunker” badly in need of repairs. Either way, a massive dose of cure-all could kill the patient.

Plan your change strategy over an initial period (at least one month) instead of dumping all the issues on your people at once. Try to consult with key players and get them to “buy into” both the need for change and your methods of making it happen. Part-authors make very enthusiastic helpers.

Policy #3: Hold an early group meeting

Your first encounter with your employees will probably be brief and functional. As quickly as possible thereafter, schedule a meeting for everyone in your group, to calm the anxieties and set the stage for your action plans. (A structured approach is provided in the First Meeting Ice Breaker below.)

Policy #4: Get your people out of the weeds

The natural tendency for some people is to lie in the weeds, holding back their thoughts and ideas until they see which way your wind is blowing. Presuming that each of your employees is necessary for your group to be productive, you cannot afford to let them hide until it’s safe to emerge.

Potential contributors may need some prodding at first. Solicit opinions and probe for the reasons behind them. Let your employees know you’re interested in them, both as people and as professionals. Avoid judgmental reactions to their statements during your early days in charge.

Policy #5: Don’t knock you predecessor

On the surface, it’s easy to establish your leadership credentials by pointing out (even with faint praise) the failings of you predecessor’s programs and methods. It’s a quick way to show management that changes ought to be made and you’re the right person to make them. Besides, if the last person to hold the job is gone from the company or location, there’s no easy way from him/her to fight back.

Criticizing your predecessor is perilous, because at this stage you don’t know what loyalties exist in the organization. You don’t know who else worked hard to propose and execute the existing programs. A better strategy is to step with care in this area, and state your personal goals in terms of improvements rather than rescue missions.

Policy #6: Keep everybody informed

One of the best ways to foster a “team” spirit among your people is to begin with an open-communication policy. Although unwieldy in very large groups, the practice of keeping everyone informed demands little extra effort. Yet your people will know they are valuable members of the group, and their appreciation will translate into productive results in their jobs.

Of course, you’ll have more frequent contact with immediate subordinates than with others in the group. Still, you can insist on a “stair-step” communication system to assure that everyone gets the word.

Make your own personal notes on the six policies of the “Easy Entry” method, or add policies of your own.

The “Easy Entry” method can be implemented from your first day on the job. The mechanism is a series of transition meetings with your staff members. The sessions begin with an emphasis on getting to know each other (Ice-Breaker), and evolve into strategy meetings concerned with “where we want to go and how to get there” (Action Planning). Depending on your objectives and circumstances, you may need to schedule several meetings stretching over a period of many months.

Use the recommended agenda as guides, adding whatever special items you think should be covered. Divide the business items into several smaller meetings if you choose to concentrate in specific areas with your staff. If possible, send agenda outlines in advance so that all participants will know what’s expected of them and will have sufficient time to prepare.

Ice-Breaker Meeting with Your Employees

Use the following as an outline for you introductory meeting with employees. Check the items that apply to your situation, and make notes on how you intend to handle each subject.

Introduction

  •  Start the meeting by announcing its purpose: to begin a systematic transition involving two basic phases (organization analysis; action planning) and extending over a “set” time period.
  • Introduce yourself and give some pertinent information about your background.
  • Tell them something about your values, operating style, desire for future group accomplishments, etc.
  • To stimulate involvement and begin coaxing your people out of the weeds, ask each participant to describe his/her background, current major responsibilities, etc.

Business Portion

  • Describe the group’s workload (as you see it) for the next 30 days:

List current projects and deadlines

  • Discuss any changes you feel necessary for projects, deadlines or persons assigned
  • Discuss routine responsibilities for each participant, and ask staff members what your involvement should be
  • Ask each participant to describe the non-routine activities that are part of his/her job
  • Establish reporting/decision channels (explain your reasons for changing any previous customs)
  • Give the group your work schedule (including travel dates) for the next 30 days.
  • List any administrative matters to be resolved in the next 90 days (e.g. salary reviews) and schedule date/time for each.
  • Ask if there are any questions, and answer fully.
  • In adjourning this Ice-Breaker meeting, establish an open-door policy for the next 30 days (at least) and encourage each staff member to bring all delays or difficulties to your attention.
  • Add any Additional Subjects to Cover

Action Planning

As the series of meetings with your boss and staff progress, you’ll begin to feel a need for a system of recording and publishing the results.

The Action Plan format provides a simple framework for listing projects…..assigning specific responsibilities for each action step…..and tracking the results as you go along. Further, it serves as the basis for progress reports to keep your boss well informed, and for use during subsequent staff meetings.

After the Action Plan is prepared and circulated, you can take responsibility for keeping it current or assign the task to the person primarily charged with producing results. You can keep the master set on file in your office and schedule update sessions periodically.

The Action Plan helps you keep each project on schedule. Failure to reach a certain sub-goal by a given date is an automatic signal that something’s wrong and some trouble-shooting action is needed. After completion, the Action Plan worksheet is an excellent place to document performance and prepare detailed reviews for salary adjustments or other decisions.

Use one Action Plan sheet for each project.

To receive Action Plan sheet or Progress Record Templates please send an email to: sjenks@thejenksgroup.com

Look for the final phase in our blog tomorrow.

Sharon Jenks, CEO/President The Jenks Group, Inc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing for You New Position – Phase One: Pre-Start

meeting your boss

If you could spend an hour with the next person to hold your current job, how could you use the time most effectively? What information (public or private) could you pass along to make the transition easier for your successor? What reports and other reading materials would you provide? What advice would you give about the best ways to deal with your boss……senior management in general…your key associates….your subordinates? What insider’s viewpoints could you give regarding the secret of how things really get done in your current organization, and how to watch out for pitfalls along the way?

Don’t you wish there were someone in your new organization who could do the same for you?

As a matter of fact, there are ways to collect large chunks (assuming that you have already found what you can via the web) of this information even before your scheduled start date. All you need to do is decide what information you need…..contact the right person(s)….and ask for it. Just about any information you request is available to you, except for:

  •  highly classified data, such as military projects, competitive secrets regarding product formulas or manufacturing processes, etc.;
  • information dealing with politically sensitive subjects due to power structure and “turf-protecting” situations;
  • information which your boss would prefer to withhold until you’ve officially joined the organization.

As you begin the systematic transition to your new job you’ll think of many kinds of information that can give you a head-start. The following list gives some basic data; you should be able to think of other items that will contribute to your Pre-Start education.

A.   The Organization

  1. All public documents such as annual and quarterly reports to stockholders; proxy statements; documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (Forms 10-k and 10-Q); public offerings (Form S-7); corporate profile or financial fact book; recent analyst research reports. (Most of these documents can be obtained through the Corporate Secretary’s office or Legal Department. or Web search.)
  2. Corporate and divisional publications including product/service brochures; catalogs and price lists; recent speeches by members of top management; capabilities presentations and scripts; recent “new business” proposals.
  3. Organization charts showing how the company is put together; names and titles of senior line and staff executives; the relationship of your function to the rest of the organization; reporting lines between you and top management. (Your boss should be able to furnish the organization data.)

B.   Your Department or Group

  1.  Plans and budgets that affect your job including descriptions of all projects and programs; dollar allocations per project; deadlines; staff allocations and time devoted to each area.
  2.  Departmental organization including position descriptions for all employees; recent performance appraisals of key people; detailed salary/bonus report for the current period; property and equipment assigned to your care; inventory reports; etc.

(Your boss should be able to supply this information, either formally or informally. If portions of the above do NOT exist – e.g., performance appraisals, position descriptions – you may want to put them among your first priorities after you assume control.)

 C.   Your Job

  1.  Position description including specific responsibilities, standards and deadlines; criteria for successful accomplishments of duties; salary history and position in pay grade; etc.
  2.  History of your predecessor including appraisals of performance and results; reasons for past successes and failures; areas of management satisfaction and dissatisfaction with working methods or results.

(There may be written information on this subject; otherwise, you’ll need to obtain verbal comments from your boss.)

Now that your imagination is stimulated, think of other materials or information you’d like to review before your scheduled start date.

Obtaining Advance Information

Since your contacts in the new organization are limited, your present sources of information are few: your boss, the Human Resources, your predecessor (if he/she is reachable and willing) and, possible, one or more members of your staff.

Perhaps your best strategy is to arrange a “pre-start” meeting with your boss, using a prepared agenda. (In fact, once the meeting is scheduled, it’s a good idea to send the agenda ahead of time, so your boss can review the items, assemble some of the requested materials, and add other topics for discussion.)

With this request you’re beginning a series of meetings with your boss – essential planning and “no surprises” sessions that will extend over the next three to six months. It’s important that each of you obtain the results you’re looking for. Especially with this advance meeting, the purpose and agenda should be clearly spelled out between the two of you.

Faced with many other problems – including the need to take a more active role in you new function until your arrival – your boss may not feel an advance meeting is necessary or practical. You may hear something like “Oh, don’t worry about it. You just get yourself here, and we’ll get started once you’re on board.” Still, it’s your responsibility to see that the meeting takes place now, so that you can clarify your roles ahead of time and control your entry into the new job.

Aim for at least an hour of uninterrupted planning of uninterrupted planning, at whatever time is least likely to complicate your boss’ schedule. You might justify the meeting in terms of the following objectives:

  •  To develop a strategy for introducing you to the organization;
  • To get an idea of the recent performance history of your office or function;
  • To obtain an understanding of your authorities, decision levels, and operating freedoms;
  • To become familiar with priority projects and deadlines;
  • (perhaps) to meet some of the people you’ll be working with in your job.

Of course, there are some additional benefits for YOU in having this advance meeting. Your fear of the unknown will be reduced as you obtain clarification of some of your questions. Your employees will be able to “put a face with the name” if you get the chance to meet them briefly. And you will appear to be a prepared, clear-thinking professional to people at various levels within the organization.

The “First Meeting With Your Boss” checklist contains many subjects you’ll want to cover before joining the team on a full-time basis. Use it as a guide, deleting those items that do not fit your situation and adding whatever special issues you’d like to discuss with your new boss.

First Meeting With Your Boss

  1. Use the following outline to structure the first meeting. Check each item that applies to your situation, and  make personal notes.
  2. Schedule a meeting with your boss as soon as possible after accepting the job offer. Send a confirming memo to highlight the subjects to be discussed.
  • Review current projects and problems that will demand your immediate attention.
  • Ask your boss for a capsule summary of recent performance regarding your function.
  • Ask for a candid evaluation of current strengths and weaknesses in the function, including areas that need priority attention.
  • Request and collect all information and materials as outlined earlier.
  • Along with available personnel records, make a list of all performance/salary reviews due in the next six months.
  • Clarify any remaining questions about your salary or bonus structure.
  • Ask for a general idea of your boss’ expectations for performance from you in the coming months.
  • Learn what resources are available to help you meet those expectations, including your authority to make changes in staff, time allocations, or deployment of resources.
  • Discuss your boss’ criteria and methods for evaluating your performance.
  • Ask your boss whether he/she perceives the need for training or development programs among your future employees.
  • Make sure you understand the extent of your authority to operate independently during your first months on the job.
  • Ask your boss to describe how he/she manages people. (although this is a question you should ask during an interview)
  • Ask for some guidance on your boss’ level of involvement during the first few months (inform, review, decision, approval, etc.).
  • Find out your boss’ preferences for progress reports (formal or informal) and desired timing.
  • Is it possible for you to meet your predecessor for a discussion of his/her experience in the job?
  • How does your boss plan to handle the announcement of your appointment to the job, and initial introductions to employees, associates or others?
  • What other issues would your boss care to raise at this meeting?

Tomorrow……Phase Two – First Days on The Job

Sharon Jenks, CEO/President The Jenks Group, Inc.

Preparing for Your New Position – A Systematic Approach

new job

As a consultant and coach I am frequently asked for advice when changing jobs. This job change may  be a position change or promotion  within the same organization. Either  way, the same advice applies. I will  provide this in four separate blog  posts.

  1. A Systematic Approach
  2. Phase One: Pre-Start
  3. Phase Two: First Days On The Job
  4. Phase Three: Settling In and Taking Charge

You may not feel the need to use all four, or to complete every checklist suggested. Depending on your situation, some of the information will be more pertinent than other parts. You decide which sections you’ll want to spend more time with.

  1. A SYSTEMATIC APPROACH

Why Were You Selected For This Job?

Probably because the company likes your track record – both the kind of work you’ve been involved in and your accomplishments in that field. Probably because your new management senses that your personality and methods are compatible with theirs. And certainly because they can visualize you as part of the future growth and profitability of their organization.

How can you confirm their good judgment in selecting you, and use this opportunity as a quantum leap toward your career goals?

Probably by the professional manner in which you introduce yourself to the organization and take hold of your new responsibilities. Probably by the initial impressions you make with all the people you’ll be dealing with in you job. And certainly by your ability to get up to speed quickly and reach your maximum productivity in minimum time.

Right now you’re concerned with disengaging successfully from your current job. That’s a proper attitude, because you owe your organization (and yourself!) the courtesy of a professional closure. However, even at this early stage your emphasis begins to shift toward the new assignment, and toward your strategies for starting the next phase of your career.

What’s the best way to “hit the ground running” in your new job? It begins with your commitment to take an active role in developing a systematic approach to the transition process starting now instead of waiting until your reporting date. Without compromising the “closeout” requirements of your current job, you can begin to collect the information that will help you understand:

  •  Your new organization/division (how it operates; where it wants to go; how it intends to get there)
  • Your new job/position (what management expects of you)
  • The resources available to you (people, budgets, programs and operating freedoms you’ll need to get the job done

At this point you may know very little about the inner workings of the organization. You may have only a skeletal idea of your job requirements. You may have met very few of the people, except for your new boss and the Personnel manager who negotiated with you. Yet your mind is filled with questions:

  1. Who am I replacing, and how was he/she regarded by superiors, associates and subordinates?
  2. Why was the position vacant?
  3. Who else wanted my job, and how can I deal effectively with them in the coming months?
  4. What commitments were made to or by my predecessor that I should know about?
  5. Why was I selected?
  6. Upon arrival, what immediate responsibilities will I have to take on?
  7. If there is unfinished business with my old job, what arrangements would be acceptable to my new boss?
  8. How do things really get done?
  9. Do I have any allies or adversaries in my new job, and how are they identified?
  10. How and when will I be formally announced to the organization and its people?

The list could be much longer, and some of the questions may have been answered during the interview that preceded your selection. In any case, you need the answers to begin planning your systematic approach. As a starting point, make a list of question you have now about your new job. (Later as you begin to collect more specific information, you’ll be able to ask more pertinent questions, in much greater detail.)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS – Make a list all of the questions you’d like to be answered about your new job. Note the sources available to you at present for providing the answers.

Why have a Systematic Approach?

For many professionals the introduction to a new job is a haphazard affair. The good news is usually accompanied by smiles, handshakes, and vague statements about “getting together after you’re on board.”

Then follows a period of coordinating the relocation with in-house specialists….reading a few general pamphlets about the company and its products or services….and possibly some lonely moments of contemplating the nameless and shapeless challenges that lie ahead.

The first day on the new job is a kaleidoscope of administrative forms.. an absolutely un-rememberable volume of new faces and names….a quick tour of the immediate area…. and a few private minutes with the boss, whose impromptu remarks about projects and problems barely register.

Suddenly the new person is alone at a desk or behind an office door, checking the starter supply of pencils and wondering what comes next.

Answer? Simple. Next comes a honeymoon period – length unknown and indeterminable – after which the prevailing judgments will be rendered in either of two forms:

  • “Joe really has taken charge in record time! We’ve got a real winner there!”

-OR-

  •  “It’s a shame, but Joe still hasn’t grasped the situation yet. Guess we can’t always be right.”

But it doesn’t have to be that way for you. A few hours of up-front planning can arrange important subjects and issues in a logical priority and eliminate minor matters that tend to “fog” the entry process. The “people” skills you already possess can help you gain the cooperation of your boss and other sources of advance information. With a systematic approach to your upcoming transition you can:

  • obtain information needed to form preliminary conclusions about the organization, your new job responsibilities, and the people you’ll be dealing with;
  • provide a framework for your self and others to follow during your transition;
  • simplify your “first day” entry with your boss, subordinates and associates;
  • increase your managerial effectiveness during your first weeks and months on the job;
  • bring yourself up to speed as quickly as possible in terms of productivity and results.

A Matter of Timing

Your entry process begins while you’re still in your old job, and ends on the day you’re performing effectively in the new position. Let’s divide the total process  into three distinct phases as follows:

Pre-Start – A time for gathering information, researching the elements of you job (at least in general terms), getting familiar with some of the people involved, and coordinating your announcement and arrival.

 First Days on the job – A carefully structured format for meeting key people, introducing yourself to your staff, getting down to brass tacks with your boss, and becoming familiar with departmental tasks and responsibilities.

Settling In/Taking Charge – A newcomer’s game plan for managing the efforts of people, solving problems during the first several weeks on the job, and obtaining complete agreement and support from the boss.

Each phase is treated separately  and will follow in the next three blog posts, with a text that discusses the principal issues and work-sheets designed to help you plan your actions and priorities. To Be Continued….

Sharon Jenks, CEO/President -The Jenks Group, Inc.

 

 

 

5 Common Phrases That Create Failure (and What to Say Instead)

Replace these common workplace expressions with more powerful alternatives and you’ll succeed much faster.

Success

Words have power. The things you say reinforce how you think, which in turn determines what you do or are willing to do. These five common phrases generate attitudes and beliefs (in yourself and others) that make failure easy and success more difficult:

1. “I’m having a bad day.”

The difference between a good day and a bad day is literally all in your head. Every day has surprises, pleasant and unpleasant. It’s how you handle them that’s essential. When you’re in a resourceful mental state, you handle crises and opportunities alike with grace and aplomb. If you’re in a less-than-resourceful mental state, you flub even the easiest of challenges. Characterizing the problem as the “day” creates failure because 1) it absolves you from managing your emotions, and 2) it pretty much guarantees that the rest of your day will continue to be “bad.” What to say instead:“I’m not at my best right now, but I’m working to get there.”

2. “If I’m lucky, then…”

Serendipity–where seemingly random events create amazing opportunities–does indeed happen and so do unexpected disasters. Attributing either to luck or fate, though, makes your eventual success harder to achieve. What is, is. What happens, happens. Every result has multiple real-world causes. While you may not be able to perceive all causes or anticipate all results, there’s no flying spaghetti monster that’s sprinkling luck-dust over here but not over there. Believing in “luck” creates failure because: 1) it provides an easy way to shirk responsibility for your failures, and 2) it encourages you to rely upon the supernatural rather than take the actions necessary to become more successful. What to say instead: “What else can I do today to achieve my goal?”

3. “I’m stressed out.”

The term stress originated in physics, where it defines “the average force per unit area that some particle of a body exerts on an adjacent particle.” Too much stress, for example, is why a bridge collapses. Human beings, however, aren’t bridges. What happens to them is not at all like an impersonal force applied to an inanimate object. Human beings can grow and change and adapt to new circumstances. When you say, “I’m stressed out,” you’re identifying yourself as a powerless object upon which outside forces are acting. That attitude creates helplessness and hence failure. You end up “coping” rather than taking positive action. What to say instead: “I’m taking a breather before I take more action.”

4. “The priorities are…”

The word priority implies singularity. Multiple priorities is an oxymoron. This isn’t semantic quibbling, because if you have more than one priority you have no idea what to do first. At each moment in time, there is always something more important than everything else you could be doing. That is the priority and that’s what you should be doing–with your full attention. Having more than one priority creates failure because you end up mentally multitasking. When your attention is divided between multiple activities, you aren’t as effective as if you focused on the single action that matters most. What to say instead: “The immediate priority is…”

5. “Who’s at fault?”

There are few human behaviors less useful than finger-pointing. What’s past is past. What’s important isn’t why something happened but how to achieve a better outcome in the future. This is not to say that people shouldn’t take responsibility for their actions. Taking responsibility, though, is the exact opposite of finger-pointing. Finger-pointing creates failure because it 1) keeps you focused on the past, 2) creates unnecessary resentment, and 3) makes people more afraid to take risks. What to say instead: “Here’s what we must do differently next time…”

-Geoffrey James, Inc Magazine

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