I am deep into a book called: No Fears, No Excuses: What You Need To Do To Have a Great Career by Larry Smith. In this book, he asserts that: “the grown-up world is where talent goes to die.” Reading this statement jolted me gratefully inside – as this is something I have come to realize in my own career journey and in the scope of coaching my clients in business.
You may be thinking that this statement is: “harsh” or “an unfair generalization”. Perhaps, you’re right, but I will wager that you are not necessarily wrong, but rather predictable. I say you are predictable rather than wrong, because you belong to a subset of thousands – if not millions of people who believe in a precept of work that is fast becoming a dinosaur. This precept of work includes: Choosing a degree field (preferably something that will allow you to support yourself upon graduation), studying hard even if you hate your field of study, finding an internship where you give your gifts away for free, only to search for whatever job the economy will loan to you. This my friends is the age old definition of success and job security. The unfortunate outcome of all of this is: The lot of unhappy people and wasted talent living and participating in a society that appears to being conversely impacted by a perceived lack of skilled workers.
While what I just outlined is not indicative of everyone’s career; it is the reality of the majority. Very rarely do I meet someone who says: I love my job and it is allowing me to utilize my full range of talents. In my head, I know of a handful of people in both my personal and professional circles who truly love the work they do. I know that “love” makes people uncomfortable, so let me define what “love” means in this context:
The handful that “love” their work are:
1)Doing work that aligns with their natural talents, interests and passions.
2)Fulfilled by the work, interactions and daily dynamics of the job.
3)Reinforced by having their basic needs for compensation, benefits, flexibility, long-term growth, challenge and continued learning met in return for their efforts.
Most people are not “in love” let alone fulfilled in the way I just described above. Every week, I observe the sentiments about work as we inch towards Friday. Most people, appear to be happiest from Thursday through Saturday. Sunday is a reminder that work starts in 24 hours on Monday – which brings on the inevitable social shares and/or griping about the drudgery that is returning to work. Put plainly, people are miserable and feel stuck.
Coming back to the title of this article which is: Is the “grown-up” world where talent goes to die? Is it true? I think it is. We start children off conditioning them to conform to the world rather than disrupt it. This conditioning often forces them to ignore their interests, innate skills and passions in favor of the road most traveled, lucrative and accepted. In doing this, we ship them off to university to study what seems like the best option for them. Sometimes it works out and other times a pivot emerges to the dissatisfaction of the parents, because of course we are supposed to have our entire life figured out at 22 – how reasonable!
Should we be lucky enough to get a job after graduation, more advice comes our way. The advice is: “Work hard, keep your head down, follow the rules and you will be promoted and successful in no time.” In “no time” is the operative word, because in this current economy promotions seem to be rather elusive and hard or good work is no longer a silver bullet for success on the job. By the time, people look up – they have a home, 2 cars, some kids, a dog, bills and a job that is a terrible fit for their skills and lifestyle; but the bills have to be paid, so onward with more drudgery.
For every person that works a job there is a dream and creativity deferred in the journey towards personal and professional success. We have all been conditioned to believe that holding a job whether it is a passion or not is a badge of honor – your right of passage into adulthood. More money, more bills, and more material effects are just a few of the things that define your adulthood in our current society. The problem with this rat race of superficial success is that it is superficial. Success is subjective and therefore much more to having longevity in your career than the degrees, certifications and clocked years of service.
Agreeing or disagreeing with this statement of talent dying in the grown-up or corporate world doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take a moment to realize what you want your life and contributions to stand for and taking stock of where you are so you can ensure that the two align. Here’s a hint: In the coming decades, success will not be defined by your retirement package, the money in your bank account or the amount of hours you worked – it will be about how you made an impact (however small) in your part of the world.
I spoke about success and what is means to be an adult in the modern world on my Periscope show: Ask Czarina Live. You can watch it below.
It’s a fabulous thing when the stars align and you gain a great boss in taking a new job.
What makes them “great”?
Perhaps, they have a great personality. They aren’t the usual stuffy leader. Maybe, it’s because they are concerned with your well-being. They ask about the family and how things are going. All in all, there are a myriad of reasons why your boss may be “great”.
It is human nature that we become comfortable with people who make us feel at ease. How comfortable we become is a matter of discernment and individual disposition.
When it comes to the people you report to – how friendly is too friendly? Is there such thing as being too close for comfort?
In my humble opinion, I think there is such a thing as being too familiar, too friendly and too close with your boss. I have been too close for comfort and it has gone wrong and I have been very familiar and it has been just right.
Here are some things to consider when it comes to befriending your boss:
1)There is a difference between being “friendly” and being “friends”. You may come to know things about one another in time, but it wise to not misconstrue friendship with pleasantries. If you have ever had a seemingly “great” boss, you will know why this is important.
2) Your personal business is none of your boss’s business. I don’t care how friendly or nice your boss is – there are limits to what you should share. Oversharing gives them too clear a window into your life and may or may not give them fodder with which to make decisions surrounding your employment and/or career opportunities.
3) Listen more. Observe more. Speak when necessary. It could be the introvert in me, but I like to observe people before I become friendly. I need to assess people and watch how they operate. It has helped me to do this, because it gives me a leg up on understanding whether I need to tread lightly or if I can loosen up a bit.
4) Never gossip with your boss about co-workers or others in the organization. Notice that I said “loosen up a bit” in #3. After you have observed your leaders and decided “hey, they are cool”, stop yourself short of gossip. Some of them will gladly indulge you in this kind of talk- especially if it allows them to blow off some steam about people you work with. In the long run, talk gets around and it will never be them that looks poorly if you were involved in a gossip session. It will be your ass on the fire- always!
5) Numbers 1-4 will not apply to every boss. The key is understanding and knowing what makes them tic and considering in advance what could go wrong for you.
If the pros outweigh the cons and you have yourself a good egg, go for it – skip through the meadows with one another. However, if you are unsure and you are just a happy go-lucky person with everyone – stop yourself and consider a friendly, but professional relationship.
Working with leaders with varied personalities, agendas, and management styles can be challenging. Don’t be too quick to befriend before you consider the ramifications of a more personal relationship with someone who manages you.
Have you ever worked for someone who couldn’t understand that you don’t need to have your hand held through each of your tasks? I have encountered this many times over. I get it as a parent can be with their child or a person with a spouse or boyfriend- some leaders have a dysfunctional and almost abnormal need to feel wanted and/or needed. These are leaders who like a dependent team not an independent team. They derive their worth from micromanaging every aspect of their teams work and day.
There are some employees on your team that will appreciate the extra hand-holding or may need it. Another percentage of the bunch, will be annoyed with your constant meddling. In either scenario, you are doing your employees a disservice by operating this way. In the first scenario with the needy employee, they need you, you need them- it is the perfect situation- right? No. On one hand it is great for you to provide the individual support that one of your team members may need to be successful in their position. In contrast, you are so hands-on that this person never spreads his or her wings. They will never realize the joy and sense of accomplishment that comes from working through a problem and ultimately fixing it without anyone else’s assistance. This level of problem-solving and critical thinking are the same skills that become important from a developmental standpoint and could hurt the person’s chances of moving up the proverbial ladder. With your independent players, the liability here is that they will feel like you are purposely trying to stifle them not only in their positions, but also from growing beyond their current rank.
When I went through this, I just remember thinking: “Wow! This lady is a nutjob! Can I breathe? Let me do what you hired me to do.” The beauty of leadership is rooted in remaining flexible to the needs of your team. If one person needs a little more attention, you give it. If you have a few high-performers who require simple guidance and behind-the-scenes support, move out of their way and let them get the job done. More importantly, if you are a micro-manager, you need to redefine your worth within the parameters of your job. You are not more successful as a leader when you are giving orders and trying to manage everyone else’s desk plus your own.
What your micromanaging proves is that:
1) You have no faith in your team to execute their tasks accordingly.
2) You have issues with true delegation and that should be addressed.
3) You prefer the visibility to be on you and not your team which is why you won’t allow them to do their jobs.
4) You fear the potential for failure when you are not in a position to handle a task or project.
5) You are not interested in developing your team so they can eventually move into other roles. Keeping them dependent allows you to stagnate the very skills that would propel them ahead.
No matter what the needs of your individual team members are; have faith in them. Empower them. Allow them to problem solve and critically think through issues. Create a safe-haven for failure so employees don’t fear failure, but see it as an inevitable outcome in business. Support your team so they bounce back from those inevitable failures wiser and better than before. This is what people have wanted in a leader in the past and present. Equally, this is how leaders will have to operate in the future.
Join me on The Aristocracy of HR You Tube Channel for more dialogue on this topic:
As someone who worked in Talent Acquisition for most of her career, I was the person responsible for ensuring the continued progression of thousands of people’s careers. I made offers that meant people could feed their families and others that catapulted people to the executive suite, I negotiated great packages and sometimes had to sell the not-so-attractive offers. I was an agent of opportunity always on the hunt for the best person that met the company’s needs. With all of this workforce good I was doing, it occurred to me that many of my colleagues and I were often closing better career deals for the people we served than for ourselves.
If you have worked in Talent Acquisition you know it is not an easy job. As a function we are responsible for making sure that every department is adequately staffed. From the Janitor to the CFO, we are charged with keeping the halls filled with talent with little to no disruption to the business. In my experience, I have had varying requisition loads. I have handled as little as 6 reqs at anytime and upwards of 175 when I worked for someone who was blatantly trying to drown me- but I digress. My point is this job isn’t for the faint of heart and yet there is often a lack of interest and focus in creating a career path for the very same professionals who dedicate themselves to doing it for others.
If you’re a TA Specialist or Internal Recruiter in a company, where do you go next? The path isn’t always clear or it doesn’t exist. In some organizations, TA Specialists move to TA Leads or Senior TA Specialists and eventually to TA Manager if they shake the right hands- but where else can their skills be utilized? It has been the great paradox of my existence in TA to realize my opportunities were non-existent while remaining excited about the opportunities and salary increases I was able to offer others.
Alas, I have met someone who understands the need to develop her Talent Acquisition team. Last week while attending the Take The Interview Talent Acquisition Summit/#truNewYork, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a track led by Ali Wong of NBC Universal. She heads up the Talent Acquisition function there and is changing the game for the Talent Acquisition professionals on her team. During her track, she spoke about how she is helping her team get out of the rut of just filling requisitions and on to thinking about how they personally want to impact the business. She’s not telling her team, “sorry, there is no career path” or “we’d love to see you in leadership, but…”. She is insisting that ever recruiter, sourcer, and coordinator have a clear understanding of how they impact the business; while allowing them to constantly learn, develop and be exposed to the people that can advocate for their career progression.
At NBC Universal, Recruiters are responsible for the mentorship and career progression of the sourcers and coordinators who support them. I have always been perplexed by organizations that went as far to create these talent acquisition teams composed of a recruiter, sourcer and coordinator only to remove the recruiter from having any input into the development and performance management for the roles that support them daily. Frankly, it’s a missed opportunity for the sourcers and coordinators to be mentored by someone in the role they will eventually have and it robs the recruiter of key leadership experience that will be needed as they progress up the ranks.
Back to Ali, she holds her team accountable for results and business impact. None of the ridiculous rumination about time-to-fill and other baseline headaches. She has a clear standard and that is to produce what the internal customers need and she will develop you so you can move on to do the things you want to do in the company, Conversely, if you cannot work up to her standard or find that the job is not what you wanted-she encourages you to move to another area of the company where your talents would be better served.
Changing the game…
If you can’t tell, I am more than impressed with the way she leads her team. Her leadership is not one to admire superficially, but it is backed by results. Her team consistently meets and exceeds their targets. They are “game changers” as she calls them.
Anyone can hire recruiters or a TA team and deploy them to frantically fill all of the positions in a company. However, it takes time, thought and effort to build and deploy a team that love what they do, produce and make an impact. Oh and by the way, she doesn’t care where the work gets done as long as it gets done- a nod and a wink for telework. TA Specialists, Recruiters, Sourcers, Coordinators, TA Assistants need career love too. If you are going to hold them responsible for bringing in the talent you are going to have to invest in them as well. Moreover, ensure that they are lead by someone who understands the value and importance of their work- who also relentlessly pushes them to find their passion. That passion will not only make them happier in their work, but it will come through when prospective candidates meet with these people to size up your company.
I was also reminded by colleagues at the summit that the recruitment and/or talent acquisition function will cease to exist in the next 10 years, so while we still have it-let’s show a little career love to the guys and gals in the trenches making it happen one job at a time.
There is nothing more reassuring to a jobseeker than hearing that opportunity abounds in the company you are interviewing with. It isn’t the most important aspect for everyone, but for a good majority- it is the defining factor next to compensation and other candidate bait. There’s very little reason for candidates to doubt your claim of endless upward mobility. That is until they get burned. When they start a job and find out the yellow brick road to career greatness is more like quicksand; it leads to initial disappointment-but they haven’t lost hope in every employer yet. They start to search again and find another seemingly good company. To ensure that they don’t make the same mistake again, they ask your recruiter better questions during the interview process. They join your company with hope and promise beneath their wings; but this time there is a new set of tricks that halt their career progression. Now, it hits the candidate like a ton of bricks that there’s something wrong. Either they are really bad at choosing companies or they aren’t as great as they thought. To put it plainly it is utterly frustrating.
At a time where retention and talent management are all the rage, you would think companies would be more intentional about looking at practices that may be undermining their efforts.Whatever your sentiment is about how employees progress in the company, you have to agree that the following practices are pretty lame and counterproductive to your talent management strategy.
1) Bogus Job Postings– Here we have those highly-coveted positions where you have quietly identified your candidate of choice, but decide to waste your employees’ time, energy and emotions as they fawn over a job they have no possibility of attaining. The worst part about this is the imposition you put both your recruiters and candidates in. Both parties know how it’s going to turn out, but instead they have to go through the motions because you want it to appear that you conducted a competitive search.
2) Sneak-Attack Promotions- When you feel the need to confidentially promote employees followed by a celebrity-worthy press release announcing your decision- morale is going to plummet. It doesn’t say very much about your leadership ability, when you don’t think enough of your team to give them a chance to apply and interview for positions they are qualified to do.
3) Hold em’ and Fold em’- Are your managers undermining your employees’ ability to transfer by creating performance issues and personality narratives that never existed? This is typical when opportunity presents internally, but the manager does everything in their power to keep the employee from progressing further by sharing off-the-record performance fodder that influences the selection process. The problem with this is the employee catches on eventually and realizes they’ve been blacklisted.
4) The Relic on the Shelf- Poor tenured employee who has done well in becoming the go-to gal or guy in their department, but can’t seem to get any further. So you mean to tell me that this person who has been with the company for 30+ years with nary a bad performance review and happens to be fluent in the company rules, norms and culture is suddenly not good enough for any other opportunities in the organization or even their own department? Stop the madness!
5) Give Me More… more education, more experience, more skills, a third arm, the stem cells from your first child- I get it-you don’t have time to train and you need them up and running like yesterday. How do more KSA’s help when you haven’t established what is absolutely essential to your operation? In addition, why is it necessary when you have promoted and continue to promote people with no credentials? If you’re going to ask someone to go back to school or learn more, the request needs to be consistent and operationally-warranted. Last time, I checked Jesus Christ already has a job.
Here you have five scenarios where there is likely a disconnect between your intention and practice. The moral of the talent management story is this: if someone isn’t performing well, don’t promote them. However, have the decency to have a conversation about how they can fix it. When they do fix it, don’t hold their past performance mistakes and deficits over their head indefinitely. Strike a balance between what you want and what is needed. You may think you “need” someone with a PH.D and the ability to read minds for that receptionist role, but does it have to be so?
For God’s sake be thankful for your tenured employees, if not for them many of your triumphs and financial gains would not be possible. If they aren’t trained to the standard of the current workforce, blame yourself for not investing in them and insisting that they continue to grow professionally. Speaking of growth, stop hiding and withholding opportunity from your workers. Be transparent about present and upcoming opportunities. Allow your employees to apply for internal opportunities aligned with their backgrounds and interests. The best case scenario is you could find out you have been missing out on some unknown strengths of your employees. The worst case…you hire the right person and your employee carries on knowing that you at least gave them a chance.
Lastly, no more bogus searches. External and internal candidates alike know when you are full of sh%&! Stop putting out external postings knowing you want a qualified internal candidate and stop posting internal positions knowing there’s a VIP in mind. Interviewing for a job is stressful and we have all been there. There is nothing considerate about making someone go through the scrutiny that is synonymous with the interview and selection process for no reason. Being honest about opportunity is just one more way of building rapport with your employees. It also ensures that prospective employees aren’t deterred from joining your company because you haven’t committed to a consistent and fair talent management strategy.