The Power of Fear in Making Career Decisions

Nothing plays so strongly as the element of fear in any important decision. This is really evident when making any kind of expensive purchase. I had a guy in my house recently hawking a machine that is guaranteed to remove all allergenic and pollutant particles from the air in my home.

I was intrigued with the product, but the only reason he made it in the door was the free mp3 player. What can I say? Mine recently broke and I needed a new one. That being said, I do suffer from allergies, and the product seemed to be a good one. So, I watched in feigned amazement as this self anointed “best in-home sales professional in the U.S.” worked his way through his schtick. All the way asking me questions like, “How important is the health of you and your family?” And, “If you could improve the health of your children, would you?”

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Why Conduct an Exit Interview on Every Departure?

It’s Friday afternoon and you are starting to wind down from a long and busy week. The call of a relaxing weekend is making the last few hours pass slowly by, but the loose ends you are tying up are keeping you busy. Without warning, one of your most important employees drops into your office and asks for a few minutes. This individual sits down and hands you a signed letter that states what they are about to tell you….they are resigning with notice for a different employer. This is clearly not the way you had imagined your week to end, or your weekend to begin. So, what to do next?

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Defining and Finding Talent

We talk about talent every day. Where to find it. What kind to find. Where to place it. More elusive; however, is how to spot it. What exactly is talent? Talent defined is “an unusual natural ability to do something well, especially in artistic areas that can be developed by training.” That makes sense. Think of Michael Jordan flying effortlessly through the air, Michael Vick sprinting from defenders toward the goal line, and Tiger Woods curving the ball next to the pin from 250 yards through the trees.

This kind of talent is unmistakable to the eye and easily linked to a sense of artistry. The rarity of skills possessed by these freaks of nature is what makes them “talented”. The eyes tell us that supremely talented athletes are doing things that we know few others can do.

In the business world, and more specifically the world of “talent” acquisition, we too are looking for rare skills that are absolutely essential to make our organizations elite. The type of talent we are looking for does not always tantalize the senses like an artist or an athlete though. We must be more cognizant of subtleties in an individual that makes them truly talented. Here are three traits I find consistently in talented people.

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“Attitude of Gratitude”: Treat your Employees Like They are Your Clients

My best friend’s father and I became friends as I got to know him during college and beyond. His go-to phrase was, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” He always said it in a way that you knew he meant it. He was an amazing man.

In his 30s he ran a major investment corporation on the west coast, and in his 40s he took over the family lumber business in Kansas City, which was the largest in the KC metro area and the only place to go before the dawn of Home Depot. The recession and housing crisis of the 80s killed his business and he lost everything but a little bit of land and real estate he owned.

I often asked this man about his life, what he had seen, and where he had been. He never so much as whispered a word of regret or despair for losing his wealth. He simply thanked the world for the opportunity to be alive and have the relationships he had. I knew him in his 50s and on into his 60s after he had essentially retired and became a humble candle-maker who enjoyed a round of golf and the close friends he made living on Charlotte Street in midtown Kansas City.

The story of his life, which ended much too early, is indeed a story unto itself which included close personal friendships with famous actors, musicians, and politicians. Through it all, his rise to the top, and his fall from riches, he maintained something authentic to him that any leader can employ: an “attitude of gratitude.”

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Defining the “It” Factor in a Great Employee

Think of your best employee or co-worker. Now, think about their most prominent traits. What makes them the valued business partner that they are? If they are a game changer in your organization it’s likely that there isn’t just one characteristic that sets them apart. There must be, however, a few ties that bind it all together. These overriding qualities displayed by the elite professionals you know are the “it” factor and are the traits that have you pining for more individuals just like them.

We decided to ask our top clients, across varying industries, this question recently: What are the top three soft-skill (non-technical) traits you find in your highest performing employees? Here is what we found, in order of frequency:

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Email Pitfalls

Think of a time when you were minding your own business, right in the middle of your daily grind. Up pops the email icon on your PC, perhaps accompanied by that familiar written tone we all know so well. You stop what you are doing; knowing full well that whatever is in your inbox can surely wait, and rush to see what waits. It’s from your boss and the subject line reads “Report Question”. Your heartbeat ratchets up a notch as you go to click on the message. “What did I do wrong?” you wonder out loud as the email opens to full screen. You see the words “What is this?” with a print screen below showing the report you had just turned in.

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Social Media: It’s Time to Get Connected!

What? You don’t have a Facebook page or a Twitter account? You’re not even LinkedIn? Fear not, the phenomenon of social media is hurdling toward critical mass by way of the wonderful Internet and it is not too late for you to get on the bus. But when you do sign on, do yourself a big favor. Be responsible and know how to use the different social media sites appropriately.

So, what is the difference between social and professional online networking? Great question! Easy answer is Facebook/Twitter equal “social” and LinkedIn equals “professional”. I talk to many business owners and managers who are fearful of getting involved in either for various reasons, but most simply assume that all social media is the same. Not true of course.

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