Monthly Archives: November 2017

Is Your Company Creating Careers?

For decades, we’ve been making an effort to help young people make better career decisions through our mentoring internship program. We’ve had 600+ interns from the US and internationally. Several years ago, we launched the Mentoring Internships program to help larger companies adopt our approach.

Over the last months, we’ve noticed a number of other programs focused on helping you people and we though we’d share a few.

With increased longevity – people living to 100+ – more people also ending up needing geriatric services. This is a professional marketplace not on the radar of most young people. Accordingly, a Geriatric Career Development program was developed to give teems a pathway to a career, and provide the host with a supply of workers in an industry with exploding demand.

The New Jewish Home, an elder-care non-profit in NYC launched the program to train teens to work in a nursing home, while providing mentoring school tutoring, college prep and life-skills training. (See details.) The program accepts NYC public schools beginning in the sophomore year as long as there is genuine interest to work in the field and to graduate high school. Over the years, almost every student in the program has graduated from high school and 94% are enrolled in college or employed. Two students have gone on to medical school and two others are pursuing Ph.D. degrees in pharmacology.

Recently, there was been discussion at the federal level on spurring the creation of apprenticeship programs to give people an opportunity to learn trades. Not everyone wants to go to a 2-4 year college to work in an office, fast-food establishment or some other company where the liberal arts training has little applicability to what they will do. For centuries, Europeans have been offering high school students the option of hands-on learning in trades like construction, plumbing and electrical, with the prospect of joining the firms. Maybe the time has come to adopt more apprenticeships.

Bloomberg Business featured one company whose pitch is “Want a $1Million paycheck? Skip college and go work in a lumberyard”. 84 Lumber Co, one of the nation’s largest building-supply chains spent millions on this message. It pays manager trainers about $40K a year; those in charge of top-grossing stores can earn $200K a year, and some earn more than $1Million, including bonuses.   With skilled and high-paying blue-collar jobs going unfilled, their program offers a solution to meet the need. While society today encourages millions of young people to take out loans to pay for college degrees, studies report that about half of the students then fill jobs in which they’re not really using the skills the acquired (e.g., learning Roman history may not be  helpful for a fast-food burger server.)

What are you doing to help young people explore their career options to make the best possible decisions?

Share with us your experiences!

Key Teamwork Traits

Does hiring the best candidates really produce the best teams?  So many times we find companies bring in superstars who don’t “gel” into a high performance teams, especially in sports.  So what should we be looking for to generate high performing teams?

Google recently conducted a study of its employees to discover the “secrets” to team effectiveness.  Many executives believed that building the best teams meant compiling people with Advanced degrees (e.g., PhD, MBA0 from the best colleges would generate the best teams.  As Julia Rozovsky, Google’s chief analytics manager noted, “we were dead wrong”.

Project Aristotle studied 180 Google teams, conducted 200+ interviews and analyzed over 250 team attributes, over a period of two years – and found no clear pattern of characteristics that could be plugged into a “dream-team” generating algorithm. However, when they switched to psychological and sociological perspective addressing how groups function, five characteristics of enhanced teams emerged, with the last being the most important:

  • Dependability – Team member understand the expectations and get things done on time and meet the performance standards
  • Structure and clarity – High performing teams have clear goals and well-defined roles with the group context.
  • Meaning – each member should be engaged in the group activity through personal and group-goal meaningfulness.
  • Impact – The group as a whole believes their work is purposeful and positively impacts on the greater good.
  • Psychological safety – When group members fear seeming incompetent in front of the group, they hold back questions or ideas. In a culture where there is psychological safety, and managers provide air cover and create safe zones, members are more likely to take risks, voice options and ask judgement-free questions. Google found that teams in “safe environments” were less likely to leave, more likely to harness the power of diversity and ultimately more successful.

As a psychologist with special training in personality, social, organizational, and leadership issues, the findings aren’t surprising.  A successful group is more than the sum of its parts. Employers need to hire people and organize them into existing or new teams and to create new teams. Further, as companies move from traditional hierarchical organizational models to the “network-team model” (which we’ve spoke about in prior blogs), finding people who can flourish in a team-of-teams approach will be essential.

What are your experiences in these areas?  Share insights and questions.

Successful Businesses Solve Personal Annoyances

Helping a colleague launch a new business, we discussed different business models designed to meet customer needs. However in framing the question as to what was needed, we began focusing on the annoyances people experience and how to overcome them, and realized the power of this approach.

For decades, people used taxis and car-services to obtain transportation from place A to B, and assumed because of the demand, most people were happy.  Most people experienced annoyances and no-one did much about them. People had to go out in the rain to hail a cab; once in the cab they weren’t always happy with the accommodations and friendliness of the driver. They didn’t know the final price of the ride in most cases – leading them to stare at the meter; then they had to navigate the pay system. Black car services were better at some things (no need to stand in the rain), but were rarely on-demand and often more expensive.

With a focus on overcoming these annoyances, Uber, Lyft and other such companies stole market share and created a new market from people who were not regular customers.

Similarly, many people hire accountants, insurance agents and attorneys at different parts of their lives and forge relationships with individual members. Providers focus on specific needs and meet them; if they’re sole practitioners or small practices, clients often seek other firm practitioners to meet additional needs. Even if the professional is part of a larger firm, clients often don’t feel an allegiance to use another member, despite the annoyance of having to go to a different office to meet with another ‘specialist”. They’re annoyed with practitioners from different firms don’t coordinate efforts to come up with a customer-centric solution.

Annoyance-reduction can result when attorneys, accountants, financial representatives, etc. aggregate into larger firms. To do so, they need to communicate the value of annoyance-reduction; they need to provide members with incentives to a work as a team to cross-sell and provide great team-service to deliver the benefits of customer-centric service. All too often, practitioners work in “silos” with little real client-centric teamwork.

Take some time to discover the annoyances that your customers experience; take time to understand those that non-customers experience, which stops them from using you. Then improve your business model so new and existing customers feel better about using your service – and recommending it to others they know that experience similar annoyances.

How are you improving your business model to eliminate or reduce annoyances? Share your experiences. sightseeing in nyc

The What, Why & How of Compelling Presentations

Many years ago, we developed a simple formula to help guide presenters to effective presentations: ADAP – Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations. Recently, someone asked us to come up with a simple three question structure for all presentations in which there is a goal of selling an idea, product or service. Here is our What, Why and How formulation.

WHAT – What does the prospect/audience want to know about the issue at hand, which explains why he/she invited you to make the presentation? Answer the questions succinctly: e.g., upgrade the ERP system or replace it with a new one that is more efficient and effective.

WHY – Why does the prospect/audience want this particular presentation?  Today, many presentations don’t lead to an immediate decision. Instead, many players need to learn what’s relevant to their domain – facts, features, benefits – as well as supportive emotions of satisfaction and relief which support the final buying decisions. Therefore, identify the stage of the decision cycle you’re in, and what is the goal (e.g., next step you want the audience to make.  Clarity of why you are making this particular presentation and what the next step (or result) will be, allow you to formulate a compelling value proposition.

HOW – How will you expertly deliver satisfaction for the prospect/audience?? How will you create Trust between the prospect and you, to facilitate being selected? How will working with you be a superior experience compared to other candidates (and there always are some)? And, how will you make sure the presentation is so engaging that the prospect/audience wants to work with you?

Next time you make a presentation, try the What, Why and How formula. Let us know how it works!

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