Don’t Confuse Credentials with Effectiveness

Since I worked on Capitol Hill decades ago, I find “inappropriate indicators” – criteria or benchmarks people use to make judgments that should not be used for those purposes – interesting; I’ve shared a few in past blogs, here’s one related to Job Performance Success.

Too many executives focus on academic background – schools and grades – when hiring new workers, even though behavioral assessments are much more predictive. This includes experiences demonstrating skills (to perform the strategic activities key to the job) and ability to work well co-workers and clients (to fit into your culture). Topgrading by Bradford Smart is an excellent approach to how to choose the right predictive indicators for successful recruitment.

In December, 2014 the White House held an early childhood education Summit to launch two new federal competitive programs: the Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships (to increase the availability of high-quality infant and toddler care) and The Preschool Development grants (to expand preschool programs in disadvantaged communities). Katharine Stevens’ op-ed on it in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention because (1) I coordinated the first evaluation of the needs for handicapped children to get Head Start Services (which led to the funding of a model program and eventual incorporation of the children in all programs) and believe strongly in such programs and (2) its title Here Come the Child-Care Cops (Dec. 12, 2014).

Grants were announced at the Summit, as well as the conditions winners must meet to get them.
The Early Head Start-Child Care Partners will find that their funding is subject to federal monitoring to ensure “compliance with 2400 Head Start ‘Performance Standards’, stipulating everything from staff qualifications to cot placement to how to clean potties.”

The Preschool Development Grants similarly seek high quality care by dictating staff qualifications and class size – rather than good outcomes, such as improved knowledge and skills. It requires that all preschool teachers have Bachelor’s degrees (in any field) to ensure a “qualified workforce”. The true measure should be whether the caretakers are effective. Does having a Bachelor’s degree make a pre-school teacher more effective?

Research by Robert Pianta and Bridget Hamre at the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Research on Teaching and Learning found that “what counts isn’t what degrees teachers have but how they teach. That’s especially critical in early childhood when interactions between teachers and students, not content knowledge, is what drives success.”

Teacher quality and pay should be defined by effectiveness in the classroom, not credentials. Attending college, per se, may not provide essential skills needed to teach young children. Those skills are best learned through specialized training combined with on-the-job[practice under the supervision of an expert teacher.

Focusing on the academic degree allows program officials to claim they raised teacher quality, without actually doing so. What it will do is increase the cost of programs – as current pre-school teachers without college degrees have to go back to school to get them (estimated at $23 Billion for 300,000 teachers) –and require that someone enforce this new provision at each childcare program! (For this reason, Ms. Stevens entitled her article: Here Come the Child-Care Cops. See it for more details.)

So, once again, using inappropriate indicators may not produce the desired results. By becoming more attuned to the danger of using them, we can focus on truly predictive ones. Do you have examples of inappropriate indicators? Share them.

Is Lack of Self-Awareness Hurting You And Your Company?

According to a recent report by Korn Ferry, lack of self-awareness is damaging to your personal and corporate growth. Self-awareness is not a soft skill; it’s about leader effectiveness and plays out on your bottom line. Here are some interesting findings from David Zes and Dana Landis’ study A Better Return on Self-Awareness which analyzed 6977 self-assessments from professionals at 486 public companies to identify “blind spots” – disparities between self-reported skills and peer ratings. (It was reported by Kevin Cashman in he May 2014 issue of Leadership Excellence Essentials.)

  • Public companies who had higher rates of return (ROR) also had more professionals exhibiting higher levels of self-awareness.
  • Poorly performing companies’ employees had 20% more blind spots than those working at financially strong companies.
  • People with fewer blindspots had improved performance and greater satisfaction.

Why is this important for leaders? Because when we’re not self-aware people around us have a better sense of our strengths and weaknesses than we do, we lose credibility with them.

So to be a more effective leader, check your Emotional Intelligence (EQ). These tests focus on both self-awareness and how we relate to others. Both are important. Many times when I see leaders take the tests the focus is on how they relate to others, but these findings suggest it would be wise to focus internally as well – since we have greater control over changing our own level of awareness to avoid blind spots. It’s also something a good coach, such as your Vistage Chair can help you address!


If you’ve taken EQ tests and focused on improving your level of self-awareness, share your experiences!

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Positive and Negative Opinion Leadership – It’s Not The Same.

I’m writing this from Shanghai where I’m a Visiting Professor. I watched a fascinating show on the use of Big Data to understand why some of the companies have rebounded from the Fukiyama Nuclear disaster and others haven’t. For those of you (who like me are) interested in big data, see the video produced by NHK World.

One element was not about analyzing the data on patterns with phone calls, twitters, computer connections, etc. but on Opinion Leadership. After the disaster, many people stopped eating food grown in the area. The question was what would determine when people would encourage others to return to eating the fruit because it was now being grown in healthy soil. The specific question involved peaches.

To get to the answer, they monitored tweets by opinion leaders – defined as people who were providing tweets that were re-tweeted. (FYI: I’ve been interested in opinion leadership and the adoption of innovations (or changes) since I studied it and used it as one of the bases for my Ph.D. dissertation on patterns of birth control use by teenage women.)  What they discovered is that the number of re-tweets for positive and negative information was about the same. But the sources were different! Positive comments (e.g., healthy peaches were now available and good to eat) was tweeted by one person and then re-tweeted several times by other people. In contrast, negative comments (e.g., I would never eat any peaches grown near Fukiyama) were tweeted by a person and then re-tweeted with additional comments several times by the same person. So analysis of re-tweets requires that you study the sources!

They actually traced one negative tweeter who after 2 years began tweeting positive comments. She admitted to having really negative opinions and wanted to share them actively, hence re-tweeting her own information. Then she had the chance to visit a farm and learned about the steps taken to make the food healthy. She tasted the peaches and loved them.  She then began tweeting about her new perspective – and the retweets of her comments followed the traditional pattern. After making a few positive comments – other people’s re-tweets, rather than her own accounted for the new retreats.

As you can see, how we influence people is different, and even big data may allow us to tap more effectively into this process.   Share your experiences with re-tweets, opinion leadership and big data!

Internships and Apprenticeships

Mentor Our Kids advocates increasing the quantity and quality of internships by all companies in order to give students more information about which careers make sense for them by applying what they’ve learned in school, stretching themselves and learning about the workplace.

Many schools around the world, including MBA and other graduate programs require internships as part of their curriculum. While these 100% programs also can be improved, they are not our current focus. We’re focus on the internships that mostly high school and college students voluntarily seek out – because they’re smart enough to understand the benefit of the opportunity – though not all deliver on the promise of a mentoring experience. (These are the focus of discussion for people who believe that students should be paid for their internship experiences.)

However, at this moment I want to address a third option – the apprenticeships. As Lauren Weber recently noted in a Wall Street Journal article (April 28, 2014 R3), these programs offer another excellent way to close the skills gap that afflicts the US at this time. “It’s a great model for transferring skills from one generation to the other,” notes John Ladd, Director of the Department of Labor’s Office of Apprenticeships. Yet, formal programs that combine on-the-job learning with mengtorships and classroom education fell 40% in the US between 2003 and 2013!

What a shame.  Not every young person wants to go to college for an undergraduate degree which allegedly is a passport to white collar jobs. Some people prefer using their hands and applying them to great and lucrative careers including electricians, heating/AC, plumbing, and other construction trades. While the blue-collar image may be looked down by some people it can be very rewarding. One member of my Vistage group notes that he’s desperate to find new people for his plumbing/HVAC firm. The average worker can earn $50K by year two and if they are great communicators, can help sell jobs and earn six-figure incomes!   But finding people is virtually impossible.

The article refers to a number of innovative programs in several states; there are a few in New York where I’m based – but they are too few. “We’re projecting worker shortages in healthcare and advanced manufacturing,” says Karen Morgan, director of Wisconsin’s Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards.

Great apprenticeship programs provide the mentoring necessary for career success. Mentor Our Kids believes we need to give it a higher national and local priority. Find out what you can do to help encourage these opportunities as well.  Share with us your thoughts on how we can provide more apprenticeships and mentoring internships!

More Presentation Tips

Carmine Gallo’s Talk Like TED (he also wrote The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs) reminded me to share with you some of the tips that both of us share with our clients. His book is in sync with our underlying ADAP principle of presentations – Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations.

Great presentations are:

  • Emotional conversations. Many presenters think that the key is facts; while they are essential, influence takes place when the “heart” of the audience has been won. As a famous judge once noted, key decisions often are based on the emotions – how you feel about a situation and then rationalized by the “facts”. I recently coached a debate that had to defend a position; Rather than just share a lot of facts, I had the team translate many into case studies so the judges could identify with people and understand how economic development actually affects their lives. While the presenters actually had a weaker case, they won, because the stories touched the heart.
  • Informative – offering the audience something new. All too often presentations restate facts already known by the audience – which reduces their willingness to listen and absorb. The key is to provide valuable new information consistent with t he decision you want the listener to make. Related to this is the passion of the speaker. Passion energizes the speaker to make a succinct, focused presentation because he/she wants to talk about the things that are most important to the audience (informative). At the same time, an emotional conversation is taking place because the listener pick up on the passion and unconsciously rates the material as probably being much more important.
  • Memorable – presenting content in ways that are so interesting that I’ll want to share it with others.  Too many presenters think that the more information they present, the more likely that “something will stick”; just the opposite: less is more. TED talks are only 18 minutes in length. I know of another organization that limits the presentation to 10 minutes! Reducing the presentation to such strict time limits means that the presenter has to think through a WINning (What’s Important Now) formula,  leave out what’s not critical to the decision, and present it so the person can retell the “story” to others whose support is needed to make the decision.  Most people recall the stories they heard as children, because they weave together facts, emotions and audience interest in hearing the resolution.

If you’re not a great story teller, work on that skill the next time you have a presentation to deliver. Stories paint pictures which allow you to visualize the situation. The best business presentations and the best TED Talks keep bullet points, text and graphs to a minimum, and instead focus on capturing attention with a visual picture which forces the person to link the important facts to it in order to remember it.  Think of a spiral staircase. To do so, you bring lots of facts concerning the staircase to bear (e.g., height, width, composition, internal vs. external, etc.). Remembering the picture will be a lot easier than remembering all the individual features


If you have any questions about presentations, share them with us, and we’ll address then in our next “tips” blog

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