Thursday 29 December 2011 at 1:11 pm
The Charles Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities has sold over 200 million copies. It is required reading in most high school English classes. It is a classic. I read it when I was in high school as I am sure many have. Let me refresh your recollection. The book uses the French Revolution for its plot and the two cities are London and Paris. The main theme of the book is about resurrection. There are a number of famous quotes from the story that most have heard but may not have attributed to Dickens. For example:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
Dickens wrote this in 1859 and to me it could have been written about 2011. I think many would agree. However, it is a timeless quote as the same could be said about most years, including 2012 which has not yet begun. What got me thinking about this quote was an article in DealB%K titled The Worst C.E.O.'s of 2011 by Sydney Finklestein, author of "Why Smart Executives Fail".
As each year ends there are a lot of lists that get published. Usually they are in two categories. One is always titled the "Best" and the other of course titled the "Worst". Regardless of what the list represents sometimes people have been mentioned on both lists mainly in different years. This fits the theme of "resurrection" from A Tale of Two Cities perfectly. Life is a series of ups and downs, wisdom and foolishness, good and evil, light and darkness, hope and despair, plenty and want, good choices and bad, and were it not for resurrections all would be lost.
Thursday 15 December 2011 at 1:28 pm
I read the following quote in the Wall Street Journal attributed to Bruce Lee that "the best sparring partner is a madman who goes all out." It was a reference to the Republican Primary candidates, preparing to go up against the heavy weight contender (to continue the boxing metaphor) the incumbent President of the United States, Barack Obama, by poking and jabbing one another mercilessly. There are many who are tired of the attacks but they are part of the process. Whether it is politics, business or whatever being a leader is not for the faint of heart or those who cannot take or give a punch.
The reference to a sparring partner made me think of the sparring matches that occurred in various executive and board meetings I have participated. Some were knock down drag out matches complete with round houses, upper cuts, jabs, and low blows. Some were looking to win on points while others clearly were going for the knockout punch. Many of the matches were stopped in order for the cut man to repair the damages. I am not a big fan of extreme cage challenges. I prefer a more strategic, business approach to destroying my opponent. Batter them with irrefutable facts that send them back to their corner stunned. However, they donít remain in the corner, but come out fighting before the bell rings and you have time to put your guard up. They flat out deny the facts are facts and continue to hammer their point.
As much as Corporate America values confrontation most organizations don't know how to engage in constructive confrontation. As if there is such a thing. There are books and consultants who will tell you confrontation is a good thing and they will even tell you how to do it skillfully. Such as look for common ground, focus on listening, and gain cooperation all the while a madman (Bruce Lee's word) is going all out. Fighters don't win by being defensive but they do have to protect themselves. There is a difference. They must be aggressive but not wild.
I had a friend who was a boxing golden glove winner. He went into the Army and was training to spend his time boxing. One day he was in the ring with a fellow competitor. My friend was more skilled and was winning the fight on points when he got hit with a punch that sent him to the canvas for a ten count. He was stunned. How could this happen? Clearly, he was the better boxer. It so shattered my friend's confidence that he quit boxing. Here is the lesson. When engaging in conflict you need to "float like a butterfly but sting like a bee." (Muhammad Ali)
Monday 12 December 2011 at 2:00 pm
Whether you are currently employed or in transition, there is nothing more encouraging then an unexpected phone call or email from someone in your network or an executive recruiter asking you to consider a job opportunity. You are flattered that someone is interested in you. These surprise calls or emails immediately get your adrenaline flowing. Albeit, your interest and their interest may be short-lived once the job opportunity is described. Nevertheless, the encounter no matter how brief is a morale booster.
Such inquires can be a source of encouragement and disappointment. However, it beats the alternative that no one is thinking about you. I recently received the below email. You may have received something similar. I always read them and found this one humorous. Below is the redacted version.
Sent: Wednesday, December 07, 2011 6:49 PM
Subject: Job opportunity, ID: R03217...
Let me introduce you a new work offer. We have reviewed your personal information, and determined - you are the right person to become our employee in our mail department.
If you are interested, please reply to ...@gmail.com
Ok it reads like one of those emails where you inherited 10 million dollars and all you need to do is provide your banking information. You delete it and move on. But I was pleased that someone thought my executive experience qualified me to work in a mail department. Thatís the place where many executives have started so it seems right to run full circle.
I like out of the blue inquiries since they are unforeseen, unanticipated, happen at unexpected times and are not by accident. That's right, they occur because someone told someone about you. Recruiters rarely cold call a candidate without a referral. That referral can be from a human being or through a social network like LinkedIn or Facebook, etc. These sudden calls and emails serve as a reminder that nothing happens out of the blue. It takes a great network. One that is robust and diverse.
A network is more than the number of people you know. Although it helps if a lot of people know you. However, it is not about the numbers. In theory, through my LinkedIn network I am connected to over 7 million professionals. That is a lot of ears to listen for opportunities. But how many of those ears are actually listening for me, for you? If you are having trouble coming up with a number consider this. How many people are you listening for opportunities? The answer is most likely only a few. So that's the answer to how many are listening for you, just a few. But that is okay. A network is not a popularity contest. I know people who limit the number of people they follow on Twitter because they know they can't focus on everyone. That is true about people in your network. So, what is the right number of people to have in your network?
In my opinion, the answer is as many as you want. However, if you don't want them to be just names in a social network phonebook then you need to be "connected." Write a blog (like this one), a newsletter, update your social network sites, tweet, send emails, and the old fashioned way, meet people for lunch, coffee, etc. Use your imagination.
LinkedIn has an interesting statistic. They can tell you how many times your profile turned up in a search in the last 7 days. Ever wonder why your profile appeared 30 times in a search and no one contacted you? By the way, all of my out of the blue experiences were the result of people in my network and I got some really cool job opportunities. Some of them I took and I don't think I am unique in this experience.