Archive for July 2015

Professional Suicide by Brilliant Young People With No Soft Skills?

Yesterday Bruce Tulgan wrote an excellent article – What’s the Matter with Kids Today?- and why they lack basic skills. He started this way:

“This first-year associate in a midsized accounting firm, a recent top graduate of a top school, was cutting-edge in his knowledge of a new set of tools and techniques for mining and analyzing data buried within evidentiary documents obtained during pre-litigation discovery. One of the partners said, “This kid had done some projects in school using this new approach and his technical knowledge in this area far surpassed anyone else in the firm. But he kept running into roadblocks because his communication made him seem so immature. At first, he couldn’t get anybody to listen to him. Once we got him going on introducing the new process, I know it sounds petty, but he could barely look people in the eye or string three words together without saying ‘like.’” In short, “His inability to speak in a way that seemed even remotely professional was just rubbing people the wrong way, especially in meetings, though it wasn’t very much better when he was working with people individually.” One of the other partners explained, “We had to send him to a class.” One of the other partners added, “It took a lot more than one class.”

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How Working Outside The Box Can Accelerate Your Career

Are you wondering if doing your MBA might accelerate your career and give it that extra boost? Have you just stopped playing your favourite sport so you can spend the next 2 years studying for an extra qualification that you believe will advance your career? Are you one of those university students who has given up all outside activities, convinced that committing yourself to studying hard for a couple of years is worth it, to get you the results that will see you land a job in one of the Big 4 accounting firms?

If this is you, then this message I’m writing here is especially for you. It is great to have all those technical skills and qualifications, but it is your non-technical skills – your Soft Skills – that can enhance and accelerate your career and often provide the X factor. These are often developed and enhanced in out- of- work activities, not in the workplace or in formal education.

Lydia Dishman wrote an inspiring article recently in Fast Company.com called Four CEOs On How Their Side Jobs Made Them Better Leaders. It’s about how the activities these CEOs engaged in outside of their work, as a firefighter, a rancher, an IT manager, and a start-up mentor, taught them much about leadership and enhanced their roles as CEOs.

The message that Dishman is communicating here is that many of the skills that make us exceptional professionals in our field are best learnt when we involve ourselves in activities that have nothing to do with our work.

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McDonald’s UK Backing Soft Skills

In a ground-breaking research report which sees McDonald’s UK Backing Soft Skills, their value to the UK economy has been highlighted. They have statistics that demonstrate the great importance of Soft Skills in preparing people to work in the present economy, in advancing careers and growing businesses.

The report found that Soft Skills has contributed £88 billion in Gross Value Added to the UK economy every year. It is expected this will grow to £109 billion by 2020.

It also demonstrated that by 2020, 535,000 workers will be significantly disadvantaged in their efforts to gain employment or advance in their chosen professions or industry sectors unless they take seriously the development of their Soft Skills. The annual overall expected loss of production due to Soft Skills deficits is likely to be £8.4 per year by 2020.

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Changing The Performance Appraisal Conversation

In my last blog post, I wrote about Rethinking Performance Appraisals, the ceremonial event of the year for white collar workers in post-industrial economies. I was encouraging you to rethink it and move away from making it the centrepoint of your performance management process.

This blog post follows on from that with some strategies for making the performance appraisal conversation more pro-active and helpful. The strategies you use will either dis-empower and disengage your people, or motivate, inspire and empower them to much fuller engagement and commitment.

The second half of this article – What to do in the Next Year – is about using different processes in your organisation for developing and enhancing the performance of your people, rather than using the traditional annual performance appraisal process.
When you use strategies that empower your people you are more likely to get what you want from them. Criticise them, put them down and dis-empower them and your performance appraisal conversation will back-fire. Be the coach, not the critic and learn the skills to be able to do it.

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Rethinking Performance Appraisals

Performance appraisals are the ceremonial event of the year for white collar workers in every post-industrial economy. They cost a lot of money and produce a mountain of paper work. Managers dread them. Employees resent them.

There is no other business practice that fails so often to bring about the outcomes it sets for itself, but continues to be used year after year.

Some innovative organisations have developed different approaches. Some tinker around the edges, but for most it is fundamentally the same.

It is rare to read an article that says much positive about them, but I did find this one : How Performance Reviews Can Protect You From Unfair Dismissal Claims. I suspect this is the reason so many keep doing them – to cover their backs.

The biggest defect of performance appraisals is their tendency to focus backwards, to feed-backwards, rather than to feed-forward. Performance appraisals “force” you the leaders or managers, into the role of the critic who passes judgement on your team member’s past performance. This is what causes the tension, stress and anxiety that sees few handling it well.

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Sam Walsh, CEO, Wants More Women At Rio Tinto

Rio Tinto is a leading global mining group with a 60,000 strong workforce across 40 countries. 82% of its workforce is male. Sam Walsh, the CEO, wants to change that. In an article in The Australian Financial Review (3/7/15) he says he wants to boost women’s ranks in his organisation. The reason this hasn’t happened to date he places firmly in the court of women themselves.

I want to come back to Sam Walsh with a question. How female friendly is his organisation where 82% of its workforce is male? Has he and Rio Tinto looked internally at what might be stopping women from taking on bigger roles within the organisation? What kind of support would there be for women in such an organisation? Would they have to be women acting like men? Is the culture of Rio Tinto very masculine? Does it enhance the pathways and opportunities for men with gold and those for women with great rocks over which they have to scramble, bruising and bleeding on the way?

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