Posts Tagged ‘Executive Coaching’


Over the past several years, the news has been filled with huge layoffs by companies trying to cut costs. Is this a strategy that really helps a company? Every day, in the course of networking, I have the opportunity to talk with, not only people who are in transition because of cost cutting efforts, but also I have opportunity to talk with people “left behind” after the cost cutting. The story is so often the same. Significant resources of knowledge and skills have left the company, leaving those left behind swimming against a rip current. The more they struggle to make up for lost resources, the further fall behind on objectives. They are asked to do more and more, all with decreasing efficiencies and effectiveness. Managers are looking to leave the company because they no longer have the assets in place to meet the demands for the company to succeed.

In a corporate environment, every person in the company, through the tasks and projects they work on, needs to contribute in a way that they are helping the company do one of three things:

  1. Help the company generate revenue
  2. Help the company reduce costs
  3. Help the company mitigate risks

If an employee is not doing this to a degree greater than their annual cost, it really doesn’t make sense for the company to be paying them. The company should not wait for a crisis to let go of underperforming employees. Typically, companies expect to cost savings or revenue generation 3 to 5 times the cost of the employee. If the employee is achieving this success, it NEVER makes sense to cut the employee to save costs.

Does your company understand the true value brought by your employees? Is your company costing itself more by trying to reduce employee costs?

Last week I discussed the best way to get around the salary question for online applications is to stop relying on online applications and pursue the hidden job market. This makes sense not only to get around the salary question, and the general road block of HR, but also because 80% of the truly open jobs are in the hidden job market. Before we go any further, what is the hidden job market? It is not that the jobs are buried somewhere hidden. It is any opportunity that is not currently posted on the job boards. This can consist of jobs that are in the still in the internal candidate search process, jobs that are in the process of being defined, or opportunities to solve problems that have yet to be identified in a job description. Your success in this depends on a purposeful strategy with a clearly defined goal of where you want to go. In the words of Yogi Berra:

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.”

Start off creating a list of Target Companies based, not on jobs posted, but on your passions and interests. While not all companies have job openings, all companies have problems. In order to differentiate yourself from the masses of job seekers, you need to position yourself as a solution, not a job seeker. In order to position yourself as a solution you need to know the problems and headaches of your target companies. In order to understand the problems, you need to research your target companies. Finally in order to research your target companies, you need to have target companies.

Once you have your list of target companies, begin your research, identifying their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. You can find a few resources here.

From here you are in a position to produce industry wide special reports which are great keys to get you in the door for information meetings. Use these as a launch-pad for a social media campaign to establish your reputation as a thought leader and subject matter expert in your particular niche. Simultaneously, you need to network network network. This doesn’t mean just attend a ton of networking event collecting business cards to put on your desk. Strategically and purposefully engage in professional organizations taking positions on committees and boards, so that you can work on a professional level with influential people in your target industry. For your success in the hidden job market, it is not necessarily what you know, or even what you know, but who knows you, and what their perception is of you that will maximize your career opportunities.

How are you strategically researching your target companies and spreading your reputation as a subject matter expert or thought leader in your particular niche?

Last week in my blog, I discussed how HR’s question of “What are your salary requirements?” is counterproductive to finding the best employees to achieve the objectives and missions of the position they are trying to fill. Regardless of this fact, there is one thing you can almost guarantee. HR managers interviewing you will try to force the issue so that they can either eliminate you or pin you to a number so you lose any negotiating leverage. So how do you handle this? There are several issues to consider, and prepare for so that you can successfully navigate this area of the interview.

The first issue to resolve is, you need to know what your range is that you are looking for. While it should be irrelevant to the company what you need, you need to know for your own protection what your market value is. There are two components of knowing your market value:

  • Based on the objectives of the position, and based on your past achievements, what are you contributing to the success of the company? The best way to understand this is to look at your accomplishments in your past, and what did these contribute to previous companies in terms of helping the company generate revenue, reduce costs, or mitigate risks. Many professionals list these up in accomplishment statements often referred to as an acronym such as PARs – Problem, Action and Results. Identifying and understanding your previous accomplishments will help you understand your value to a company.
  • Research industry and function ranges for positions similar to the ones you are applying for. This will help you in responding to salary questions and also justifying your range you have determined for yourself.

In the interview itself, when HR asks this screening question, your goal is to defer this discussion until after both parties have determined that there is a good fit and they are prepared to offer the position. There are several ways to do this, and the key is to answer in a rational and non confrontational manner, along the lines of:

“There are so many components that go into my decision process of choosing a job, and salary is just one part. Once we determine that I am the best candidate to achieve the objectives of the position, I am extremely confident you will be able to offer a mutually beneficial and market competitive compensation package.”

If they do not accept this, but still press you, you can respond with:

I appreciate that you do not want to waste anyone’s time. What is the range you have budgeted for this position?” If they give you the range, you repeat the highest number and then be quiet.

If they still insist you give them a number, you can say something like:

Based on my current understanding of the position, objectives and expectations, I would expect the salary to be in the range of ______ to _______, which is within industry standards.”

Keep in mind that when interviewing, you are dealing with human beings. The only thing predictable about responses is that they will be unpredictable. While these types of responses are very effective in many cases, they do not always work. In addition, these are responses to salary questions early on in the interview process, and completely separate from negotiations at the time of an offer.

Finally, keep in mind that companies and HR are trying to commoditize employees and candidates. While this may make their job easier, as stated last week, it does not make their job more effective or efficient. The best way to get around this commoditization is to not approach as a job seeker but as a problem, and network your way in through informational meetings.

I am looking forward to getting your feedback.

A common theme of my blogs as well as workshops is that companies, for the most part view employees and prospective employees as liabilities instead of assets, or commodities instead of equity that bring additional value to the company. The other day I was talking with a client about the many types of experiences and skills that she possesses. It hit me that these were like the many facets of a valuable diamond, and each contribute to the value of her diamond. So rather than being viewed as coal that just gets burned up and consumed by a company, demonstrate your value and make yourself the diamond that brings equity to the company. What are you doing to know, understand and be able to articulate your many aspects that create significant value for your employer or prospective employer? Target companies that can leverage your facets to solve their most pressing issues and gain advantage over the competition. Remember, you are the diamond bringing value, not coal to be burned and consumed by the company.

Often in the course of my networking, I run into job seekers that are unwittingly hampering their job search. An effective job search consists of much more than submitting resumes to jobs found on the job board. The objective is to find and be found. The problem is, so many people are so concerned about their privacy that they are hampering their job search.

For example, Joe Jobseeker is really working the job boards, sending out dozens of resumes a week. However he is tired of getting bombarded with un-solicited e-mail, so he signs up with an e-mail verification service. Now unknown people cannot send Joe e-mail, unless they register with the service. The problem is, when Laura Recruiter happens to see Joe’s resume among the hundreds of prospects, and she tries to send an e-mail to contact him, she suddenly needs to take additional steps to contact him. Will she jump through hoops to contact Joe, or pass on him and go to the next? How many opportunities have you missed that you do not know about?

While I advise job seekers not to have their physical address on any resume posted online, make yourself easily accessible by both e-mail and phone. E-mail addresses are free through services such as Google Mail, Hotmail and Yahoo Mail. Choose a professional e-mail address using your name, and avoid adding numbers that will indicate your age. You want to make it easy for people to not only find you, but contact you.

What do you do? How do you answer this question? Most people I talk to respond by giving their title. When giving an elevator pitch, most people name tasks that they perform on the job, often giving a laundry list. When I ask an IT manager what they do, they might talk about implementing and or maintaining systems for a company. They may talk about particular architectures or programs that they have expertise in, but all this does is brand people as a commodity. It does nothing to demonstrate their value. What is the value of implementing a new system? What does that system do for the company? How are employees able to improve performance with the new system? Does the system actually achieve the goals that were envisioned? Was the system implemented on time and under budget? What were the skills (hard and soft) that you used to achieve your results? What were the actions that you took leading to the results? These are the types of questions that need to be answered so that you can articulate your value. Any work an employee does needs to do one of three things for the company. It needs to help the company generate revenue, help the company save costs, or help the company mitigate risks. If your work is not doing any of these, there is no reason for a company to pay your salary. By understanding the value your work or projects bring to a company, you have an ability to start articulating what value you can bring to a prospective employer. You are no longer a commodity, but you are a value added solution.

What does shooting free throws have to do with your job search and interview preparation? Most job seekers take their skills, knowledge about their industry of function and ability to talk about them for granted. They figure, “I have been doing this for x number of years, and I already know it”. Well I have been playing basketball my whole life. I grew up playing hours upon hours every day. I literally shot over 100 free throws every day. In high school, I never shot less than 86%. In recent years, I do not play as often, and my shot gets very rusty. However, with a little practice, my shot comes back pretty quickly. Today I played basketball with my son. It was the first time in a couple of weeks that I played, and my shot showed. I don’t think I shot 30% on my free throws! I know basketball very well. I know the mechanics of shooting free throws. However without the regular practice, my muscle memory had diminished, and I was stiff on my free throws. The same thing can be said of practicing for interviews. If we are not practicing every day, our answers are stiff, and we are much more prone to shoot an air ball. Athletes from high school thru professional practice every day. Is this because they do not know how to play? No, it is because they want their actions to be second nature. When you are working, you are doing your work every day, and it becomes second nature. The same thing applies to your job search. If you are in transition, your full time job is your job search. One of the most important parts of your job search is your interview. You need to be training and practicing every day. Here are 5
ways to help you do this.

  1. Put your power stories on index cards, with associated skills on the back side. Practice these every day! When you go to a coffee meeting, take out two or three and ask the person you are networking with to practice interviewing with you.
  2. Write down the most common questions, and script out your answers. (Two examples are: “Tell me about yourself.” and “Why should I hire you instead of the 15 other qualified candidate we are interviewing?” Once you are comfortable with the answer, write it down on an index card and practice it every day.
  3. Identify your perceived liabilities, and script out a response to questions about these.
  4. Take opportunities to do mock interviews, and if possible video tape them.
  5. Schedule your practice time at least 30 minutes every day into your calendar.

When you have an opportunity for an interview, you have put in a lot of work to get there. There are a lot of other qualified candidates. Do not waste the opportunity! Make sure you have put in the training for the interview so that you do not shoot an air ball when the game is on the line. Nothing is sweeter than the sound of the ball touching nothing but net in the clutch.