Thursday, February 25, 2010

Am I What I Am? Or, Am I What I Do?

Over the last decade, research has shown that young professionals choose where they live based on quality-of-life before career. With our difficult economic times, no one can predict accurately how that might have changed, if at all. But, the actions of the next generation workforce raise a good question: What if professionals decided to do what they are rather than what the market tells them to do? In this economy, and especially as an executive, there is little room for error. However, there should be room for both using our experiences to expand our areas of expertise, and to develop critical skills, which might have atrophied over the years. Consider it a "me improvement" project, one that could save your career.

In an article in the June 2009 issue of The Career Development Quarterly entitled, “Adaptable Careers: Maximizing Less and Exploring More,” the authors (van Vianen, De Pater and Preenen) state:
Career adaptability rather than decision making should become the focal concept of career theory and practice.

They are in agreement with H.B. Gelatt, a career and organization development professional who advocated a “positive uncertainty” framework, which says we need to become positive, comfortable and confident in the face of uncertainty, rather than allow ourselves to become pigeon-holed into a specific career or market sector. As executives, we can do this by making sure we still have the full compliment of skills we need in a 21st Century career marketplace.

As an example, imagine the primary tool of an experienced chef, the knife. If it’s not sharpened regularly, it’s of as little use to him/her as a sledgehammer would be and can make things messy. Similarly, if we pay no attention to honing our skills, they become just as useless and can make a mess of our career.

According to a recent survey (U.S. Hiring Forecast, Q1-2010), nearly 40% of employers are looking to release underperforming staff and replace them with higher performers. Whether or not you’re one of the fortunate majority, you need to take stock of your skills and abilities, and you can start by asking yourself four questions:

 What do I do best?
 What am I expected to do?
 How do I bridge the gap?
 Do I even want to bridge the gap?

The answers to these questions will lead you to a place where you can determine your future path and create a plan for achievement. If you weren’t able to answer one or more of these questions, or weren’t able to answer them to your satisfaction, then it should be like looking at a path cut through the deepest snowdrift; you know where you need to go and what you need to do.

So, what’s more important? Making a concrete career decision to cement you into a certain market sector or career path and hoping you can keep up with the Jones’? Or, improving your marketable and transferable skills to adapt to a volatile job market? If recent published theory is correct, then let’s get ready to start a little “me improvement” project.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How the President Can Regain the Upper Hand

I was working out at the Y yesterday when I saw this:

Scott Brown's Fair Game; His Truck Isn't - Neil Cavuto | Your World -

I met Neil Cavuto a few years ago at the Iowa League of Cities annual convention. A very nice guy and very smart. A politico I used to work for really didn't care for him much, but this post isn't about's about the President and how he could regain the upper hand, both for his agenda and for the Democrat party.

I remember the "arugula incident" Cavuto refers to. It was eerily similar to then-Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis' suggestion during the farm crisis that Iowa farmers consider raising alternative crops, including...wait for it....wait for it...Belgian Endive. Yeah...remember that one? Don't get me wrong! Belgian endive has a wonderful place in our menus and tummies, but regardless of if it's Belgian endive or arugula, it smacks of elitism. Whether you're a gravy sopper or into fine dining, if you are at all into politics, you know that you need to keep the "touch" and understand the plight of the "common man."

Here's where President Obama has fallen away from the people who elected him. While stumping recently for Massachusetts Senate candidate, Martha Coakley, President Obama said, referring to Scott Brown's now iconic pickup truck, "Anybody can own a truck." Really. Really?

Just like President Bush needed to, President Obama needs to get out from behind his phalanx of advisers and "yes men" to re familiarize himself with the people. I, like many other people can't own a truck right now. And even for the people who could own a truck, with the price of gas and the high unemployment rates...Mr. President, and I say this in a completely not-Keith Olbermann way, we are not all millionaires like you and your wife. So, since he finds himself struggling through the implementation of his agenda, then he need to do himself a favor and follow this plan:

1. Get out of DC and meet with real people who aren't handpicked by toadies. If he wants to know what's resonating with people and what is unnerving them, ask them. People will talk to President Obama, because he has a very easy way about him, and they'll tell him the truth.

A few years ago, I got a call from the staff member of a national politician about setting up a town hall meeting. I offered a location, which spoke to the issues they wanted to bring forward, and even a list of people they should have there to speak the truth about the issues. Nope. The staff member didn't want the truth, but simply a photo-op in a 100% controlled environment. I understand the need to have control, but national level politicians don't rise to that level by not being savvy.

2. Listen to people about the issues, and consider doing what they want. President Obama walked away from the people who led him to the White House, and started paying more attention to Congressional leaders. This caused him to get lost in the wilderness and amongst him staff. Instead of hearing the real words of real people, he become caught up in the echo chamber.

It's been clear that the massive health care proposal brought forward on behalf of the President (because he was apparently too busy to prepare his own package, and left it to Pelosi and Reid), was a no go from the beginning. But instead of making it clear he was listening to the people, he and his staff (mostly in the form of Robert Gibbs and Anita Dunn) derided those opposed to his agenda, and minimized their ideas. The fringe left who voted for Obama expected this reaction, however, the average person who voted for him didn't. He has now lost their ear because he never offered his ear to them. President Obama should know that you can't ignore the people and expect to pass any meaningful legislation or even get re-elected.

3. Get off the television and react appropriately to different situations. He's been everywhere, all the time. People are paying more attention to the President and the presidency than they ever have. Because he's constantly making statements in front of a camera, making speeches in front of home crowds, and are seemingly omnipresent, he minimizes the value of his presence and the power of his words. In addition to this, the President should change his communications team...completely. It's important for him to get someone who can handle the day-to-day communications duties appropriately as well as not antagonize the media.

Odds are the President won't do anything at all. He seems to be comfortable moving forward from where he is. And I've never seen so many people...offering their advice and suggestions, only to be ignored. The President ignores this advice at the peril of his agenda.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Senator Ford? And from New York?

I came across this column from The New Republic regarding the Junior Senate seat in NY.

I have always liked the style with which former US Rep. (D-TN now NY) Harold Ford, Jr. worked in Congress. He has been a very quiet and effective operator for years, not necessarily bombastic and hyperbolic. Apparently, Ford is considering a run for Senate in NY, against Gov. Paterson's pick, Kristin Gillibrand. Sen. Gillibrand was a member of the US House, and was chosen by Paterson to fill the seat of former Senator Hillary Clinton when she was appointed to be Secretary of State.

If I were a NY Democrat, Harold Ford, Jr. would get my primary vote...but he may not make it that far. Apparently, the President has different designs on this seat. This Son of Chicago certainly involves himself in a lot of NY State politics, doesn't he? Anyway...please step out, Mr. President, and let the best candidate step forward.

Educational Maneuvers in the Dark

Maybe I'm not paying attention, but this seems like a strange way to select curriculum.

It's the same old saw...when it's political, there's problems. How's about this...teach history...and let them teach history...and read about history. Both sides of the aisle, all vantage points, and let the locals control the curriculum!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Associated Press calls out Wyclef Jean's "Yele" Foundation

Here's a good example of investigative reporting. The Associated Press tells the story via the SFGate.

I wonder whether Wyclef will be co-hosting Clooney's telethon...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

There are many ways people can contribute and help in sending relief to Haiti. The reason I'd like you to consider Presbyterian Disaster Assistance as your vehicle to contribute through. The Red Cross is a great organization, and I think everyone will agree on that. However, my church and my community has seen the benefit of PDA through continued flood relief efforts here.

They do good work here, they will do good work there, and will also bring something desperately on the ground amongst Haitians.