March 2004

Volume X Number 1  

New Beginnings: Entry Into the New Job


A recent request for a proposal to provide services to senior executives who will lose positions as a result of a merger asked several career transition firms to describe their points of difference.


There are several ways G&S approaches our clients differently. Some are straightforward, such as access to private office space or the benefit of the 40 years combined experience of my colleague Fred Ball and me in coaching senior executives.


The more subtle way -- but a significant difference, however --  is that we approach clients as ongoing friends and network contacts.  In my previous (going-on ten years ago!) position, I was told by my first boss (who was a clinical psychologist) that, were I to see a former client on the street or at a social gathering, I should not greet them first.  The reason for this was that I had been present at a time of “post trauma,” which the client had a right to “repress.” As a result, after a client “graduated” (we actually used that term!), they were lost.


Many of you reading this know that I no longer believe in “graduation.” This newsletter is an ongoing attempt to stay connected with you.  At G&S, we try to help strategize with clients about how to successfully enter into their new situation, and we want to have conversations after the first one-, three-, and six-month intervals, as well as help prepare them for the first, usually yearly, performance appraisal.


This week, I helped Kyle strategize his action plan for the first month on his new job at a publishing firm. His most important focus was on meeting the expectations of Joe, his new boss. The top three priorities should be very clear -- and in this case, Joe’s were.  He wanted Kyle to spend time in the three locations where his reports managed groups; connect with the group publishers, who are Kyle’s peers; and become acquainted with the corporate controllers also crucial to Kyle’s success.  Kyle developed a written detailed timeline-work plan, which he shared with Joe.  Joe was so pleased with  Kyle’s initiative that he agreed to Kyle’s request for a week off before starting -- and even put him on payroll for that week.


I ask clients to call me the Friday afternoon of their first week, and the range of ease-of-entry never fails to amaze me.  Philip, after one week, had not once met with his boss.  He had been sent to an operating unit for a meeting on Wednesday, and no one had explained procedures for travel or expenses. This was a Fortune 500 company.


Ann, starting in a global bank, was given a tour and introduced by her boss, who arranged several meetings with peers and a lunch with her four direct reports.  She was introduced to support people, had business cards waiting on her desk, and received a complete systems walkthrough from the computer helpdesk coordinator.  She was so much more settled by Friday than Philip.  I couldn’t help thinking that her productivity was already higher, and I look forward to talking with her at month’s end.


We try to provide a real service when we ask objective questions about new job progress.  I often use the phrase “all I know is what you’re telling  me” when giving feedback to a client, since I have not met any of the people at the new company, but sometimes I am able to bring the “forest” perspective to someone who is a bit overwhelmed by the “trees.”

Networking: What Goes Around, Comes Around


I recently joined Charlie and several of his friends for lunch; one of my clients in 1984 and now a partner in a consulting firm, Charlie organizes these networking lunches on a regular basis.  The folks there included a Big Four accounting partner, the CEO of an insurance company, a senior pharmaceutical executive, and an owner of a large apparel company. I realized afterwards that, through Charlie, all of us have been helpful to each other over the years.  They have referred business to me that I never would have received were it not for my friend -- and my former client -- Charlie.  While I always enjoy helping people with their careers, I enjoy the mutuality of the ongoing network of friendship as much, if not more. 




Email as a Communications Medium


The recent Martha Stewart case focused attention on the use of email to communicate information -- or, in the case of the broker’s assistant, emotion in his elation at trumping Martha. What is fascinating to me is, unlike phone conversations, where the law requires advance notification of recording, emails are always available, and, when put into hard copy form, can have a life of their own.


I have cautioned clients, particularly the younger job seekers who live 24/7 on the computer, to remember to review carefully any transmission that is job-related not just for net-slang and spelling shortcuts, but for the tone and potential for misreading. Phone conversations and voice-mail can also have problems, but I find much less potential for serious misunderstanding. 


Because I never learned to type, emailing is somewhat of a torture, since, unlike most everyone else, I can’t input the data as fast as I can think.  This results, as those of you who have received one knows, in short emails.  I have clients who must hit over 100 words per minute. At that speed, they produce stream of consciousness, which is okay with me, but not in a formal business situation, where you always want to model the behavior the person would want in an employee.


We all need to know more about the business uses of email from the consumer's view: how people decide to use email rather than other methods of communication; when they pattern their responses -- at intervals or at the same time; and other research findings. I look forward to a good book about email and would appreciate any of your recommendations. 




Books I’d Recommend


Career Warfare by David F. D’Alessandro, McGraw-Hill, New York, 2004, $21.95.


Thanks in part to the popularity of The Apprentice, Donald Trump’s version of “Management for Dummies,” I was interested to see what the CEO of John Hancock and author of Brand Warfare would come up with in the way of advice on “building a successful personal brand.”


This is an uncomplicated, highly personal book.  It would make a great graduation present for someone about to become “The Apprentice.”  For example, “Hard work and accomplishments are necessary.  But they probably will not set you apart from your peers. In fact, the biggest mistake you can make is to assume that organizations are rational, and that success will proceed in a rational manner.  Organizations are not rational.”


D’Alessandro’s comments on handling bosses are most prescient for experienced “branded” professionals. In two chapters, D’Alessandro  focuses on how to utilize even bad bosses:  “Like it or not, your boss is the coauthor of your brand.”


In a recent television interview on Eyewitness News, I shamelessly borrowed from this book to address how to deal with a difficult boss:  “A true mentor will make sure that your reputation rises in tandem with his or hers.”