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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Talent is always in demand

A friend and I were discussing the economy the other day and yes we both were going a bit negative, well actually really negative. The US government says unemployment is at 6.7%. However, I realized I was focusing on the wrong number, let’s switch the number around and you realize that 93.3% are employed. The Brazen Careerist blog had a great post titled: Reason to give Thanks that pointed out:

- Jobs for low-level candidates are increasing
- There are plenty of entry-level jobs to be had
- College grads are doing fine in today's market

And she is correct; most organizations plan to continue college recruitment programs in 2009, but what if you aren’t entry level? Even when unemployment numbers were much lower it was difficult to find good talent. This difficulty was not for lack of candidates, I would review thousands of CV’s and resumes to conduct lots of interviews only to be disappointed. Why? Because there isn’t a lot of skilled high performance people separating themselves in the market place. I have met many individuals that can say the right buzz words and talk the talk; to actually deliver on the talk appears to be something else. There are jobs out there. If you can walk your talk, then don’t fret about the unemployed and focus on what talents you bring to the table and market them.

- Did you struggled with an exceptionally difficult task and managed to get it completed?
Was there a new idea that you discovered or developed?
- If you had a project fail what did you learn from it?

My friend was telling me that he had not worked on a “cool” project for about a year, yet he described his work doing business development in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Shanghai, and Beijing while based in Singapore. I was stunned! His stories of the tasks and projects that he worked on were incredibly interesting, and after describing each project he realized that his frame of reference was wrong. Each of the projects possessed so many interesting facets, challenges successfully overcome, and some very surprising learning opportunities. After our discussion he realized that he could separate himself for the thousands of job seekers; he actually had powerful real world experience.

2009 may prove to be a difficult economic environment. Even so I subscribe to the philosophy of Robert H. Schuller’s aptly titled book: Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do! Take some time rethink your skills and experience and have a successful 2009.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Book Review: Change Management

A 94 page manifesto on how to manage change in an organization and I would recommend all management professionals should have this book in their desk reference books. People and organizations naturally resist change and having the proper tools within reach to identify and manage through this resistance will enable you to bring your the organization to the next level. Adding the additional 54 pages of appendices including tools and worksheets to speed your implementation and this book becomes a complete tool set.

Jeffrey Hiatt has written two additional books on change, ADKAR and Employee’s Survival Guide to Change. Both of these books build upon the ADKAR model introduced in Change Management: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement. Jeffrey Hiatt and Timothy Greasey make the case that this model is applicable to both personal and organizational changes and when used properly will allow for the process of change to happen; carefully laying out the case that “as individuals we, experience change differently, we go through change in stages”. From my personal experiences change is never an easy process to manage especially when dealing with tight deadlines; some classroom training in the ADKAR model will enhance the benefit of this book.

The authors have broken down the change process into 7 basic principles:

Principal 1 – Senders and receivers
Principal 2 – Resistance and comfort
Principal 3 – Authority for change
Principal 4 – Value systems
Principal 5 – Incremental versus radical change
Principal 6 – The right answer is not enough
Principal 7 – Change is a process

Each principal is demonstrated to bring you back to the ADKAR model. I have taught change management extensively to business managers, project managers, and analysts and when ADKAR was effectively applied the result was consistent success. Yes the material is a bit text book but the purpose is to provide a quick desk reference tool and if your organization wants to be effective in a challenging global environment the books simple layout provides quick access the keys elements for managing change.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Annual Review and Goal Setting

The ability to deliver solid cost efficiencies and bottom line profits will be the measure of success for 2009. We are at the end of what I would consider to be a very difficult year and by many accounts a challenging year into the 3rd quarter of 2009. It is with this in mind that I wanted to look into the year end review and goal setting process with an eye for accomplishment. Rich Vosler in his blog post, "This Goal Setting Process Works!" said, "If you do a Google search for Goal Setting you’ll get over 9 million results" and I agree with him. Not a lot of these results were focused on goal setting for individual contributors within the corporate functions of an organization.

Kathy Sierra in her blog post "how to be an expert" said,”the most troubling--and where we have the most leverage--is with the amateur who is satisfied with where they are. These are the folks who you overhear saying, ‘Yes, I know there's a better way to do this thing, but I already know how to do it this [less efficient, less powerful] way and it's easy for me to just keep doing it like that.’ In other words, they made it past the suck threshold, but now they don't want to push for new skills and capabilities.” It is the manager’s responsibility to encourage the employee to step out of the comfort zone and further develop their skills.

There have been tremendous work done on studying goals and lots of evidence that if you just write down your goals you are already ahead of 90% of the population. As business managers it becomes our responsibility to look to our staff and like a coach or teacher build the goal setting process as part of the annual review. The purpose of goals at the individual contributor level is to encourage the further development of skills and the adoption of technology and efficiency enabling the individual to have more time for additional opportunities within the organization including improved personal fulfillment through their work. Goal setting will enable the employee and the manager to:

- Decide what is important for them to achieve their job functions

- Allow for prioritization of activities

- Develop a measure of how well the individual is doing

- To build self-esteem

performer the goal isn't just repeating the same thing again and again but achieving higher levels of control over every aspect of their performance...each session they are working on doing something better than they did the last time.” How do we as managers help our staff to do this by setting good SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound.

Specific: For a goal to be specific it should be stated in one or two sentences. If the goal is extended into a paragraph or more the result is confusion. It is much better to break the goal down into several goals rather than have a complicated statement

Measurable: How will you determine the outcome of the goal; timed completion of tasks, certifications, or customer feedback ratings? Adding a measurable component to the goal setting process will enable straight forward determination of success or failure to complete the goal. Measures should be agreed between the manager and the employee and should be straight forward so that even an unknowing third party would be able to agree with the result.

Achievable: Achievability is the most important component. If we are going to work with staff to stretch to the next level we have to ensure that we are not setting targets beyond their capabilities. If the employee does not believe they can accomplish the goal then when they encounter their first setback they will choose to quit.

Relevant: We are talking about setting goals for the workplace; therefore, the goals should be targeting areas and practices that will benefit the company, within the employees’ role, or a development area.

Time Bound: After agreeing to the previous four items the manager and the employee will agree on an appropriate time frame. Generally these goals are defined on an annual or semiannual time frame so that they fit into the management and feedback cycle of the organization.

The best guideline for goal development with staff is to set three to five major goals for the year and then break these into quarterly sub-goals or deliverables. The result should be a collection of mid-term deliverables enabling staff members to verify that they are still on the correct path of achievement. . Michael Hyatt in his blog post, “Goal-Setting: The 90-Day Challenge” talking about adding 90 day based goals into his organization said, “I believe it has gone a long way toward creating a focused and disciplined organization that produces consistent results”. Three to five goals with 90 day deliverables and monthly check points moving team members forward along the path to success; each accomplishment building upon the earlier and ultimate completion at year end.

Zig Zigler recommended using the question, “does this bring me closer to or further from my goal.” To effectively answer this question requires breaking down the goals further into monthly, weekly, and daily tasks. For the purposes of the annual goal setting process annual goals with quarterly deliverables will generate consistent results from the team. To further break the goals down into daily activities I recommend looking into some great blogs for more information.

Zen Habits



Getting Things Done in Academia

My Stuff for Getting Things Done

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Book Review: Mastery, the keys to success and long-term fulfillment

I just finished reading the book, "Mastery, The Keys to Success and Long-term Fulfillment" by George Leonard. George Leonard practices and teaches Aikido, considered to be the most difficult of martial arts to learn and achieve. The beauty of Aikido is the path on which you travel rather than the speed at which you attain the levels or trappings of success in this sport. By interweaving the teaching of Aikido into how you can achieve mastery in your life whether it be marriage, work, or learning he argues you can live a more fulfilled life by appreciating the path you are on.

For the most part this book is a call to forsake the instant gratification and instant achievement society professed by the American popular media and return to the joy of the journey. George argues his point in a short 175 page book broken down into three parts:

- The Master's Journey
- The Five Master Keys
- Tools for Mastery

While I did enjoy this book as a brief read, outside of a couple of quotes there is little that you could take away and apply to your life that would actually produce results. The essence of this book can be summed up with the following quote:

"Those we know as masters are dedicated to the fundamentals of their calling. They are zealots of practice, connoisseurs of the small incremental step. At the same time, and here's the paradox, these people, these masters, are precisely the ones who are likely to challenge previous limits. To take risks for the sake o higher performance and even to become obsessive at times in that pursuit. Clearly, for them the key is not either/or, it's both/and".

Essentially enjoy the periods of plateau, when you feel like nothing is happening in your life, focusing on the simple yet boredom inducing; for the beauty it posses. Your ability to appreciate these periods that will grant you a life of fulfillment.

I enjoyed the book but it left me feeling like I wanted more, but not certain I was willing to make the effort to find the "more" I was looking for. I would say it was like watching a movie trailer and when the trailer finished remarking to those with you, "I am not sure I want to see this movie... maybe I will wait for it to come out on DVD".