All posts by Vitas Consult

Leadersmithing: Revealing the Trade Secrets of Leadership

Leadership books can be turgid, full of unsupported assertions, difficult to read and extremely dull. Too few really engage with the daily messiness of leading, the acute uncertainty many leaders experience or the fragile loyalty offered by  team members. It is a real pleasure, therefore, to recommend Dr Eve Poole’s creative and encouraging book “Leadersmithing: Revealing the Trade Secrets of Leadership” (published, March 2017, by Bloomsbury Business. ISBN: 9781472941237).

Poole’s conviction is that real leaders learn their craft the hard way: through “critical incidents” that test their mettle. This conviction is based upon 2003 research undertaken to develop the simulation-based Ashridge future leaders programme. Eve Poole, on the way to explaining what she means by “leadersmithing”, contends that the seventeen critical incidents are the apprentice-pieces of the leader’s craft. Having engagingly introduced and argued the case for each of these apprentice experiences, Poole then explains how capable leaders really learn before defining and exploring the contribution of the leader’s character.

The second part of this immensely readable, good humoured and literary book provides a whole year’s worth of support for any leader who is really serious about their own development. As a leadership coach who often supports organisation’s rising talent, part two of Poole’s book has rapidly become my reference source of choice. Truth to tell, part two is too rich to be fully savoured in one short year: this is a playbook for a lifetime’s apprenticeship.

Naturally, Dr Eve Poole recognises that some of her readers may be drawn to the first part of the book where the theory is beautifully and succinctly explored whilst others will gain most from the more practical part two. Whatever your preference, I would urge you to read both parts because, developing leader, experienced leader, leadership facilitator or coach, the pearls of wisdom to be found here are well worth savouring.

Producing Your Curriculum Vitae or Your Resume

Introduction

Having a professional curriculum vitae or a resume, with a clean design and well-ordered relevant information, is essential. However, changes to the ways in which recruiters view these documents mean that almost every part of the former sentence is questionable!

Actually, today, having just one CV or resume is not reasonable. If you have only one then – for the reasons explored below – you will be hampering your job search. The idea of a “clean design” may well be attractive and there are certainly some situations where design will be of considerable value. However, due to the increasing use of applicant tracking systems, which will be discussed later, there are many situation where any kind of design flourish could be real barrier to getting hired! As for the question of the ordering of the various sections of your CV/resume even there the correct answer may take you by surprise. Perhaps the only part of that first sentence that stands scrutiny is the idea that a CV/resume needs to contain relevant information. What is relevant and what is not goes to the heart of the idea that one CV/resume is all you need … and it isn’t!

Many recruiters spend very little time scanning a CV, so it really is essential that yours makes a great first impression. Moreover, an increasing number of large organisations now rely on applicant tracking systems – a form of artificial intelligence – to help pre-filter resumes or CVs. These systems work by scanning CVs/resumes for contextual keywords and key phrases, mathematically scoring them for relevance, and sending only the most qualified ones through for human review.

So what?

It has always been true that the best places to highlight your individuality and fit for the role you are applying for are in the covering letter or statement, but the widespread use of applicant tracking systems means that sticking to this rule is now more important than ever.

Applicant tracking systems require simplicity. They do not positively score those extra touches you may have added to your resume, like logos, pictures, symbols, and shadings. Worse than that, these embellishments may actually work to your disadvantage by ‘confusing’ the system. It has now become even more important to stick to conservative resume formatting using one of three common fonts: Arial, Courier, or Times New Roman. Tracking systems have a rather limited facility to make sense of other fonts so they are best avoided.

The increasing use of applicant tracking systems also means that it is essential that a CV or resume must be presented in the form specified. If yours is not, then you do genuinely face the prospect of no living human being reading it! Generally, it is best to supply a Word doc or a rich text format CV/resume instead of a PDF. Though some applicant tracking systems can now ‘read’ PDFs others cannot and yet more have rather limited capabilities. So, unless a PDF format is specifically requested, do not supply your CV/resume in this form.

Words and phrases

Within any profession, there will be words and phrases, responsibilities, skills, licenses and certificates that are strongly associated with performing the job well. Applicant tracking systems will typically have been programmed to look for these words and phrases together with contextual information related to appropriate qualifications. To ensure that the software recognises that you are a good fit for the job, use these tips when writing your CV/resume:

  • Look for important phrases and skills written into the job description. If your experience matches these, then include exactly the same phrases and skills in your own CV/resume – but don’t overdo it. This is simply because the hiring manager will have arranged for the applicant tracking system to search your text for these all important phrases and skills.
  • Use an online word frequency assessor such as Wordle to help you to work out the most frequently occurring words, phrases, names and qualifications in the job description. Make sure you pay attention to the spelled out version of any phrases and any commonly used acronyms: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, CIPD, C.I.P.D. all count as one.

You should not overegg your CV/Resume with repetitive use of the key words and phrases. There are at least two main reasons for this: First, many applicant tracking systems use algorithms that are clever enough to spot excessive repetition and, second, if a human being does get to read your CV/resume the overuse of these words will look contrived.

The main goal is to stand out from other participants and to let recruiters quickly get an idea of who you are, what your skills are and why you are the right person for the job you are applying for.

You should aim for a CV/resume that contains a working history that makes sense and demonstrates some employment/professional progression if at all possible. The document should include details of relevant qualifications and statements of competences and it should bea brief description of your achievements all within a clean, easily readable format.

Your CV/resume should relate to your LinkedIn profile, through the CV/resume itself may be shorter. In many cases it is now acceptable to include a hyperlink to your LinkedIn profile but only do this if your LinkedIn entry adds value and is thoroughly up to date. Your LinkedIn profile must include a professional photograph that is relatively formal rather than being excessively informal!

International considerations

There have traditionally been differences between CV expectations in different countries. In general, a German Curriculum Vitae, for example, consists of 1 or 2 pages, no more. There’s always a photograph at the top and the layout follows a strict chronological order (with exact dates, for example 12/93) and uses a clear, professional style. CVs are signed at the bottom.

A CV should include personal information, about studies and working experience, as well as knowledge of foreign languages and other activities.

In Italy brief texts are preferred and photographs aren’t usually included. A good CV should consist of, in chronological order, personal information (including telephone numbers), as well as information related to studies, and working experience. Hobbies aren’t mentioned but candidates should clearly mention if they have served in the military.

A British CV should be no more than two pages long and there should be a strong emphasis on facts and numbers. The reasons for applying and the candidate’s related experience and demonstrated skills are highlighted in the covering email or letter. Typically, the following information is expected in the CV:

  1. Personal information.
  2. Studies (mentioning centres, dates and places, and grades).
  3. Languages spoken.
  4. Work experience (with dates, starting with the most recent job).
  5. Hobbies and personal achievements.
  6. References.

Almost all UK employers will follow up references so it is important that the two referees have given their permission to act in this way. The typical CV will mention the names, position, addresses and contact details of at least 2 people.

Whilst many British enterprises prefer a CV with an American-style resume format (elevating the work experience section above the studies and languages spoken sections), the document should always be formatted to print on A4 paper and not the North American equivalent.

Europass CV

Partly as a response to the variety of CV forms in use throughout Europe, in December 2012the European Union launched a new CV template and online editor. The “Europass CV” is a part of the European Skills Passport (ESP), a user-friendly electronic folder to help students, workers or job-seekers build up a personal, modular inventory of personal skills and qualifications acquired throughout life.

The ESP can contain a range of documents (language skills evidence, copies of degrees, attestations of employment, etc.). When attached to a Europass CV, the European Skills Passport will reinforce the CV by adding to it evidence of the skills and qualifications listed.

The European Union recommend that people use their online editor (https://europass.cedefop.europa.eu/editors/en/cv/compose) to create a CV:

  1. Concentrate on the essentials
  • Employers generally spend less than one minute reading a CV before deciding to reject it.
  • If applying for an advertised vacancy, always ensure that you comply with any application process entirely.
  • Be brief: two A4 pages are usually more than enough, irrespective of your education or experience.
  • Is your work experience limited? Describe your education and training first; highlight volunteering activities and placements or traineeships.
  1. Be clear and concise
  • Use short sentences. Avoid clichés. Concentrate on the relevant aspects of your training and work experience.
  • Give specific examples. Quantify your achievements.
  • Update your CV as your experience develops.
  1. Always adapt your CV to suit the post you are applying for
  • Highlight your strengths according to the needs of the employer and focus on the skills that match the job.
  • Explain any breaks in your studies or career giving examples of any transferable skills you might have learned during your break.
  • Before sending your CV to an employer, check again that it corresponds to the required profile.
  • Do not artificially inflate your CV; if you do, you are likely to be found out at the interview
  1. Pay attention to the presentation of your CV
  • Present your skills and competences clearly and logically, so that your advantages stand out.
  • Put the most relevant information first.
  • Pay attention to spelling and punctuation.
  • Retain the suggested font and layout.
  1. Check your CV once you have filled it in
  • Do not forget to write a cover letter.
  • Correct any spelling mistakes, and ensure the layout is clear and logical.
  • Have someone else re-read your CV so that you are sure the content is clear and easy to understand.

Organisational preferences

As the guidance above states, it is really important, when applying for any advertised vacancy, to always ensure that you comply with the requirements of the application process entirely.

For example, The United Nation’s Office of HR Management have published, online (at: http://www.un.org/Depts/OHRM/guidenew.htm, accessed on 27 September 2018), very specific guidance about CVs and it would be seriously unwise to not follow this type of employer guidance, which is intended to be helpful to applicants.

Clearly, any specific alternative employer guidance posted with a vacancy notice should always be followed.

 

 

 

Building the Kingdom Through Business

Your Twitter feed, like mine possibly, is increasingly shaped by business driven themes. No doubt this is to be expected as many claim that businesses – rather more powerfully than any other institutions – shape the world today. Aware of this impact and the expectations of society, many business people are increasingly engaging with a question that starts with the nature of business: “how can we shape businesses to have positive impact in the world?” People of faith add to this question, for they want to know “how can we shape businesses to impact the world for good and for God?”

This is the underpinning question addressed in a short book, by the late Bridget Adams and Manoj Raithatha, entitled Building the Kingdom Through Business. The writers take the view – rather the norm at the time of St Paul; then re-emergent in medieval England at the time of the birth of trade guilds and livery companies and highly influential in the seventeenth to twentieth centuries in Britain – that business should pay attention to four “bottom lines”. When business decisions pay attention to economic, social, environmental and spiritual impacts the foundation for business as mission is being laid. When the four bottom lines are in view businesses have some chance of serving people, aligning with God’s purposes, being good stewards of the planet and making a profit.

“Building the Kingdom Through Business”is an important, yet short, eighty-page, booklet. It is profoundly Biblical, historically reflective, and immensely practical.

In his book “Screw Business as Usual”, Sir Richard Branson asked, ‘Can we bring more meaning to our lives and help change the world at the same time… a whole new way of doing things, solving major problems and turning our working into something we both love and are proud of?” His proposed solution? A new way of doing business. ‘It is time to … shift our values, to switch from a profit focus to caring for people, communities and the planet.’

If it is business that shapes the world, then why can’t the Church work in and through business to shape the world for good and for God? Shaping it for good brings wealth creation in communities, with greater justice and relief from poverty for the world’s poor, with the dignity of useful labour. Shaping it for God brings ‘life in its fullness’, a life reconnected with the One who made us and loves us, bringing hope and meaning and purpose. That is the motivation for Kingdom building businesses. And yet, as Mark Greene, Malcolm Grundy and many others have written, we are today living in the shadow of a more apparent than real, separation of Church and industry.

When the Archbishop of Canterbury, this week, addressed the landmark 150thTrades Union Congress, some of the UK’s popular Press attempted to reinforce this division of Church and business as though the two inhabit entirely separate spheres and should never talk to each other. Just how inaccurate this perceived separation of Church and industry is became clear when, two days later, more informed debate began to consider whether the Church of England Commissioners should actually have a very substantial investment – and significant investor’s leverage – in one of the global brands that the Archbishop roundly criticised in his TUC speech.

“Building the Kingdom Through Business” clearly demonstrates a God perspective on work and business, and points out the need for wealth creation – for the common good and God’s glory. The writers align with the Business as Mission movement, though they prefer the term “Kingdom Building Business”. They illustrate the transformational nature of the concept by reminding their readers of the story of the Quakers, whose guiding light was “spiritual and solvent”. Not for them – or, indeed, many others – a God who is interested in what happens in church but not in what happens in His world!

No, God is the original entrepreneur, and throughout His-story, from Paul of Tarsuson, we’ve seen men and women who have made a positive difference through business. Building the Kingdom through Business may provoke some, and it should inspire, educate and equip a new generation of Kingdom building business people.

This book is compact and easy to read. If you’re thinking of starting up a business then it provides some good background. If you’re one of those who think that church and business should never mix, then this book is also ideal for you.

“Building the Kingdom Through Business: A Mission Strategy for the 21st Century World” by Bridget Adams, Manoj Raithatha. ISBN: 9780955913518. Published Apr 2012. Paperback £7.99. Kindle £2.39.

Dying Professions

The rise of automation continues to put pressure on occupations that are susceptible to replacement by algorithms and robotics. Naturally, working out what occupational groups are likely to decline in the years ahead is of most concern to young people entering the employment market. They really do not want to invest in training for a role that will likely disappear during the course of their working lives. Such thinking does, however, tend to overlook the fact that career flexibility and the willingness to transform your offer to the employment market to respond to changing needs has been one of the most powerful themes in the general advice given by career counsels for decades. That said, there is some evidence to suggest that it is of some value to look at what we currently know about declining job opportunities and to factor that into career decision making.

A survey of the gaps in many High Streets would suggest that the rise in online travel  booking sites has put paid to many retail travel agencies. Where once people shied away form booking direct there are now many more travellers willing to put together their own holidays, arrange their own accommodation and generally make life difficult for the High Street travel agent. There may be a future niche for those who specialise in particular countries, sectors of the travel market or who can develop an offer that is superior or more secure than anything the individual can arrange themselves.

Mortgage brokers have faced significant competition from generations well able to use the internet to find financial solutions. The rise of online “money saving expert” services has not only contributed to general consumer education but has also enabled the mortgage hunter to access online tools arguably more powerful than a mortgage broker could find thirty years ago. The decline in the number of mortgage brokers is particularly well documented by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and, as ever, where the US employment goes there is tendency for other Western markets to follow. Mortgage brokers are, of course, part of the wider financial services industry and the opportunities for career development through change within that wider economy have been pursued with enthusiasm by those noting the trends.

John Pugliano, author of “The Robots are Coming: A Human’s Survival Guide to Profiting in the Age of Automation,” sees plenty of white collar jobs that will be threatened by automation. “Bottom line, any routine job that can easily be defined by a mathematical or logic equation will be at risk,” Pugliano says. “Opportunity will be [there] for those that can create new produces/services or solve/fix unexpected problems.”

Sometimes the changes are unexpected. For example, the legal ancillary professions face challenges that might not be straightforward. A lot of the work once done by legal case researchers can now be done with increasingly sophisticated algorithms. Pugliano’s recommendation for aspiring legal eagles – in the light of this challenge – is to focus on specialising in non-routine human emotion intense areas, like jury selection or witness profiling.

The UK really does not have an equivalent to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics but we can note developments in the US employment market as potential indicators of change in many Western labour markets. “Across the pond”, one of the groups of workers expected to be the hardest hit by an overall decline in opportunities are office and administrative workers. The rise of technology is to blame for word processing, voicemail and the internet replacing work that was once completed by a now dying breed of administrative assistant. The most recent recession saw an acceleration in the collapse of this employment market sector which started several decades ago.

Opportunities in farming have declined over several decades and the pressure on farmers to increase efficiency and effectiveness will continue to fuel this trend. There may well be a demand for seasonal staff to operate semi-  and fully automated harvesting machines and even to pick fruit where an automated solution has yet to be found but the numbers are in long term decline.

The decline in the number of local newspapers continues in the face of competition from other media outlets. Correspondingly, the opportunities for trainee reporters look likely to continue to fall.

The skills of the print binder and finisher are still sought out for specialist and high end publications but the demand for these professionals is expected to diminish – though at a slower pace in the coming decade than it did in the past decade. The problem is essentially that most books can now be bound and finished, without the intervention of a craftsperson, by machine and we are now reading more books on screen.

Your personal learning from all of this? Don’t assume that a craft, trade or profession currently in demand will continue to be so over your lifetime. Do your own research in your own employment market and overseas and look for trends that could reshape demand in the years ahead. If you notice signs of declining demand for your own skills look out for opportunities to move sideways into related occupations or to retrain in occupational areas connected to your established expertise.

 

 

Managing Two Careers At Once

Why do organisations manage their talent in ways that fail to take account of spousal careers? What happens as a result? What additional thinking and practices could assist organisations to manage talent located within a dual career relationship better? What do findings about what is valued in mid-life career counselling have to say to those involved in career coaching?

Spousal Careers

Writing in the May – June 2018 edition of The Harvard Business Review (“Talent Management and the Dual-Career Couple”) Jennifer Petriglieri, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at INSEAD, shows how companies invest significantly in grooming their star talent — but then fail to take account of marital situations and responsibilities.

This failure, which involves seeing the high performing employee “one dimensionally”and not appreciating their familial context is surprisingly common. Many corporations with relatively enlightened talent management programmes haven’t, according to Petriglieri, “figured out how to manage the growing population of employees who care deeply about their partners’ or spouses’ careers at the same time that they want to advance their own. As a result, many high potentials are heading for the nearest exit.”

Outdated Ideas About Career Progression

Jennifer Petriglieri has seen this happen time and again across a range of sectors and says the crux of the problem is that companies “tend to have fixed paths to leadership roles, with set tours of duty and rigid ideas about what ambition looks like. That creates flexibility and mobility challenges for employees—and recruitment and retention headaches for employers.”

In referring to these “fixed paths to leadership roles” Petriglieri signals that the companies concerned are likely to be practicing that, rather exclusive, form of talent management that Victoria Campbell and Wendy Hirsh (in their Institute of Employment Studies report “Talent Management: A Four-Step Approach”, 2013) dubbed “accelerated skill development for high potentials” (type A). An alternative, and more inclusive, form of talent management, based upon the conviction that every employee has talent, usually drives anemphasis onorganisational capability building throughout the workforce” (type B).   

That some corporations still use models for talent development that are based on fixed paths, set tours of duty and rigid ideas about what ambition looks like might be thought remarkable. That they often struggle with last minute realisations about the importance of spousal careers is perhaps predictable. It does not need to be so.

Two Sides Of The Same Coin

As Global Practice Leader for Integrated Talent Management at World Vision International I was constantly reminded that talent management is but “one side of a coin”. The coin’s “two faces” are talent management and the individual’s career. Talent management is that side of the coin seen from the corporation’s perspective. The other side of the coin is built progressively through the career – and other – decisions made by individual employees. Where they are in a relationship with another person also managing career decisions the two people will characteristically, and increasingly, take these decisions together.

Campbell and Hirsh found, through their case studies of 23 organisations, drawn almost equally from the private and the public sector, that between the “type A” and the “type B” approaches to talent management, there was “a more career‐oriented definition of talent management.”This “places more emphasis on establishing career direction (relating to individuals’ interests and ambitions), as well as deploying and mobilising talent across the organisation, by offering different career experiences and using talent populations to fill key roles.” I will call this approach “type C”. It is important to our current discussion because it has the potential to allow talent managers to understand “the other side of the coin”.

Understanding this important symbiotic relationship between the two sides of the coin has taken some organisations a while. If type C practices were more commonly used this might not be true but experience in the disparate financial services and humanitarian development sectors suggests this is not the case: the type A approach predominates. Predictably, organisations are in a comfortable place, for them, when it is clear that their decisions have impact on individual’s careers. It is less comfortable when the organisation becomes aware that individual’s career decisions can – and do – have organisational effects. When the conditions are right these organisational effects can be very significant indeed. Two examples from my financial services sector experience illustrate this point.

Example 1: In the ten years from 2000, there was considerable actuarial and insurance consulting firm consolidation resulting in the emergence of a smaller number of global organisations with considerably enlarged headcounts. This led to some professionals in this sector becoming more and more specialist and, consequently, their roles being ever more narrowly conceived. For the organisations concerned the opportunity was created to build teams of dedicated experts with niche consulting expertise. By the end of the decade however, employers and specialist recruiters were recognising that the individual career decisions of these business critical experts were having a determinant and sometimes limiting impact on organisation’s business strategy.

Example 2: Merger or acquisition based growth also created opportunities for individuals and teams that employers may not initially have anticipated. A range of firms lost talented specialists to their rivals as the result of a legal loophole meaning they were technically unemployed at the point of M&A transaction. In some cases, individuals or even intact teams were changing jobs and being recruited without serving their notice periods. Remedies were, of course, found (sometimes known as “golden handcuffs”) but constraining career choice often proved both complicated and expensive.

Petriglieri’s work highlights a further complication for corporations that have not got used to flipping the talent/career coin and appreciating, as we have seen, that in dual career partnerships, career related decisions are commonly made by the couple thinking and acting together. The decisions the couple jointly make address career choices in the wider context of family values and goals and give expression to their views about the overall well-being of the couple and the family. In doing so their decisions, taken for the good of the couple and/or the family, are at least as subtle as those taken by the employing organisations. My experience in talent management and coaching would suggest that these familial decisions are often much more nuanced than corporate talent managers contemplate.

Simply put, when managing their talent, organisations need to match the levels of subtlety found in spousal decision making. Expressed this way, that may appear to be a “corporate nice to have”: unfortunately the associated risks can have big price tags attached. Indeed, failing to recognise the relational aspects of career decision can be as expensive as not considering the talent aspects of a merger or an acquisition. The “golden handcuffs” mentioned above were, for example, sometimes resorted to precisely because the level of corporate talent risk management had earlier been inappropriate.

The challenges associated with having these types of career development conversations are significant. Creating the environment of trust, establishing the agreed ground rules, preparing the agreed summary of the discussions, taking time to plan and hold the conversations at the appropriate frequency all require significant maturity, planfulness, sophisticated data management, excellent communication and commitment to coaching behaviours.

Today’s Dual Career/Talent Management Context

The context for both corporate talent management and individual career choice is shaped by the hugely important ways in which our working lives are changing. These changes are well known: people are living longer, the labour market is shifting as a result of technological change and globalisation, employees may be caring for children and parents simultaneously whilst they manage and evaluate their paid work and consider their own second-half-of-life options.

As a consequence of this, people may see the need to change jobs and retrain; they may be having debates about their own and their partner’s careers; portfolio working lives are now a reality for many and retirement is being experienced as a more flexible reality with less of a ‘cliff edge’ between working and not working.

These changes indicate that organisations should approach the relationship they have with their key talent in much more subtle and responsive ways than in the past. “Indicate” seems the appropriate word here because, of course, employers have choices to make. Enlightened employers that operate talent and succession management processes that respond to these significant technological and socioeconomic changes – and recognise the importance of spousal career decisions – are more likely to retain their high performers. Those that don’t, increasingly will not.

Career Coaching Agendas

Employers may or may not invest in coaching for leadership and emerging talent. The extent to which career development looms large in that relationship will vary. My executive coaching experience suggests that career planning and development are increasingly important issues for coachees. Corporations purchasing developmental executive coaching variously recognise – and often support through other initiatives and programmes within which coaching may be located – the fundamental notion that the coachee is the captain of their own life and learning[1].

This recognition creates the context within which the coachee’s goals “are the foundation of the work, although in executive coaching the line manager’s and organisation’s goals are also fed into the agenda” as Jenny Rogers deftly expresses the situation (in “Coaching skills: The Definitive Guide To Being A Coach”, May 2016). Many coaches, including myself, influenced by the cognitive behavioural coaching school and the work of Carl Rogers, approach this type of development coaching with the belief that the coachee is infinitely resourceful and that their work is necessarily holistic in nature and scope. The individual has choices.

Outside of paid coaching, support for the making of those choices, some of which may relate to what Cadbury has dubbed the individual’s “crazy paving” will vary. In many countries individual adults do not have ready access to advice on what to do to make the most of their opportunities. The results can include premature retirement for some, a lack of fulfilling work for others, and insufficient saving for retirement for many.

However, evidence from a UK study (“Mid Life Career Review”, July 2015) evaluated by the National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE) showed that valuable mid-life career review opportunities helped people take stock of where they were and who they are, and what they wanted to achieve for the rest of their lives. The pilot projects not only helped to determine the variety of possible agendas for such a career review but they also illustrated the range of career-related topics that a coachee may be considering.  The study showed that some or all of the following might feature in a well-regarded review:

  • Understanding life expectancy, and its implications for work, leisure, finance and health: many people underestimate life expectancy.
  • Reviewing changing aspirations for work and life over coming decades.
  • Making informed decisions about retirement timing and phasing (since working longer is likely to improve the quality of life of most people, as well as being good for employers and the economy).
  • Undertaking training likely to sustain the individual longer in rewarding activity, including paid work.
  • Reviewing the implications of working longer for personal health.
  • Reviewing the individual’s long-term financial situation including saving for retirement.
  • Developing strategies for overcoming age discrimination.
  • Understanding rights in relation to retirement timing, flexible working, and caring responsibilities, and developing strategies for negotiating adjustments to the individual’s and the working patterns of any spouse.
  • Realistically assessing options for job change and self-employment.

This NIACE research points to the level of sophistication that an informed mid-career review may need to achieve. Looking “around” and “behind” the bullet points above it is also possible to see the work/life considerations that dual-career couples are, increasingly, managing. This provides an indicator of what excellence in career coaching will increasingly look like and it should act as a wake up call and a compass to organisations whose talent management is as sadly one-dimensional as Jennifer Petriglieri found. Talent management should be aiming at least to understand the questions that are being asked by “the growing population of employees who care deeply about their partners’ or spouses’ careers at the same time that they want to advance their own.” This understanding can help to minimise something that talent managers are often said to want to avoid: unpleasant surprises.

[1]Sir Nicholas Cadbury expressed this well: “There is no such thing as a career path.  It is like crazy paving and you have to lay it yourself.”

References

Petriglieri, J. (May – June, 2018), ‘Talent Management and the Dual-Career Couple’, in Harvard Business Review, pp.106–113. Harvard University Press, USA.

Watts, J. et al. (July 2015), ‘Mid Life Career Review Pilot Project Outcomes: Phases 1, 2, and 3 (2013 – 2015): Final report to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’. National Institute for Adult and Continuing Education, Leicester, UK.

Rogers, J. (May 2106), ‘Coaching skills: The Definitive Guide To Being A Coach.’ Open University Press, Milton Keynes, UK.

Campbell, V. and Hirsh, W. (2013), ‘Talent Management: A Four Step Approach.’ Institute of Employment Studies, Brighton, UK.

Envisioning The Future

Writing in July’s TD Beverley Kaye and Linda Williams say, “Individuals need the encouragement, resources, tools, and support to envision their futures. They don’t need every possible new app or program, but they do need conversations with managers, coaches, or mentors. They need to take action, be open to learning, be willing to change behaviors, and be introspective enough to clarify their career needs, wants, and aspirations.”

When the world’s largest child focused humanitarian organisation began to embrace online learning and created its own e-Campus I was not surprised to find that the online “Career Development Centre” gained eager followers across the globe at a faster pace than any other development offer.

Based on personal experience as a mature career changer, as a qualified career development practitioner, coach and a former global practice talent leader in the diverse fields of financial services and humanitarian development I so agree with Beverley Kaye and Linda Williams.

My practical guide to career development for those considering a change of career direction is designed to help people who would benefit from some help being, as Beverley and Linda express it, “introspective enough to clarify their career needs, wants, and aspirations”.  It is now available from Lulu publishers.

Performance Management Case Study 1

In recent years there has been much debate about performance review or annual appraisal processes. Some of the debate was influenced by changes in practice within large corporations.

This is the first in a new series of case studies examining performance management. Our aim is to find out what really spurred change and what actually happened behind the headline announcements.

CEB research has found that more than 9 in 10 managers are dissatisfied with how their companies conduct annual performance reviews, and almost 9 in 10 HR leaders say the process doesn’t yield accurate information.

In addition, the CEB (formerly the Corporate Executive Board), found that performance management is time-consuming. A CEB survey discovered that managers estimate that they spend an average of 210 hours a year on performance management activities. Managers said their employees, in turn, each spend 40 hours a year. This might be time well spent but it appears that it is not: seventy-seven percent of HR executives report to the CEB that performance reviews don’t accurately reflect employee contributions.

In August 2015, GE decided to do away with annual reviews for its 300,000 employees entirely, replacing these evaluations with more frequent conversations between employees and managers. Senior managers had begun questioning the value of the GE Employee Management System, which had been in place for almost 40 years. The key question posed was: Is it delivering what is needed for the future? An internal review suggested that the EMS was not in practice encouraging continuous and fluid processes of performance development. It wasn’t providing feedback in real time nor helping GE respond to change and prepare for the future.

GE’s existing method of performance review was rather formal, it took place once, sometimes twice, a year and the focus was on a review of the past. The most notable features were its formality, a strong sense of looking backwards and that the system itself drove the process from the top down.

GE’s new system changed the language and the technology of performance management. The focus became development rather than a rear view mirror examination and the name was changed to signal a new intention: Performance Development at GE or PD@GE for short. The aim was to encourage forward-thinking, actionable conversations as a daily priority. These conversations between managers and employees were to consider performance in terms of insights and fuel for coaching, and to have a strong forward focus on delivering impact and outcomes. A strong emphasis was placed on developing employees and delivering business outcomes, focusing on work that matters most, and accelerating an employee’s growth through continuous discussion.

The process is supported through the use of an app: the PD@GE app. This provides a single place where employees can set priorities, organise discussions with managers, and share insights with fellow team members. It was created to encourage a more nimble approach to professional development to ensure maximum efficiency and best serve the company’s customers.

The process allows for occasions where a manager and their team member may take stock and plan development and future work priorities. As GE rolled out the PD@GE approach they experimented with an integrated ratings system, and without. They noticed that, when piloting the no-ratings system, compensation and bonus planning still took place and the overall quality of the conversations were better. GE’s expectations are that managers know their employees so well that they can articulate their impact and behaviours, and then rewards are aligned to both, rather than merely relying on a performance rating.

Who am I?

Changing career in mid-life becomes easier if you have done some work on your values and your passions. Doing so helps many people to understand and to talk about who they are. Regardless of your career to date, your future decisions about career will be easier and more valid if you have a clear understanding of your own orientation toward work, your motives, your values and your self-perceived talents. Being clear about these  helps in focusing career development tactics and enables people to talk confidently about what you will bring to a particular role. My experience as a coach suggests that most people have several passions and that as they get older they make decisions about the passion – or the small number of passions – that are so strongly aligned with their values that they will not give them up easily.

Some people are very clear about their career related values. Others find it helpful to take one of many career assessments. These assessments will help you explore your career interests, skills, your values, and personality. In this post I would like to introduce Edgar Schein’s “Career Anchors”.

Edgar Schein and Thomas De Long developed “career anchors” in the 1970s. They described career anchors as that combination of perceived areas of competence, motives and values that you would not give up: it represents your real self.

Schein’s “Career Anchors” can help you think through your career options and give you a clear understanding of:

  • Your own orientations toward work
  • Your motives
  • Your values
  • Your talents

Use of “Career Anchors” also helps people:

  • Define the themes and patterns dominant in their life
  • Understand their own approach to work and a career
  • Provide reasons for choices
  • Take steps to fulfil their own self-image

As you accumulate work experience, you have the opportunity to make choices; from these choices you begin to ascertain what you really find important. Dominant themes emerge—critical skills or abilities that you want to exercise or crucial needs or values that dominate your orientation toward life. You may have had a sense of these elements but, until now, you may not have assessed them in a thorough way. However, when changing careers in mid-life this self-awareness becomes vital. Knowing how important these aspects of yourself are and how any given talent, motive, or value relates to other elements of your total personality becomes an important “lens” through which to plan and talk about your career change journey. It is often only when we are confronted with difficult choices that we begin to evaluate and decide what is really important to us.

With accumulation of work experience and feedback comes clarification and insight, providing a basis for making more rational and empowered career decisions. Notice the importance of feedback especially if you have participated in work-based feedback processes and have a recent report that you can re-examine.

Through self-assessment the self-concept begins to function more and more as a personal “guidance system” and as an “anchor” that shapes career choice. Out of this process people begin to talk about careers saying that this role is something they identify with whilst that occupation is not something they could ever see themselves doing. This knowledge keeps us on course or in a “safe harbour”.

As people recount their career choices, they increasingly refer to “being pulled back” to things they have strayed from or, looking ahead, “figuring out what they really want to do” or “finding themselves.” This process leads people to gradually move from having broad goals to a sense of knowing better what it is that they would not give up if forced to make a choice. The career anchor, as defined by Schein and his co-authors, is that one element in a person’s self-concept that he or she will not give up, even in the face of difficult choices. And if their work does not permit expression of the anchor, people find ways of expressing it in their hobbies, in second jobs, or in leisure activities.

Schein and his colleague developed the career anchor concept at MIT. An empirical investigation conducted by Catherine Steele and others and reported to the British Psychological Society’s 2007 Occupational Psychology Conference, concluded that the eight career anchors, as measured through use of Edgar Schein’s “Career Anchors: Discovering Your Real Values” is a valid model with satisfactory internal reliability results.

This tested reliability is important to know because there are many forms of assessment available and not all of them are reliable. I recommend that mid-life career changers make use of the “Career Anchors” approach and find that people do find it beneficial. It is recommended for use in  “My Career Development Plan”  which you can purchase here

Schein’s approach to Career Anchors included the use of a Career Anchor Interview to be used after completion of the Career Orientations Inventory. I am pleased to advise about the use of the Interview: it is a particularly helpful process that mid-life career changers have found valuable.

“Career Anchors: The Changing Nature of Careers: Self Assessment”, 4th Edition by Edgar H. Schein and John Van Maanen, published in May 2013 contains the “Career Anchors Self-Assessment” or “Career Orientations Inventory”,  the simple “Scoring Instructions” and the “Descriptions of the Career Anchor Categories”. Guidance on the user’s “Next Steps” and “Choices” are also included.

Mid-Life Career Change?

As people look back over their working lives it is not uncommon to find them asking questions about service, achievement and satisfaction. Some may be in positions where the opportunities for development through work are limited and they may increasingly identify with the view that there’s a considerable difference between twenty years of experience, and one year of experience relived twenty times! Unsurprisingly, this feeling can be expressed in employee’s engagement with their work. Gallup, for example, has found that the percentage of actively disengaged workers tends to be highest among those aged 40-49. Workers in this age group were almost 1.5 times as likely as those aged 18-29 or those aged 60 and older to be actively disengaged (15% for both the youngest and oldest age groups).

Faced with the evidence, Gallup concluded that, once employees are past early adulthood – the years when many are learning their chosen profession – they become significantly less likely to strongly agree that their workplace is a source of personal development.

Evidence from psychological research confirms what shared experience would suggest: that life goals and motivation tend to shift, as people grow older. As many coaches would confirm, mid-life is a time when people re-evaluate their goals and make changes accordingly.

Sometimes the incentive to make these career changes may be fuelled by a sense of dashed expectations. Hannes Schwandt, an economist at the University of Zurich found that young people overestimate their future happiness, and so feel disappointed as life goes on. But as people approach 60, they start underestimating their future happiness, and then are pleasantly surprised by reality.

For many, accumulated wealth, relative security and a desire to really make a difference or to “give something back” propels individuals in mid-life toward something of a career crisis. E B White captured their quandary: “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

“My Career Development Plan” is a practical guide to career development for those considering a change of career direction. It was written by John Evans, a qualified career development practitioner, executive coach and former global practice leader for the world’s largest child focused humanitarian development agency. John was previously head of Hewitt Associates’ European Organisational Development practice. Your copy is available here.

“Cubing” Career Goals

“Cubing” is a way of brainstorming outlined in the book “Writing”, by Gregory Cowan and Elizabeth Cowan (New York: Wiley, 1980). With cubing, as with other brainstorming methods, you start with one topic, challenge or issue. Then, you apply six points of view (like the six sides of a cube) to the issue. Here, we have adapted the method so it can be used as a tool for initial career goal development. To use the cubing method …

Click “Present” in the visual above. Use the forward and back arrows beneath the presentation to page through the process.

First, write down your career development goal.

Second, examine your goal closely and describe it in as much detail as you want.

Third, compare this goal with other goals in your life. Is is significantly different from them or related to them in some way?

Fourth, ask yourself what this goal makes you think of?

Fifth, analyse your goal. Break it into parts that you find relevant and helpful.

Sixth, now describe what achieving you goal would mean to you and to other people.

Finally, debate with yourself – or someone you trust – what might stop you from achieving your goal and what might work in your favour?