Firing can be overcome

November 19, 2013

Q: I’ve been cut loose from my executive position with seven years until retirement. How do I position myself after being sacked?

A: Personality and “f i t” account for most terminations. Being fired is recoverable if you handle it properly. First, make peace with what happened so you don’t bring negativity to the interview.

If or when the issue comes up, admit you were fired. Don’t introduce it yourself. Address the question directly. Explain the circumstances and reasons without even a hint of blame, resentment or defensiveness. This is an opportunity to demonstrate selfawareness, self-management, honesty and transparency.

Recognizing a potent ial employer will have some concerns, a well-presented explanation can show that regardless of the termination, you are a person with great value and potential. Point to your strengths, expertise and past successes so they understand this one-time occurrence will not affect your future performance.

Look the interviewer straight in the eyes with matter-of-fact confidence. A person who conveys fear or anxiety in their tone or body language leads the interviewer to believe there is more to the situation than is being revealed.

Frame the dismissal in terms of what you learned, how you grew from it and how the next company will benefit from the experience. Take responsibility for whatever your part was in it. Provide strong references who can provide third-party credibility to your character.

Smaller organizations that are reaching maturity could benefit from your invaluable experience. Skills are transferable. What other industries would profit from your unique expertise and outside perspective? Attitude and a sense of confidence can be the key to finding an even better role in a company where you will be a valuable addition to their organization and a ‘fit’ for their culture.

Originally published in The Province, Nov. 17, 2013. 

MBA no guarantee of success

October 27, 2013

Q: I received my MBA in April and I still can’t get my first job. I’m overqualified for most entry-level jobs, but when I apply for the ones that match my education, I never make it past the first interview. Why don’t they see what an asset I am?

A: While employers may be seeking the specific skills and abilities promised on your resume, they often hire for attitude. Gen Y employees bring significant skills but can show up in interviews with characteristics that are unwelcome at work.

Interviewers are most likely going to be of a different generation than you. They value initiative, critical-thinking skills and effective communication. They are looking for loyalty and a strong work ethic. Be sure you haven’t embellished skills on your resume or you will be dead in the water in the interview when your level of integrity and honesty is exposed.

They want employees who respect authority, are willing to adapt to someone’s idea – not reject it out of hand without weighing its merits and can accurately access likely consequences.

While you may feel the position is below your qualification level, show up prepared, enthusiastic and engaged in the company and the role. Keep the discussion professional. Ask pertinent questions demonstrating that you have done your research and are giving this serious consideration.

Leave personal conversations to social media. In the end, you may need to accept a job that pays less than you want to get your foot in the door of your ideal employer. During those first few years focus on learning, demonstrating your abilities, and willingness to invest the hours to get ahead.

This paves the way to being a top earner in subsequent years. As the boomers retire, there will be plenty of promotions up for grabs.

Originally printed in The Province, October 27, 2013.

Take positives from negative

December 5, 2011

Q: I just got my 360 review and I’m devastated. I thought I was doing a great
job because my staff always achieves their results.

I discovered that being task focused makes people feel used and ignored. How
will I recover from this?

A: While the review may be negative, your attitude is positive and open. How
you handle the results is far more important than what you received. Absorb,
understand and act.

Take time to let the results sink in. Pay attention to good feedback, too.
Reflect on the information with curiosity and compassion rather than self

Reduce the risk of appearing defensive. Don’t take any action until you are

Never seek more information or confront respondents. They already risked
giving you an honest assessment. Ask yourself: What are the common themes? How
are my good intentions being negatively perceived? What kind of leader do I want
to be?

?What three behaviours that would create the greatest positive impact and
reveal the leader you are aspiring to be?

? What small simple behavioural shifts would make a big difference?

? What manager, mentor, colleague or leadership coach would support your
development with ongoing feedback and holding you accountable to your

Bring your staff onside by sharing with them how you intend to change. Invite
them to keep you on track by acknowledging you when you are successful and
calling you out when old behaviours creep in. Making changes based on their
feedback demonstrates you are a leader who values your staff enough to listen
and learn from them. That alone will positively alter their perception of

Originally published in The Province, December 4, 2011.

Lost Generation

May 17, 2009

This video demonstrates how easily we can believe our perception is ‘The Truth.’   At the same time, it also highlights how there isn’t “One Truth” only different interpretations of something.

There is only ‘our truth.’  And ‘our truth’ is not even that reliable.  It shifts with our perceptions.  That means ‘truth’ can change from one moment to the next depending on the facts at hand.  Even more importantly- by the facts we choose to give credence to as well as the facts we conveniently choose to ignore in the moment.

When I watched this video for the first time, I felt growing sadness and despondency about how this generation views their world and the legacy they are creating.

Then just as quickly my opinion got turned around 180 degrees to embrace a complete different perspective.

I learned how susceptible I am to being persuaded by a compelling point of view.  Once I emotionally connect to it, I can be drawn into believing it to be “the truth”.  It is so important to stay present and conscious that ‘my truth’ is only one perspective of many.  All of which may be valid and right.

This is where coaching is so powerful.  When ‘your truth’ isn’t serving you, your coach can reveal to you what truth you have adopted- perhaps unconsciously.  You can examine the results you have been achieving based on your assumption or ‘truth.’  Then just like in this video, you can consciously choose to alter your beliefs, behaviours and actions to create more effective results.

This is one way we will change the world.

If words alone don’t do it….

May 3, 2009

Q: I was dumbfounded when several of my team separately recalled verbatim what they were convinced I had told them. I never said those words. While they got the gist of the message, how do I ensure that I won’t be misunderstood next time?

A:  For a team leader to function effectively, your team must be clear about your directions. Your team may not have recalled your exact words, but it sounds like they were on the mark with your intended message.

Messages are sent to the listener on two levels simultaneously. Information is transmitted through your words. But studies show 65 to 80 per cent of the message is communicated non-verbally. Facial expression, eye contact, body posture, motions, tone of voice and attitude tell the real story.

If you say a deadline is firm, but your voice tone conveys the blasé quality of “whatever,” don’t be surprised when you’re off schedule.

When your spoken message and your attitude are contradictory, the receiver will interpret from your more accurate non-verbal cues — how the listener “experiences” your message not how they “hear” it.

Take a few extra minutes before you speak to be clear about your content and to be aware of your emotional state. Speak slowly and intentionally to monitor your delivery as well as your words. Your goal is for your non-verbal cues to be congruent with your information.

Understanding deepens when it flows two ways. How well are you hearing your team’s messages? Pay attention to their non-verbal cues this week. Who needs your recognition? Who is eager for a new challenge? Whose tank is empty? A successful leader “hears” and accurately responds to their team’s cues.

Originally printed in The Province on May 3, 2009.

Be calm when short-listed

March 2, 2008

Q: I have been short-listed for my dream job. They said they’d let me know within days, and it’s now been three weeks. I’ve sent a thank-you and called three times, but they keep saying it’ll just be a bit longer. How much do I pester and how long do I wait?

A: It’s a delicate balance between being a stellar standout and a nagging nuisance. Treat it as an extended job interview with the opportunity to set yourself apart.

Stay on their radar screen. Engage them in ongoing dialogues so you are top of mind when they review the applications. Keep your tone inquisitive and interested rather than insistent or challenging. Cultivate a personal connection so they can put a face to a resumé.

Pay close attention to the cues. Don’t assume you are out of the running. When the selection process is slow going, listen for an underlying cause such as overwhelming response, reduced urgency or competing business pressures. Notice how they are responding to you: Positive interest or cool indifference?

Demonstrate your unique qualities. Employers’ criteria may not be visible on a resumé. Attitude and character are valued attributes. Make a lasting impression by being consistently professional, positive, enthusiastic, confident and calm in your interactions. Proactively staying in touch shows initiative, determination and perseverance. What firm wouldn’t want that?

Don’t pin all your hopes on this one role. Court other job opportunities so you don’t come across desperate or demanding. A highly sought-after candidate can be more appealing to a prospective employer. Who knows, in the meantime you may discover another dream job.

Originally printed in The Province, March 2, 2008.