Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Astron Road Show

With fall knocking on the door, it’s time for the next stop on the Astron Road Show!  National Director Mike Maciekowich and Statistical Analyst Mike Canterino will be on hand to meet with current and new clients and friends of the firm at the New York State SHRM Conference, September 15 – 17 in Buffalo, NY.  Our games of chance were a hit at the national SHRM conference earlier this year.  Will you be our next winner?  Please stop by our booth in Buffalo to see!  Let us know you’ll be attending the conference and we’ll have a special gift waiting for you!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Redefinition of Leadership

Ralph Stogdill noted, “There are almost as many definitions of leadership as there are persons who have attempted to define the concept.” How true he is! The word “Leader” has been defined and redefined so many times, it can be hard to keep track with, let alone demonstrate in our respective places of work. In previous years leadership has been described as a process as well as a property. In process, leadership is being able to indirectly or directly influence and coordinate an organization’s attempt to fulfill a group goal. As a property, leadership is described as possessing the qualities and characteristics needed to help an organization to succeed.

In this day and age, good leadership is needed in organizations across the globe in order to grow, and to be successful. Why? Simply because as the world changes, organizations in various capacities are in the need to adapt to the changes. When organizations don’t perform well, one of the #1 comments that are stated in reference to its failure is: “They had bad leadership”

However, to place a company’s failures on one individual is somewhat erroneous. An organization is made up of people and so it is the organization as a whole, or its, people, that determine whether all will succeed.

Understanding this key issue leads to the discussion of leadership not just from individuals, but from the entire organization. This “broad-based leadership” means in every nook and cranny of an organization, a leader can be found. It is up to every individual to decide for themselves whether they will go beyond just minimal work…and be a leader.

Traditionally, within organizations, the word “leader” sparks the position: “Management”, or “Supervisor”. However, are these words really related? In examination, the very answer may be no. One article in the Australian newspaper, The Age noted, “Managers feel comfortable with hierarchies and a command-and-control type of environment where orders come from above and those who receive those orders get paid for executing them.”

In comparison supervisors, typically influence an organization’s sub-group through formal rewards (perhaps promotion) and punishment (write-up) under contractual agreement. Both positions seem very structured, and leave no room for growth ---which is a dire need in today’s organizations.

Leaders, however, according to the same article are comfortable in horizontal (“pancake”) organizational structures. They are not “a person in charge,” but, rather, a coach…part of the network in the organization in order to support everyone.

Are organizations really trying to cultivate leaders within their organizations? Yes. Another article from The Age entitled, “First It Was Teamwork,--Now it’s the leadership industry; Just Managing” reported that in the year 2000, 50 billion dollars were spent in leadership development within organizations. Yet, not all companies seem to be reaping the benefits from the investment.

Ranked #5 on Business Week’s list of the World’s Top 10 Management Gurus,  Leadership expert Jay Conger noted in The Age that some organizations sabotage their own efforts to gain leadership. He noted that many corporations have an internal culture of “conservatism and risk-aversion.” This causes an organization to look great face-wise, but internally, there isn’t any growth, or internal success. He states that traditionally, “You could argue that organizations, although they say they want leadership, actually they don’t want too much leadership. They want the leadership of the CEO, not the leadership from the ranks below.”

So how do organizations get past this traditional internal culture? First the organization must realize that they need two kinds of leadership. The first kind deals with the entrepreneurial aspect of an organization. The second kind involves crisis and/or turnaround situations. If members in an organization learn how to cultivate both types of leadership capabilities, success is sure to follow.

Organizations also need to be able to focus on building a leadership culture. Some attributes include the following: 

• Learning 
• Coaching 
• Team Building 
• Regular Appraisal

Leadership from all levels has to be promoted not as an executive position, but as a privilege and an obligation to the organization. Former CEO of Telstra Corporation Limited, and current CEO of JI Ventures, Inc., Frank Blount once highlighted five "ingredients" that any CEO can use to generate the right environment for leadership. Here are three main ingredients: 

• Public knowledge that status quo behavior is dissatisfactory 
• Creating a widespread shared vision across the organization 
• Leaving room for growth due to changes externally and internally

Leadership development is a worthy investment for any organization. It is important, however, that we make sure the organization is properly prepared for and anticipating the changes due to the organization’s new leadership culture. It is not up to just a handful of people to make an organization successful. It takeseveryone to make it successful.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Not To Apply and How To Deal With a Meltdown

Here at the Astron blog we like to go with one positive and one negative to balance out the coverage. So when we talk about a boneheaded thing that one person or company does, we talk about a good way that people or a company handle a situation. Today we'll do the same as we look at one job candidate who makes a name for the wrong way. And then we'll talk about one company who took an internet meltdown...and turned it into some good PR.

The first is from Above the Law which talks about a class of 2009 graduate who begs for a job via mass e-mail. Well "beg" may be generous here--this job "candidate" mass e-mails every practicing attorney that he can find to try to find a job. I know that the job market isn't great and the lawyer job market is even worse, but this is not the way to go about it. Furthermore, the two pictures that Above the Law could find of him are showing off his biceps and, well, trying to convince us he doesn't want to be an escort. If you want to show someone the way NOT to get hired, this is a good start.

On the other hand, if you want to see a company take a "bad" situation and make it positive, Social Media Today looks at Shake Shack which took a look at its fans' displeasure over a change to its fries and decided to respond in the best way possible. Some companies (like Netflix, as the article points out), take fan outrage and just continue to fuel it. Others, like Shake Shack, take the fans displeasure and take it as a chance to get some good public relations around the new fries.

Social Media Today gives us the great final thoughts: "So what does that mean for all the community managers and brands out there that have new introductions coming up in the pipeline? No need to take notes, this one is easy to remember. Maintain your messaging and stand by your decision, because in the end, that will aid in dictating how consumers receive your change."

Thursday, August 08, 2013

No You Can't Log Into That

There are certain laws that are passed that you say to yourself: "wait...that was legal before?" Today that happened to me. Washington state joined ten other states in banning employers from asking and gaining access to their employees’ private social media accounts. Amazingly, this is a practice that not only has gone on, but wasn't outlawed already. And, maybe even more amazingly, this isn't illegal in anyplace in the Northeast north of Maryland. From Melissa Agnes Crisis Management, an employer cannot:

  • Ask for usernames and passwords of their employees’ social media accounts 
  • Make their employees go through their personal accounts in front of them 
  • Obligate their employees to add their employers as “friends” on social media 
  • Require employees to change their personal privacy settings in order to make their accounts information visible to the public (and thus them) 
The punishment for such a crime in Washington is up to a measly $500 in statutory damages that the employee may be able to attain in civil court. Whoopee...

Let's put aside how this idea of hijacking your employee's social media accounts may be illegal and focus on this: this cannot be good for your company morale or reputation. There is a fine line behind wanting to check up on your employees and making sure that they're handling themselves well in public and forcing them to allow you to spy on them. Even if you're in a state that still allows this practice, be smart and don't do it--it's not going to do anything good for your business in the end and if your state decides to make it illegal too, you may be in trouble for doing so.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid (in an Interview)

It always comes up in an interview: "so tell me about yourself." Now if this was a date, you would answer that question one way. If it was a shrink's office, maybe another way. And if it was a new friend, you would answer it yet another way. But in the job interview, there are some things that you really, really don't want to say. CommPRO made a list of some of those not to say (H/T Sarah)--here are a few out of the top 10 with my opinion afterwards:

2. Medical issues. If you can do your job without an issue, there isn’t any reason to discuss these. If you have issues that will affect your working, then you should not be looking for a new job. If you have a job and have issues that will impact your job, be positive and have a plan on how your work can be handled while you are out. This is an important one an important distinction to make. If the medical condition doesn't change anything about your day-to-day job life, then it's about as much anyone's business as what you ate for breakfast. But if the condition is going to require you to miss work or if you may get sick at work, you're going to want someone to know that up front.

5. You have a second job. Don’t let anyone second guess your work habits. Will you be too tired to do the work, is the second job keeping your from doing more at your current job? This is one of the list that I disagree with. I let every potential employer know about my second job (doing this blog). I don't think that most employers are going to care and if they do, it's probably not the position for me. Plus, if they find out about it later, they may feel that I was trying to lie to them or keep it from them and that would be much worse down the line.

10. Something serious happened outside of the workplace. What happened in Vegas, stays in Vegas. If it doesn’t involve the workplace, don’t talk about it. I agree and disagree with this one. If something serious can explain why you have a big blank spot in your resume or why you left a city or a job, then it could definitely be relevant. But if it's about anything that doesn't help give the interviewer a better idea of who you are, then let it stay in Vegas.

There are many things that you want to bring up in interviews but here are a few that you should probably keep to yourself. So the next time you're going for a new job and they say "so tell me about yourself...", well, leave some things out of it.

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