Wednesday, October 26, 2016

True Fit?

I want to scare you as you embark upon the next stage of your life.

Up until now you have followed a well-trodden path with some direction and a few choices to make along the way; and now as you prepare to graduate, some of you will go on to higher education while the rest will without a doubt be seeking a job. My advice for you – be you, the world will adjust. I want to give you permission to start thinking differently and to find the right fit for you, instead of trying to fit in; to find a job that lets you be you and do the things that you are good at most of the day, and requires a little effort on the things you are not good at.

After I graduated from Queen’s University I spent my entire career in the financial services industry, culminating in becoming President of CIBC Wood Gundy at the age of 37. After having been a trailblazer in building and starting businesses, one day I found myself at the end of a barrel with the words “we can’t live up to your expectations or aspirations.” I had been fired, and the long and the short of it was that I DIDN’T FIT.

I didn’t even really know what fit was, not until it happened to me again at the Bank of Montreal when after two years as a vice chairman I was gone again. I was forced to take stock and figure out what people should pay me for, and that began a wonderful journey to find my True Fit, while helping others find theirs, by using four simple steps.

My new book True Fit is available on-line and in all bookstores.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Unhappy at work?

Recently I read an article highlighting seven key signs that you are unhappy at work. I had to pause and wonder why it would take anyone seven signs to realize that they were unhappy at work. Perhaps the clearest sign is that you hate getting up and heading to work every day and just in case you need a second, you cannot wait for your work day to end so you can leave your job. To my way of thinking the first sign is enough of a reason, but if you needed a little more reinforcement for those who just want to be extra sure go to the second sign. But dear lord anyone who is unhappy at their job doesn't need seven signs. Perhaps a shrink but not seven signs!

The more important question to ask yourself is whether there is a job that you can find where you will be happy every day and if there is how do you go about finding it? Before you can find all this out you have to figure out what this job must look like for you.

You see happiness or unhappiness always leads back to yourself and understanding the basics about yourself. Whether it be in work or in love, first we must understand who we are before we can go and find a job or a person who is compatible with us. When it comes to love many of us understand the things we like and don't like, what we will and won't do and usually have a clear understanding of the partner we are looking for and how we want to share our life. We've been brought up, taught and had numerous role models to follow in our understanding of finding the right partner. 
However, when it comes to finding the perfect job, that is our perfect fit we are most often completely unprepared.  Other than those lucky few who always knew what they wanted to be; a Doctor, Lawyer, Accountant or Engineers, I suspect like most people you had no clue what you were going to ending doing for employment let alone how to go about figuring that out. Does anyone ever remember discussing with their parents what they love about their job or whether they love it at all? My parents would have looked at me like I had grown a third head if I asked that question. 'What are you asking?, they would say, I work what does loving work have to do with work, work is work"
So you see, I thought exactly the same way for years until I came to a point in time after a very successful career in finance staring at the fact that I could not get a job anywhere let alone something that I thought I was a fit for. What I realized was that nobody out there had any idea of what I brought to the table, hell neither did I, I thought of myself in terms of what job titles I had held over my work life, not what I was a good fit for. So when faced with the prospect of unemployment with six kids I realized the old adage, "necessity is the mother of invention" 
So I quickly had to figure out what I was good at who out there needed what I was good at doing and who hopefully wanted me to work with them both in skills and personality. So before I could figure out who needed and wanted me, I had to figure who ‘me’ was and would anyone pay for me?. What kind of people would I work best with?
What I find truly remarkable is how long people will tolerate their own unhappiness at work. Even more incredible is that fact that they show absolutely no interest and take no initiative to change that. It's almost as if we have all been raised to believe that work and happiness are mutually exclusive terms.
NEWS FLASH folks, you don't need to be unhappy at work. But you do need to do some work to find that perfect situation for you and it starts with figuring out yourself so that when you are doing your job search you are searching in your target rich environment (TRE). You TRE is the place that needs you and your skills.
So, unhappy at work folks , it’s not going to change by sitting miserable at your desk. Last I checked life is not a dress rehearsal so get up off your duffs, make it your New Year’s resolution to put some serious effort into finding the right fit for you and as they say " Figure out what you love and get paid for doing it"
All that stands in the way of a happy job is "YOU and some hard WORK"

Monday, November 10, 2014

Tell Me About Yourself

"So tell me about yourself" These five simple words that have the capability of messing up your interview right from the start. This one question strikes fear, dry mouth, increased heart palpitations and not to mention unsightly sweat in all the wrong places in even the most capable applicants.

Where do you start? Do you go back to the early days? Are they really interested in “…it all started in a small town just outside of Waco Texas” or the more boring “I don't think you can read my resume so let me repeat everything that is written on it”. Which is akin to reading every slide in a presentation in case people can’t see or read. The third alternative is to just rattle on and on about how “I am the greatest thing since sliced bread and any company would be lucky to have me” speech. 

Well I know there is a much better alternative to the painful suggestions made by most recruiters. You see, when someone asks you tell them about yourself what they are really trying to do is answer a very simple set of questions in their mind:"What's in it for me to hire you?’ ‘What should I pay you for that will make me more money?’ And lastly, ‘Do I need your skills and if I so, do I like you enough to believe that you will be a good fit with everyone else that works here?" 

You see I believe that before you can answer any of these questions you need to be comfortable enough to understand exactly what are you good at, and what skills you possess that someone should pay you for. As you prepare for an interview ask yourself what kind of people you work best with and do they exist where you are applying? Secondly, is your conflict resolution style compatible with the firm you are hoping to be hired by? And lastly, if you could describe the perfect day of activities that you will be required to do does it match the job description? Seems simple enough, yes? Write it down, it will provide clarity. I have received countless feedback from those that I mentor despite how simple these questions seem they provide great clarity.  

Far too many people fall into the trap of describing themselves in terms of their CV or Resume, which in my opinion is nothing more than a trip itinerary of jobs. Seriously I always ask my clients and those I mentor, "Is that the single best document to describe who you are, what you are good at and why someone should hire you?" I sincerely doubt it and in all my years of asking the question nobody has ever said yes it is! But we still use the conventional resume...well I have a different I idea for you in how to revamp your resume and how to answer the dreaded question.  

In my book, "How to hire the perfect Employer", I outline how you can go about building your own infomercial so that when asked the question "Tell me about yourself" you will have rock solid pitch that will ensure that the employer will be able to figure out whether they need your skills and want you as in your personality and character.  So, for those that have not read the book, what does an infomercial look like? Let me share my infomercial with you, the one that I use every time I go on a pitch for new business. 

When asked the dreaded questions, I start by saying; "I am trusted advisor to CEOs, Department heads and managers of financial services organizations. I work with them in helping execute their plans by doing recruiting, consulting and coaching"I then continue to tell them that throughout my career I have hired over 900 people while I was at CIBC and BMO. I was responsible for numerous strategic initiatives both in their creation and execution. Lastly, I have mentored and coached numerous people that have gone on to great heights. I am collaborative in my conflict resolution style and the perfect day for me is doing all three of the above mentioned in my infomercial, working on finding good people, advising clients on how to improve their businesses and lastly but most importantly coaching people into finding the perfect fit in employment for them. 

The perfect employer for me is someone who is first and foremost seeking a trusted advisor with my background and experience. IF they are just looking for a Head Hunter to show them CV's then I direct them to the many other firms that do that for a living the way the client wants it done.With this clear understanding of my strengths and what I offer to each client I work with, I approach the dreaded ‘Tell me about yourself’ question with ease…. 
‘Let me tell you about myself, I am a trusted advisor to CEOs….”

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Finding Your Fit

I recently read a study that said over 70% of the people working in Great Britain were unhappy with their jobs. What a sad state of affairs, imagine getting up every morning with nothing to look forward to except for the end of the day. OMG, I would shoot myself yet I do understand how you can end up in that trap. If this is you and you are reading this get up on your feet and say to yourself “I deserve to be happy, I deserve to have work that utilizes my skill set and finally I deserve to enjoy going to work every day because I get to do the things I am good at.”

In order to make any significant changes in your life it begins with a realistic assessment of where you are at the time. Determine your skills and what interests you. Then read my book, How to Hire the Perfect Employer, and follow the process that will lead to your powerful infomercial that will allow you to look and opportunities and see if they are right for you.

You have the power to make the changes happen. I believe that people are often afraid to look for work where their passion is due to the belief that they won’t be able to make enough money. As I always say to people;

“Do you know that?”
“Have you actually done the work and research to find that out?”

Don’t you think you will be far more valuable to a company or yourself if you are doing the things that you are good at every day and watching your productivity jump by leaps and bounds instead of spending time on the things that you suck at and have really no interest in doing?

Throughout my coaching practice I am amazed at how unmotivated people are at finding the right fit at work for them. Behind family and health, their job, where they spend 40% of their time every day is the most important aspect of their life happiness. When I started my business, I quickly realized that I could make money from my passion. By understanding who I was and what I am good at I could target myself to the clients that needed me most and wanted me to do the work utilizing my strengths. I never wasted my time pitching people that either didn’t need my type of service or want my personality and process. I stayed and continue to stay within my target rich environment, focusing on those clients that need and want me.

Your life should be focused on working everyday on your strengths. The things you suck at you will always suck and should seek a job or career that requires as little as possible from that side of your personal balance sheet. Balance is for investment portfolio, work to your strengths every day and you cannot help but be successful and a success by any measure you wish to judge. You have the power to make it happen…so DO IT!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Data Predetermined the Real Winner in the Latest US Election

I along with the rest of the world were held hostage by the American election cycle for the past few months, if not the past year. Personally I cannot let the 70 billion dollar election expenditures go by without at least a bit of commentary – the campaign budgets make the auto bailout look like a shrimp cocktail and they can't even say they saved any jobs in Ohio! From where I sit politically, it all ended exactly where it started 24 months ago, less 70 billion, EXCEPT for one big difference: The Obama campaign broke the mould in data harvesting and changed the game permanently.

The world was fascinated as CNN's John King dissected all the voting patterns and historical data at the large touch screen. He made the results look logical and hinted very early in the evening that it was going to be an Obama victory. No question, the demographics of the Obama victory were interesting, but what was even more intruiguing was how the Romney campaign got  completely blindsided. What happened?? Data mining is what happened. Time magazine broke the “inside story” of a group in the Chicago Obama headquarters that revolutionized data harvesting:

A group of PHDs and scientists (that were kept entirely separate from the regular campaign staff) began working nearly four years ago on the data management issues they encountered during the 2008 campaign. The first Obama campaign was lauded for its revolutionary use of social media to get the youth vote. This time around the Democrats built an incredible database of information to form the most sophisticated data mining model ever used in politics or most likely in any other organization. The use of data is how Romney got blindsided. Read the article, it was amazing how they used the data to fundraise and get people out to vote.

In one of their quarterly publications McKinsey also wrote about the importance of data mining and its powerful future:

In addition, a relatively new extremely creative entrepreneurial firm called Price Metrix has revolutionized how the the world manages their investment advisors. With this article they explain why you should seriously worry you if you are not on this data directed train:

You see it's politics, businesses and probably more industries than you can even think about that are harnessing the value of data to make critical decisions. This has been going on in the sports world for ages and now technology has allowed everyone to harness its power.

So my question to you is, "are you capitalizing on all the data that is available to you at the workplace??"

Or do you have client information scattered about in different databases that should be consolidated (that was one of the big tasks of the Obama brain trust)?

Are you paying too many different sources to provide the same information (that is why the Bloomberg terminal became so popular in the cost cutting 1990s)??

Do you have managers who comprehend the new world dynamics and how to harness the data to understand what is really going on out there? Or are you stuck in the old horse and buggy decision making process that has sent many a businesses slowly move along the curve of extinction?

Technology is and will be the ultimate disrupter,  spreading its influence into every aspect of our lives. Apple, Google, Facebook and YouTube have being doing it for years. But you thought it was just about social media. Wrong, it's all about the data, who has it, what do they do with it and what does it mean for you.

Take heed everyone, the future is here and there is nowhere to hide. If you are not taking advantage of the data, your competitors will! Just ask Mitt and the Republican Party, since they and everyone else had no warning of the tsunami that hit them on election night. Strike yet another victory for technology!

What side of the disrupter world do you reside in? Are u the disrupter or the one being being dirsrupted??

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ryder Cup thoughts, a little late...

Why was the Ryder Cup such an incredible event? Was it the agony and the ecstasy? The agony of a less skilled European team falling way behind to a narcissistic American team… And then, the ecstasy as the Europeans took the Americans down one by one in head to head competition? 

I will tell you why I thought it was so riveting; everybody loves the underdog, the come from behind victory, the David vs. Goliath imagery. The unpredictability and drama of sport is why we watch. If the most talented teams won all the time, who would care? Those with the biggest pocket book would always be the winner.

Regardless of how sad we are when our teams lose, we still admire the magnitude of the feat by the underdog. There is some quiet comfort that if our teams do lose, somehow it is acceptable to be beaten by a team that is inferior in talent but somehow pulls everything together to do what had on paper seemed impossible.

Now, that I have gotten you thinking about the joy of come from behind victories, I want you to think about your workplace and what you can learn from the Ryder Cup event. Doesn't it feel great when someone beats the odds? Someone decides to take a different path, risk it all and makes it work with blood sweat and tears? Do you ever cheer for the underdog at the office? Do you ever help clear the path for someone experimenting with a different strategy?
The Ryder Cup Captain Jose Maria Olazabal knew that he was overmatched but took risks with his choices of people and the order in which he played them. Notwithstanding, his odds sure looked insurmountable when they sat down for dinner on the eve of the final round. Yet there was something in the air that night.

I can tell you from experience that Goliath does not always win in life and that includes at the office. When Goliath loses, it is so much more satisfying because the unexpected has occurred. What I have seen in my coaching practice often is the “Davids” talking themselves out of challenging the “Goliaths” by saying "Oh, that will never work” or “They will never do that." I always ask "How do you know?” The answer is - You don't know until you try!

Cheering for the underdogs is always more risky, prone to ridicule and definitely more lonely, but so much more fun when it works! In reality, the underdogs are usually the agents of change, those people that are different, not marching to the same beat, those that did not read the pre-game write-ups that said they were to be defeated. They are the ones that forge ahead without fear. We should be cheering these people forward, helping them clear the way for progress.
My wonderful American wife always asks me why I love the underdog in every aspect of life so much (FYI just a few tense moments during the Ryder Cup disintegration of her team). I answer because I spent a lifetime of people telling me "Oh, you can't do this and that”. In reality, it seems to me you can do anything you put your mind and energy to; otherwise, we would still be running around with clubs and loin cloths. Nothing wrong with that if you are a caveman but most of us have progressed!

So my challenge to you is be an agent of change in your office, support those taking the road less travelled, cheer for the underdog whether it’s popular or not. You never know that change may just make your life better, it’s sure worth a try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, just like the Europeans did on the night before the last round of Ryder Cup.
Be bold and support your local underdog. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The World is an Incredible Place

I recently had the good fortune to visit parts of the world with my wife and her family that were truly spectacular. Where and why do not matter, but what I saw and experienced as it relates to the world of work and entrepreneurism does matter and it concerns you.

During the trip, we were lucky enough to drop anchor in a totally remote area of the Aegean Sea. As this was occurring, a man in a small skiff headed towards our charter. The crew sprung to attention fearing the worst, but upon closer observation, we realized he was an ice cream salesman with Ben and Jerry's products. We had to rub our eyes, but there he was along side the boat pitching ice cream in broken English - complete with marketing tools - a large picture board of products.

We had just finished lunch and dessert, but this guy needed to be rewarded for both his entrepreneurial gusto and salesmanship. So, we bought a large quantity of Ben and Jerry’s and once again we pushed back our diet plans. We enjoyed the banter back and forth with this true salesman learning about his motivation and his business.  He told us that if anyone asks about him, we refer to him as being " chubby but good looking.” What a perfect description!

Adversity is the mother of creativity and invention. This gentleman came from a small fishing village that offered a limited amount of ways to earn a living. He had a wife and children to clothe and feed. For him to seek out and capitalize on this ice cream venture was truly remarkable. I am sure someone said to him “are you kidding, selling ice cream to all those boats as they pass by?" But undeterred, there he was making the sale.  Somehow, I doubt it was his first rodeo.

Steve Jobs was once quoted asking the question whether Alexander Graham Bell ever had a focus group. It appears to me that the world is truly short of risk takers, I know in the Financial Services industry there are a few brave ones left, but the increased regulation and the more conservative board governance have tied everyone’s hands (for the good or the bad). But, what about the rest of humanity? Is the World Wide Web the only frontier of creativity and opportunity?

I would argue that all great inventions are the convergence of these concepts. It all starts with two musings, "There must be a better way to do.... " or  "I wish I could…..” How many times have you seen a new product and thought, “Now, that makes sense?”  Not every solution is an earth shattering invention (but some definitely are), most of the time it is just a better mousetrap.

Steve Jobs and his friends at Apple probably said I know we can improve on the original Sony MP3 players to revolutionize the world digital music in an iPod.But I digress, you see most established organizations want to study, poke and prod and find every reason to not change the original blueprint. I am not talking about the gazillion dollar purchases - those decisions seem to be made easier than the day-to-day tactical decisions of who to hire and what business to build opportunistically (cheaply) and quickly.

Today’s businesses need a good healthy dose of the old-fashioned entrepreneurial spirit – just like the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream salesman in the Aegean Sea. Forget the full-blown studies and foot dragging, a little plain hustle and some get up and go, just might make you some money.

So the questions I ask each of you is  “Are you or is your firm in the practice of encouraging the creative entrepreneurs?” I don't mean market risk taking, I am talking about encouraging people to come forth with new ideas and new business prospects to improve the bottom line either through better efficiency or brighter ideas. Remember creativity and opportunity are the mother of all profitability!   

Or are you and your firm destined to clip the same old coupons, to stick to the mundane assembly line way of producing and to maintain the same mediocre pace in place because it's just a heck of lot easier than swimming up stream? If that’s the case, you are destined for a boring life of mediocrity. Bring some passion and some new ideas to your work place, they may not all be iPods but remember the silver lining “chubby but good looking”!

As some of you know, I am the first generation from my family to have been born in North America, immigrants have distinct characteristics by their very circumstances. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and boat rockers, it is in my genes, I have never seen a boat that I didn't want to rock. My wife says that I cannot even walk into a restaurant without telling them how to improve the place (so much for a relaxing date night). This “personality trait” has cost me tens of millions of dollars having been fired twice by two Canadian banks’.  You see for me it's never been a conscious decision because I am always thirsty for change.  It drives my wife and kids crazy (as well as a few others), but I could not run my business today without my rocking skills! In fact, it drives my business.

So, who are the shakers at your workplace? Do you, yourself have it in you to step up and offer the new ideas and take ownership? Surely, when you look around and ask “Is there a better way to do this?”  The answer should more often than not be a resounding YES!

So I ask, "What’s in your GENES????"