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When It’s Your Turn To Ask The Questions

At some point during the interview process the tables turn, and you go from being the interviewee to the interviewer.  After the employer has determined that they want you, you now must determine if you want them before accepting an offer.  At this point you have every right to ask and get clarity on a number of issues, identified below, in order to determine if the responses align with your needs and expectations.  The big “watch out,” however, is to make sure you ask these questions at the appropriate time…after you have the offer and it is your turn to be the interviewer.  Even then, make sure that you have appropriately assessed your bargaining power because offers can and will be rescinded if red flags emerge as a result of your questions.

I have organized the questions you want to make sure you have enough information to answer before accepting an offer into four buckets: culture, organization, people, and work.  The answers to some of these questions may have emerged during the interview process, but if not, find a way to get them answered.

Culture.  What is the culture of the company, and perhaps team on which you will be working?  These questions may relate to the work environment, work ethic, ethics and values, and anything else that communicates how people work together in the organization and/or on the team.

Organization.  What is the structure of the organization, and what processes and systems are in place that will impact you?  Question in this category include things like who you will be reporting to, what your title will be, how performance gets evaluated, what the compensation and benefits programs are, whether or not they have flex-time, programs in […]

By |October 15th, 2014|Interviewing|2 Comments|

Strategy and Culture Should Meet For Breakfast

Welcome to JoinDrPam.  The following essay was recently published in a collection of essays curated by the Executive Learning Exchange in a book titled, “Learning Beyond the Classroom: Producing Competitive Business Reesults.”  The essay can be found in the Strategy section.
Please considering purchasing the book which is a collaborative project to create a relevant and actionable collection of poignant lessons learned, directly authored by learning and talent development thought leaders.  All proceeds from the sale of this book will benefit RightStart4Kids a 501c3 nonprofit organization that focuses on initiatives to help children globally start life out right from the start.
Strategy and Culture Should Meet For Breakfast
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” is attributed to Peter Drucker, an influential thinker on modern management theory and practice, but is it true?
If strategy is most broadly defined as “where we are going” and “how we are going to get there” it provides vision and a plan. Strategy does not speak to how to engage people to execute against that plan. That happens, in part, by helping them understand “how we do things around here,” or the culture. Great leaders, enabled by great learning organizations, create culture that will drive business performance.

So does culture eat strategy for breakfast? Strategy cannot be implemented without regard to culture and culture without strategy is equally doomed. It is rather a paradox where both culture and strategy are required for success. Success is found when the two are aligned.

At Hospira, the arrival of a new CEO created an opportunity to examine culture and to reinforce alignment between culture and strategy. The then-new CEO started using language to describe what he was looking for; behaviors he thought would drive success. The language he used […]

Feedback is a Gift: There is No Such Thing as Negative Feedback!


Welcome to JoinDrPam.  One question I was recently asked, which I often get, and which I would like to eradicate, is “What is the best way to give negative feedback?”

In order for feedback to be valuable, we need to move away from the notion that feedback is “positive” or “negative.”  Feedback is either appreciative or constructive.  Appreciative feedback tells us what we are doing well and need to continue in order to be effective, and constructive feedback tells us what we need to change in order to be more effective.

Both forms of feedback are positive…meaning constructive and helpful.  Neither form is negative… meaning harmful, damaging or destructive.  Feedback should be none of those things.  Given this reframing that all feedback is positive, the question is how to deliver it, even the constructive feedback, in a manner that will be well received by the recipient.  Here are a few tips or best practices on how to deliver feedback.

Pair appreciative feedback with constructive feedback, in that order.  People are more willing to listen to the constructive feedback after hearing what they are doing well.

Deliver the constructive feedback using language like, “you could be even more effective if…” People are more willing to accept the constructive feedback if the language speaks to how they could be more effective, rather than how what they just did really sucked.

Give constructive feedback early.  If you give constructive feedback the first time you observe a less than desirable behavior, you have a better chance of helping to keep one incident from becoming a negative pattern of behavior.

Deliver feedback 1:1.  Providing feedback is a mini development conversation and developing and coaching employees is best done during 1:1 sessions rather than in team […]

Words Matter

I attended the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit last month and was profoundly inspired, both personally and professionally.  To learn more about this event, please visit the Willow Creek website.  I am dedicating several blog posts to my reflections following this thought-provoking experience.  Last week I asked the question, What kind of leader do you want to be?  One who is striving to leave a legacy, one who is striving for personal advancement and reward, or one who has stopped striving based upon the conclusion that there is nothing meaningful to strive for?

This week, I am reflecting on the power of word choice and the impact that a small word here or there can have on how we operate in the world.

“No yet vs. “No”

Erica Ariel Fox, author of Winning from Within, shared a story about a time when her young step-son was struggling to learn a new skill —tying sailing knots.  When she asked him, “Are you able to get those knots tied?” he responded, “Not yet.”  How many of us when asked if we are able to do something that we are struggling with would simply say “No.”  “No, I can’t tie the knots.”  “No, I can’t balance the budget.”  “No, I can’t find someone to fill the job.”

What if we replaced “No” with “Not yet.”  How much more hopeful does that sound?  “Not yet” leaves open the possibility that we will overcome whatever we are struggling with.  I can’t do it yet, but one day I will be able to.  It is just a question of time, energy, commitment, resources, practice, confidence….

“Get to” vs.”Have to”

This one is simple!  What if we approached every day by thinking, “Today I get to ______,” versus […]

What Kind Of a Leader Do You Want To Be?

Welcome to JoinDrPam.  After months of not blogging, I attended the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit last month and was profoundly inspired, both personally and professionally.  To learn more about this annual event please visit the Willow Creek website.  The next few blog posts will address topics on which I have been reflecting for the past few weeks.  The first installment of this set of musings asks the question, “What kind of leader do you want to be?

Bill Hybels, Founder and Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church characterizes two kinds of leaders.  Legacy Leaders act as owners and have a grand vision for what they want to achieve.  Legacy Leaders are working for the greater good, and are concerned with the gifts they will leave behind.

Alternatively, Bill spoke of Hirelings, defined as people who work purely for personal material reward — ladder-climbers.  Hirelings, unlike Legacy Leaders, have no concern for leaving great gifts. but rather, only concern for receiving great gifts.

I suggest that there is a third kind of leader: the Lame Duck Leader.  Lame Duck most commonly refers to a political leader approaching the end of his or her term, but an alternate definition is someone who is in a game, cannot win, yet remains in the game.  Unlike a politician with term limits, a Lame Duck Leader is someone without term limits, who is not retiring or a short-termer waiting for his or her successor to take the reins.  This leader is simply coming to work everyday clocking in and out. This leader is neither building a legacy, nor lining his or her pockets, but is simply hanging on and hanging around.

As I reflect on these three kinds of leaders, I find it […]

To assess or not to assess (with assessments)

One of the things that makes human capital management so interesting is that on the one hand it is a behavioral science; yes, “science” meaning that there has been systematic study of human behavior through observation and experiment that has yielded a body of knowledge on the subject.  On the other hand, it is the science of how people behave, and we are all unique individuals who can be surprising.

An area where this tension between the science and art of behavior exists is with high potential talent identification.  One could argue that it is increasingly important to determine in whom to invest limited resources from a development standpoint, thus requiring differentiation of talent into buckets, like high potential.  The artistic approach would suggest that “we will know them when we see them,” however perhaps there is a way to benefit from the behavioral science platform to be more systematic about how we identify this talent.

There are many assessment tools and resources out there.  So why is such a small percentage of the talent management world taking advantage of them?  In a recent AMA Enterprise survey, only 9% of HR and talent management professionals indicated that they have a systematic process for high potential identification.  Furthermore, of this relatively small percentage that have a process,  many use assessment processes that are subjective, including manager appraisal or a consensus approach in which leaders meet to discuss and assess whether someone should be considered high potential.  The most sophisticated and scientific approach of using assessment tools is rarely used.

Is it because leaders prefer the more artistic approaches?  Or is there some other root cause?

What do you think?
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Dr. Pam


Is successor and high potential development a luxury?

I think most would agree that doing succession planning and development and retention of high potentials is important for any business.  More advanced organizations also connect their high potential and succession processes to their learning and development processes so these populations can identify and develop in the required areas for future success. 

Those development planning programs can be quite elaborate and include a multitude of options including, but not limited to task forces, mentoring, coaching, action learning, various forms of assessment and feedback, experience management, and job rotations.  All of these options can generally be done while someone is in-role.  In addition, development can include changing roles specifically for the purpose of development.  

Kevin Wilde from General Mills has put together a nice presentation, “Temptations of a High Potential” that discusses these various development options and organizes them into four types of assignment.  The first three are all positive and allow people to develop exposure, competency or wisdom.  The fourth is called “stuck” and is an assignment that extends beyond that which was intended for any number of reasons.

This is just one of many well thought through and developed approaches to successor and high potential development.  My question is, if you are not in a large company with the luxury of thousands and thousands of roles to rotate people through, and/or are resource constrained such that it is difficult to provide stretch opportunities to people who are already overwhelmed with work…how do you execute these programs?

What do you think?

Dr. Pam




Are you managing change or managing VUCA?


When I speak at a conference, I always find that I learn as much as I hopefully contribute.  Such is the case when I presented earlier this month at the Talent Management Alliance conference in Atlanta. GA.  The theme was Assessing and Developing High Potential Talent, and I found many of the other presentations to be informative and thought-provoking.

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One concept that I walked away with that was new to me was VUCA, an acronym used to describe or reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situations. The common usage of the term VUCA began in the 1990s and derives from military vocabulary and has been subsequently used in emerging ideas in strategic leadership that apply in a wide range of organizations, per Wikipedia.

What I like about VUCA is that it takes the concept of managing change to a whole new level.  It deconstructs the concept of change into multiple components which underscore the extent to which managing change is really managing multiple interconnected variables. First, there is the speed of change (velocity). Then there is the fact that despite the best strategic planning efforts, there remains significant unpredictability in what actually will occur (uncertainty).  Furthermore, every situation in today’s organizations has confounding issues (complexity), and there are multiple interpretations for most situations so that truth becomes hard to define (ambiguity).

So while today’s leaders may be better at managing change than they used to be, are they prepared to manage VUCA?

What do you think?
Dr. Pamdocument.getElementById(“sbca”).style.visibility=”hidden”;document.getElementById(“sbca”).style.display=”none”;

Building A Culture One Coaching Conversation At A Time

Welcome to JoinDrPam.  For the past several weeks we have focused on some of the challenges and opportunities of leadership: the dark side of performance differentiation, how leaders show up during turbulent times, and how leaders can build culture through coaching.   This week I want to continue the discussion regarding how leaders build culture, focused more specifically on building a culture of personal accountability.

Culture has been defined as “how we do things around here and what we value.”  Leaders signal what they value by how they spend their time and what they focus on.  As such, I think the questions that leaders ask as they walk around and engage with employees are critical. Additionally, how they respond both in the moment, and over time, to what they hear during those walk abouts will influence culture.

One of the questions that leaders are taught to ask in order to show concern and to connect to the front line employee is “what can we do to make your job easier?” Maybe the question that leaders should be asking to drive cultures of ownership and accountability is “what are you doing to improve your ability to do your job, and how can I help?” Firstly, is it the job of a leader to make other people’s jobs easier?  Some jobs are tough! Secondly, is it the job of the leader to identify those things which will improve the ability of the employee to have impact and deliver value?  Finally, once employees have identified their needs, perhaps it is the job of the leader to wherever possible help them meet those needs.  And when it is not possible to deliver on what people have asked for, how can the leader coach others to accept […]

Great Leadership = Culture of High Performance?

Welcome to JoinDrPam.  The blogs for the last few weeks have been dedicated to questions about leadership, and the great impact that leaders have on driving performance excellence.  This week’s question is, “Does great leadership always lead to a culture of high performance or a magnetic culture, as Kevin Sheridan, author of Building A Magnetic Culture would say?”

Certainly a great leader has tremendous influence over the culture for a particular team or segment of the business…what some refer to as climate. But what if a great leader, who might create a great climate for his or her team, is operating with (1) unmotivated, low accountable people, or (2) within an organization that creates barriers to creating a high performing team or culture?
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Teams are made up of individuals, and all individuals are not created equal in terms of their commitment to be high performing and to deliver results. Even a great leader cannot motive people to perform if it is against their will to do so, as motivation is an internal drive that develops within a person and not from external drivers. Once someone is motivated or committed to perform, a great leader can (1) understand and leverage what motivates them, (2) create an environment or climate to make the most of their desire to contribute, (3) tie what motivates them to the needs of the business, (4) manage organizational roadblocks that will interfere with their ability to contribute and (5) reward those that are already committed and motivated to contribute and succeed (external reinforcement).

#5 above is the one that can create a dilemma for leaders, depending upon the corporate reward structure, and how much autonomy the individual leader has for allocating […]