Monday, June 28, 2010

In Search of Meaningful Work

So many people are in search of work right now that it boggles the mind. Many are in search of full-time work in the field they had worked in before the downsizings. Others are scrambling to take whatever work they can get. Some are struggling to reinvent themselves for the next act of their lives.

If you are in this boat, I'd like to suggest that you add to your list: Search for meaningful work.

What is meaningful work?

Meaningful work is paradoxical: It's work that doesn't seem like work to you. When you do this work, you are in love with it and the time flows by like a river.

If you have ever felt this way while working at something, reflect on it. What was that work? What was it about that work that seems to connect to your heart and soul?

My friend Kenny Moore has written and spoken about this: "All of us are born into this world with an “acorn” that is destined to grow into a mighty oak. This acorn is often referred to as our calling, vocation or destiny."

This is the work we were born to do. It's the "golden seed" planted in us before we were born. It's our calling. Our reason for being here.

And each of us has that work to do. Our mission in life is to find it and pursue it.

Last year, I started a network called The Heart of Meaningful Work, intended to be a global community for conversations about finding meaning in our work. I invite you to join it on LinkedIn.

This post was written by Terrence Seamon, June 28, 2010. For more career transition and coaching tips like this, check out Terry’s website Facilitation Solutions and invite him into your organization as a speaker.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Telling Your STORY

Today at Ft. Dix in southern New Jersey, the Ultimate Warrior Job Fair brought area employers together with returning soldiers who are transitioning back to civilian life. To prepare for the job fair, yesterday the soldiers were offered one-on-one resume and interview coaching with a small army of NJ-area Human Resources experts and career coaches, including me.

One of the soldiers I met with was having a difficult time expressing what he had accomplished in his years of service. He said, "I was just doing my job, sir." His humility and sense of duty were hallmarks of his training as a soldier. But his capabilities and value to potential employers were still hidden. He needed to develop good descriptive stories that he could tell that would convey his tremendous experience.

The following five steps, illustrated with one of the soldier's stories, will help job hunters think through and prepare your PAR (Problem-Action-Result) stories:

Situation: Where were you? When was this? What was your role?

The soldier talked about the time he was an embedded advisor with Iraqi soldiers in his most recent tour of duty.

Tasks: What did you have to do?

The soldier's task was to train the Iraqi soldiers in the American way of soldiering, including its value system, processes, and practices.

Opportunity and Obstacles: What was the prize? What was in the way?

The opportunity was to create and sustain a new Iraqi army, different from the old one under the previous regime. The obstacle was to overcome the ingrained thinking and habits that the Iraqi's had been taught.

Response and Result: What did you do? What was the result?

What the soldier did was to develop and deploy a team of advisors that worked very closely with the Iraqis, coaching and mentoring them patiently, working day in and day out to overcome their skepticism and build trust.

You: How did this experience shape you? How were you strengthened by it?

The soldier expressed it with a motto that he had thought of to describe himself: "Turning ordinary people into extraordinary leaders."

What civilian employer would not want to hire such a person?

This important job search skill, telling stories that convey your skills and value, doesn't get the attention it deserves. These stories not only convey your past accomplishments, they also tell the prospective employer about You and what you're made of. Your ability to tell your PAR stories may be the differentiator that sets you apart from your competition.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, June 10, 2010. For more tips on job search, careers, and storytelling, contact Terry. Visit his website and invite him to speak to your organization.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Becoming Something Very Important

Today, I was part of a contingent of career coaches that volunteered to help our soldiers at the “Ultimate Warrior Career Workshops” held at the Fort Dix military base. It was a great event.

I met with several soldiers, to review their resumes, and guide them in preparation for their transition from the military life back to the civilian world.

Thinking about them as I drove home, I am convinced that today's job hunters and career changers need to become transitionists:

~ People who are "adept at transitions and more precisely, skilled at managing change." People who expect change; accept change; and see change as opportunity. People who ride change as a surfer rides a wave.

So if you are a transitioning job hunter or career changer, how can you develop yourself as a transitionist? Here are a few thoughts:

Attitude: What is your attitude toward change? Do you resist it? Do you embrace it? Can you imagine yourself initiating change in your own life?

Dissatisfaction: What aspect of your life would you most like to change? Find your dissatisfaction points.

Vision: What is your vision of the future, the future You? What do you see yourself doing? creating? famous for?

Engage: Are you bringing your fully engaged energy, your "A Game," to this change project?

Next steps: What small steps will you start to take, right here and right now, that will overcome inertia, start the ball rolling, and impel you toward the change?

Transformation: Can you sense the wings that are forming in you, the wings that want to spread, the wings that will enable you to take off and fly?

The points above form the acronym ADVENT. I chose that word because advent means:

~ The coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important: the advent of the computer. (Merriam Webster Dictionary)

When you are making a transition, such as the soldiers I met at Ft. Dix, you are in the process of becoming something quite important: the future You.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, June 9, 2010

Monday, June 07, 2010

Living the Mission, Vision, and Values

Dominic Scaffidi is a Toronto-based HR consultant who asked an interesting question recently at LinkedIn:

~ How do you get your employees to live the Mission, Vision, and Values of your company?

As an organization development professional, I've had the good fortune of being an internal in several companies where this question was a major cultural undertaking.

In each case, the key success factors were: Feeling and Believing.

First, let's look at feeling. Do the employees feel (key word) the Mission and Vision? This feeling comes from real engagement where employees are authentically invited into the process of defining and deepening the Mission, Vision, and Values.

In one of the companies where a significant effort was made to embed the MVV in the organization, employees from all levels and all locations were invited into the process. Everyone had an opportunity to say their piece of the wisdom. And the facilitators from OD were carefully listening and conveying employee input.

Second, believing. Do the employees believe the Mission, Vision, and Values? It's about credibility. Believing comes from seeing the leaders in the company walking the talk.

In another organization, the CEO made it his regular practice to talk about the strategy and values of the company. He really felt and believed it. And when you interacted with him, you sensed that it was real.

So, how do you get your employees to live the Mission, Vision, and Values of the company? It's a lot more than hanging posters on the walls:

Communicate and Engage: Yes, Cascade it. But don't stop there. Go further. Connect with employees in meaningful forums.

Invite and Involve: Let employees know that their input counts.

Listen and Lead: If there are two vitally essential elements, it would have to be these two, listening, and leading the way by your example.

Embedding MVV is not a quick fix. Do it right and it will pay off in a more highly focused and engaged workforce.

This post was written by Terrence Seamon, June 7, 2010. For more leadership and employee engagement tips like this, check out Terry’s website Facilitation Solutions and invite him into your organization as a speaker.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Can't We All Get Along?

This past week at LinkedIn, there have been a couple interesting discussions of the relationship among HR, Training and OD. Which led to my latest posting on HR.Blognotions, and re-published here.

As an HR Thought Leader, I’ve been asked what I think of the relationships among Training, Organization Development, and HR. Having labored in this nexus for over 25 years, I definitely have some thoughts.

Let’s start with Training and OD. For me, both are professional fields of practice, distinct from each other as career paths, but closely related historically as well as functionally.

Historically, the field of OD was originally training-based. The T in T-Group stands for Training. NTL stands for National Training Labs. Much of the early work of the founders of OD involved “interventions” that came to be known as “action learning.”

Functionally, Training and OD are pursuing the same end result, i.e. enhanced performance. Training focuses on individuals, while OD on teams and organizations. So I see them as points on a common continuum.

Yes, they can get along and cooperate. They can even collaborate and synergize. But there can also be tension, even conflict, especially if there is mistrust or disrespect in the relationship. While I’ve never seen antagonism in the relationship between OD and Training, I have seen turf issues. And I’ve seen (and felt) condescension, where the people in OD “looked down on” the folks in T&D.

I guess it’s human nature at work. OD likes to see itself as strategic, and Training as tactical. Actually, that’s not a bad point of view. The trouble brews when it reflects silos and division rather than creative collaboration.

My best experiences have been those where OD and T&D have been integrated in one department. In one company, it was called Learning & Development. In another company, it was called People & Organization Effectiveness. In a third, it was called Training & OD.

Whatever you call it, my recommendation would be to bring them under one roof, with one mission and vision. After all, Training and OD are in the same business: growing the capability of the organization to perform.

Things get muddier when we look at Training and OD reporting up into HR. I’ll never forget an early encounter when I joined the Human Resources team of a large international chemicals company in the early 1980’s. One of the HR Directors, who was cynically humorous, said to me and others at a staff meeting: “Training is something you do with dogs.” Everyone laughed. To me, it felt like a slap.

In the 25+ years since then, I’ve run into that attitude from time to time. It’s too bad. Seems like one that isn’t going away anytime soon, I guess. My take on it is that it comes from a place of not understanding at best, and disrespect at worst.

A smart HR leader will understand that HR and T/OD are different in outlook, action and spirit. HR is about control, compliance, and risk mitigation. T & OD are about strengthening organizational capability and performance. You can’t get much different, can you?

So a smart HR leader will hire really good Training and OD people. Make sure they are aligned with the business goals. And most importantly: Don’t under-utilize them by assigning HR-ish projects like performance reviews training. Instead, deploy Training and OD to the high-value work that will leverage and strengthen the culture and capability of the organization.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, June 5, 2010

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Call Your Mother. Save Your Money.

Consultant Bob Burg, co-author of the bestseller The Go Giver, was asked this question:

~ If you were invited to deliver a commencement address . . . what advice would you give to a class of college graduates?

I asked my wife Joan. I often consult her for her wisdom. She said:

~ "Call your mother. Save your money. Start thinking now about retirement. Go to church."

So, what would your key points be?

Posted by Terrence Seamon, June 2, 2010