Director Global Facilities Management at Merck
Greater New York City Area
No matter what industry you are in I believe we are all faced with ever changing customer requirements and increased competition. In order to successfully meet these challenges a leader needs to be able to tap into the potential of his/her employees to bring out new ideas, drive continuous improvement, implement change, and achieve realization of the benefits that the change is to bring. The Situational Leadership Theory (developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard) allows a leader to assess the maturity level of the person/group, determine the commitment and competence level, and apply the appropriate leadership style to motivate and inspire employees to meet the challenges the organization is facing.
Director Business Development at Follett Library Resources
In this ever changing, fast paced, technology driven world we live in, both as individuals and as business people, there is a real danger of death by stereotype. Obviously I don’t mean actually passing away, what I mean is more your visibility within your organization or your market.
Ever been in a meeting where someone was regaling the group with talk of innovation and all the ground breaking technology, software, and applications coming to market and then they comment, “but this isn’t really something thing that most of you will understand because you are over XX”. I’m assuming that XX can vary but generally means you’re near to, or over, forty. Well here’s where you need to object. Hell, get downright indignant and let it be known that there is no correlation between your age and your passion for change, technology, risk taking, and innovation. If you let that moment pass you are silently saying “yep, that’s me”. Whoa, major mistake! You have just begun passing away… So, I don’t care how you do it, tactfully or jokingly are always a good way, but do something, say something, that lets everyone in that room know that you’re not buying it.
I’ve had the chance to work in very creative companies in industries that were valued by their customers for being cutting edge with a focus on creating great content and products. Constant reinvention of what you did was not only desirable, it was mandatory if your company was going to continue to grow and prosper. There was no better feeling then that of being in constant motion, driven to change, adapt, and invent by forces that you controlled or by those that you had no control over. Bottom line it was a rush to go to work most days (have to be realistic here right). At these companies I worked for I’ve been everything from the finance guy to the operations guy but always made sure I knew what was new, what could give us an edge, and what would make workers and our customers more productive and happier.
So if you haven’t yet choose today to promise yourself that you will embrace change, look forward to it (not exactly a bold statement since change is coming whether you want it or not) and make sure that you are a part of it and influence it wherever and whenever possible. You can’t, or won’t be allowed to if you’ve been labeled, stereotyped, as to old to get it….. No more silent consent on your part, you owe it to yourself.
Vice President at First Data
I consider myself to be a successful mother of two, career woman, student, and active leader in my local community. I am often asked by countless people, “how do you do it all?” Well, to be quite honest, I have NO idea! But I do know that there are a couple of factors I consider to be absolutely critical to my success, and to maintaining some degree of sanity; some personally owned by me, and some that I am just fortunate enough to benefit from. Let me describe.
I work in a 24×7 financial services operations environment. Now, I try to tell my colleagues all the time, “we are NOT savings lives, here people,” but more often than not, others try to tell us that we do. It is hectic, to say the least, and sometimes unpredictable- well, actually, MOST of the time. Everyone wants a piece of me and my team, and they want it yesterday. My job also requires a fair bit of travel. Add to this, I have a nine-year old daughter (who in her mind believes she is 18- “whatEVER, Mom…”) and a very, very active three-year old son. These two alone remind me at least once per day as to why many animals eat their young. Several years back, I also decided to return to college to finish my degree. I am finally at the home stretch, so for some ungodly reason I thought it would be a good idea to take three courses this semester and try to zip through a little faster.Additionally, I am very active in my community. I serve on two local boards, one of them as current chairwoman, and I also volunteer at several other non-profits in the community in my ‘spare time’ (that sounds even funnier if I read it out loud). Oh, and did I mention that my daycare provider for the last year recently gave us her two weeks’ notice and we’ve been in nanny h*ll around our house while we try to find a new one?
President & CEO at Alzheimer’s Association’
Beginning this year, the first wave of the Baby Boomer generation turns 65. The generation has experienced many triumphs and tragedies: the Apollo moon landings; the birth of the civil rights movement; witnessed thoughtless assassinations of an American President, his brother, and the peaceful leader of the civil rights movement; the Vietnam war; along with remarkable advances in medicine – the first heart transplant, cures for many diseases such as cancer, and the ability to successfully bring many babies born prematurely into the fullness of life.
One disease threatens every baby boomer – Alzheimer’s disease. The coming tsunami of baby boomers developing Alzheimer’s jeopardizes this generation and their families. Alzheimer’s disease robs the patient of his/her freedom – the patient loses the basic ability to care for him/herself. Think about the basic daily activities each of us takes for granted – cooking, dressing, eating, toileting, to name a few. An Alzheimer’s patient eventually loses the ability to take care of these simple tasks. Someone must step in to provide this basic level of care. Caregivers face a burden not easily imagined. The burden adversely affects the caregiver’s health, employment, and financial status. The vast majority of Alzheimer’s patients are cared for by family and friends – not in care facilities.
Clinical, Compliance and Quality Management Systems
My career journey began 3 recessions ago. Having not yet attained my college degree, I left the east coast for Texas which, at the time, had a booming economy. I arrived there with only $600 cash, but a wealth of ambition and confidence that I could make it on my own. Day one brought the first of many lessons to be learned, this concerned economics. In addition the security deposit on my first apartment, rent was payable for the month in advance. Highly-motivated by a now tiny cash reserve, I set out to find a job and did so on day three.
I worked at the small quick copy franchise for two years, waiting on customers at the counter, doing artwork layout, processing orders and purchasing supplies. In addition, and what may go down in history as one of the biggest stretches of my career, I was required to call upon businesses in the immediate vicinity to see how we might be of service to them. Me, cold calling? Approaching complete strangers and asking them to buy something from me? Terrifying at the time; but everyday practice at this stage of the game.
Having shown an ability to handle anything sent my way, I was offered a position in the owners’ new business and the chance to relocate to beautiful Austin, Texas.
The new business was not a copy franchise, but an office equipment dealer that sold copiers, typewriters (does anyone remember them?), and the supplies and service necessary to maintain them. This would be where I used my first computer, and still remember the enormous 10MB hard drive beneath my desk that sounded much like a small aircraft about to take off, and the eight inch floppy disks used to back up the system.
Over a period of nine months, I worked closely with a contract programmer as the business expert, to customize an off-the-shelf point-of-sale and inventory management software package to meet the needs of the business. Ever-curious, I watched in great detail as she wrote and compiled the Basic code to achieve the desired functionality. About six months into the contractor’s engagement, her in-office visits were only required once per week as, at that point, we were down to minor adjustments to items such as invoice formatting and report layout.
As my curiosity got the best of me, I began to make some of the changes requested by my boss independently; ever-careful to make a full backup of course, just in case my confidence overshot my capability. From there I was hooked, and made the leap shortly thereafter to a hospital management company to fill the position of Computer Operator in a shop that employed the use IBM mid-range systems including the System 36/38 and AS/400.
I would spend four years there increasing my knowledge and developing my supervisory skills before the next recession would hit, resulting in the elimination of my position and providing a four month sabbatical to determine my next move which was, surprisingly, accepting a lesser position at the same company – but only for a short period of time because I was simply unable to revive the passion and drive I once had.
Next I moved on to become a Systems Administrator at a then small company that assembled and sold micro systems, along with customized point-of-sale software, to automotive parts retailers. Though I gained extremely valuable skills in the three years I was there, the nuances and politics of its hierarchical family-owned culture were not for me.
My next four years, spent in a variety of roles at a workers compensation insurance provider, would position me for a leap to the Director level in my career, as it gave me the opportunity to manage the technical support center, network operations and a few other key IT positions. But something was missing. I was achieving professional success and the perks that come along with it, yet I felt no real connection to the industries I was working in. In healthcare, I saw the extraordinary costs associated with procedures performed and medicines administered during a patient’s stay. And working at the corporate office of the hospital management company, I also saw the Mercedes and Jaguars leased for company executives, even as the second national recession of my adult life worsened, profits continued to decline, and the company underwent reductions in force. In the insurance industry, though not as pronounced as the inequities I had seen in healthcare, I felt an emphasis to minimize amounts paid for claims whenever possible.
Thankfully, the career connection I had longed for was just around the corner, and I’m as passionate about the world of clinical research today as the day I got the call from a recruiter inviting me to interview at a contract research organization (CRO). So much so that, 15 years later, I still remember the bridge that I was driving on when my (very large!) mobile phone rang, the direction I was headed, and the beautiful blue skies of an autumn Texas day.
Of course I didn’t know what a CRO was when first approached, but after spending a few hours researching it and discovering that I could become part of an industry committed to advancing medicines and healthcare, I was determined the job would be mine. With my confidence and capabilities now in sync, I was offered and accepted the position.
Finally feeling as if I were part of the solution versus the problem, I engaged like never before; assembling a small team of IT professionals, some of which I had worked with previously, to assess and address the issues associated with the highly anticipated Year 2000 date roll-over, or Y2K – what I now refer to as “why 2 what?” given the virtually unnoticeable impact come that fateful day.
Though not a recession, but a downturn in contract awards from pharmaceutical companies to CROs, I would once again find myself looking for a new job having intimate knowledge that the company would soon cease to exist. Because my knowledge was ahead of the curve, there was time for me outline my game plan for my next move and, in doing so, not only had I decided that I was I going to get the specific job in the industry that I wanted, but I was also going to live where I had always wanted to live. Hello, Southern California.
I would spend just over 10 years at that CRO, and had the privilege to serve in a variety of positions. After being hired to clean up operational inefficiencies and restore customer confidence in their IT function and doing so successfully, the company underwent its first acquisition, after which I was offered a promotion within Clinical Operations to improve the quality, profitability and adherence to timelines and deliverables. Using the same formula I had to optimize the IT function, similar and immediate gains were made. This formula, which I refer to as “total alignment” is a personal blend of things I’ve learned while attending school (I had then earned my B.S. in Bus. Admin. with a concentration in International Business) and leadership skills I had used successfully in the past.
After three years in Operations and several key improvements, the COO would approach me about a third position within the company. Like the first two, they were centered on the need for me to identify opportunities for improvement, implement them and then measure their success. In this final role, intended to leverage my background in IT, Operations and proven track-record of implementing improvements, my key charge would be to create a synergy between people, process and technology and would turn out to be one of my most exciting roles I’d ever had.
I’ve always loved a challenge, as well as leading and inspiring people to achieve their true potential. Only this opportunity came with a twist. I would have to do the same, but this time, I would have no direct authority over those I was leading to define and implement the improvements. Fortunately, my past had prepared me for such a role, and I was able to achieve the required results via a thoughtful balance of what some may call “the carrot and the stick.”
Unfortunately, economics would once again intervene; this time, in the form of a global financial crisis. Though, initially, the company was unaffected due to a strong backlog of business sold but services not yet performed or billed, the backlog would continue its decline, necessitating that the company undergo a series of restructurings to preserve cash and maintain profitability. Despite this, I am proud to say that it was the best-managed company I have ever had the pleasure of working for in my entire career.
Make no mistake; this is not a story of recessions, but one of resilience. I am certain that I, my former employer and our global society will go on to achieve many successes in the future, because life’s challenges are no match for determination, innovation and sheer momentum.
I look forward to updating you on the next stop in this incredible journey known as life!
VP, Human Resources at Orica Mining Services
As a practitioner of Human Capital in the workplace I am routinely looking for ways to leverage available talent to the betterment of both the employee and the company. One of the many areas where the opportunity exists for this is in the “traditional” college internship programs that many companies, like my own, sponsor. My company has had such a program for years, long before my arrival in the HR role. The process here, like so many other enterprises, has followed the traditional routine of getting to the best schools early, developing sound internship assignments with real learning involved and creating opportunity for the top interns to return after graduation for a full-time position. And one other characteristic, all the candidates appeared to be 25 years old and younger…
First, a couple of other quick facts here: Workers are working longer, technology has not proven to be the domain of only the gen X & gen Y populations, and diversity in any workplace is a very good thing. Further,
Consider some of the facts below: At one time, adult “return to school” students were considered non-traditional on campuses across the country. Now however, the Dept. of Education says that they are the fastest growing educational demographic. In 1970, 28% of all college students were 25 years of age or older, in 1998 the percentage of these return to school adults had increased to 41%. Further, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the number of students age 35 years and older has more than doubled from 9.6% in 1970 to 19.2% in 2001. Granted, these statistics are a decade on the shelf, but the trend has not reversed. In fact, the Association for Nontraditional Students in Higher Education (ANTSHE) reports that students over 25 years old make up 47% of the new and returning student population on many of today’s college campuses. So what?
Internship programs, for the most part, are missing out on an opportunity to leverage an impactful, experienced and disciplined workforce out there that is anxious to add value and knows how to do it.
In my own experience, I have seen the 35+ age category of interns join us for the summer months and typically “steal the show” from their much younger and less work/life experienced counterparts. From the basics of professionalism in the workplace, work hours, networking and learning the business versus just their role; they have typically outdone their peers. Their products, the real “adding value” piece, are no less impressive. As opposed to viewing the role as summer work, they tend to integrate quickly with a mission-focused mindset of adding value and creating purpose in their role beyond simply an internship.
Logistically, this is not a difficult task. Schools are marketing hard for return to school adults. And more so than their younger counterparts, the return to school adults are very focused on post-education employment opportunities. After all, many of them have sacrificed a great deal to take the “time-out” in their career to pursue the degree. As the schools know, they must market to this need. My experience has been that the great majority of schools have responded very well and effectively to a request for a diverse group of students that includes a representative mix of 19 – 22/23 year olds along with the resumes of return to work 35+ year old students as well. They are all too happy to include them in the mix.
There is value in all age ranges of college students for internships. I don’t intend nor suggest to ever sideline any demographic as it is talent with potential that matters. However, focusing more carefully across the age and experience range of college students for internships has proven to be a great advantage. Try it.
Chris A. O’Connor
How often do you speak before thinking, or take action before considering the consequences? This isn’t a problem per say, unless of course the words spoken or actions unfavorably impacts you or others.
When you hear the words ‘Think About it’…. What comes to mind? Do you start with your reference being in the past, present or future? I have no documented evidence to support my thesis, but based on personal interactions & experiences with family, friends & business acquaintances… I am of the opinion that a majority of people initially reference the past.
Shucks, are not past experiences what many folks & even companies base their future choices on? When you look at the profiles of your friends, or even well -known people, isn’t there a direct correlation between one’s willingness & adversity to risk with how they have played or made decisions in the past? I’m not saying that is a bad thing, but it does limit one’s realm of thought. It’s kind of like rolling up a piece of paper to make a play telescope then looking through it. You have limited sight based only on the experiences you know, assume or see.
There are definite lessons to be learned from past experiences. I know if I had thought long & hard about some decisions I’ve made over my life, I definitely would have done things differently. I have only a very few regrets, but again, that is like thinking & looking in the rearview mirror. When I make a mistake, I try to learn from it & be a better person, Okay move on. (It is never that cut & dry, but really… “let’s not cry over spilt milk”.)
Where do you do your ‘daily thinking’? We often hear about quality time with the kids, & needed time to spend with your significant other, but when is your time to ‘think’? I realize in business, we are making decisions all the time & thinking on our feet constantly, but that is essentially reactionary tactical maneuvers. The ‘thinking’ I am referring to is the mix of lessons learned, feelings hurt, strategic opportunities & risks, as well as, considerate & grateful thoughts we should have daily. Maybe it’s on the drive to work or in traffic headed home. It could be a thoughtful time at lunch, or before you go to bed at night. Hopefully you can find several times a day to embrace this thought principle. What kind of distractions do you have? Maybe that quiet time is when you are doing yard work or going for a run, or even 10 minutes by yourself in the bathroom – good multi-tasking there! I have four children & an awesome wife. For me personally, that ‘Think About It’ time is in the shower every morning & when I lay my head on my pillow at night.
I admittedly have had too much time on my hands lately to ‘think’. It is a full time job searching for a new one, but that can’t occupy all my/your time & thoughts. The last few months have in many ways been a great wake up call for me. I have constantly been struggling with what I call “Proper Perspective”, (God, Family, friends & work), for almost 20 years. I throw myself into my work too much. It almost cost me, my family 15 years ago, when I was juggling a promotion, grad school & my family. I woke up just in time. Still sometimes I do not think enough & lose focus. It is all too easy to do. This past year I slipped badly! Why, simply because I did not think until it was too late. But here is the good news…. I will never forget my mistakes; I am determined to focus on the present & future and not make the same mistake twice.
Some folks however just can’t get beyond thinking in the past tense. I personally can’t hold a grudge. I try not to judge folks. My wife & kids don’t understand how I can be mad for 5 minutes, then everything is okay. I am not going to get an ulcer by letting something fester & fume inside me. Get it out! It’s gone… move on, know who you love & what is important. My family lost $100k to a shady contractor over 20 years ago. Boy oh boy, did it get ugly. It involved lawyers, time & more money. Still we saw the same contactor in church every Sunday. I had the hardest time staying mad at him. I couldn’t listen to my priest’s sermon then go & hate someone, week after week, year after year. I did learn several valuable lessons from such a loss in both a personal & business perspective. I‘ll never invite him over for dinner or recommend his work either, but it is not right for me to hold a grudge or hate. God knows what happened in the past & that is all that matters as we look to the present/future.
There are some people however that ‘Think About It’ and hang on to the past & label others forever. I personally believe that is unhealthy. No one should obsess about the past, especially when making judgments of others that impact the future. I have a friend who is an alcoholic, (his label for himself, not mine.) Clean for 10+ years, but he still considers himself an alcoholic, in order to remember what he was & what he did… so he won’t do it again. I say, Good for him! It is not however my place to call him an alcoholic. I know he has changed & is sorry. I don’t understand how some folks can judge, especially if they were never directly impact nor know the effort or contrition he has made to improve & become a better person for himself & those around him. Maybe these judgmental folks should ‘Think About It’. What is that biblical verse about casting the 1st stone… (John 8, 7-8)
Sorry, I digress…. Back to my ‘Think About It’ time… I bought a tankless water heater for our home a few years ago. With six family members including 3 women in the house, it was arguably the best purchase & quickest payback I ever made. Another benefit, is I can take a longer than normal shower myself now. I find it a great time to think. I won’t get graphic, but waking up & showering in a ‘thought process’ is like washing away the past, then smelling the rose & lavender of another day. It’s my chance to sweep away yesterday & focus on the gifts & blessings I have in my life today, as well as considering what I plan to do the balance of the day, tomorrow & the future, which includes weighing options, pros & cons for myself, family & others. Walking out of the shower, I feel refreshed, hopeful & energized for another day. My ‘Think About It’ time is present & future based.
I may not be “on the clock” in the shower, but one should not undervalue a daily 10 minutes to ‘Think About it’ when it comes to business too. I’m going to run the gambit, by referring to the simplest gesture of the way we treat our workers across all levels, (regardless of our positions), to bigger decisions of whether to refinance the corporations long term debt or make a move with the bundle of cash we have been sitting with on the balance sheet these 2+ years of economic uncertainty. Do we acquire that company or not, what will the impact be on business & the employees? These 10 minute sessions are for ‘thinking’, not decision making.
How many leaders, make sure their people have time to think or come together to genuinely, openly think, in lieu of merely pushing through an agenda ?! It is good to have some alone time, but sometimes a friend or partner is “just what the doctor ordered” to help a person think clearly! The key is making time to ‘Think About It’, (alone or with a friend.) The clarity that comes from ‘Thinking first & speaking or acting later’ can be enormously beneficial at all levels for an individual, family & business!
VP – Global Network Strategy & Standards at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
I know that this may seem like an obvious statement because times have been changing since the very beginning of time. Even still, I’m writing this blog entry from an airplane equipped with onboard WiFi. This morning I had a remote teleconference meeting from my home office. And any time I travel outside of the country my Google Voice number seamlessly allows me to communication nearly cost free.
These personal experiences are just the tip of the iceberg as I watch the IT industry continue to evolve. Look at the effect that Blackberries, iDevices and Android phones have had on corporate America. Think about the major implications of Microsoft announcing Windows on ARM. Witness EMC marketecture showing how you can reduce storage spend with deduplication. Even Big Blue is still showing up to the innovation table with Watson taking a landslide victory on Jeopardy.
I have many “C”level friends in the IT service industry out looking for jobs today. Beyond the general economic downturn, the IT service industry is experiencing a consolidation caused in large part by the change in support policies of the large IT companies such as Oracle/Sun, HP and others. These companies are using their muscle in the marketplace to restrict access to needed updates and patches which are needed to keep their systems working at peak performance. The only way now to obtain these essential updates is to put you equipment on maintenance support contract with the original equipment manufacturer.
In the case of Oracle/Sun, the restriction is even greater. Oracle now requires the end user to put all their Sun hardware on maintenance support contract with Oracle in order to obtain software updates that had previously been made available under Oracle’s software license agreement.
President at Boston Reed College
Today, progressive organizations are increasingly focused on fostering a strengths-based culture, in which employees work collaboratively with their managers to identify, develop and apply their strengths in the workplace.
Make hiring and promotional decisions based on each person’s individual strengths.
Most organizations promote people based on their technical skills (e.g., the employee with the best customer service skills is promoted to Customer Service Manager; the employee who has extraordinary talent as a Sales Associate is promoted to Sales Director). However, the skill sets necessary to be a successful Customer Service Agent or Sales Associate are different from the skill sets necessary to be a successful leader. Managers need to collaborate with each employee and candidate for hire to identify his/her individual strengths (I recommend the Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0™ assessment for this purpose), and then make hiring and promotional decisions based on those strengths. When employees are placed in roles that call upon and leverage their individual strengths, they are empowered to perform at their highest and most productive levels.
Give up the principle of the “well-rounded employee.”
As youngsters, most of our teachers recommended that we focus on improving in those areas in which we performed poorly. As adults in the working world, our supervisors point out our weaknesses in performance appraisals, and recommend that we “fix” them in order to be promoted in the future or to earn a larger raise next year. The principle is an old one, institutionalized in our culture: we must be well-rounded people in order to be successful. However, recent research indicates that no person is completely well-rounded, and that the most successful leaders are neither well-rounded, nor do they possess similar skill sets. Each of us is endowed with certain talents and innate preferences which are rather immutable. Rather than repairing our weaknesses throughout our lives, we actually grow the most in the areas in which we are naturally strong. Managers can get the best results from people by abandoning the notion of the ‘well-rounded employee’ and instead focusing on identifying, applying and developing the natural strengths that each employee brings to the organization.
Make assignments to teams based on the strengths that each person brings to the team.
Too often, assignments to teams are based on the assumption that we should construct teams in which each of the members has similar ideas, perspectives and skill sets; otherwise, the team will experience conflict and have little success in carrying out its mission. This assumption fails to recognize that a successful team requires a wide variety of skill sets, none of which can be possessed by a single member. For example, each team needs a person who is skilled in coalescing people and gathering required resources; a person who has talents in influencing others in the organization; and a person who is strong in executing plans and activities. The most successful teams in organizations consist not of people with similar ideas and skills, but of people with complementary skill sets and strengths.
Organizations that leverage the strengths of their people can produce empowered and engaged employees, and a more productive organization that fully utilizes its human talent. Get started developing a strengths-based culture today. If you do you will capitalize on and develop the natural talents of those you lead and increase job motivation, performance, creativity, and productivity.