Do What You Have To Do

Careers are planned and made by hard work and perseverance but unfortunately extenuating circumstances can makes those plans obsolete and irrelevant.  The Great Recession of 2008, which technically ended at the end of 2009 is still showing it’s ugly head and for many is the determining factor in our future plans.

Too many very good and talented people have been on the sidelines during these past few years and the “so-called economic recovery” is pitiful at best and continues to force individuals to forget about future plans but worry more about day to day solutions that can get them to their next position in life.  It certainly isn’t an easy task but there are creative means to taming that weakened employment beast.  It takes a lot of work and a bit of shrewdness to get the attention of employers and decision-makers.

I’ll say it one more time – It is a full time job in finding a new job.  It certainly can be frustrating and demoralizing at times but no one is knocking at your door to hire you – Lord knows many of you have tried that technique with miserable results.  You need to work at finding your next employment and you need to make sure that you stick out above the crowd when candidate decisions are being made.

*  No one is hiring individuals who are unemployed.  The old dictum that it is much easier to find a job when you have a job is more relevant today than ever before.  It is a buyer’s market and employers can be very particular when hiring a new staff member.  It behooves you to make sure that you have done something with your life since leaving your last assignment.  Make sure your resume doesn’t have a gap that you can’t explain.  If it has been awhile since you were gainfully employed it is now time to either put out your Consulting Shingle or volunteer with a deserving organization, maybe even as a Board Member so that you can at least show some activity during this downtime.  You need a title for that resume.

If you think it is tough for you, can you imagine what it is like for those just getting out of college?  I am very proud of our son who graduated smack in the middle of the worst economic situation since the 30’s.  He graduated in December, 2008 from a Big Ten School with a great GPA and a degree in Finance – his timing has always been impeccable.  For the last two years, he returns stateside next week, he has been teaching English in South Korea.  It has been a remarkable experience for him, he has grown and matured beyond belief and his tenure abroad looks wonderful on his resume.  His goal is to get an MBA, but of course a year in the finance field starting this fall will certainly help him to accomplish that lifelong goal.

To a future employer you are a busy individual who is no longer with that previous position but Lord knows you have kept yourself busy and have added skills in the interim.  With a resume title of Consultant, Board Member, Volunteer or Advisor you will be able to explain away what you have been doing the past few months and you can also highlight the new skills that you have attained that will assist you and a new organization at your next stop.

Like ripe fruit, your talents can go bad if you don’t continue to develop them.  Your field or industry is changing rapidly and much has happened since your recent departure.  Make it a point to keep abreast of the changes that are taking place around you.  It is important to name drop during interviews and it helps knowing where those names are currently residing.

We all must do what we have to do during these tough economic times we find ourselves in.  Unless you are ready to retire at a much too early of an age, it is time to get out there and make a difference in your current situation.  Keep active in your field, update your abilities and most importantly know what is happening around you.  This too shall pass and despite the hardship and pain, this will make you a better person and a better employee at your next employment stop.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) since 1986.  He currently is between positions and has taken the opportunity to author more than 75,000 words and 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

Charting A Future Course

As a candidate and interviewee we all stride in attempting to make our experiences and backgrounds as unique and marketable as possible.  When you are one of many, you are looking for a way to stand out from the crowd.  In a final interview your uniqueness is something that can ultimately make you the winner in the employment marathon.  Please note that I use the term unique in a positive manner.

It is vital to make a memorable impression in the first few minutes of the interaction.  You want the decision-makers to think of you as certainly someone distinctive and not the “run of the mill” candidate for this very special position.  To achieve memorable status you do need to be prepared to present “your brand” and direct the conversation to a place where you are comfortable in sharing your thoughts about yourself and your ideas for the future of the organization you are hoping to lead.

To succeed in an interview you must have done your homework.  Obviously you will never know all the peccadilloes within an organization but you must provide an image of knowledge while also being comfortable enough to ask questions.  Relevant questions can also provide a positive image for the candidate; it gives the decision-makers the impression that you did your homework while not coming to conclusions that may not be on target.

A unique and tangible means for search committees to remember you is to provide them a peek into your thinking process and how you analyze situations.  I would advocate for your consideration – a packet of materials that is not much different than a sales presentation that you would be distributing during a sales pitch.  This slickly packaged and formatted packet should include:

*  Resume

*  LinkedIn Profile

*  References

*  Any articles and positive treatises that may have been written about you and your abilities.

*  A blog or article you may have authored that can describe your management style or Leadership abilities.

*  A well-written 30 or 60 day Plan of Work that you will follow upon being hired.

The Plan of Work is key to answering some of the questions that may come up during the interview process.  By putting down on paper your thoughts about how you will proceed right after your start date gives the impression that this opportunity is more than just your usual “run of the mill” job.  You are aggressively pursuing this job and it is a position that you believe is right for you and most importantly a great match for both parties.

You want to be as specific as possible in your Short Term Plan of Work; in many ways this is your game plan for your early tenure on the job and as we all know – those first few weeks on the job are vital for what is to come.  A Plan of Work answers the usual interview question:  What are your impressions of this organization and what would you do to improve it?  Again, with a document in hand it is important to provide the decision-makers the impression that you are a serious thinker and that you have already contemplated this question rather than the usual impromptu answer that most candidates provide to such an inquiry.

The advantage to such a packet is that you have already organized your battle plan for the interview.  You have contemplated some of the interests that you know will come into play and you have put all your experiences and plans for the future right in front of the search committee in a professionally packaged portfolio to see.  Such a packet will give you a sense of comfort going into the interview because for a change you will be able to emphasize your thoughts regarding the organization and your abilities while still spending prep time getting ready for that usual question out of right field.

And don’t forget the take away aspect of the interview.  You have provided the decision-makers with something to consider about you.  All the other candidates – they only have a resume and personally handwritten notes from the search committee members to remember you by, but for you they can assess your abilities with a document that is impressive and is of professional caliber.

To get the attention of a search committee you must find a way to be different.  Planning and thinking of the future of the organization is a positive means to getting that attention.  The sales packet with a Plan of Work might not be appropriate for every job opportunity available to you, but it certainly is a great approach to organizing your thoughts for what could be a memorable and positively decisive interview.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of fellow by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE).  He currently is between positions and has taken the opportunity to author more than 75,000 words or 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

Good Enough Managers Might Just Be The Best Of The Lot

Aaron J. Nurick, Professor of Management and Psychology at Bentley University has written a new book, The Good Enough Manager:  The Making of a GEM that may finally put to bed the claim that you always need to over-achieve and do your very best to be an outstanding Leader.  Dr. Nurick’s premise is that Good Enough Managers (GEM) make the best leaders because they don’t micro-manage and allow their employees to succeed by finding a balance between being a laissez faire administrator and doing everything themselves.

The author contends that perfectionists or micro-managers stifle creativity and makes the worst managers.  In a survey that he conducted of 1,000 business school alums, Nurick determined that a Good Enough Manager is the antithesis of the “uber manager” who is demanding, over-bearing and rarely produces any better results than the individual who allows his staff to find their own pathway to success.

“The GEMs are characterized as empathetic and attuned to their employee’s emotions, while at the same time reassuring, stable figures who remained confident in uncertainty.  The GEMs turned employee shortcomings into learning experiences and inspiration for creative thought.  Many of the employees remarked that their best managers often remained a touchstone for them long after the end of the formal reporting relationship.”

A Good Enough Manager (GEM) embraces the role of teacher and mentor.  It isn’t all about him; rather it is all about the staff and what they accomplish as the successful end-result.  The typical GEM gets to know their employee as an individual rather than a commodity.  He believes that it is vital to know all aspects of the employee’s life – even away from work because by knowing the individual you can relate to their needs and get the best out of them.

GEMs also help employees find strengths they may not immediately see and have determined that today is not the only concern; that with a little insight and empathy you can mold an employee for the future and even better results down the road.  Finally an effective GEM allows the freedom to fail while the employee is given the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.  The best managers afford the opportunity to take risks in a safe environment without the fear that one error will result in termination.  Failure is a great learning experience while calculated risk is the determinate for future success.

On the flip side of the equation, poor managers (non-GEMs according to the author) interfere with the employee’s autonomy and because of a lack of trust will inevitably make the job more difficult and less rewarding for the employee.  Another poor manager trait is that we are all in this just for me; all the credit needs to fall on the shoulders of the manager and it unfortunately is all about him.  If you are looking for a team effort or a good personal feeling about your work – this is not the kind of manager you ever want to work with.

Deficient managers also partake in destructive office gossip and politics – it’s an approach that can keep him on top while making life miserable for everyone else.  Because such a manager is opposed to all forms of confrontation and has an aversion to direct feedback or one on one interaction, it is very likely that he will use inner-office politics and gossip to maintain his power while diverting attention away from his personal and management deficiencies.

Ultimately poor managers forget that their employees are people with their own lives and agendas.  These managers are not opposed to calling on a weekend or late night for an update on a project which could have waited until the next morning.   This is just one more tactic to illustrate that they are in charge.  They demand to know all the details and unfortunately will slow down the process because of their lack of trust.

Because we are all living in an extensively stressful and anxious environment on a daily basis within our offices, it is vital for Leaders and managers alike to use all the assets available to them.  The people who work alongside you are those assets; assets that can make the organization successful and the manager look quite good if you allow them to do their job.  We all strive for perfection but in today’s world, good enough may just be the right approach to success.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) since 1986.  He currently is between positions and has taken the opportunity to author more than 75,000 words or 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transitions and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

Sometimes It Is A Surprise – Even For You

“Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted but getting what you have, which once you have got it you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known” – Garrison Keillor.

Though we have all heard it numerous times and I believe I have written it on various occasions in this blog but earlier this week I lived the experience of “never say never” and “never give up” when I interviewed with a recruiter for a job that I had thought fell off the face of the earth months ago.  I barely remember applying for the position, probably three months ago, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise to receive an e-mail requesting an interview.  It was definitely a great way to start the week.

Though an interview is not a job offer and unfortunately too many job seekers have gone through numerous situations such as this before, what this experience details is that though you might not have heard from the search committee or recruiter in the last few months regarding a particular job that you have an interest in, that doom and gloom is not always the end product.

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

What I have learned from this episode is that though we do not want to annoy the decision-makers, that it probably is worthwhile to periodically keep them aware of the fact that we are still available and that we remain interested in the position.  An e-mail with very few expectations is probably the way to go into such a situation.  If it has been awhile since you last corresponded with the search committee or recruiter, consider attaching the latest updated version of your resume and or any other pertinent information about yourself that can update your candidacy since you last communicated.

Though it seems like a never-ending process (from the candidates perspective) with not much to report in the interim; the search for a new Association Manager can take upwards of 8 to 15 weeks for each particular opening.  Of course that’s all dependent on the kind of pre-planning that took place within the organization and whether the previous manager and Board of Directors planned for this transition or that it was a total surprise from one or both of the parties.

“I know that God will not give me anything I can’t handle.  I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much” – Mother Teresa.

Strength of body and mind, vigor and perseverance are traits necessary during a transition period.  Maintaining your self-confidence during times of stress and anxiety is not easy.  Selling yourself as the best candidate for an available position is not the simplest task around, but it does become easier with time and experience.  For those who are introverts such a task can seem quite vexing, but it is amazing what one can do when necessary and who knows – you might find that inner salesman that you thought always loomed within you!

A job seeker must ponder the future in daily intervals.  Plan for today and who knows what comes to pass tomorrow?  The problem with making grandiose plans is that you unfortunately do not have control over many of the deciding factors within the equation.  Control what you can; control and maintain a positive disposition because eventually this too shall pass.

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind.  Some come from ahead and some come from behind.  But I’ve bought a big bat.  I’m already you see.  Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me.!”  – Dr. Seuss.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) since 1986.  He currently is between positions and is taking the opportunity to author more than 75,000 words or 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

Have You Looked In the Mirror Lately?

Robert Kaplan, Professor of Management at the Harvard Business School has authored a book that says it all by its title:  Looking In the Mirror:  Questions Every Leader Must Ask.  In a recent article in the Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge, author Carmen Nobel dissects the new book by focusing in on Kaplan’s belief that great leadership in not all about having the right answers but is about asking the right questions.

“Most leaders spend a lot of their time looking for answers.  Very often, they may feel isolated and alone.  I want to help them refocus their attention on framing and then discussing the key questions that will help them regroup, mobilize their team, formulate a plan, and move forward.”

The author organizes his thoughts by asking his own questions about Leadership skills and aspirations.  “Show me a company or nonprofit or government in trouble, and I will almost invariably show you a set of leaders who are asking absolutely the wrong questions.”

+  Have you developed a clear vision and key priorities for your enterprise?  Do you and your fellow employees have the same clear vision for the organization?  Are your key priorities the same as theirs?  Often Kaplan reports that employee priorities are significantly different than those professed by the Leadership.  It is vital to synchronize those efforts.  Three to five priorities need to be detailed and emphasized by all and eliminate those that don’t achieve success for the organization.

+  Does the way you spend your time match your key priorities?  Too many times we find ourselves too busy to even plan and contemplate.  We all know that busy work isn’t always priority work.  Find the time to prioritize and then share those thoughts with the team.  “When someone asks you to spend time on work that doesn’t match your key priorities, the right action is probably to say no.  Once you have a better matching of your time with priorities, you’ll want to encourage your direct reports to do the same.”

+  Do you coach and also solicit feedback from your key subordinates?  It is not easy being isolated at the top of the pyramid.  Though many organizations have flattened their org chart, you are still left with few if any individuals to assist you on your daily adventures.  You certainly are there to coach your direct reports but who is there to coach you?  Kaplan recognizes the value of gaining feedback from others within the organization.  “Leadership is a team game.  You have to solicit help from others or you’re likely to under-achieve your potential.”

+  If you had to design your company today with a clean sheet of paper, what would you change?  Organizations do lose their way; sometimes success directs the organizations wildly but much too often reaction to failure can steer the entity beyond its planned purpose.  Take the time and create systems that will allow you and others within the organization to contemplate the current organizational situation and what and where it should be in the future.

+  Do you act as a role model?  Whether you like it or not, you are a role model at your organization and you must act accordingly.  If you cut corners or have questionable ethics, others will notice and shadow your actions.  A Leader will take the opportunity to display positive traits in the desire for those traits to be replicated .  Make sure you act as you speak – no one appreciates a hypocrite.

+  Are you reaching your potential and being true to yourself?  If you don’t really know yourself, how can you be an effective Leader? Know your abilities and know your failings, it is important to improve on both.  “In the end, it’s not about meeting everyone else’s expectations … it’s about reaching your unique potential and developing your own leadership style.”

+  Recognizing Your Passions.  Are you enjoying what you do daily?  Are you jumping out of bed every morning ready to take on your next assignment?  If it has become a grind and your not enjoying yourself or the job any longer, it is time to reevaluate.  Just because there are tasks you don’t like to perform doesn’t mean they just disappear.  Those tasks need to be completed and if you prefer not to do them, then you must assign them to others.  After all, I don’t like to do my taxes but that doesn’t mean that the IRS will look the other way when I don’t file them on time.  As a Leader, if you don’t enjoy performing a function, or more realistically there are others who perform the task better and more efficiently, then make sure you assign such matters to those who can complete the task.

Looking at yourself in the mirror can be an arduous task; you may not like what you see!  You know yourself best and to achieve success you must be honest with yourself and make the appropriate changes within before you take on the organization.  Ever wonder why there are many more followers than leaders?  If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.  Dig deep to find your true talents and most importantly don’t be frightened away by failure; it is a wonderful learning experience.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) since 1986.  He currently is between positions and has written more than 75,000 words or 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

The Association Professional As An Ethical Being

Ethics has always been a primary gauge of an Association Professional and now even more so with the recent adoption of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Standards of Conduct.  At the St. Louis ASAE Board of Director Meeting earlier this month, a  new Preamble and Ethical Standards were approved by the Board unanimously which now sets the standards of professional behavior for all who are members of ASAE.  For the very first time, ethical standards are now in place for not just Association Professionals but for all Business Partners and Consultants who pride themselves as ASAE members.

The Preamble to the document says it all:  “More than 287 million people around the globe look to associations for their vision, their values and their effectiveness.  With this role comes a great responsibility for associations to serve members and the public with integrity.  To fulfill this responsibility, ASAE’s membership of association professionals and industry partners are committed to ethical standards that promote the goal of transforming society for better.”

“The Standards of Conduct embody aspirational ethical standards.  The aspirational standards describe the conduct that we strive to uphold as ASAE members.  Although adherence to the apirational ethical standards is not easily measured, conducting ourselves in accordance with these ethical standards is an expectation that we have of ourselves as professionals.  Among the aspirational ethical concepts which these Standards embrace are those of respect, responsibility, fairness and honesty.”

*  Respect is our duty to show a high regard for ourselves, others, and the resources entrusted to us.  Resources entrusted to us may include people, money, reputation, the safety of others, and natural or environmental resources.  An environment of respect engenders trust, confidence, and perspectives and views are encouraged and valued.

*  Responsibility is our duty to take ownership for the decisions we make or fail to make, the actions we take or fail to take, and the consequences that result.

*  Fairness is our duty to make decisions and act impartially and objectively.  Our conduct must be free from competing self interest, prejudice, and favoritism.

*  Honesty is our duty to understand the truth and act in a truthful manner both in our communications and in our conduct.

The Core Ethical Standards as an ASAE Member:

1)  Respect and uphold public laws that govern my work;

2)  Be honest in conducting my business;

3)  Respect the confidentiality of information gained through my work;

4)  Act fairly;

5)  Foster an ethical culture through my work;

6)  Take responsibility for my conduct.

It is certainly about time that such a Standard of Conduct is in place for all Association Professionals since as part of an association’s Form 990, Board Members have been obligated to sign a Conflict of Interest Policy for themselves in respect to the actions they partake in for the association during that given year.  Sarbanes-Oxley has demanded such formal action be taken despite the fact that for years Boards have certainly declared their lack of such conflict while doing official business for the association.  Such new obligations of signed forms and appropriate placement of formal personal conflict of interest statements on the agenda only help but remind all who oversee an association that we are all here for the betterment of the membership and society as a whole and not for any particular person or persons.

Many associations have Legal Counsel present at all Board Meetings but for those groups who cannot justify the expense, such responsibility must fall upon the shoulders of the Association Executive who is present to remind all participants what is appropriate and what is “out of bounds.”  We all know that price fixing and directly creating policies and procedures to benefit certain members are not legal actions, but it also behooves those who oversee an association to make sure that they give no real or inference of impropriety.

With Whistle Blower Policies and with the desire for state and federal agencies to find new monies to balance their budgets, it is certainly important for all associations and their Leaders to be as proper as possible and to never give anyone the opportunity to think ill of the organization that many have spent their lifetimes developing and watching it flourish.

Many thanks to countless ASAE Ethics Committee Leaders and members who have worked dilligently over the years to make these new standards what they are today.  All ASAE members appreciate your effort and deliberation.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide who has been granted the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) since 1986.  He currently is between positions and has written more than 75,000 words and 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

Thin Line Between Interview Candidate and Consultant

A funny thing happened the other day as I was preparing for an interview, I realized that there wasn’t a whole lot of difference in preparing for a client proposal as an Association Consultant and as a CEO candidate for a job interview.  Both situations demand investigation and contemplation and a closing pitch that will hopefully result in getting the job.

Of course the concern you always have when you are interviewing for an association job, and probably for most others is that you are literally a free consultant and a new set of eyes with an external perspective.  More than once I fear that I have been used for “my thoughts” on a certain issue within an association that I was interviewing with and aghast discovered later that my free advice was used by the same association to improve their bottom-line.

Any candidate must indeed give examples of how he/she would be engaging within this new association and why wouldn’t a search committee or Board of Directors not ask for your perspective on their “unique situation,” but a candidate must be careful not to give “away the store” before they are even hired for the job.

A finalist for an association position must come prepared to overwhelm the deciders.  He/she must have done their homework and have assimilated the nuances of the particular association.  Let’s be honest, though every association will profess to be unique – they really aren’t!  A truly prepared candidate can use the experiences they have from their previous positions to impress the search committee with new ideas and new perspectives.  It’s those solutions that every Board is looking for and every consultant gets paid for that becomes a sticking point.

Obviously every Search Committee wants to know how prepared you are to assume the management role of their association; they are the Leaders who have grown this organization and they want to make sure that their choice is one they can be proud of for many years to come.  We all know too many who are great presenters but we wouldn’t want them running anything close to our association!

So the real talent here is impressing without giving away all your trade secrets.  In many ways it is like an author on a promotional tour – you want people to be interested in your work but you certainly don’t want to give away the plot before the audience has a chance to buy the book.

It is the goal of the candidate to impress but also give the impression that there is much more of that possible for the association if you are hired.  Obviously you will receive bottom-line questions about membership retention and non-dues revenue but it behooves the candidate to speak about some of the success stories you have had at previous organizations but don’t be too specific because one, you only have so much time to impress and two, do they really want to know all the dirty details?

Any candidate interviewing for a new association position will have the need for additional information, after all you don’t have all the nuances and association history afforded you for this conversation.  You can be as revealing as personally necessary but do be aware that overt generalizations may not be enough for the search committee.  You might be forced to answer direct questions on some of their pressing issues.  Issues that would be nice to know ahead of time but unfortunately is rarely revealed to the candidates before hand.

Thus the Catch 22 of any interview – you need to show the search committee that you are knowledgable, experienced and the obvious candidate for the job but yet you must also be prepared to be used as an unpaid external perspective on their problems; what many may define as a Consultant.   If you ultimately get the job, there certainly is no harm; it’s when you are passed over that it really hurts and what makes the interview process so stressful, yet interesting.

Dan Borschke is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) who has been a CEO for 3 distinct trade associations in his career.  He is one of only 230 Association Executives worldwide since 1986 who has been granted with the prestigious designation of Fellow by the American Society of Association Executives.  He currently is between positions and has written more than 75,000 words or 125 blog postings on the topics of job search, career transition and association management.

Copyright:  MMXI.  Reprint of this article is permitted if the above paragraph is included.

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